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Entries in Tabnak (5)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Latest from Iran (27 July): A President Dangling in the Wind?

The Latest from Iran (28 July): Will the Supreme Leader Give Up Ahmadinejad?

NEW Iran: English Text of Khatami-Mousavi-Karroubi Letter to Grand Ayatollahs (25 July)
NEW Another View from Iran: Seyed Mohammad Marandi on CNN (26 July)
The Latest from Iran (26 July): Four Days to The Green Movement’s Next Wave

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AHMADINEJAD2035 GMT: Bad Cop, Good Cop on Detentions. "Principlist" Member of Parliament Ali Motahari presses the head of Iran's judiciary to give up the name of the killer of detainee Mohsen Roosul Amini (1945 GMT). President candidate Mohsen Rezaei, whose campaign manager was the father of Roosul Amini, praises the head of the judiciary: “I would like to express my gratitude toward Your Excellency for setting a one-week deadline for the determination of the fate of the prisoners of the unrest.”

“I hope that judiciary officials will carry out your orders as soon as possible and relieve the concerns of the families of the detainees.”

2005 GMT: Oops, Another Crack in the Cabinet. Associated Press has published the news we reported yesterday: an appeals court upheld the fraud conviction of Minister of Industry Ali Akbar Mehrabian, a close ally of the President. Researcher Farzan Salimi claimed Mehrabian had stolen his idea for an "earthquake saferoom" in homes. The court ordered the registration of the design to be taken from Mehrabian and an associate and given to Salimi, but did not otherwise assign punishment. Salimi confirmed the ruling to The Associated Press.

So, since Ahmadinejad has just fired one Minister, will the conviction of another leave his Government vulnerable to a Parliamentary vote of confidence? Apparently not. Mohsen Koohkan, a prominent legislator, said Parliament will consider Mehrabian's conviction, but in the context of the next Government after Ahmadinejad's 5 August inauguration rather than the current one.

And there's some good news for the President. His name was also on the 2005 book that published the design for the "earthquake saferoom", but he escaped being named as a defendant.

1945 GMT: Calling the Bluff on Detainees. "Principlist" Member of Parliament Ali Motahari, an increasingly vocal critic of the Government, has demanded that the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Sharoudi, release the name of the interrogator that killed Mohsen Roohul Amini.

The declaration is not only a test of the Government's willingness to deal with the issue of detainee rights. It is an indication that the regime has been damaged amongst its own supporters by the case of Ruhol Amini, who was the son of a prominent "conservative" political activist.

1855 GMT: In a separate entry, we have published the English translation of Ayatollah Yousef Sanei's response to the Khatami-Mousavi-Karroubi letter to the Grand Ayatollahs on detainees.

1830 GMT: Did Ali Larijani Save Ahmadinejad? Jam-e-Jam Online has claimed that, after Ahmadinejad finishing his "firing spree", dismissing four ministers, Larijani informed him that firing more than one minister would require a Parliamentary vote of confidence for the Government to resume operations. This forced Ahmadinejad to reinstate Minister of Culture Saffar-Harandi and, presumably, never confirm the firings of the Ministers of Health and Labour.

1820 GMT: The conservative press is claiming that Hashemi Rafsanjani is boycotting Ahmadinejad's inauguration on 5 August.

1815 GMT: It has emerged that 205 "conservative" Members of Parliament signed an open letter to the Supreme Leader, re-stating their general support of his position and his specific actions over First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. The letter was publicly read in parliament, while one Member of Parliament said another private letter was sent to the President: "In this letter we expressed our support for the GovernmentP but we also have asked the President to improve his behavior in a way that will facilitate rapid implementation of the Supreme Leader's comments and opinions".

The "reformists" refrained from signing this letter. One said, "[We] are of the opinion that critical letters will have a very little effect on Ahmadinejad's behavior, we doubt the efficacy of such letters and therefore have refrained from signing it."

1805 GMT: After yesterday's fun and games, the President has been quieter today, but there is one report mixing politics, amusement, and a bit of irony. Tabnak claims that Ali Kordan, the former Interior Minister, was asked to become the Inspector General of the Presidency, but that he rejected the post.

Kordan was forced to step down last year when he was inspected and found wanting: he had claimed, falsely, to have a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

1745 GMT: Another (Small) Concession. Just over two hours after we reported signs from the head of Iran's judiciary that there might be some movement regarding detainees, Press TV confirms Internet chatter of a token order by the Supreme Leader: "The head of Iran's National Security Council [Saeed Jalili] said Monday that Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei had demanded that [a "non-standard"] prison which did not measure up to the required standards to be shut down. "In the course of recent events, the Leader has ordered officials (to take measures), so that no one, God forbid, suffers injustice."

Jalili added, "Ayatollah Khamenei had insisted that officials were obliged to 'precisely' probe into incidents in which wrongdoings may have been committed against detainees."

1535 GMT: Old People Can't Drive and They Can't Run a Country. This summary of the Friday address of Hojjatoleslam Gholam-Reza Hassani, the leader is Urumiyeh, is offered without further comment:
Hassani thanked Security forces for restoring and maintaining calm throughout the country.

Hassani said that seniors should refrain from participating in activities they are incapable of doing properly. He went on to use driving as an example and opined that to prevent inflecting harm on themselves and others, seniors who cannot control their cars must stay off the road.

The senior West Azarbaijan cleric then noted the “desires of certain presidential candidates in their advanced age” and queried, “Those who do lack physical and mental capacity, why do they try to wreck havoc in the country? When you cannot even keep your ammameh (clerical hat) on your head and your dentures in your mouth how do you want to govern the country?”

NOTE 1: Attending Friday prayers in Tehran on 17 June, Mehdi Karroubi's ammameh was knocked off when he was jostled by security forces.

NOTE 2: The Supreme Leader turned 70 earlier this month.

1520 GMT: The Detentions Issue. In a clear sign that the opposition demands are having some effect, a spokesman for the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, said that a decision must come within a week on the fate of prisoners, and he indicated some prisoners should be freed. The spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said about 300 people were still detained. (English-language version of story)

1500 GMT: Keeping the Pressure On. We referred in our first update today (0545 GMT) to the "valuable breathing space [offered by President Ahmadinejad's troubles] for the opposition as they plan the memorial and other political moves". Following up his statement with Medhi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami, and others to Grand Ayatollahs (see separate entry), Mir Hossein Mousavi has given a clear signal on his website about the importance of the "40th Day" memorial on 30 July: ""The pro-reform path will continue. The establishment should respect the constitution and let us to gather to commemorate our killed loved ones on Thursday."

(Far from incidentally, Reuters, which reported this news, still does not understand the significance of Thursday's gathering, failing to note that it is for those killed in demonstrations on 20 June.)

The Mousavi page also endorses the moves against pro-Government members of the Assembly of Experts, publishing Ayatollah Dastghaib's letter (0708 GMT).

1200 GMT: Today's "Really? No Kidding?" Headline. In The New York Times: "Ahmadinejad Seen as Increasingly Vulnerable Since Re-election".

0930 GMT: Reports that the Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani has been arrested.

0755 GMT: A seven-member Parliamentary committee, "despite the explicit opposition of some institutions", has visited Evin and Rajayi Prisons this morning to assess the situation and condition of detainees.

0708 GMT: After Ayatollah Hareesi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, declared that last week's letter --- issued in the name of the Assembly but signed by only 16 of the 86 Experts --- denouncing Hashemi Rafsanjani was invalid, Dastgheib has supported Rafsanjani in even stronger terms, publishing a scathing reply that seriously questions the motives and integrity of Rafsanjani's right wing critics:
Some people think that any support of Ayatollah Hashemi [Rafsanjani]'s speech is equivalent to a personal defense of Hashemi and a swipe at his enemies. As a matter of fact this is not the case, any reasonable listener will admire this speech and realize that [adherence to] its statements leads to a long term strengthening of the Islamic Republic....

You advise ethics and morality. [If you were sincere] it would have been moral if you had condemened all the instances that Islamic law was ignored during the televised presidential debates, or if you had condemned all the Anti-Islamic torture that goes on in state prisons, prisons that deliver dead bodies every day.

Be sure that if you treat people with sincerity they would treat the clerical class with the correct respect and deference.... Your policy of defamation, supression and accusations of heresy, treason, working against the establishment has repelled any reputable personality or society. Instead of would be much better if you treat people with kindness, apologize for your behavior, free prisoners, by freeing them you are attending the demands of the majority.

0700 GMT: Untangling the Government mess. The Minister of Intelligence was fired. Minister of Culture Saffar-Harandi, after Ahmadinejad tried to fire him but then pulled back, submitted a letter of resignation. However, Saffar-Harandi said that he would postpone the effective date of resignation "so that he can merely be used as a number [to prevent a vote of confidence] in the remaining eight days of Ahmadinejad's Government"

0545 GMT: More than 12 hours after news first appeared of the firing of Cabinet members, it is still unclear how far President Ahmadinejad has gone to remake his Government and how effective he will be. It appears that at least one Minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie (Intelligence), has been fired, but reports vary on whether a second Minister, Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi (Culture), has been dismissed. Earlier reports of the firing of the Ministers of Health and Labour were never verified.

At this point, the best explanation for the confusion (although there is no way of knowing if it is true without the confirmation of Ahmadinejad) is that the President considered removing all four ministers, leading to stories of a mass firing, but then pulled back when he realised his Government would no longer be able to act without a Parliamentary vote of confidence.

After his defeat over the appointment of First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, has Ahmadinejad been able to salvage some authority? Equally important, has he been able to establish the legitimacy of his Government, a legitimacy in question ever since the election on 12 June? We're working on an analysis, which we hope to publish later today.

Ahmadinejad's troubles are a double-edged development for the opposition. The news has overshadowed the announcement of the next major show of protest, the "40th Day" memorial service on 30 July for those who died in demonstrations on 20 June. Many in the media appear to have missed the significance of the event. Although there will be no speeches, only readings from the Koran, the memorial will be a public sign that people will come out in large numbers to challenge the regime. (There is a parallel with the only other legal gathering allowed by the Government since 15 June, the memorial service 13 days later at Qoba Mosque for Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti. On that occasion, the opposition was in disarray and had little time or space to organise the demonstration. Still, thousands of people turned up.)

Our correspondent Mani summarises the practical and symbolic importance of the location for the event:
1) It was an prayer area that was designed when Mir Hossein Mousavi was Prime Minister in the late 1980s.
2) It is located in a highly accessible area of Tehran but not in downtown Tehran.
3) It can accommodate a huge number of people. If Mousavi and Karroubi are able to fill it (and personally I have no doubt than they can do so). they will show a strength in numbers that is an challenge that will make it difficult for the conservatives to respond. Given the contrast between the number of people participating in Rafsanjani's Friday prayers with the audience at the other Friday prayers, I doubt that the conservatives will be able to amass the same number of supporters.
4) It is also interesting that in the request it has been explicitly stated that no speeches and rallys will take place and only traditional Koran recitations will happen. I think this has been a stroke of genius. First, it will make it very hard for the Government to deny a orderly request to pay respects, which isItotally within the framework of islamic protocol. Second, Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are publicly avowing the islamic nature of their protest. Third, Mousavi and Karroubi by organizing this memorial service have constructed an orderly conduit for their supporters (especially the younger more hotheaded elements) to express their grief and frustration, preventing the possibility that this grief and frustration will be converted into a rage that would be uncontrollable by the organizers. This will help demoMousavi and Karroubi to demonstrate, calmly yet effectively, the level of societal support that exists for their movement in a controlled fashion.

Yet, if the President has taken the headlines with his Cabinet discussions, this also gives valuable breathing space for the opposition as they plan the memorial and other political moves. We are still awaiting, for example, the effects of Saturday's call by Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami to Grand Ayatollahs to intervene on behalf of detainees.

It is far from incidental that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, amidst the gathering news of Ahmadinejad's troubles, seized the opportunity to give a carefully-calibrated interview. His public support for the Supreme Leader, coupled with his continued references to the difficulties raised by the election, keep up pressure on the Government while protecting Rafsanjani from the charges --- levelled by his hard-line opponents in the Assembly of Experts --- that he is undermining Khamenei. Correspondent Mani sets out the position:
Behind all the polite talk Rafsanjani is sticking to his guns. If indeed " the Supreme Leader solves the current problems based on ... the solutions I [Rafsanjani] offered in the Friday prayer", a very weak and irrelevant Khamenei will be the result. What we must remember is that the opposition is protesting from within the system, so it is Khamenei's weakening not his elimination that they are seeking. One must remember that saving face is the underlying principle of all interactions between clerics.

On the clerical front, but almost lost in yesterday's drama, Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili issued a public statement demanding that: 1) the rights of the detainees be respected; b) detainees who have not committed any crime be freed immediately; c) families who have lost members be compensated. The Ayatollah stated,
The recent regrettable events are incompatible with the dignity of Islamic Establishment....and have caused a great concern for all true supporters of the country and the Islamic Republic.....Unsubstantiated accusations and disrespect towards prominent national and religious figures will not only fail to pacify the country but will in fact feed the flames of the crisis.......I fear that prolonging the cuurent situation will both weaken the foundations of the establishment and the erode the trust of the people in the establishment and will lead to an exacerbation of the crisis.... I demand that all officials and influential individuals try to reverse the damage that has already been done and try to rebuild the confidence of the people in this establishment.

The Ayatollah concluded with an apparent hint to Rafsanjani, and possibly Khatami-Karroubi-Mousavi, as he hoped "that the prudence of capable people that have already served this establishment for a long time will provide a solution for rescuing the country from this painfully complicated situation and that the experience gained through these events will provide a blueprint for a much better methodolgy for administering the issues of society".

Iran Timeline: How the Supreme Leader Vanquished His President

A Turning Point in Iran: The Eclipse of the President
The Latest from Iran (25 July): A President Retreats

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AHMADINEJAD KHAMENEIYour cut-out-and-keep guide to the final victory of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the dispute over the appointment of First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai:

1502 in Tehran (1032 GMT): Iranian Students News Agency posts Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami's address at Friday prayers in Tehran.

1745 Tehran (1315 GMT): Iranian press summarises Khatami address. Two sentences stand out: "I wish the President would accept the friendly criticisms of his friends. We consider this government to be legitimate and we support it, however it is our kindly and supportive concern for the president that leads us to request him to reconsider his decision."

2011 Tehran (1541 GMT): Khabar Online publishes a response form Ahmadinejad's Press Secretary, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, denying that the Supreme Leader has given the President a directive ordering the dismissal of the First Vice President:
Mr Ahmadinejad is a strong arm of the Supreme Leader for serving the higher ideals of the people and the establishment, however some individuals are attempting to break this useful and competent arm. Amongst those who are against Mashai's installment, there are individuals for whom Mashai is irrelevant and their goal is to break the will of the President. Experience has proven that the president and Mr. Ahmadinejad's government defer to the supreme leader and if the Supreme Leader sends a directive we will obviously obey.

Is it the job of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament or the Speaker of Friday Prayers to deliver these directives to the President?....Whenever the Supreme Leader wishes to make his opinion known he announces it personally or he sends a directive missive from his office....If the Supreme Leader has this opinion, the problem will be resolved by consultations.

2041 Tehran (1611 GMT): The official text of Khamenei's order, written five days earlier, to Ahmadinejad is published in Fars News. Publication follows in Tabnak ( 2050). Khabar Online (2113), and Etemade Melli (2210).

The publication of the statement sends the message to the President: You are dishonest, as it has been five days since you received this order.

Midnight Tehran (1930 GMT): A reader sends Enduring America an urgent e-mail. Fars News is reporting the statement of Ahmadinejad's senior assistant: Rahim-Mashai has resigned as First Vice President.

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."

The Latest from Iran (15 July): Chess not Checkers

The Latest from Iran (16 July): Waiting for Rafsanjani's Prayers

NEW Iran's Culture Protest: Singer Shajarian Turns Government to Dust
LATEST Iran Video: Mousavi, Rahnavard with Sohrab Arabi’s Family (14 July)
Iran: Scott Lucas on “Sea of Green Radio”
Iran: Facing the Rubicon of the Supreme Leader’s Authority
The Latest from Iran (14 July): Ripples on the Surface

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MOUSAVI RAHNAVARD1940 GMT: Today, it was Mehdi Karroubi who carried out the opposition strategy of high-profile meetings with families of detainees.

1745 GMT: A Quiet Afternoon --- And Then. After hours where little happened, Mir Hossein Mousavi confirmed on his website that he will attend Friday prayers as part of a march "to collect freedoms" from the Government.

1105 GMT: Tabnak doesn't stop with the Kordan revelations (see 1030 GMT) in its embarrassment of the Government. It also runs an extensive, unflattering profile of Mohammad Mehdi Zahdi, the Minister of Science, Higher Education, and Technology

1030 GMT: Dishing the Dirt. One sign of a Government's weakness is when former members start giving up secrets. So it proves today with President Ahmadinejad's former Interior Minister, Ali Kordan, who was forced to resign over a faked Ph.D. from Oxford University.

So far Kordan's revelations, offered to Tabnak, mainly concern the current Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, but Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, now an advisor to the Supreme Leader, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, a founder of the Revolutionary Guard, and Ahmadinejad also appear.

1000 GMT: Estimated deaths in this morning's plane crash now at 168.

Further arrests: Marjan Abdollahian and Koroush Javan Khorshid of Hamshahri newspaper have been detained.

0900 GMT: Iranian state media are confirming the crash of a plane travelling from Tehran to Yerevan in Armenia. The plane came down northwest of the Iranian capital near Qazvin. All 150 aboard are feared dead.

0800 GMT: Following our update below about the dynamics of Friday's prayer service, a post by "Maryam" at Keeping the Change catches the eye, both for its call for demonstration and its suspicion of the former President leading the prayers: "If Rafsanjani's Friday speech is perceived to be against the demonstrators and/or in favor of the regime, then it is likely that the divide that has slowly been developing between the protestors and the Reformists will be radically transformed into an insurmountable abyss, and that the course of the Iranian uprising will once again be instantly altered."

0600 GMT: Early in the post-election conflict, the US analyst Gary Sick commented that "Iranians prefer chess to football". I'm not sure about that: the folks I met in Iran were passionate about the latter (Persepolis v. Esteglhal rivals Manchester United v. Liverpool or even the good Red Sox v. the evil Yankees). The chess part, however, is more than appropriate. This is a contest which will not be decided by one overwhelming blow. Instead, it is a series of moves, some of which cannot yet be read even if they can be anticipated.

Momentum for Friday's prayer service, led by Hashemi Rafsanjani, continues to build. Marchers are anticipating a gathering which cannot be declared illegal, and the participation of key leaders is eagerly awaited though not yet confirmed. The latest symbolic move was the visit of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, to the family of the slain protestor Sohrab Arabi (see video in separate entry).

At the same time, there is still uncertainty over how Friday will unfold. Rafsanjani is a powerful figure, but he is also a politician who is not trusted by many people. There is speculation that, rather than presenting a symbolic alliance with the challenge of the protesters, he will use the prayer service to put forth a limited compromise. Ebrahim Nabavi, the prominent Iranian writer living in Belgium, has published an open letter to Rafsanjani, "with much respect and peace", asking him to represent faithfully the concerns of the people.

If so, he may be serving a Government which continues to stagger amidst tension and division. While a window of 2-6 August for Ahmadinejad's inauguration as President has been announced, it is notable that it is still three weeks away. The regime's attempts to limit any challenge are being firmly resisted: Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President's brother, countered a written declaration against the protests by General Sayyed Hassan Firouzabadi, the head of Iran's armed forces, saying that Firouzabadi gravely insulted the Iranian people.

And in Qom, where unease amongst clerics is increasing, even if it is not emerging as a direct challenge to the Government, the staunchly pro-Ahmadinejad Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has tried to hit back with a series of answers to questions about the Iranian system of clerical authority (velayat-e-faqih) and the position of the Supreme Leader.