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Entries in Flynt Leverett (7)


The Latest from Iran (29 January): Sideshows and Main Events

2320 GMT: The Committee of Human Rights Reporters has issued a statement on recent allegations against its members, many of whom are detained:
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 When a ruling establishment with an outdated legal system tries to impose itself politically and ideologically on a modern society, the result will be widespread protests.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.

Yeah, right.

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.

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".

Latest Iran Video: The Leverett Line on Killing of Professor Mohammadi (13 January)

World Focus interviewed Flynt Leverett last night about the assassination of Professor Massoud Ali Mohammadi. Leverett accepts without question that this is an attempt to disrupt Iran's nuclear programme. However, his line differs in detail from that presented on Iranian state media by his co-author Seyed Mohammad Marandi, discounting US involvement in the attack while pointing to the possibility of an Israeli role.

Latest Iran Video: How State Media Frames Killing of “Nuclear” Professor (12 January)

Much of the interview, however, is a platform for Leverett's wider (unsupported) allegations that the US Government is providing $400 million to groups for "regime change" in Iran and is funding the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO), the group pursuing an often-violent campaign to overthrow the Iranian Government since 1979.


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

2045 GMT: Sanctions La-Dee-Dah. Associated Press is a-quiver over this statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though I'm not sure why:
It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran. They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon.

That's not a breakthrough declaration, only a holding one. The White House does not want the sweeping sanctions proposed by Congress and will go for a "targeted" approach. It's just not clear who is being targeted with what.

1945 GMT: Journalist Mohammad Reza Nourbakhsh has been sentenced to three years in jail by an appeals court for participating in rallies on 15 June. Nourbakhsh was originally given a six-year prison term.

1940 GMT: Beaten in Detention. Kalemeh claims Mehdi Mahmoudian, a senior member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been beaten by the authorities in Evin Prison.

NEW Iran Exclusive: The Latest Nuclear Riddle — Renewed Talks with “West”?
NEW Iran Analysis: Beyond the Headlines, The Regime Battles Itself
NEW Iran & Twitter: Myth v. Reality of Security and “Deep Packet Inspection”
NEW Iran & Twitter: Last Words on The Hell of Heaven (Shahryar)
Latest Iran Video: Military Commander Mullen on US Options (10 January)
Iran Special Analysis: A US Move to “Sanctions for Rights”?
Iran: Challenge to The Government in “The Heartlands”?
The Latest from Iran (10 January): “Middle” Ground?

1935 GMT: The Detained. Back from an academic break to find that an Iranian activist has posted the names of 156 people arrested between the religious days of Tasoa and Ashura (26-27 December) and 9 January.

1635 GMT: Spinning Rafsanjani. Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking as chairman of the Expediency Council, has made another general call for reconcilation.

Press TV portrays this as "the Iranian nation should follow the rule of the law and avoid taking extrajudicial measures as not to obstruct the path of justice". While this could be applied as an injunction to both the opposition and Government forces, the state outlet puts the emphasis is on following the guidance of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic: "If [this is] obeyed, balance will return to the society and there will be no room left for frictions. Foreign enemies have clung to the current state of affairs in the country as it is apparent in their tone."

The website also tries to rebut the claim, made by Rafsanjani's brother this weekend, that the former President has been pressured into silence. Instead, it claimed that "Rafsanjani rejected the notion and said he was always trying to resolve the problems away from media hype".

1615 GMT: Those Wacky Leveretts. They may have had their pro-Government, anti-Green movement opinion, published in The New York Times, shredded by analyst after analyst, but that doesn't stop Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett from returning to their defence of the regime.

On their website, the Leveretts crudely twist a Wall Street Journal article (which was considered in an EA analysis yesterday on the US policy on sanctions, Iran's nuclear programme, and a "rights-first" approach) into "THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MOVES TOWARD REGIME CHANGE IN ITS IRAN POLICY". They select and crop quotes, to the point of distortion, but this is their sleight-of-hand claim:
Buying into the proposition that the Islamic Republic is imploding has the effect of driving the policy argument toward support for “regime change” in Tehran.

Umm, no. There is a difference between analysis --- in this case, evaluating the internal difficulties in the Iranian regime --- and advocacy. It's the "is-ought" difference, one which should be picked up by an undergraduate student, let alone a supposed foreign-policy expert: noting that something "is" happening is not the same as declaring it "ought" to happen.

The Leveretts are not undergraduate students, so they know what they are doing. By putting out this claim, "whether President Obama and his advisers want to call their policy “regime change”, that is precisely the direction in which they are moving", they will buttress the propaganda line of the Iranian Government that the opposition can all be attributed to "foreign instigation". (I heard this declaration loud and clear in two presentations, including one by an  academic who works with the Leveretts, at the Beirut conference I attended last week.)

Since the survival of the Iranian regime rests in part on making that allegation stick, and since the Leveretts support the quest for that survival, let's just recognise this piece for what it is: an "ought" piece of advocacy rather than an "is" contribution to analysis.

(P.S. to Flynt and Hillary: Throwing in a picture of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is calling for a "rights-based" approach to sanctions, with Ahmad Chalabi of Iraq "regime change" infamy, is a really nice touch.)

1505 GMT: Today's Fist-Shaker. It's Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie making an appearance to tell Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi that it's time for measures against "elements behind the recent sedition....It is expected that the demands ... that those who were leading the post-election sedition are put on trial, are met."

1500 GMT: The "Reformist" Push. Former President Mohammad Khatami has put out his own statement, following that of Mehdi Karroubi, calling for an end to the "extreme violence" and dialogue over political, social, and economic issues.

1455 GMT: A Day for Analyses. Not sure why, but a lot of information seems to be falling into place today. The latest topic is Iran's nuclear manoeuvres with "the West" --- we've got an exclusive on Tehran's latest attempt to keep the discussions going.

1340 GMT: Waving Sticks. EA readers have offered comments considering the reasons for this weekend's declaration by General David Petraeus, the head of the US military's Central Command, that all military options are open in contingency plans for Iran (see yesterday's updates).

For the Iranian Government, however, there is a simple reading. The Foreign Ministry spokesman declared today, "[Petraeus'] comments are thoughtless and it is better that any statement made in this regard take a constructive approach."

1315 GMT: The Karroubi Statement (see 1150 GMT). Reuters has picked up on Mehdi Karroubi's declaration with takeaway quotes such as....
[I am] prepared for any disaster.....Some are thinking that they can block the reform course by closing down newspapers and putting reformers in jail ... but I remain firm in the path that I have chosen....I announce that such threats will not frighten me and will not weaken me in this path.

Agence France Presse has a shorter but similar article. Inexplicably, both Reuters and AFP miss the even more important part of Karroubi's statement, the 5-point proposal for resolution.

1200 GMT: We've posted a special analysis, based on latest developments and speech, of the battles within the Iranian regime. The conclusion? This will only be resolved "when someone stabs Ahmadinejad in the back".

1150 GMT: Karroubi's "5-Point" Plan. First it was Mir Hossein Mousavi with a 5-point post-Ashura proposal for political resolution; now it's Mehdi Karroubi.

Karroubi has written an open letter proposing 1) admission by Government officials of injustices; 2) adherence to the values of the Islamic Revolution through guarantees such as freedom of the press and legal rights; 3) adherence to non-violence for reform and acceptance of the Supreme Leader; 4) acceptance of criticism and an end to violence against those who dissent; 5) a national debate so Iranian people can make a free and informed decision about the way forward for the country.

1145 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that 56 professors at Elm-o-Sanat University in Tehran have written in support of students, asking that they are able to take examinations without fear of disciplinary action over protests.

The intervention follows an open letter by almost 90 professors at Tehran University to the Supreme Leader, asking for a cessation of violence against demonstrations.

1130 GMT: The "Incomplete" Detainees Report. Parallelling and extending the "reformist" criticism that the Parliament report on detainee abuse is incomplete, Ayande News --- which is far from reformist --- is claiming that Iranian state media have not given a full account of the report and its discussion in the Majlis. Ayande even asks whether those responsible for the abuses at Kahrizak Prison are also responsible for output on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

1110 GMT: Foreign Presence. The Government's overseas push is in Syria, as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visits Damascus. No significant news has come out of the talks so far.

0920 GMT: No major news this morning, but a lot of individual developments with deeper meanings this weekend. The Supreme Leader's speech, President Ahmadinejad's appearance in Parliament, the arrest of the Mothers of Mourning and their supporters in Laleh Park, the Parliamentary report on the abuse of detainees: all have gotten headline coverage, but the intra-regime tensions that they reveal have yet to be analysed, if recognised. We'll make a start on that analysis later today.

Meanwhile, Josh Shahryar and Mike Dunn have special analyses trying to put away the recent mis-information on #IranElection, Twitter, and security. Shahryar offers final words of reply to Will Heaven, the blogger for The Daily Telegraph who tried to blame "Twitterati" for endangering the Iranian people, while Dunn separates myth from reality over "Deep Packet Inspection".

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.