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Iran Uprising Blogging (Thursday July 2)

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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.

9:04 PM ET -- Rafsanjani will not lead Friday prayers. The NIAC relays this report from the news site Mowj:

Mowj announced that Hashemi Rafsanjani has "declined" to lead the Friday prayers for a second time. "Temporary Friday prayer Imams" are scheduled to lead the sermons by taking turns. No official reason has been announced on why Rafsanjani has not been present for his last two turns. "The rumors regarding resignation from his position as a temporary Imam have not been confirmed."

The NIAC also notes, "Twitter feeds are reporting that the mothers of the dead demonstrators are organizing a silent demonstration in the 4 major parks of Tehran on Saturday, July 4. This is interesting, as the 4 major parks in Tehran are very large, so they must be expecting a large crowd."

8:44 PM ET -- Iraqi top Shi'ite clerics silent on Iran. The AP's Hamza Hendawi writes a long-overdue story on the silence of top Shi'ite clerics in Iraq on the uprising in Iran. Iran's political-religious leadership, and about two-thirds of its citizens, are Shi'ite Muslims.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani -- who was born in Iran but resides now in Iraq -- became a de facto U.S. ally in Iraq when he repeatedly urged calm during the heights of Sunni-Shi'ite fighting there. He is considered the senior religious leader of Shi'ites worldwide, and Iranians have been waiting with some anticipation for him to weigh in on the violent crackdown, to no avail. Yet many observers say he would be more likely to have conveyed any protests politely and in private correspondence with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei.

From the AP piece:

There is no place outside Iran that has closer links to Tehran's ruling establishment than Iraq's holy Shiite city of Najaf, where the silence during Iran's post-election crisis says much about the deep complexities of their cross-border bonds.

"Simply put, the whole affair does not concern Najaf," said Sheik Ali al-Najafi, son of and spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Bashir al-Najafi, one of the city's four top Shiite clerics. "We will not interfere in the internal affairs of a dear, next door neighbor."

The four -- who include Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- have remained quiet on the upheavals in Iran since the disputed presidential election June 12. The reasons have to do with both religion and politics. [...]

Despite the deep ties between the clerical establishments in Najaf and Iran, there are important differences.

The Najaf strain of Shiite teaching emphasizes that top clerics should be background figures -- though influential -- on most political affairs.

They did not speak out even during the crackdowns on Shiites by Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1990s. Nor have they spoken publicly about U.S. accusations that Iran has been aiding Shiite militias in Iraq as part of indirect pressure on American forces and the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.

Iran's Islamic system, by contrast, bestows all main powers on the non-elected Shiite theocracy.

There had been expectations that the top Najaf clerics could break their traditions and publicly comment on the unrest -- appealing for calm or even coming to the defense of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following the protests over claims that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election was rigged.

But any sign of interference in Iran's affairs by the Najaf clerics, particularly al-Sistani, could prove costly at a time when many Iraqis fear that Iran will try to broaden its influence in their country as the Americans reduce their military presence.

7:56 PM ET -- Ebadi wants UN human rights envoy to Iran. "Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi called on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday to appoint a personal envoy to investigate human rights abuses in Iran. In a letter also signed by the rights groups International Federation for Human Rights and the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Ebadi asked Ban to appoint the envoy to look into abuses in Iran following June's disputed presidential election."

6:55 PM ET -- Has the Green uprising taken the military option off the table? Global Post has an important piece noting something that I've thought from the very beginning: America's new familiarity with ordinary Iranians has made the concept of a preemptive U.S. military strike on Iran untenable.

It's worth remembering how intensively the Bush administration worked to portray the nation of Iraq as one man -- Saddam Hussein -- during the lead up to the 2003 invasion. It was a critical part of whipping up the citizenry to support a full-scale war.

Here's some of the Global Post piece:

[T]he discomfort caused by the the dramatic clashes between Iranian moderates and the regime is of a different nature. As long as the vacant stare of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Hilterian rants of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embodied "Iran," Israel could avoid thinking too seriously about what military types call "collateral damage." Many suspected Iranian nuclear facilities were located in busy suburbs, some beneath busy cities.

Now, however, Iran has donned a very different face -- not just that of Neda, the young protester whose tragic death has been watched by millions on YouTube. The new face Iran has turned to the world is a composite. Yes, the mullah and Ahmadinnerjacket are still in there, but so are hundreds of thousands of people risking their skin to repudiate them. [...]

Now, images of street protests vastly complicate that calculus. Imagine the revulsion if such air strikes, as they regularly do in Afghanistan, led to the unintended deaths of dozens or more of the very Iranians who are being cheered in the streets today?

6:54 PM ET -- Greek reporter working for Washington Times 'to be freed.' The Guardian reports:

A Washington Times reporter detained for more than a week by Iranian authorities is to be released within hours, according to a Greek politician.

Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden, a journalist with joint British and Greek nationality also known as Jason Fowden, was arrested as he was attempting to leave the country last Tuesday, 23 June.

The head of a small rightwing Greek party said today he has received assurances that the Iranian government will soon release Athanasiadis-Fowden.

6:04 PM ET -- For the letter-writers amongst us. Middle East analyst Juan Cole blogs:

The regime is already conducting Stalinist show-trials, as in the case of Maziar Bahari, who recently appeared with me on Fareed Zakaria's GPS Sunday interview show. Please politely protest Mr. Bahari's detention and the coerced 'confession' to Mohammad Khazaee, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, email address: iran@un.int . While you are at it, demand the release of Greek journalist Iason Athanasiadis and the others listed by Amnesty International. If you can, it is best to write by land mail to: Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh, (Office of the Head of the Judiciary) Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave.,south of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran 1316814737, Islamic Republic of Iran (Salutation: Your Excellency).

5:53 PM ET -- Waterboarding in Iran? Via the Daily Dish, ABC's Lara Setrakian tweets: "Tehrani source close to those detained says some have been beaten heavily and waterboarded with hot water"

5:50 PM ET -- Apologies for the light posting today, an afternoon full of meetings and administrative work. Getting up several updates now.

2:48 PM ET -- "First they kill, then they count." Radio Free Europe's Golnaz Esfandiari, who I had the great pleasure of meeting the other day, has a new interview up with a student leader in Iran:

Student Leader: In Iran we always use this joke to describe this situation: they say that a group sees a fox that is running away, they ask him, "Why are you running away?" The fox says, "The ruler has ordered that all foxes that have three testicles be killed." They note, "But you have two testicles," and the fox responds, "But first they kill and then they count."

This is exactly the situation activists in Iran are facing. Any crisis is an excuse to suppress them; their crimes have been decided beforehand.


2:28 PM ET -- The latest on SMS service on Iran. Yesterday, we noted accounts from Iranians saying that SMS service had mostly returned after being shut off the day before the presidential election. BBC follows up with some additional details:

The conservative Hamshahri newspaper recently supported the cutting off of SMS across Iran, saying the measure had created tranquility.

However, parliamentary deputy Mostafa Kavakabian told the Farda News website that the blocking of SMS services had caused great damage to Iran's economy. He asked the Iranian parliament to investigate.

On Wednesday, Mr Mousavi published a statement on the internet in which he demanded an end to what he called the government's illegal interference in phone and SMS networks and the world wide web.

2:16 PM ET -- Obama comments on Iran in AP interview.

President Barack Obama says he is "not reconciled" to the idea of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon within a year.

The president told The Associated Press in an interview that U.S. government planning is running in precisely the opposite direction. He said a nuclear-armed Iran would likely trigger an arms race in the already volatile Mideast and said that would be "a recipe for potential disaster."

Obama also said Thursday that opposing a nuclear weapons capacity for the Persian Gulf nation isn't simply "a U.S. position." He said "the biggest concern is not simply that Iran can threaten us or our allies, like Israel or its neighbors."

The president said that Iran must not be a nuclear power, although he conceded that the challenge ahead is formidable.

2:15 PM ET -- FIFA won't take action against Iran soccer team. AP reports:

FIFA won't punish Iran's national soccer team for the green wristbands some players wore in solidarity with anti-government protesters during a World Cup qualifier last month.

Soccer's governing body last week said it was reviewing reports from the June 17 game against South Korea to decide whether any rules on player dress were breached.

"We received the match reports and there was no reference to the wristbands," meaning there will be "no further action," FIFA said in a statement Thursday.

2:07 PM ET -- Arab reaction to Iran's election: a view from Beirut. Paul Salem, Director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, and Ellen Laipson, president and CEO of the Stimson Center, discuss the fallout of Iran's uprising in the Arab world in an episode of BloggingHeads.


2:01 PM ET -- CNN reports on Newsweek reporter being held by Iran. Video from last night's 'Anderson Cooper 360':


11:43 AM ET -- Fight the propaganda. A Facebook page protesting Iran's state media is growing very quickly.

11:28 AM ET -- Freedom Glory Project. Reader Minoo writes, "Yesterday, I was listening to NPR's Soundcheck program and for the first time heard of this Iranian underground rock band HYPERNOVA, and they have a video on YouTube (there are actually more vidoes from them). They were recently in a protest in New York by Columbus Square. This song is amazing and is related to the unrest in Iran. Please, post it. It is called Freedom, Glory, Be Our Name."

It turns out this song is part of a broader project by Iranian artists called the Freedom Glory Project. Check out their website here. The video is really well done and worth watching:


11:18 AM ET -- A request. The video below is one of the most touching pieces of footage to come out of Iran's recent uprising. An Iranian woman filmed the haunting chants of "Allah-o Akbar!" at night while sharing her own thoughts about her country in heart-breaking poetic form.

When this video surfaced two weeks ago, an Iranian-American reader translated the woman's words into English, and another reader, Chas Danner, placed English captions over the video.

In recent days, Chas has received several additional videos from the same Iranian woman. He would like to translate them and have them captioned like the video below. If you have a few moments to help with this, please email him here, and he'll send along a transcript for you to transcribe. As always, many thanks.


11:14 AM ET -- Sam Sedaei: "The Iranian Revolution Didn't Die With Michael Jackson."

11:11 AM ET -- Iran hardliners urge legal action against Mousavi. "Iranian hardliners pressed on Thursday for legal action against moderate leaders accused of inciting post-election turmoil that has dimmed Western hopes of engaging Tehran on its disputed nuclear program. 'Those who hold illegal rallies and gatherings should be legally pursued,' parliament member Mohammad Taghi Rahbar was quoted as saying by the hardline Javan newspaper."

11:03 AM ET -- Windows on Iran. I wanted to pass on word of this excellent Iran blog "Windows on Iran" run by Fatemeh Keshavarz, Chair of the Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis.

One recent entry:

I have already told you about all the beautiful songs written in honor of the Green Movement toward a full-fledged democracy in Iran. I would like to open this window with one of my favorites - because it is not about the cruelties that have happened but about hope. It is called "zemestun sar umad" which means "The winter has ended." It is a new arrangement of an old and popular song. The images you see on the clip are from Mr. Mousavi's campaign, his visits to the war front during the eight-year Iran/Iraq war, and some earlier images from the 1979 revolution. One of the goals of the clip is to demonstrate Mr. Mousavi's deep roots in the Iranian social and political tradition. Enjoy!


10:49 AM ET -- Russia opposes Iran sanctions. A reader sends along an English translation of this article in Persian:

The Russian MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, in a meeting with reporters today Thursday claimed that imposing sanctions on Iran as a result of recent presidential election issues is pointless.

According to RIA Novosti, Nesterenko added: "We see the idea of posing sanctions on Iran because of its internal problems as illegal and pointless, and it can create further internal challenges and difficulties in compliance."

According to Nesterenko, Russia sees Iran's presidential elections issues as an internal problem and adds: "We are certain that the differences of opinion that have come about as a result of the elections must be resolved according to the law and the constitution of the Islamic Republic."

10:46 AM ET -- Congresswoman compares Iranians to New York Dems. Can we stop with these ridiculous comparisons?

"People around the world watched and were inspired as people in Iran risked their lives to vote," [Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)] said. "New Yorkers deserve the same. They deserve the right to vote, the right to make their own decision."

10:06 AM ET -- Roger Cohen's latest. The New York Times columnist whose Iran stories have consistently been must-reads today examines the complicated politics of U.S. engagement in Iran:

Sentiment has shifted radically in Iran as multiple security forces deploy in defense of a lie. For Ayatollah Ali Khamouenei, the supreme leader, the question of how to win back support will in time arise. Enter America, the target of Great-Satanism but dear to most Iranians.

"Relations with the United States are the big taboo, and whoever breaks the taboo will be a hero," Mahmoudi said. "The real fight is over whether the right or the left should rebuild ties."

Referring to the opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, and the former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, the cleric explained: "We would never allow Moussavi or Khatami to restore relations, because they would then have heroic status."

10:01 AM ET -- Iran police fabricated Interpol probe into Neda's death. Surprise, surprise.

The International Police force, or Interpol, has denied a claim by Iran's police chief that it is seeking a doctor who witnessed the shooting death of 26-year-old "Neda."

Head of police Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam said, "Arash Hejazi is wanted by Interpol and Iran's Intelligence Ministry" in the murder of Neda, who's shooting fueled what were daily opposition rallies in the capital city of Tehran, according to a Wednesday report by Iran's Press TV, a state-run, English language network.

Speaking by phone to CBSNews.com Thursday morning from her office in Lyon, France, a spokesperson for Interpol flatly denied any involvement whatsoever in an investigation into Sultan's death.

8:23 AM ET -- Washington Post runs op-ed backing Iran military strike. Tuesday's Post includes an op-ed by hard-right hawk John Bolton titled, "Time for an Israeli strike?"

In short, the stolen election and its tumultuous aftermath have dramatically highlighted the strategic and tactical flaws in Obama's game plan. With regime change off the table for the coming critical period in Iran's nuclear program, Israel's decision on using force is both easier and more urgent. Since there is no likelihood that diplomacy will start or finish in time, or even progress far enough to make any real difference, there is no point waiting for negotiations to play out. In fact, given the near certainty of Obama changing his definition of "success," negotiations represent an even more dangerous trap for Israel.

Earlier this week, the Post's own editorial was headlined, "Shouldn't 'realism' mandate regime change?"

7:47 AM ET -- Iran violence condemned in Parliament. Reader Jeff passes along this video of Iran parliament member Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian speaking passionately against government actions. The description posted with the video notes:

Imam Ali is the son in law of Prophet Mohammad and is considered the role model of Iranian citizens. His birthday is celebrated as father's day in Iran. Dr. Pezeshkian in his speech uses Imam Ali's letter to Malek Ashtar that specifically tells him what he should not do just because he is in position of power -- exactly what the government of Iran has been doing these past few days.

You can turn on English captions in the video below by clicking the button on the bottom-right and making sure the (CC) option is red:


7:43 AM ET -- Merkel likens Iran to repressive East Germany. "German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday likened events in Iran to the oppression at the hands of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany, where she grew up. 'I know from the time of the GDR (East Germany) how important it was that people around the world made sure that the people stuck in (Stasi prisons) Bautzen and Hohenschoenhausen ... were not forgotten,' Merkel told parliament. 'Iran must know, particularly in the age of modern communications, that we will do everything in our power to ensure that these people (arrested in Iran during the recent turmoil) are not forgotten about,' she said."

7:35 AM ET -- Iran book publisher recalls weeklong ordeal in prison. The Los Angeles Times publishes more awful accounts from Iran's notorious Evin prison:

Older than most of the prisoners, M was designated the cellblock leader, in charge of scheduling four-hour sleeping shifts for the inmates, who had to stand during the rest of the time, share a single toilet or make quick calls to their family on a single phone.

At mealtime, they ate watery bean or noodle soup. To kill time, they debated politics and the nation's future.

Prisoners were frequently singled out and pulled away for interrogation. They came back hours later with bruises or with blood in their urine, he said. Some would be pulled out at 8 a.m. and returned 14 hours later, limping and exhausted.

The full story is here.

7:06 AM ET -- Dates to watch for potential demonstrations. A reader notes this sentence from an op-ed in the Guardian: "Dates to watch include next week's 9 July anniversary of the 1999 student protests and the end of the 40-day mourning period for a young woman the world now knows simply as Neda."

For anyone of Iranian descent, this will not be news. For the rest of us, next week marks the 10-year anniversary of a major set of student demonstrations sparked by the closing of a reformist newspaper. Those rallies were also violently suppressed -- at least one person was killed and hundreds of others imprisoned, according to human rights groups.

Of course, unlike the government-permitted gathering that formed at Ghoba mosque this past Sunday, Iran's leaders will not sanction any events to commemorate this event. And given that Mousavi's movement is trying to emphasize its diverse roots, there may be some political risks in an event focusing exclusively on student activism. But there do seem to be plans for some kind of demonstration on Thursday -- another reader passed along a planned march route that's being distributed by Iranians online.

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Useful Resources

Translations: TehranBroadcast.com | Translate4Iran
Helping Iranians use the web: Tor Project (English & Farsi)IranHelp.org (Farsi)
Demonstrations: Facebook | WhyWeProtest
Activism: Avaaz.org | National Iranian American Council