Iran Election Guide

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Entries in BBC Persian (3)


The Latest from Iran (28 July): The Regime Crumbles 

The Latest from Iran (29 July): The Memorial and the Inauguration
NEW Iran: Or Is It the Supreme Leader v. the Revolutionary Guard?
NEW Iran: Will the Supreme Leader Give Up Ahmadinejad?
Iran Video (27 July): The Nighttime Protest
The Latest from Iran (27 July): A President Dangling in the Wind?

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IRAN 40 DAY 22200 GMT: Late Breaking News. The reformist website Mardomak reports that the memorial ceremonies for the fallen protesters will most probably be held this Thursday. The website asserts, "Although a rather low-level official of the ministry has objected to holding these ceremonies...there has not been any official objection... It seems that the government officials know that if they officially object, the government would then have to shoulder the responsibility of preventing these ceremony to happen." Mardomak also stated that if the doors of the Mosala are not opened on Thursday, all participants will sit down in the middle of Beheshti Street and light candles and recite the Koran.

2115 GMT: And so to close where we began this morning, considering the problems for President Ahmadinejad.

1. It is clear that the President will now be opposed by the "Principlist" bloc in Parliament. The vocal criticism of Ali Motahari has now been joined by the Islamic Engineers Society, which has criticised both the appointment of the First Vice President and the sacking of the Minister of Intelligence: "It seems you want to be the sole speaker and do not want to hear other voices… therefore it is our duty to convey to you the voice of the people." (Significantly, this news was reported on Press TV's website.)

Principlist legislator Hamid-Reza Katouzian told Tabnak: “Allegiance to the rule of just jurisprudence is not embracing the Leader and kissing his hand; allegiance must be practical....Putting the incidents of the past 10 days together, whether they were purposeful or carried out unintentionally, only show a confrontation with the Leader, and it is my opinion and that of other Principlists that Mr. Ahmadinejad needs to determine the nature of his relationship with the Leader.”

2. A "conservative" Member of Parliament, Gholam-Reza Mesbahi-Moghaddam, has expressed support for Hashemi Rafsanjani and has advocated compensation to the families of slain protesters. He also considered demonstrators to be "young gullible individuals who can be released".

3. Perhaps in response to this pressure, Ahmadinejad has asked the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi to deal with the situation of the detainees (which Shahroudi had promised yesterday), hoping that the release of these individuals will coincide with the Birthday of Imam Mahdi. Ahmadinejad claims that most detainees have been "hoodwinked into participating these protests by individuals related to certain internal politicians or the propaganda of foreign enemies".

2045 GMT: Mohammad Tavasoli, a senior member of the Freedom Movement of Iran, has been freed after 43 days in detention.

2030 GMT: Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani, who has emerged as a vocal critic of the Government, has issued another statement criticising those who have ignored "the vote of the majority".

1945 GMT: The Memorial is On. Despite the denial of a permit from the Ministry of Interior, Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page announces the gathering will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. local time on Thursday at the Grand Mosala in Tehran. The page also puts up a poster for the event (pictured).

1930 GMT: American Perceptions. After the news of the denial of the permit for the Thursday memorial, a quieter phase in Iran news. Meanwhile, in the US there is a discussion of clerical power, political roles, and individual rights under the Iranian Constitution. Francis Fukuyama started it in The Wall Street Journal, and Kevin Sullivan has continued it on Real Clear World. It's a commentary as notable for the American perception of "Islamic Iran" as it is for insight into the Iranian system.

1755 GMT: The head of the political office of the Ministry of the Interior, Abbaszadeh-Meshkini, has told Fars News that no official permission has been given to any individual or group for a "40th Day" gathering on Thursday. Abbaszdeh said, "Memorial ceremonies are considered to be private issues of citizens and any request for such ceremonies from the interior ministry has obvious political overtones".

1710 GMT: Another Ayatollah for Rafsanjani. Following the public support of Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Zarandi for Hashemi Rafsanjani (see 1205 GMT), Ayatollah Jaleleddin Taheri has also praised the former President and his speech at Friday prayers in Tehran.

1700 GMT: An Iranian website is reporting that politician Saeed Hajjarian will be among the 140 detainees released after a Parliamentary review.

1540 GMT: Ahmadinejad v. Khamenei? Back to our main story today. Parleman News reports that, after the dismissal of Minister of Intelligence Ejeie, President Ahmadinejad has taken direct control of the Ministry by ordering his replacement, Majid Alavi, to report directly to him. The Intelligence Ministry normally is supervised by the Supreme Leader, according to an English-language interpretation of the story.

1530 GMT: Women's rights lawyer Shadi Sadr has been released on bail of about $50,000.

1520 GMT: Fars News confirms that, after review by the Parliamentary Security Committee including a tour of the prisons and a visit to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani --- see 0750 GMT), 140 prisoners will be released today. Another 150 will continued to be held because, according to an English translation of the report, they had weapons at the time of arrest.

(Question: Are detainees like politician Saeed Hajjarian and former Government advisors like Abdollah Ramezanzadeh being held because they were carrying weapons?)Sa

141o GMT: A steady stream of Internet chatter this afternoon about the death of Amir Javadifar in prison. His body was reportedly returned to his family on Sunday for burial. There are also claims of the death of Ramin Ghahremani two days after his release from detention.

1205 GMT: The political battle amongst the clerics of the Assembly of Experts continues. Ayatollah Hossein Zarandi, the representative of the city of Kermanshah in the Assembly, has defied the letter issued by "hard-liners" last week and supported the Friday prayer address of former President Rafsanjani.

1200 GMT: Rumour of the Day. Some Iranian websites are reporting that some Grand Ayatollahs may move from Qom to Najaf in Iraq. Clerical authorities in Najaf have indicated they would welcome any cleric who joined them.

1155 GMT: Tabnak is reporting that Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Sadegh Larijani, a member of the Guardian Council and the brother of Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani, will succeed Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi as the head of Iran's judiciary on 25 August.

0945 GMT: Foreign Policy gives some attention to Iran with an interview with the former cleric Mehdi Khalaji, who is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

0940 GMT: We've reposted our first morning update as a separate entry, "Will the Supreme Leader Give Up on Ahmadinejad?"

0830 GMT: Has the State Media Turned? There is a flurry of comment this morning on whether the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has changed its line. Tabnak is reporting on IRIB's "severe criticism of Ahmadinejad". Until recently, IRIB had been very supportive of the President but, after the dispute over the First Vice President, the broadcaster has given significant airtime to critics of Ahmadinejad, such as the cleric Hojatoleslam Seyed Mehdi Tabatabai and the "principlist" Member of Parliament Ali Motahari.

Our correspondent Mani makes an important point, however. This is more evidence of a dispute within conservative ranks rather than IRIB sympathy for the Green Movement. No "reformist" critic has made an appearance on the channel.

(Ansar News has also published an editorial which is fiercely critical of the President.)

0820 GMT: As the Supreme Leader considers what to do with his President (see separate entry), the fired Minister of Intelligence, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie, has chipped in. He has written a letter, which has not been public, to the Supreme Leader.

0750 GMT: Larijani Does Damage Control. Yesterday we reported how the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, stepped in to save the President when Ahmadinejad's attempted firing of four Ministers threatened to cripple the Government.

Now Farda News reports Larijani's attempt to deal with, and limit the damage from, the detainee issue. The chairman of the Parliamentary Security Committee, Kazem Jalali, says that Larijani asked the committee "to study seriously the pathology of these issues and treat all of the detainees (especially the university students and faculty) in a manner compatible with Islamic justice and fairness and kindness tempered with a strong dose of forgiveness2.

According to Jalili, Larijani declared, "Parliament is the refuge of people and as MPs we must listen to the complaints of everyone and try to address and solve the issues....Today society needs peace and calm but foreign media is attempting to inflame our society."

0715 GMT: Preparing for the 40th Day. Mehdi Karroubi has visited the family of Neda Agha-Soltan three days before the "40th Day" memorial/rally on 30 July. Karroubi expressed his sympathy to Neda's mother, "None of us knows our fate or destiny and none can say what events are awaiting us....The dear child that lost her life was the ultimate symbol of being innocent and being wronged, [her death] had a huge effect both inside and outside Iran. Neda's death loudly proclaimed the fact that the Iranian people are being oppressed and at the same time prevented further injustices and hopefully will have great beneficial effects upon the current and future life of [the Iranian] people."

Neda's mother complained about the statements of Ayatollah Seyed Ahmed Khatami, leading Friday prayers in Tehran, and Ezatullah Zarghami, the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, "As if the death of Neda was not enough for me, one of these two called my child an actress and claimed that her death was 'generated by a computer', and the other claimed her to be an actress [faking her death]." She concluded, "Neda, like thousands of other young people, cared for the fate of her country, she like other young people protested the results of the election."

0645 GMT: The Meeting of the Ayatollahs. Meanwhile, the negotiations between the Green Movement and the clerics of Qoms are proceeding. BBC Persian reports, via the website of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri,that he has been discussing "issues regarding religious law and politics " with Grand Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili and Grand Ayatollah Mousa Shobeiri-Zanjani.

The details of the meeting, taking place at the summer residence of Montazeri in the village of Khaveh, have not been announced. However, BBC Persian implies that the Grand Ayatollahs are now considering the open letter of Karroubi-Khatami-Mousavi and other reformists for intervention on detainees. (Yesterday we summarised the first open response to the letter, offered by Ayatollah Yousef Sanei.)

The roles of Montazeri and Mousavi-Ardebili, who have both been critical of the Government during the post-election crisis, are not surprising. However, Shobeiri-Zanjani has not stated his position, and he is a long-time friend of the Supreme Leader. Therefore, religious analyst Hassan Shariatmadari speculates on BBC Persian that Shobeiri-Zanjani may be conveying messages from Khamenei asking for a solution to growing problems.

The Latest from Iran (24 July): Waiting for the Next Move

NEW Iran: How the "New Media" Tore Down the Gates of the "Mainstream"
Iran: A Clerical Front Against the Supreme Leader?
The Latest from Iran (23 July): Preparing the Front

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2055 GMT: Associated Press now has the Rahim-Mashai story. It quotes Presidential assistant Hashemi via the Islamic Republic News Agency: ""After the announcement of the exalted supreme leader's order, Mashai doesn't consider himself first vice president."

2030 GMT: Coincidence of the Day. When the news arrived at Enduring America, via a reader, that Vice President Rahim-Mashai had resigned, I was working on another entry. The title? "Iran: How the 'New Media' Tore Down the Gates of the 'Mainstream'".

The story arrived at EA at 1931 GMT. We verified and posted at 2000 GMT. As of now, no mainstream media outside Iran have noticed the story.

2010 GMT: From the Fars story on Rahim-Mashai resignation: The senior assistant to President Ahmadinejad, Seyed Mojtaba Hashemi Tamreh, answering a question from a Fars reporter over the Supreme Leader's letter demanding the withdrawal of Rahim-Mashai's appointment, said that the First Vice President had resigned.

2000 GMT: URGENT NEWS FLASH --- Fars News Agency is reporting that First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai has resigned.

1840 GMT: Now the "Conservative" Students Turn Against Ahmadinejad. The "Student Movement for Justice and Equality" has announced that, if First Vice President Rahim-Mashai is not removed by Sunday, they will have a protest sit-in in Pasteur Square. They will do so on behalf of the 24 million people who voted for the President and in defense of the rule of the Constitution and Velayet-e-Faqih (clerical authority).

1825 GMT: Another Air Tragedy. An Arbatour flight from Tehran crashed when trying to land at Mashaad in eastern Iran, apparently because of malfunctioning landing gear. The death toll is currently estimated at between 20 and 30 out of the 160 passengers and crew. The plane, like the one that crashed recently just outside Tehran killing 168 people, was Russian-made.

1800 GMT: Another "Conservative" Critic of the Government. The Mayor of Tehran, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, has joined the chorus calling on the President to get rid of his First Vice President, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. The statement is blunt: Rahim-Mashai and his wife are both "hypocrites".

1700 GMT: Fars News has released the text of the Supreme Leader's demand that President Ahmadinejad revoke the appointment of his First Vice President, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. The two-sentence letter says that Rahim-Mashai has spoken "against the interests of the Government" and caused frustration and differences.

There are reports that IRIB state television has broadcast the text.

1500 GMT: Update on Son Killed, Father Detained. Yesterday we wrote about the case of 27-year-old Masoud Hashemzadeh, killed on 20 June by a single gunshot. Iranian authorities refused the family's request for a mourning ceremony, and security forces subsequently raided the house.

Reports have now come in that Hashemzadeh's father, detained in the raid, has been released on bail.

1430 GMT: Fighting Back. Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami used his leadership of Friday prayers in Tehran to strike at former President Rafsanjani and, possibly, the clerics challenging the legitimacy of the Government and the Supreme Leader's position.

Khatami declared, "We know of some insulting private meetings. We know about the plots against the leader but you (who hold these meetings) should know that you will not be able to stand against the people. Our people will defend the leader until the last drop of their blood."

Khatami's address should be considered in conjunction with yesterday's letter, issued by "conservative" members of the Assembly of Experts, seeking to reinforce Ayatollah Khamenei and undermine Rafsanjani. Conversely, I am now watching for the response of senior clerics, whether individually or as a bloc, who are criticising Ahmadinejad.

1000 GMT: A quick note about a new video resource. An Iranian activist has uploaded hundreds of clips on post-election events to a YouTube channel.

0715 GMT: Mowj-e-Sabz is reporting that the son of Dr Abdolhossein Ruhol Amini, one of the top consultants to Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, has died in Evin Prison. The family were informed via phone on Tuesday of the death of Mohsen Ruhol Amini, who was arrested during the 18 Tir protests on 9 July.

0650 GMT: More on "Foreign Forces". Just after I posted the entry below on BBC Persian's footage of a Hezbollah member amongst plainsclothes Iranian security forces, a reader pointed me to the video testimony of Ali Zare, a photographer for the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri who was detained amidst protests in Enqelab Square: "Somebody came to me and said, 'Please come with us.' He was Iranian but the other two persons who arrested me, they are from Lebanon."

Zare also says that, during questioning, he was threatened with a knife and with electricity. Still, he laughs about the comment of one interrogator: "Don't move. I want to cut your finger artistically because you are an artist and you need to have a nice finger."

0640 GMT: The First Wave of the Political Front? Following Mir Hossein Mousavi's statement that he will not stop protesting until all detainees are released, his advisor has reportedly said that the committee on the situation of those arrested will start work on Saturday. It is a shrewd political as well as humanitarian move: the detention issue is one that can be used without pause against the Government, uniting the various factions in the Green Movement.

0615 GMT: One of the most provocative rumours, amidst the demonstrations after the elections, was that the Iranian Government was using "foreign fighters", especially from Lebanon's Hezbollah, against the protests.

BBC Persian follows up the story, claiming that footage of a raid of Mousavi headquarters by Government plainclothes officers includes a prominent member of Lebanese Hezbollah. The broadcaster adds, however, that this is the only known case of participation by a Hezbollah member, so it is not known whether this is an isolated incident or part of a wider pattern.

0530 GMT: Most of the news this morning is catching up with a flurry of events yesterday, including the spate of clerical fatwas challenging the Government and the divisions within the Ahmadinejad camp.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page prints an English translation of the fatwa of Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjan (pictured), issued in response to a follower's question: "Does the Supreme Leader’s confirmation return the legitimacy to the tenth administration and the president?" The answer is even blunter than we reported on Thursday:
If someone finds confidence that the mentioned individual has come to power by illegitimate means and by forgery, his confirmation by the Supreme Leader as the president and the completion of the inauguration ceremony will not legitimize him.

Ansar News offers a new version of the heated argument in the Presidential Cabinet over Ahmadinejad's insistence on the First Vice President, Esfandiari Rahim-Mashai. According to the report, when ministers asked the President to explain his decision, he left the room and put Rahim-Mashai in charge of the meeting. This in turn angered three ministers, who walked out in protest.

Opposition leaders were fairly quiet on Thursday. The most prominent statement came from Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who confirmed the detention of her brother soon after the 12 June election: “The government can fabricate as many lies as it wants to, but the people of Iran will never believe any of the allegations against my detained brother. My brother is only one amongst many other Iranian brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned – this is why I have not given his name to the media.”

The Latest from Iran (18 July): A Victory Followed By.....?

IRAN GREENUPDATE 1530 GMT: From our source:

The conservatives strike back. Ayatollah Yazdi, in a news conference has blasted Rafsanjani for his recent speech. In response to Rafsanjani's call to release prisoners Yazdi countered by saying  "Who do you think you are to demand the release of the detanees?" and "these detainees are mercenaries who have been caught inciting people to revolt and must not be released". Yazdi accused Rafsanjani of "sowing the seeds of doubt amongst people".  Yazdi then asserted that in "Islamic government the legitimacy comes from God and popularity from the people" (implying that even an unpopular Islamic government is legitimate). Yazdi continued by stating that "Rafsanjani has emphasized that an important foundation of government is the people, Rafsanjani has been and is absolutely wrong in this". Yazdi described the protesters as "misguided youth under the influence of satellite TV" and concluded his talk by stating that "if he is in the Guardian Council he will not approve" Mousavi again, due to the fact that Mousavi has demonstrated contempt for any form of Law".

Ayatollah Jannati has also stated that, "The enemies must be aware that the Islamic establishment and people  will not surrender to anarchy and mayhem."

UPDATE 1215 GMT: Some more overnight news:

Parleman News reports [English translation] that IRIB has been blasted for its portrayal of yesterday's protesters- not only for playing down their protests, but for referring to supporters of Mousavi and Karroubi as "lawbreakers and outlaws". The opposition movement has long accused IRIB of taking a pro-government, anti-protest position.

From an EA source: "The choice of Esfandiar Rahim Mashai as Vice President is again causing a headache for Ahmadinejad. The choice of Rahim Mashai by Ahmadinejad has been interpreted by the reformist press and some hardliners (including Larijani) as another instance of Ahmadinejad's high handedness, stubbornness, and contempt for public opinion. Rahim Mashai, who made the headlines some time ago after being caught on video in a belly-dancing cabaret in Turkey, has caused other controversy by making statements such as "there is no boundary between Islam and infidels".

The conservative site Kabaronline, meanwhile, considers the choice of Rahim Mashai as VP to be an attempt at diverting attention from more "fundamental problems." [English translation]

UPDATE 1200 GMT: Posts are likely to be slower today as Enduring America's writers take some time offline for various personal commitments. Some overnight updates from our contacts:

Human rights activist Shadi Sadr has been arrested.

Intelligence minister Mohsen Ejehi, in a conference with various sections of the Revolutionary Guard and Basiji has voiced his support for Ahmadinejad's government:

"He implied that it is due to Ahmadinejad's policies that " in the last  year that Western and American politicians have referred to Iran as a great power" and referred to Iran as "the Islamic Republic of Iran". He then said that the American politicians are "ready to engage with Iran as equal and respectful partners". He also "claimed that the Americans have conceded the nuclear energy issue to Iran and are willing to have unconditional dialogue with Iran and are willing to work with Iran to solve regional and global problems, " and that Israel with the help of the People's Mojahedin Party plan to assassinate Ahmadinejad.
Ejehi went on to say that the opposition movement contains "dastardly elements"- ie the US, Israel and other Western countries, the Royalists, the Freedom Front and the Iranian opposition parties.  Ejehi claimed that all of these groups want Ahmadinejad gone and this removal was a high priority for Rafsanjani.  After blasting all three opposition candidates Ejehi also made the surprising claim that "after the televised debate between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad it became absolutely clear that Ahmadinejad is the winner." Ejehi accused the Mousavi camp of rigging the pre-election polls. He subsequently claimed that 3 days before the election the "Mousavi camp knew they had lost so they decided to question the whole process by bringing forth accusations of fraud". As a parting shot, he said that the opposition leaders "taxed the patience of the Supreme Leader by their rude and insulting behavior during their meeting with him" and expressed surprise that although "the Supreme Leader with saintlike humility had listened to their concerns and offered his advice" they still persisted in their "unlawful behavior."


The nervousness over Hashemi Rafsanjani's address at Friday prayers in Tehran was soon replaced by excitement, even euphoria. Immediate interpretations proclaimed the former President's call for all detainees to be released, on his criticism of the Guardian Council's supervision of elections, and on his upholding of the right --- even the duty --- to protest.

That euphoria has continued this morning. Activists are urging readers to sign an on-line letter of thanks to Rafsanjani. Others have gone beyond the speech to talk of "police officers [being with] us.. They were even secretly showing us the V for Victory sign!" Demonstrators have been re-invigorated. Already The Mothers of Mourning have asked people to join them for their Saturday gatherings at parks.

Meanwhile, the regime's discomfort is apparent in its news line this morning. Rather than rebutting Rafsanjani, state media are bringing out the spectre of Israel. Press TV is headlining on a secret US-Israel meeting to focus on Israel, while other outlets are indulging in the claim of an Israeli plan to assassinate President Rafsanjani Ahmadinejad.

So a victory to the Green Movement. But it is a victory that poses the question: "What Next?", not necessarily in plans for protest but in substantive political and legal demands.

Early in the crisis the answer was easy: reverse the declaration of victory for Ahmadinejad. That option has receded, however, by the passage of time. (Although, if I were the President, I would not be as enthusiastic today about the inauguration scheduled for between 2 and 6 August.)

Nor is this a platform for revolution. Despite some rather asinine hyperbole in the "West" (see Martin Amis, who apparently is a Very Important Writer, in The Guardian on Friday), the Green Movement has not sought the toppling of the system. The scope for action has been, and will continue to be, reform.

So, for example, a straightforward call of Release the Detainees poses the broader challenge. What changes should be sought in not only the security apparatus but also the judicial system to ensure that the regime cannot resort to mass detentions in future?

In the political sphere, the call will not be to remove the Supreme Leader (the specific demands on that position have been the assurance that the successor to Ali Khamenei cannot be a hand-picked hardliner, such as his son Mojtaba). But what limits, if any, should be placed on his authority, given the Iranian system's principle of the ultimate clerical jurist? Practically speaking, will there be an insistence that the Leader never again intervene in electoral politics, as happened on June 12?

And what of the complex machinery beyond the Supreme Leader? In the maze of institutions (at least for an outsider like me), how does one re-distribute or even abrogate the powers of Guardian Council, Expediency Council, Assembly of Experts, Parliament, etc.? And is there any possibility of putting formal oversight in place for the Revolutionary Guard, rather than the informal arrangement that leads to a lack of accountability if not a de facto sharing of political power and economic interests between the Guard and the President?

For me, the possible answer lies not in immediate proposals but new formations to "channel" demands. Almost overtaken, by the Friday prayers and the powerful figure of Rafsanjani, was the news of a possible "political front" involving Mir Hossein Mousavi. That development, if allowed by the regime, would put the Movement back into the "ordinary" day-to-day of politics. But given the expectations of the Movement, and the realities that political manoeuvre vs. a hostile President and legislative action (not to mention the Supreme Leader's endorsement) take time, is that enough?

None of this is to diminish either the specifics of yesterday's events or the general phenomenon of the Green Movement. It's just a reminder, in an Iran of "gradual revolution", of marathon not sprint.