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Entries in Sadegh Zibakalam (2)


The Latest from Iran: Marches, Deaths, and Politics (16 June)

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

Iran: Four Scenarios for the Vote Recount
Iran: Video and Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks (15 June)
Related Post: The Latest from Iran: Demonstrations and An Appeal to the Guardian Council (15 June)

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APTOPIX Mideast Iran Elections

2220 GMT: Politically, the evening highlight appears to be the Supreme Leader's meeting with representatives of the four Presidential campaigns, calling for them to join together for "national unity". The move seems to be more of an attempt to buy some more political time while the Guardian Council tries to sort out its options --- all candidates will have been told of the necessity to keep demonstrations non-violent and non-threatening to the regime.

Elsewhere, chatter about gatherings has died down (it is, after all, 3 a.m. in Iran), so the hope is that there will be none of the violence that was feared earlier today.

Thanks to all for working with us today. We'll see you about 0530 GMT --- until then, our thoughts are with friends and colleagues in Iran.

2115 GMT: Breaking News On, citing the Wall Street Journal, says gunmen have seriously injured at least one person after opening fire on Mousavi supporters in Tehran. We're unable to find the specific information on the WSJ's site at this time. [Posted by Mike]

2100 GMT: Barack Obama has told CNBC that the outcome of events in Iran will make little difference to US policy towards Iran, and that Iranian hostility towards the US would remain:
"I think it's important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference in actual policies between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as advertised," he said. "I think it's important to understand that either way we are going to be dealing with a regime in Iran that is hostile to the US. We have long term interests in not having them with nuclear power and funding terrorism."

[Posted by Mike]

1845 GMT: I am on a break for a couple of hours. Please keep items coming in for our late evening update --- we are following stories of a possible large march tomorrow and a statement by Ayatollah Montazeri.

1825 GMT: Reuters, citing British newspaper correspondent, says loud cries of "Allah-o-Akbar" from Tehran rooftops.

Reports that former President Rafsanjani and his daughter were amongst demonstrators marching from Vanak Square today.

1755 GMT: Twitter sources say Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi was at the rally in front of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting complex and spoke to the demonstrators.

1750 GMT: Has the BBC, normally cautious about showing any political opinion in a conflict, tilted toward the Iranian oppositions? The Beeb's homepage has turned from its usual Red to Green.

1630 GMT: Press TV still focuses on pro-Ahmadinejad rally but adds, "Pro-Mousavi rallies surround the venue" (possibly a coded reference to demonstrating outside the main Iranian broadcasting complex), and says Mousavi is among the crowd.

1535 GMT: Twitter references to "tens of thousands" of opposition demonstrators in front of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting complex are complemented by witness reports to BBC of "a mass rally in northern Tehran".

1530 GMT: Press TV English's "News in Brief" highlights pro-Ahmadinejad rally noting, "This square was supposed to be the venue of a rally for Mousavi supporters but Ahmadinejad supporters decided to show up in the same location earlier."

1520 GMT: The pro-Ahmadinejad rally has proceeded peacefully while, after the cancellation of the main opposition rally earlier today, smaller demonstrations have been occurring across Tehran. There are stories of more attacks by security forces and paramilitary Basiji at universities, including Shiraz and Mashaad. The BBC has reported the story, which circulated yesterday, that 120 faculty resigned at Tehran University.

A note on the media coverage: it became painfully apparent this afternoon that Al Jazeera's correspondent was reported from the confines of his (badly set up for sound) office. When the programme's host mentioned this, the correspondent replied that he was free to move around Tehran but, in a convoluted explanation, added that he was restricting himself "for his own safety". I suspect Government monitors were either nearby or watching intently from a Ministry. Other international media have also been effectively blinded by teh restrictions on movement.

1255 GMT: I am off to appear on Al Jazeera English's "Inside Story" considering the politics and protests in Iran. The programme will air at 1730 GMT. Full updates will resume in about two hours.

1240 GMT: Almost three hours after it began, the pro-Ahmadinejad rally is finally receiving coverage, albeit from Press TV English. Camera shots show that Vali-e Asr Square is filled with demonstrators waving Iranian flags, while correspondent Homa Lezgee is estimating there are "thousands" in the square and giving a basic summary of their arguments that Ahmadinejad won a clear majority in an election in which almost 40 million votes were cast. Lezgee is vague on who might speak to the rally, although she says it is likely to last "several hours".

Lezgee says Mousavi supporters were in Vali-e Asr Square but have moved to Vanak Square and she has had no reports of clashes.

1205 GMT: BBC correspondent John Lyon in Tehran says that, after a loosening of restrictions on international media yesterday, reporters are now confined to their offices unless they have official permission for movement. He speculates that this indicates a power struggle within the Iranian system and, from his office, says that this situation "must remind Iranians of 1979".

1115 GMT: News services are reporting that the Mousavi campaign has called off this afternoon's rally because of fear of violence.

An extraordinary interview on Al Jazeera: Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, head of Iranian Studies at Tehran University, is saying the Guardian Council's decision to review the vote is "too little, too late" to satisfy public opinion: "Nothing short of declaring the election null and void will stop the protest of the people." Even more surprisingly, Zibakalam criticised the Supreme Leader's failure to heed the pre-election warnings, in a letter from former President Rafsanjani, of Government manipulation of the vote.

1105 GMT: We've just posted an outstanding analysis by Chris Emery of the possible outcomes of the Guardian Council's recount of Friday's vote.

1035 GMT: Echoing yesterday's developments, there is confusion as to whether the Mousavi campaign is withdrawing its support for a rally. Today's tension is heightened by the overlap of the 5 p.m. rally with the earlier pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration.

1030 GMT: The Guardian Council has rejected the appeal of the Mousavi campaign for a new election: ""Based on the law, the demand of those candidates for the cancellation of the vote, this cannot be considered."

0945 GMT: The Guardian of London has posted a handy spreadsheet of the "official" vote on Friday, broken down province-by-province.

0900 GMT: According to Saeed Ahmed, the Mousavi campaign has rejected the recount proposal and insisted on a new election. It believe a "recount will provide more opportunity for fraud".

0825 GMT: CNN's Saeed Ahmed reports that the Guardian Council told the Islamic Republic News Agency that it met with the three opposition candidates, "asked them to specify what areas they want recount, and agreed to do so". That would indicate a wide-range rather than narrow reconsideration of the vote.

In turn, this opens up the possibility that the Guardian Council may overturn Friday's result. That, however, raises the further question: would it go as far as to order a re-run election or even declare Mousavi the victor?

A possible way out would be for the Guardian Council to declare Ahmadinejad's "revised" figures at below 50 percent (vs. the 63-64 percent he supposedly received). That would lead to a second-round contest between the President and Mousavi. Such a "solution" would still be politically tricky: a scapegoat (for example, the pro-Ahmadinejad Minister of Interior) would have to be found for last Friday's unfortunate events. It would mean, however, that the Council would not have to make the choice between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.

It is notable that all of this is occurring while Ahmadinejad is in Moscow. Yesterday, the rumour was that he had cancelled the trip. Now the rumour is that he was encouraged to leave Iran as these political manoeuvres took place.

0813 GMT: Press TV English confirms news that Guardian Council "ready to recount disputed ballot boxes".

0810 GMT: According to CNN's International Desk, Press TV in Iran is reporting that the Guardian Council will recount votes from some of the provinces in Friday's election.

0740 GMT: Concerns about possible confrontations have been raised by the announcement that there will be a pro-Ahmadinejad rally in Vali-e Asr Square at 3 p.m. local time today. Demonstrators protesting the election gather in the same location two hours later.

Press TV, reporting on both planned rallies, is emphasising Mir Hossein Mousavi's call on his supporters "to keep act peacefully and to avoid falling into the trap of street violence". Mousavi's headquarters says he is not attending the 5 p.m. rally.

0645 GMT: The office of leading politician Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an ally of Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, says that he has been arrested.

Morning Update 0530 GMT: State-run Press TV is reporting that seven people were killed in the "illegal rally" at Azadi Square in Tehran yesterday. There was no direct reference to the probable source of the gunfire, members of the paramilitary Basiji militia.

Instead, Press TV's initial reference, "As protesters were beginning to disperse at sundown unidentified gunmen fired shots into the crowd," has been replaced by this morning's assertion of an "attack on a military post" by demonstrators "reportedly trying to loot weapons and vandalise public and Government property". At the same time, Press TV continues to emphasize that this "was a peaceful rally up until [that] moment."

The media line, while less enthusiastic than the coverage of yesterday afternoon's rally (see 15 June updates), indicates that the Iranian Government, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is trying to maintain some room for compromise with opposition.

That impression is supported by events on the political front. the optimism of yesterday afternoon has been replaced by a downbeat caution amongst opposition leaders. Mir Hossein Mousavi, writing his followers last night about his appeal to the Guardian Council over vote fraud, said, ""I don't have any hope in them."

However, in a sign that compromise might be sought, the Guardian Council are now calling the electoral outcome “provisional” and are meeting with all three opposition candidates today. The meetings occur as President Ahmadinejad is out of the country, having left for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia last night. Ahmadinejad, in a statement to the press as he departed, made no reference to yesterday's marches.

Other international media such as CNN, restricted in their movements, are following Press TV on the report of casualties.

In Washington, President Obama was asked about Iran during his press conference with Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. He replied,"[I am] deeply troubled by the violence I've been seeing on television....I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected."

At the same time, Obama emphasized that his Administration would not intervene to influence the internal developments: ""We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran."

Latest Updates from Iran: Protests and Rumours (14 June)

NEW The Latest from Iran: Demonstrations and An Appeal to the Guardian Council (15 June)

NEW Video of Protests in and beyond Tehran and Protests in Shiraz and Mashhad
Related Post: Iran and the US - EA’s Chris Emery in The Guardian and Chris Emery on BBC News 24
Related Post: Mousavi Letter to His Supporters (24 June)
Related Post: Iran’s Election - Latest News (13 June)
Related Post: Iran's Election - Ten Indications That The Results Were Altered


We are signing off for the night. Thanks to all who kept up with us today and our thoughts with friends and colleagues in Tehran. We'll be back about 0530 GMT.

2230 GMT: Reports indicate that, although it is 3 a.m. in Iran, people are still milling about and shouting on the streets.

2100 GMT: Claims are coming in that tanks are on the streets of Tehran.

2045 GMT: We're sifting through reports of killings and of political developments; the latest is that Mir Hossein Mousavi will not be allowed to speak at the Tehran rally tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, we have posted latest video from protests yesterday and today.

1920 GMT: Protestors claim to have taken down Ahmadinejad's website by "swarming" it. They are now targeting Ayatollah Khamenei's website.

1845 GMT: Reports of four people killed in demonstrations in Rasht. There are claims of additional minibuses arriving with extra security forces and police.

The rally organised by Mousavi headquarters will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Tehran time (1130 to 1330 GMT) on Monday, marching from Enqelab Square to Azadi (Freedom) Square. Mousavi will address the crowd.

1730 GMT: Numerous reports of clashes at universities across Iran, with students beaten and detained. Universities include Tehran, Sharif, and Guilan in Rasht. Final examinations have been postponed at a number of universities.

According to Tehran Bureau, Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has confirmed plans for a rally on Monday and a national strike on Tuesday. She made the announcement in a talk to University students in Tehran.

1425 GMT: Although the importance of the public response to the election outcome should not be underestimated, it appears that events may now turn on a power struggle at the highest levels of the Iranian system.

In this reading of developments, it is not just an issue of President Ahmadinejad trying to retain his office but of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, preferring to work with a "new generation" of politicians rather than an older group associated with the years after the Islamic Revolution (examples include Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi).

This strategy is now being resisted not only by Mousavi, who has a history of differences with the Supreme Leader from his days as Prime Minister in the 1980s, but also by former President Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 election, was the target of the current President's attacks just before the election.

Ahmadinejad's latest verbal salvo was his declaration last night that this was the time for the best representatives of the people to come forward and not just those who had worked with the Father of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. Meanwhile, there were stories of Rafsanjani meeting with Mousavi and Karroubi to plan their next steps to overturn the outcome and, consequently, to challenge the Supreme Leader.

We're preparing a full analysis of this struggle for Monday.

1300 GMT: Pro-Mousavi outlets are saying that there will be a march along Vali Asr Boulevard, a main Tehran north-south road, on Monday and a national strike on Tuesday.

1220 GMT: We have received our first message from Iran via Facebook in more than 24 hours.

Reports from Sharif University claim more than 2000 people are protesting.

1145 GMT: Iranian authorities have closed down Al-Arabiya's bureau in Tehran.

1130 GMT: Have just returned from a jogging break to join President Ahmadinejad's news conference in progress. Ahmadinejad, after declaring the Friday result was "the will of the people", is playing the nationalist card, in particular the Iran v. the "West" card. He is attacking Western media for their interference and saying that Western countries only accept "democracy" if the decision goes the way that they wish.

1025 GMT: The Mousavi campaign has told Al Jazeera that it will appeal to the Guardian Council, and it has applied to the Ministry of the Interior for a permit to hold a rally in Tehran. Al Jazeera's correspondent, continuing to be extremely careful on-air, has downplayed the move to the Guardian Council, as there is "no indication the election was anything but free and fair".

0955 GMT: Reports of protests at Sharif University, with 120 faculty resigning.

0910 GMT: Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tehran is being very careful with what he says on-air. He is cautious in references to demonstrations and questions the reports of arrest of more than 100 activists.

Students at Tehran University report that security forces entered the dormitories during the night. Further demonstrations are planned for today.

IRAN DEMOS 2Protesters have blocked one of the major expressways in/out of Tehran, bringing traffic to a standstill.

0905 GMT: Al Jazeera reports that the Ministry of the Interior has prohibited any unapproved public gathering but the order is being defied. This is apparent "spontaneous", as Mousavi headquarters are not supporting a public rally at this point. There are now reports of tear gas being used on demonstrators near Ahmadinejad headquarters.

Reports are also emerging of demonstrations and clashes in Rasht.

0900 GMT: There is still contact via the Internet with Iran, although reports are that the service is extremely slow, and there are fears of monitoring by security services.

Reports, apparently based on information given several hours ago to Reuters by former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, are that more than 100 "reformist" activists have been arrested. According to Abtahi, many of those arrested were members of the party Mosharekat. The brother of former President Mohammad Khatami is also reportedly among those detained.

0740 GMT: I have just seen an extraordinary interview on Al Jazeera. Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, the head of Iranian Studies at the University of Tehran, in contrast to the official line, commented on "spontaneous" demonstrations, emphasizing that they are without leadership so far. He added that there are rumours of the house arrest of Mousavi and also of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Zibakalam then began to criticise the Government reaction as "too harsh". At that point the feed to Al Jazeera was cut.

0735 GMT: Attention will soon turn to both the official Ahmadinejad victory celebration and any counter-demonstrations and rallies. Already there is tension over a supposed call for Mousavi supporters to rally in front of his campaign headquarters at 12:30 Tehran time --- some believe this is a trap laid by security forces, and Mousavi's office is calling on people to hold back from attending.

MORNING UPDATE 0700 GMT: The last few hours have been dominated by stories that opposition leaders, including Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, have been put under house arrest. Just before midnight GMT, the news of Mousavi's arrest was sent on Twitter by a pro-Mousavi activist (who is also the source of the dramatic photos we mentioned in yesterday's updates).

It is very difficult to get any information on this, as well as claims that up to 100 Iranians have been killed in protests. Social media such as Facebook have been cut, mobile phone service has been suspended or restricted, and it appears the Internet has been cut or seriously disrupted. Important but sometimes unverified information can be gathered through a few websites such as Tehran Bureau (although access to this is now difficult --- the Twitter site is still working). Our most important link to news now is via first-hand testimony on Twitter --- we have to be careful about unverified claims and even mis-information, but are doing our best to cross-check.

Press TV English has turned into an outlet for Ahmadinejad's victory. It has just led its news with stories of Ayatollah Khamenei's endorsement of the outcome, Ahmadinejad's speech, and a report of the vote. They also had a political analyst denouncing Mousavi's press conference on Friday claiming victory (although another analyst then wondered how Mousavi received only a third of the vote when "everyone" in Tehran was claiming to vote for him. The only reference to the demonstrations was a brief anodyne shot of a couple of protestors with the follow-up that the police said "everything was under control".