I know that you share our deep concern about the growing violence and brutality in Iran. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the cleric-backed Iranian regime has decided to end the public demonstrations through violent oppression.
Today, I am asking you to call on House committees to hold joint hearings on the situation in Iran, the policies of the United States towards Iran, and any need for changes in our policy
Ayatollah Montazeri praised the people of Iran for proving their braveness and maturity once again by participating in political and social scenes and expressed his regret that in reaction to people demanding their rights the authorities “have taken an approach and committed actions that is beyond imagination by any just human being.”
Montazeri said “I have been involved in the struggles against the previous (Shah) regime and the establishment of the Islamic Republic as much as I can. I feel ashamed in front of the people and clearly announce that beloved Islam…is different from the behavior of the current rulers. These actions and policies being done under the banner of religion will certainly cause large segments of people to become cynical regarding the principles of Islam and theocracy and will ruin the hard and valuable work of the Islamic ulema.”
Montazeri harshly criticized the militarization of the society saying “In a country and a regime which is proud of being Islamic and Shiite, and only 30 years after the victory of the revolution when people still remember the last scenes of the past regime, how could they turn Tehran and other large cities into a big garrison while the world is watching? They have put our brothers in the armed forces against the people. By using plainclothes agents, who are reminders of baton-carrying agents of Shah, cowardly shed the blood of the youth and men and women of this land.”
Montazeri then posed questions to authorities asking “was this the strategy of Prophet Mohammad and Imam Ali? They never cursed and accused their enemies and didn’t silence them by the sword…Now, a group of people thinking that they can commit any crime because they see themselves as being close to the government; attack student dorms, beat them and throw them down the building, commit chain murders and terrorize intellectuals of this nation and be immune from punishment; this is not compatible with any religion and custom.”
Montazeri advised the people to “pursue their reasonable demands while maintaining their calm.” He also advised the authorities, asking them to stop using harsh and irrational measures which destroys people’s trust and exacerbates the separation between them and regime. “[The authorities] should not create divisions among the people, apologize for their past mistakes, and understand that worldly positions are not permanent.”
Khamenei’s anguished sermon on June 19 was not provoked simply by the popular uprising in the streets. According to a well-placed source in the holy city of Qom, Rafsanjani is working furiously behind the scenes to call for an emergency meeting of the Khobregan, or Assembly of Experts–the elite all-cleric body that can unseat the Supreme Leader or dilute his prerogatives. The juridical case against Khamenei would involve several counts. First, he would be charged with countenancing a coup d’état–albeit a bloodless one–without consulting with the Khobregan. Second, he would stand accused of deceitfully plotting to oust Rafsanjani–who is the Khobregan chairman and nominally the country’s third-most-important authority–from his positions of power. Third, he would be said to have threatened the very stability of the republic with his ambition and recklessness.
Rafsanjani’s purported plan is to replace Khamenei’s one-person dictatorship with a Leadership Council composed of three or more high-ranking clerics; this formula was proposed and then abandoned in 1989 by several prominent clerics. Rafsanjani will likely recommend giving a seat to Khamenei on the council to prevent a violent backlash by his fanatic loyalists. It is not clear if Rafsanjani will have the backing of the two-thirds of the chamber members needed for such a change, though the balance of forces within the Khobregan could be tipped by the events unfolding in the streets. As a symbolic gesture, Rafsanjani is said to favor holding the meeting in Qom–the nation’s religious center, which Khamenei has diminished–rather than in Tehran, where it has been held before.
Reliable sources in Iran are suggesting that a possible compromise to put an end to the violent uprising that has rocked Iran for the past two weeks may be in the works. I have previously reported that the second most powerful man in Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Assembly of Experts (the body with the power to choose and dismiss the Supreme Leader) is in the city of Qom—the country’s religious center—trying to rally enough votes from his fellow Assembly members to remove the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. News out of Iran suggests that he may be succeeding. At the very least, it seems he may have gained enough support from the clerical establishment to force a compromise from Khamenei, one that would entail a run-off election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Reports of the possible compromise, though unconfirmed, are coming from multiple sources. “…”
It was exactly a week ago, during Friday prayers, that Khamenei threw down the gauntlet to the protesters, unleashing the full force of Iran’s security apparatus to deal with the uprising. If a compromise is indeed in the works, look for a softening of tone tomorrow during Khamenei’s Friday sermon.
Three hard-line Senate voices on Iran said Thursday they will introduce legislation to expand Iranians’ access to free media in the wake of a post-election crackdown on protests and communication.
Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Connecticut independent Joseph I. Lieberman said they would introduce the bill, which would authorize more money for U.S. broadcasting services as well as technology to circumvent attempts to block broadcasts and Web sites, after the July Fourth recess.
The bill outlined Thursday also would require a government report to Congress on companies that provide technology to Iranians to control and censor the Internet and online communication. A joint venture of European communications companies Siemens and Nokia sold Iran such technology in 2008. McCain said the bill would authorize money to help Iranians evade the government’s crackdowns.
3:02 pm: More analysis from Persia House, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Iran shop:
Turning up the Heat on Mousavi
Following the televised confessions of several arrested demonstrators who “admitted” to being recruited in London by agents of the Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a number of regime stalwarts, including several Majlis representatives, appear to be setting the stage in recent days for Mousavi’s isolation—and possible prosecution—by accusing him of cooperating with anti-revolutionary elements ranging from the MEK to monarchists to Bahais. A number are also explicitly comparing him to deposed President Banisadr, urging him not to share a similar fate—a not very subtle veiled threat. According to Ali Shahrokhi, the head of the Majlis Judicial Commission, Mousavi could be charged with a number of crimes, ranging from religious deviation to threatening national security. Of all these recent developments, perhaps the most ominous is the regime’s effort to broadly paint the Mousavi camp and the demonstrators with the hated MEK brush. This, along with stepped up attempts by hardliners to tie the Mousavi camp to foreign-backed agents bent on fomenting a “velvet revolution” is almost certainly the precursor to a particularly swift and brutal purge of opposition leaders and supporters.
Meanwhile, as he works to solidify the regime’s position vis-à-vis dealing with Mousavi, Supreme Leader Khamenei clearly is offering Hashemi Rafsanjani an opportunity to return to the fold. In his Friday prayer, the Supreme Leader publicly exonerated his rival of any financial wrongdoing. Furthermore, Rafsanjani’s daughter Faezeh and other family members, recently arrested, were released from custody. While it appears increasingly likely that Rafsanjani will take Khamenei up on his offer (Rafsanjani is, above all, a survivor), it will be interesting to watch whether he is able to extract any concessions from the Supreme Leader, as well as whether he is able—or cares—to mitigate the problems Mousavi is facing. This could depend on the reception Rafsanjani received in his reported meetings with the ayatollahs in Qom, and on the amount of backing he feels he has in the Assembly of Experts to place pressure on Khamenei.
2:27 pm: Kalemeh [Mousavi’s newspaper – Persian] reports that all but four of the 70 professors who were arrested yesterday have been freed.
2:23 pm: Salon has a very interesting interview with Homand Madj, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ. Here is an excerpt:
Do you see any stereotypes being used in the media coverage of the current crisis that may cloud our ability to understand what’s going on?
That the people who want change in Iran all want liberal democracy and reject the Islamic Republic. Many do reject it, but when the New York Times puts a big photo on Page One of tens of thousands of protesters and in the center of the photo is a woman with her scarf pushed to the back of her head with Chanel sunglasses and blond streaked hair I think it gives the wrong impression of who these protesters are. Yes, there are people like that but they would not have gotten 3 million people in the streets if that’s all who came. Those people are still a minority. I’m not saying their cause is unjust or they shouldn’t have the freedom not to wear head scarves or drink alcohol. I’m just saying they are still not the majority in Iran. The Mousavi protesters who came out included men with beards, women in chadors, deeply religious people who voted against Ahmadinejad.
If violence continues, if more protesters are killed, is there ever a scenario in which a more activist or interventionist policy from the U.S. or Western nations would be helpful or necessary?
Absolutely not. I don’t know what the U.S. could even do, short of invading the country, which would be a disaster because you turn everybody against the United States and for the government. Other than to say it’s unacceptable for a government to kill its own people who are peacefully protesting, and to make that point strongly, I don’t know what else the U.S. should do.
Let’s think about U.S. interests. Obama is there to protect the U.S. national interests. We don’t have a dog in this fight. We don’t have a preference. We should have a preference for the rule of law and for people’s rights being respected. If Ahmadinejad is president, the United States is going to have to deal with him whether or not his election was the will of the people. Clearly it’s not the will of the people for Hosni Mubarak to be president of Egypt. It was the will of the people to have Hamas represent the Palestinian territory and we decided not to deal with the will of the people there. I think we have to be careful. If we come out on the side of the reformers and say we can’t accept Ahmadinejad, it would be the equivalent of Iran saying we can’t accept that Bush is president because we don’t agree with the Supreme Court ruling.
Would you say that the neoconservatives’ extremely vocal calls to intervene on behalf of Mousavi are playing into the hands of the most conservative forces in Iran?
The neocons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran. They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions — I’ll call them Iranian Chalabis. It’s offensive, even to an Iranian American like me. These are people who would have actually preferred to have Ahmadinejad as president so they could continue to demonize him and were worried, as some wrote in Op-Eds, that Mousavi would be a distraction and would make it easier for Iranians to build a nuclear weapon and now all of a sudden they want to be on his side? Go away.
I’m not saying Obama is the most knowledgeable person on Iran, but he’s obviously getting good advice right now. He understands way more about the culture of the Middle East than any of the neocons. For them to be lecturing President Obama is a joke. I have criticized Obama; for instance, I criticized him for having a patronizing tone in his Persian New Year message. But right now I think he’s doing a good job. The John McCains of the world, they’re Ahmadinejad’s useful idiots. They’re doing a great job for him.
2:00 pm: Mousavi: “The current administration is facing a crisis of legitimacy” [Translated from Mojw]
In a meeting with Iranian sociologists to analyze the post-election situation, Mousavi said “the current society is very different from the society six months ago. We now have a new society, which we need to get to know before doing anything.”
Mousavi criticized the dismissal of Turkan from his post in the Ministry of Petroleum for complaining, asking “when the government does not have the qualified human resources, how can it continue to function?”
Regarding the relationship between Khamenei’ and Ahmadinejad, Mousavi said that “the Supreme Leader’s support of the administration in normal times is beneficial. But the perception that the Supreme Leader and the Presidency are one is not in the country’s advantage.”
Mousavi also said that “currently, a self-awareness has developed among the middle class” which with proper direction can become a “positive energy for building the future of the country, but if it is suppressed, it will create problems.” Mousavi believes that the current administration has no plans to meet the needs of the middle class and [the current administration] is “hopeless.” If this movement is not managed properly, Mousavi said “it is possible that it will be managed from the outside” but “foreign interference should not be allowed.”
Mousavi further mentioned that “my access to the people has been made completely limited. Our two sites are facing a lot of problems and publishing of Kalemeh Sabz newspaper has been stopped and the editors have been arrested. Other newspapers also face serious limitations. These are by no means beneficial for improving the atmosphere of the nation and will lead to more violence.” In the end, Mousavi said that “at this time, people need to feel their requests are being heard.”
1:55 pm: The Iranian government is trying to calm the Iranian street with movies (via Salon).
They want to keep us indoors, and quiet. But which subversive programmer picked “The Lord of the Rings”?
In Tehran, state television’s Channel Two is putting on a “Lord of the Rings” marathon, part of a bigger push to keep us busy. Movie mad and immunized from international copyright laws, Iranians are normally treated to one or two Hollywood or European movie nights a week. Now it’s two or three films a day. The message is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Let’s watch, forget about what’s happened, never mind. Stop dwelling in the past. Look ahead.
1:20 pm: Female legal experts request legal action against Shirini Ebadi – According to IRNA, a group of female academics, lawyers, and martyrs’ families wrote a letter to the Ministry of Justice requesting legal action against Shirin Ebadi because “she is no longer eligible to have a [legal] permit.”
In this letter, partially quoted by IRAN, Shirin Ebadi is accused of “repetitive infringement of Islamic decrees, Sharia law and the constitution” which makes her “ineligible for a legal license.” The signatories of the letter further said “a self-serving group of traitors to the holy regime of the Islamic Republic with a pledge of allegiance to aliens, like brown-nosing dust and dirt…are planning to harm the national greatness and honor.”
1:12 pm: From a credible source in Shiraz, Iran who had a conversation with one Basiji in a sandwich shop. Here’s what the Basiji told him:
We are getting paid 200,000 toman a day by the government (equivalent to roughly $200). We are being instructed to go into the streets and hit people, everyone and anyone who is out, until they can no longer get up. (The exact words in Farsi were “Inghadr bezanin ta dige boland nashan”). We are being fed lunch and dinner and given rooms to sleep in at night in undisclosed locations.
We are not alone. There are Arabs among us, but they are getting paid more than we are. They are being up in hotels and they have different weapons than we do.
1:01 pm: Isfahan Majlis representative says Mousavi’s fate “will be worse than Banisadr’s”
The latest from Persia House, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Iran shop:
Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the Isfahan Representative in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), has stated that if Mousavi does not retract his June 19 statement, his future will be worse than that of Banidsadr. The large portion of Mousavi’s statement was in direct contravention of the guidelines and principles enunciated by the Supreme Religious Leader. Rahbar has accused Mousavi of dismissing the Guardian Council and its role in determining the outcome of the election, which is in direct contradiction of the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Rahbar also accused Mousavi of crossing the “red lines” drawn by the Supreme Leader by asking people to gather in the streets to protest the election results. For the original article in Persian, click here.
They go on to note that, if need be, Rahbar’s comments can be used as the basis for bringing serious charges against Mousavi–something that has already been hinted at a number of times.
12:37 pm (Corrected): Human rights activist “Iranbaan” reports [Persian] that Shirin Ebadi is being targeted:
“In a letter, Shirin Ebadi has been accused of undermining Islamic principles, the sharia law and the constitution.”
“Building a case against Shirin Ebadi has started; several of female legal experts and martyrs’ families have requested the cancellation of Shirin Ebadi’s permit, and requesting the legal pursuit of her.”
Shirin Ebadi is Iran’s most prominent human rights defender and a Nobel peace prize laureate. She runs the Center for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran.
12:03 pm: Another warning from the security forces –
According to Hamshahri Online, a Sepah (IRGC) commander, Ali Fazli, reiterated yesterday that the armed forces and Basij will do “anything that is necessary to provide security.” “We are the servants of the people and are proud of our services. People can be certain that we will not avoid any efforts necessary to provide for their security.” Fazli gave a warning, saying “Watch your behavior and do not act in a way to make this more bitter for the nation.” He further threatened that people who don’t follow his instructions will be “harshly dealt with.”
11:55 am: Mousavi’s facebook page just released the following statement in English and Persian:
“Ok, now all the world are going to show their supports to Iranians… This Friday, We all are going to send GREEN BALLOONS to the sky to show that now ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD ARE IRANIAN. On 9/11 everybody was American, NOW THE WORLD IS IRANIAN.”
This Friday, at 1 pm people are instructed to release green balloons all over the world.
11:15 am: There is a graphic video on youtube appearing to show the brutality that was used against yesterday’s protesters in Tehran. [UPDATE: Despite the video saying it is from yesterday, a reader says this video is in fact several days old. We cannot confirm when the video was taken.]
11:11 am: Tweets from human rights activist “Iranbaan”
“Armed forces, plainclothes and motorcyclists have taken position in Daneshjoo Park and are being organized for potential control of gatherings in Valiasr.”“Tehran University professors have formed a committee to investigate the nighttime attack on the dorms that happened a few nights ago.”
11:02 am: Mousavi’s 8th statement: “I will not leave the scene in response to the deception, the essence of which has become clear to the people”
Kalemeh posted the text [Persian] of Mousavi’s latest statement addressing the people of Iran, where he criticized the state media and internet sites related to the government and Kayhan newspaper for distorting the truth. “They have used the resources that belong to you to not only cover up the violations and recent hurtful events but also to blame the person who has accompanied you in demanding your rights.”
Mousavi says the government is trying to ignore the violations that occurred during the elections and the violence and murders that ensued afterward. “If those responsible for the 18 Tir 1378 [July 9, 1999] were legally dealt with, we would not have witnessed a repetition of those atrocities in broader dimensions and bolder distortion of the facts.”
Mousavi announced his readiness to respond to all the “accusations” and said that he is not willing to give up in the face of threats or for personal interests. In the end, Mousavi asked the people to continue the protests while remaining peaceful and avoiding the “trap of ill-wishers” who try to attribute the movement to foreign elements. “It is up to us to offset this evil conspiracy with our behavior and speech.”
10:44 am: Karroubi’s latest statement [Persian]:
Mehdi Karroubi’s official newspaper etemademelli carries a new statement from him today. Mr. Karroubi used very strong language to say that he does not agree with the results of the elections. “There is strong syndicated electoral mafia in Iran that has interfered and changed the results of the elections. We must locate the cancerous leadership of this syndicate and destroy it.”
He further elaborated by stating that “we anticipated cheating to take place at the election; however, the underlining assumption was that with a huge turnout of voters the cheating would become insignificant”.
“The results of the election have left a bad taste in our mouths and the mouths of the voters. As a result we have witnessed demonstrations.”
With regards to the arrested individuals, Mr. Karroubi stated that “the arrested individuals must be released as soon as possible.”
The chief editor of his newspaper, Mr. Mohammad Ghochany, has himself been arrested, and Mr. Karroubi expressed his disappointment by stating, “I am the owner of this newspaper, and I will take responsibility for anything that is said or published in etemademelli.”
Lastly, Karroubi make a reference to Ayatollah Khomeini by quoting one of his famous quotes: “The measure of a nation is its vote.” He concludes that the Iranian people must fight for their rights and not accept injustice.
10:28 am: The LA Times takes a deeper look at Khamenei’s son:
The younger Khamenei is the “most influential person in his father’s court,” said Ali Afshari, a dissident and reformist who spent three years in jail for running pro-democracy programs. “The question is, what happens when his father is gone? Mojtaba needs to hold on to the security apparatus.”
Khalaji, who studied in Iran’s holy city of Qom, said Mojtaba Khamenei “was raised in a house surrounded by intelligence services. He doesn’t have [prominent] clerical credentials, despite the fact that he wears robes and a clerical uniform.”
He added that the son’s background is much different from his father’s. The supreme leader, in his younger years, immersed himself in literature, novels and music, was friends with intellectuals and spent time in jail with Marxists. The younger Khamenei, said Khalaji, “grew up in a very different atmosphere, a post-revolutionary generation.”
10:03 am: Are the strikes effective?
From Gooya news on Wednesday:
It is reported that all retailers in the bazaar of Saghez (Kurdistan province of Iran) have gone on strike starting Tuesday in support of citizens demonstrating against handling of recent Iran election results.
9:41 am: Arab States Aligned With U.S. Savor Turmoil in Iran – NYT
The rancorous dispute over Iran’s presidential election could turn into a win-win for Arab leaders aligned with Washington who in the past have complained bitterly that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was destabilizing the region and meddling in Arab affairs, political analysts and former officials around the region said.
The good-news thinking goes like this: With Mr. Ahmadinejad remaining in office, there is less chance of substantially improved relations between Tehran and Washington, something America’s Arab allies feared would undermine their interests. At the same time, the electoral conflict may have weakened Iran’s leadership at home and abroad, forcing it to focus more on domestic stability, political analysts and former officials said.
“When Iran is strong and defiant they don’t like her and when Iran is closer to the West they don’t like her,” said Adnan Abu Odeh, a former adviser to King Hussein of Jordan.
It’s been clear that many Arab countries fear improved relations between the United States in Iran. It’s classic realpolitik. For a much deeper analysis, our boss, Trita Parsi, wrote the book on this subject.
9:21 am: Laura Rozen at Foreign Policy Magazine has one of the best blogs for inside information on the “foreign policy machine” in DC. Today she asks if Obama is “playing hard to get with Iran.”
Indeed, some Middle East watchers believe the timing of news last night that the United States would send an ambassador back to Damascus Syria after a four-year absence is no coincidence, and may be related to the new Obama administration tone on Iran.
Asked about that theory, a U.S. official said: “You’re warm.” Syrian Embassy and Middle East expert sources noted that news reports on the envoy to Damascus seemed to have originated with the White House — which has been in the midst of daily meetings about Iran for several days — not the State Department.
The apparent cooling of Obama’s outreach efforts to Iran represents a tactical shift, not a change in the goal of eventually getting to engagement, Iran analysts said.
“At the end of the day, the necessity of diplomacy has not changed by this,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, referring to the post-elections violence in Iran. “The political feasibility [of engagement] has changed.”
“When the dust has settled, the U.S. has an interest in dealing with whoever is in charge,” Parsi added. “What I don’t think should be done prematurely is to determine who is standing before the dust has settled. That is the difference.”