1840 GMT: "Foreign Enemies" Cause Regime Change...and Earthquakes. Investigative Journalism of the Day from Kayhan --- the earthquake in Haiti was caused by the redoubtable US "Harp" weapon, which is more powerful than an atomic bomb.
1830 GMT: More on Larijani's Challenge. In his recent speech, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani used the economy to challenge President Ahmadinejad, criticising the rising government budget and the failure of the 4th Development Plan. Only one-quarter of the Development Plan has reportedly been implemented.
Iran: How Should the US Treat the Green Movement? (Haghighatjoo)
NEW 2009: The View from Inside Iran
Iran Analysis: “Supreme Leader Warns Rafsanjani” — The Sequels
NEW Iran: Ahmadinejad and the Labor Movement
The Latest from Iran (21 January): Speaking in Codes
1805 GMT: Film Boycott. The famous director Abbas Kiarostami has refused to join the jury of Tehran's Fajr International Film Festival, which is scheduled to start on 25 January. Kiarostami joins other prominent figures, such as actor Ezzattollah Entezami and director Asghar Farhadi, who have turned down offers to be on the panel.
An EA reader updates: Theo Angelopoulos, the famous Greek filmmaker, has decided to withdraw from the festival.
1800 GMT: Academic Purges (cont.). Two of the Allameh Tabatabei University professors who have been banned from teaching are prominent political philosopher Seyed Morteza Mardiha and women's rights activist Saba Vasefi.
1755 GMT: The reformist Mohajedin of Islamic Revolution have issued a protest against the arrests of political activists, journalists, and students and the attacks on valuable members of the Islamic Republic for pseudo-offences, demanding their immediate release.
1630 GMT: The Tehran Prosecutor-General, Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi, has declared that anyone who associates with the Committee for Human Right Reporters is a "criminal".
Seven of the nine members of the central committee of CHRR are now detained.
1535 GMT: But the Best Will Come on Friday. Here, however, is a hint of the most explosive information we have gotten today. It will take us a bit of time to get it in proper context but....
The Plot to Remove Ahmadinejad: It involves at least three high-ranking officials in the Iran Government, one of whom is close to the Supreme Leader, one of whom is connected to the Revolutionary Guard and to Hashemi Rafsanjani, and one of whom is an influential politician but has remained almost silent in the post-election crisis. A fourth key person, who was involved in one of the Presidential campaigns and has a special grievance over the Kahrizak Prison scandal, is complementing the move with public statements.
The initial plan was to "take care" of the opposition in the current crisis and then move against the President, but it appears that this has been overtaken by events: Ahmadinejad may have to go even as the Green movement and Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami cause complications for the plotters.
1530 GMT: Another Target for the Supreme Leader. A bit of additional (and so far unknown) information behind Ayatollah Khameini's warning to the "elites" to "take sides" this week:
Last week, Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli, the former Friday Prayers leader in Qom, sent a letter to Khameini last week criticising the Government. Javadi-Amoli reportedly, after a public class in Qom, said that "nobody can solve a problem with money", a reference to the President's handout to Iran's poorest people, and that such actions were unfair because anyone "can get love" by buying it.
Khamenei's warning was, therefore, not only to Hashemi Rafsanjani and to the "conservative/principlist opposition within" but to Javadi-Amoli for going far publicly, especially as it is becoming apparent that the Supreme Leader fears a major protest on 22 Bahman (11 February).
1520 GMT: Why the Newspapers are Being Threatened (see 0955 GMT). Look to the Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mo-Amin Ramin. An EA source says Ramin, a former Foreign Ministry official and a friend of Ahmadinejad (he reportedly is influential in the President's thoughts on the Holocaust), is behind the warnings to no less than 15 newspapers to stop publishing critical information about the Government.
The editor of Jomhouri Eslami, Masih Mohajeri, wrote to the Minister of Culture --- after Ramin threatened closure of the newspaper for publishing the 1 January statement of Mir Hossein Mousavi --- to ask him to "Ershad Ramin" (Ershad in Persian and Arabic means "Guidance"). The Parliament asked Ramin to appear before a committee and explain his actions.
Neither initiative seems to have had any effect.
1510 GMT: An Afternoon of Inside Information. Have spent a few hours checking with some very knowledgeable people about the manoeuvres inside and outside the regime. Consider this "clerical alliance", for example:
On Tuesday, Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the late Imam, went to the house of Ayatollah Sane'i in Qom. After a "very good meeting", Khomeini criticised the "hard-line" Society of Teachers and Researchers of Qom, headed by the pro-Ahmadinejad Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.
With the visible support for Sane'i, who has been effectively ostracised (and arguably, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, feared) by the Government, and the denunciation of the Society, Khomeini's allegiances have been re-confirmed. Indeed, the visit was quickly condemned by Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Hosseinian, a fervent backer of the President.
1034 GMT: Defend the Supreme Leader! If you're lost like me in the confusion around the intrigues for and against the Iranian Government, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Press TV hold out this simple lifeline:
"Velayat-e-Faqih is the foundation of democracy and religion in the country," Larijani told a gathering of clerics in central Markazi Province.
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, is the current religious jurisprudent. Under Iran's Constitution, the the Assembly of Experts chooses and supervises the Leader.
(For US readers: think of it through the words of Paul Crowe (played by Burt Reynolds) in the 1974 classic The Longest Yard: "The most important thing to remember [in American football] is....Protect your Quarterback --- Me!")
1030 GMT: Ayande News stirs the pot a little more, published an analysis of why different "hard-liners" may be trying to bring down the regime.
1025 GMT: Massoud Nur Mohammadi has joined his brother Saeed, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, in detention.
1005 GMT: On the Mortazavi Battlefront. The headline fight over the future of former Tehran Prosecutor General and Ahmadinejad aide Saeed Mortazavi continues. The President has expressed determination to defend Mortazavi against accusations of responsibility for detainee abuses.
0955 GMT: Hitting the Newspapers. As the conflict within the Iranian establishment intensifies, the warnings escalate. No less than 15 publications --- Tehran Emrooz, Bahar, Tose'e, Rouzan, Jahan-e Eqtesad, Ettelaat, Etemaad, Asrar, Jahan-e San'at, Mardomsalari, Arman-e Ravabet-e Omumi, Jomhouri, Poul, Farhikhtegan, and Afarinesh --- have been threatened with suspension for "inappropriate" material.
Those articles include the biting reply of member of Parliament Ali Motahhari, who is in the forefront of criticism of the Government, to Ahmadinejad Chief of Staff Rahim-Mashai, the critique of Hassan Rohani, an ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, of the severe security situation (amniati) and the lack of freedom of speech on 29 Dey, and the most recent statement of Mohammad Khatami.
0905 GMT: Prisoners Revolt. Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran reports that solitary confinement prisoners at the Gohardasht facility, the site of alleged physical abuse and torture, gained control of their ward for a period of time on Monday. This is the third recent occasion when inmates have rebelled and temporarily taken over sections of the prison.
0855 GMT: Today's Unhelpful Help from the US. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, which has embraced support of the opposition as the way to regime change in Iran, James Glassman and Michael Doran are not even subtle and/or smart enough to hide their real priorities:
Al Qaeda bombers on U.S. airliners need prompt attention, but it is Iran, a supporter of terrorism now developing the capacity to fire nuclear-tipped missiles, that may pose the greatest threat to global stability and American security.
That threat can be diminished three ways: by military action, by compromise by Iran's regime, or by a new, less bellicose government taking power in Tehran. The first two appear unlikely, but the third, at least since protests broke out last June after the presidential election, seems more and more realistic. Yet so far the United States and its allies have shrunk from seriously encouraging that third way.
Having gone this far, I'm not sure why they didn't just put together the words "Green Movement" and "pawn". And take a wild guess what the Iranian regime will do with this opinion piece if it bumps into it.
Most importantly, compare this screed with the thoughts of reformist Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, which we've posted in a separate entry, on the best US approach towards the Iranian opposition.
(A far-from-unimportant opinionated side note: Glassman and Doran were both key officials in the George W. Bush Administration's disastrous and often unintentionally humourous efforts at "public diplomacy".)
0835 GMT: And here's more knife-twisting from Khabar Online: "Iran Rial Stands as the 3rd Weakest World Currency". In a not-so-subtle criticism of the Government's management of the economy, the website notes, "The latest figures on the value of various currencies against the US dollar show that Iranian rial is only stronger than dobra of Sao Tome and Vietnamese dong."
0830 GMT: Larijani v. Ahmadinejad Showdown. Following our report yesterday, the English version of Khabar Online, the website close to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, uses "members of Parliament" to put the demand bluntly: "[President's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-] Mashai To Be Ousted or Resigned".
0820 GMT: Taking Apart Khamenei's Speech. I doubt it will worry the Supreme Leader, given the source, but the Green movement's Rah-e-Sabz has published a sharp critique in a general challenge of Khamenei's supremacy and policies.
The website asks how Khamenei can demand the support of "nokhbegan" (intellectuals), if he has to dictate to them what they have to think. It also condemning his "plot theory", based on "cultural attack", which he has put forward from the very beginning of his Leadership. Rah-e-Sabz raises the issue of "nokhbe-koshi" (killing intellectuals).
0710 GMT: Academic Purges (cont.). After our news yesterday that at least six Allameh Tabatabei University professors have been relieved of their duties, an Iranian activist is reporting further terminations of contracts.
0644 GMT: As we catch up with the news this morning, we will also continue the attempt to bring out the meaning in the recent speeches of the Supreme Leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and other prominent Iranian players in the post-election conflict. Who is threatening who? Who is allying with whom?
Meanwhile, we post a scholarly example of analysing "in code": Tehran-based Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh's survey of 2009 considers the tensions within the country as well as the nuclear question and Iran's foreign relations. And we have a not-so-coded interview with Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former reformist member of Parliament who had to leave Iran for the US in 2005: "The United States should carefully and delicately support the opposition movement based on United Nations conventions [on human rights]."