The civil society’s endurance depends on acceptance and realization of modern norms and principles. When a ruling establishment with an outdated legal system tries to impose itself politically and ideologically on a modern society, the result will be widespread protests.
2315 GMT: Correction of the Day. Although it was not widely noted, there were 40th Day memorial ceremonies for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Qom.
2310 GMT: Diversion of the Day. From Press TV:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top aide said Friday Tehran is concerned about the direction of the US administration after President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address.
"We have concerns Obama will not be successful in bring change to US policies," Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, the senior aide to President Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, said.
With respect, Esfandiar, I don't think President Obama is your biggest concern right now.
NEW Iran Patriotism Special: Wiping the Green From The Flag
Iran Document: Karroubi Maintains the Pressure (28 January)
Iran Document: Resignation Letter of Diplomat in Japan “Join the People”
Iran Document/Analysis: Karroubi’s Statement on the Political Situation (27 January)
Iran Analysis: Leadership in the Green Movement
The Latest from Iran (28 January): Trouble Brewing
2300 GMT: Yawn. Well, we started the day with a sanctions sideshow (see 0650 GMT), so I guess it is fitting to close with one. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Paris:
China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the [Persian] Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their own supplies....We understand that right now it seems counterproductive to [China] to sanction a country from which you get so much of the natural resources your growing economy needs....[But China] needs to think about the longer-term implications.
1. The White House is not even at the point of agreeing a sanctions package with the US Congress, let alone countries with far different agendas.
2. China is not going to agree tough sanctions in the UN Security Council. Really. Clinton is blowing smoke.
3. About the only outcome of this will be Press TV running a story on bad America threatening good Iran Government.
2250 GMT: Back after a break (Up In The Air is fantastic --- there, I've said it) to find that the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has written an open letter to Iran's head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, putting a series of questions over the executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Ramanipour.
1820 GMT: We've moved our item on the regime's apparent removal of Green from Iran's flag to a separate entry.
1755 GMT: Today's Pot-Kettle-Black Moment. Just came across a discussion on Press TV of a bill, passed in the US House of Representatives, threatening to block "anti-US" television channels.
Don't get me wrong: this is an incredibly stupid measure, although as Professor William Beeman, the most reflective of the three guests notes, it is a symbolic declaration unlikely to become law. However, I have to note that at no point do the words "Internet filtering", "expulsion/imprisonment of journalists", "jamming of satellite signals" (say, of Voice of America Persian or BBC Persian) come up in the conversation, which also includes a Dr Franklin Lamb and a Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi.
1750 GMT: The Judiciary v. Ahmadinejad. At insideIRAN, Arash Aramesh has a useful summary of the suspension of the publication Hemmat by Iran's judiciary. The twist is that Hemmat, which ran into trouble for running an attack piece against Hashemi Rafsanjani, is a supporter of the Ahmadinejad Government. No surprise then that the President reportedly declared:
I am not very happy with some of the Judiciary’s actions. Someone published a paper and you shut it down. It is the job of a jury to order the closure of publications. We do not agree with such actions and believe that these actions show a spirit of dictatorship.
However, Aramesh does not connect the Hemmat story to the imprisonment of Mohammad Jafar Behdad (see 1230 GMT), an official in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, for four months.
1725 GMT: The Latest from Gohardasht Prison. Peyke Iran reports that 300 Ashura detainees are under severe pressure by Ministry of Intelligence agents, demanding confessions of "mohareb" (war against God), in sections controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.
1700 GMT: The International Committee for Human Rights in Iran has started a new blog. Current posts consider the Zamani/Rahmanipour executions and "Members of Committee of Human Rights Reporters Under Pressure to Make Forced Confessions".
1600 GMT: The Strategy of Deaths. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has offered details on the regime's handling of executions: having put to death two pre-election detainees to death yesterday, the Government has handed down five more sentences on five people arrested on Ashura (27 December). The sentences are currently being appealed.
Doulatabadi's declaration complements a recent announcement that by Iran Prosecutor General Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejei that at least three Ashura Day detainees will be executed. Ejei also said four more pre-election prisoners had been sentenced to death. (Added to Thursday's executions, Doulatabadi and Ejei's numbers match up to the "eleven" death sentences announced by Iranian state media yesterday.)
1410 GMT: Man, 1) Ayatollah Jannati is in a really bad mood after being verbally slapped by Mehdi Karroubi; 2) the Government is scared of the forthcoming demonstrations on 22 Bahman (11 February); 3) both. The Los Angeles Times offers translated extracts from Jannati's Friday Prayers address (see 1155 GMT) in Tehran:
The prophet Muhammad signed non-aggression pacts with three Jewish tribes. The Jews failed to meet their commitments, and God ordered their massacre (by Imam Ali, the 3rd Imam Shia, despite his reputation for compassion)....When it comes to suppressing the enemy, divine compassion and leniency have no meaning.
The judiciary is tasked with dealing with the detained rioters. I know you well, judiciary officials! You came forward sincerely and accepted this responsibility. You are revolutionary and committed to the Supreme Leader. For God's sake, stand firm as you already did with your quick execution of these two convicts....
God ordered the prophet Muhammad to brutally slay hypocrites and ill-intentioned people who stuck to their convictions. Koran insistently orders such deaths. May God not forgive anyone showing leniency toward the corrupt on earth.
1230 GMT: An Ahmadinejad Official in Jail. Mohammad Jafar Behdad, head of internal media at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, has been sentenced to 4 months in prison. Behdad, a former head of the Islamic Republic News Agency, was convicted of disregarding judiciary warnings against provocative publications. His newspaper Hemmat had been suspended for a feature on "Hashemi [Rafsanjani] and his band of brothers".
1220 GMT: Verbal Skirmishes. Retired Revolutionary Guard General Ali Asgari, a former minister in the Khatami Government, has declared that Hashemi Rafsanjani must remain by the side of the Supreme Leader and denounced Rafsanjani's verbal attacker, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, as a radical who defends a backward Islam.
On the regime side, Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has announced that "some of the elite are against the regime and with the enemy". At the same time, he appears to have held out a hand to Mir Hossein Mousavi, saying he "was deceived" by these wrong-doers.
1210 GMT: The "Real" Karroubi Interview. Fars News, whose distorted report on Mehdi Karroubi's views inadvertently moved Karroubi's challenge to the Ahmadinejad Government centre-stage, makes another clumsy intervention today.
Selecting extracts from Karroubi's interview with Britain's Financial Times and quoting them out of context, Fars declares that Karroubi has "100%" backed the Supreme Leader and denounced protesters.
1155 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Summary. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, had the podium today. Given that Mehdi Karroubi knocked him about a bit yesterday, Jannati was probably not in the most conciliatory of moods as he said:
Weakness in the face of events such as the "irreverence" of demonstrations on Ashura will undermine the regime. Ayatollah [Sadegh] Larijani, be a man, get tough, bring in some protesters. (Hey, but it was pretty cool that you executed those two guys yesterday to please God.)
1140 GMT: A very slow day, both for sideshows and main events. During the lull, this comment from a reader to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, reacting to the Zamani/Rahmanipour executions, is striking:
You see the strategy is an obvious one: start with the people who are the weakest links, some obscure monarchist group and not directly related to the reformist/Mousavi's camp or the greens, that way it would make it harder politically for [Mir Hossein] Mousavi or [Mehdi] Karoubi to defend them. Then they will advance. This is, in their mind, also the best way to send a message about Feb 11th that if you are arrested on that day, you could be executed. The combination of desperation and cruelty.
0750 GMT: Remembering Montazeri. Video of the bazaar at Najafabad, the birthplace of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was empty on Thursday to mark the passing of the cleric in late December. Memorials for the "40th Day" of Montazeri's death were planned for both yesterday and today.)
0650 GMT: There are a number of obstacles to clear this morning before getting to the important developments. Foremost amongst these is last night's news that the US Senate, the upper house of the Congress, has approved tougher sanctions against Iran. The focus is on petroleum, denying loans and other assistance from American financial institutions to companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand its oil-refining capacity. The penalties would extend to companies that build oil and gas pipelines in Iran and provide tankers to move Iran’s petroleum. The measure also prohibits the United States Government from buying goods from foreign companies that do business in Iran’s energy sector.
Even if sanctions are central to a resolution of Iran's political crisis, as opposed to their place in the manoeuvres over Iran's nuclear programme --- personally, I don't think they are --- there is a lot of bureaucratic road to cover before they are in place. The Senate has to agree its version of the bill with the House of Representatives. More importantly (and The New York Times story ignores this point), the Obama Administration so far has opposed the petroleum measures because they are unlikely to be effective. The White House and State Department prefer "targeted" sanctions, aimed especially at economic interests of bodies like the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
Then there is the Washington sideshow of Very Important People battering each other in the guise of offering the Very Best US Policy on Iran. The Washington Post announces the boxing match between Richard Haass, formerly of the State Department and now head of the Council for Foreign Relations, and the Flynt/Hillary Leverett duo, formerly of State and the National Security Council. The punches are entirely predictable --- Haass, while proclaiming himself a "realist", has joined the chorus of US experts singing of "regime change", while the Leveretts are staunchly defending the legitimacy of the Iran Government --- and pretty much swatting air when it comes to the complexities of the Iranian situation. (But Haass was best man at the Leveretts' wedding, which turns a marginal story into a "quirky" one.)
So where are the significant stories? Well, there is yesterday's execution of two detainees, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, who were jailed in April 2009 for endangering Iran's national security. In one sense, this is another sideshow. Obviously, neither Zamani and Rahmanipour were involved in post-election protest and the "monarchist" group to which they allegedly belonged is not significant in the Green movement.
However, the regime was far from subtle in linking the hangings of the two men to the demonstrations of Ashura (27 December), and that linkage --- inadvertently --- displays its fear of the forthcoming marches on 22 Bahman/11 February, the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution. What's more, by promising the executions of nine more detainees if everyone didn't just shut up and go away, the Government made a risky commitment. Either it goes ahead with the executions, making more martyrs for the protests, or it backs down.
And then there is The Week of Mehdi Karroubi, with the cleric launching another broadside against President Ahmadinejad and his allies yesterday. Some media continue to be led astray by confusion over Karroubi's loud and emerging strategy --- The New York Times, for example, mis-reads Karroubi's latest statement as "conciliatory remarks...shifting the blame for the violent postelection crackdown away from Ayatollah Khamenei".
They are not. Karroubi is both giving the Supreme Leader (or "Mr Khamenei", as he was labelled on Monday) a chance and setting him a test: do what you are supposed to do under our Constitution and Islamic Republic, Supreme Leader, and make your President accountable for injustices and abuses.
Enjoy all the sideshows, folks, but in this political circus, that's your centre-ring main event.