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The Latest from Iran (23 June): Preparing for Thursday

The Latest from Iran (24 June): Peering Through the Clouds

NEW Video and Transcript: Obama Press Conference (23 June)
NEW Iran: More than Khamenei v. Rafsanjani? (Gary Sick and a Response)
Iran Latest: A Khatami Action Plan?
Iran: Is 2009 an Update of 1979? A Debate in Three Parts
Iran: An Eyewitness Account of Monday's Demonstration
UPDATE Iran: Who Was “Neda”? “A Beam of Light”
The Latest from Iran (22 June): Waiting for the Next Move
LATEST Video: The “Neda” Protests (20-23 June)
Iran: 2+2 = A Breakthrough? (Mousavi and the Clerics)

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2125 GMT: We're taking some downtime. Thanks to all who followed us today and gave us feedback and information. More from about 0530 GMT.

2115 GMT: Reports that Iranian newspaper Keyhan has called for the arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, citing more than 2000 complaints.

2100 GMT: The Guardian Council-Khamenei manoeuvre for a five-day extension of the recount gets a reward: Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei withdraws his complaint about electoral fraud.

1830 GMT: Crackdown, then "Breathing Space". Iranian state media have been reporting that the Supreme Leader has granted the Guardian Council's request for five extra days to recount the Presidential vote. This is a bit curious, to say the least, since the Council was saying only yesterday that there was no possibility of the result being overturned.

Interpretation? It appears that opposition pressure, both in private maneouvres such as the Mousavi visit to Qom (with the follow-up endorsement of the candidate by the Association of Combatant Clerics), the public plans for marches tomorrow and Thursday, and the even more public Karroubi and Khatami initiatives today have unsettled the Iranian leadership.

They haven't broken the protest movement. And --- although this may be only a pawn in the chess game --- they have incurred the rhetorical wrath of the international community for the violence of recent days. Throw in the still-to-be-determined "Neda" symbolic factor, and you have a regime trying to stall developments.

Now the full White House strategy to maintain flexiblity on Iran unfolds. Obama, in a pre-planned, tips his hat to the power of the Internet and "new media" by asking Nico Pitney, who has blogging on Iran for The Huffington Post, to pass on a question from the Iranian people.

It's a nice move which ensure Obama can pay heed to those "Iranian people" and maintain his position. The question, "Will Obama deal with Ahmadinejad?" is handled with, "The thing for the Iranian Government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people....Ultimately this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be."

The vague far-from-footnote is in Obama's, "What we can do is to say unequivocally is there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with peaceful dissent."

So what does the President do if demonstrations tomorrow and/or Thursday are met with more "violence" by Iranian security forces?

1638 GMT: First question tests Obama on steps, rather than rhetoric, on Iran: Is there any "red line" that can be crossed that would suspend US engagement with Iran?

The President sidesteps the question and falls back on "rights and responsibilities" language in referring to the Iranian Government before issuing a holding comment: "We don't know how they're going to respond yet. That's what we're waiting to see."

To the follow-up question, "Should there be any consequences?", Obama holds his line, "The world is bearing witness" to the events in Iran.

1630 GMT: President Obama has just opened his press conference with "a few words" on Iran. The world is "outraged and appalled" at the treatment of protesters. So while the US "respects the sovereignty" of Iran, everyone must "speak out" about the violence wielded against the demonstrators. The Iranian Government "must heed the will of its own people and govern through consensus, not force."

Nothing new here: pointed general rhetoric to express concern and even anger about the images witnessed in recent days but no specific actions or even threats to punish the Iranian Government and suspend Obama's tentative "engagement". The coded response to those who are pressing for US intervention? "The Iranian people can speak for themselves."

Obama extended the statement by denouncing Iran's use of a fictional "Western intervention" to justify its repression, and he returned to the denunciation of the Iranian Government's abuse of rights. This is, however, a stay-the-course statement while trying to fend off domestic critics who want that "Western intervention" to become fact rather than fiction.

1510 GMT: Reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page says he will attend Wednesday's march (4 p.m. local time) to Iranian Parliament in Baharestan Square.

1505 GMT: Further on that British sideshow (1045 GMT). The tit-for-tat diplomatic "happy slapping" has begun: Iran expels two British Embassy staff so London sends two Iranian diplomats packing. Believe it or not, however, this is not as bad as it could have been: if Tehran had unilaterally pulled its Ambassador (a de facto suspension of relations), that would have been more serious than this choreographed manoeuvre.

1410 GMT: We've just posted urgent news on a purported "action plan" by former President Mohammad Khatami for protests.

1408 GMT: From an Iranian activist via Twitter: "We are having difficulty getting updates to u as so many of our contacts been arrested - life here is v/v/dangerous now."

1315 GMT: More coming in on the next moves of the opposition movement. Reports that supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi will assemble in front of the Iranian Parliament building tomorrow at 4 p.m. local time. Karroubi has also written an open letter to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: ""Is your mission the inverse representation of the beating and killing of people by plain cloths [paramilitary Basiji]?"

There are reports that people are gathering in Azadi Square and building blockades and that anti-riot vans are on their way to the scene.

BBC Persian is reporting that all staff, not just the editor-in-chief (see 1215 GMT) of the pro-Mousavi newspaper Kalameh have been arrested. Other journalists have also been detained today.

1300 GMT: This hour's Press TV English coverage of Iran (see updates throughout the day)? Nothing. Not a whisper. Nothing to see here, move along.

1215 GMT: More arrests of journalists. The latest detainees are Seyed Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, editor-in-chief of the pro-Mousavi newspaper Kalameh and his son. There are also reports that a reporter for either The Washington Post or The Washington Times has been taken into custody.

1145 GMT: We've just posted a discussion between two Enduring America colleagues, Steve Hewitt and Chris Emery, on whether 2009 in Iran is an update of the events in 1979.

1125 GMT: The Financial Times of London reports that Kargozaran, "a political party affiliated with Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani" has called upon Mir Hossein Moussavi to form a “political bloc” for a long-term campaign to undermine the “illegitimate” Government.

1109 GMT: Press TV English's blackout continues: not a word in its current newscast on Iran. The website is more forthcoming: headlines are of the Guardian Council's statement that "there has been no record of any major irregularity" in the Presidential vote and of President Ahmadinejad taking the oath of office between 26 July and 19 August.

1045 GMT: A Very British Sideshow: as we await further news on developments in public and behind the scenes, the diversionary story of Britain --- that most sinister country, according to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini --- continues.

Last night, the Foreign Office advised British citizens that only those with "essential" reasons should travel to Iran, and the British Embassy began advising families of staff that they might have to be removed from the country.

This morning, Iranian state media were playing up news of a forthcoming rally by students in front of the British Embassy. Later reports, however, said that the rally had been cancelled as it had been denied a permit by the Ministry of the Interior.
Meanwhile, there were reports --- soon denied by the Iranian Government --- that the Iranian Ambassador to the UK had been recalled.

Significance? It's possible that the Supreme Leader, and subsequent Government showcases such as yesterday's Foreign Ministry conference, have overplayed the "Western threat" card. It's one thing to deploy the weapon of rhetoric, another to raise the prospect of violence against Western nationals. So the Iranian leadership, which has been careful not to attack the US Government as the primary enemy of Tehran, may be edging away from a precipice in relations.

0800 GMT: CNN's International Desk reports, "Reports from inside Iran say the problem in organizing a strike is communicating the messsage to shops & businesses not on Web."

0730 GMT: There's a curious missing-of-the-point in current media coverage, which is focusing on the Guardian Council's pre-emptive declaration that any vote recount will not change the outcome of the Presidential election. Since this move is about as unexpected as the Sun rising in the East, it might be more productive to consider how the protest movement is already looking beyond the Council to its next public and private political challenges.

0700 GMT: Press TV English's current approach is to ignore events in Iran. They are headlining US drone strikes on Pakistan, the US military in Afghanistan, and US unemployment, but not a word on their own backyard.

0630 GMT: Lara Setrakian (see her report on Monday's demonstrations in 0600 GMT update) also writes of protest resignations by faculy at Amir Kabir University in Tehran and Sani Sharif University. These follow the resignation of up to 120 faculty members at Tehran University and other academics across the country.

Morning Update 0600 GMT: Little change from our late night update. We're still waiting for reports on any general strike, but political developments are pointing towards a key rally on Thursday. The support for Mousavi from the Association of Combatant Clerics, while still limited to "reformist" backing, showed that he could mobilise important groups to come out into the open, and the opposition campaign continues to evade the tough Government restrictions to get out information and organise. Yesterday, that was shown by the statement from Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, disseminated widely, for the Guardian Council to declare the election void.

The hard part, of course, is on the ground. The Government's priority will be to prevent any repeat of the million-strong march of 15 June; conversely, the protest movement will look for a gathering large in both size and symbolism.

Behind the scenes, there is little sign of shifting apart from the Association's endorsement of Mousavi after his trip to Qom. Former Presidential Rafsanjani remains very quiet. The Supreme Leader has let others take the public lead after his Friday address, and President Rafsanjani is silent (only speculation, but I think he is being kept under wraps for fear that he will further inflame opposition).

Reader Comments (1)

"They haven’t broken the protest movement. And — although this may be only a pawn in the chess game — they have incurred the rhetorical wrath of the international community for the violence of recent days. Throw in the still-to-be-determined “Neda” symbolic factor, and you have a regime trying to stall developments.”

Can I respectfully take issue with a couple of your points here.

You say that the Iranian government has “incurred the rhetorical wrath of the international community” over the violence. Could you define what you mean by “international community”? While the UK, the US., and the EU have been active in their criticism, has there been a similar response from China, Russia, African countries and the rest of the Middle East? It seems to me that most of the response has come from countries already not well inclined toward the Iranian government and thus is probably not that great of concern, especially since the regime’s main focus on its domestic audience.

While the death of “Neda” was horrific and has struck a chord in the west, what evidence, if any, exists that it will have the slightest impact within Iran? How many Iranians will even hear of her death? How many Iranians have access to the Internet and, of those who do, will the speed of their access allow them to view the horrible footage? This appears to be a case that has a resonance in the west through the Internet but its impact in Iran is overstated.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Birch

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