Iran Election Guide

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The Iran Crisis (Day 16): What to Watch For Today

The Latest from Iran (27 June): Situation Normal. Move Along.

NEW Making Links: Extract from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
UPDATED Iran: A Tale of Two Twitterers

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IRAN FLAGSaturday is likely to be a steady-as-she-goes day, as the regime tries to consolidate its hold on public space, and any political discussions occur in private.

The non-appearance of the Supreme Leader at Friday prayers sent a powerful message to Iranians. Ayatollah Khameini could stay away because the situation was returning to normal, with a reduction in the demonstrations on the streets and less vocal opposition from key politicians.

That's not to say there was nothing from the platform at Tehran University. Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami laid out the hard line to those who might continue to challenge the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. Protesters would be dealt with firmly and severely. Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi pointed towards the possibilities of quieter negotiations with his reference to discussions to transform hostilities, antagonism and rivalries...into amity and cooperation among all parties". (See yesterday's analysis for more.)

This apparent tightening of the Government's grip was reinforced by two statements outside Iran yesterday. President Obama, at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, again assumed his tough rhetorical stance against the post-election, but sharp readers should note that his anger was directed specifically against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leaving the Iranian system relatively untouched, and that there was nothing to jeopardise a return to engagement if/when the crisis abates. Perhaps even more significantly, the British Government, after this week's flare-up of tensions with Tehran, issued a statement for a resolution of the situation by diplomatic means. Translation: London is now concluding that the Supreme Leader and the Government have re-asserted control, and they do not want a fight.

Still, as the media turns away from the Iran story and the regime portrays the confidence that all will soon be resolved (Press TV English is once more saying nothing in its news headlines, while offering analysis in its "Iran Today" programme on US interference), it's important to note that people are still finding the space to protest. Yesterday's public show of resistance was the release of green balloons into Iranian skies, and last night the cries of "God is Great" and "Death to the Dictator" again were heard from rooftops.

At the moment, however, that continuing anger and demand for change has little visible leadership. There are reports that Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi is now withdrawing from the public challenge, former President Khatami has been silent for a few days, and, most importantly, Mir Hossein Mousavi is severely restricted in his movement and communications. There is no sign yet this morning of any impact of his latest letter to his supporters.

One more persistent and important note. Ahmadinejad continues a relatively hermit-like political existence. Mark this down: even if the Iranian system comes out of this crisis relatively unchanged, with the election results upheld and unchanged, Ahmadinejad is already a lame duck in office.

Israel-Palestine: Hamas' Meshaal Makes His Move

Israel-Palestine: How Netanyahu Demolished the Plan A of the Peace Process

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Khaled_MeshaalImage4In a televised statement on Thursday, Hamas political director Khaled Meshaal rejected Israel’s peace proposal while hailing the US President Barack Obama’s “new language.”

With reconciliation talks with Fatah due to take place in Cairo on Sunday, Meshaal’s pragmatic speech should be interpreted as another links in a chain of moves to strengthen Washington’s hand and to put more pressure on Israel. Nevertheless, Meshaal did not bring any new ideas to the table but repeated Hamas' rhetorical position.

Meshaal took apart the recent speech by the Israeli Prime Minister, “The [Palestinian] state that Netanyahu talked about, with control on it by land, sea and air, is a freak entity and a big prison, not a country fit for a great people… Mr. Netanyahu offered merely self-governance under the name of a country”

As for Netanyahu's demand for Palestinians recognition of Israel, Meshaal responded: “The enemy's leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler's Nazism.”

Meshaal offered no change in Hamas’s current political position, rejecting the demands of the US-EU-UN-Russia Quartet, “Dealing with Hamas and Palestinian resistance movements must be based on respecting the will of the Palestinian people and its democratic choice, not through putting conditions, such as those of the quartet” He continued to stand upon "the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, that has full sovereignty on the borders of 4 June 1967; the removal of all settlements; and the achievement of the right of return".

Having drawn a firm line against any movement towards Israel, Meshaal then praised Obama with a message for "the sake of the reconciliation talks":: “We appreciate Obama's new language towards Hamas. And it is the first step in the right direction towards a dialogue without conditions, and we welcome this.”

This is not the first time that Hamas has mentioned talks with the US but on an unconditional basis. On 11 June, Meshaal told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, “Obama says he will turn a new page in the region and begin a dialogue with the Iranians and with the Syrians unconditionally… If so, why is he placing conditions on Hamas?”

The question is whether Washington takes up Meshaal's rhetoric to put pressure on Israel. The Obama Administration has left open that possibility: when it asked Congress to allow continued aid to Palestinians, it said this was possible even if officials linked to Hamas become part of the government after reconciliation talks.

If the Cairo discussions proceed, the Obama Administration might use Meshaal’s message as leverage in the event that Israel does not move beyond symbolic developments, such as Thursday's declaration that it is reducing the number of its soldiers in four West Bank.

On then to Egypt: this time the seemingly endless cycle of stop-start discussions may have significance.

Video: Obama-Merkel Press Conference (26 June)





Trippy Skippy: Opium-Eating Wallabies and Their Crop Circles

WALLABYWe could not have made this one up. From the BBC (p.s. the comments after the story are a must-read bonus):

Australian wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around "as high as a kite", a government official has said.

Lara Giddings, the attorney general for the island state of Tasmania, said the kangaroo-like marsupials were getting into poppy fields grown for medicine.

She was reporting to a parliamentary hearing on security for poppy crops.

Australia supplies about 50% of the world's legally-grown opium used to make morphine and other painkillers.


What are your views on this story? Here are some of your not so serious responses. Of course if you actually HAVE seen a stoned wallaby, please get in touch, using the form below.

I have seen a stoned wallaby but I don't know about them making crop circles. The one I saw was slurring his words and asking me for a dollar as he was trying to get the boat to see his brother in New Zealand - he looked in no mood to be formulating a series of complex agricultural design patterns. I could be wrong - they might have masterminded the twin tower attacks, who really knows?
Dijon, Hobart, Tasmania

My cat Monkey, a Tonkinese cat, started to walk in circles mysteriously about two months ago. My suspicion is the radar from the two police cars parked in front of my apartment building has an effect or sonar like sound that humans cannot hear may have an effect. I was struck by this news article and had to respond.
Barbara Ann Levy, West Palm Beach, Florida

I resent this report that we are high as a kite and making crop circles! I haven't been stoned since 1971. A few young hoppers eat the wrong plant and you trash our species in the news. What's this world coming to!
Wally Baby, Australia Bush

I saw a whole bunch of them dingos going mad in my corn field only last night. I'm not sure if they were high or not but I'm pretty sure they were. One of them had a ghettoblaster and they were listening to some kind of fast electronic music. Lock 'em up and throw away the key, that's what I say!
Roger, Melbourne

I was travelling in Tasmania in the summer of last year and witnessed what I believed as dancing wallabies. I was intoxicated at the time and so put it down to the poppies I had consumed earlier that day. However after reading this article that experience made a lot of sense.
Alan Rees , Tring

Bumped into a couple o' stoned wallabies coming out the co-op up Lochgelly high street the other night. This seems to be a problem on both sides of the globe.
John Smith, Lochgelly, Fife, Scotland

I've lived in Tasmania for many years. Not only do wallabies congregate in poppy fields, but also on the local golf courses. They do this mainly at night and I can only assume they're playing several rounds of golf while avoiding greens fees. You only need to be really worried when one of the stoned wallabies gets into a golf buggy.
John Larson, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

I want to know who sold out the wallabies? Who's the narc? My guess is the platypus, he is such an odd duck.
Chet Guest, St. Paul, Minnesota USA

Don't know about crop circles but I saw one today trying to jack a car, presumably trying to get enough together for his next fix.
Greg Corcoran, Durham, UK

The question should be whether or not those law breaking wallabies should be brought to justice for indulging in illegal substances. The law makes no exceptions for no-one no matter what their excuse is or even what species they may be. They are not setting an example for their joeys nor for any other marsupials and I fear this could become an epidemic of outback size proportions.
Phil, Edinburgh

The Latest from Iran (26 June): It's (No Longer) A Thriller

The Latest from Iran (27 June): Situation Normal. Move Along.

NEW Iran’s Future: “In Time Things Will Change” (Tehran Bureau)
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Latest Video: Resistance and Violence (24 June)

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1900 GMT: Mohammad Mostafaie, a defence lawyer who was prominent for representing Iranian juveniles facing the death penalty, was arrested this afternoon.

1845 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US): "Allahu Akbars begin. Intensity hasn't diminished. I hear warning shots, but after the shot they changed to death to dictator."

Also reports of a candlelit vigil tonight on the rooftops.

1830 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's website has posted his latest statement. We're working on getting an English translation.

1655 GMT: We reported earlier this week that the novelist Paulo Coelho had blogged that his "best friend" was the Iranian doctor who tried to save Neda Agha Soltan. Now that the doctor has left Iran, Coelho has identified him as the Iranian translator of his books, Arash Hejazi

1632 GMT: More from Obama: "A government that treats its own citizens with that kind of ruthlessness and violence has moved outside of universal norms."

1550 GMT: BNO, citing AFP, says that a special commission, including representatives of the defeated candidates, is to be set up to draft a report on the election.

If true, this would fit into our separate piece on the "national unity" call of Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi and reports that Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi is compromising and calling for protests to be challenged through "legal means".

1545 GMT: CNN's David Clinch say that Iran's National Security Council: has declared that Mir Hossein Moussavi's demands for the annulment of the elections are "illogical and unethical".

1530 GMT: Some are reporting a new demonstration in Tehran today, in which Mousavi supporters released green balloons.

1415 GMT: Iranbaan believes that Saeed Hajarian, whose short bio we provided here, "has been release from the clinic into ward 209 of Evin [prison] but his physical condition is not good."

1155 GMT: From a Lara Setrakian source: ""Tehran is very very quiet. There's anger & passion, but going out to show it doesn't seem very productive and is very dangerous"

1145 GMT: Twitter user iranbaan, a previously reliable source, has posted a number of updates: Detained protester Hajarian is alive but is still in "serious condition & needs to be moved to hospital outside prison." She also reports on the apparent treatment of killed protesters:
Doctors are forces to write "death in the operating room" as the cause of death for recent martyrs. / Families are charged 5-14 thousand dollars to receive the bodies of their loved ones. / They also need to sign a waver that they won't sure [sic: sue] the police or other attackers. / In a written undertaking, they need to say Mousavi is the reason & we have not complaints against police. / No mosque is allowed to hold a funeral for these martyrs.

Finally, she reports that, "Saeed Mortazavi, prosecutors general of Tehran, is put in charge of investigating recent detainees." As we reported on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch describes Mortazavi as "notoriously abusive."

1110 GMT: Lara Setrakian of ABC News (US) reports, "Confirmed firsthand account of another 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) protester killed on the rootfop, this one in Tehran."

1045 GMT: AP reports that Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, speaking during Friday prayers at Tehran University, has called on the government to punish protesters "strongly and with cruelty." (Note: Ahmed Khatami is not related to Mohammad Khatami.)

0850 GMT: According to Reuters Press TV has quoted a spokesman for the Guardian Council saying that the elections were "among the healthiest ... ever held in the country". No "major" fraud has been uncovered.

0820 GMT: Unconfirmed rumour: the Supreme Leader is wearing one white glove when he leads prayers today.

0800 GMT: Stand By Your Man. Russia has again recognized President Ahmadinejad's election victory.

0710 GMT: Worlds Collide. One of the most prominent Iranian activists on Twitter writes, "Michael Jackson is died?"

0705 GMT: Reports that Iran state media have broadcast the funeral of a Basiji killed in the demonstrations. (source: jamaldajani via Twitter)

0700 GMT: The BBC, if it is not reflecting on Michael Jackson, is recycling the tangential news that Washington has condemned President Ahmadinejad's condemnation of US interference in Iranian affairs

0520 GMT: Somewhat bizarrely, this morning's first intervention in Iran comes from the west coast of the United States (and not from the broadcasts of television stations run by Iranian exiles). The international media are screen-to-screen with coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. Even Al Jazeera put away Iran and Iraq to lead with several minutes on the scraps of information about last night's events, Jackson's careers, and (especially) chats with fans.

CNN, which has been increasingly open in its sympathy for the protests, had been trying to highlight Thursday's statement by Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, but the effort has been limited, as its website admits: "CNN has not been able to verify the authenticity of the statement on the Kamaleh site, which has been known to carry Moussavi's official statements, because it appeared to be blocked." On the BBC website, Jackson pushes Iran and Mousavi down to a single, small-font line near the bottom of the page.

Iran's Press TV talks about Michael Jackson at the end of its headlines; before that, it is using the statement of three US Senators (McCain, Graham, Lieberman) calling for tougher sanctions on Tehran to bolster the Government's line of "Western intervention".
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