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Entries in Edward Yeranian (3)


The Latest from Iran (18 January): Firewall

2205 GMT: And Here's Another One. Looks like the campaign against Hashemi Rafsanjani hasn't stopped. Someone in the regime has ensured that he will not be leading the ceremony at Imam Khomeini's memorial on 11 Bahman (1 February), the start of celebrations of Iran's Islamic Revolution.

2200 GMT: Political Teasers. While I've been out, EA readers have been sending in a series of interesting stories on the manoeuvres inside the establishment --- we'll have the best of them, with an analysis, to start Tuesday morning. Meanwhile....

Ayande News continues its campaign against former 1st Vice President and Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashi. The newspaper features the claim that several Rahim-Mashai relatives have been appointed to the board of the state automobile company Saipa, taking a controlling interest.

Rahim-Mashai's son, Reza, has become managing director of Saipa's investment branch while his nephew is now the company's head of business development.

NEW Iran Analysis: How “Mohareb” Death Sentences May Hurt Regime
Latest Iran Video: Marandi on CNN on Detainee Abuses “Mortazavi to Blame” (17 January)
Iran: The Ali-Mohammadi Case “A Political Assassination”

Iran: The Ali-Mohammadi Funeral “The Stolen Coffin”
UPDATED Iran Video & Translation: Dr Etaat’s Opposition On State Media (14 January — Parts 3-5)

Latest from Iran (17 January): Setting Aside Diversions

2150 GMT: More on the assassination of prosecutor Vali Haji Gholizadeh, shot dead in front of his home in Khoy City in Iran's West Azerbaijan province, bordering Turkey and Iraq. A police official says, "A special unit has been formed to identify those behind this assassination."

1935 GMT: Another 5-Point Plan (cont.). Radio Zaamaneh has published an English-language summary of the 5-point plan presented by 34 Iranian women (see 1615 GMT). The signatories, call for an “annulment of all discriminatory and anti-women laws, recognition of women’s right to their body and mind, ending violence against women and prosecution of all perpetrators of the crimes committed in the past thirty years” as part of a resolution of the current crisis. They also support "freedom of thought, speech and assembly", call for an end to torture and the death penalty, and demand “the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners”.

The 34 women put their 5 points within the framework of the Islamic Republic, "not changing the president or limiting the power of the leadership; but rather the realization of fundamental and structural changes”.

1920 GMT: Vali Haji Gholizadeh, the prosecutor of Khoy, a town in western Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran, has been killed by a gunshot.

1653 GMT: I'll be away for a few hours for academic and media work, returning about 2100 GMT for an evening update.

1650 GMT: Norooz is reporting that the Qoba Mosque in Shiraz, which was occupied by pro-Government groups who closed the offices of Ayatollah Dastgheib, has reopened.

1615 GMT: Another 5-Point Plan. Responding to and interacting with Mir Hossein Mousavi's 5-point proposal of 1 January, 34 Iranian women have published their own 5-point manifesto for resolution of the political crisis.

1440 GMT: Demonstrations and Trials. One reliable Iranian activist is updating on today's "mohareb" trial of five accused, while another is reporting that 100s of family members of detainees have gathered outside the Tehran Prosecutor General's office.

1145 GMT: Poking at "Foreign Intervention", Chapter 2 (see 0940 GMT). Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has declared the Islamic Republic will have its revenge on "foreign elements" (and, yes, he means you, Israel) over the assassination of Professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi.

1130 GMT: The "Mohareb" Trials. Iranian Students News Agency is reporting that five protesters, detained on Ashura (27 December), have gone on trial, accused of "mohareb" (war against God), a charge that could carry the death sentence. The Islamic Republic News Agency has said the five are members of the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI).

See our related analysis, "How 'Mohareb' Death Sentences May Hurt Regime".

0940 GMT: Mottaki to Britain "We Will Decide If We Like You". Today's poke at "foreign intervention" comes from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who says: "Iran has carried out a thorough study on its relations with Britain in different fields particularly over the past six months. There are 10-12 working fields between Iran and the UK. We are currently reviewing each area."

No word yet of British panic over the statement.

0800 GMT: The Regime and Mohareb. We've posted a report by Edward Yeranian of Voice of America which points to risks for the regime in threatening death sentences for protesters because they are "mohareb" (warriors against God).

0700 GMT: More on Target Mortazavi. Press TV's website is headlining the letter by 55 members of Parliament to President Ahmadinejad and the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, "demanding clarification" on the Kahrizak prison enquiry and the case of Saeed Mortazavi.
0650 GMT: And If You're Really Into Battles. On the Ahmadinejad v. Rafsanjani front, Hojetolelam Saghaye Biriaa, an advisor to Ahmadinejad, used a speech to criticise the Green Movement and then attacked the former President, "The Leader’s approach and beliefs are completely different to those of Hashemi Rafsanjani, exactly like Imam Khomeini, whose understanding and beliefs were different to the approach and beliefs of Ayatollah Montazeri."

0640 GMT: Motahhari v. The Government (Round 45). Just to highlight another running story, the "challenge within" from member of Parliament and Larijani ally Ali Motahhari, here are the weekend's headlines:

Motahhari directly criticised Ahmadinejad, accusing him as being one of the principle causes of the post-election crisis and saying he has to apologize to people for his wrong actions. Ahmadinejad advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai responded to a group of journalists: “Firstly, what Motahhari is saying is cheap and baseless and, secondly, we are in the processes of filing a complain against him."

Back came Motahhari, declaring that Mashai should not interfere in and talk about issues which are beyond his "brain capacity" and that he should continue working on his ridiculous plan of Iran-Israel friendship. Then Motahhari returned to Ahmadinejad: the President is like "the person who has caused a big and tragic (car) accident but he has escaped from the scene and we have to try and penalise and punish the person who has the most responsibility".

0600 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports concerns over the deteriorating health of Ebrahim Yazdi, the former Foreign Minister and leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran, who has been detained since Ashura (27 December). The 79-year-old Yazdi was also held just after the June election but, on that occasion, was soon released.

0555 GMT: Cyber-War Update: Mahmoud Silenced. President Ahmadinejad's blog is still off-line, weeks after the website was attacked.

0540 GMT: The lead news this morning continues to be the regime's effort at legitimacy through the investigation of the detainee abuses at Kahrizak Prison. A couple of months ago, the speculation was that former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi would be the fall guy, facing a trial and jail for his supposed lead role in the scandal of beatings and deaths of prisoners. That was deflected by Mortazavi's appointment as an aide to President Ahmadinejad, but now it appears that he is the firewall against challenges to others in the Government and regime, including the Supreme Leader.

We've got the video of the CNN interview in which Tehran University academic Seyed Mohammad Marandi lays out, in the guise of reporting and analysis, the strategy. (Apologies to those of you in the US whom CNN have blocked from seeing the video; the alternative, as laid out by our readers, is to download the video from CNN's Amanpour website and play it back on QuickTime.)

Elsewhere, Agence France Presse picks up on the opening provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting debates, in which some reformists have made telling challenges to the regime. While we have highlighted the remarks of Dr Javad Etaat, posting the video and translation of his contribution, AFP notes the exchange between reformist member of Parliament Mostafa Kavakebian and "hard-line" editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari.

Iran Analysis: How "Mohareb" Death Sentences May Hurt Regime

Edward Yeranian of Voice of America reports:

Iran will put 16 opposition demonstrators on trial, Monday, and several are to be charged with "offending God and his prophet." Sixty journalists and intellectuals are expressing outrage over use of the charge of being "mohareb", which carries the death penalty.

The Iranian judiciary will put 16 opposition protesters on trial, Monday, in connection with demonstrations last month on the holy day of Ashoura. Press reports and recent statements by Iranian prosecutors indicate several will be charged with the offense of "mohareb" or "making war against God and his prophet." Conviction on such a charge carries the death penalty.

The Latest from Iran (18 January): Firewall

In an open letter to the Iranian judiciary, a group of 60 Iranian journalists and intellectuals, most of whom live abroad, are demanding a stop to using the religiously-based charge of "mohareb" against opposition protesters. They say in their letter, that "if protesting is making war against God, then we are all warriors."

Some pro-government supporters are also unhappy about the use of the charge against opposition protesters. In a recent interview with Iranian state TV, Javad Etaat, argues the government is contravening the principles of Islam by using an iron fist against protesters. He points out the first Imam of Shi'ite muslims, Imam Ali, said 'keep people that criticize you close to yourselves, because even if their words are bitter, you will benefit from them in the end."

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who now lives in exile in Paris, argues the use of the term "mohareb" by the Iranian government is excessive. He says the regime is not respecting its own laws, because the term "enemy of God" means someone who takes up arms against a just regime, and people did not take up arms against the regime, they were merely demonstrating to protest against dictatorship, a right which the law of the Islamic Republic gives them. Secondly, he argues, in the case of an unjust regime, the Koran says a muslim has not only the right, but the obligation to revolt against it. Thirdly, he adds, it was the government that fired on the people during Ashoura, when they were exercising their legitimate right to demonstrate.

Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham in Britain, who is behind the popular Iran blog "Enduring America," says government tactics such as charging protesters with being "enemies of God" are starting to cause a rift within the government itself. "If you look at what Dr. Etaat said during that extraordinary (Iranian TV) interview this week, this is a very telling point, which he said: when you use the term "velvet revolution" and the terms "enemy of God," what you are pointing to is a revolution against an unjust system. You are highlighting how unjust the system is by using the terms. So, "mohareb," rather than unifying people behind the Islamic Republic just risks causing more splits and rifts, and rifts within the regime. There is some really serious opposition within the regime, which is saying "look, back off, stop doing this," and one reason is because they are using this term "mohareb," he says.

Lucas says the judiciary appears to be downplaying the latest trials, unlike the "show trials of opposition activists during the summer."

The Latest from Iran (1 January): Mousavi's Resolution?

IRAN GREEN2050 GMT: A First Go at Reading Mousavi. Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America writes, "Iran Opposition Leader Mousavi Not Afraid to Die for Reform" (there is also an audio report), and kindly gives us space in the article for a few thoughts:
Scott Lucas...thinks that both the opposition and the government are digging in their heels for a confrontation:

"The five-point plan is not new. [Mousavi] said something similar in around October. [This], therefore, is still a compromise within the system. [However], the other thing that's important is that the language he uses --- before he gets to that [compromise] --- about his possible martyrdom is striking: 'My blood is no redder than those of others in the [opposition] movement, but I'm ready to die.' [This is] a language of expected confrontation, as opposed to political compromise," he said.

Lucas also argues that Mousavi may be trying to re-establish himself as the clear leader of the opposition after complaints in recent months that he hadn't been showing up to lead public demonstrations. Many in the opposition, he notes, have been saying that the "opposition is leading Mr. Mousavi and not the contrary".

NEW Iran: 2009’s Year of Living Dangerously (Part 1)
Latest Iran Video: Protests Against and for the Regime (31 December)
Iran: The Rafsanjani Interview on France 24 (28 December)
Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
Iran: How Significant Was the Regime’s Rally?

The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

2010 GMT: Explaining the Mousavi Statement (0745 GMT). We'll ponder overnight before offering an analysis tomorrow of Mir Hossein Mousavi's political move today. However, we may have gotten clues from Dr. Abolfazl Fateh, the head of Mousavi’s media committee in the Presidential campaign: "Mousavi’s statement is a significant goodwill gesture from his side and an important test for the authorities."

Fateh explained that Mousavi had offered a solution based on “goodwill and the minimum expectations of the people”, but this was now the last argument to be put:

If the authorities lose this chance the future great difficulties is their responsibility and they will be blamed for not taking advantage of this opportunity forever. Is there anyone listening among those who claim to care for the country?

So is Mousavi really calling this a "last chance" for the Government to accept a compromise within the system, based on the Constitution and changes in legal and political practices? And is he putting that message to the Supreme Leader as well as politicians and ministers?

1955 GMT: And Also Going After Ayatollah Dastgheib. It appears that, along with Ayatollah Sane'i (1005 GMT), Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib of Shiraz is the main target of the regime. Plainclothes forces again attacked Qoba Mosque, days after moving on Sane'i's offices. Claimed footage of the attack has been posted, and there is a purported audio of Dastgheib speaking to  his followers.

1845 GMT: Today's Trees-Died-For-This? Moment. William Kristol in The Washington Post, claiming to come to the assistance of "the people of Iran" but establishing that he knows little if anything of Iranian religious tradition, history, culture, or politics.

(Mr. Kristol, if you're reading this, go to "A Request to Charles Krauthammer: Go Away". Consider the message duplicated.)

1810 GMT: Punishment, 1979 Style. In a telling passage in his Tehran Friday Prayer (see 1640 GMT), Ayatollah Jannati called for a return of "justice" of the first years of the Islamic Republic:
People’s expectations of the judiciary are very high. Of course we are aware that the judiciary has certain limitations now and cannot act like the courts of the early days of the Revolution. But if they had acted like those days this affair would have been over long ago.

Some analysts contend that in those years, amidst terrorism and the war with Iraq, Iran's judicial system authorised summary execution without full trials.

1725 GMT: Tehran's Friday Prayer (see 1640 GMT). Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting has posted extracts from Ayatollah Jannati's speech, promising punishment on all those who protest in the Islamic Republic.

1715 GMT: A group of students from Amir Kabir University in Tehran have issued a statement that they will not attend classes or take exams until their detained classmates are released.

1650 GMT: And That Punishment Is.... Giving the tough words of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani (0940 GMT), Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi (1120 GMT), Deputy Head of Judiciary Ebrahim Raeesi (0935 GMT), and Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ahmad Jannati (1640 GMT) some back-up, Iran's judiciary has announced that seven people arrested on Ashura will be put on trial next week for "desecrating the ideals of the Islamic Revolution".

1640 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Summary. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati laying it out for the masses today:

Protesters are really, really bad. And we will punish them.

Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, said, "The judiciary system should act with more speed in dealing with rioters....The Islamic establishment in Iran will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Islam."

Most of the speech was the standard foreign-powers-are-behind-all-this script; however, Jannati added an ominous improvisation: "the harshest punishment for desecrating Islamic beliefs". The reference is being read by some observers as an endorsement of the death penalty.

1635 GMT: Latest Arrests. Sadegh Javadi-Hesar, a member of the reformist Etemade Melli Party and lawyer Nemat Ahmadi.

1625 GMT: From China With Love. The buzzing story this afternoon comes from Rah-e-Sabz: "Iran has imported high-tech armored anti-riot vehicles equipped with water cannons that can douse people with boiling water or teargas". An Iranian blogger gives details of the vehicles, two of which are pictured on the website:
With an alleged price of $650,000 a unit, the 25-ton trucks each hold 2,640 gallons of water, which can shoot hot or cold water at a distance of up 220 feet. They can also shoot tear gas, burning chemicals or paint stored in three 26-gallon containers.

[The truck] includes a plow, which can presumably demolish makeshift barriers placed on streets by protesters, or even the demonstrators themselves.

The Los Angeles Times features the story, which has a none-too-subtle undertone: from Tienanmen Square in 1989 to a version in Tehran 20 years later?

1445 GMT: A Renewed Attempt at Unity? At least one prominent politician has not given up on the search for political compromise. Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei has published a letter to the Supreme Leader. Rezaie asks Ayatollah Khamenei to publish a statement on unity and brotherhood, as Mir Hossein Mousavi, according to Rezaei, has retreated from his claim that that the Government is illegal.

1245 GMT: Mousavi and the Students. Today's Mir Hossein Mousavi statement (see 0745 GMT) has now climbed the ladder of the Western media, with a featured place on The Los Angeles Times site and coverage on CNN television (but not CNN's website).

Meanwhile, a student at Azad University Mashhad has given a first-hand account of the demonstrations and clashes, with more than 200 arrested and some reportedly missing, at the campus.

1120 GMT: We're Gonna Get Ya (cont. --- see 0935 GMT). Iran's Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi dealt out some more tough talk on Thursday in a TV interview: "The Intelligence Ministry has obtained good clues in respect to the elements who had a role in the recent riots. This unrest is different from that of the past and is a prearranged counter-revolutionary movement, designed by agents of sedition."

1005 GMT: Going after Sane'i? More possible evidence that the regime sees Ayatollah Yusuf Sane'i as a religious and political threat: a video and photos of claimed attacks on his residence and his office in Kerman have been posted.

0945 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that 210 students of Azad University of Mashhad have been arrested after Wednesday's demonstration and clashes with security forces.

0940 GMT: However, in Mashhad.... Nothing low-key about yet another public declaration by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani. Speaking before Friday Prayers in Mashhad, he once again brought out all the themes of the Iranian regime defending the nations by smacking down the "hypocrites", backed by foreign powers, who demonstrated on Ashura.

0935 GMT: We're Gonna Get Ya. The deputy head of Iran's judiciary, Ebrahim Raeesi, has introduced Tehran Friday Prayers with yet another warning that protesters will be dealt with firmly. Hardly a surprising line, and one wonders --- given that Raeesi is not one of the most prominent players in the regime --- whether this is a relatively low-key finger-wagging despite its current first-story status for the Islamic Republic News Agency.

0855 GMT: The Changing Importance of the Story. The elevation of Iran in Western media can be measured by the quick attention given to Mir Hossein Mousavi's statement (see 0745 GMT)declaring his readiness for martyrdom and proposing a 5-stage resolution for post-election conflict. The BBC website features the story as "Breaking News", and The Washington Post, carrying the Associated Press report, highlights that Mousavi is "defiant after new threats". Reuters announces that Mousavi has declared Iran is in "serious crisis"; The New York Times quickly prints the report.

0835 GMT: We Do Information, You Do Propaganda. No comment necessary, I think, on this article from Press TV:
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has launched a satellite channel to respond to the subliminal psychological programming of western media. The international channel Sahar Universal Network 2, which was launched on Thursday, December 31, 2009, aims to show Iranian society as it really is, and effectively combat western manipulation of media which distorts events, censoring and misrepresenting them.

It aspires to confront the influence of non-Islamic culture in the Muslim world and reveal the hegemonic policies of the great powers, which wish to dominate the peoples and nations of the world. Sahar Universal Network 2 seeks to introduce the rich culture of Islam, as well as political, cultural, social and economic advances made by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

0745 GMT: A weekend Friday has started quietly in Iran, as the country continues to wind down from the drama of Moharram's last two weeks. EA's Mr Smith takes advantage of the lull to offer Part 1 of a special review, ""2009's Year of Living Dangerously".

There could be some political noise later, however. Mir Hossein Mousavi has issued his first statement after Sunday's Ashura demonstrations. Criticizing the brutal confrontation of the Government’s forces with the mourning nation of Iran, Mousavi offers a five-stage resolution.

Mousavi's stages are 1) the acceptance by the administration, the Parliament. and the judiciary of direct responsibility for recent events, 2) a transparent law for elections that can create public trust, 3) release of political prisoners restoring their dignity and honour, 4) recognition of the freedom of press and media, and 5) confirmation of the people’s right of legal demonstrations.

Without singling out the martyrdom of his nephew on Ashura, Mousavi reiterates that he has no fear of becoming a martyr in the people's quest for their legitimate religious and political demands. He declares that any order for the execution, murder, or imprisonment of Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi Mousavi, or other prominent reformists will not solve Iran's problems.

We watch to see if Tehran's Friday Prayers, led by Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, bring a significant show of support for the regime to follow Wednesday's rally. Meanwhile Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli has issued a statement on the events of Ashura, expressing his sorrow and concern over violence involving police against protesters. Javadi-Amoli said it was essential that while those who were breaking the law were dealt with, while those were demonstrating peacefully should not be treated justly.