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Entries in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (29)


Iran: Reading the Supreme Leader's Politics

The Latest from Iran (17 June): Uncovering the News on Attacks, Protests, and the Supreme Leader

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KHAMENEI3I was impressed today by two provocative analyses of the politics behind the recent decisions of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In Real Clear World, Meir Javedanfar evaluates "the short- and long-term aspirations of Iran's most powerful man", while in Asia Times Online, M K Bhadrakumar considers more than 20 years of manoeuvring between Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Mir Hossein Mousavi.


Supreme Leader and Iran Election

Meir Javedanfar

The recent presidential elections in Iran have proven to be the most controversial since the start of the revolution. With demonstrators taking to the streets of Tehran, many are seeking to understand the cause of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial victory. To find the answer, we must look at the short- and long-term aspirations of Iran's most powerful man, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Since becoming Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989, Khamenei has maintained cohesion amongst different political factions through a system of checks and balances. Almost like a trapeze artist, he has survived domestic challenges and threats of foreign-backed regime change by giving each major political faction a say in a different part of the system. For example, as means of keeping the conservatives happy when the reformists won the elections in 1997 and 2001, he allowed the conservatives to run the judiciary and the media. To maintain cohesiveness when the conservatives retook power through Ahmadinejad's election in 2005, he allowed the president's chief opponent, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to run the Assembly of Experts as well the Expediency Council.

When Khamenei wanted to divest power from a group in the past, he did it in a very gradual manner. A chief example is his goal to wrestle political and economic power away from the clergy and hand it to non-religious conservatives, whom he views as being more loyal and capable of running the country. Since 2001, he has been carrying out this process, slowly and meticulously.

However, his support for Ahmadinejad before and after the elections, together with what many believe to be overwhelming election fraud that he has sanctioned, is almost out of character for Khamenei. Such moves are very sudden and extreme, unlike the punctilious way in which he has maneuvered around important issues and decisions in the past. They are also very provocative, not just for supporters of reformists, but because they are clearly efforts to isolate other powerful figures. These leaders include Rafsanjani and Karroubi, both of whom have vast business connections and are politically well-connected.

One possible reason for Khamenei's recent decision is that he realized that unless he intervened, the reformists would win the elections. What concerned the Supreme Leader even more is the fact that the clergy, both right and left, were turning against the president, and ultimately, against him. Recently, for instance, the Society For Combatant Clergies, a powerful conservative group belonging to the clergy in Qom, decided "not to support any candidate in the presidential elections." This was a politically correct way of saying that they would not support Ahmadinejad. As someone who has supported Ahmadinejad throughout his career, Khamenei took their decision as a rebuff against his own political ambitions.

A victory by the reformists, in cooperation with the clergy and Rafsanjani, would have created a powerful front against Khamenei. Instead of being loyalist soldiers like Ahmadinejad, they would have challenged his views in important areas, such as dealing with the United States. With Khamenei already viewing Obama's positive overtures as a threat, any more internal dissent would have boosted Washington's position against Iran in the negotiations.

There is also the question of Khamenei's succession. In Iran, the choice for president is not the most important political decision; the choice for the next Supreme Leader is. This is a decision which according to the country's constitution has to be made by the Assembly of Experts, an 86-member body comprised of clerics whose religious rank must be at least Hojatoelslam, if not Ayatollah. In reality, however, the choice for next Supreme Leader is one which the Assembly of Experts usually rubber stamps. This is what happened when Khamenei himself was elected to the post; the decision belonged to his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini. Khamenei would also like to exercise this choice. Otherwise, Rafsanjani, the current head of Assembly of Experts, may make this decision. As the two have been rivals for many years, Khamenei would be right to be concerned.

A coalition of reformers and clergy, with Rafsanjani's backing, could have challenged Khamenei's choice for the next Supreme Leader. This concerns Khamenei not simply as a threat to his prestige, but also to his family's welfare and political ambitions. Some analysts believe Khamenei wishes to secure his family's well-being by appointing his son Mojtaba to replace him as Supreme Leader. Khamenei has been described as "Ali of the age" more and more in the Iranian media. This is a reference to Imam Ali, the first Shiite Imam who passed on the reigns to his son Hassan. It is very possible that the reason Khamenei is being referred to as the current version of Imam Ali is to prepare the ground for him to pass on power in the same manner.

Even if Mojtaba, who is considered a shrewd behind-the-scenes political operator, is not appointed, Khamenei will still want someone who will protect his family's business and political interests. Otherwise, they may end up isolated like Khomeini's family.

Ensuring that Ahmadinejad continues as president and that a coalition of powerful figures and reformers does not gain power is an overwhelming concern for the Supreme Leader, which may explain his actions surrounding Iran's most controversial elections to date.

Khamenei rides a storm in a tea cup

M K Bhadrakumar

Western capitals must make a difficult choice: how long to pin hopes on the eruption of a "color" revolution in Tehran? The burden falls almost entirely on Europe, since Washington has different priorities.

The United States cannot afford to be spotted in the barricades on the frontline of any attempt to prise open the Iranian regime at this delicate point in Middle Eastern politics. Tehran will not forgive for another quarter century at least any such American folly, and the Barack Obama administration has no intentions of committing hara-kiri, either.

Within Europe, it is unclear who is spearheading the charge of the light brigade. No country seems to want to be seen up front - except the Czech Republic, which has no choice, since it currently chairs the rotating European Union presidency. But then, most European countries would probably seldom fail the chance to be Tehran's bete noire, but will, true to a pattern, swiftly fall back the moment they estimate that the law of diminishing returns is at work and continued tirades might jeopardize lucrative commercial interests in Iran.

Tens of thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi planned to keep up their street protests in Tehran on Wednesday, even though the authorities have promised a partial recount of Friday's vote that saw incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad win another four-year term.

No scope for a color revolution

Europe has no real experience in staging color revolutions. This has been the forte of the Americans - conceptualized in the post-Soviet space in Eurasia by the Bill Clinton administration and subsequently grasped by the neo-conservatives in the George W Bush team. Europeans were curious bystanders in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. France to some extent might have been on the inside track over Lebanon, but then the result turned out to be a mish-mash.

At any rate, to borrow Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin's famous words in a philosophical context, staging a color revolution in Tehran is not like breaking an egg. The signs are that the color revolution struggling to be born on the streets of Tehran has had a miscarriage. Ahmadinejad's participation at the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Tuesday was possible only with the tacit acquiescence of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It was an important decision to take at a critical juncture. Earlier reports in the Western media speculated that Ahmadinejad might stand down in view of the developing political situation.

Evidently, the regime decided that Tehran should not in any way project an atmosphere of crisis as that would only play into the hands of the proponents of a color revolution within Iran and abroad. To quote well-known Iranian dissident Ibrahim Yazdi, "Certainly, the gap inside Iran, politically, will be widened. Our main concern is how to keep the enthusiasm that was created for the election alive, in order to monitor and constrain the power of the government. The only way to counter it is the power of the people. We need to organize them."

How is the regime coping? Clearly, Khamenei is in the driving seat and is in control of the state apparatus. He is skillfully navigating the regime through the choppy waters. Khamenei's meeting with the principal opposition candidate in the election, Mousavi, merits attention. The official statement makes out certain key points. First, Khamenei indicated unambiguously to Mousavi that the regime would not tolerate any street protests and he must therefore "channel protests through legal bodies". It now becomes extremely difficult for Mousavi to be seen as defying the Supreme Leader's diktat.

Second, Khamenei suggested that there was nothing extraordinary about the present situation, insofar as "in previous elections also, there were some people and candidates who had some problems". But they pursued the matter through the Guardians Council, which in any case has to approve the conduct of the presidential election in Iran.

Mousavi's existential choice

However, it is the third point made by Khamenei that is most crucial. He pointed a finger at the "enemies' provocative actions" as well as "certain behind-the-stage plots" which aimed to "create chaos in Iran". Khamenei then went on most meaningfully to remind Mousavi that "your [Mousavi's] character is different from such people and it is necessary that you pursue the problems through calm".

The highly personal remark had a touch of admonition, but also the hint of a fulsome invitation to reasoning that could open up doors leading into pleasant pathways along which the two interlocutors known to each other for long, after all, could take a stroll. It was a very Persian remark.

Khamenei virtually reminded Mousavi of their old association, when the latter served as Iran's prime minister under him and the two were not only close comrades-in-arms for the preservation of the Iranian revolution through the critical years of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s but also worked together to frustrate the cunning ploys of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who as the powerful speaker of the Majlis (parliament) constantly conspired to arrogate state power.

During that period, Rafsanjani constantly sniped at Mousavi and tried to undercut him, although he enjoyed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's endorsement. On numerous occasions, Rafsanjani gave him hell on the floor of the Majlis, embarrassing him when he sought parliamentary approval for his moves, whittling down his authority to execute his policy and systematically undermining his political standing in public opinion.

Rafsanjani had already begun jockeying for position in expectation of the post-Khomeini era. As Khomeini fell ill, Rafsanjani became more assertive. Mousavi, in fact, found himself identifying with the Iranian revolutionaries (like Ahmadinejad), who were appalled by Rafsanjani's suggestion to Khomeini to "drink from the chalice of poison" and order a ceasefire to end the Iran-Iraq war that effectively meant allowing Saddam Hussein the escape route. Those were tumultuous times when the fate of the Iranian revolution of 1979 hung by a thread.

The main sticking point was the economic policy of the Mousavi government. Rafsanjani sought a policy that catered to the Tehran bazaar, which would benefit his family members as well as large sections of the corrupt clergy, who were aligned with him. But Mousavi opted for state control of the economy and insisted he was acting in accordance with the ideals of the revolution and Khomeini's wishes. What Rafsanjani proposed during those difficult years was to have the latitude for his clan and other hangers-on to do some war profiteering. Mousavi's answer was a firm "no", and he stuck to the austere economic policy.

When the eight-year war with Iraq ended in August 1988, Rafsanjani proposed that Iran should dilute its revolutionary ideals and take Western help for reconstruction. (The Rafsanjani family initially made its fortune by exporting Iranian products such as pistachio nuts and carpets to the US.) But Mousavi firmly disagreed and refused to go against the grain of the revolution. Finally, when the levers of power were passed into his hands as president, Rafsanjani's wrath knew no bounds. Vindictive by nature, he literally drove Mousavi into political exile. The ex-prime minister summarily abandoned politics and returned to his profession of architecture and teaching.

Thus, Khamenei all but jogged Mousavi's memory at their meeting in Tehran by suggesting that the latter should not join hands with Rafsanjani against him. He suggested that Rafsanjani and his circles are simply using him as a political ladder. Khamenei virtually reminded Mousavi of his old constituency. Indeed, as prime minister (1981-89), Mousavi had an impeccable reputation as a hardliner - every bit as much as the "international community" regards Ahmadinejad today. In a memorable article penned in 1988, the Economist magazine described him as a "firm radical".

Khamenei folded up his conversation with Mousavi by "admiring" the massive turnout in Friday's election and "once again underlining its healthy and calm nature". In a subtle way, he allowed Mousavi to have a peep into his thought processes about the current situation.

Meanwhile, Khamenei has directed the Guardians Council to review the appeals about the election and to give its opinion within a week to 10 days. He also held a joint meeting with the representatives of the four candidates in the election and officials from the 12-member Guardians Council and the Interior Ministry. At the meeting, Khamenei used harsh language describing the street protesters as "vandals" for damaging state property. He told the candidates' supporters to distance themselves from the "vandals" and to support peace in the country as the election "should not cause divisions".

Khamenei added, "If the election result had been different, even then such incidents would have occurred" as "some people" are against the unity of the Iranian nation and the solidarity of the Islamic system. He offered that a partial recount of the votes in the elections could be arranged, if necessary. But he concluded by passing his own judgment, "Those in charge of supervising the elections are always trustworthy people."

Tehran rebuffs Europe

Alongside, Tehran has rebuffed European attempts to interfere. This has been done at the appropriate diplomatic level with the Foreign Ministry calling in the envoys of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Besides, a "unity rally" held in Tehran by supporters of Ahmadinejad condemned "enemies, particularly the US, Britain and Israel ... [for] interfering in Iran's internal affairs, plotting against the government and giving media support to the enemy groups, rioters and social and political hooligans who are trying to fuel chaos in the Islamic Republic".

All in all, therefore, Western capitals will take note that the hope that a color revolution might overturn Ahmadinejad's victory or in a best-case scenario lead to the toppling of the Iranian regime is far-fetched and almost fanciful. The extent of the street protests has come down in Tehran, although uncertainties remain. The hope that there would be a countrywide popular uprising seems also to be far-fetched.

If Rafsanjani's astute political temperament is any guide, he will lie very low and generally avoid being noticed for a while. Meanwhile, he will do some intense networking with his contacts in the power apparatus, putting out his extraordinary political antennae and making a careful assessment as to the scope for compromise with the powers that be and when he should make his move. He should first live to fight another day. That may require making compromises. After all, politics is the art of the possible. So, without batting an eyelid, he may turn his back on Mousavi and former president Mohammed Khatami, who were, after all, his temporary allies in the recent saga.

Will he get another chance? That is a big question. Time seems to have run out for Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly projected an "anti-corruption" drive as a major plank of his new presidency. Was that mere election rhetoric, or will he go for the Rafsanjani family, which has many skeletons in its cupboard? Everything depends on what Khamenei thinks. He may assess that this time the "Shark" went too far to plot a lethal attack that might have succeeded. Or, he might let bygones be bygones.

Rafsanjani is undoubtedly the West's favorite poster boy - and of the "pro-West" Arab authoritarian rulers in the region. The difficult choice for European capitals is how much propaganda mileage to extract at this stage before moving on. Once US-Iranian engagement begins, European companies will scramble for oil contracts. If the European Union's ill-starred Nabucco gas pipeline project has a fighting chance to materialize, that will depend primarily on gaining access to Iranian gas.

Also, European capitals will have noted that there is great reticence on the part of Middle Eastern countries to point fingers at Tehran for not practicing Western style democracy. Autocratic Arab regimes will be nervous that if the contagious disease of the color revolution were to appear in Iran, it might eventually spread on the Middle Eastern political landscape. Unsurprisingly, the lone exception has been Israel (and its media friends), which has a vested interest in scuttling US-Iran engagement and will not easily pass up an opportunity to malign Ahmadinejad.

On the other hand, three important neighbors of Iran - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan - promptly greeted Ahmadinejad, quite ahead of protocol requirements to do so. Ahmadinejad was warmly greeted at the SCO summit, too.

"Iran, Russia and China are three major economic and political poles attending the [SCO] summit ... [They] play important roles in dealing with the world's current and upcoming developments," Ahmadinejad was reported as saying in the People's Daily and it also highlighted Ahmadinejad's tirade against the "unipolar world order" in his speech. On its part, Moscow said in a structured statement, "The Iranian elections are the internal affair of Iran. We welcome the fact that elections took place, we welcome the new president on Russian soil and see it as symbolic that he made his first visit [as newly-elected president] to Russia. This allows hope for progress in bilateral relations." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev scheduled a bilateral with Ahmadinejad at Yekaterinburg.

Khamenei has made it clear in recent weeks that the Obama administration will meet a resolute interlocutor when US-Iran direct negotiations begin shortly. No amount of Western pressure tactics on the democracy plank is going to soften up Khamenei. With Ahmadinejad continuing as president for a second term, Khamenei has his chosen team in position.

The Obama administration faces difficult choices. The stir in Tehran is fast becoming a "Twitter revolution". No such thing has ever happened there, despite the best efforts of former US vice president Dick Cheney and his covert team for well over four years for triggering "regime change".

The US is sensing the potential of a "Twitter revolution" in Iran. Earlier, in Moldova, the potential of Twitter to trigger convulsions in popular moods was studied. The US State Department confirmed on Tuesday it had contacted Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians. But a department spokesman denied that the contacts with Twitter amounted to meddling in Iran's internal affairs - US sensitivity about causing annoyance to the Iranian regime is self-evident.

At the same time, Obama has to worry that unrest in Iran may scuttle his plans to commence direct engagement with Tehran within the coming days or weeks. On the contrary, he must face the music from the influential Israel lobby in the US, which is unhappy that Washington is not pressing the pedal hard enough on a color revolution in Iran. But Obama is treading softly. He said late on Tuesday there appeared to be no policy differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. "The difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised. Either way, we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States."

That's a cleverly drafted formulation. Prima facie, Obama pleases the regime in Tehran insofar as he appears "stand-offish" as to what ensues through the coming days by way of the street protests or out of the deliberations of Iran's Guardians Council. Fair enough. But, on the other hand, Obama also is smartly neutralizing any allegation that the Rafsanjani-Khatami-Mousavi phenomenon is in any way to be branded by the Iranian regime as "pro-US". Obama's remark helps the Iranian opposition to maintain that its motivations are purely driven by Iran's national interests.

Iran: An Alternative View of the Election and Demonstrations

IRAN FLAGShirvin Zeinalzadeh, who writes for Enduring America on Iranian politics and foreign policy, offers this perspective on the current situation in Iran:

The elections result in Iran have sparked widespread demonstrations and concern in Iran as well as abroad that the outcome was declared too quickly, and there have been allegations of vote-rigging or cheating on the numbers to ensure victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This has upset the supporters of challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom have taken to the streets in a widely-publicized show of discontent.

The majority of the demonstrators are young Iranians in the cities of Iran, all wearing the signature green wristbands and armbands of their candidate, Mousavi, and all chanting the clichéd rhymes of "death to the dictator" and "where’s my vote?". In the meaStime, the calls of the Supreme Leader and Guardian Council, as well as Mr. Mousavi, are to remain calm and follow the legal routes for an appeal against this outcome.

Yesterday, simultaneous demonstrations in Tehran of supporters of Mousavi and an equally large gathering for Ahmadinejad took place on Vali-e Asr Avenue. After reports of seven deaths on Monday,the atmosphere will be even more tense in forthcoming days, with the Guardian Council agreeing to recount votes in the disputed areas of the election.

However, some in the world have already begun to congratulate President Ahmadinejad on his re-election, with the Russian authorities pleased that the President is attending the Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation meeting: "We welcome the fact that elections took place, we welcome the new president on Russian soil and see it as symbolic that he made his first visit to Russia." As President Ahmadinejad continues his official duties, he is showing the Iranian people that it is business as usual and that the dust must settle as soon as possible for Iranians to concentrate on the more important issue of reiterating and strengthening ties with other states.

The fact that there will be a re-count in certain areas still does not seem to please Mr. Mousavi, who wishes the entire election result to be annulled, but the question he must ask himself is, "What image will this reaction portray to the outside world?" The fact that the sheer scale of President Ahmadinejad’s victory was so convincing suggests that a recount will not change the fact that the election has already been won.

The strength of Ahmadinejad has been forgotten over the last few days as we see the almost one-sided views of the Moussavi supporters walking the streets of Tehran. The huge rural population, as well as the working class populace is unnoticed; 100,000 demonstrators become the representatives of Iran's 70 million people.

The situation is difficult to control, but must be understood. Those who wish to demonstrate and air their views are more than welcome to do so. However, when it comes to destroying public buildings and services, as well as violent damage, then the security forces are forced to react, as they would in any country, and put an end to violent opportunistic troublemakers, separating them from the largely legitimate and peaceful supporters of Mousavi. The key fact that Iran has to now accept, as well as the international arena watching events unfold is that there is a large support for President Ahmadinejad, both in Iran and the rest of the world in the form of other sovereign governments who accept the results, and life must now go on.

Every opportunity will be now available for the West to begin talks with Iran regarding commerce, regional security, foreign policy, and nuclear issues; however ,the world must begin (once the re-count has been announced) to accept the outcome and build for peace in the Middle East and make concrete ties with Tehran, allowing diplomacy to be the vital link between Iran and the world.

Should the re-count confirm the inevitable and Mr. Mousavi accept the outcome, as well as his supporters, then he should begin to set an example to the world, as was seen with John Kerry and Al Gore when they faced defeat in US elections, to begin to work positively not for himself but for Iran. His supporters must embrace this as an opportunity to use the next four years to promote Iranian interests abroad and, should they wish, begin to create a solid campaign for the next elections.

In the meantime, it is up to both sets of supporters to remain calm, to respect the majority in Iran who have voted and who have remained away from the demonstrations.

Iran: Four Scenarios for the Vote Recount

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IRAQ PROTEST WOMAN IN REDAt our request, Chris Emery has written this special snap analysis of today's unprecedented developments in Iran:

This morning’s news that the Guardian Council has agreed to recount disputed votes only confirms that the Islamic Republic, at both a public and official level, has entered totally uncharted waters. It is impossible to know at this stage the degree of coordination between the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Guardian Council. However, it appears that, given the immediacy of the situation, the Guardian Council have decided that there is not enough political space to present a full report over the next 10 days (which they announced yesterday). Instead, the highly volatile atmosphere on the street demands immediate concessions.

At this very early stage there appears to be four scenarios:

1. Mousavi Declared Winner

This appears to be the second least likely scenario but the one most problematic for the Supreme Leader, who has already endorsed Ahmadinejad’s victory. For this to happen, Ahmadinejad would have to lose about 10 million votes. The scale of voting irregularity would then appear so brazen that it is difficult to see how it could be sold to the Iranian public without permanently damaging key institutions. It would require several high-level scapegoats, probably all high-ranking officials in the Interior Ministry and maybe some Revolutionary Guards tasked with guarding ballot boxes. Some administrators on the ground would doubtless also be fed to the wolves.

This decision would almost certainly bring Ahmadinejad’s supporters on the streets in huge numbers and potentially see as much, or even more, disruption and violence on the streets. The humiliation of Ahmadinejad, who has been packed off to Moscow, would be a huge boost to political heavyweights like former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, but it could spark a backlash from others in the political establishment, with hardliners playing the nationalist card by highlighting international pressure for a Mousavi victory. (To its credit, the Obama administration has so far done well to avoid providing this ammunition and would probably continue to do so.)

2. Ahmadinejad confirmed as victor

This appears to be the most-likely scenario. The Guardian Council may remain confident in the result and  that any manipulation remains undetectable. They may have, before making this morning’s announcement, quietly taken soundings amongst Iranian elites and institutions to confirm these assumptions.

Ahmadinejad’s lead would almost certainly be cut, and the election would appear much more competitive, but he would still win outright. This would still ask some tough questions as to why the President’s majority was initially so huge and would probably still require some scapegoats.

This result would obviously not convince many core opposition supporters. Their reaction, however, could swing in one of two different directions.  They could feel that, even with a re-confirmed Ahmadinejad victory, this unprecedented enquiry means the establishment can be pushed further. On the other hand, they could feel that they have reached the limits of what they can achieve. Meanwhile, the political establishment could see this gesture as their final offer and then crack down hard on any further opposition.

3. The election goes to a second-round runoff

This appears perhaps the second most likely scenario but would pose a huge political and logistical question for all parties.

Ahmadinejad’s vote would be cut to below 50% so he would enter a head-to-head contest with Mousavi. The numbers would be altered to increase the first-round vote for Karroubi and Rezaei, whose poor showing, even in their home provinces been greeted with extreme suspicion. Again, scapegoats would be needed.

A second-round ballot would re-establish some legitimacy without provoking the violence that would likely follow scenarios 1 and 2. It is likely that this re-run would be supervised by figures with substantial credibility in Iran (maybe Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani). Such a body was proposed for the first election but rejected by the Supreme Leader.

This would be expensive and logistically difficult, with much of the infrastructure on the streets and in the various campaigns is paralysed. There is certainly no guarantee that Mousavi would win, either. His campaign may want to go back to the polls quickly, whilst their supporters are mobilised. On the other hand, they may want a cooling-off period in which they can recompose their strategy, redefine their message, and normalise their communications.

4. Election is declared null and void and new election called

Although this is the option apparently favoured by the Mousavi campaign, it has apparently been rejected by the Guardian Council and is thus the most unlikely scenario. Writing off the first election as irredeemably corrupt and mismanaged would be enormously embarrassing for the political establishment and, again, even more logistically problematic. Would candidates de-selected by the Guardian Council be able to re-apply, would there be more television debates or campaign messages? When would the election occur and how would it be supervised to guarantee legitimacy? This scenario would, like all of the others, require heads to roll at a local and central level.

Again, there is no guarantee that Mousavi would win and there is a real question whether Mehdi Karroubi would even stand. This could essentially be a second-round contest between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.

The International Reaction

The West, and particular the Obama administration, will cautiously welcome today’s Guardian Council concession but will remain prudently cautious until one of the above scenarios — or another I have missed — emerges. Most governments will hope for a scenario that will ideally remove Ahmadinejad and chasten the political establishment enough to offer future concessions to political openness without provoking a major backlash or instability.

[Enduring America is continuing to follow the situation in Iran very closely- for the latest, please subscribe to our updates.]

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IRAN DEMO 15-06-09 22230 GMT: The end of a long and, for many, amazing day in Iran with the hopes of the mass movement balanced by rumours of deaths, beatings, and detentions (one activist writes of many people being taken to Evin Prison). Still a state of tension, with uncertainty over casualty figures from this afternoon at Azadi Square and no firm confirmation of the big march for 5 p.m. tomorrow (local time) in Tehran. Tonight, there are sounds of ambulances and police sirens and occasional gunshots.

We're going to take an overnight break. Thanks to all who have supported us and given us information today. Our thoughts are with friends and colleagues in Iran.

2100 GMT: Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum's blog has footage of paramilitaries shooting at protestors. Her blog post is here, a larger video is available here.

1930 GMT: We have learned that Tehran's Central Bazaar will be on strike tomorrow. Tonight people are cruising in automobiles through Tehran, honking their horns, but there is also a military presence and the prospect of further attacks.

Evening Update (1915 GMT): The elation over the success of the Tehran march, with a peaceful crowd in the hundreds of thousands, has been tempered by the shooting in Azadi Square.The firing appears to have broken out near a Basiji (paramilitary militia) headquarters.

News services are still confirming only one dead, but there are very disturbing images of dead and wounded allegedly attacked at Azadi. There is also nervousness over reports of clashes in other Iranian cities.

The high hopes over the address of Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi to the Azadi crowd has been offset by a lull in political developments. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, has allowed state media to make all the noise after his letter to the Guardian Council for an enquiry into vote fraud, and President Ahmadinejad has suddenly gone noticeably (and uncharacteristically) silent.

There are reports, despite the claim by CNN's Octavia Nasr of a Khamenei-Mousavi deal for no more demonstrations (see 1535), of a march called for tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time in the main thoroughfare of Vali Asr Street.

1735 GMT: Rumours are still swirling about the shooting in Azadi Square. Some claim four demonstrators were killed with "many more" wounded; others claim that the assailant, a Basiji (unofficial "religious" police), was then beaten to death by the crowd. There is also an unconfirmed report of gunfire in three districts in north Tehran.

French media put the number at the rally at up to 2 million.

1705 GMT: Press TV reports that one demonstrator killed by gunfire in Azadi Square.

1700 GMT: An administrator for Mousavi's Facebook page explains the rationale behind the two slogans that they are promoting for the night rooftop protests as well as tomorrow's marches (possibly at Khomeini Shrine). The first is "allah-o-akbar" (God is Great) and the second "la-allah-a-ela-allah" (There is no God but God). These overtly religious slogans symbolise that there is no authority higher than God; tactically, they are not "questionable", by any standard measurement in Iran, and thus cannot easily provoke retaliation.

1625 GMT: Iranian activists claim to have hacked the news sites of the ultra-conservative Kayhan and
Rajanews, which have been vocal supporters of Ahmadinejad. As of now is still down but just about running.

1600 GMT: Another sign of Government re-alignment in the face of the demonstrations: Press TV reports Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani has appointed a committee, headed by the Deputy Speaker, to investigate "unpleasant incidents" such as the security forces' raid on the dormitories of Tehran University, and compile a "complete and impartial report". Members of the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis, who toured the dormitories have called for the release of students detained in the raids.

1535 GMT: CNN's Octavia Nasr claims on Twitter: "Deal was reached to investigate fraud allegations & Moussavi halts futher demos."

1515 GMT: In the US, leading blogger Andrew Sullivan has picked up on our analysis of how Press TV's new approach to the protests may reveal a high-level political shift, in particular in the Supreme Leader's position.

1510 GMT: CNN now leading with Iran rally, showing footage of Mousavi addressing crowd.

1500 GMT: Press TV is now clearly following a shift in the Supreme Leader's political position. Their sympathetic coverage of the rally continues, followed by a reference by Khamenei's call on the Guardian Council to review electoral results in "a meeting with Mousavi on Sunday evening" in which he encouraged the candidate "to pursue his complaints about the election through legal means".

Press TV emphasized that Khamenei "urged restraint and called on Mousavi to be careful about the enemy squad and provocation". The Supreme Leader's letter to the Guardian Council "was an effort to restore people's support and trust in their government".

The state-run outlet is even reporting on the European Union's statement of concern over the election results, as well France and Germany's summoning of Iranian Ambassadors to express their worries.

1425 GMT: Mousavi, speaking from the rooftop of a car, has addressed the rally, saying he is ready to stand in a new election. Former President Khatami has called for the election to be declared void.

CNN has caught up a bit, despite technical problems, with Christiane Amanpour reporting from the rally.

1330 GMT: Press TV is breaking into normal programmes to show live images of crowds completely filling Enqelab Square in Tehran. The studio has lost contact with the correspondent in the crowd, but the anchorman is offering a full report, noting the banners "Where is My Vote?" and the claims of opposition candidates that the election results were "rigged".

In Britain, Press TV is the only outlet broadcasting on the rally. At the moment, there is nothing on SkyNews (which has provided some updates), BBC, CNN, Fox, or even Al Jazeera.

1320 GMT: CNN reporting that Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, assured Mousavi of a fair investigation at a meeting yesterday. The Guardian Council's report is expected within 10 days, establishing a potential cooling off period. The Council is chaired by Ayatollah Jannati, a hardline conservative said to be a strong supporter of the President.

1310 GMT:  Press TV reporting that Mousavi has appeared before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Tehran.

1300 GMT: The official tally of the Presidential votes adds insult to injury for Rafsanjani. According to Jahan News, Ahmadinejad received 1122 votes in the village of Bahreman – Rafsanjani’s birthplace - while only 730 voted for Mousavi.

1250 GMT: Just to bring home the significance of the previous item, Press TV is state-owned media. Until this morning, it has given almost no attention to the protests against Ahmadinejad's election. The sudden change to in-depth, even effusive coverage of the demonstrations points to a wider political shift: whether this is in line with a "compromise" accepting the legitimacy of the claims of the protests (and, beyond that, the appeal to the Guardian Council) remains to be seen.

1235 GMT: Press TV is now reporting on "hundreds of thousands" in today's rally from Enqelab Square to Azadi Square, protesting the outcome of the Iranian election. The gathering is in defiance of the Ministry of Interior's refusal to give a permit. So far, based on video and on the correspondent's report, the rally appears to be peaceful and calm.

1120 GMT: BBC Persian report that Mousavi, Karroubi, and former President Mohammad Khatami will attend today's protest, an indication that earlier attempts to abandon the march stemmed either from confusion or Government misinformation.

1037 GMT: Chris Emery reminds us in the context of former President Rafsanjani's letter to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, asking for a review of the election results: a pre-election Rafsanjani letter asking for investigation of "insults to the Islamic Republic" by Ahmadinejad, was supported by more than 100 senior clerics from Qom.

This clerical opposition to Ahmadinejad should be noted as an ongoing factor in the manoeuvres amongst the Supreme Leader, Ahmadinejad, Mousavi-Karroubi, and Rafsanjani.

1018 GMT: Confusion over whether Mousavi headquarters have now "un-cancelled" the call for this afternoon's march, with some activists saying Mousavi and Karroubi will attend and others claiming that Mousavi's website --- which cancelled and then retracted the cancellation --- may have been taken over by people hostile to the demonstrations.

Suspicions of a "trap" have been further fuelled by reports of Government gun emplacements at Azadi Square, the endpoint of the march.

0920 GMT: A possible important turn of events. State media are reporting that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, did meet with Mir Hossein Mousavi. The Supreme Leader is now ordering an investigation of allegations of electoral fraud.

0850 GMT: Reports that this afternoon's march in Tehran will go ahead, despite refusal of permit by Ministry of Interior and possible withdrawal of support from Mousavi headquarters.

0803 GMT: The website for the Mousavi campaign has just announced the cancellation of today's march.

0800 GMT: Reuters reports, "Iran's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, said on Monday it had received two official complaints from defeated presidential candidates and would issue its ruling within 10 days." The complaints came from candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohsen Rezaei; there is no mention of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (see 0515 GMT update).

A spokesman for the council, which must formally approve the election results for the outcome to stand, said it had received appeals from moderate former prime minister Mirhossein Mousavi and former head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaie.

0745 GMT: According to CNN, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency is reporting a further endorsement by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, of the election's outcome: "Pointing to enemies' massive propaganda campaign to discourage people from taking part in the elections, Ayatollah Khamenei also said there was really a divine miracle behind this elections, given its results that was 10 million higher than any of the previous ones in the 30-year history of elections in Iran." (Note: It appears that IRNA's website is either overloaded or has crashed.)

Khamenei's statement should be seen as a response to the move by former President Rafsanjani, appealing to the Guardian Council, to void the election results (see 0515 GMT update).

0725 GMT: Twitter accounts such as Change For Iran are posting photographs of students who were reportedly beaten at Isfahan University when security forces entered dormitories.

0615 GMT: Iranian media report that the Ministry of the Interior has denied the permit for this afternoon's march.

Morning Update (0515 GMT): Two potentially important events are likely to dominate the day's developments. The first is the appeal, led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (pictured), to Iran's Guardian Council  The Guardian Council is Iran's political and legal body of last resort, and under Iranian law, it must ratify the declared election results.

There is a wider significance in Rafsanjani's appeal, however. The Guardian Council is the only authority that can remove the Supreme Leader. So this is a challenge by a former President, who has backed challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi against President Ahmadinejad, to Ayatollah Khamenei, who moved quickly to endorse Ahmadinejad's victory.

The second event occurs this afternoon at 4 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) with a march, organised by Mousavi headquarters, in Tehran. There are conflicting reports on whether the Ministry of Interior has approved the march, let alone allowed Mousavi to speak, and whether the challenger's headquarters will call for it to go ahead if it is not legally permitted.

The overnight news is mainly of individual stories of clashes and beatings. It is almost impossible, given the restrictions on media and on phone and Internet service, to get a co-ordinated view of events, especially outside Tehran. CNN, for example, has to go with an account by "an eyewitness" of the beating of a man by security forces after he tried to protect a 14-year-old girl.

Twitter is still the best channel for news, but this is fragmented and hard to verify. Indications are that some of the most serious clashes are occurring at universities in Tehran and other cities. There are rumours of numerous casualties at hospitals and of arrests of senior politicians such as former President Mohammad Khatami.

Iran: Scott Lucas on BBC World Service

BBC WORLD SERVICEI appeared on the BBC World Service's World Update this morning to discuss the reaction of the US Government to events in Iran (see separate blog for the background story on how Twitter shaped the item). The interview followed a related discussion with Ali Ansari on the internal dimensions, hours before the rally in Tehran and just after the Supreme Leader's call for an enquiry into alleged electoral fraud.

My interview starts at the 31:00 mark.