AP reported that “thousands” of police overwhelmed “hundreds” of protesters in Tehran near the parliament building on Wednesday as there was “growing confidence in quelling unrest on the streets” on the part of the Iranian government.[1]  --  “Mousavi has increasingly turned his back on mass street demonstrations, fearing the likelihood of more violence or deaths,” William J. Kole and Hadeel Al-Shalchi said.  --  The invitation to Iranian officials to attend U.S. Embassy Fourth of July parties has been rescinded, the White House said.  --  Former Revolutionary Guards commander and defeated presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaie “said he was withdrawing his complaints about vote fraud for the sake of the country, state TV reported.”  --  State TV showed demonstrators making confessions of foreign influence, and “reported that Ahmadinejad would be sworn in between July 26 and Aug. 19.”  --  A Los Angeles Times blog gave conflicting reports about repression of a protest near Iran’s parliament building.[2]  --  A New Yorker commentator observed that “less and less” is known about what is happening in Iran:  “Reporters have been banned, communications slowed, and civic organizations that might aggregate information in ordinary times have ceased to function.”[3]  --  Laura Secor protested against the interpretation of the current crisis as merely a reflection of factional infighting.  --  No, “[w]hat is new is the fierce mass movement from below, which is not confined to students and intellectuals but seems to span demographics and age groups. . . . [E]ven if they lose, Mousavi and his supporters will have permanently changed the landscape of protest in Iran by breaking what had once seemed an impermeable barrier of fear.”  --  The regularly updated blog The Lede on the web site of the New York Times is a rich source of primary materials.[4]  --  Particularly eloquent is an impassioned plea by film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf speaking from Rome to Iranians to “not give up.”  --  “We have found each other again,” he said to Iranians (in Farsi).  --  “We need to continue. . . . We should follow the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela.”  --  The site also reported that the Iranian regime is making false news reports about U.S. actions vis-à-vis Iran....


World news

By William J. Kole and Hadeel Al-Shalchi

Associated Press
June 24, 2009 (1448PDT -- Jun. 25, 0218 Tehran time)


--This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran.

A flood of security forces using tear gas and clubs quickly overwhelmed a small group of rock-throwing protesters near Iran's parliament Wednesday, and the country's supreme leader said the outcome of the disputed presidential election will stand, the latest signs of the government's growing confidence in quelling unrest on the streets.

As the election showdown has shifted, demonstrators are finding themselves increasingly scattered and struggling under a blanket crackdown that the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi compared to martial law. In Wednesday's clashes, thousands of police crushed hundreds of Mousavi supporters.

The statement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the June 12 election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not be reversed was accompanied by a vow that the nation's rulers would never yield to demands from the streets.

Since last week's protests, the government has unleashed days of escalating force, including the full weight of the powerful Revolutionary Guard and its feared civilian militias on the opposition.

Social networking sites carried claims of brutal tactics by police such as savage beatings with batons, but the report could not be independently confirmed.

In the battle for public opinion, the leaders also ramped up a familiar smear campaign: that the opposition was being aided by the United States and other perceived foes of Iran.

What began as groundswell protest of alleged vote fraud increasingly appears to be splintering into random acts of rage and frustration against emboldened and well-armed security forces determined to hold their ground.

Many experts in Iranian affairs do not believe the dwindling street protests signal an end for the challenges to Khamenei and the regime. Many foresee lower-risk but still potent acts of dissent such as general strikes, blocking traffic with sit-ins, and the nightly cries of protest from rooftops and balconies.

"It will carry on until the regime changes: Weeks, months, years. You'd be a fool to predict," said Robert Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and head of Middle East Affairs in the Carter administration. "But the beast of the desire for something different is on the prowl."

Senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad told the Associated Press that he sees no "signs of Ahmadinejad's regime collapsing any time soon."

"The intelligence community worldwide were surprised by the protests," he said.

There are still signs of life in the protest movement. Small groups battled police Wednesday and there were calls on reformist Web sites for a gathering Thursday at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But Mousavi has increasingly turned his back on mass street demonstrations, fearing the likelihood of more violence or deaths.

Wednesday's unrest showed the lopsided odds. Groups of protesters -- perhaps several hundred -- tossed rocks and trash at riot police in running clashes outside parliament. The demonstrators fled as police used tear gas and fired in the air, possibly with live ammunition.

Throughout the day, black-clad security agents and police watched main streets and squares to prevent any major gatherings -- a stark difference from last week when authorities generally stood aside and allowed a series of marches that brought more than 1 million people streaming through Tehran.

Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard -- a former university dean who campaigned beside her husband -- said on a Web site that the crackdown is "as if martial law has been imposed in the streets."

It also could be an indication of what's ahead -- unless the protest movement can recapture its momentum.

The fallout may leave Khamenei and the ruling theocracy battered by once-unthinkable defiance of their leadership. But they still control the Revolutionary Guard and its vast network of volunteer militias that watch every corner of Iran.

The Guard -- sworn to defend the Islamic system at all costs -- has been steadily expanding its authority for years to include critical portfolios such as Iran's missile program, its oil pipelines and other energy infrastructure, and some oversight of the nuclear program.

Their stake in the Islamic system is deep and they appear now to have the green light to move against any perceived threats.

Their militia wing, known as the Basij, can operate like a neighbor-by-neighbor intelligence agency.

"The Revolutionary Guard may well emerge as the big winner of all this," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

State television aired a documentary Wednesday lauding the Revolutionary Guard and another show about the dangers of the Internet and claiming that "Iran's enemies" were using the Web to whip up dissent.

Dozens of activists, protesters, and Iranian journalists -- and at least one foreign reporter -- have been detained since the election, human rights groups say. The overall death toll is not clear; state media said at least 17 people have been killed. Amateur video showed the death Saturday of a woman identified as Neda Agha-Soltan, who has become a worldwide symbol of the bloodshed.

A 53-year-old Tehran woman described the intense security around Baharestan Square near parliament: "There was a lot of police, riot police, and Basiji everywhere." The woman spoke by phone to the AP, asking for anonymity because of fears of reprisals from authorities.

The chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, told a closed session of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he believes the demonstrations in Iran would die down and Ahmadinejad would stay in power.

He also said the Mossad expects Iran to have nuclear weapons by 2014. Meir's statements were recounted by a participant in the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

The United States and its allies worry that Iran's program could lead to nuclear weapons, but Iran insists it only seeks peaceful reactors to produce electricity.

President Barack Obama has offered to open talks with Iran's leaders to ease a nearly 30-year diplomatic estrangement. But he sharpened his rhetoric Tuesday, saying he was "appalled and outraged" by Tehran's heavy hand against protesters.

It's not clear how the unrest -- Iran's worst internal turmoil since the Islamic Revolution -- would influence possible talks with Washington. It's clear, however, that the leadership has no intention of abandoning Ahmadinejad.

An offer for Iranian envoys around the world to attend U.S. Embassy Fourth of July parties has been rescinded "given the events of the past many days," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. The invitation was part of a U.S. outreach to Iran, but so far no Iranian officials had accepted.

Khamenei said the government would not buckle to pressures over the election, closing the door to compromise over Mousavi's claim that the vote was rigged and he was the rightful winner.

"On the current situation, I was insisting and will insist on implementation of the law. That means, we will not go one step beyond the law," Khamenei said on state television. "For sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price." He used language that indicated he was referring to domestic pressures.

A conservative candidate in the disputed election, Mohsen Rezaie, said he was withdrawing his complaints about vote fraud for the sake of the country, state TV reported. Rezaie is a former commander of Revolutionary Guard and his decision suggests the Guard seeks to avoid possible rifts as Ahmadinejad begins his second, four-year term.

State TV reported that Ahmadinejad would be sworn in between July 26 and Aug. 19.

Khamenei also reinforced Iran's accusations that the United States, Britain, and other foreign powers were encouraging the unrest -- apparently part of a coordinated strategy to disgrace Mousavi and his followers.

State television showed detained demonstrators whose faces were blurred out. Some of them made "confessions," saying they had been incited by the British Broadcasting Corp. and Voice of America. They said demonstrators, not security forces, had used violence.

"We torched public property, threw stones, attacked cars, and smashed windows," said one woman, who was not identified.

State-run Press TV also said police raided a building it identified as a Mousavi campaign office and allegedly used as a base to promote unrest. The report said the suspected plotters had been arrested and placed under investigation.

--Murphy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers William J. Kole and Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Cairo, Paisley Dodds in London and Mark Lavie in Jerusalem contributed to this report.



Babylon & beyond: Observations from Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Arab world, and beyond


By Alexandra Zavis and Amber Smith

Los Angeles Times
June 24, 2006 (1405 PDT -- Jun. 14, 0135 Tehran time)

Original source: Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Riot police in Tehran are reported to have clashed today with protesters who were defying government warnings to halt demonstrations against the outcome of a disputed presidential election.

The reports, which came on what was otherwise a relatively quiet day in the Iranian capital, were drawing attention on Twitter and other social-networking sites.

There were conflicting accounts of the severity of the clashes.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that the police beat protesters with batons, fired tear gas, and shot in the air to disperse a small crowd that converged on Baharestan Square, near the parliament building. Some demonstrators fought back, but others fled, they said.

Journalists are barred from reporting from Iran’s streets, and it was not possible to independently verify the accounts.

CNN interviewed a woman who said she was among those trying to reach the square when “all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs and [undecipherable] came out of [undecipherable] mosque, and they poured out into the streets, and they started beating everyone,” she said. “They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband who was watching the scene, he just fainted.”

Another witness, however, told Reuters that there were no casualties.

State-run Press TV said the police had dispersed an “illegal rally” of about 200 people. “A heavy presence of the police prevented violence in the area,” the station said in a post on its website.


By Laura Secor

New Yorker
June 24, 2009

Original source: New Yorker

Silence seems to have rolled over Iran’s burning landscape, not because the situation has calmed, but because we know it less and less. Reporters have been banned, communications slowed, and civic organizations that might aggregate information in ordinary times have ceased to function. One exile who usually has an inside line to events unfolding in his country complained to me yesterday that he knows nothing, because all of his friends have been arrested. A normally outspoken analyst inside Iran told me that, as much as he would love to talk, he was in hiding, having been threatened by the office of Tehran’s chief prosecutor. But over here, the conversation must go on, and it has adopted a new, increasingly speculative, trope. The struggle in Iran, we are hearing, really comes down to a fight among the élites inside the power structure.

It is clearly true that Iran’s élites are disunited, but to place great emphasis on this fact is misleading. Factional differences have riven the Iranian political establishment since the Islamic Revolution itself, and sometimes quite dramatically, as during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, from 1997 through 2005. As for Rafsanjani, about whose possible role much has been made, he has been a rival of Ahmadinejad since losing the presidency to him in 2005; this has increasingly driven him toward the reformist camp, where he has been accepted only partially and reluctantly. None of these cleavages are new. In a country that does not tolerate political parties or associations in its civil society, the contest for power, and over the future of the political system, has been largely confined to the establishment itself. Khamenei has spent much of his twenty years in power checkmating his rivals inside the system and discrediting them with their supporters outside the system.

What is new today is not that cracks have opened inside a monolithic system, or even that particularly powerful figures, like Rafsanjani, have broken onto the side of the reformers. What is new is the fierce mass movement from below, which is not confined to students and intellectuals but seems to span demographics and age groups. Even while exercising legal rights, nonviolent methods, and issuing constant appeals to Islam and to the ideals of the revolution, this movement has openly defied Khamenei, the Basij, and the Revolutionary Guards, by ignoring the threats of bloodshed and mayhem. Nothing like that has happened in thirty years. In the late nineteen-nineties, Khatami, like Mousavi, had the wind at his back in the form of a very large wave of popular support, but he made it clear to his followers and to Khamenei that he would not directly defy the Supreme Leader or question the system. When activists challenged the system during the Khatami years, they found themselves isolated, a diminishing crowd without political support or mass mobilization to defend them. And so Mousavi has done a remarkable, unprecedented thing in challenging the Supreme Leader -- but in doing it, to borrow a phrase from his June 20th speech, he followed his supporters.

That is not to diminish the historic nature of Mousavi’s decision. One Iranian who spoke of it to me seemed frankly gobsmacked -- doesn’t Mousavi know that if he loses this battle, his life, and his family’s life, is finished now in the Islamic Republic? But it is all the more remarkable to consider that Mousavi and his movement are acting not as pawns in an internal argument between Khamenei and Rafsanjani. Rather, they have brought a tidal wave of pressure to bear on a régime of which Khamenei has just attempted to seize total control. It is the élites who have been forced to choose sides. Maybe some of those figures will reverse course, as Mohsen Rezaie (Ahmadenijad’s main conservative challenger) has already done, if they feel Khamenei is winning the battles in the streets. But even if they lose, Mousavi and his supporters will have permanently changed the landscape of protest in Iran by breaking what had once seemed an impermeable barrier of fear.


By Robert Mackey

New York Times
June 24, 2009 (1825 EDT -- 1535 PDT -- Jun. 25, 0305 Tehran time)

Original source: New York Times (see original for links)

--To supplement reporting by New York Times journalists inside Iran on Wednesday, The Lede will continue to track the aftermath of Iran’s disputed presidential election, as we have since election day, June 12. Please refresh this page throughout the day to get the latest updates at the top of your screen (updates are stamped with the time in New York). For an overview of the current situation, read the main news article on our Web site, which will be updated throughout the day. -- Readers inside Iran or in touch with people there are encouraged to send us photographs or use the comment box below to tell us what you are seeing or hearing.

Update | 6:25 p.m. Here are two videos that were posted before today, but are still interesting. First, this video, posted just after the election, which appears to show a spontaneous protest in a Tehran subway station -- and gives a small sense of how common protest was in Iran’s capital in the days after the election.

Second, this video appeal from Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the great Iranian filmmaker who spoke, from Rome on Tuesday, to Iranians abroad (in Farsi with English subtitles) to continue supporting the opposition:

Update | 6:15 p.m. In the absence of fresh video or photographs of protests on Wednesday we have been sent links to about a dozen videos that were uploaded to YouTube today, and given today’s date, that were in fact shot and uploaded to YouTube on previous days.

With that in mind, we could use the help of readers who have been following the events in Iran closely -- and are willing to look at one more very graphic, horrifying video clip of a protester who seems to have been shot and at least very badly wounded. One particularly disturbing video has been circulating today, but looks very like some clips we saw on Saturday. If anyone can help us to accurately date it, or to at least confirm that it was not filmed today, we would appreciate the help. The video we are trying to put a date on is posted on this YouTube account, among others.

Update | 6:07 p.m. Supporters of the Iranian protest movement, angered by reports that Nokia Siemans sold Iran’s government technology that allows them to spy on mobile phone calls, have posted this doctored advertisement for the company online:

Update | 6:01 p.m. Noam Cohen, a colleague at the *Times*, passes on this chart, which shows the surprisingly large number of times the Farsi-language Wikipedia page on Mir Hussein Moussavi has been visited so far this month: 166,140.

Update | 5:53 p.m. Kremlinologists now applying their skills at reading between the lines to the Iranian government might like to set about explaining this report from Iran’s Press TV: “Tehran Mayor Asks for Legalization of Rallies.” According to Press TV, which is Iran’s state-supported, English-language channel, a state television channel, IRIB 2, aired an interview on Tuesday in which the mayor of Iran’s capital seemed to go against the security crackdown on opposition protesters: “Tehran’s mayor has urged relevant Iranian officials to authorize peaceful opposition rallies, saying the public should have an outlet to express its opinions. In a Tuesday interview with IRIB channel two, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf said that legalizing street rallies would prevent ’saboteurs who draw weapons and kill people’. Qalibaf drew a clear line between ‘those protestors who had voted in the presidential election but had doubts about the result’ and ’some saboteurs, taking advantage of the situation’. [...] Last Monday saw hundreds of thousands of protestors marching the streets of the capital. At least seven people were killed in Monday’s rallies, which turned violent after protestors were attacked by people wearing plainclothes. Iranian authorities also said the police killed at least 13 saboteurs during an ‘illegal rally’ on Saturday. Tehran’s mayor stressed that the ‘use of force’ was the wrong way to clarify public’s doubts about the election results, calling all ‘the supervisory and executive bodies in the government’ as well as, ‘the media and presidential candidates’ to play a major role in resolving the issues.”

Update | 5:31 p.m. A reader, Jon, writes to say that “a friend in Iran that I have been in touch with via Skype (which seems to work very well)” told him that a specific Web site, Gerdab.ir, is being used by the Iranian government to identify protesters by crowd-sourcing. The Lede has been unable to get the site to load to confirm this (and the site may be under attack from supporters of the protest movement), but the information passed on by the reader suggests that Iranians are being asked to study photographs of protesters taken at demonstrations and then turn them in to the authorities.

Update | 5:03 p.m. The National Iranian American Council’s blog reports that “a trusted source who attended today’s silent rally at Baharestan Square” wrote to to them with an account of today’s events more like the one we heard from a reader of The Lede this morning -- and quite unlike the account of the anonymous woman who spoke with CNN: “I was there from 5:15 to 7:30. It was very tense. Being out in Baharstan was an act of defiance. No one said anything, there were only a few chants coming from outside the square. Although the police were a lot nicer, the Basij continued to be brutal. No one was allowed to stand in one place, we had to keep on moving. The moment we stood in one place, they would break us up. I saw many people get blindfolded and arrested, however it wasn’t a massacre. I heard that someone was killed, however I didn’t see it.”

NIAC’s blog also notes that an Iranian newspaper close to the country’s leadership has reported that the U.S. Congress has voted to take action against Iran. NIAC notes “Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to prohibit U.S. Export-Import loans from helping companies involved in Iran’s petroleum industry.” According to NIAC, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan reported the news this way: “Representatives of the U.S. congress, in support of Mir Hussein Mousavi and the hooligans, asked for sanctions on oil importations to Iran. According to a report by Reuters, based on a plan introduced by one of the committees of the U.S. Congress, limitations will be put on exporting oil to Iran. Mark Kirk, one of the designers of these sanctions, while supporting the hooligans, said ‘when they are being suppressed in Tehran, we should not help Iran’s economy.’ It should be mentioned that setting gas stations on fire is one of the destructive recommendations that anti-revolutionary websites and media, who lead the chaos, have given to the thugs.”

Update | 4:56 p.m. As the blogger for the Iranian-American Web site Tehran Bureau reports on Twitter: “My dear friend Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek journalist based in Istanbul, is being held by the Iranian authorities. We’ll get more about him up as soon as possible. In a nutshell: Iason Athanasiadis is a Greek journalist based in Istanbul. The arrest seems particularly perverse since Iason, on assignment for the Washington Times and GlobalPost, is a long time Iran-hand, Farsi-speaker, and Iran-lover, who spent 2 years at Tehran University.”

Mr. Athanasiadis is also a contributor to the photo agency Demotix, which told The Lede on Tuesday: “Iason was arrested on 17th June in Tehran airport. He is still being detained. Since the 17th, we have been in constant touch with the Greek Foreign Ministry and the Greek Ambassador in Tehran. They have been diligently and sensitively working on the case, and continue to do so.”