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Entries in Hashemi Rafsanjani (40)


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

The Latest from Iran (8 July): The Day Before….?

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IRAN DEMOS 12100 GMT: So He Has Spoken. Press TV's website, ensuring it is back on the right side, declares, "Ahmadinejad slams rivals over post-vote stance". The New York Times, drawing from Iranian state media, distills the speech with Ahmadinejad's declaration that the 2009 elections were the "freest" and "healthiest" held in the Islamic Republic.

That, however, may have missed the key point. Ahmadinejad, finally resurfacing after near-exclusion from the airwaves and public politics over the last three weeks, will try to save his position by battling "foreign enemies" or, rather, by lashing his opponents to foreign enemies: "“Unfortunately, some people inside Iran collaborated with them. They repeated the comments made by certain Western countries."

1700 GMT. Hmmmm......If the reports are correct, President Ahmadinejad is about to address the nation on television (and activists will try to undermine him by overloading the electrical grid). So what is the lead Iran story on the Press TV website (which is again reporting Iran news)?

"Iran opposition urges release of detainees" on the meeting of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami.

Could someone at the state-run television station be getting up to political mischief?

1610 GMT: The Debate Amongst the Clerics. Continuing the major story we've been following for weeks, BBC Persian is reporting that the debate over the election and its aftermath has now reached the highest levels of Shi'a clergy, including the Qom Theological Seminaries (Howzeh-yi Elmieh-yi Qom).

1600 GMT: Media Note: Josh Shahryar, after a forced interruption because of Internet problems, is back with his valuable "Green Brief" , summarising yesterday's developments.

1425 GMT: The Fight Goes On. Presidential challengers Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami met on Monday. Confirming the intention for further demonstrators, they agreed that "the wave of arrests should end immediately and detainees should be released".

1420 GMT: Reports that SMS messaging, briefly back after a three-week blackout in Iran, has once again been suspended.

1410 GMT: An interesting contrast between the responses of Iranian and Chinese Government to international media coverage of unrest. Beijing "has set up a news center for foreign journalists reporting in Urumqi, lodging them in a designated hotel, arranging press tours around the city and organizing news conferences by government officials. While the internet connection in most parts of the city has been cut off, the news center is equipped with 50+ computers with internet access."

Of course, the Chinese Government is trying to ensure that the "right" line gets out to those journalists, as with the situation in Tibet: "The riot was masterminded by overseas forces (in this case, the Dalai Lama’s counterpart is Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uighur Congress) and was perpetrated by splittist forces (in this case, the “East Turkestan separatists”) who killed and injured innocent Han Chinese and smashed their shops and other properties."

1400 GMT: "A bitter day and yet majestic." A Farsi-language website has published a moving account of yesterday's Father's Day protest in front of Evin Prison.

1045 GMT: Reports that President Ahmadinejad is appearing on national television at 9 p.m. local time. One activist is calling for Iranians to power on all their appliances to overload the electrical grid.

0900 GMT: Today's Press TV Update: there is no news from Iran. The last update on its English-language website is from 1530 GMT on Monday, and that was a story of a British warning of European Union action over the arrests of British Embassy staffers.

0800 GMT: As Tehran waits out a dust storm with a self-imposed 24-hour shutdown and waits for Thursday demonstrations, the focus this morning is on reading signals over the last few days. In the Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi offers not one but two stories on potentially important developments.

First, Daragahi offers the statement of the Kargozaran political party, linked to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani:"We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate."

Daragahi goes no further in interpretation, however, so let's offer a possibility. Rafsanjani has played a careful game since the election, only coming out publicly last week and then balancing between support of the Supreme Leader and affirmation that there was a cause for protests. The Kargozaran statement does not topple that balance, but it does edge Rafsanjani closer to an open challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Daragahi then offers a challenging overview of the role of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (Revolutionary Guard). Interpreting the Sunday conference we noted in yesterday's update, Daragahi turns the straightforward --- "The top leaders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard publicly acknowledged they had taken over the nation's security" --- into the dramatic: "[It is] what government supporters describe as a heroic intervention by the Revolutionary Guard and critics decry as a palace 'coup d'etat'." He offers the words of IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari:
These events put us in a new stage of the revolution and political struggles, and all of us must fully comprehend its dimensions. Because the Revolutionary Guard was assigned the task of controlling the situation, [it] took the initiative to quell a spiraling unrest. This event pushed us into a new phase of the revolution and political struggles and we have to understand all its dimensions.

A calmer interpretation would be that the Revolutionary Guard's action was neither heroic nor a coup but the logical step against the unexpected size of protest and demonstrations. Once the security response went beyond police control, the Revolutionary Guard --- which formally took control of the paramilitary Basiji earlier year --- was the force to call.

The Latest From Iran (5 July): Treading Water

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

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IRAN GREEN2015 GMT: A very quiet few hours, with only a few ripples of political activity that we're chasing. So we've taken the opportunity to work on a mystery: who are the "Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom", who released a statement criticising the Government yesterday?

1400 GMT: A series of detentions and releases: Press TV reports that Iason Athanasiadis (Jason Fowden), a freelance journalist who reports for newspapers such as The Washington Times, has been released in a gesture of goodwill to Greece. The "mothers for mourning" demonstrators arrested in Laleh Park last week and supporters such as women's rights activist Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh have also been freed.

However, Jalal Mohammadou, another leading member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front Party, has been arrested, and there are reports that journalist Masood Bastani has been detained. Bastani's pregnant wife Mahsa Amirabadi, also a journalist, has been in prison since the early days of the crisis.

1200 GMT: A series of political developments: Mehdi Karroubi's latest statement says people must continue fighting despite the difficulties ahead. He notes that President Ahmadinejad has asked officials to find Neda Agha Soltan's killer while some of those same forces have killed at least 19 other people and attacked dormitories and houses."

The "reformist" newspaper Etemade Melli reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi is forming a new politcal party, while reformist advisor Alireza Beheshti has called on the Iranian Parliament to dismiss President Ahmadinejad.

There are also reports that politician Saeed Hajjarian, who is disabled and in poor health, has been transferred from Evin prison to a hospital in Tehran.

1030 GMT: Today's Washington Post finally catches up with the story, more than 24 hours old, of the criticisms of the election posted by the Mousavi campaign:
[blockquote] In a 24-page document posted on his Web site, Mousavi's special committee studying election fraud accused influential Ahmadinejad supporters of handing out cash bonuses and food, increasing wages, printing millions of extra ballots and other acts in the run-up to the vote.

The committee, whose members were appointed by Mousavi, said the state did everything in its power to get Ahmadinejad reelected, including using military forces and government planes to support his campaign....

The report released by Mousavi pointed out that the Interior Ministry, which counted the votes, is headed by Sadegh Mahsouli, a longtime friend of Ahmadinejad. The secretary of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, had publicly supported Ahmadinejad, as had six others on the 12-member council despite a law requiring them to remain impartial, according to the report.

"The law here was completely broken," said Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a top Mousavi campaign official. "What these documents prove is that the two entities that organized the elections were biased and in favor of one candidate."[/blockquote]

1000 GMT: Reports, via British Foreign Office, that one local staffer of the British Embassy in Iran will be released but one will remain in custody.

0710 GMT: Press TV English Irony Watch.

Number of minutes given in morning news update to Israel's detention of former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney: 5.
Number of minutes given to Iran's detention of hundreds: 0.

0600 GMT: The pattern is now woven in Iran: the daily demonstrations continue, scattered and limited in size by the State's restrictions, but still very present. However, there is unlikely to be high-profile movement until Thursday, with the planned mass march in Tehran.

On Saturday, supporters and mothers of the killed and detained gathered in Laleh Park; at least one prominent women's rights activist, Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh, was arrested. At Kamran University, a non-violent protest was marred by the reported death of a faculty member shot in the head.

It was a quieter day for opposition leaders, with no significant statements. Support did come from the Association of Instructors and Researchers at the seminary in Qom, with their statement calling the Government illegitimate. Meanwhile, a lawyer for jailed reformist leaders said they would be tried on charges of threatening national security leaders.

The regime, including Ahmadinejad also kept a lower profile on Saturday. News continued to be dominated by Friday's threats to prosecute "enemies" from British Embassy staff to Mir Hossein Mousavi. President Ahmadinejad's reported national broadcast after the evening news, if it ever took place, has left no ripples. Instead, his rather silly challenge to President Obama --- let's have a debate at the United Nations --- filled Iranian media space.

So the most significant intervention came from former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, as he spoke to detainees' families. This was not a call for open resistance, but a more measured re-assertion that the election process had been corrupted. Rafsanjani's goal? Continue to avoid a conflict with the Supreme Leader while putting pressure on President Ahmadinejad.

Overseas, a bit of disturbing silliness is going on. The Israelis are stirring up the image of the Iranian nuclear threat, with the prominent spokesman (now Ambassador to the US) Michael Oren talking of a Tehran bomb wiping out Israel "within seconds", and The Sunday Times of London --- a regular channel for Tel Aviv's propaganda --- claiming that Saudi Arabia has sanctioned an Israeli attack on Iran by allowing the use of its airspace.

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2110 GMT: According to his son, pro-reform journalist Isa Saharkhiz has been seized and taken to an undisclosed location.

2015 GMT:Reports that women's rights activist Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh was arrested today in the "Mothers of Martyrs" rally in Laleh Park.

2000 GMT: Now This is Interesting. According to Iran Labor News Agency, Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a meeting with the families of detainees, has said post-election events had caused "bitterness" while denying there was a power struggle in the Islamic state: "I don't think that (anybody with a) vigilant conscience is satisfied with the current situation."

Rafsanjani's manoeuvre should be seen as an attempt to get as much political leverage as possible while distancing himself from any call for massive change: "I hope with good management and wisdom the issues would be settled in the next days and the situation could improve ... We should think about protecting the system's long-term interests."

So Iran's ultimate politician is not going to make any challenge to the Supreme Leader. But here is the unknown from the interview: what does he propose as the fate of President Ahmadinejad?

1805 GMT: We're waiting to get details from a reported national TV broadcast by the Iranian President after the evening news. Meanwhile, here's a bit of political humour from Mr Ahmadinejad:
Addressing Iranian heads of medical universities on Saturday, President Ahmadinejad offered to debate President Obama at the United Nations headquarters in New York before the eyes of all nations of the world.

Given that the legitimacy of the 12 June election has yet to be accepted by a significant portion of the Iranian population, let alone the international community, we can only presume that Mr Ahmadinejad made the offer with a very wide smile on his face.

1650 GMT: Etemade Melli has published a lengthy account of Mehdi Karroubi's meetings with the families of detainees, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

1630 GMT: Another intervention in the clerical debate. The Assembly of Instructors and Researchers at the seminary in Qom have issued a statement calling the Government illegitimate.

1330 GMT: Lawyer Saleh Nikbakht says that Iranian authorities are going to try detained reformist leaders and Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari on charges on endangering national security. Those facing trial include former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former Deputy Minister of Economics Mohsen Safaei Farahani, former Presidential spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and former Minister of Industry Behzad Nabavi.

1300 GMT: Irony Alert. Iran's Press TV English spends several minutes on the "illegal detention" of former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and other activists in Israel and, with apparent innocence, never mentions the possibility of "illegal detentions" closer to home.

Later in the broadcast, Press TV spends an excruciating five minutes, propped up by British journalist Yvonne Ridley, on its full and fair coverage of the post-election conflict and the contrasting intrigue and manipulation of the BBC.

1245 GMT: We're waiting for any news on the "protest in the parks" by mothers of the detained and killed and by other members of the opposition campaign.

Meanwhile, Fintan Dunne has picked up on Robert Dreyfuss's challenging article in The Nation, "Iran's Green Wave". Dreyfuss, who was in Iran in the run-up to the election, is dramatic in his analysis, "A victory by the opposition--as unlikely as it appears in the wake of the regime's crackdown--might let in a lot of fresh air....It's that scenario that Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their IRGC and Basij allies are determined to resist at all costs. And they're prepared to unleash Tiananmen Square levels of violence to make sure it doesn't happen."

Indeed, I think is over-dramatic, both in the portrayal of the aims of the challenge to the election process and its aftermath and in the easy invocation of "Tiananmen Square". As an observation by an empassioned observer who had first-hand experience of the excitement up to the 12 June crisis, however, it's well worth a read.

1030 GMT: As always, Josh Shahryar's "Green Brief" summary on Anonymous Iran is worth a read. Most of the developments have also been reported here, but this information is new to us and of possible significance:
The main University of Sistan o Baluchistan has been shut-down by the government, according to unconfirmed reports. Furthermore, students from the university were dragged out of their dorms and sent home....The Association of Iranian University Graduates has released a statement claiming that, “the government was out to suppress opposition by any means possible escalating from the rigged elections.” Dozens of Iranian university professors have a signed a letter expressing deep anger for the attacks made by security forces on Iranian universities and students.

0945 GMT: More on yesterday's story that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani had declined to lead Friday prayers in Tehran. Media close to Rafsanjani report today that this indicates Rafsanjani is "resigning" from his clerical and political roles.

0910 GMT: More on the Manoeuvring Amongst the Clerics. Friday prayers in Qom, the religious centre of Iran, offer an important clue to a "middle ground" solution. Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, who is also a leading member of the Assembly of Experts, said "errors had occurred" during the election and called on all four Presidential candidates to "come together and give help and cooperation".

0900 GMT: Piling on the Pressure. In an editorial in the "conservative" newspaper Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, an advisor to the Supreme Leader, has accused Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami of "horrible crimes and treason" and added, ""It has to be asked whether the actions of (Mousavi and his supporters) are in response to instructions by American authorities." Shariatmadari asserts that Mousavi is trying to "escape punishment for murdering innocent people, holding riots, cooperating with foreigners and acting as America's fifth column inside the country."

0845 GMT: Nothing to See Here. Go Away. Today's coverage on the Press TV website of the situation in Iran?
"Tokyo has taken a neutral stance towards the recent post-election unrest in Iran, undermining the mainstream portrayal of the events in Tehran" and....

“Western countries have now realized their stance on the Iranian elections was undoubtedly out of line,” head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said.

Not a single word on the site about the internal political manoeuvres, either of the regime or the opposition campaign.

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IRAN DEMO 9 JULY1825 GMT: BBC English has posted a video report on the Iranian Government's "public service" campaign on a telephone hotline for people to inform on family and friends participating in demonstrations.

1645 GMT: BBC Persian reports that Ayatollah Yusef Sane'i, a fervent critic of the Government, has condemned televised confessions, saying they have no value as the obvious product of torture. Sane'i emphasized that "endurance is the key to success".

1515 GMT: The demonstration for 9 July is on. Andrew Sullivan has posted a copy of a leaflet (left) for the rally.

1445 GMT: Etemade Melli, the pro-"reformist" newspaper, reports today on the censorship imposed on Thursday by prosecutors and Ministry of Culture officials. The paper claims that its account of how it was closed on Wednesday by authorities was removed. Political stories were replaced by a "social page" and an item on the National University entrance examination.

1435 GMT: Reports that Sara Sabbaghian, lawyers and women's rights activist, was freed from Evin Prison on Thursday. In contrast, the regime's pressure on those present at the death of Neda Agha Soltan continues; in addition to pursuit of the doctor who tried to help her, Arash Hejazi, an eyewitness to the killing claims his family is being harassed.

There are also claims that three people have been killed, more than 200 injured, and many detained in the eastern city of Mashaad.

1315 GMT: Was Ayatollah Jannati's "foreign enemies" claim, with the threat of espionage trials, too embarrassing for Iranian state media? Press TV's website makes no reference to the allegations against Britain, saying cryptically that Jannati "warn[ed] that powers in the West would derive great benefits if the internal dispute continued to drag on". Instead, Press TV headlines, "Cleric urges end to election dispute in Iran". The Islamic Republic News Agency takes the same path, "Ayatollah Jannati: Presidential Elections Were Accurate".

An alternative explanation is that, whereas foreign media jumped on the Jannati reference to a possible trial, the focus of his speech was indeed on providing reassurances about the election process and warning that it was now over. The broader interpretation is unchanged, however; the regime is not yet secure that it has overcome the challenge on the streets and behind the scenes.

1250 GMT: We're keeping our eyes open for a text of Ayatollah Jannati's address at Friday prayers but my initial sense is that it indicates some continuing regime concern about protests: they have risked a heightened  invocation of the foreign threat, which may damage relations with Britain, Europe, and the US, to ensure public support for their maintenance of "order".

1245 GMT: More on the report below that Iranian staff of the British Embassy may be tried on espionage charges. The warning was issued by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the chairman of the Guardian Council, as he led Friday prayers in Tehran: "British foreign office had said last March that there may be riots during the elections in Iran and they said that they should warn their citizens to be careful. What do these predictions mean? And then some people in the U.K. embassy, who had a hand in the disturbances, were arrested and will surely be put on trial."

The context of the warning being issued in Friday prayers, rather than by a security or judiciary official, is significant --- it may even be good news for the detainees. This seems more of a political posture, reinforcing the regime's continued excuse of "foreign intervention" for its crackdown on internal dissent (see our prediction this morning in "What To Watch For Today", than a specific move towards formal prosecution.

1000 GMT: Watch Out. Both the BBC Persian service and Agence France Presse are reporting the statement of a Guardian Council member that local "staffers" of the British Embassy will be tried on espionage charges.

The plural should be noted, as earlier in the week Iranian authorities said all but one of the nine people detained had been released. And, if true, the report marks a significant escalation of tensions by Iran with Britain (though not directly with the US).

0930 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) posts a firsthand report from Tehran:
It's kind of changed from the first week, but it's definitely not over over. it's just going to be more drawn out, I think.

It's become a lot more localized in a way. People just do what they can on their own with their circle of people. Demonstrations are smaller but in different places now. I don't know how widely circulated the information going around is but there's a pretty large amount. You can feel it with strangers even like taxi drivers.

It's not that they're less pissed. If anything, they're more pissed. Because of the state and how blatantly they're lying.

0700 GMT: More on the claim that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani declined to lead Friday prayers in Tehran last week. The original story is on a pro-Khatami, pro-Mousavi website. It is supported, according to Josh Shahryar, by one of his reliable sources.

0610 GMT: Josh Shahryar's daily "Green Brief", which we highlighted yesterday, again offers an essential overview of developments. Almost all of the items match up with information in our updates and other reliable sources. However, this item (which we will try to confirm) is both new and significant:
It has been reported that Rafsanjani, who is one of the Imams that lead Friday Prayers in Tehran's largest mosque, has declined to lead prayers there again. Last week, his spot was first filled by Khamenei, but Khamenei pulled out at the last minute leaving Ahmad Khatami to lead the prayers. Rafsanjani is not planning to attend this Friday's Prayers either.

0555 GMT: The challenge in Iran is now close to a non-story for major international outlets. There is nothing on CNN International's website and no appearance in the headlines of the BBC or Al Jazeera English. The BBC website only has a limited article on the removal of the block on SMS messaging, while Al Jazeera is still running the news from Wednesday that Mir Hossein Mousavi may face criminal charges.

Press TV English, meanwhile, is featuring the story of Israel's detention of former US Senator (and Press TV presenter) Cynthia McKinney and other activists, who were trying to break the Israeli sea blockade to get humanitarian aid to Gaza. (Ironically but significantly, the incident has been a non-story for US media.)

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IRAN RALLY1It now appears that the challenge in Iran has moved into a new phase. There will still be daily demonstrations, but they will be "indirect" in their opposition to the Government. Instead of posing questions over the election or the legimitacy of President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian system, they will commemorate the dead and highlight the plight of detainees. Direct, mass challenges will need several days, possibly weeks in planning.

So every day the relatives and supporters of the detained will gather in front of Evin Prison, and tomorrow mothers of "martyrs" will again try to pay their respects in Laleh Park. Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign will offer guidance for symbolic protest on his Facebook page. There will be periodic statements by the opposition leaders.

A clue to the next mass gathering has emerged this morning on a website giving the routes for a march in Tehran next Thursday, 9 July. Nine different rallies will converge on Enqelab (Revolution) Square.

And how is the regime feeling about the current state of affairs? An important clue comes today at Friday prayers at Tehran University. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Leader used the occasion to confront the opposition and to block possible political manoeuvres by key politicians like former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Last week Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami issued his warning that protest would be met by the heavy hands of Iranian security forces and the judiciary.

If the Ayatollah leading prayers today is low-key and makes no direct references to the opposition movement or the foreign threat, then the regime thinks that not only that the worst has passed but that it is unlikely to recur. If, however, the enemy appears, then there is still uncertainty and concern amongst the Iranian leadership.
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