Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam (2)


The Latest from Iran (6 July): Covered in Dust

The Latest from Iran (7 July): Sitting Out a Storm

UPDATED Iran: Solving the Mystery of The “Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom”
UPDATED Iran: Joe Biden’s “Green Light” and an Israeli Airstrike
The Latest From Iran (5 July): Treading Water

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2145 GMT: The death toll in Tehran may be far higher than official figures suggest. Fintan Dunne has posted this English rewrite of an article in Le Figaro:
One of a pair of Iranian doctors, who fled the capital to France says an unofficial tally by medical staff at Tehran area hospitals counted 92 violent deaths related to conflicts with security forces. The death toll is considerably at variance with an official figure of 17 deaths.

1700 GMT: An Iranian website is reporting on a meeting that Mir Hossein Mousavi held with "friends and acquaintances" on the occassion of Imam Ali's birthday. Mousavi said that the election had shown the problems of the Iranian system and repeated that the State faced questions over its legitimacy at home and abroad. He declared, on the issue of protest, "The movement will continue," but this would be within a legal framework.

1635 GMT: The Regime Wins One? Mehr News Agency reports that the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, has finally congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his "victory". Larijani had caused some friction for the post-election procession with his querying of the neutrality of the Guardian Council and his demand for an enquiry into the raids on the dormitories of Tehran University. (hat tip to Nico Pitney)

1555 GMT: But here's the real significance of the Khamenei statement: yes, there is an fight going on within the rgime. According to Press TV, Khamenei "pointed to the internal disagreement among Iranian officials", although he then "explained that despite such disputes these officials stand united against the enemy". That's the point to remember amidst his bluster, "In the event of enemy intervention, the Iranian nation, despite differences of opinion, will unite and become an iron fist against them." 

1550 GMT: Look! Over There! The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has again brought out the foreign menace. Speaking on Monday, he warned Western countries against "meddling" in Iran's internal affairs: ""Such governments should be careful with their hostile approach and remarks. The Iranian nation will react." Khamenei also referred to protesters as a "depressed" and "distressed" minority.

1545 GMT: Expect a standstill in developments tomorrow. Confirmation that Tehran will be "shut down" for 24 hours tomorrow because of dust pollution.

1515 GMT: The LA Times is carrying confirmation of Mousavi's apparent decision to launch his own political party (which we reported yesterday).

1300 GMT: Another Lemming Jumps. The Wall Street Journal runs with Sunday's inaccurate and misleading New York Times story, plus a lot of general background, to try and catch attention with a Clerics v. The Regime story.

1240 GMT: Rumour of the day: a significant portion of the Revolutionary Guard have turned against the Supreme Leader. Twitter user MikVerbrugge claims the source of this information is an Iranian officer they are in contact with.

1230 GMT: Another British embassy worker has been freed, leaving one member of staff still in detention.

0920 GMT: And a nice reminder of the political tension behind the scenes. The German service Deutsche Welle reports that Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a staunch supporter of President Ahmadinejad, sent a stern letter to the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, warning him to "obey" the Supreme Leader.

0915 GMT: Press TV's website also features the comment of police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam that "two-thirds" of those arrested in post-election conflicts had been freed or released on bail. The missing detail? Neither the police chief nor Press TV mention how many people were detained.

0845 GMT: Last night we began received reports of a large duststorm moving across Iran from the west, reaching Tehran today.

That's an apt metaphor for the current political situation. There's been an uneasy settling of conflict over the last few days but the sense that, even though public activity was reduced, there could soon be another clash. Ironically, even though there is almost no breaking news coming out of Tehran, that sense is heightened this morning.

On the clerical front, there is enough intrigue to fill several crises. That intrigue has been elevated (and, indeed, exaggerated) by Sunday's misleading New York Times story of a dramatic challenge to the Supreme Leader from Iran's "most important" clerical faction, the "Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom".. We've sorted out fact from fiction in a separate post.

On the political front, both the regime and the opposition are manoeuvring ahead of the planned demonstration on Thursday. Protest will continue today, "Father's Day" in Iran, as relatives of detainees gather in front of Evin Prison. On the other side, the Islamic Revolution's Guard Corps (Revolutionary Guard) used a Sunday conference to put out warnings. The political head, General Yudollah Javani declared:
Today, no one is impartial. There are two currents; those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it. Those who wanted to topple the revolution made a mistake in their calculations. They had ignored the awareness of the people and the role of the Leader.

The Commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, added, “We are convinced that the IRGC must play a deciding role in the preservation and continuation of the revolution.” (He added that this should in no way be interpreted as “meddling” by the IRGC in politics.)

Iran's Chief of Police, Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, chipped in with a public statement keeping the foreign menace alive: "The BBC and the British Embassy, spearheaded efforts aimed at provoking unrest and incited people to commit civil disobedience and go on strike." It is still unclear whether any local staffers of the British Embassy will stand trial for "endangering national security".

The Latest from Iran (2 July): The "Gradual" Opposition

The Latest from Iran (3 July): The Long Haul?

LATEST Video: “Keeping the Peace” (30 June-2 July)
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The Latest from Iran (1 July): The Opposition Regroups

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IRAN GREEN2105 GMT: Reports that more than 15,000 people gathered to lay flowers at the graves of more than 80 "martyrs" in Behesh Zahra cemetery (see 1745 GMT).

2100 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) writes, "Rooftop Allahu Akbars [God is Greats] still on, despite Basij raids. [There was] one case where all residents of a five-floor apartment building were bused to Evin [Prison]."

Setrakian adds, "Rally was set for 6 p.m. today in front of Evin Prison to ask for release of detainees. The next two weeks of protests are planned."

1815 GMT: Press TV, as we reported in a separate entry earlier today, continues to feature the stories of Britain's Channel 4 TV showing 15 June footage of Basiji shooting from the rooftop of their base but not airing the footage of demonstrators attacking the building with Molotov cocktails. It is briefly repeating the "Neda" claim that the doctor who tried to save her is wanted by Interpol (which is false --- see 1730 GMT) and the strained analogy with Venezuela 2002 to imply that Neda was killed by foreign services.

1810 GMT: Reports that Maryam Ameri of Mehdi Karroubi's campaign has been released from detention.

1745 GMT: One event, however, which should be noted. Thousands of people in Tehran visited the graves of "martyrs" in Behesh Zahra cemetery to honour them with flowers. They were watched by "a large number" of plain-clothes security personnel.

1730 GMT: A quiet, almost stand-still, afternoon. Unlike previous days, where there has been an up-turn in political activity around this time, there has been nothing of notice out of Iran. Chatter is around yesterday's news of a threat to prosecute Mir Hossein Mousavi and the lie of Iranian police chief Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, spread by Press TV, that Interpol is pursuing the doctor, Arash Hejazi, who tried to save Neda Agha Soltan's life.

1435 GMT: The Bushman Returneth. John Bolton, Assistant Secretary of State and then US Ambassador to the United Nations from 2001 to 2006, reminds everybody why we're fortunate to have an Obama rather than Bush Administration:
Iran's nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. Accordingly, with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike is nearly inexorable.

No doubt those campaign for meaningful reform (and not necessarily "regime change") in Iran will thank Mr Bolton for his concern.

1405 GMT: Al Jazeera English, after a forced two-week confinement to its office, was allowed to film briefly in Tehran yesterday. We've posted the video. (Not sure which is braver: reporter Alireza Ronaghi's stand against the authorities or his stand in the middle of a busy Tehran road.)

1310 GMT: How to Turn a Scandal into a Museum Exhibit. The Governor of Shiraz has explained that four unopened ballot boxes, found by chance yesterday in a library, are from past elections for Assembly of Experts, Parliament, and local councils. The boxes will now be "stored as national documents".

1300 GMT: From Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US), "Tehrani source close to those detained says some have been beaten heavily and waterboarded with hot water."

1255 GMT: Human Rights Watch's report on the life-threatening conditions of detained politician Saeed Hajjarian (see 1100 GMT) is now available on the Internet.

1250 GMT: A reliable Iranian activist on Twitter adds to Mousavi's claim of Government restrictions on the websites of "the Imam's List" members of Parliament, "Managers of Parliament News were also threatened by security forces and prosecutor to change their methods."

1245 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page has said a "human chain" across Tehran will be formed from 5 p.m. local time on Sunday. The entry declares that the "more people", the "more safety".

Mousavi's page also claims that the websites of "the Imam's List" group of members of Parliament, which were raising the cases of detainees, are now being "filtered" by the Government. The page advises, "A lot of information has to flow to Iran, create a Mailinglist and spend some time to sort and send the news. If you believe it or not, Your Mailinglist is the main media."

1100 GMT: Extract from a report on detained politician Saeed Hajjarian: "Ms. Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, mentioned that given  Hajarian's physical condition, his arrest is not acceptable in the first place; however, terrible jail conditions together with the pressure on him to confess put his life in danger." Hajjarian was severely disabled by an assassination attempt in March 2000.

0900 GMT: Jim Sciutto of ABC News (US), who has done very good work during the crisis, parallels our analysis: "Former President Khatami & Pres candidates Karoubi and Mousavi call government illegitimate; bold challenge after Supreme Leader again tries to declare race over. Opposition plan now is ad hoc protests: strikes, withdrawing money from state banks, starve state charities, 'lightning' demos. Watch Iran's many memorial ceremonies, where crowds are legal, giving opposition chance to take advantage."

0610 GMT: Perhaps the most striking description of the Islamic Republic offered to me by Iranians is "Gradual Revolution", the idea that the promise of the ideals behind its creation in 1979 --- despite all the intervening difficulties of war, economic challenges, political arguments, and social conflict --- will be fulfilled.

There may now be a new version of that concept. While supporters of the Government and the Supreme Leader will no doubt argue that they are still the defenders of the Revolution, those who have challenged the system in the last three weeks may now be considering their own "gradual" approach.

Mass demonstrations have not been possible for two weeks, and the more limited gatherings struggle against the possibility of violence from security forces and the reality that there can be almost no media coverage. Campaigns have been disrupted by detentions, and the regime is using the "foreign intervention" theme, repeated almost non-stop by state media and now bolstered by forced confessions, to try and neutralise any thought of legitimate protest.

So the opposition has had to adjust its strategy. While ad hoc demonstrations are still occurring (though we cannot be sure of their size), the focus is on keeping the message of resistance alive. Statements from all three symbolic leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami) were issued yesterday. The claim that "it's not over" could also draw from the debate amongst the clerics; this is now being punctuated by dramatic statements such as Ayatollah Ghaffari's speech and now Ayatollah Taheri's "fatwa" calling the election illegitimate and fraudulent.

On the surface, the Government is showing confidence, following up the Guardian Council's Monday verdict with public declarations of triumph and some relaxation of restrictions (SMS service was unblocked yesterday). Yet it still faces a difficult question over detentions. Public protest is now coalescing around the fate of those taken away by the authorities, with relatives gathering in front of Evin Prison, and those proclaiming the illegitimacy of the regime can highlight the lack of legal process (and, for the clerics, religious justification) for the measures.

So the Government has to release the detainees (some have been bailed or freed, but a significant number of high-profile prisoners remain) or commit to the long-term imprisonment of those who challenge it. The former step risks a strengthening of the opposition; the latter may build up the gradual questioning, not only of individual politicians, but of the structures of the Islamic Republic.

The opposition campaign, therefore, is relying on symbolic pronouncements. Latest proposals have included the call for a general strike, possible action on the "days of religious seclusion" (6-8 July), and the weekly gathering in Laleh Park of the mothers of the killed and arrested. The idea that the movement is still alive is to be maintained through symbolic action such as graffiti in public places and the nightly calls of "Allahu Akhbar".