Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


Entries in Ali Larijani (20)


The Latest from Iran (13 January): Speculations and Realities

2125 GMT: More Fun with the MKO. I guess one "Dumbest Strategy of Day" Award isn't enough. Following Euro MP Struan Stevenson's cheerful advocacy of an alliance with the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the political wing of the Mujahedin-e-Khaq "terrorist" group (MKO), Allan Gerson, a lawyer who has worked for the State and Justice Departments, drops by The Huffington Post to assure:
As a practical matter de-designation of the [Mujahedin-e-Khalq] as a terrorist entity will only enhance Washington's desired outcome of a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. It would strengthen America's hand in bringing a faltering regime to the negotiating table by letting Tehran know in no uncertain terms that we have taken off the kid-gloves.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure that the Tehran regime, which has been trying to rally opinion by claiming a US-MKO plot to overthrow the Government, will be absolutely traumatised and have no close what to do if Washington follows Gerson's recommendation.

(Oh, so sorry, I took Gerson at face value as an objective if pretty dim commentator. He is in fact co-counsel representing the MKO in the case to take it off the US Government's terrorist list.)

2055 GMT: Former Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani have written messages of condolence to the family of President Professor Ali-Mohammadi.

2030 GMT: Battling with the Clerics. A series of skirmishes between Government and clerics today. Ayatollah Sadeghi Tehrani, taking offence at remarks by Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, has declared that the retention of the former First Vice-President and current Presidential Chief of Staff in any official position is “haram” (religiously forbidden).

And Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, a persistent post-cleric of the Government but relatively quiet in recent weeks, has re-emerged to declare that the principle of velayat-e-faqih (ultimate clerical authority) is not a principle of Islam and denying it is not a sin.

NEW Iran Analysis: Nuclear Myths, Rogue Elements, and Professor Ali-Mohammadi’s Murder
NEW Iran Special: Interpreting the Death of Professor Ali-Mohammadi
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Leverett Line on Killing of Professor Ali-Mohammadi (13 January)
Latest Iran Video: How State Media Frames Killing of “Nuclear” Professor (12 January)
Iran: How Far Do The Green Movements Go?
Iran & Social Media: Dispelling Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (Parsons)

The Latest from Iran (12 January): The Killing of the Professor

Look also for some repercussions from the Government's arrest of Mohammad Taghi Khalaji (see 1745 GMT). He is the father of prominent Mehdi Khalaji, who is based at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Expect WINEP and their allies in the Washington network of "think tanks" to get vocal --- indeed, WINEP has put out a special alert and Danielle Pletka, a Bush-era proponent of US power now at the American Enterprise Institute, has already jumped in, "Iran’s Nazi-Fascism and How You Can Help Fight It". (John Hannah, former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, has now joined the chorus.)

2015 GMT: The Scholars and Mousavi. 54 Iranian university professors, scholars, and expatriate intellectuals have written an open letter to express firm support for Mir Hossein Mousavi’s "5-proposal" statement, issued on 1 January, as “a step toward the consistency of the Green Movement” with "a minimum political platform with specific demands upon the government”. The signatories specifically praised “the four sections related to free elections and the preconditions for having free elections, including the release of all political prisoners, free and independent press and media, and the emphasis on the rights of forming political parties and holding gatherings”.

Interestingly, the 54 openly referred to the unstated test of the proposals, the removal of the President: “Mousavi while giving the priority to the democratic movement of the people of Iran proved that for advancing the demands of this movement is ready to negotiate with the ruling powers. His indirect position regarding the “legal” removal of Ahmadinejad through the parliament is a signature of these democratic tendencies.”

1745 GMT: BBC Persian reports that Mohammad Taghi Khalaji, a cleric close to the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, has been arrested.

1735 GMT: Trotting Out the Lines on Ali-Mohammadi. Al Jazeera English's "Inside Story", covering the Ali-Mohammadi killing, has just started. Another appearance for Tehran University academic Seyed Mohammad Marandi (see separate video), who declares --- without presenting evidence --- that "the evidence points to the Israelis" and diverts into a declaration of American support for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO).

Nothing new there, but an interesting twist with the other guest, Siavush Randjbar-Daemi of the University of London. Ranjdbar-Daemi, who has very good sources on Ali-Mohammadi, is able to set out that the Tehran physicist has no connection with Iran's nuclear programme. He also brings out Ali-Mohammadi's support of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

This brings out the quote of the day from Marandi: "The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization did not say that he had absolutely nothing to do with them; they said that he did not work for them." Which somehow proves that Ali-Mohammadi was indeed involved in the nuclear programme.

Oh, sorry, this is the Quote of the Day: "The fact that someone voted for Mr Mousavi does not mean he is a Mousavi supporter. Most of my colleagues who voted for Mr Mousavi no longer support him today. That issue is long gone."

1730 GMT: Ali-Mohammadi's Last Lecture. An absolutely reliable EA source has confirmed that the audio file of Professor Ali-Mohammadi's statement at Tehran University last week (see 1450 GMT) is genuine.

1555 GMT: Dumbest Strategy of Day "Let's Promote MKO". A great day at The Washington Times: having scooped the Dumbest Exploitation of the Ali-Mohammadi Case award with "War with Iran Nears" (see 1045 GMT), they give space to a member of the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson, to call for support of the People's Mujahideen of Iran, the political wing of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq armed resistance (see 1005 GMT).

Stevenson seems oblivious to the notion that almost none of the groups in the Iranian opposition want to work with the PMOI/MEK or that taking the organisation off the US Government's terrorist list would feed the Iranian regime propaganda line that Washington is backing a group which has sought regime change --- often with violence --- for more than a generation. Indeed, he seems oblivious to any consideration of realpolitik as he concludes, "This is intervening in Iran's internal affairs in favor of the mullahs - and now realpolitik dictates this has to be changed."

1545 GMT: Don't Look Here, Look Over There! Another of President Ahmadinejad's "Let's Talk About the World but Not About Iran" televised speeches....

West trying to dominate the Middle East and Central Asia:""All their planning is aimed at this goal. Human rights, fighting nuclear weapons and terrorism are all a big lie....With the pretext of September 11 they started the fire of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and today in Yemen."

Israel will be vanquished: "The supporters of Zionists should know that the Zionist regime is on the way down to collapse and no one can save it. The Iranian nation will cut from the arm any hand that has been extended to it with the aim (of committing) a crime."

And Saudi Arabia should get on the right side (against Israel) and not on the wrong side (in Yemen): "We were expecting that Saudi Arabian officials act like a mentor and make peace between brothers, not that they themselves enter the war and use bombs ... and machineguns against Muslims. If only a small part of the weapons of Saudi Arabia were used in favor of Gaza and against the Zionist regime, today there would be no sign of the Zionist regime in the region."

1450 GMT: Ali-Mohammadi Recording? An Iranian activist has posted claimed audio of a statement by Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi at Tehran University last week.

1440 GMT: So We're NOT Deporting Iranians? Word in from the National Iranian American Council that the author of a proposed US law (which is idiotic on the whole, let alone in parts) has at least dropped a measure that could have sent Iranians in the US packing:
Congressman Gresham Barrett's (R-SC) office has confirmed to NIAC that he will drop language aimed at deporting non-immigrant Iranians from the U.S. when he reintroduces the Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act today....

When the STEP Act was first introduced in 2003, it contained provisions that would have mandated the deportation of all Iranians on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange visas, and tourist visas from the United States within 60 days....

Though the elimination of the deportation provisions constitutes a significant victory for the Iranian-American community, the bill remains problematic. It would make it illegal for Iranians to travel to the United States, though some exceptions may be made for medical emergencies and political or religious asylum after "extensive federal screening."

1335 GMT: Students on Ali-Mohammadi. Students of the Physics Department of Tehran University have issued a statement condemning the assassination of Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi and expressing their condolences to his family. The students claim that Ali-Mohammadi was outspoken in recent months in support of the Green Movement and university protests. They add that Ali-Mohammadi was not involved in Iran's nuclear programme.

1305 GMT: A Sit-In Success? An Iranian website is claiming that students at Razi University in Kermanshah, after sit-in protests and boycotts of final examinations, have succeeded in getting release of their classmates from detention.

1215 GMT: Motahari presses ahead. The campaign of Ali Motahari, high-profile member of Parliament and brother-in-law of Ali Larijani, against the Ahmadinejad is now being waged on a daily basis. Today Motahari wrote an open letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani. Opposing the appointment of Saeed Mortazavi as a Presidential aide, Motahari has asked Larijani to investigate the role of Mortazavi, formerly Tehran's Prosecutor General, in post-election detainee abuses.

Ali Shakrokhi, the head of the Juridical Commission of Parliament, has added a twist by suggesting that Ahmadinejad could sue Motahari over allegations that the President is responsible for post-election crisis.

1155 GMT: Stay the Course. The regime is not giving up on its quest to portray Professor Ali-Mohammadi's murder as a foreign plot. To the contrary, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani declared today:
We had received information a few days before the incident that intelligence services of the Zionist regime intend to carry out terrorist acts in Tehran in cooperation with the CIA....After the failure of all its hostile policies, it currently resorts to the physical elimination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Larijani even got personal with a verbal assault on President Obama:
Such filthy actions are easy to carry out but such adventurism will do you no good....You have practically promoted acts of terrorism....This black spot will be recorded in the dossier of US crimes against the Iranian nation.

1045 GMT: Dumbest Exploitation of the Ali-Mohammadi Case. The editorial staff of The Washington Times know what it all means: "War with Iran Nears":
The coming conflict will not be an overnight air strike followed by bellicose language, like the Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear site in September 2007. Disrupting Iran's nuclear program will require Israel to undertake a sustained campaign. Iran will launch reprisal attacks through its proxies in Gaza and Lebanon, encourage Syria to respond, foment chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan and potentially order terror attacks on Western targets.

1005 GMT: Strange But True. On the same day that Iranian state media was claiming Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO), backed by the US Government, may have killed Professor Ali-Mohammadi, the political wing of the organisation --- the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) --- was appearing in a Washington court to get itself removed from the US Government's list of terrorist organisations.

The PMOI lawyer claimed, "The organization has foresworn violence. We walk the walk. There have been no terrorist acts by PMOI for eight years." He had no success, however. US Government lawyers declared that Washington would not negotiate with "an organization that for at least 30 years has been involved in terrorism, violence, assassination, et cetera" and that "classified material" made clear that the group should still be listed.

1000 GMT: In a separate entry, EA's Mr Smith uses excellent sources and knowledges to consider the political significance of the murder of Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi.

0910 GMT: The Mothers of Mourning. Persian2English offers a vital addition to our report last night of the freeing of those Mothers of Mourning who were detained during their Saturday protest: they were released on bail, so criminal charges are still pending.

0900 GMT: The Ali-Mohammadi Case. The "Iran Royal Society", who --- according to Iranian state media --- had claimed responsibility for the killing of Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, have denied any involvement.

The Los Angeles Times has a full report on the murder and on Mohammadi, and The Washington Post adds useful information.

And The Guardian of London offers an interesting editorial comment:
As the regime in Tehran loses its last vestige of legitimacy with its own people, it is important that international sanctions do not restore to the Iranian leadership its role as defender of the faith. The US must not play into the hands of an Iranian president keen to cast domestic opponents as foreign agents. The temptation in Washington is to think that it can influence events in Iran. It has in the past, but rarely, if ever, for the better.

0845 GMT: Overnight news continues to be dominated by the murder of Tehran University physicist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi. We have a special feature considering the politics and propaganda around the case, and we also have a video of Flynt Leverett using the episode to set out his line on the US pursuit of regime change and support of "terrorism".

Beyond the furour, there is a useful, first-hand reminder of the conflict in a letter from Tehran claiming, "The Regime is Over".

Iran Analysis: The Regime Beyond the Headlines

The world is once again watching Iran. A series of weekend developments are in the global press this morning. Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post covers the Parliamentary report on the abuse of detainees, headlining the allegations against former Tehran Prosecutor General and current Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi, "An Iranian parliamentary probe has singled out a former Tehran prosecutor as being responsible for the violent deaths of three protesters in a now-closed prison facility after anti-government demonstrations in July." Nazila Fathi of The New York Times writes on the same lines.

Credit to both reporters and to others for picking up on the development. Credit also for coverage of the Supreme Leader's weekend address as well as notice of President Ahmadinejad's presentation of his five-year National Development Plan to Parliament.

The Latest from Iran (11 January): Reading the Regime

However, all the information deserves a much closer look. Below the surface of pronouncement and public reports, there are powerful currents swirling within the Establishment. This is no less than an attempt, perhaps the last one before showdown reaches the highest levels of the regime, to find a way out of the political conflict.

There are hints tucked away in today's stories. Erdbrink, for example, has this enticing quote from Abbas Abdi, a former journalist critical of the Government: 
Mortazavi is the highest official the parliament could accuse without getting in trouble. If they would go after lower-level officials, their probe would have been meaningless." It is now up to the judiciary to press official charges against the former prosecutor.

Fathi goes for the line of a sop to the Green movement:
One analyst, a former senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in pinning the blame on Mr. Mortazavi, the government was trying to pacify the opposition.

“They might go as far as sacrificing Mortazavi, but I don’t think this is going to fool the opposition,” he said. “This does not mean a major compromise. It is just a tactic, and they are willing to sacrifice him because he crossed the lines.”

Both soundbites are half-right: Mortazavi now wears the title of Number One Scapegoat for the post-election excesses.

This, however, has little to do with concessions to the opposition. The regime's tough response to the Saturday march of Mothers of Mourning and their supporters, putting 33 in prison and reportedly injuring several, backs up the rhetoric that continues to come from Ministers, officials, Parliamentary leaders like Ali Larijani, and the Supreme Leader. No more demonstrations. No more resistance.

(At best, there may be an argument that the Parliamentary report is a signal to Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who raised the abuse charges back in July, that they should come in from the opposition cold and strike a deal. However, even that possibility --- raised in last week's letter from conservative/principlist leader and Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei to Ayatollah Khamenei --- has not been borne out by any other Government moves.)

And the Abdi line is incomplete, either in its reading or its representation by Erdbrink. The idea that Mortazavi is the biggest fish/scapegoat (pardon the mixing of animal metaphors) and therefore that the investigations and the allegations stop with the former prosecutor is a misunderstanding: the Parliamentary challenge to Ahmadinejad has come too far to stop with Mortazavi's punishment.

Remember, the President's response to this report --- after it was presented to Parliament --- was to proceed with the official ceremony for Mortazavi's appointment as the head of the unit investigating smuggling of currency and drugs. That's a come-and-get-me taunt to those in and close to the Majlis --- Rezaei, Ali Motahari, Ahmad Tavakoli, even Ali Larijani --- who want the President, not one of advisors, to admit errors and injustices. Motahari made that clear in his video interviews last week.

So leave the Green opposition to the side for the moment. One of two scenarios happens:

1. Mortazavi falls, and Ahmadinejad takes a blow to this authority. His Parliamentary and political foes will either then accept that they have contained Mahmoud or, smelling blood and victory, they will press on.

2. Ahmadinejad will not sacrifice Mortazavi, and the fight gets even more intense.

Into this mix let's throw in the Supreme Leader. His speech last Saturday was difficult to read because it had two apparently conflicting messages. On the one hand, as we initially updated, he was warning protesters to shut up and go away, a repetition of his 19 June line that tried to validate the Presidential election. On the other, he was indicating that there had to be some acceptance of excessive measures by security forces and assurances that they would not be repeated.

How to reconcile those signals? Well, by recognising to whom they are directed. The first is simply to keep the opposition at bay and, indeed, far, far away while the regime tries to sort itself out. The second, more immediately important message is to those who nominally support Khamenei. Read it carefully, and I think you've got the Supreme Leader lending some backing to the Parliamentary/political criticism of the Presidential office and, therefore, telling Ahmadinejad and the security forces aligned with him: Be Careful.

Another reminder: this isn't new. Rewind to July and August and there are a series of power plays and disputes between Parliament and the President and even the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad. Mahmoud and Company won some of those battles, getting more influence in ministries like Intelligence, and lost some, for example, with the forced climbdown over the appointment of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai as First Vice President. At that time, however, Ahmadinejad's biggest victories were getting to be President, with his inauguration in August, and getting his big Cabinet picks the following month.

All of this is back in play, however. As a very well-informed source told me last week, "The only way this ends is if and when some [expletive deleted] stabs Ahmadinejad in the back."

The Latest from Iran (10 January): "Middle" Ground?

1950 GMT: An American Strategy? I really don't understand what the Obama Administration is playing at. At the same time as Administration officials are putting out the story that the US is moving to a "sanctions for rights" approach (see separate analysis), the top US military commanders are going on rhetorical red alert and talking about confrontation.

First there was the preview of General David Petraeus' remarks (see 0745 GMT). Now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is declaring that while the US is following a diplomatic path with Iran, military options cannot be ruled out. Mullen is also saying that he is convinced Iran is pursuing the military nuclear programme.

That might mean the US gun is loaded, but then Mullen says, "An attack by us or anybody else would be destabilising," and he assures that US officials have noted the "legitimate concern" that the Iranian opposition would have to support the regime in the event of a US assault.

I'm sorry, but I'm far too tired to make sense of this. Watch the video and see what you can do.

1935 GMT: Report Is Not Enough. The reformist Imam Khomeini Line party has declared that the Parliament report on detainee abuses is a positive step but is incomplete, failing to consider a number of allegations against officials and security forces. The party cites the attacks on University dormitories and the death of the Kahrizak doctor, Ramin Pourandarjan, as cases that should have been cited.

1930 GMT: Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi announced that a Syrian journalist working for Dubai TV, arrested on Ashura (27 December), was released Sunday. Doulatabi also said a Swedish diplomat was detained on Ashura and later freed.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Military Commander Mullen on US Options (10 January)
NEW Iran Special Analysis: A US Move to “Sanctions for Rights”?
NEW Iran: Challenge to The Government in “The Heartlands”?
The Latest from Iran (9 January): Watching Carefully

1920 GMT: Larijani Playing the Hard Man. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Parliament, may have played supporting act to President Ahmadinejad's speech today, but he still took the opportunity to talk tough: "Opposition figures have to distance themselves from rioters in an attempt to correct their political records."

1720 GMT: Rafsanjani's Silence. The Los Angeles Times has picked up on the interview of Hashemi Rafsanjani's brother, Mohammad Hashemi (see 0730 GMT), explaining that the former President has been silent "because no one listens to him":
In the early days of the revolution the opposition based in abroad, monarchists, and his foes abroad stormed him with their verbal attacks. Now, unfortunately some people within the system make slanders against him and some media without paying attention to the remarks of [the Supreme Leader] keep on libeling him.

That's the positive way of being the situation: Rafsanjani is choosing to lie low, awaiting his chance to arise. The negative way of framing it might be that Rafsanjani has been pressured into submission.

1625 GMT: Ahmadinejad Targeted? You may have noticed a theme in our LiveBlog --- the growing conservative/principlist challenge to the President.

I held off on noting this video fully until an EA correspondent could confirm the reading, but in this clip, member of Parliament Ali Motahhari declares that Ahmadinejad has to be considered as one of the sources of trouble as well as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

1535 GMT: Iran's Hot New Television Series. It's called "Confessions of Ashura" --- whether it's a documentary or fictional drama is likely to be in the eye of the beholder.

1515 GMT: And Another University Demonstration (see 1100 GMT). About 800 students gathered at Shahid Behesti University yesterday to protest attacks on the campus and detentions of their classmates.

1505 GMT: Diplomatic Protests. A former Iranian diplomat has claimed that five current foreign service officers, serving in four Iranian embassies in European countries, have applied for asylum.

1430 GMT: Mediawatch. Reuters is featuring the story of the Parliament report on detainees, especially the abuses at Kahrizak prison:
More than 145 people detained after Iran's disputed June election were kept for several days in a room of 70 square metres at a Tehran jail, including three who died, a parliamentary report was quoted as saying on Sunday....

It rejected the initial claim by officials, including then Tehran chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, that the three deaths were caused by meningitis...."Their deaths are attributed to various issues such as limitation of space, poor sanitary conditions, inappropriate nutrition, heat, lack of ventilation and ... also as a result of physical attacks."

1400 GMT: Update --- Arrests of the Mothers of Mourning.

The 30 arrested Mothers of Mourning and supporters, arrested at Laleh Park yesterday, were taken by bus this afternoon to Revolutionary Court, passing more than 70 other mourning mothers and supporters had gathered since 8:30 a.m. outside Vozara detention centre. Those inside the bus showed Victory signs, while supporters followed in cars.

Those amongst the arrested include Mansoureh Behkish, Dr. Laila Sayfollahi, and sisters Hakimeh and Sedigheh Shokri.  One of the detained, a 75-year-old grandmother, has reportedly been taken to hospital.

1345 GMT: Ahmadinejad v. Parliament --- The Economic Front. President Ahmadinejad has addressed the Parliament to submit the draft of the Five-Year Development Plan to the Parliament. The plan sets the guidelines for the development of infrastructure, covering not only only the economy but also social, political, cultural, defense, and security areas.

No real clue in Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to either his political strategy or Parliament's reaction: "The draft is totally objective, enjoys an internal coherence, is compatible with the current situation of the country and is developed in a transparent and operational way."

1200 GMT: Taking Down Mortazavi? Parleman News reports that the findings of a special Parliament committee on arrests and detentions have been read in the Majlis.

According to the article, the role of Saeed Mortazavi, former Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuses of Kahrizak prison was officially recognised, and this committee stressed that the judiciary system should be held accountable for events.

1100 GMT: Another Student Demonstration. Word emerges of a sit-in strike, coinciding with final exams, at Razi University in Kermanshah in western Iran to protest the illegal detention of classmates.

0950 GMT: Justice Denied. Economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz has not been allowed to read out his defence in the appeal of his 9-year sentence.

0935 GMT: We've posted a special assessment of Washington's shift in policy, "Sanctions for Rights"?

0930 GMT: Score 1 for EA, 0 for US Strategy. Less than two hours ago, we noted the declaration of General David Petraeus that all contingencies, e.g. military action, are in play regarding Iran, and predicted, 2No prizes for guessing what Iran's state media will make of that soundbite."

This just in from Press TV's website, "US drops strongest hint of Iran blitz in months."

0835 GMT: Piling on The Leveretts. Muhammad Sahimi joins the shredding of last week's New York Times opinion piece, by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, trying diminish the Green movement and promote the Ahmadinejad Government.

0830 GMT: Movement Outside Tehran? We've posted an interesting piece by Borzou Daragahi of The Los Angeles Times on political shifts beyond the capital.

0745 GMT: This Weekend's Unhelpful Statements. From the Iranian side, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made the jump from nuclear discussions to "regime change" allegations yesterday, "Western countries know that Iran does not seek to produce nuclear weapons. However, they intend to use it as a pretext for interfering in internal affairs."

No surprise there --- I heard a well-placed Iranian academic make the same "regime change" claim against the United States last week --- but it does nothing to break the stalemate in the talks on uranium enrichment.

And then from the US side, there's General David Petraeus, the head of the military's Central Command. Petraeus, in an interview to be aired on CNN today, whips out the spectre of The Bomb: "It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies" against Tehran.

No prizes for guessing what Iran's state media will make of that soundbite, when it refers to "interfering in internal affairs".

0730 GMT: We're working on an analysis, to be published Monday, of manoeuvres including and surrounding the Supreme Leader's statement on Saturday. While the attempt to break the Green movement will continue, the question is whether this can be moderated, reducing overt violence and perhaps punishment specific officials for past excesses, while some notional "unity" arrangement can be struck with conservative/principlist critics.

Meanwhile, bits and pieces....

In the midst of these possible manoevures, an interesting comment from Mohammad Hashemi, who claims that former Hashemi Rafsanjani is remaining silent "because no one is listening".

Persian2English offers the latest information on detained members of the student movement Daftar-Takhim-Vahdat.

The Latest from Iran (9 January): Watching Carefully

2225 GMT: More on Khamenei Speech (see 1445 and 1850 GMT). An EA reader who watched the Supreme Leader's address today sends an interesting e-mail, "His speech did not sound aggressive. It sounded more as a request for calm and acting with wisdom after the fallouts of Ashura. It appeared that he was lacking in confidence. Same for the crowd."

2220 GMT: Halting the Mothers of Martyrs. An Iranian activist reports that, during their weekly march in Laleh Park, about 30 of Mothers of Martyrs in the post-election crisis and their supporters were arrested and taken to Vozara detention centre.

2200 GMT: Mortazavi --- Scapegoat or Valued Official? Iran-watchers may want to set aside a few moments for former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, whose future may turn upon the developments in the internal contest amidst conservatives and principlists.

Days after Mortazavi was reportedly named as prime "suspect" in the Parliamentary investigation of the deaths of Kahrizak detainees, he was formally named as President Ahmadinejad's advisor to combating smuggling of drugs and currency.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Sharif University Demonstration (9 January)
Iran: Four Responses to the “Wrong Questions” of the Leveretts (Lucas)
Iran: “What is This Opposition?” Right Answers to Wrong Questions (Shahryar)

The Latest from Iran (8 January): Karroubi Under Attack

Interpretation? Mortazavi is now the proxy in the battle between key conservatives/principlists and Ahmadinejad. The President wants him as a sign of Ahmadinejad's authority and as a firewall to any move by Parliamentary challenges; Ahmadinejad's critics see Mortazavi's downfall as a necessary victory in their battle.

Another marker in the dispute is a statement by a "pro-Government" student organisation criticising Ahmadinejad for the appointments of Mortazavi and for Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, the former First Vice-President --- a few days after his appointment, he was removed from office amidst vehement criticism from the conservatives/principlists  who may be aiming at Mortazavi ---  who is now Ahmadinejad's chief of staff.

2150 GMT: A Release. An EA reader writers that Reza Najafi, an Iranian translator, was released from jail on Thursday. Najafi worked for Caravan Publishing, which is owned by Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save the life of Neda Agha Soltan.

1920 GMT: The Khamenei Manoeuvre (Part 2). This article, from Payvand, should be read in conjunction with the passage of the Supreme Leader's speech offering some rhetorical concession on violence:
Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has criticized the people who made derogatory remarks about Mohsen Rezaei in regard to his recent letter to the Supreme Leader about Mir-Hossein Mousavi's recent proposals. Larijani made the remarks at a meeting with national police chiefs in Qom on Thursday.

"Rezaei has been a real mujahid (one who struggles in the cause of Islam) and strived wholeheartedly during the (1980-1988) Iran-Iraq war. Naturally, since he has entered the political scene, some of his ideas may be criticized. But why do some political figures question his career as a mujahid?"

"Today, society needs convergence not discord and not steps meant to undermine recognized figures' positions," he added.

It is not too speculative to treat Larijani as a channel for the political views of the Supreme Leader, and this manoevure is a clear call --- "Back Off" --- to those "hard-liners" who have criticised Rezaei for suggesting that a deal may now be struck with Mir Hossein Mousavi.

And there's more. Larijani said, "We should not call anyone who has different views a dissident and a hypocrite. In line with the Supreme Leader's directives, all people should try to create unity in the country to prepare the ground for economic activities, investment, and development."

That passage walks hand-in-hand with this week's declarations by high-profile MP Ali Motahari, on video and in print, calling for some negotiation of views and approaches to get out of the current post-election difficulties.

1850 GMT: Mixed Messages. Borzou Daragahi of The Los Angeles Times picks up on a passage from today's Supreme Leader statement (see 1445 GMT) that may point to some pull-back from all-out confrontation:
Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the [post-election] riots and the ongoing events. Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs, Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.

The obvious connection to make is that Khamenei's message is, first and foremost, to the conservative/principlist politicians who have been pressing for some sign of regime concession on the crackdown. That has including Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei's letter and the challenge of member of Parliament Ali Motahari (covered in this week's EA updates).

Doesn't look like this part of Khamenei's message has filtered down through the ranks, however. Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Naqdi, the head of the Basiji militia, preferred to pick up on the Supreme Leader's passage praising action against the "corrupt" and "rioters":
Now, all our people expect the security and intelligence organs as well as the judiciary to take action. People will jump to the fray if they feel these bodies are lax in their duties. People are critical of the laxness of security and judicial bodies against conspirators.

And Islamic Revolution Guard Corps commander Brigadier General Abdollah Araqi has proposed involving the Basiji militiamen, who are now within the Revolutionary Guard, in some IRGC operations.
Most Basijis are not inclined to militarism and so we have trained those interested in military activities separately within the framework of several battalions. The most-trained Basijis are now with Imam Hussein Battalions and their employment in security issues could be influential.

1840 GMT: Getting It Right About the Opposition. Following our responses to this week's attempt by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett to promote the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad Government by belittling the opposition, Abbas Milani adds his critique in The New Republic. The take-away quote: "The U.S. can either stand with the people of Iran, and support their quest for democracy—a democracy, incidentally, that offers the only solution to the nuclear problem as well—or it can side with those who defend the moribund regime."

1815 GMT: The University Demonstrations Continue. Compared to the tumult of last month, Iran's universities have been relatively muted in terms of open protest (though not, it should be noted, signed of opposition such as exam boycotts). Today, however, students at Sharif University came out in a show of protest over detentions of their classmates.

We've posted three clips.

1510 GMT: I'll be back in a couple of hours to round up latest news and analysis. Thanks to EA readers for keeping the information coming in.

1500 GMT: For Mahmoud, It's the Nukes. President Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is staying away from (or being kept from) the internal situation, as he declared in his nationally-televised speech that that further UN Security Council sanctions will not deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme:
[Other countries] issued several resolutions and sanctioned Iran ... They think Iranians will fall on their knees over these things but they are mistaken....We are not interested in conflicts (but) you are continually demanding things.

They should not think they can put up obstacles in Iranians' way ... I assure the people ... that the government will whole-heartedly defend Iran's rights and will not back down one iota.

1455 GMT: Reza Razaghi, one of the members of the central legal committee of Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested early this morning and moved to an unknown location.

Yadoolah Eslami, a former member of Parliament, has also been arrested.

1445 GMT: Khamenei's Back. Just arrived back in snowy Birmingham to find that, a few thousand miles away, the Supreme Leader has appeared publicly for the first time since Ashura. (You can have a peek at the video.)

Textbook stuff from Ayatollah Khamenei, speaking to visitors from Qom, about how appropriate it is to come down hard on the demonstrators: "The officials of the three forces saw for themselves what the nation is asking for, therefore, they must perform their duties well towards the corrupt and the rioters." (Note: I would be grateful if readers could verify whether Khamenei referred to Ahmadinejad by name.)

The Supreme Leader also played the foreign-spectre-behind-the-opposition card: "The U.S. and Britain and other arrogant powers, as well as their domestic misguided (allies), acted under the banner of struggle against the Imam (Ayatollah Khomeini) and the revolution since the very beginning of the victory of the Islamic revolution. The situation is the same now."

0320 GMT: The Newest Deal has an analysis, which matches up with some information I've received, of the offering-up of former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi as a sacrifice for the deaths of detainees at Kahrizak Prison. A broader way to consider this is that Mortazavi's fate is a "firewall" for the Ahmadinejad Government. If he is punished, the line might be held against pressure on others, including the President.

0300 GMT: Friday was a day, apart from the drama of the gunfire at Mehdi Karroubi's motorcade, to pick up pieces of information and put them together. I had the pleasure of a long chat with a couple of top Iran-watchers. Parts of the discussion will be shaping analyses in forthcoming days, but the two general lines of note were "marathon, not sprint" and "change is coming".

Meanwhile, some of those pieces to note before making my way back to Britain....

The Western media is now responding quickly to headline news from Iran: within hours of the Karroubi incidence, The New York Times, The Times of London, and The Guardian of London, amongst London, had posted stories.

Iran human rights organisations reacted by building the incident into another demand on the Government, referring to possible Basiji and Revolutionary Guard involvement in the events in Qazvin and calling on the regime to ensure the safety of opposition leaders. Reformist members of Parliament, such as Mohammad Reza Tabesh, are asking Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani to safeguard "insulted" legislators.

The Government is definitely going to use the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) "terrorist" line as a battering ram against the opposition: state media indicated on Friday that 5 Ashura detainees going on trial will be charged with membership of the organisation.

More news is emerging of students at Iran universities boycotting final examinations in protest at detentions of classmates.

The Latest from Iran (2 January): The Ripples of the Mousavi Statement

IRAN GREEN2240 GMT: Just Remember, It's the Zionists. And the Americans. At the end of a tiring, sometimes confusing day trying to interpret the political signals not only from Mir Hossein Mousavi but from others "within the Establishment", the simplicity of Kayhan offers a refuge from thought. Here is its front page:

Mousavi's latest statement was written by Mossad. And the CIA.

That's that, then. Thanks, guys, for saving me any further need for research. Or reflection. Or sense.

2155 GMT: Another Attack  on Mousavi's Organisation. Kalemeh reports that Mohammad Reza Tajik, a senior aide to Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been arrested.

2110 GMT: Larijani's Latest. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament, continues his tour of the country and his denunciation of the opposition, telling an audience in northeastern Iran: ""In the parliament we have considered such moves [of unrest] like walking on a minefield which would only cause deep rifts and damage the country's prestige."

Is Larijani playing bad cop to the conservative/principlist not-so-bad-cop (Rezaei, Motahari) in pressing for a resolution? Is he beyond compromise, setting out "they shall not pass" either as his personal position or as the (unacknowledged) representative of the Supreme Leader?

I leave it to others to work through the possibilities. Just wanted to ponder this: how many times have we mentioned Larijani in the updates in last few days? And how many times have we mentioned Ahmadinejad?

NEW Iran: The Non-Violent “Watershed” of the Mousavi Statement (Shahryar)
NEW Iran: A Gut Reaction to Mousavi’s “Martyrdom v. Compromise” Statement (Lucas)
NEW Iran Document: Mousavi’s “5 Stages to Resolution” Statement (1 January)
NEW Iran: 2009’s Year of Living Dangerously (Part 1)
Latest Iran Video: Protests Against and for the Regime (31 December)

1750 GMT: What Say You, Rafsanjani? As both Mir Hossein Mousavi and conservative/principlist factions make their political moves for a resolution, attention has now turned to a statement by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani at today's meeting of the Expediency Council, which he chairs.

Both Mousavi's Kalemeh and the state outlet Islamic Republic News Agency say Rafsanjani called for "unity" and "peace" by strengthening the bonds between Iranian people and the Government and that he praised the demonstrations of Iranians on the streets. IRNA then adds, however, that Rafsanjani said:

The Islamic establishment became victorious and continues its existence by relying on the people. I hope the desecrators will learn a lesson from the meaningful presence of the people on the street.

Press TV then adds the gloss, "Rafsanjani said the Wednesday rally also rendered ineffective the plots against the Islamic establishment."

1745 GMT: The Court of Appeals has upheld the six-year prison sentence of journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi.

1740 GMT: Karroubi and Mousavi Move? Saham News reports that Mehdi Karroubi has met Mir Hossein Mousavi for an hour in the home of Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali, slain last Sunday by security forces. In addition to paying respects, Karroubi discussed "issues surrounding Mousavi's statement".

1715 GMT: The "Conservative/Principlist" Manoeuvre With Mousavi. OK, here's the political game: conservative and principlist activists within the establishment are going to play up the Mousavi statement as a route to compromise in the post-election conflict. This will fit both the Mohsen Rezaei letter to the Supreme Leader (1050 GMT) and the proposals of MP Ali Motahari (1400 GMT). This is being propelled by Tabnak, which is linked to Rezaei.

Here's the tip-off: the English-language Tehran Times, citing Tabnak, has declared:
Former presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi has issued a statement in which he condemned the disrespect of religious sanctities by some protesters on Ashura day (December 27) and made five proposals for resolving the current issues facing the country....Mousavi’s first and second proposals imply that he has accepted that the election is over, a Tabnak analyst said.

The article makes no reference to the first part of Mousavi's statement, with its denunciation of the Government and its declaration that he is prepared to die in the cause of protest against injustice and denial of the Iranian people's rights.

1710 GMT: The Sane'i Demotion (see 1535 GMT). Rah-e-Sabz has claimed that the Qom Seminary Teachers statement, denouncing Ayatollah Sane'i as failing to meet the standards of a marja, was signed by only one person: fervent Ahmadinejad supporter Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.

Press TV, however, is playing up the "statement bearing the signature of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the former head of Iran's judiciary" as "Ayatollah Sanei no longer qualified: Clerical body" and adds the jibe that Sane'i has "been criticized by millions of Iranians who took part in the demonstration on Wednesday".

1700 GMT: Nemat Ahmadi, whose arrest was reported yesterday, has issued a denial. Ahmadi was at the farm where another activist, Ali Hekmat, was taken by security forces and went to the police station with him.

1535 GMT: Attacking Sane'i. The move against Ayatolllah Yusuf Sane'i continues: the Qom Seminary Teachers Association has announced that he does not meet the conditions to be a marja (eminent cleric, worthy of emulation).

1400 GMT: More on the Move "Within" the Establishment. Earlier today (0740 GMT), Mr Azadi read the Mousavi statement in the context of "unity" calls from clerics, members of Parliament, and high-profile politicians such as Mohsen Rezaei (see 1050 GMT).

Here's more material for the thesis, with the proposals of influential legislator Ali Motahari. Among his seven points:
The leaders of the Green Movement should formally acknowledge the legitimacy of the President, and stop labeling the June election as fraudulent. Furthermore, they should, in the strongest possible terms, distance their positions, slogans, and agenda from anti-Islamic and westernized groups that have infiltrated the Green Movement and seek its leadership....

The President should acknowledge his mistake during the televised debates, and ask for forgiveness from the parties implicated....

Freedom of speech should be established by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and the press should adhere to these standards....

The military atmosphere should be brought to an end, and the national intelligence services must put an end to their unfounded claims against the leadership of the Green movement, accusing them of velvet revolution, soft regime change and months of preparation for regime change based on collaboration with foreigners. They should see the roots of post election developments not in foreign intervention but in our own ambitions, worldly goals, illusions, misjudgments and mismanagements. They should apologize to the nation for their excessive use of force against people....

All the detainees, who have often been arrested for unfounded reasons, should be released as soon as possible , except those who have damaged public properties and have resorted to destroying public buildings, particularly those took part in the riots during Ashura....

The full identify and photos of those guilty of initiating, aiding and carrying out the events that took place in Kahrizak, University of Tehran, and Sobhan Apartment Complex should be revealed to the public, and their sentences should be announced....

The judiciary should not remain indifferent in the face of extremist and sectarian supporters of the government who under the mask of Velayat-e Faghih (Guardian of the Jurisprudence) intend to eliminate all reformist and Principalist political figures and order the disruption of public gatherings.

1330 GMT: And If the Nuclear Distraction Doesn't Work (see 0925 GMT).... Press TV has some more on the interview of  Foreign Manouchehr Mottaki on state television. Having put up headlines on Mottaki's "ultimatum" for the West to accept Iran's offers on uranium enrichment within a month, the website now turns to a Mottaki speech on Friday to play the "foreign intervention" card:
Enemies are afraid of the anti-oppression movement Iran has started in the world. So, they are constantly scheming to stop it from spreading in the Muslim world and elsewhere. Vain enemy support for these scattered incidents that have recently occurred in the country on an insignificant scale, will lead to nothing.

Curiously, however, Mottaki located Iran's Number One Enemy not in the great Satanic expanse of the United States but in Britain.

1315 GMT: We've posted our second special analysis of the day on the Mousavi statement: Josh Shahryar assesses the declaration as a non-violent "watershed" for the challenge to the regime.

1105 GMT: Jailing the Activists. Two more members of Iran's Human Rights Reporters, Parisa Kakaei and Mehrdad Rahimi, members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, were arrested yesterday. All but two of the organisation's central committee are now detained.

1050 GMT: Connection? The Mousavi Statement and the Rezaei Intervention. There is an intriuing dimension --- possibly parallel, possibly intersecting --- to Mir Hossein Mousavi's declaration on martyrdom and compromise.

Before the Mousavi statement emerged, it was being reported that Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei had written to the Supreme Leader urging a political resolution as Mousavi had now allegedly accepted the post-election legitimacy of the Government.

This morning that line is still being pushed by Press TV's website, which quotes Rezaei:
Although he moved later than he should have, Mousavi has retreated from the position of denying the legitimacy of Mr. Ahmadinejad's government. That retreat as well as his constructive proposal about the role that the parliament and judiciary must play in holding the administration accountable can signal the beginning of a new unifying movement from opposing front.

Rezaei has vocally aligned himself with the regime after Ashura, in public statements and in the letter: "Wednesday demonstrations that brought out millions in a magnificent show of national unity will not only make up for the shame of the sacrilegious events of Ashura but will also play a unique role in foiling enemy plots. Once more, it was proven that Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his reviving path will be the savior of the Iranian nation." So it is clear that any accountability, in his eyes, will be limited to officials rather than reaching up to the offices of the Supreme Leader.

Two questions. First, on the nature of a compromise, at least as foretold by Rezaei: does it include an "accountability" that pushes aside President Ahmadinejad?

Second, has Rezaei's intervention been co-ordinated with Mousavi (see Mr Azadi's interpretation below on an interaction between Mousasvi and other "unity" initiatives such as that of Hashemi Rafsanjani)? Alternatively, is it meant to limit and even undermine Mousavi, especially with the Green movement, by emphasising "retreat"? Or is this a parallel initiative by conservatives/principlists which may or may not intersect with Mousavi in coming days?

0925 GMT: No, It's Nukes, Nukes, Nukes. I would not want to suggest in any way that Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki is trying to take everyone's eyes away from what is happening inside Iran, but the timing of this "ultimatum" (his word, not mine) on State TV this morning is interesting: the West must accept accept the Iranian counterproposal either to sell 20-percent uranium to Tehran or swap it for Iran's 3.5-percent stock.

Mottaki declared that the international community "has one month left" to accept, or Tehran will enrich uranium to the 20-percent level.

0840 GMT: We've now posted a special analysis, "A Gut Reaction To The Mousavi Statement".

0740 GMT: We awake this morning to continuing discussion of yesterday's post-Ashura statement by Mir Hossein Mousavi. We have posted the English translation, and we are working on an analysis of the political significance of Mousavi's combination of a passionate condemnation of violence and a readiness to accept martyrdom with his 5-point programme for reconciliation and resolution. In the meantime, EA's Mr Azadi offers this interpretation, which can set against my own thoughts in yesterday's updates:
What is clear is that this statement is to some extent different from Mousavi's previous statements.

Last week, we saw that not only a number of senior scholars in Iran such as Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, Makarem- Shirazi, and Mazaheri recommended all parties and groups to pursue dialogue and unity but also that Ayatollah Fadhlullah in Lebanon emphasised the importance of that dialogue and unity. The seven-point plan of [high-profile member of Parliament] Ali Motahari, the speech of Ali Larijani in Friday Prayers at Mashhad, and the request of [Presidential candidate] Mohsen Rezaei to the Supreme Leader to carefully considering Mousavi’s Statement: all show that Iranian intellectuals and scholars from all parities have come to the same conclusion that this crisis has to stop as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, there have been rumours in Iran that some private dialogue between the Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani has taken place for resolving the current crisis. In this context, I think Mousavi's statement in a way is very similar to Rafsanjani’s plan for exiting from the current crisis.
Page 1 ... 1 2 3 4