Iran Election Guide

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Entries in The Guardian (7)


Iran: Identifying the Killed and Detained

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

Iran: A List of Those Killed and Detained (12-23 June)
Iran: For Those Still Detained (A Daily Show Tribute)

NEDA2An important initiative in today's British media: The Guardian of London has launched an appeal to put a face to the names of the hundreds of people killed and detained in Iran since 12 June. The newspaper, drawing from human rights groups and news reports, lists more than 300 individuals, of whom 24 have pictures. Some have been released, but "there are thought to be many more" who have not yet been confirmed and identified.

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 and the US: EA's Chris Emery in The Guardian

AHMADINEJAD3OBAMAThe Guardian of London has just posted an outstanding analysis by Enduring America's Chris Emery (who, along with Scott Lucas, appeared on BBC News 24 yesterday to evaluate the tensions in Iran and the effect on US-Iranian relations):

Facing Reality in Iran

In contrast to the drama unfolding on the streets of Iran, the key non-event outside the country is the lack of reaction from the Obama administration. Contrary to the position taken by the Bush administration in cases from the Ukraine to Georgia and Lebanon, there will be no welcoming or encouraging of a velvet revolution in Iran. The Obama administration is, instead, preparing itself to deal with whoever emerges as president. Despite the protestations of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's supporters, this will almost certainly be the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While the United States would have strongly preferred to be dealing with a Mousavi administration, the basic strategic and political rationale for US-Iranian rapprochement remains unchanged.

Read rest of article....

Iran's Election: Latest News

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

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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".