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Entries in Chris Emery (8)


Iran: Is 2009 an Update of 1979? A Debate in Three Parts

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

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KHAMENEI4SHAH OF IRANYesterday, an analyst from BBC Persian Television, speaking on BBC News 24 on Monday, predicted the protests are going to wither and die because of the government’s crackdown and heavy security across Tehran. He also criticised comparisons with 1979. I asked two Enduring America contributors, Steve Hewitt and Chris Emery, "Is he right?"

Is the 1979 Analogy Relevant?

STEVE HEWITT: I agree. Iranian society then was united against the Shah with a strong rallying figure in the form of Khomeini, whereas today it is just very polarized.

CHRIS EMERY: I agree that analytically there is little point in making analogies with 1978-9. Khomeini did not just have a cause or a sense of injustice, as Mousavi has today, he also had a constitutional template for a radical overhaul of Iran's political system and foreign relations developed over years. He also had a far-reaching network for achieving his goals; Mousavi, on the other hand, is improvising.

However, a key point is that the analogy is acting and active INSIDE Iran.

It is also influencing, I think, the State's response to the crisis. The authorities are afraid of the analogy and trying to not repeat the Shah's mistakes (but i think failing). The analogy is not just about wishful thinking by Westerners hoping for an overthrow of the system. Its imagery and psychology is omnipresent on the streets of Iranian cities (with kids who cannot remember it still indoctrinated by the imagery and sense of what the youth achieved in 1979). For example, I think that if there is a general strike, many will feel this evocative of 1978 and this sense of historical momentum will be as significant as any economic disruption.

The analogy maybe be false, but that doesn't mean it is insignificant. The Vietnam analogy in Iraq was false but was an undeniably important cultural and historical lens in which many Americans viewed the imagery and reporting of events there. It mobilised opposition. My Lai = Abu Ghraib, Tet = Falluja, language such as "quagmire" and "stay the course"....

Is the Current Regime Vulnerable?
HEWITT: Interesting points, especially in terms of the government’s response. But how can you measure the forces that you describe? And what about the millions who support the government and [President] Ahmadinejad? Where do they fit in the equation?

EMERY: You can't measure those forces (you couldn't in 1978-9). However, there are certain signposts from the past that will increase momentum to the point of critical mass. I mentioned a general strike. Another significant signpost would be if elements of the regime's security forces refuse to fire on the people and join the demonstrators, though we are miles away from that (bar a few reported isolated incidents).

I think you have hit upon the other point. The Shah, because of his own paranoia and managerial style, shrunk his power base to a very small few. He even used to meet his ministers and military leaders one at a time to discourage any unity; he was obsessed about being ousted by the military). He had deliberately weakened outside institutions and alliances. He also alienated all sections of Iranian society; even the North Tehran bourgeoisie mostly hated him. The whole system was reliant on him.

Now, the notion of an Islamic Republic is defended by the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, Revolutionary Guard, Majlis [Parliament], Presidency, Judiciary, and of course the Supreme Leader. It is defended even by Mousavi, Khatami, and Rafsanjani! There may be human rights activists and Iranian intellectuals centred on this issue, but there is not an intellectual culture proposing a complete political alternative, as in the example of Ali Shariati.

This is why we won't see a similar revolution. That's not to say, however, that the analogy won't be acting upon a movement that may radically shake up the political establishment but not bring down the Islamic Republic.

Myths and Chinese Models?
HEWITT: And what about the regime deploying powerful myths of its own, such as US and British interference in Iranian affairs? I think in the long run the regime is finished having destroyed its credibility by stealing the election, but in the short term the protests will fail just as they did, using another historical analogy, 20 years ago in Beijing.

EMERY: I think that's a reasonable assumption. However, the question is how the regime modifies its style. Some have suggested that the authorities have the Chinese model in mind. They are going to normalise relations with the West, invest in technologies such as nuclear power, end sanctions, and aim to make Iran as prosperous as possible. They reason that the problem is simply a lack of economic opportunities for the young. They hope to distract the youth with materialism whilst creating a wider base of vested interests not wishing to challenge the regime in the future.

The Latest from Iran (20 June): From Rally to Street Fighting

NEW Video and Transcipt: The Moment of Truth?  Mousavi's Speech at Saturday’s Protests
NEW Iran: EA’s Chris Emery in The Guardian on Khamenei and Mousavi
Iran: An Iranian Live-Blogs the Supreme Leader’s Speech
Twittering Iran: What the “New Media” Means for Politics, Protest, and Democracy
The Latest from Iran (19 June): Speeches and Rallies

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IRAN DEMOS 82350 GMT: An Iranian activist claims, based on this posting in Farsi, that the Assembly of Experts' letter backing the Supreme Leader was issued a day before his Friday address. That would be more evidence of a systematic effort to rally the clerics behind Ayatollah Khamenei, rebuffing Hashemi Rafsanjani.

2152 GMT: CNN, based on Iranian hospital sources, is reporting at least 19 people died in today's violence. The unconfirmed death toll is as high as 150.

2150 GMT: More from the activist who was at today's marches (see 2110 GMT): "All routes to Azady square were blocked & if anyone stopped walking or walking slow [security forces] hit him/her brutally. There was no safe path, people were walking in cycles between all variety of security forces. I think they made fun of people, don't go here, go this way, not that way & for no apparent reason suddenly attacking random people. We tried our best using all known shortcuts for reaching Azady SQ where Mousavi was, but ended up in face to face with IRG [Republican Guard]. They weren't just the ordinary police or motorcycle riot guard, they were soldiers holding MP5 supported by reinforced military cars. We didn't realize for a moment they started shooting at people, the gun's sound was like a toy gun, not loud & the soliders were smiling. I was going to tell Masood they are using fake guns for scaring people! until people started screaming in agony. We ran as fast as we could in the opposite direction, at the same time Basiji bastards started to hit fleeing people. I think I saw 2 or 3 people lying on the ground in blood & IRG started to move them, probably hide them."

2140 GMT: We've posted the English translation of this afternoon's speech by Mir Hossein Mousavi.

2110 GMT: One of the most prominent activists on Twitter has returned from today's marches with this report, "It was a nightmare, I can barely breath & my face is burning, Masood got shot in the arm & Shayan's brother is missing. I don't know where to start with, first they attack our peaecful memorial gathering in front of the university with water gun.The university's doors were closed, we couldn't run everywhere! & then they start shooting tear gas at us. they were so many! riot police, normal police, intel, IRG [Republican Guard], Basij! I managed to scape, but they captured so many people."

2105 GMT: An Iranian activist asks on Twitter, "Why are Rafsanjani and Khatami so silent?" Indeed, apart from Ayatollah Montazeri with his general letter this morning, has any "establishment" figure come out alongside Mousavi with the demonstrators today?

2055 GMT: Twitter sources say that this Mehr News page (in Farsi) summarises the support of the Assembly of Experts for the Supreme Leader's Friday statement. This in turn indicates that the initial attempt of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to mobilise the Assembly against the election outcome has fizzled out.

2050 GMT: Latest reported arrest is of Mohsen Mirdamadi, the head of the pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front.

2005 GMT: Reported arrests throughout the day in Iran, including editors, Mousavi campaign workers, and journalists. The latest reported detainee is Jila Bani Yaghoub, journalist and women's rights activist.

1915 GMT: A few hours ago, we posted a video of a woman "badly injured" by a gunshot in today's demonstrations. The footage is so graphic that we have moved to the "jump page" after the More... tag.

I have just read more information on The New York Times blog about the incident. The woman was a bystander watching events; according to a doctor who witnessed the event, a paramilitary Basiji deliberately fired at her chest. She died within moments of the shooting.

1905 GMT: Tehran Bureau reports, "Hospital close to the scene in Tehran: 30-40 dead thus far as of 11pm and 200 injured. Police taking names of incoming injured."

1900 GMT: Press TV continuing to lead with "police usedbatons, water cannons, and tear gas on protesters", over images of a burning bus in the centre of a Tehran boulevard. It adds, "Reports say clashes are continuing" and "several people have been injured".

Press TV continues to declare " a terrorist attack" at Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum although casualty figures have been revised downward to the dead assailant and three injured. No supporting footage is provided.

1835 GMT: President Obama has just released this statement on Iran:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

1810 GMT: Tehran Bureau reports, "WHOLE city is shaking with very loud screams from rooftops. Their loud voices calling only for God is filled with fear, hatred, and hope." Lara Satrakian of ABC News: ""People are very angry…they are screaming like a banshee…this ain't aloha [sic] akbar anymore."

"Explosive" shouting also reported in Mashaad.

1755 GMT: Reports of loud shouts of "God is Great" from Tehran rooftops.

Reports of clashes with paramilitary Basiji at Haft Hooz Square. Further claims that demonstrators set fire to a mosque in Tehran and also set alight a bus and several motorcycles.

1745 GMT: The UK's Sky News is currently showing footage of protesters in Tehran seemingly being kicked and beaten. They are streaming a small amount of footage on their frontpage. You may also be able to see the footage by clicking 'Video News Headlines' or 'Watch Sky News Live' in the right-hand bar of their main story.

1725 GMT: The English translation of a  letter purportedly from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, the designated successor Ayatollah Khomeini before falling out of favour in 1998, has been posted: "A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress critical views. I fear that this will lead to the loss of people’s faith in Islam."

1720 GMT: Reports that IRIB 1 [Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting] now broadcasting "confessions" from detained protesters.

Also reports that people are blocking streets in east Tehran and setting fires.

1650 GMT: Claims now of fighting in Tehran, Shiraz, Rasht, Tabriz, Ahwaz, and Isfahan.

1645 GMT: We've posted a video which purports to be of Mir Hossein Mousavi addressing a rally in Jeyhoon Street in Tehran this afternoon. If verified, this could be footage of a key point in the development of this crisis.

1600 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page has been updated three times in Farsi in the last hour. We're seeking a translation.

1543 GMT: Claims that, in his speech, Mousavi declared the Presidential election "null and void". Claims also that he cast shame upon the Government and declared that he is ready for martyrdom.

1540 GMT: Eyewitness reports, via The New York Times blog, confirm fighting in Shiraz.

1530 GMT: Reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi is now addressing a crowd in Jeyhoon Street, beginning his speech, "We all go back to God."

1525 GMT: Reports of heavy fighting in Khosh St. and claims of shot protester as security forces dispersed people in Khargar Street. Claims that many people are trapped in Azadi Square.

Also reports of fighting in a 2nd city, Shiraz.

1520 GMT: CNN, whose reporters in Tehran are not allow to broadcast without permission of Iranian officials, are going to great lengths to cast scepticism on Press TV's report of the bombing at Ayatollah Khomeini's mosque. At the same time, to offer some coverage, they are playing portions of Press TV English's broadcast.

1505 GMT: Tehran Bureau reports clashes across Tehran, including Vali-e Asr Street, and gunfire and sirens around Tohid Square. It also reports protesters gathering at Vanak Square in north Tehran. There are unverified reports of one demonstrator killed at the crossing of Vali-e Asr Street and Enqelhab Square, and 20 injured protesters transferred to Loghman Hospital in 30 minutes.

There are reports that Mousavi supporters set fire to an Ahmadinejad headquarters.

Tehran Bureau: "The city is boiling over. It's a mess."

1500 GMT: Press TV's hourly lead: "Police have used batons and water cannons to disperse protestors in central Tehran who gathered to hold an illegal rally. Reports say sporadic clashes are continuing....Two helicopters have been seen hovering over the area....Police say a week of protests in the capital have injured 400 forces and done a great deal of damage to public property."

In what is likely to be a significant line, Press TV also emphasized that the Assembly of Combatant Clerics (associated with former President Khatami) had called off the rally after the Ministry of Interior refused a permit. And the station is repeating the morning statement of police commanders that Mir Hossein Mousavi will be responsible for any violence.

Press TV says three people, including the bomber, and eight were injured in the "terrorist" attack on Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in southern Tehran.

1450 GMT: We've posted latest video of the clashes in Azadi Square and off Engelab Square, including BBC footage of shooting, fires, and clashes.

1430 GMT: We're back with the following. The bombing at Ayatollah Khomeini's shrine was reportedly caused by a suicide bomber.

Eyewitnesses reported about 20,000 riot police surround Enqelab Square, armed with rifles, water cannon, and tear gas. Dozens of people were reportedly beaten to force them to leave the square, with security forces reportedly beating passing motorcyclists and even those just passing by. Some demonstrators took refuge in Tehran University.

1325 GMT: We're off to check out some reports. Back just after 1400 GMT.

1317 GMT: Press TV reporting two blasts at Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum, with two hurt (Fars News says one dead). Reports that police have closed off Tehran University.

1310 GMT: Twitter report: "In Khosh Street police is attacking people with batons & pepper spray trying to disperse people, shots can be heard around Azadi [Square]."

1300 GMT: Reports of security forces trying to prevent people assembling, chasing them into alleys and allegedly using batons. Demonstrators reportedly trapped between Behboodi and Enqelab Squares.

Reports of gunshots being fired into the air, possibly as warnings. Also reports of tear gas and water cannon being used.

1240 GMT: First pictures coming through from today's march: riot police around square (left).

1230 GMT: Associated Press reports entrance to Revolution (Enqelab) Square blocked by fire engines, with riot police surrounding Tehran University.

1213 GMT: Classic state-run double-speak on Press TV's website. It is still not mentioning today's march. Instead, its story is of the National Security Council warning Mir Hossein Mousavi "against 'the consequences' of backing street rallies". The picture? A very large rally.

1203 GMT: Unconfirmed report "from usually reliable source" to The Guardian of London that Mousavi walking with 10,000 supporters from his party office.

1200 GMT: Witness reports (albeit from before 1130 GMT) that riot police cutting off access to gathering point for march.

1150 GMT: First reports of clashes, with beating of demonstrators near Azadi Square.

1133 GMT: First reports of the march: large numbers gathering, no action by police. Cellphones in area reportedly disconnected.

1107 GMT: Al Jazeera English and Twitter sources report heavy presence of riot police on both sides of Enqelab Square.

1103 GMT: It's On! This message was posted 20 minutes ago on the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi: "The CRUCIAL Demonstration on Saturday 16:00 in Tehran and all around the world, please spread this message around."

1100 GMT: From one of the most useful Iranian sources on Twitter: "To Western Media: Stop sharing false information given to you by Iranian state television. The demonstration will GO ON. It is NOT canceled."

1045 GMT: As we wait for developments, some interesting thoughts from Gary Sick, one of the foremost US experts on Iran, on the Supreme Leader's address, Mousavi's position, and President Obama's strategy on his blog.

1030 GMT: One hour to the scheduled start of the march. Still awaiting statement by Mir Hossein Moussavi. Reuters reports the statement of Mehdi Karroubi's Etemad-e Melli party, "Because permission was not obtained, the rally today has been cancelled."

1000 GMT: Press TV English interviews Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University (and a past contributor to Enduring America) about "reports here and there of protests today in Tehran": "Wouldn't this be some kind of defiance of the Supreme Leader's call for calm and peace?"

Marandi replies about "one of the things important things the Leader said yesterday and what most people believe": "It's very hard to imagine vote-rigging where 11 million votes have been manipulated....It's virtually impossible to do that." He criticises Mousavi and Karroubi for their absence from this morning's Guardian Council meeting. "All sides should calm down a bit....Shopowners and ordinary people on the streets want calm. Demonstrations on the part of any candidate...[are] irresponsible."

0930 GMT: Al Jazeera reports that Guardian Council, after its meeting with campaigns this morning, says it will conduct a random recount of "up to 10 percent" of ballot boxes from last Friday.

0907 GMT: Events moving fast. Questions now as pro-Mousavi website (text in Farsi) has announces the withdrawal of support from the Assocation of Combatant Clerics for the rally.

(It should be noted that withdrawals of support also happened on Monday, but in end Mousavi --- who had supposedly backed away from the protest --- appeared at gathering of hundreds of thousands.)

0903 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports from Iran state media that main reformist cleric body, the Association of Combatant Clerics, which includes former President Khatami, say they do not sanction this afternoon's rally.

News agencies are reporting an "important" statement from Mir Hossein Mousavi soon. Al Jazeera also passes on reports that Parliamentary committees are meeting with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to ask him to take a "greater role" in resolving the crisis.

0900 GMT: A clue to the day? Press TV English reports that Mohsen Rezaie attended this morning's meeting with the Guardian Council but Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi did not appear.

0850 GMT: Juan Cole has posted his analysis of the Supreme Leader's Friday address: "The real question is whether this is 1963, when the shah managed to put down a rebellion led by Ruhollah Khomeini, or whether it is 1978-79, when he failed to do so. The answer lies in the depth of support for the protests among the population, and in the stance of the various armed forces toward the latter."

0830 GMT: Reuters, via Iran's Fars News Agency, quotes an Iranian police commander that his forces will deal firmly with "illegal" rallies "beginning today".

0800 GMT: An aide to Mehdi Karroubi has told Agence France Presse that the rally will go ahead.

0705 GMT: There is an intriguing story on Press TV's English website, indicating both that the "inaccuracies" in last Friday's vote may be far greater than the outside figure of "1 million" in "mistakes" cited by the Supreme Leader yesterday and that challenges to the system are coming from candidates across the board, not just Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Presidential challenger Mohsen Rezaei is claiming that he received 3.5 to 7 million votes in last Friday's elections (official returns gave him less than 700,000). A spokesman of the Guardian Council "cautioned" Rezaei against "agitating public opinion".

0700 GMT: Press TV English is making no reference to today's march. Instead, it is still focusing on the Supreme Leader's address from almost 24 hours ago and saying that the National Security Council is "holding Mousavi responsible" for any violence from "unauthorised protest rallies".

The NSC also said that "a network" of agitators responsible to "foreign powers" has been carrying out violence.

0655 GMT: Meanwhile, we are waiting to hear the outcome of a meeting that could have a significant influence on developments. The Guardian Council is seeing representatives of all four Presidential campaigns about the 646 official complaints over the election. On Tuesday, when the Council agreed to hold at least a partial recount, it said the process would take 7 to 10 days.

Morning Update 0630 GMT (1100 Tehran): Five hours before the scheduled start of today's major rally, in Enqelab Square in Tehran, and there are still conflicting stories as to whether it will go ahead. Reuters is still quoting "an ally" of Mousavi who spoke to them yesterday, "Mousavi has no plans to hold a rally tomorrow (Saturday) or the day after tomorrow."

However, Twitter sources inside Iran who have proven reliable continue to publicise the march, quoting former President Mohammad Khatami. Khatami's Facebook page continues to carry the announcement, posted last night, that the demonstration will take place, with Khatami and Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in attendance.

My guess, following the excellent analysis of Chris Emery yesterday, is that the march proceeds.

Iran: EA's Chris Emery in The Guardian on Khamenei and Mousavi

The Latest from Iran (20 June): Will The Rally Go Ahead?
Iran: The 7 Lessons of the Supreme Leader’s Address

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MOUSSAVIChris Emery has published in The Guardian Online an updated version of his article, "7 Lessons", on the significance and possible outcomes of the Supreme Leader's address on Friday. He filed this last night, well before the dramatic events of today, but his projections --- especially as Mir Hossein Mousavi has just reportedly addressed his supporters despite State threats and violence --- are even more significant:

Khamenei puts the ball in Mousavi's court

Even for a seasoned political animal like Iran's Supreme Leader, speaking at Friday prayers posed a severe challenge. Ayatollah Khamenei, recognising that he was unable to offer the disgruntled parties any significant concessions, reasoned that the wisest move was to increase the pressure on the political opposition centred on presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi now faces an agonising decision: does he withdraw his backing for further demonstrations or risk being held directly responsible for any future bloodshed? Khamenei's speech thus primarily aimed to split Mousavi, and to a lesser extent fellow candidate Mehdi Karroubi, from their supporters.

As I write, in the wake of Khamenei's speech, reports suggest that Mousavi will defy an Interior Ministry ban and cross the Rubicon to attend tomorrow's demonstrations in Tehran's Enqelab Square. With Khamenei having drawn a line under the election result, explicitly warning Mousavi's supporters that they cannot influence his decision making, this could yet be the greatest challenge the Islamic Republic has ever seen.

In truth, Mousavi faces few viable alternatives apart from remaining a figurehead for the opposition. Whether or not he attends tomorrow's planned demonstration, it appears certain that his supporters will turn out again in huge numbers. Denied Mousavi's political backing, these masses would be isolated and more easily attacked as extremist rioters. Mousavi is thus in the unenviable position of being responsible for his supporter's political cover, while at the same time being held accountable for any potential violence perpetrated by either side. Faced with this dilemma, Mousavi will probably attend but urge extreme restraint.

It is possible, but probably unlikely, that Mousavi will be offered something he can take to his people by the Guardian Council, which is meeting with all four presidential tomorrow. There seems little, however, this arch conservative body can now offer Mousavi in terms of concessions. Even if Mousavi is persuaded, or simply threatened, to end his challenge this would not prevent tomorrow's demonstration.

Ominously, Khamenei used his speech to defend the feared state paramilitaries, the Basij, and criticised attacks on them by the public. There are unconfirmed reports that Basij and Revolutionary Guard forces are now grouping in large numbers on the streets of Tehran. The state's irregular enforcers will potentially view the Supreme Leader's moratorium on dissent as license to commit acts of violence in the knowledge that Khamenei has implicitly set Mousavi up to take the blame.

The Supreme Leader also came to Friday prayers apparently to mostly praise former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, not to bury his rival. This, again, was a calculated political manoeuvre. Following these conciliatory gestures, together with the Supreme Leader's strong backing of Ahmadinejad, any continued moves by Rafsanjani will appear increasingly brazen and disloyal. The Supreme Leader will also be buoyed by reports that Rafsanjani's efforts to rally opposition against the president among senior clerics have met a lukewarm response.

Khamenei was thus speaking to the presidential candidates, the people in the streets and influential power bases in Iran's political establishment. Predictably, the Supreme Leader also played the nationalist card. He called the election a "political defeat" for Iran's "enemies" and evoked Iran's titanic war with Iran, the ubiquitous "Zionist" threat and the continued intrusion on Iran's national sovereignty by the United States and Britain. The speech also went beyond criticism of these alleged intrusions. Khamenei put events in Iran in a wider geo-political context; highlighting the current turmoil in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The message to Iran's international audience was clear: continuing instability in Iran is not in your strategic interests. The Supreme Leader equally sought to remind Mousavi of the danger of Iran descending into the chaos seen in its regional neighbours, where US military intervention has followed.

Overall therefore, the Supreme Leader's defiant rejection of any wrongdoing in these elections has put the ball firmly in Mousavi's court. His political future, and even personal freedom, may now depend on the conduct of tomorrow's demonstration and how the authorities respond.

Iran: EA's Chris Emery in The Guardian - "Khamenei's Supreme Dilemma"

The Latest from Iran (18 June): From Green to “A Sea of Black”

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AMANEIChris Emery, who has been at the cutting edge of analysis with his pieces for Enduring America, is in The Guardian today with an analysis of the latest political manoeuvring in the Iranian crisis:

Khamenei's Supreme Dilemma

As the Islamic Republic continues to enter uncharted waters, the political authorities seem to have no idea how to react to an unprecedented challenge to its legitimacy. The response so far has combined political arrests, police brutality and attempts to silence objective journalism with futile appeals for calm and purely cosmetic concessions. All have thus far failed to halt or even dilute a broad opposition movement unified around Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Now, with the challenge of the opposition movement proving far greater than expected, those in power are playing for time. Having initially endorsed the President, the Supreme Leader on Monday asked the Guardian Council to consider a review of the ballot within 10 days. Twenty-four hours later, after meeting representatives from opposition candidates, the council agreed to do so.

However, the Guardian Council's offer to recount some contested ballots has now comprehensively failed in its attempt to establish some political space for the authorities. Although this apparent U-turn was initially seen as a significant concession, the Council's refusal to contemplate changing the result demonstrated that this was simply a delaying tactic. It had hoped for a de-escalation of tensions on the streets as the public waited for the results of the recount on Friday.

The Mousavi campaign immediately recognised that, at best, any revised results would simply give the president a slightly lower winning margin. Mousavi and his supporters thus dismissed a partial recount out of hand and continue to press for the full annulment of last Friday's election. There currently appears no chance of this happening. Writing off the first election as irredeemably corrupt and mismanaged is simply not an option for the Supreme Leader, who has already endorsed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory. An annulment of the election would also bring Ahmadinejad's supporters on the streets in huge numbers and potentially see as much, or even more, disruption and violence on the streets.

Rather than easing tensions, the Guardian Council's superficial efforts towards conciliation have backfired. Immediately following the announcement of a partial recount, hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters defied a ban and marched silently through the streets. If anything, the fact that such an arch conservative institution had been forced to reconsider, even for tactical reasons, persuaded the masses that their demonstrations were having a positive effect.

There are currently two battles occurring in Iran. The first is taking place on the streets of Iran's major cities between rival supporters of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. The second is occurring behind the scenes among the heavyweights of Iran's political establishment. These manoeuvrings see figures such as Hashemi Rafsanjani, a bitter rival of Ahmadinejad, rallying opposition to the president in the expediency council and among senior clerics in Qom. These power plays add an extra dimension to the current crisis that extends even as far as the future potential succession of the supreme leader.

The Supreme Leader is expected to lead Friday prayers in Tehran, where he will doubtless restate his calls for restraint. Hundreds of thousands of supporters on both sides will attend to see if Ayatollah Khamenei offers any more openings or whether he is drawing a line under the election. It appears that the Supreme Leader faces a stark decision of either further concessions or repression. In truth, neither option has much appeal to him. Khamenei could, as is his sole constitutional authority, declare martial law. To do so, however, would only demonstrate his personal, and the Islamic Republic's structural, failure.

Mousavi also faces a dilemma. He is well aware that the supreme leader perceives the mood on the streets as a potential threat to the very notion of an Islamic Republic. Mousavi, a former prime minister and acolyte of Ayatollah Khomeini, is no revolutionary. He will thus come under intense pressure from the supreme leader's office to reign in some of his supporters for the good of the republic. This is already the reason why Mousavi has asked for silent demonstrations and urged supporters to shout purely Islamic slogans. Khamenei has, however, so boxed himself in following his early endorsement of Ahmadinejad, that he has little to offer Mousavi which could appease him or his followers.

It is unlikely that public pressure, combined with the efforts of a politically powerful clique, will remove Ahmadinejad from power. This crisis is, however, as much a clash of competing cultures in Iran as it is about political transparency. It's not just about young and more affluent North Tehranis facing off against the pious anti-American poor. Tensions in education, world outlook, social ethics, consumerism and even fashion have been exposed by an ostensibly political crisis. Regardless of how events unfold in the coming weeks, the authorities will have to construct a longer-term response to these competing lifestyles and aspirations.

Iran: Four Scenarios for the Vote Recount

The Latest from Iran (17 June): Uncovering the News on Attacks, Protests, and the Supreme Leader
NEW Iran: The First Audio from “Alive in Tehran”
NEW Video: President Obama’s Statements on Iran (16 June)
LATEST Video: The Protests in and Beyond Tehran

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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.]