Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Ibrahim Yazdi (4)


Iran: For Those Still Detained (A Daily Show Tribute)

The Latest from Iran Crisis (29 June): The Challenge Survives

NEW Iran: Identifying the Killed and Detained

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In case you missed it, over the last two weeks, The Daily Show broadcast a series of extraordinary "reports" from Jason Jones in Iran. Although Jones visited the country before the election crisis, his stay in Iran --- in particular, his interviews with Iranians --- were a wonderful mix of interchange, humour, and insight. And, as the current conflict escalated, the reports took on a special meaning and poignancy. In the segment below, Jones interviews three people --- former Vice Presidents Ibrahim Yazdi and Mohammad Ali Abtahi and journalist Maziar Bahari --- who have all been detained by the Iranian authorities.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones: Behind the Veil - Persians of Interest

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Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


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

The Latest from Iran (19 June): The Known and the Unknown

Iran: EA’s Chris Emery in The Guardian – “Khamenei’s Supreme Dilemma”
Iran: What’s Happening? Sifting Information from Rumours on Twitter
LATEST Video: The Protests in and Beyond Tehran
Iran after the Elections: Confession, Accusation and Warning from Israel
The Latest from Iran (17 June): Uncovering the News on Attacks, Protests, and the Supreme Leader

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IRAN DEMOS 41805 GMT: I'm off to see Billy Bragg in concert, hoping he will do a version of "Waiting for the Great (Green) Leap Forward". Mike Dunn and Ali Yenidunya are keeping an eye out for any big developments.

1715 GMT: The rally, estimated by BBC as "100,000" people, has taken place peacefully in Tehran, with Mir Hossein Mousavi addressing the crowd.

I have just finished an interview with BBC World. It was clear, from preparation as well as the actual discussion, that BBC --- with their correspondent in Tehran effectively under "lockdown" --- is increasingly relying on "talking heads" with connections to Iran to provide information on detentions and political manoeuvres. (Sub-text: EA readers, please keep sending any information/feedback you might have.)

1520 GMT: Revelation or political stunt? Iranian state-run media reporting that authorities "thwarted a terrorist plot to plant bombs in mosques and other crowded areas in Tehran on election day".

1425 GMT: The health of Ibrahim Yazdi, who was detained yesterday in a hospital in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison, is reported as critical. Apparently, Yazdi has been returned to hospital and his family called to immediately go there.

1335 GMT: Intriguing coverage of the opposition rallies on Press TV's English-language website. The lead is a statement by a Mousavi advisor that those causing violence are "not supporters of, or linked to Mousavi or his camp." The report puts a question mark over the official results ("According to the Interior Ministry [Mousavi] has lost to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even in the East-Azerbaijan province where he hails from") and notes "mass rallies by hundreds of thousands of Mousavi's supporters".

No news on the site yet of today's protest.

1330 GMT: Further to Chris Emery's excellent analysis of the political battle at the highest levels of the Iranian Government, this quote from an article in the Los Angeles Times: "'It's very civilized, like a game of chess,' said one figure in Rafsanjani's inner circle. 'But our game is with Khamenei. Ahmadinejad is just a pawn.'"

1150 GMT: Spinning the Arrests: Press TV is quoting the Intelligence Ministry that it has arrested a number of "main agents" behind post-election violence.

Reports that Sharif, Tehran, Polytechnic, Shiraz, and Tabriz Universities are closed with Sharif University examinations delayed to September.

1145 GMT: Cyber-Politics: the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi has become a hot location for dissemination of information and a rallying of political views and comment.

1130 GMT: Spokesman for Guardian Council says that they will meet three Presidential candidates --- Mousavi, Rezaei, and Karroubi --- on Saturday: "This will enable them to raise issues and points they wish to discuss with the members of the council, and also provide a direct contact with the candidates."

1100 GMT: The main opposition rally will take place at 4 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) in Imam Khomeini Square in Tehran. Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi will be present.

Ibrahim Yazdi, leader of the Freedom for Iran movement, has been arrested in hospital. (Yazdi was to have been arrested on Tuesday, but security forces found that he was not at home.)

Reports from inside Iran indicate the scale of the crackdown on dissent, both with criticism of the opposition candidates and their supports and with a focus on Western interference via media and the Internet.

There is a claim on Twitter that the Mayor of Tehran, in a secret report to Parliament, estimated the size of Monday's rally at close to 3 million.

0800 GMT: Juan Cole has posted two US Government Open Source translations of the Iranian media: a state-run Isfahan TV report on the violence of "a group of adventurists" and the comments of the police chief of Fars Province: ""From today police will give no leeway to opportunist elements trying to provoke disorders during these demonstrations."

0630 GMT: A poster at "Anonymous Iran" is offering a summary of stories from Twitter: "There is NOTHING included here that is not from a reliable tweet." While caution is needed with this purported information, many of the points have been verified in part or in full by other sources, including the threat to protestors from "plainsclothesmen" and the location of demonstrations across Iran. We'll post the full summary in a separate post in the next hour.

Morning Update (0600 GMT): The dominant colour of the Iranian crisis changes from Green to Black this afternoon, as tens of thousands of opposition marchers are expected in Tehran. Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for demonstrators to produce "a sea of black", wearing dark clothing in mourning for those killed in Monday's rally and other incidents across Iran.

Elsewhere, the political colour is a very murky grey. International media continue to be cut off from events. Perhaps more significantly, state-run Press TV has now pulled back not only from any references to opposition marches but also to criticism of the Government, such as the Parliament-led call for an enquiry into the security forces' raids on university dormitories. Instead, Iran's media are concentrating on attacks on Western "interference".

So what might be happening? There is no news from the Guardian Council's supposed recount of the vote. Instead, Government authorities are focusing on the role of the Supreme Leader in uniting the country. Ayatollah Khameini's leading of Friday prayers is now a key event in this effort, with offers to transport people from around the country to Tehran. In contrast, nothing has been heard from President Ahmadinejad.

On the other side, Mousavi's call for a re-run of the election is likely to be joined by Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei (the other candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, is already appearing in opposition rallies). However, the most significant manoeuvres may still be those of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and his effort to set key bodies like the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council alongside the challenge to Ahmadinejad and, at least implicitly, to the Supreme Leader. The New York Times, which has benefited from the news blackout as it offers analysis rather than spot coverage, has a useful article this morning on the important role of clerics in developments.

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's Election: Latest News

NEW: Video of Protests in Tehran and Protests in Shiraz and Mashhad

Related Post: Iran's Election - Ten Indications That The Results Were Altered
Related Post: Iran’s Elections - Surprise and Uncertainty
Related Post: Iran’s Election - “Ahmadinejad Victory!”

2230 GMT: We're signing off until the morning. Thanks to everyone who sent us information today. To friends in Iran: our thoughts are with you.

2200 GMT: We have now posted the English translation of the letter released by Mir Hossein Mousavi to his supporters this afternoon.l

2145 GMT: In addition to the video of this afternoon's protests in Tehran, which we posted in this entry, we now have posted footage that the riots have spread this evening to the university in Shiraz and to the city of Mashhad..

2000 GMT: Juan Cole has posted a thoughtful analysis, "Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen", with re-construction of how the process might have unfolded. We have posted it in a separate entry.

1930 GMT: Mobile phone service was cut almost two hours ago. Many Iranians are now relying on the Internet for information, but there are concerns that this might be disrupted tomorrow. BBC Persian has now been blocked.

Some streets are still  crowded with demonstrators  shouting for Mousavi.

1740 GMT: President Ahmadinejad now addressing the nation. CNN has live feed. At times, CNN International television is going split-screen, putting Press TV's pictures Ahmadinejad address side-by-side with footage of demonstrations.

1735 GMT: A pro-Mousavi Twitter user suggests a way to access Facebook from Iran.

1715 GMT: An (unverified) story that we heard two hours ago is now circulating widely: Ministry of Interior officials called the Mousavi campaign to inform them of their candidate's victory. Mousavi was to write a victory speech, and a celebration was to be held Sunday (which, indeed, is what the Ahmadinejad campaign is now planning).

Shortly afterwards, however, the "information" was withdrawn without explanation.

1710 GMT: The correspondent for the American television network ABC reports that security forces have confiscated his crew's camera and videotapes. They are now shooting footage on cellphones.

1700 GMT: Facebook is blocked and SMS/texting systems are still out of service. Clashes continue between demonstrators and security forces around the Ministry of the Interior.

A correspondent notes that while the Supreme Leader has moved with unprecedented haste to endorse the election outcome (under Iranian law, the process is supposed to take at least three days), Iran's Guardian Council has not ratified the results nor has the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, congratulated Ahmadinejad.

There are reports that Mousavi, Karroubi, and former President Mohammad Khatami are gathering at the house of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

UPDATE 1640 GMT:A notable split is emerging in Western coverage between those who are ready to call the election rigged, such as Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation publishing the opinion of former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yazdi on an Ahmadinejad "coup d'etat", and those who claim that Ahmadinejad's landslide should have been foreseen, such as Abbas Barzegar in The Guardian.

Mehdi Karrubi's campaign manager is providing updates via Twitter.

UPDATE: 1530 GMT: The Flickr stream of Mir Hossein Mousavi is carrying a number of photos of violent clashes between police and demonstrators in Tehran.

UPDATE: 1500 GMT: Government websites put Ahmadinejad's vote at 22 million and Mousavi's at 11 million.

Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have said that this is "the beginning of events" and they will stand up "to the end". Attention now turns to the statement of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

There are reports of closing of streets near the Interior Ministry and detentions by military forces. Some people working in Tehran are afraid to return to their homes.

Press TV English, which had provided relatively open coverage of the election, is saying nothing about today's tension over the outcome.

There are reports of clashes around the Ministry of Interior between demonstrators, police, security forces, and Basiji (unofficial security units).

Military forces around the Interior Ministry Military forces gather around the Ministry of the Interior

UPDATE: 0830 GMT: To limit the possibility of demonstrations, universities are closed. There are military forces scattered throughout Tehran. Some websites, including the BBC English-language site, have been blocked.

The official overseeing elections will shortly be speaking. More importantly, Mir Hossein Mousavi will be making a statement in the next few hours.

Pro-Mousavi correspondents from Tehran write of "a state of shock" at the outcome. One says simply, "Iran is mourning today."

UPDATE: 02.00 GMT: BBC reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has so far 66 percent of the vote. Officials say that almost 70 percent of votes has been counted.

18:00 GMT Iranian election officials are calling the voter turnout "unprecedented", with queues of up to three hours. Polling stations were kept open an extra three hours.

In Washington President Obama said that the choice of President was "up to the Iranian people" but added that he hoped for "possibilities of change". In a far from coded reference, he said that he hoped the Iranian outcome would follow the example set by Lebanon on Monday.

5pm GMT: Voting has been extended by three hours (to 9pm local time) due to the heavy turnout, according to the BBC.

1pm  GMT: Turnout is very heavy throughout the country. An EA correspondent reports from north Tehran that there is an intensity and excitement in the public mood. Other correspondents report high expectations and hopes that there will be no "disruptions" in the count.

Government authorities are trying to damp down speculation of any altering of the result. The Intelligence Minister says that there have been no reports of electoral breaches while the head of the Parties' Desk declared that any reported misconduct would be dealt with swiftly. Amidst reports of 10 million phone texts being sent in recent days, the Telecommunications Ministry says it is investigating reports of disruption to SMS service.

Senior politicians and clerics are calling both for high turnout and fair conduct to hold up Iran as an example to the world. Candidate Mehdi Karroubi has called for tonight's decision to have the "respect of the nation".