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Entries in Los Angeles Times (5)


Iran: How Big is the Green Wave?

The Latest from Iran (31 July): And Now….?

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IRAN 40 DAYIn light of yesterday's rush of events --- some tense, some moving, some confusing, all demonstrating that the issues in Iran have moved beyond a challenge over a disputed Presidential election --- how significant is the pressure for "something to be done" about the Iranian system? And what exactly is to be done?

Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim of the Los Angeles Times, who excelled in their coverage of the "40th Day" memorial, offer one dramatic answer:
Protesters swarmed Tehran's main cemetery and fanned out across a large swath of the capital Thursday, defying truncheons and tear gas to publicly mourn those killed in weeks of unrest, including a young woman whose death shocked people around the world....Thirty years ago, such commemorations helped build momentum for the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah. The resilience of the thousands of protesters this time set the stage for more clashes next week, when hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to be inaugurated for a second term.

"Momentum" for "the overthrow" of the regime? Hmm....

Understandably, Daragahi and Mostaghim, who was in Tehran, were caught up in the excitement of an extended moment, both at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery and then across the capital as demonstrations continued late into the night. It's the next morning, however, and excitement gives way to reflection and a view of a murkier political situation. The assessment we offered on 18 July, the day after Hashemi Rafsanjani's Friday prayers in Tehran, still seems apt:
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 [a new political front] enough?....[These events are] a reminder, in an Iran of “gradual revolution”, of marathon not sprint.

This caution should not overshadow the symbolic and political power of yesterday's memorial. There will never be a result in the numbers game --- viewing footage and carefully reading reports, the CNN figure of 3000 at Behest-e-Zahra cemetery seems far too low while the estimate of 40,000, offered by Mardamak, Norooz, and the Los Angeles Times may be optimistic --- but the precise figure is not that important. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, responded to the call to show up in tribute to the martyrs of 20 June. They did so despite confusion over the exact plans, concern over the response of security forces, and warnings from the regime, both in rhetoric (see the statement of the chief prosecutor Mortazavi yesterday in anticipation of Saturday's first trials of demonstrators) and in further arrests.

And we will never know how many thousands, maybe tens of thousands, were scattered across Tehran and beyond in further marches and shows of support for the Green Movement. The Government's restrictions on the alternative media are crumbling, which meant that video came out at a rate which overwhelmed our attempts to post the best footage of the day. And that video, while of course only a partial view of 30 July, showed a determination and an enthusiasm to make both anger and hope heard.

The Government's efforts to limit, if not shut down, both mourning and protest yesterday were fumbling. There was, thankfully, fewer reports of violence and injuries than on previous occasions, including the cause for the memorial, the deaths of 20 June. While dramatic images emerged, such as a clash between demonstrators and police using batons in Vanak Square (see yesterday's video, Part 1), that incident apparently ended in tear gas rather than gunfire. A scattering of arrests were reported but even some of those taken were later freed, such as the filmmaker Jafar Panahi

At the same time, the security forces probably caused further difficulties for the regime with their ham-fisted efforts to keep opposition leaders away from the memorial. They were successful in turning back Mir Hossein Mousavi, but it appears that Mehdi Karroubi and the supporting crowd were defiant, not only saving Karroubi from being man-handled (as had happened on 17 July) but ensuring that he spoke to the gathering. We have footage of Karroubi's arrival at the cemetery (yesterday's video, Part 1); if any images of this show of resistance emerges, I suspect they may be a powerful symbol for the strength of the Green Wave.

Yet, on the morning after, those incidents can also be turned around to pose questions for the opposition. If one was to be crude, the more-than-symbolic question could be put, "Where is Mousavi now?" It is not just the fact that, minutes after crowds were chanting "Ya Hossein! Mir Hossein!", he was rebuffed in his attempt to pay respects; it is that he never resurfaced on the day, despite rumours that he like many of the crowd moved to the Grand Mosala.

Less crudely, dramatic protest has to be followed by less dramatic political planning and manoeuvring. And that in turn highlights that, two weeks after the 17 July moment, there is still no political front, let alone a well-developed set of proposals for what should be done with Iran's political, religious, and judicial system. We are back to the difficult, sometimes grubby, details of not only the Presidency and Iranian security forces, including the Revolutionary Guard but also of institutions like the Guardian Council and of the powers of the Supreme Leader. It is a difficult challenge beyond the spirit and success of yesterday, and seen in these terms, one which poses questions which cannot be answered at this point.

There is another twist, however. The Green Wave's persistence does not depend on those unanswered questions because of more immediate issues. Foremost among these are detention and interrogation. It is notable that the sustained pressure that has been brought by both clerical and political opposition, symbolised by the Khatami-Mousavi-Karroubi letter and the response of some Ayatollahs, has been concerned with the abuses of detainees and demands that someone take responsibility for the violation of law, humanity, and Islam.

A pragmatic move by the Government, to ease that pressure, would be to give way on the detentions, and it did so to an extent with the announced release of 140 prisoners and the promised closure of the Kahrizak facility. This, however, appears to be a concession offset by the prospect of further punishment. Tomorrow, only 48 hours after the memorial, the trials of about 20 detainees are scheduled to begin. Foreshadowed by yesterday's announcement by Mortazavi, the court proceedings will probably be marked by more strident rhetoric about foreign manipulations and even the evil direction of opposition leaders within Iran. All of this is likely to re-raise the questions of the Government's system of "crime" and punishment and, more importantly, to create new martyrs for the cause.

The second immediate issue is the diminishing but still pivotal figure of President Ahmadinejad. Yesterday, in the face of the high-profile challenge to his authority, he disappeared, going to Mashaad to meet academics and scientists. That's his second flight in two weeks; he made the same trip to Mashaad on 16 July, the day before Rafsanjani's Friday prayers.

This is a political leader without authority, yet ironically, we are only six days away from the supposed re-confirmation of his authority when Ahmadinejad is inaugurated. And that saves the Green Wave from the longer-term questions about the political system. For the opposition, which is not only "reformist" but now those "principlists" and "conservatives" whom the President has alienated, can agree that longer-term questions can be put aside for criticism of an immediate target.

Waves ebb and flow. Yesterday, after a week of confrontation within the system, the tide came dramatically in, to demonstrate that protests remains strong and defiant. Today, it goes out, to make way again for those day-to-day manoeuvres challenging the current President of Iran. And next week, it comes in once again, as 5 August brings the symbolic clash of an official inauguration and an unofficial denial of that ceremony.

Beyond that? It's not "the overthrow of the Shah". It's an Iran 30 years later --- this Wave is already in uncharted waters for the Islamic Republic, and I doubt any of us have the map to indicate where it goes.

The Latest from Iran (30 July): Memorial Day

The Latest from Iran (31 July): And Now….?

Latest Iran Video: The "40th Day" Memorial (30 July)
Latest Iran Video: The “40th Day” Memorial (30 July – Part 2)

NEW Media Mischief: The Return of #CNNFail on Iran?
NEW Iran: Ayatollah Montazeri on the Khatami-Mousavi-Karroubi Letter (29 July)
The Latest from Iran (29 July): The Memorial and the Inauguration

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IRAN NEDA MOTHER2115 GMT: Good Night. For us at EA, a thank you to all those who have joined today and a symbolic reminder: pictured at left is Neda Agha Soltan's mother, who was not able to attend the ceremony at her daughter's grave but who lit a candle in a nearby park as her memorial.

2110 GMT: Coming to the close of an eventful day, let's drop in on Press TV's coverage: "Iran's opposition supporters, gathered at a cemetery in Tehran for a memorial service for the victims of the recent post-election unrest, have been met by Iranian police."

The image of a casual "meeting", perhaps for cake and a cup of tea, is dispelled in the next sentence, however, "Police forces on Thursday used tear gas to break up supporters of defeated presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi." And the overall report is neutral, even (whisper it) somewhat favourable towards the Green Movement.

That is, except for an obligatory last sentence: "Iranian authorities say foreign agents have fueled the post-vote violence which led to the deaths."

2015 GMT: has posted a range of photographs from Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

2010 GMT: Tehran Bureau has an excellent selection of eyewitness accounts, all of which point towards the significance not of a single demonstration (although, if true, 40,000 in Behest-e-Zahra cemetery is impressive) but of numerous demonstrations across the capital. As one demonstrator caught the excitement, "It’s NUTS! I’ve never seen it like this before! It’s still going on, 9 pm now — raging! As I said, it's more like a riot, totally out of control."

1940 GMT: Radio Farda's website reports that hundreds of people demonstrated in Isfahan today.

1755 GMT: Islamic Republic News Agency, going "behind the scenes of the street riots", claims that the leadership of these riots are "political powers" and "retired elements of some security forces", implying that the recent protests are similar to those against the regime in the early 1980s.

1715 GMT: Reports that filmmakers Jafar Panahi, Mahnaz Mohammadi, and Rokhsare Ghaem Maghami released after being arrested earlier at Behest-e-Zahra cemetery.

1645 GMT: State-funded Press TV in Iran apparently covered the protests at Neda's grave site, with a reporter calling in a live update.

1615 GMT: Etemade Melli has an account of Mehdi Karroubi's appearance at the memorial, including the resistance of mourners when security forces accosted him, and of his speech. The English translation, courtesy of Mani:

Karroubi walked towards Neda Agha Soltan's resting place, surrounded by a large group of people. The special forces attacked him and tried to disperse and separate the people from "the reform sheikh" [Karroubi] by beating them with clubs and pepper spray. The police encountered stiff resistance from the people, and Karroubi held his ground and stated strongly that he is staying in this place.
Karroubi sat beside Neda Agha Soltan's  grave and accompanied the people by reading the Fateheh [the prayer for the dead]  for Neda. The Prayer was read with protest intonations. Afterwards Hojjatoleslam Hadi Ghaffari joined Karroubi and spoke to the people for a few minutes. During Karroubi's speech, the security forces had a conflict with the people and arrested some individuals. These forces were confronted with slogans like "let him go, let him go" and flowers by the people [police presumably released those arrested].

Mehdi Karroubi, after spending an hour with the people, moved to the exit and his vehicle, accompanied by a large number of people chanting slogans.

1600 GMT: A reader sends in two other slogans:

"As long as the Supreme Leader isn't dead, our homeland won't be our homeland"
"We don't want crocodile's tears, we don't want the government of Mesbah" [referring to Ahmadinejad's religious mentor, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi)

1552 GMT: Ahmadinejad Flees? On 16 July, the day before Rafsanjani's Friday prayers, the President went to Mashaad. He did so again today, ostensibly to attend a gathering of scientists and faculty members.

1550 GMT: Some of the slogans from today, as reported by Mardomak's live blog:

Our Neda is not dead/the government is dead
Oh Martyred countryman! I will wrest back your vote
Fear not! fear not! we are in this together
Death to dictator
Mojtaba [Khamenei], may you die as you yearn for supreme leadership
The missiles of the basiji have no effect [Mani's Note: This echoes what was said in the 1970s, "The missiles have no effect, the Shah can only kill himself", implying what some think Ahmadinejad and maybe Khamenei must do.]

1545 GMT: Ramin Mostaghim of the Los Angeles Times (see 1345 GMT), who appears to be the best-placed "Western" correspondent in Tehran today, also says 40,000 were in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

1540 GMT: Moments after writing the previous entry, this comes in from the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz: there are clashes in several major streets in Tehran, including Motahari,Vali-e Asr, Beheshti, Hafez and Fatemi, with reports of police using tear gas and batons.

1535 GMT: We are receiving numerous reports of "heavy clashes" across Tehran and now in other cities like Ahwaz and Isfahan. We are refraining from giving details at this point because there is no verification of the extent of the protests and fighting.

1520 GMT: The Iranian pro-reformist website Mardomak has been live-blogging events. It reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was able to get into the cemetery. Although there were many anti-riot police present, there were no major clashes inside Behesht-e-Zahra.

Here, however, is the striking entry. In contrast to CNN's report, taken up by other Western media, of 3000 mourners, Mardomak claims there were 40,000 in the cemetery.

1445 GMT: Picking up on some earlier news: the "reformist" Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a strong statement asserting that the only way out of the disgrace of detentions and killings is the fall of the "coup government". Tehran Bureau offers a useful summary.

1440 GMT: A quieter phase in today's events. It appears that some mourners/demonstrators, having been hindered in their attempts at a memorial in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, are moving towards the Grand Mosala (the original location for today's gathering). Others are in streets around Tehran: it is report that "Vali Asr from Vali Asr Square to Vanak Square is jampacked and smokefilled".

So it is wait-and-see as to whether there is a Phase II or a series of scattered encounters. Meanwhile, a question: when he was turned away from the cemetery by security forces, where did Mir Hossein Mousavi go?

1405 GMT: Reuters,via Mehr News Agency, reports that Saeed Hajjarian was transferred from prison to a "state-owned" house today. Kazem Jalali, the head of Parliamentary Security Committee, said, "The Tehran prosecutor told me that Hajjarian was transferred today to a state-owned house with proper medical facilities....His relatives can visit him at the new place."

1345 GMT: Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim have just filed this report for the Los Angeles Times, "Mourners overwhelm Iran security forces". If true, it is a significant account of a building protest movement. (Much of this information has circulated on Twitter but EA has not run some of the details because we could not verify. It is unclear how much of this article is based on the Twitter traffic and how much on first-hand reporting --- Mostaghim is apparently based in Tehran.)
Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of mourners, many of them black-clad young women carrying roses, overwhelmed security forces today at Tehran's largest cemetery to gather around the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped shooting at a June 20 demonstration stunned the world.

"Death to the dictator," those in the long procession of mourners converging on the burial site chanted, kicking up a storm of dust as they walked. "Neda is not dead. This government is dead."

Uniformed security forces initially clashed violently today with some of the mourners, supporters and leaders of the opposition, who were trying to publicly mourn protesters who died in the recent unrest. Unsuccessful presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi attempted to attend the graveside ceremony marking the religiously significant 40th day since the death of Agha-Soltan and others killed in the fighting.

"Oh, Hossein! Mir-Hossein," the mourners chanted in support of him.

According one witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, Mousavi stepped out of his car only to be surrounded by police, who forced him back into his vehicle and out of the cemetery.

At first mourners were confronted by the security forces, who struck them with truncheons and arrested some in an attempt to bar them from gathering at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery, the country's largest. The tree-lined streets leading to the graves of Agha-Soltan and others were blocked by riot police, the witness said.

The witness said the mourners also identified and violently confronted several plainclothes Basiji militiamen.

"Police, police, support us," the mourners chanted. "God is great!"

But as the numbers mourners poured out of the nearby subway station and taxis along the highway, security forces retreated. One witness said police released detainees and began cooperating with the mourners, directing them to section 257 of the cemetery, where Agha-Soltan and others were buried. Mourners have been denied a permit to hold a ceremony in the city's Grand Mossala mosque later today, but protesters have said they will try to come together near the site of the mosque anyway, and march along nearby streets if they are prevented from entering the site....

1330 GMT: EPersian Radio is claiming that Mehdi Karroubi, 20 minutes ago in Behesht-e-Zahra, told those gathered to move towards the Grand Mosala.

1325 GMT: We've just posted the first video to come out of the memorial at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

1305 GMT: BBC Persian, citing Press TV, says security forces have used tear gas to disperse mourners at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery. (hat tip to a reader)

1255 GMT: Mohammad Khatami has issued another statement on detentions and interrogations, criticising the closure of Kahrizak Prison as a token move and declaring, "Those who are responsible must be dealt with and those abused must be compensated."

1245 GMT: Revolutionary Road is live-blogging on the memorial with details such as, "Mourners chant: 'Death to Dictator!' Basijis now chanting 'God is Great' too."

1234 GMT: Claim that Mehdi Karroubi has entered Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

1228 GMT: Claims of gatherings across Tehran, with largest at Ferdousi Square.

1218 GMT: BBC Persian reports that filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mahnaz Mohammadi have been arrested during today's memorial.

1209 GMT: Deutsche Welle is also reporting (in Farsi) on clashes and arrests at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

Al Jazeera English has just cut to a correspondent in Tehran (on a rooftop far from the cemetery) who is repeating the news provided by Reuters.

1200 GMT: Not a word from "mainstream" media in their headlines but EPersian Radio is claiming to carry reports by cellphone from Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

1145 GMT: Witness to Reuters: "Police forced Mousavi to return to his car and leave the cemetery. Police are also warning mourners to leave the place or face the consequences."

1140 GMT: Reuters reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi has entered Behesht-e- Zahra cemetery to pay his respects to those killed in post-election violence. Marchers clung to his car, chanting "Mousavi we support you".

However, there are also UNCONFIRMED reports that he has been forced to leave by security forces.

1130 GMT: And So It Begins. It is now 4 p.m. in Tehran, and Reuters is reporting, via a witness, "Hundreds have gathered around Neda Agha-Soltan's grave to mourn her death and other victims' deaths....Police arrested some of them....Dozens of riot police also arrived and are trying to disperse the crowd."

1125 GMT: Saeed Mortazavi, the prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court and Prosecutor General of Tehran, has issued a statement announcing the first trials of detained protestors on Saturday and criticising the "enemies" who challenged the Presidential election, a "golden page [in] the book of religious democracy":
Once again we had to witness that the global imperialism lead by America and Britain did not accept one of the world s most democratic election and the will of you free people....Obviously some mercenaries and misled groups within the country were manipulated by foreigners, and by committing illegal and dishonest actions formed a base for the unrest of elements of the enemy.

Charges include "attacking military centres with weapons, firearms, and incendiary bombs", "attacking government centres and setting them on fire", "destroying public property", "creating panic among the people", and "contact with heretic and infidel groups".

1120 GMT: Peykeiran reports that "opposition" newspapers have been removed from the front of kiosks in Tehran since Sunday.

1100 GMT: A reader has pointed towards an Iranian blog on conditions in the Kahrizak prison, whose closure as a "non-standard" facility was ordered by Ayatollah Khamenei earlier this week. The author of the entry, who claimed he/she was detained for almost a month, writes of "200 people in single room, all beaten, bruised and wounded" and names six people who allegedly died in the prison.

1020 GMT: Revolution in Iran, drawing from a variety of sources, is maintain a running list of those who have died in the post-election conflict, adding names where possible. The list, updated yesterday, now has about 180 listed deaths with more than 60 persons identified.

1000 GMT: We've posted a separate entry, half in jest, half as serious comment on "media", on the approach of CNN to today's events: "Media Mischief --- The Return of #CNNFail?"

0753 GMT: Rooz Online breaks the news that Neda Agha Soltan's mother will NOT be at the memorial at her daughter's grave in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

0745 GMT: Reconfirming the Memorial. Ghalam News, Mir Hossein Mousavi's website, still features its story from last night: "Commemoration of Martyrs Movement: Behest-e-Zahra, 1600 Hours on Thursday".

0730 GMT: New Move for Political Front? Rasoul Montajebnia, a deputy of Mehdi Karroubi's Etemad-e-Melli Party, has suggested that reformists form a "leadership assembly" including Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami to lead all reformist groups in Iran.

0720 GMT: How You Know the Regime is Nervous. Two notable stories from the "conservative" press:

Kayhan has claimed, "We have found documents proving that some of the rioters participating in the Tehran have been killed by some thugs hired by Mousavi and Khatami."

Fars News tops this, asserting that Neda Agha Soltan "is alive and in Greece"!

0715 GMT: Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has also responded to the Khatami-Mousavi-Karroubi letter. Summary is in separate entry.

0700 GMT: Summarising News on Detainees. From Parleman News:

Although a lot of publicity has been given to "the release of Said Hajjarian", he has not yet been freed.
Mohammad Tavassoli, the head of the political office of the Freedom Party, was released on Monday.
Journalist Aida Mesbahi has been released on bail.
Shadi Sadr, the attorney, was released on bail.
The families of attorney Abdulfath Soltani and journalist Abdoreza Tajik have been asked to post bail.
Mohammad Atrianfar has spoken with his family and seems to be in good health.
The families of Hengameh Shahidi and Somayeh Tohidlou are concerned because they have heard nothing regarding them.
Jila Bani-yaghoub has met with her mother. Bani-Yaghoub told her mother that she does not expect to be released soon. Her husband Bahman Ahmadi has also met his family.
The families of Saeed Laylez, Ahmad Zobd Abadi and Kaveh Mozaffari have been told that these individuals are quarantined and prohibited from meeting people.

0650 GMT: Ayatollah Montazeri has published a response to the letter from Mohammad Khatami, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mir Hossein Mousavi asking for intervention on the detainees issue. We've posted the English translation, as well as other statements by clerics, in a separate entry.

0530 GMT: The Iranian post-election conflict has been marked by a convergence of complicated, often hard to see, manoeuvres behind the scenes and of high-profile events. Today's planned "40th Day" memorial, set for 4 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) at the grave of Neda Agha Soltan in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, is one of those events. It is the most prominent since the 17 July gathering for Friday prayers in Tehran and, arguably, the most significant since the first organised mass demonstration on 15 June, three days after the election.

Put bluntly, if the Green Movement can mobilise thousands of people on the streets of Tehran, whether or not they make it to Behesht-e-Zahra, and if Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi make their planned appearance, this will be the symbolic moment that shows --- seven weeks after the election --- that the Government has not been able to put down opposition. Conversely, if those thousands do not appear and if opposition leaders do not show up, it will be an indication that, while symbolic protests will continue, they will not put the pressure of mass activity upon the regime.

A sign of that importance is the return of some "mainstream" foreign media to the Iran story. The BBC is highlighting, "Iran Opposition Vows to Defy Ban", both in its broadcasts and on its website. Their reports have been bolstered, and indeed prompted, by a message from Neda Agha Soltan's mother expressing gratitude to those remembering her daughter. (Neda's mother will also be at Behesht-e-Zahra today, although it is unclear whether this will be as part of the 4 p.m. ceremony.) In contrast, Time magazine casts an ominous, even negative, shadow as "Tehran Braces for Another Day of Street Battles": "Although tens of thousands are expected to march in silence July 30,...many more will be staying home." (CNN and Al Jazeera English lag behind, with neither referring to today's plans.)

Understandably, the significance of this moment emerged in some confusion and nervousness amongst activists yesterday. The apparent change of plans from the 6 p.m. gathering in the Grand Mosala to the Behest-e-Zahra memorial took time to emerge, and with the Government-imposed difficulties in communication, the opposition feared that many would not get word of today's schedule. This morning there seems to be an easing of those concerns, and attention is turning to the response of the Government to the gatherings. An unconfirmed report last night asserted that the Supreme Leader's office had put out a communiqué ordering no use of force against marchers. If true, that would appear to be an acceptance of large crowds at Behehst-e-Zahra and, indeed, in the streets surrounding the cemetery.

The Latest from Iran (23 July): Preparing the Front

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

Iran: Ahmadinejad v. The Conservatives?
Iran Video: The Protests Continue (21-22 July)
The Latest from Iran (22 July): “The Pendulum Swings” Towards Opposition

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2200 GMT: Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, who earlier in the day denounced the appointment of First Vice President Esfandiari Rahim-Mashai, has criticised the "aggressive language" of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: "We should urge everyone to use the language of friendship and compassion because the aggressive language used by IRIB will not help resolve any of the problems."

2105 GMT: Stupidity and Sense. In the Christian Science Monitor, an opinion piece by a Joshua Gleis decides to forego any consideration of events in favour of making stuff up: "When Middle Eastern powers feel trapped, they tend to swing blindly at outside states.". Therefore Iran has "the power to make things turn ugly fast". It could "might decide to ratchet up the tension with Britain", on the basis that it detained 15 Britain soldiers in March 2007 for crossing into Iranian waters. It "may decide to use its proxy force Hezbollah to carry out a deadly terrorist attack". It could launch "a major terrorist attack, like the one it carried out in 1994 at the Buenos Aires Jewish community center". It might kidnap the Statue of Liberty, holding it to ransom for the missing components for its Nuclear Bomb. (OK, the last one was mine, based on just as much evidence as Mr Gleis has for his "maybes".)

A bit of a relief, therefore, to hear this from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which substitutes a cold appreciation of the current situation for wild fantasies: ""The internal debates going on inside Iran have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to pursue any diplomatic engagement, not just with us but anyone, like the P5+1 [permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany]. There is so much that is on hold."

2005 GMT: Son Killed, Mourning Dad Detained. A Los Angeles Times blog summarises a story, from Norooz Online, which has been racing around the Internet. On 20 June, Massoud Hashemzadeh was killed by a gunshot to the heart during demonstrations in Tehran. Hashemzadeh was buried in his native village in northern Iran, but the family was barred from holding any commemorative ceremonies.

On Thursday afternoon, security forces and Basiji militia, accompanied by uniformed security forces, went to Hashemzadeh's home. Maybe they showed up because well-wishers insisted on going to the home to offer their condolences. Maybe they arrived because on Tuesday, Hashemzadeh's brother and father told BBC Persian of the authorities' refusal to allow a mourning service.

In any case, after ripping down photographs of Hashemzadeh and messages of condolences, his father was detained. His two brothers, unwilling to let their father be taken away on his own, were detained as well.

2000 GMT: Hours after Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi signed a letter claiming the Assembly of Experts was seeking the removal of Hashemi Rafsanjani as its head (see 1400 GMT), a group of Qom clerics have issued a statement distancing themselves from the Ayatollah.

1700 GMT: Ahmadinejad Stands Tough. The Islamic Republic News Agency has published the President's official letter of appointment of his Vice Presidents, and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, despite the opposition of the Supreme Leader and many "conservatives", is First amongst them. The list:

1) Mehrdad Bazrpash (head of the national youth office)
2) Parviz Davoodi (highest ranking adviser to the president)
3) Seyed Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi (highest ranking assistant to the president)
4) Ali Akbar Salehi (head of the atomic energy agency)
5) Mohammad Javad Hajaliakbari (presidential adviser in youth affairs)
6) Massoud Zaribafan (head of the martyr's foundation and veteran affairs)
7) Hamid Baghai (head of office of cultural heritage, tourism and handicrafts)
8) Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai (highest ranking vice president).

1400 GMT: Curiouser and Curiouser. The ripples from the Rahim-Mashai appointment as First Vice President spread wider and in unexpected directions. The newspaper Parto Sokhan, is headed by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is considered as the spiritual guide of  President Ahmadinejad. Despite this, the editor of the paper, Qasem Ravanbakhsh, has written an editorial spelling out the reasons for the disapproval of Esfandiar Rahim-Moshai. He cites the famous statement by the Vice President that Iranians are friends of the Israeli people but is more upset about Rahim-Mashai's interventions into theological argument.

Given that the editorial would probably not have appeared without Mesbah Yazdi's acceptance, it appears that the President may now be defying even his spiritual mentor.

1315 GMT: Nuclear Update. While the resignation of Gholam Reza Aghazadeh as the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation received a good deal of attention, with speculation as to why he was leaving, the naming of Ali Akbar Salehi to the post has gone unnoticed.

Salehi's appointment is a sign the Iranian leadership has not closed the door to talks over the nuclear programme. Salehi was Iran’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) between 1999 and 2004. It was a sensitive time when the UN watchdog began investigating Iran’s programme: Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz was revealed, but Salehi, on Iran’s behalf, signed the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, allowing the IAEA snap inspections. He also handled Iran’s 2003-2005 talks with the European Union, which led to Tehran's suspension of uranium enrichment as a “goodwill gesture”. Salehi holds a doctorate in nuclear physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is fluent in English.

1215 GMT: Social Media Success! Less than three hours after we were notified that publication had been blocked on the Facebook page of Zahra Rahnavard (0750 GMT), the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the restriction was lifted. She is now posting regularly.

1025 GMT: And Furthermore. Press TV is also being much nicer to Mir Hossein Mousavi at the moment. It covers his meeting with journalists under the headline, "Mousavi shows no sign of white flag", and the opening paragraph, "Without any indication of relenting, defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi says he will not drop his challenge to the June 12 election results."

1020 GMT: Uh Oh, Mahmoud. The President may want to watch his back or to consider a climbdown from his current position. In another sign of pressure on Ahmadinejad from both the Supreme Leader and from other conservative leaders, Press TV's website decided within the last hour to run the story of Cabinet division, highlighted in our first update (0545 GMT): "Amid a continued political controversy in Iran over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first vice presidential pick, cabinet members engage in a verbal quarrel with the president over his insistence on the choice. The quarrel broke out at Wednesday's cabinet meeting between President Ahmadinejad and the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi."

0845 GMT: Meanwhile, Another Fight in the Assembly of Experts. Conservative members such as Ayatollahs Mohammad Yazdi, Jannati, and Mesbah Yazdi have released a statement reminding the public of their obligation to the Supreme Leader. More importantly, at least for the short-term political struggle, they restate that members are trying to replace Rafsanjani from his position as head of the Assembly.

The statement, aired by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, has been issued in the name of all 86 members of the Assembly, even though it has only been signed by only 16.

0835 GMT: A bit of mischief from Javan, the newspaper linked to the Revolutionary Guard, which claims (without sources) "that an effort is being made to confront Ahmadinejad's inauguration with an alternative Parliament...coordinated between radical reformists and anti-Rahim-Mashai [the First Vice President] conservatives"

0815  GMT: We have just posted an analysis, by the Iranian columnist Mohammad Abtahi, of the developing battle between President Ahmadinejad and "conservatives" over his choice of the First Vice President, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

As we were editing this, news came in that Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami (who delivered a "hard-line" warning to the protest movement when he led Tehran prayers on 26 June) has declared the President's removal of Rahim-Mashai would show his loyalty to the Supreme Leader.

0750 GMT: Not-So-Social Media. A reader points us to the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard. She has written, "URGENT: (July 22) THE PUBLICATION RIGHTS FOR THIS PAGE ARE BLOCKED! FACEBOOK !! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

0745 GMT: A Correction. The fatwa of Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi (0615 GMT) criticised the selection of the First Vice President rather than the inauguration of President Ahmadinejad.

0720 GMT: Regime Concession? A report this morning that Ayatollah Khameini has decided to pardon or reduce the sentences of some individuals that have been recently arrested.

0655 GMT: Perhaps the "power overload" protests against the regime are having an effect. Or perhaps the Iranian infrastructure is just buckling under economic and political tensions. There is a report that utility services in Tehran are unstable, with some facing blackouts of more than six hours.

0645 GMT: Video has been posted of the hunger strike in front of the United Nations, including prominent Iranian activists, expatriates and supporters, which began yesterday. The action will culminate on Saturday as part of a global "United for Iran Day".

0615 GMT: Make that 3 ayatollahs (see 0545 GMT) who have come out against the Government in the last 24 hours. Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, who is considered "conservative" in religious approach and had been labelled "neutral" in his post-election position, has denounced the choice of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai as First Vice President: "Installing such an individual is not legal and should he be installed by mistake the mistake should be remedied."

0545 GMT: A quieter but still significant start to the day, as the opposition began to lay foundations for a broader-based political challenge. As Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times summarises, "Increasingly, disparate reformists appear to be acting in concert, coordinating announcements and strategy." A lot of the attention is on Mir Hossein Mousavi's declaration that a new political front would be launched by the end of the week and his comments to journalists: "Power is always inclined to become absolute, and only people's movements can put a hold on this inclination."

Still, details are sketchy on how the political front would be organised and how it would pursue its objectives. (Indeed, the Los Angeles Times headline is misleading, missing the political dimension: "Iran opposition leader plans large-scale social movement.") This is also an issue that goes beyond "disparate reformists": the relationship of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and other "non-reformist" political and clerical leaders to the front is still to be seen.

So, the tangible story this morning is of more problems for the Government. Two more Ayatollahs took public stands against President Ahmadinejad (see yesterday's updates). Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani issued a fatwa denouncing the President's inauguaration while Ayatollah Dastgheib urged fellow clerics to support protestors, ""Using firearms and crude weapons against people and incarceration of the revolutionaries will never help safeguard Islam and the establishment."

Just as serious are the divisions within conservative ranks, furthered by Ahmadinejad's defiance of the Supreme Leader over the appointment of his First Vice President. Tabnak reports that a Cabinet meeting ended in a heated argument and profanity, as a debate between the President and Minister of Culture Hossein Safar-Harandi ended with the latter leaving the room.

Undeterred, Ahmadinejad criticized the interference of prominent individuals in the process of selecting Government officials. This indirect challenge to Ayatollah Khamenei prompted Minister of Inteligence Ejeie and the Minster of Labor to leave the meeting in protest.

And, although it may be tangential to the developments over the political front and within the Government, a sign also appeared that even the Supreme Leader could be challenged if the conflict escalates. Former Interior Minister Abdullah Nouri, compared Khamenei to the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi: "In the 1970s, nobody imagined that limited struggles would drive the shah out of the country."

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2000 GMT: If Ayatollah Montazeri is suffering from dementia, with his words written by someone else (see 1400 GMT), he's hiding it well. As expected, he has issued a statement criticising the Chinese Government's treatment of Uighur Muslims and adding, "Silence from other governments, particularly Muslim governments has caused great surprise and regret."

1910 GMT: Media Twist of the Day. Kayhan newspaper,  a staunch supporter of the Ahmadinejad Government, has been summoned to court to answer charges of "disseminating lies intended to poison public opinion".

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami have also lodged defamation charges against Iran newspaper.

1900 GMT: Catching up with news reported earlier today: about 200 faculty of the medical school of the University of Tehran have protested the arrest of political activists. Dr. Jila Marsoosi, a faculty member and the wife of detained politician Saeed Hajjarian, also a member of this faculty ddressed the crowd.

1800 GMT: Now, This is Intriguing. Part of the intrigue is in the report on Press TV's website. Habibollah Asgaroladi, a senior member of the Islamic Coalition Party, has described the formation of a new political party by Mir Hossein Mousavi as "favorable", saying, "Establishing a party to voice one's ideas and political perceptions is a wise move."

Asgaroadi and his party are "principlists", loosely defined as advancing the principles of the Isamlic Revolution and falling in between the "conservative" and "reformist" camps.

That makes his endorsement of Mousavi eyebrow-raising. But the other part of the intrigue is that the report comes via Press TV. That's right, the same State media outlet that has been anxious to downfall the political legimitacy of a Mousavi-led campaign.


1405 GMT: More jitters. Deutsche Welle reports that Hossein Fadaei Ashtiani, the head of "Society Dedicated to the Islamic Revolution", has said, "One of the results of the elections was a distinction between those who are real fundamentalists and those who claim to be fundamentalists...[it has] been made clear thar some people claiming to be fundamentalists are exhibiting non-fundamentalist behavior". The article links Ashtiani's statement to other "conservative" disquiet, notably Mohsen Rezaei's declaration (which is now being publicised widely) of a six-point programme for electoral resolution.

1400 GMT: The regime is looking very jittery today. A reader sends in this information:
It seems that [Ayatollah] Montazeri [who issued a fatwa on Saturday denouncing the Government] is considered to be a real threat by Ahmadinejad et. al. The pro-Ahmadinejad news site 'Rajanews' has claimed that Montazeri is suffering from some sort of dementia. Rajanews also claims that all fatwas said to be from Montazeri are in fact written by Mohsen Kadivar. The reformist daily Parleman-news has published a statement by Montazeri's son in which categorically denies these charges by asserting that Montazeri is in great health and all Fatwas and statements are issued under his direct supervision. In fact his son concluded that Montazeri is in the process of issueing a statement regarding the plight of the Chinese muslims.

1350 GMT: It is being reported that Mohsen Hajjarian, son of detained politician Saeed Hajjarian, has been released after his arrest yesterday.

1345 GMT: We've now posted video from the funeral of Sohrab Arabi, showing hundreds of demonstrators holding up his photograph and chanting.

1130 GMT: A side story, but an important one. The Iranian Government's effusive support of China's handling of the Uighur crisis in the northwest of the country has been criticised not only by opposition groups but by high-ranking clerics such as Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani and Ayatollah Nasser Makerem-Shirazi, who have objected to the repression of Muslims.

1000 GMT: Unsurprisingly, there is a heated media battle within Iran, one example of which is the rumor (noted in the blog on "Friday is the Day?") that this week's leadership of Tehran prayers will be the last for former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Pro-Government publications are trying to portray the opposition as weak and divided.

The strategy is not working smoothly, however. At least one important cleric, Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, has criticised State-run media for issuing statements in his name of support for the Government. He denounced the Islamic Republic News Agency as a purveyor of falsehoods.

0815 GMT: Ferehsteh Ghazi ("iranbaan"), writing for Rooz Online, claims that families of detainees are being threatened by the judiciary. They are told that, if they speak about the plight of their relatives, news will be withheld from them and the detainees "will be held longer".

0810 GMT: We're awaiting news on whether the funeral of Sohrab Arabi, the 19-year-old killed on 15 June by Basiji gunfire but whose body was only released to the family this weekend, was the occasion for public demonstrations.

0800 GMT: One exception to the item below about the absence of the "mainstream" media from the Iran story. The excellent Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, now reporting from Beirut, recognises the potential significance of this Friday's Rafsanjani appearance at Tehran prayers. Daragahi has also picked up on the statement of the head of Ayatollah Khamenei's office of university affairs, Mohammad Mohammadian (see 0615 GMT), "We cannot order public opinion to get convinced. Certain individuals are suspicious about the election result, and we have to shed light on the realities and respond to their questions."

0703 GMT: Perhaps needless to say, the Iran story is now one for the "new" media. State-run Press TV prefers the image of legitimacy for the Government, covering the arrival of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Egypt for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. (President Ahmadinejad has still not been received by a foreign leader since his summit in Moscow days after the election.)

CNN catches up with the story that the family of Shorab Arabi, killed by Basiji gunfire during the mass demonstration on 15 June, only learned of his death in recent days. Al Jazeera English and BBC English, focused on Britain's political and military difficulties in Afghanistan, have disappeared.

0700 GMT: Regime Feel-Good Story of the Day. Javan newspaper, linked to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, has been explaining that it is very good for detained politician Saeed Hajjarian to be in Evin Prison, as he can get the best medical care there rather than at home.

0615 GMT: After a quiet period since last Thursday's 18 Tir protests, there is a sense this morning --- based on movements from both sides --- that the political challenge is about to resume, with private and public protests converging.

The shift is reflected in two stories. The first, which we put together last evening, is of the linking of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's re-appearance at Friday prayers in Tehran with a mass march to the site.

The second concerns signs from the regime that it may be looking for some limited compromises to meet the political and legal demands of the opposition. Signals come not only from Friday's call at Tehran prayers by Ayatollah Kashani for a Parliamentary review of the election process but also from a statement by the Supreme Leader's representative for universities that "the recent protests in society are not of a malicious nature", criticism at Friday prayers in Qom by Ayatollah Reza Ostadi of the system's handling of public concerns, and a declaration by the judicial commission that all protesters will be freed within 10 days. It is also worthwhile watching the reaction to Presidential Mohsen Rezaei's six-point proposal for a political settlement, which may (or may not) have emerged after discussions with members of the Iranian leadership.

Beyond these emerging manoeuvres is a fatwa from Ayatollah Montazeri, the one-time successor to Ayatollah Montazeri, calling the Supreme Leader "illegitimate", as he is working against religion, and asking the public to challenge and, if necessary, pay a heavy price to remedy the situation. We briefly reported on the fatwa on Saturday but discussion of it only took off yesterday. We are cautious about the significance, as Montazeri has been ostracised and put under house arrest for many years, but others see vital reinforcement for the opposition movement. Tehran Bureau has a useful summary in English.

With the "mainstream" media now almost silent, the political battle is being played out in the "new" media. One of the weekend flutters was over an alleged "cyber-attack" on Twitter, with the important "hashtag" #iranelection overwhelmed at times by spam messages for products and get-rich-quick schemes. EA's Mike Dunn has untangled the story, which appears to be one more of crass attempts by marketers and schemers to make money rather than deliberate political sabotage.

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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.