Iran Uprising Live-Blogging (Saturday June 27)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
10:30 PM ET -- Hard-liners and moderates plotting against Khamenei. From Peter Beaumont's piece in the Guardian:
The power struggle inside Iran appears to be moving from the streets into the heart of the regime itself this weekend amid reports that Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani is plotting to undermine the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani's manoeuvres against Khamenei come as tensions between the speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also appeared to be coming to a head.
Mass demonstrations on the streets against the election results have been effectively crushed by a massive police and basiij militia presence that has seen several dozen deaths and the arrests of hundreds of supporters of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. But the splits within Iran's political elite are deepening.
8:43 PM ET -- Former Spanish PM criticizes Obama. Spain's hard-right former prime minister Jose Aznar, who was voted out of office in 2004, writes in today's Wall Street Journal:
President Obama has said he refuses to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past -- in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone. [...]
Delayed public displays of indignation may be good for internal political consumption. But the consequences of Western inaction have already materialized. Watching videos of innocent Iranians being brutalized, it's hard to defend silence.
8:39 PM ET -- "What will happen to those arrested in Iran?" "I can tell you."
8:05 PM ET -- U.S. intelligence in Iran. There isn't much.
The CIA was forced to close its station when the U.S. Embassy in Tehran shut down. For a while, the agency ran a hub out of Frankfurt, from which CIA officers could travel to meet contacts and try to steal secrets about Iran. More recently, it based a collection office in Los Angeles to take advantage of the Iranian expatriate community there.
None of it, however, is a substitute for having CIA staff actually on the ground, says former CIA official Bob Baer.
"We know virtually nothing about Iran. It's very easy to get misled when you collect intelligence through occasional sources, who travel out rarely, that are almost impossible to vet," Baer says. "Your intelligence by force is bad."
8:01 PM ET -- Bernard-Henri Levy... signs a joint letter calling on the French government "not to recognize the results of this rigged election and to keep diplomatic pressure on Iran demanding that the regime."
Also, distinguished Iranian film director Bahman Farmanara has published an open letter to Iranians, "We cannot remain silent."
7:37 PM ET -- "PersianKiwi" reportedly arrested. An Iranian reporter tweeted these two messages in the past hour regarding "PersianKiwi," one of the most reliable and prolific Iranians on Twitter: "persiankiwi is arrested. ... I'm so sorry. I recive [sic] the persiankiwi arrest news from a honest source but I hope it's been incorrect."
Nothing has been verified yet, I'll update as soon as I learn more.
5:06 PM ET -- "Hactivists" take up cause as streets quiet. A report from the AP:
A sharp clampdown by Iranian authorities may have quelled street protests, but the fight goes on in cyberspace.
Groups of "hacktivists" -- Web hackers demanding Internet freedom -- say they are targeting Web pages of Iran's leadership in response to the regime's muzzling of blogs, news outlets and other sites.
It's unclear how much the wired warriors have disrupted official Iranian sites. Attempts by The Associated Press to access sites for state news organizations, including the Islamic Republic News Agency and Fars, were unsuccessful -- with a message saying the links were "broken."
Other Iranian Web sites, including the official site for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were able to be viewed.
5:00 PM ET -- Mousavi rejects partial vote recount.
Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi on Saturday rejected authorities' proposals for a partial recount of votes from this month's election and repeated his demand the entire ballot be annulled.
Iran's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, had offered to recount 10 percent of ballot boxes from the June 12 vote in the presence of senior officials representing the government and opposition.
"This kind of recount will not remove ambiguities...There is no other way but annulment of the vote...Some members of this committee are not impartial," Mousavi said in a statement posted on his website.
4:51 PM ET -- "President Moussavi, give us your orders..." A reader passes along a video posted today by film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who has on occasion acted as Moussavi's 'external spokesman.' The reader writes, "Here is a translated transcription i just did: it's crazy, i really don't know what's going on & where we're going..."
The people of Iran, by phone and mails, have asked me to send their message to mister Moussavi.
This letter is a summary of what they have told me these past days from inside Iran and all over the world:
give us your orders!
Political power is gained by making people act,
and is lost in the contrary case.
The liars and stealers of the people's vote,
by buying time, are weakening people's social powers.
do not keep silent, do not wait, give us orders !
What us people of Iran had lost was not information, but courage.
Our fear came from each one of us feeling alone;
but participating in the elections,
and demonstrating by the millions
proved that if we stand together we are invincible.
do not send people to their houses !
So that they are once again crushed by despair and fear.
From a goverment that is itself illegal,
do not ask for a legal permission to peacefully demonstrate.
The majority of people of iran, who has voted for you, is waiting for your orders;
give us the orders to demonstrate !
give us the orders of a general strike !
give us the orders of resistance !
The people's common need is your orders.
give the people your orders !"
on the behalf of the people of Iran
the 6th of the month of Tir, 88
4:49 PM ET -- Solidarity.
A woman holds up a ballon with "Freedom for Iran" written on it during a protest against the recent Iranian elections in the central German city of Frankfurt on June 27, 2009. (Getty)
Iranian demonstrators hold placards during a protest against the results of the recent presidential election and in support defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in Ankara on June 27, 2009. (Getty)
4:43 PM ET -- "The end of the beginning." Trita Parsi and Reza Aslan, two excellent analysts, write, "Iran's popular uprising, which began after the June 12 election, may be heading for a premature ending. In many ways, the Ahmadinejad government has succeeded in transforming what was a mass movement into dispersed pockets of unrest. Whatever is now left of this mass movement is now leaderless, unorganized -- and under the risk of being hijacked by groups outside Iran in pursuit of their own political agendas."
4:08 PM ET -- Mousavi on Facebook. His latest message: "Sunday is the anniversary of 7th. tir martyrs, there will be a gathering in 'Ghoba' Mosque and its legal ! Please send this message to everyone you can in Iran."
It seems that, in an effort to bring the clerical establishment to his side, Mousavi has agreed to only support legal gatherings. But since the government won't permit any protests for his cause, events like this are his only resort.
2:29 PM ET -- What happens in Iran's prisons. A few readers have passed along this 60 Minutes segment from a few months back in which Anderson Cooper interviews an Iranian dissident who managed to escape from prison in Iran. It's quite powerful -- and a reminder of what some of the demonstrators may be experiencing right now:
12:45 PM ET -- Another Ayatollah condemns government violence.
Member of Iran's Guardian Council had a meeting with senior theologist Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili. The meeting focused on control of the Guardian Council over presidential elections in Iran that took place on June 12, candidates' protests against election results and latest developments, ILNA reported.
"Those responsible for organizing the elections have obligations to the people. Unfortunately, events that taken place after the election has caused turmoil in the Islamic Republic. We do not have to pacify the protest by force. The issue must be solved in a different way," Ardebili said.
He said the demonstrators must be entitled to speak before trying to pacify them. "We need to give protesters the right to speak on television. Answers of the opposite side should also be communicated to people through television. Let the people decide who is right and who is not. The people will not accept the senseless talk," Ardebili said.
12:43 PM ET -- Authoritarian regimes censor news from Iran. "Out of fear that history might repeat itself, the authoritarian governments of China, Cuba and Burma have been selectively censoring the news this month of Iranian crowds braving government militias on the streets of Tehran to demand democratic reforms."
11:29 AM ET -- Programming note. I'll be appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources with Dana Milbank on Sunday at 10AM ET. Dana wrote a column about President Obama's press conference last week, calling me a "planted questioner" and arguing that my question sent the message that "the American press isn't as free as advertised."
This should be fun -- see you soon Dana!
11:20 AM ET -- Mousavi agrees to seek permits. Middle East historian Juan Cole: "AP is reporting that opposition leader Mir-Hosein Mousavi has agreed to the Interior Ministry's demand that he apply for a permit one week in advance for any demonstrations, and will cease calling for unlicensed rallies. This is an about-face on Saturday from his stance just 24 hours earlier, when he said that the election theft attempt would be crushed. Mousavi did complain that rallies for his rival Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are allowed without all this rigamarole, implying that the Interior Ministry is treating him and his followers unfairly."
Though this is a reversal, as Juan Cole notes, Mousavi hasn't actually called for any specific demonstrations in several days, so the practical impact of this change seems limited.
11:10 AM ET -- An angry parliamentarian. Several readers have passed along this video of Iranian MP Alikhani passionately defending Mousavi as a crowd of angry conservative MPs try to shout him down.
I've held off posting because the video is from June 16, and because there was no complete English translation of what he was saying. Someone has now created a version of the video with subtitles. The news relevancy of the video is still minor, considering all the events that have taken place in subsequent days. But it does give a sense of how vibrant the election debate was before the government's vicious crackdown.
11:08 AM ET -- Iran: No soccer players punished (yet). The government-backed Tehran Times reports: "FIFA, soccer's world governing body, said Friday it received a letter from the Iranian federation which stated that 'No disciplinary action has been imposed on any players of the Iran national team by any authority.' 'IFF has not punished any players up to now, but the issue is under scrutiny. If it is confirmed that they wore green wristbands as a political action, we will punish them according to FIFA rules,' [Iran Football Federation President Ali Kafashian] said."
11:02 AM ET -- Iran's national poet speaks out. "NPR's Davar Ardalan interviewed Simin Behbahani, Iran's national poet, today from Tehran. She's 82 years-old and one of the most respected figures in modern Iran. She recites two poems inspired by recent events -- one dedicated to the people of Iran and another to Neda, the woman whose death during the protests was viewed by millions on the web and on TV."
10:58 AM ET -- UK, Italy oppose new sanctions. "UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed reluctance on Saturday for new sanctions against Iran in the wake of violence following elections. ... He said sanctions were not an option that should be sought by the European Union. 'The debate with Iran should continue ... we all have a clear position and that is for the Iranian people to choose their government and for the Iranian government to protect their own people against violence.' Agreeing with Miliband, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said there should be other options if sanctions are not applied against Iran."
10:53 AM ET -- The Financial Times profiles a 46-year-old "senior government worker" they call "Leyla," who spent the last week working for Khamenei's regime and then heading to the protests when she got off work.
Although Leyla is not married and has no children, she has family responsibilities - an elderly mother and an unmarried sister - who share the same apartment. This has not deterred her from attending the rallies, although she admits her age has made her more conservative.
"Young people are angry, developing hatred against the regime and are playing with their lives in the streets," she says. She had to restrain a young girl at one rally to prevent her from being shot or arrested when she was swearing at security forces.
Every day she goes to work, she wonders what to do. "I decide on a daily basis to go or not to go [to the opposition rallies] and am aware of all the dangers to my life," she says. "I don't know how long I can continue it."
10:38 AM ET -- "Leftists" for Ahmadinejad. George Galloway is a British member of Parliament who is perhaps best known to Americans for his appearance before a U.S. Senate panel in 2005, where he ripped Senators for voting to back the war in Iraq.
These days, he's spending his time hosting a television show on Iran's state TV, proclaiming Iran's election completely legitimate. David at Daily Kos posted part 1 of his 7 video series that aired last week (I've embedded it below).
A reader reports that he appeared on Press TV again last night:
George Galloway, a British MP representing the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, spent several hours denouncing the protests, Israel and Zionism. He called upon the world to accept Ahmadinejad's re-election and called on the protesters to go home and accept the will of the people. He did not indicate which people he meant when he made that statement.
9:19 AM ET -- Solidarity. Via reader Allie, a candlelight vigil at Tehran University for the students who were beaten and arrested there:
9:00 AM ET -- Translate4Iran. "This grassroots project, called the Translation Initiative for Iranian Protesters (TIIP), is an ad hoc initiative aimed toward producing free, publication-ready translations of the written communication streaming out of Iran in the Farsi (Persian) language." Check it out here.
8:56 PM ET -- Iran officials seize pro-Mousavi party documents. Via reader David: "Iranian officials have seized documents and computers from a political party that had backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the June 12 presidential election, a newspaper reported on Saturday. The reformist Etemad Melli newspaper said 'officials inspected the office of Executives of Construction Party in Tehran and took away its documents and computers,' without specifying when this took place."
8:52 AM ET -- Rezai ready to join government's "special commission" on election. "Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai said on Saturday he was prepared to join a panel on post-election complaints if the other losers do as well... 'I welcome the Guardians Council's decision to set up a special board for the candidates' complaints, even though this announcement came late,' Rezai, a conservative, said in a letter to the electoral body."
Rezai said he would participate in the commission if Mousavi and Karroubi do as well. He called on both other candidates to take part in the panel in order to "remove electoral ambiguities and suspicions as well as obtain people's rights."
8:50 AM ET -- Ahmadinejad slams Obama for "interfering." From the AFP:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again slammed US President Barack Obama on Saturday for "interfering" in Iran, as debate over the Iranian president's disputed re-election continued.
Tehran's streets appeared to be quiet after authorities had warned that any further protests would be suppressed.
"He (Obama) who spoke of reforms and changes, why did he interfere and comment in a way that disregards convention and courtesy," Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as asking. [...]
Ahmadinejad also said those Western leaders who made "insulting and irrelevant comments will be put on a fair trial" by Iran at every "international gathering."
"It is enough. Do not disgrace yourself further by such language and behaviour," he said, urging them to "correct" their attitude towards Iran.
8:32 AM ET -- Iran and the Syria gambit. Howard Schweber has an excellent new piece:
Our bigger long-term concern is with Iran's role in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. This week two things were announced. First, the U.S. is sending an ambassador to Damascus. Second, Jimmy Carter -- working with Egypt and Syria -- may have worked out terms for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier whose capture by Hamas was one of the triggering events of Israel's invasion of Gaza. HaAretz reports that Shalit's release will take place within a few days as part of a prisoner exchange, and that the initial proposal was floated by Carter during a visit to Damascus and Gaza last year.
These stories may very well be connected, and they point to the almost incredible possibility that the U.S. may finally be ready to have a serious foreign policy in the Middle East. For what it's worth, I have been saying for many years that relations with Syria are the key. Here's just one reason: if Syria can be brought on board with a peace effort, Iran no longer has direct supply lines into Lebanon. Meanwhile, Syria has itself been supporting Hamas in Gaza (hence its role in negotiating the release of Shalit) as well as meddling in Lebanon. But while Syria has been notoriously difficult to deal with in the past, there is no reason in principle why progress cannot be made. Assad is an opportunist, not a mad ideologue, and certainly not a religious fanatic.
8:14 AM ET -- Some analysts say Iran crisis leaves U.S. better off. Check out Laura Rozen's latest at Foreign Policy magazine, which rounds up the range of thought on how Iran's election fallout will impact U.S. policy:
"The chessboard is moving demonstrably in the U.S. direction." That is the takeaway, said Congressional Research Service Middle East analyst Kenneth Katzman, from recent assessments by administration officials. "What I heard them saying is, 'Let's take advantage of that now, while we have the chessboard, and try to get a nuclear deal and get that resolved, rather than the whole ball of wax.'"
Added Katzman, of the perceived trend: "The strategic picture in the Middle East has moved to the U.S. advantage. The Lebanon elections, reengagement with Syria, stability in Iraq, have added up to a shifting chessboard against Iran."
But he added, while there is some optimism that regional and global trends are working to the U.S.'s advantage on Iran, there is also diminished expectation that near-term engagement is likely to occur. At the earliest, it's not expected -- if at all -- until the fall.