MG — Trying to understand what is going on

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2310 GMT: Moving Towards Qom. More chatter on the post-funeral tension in
Qom ‹ Norooz claims people are moving from Isfahan and Najafabad to ³defend² the house of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.
2300 GMT: Mahmoud Fights Back? On a day which began with our analysis that
the President is scrambling to maintain any legitimacy, it appears he tried
to send out a signal tonight with the dismissal of Mir Hossein Mousavi as
head of the Arts Institute. Salaam News reports that Ahmadinejad flew back
from Shiraz just for the meeting deciding on the sacking of Mousavi and will
now return to Shiraz.
Then again, one wonders if that will be enough to show Mahmoud¹s muscle.
According to Peyke Iran, only 40 people were on hand to greet Ahmadinejad at
Shiraz¹s airport this morning.
NEW Latest Iran Video: University Demonstrations for Montazeri (22 December)
NEW Iran Special Analysis: After Montazeri ‹ From Protest to Victory?
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Last Goodbye to Montazeri (21 December)
Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December ‹ 2nd Set)
Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December ‹ 1st Set)
Iran & The Nuclear Talks: The View from Tehran
Iran Video & Text: Montazeri¹s Son Saeed On His Father¹s Views, Last Words
The Latest From Iran (21 December): The Montazeri Funeral
2230 GMT: Back from break to find discussion still going on about possible
paramilitary/security forces threat to Ayatollah Sane¹i, with Rouydad saying
that followers have declared their readiness to defend the cleric.
1930 GMT: Rahesabz.net is reporting that Mir-Hossein Mousavi has been
finally removed from the directorship of the Farhangestan Institute of Arts
Ali Moallem has been selected as his replacement. The move was decided by
the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, which decides on major
cultural issues.
1730 GMT: The Internet is buzzing with stories that Government supporters
and plainclothes officers have attacked the offices of Ayatollah Sane¹i,
following vandalism against Grand Ayatollah Montazeri¹s house and image
yesterdat. There is also chatter that a permit has been given for a Basiji
march on Sane¹I¹s offices on Wednesday. A story in Radio Zaamaneh summarises
the chatter.
Given the volatile situation in Qom, we are being very careful with the
reports, which we cannot verify.
1645 GMT: We¹re off for a holiday break this evening, returning for a
wrap-up of the day¹s events later. Thanks to all for ideas and contributions
1545 GMT: Hitting Back. More on that ³Ayatollah² we mentioned briefly
earlier (1208 GMT), who was taking a shot at both Grand Ayatollah Montazeri
and those who mourned him yesterday: it¹s the Supreme Leader¹s
representative to the Revolutionary Guard, Mojtaba Zolnour.
Zolnour said, ³Ayatollah Montazeri was a deputy to Imam Khomeini who misused
his powerŠand meddled in the country¹s affairs and this served as one of the
reasons for his dismissal.² As for the crowd in Qom, Zolnour snapped,
³Certain individualsŠhave engaged in confronting the religious
leadershipŠThese opportunistic individuals Š engaged in creating chaos,
breaking car windows and chanting anti-leadership slogans to destroy the
Islamic establishment.²
1530 GMT: Regime Tensions? An article in the reformist Rooz Online claims to
document unease between Iran¹s armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard.
1430 GMT: Karroubi Spreads His Message. Another interview with Mehdi
Karroubi in the ³Western² media, this time in The Times of London. Karroubi,
answering written questions, maintains both his defiance and his criticism
of the regime while seeking a return to the ³right² path of the Islamic
Republic and Ayatollah Khomeini:
In today¹s Iran, republicanism and Islamism are severely damaged and a
lot of the revolution¹s principles and the Imam¹s have been underminedŠ.If
the Imam were alive, without doubt this would not have happenedŠ.As one of
the Imam¹s students and close friends I frankly say that those who claim to
act on his thoughts had the least personal, emotional and intellectual
closeness to him.
The significance of the statement is almost lost, however, amidst
near-farcical ineptitude by Times journalists. They fail to set the
interview in the context of the developments since the weekend. Far worse,
they headline the article with a ³surprising twist²: ³Mehdi Karroubi warned
the West against exploiting the regime¹s weakness to strike a deal to halt a
nuclear programme that was, he insisted, for peaceful purposes.² This is
based on the following Karroubi quote:
Nuclear science and achieving peaceful nuclear technology is a right
reserved for all NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty] members. We ask Western
governments not to use this internal situation as a bargaining chip with the
present Iranian Government to reach agreements which would undermine the
rights of the Iranian people.
Far from outing himself as a nuclear hardliner (which is a dreadful
misrepresentation that has led some in the US to keep the Green movement as
arm¹s length), Karroubi is simply asserting that nuclear power (not nuclear
weapons) is a sovereign right. More importantly, his message is that the
³West² should not give the Iranian Government legitimacy ‹ a legitimacy it
has failed to establish at home ‹ through a high-profile agreement.
So a valuable opportunity wasted. Pearls before swine, as my grandmother
used to sayŠ.
1330 GMT: We¹re Watching You. An Iranian blogger has posted photographs of
Government operatives filming and photographing yesterday¹s crowd in Qom.
1215 GMT: Today¹s Protests. We¹ve posted the first claimed video of
demonstrations at Elm-o-Sanat and Kurdistan Universities.
1208 GMT: Propaganda of Day. There is the same exact story in both IRNA and
Fars News of an Ayatollah denouncing yesterday¹s demonstrations in Qom, but
that¹s a trifle compared to Fars¹ attempted top story. Apparently there will
be a ³large gathering² of people in Qom this afternoon to denounce the
recent treatment of the image of Ayatollah Khomeini.
To illustrate the story, Fars has a photo of a recent ³large gathering²,
presumably from last :
1200 GMT: Similar coverage of the Ahmadinejad speech, albeit with a lot more
extracts from the speech, by Islamic Republic News Agency.
1155 GMT: And Here¹s Mahmoud. A massive surprise here: according to Press
TV, the President avoided any reference to internal events in his speech in
Shiraz and kept it international by attacking the US:
The problem is that the US seeks to dominate the Middle East but the
Iranian nation is an obstacleŠ.The nuclear game is repetitious,
old-fashioned and boring. Say publicly that you are seeking dominance over
the Middle East but Iran does not allow [you]Š.The world should know that
the Iranian nation and the regional countries will make it impossible for
the US to dominate the Middle East.
There was more tough talk for Washington on Iran¹s nuclear potential:
[You should] know that if we wanted to build bombs, we had enough
courage to announce that we were making bombs. We are a great and brave
nation. We told you that we will launch the [nuclear] fuel cycle and we did
it. We told you that we will industrialize the fuel production and we did
itŠ.We told you that we will launch a new generation of centrifuges and we
No indication in the Press TV article, either in text or photographs, to the
size of the crowd, let alone the events of the last 48 hours.
1150 GMT: Sideshows. In case you want a diversion from the main event,
here¹s Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki being tough with France
on the nuclear issue: ³The French must try to avoid the failed policies that
Washington and London have employed during the past few years. It is better
for Paris to adopt a policy that is in accordance with the country¹s
Or you can tune in to Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, waving his fist: ³My belief remains that political means
are the best tools to attain regional security and that military force will
have limited results. However, should the president call for military
options, we must have them ready.²
1140 GMT: Claims of student protests at Tehran Azad University and at Oloom
Tahghighat University.
1130 GMT: No clashes reported at the Beheshti University protest. Meanwhile,
reports that more than 50 (one report says 230) Najafabad University
students have been summoned for disciplinary action, presumably in
connection with protests surrounding the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.
There is also a report that electricity was cut off to a student residence
at Razi University in Kermanshah, with students ordered to remain in their
rooms, to prevent protests.
1100 GMT: Demonstrations v. The President. News is emerging of a protest at
Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, with students demanding the release of
classmates arrested on 16/17 Azar (7-8 December). There are also reports of
demonstrations at Elm-o-Sanat University in the capital. Reports indicate
that security forces have surrounded the campuses to prevent protest moving
to Tehran streets.
Meanwhile, we are looking for news on President Ahmadinejad¹s appearance in
Shiraz. Activists are claiming that the regime struggled to get an audience
of 10,000.
0945 GMT: From Protest to Victory? We¹ve posted a special analysis, in light
of the events of the last 48 hours: ³Is there any possibility of a Œmovement
from below¹ that frames and presses demands to a satisfactory conclusion?²
0803 GMT: The Iconic Video? We¹ve posted a lengthy (4+ minutes) video of
yesterday¹s crowd in Qom. Words cannot summarise it.
(But, to raise a smile, set this footage against the claim in the pro-regime
newspaper Kayhan, noted in yesterday¹s updates, that ³a maximum of 5000
people² turned out.)
0800 GMT: The President¹s Test. Ahmadinejad is now in Shiraz. We¹re
monitoring carefully both for his statement and any news on the size and
mood of the crowd.
0745 GMT: A later and quieter start to the morning after the drama, sorrow,
anger, and hope of the last 48 hours. We¹re working on a special analysis
evaluating the significance of the events surrounding Grand Ayatollah
Montazeri¹s death: is this now the next great Green wave of change?
In this context, there is an unintentionally funny sideshow exposing both
the weakness of a President and his best (if unintentional) friend
yesterday: the American ABC News. Last night Ahmadinejad appeared on the
channel which, for days, had been shouting about its ³exclusive² interview
with the US Public Enemy Number One.
Here are ABC¹s self-promoting highlights of the discussion: 1) ³Iran Prez
Won¹t Say Yes-or-No to Nuclear Bomb³; 2) ³Obama Didn¹t Deserve Nobel Prize²;
3) ³Ahmadinejad Defiant Over Sanctions Threat²; 4) ³Hiker¹s Mom Made
Christmas Appeal to Ahmadinejad² [three US citizens, detained after they
entered Iranian territory this autumn, remain under threat of trial for
espionage]. Because the story was written soon after the interview was taped
last week, there was no reference to Grand Ayatollah Montazeri or any
considered question about the political challenge to the President and the
(In grudging fairness, it appears that ABC re-positioned the clips they
showed last night to get some connection with developments. Diane Sawyer¹s
lead question, over archive shots of mass demonstrations this summer, was
whether Ahmadinejad would guarantee that protesters would be safe.
Ahmadinejad¹s response: ³Can the people in America come on the streets
anytime they want?²
That ‹ again to give some redemption to ABC ‹ brought out a telling moment.
When Sawyer assured Ahmadinead that, yes, with a permit Americans could
demonstrate, the President looked a bit uncertain, ³Are you sure?² before
declaring, ³In Iran we have got freedom, more than there is in America.²)
A classic example, therefore, of the blinkers of sensationalism but, more
importantly, an illustration of Ahmadinejad¹s fragile position: who amongst
the crowd in Qom yesterday really cared about the words he put out on
American television screens last evening?