Entries in Al Jazeera English (4)
The enemies wanted to divide the people... and to create a civil war, but the nation was alert. If they were able to do it, the US and Zionist regime would have sent troops to Tehran's streets, but they knew it would hurt them. Thus they spread propaganda and supported the rioters.
1730 GMT: We've posted Iranian New Year videos featuring defiant chants from the opposition.
1440 GMT: Parliament v. President. Islamic Republic News Agency is claiming a fight-back against Parliamentary resistance to Ahmadinejad subsidy reform and spending proposals, quoting Arsalan Fathipour, head of the Parliament's economic commission, "We believe it is not possible to implement the subsidy reform plan at 20,000 billion tomans ($20 billion). So delegates intend to raise the figure to 35-38,000 billion tomans ($35-38 billion)." That would be almost all the $40 billion demanded by the President.
NEW Latest Iran Election Video: Nowruz and the Green Movement
NEW Iran Snap Analysis: A Rights-First Approach in Washington?
NEW Iran Video and Summary: Karroubi’s New Year Message
Latest Iran Video and Transcript: Obama’s Nowruz Message (20 March)
Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
Iran Analysis: Ahmadinejad Fails in Qom? (Verde)
Iran: Inside the Mind of the Interrogator
The Latest from Iran (20 March): Nowruz
1430 GMT: Obama and Iran. Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America claims that there was a "mized" reception amongst "Iranians inside and outside Iran" of President Obama's Nowruz message.
1420 GMT: "Rights" Annoys Khamenei. The emphasis in Barack Obama's Nowruz message on rights for Iran's people has annoyed the Supreme Leader. His office's Twitter barrage continues:
USA President sent letter and message to normalize relations, but his actions was against his words....USA President called distruptives "civil movement" and supported arsonists in recent events....Aren't you ashamed of killing in innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan while talking about Human Rights?
1340 GMT: Winning on the Internet. The Guardian of London offers an interview with Austin Heap, the creator of the Haystack initiative to assist Iranians with access to the Internet, evading regime blocks and protecting their security.
1330 GMT: Everything Most Excellent Here. Really. The Supreme Leader's Twitter machine is extracting English quotes from his Nowruz message. My favourite so far: "Last Iranian year was the nation's year and their victory; a year of seeming presence in glorious arena."
1005 GMT: Speaking of Rights. Nooshabeh Amiri, writing in Rooz Online, considers "Women’s Movement [As] a Prelude to the Green Movement".
1000 GMT: US, Iran, and Rights. We've put our snap analysis of a possible shift in US policy on Iran into a separate ent
0900 GMT: The Ruling of the Umpire. The Iran-based blogger Persian Umpire is back after an absence with three entries: one on the events of 22 Bahman (11 February), one on waiting outside Evin Prison for a detained friend, and one on last week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival) ceremonies.
The summary of the festival offers one of the classic observations of this post-election crisis: "No one gave a certain rodent’s bottom for the fatwa [of Ayatollah Khamenei]. In fact it solidified people’s resolve to come out and celebrate."
0700 GMT: As Iranians celebrate Nowruz, they have been greeted by messages for the New Year. And there is more than a bit of politics behind the best wishes. The most pointed intervention may have come from Mehdi Karroubi, who derided the regime (a "small barge" not a "galleon") as illegitimate. We have the video and a summary.
President Ahmadinejad offered his own message, but the question is whether it has been overshadowed by events which do not point to 1389 as his happiest year. Consider....
As EA's Mr Verde predicted, the President got both a slap and a warning with the release of Hashemi Rafsanjani's relative and political ally Hossein Marashi from prison. Officially, the freedom is only temporary for Nowruz --- Marashi was jailed on Thursday after an appeals court upheld a one-year sentence for "propaganda against the regime". Beyond the official, the political significance will be whether Marashi goes back to prison; if not, it will be a dent in the authority of the Government.
Rooz Online echoes Mr Verde's assessment of an Ahmadinejad failure in his Thursday mission to Qom to get the support of senior clerics, claiming "the chief authorities refused his presence". (Rooz adds a name to those who did meet with Ahmadinejad: Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi.)
In Tehran three lawmakers, prominent in economic discussions, criticised Ahmadinejad for his Friday suggestion of a referendum on his subsidy reform and spending plans, saying he is legally obliged to execute the economic reform plan approved by the Parliament. Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moqaddam, Ali Tavakkoli, and Elyas Naderan said in ajoint statement, "The president does not have the right to disobey a law which has been approved by the Parliament."
That in itself might not be stunning were it not for context and timing:
The Latest from Iran (21 March): Happy New Year, Mr Ahmadinejad
1. At Parsi's NIAC hearing 10 days ago, the panel on US-Iran relations was totally focused on the nuclear issue and a possible "grand settlement" with Iran. There was scarcely a word on rights. Parsi seems to be promoting a policy beyond that "realist" promotion.
2. But it may not just be Parsi; it may be folks inside the US Government. Beyond Barack Obama's Nowruz message calling on Tehran to accept the rights of its people, there are signs that this might be part of a new policy and not just rhetoric.
Indeed, it may be possible that the US Government is now letting Iran dangle on the engagement of nuclear talks precisely because it does not think a deal should be the be-all and end-all, given the internal tensions in the country. That would explain why the State Department has been so stand-offish on weeks of Iranian signals that it wanted to reopen discussions on an uranium swap.
More in an analysis later this week....
Strikingly, the turnout in Diyala, a former centre of Sunni insurgency, was more than 90 percent. That's a sharp contrast from the 2005 national elections, which were boycotted by the main Sunni parties.
1600 GMT: Iraqi security forces have announced a 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) curfew in Baghdad to allow safe transport of ballot boxes to election commission headquarters.
1552 GMT: Polls formally closed in Iraq almost two hours ago.
The official death toll from bombings and explosions today is 38, with 89 wounded. 25 died in a single incident when a Baghdad apartment building collapsed from an explosion (see 0645 GMT).
Ayad Allawi, the head of the National Accord Movement and one of the leading candidates for prime minister, gave a televised speech which both criticised the “weakness” of the government’s security operations and maintained that voters would be intimidated:
You know that Iraqis do not get scared. They will not be scared by tanks, bombings and explosions. They fought the British, as it is known, with simple weapons and kicked out the British empire. So this intimidation will not work.
1545 GMT: Back from a recording for Al Jazeera English's Inside Story on the significance of today's elections. The programme will air at 1730 GMT.
1310 GMT: Despite his disqualification from standing in the election, on the grounds that he had been sympathetic to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, leading Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq has asked his supporters to vote:
I call you by the name of Iraq. I call on you by all the values of Iraq. No one should stay at home. All should go. These are the decisive hours. So go and trust God is with you and will reward you for all what you have paid in the past times.
1300 GMT:The spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, has claimed that today's bombings and mortar attacks “are miserable and desperate attempts that did not affect the atmosphere of the elections”.
Atta said at least one rocket-launching site had been located and struck west of Taji, a village on the northern outskirts of Baghdad. He added that the Iraqi military had requested that US forces increase air sorties. US Apache attack helicopters and their Iraqi counterparts have been circling above the Tigris River.
1110 GMT: AFP is hinting at manipulations and pressure in Kurdistan: "The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) -- allied to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional president Massud Barzani have had a stranglehold on power for so long in Iraqi Kurdistan that people are afraid of even saying they voted for opposition parties."
In contrast, AFP correspondents are reporting long lines to vote in Sunni towns, "a positive sign for Iraq's fragile democracy".
1100 GMT: Awena is reporting that, in Erbil in Kurdistan, journalists have "civilian" escorts and are stopped when taking photographs of frauds or violations.
1010 GMT: New reports indicate that this morning's female suicide bomber (see 0715 GMT) struck a checkpoint, not a polling station.
1000 GMT: The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission has put out an update at a press conference. More than 8000 polling centres, with 49,000 stations, opened this morning. They claim a high turnout with no serious incidents.
Ranj Alaaldin adds, "No serious fraud so far, names not on lists in some cases, security tight."
0915 GMT: A translator for AFP, as bombs go off across Baghdad while people go to the polls, "It's like a symphony."
0910 GMT: In a sign of confidence and/or defiance, the Iraqi authorities have lifted the ban on vehicles in Baghdad.
0900 GMT: Poll Sidelights....
"The BBC reports, "Eight people [were] arrested [on Saturday] following protests and scuffles at a polling station for Iraqi expatriates in north London. Police said 'spontaneous disorder' broke out at the Advait Cultural Centre, Wembley, at about 1330 GMT. The incident happened during a protest by a group which claimed it has been excluded from the polling facilities."
In Baghdad, a correspondent notes, "As usual kids use the election day to play football ON the highway."
0800 GMT: The death toll in Baghdad has risen to 24, according to the Interior Ministry.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says the attacks "are only noise to impress voters but Iraqis are a people who love challenges and you will see that this will not damage their morale".
0730 GMT: All peaceful in Sulaimaniyah in eastern Kurdistan with no curfew on vehicles.
0720 GMT: Iraqis officials report two mortar bombs near polling stations in the western town of Ramadi and eight explosions in Fallujah. Samarra in the north has been hit by three mortars.
The official toll is now 16 people killed in attacks with more than 50 mortar rounds hitting targets across the capital.
0715 GMT: ABC News (US) correspondent reports a female suicide bomber has attacked a polling station in Al Karkh in Baghdad Province.
0710 GMT: A voter reports "huge turnout" and no apparent problems in Kirkuk.
0645 GMT: Polls opened for today's national election throughout Iraq at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT). More than 19 million Iraqis inside the country are eligible to vote; 4.7 million are in Baghdad. (Iraqis living outside the country have been voting throughout this week.)
Preliminary results are expected Wednesday. A summary of the parties and their leaders can be found in yesterday's entry previewing the elections.
More than 30 mortar rounds have hit Baghdad this morning, with three landing inside the "Green Zone" that includes the U.S. Embassy and many Iraqi government buildings. AFP reports that one person was killed and nine injured inside the Zone.
An explosion in the Ur neighbourhood in northeastern Baghdad has collapsed an apartment building, killing 12 people and wounding eight.
Analyst Ranj Alaaldin comments, "It's all kicking off in Baghdad,but nothing 2 serious as Iraq holds elections. Countless mortar attacks in Green Zone."