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Iran Uprising Live-Blogging (Friday June 26)

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I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at nico.pitney@gmail.com or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. Click here to support this post on Digg.

Saturday's live-blog is here.

7:24 PM ET -- "Calm of the grave." Friday in Tehran.

In the centre of Tehran there are many fewer security forces on the streets. A stadium where Basij militia - an arm of the Revolutionary Guard - were based is now being used for sport again. But the power of the regime is not far from the surface. On the main avenues black cars with the words special police painted on them move steadily through the traffic, each one containing four or five men in camouflage uniforms.

It has been much quieter these last few days. One elderly witness said she felt it was the calm of the grave. [...] When you ask Iranians about the way this might go, a phrase keeps cropping up. They say it might seem quiet to an outsider, but there is fire below the ashes."

Iranian families enjoy their weekend as they picnic at a park in Tehran on June 26. (Getty)


7:16 PM ET -- Iran says U.S. denied visas to U.N. delegation.

Tehran's U.N. envoy on Friday accused the United States of denying Iran's first vice president and members of his delegation visas to attend a three-day U.N. conference on the global financial crisis.

"Their entry visas were not issued by the host country," Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told the U.N. General Assembly.

It was not clear whether the alleged visa denial was related to the Iranian government's crackdown on demonstrators who have been protesting for nearly two weeks against what they say was a rigged presidential election in which hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory.

A U.S. official said he was looking into Khazaee's statement.

5:56 PM ET -- Iran embassy in Switzerland hit by firebomb. We noted the violence at the Iran embassy in Sweden -- now this from a reader: "I have some pics of a protest in Bern, Switzerland. It first startet off peacefully, but one man threw a molotov cocktail at the outer wall of the Iranian embassy."


You can see the man who apparently threw the explosive standing in the background next to the fire:


5:44 PM ET -- What comes next? Nicholas Kristof led a reader chat today with columnist Roger Cohen, whose Iran coverage has been stellar. Here is Cohen's answer to the question of whether the Green movement can progress if Khamenei retains the ability to wield overwhelming force:

Certainly dictatorships can hold onto power through force against the will of the majority of the population, and that likely will be the case for some time yet in Iran. But some important shifts have occurred over the past two weeks that will, I think, weaken the regime. Millions of Iranians who were in a position of reluctant acquiescence, unhappy with the regime but believing they could reform and live with it, have moved into outright opposition. The highest office in the Islamic Republic, that of the supreme leader, has been weakened, because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost the lofty mantle of arbiter, explicitly joining the hardline faction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The brazen extent of the fraud was such that significant swathes of the religious and political establishment have dissented. Not since the first years after the revolution have there been such open splits in the hierarchy. And Ahmadinejad has emerged as the most polarizing figure in Iranian politics in decades.

The price of survival for the revolutionary establishment, in the medium term, may be throwing him overboard. I could see that happening. I also think that current attacks on the United States will give way to more conciliatory gestures as the regime tries to shore up its position through talks with the US that would be extremely popular at home. President Obama will face a delicate dilemma in deciding how and whether to maintain his outreach.

5:35 PM ET -- Guardian Council appointing election "commission." From Iran's state media:

In an interview with Press TV on Thursday, Guardian Council Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei said in addition to a five-day extension for filing complaints, the Council had formed a "special commission" to "secure the additional confidence of the complaining candidates and their supporters."

He added that the commission was composed of six "outstanding political, social and religious figures" and the representatives of the two defeated candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who persist with their complaints and demand a re-run. [...]

Members of the special commission include former foreign minister and current foreign affairs adviser to the Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, former Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Shahid Beheshti University Goudarz Eftekhar-Jahromi, Chief Prosecutor Qurban-Ali Dorri-Nadjafabadi, Majlis deputy Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi, and the Leader's representative at the Martyrs Foundation Mohammad-Hassan Rahimian.

The commission will supervise the recounting of about 10 percent of the ballot boxes to be "chosen at random," which Kadkhodaei may be broadcast live.

5:06 PM ET -- The comedy of Iran's propaganda. I'm very late in posting this, but on a relatively slow Friday afternoon, it's at least good for some entertainment. At the very least, watch the introduction of the main characters.

Update: As it turns out, the AP runs an interview today with Gene Sharp, who appears in the video.


4:57 PM ET -- Former Revolutionary Guard members charges "military coup." Via reader Carolina, NPR interviews Mohsen Sazegara, an Iranian dissident now living in Washington DC who helped found the Revolutionary Guard after 1979.

Right after the election, 11 o'clock at night, was a military coup because they went to (presidential candidate Mir Hossein) Mousavi's headquarters -- five persons from the Revolutionary Guard -- and told him that, 'Yes, the leader says that this is true, you have won the election, you are the elected president, but you can't be the president. (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad should remain in the position.'

"And then they started to invent those fake numbers in Ministry of Interior. And right after that they started to arrest the people, to disconnect the country, to dismiss the reporters, and that is the reason that we call it a military coup."

Update: CNN's Fareed Zakaria also interviewed Sazegara this past week:


4:51 PM ET -- Life for a foreign journalist in Iran (who hasn't been arrested). A dispatch from Cameron Abadi, who covered the election for GlobalPost:

Journalists found themselves in a special state of limbo. When I discovered that the accreditation for foreign journalists had been rescinded, no one made himself available to me to explain what, precisely, that meant. I was left to sort out my concerns on my own. Could I report from my room based on what other people told me? What if I had filed something before the accreditation was revoked but it was to be published after? Could I join the rallies strictly as a participant, rather than as a journalist? Were my phone calls and email correspondence being monitored?

Paranoia set in. I began having trouble distinguishing real risks from irrational fears. I noticed an intelligence agent taking my photo on the street and I stayed up one night thinking about where that photo might end up. I arranged to leave the country as soon as I could and kept my fingers crossed.

4:48 PM ET -- More Michael Jackson/Iran mash-ups.


4:08 PM ET -- A goodbye on Facebook. From a reader: "I got a very disturbing good bye message on Facebook from my cousin (who has been active in the Tehran protests). Please share my cousin's words with the world because I don't think people will know how many people are being killed and tortured until years from now (this is what happened during the crack down after the revolution) and please share this website with the people in Iran who need to know how to protect themselves."

The note from her cousin:

Hey guys,

I would not be around that much,we have real security issues over here and I have confirmed news that a lot of people are being arrested through Cyber stuff like videos,photos and internet posts.

They r monitoring everything closely now that they are a little bit free.

We will try to somehow pass the news as much as we can,but things are getting too risky over here,there is a lot that you guys don't know about how they r arresting ppl and what happens to some of them,where they are taken and how they are tortured(all I can say is that it is worst than what happened in revolution).

Don't talk about any of this stuff over the phone when you call Ir.I know it sounds scary,but it is true.The way they r monitoring is not a trick just to scare us,they are taking actions against the info they have found.So I am just going to lay low for a while.

Take care all and wish us luck.

3:58 PM ET -- Obama scoffs at Ahmadinejad's apology demand. "President Barack Obama scoffed at the idea that he should apologize to Iran's leaders for criticizing their violent crackdown on demonstrators and said Friday it was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who must answer to his own people."

Standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said the United States and Germany share "one voice" in condemning the Iranian effort to crush dissent. He said Iran's leaders cannot hide the "outrageous" behavior of clamping down violently on their people.

"We see it and we condemn it," Obama said. Said Merkel: "We will not forget this." [...]

Obama said it was too soon to tell how potential direct contact between the United States and Iran will be affected by the recent events. Attempting to break from his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama has sought to loosen the diplomatic freeze with Iran, but that effort is now in question -- at best.

Keeping pressure on Iran's rulers, Obama emphasized the rights of the people there. "Their bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice," Obama said.

"The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. In spite of the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it."

3:55 PM ET -- If you'd like to support this post on Digg... click here.

3:24 PM ET -- Ahmadinejad supporters reportedly targeting Larijani. As we've been documenting, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, has consistently been a thorn in the side of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in recent days. Larijani is no great friend of Mousavi's, but he reportedly dislikes Ahmadinejad strongly, and has been acting as an agitator in the parliament, condemning the government's crackdown on students and questioning the legitimacy of the election.

Today, the news site Tabnak reports that Ahmadinejad supporters have threatened Larijani with a vote of no confidence because of his alleged indirect support for Mousavi.

Yesterday, the Open Society Institute published an analysis of how Larijani and a group of high-ranking family members and loyalists have become a third force in the post-election unrest.

The Larijani faction is still coalescing, drawing support mainly from right-leaning politicians and military officers, who, prior to the outbreak of Iran's political crisis on June 12, tended to be conservative opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... So far, the new faction has not enunciated a philosophical platform, but it seems that its leaders view the recent upheaval as a threat to the Islamic Republic, and they are dedicated to working to preserve the existing system.

Ali Larijani is emerging as the public face of the faction, but behind him stand his very influential brothers and other relatives, according to a well-connected source. One of Larijani's brothers is Sadegh, who is one of the 12 members of the powerful Guardian Council. Another is Mohammad Javad, a physicist and prominent political strategist. The Larijanis' cousin, Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent rightist politician and a member of parliament, is also believed to be an important player in the faction, as is Ali Motahari, another prominent rightist political operator who is Ali Larijani's son-in-law.

The Larijanis' father was Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli, a leading Shi'a scholar who died in 1993. This paternal connection provides the Larijanis with strong ties to religious leaders in the holy city of Qom.

2:57 PM ET -- CBS's Chip Reid questions whether Obama spoke out too strongly on Iran. Sometimes the White House press corps is just insufferable.


2:50 PM ET -- Interviewing a basiji. The website PersianMirror.com has translated an alleged interview with a plainclothes paramilitary that has been circulating widely online. It's difficult to determine whether the interview is legitimate, though it does include quite a bit of detail.

Me: How much do they pay you?

Him: 200 dollars (200,000 tomans) per day. (he smiles)

Me: That's a lot of money. What're you gonna do with all that money?

Him: Get a wife. Or even two, if I can have this kind of money. Do you know how much that is? 2000 dollars. Maybe I won't even go back to Torbat. Maybe I'll stay here. Haji says there will be more demonstrations. They will give us more work.

Me: How many days have you been in Tehran?

Him: 3 days. There are still 7 more days left.

2:26 PM ET -- Iranian embassy officials hit demonstrators in Stockholm. Via several readers, three Swedish papers are reporting violence outside the Iranian embassy in Sweden. A reader passes along an English translation of one of the articles:

Iranian embassy employees have beaten demonstrators with batons at a demonstration outside the embassy on Lidingö in Stockholm on Friday afternoon, according to a witness on the spot.

Between ten and twenty demonstrators (of a larger group) broke through the fence and entered the embassy area. People from the embassy turned up with large batons and began to beat the demonstrators, said Roya Hakimnia, a 24-year-old medical student that was participating in the demonstration.

She saw more people, men and women, hit by baton strikes, but says that no one seems to have been seriously injured.

The incident took place around 4.30 (local time). The demonstrators were unarmed but had earlier thrown stones into the area, where several embassy staff was walking around on the lawn observing the demonstration.

They were perhaps five black-dressed guards, they were beating people with big sticks, like batons but larger.

Roya Hakimnia say that people shouted "Death to the Islamic Republic!" and "Death to dictator!" In the bitter atmosphere, some participants talked about storming the embassy, but many others argued against it. (....)

A woman with a megaphone shouted in Persian: "Don't throw stones. Please stop! Police are here, we have permission (for this demonstration), but are not allowed to throw stones! (....)

According to Swedish police, around 150 people were outside the embassy area. One person were detained by the police.


Sweden is set to take over the EU presidency on July 1. Readers tell me there is a large Iranian expatriate community there.

Update: Here's video -- the crowd at various points chants "Death to the Islamic Republic!" and some scuffles break out at around 1:15. Much more video from the demonstrations here.


2:21 PM ET -- Green balloons in Tehran. A reader offers, "It is very nice, small symbolic video... with a view of the mountains in the backdrop of Tehran..."


2:18 PM ET -- Russia scolds Iran on violence. The first statements from Russia on Iran that didn't echo Khamenei's propaganda:

Russia has said it is seriously concerned by the use of force in Iran after a disputed presidential election and urged Tehran to settle all issues in a democratic way, Interfax news agency reported.

"We naturally express our most serious concern about the use of force and the death of civilians," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on the sidelines of a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Italy.

"We count on all questions which have arisen in the context of the elections being resolved in accordance with democratic procedures," Lavrov said.

2:10 PM ET -- Back. Sorry for the delay in posting -- long planned meeting of HuffPost's DC staff today.

11:05 AM -- Former UK Ambassador to Iran Richard Dalton... is speaking for an hour today at the New America Foundation beginning at 12:30 PM ET. You can watch streaming video live at Steve Clemons' blog, The Washington Note.

10:53 AM ET -- More on the message at Friday prayers. From the New York Times:

At Friday prayers at Tehran university, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami referred to the demonstrators as rioters and declared, "I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson."

Reuters quoted him as saying demonstrators should be tried for waging war against God. The punishment for such offenses under Islamic law is death, Reuters said.

The cleric's remarks represented a significant hardening of official rhetoric as authorities confronted the biggest political challenge since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Ayatollah Khatami is not regarded as a high-profile figure, so it was not clear how much weight his words carried.

However, he is a member of the influential Assembly of Experts and his threats seemed likely to further intimidate protesters whose presence on the streets has dwindled in the face of the deployment of security forces in large numbers.

10:44 AM ET -- Solidarity. Several hundred gathered at Dupont Circle in Washington DC last night for a really beautiful candlelight vigil. The cell phone pic below, taken at the very end of the evening, doesn't really do the scene justice. (Mark Goldberg has a few more pics here.) Despite the grim events, people seemed very comforted to be with others concerned about Iran, and camaraderie was high, with folks interacting warmly and passing around traditional Persian desserts.

Many more rallies in the U.S. and around the world are listed here.


10:33 AM ET -- "They'll kick you and they'll beat you and they'll tell you it's fair." An Iranian on Twitter posts this video with the note, "BEAT IT U FANATICS."


10:10 AM ET -- VOA: Thousands gather to grieve. Voice of America Iran reports over 13,000 have gathered at Zahra cemetery to mourn the dead.


9:55 AM ET -- Parliament member: Rafsanjani set to back Khamenei. A reader emails, "A strange article here stating that: 'Mohammad KaramiRaad, the representative of Kermanshah in Iranian Parliment, claims that Rafsanjani will soon declare his support for Khamenei...'" Anyone know more about this MP?

Update: Some more details on the piece. "This article was written in reference to the efforts of the National Security & Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Parliament to bring a resolution to the crisis - in doing so, they met with the other two presidential candidates (Mousavi and Mohsen Rezai) in the past 2 days as well with Rafsanjani -- the Representative of Kermanshah that is mentioned is a member of this committee and seemed to be quoting Rafsanjani - the committee is also looking to meet with Hejatoleslam Nategh Noori on Saturday."

9:41 AM ET -- Ayatollah urges "lasting solution." Iran's state media has published a statement by senior cleric Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, who calls for Iran's presidential election dispute to be settled through "national conciliation."

"Extremely bitter events have occurred in the days following the magnificent 10th [presidential] election, and certain adventurists took advantage of the disputes between the honorable candidates," Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi said in a statement published on his website on Thursday. [...]

He went on to say that the solution to the conflict must not be a superficial one. "Definitively, something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and (to ensure) that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties."

Despite Makarem-Shirazi's seeming jab at the demonstrators, Middle East historian Juan Cole writes, "This statement is significant because it constitutes a clear rejection of the stance of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has declared the issue settled. You would not need practical reconciliation if the issue was settled."

9:15 AM ET -- Basiji drive a truck into a crowd. Via reader Chas, Olivia from YouTube's site CitizenTube continues to post new videos she finds from Iran: "This short video shows a large crowd of Iranians gathered in a public area. The scene seems quite calm until the last few seconds when a truck - supposedly driven by members of the Basij - revs its engine and starts to drive right through the crowd. You can hear screaming as the camera loses focus and the video ends."


9:07 AM ET -- Mousavi's message to Iranian expats. Posted today on Facebook:

Your trust in this insignificant civil servant and your decisive vote for me in most of the voting stations outside of the country has placed a heavy burden on my shoulders. I would like to give you my assurance that I remain true to my existing pact with you and all layers of the great people of Iran, and using all legal avenues will demand your deserved rights that have been violated at the ballot boxes.

Unfortunately, as you witness in the international media, contrary to the letter of the constitution, and the stated freedoms in the Islamic Republic, all my communication with the people and you has been cut off, and people's peaceful objections are being crushed. The national media which is being financed with public funds, with a revolting misrepresentation is changing the truth, and labels the peaceful march of close to three million people as anarchist, and the media that are being controlled by the government have become the mouthpiece of those who have stolen the people's votes.

8:47 AM ET -- The Daily Show in Iran. Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones aired his last dispatch from Iran last night. Worth a watch:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones: Behind the Veil - The Kids Are Allah Right
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

8:36 AM ET -- Green balloons. The Mousavi camp called for people worldwide to release green balloons today in a show of support, but green trash bags work too if you're in a bind.


7:48 AM ET -- Friday prayers: Cleric says punish "rioters" with "cruelty." The AP report is below (a quick note -- the hard line cleric referenced in the story, Khatami, is not to be confused with moderate former president Mohammad Khatami).

A senior Iranian cleric called Friday for harsh punishment for leaders of the country's post-election protests, even as a G8 foreign ministers meeting in Italy urged Iran's rulers to seek a peaceful resolution to the tense two-week confrontation over the disputed presidential vote. [...]

In the latest sign that the regime is not bending, Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, a senior cleric, said during nationally broadcast Muslim sermon on Friday that the government should punish "leaders of the riots, who were supported by Israel and the U.S., strongly and with cruelty."

In his sermon at Tehran University, Khatami also accused foreign journalists of false reporting on post-election Iran.

He alleged that an icon of the protests, Neda Agha Soltan, was killed by protesters, not Iranian security forces quelling unrest. "Forces of the government do not shoot at a lady standing in a side street," he said of Soltan, who was shot to death a week ago.

Juan Cole comments, "This call is a new and dangerous turn, since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had praised the opposition leaders and simply urged them to accept the official results. Ahmad Khatami is close to the hard line faction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and is surely voicing the sentiments of the worst of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards elements who have attacked the protesters."

7:37 AM ET -- Solidarity.

People gather for a candlelight vigil to honor victims of recent violence in Iran on June 25, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. Several thousand people gathered in Berlin's center and in other European cities to show their support for the demonstrators who oppose what they claim are manipulated results in recent elections in Iran. (Getty)


1:32 AM ET -- Michael Jackson meets Iran. From a reader: "Here are the lyrics from an early Jackson Five song (often overlooked) -- apropos for what's happening in Iran. The song is titled Young Folks."

You better make a way for the young folks

Here we come, and we're so alive.
We're here for business buddy,and don't won't no jive.
Brighter tomorrows are in our eyes
You better make a way for the young folks
Ooh, yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah

We say yes
And you say no
We ask you why
And you close the door
My old friend I thought you knew by now, yeah
You can't do that to the young folks
Oh, no,no,no,no

You might not like it
But I've got to tell you
I've got to tell you, na na, yeah yeah.
You better make a way for the young folks
Ooh, yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah

We're marching with signs
We're standing in lines, yeah, yeah
Protesting your rights
To turn out the lights in our lives
Here's the deal, accept it if you will
We're coming on strong, yeah
It's our turn to build
My old friend, I thought you knew by now, yeah
You gotta make a way for the young folks
Ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah,yeah

You may not like it, but I've got to tell you
I've got to tell you, oh, yeah,yeah,yeah
You better make a way, you better make a way
You gotta make a way for the young folks, yeah, yeah
Oh,oh,yeah,yeah, ooh

You may not like it but I've to tell you
I've got to tell you, na na na na


1:19 AM ET -- Oil markets... are staying calm despite Iran unrest, the Washington Post reports.

In related news from earlier in the week -- what's this about? "Iran has unexpectedly fired one of its senior oil officials amid ongoing unrest on the streets of Tehran. 'I am no longer the deputy oil minister for planning from yesterday,' Akbar Torkan told Dow Jones Newswires by telephone late Monday. He didn't provide a reason for his removal from office."

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