222055 GMT: The Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, following the earlier endorsement of the Islamic Iran Participation Front of the Mousavi post-Ashura statement (1420 GMT), have issued their response to the declaration.
NEW Iran: Authority and Challenge — Bring Out the (Multi-Sided) Chessboard
Iran Video of Week: Ahmadinejad 0, Tractor 1
Iran: The Non-Violent “Watershed” of the Mousavi Statement (Shahryar)
Iran: A Gut Reaction to Mousavi’s “Martyrdom v. Compromise” Statement (Lucas)
Iran Document: Mousavi’s “5 Stages to Resolution” Statement (1 January)
The Latest from Iran (2 January): The Ripples of the Mousavi Statement
2000 GMT: The Regime's Fist-Waving. Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America has a useful summary of today's denunciations of protesters, invocation of "foreign agents", and threats of prosecution from Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar (1645 GMT) and the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani. Press TV continues to play up the Larijani combination of assurance ("fair trial") and warning ("investigate the events quickly and firmly").
1800 GMT: Green 88 members Mohammad Rafati and Mohammad Keighobadi have been arrested.
1645 GMT: Your Daily US-UK-Israel-MKO Announcement. It's Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar reciting the litany today: "The rioters are encouraged and supported by Britain, the US and the Zionist regime. The involvement of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), enemies and those who seek to take revenge on the Islamic establishment during the past 30 years is quite clear."
Can't say this wins award for originality, although Mohammad-Najjar's promise that some MKO members will soon appear in court --- reportedly some Ashura detainees went on trial today --- has an ominous hint of a new scene in the staged drama.
1625 GMT: More Tough Shows for the Media. On a day when Governments in Washington and Tehran have been spinning tales away from the central front of the internal conflict in Iran, it did not take long for this one to get a headline.
This morning Press TV gave up space to a bit of tough puffery from the Iranian military, with Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan announcing a large military exercise next month to "improve the force's defensive capabilities" and "boost the region's security".
No big prizes for breaking the political code in this move: facing diplomatic pressure and possibly more sanctions on the nuclear issue and looking more than a bit shaky at home, Tehran puts up a show of strength against the ever-present "foreign enemies". CNN has already obliged, recycling the Press TV report and immediately putting it in the context of the US and Israeli portrayal of "time running out" to address Iran's "threat".
Meanwhile, the media's set-up of a case for more sanctions on Iran continues. The New York Times advertisement for the pro-sanctions forces in the Obama Administration (see 0840 GMT), who are working with pro-sanctions forces in Israel, has turned into a magic media circle, with Israel's Haaretz citing the article and bolstering the line: if there are more sanctions, then no Israeli military action.
1455 GMT: The Exam Strike. For the second day in a row, students at Amir Kabir University in Tehran have protested by refusing to sit their examinations.
1425 GMT: A Victory for the Regime. Amidst the political and religious challenges it is facing, the Iranian authorities have succeeded in curbing Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib. After days of attacks on the Qoba Mosque in Shiraz, the Government has confiscated Dastgheib's offices and restricted the cleric's movements.
1420 GMT: Boosting the Mousavi Initaitive. The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a statement of enthusiastic support for the Mousavi five-point resolution in the post-Ashura statement.
1245 GMT: Regime Divisions (cont.). Ayande News criticises the attempt by Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, in the name of the Qom Seminary Teachers Association, to denounce the marja (eminent cleric) status of Ayatollah Sane'i (see yesterday's updates).
Ayande has also launched a full-blooded attack on the editor of Kayhan, the "hard-line" Hossein Shariatmadari, accusing him of past duplicity (opposing Ayatollah Khamenei) and current misinformation (minimising the number of anti-regime demonstrators in protests).
Now here's the intriguing part: Ayande has been claimed to be linked to the Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, who just wrote the Supreme Leader asking for reconciliation with a "retreating" Mir Hossein Mousavi. Is this the other part of the initiative, an assault upon those, including allies of President Ahmadinejad, who would block such a deal?
1230 GMT: Breaking the Freedom Movement. Iran's authorities have detained three more senior members of the party: Amir Khorram, Mohsen Mohagheghi, and Sara Tavassoli (daughter of the director of the Freedom Movement's offices).
1200 GMT: Let's Crush Them (But Do It Fairly). Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is featuring a story of the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, speaking about "fair trials" for those who have caused "fitna" (secular sedition).
1150 GMT: More Media Follies. This time it's Paul Harris of The Observer of London who goes Nuclear Critical. His attention to Iran is part of a wider piece on the challenges for President Obama, but the headline points to Tehran Emergency: "Barack Obama talks tough on terror as Iran raises nuclear stakes". Harris bases this diplomatic Red Alert on:
--- "A deadline for Iran to accept a UN-brokered deal passed on Thursday and raised the prospect of a fresh round of sanctions against Tehran" (as we noted months ago, the Obama Administration was going to let any deadline slip because it has not declared a break-down of the nuclear discussions);
--- "A senior Iranian figure said the west had just one month to come up with a better deal for it to swap its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel" (as we noted yesterday, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's "ultimatum" was more a rhetorical defence against likely sanctions and an intervention in the domestic crisis, trying to boost the Government with "nationalist" sentiment)
--- "Many experts, however, think any resolution to the situation is unlikely." (no names, no details)
What "distinguishes" Harris' analysis, however, is not an omission of Iran's domestic situation but a distortion of it. He makes a point of noticing "last week, tens of thousands of supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime demonstrated in Tehran in organised protests against foreign interference in Iran's affairs" --- you see, this is not only a Iranian Government on the verge of nuclear weapons, but one with popular support --- but he never mentions the anti-regime protests that took place only three days earlier.
1140 GMT: The Domestic Troubles. Testimony to our New Year analysis about the complex challenges to the Ahmadinejad Government --- "Iran's parliament rejected on Sunday the government's request to withdraw a bill aimed at gradually cutting energy and food subsidies".
The Government put forth the subsidy reduction plan as a key plank in its economic programme last autumn. In November, however, the Parliament linked any cut to the overall budget, requiring the Government to put the money into a special account for public spending.
At that point, Ahmadinejad called for the withdrawal of the entire proposal. He got his answer --- economically and politically --- today.
1025 GMT: Handling the Mousavi Statement. A bizarre article from Press TV's website, "Mousavi's statement draws varied reactions" --- instead of considering the political responses that we have noted in our analyses, the article opens with this clumsy attempt at belittling the opposition leader: "The Tehran Municipality has been clearing the Iranian capital of graffiti containing negative comments about defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi."
The last paragraphs do try to set out a party line, but even this is uncertain: "Some, such as Mohsen Rezaei, another defeated presidential candidate, described the declaration as a "retreat" from the position of denying the legitimacy of Ahmadienjad's administration. Others however, condemned the statement, repeating their earlier calls for judicial action against the "leaders of Fitna (Arabic for anarchy)."
1020 GMT: Iranian television is reporting that the first trials, held in Revolutionary Court, of those arrested on Ashura (27 December) have begun.
1010 GMT: Latest Arrests. Journalist Rouzbeh Karimi and his wife, lawyer Forough Mirzaee, have been detained.
0840 GMT: US Sanctions and the Nuclear-First Approach. After weeks in which the White House seemed to shift to a rights-first vision of Iran, a faction in the Obama Administration appear to have re-staked the "All about Nukes, All about Sanctions" ground.
An article by The New York Times' David Sanger and William Broad, the go-to reporters for the nukes/sanctions officials, bluntly opens with the statement that the recent internal tension and demands of the Green movement are again pawns in the nuclear game:
As President Obama faces pressure to back up his year-end ultimatum for diplomatic progress with Iran, the administration says that domestic unrest and signs of unexpected trouble in Tehran’s nuclear program make its leaders particularly vulnerable to strong and immediate new sanctions....
Although repeated rounds of sanctions over many years have not dissuaded Iran from pursuing nuclear technology, an administration official involved in the Iran policy said the hope was that the current troubles “give us a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear program isn’t worth the price tag.”
Beyond the relegation of the internal conflict in Iran to a supporting role in other campaigns, what is bizarre about this public-relations piece is that it promotes sanctions even though the possibility of any supposed Iranian nuclear weapon has diminished in recent months:
Obama administration officials said they believed that the bomb-development effort was seriously derailed by the exposure three months ago of the country’s secret enrichment plant under construction near the holy city of Qum....
In addition, international nuclear inspectors report that at Iran’s plant in Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges spin to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, the number of the machines that are currently operating has dropped by 20 percent since the summer, a decline nuclear experts attribute to technical problems. [Note: EA pointed this out in the autumn; Sanger and Broad ignored the technical issue until the article today.]
The illogic and the (cynical?) political manoeuvring is beside the main point, however. This articles and others, such as a recent piece in The Washington Post that Israel was quite happy to go with the sanctions route, all point to the Administration's acceptance of sanctions measures that will be passed by the US Congress within the next month.
0820 GMT: As the drama of public conflict recedes for the moment --- although the regime continues to arrest activists, journalists, and key organisers ---and is replaced by the political manoeuvres both inside and outside the Iranian establishment, we have posted an analysis, "Bring Out the (Multi-Sided) Chessboard".