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Entries in Iran (116)


Latest Iran Video: Foreign Minister Mottaki on Elections & Protests (31 January)

Take this as you will, as Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki responds to the challenges of CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

I do have to note that Mottaki needs to brush up on US politics --- the disputed election of George W. Bush was in 2000, not 2004, and the Supreme Court that ruled in his favour was not appointed by him. He might also want to check the situation in his country --- the Supreme Leader never held out the option of a full recount of the Presidential vote, and he might want to reconsider the claim that protesters were firing guns. And, as he holds on to the lifeboat claim of massive support on 30 December, three days after Ashura, I'm not sure that is boosted by compared Iran's crackdown on protest to the response to demonstrators at the Copenhagen climate change summit.


Iran Analysis: Mousavi and Karroubi Answer the Regime --- "Defiance"

Occasionally the analysis is easy.

24 hours ago, we were evaluating the regime's stepped-up threat, through the public declaration of Ayatollah Jannati, "We Will Kill You". We wrote, "This Government, this Supreme Leader has to prevent the mantle of the 1979 Revolution from being wrested from its grip on 22 Bahman (11 February)."

And we watched for a response.

Iran From the Outside: Helping Through “Active Neutrality”
Iran Document: Mousavi-Karroubi Declaration on Rights and 22 Bahman (30 January)
The Latest from Iran (31 January): No Backing Down

We got it within hours. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, in a meeting documented by video cameras, issued a declaration that stood upon Karroubi's own stepped-up challenge of the last week and, indeed, harked back to Karroubi's response last autumn to Government warnings of arrest: Bring. It. On.

In their expression of sorrow to the families of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, the two men executed last week for crimes against national security, Mousavi and Karroubi offered a clever political riposte. They reassured supporters who had criticised the lack of comment over Zamani and Rahmanipour, and they made a connection with the Green Movement even though the executed prisoners were not involved with post-election resistance:
It seems like such actions is only to scare people and discourage them from participating in the 11 February [22 Bahman, anniversary of the 1979 Revolution] rally.

The widespread arrests of the political figures, journalists and academia, charged with protesting to defend their rights, are illegal. The process of obtaining confessions from these prisoners is also in contradiction to Islamic principles and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Significantly, Mousavi and Karroubi renewed the latter's pointed challenge to Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council who is blamed for betraying the Islamic Republic by giving legitimacy to President Ahmadinejad.

Some in the Green movement will quarrel that Mousavi and Karroubi were unsubtle in declaring their allegiance to the Islamic Republic, "The majority of the people only want to regain their rights and are not seeking to overthrow the system," but this is an obvious strategy. It holds both the "middle ground" of Iranians who may be disillusioned with the Government and even the Supreme Leader but who do not want to put aside the Islamic Republic, and it makes the regime, rather than the opposition, the betrayer of and threat to the highest values of that Republic: "It seems like the rulers are even feeling danger by this voice of the people seeking justice."

And, of course, Mousavi and Karroubi offered the most defiant of responses to a regime which, over recent weeks, has tried to crush the prospect of mass demonstrations on 22 Bahman. To their followers, Mousavi and Karroubi put out the simple message: Join the Rallies. It was a message they did not give on 16 Azar (7 December) or even Ashura (27 December). Now the signal is clear: no more holding back.

Ayatollah Jannati, representing the regime, reviewed the prospects of more arrests, trials, and even executions and shouted, "Do It".

Yesterday, in a quieter but equally forceful manner, Mousavi and Karroubi responded, "Go Ahead. Try and Do It. We Do Not Give Way." Now it remains to be seen not only how the regime but also the Green movement take up that response.

On Friday

Iran From the Outside: Helping Through "Active Neutrality"

Mahmood Delkhasteh, an academic, columnist, and activist, writes in The Guardian of London:

Since the late 19th century, almost every generation of Iranians has seen at least one major upheaval or revolution. The first revolution for democracy in the Middle East took place in Iran in 1905, at a time when European countries (excepting the UK) were under various forms of dictatorship. No country has experienced so much constant turmoil and political unrest in the past century as Iran.

Besides the current demand for democracy in Iran, however, there has always been the demand for independence. Iranians have an ingrained sensitivity about the independence of their country, traceable far back even in the epic mythical tales of ancient Iran.

The Latest from Iran (31 January): No Backing Down

In Shahnameh (or Book of the Kings), for example, the legendary warrior hero Rustam is the defender of Iran's independence. We should not presume that these are just stories created to pass spare time in tea houses. There is rather a principle which, a thousand years ago, transformed the unknown philosopher-poet Ferdusii into a national love affair and turned a warrior into a legendary hero. It still affects the Iranian psyche today.

Thus, it is no surprise that contemporary arguments about the benefits of globalisation, the weakening of nation states, and the semi-irrelevance of national governments whose role is merely to balance the demands of multinational corporations with public demands, have hit a wall of steel within Iran. The country's independence cannot be negotiated on these grounds.

Of course there are numerous Iranian scholars and intellectuals who have bought into these arguments, but the west should be aware of the gap between them and the national public consciousness of the Iranian people. This revolution is not staffed by these self-appointed intellectuals and political activists, but is to be found among the people themselves. And because it is horizontally organised and networked, it has been impossible for the regime to decapitate it.

The chants and slogans teach us how this collective movement is increasingly clarifying its democratic demands through self-assessment and critical dialogue, internally and in response to the changing reality. The initial response to the vote rigging, for example, was expressed in the simple question: "Where is my vote?" Gradually, people realised that voting was only a means through which to exercise their authority over the state, and that as long as this was impossible demanding the right to vote was irrelevant.

This small awakening, combined with the brutal repression of their peaceful demonstrations, shifted the movement's core demand from ending political corruption to demanding, as the slogan went, "Independence, Freedom [and an] Iranian Republic".

This slogan prefigures the republican nature of the future regime as one based on principles of both independence and freedom. It is a secularised version of a slogan popular in the 1979 revolution: "Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic". In both cases, independence and freedom are the main demands. These were imagined to have been possible in the form of an "Islamic republic" in the previous revolution but, as the state has since proved that it is neither Islamic nor a republic, people have learned to express the original demands within a new discourse.

The concept of independence is understood by the majority in Iran as "negative equilibrium" – an idea originally championed by Mohammad Mossadeq, the democratic prime minister who was overthrown in a CIA-engineered coup in 1953. Mossadeq argued that Iran could not secure its fragile existence through "balancing out" interfering powers against each other, as had been government policy in the preceding decades (whether this be setting Russia against Britain or the US against Russia). Instead, he suggested that no foreign power should be allowed to violate or compromise Iran's independence in the first place. Thus, while the demand for freedom may be understood at an individual level, the desire for independence is seen as an exercise of freedom in collective or national form.

Any foreign interference in favour of either the opposition movement or the regime, therefore, violates this sense of independence and weakens the process of revolution. Recently, the exiled ex-president, Abulhassan Banisadr, urged foreign governments to adopt "active neutrality" towards the regime and the country's evolving political situation. This means taking two different kinds of actions: negative (or withdrawing) actions, and positive (or active) ones.

The first negative move should be to remove the threat of military attack and economic sanctions as a way of forcing the regime to make concessions about the nuclear issue. Both these are lifelines for the sinking regime, which needs some sort of international crisis to keep itself afloat. A democratic Iran does not need the atomic bomb; it needs not to have it.

Second, foreign governments should not give their financial or political support to the opposition. They should withdraw as potential actors from this stage.

In addition to these withdrawals, there are certain ways that foreign governments can act positively to hasten the revolution.

One is to actively and publicly oppose the violation of human rights in Iran, in accordance with the demands of global public opinion.

The second is to prevent foreign companies from selling equipment or services which enable the regime to spy on, censor and control the opposition. Third, they can identify and publicise the names of those members of the regime who have stored money in foreign banks, and expose the amount of these deposits and investments.

Finally, foreign governments can support efforts to bring Iran's leaders to the international courts of law so that they can be tried for committing crimes against humanity.

Such actions, as part of a wider policy of "active neutrality", can both weaken the Iranian regime's capacity to use violence against the people of Iran and send a message to Iranians that no country will interfere in Iran's domestic affairs after this regime is gone.

When the people are certain that they will not be exploited in this way, they can mobilise their resources in full to end the life of a corrupt and criminal regime and advance the democratisation of Islamic countries.

Latest Iran Video: Defending the Executions (30 January)

An interview from Al Jazeera English in which a Tehran University academic declares that the executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were absolutely justified and then says, "I don't know very much about this case." Indeed, the academic says that one of the two was a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO); all Iranian officials, including the Tehran Prosecutor General, have claimed that both were "monarchists".

(Note near the end of the interview the declaration by the academic that the father of one of the Kahrizak prisoners who died spoke to him and "is very satisfied with the way things have been conducted". That "father", Abdulhossein Ruholamini, launched a scatching attack on the Government's conduct last week.)


Iran Document: Mousavi-Karroubi Declaration on Rights and 22 Bahman (30 January)
The Latest from Iran (30 January): Threat


The Latest from Iran (30 January): Threat

2355 GMT: Just checking in to say we have posted a video of a Tehran University academic defending Thursday's executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.

1910 GMT: We're taking an evening break. We may be back for a late-night wrap-up. If not, all the latest news will open our Sunday updates.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Defending the Executions (30 January)
NEW Iran Document: Mousavi-Karroubi Declaration on Rights and 22 Bahman (30 January)
NEW Iran Patriotism Special: Wiping the Green From The Flag
The Latest from Iran (29 January): Sideshows and Main Events

1900 GMT: Pressure on Ahmadinejad. The "conservative" campaign against the President's advisors has not ceased. The high-profile member of Parliament Ahmad Tavakoli has attacked the controversial Deputy Minister of Culture, Mo-Amin Ramin, and Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1855 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, Hassan Rohani, and Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani have not attended meetings of the Combatant Clergy Association since the June election.

1845 GMT: On the Economic Front. Raja News reports that a 20-day ultimatum has been given to 100 people, most of them well-connected, who have not repaid $20 billion in funds from national banks. The article has a lengthy discussion of the reasons for this uncontrolled spending and problems in gettng the money back.

The website also quotes Arsalan Fathipour, chief of parliament's economic commission, that $15 billion of National Development Funds has been given to banks.

1840 GMT: Reza Mahabadian, children's rights activist & member of the Assembly of Iranian Writers, has reportedly been arrested.

1835 GMT: For the second week in a row, family members of the martyrs of 7-Tir, the terrorist attack in the early days of the Islamic Revolution that killed 72 people including Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, held a prayer ceremony at the grave of Ayatollah Beheshti to protest the detention of his son, Alireza Beheshti, a key advisor to Mir Hossein Mousavi.

1800 GMT: The Regime's Accusations. An Iranian activist has posted a summary of the allegations against one of the Ashura defendants in today's trial:
Participation in gatherings and collusion in acts against national security. Insulting the Leader by sending e-mail to the International [Criminal] Court in The Hague, propaganda against Islamic Republic. Soft war, membership in Facebook and [Iranian Web portal] Balatarin, mass distribution of news to foreign media outlets. Participation in illegal protests...and preparation and forwarding a complaint against the honorable Leader to the World Court in the Hague.

The defendant's testimony:
I did participate in illegal protests...and did chant slogans against the regime. After the speech of the honourable Leader, I participated in three more protests in my car only and honked the horn. I was present in front of Laleh Park in the afternoon of Ashura (27 December) only as an observer. I read the news on sites like Balatarin and did send information and news to foreign news outlets. The first three weeks after the election I did chant Allah-O-Akbar (God is Great) on my rooftop. I did sent about 100 SMS (text messages) informing people of gatherings on 4 November and 7 December.

I was a member on Mohsen Sazegara's news site. Thinking because he was an ex-member of the establishment and is a dissident now, I believed him saying there was cheating in the election.

Regarding the letter to the World Court in the Hague, the petition was published on Balatarin site. I did sign this petition and encouraged my friends to sign it.

1755 GMT: We have posted a full summary and quotes from today's meeting between Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi about the rights of the people and the marches on 22 Bahman (11 February).

1745 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that 40 people were arrested at a 40th Day memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri yesterday. Eight are still detained.

1725 GMT: Labour News. The Flying Carpet Institute reports that Reza Rakhshan, a leader of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Syndicate was released on 19 January after 17 days of detention. Rakhshan was freed on $150,000 bail money—a hefty sum for a workers’ family.

1710 GMT: "Confessions". Back from a break to learn more about the regime's manoeuvres with the threats and trials. An Iranian activist reports that, on Wednesday night, Iranian television featured the "confessions" of four post-election detainees: Mahmod Dowlatabadi, Mehdi Saiedi, Abbas Balikhani, and Borzo Kamrani. The activist considers that the show may be setting up the "mohareb" (war against God) charges and executions.

More on the charges in the trial of Ashura detainees today (see 1415 and 0945 GMT): looks like subscribing to the newsletter of supporters of IRGC founder and current regime critic Mohsen Sazegara constitutes a threat to national security.

1415 GMT: The Great Regime Change Conspiracy. Rah-e-Sabz has a lengthy account of today's trial of 16 Ashura detainees. Amidst the statements of the defendants, not only the BBC and CNN but also Balatarin, the Iranian portal for Web stories, and Facebook emerges as evil instigators of violence against the Iranian Government.

1405 GMT: Rafsanjani's Balancing Act. The Los Angeles Times, noting the statement from Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (see 1105 GMT) calling on their supporters to join 22 Bahman rallies, also picks up the more cautious declaration from Hashemi Rafsanjani:
[Rafsanjani] called on Iranians "of all groups and camps" to turn out en masse for the holiday, but warned that any violence will serve the interests of Tehran's "enemies."

"I invite all people and political camps across the country to march on 22 Bahman and renew their allegiance to the Islamic Republic despite certain differences of opinion," he said in an address to the powerful Expediency Council.

1330 GMT: Blair and Iran. I had intended to refrain from comment until Monday on the former Prime Minister's testimony to the British enquiry into the 2003 Iraq War --- anger needs to subside in favour of reflection. (We have posted, however, a 2005 item from our archives which pointed to Blair's agreement --- in a March 2002 meeting with then-US Vice President Dick Cheney --- to join the US in a military invasion for "regime change".)

That said, The Guardian of London sizes up Blair's rather extraordinary attempt to avoid blame for Iraq 2003 by putting forth an Iran 2010:
Tony Blair has been accused of warmongering spin for claiming that western powers might be forced to invade Iran because it poses as serious a threat as Saddam Hussein.

Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran, accused Blair of trying to make confrontation with Iran an electoral issue after the former prime minister repeatedly singled out its Islamic regime as a global threat in his evidence to the Iraq war inquiry yesterday.

Blair said many of the arguments that led him to confront the "profoundly wicked, almost psychopathic" Saddam Hussein seven years ago now applied to the regime in Tehran.

"We face the same problem about Iran today," he told the Chilcot inquiry....

"One result of Tony Blair's intervention on Iran – he mentioned Iran 58 times – is to put the question of confronting Iran into play in the election," [Dalton] told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We need to be much clearer, as voters, with our politicians and with our candidates that we expect a different behaviour and a greater integrity in our democracy next time."

The silver lining in yesterday's travesty is that the illusions and delusions of Blair's approach to Iraq --- whether or not one agrees that military action was necessary for regime change --- are exposed by his easy analogies with today's situation and his equally-easy implication that war is a simple answer. And it is a 2nd silver lining that there is no one in the current British Government who shares that illusionary/delusionary approach to Iran 2010.

1215 GMT: Press TV has published its English-language report of today's trial, recycling the points made in Iranian state media and summarised below.

1105 GMT: Taking a Stand. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, after meeting this morning, have expressed sorrow over Thursday's executions, denounced other sentences and the "continuation of the current situation", and called on their supporters to participate in rallies on 22 Bahman (11 February).

With the statement, Mousavi and Karroubi have gone beyond their positions on Ashura (27 December). On that occasion, neither made a call for public demonstrations.

0945 GMT: The Trial. IRNA's website simply lists the charges against each of the 16 defendants. Everything from "support of terrorism" to "Communist tendencies" makes an appearance. Significantly,as previewed by Iranian officials this week, five of the 16 are charged with mohareb (war against God), a crime which carries the death penalty.

Fars' report focuses on the prosecution's opening statement, headlining the "terror training" abroad for the protesters. Here is an example of such training: the well-known terrorist centre The Brookings Institution in Washington apparently put out a report, a few months before Iran's Presidential election, setting out economic strategies.

0930 GMT: Threat. It is no pleasure to report how quickly both our headline and our morning analysis have been upheld by the regime this morning: "Iran Puts 16 Protesters on Trial". Both the Islamic Republic News Agency and Press TV feature the hearing for demonstrators arrested on Ashura (27 December), with the prosecution putting out the ritual rhetoric: "The defendants have confessed to spying, planning bomb attacks and damaging public and private properties....The defendants sent videos on the clashes between protesters and Iranian police to the ''foreign hostile networks."

0800 GMT: While catching up with this morning's news, we have posted a special analysis of the latest regime move (indeed, gamble), "We Will Kill You". We also have published the English translation of the questions put by the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front to Iran's head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, over the executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.