Iran update with editor’s comments

Mousavi lodges legal appeal against Ahmadinejad victory

The defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi today launched a formal appeal against the election result as his supporters took to the streets of the capital again, raising the prospect of more violent clashes.

Mousavi, who claimed his defeat by the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was manipulated, said in a statement on his website that he had appealed to the ruling guardian council to overturn the result, and urged his supporters to continue protests “in a peaceful and legal way”.

“We have asked officials to let us hold a nationwide rally to let people display their rejection of the election process and its results,” said Mousavi…

Mousavi’s newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, or the Green Word, did not appear on news stands today. An editor speaking anonymously said authorities had been upset with Mousavi’s statements. The paper’s website reported that more than 10m votes in Friday’s election were missing national identification numbers similar to US social security numbers, which made the votes “untraceable”. [continued…]

Editor’s CommentTehranbureau (an expat Iranian site that appears to be struggling to handle the traffic right now) says that Mousavi has called on all Reformist supporters to take part in a peaceful march and mass demonstration in 20 cities across Iran on Monday and for a general strike on Tuesday.

Iran: there will be blood

My contact predicted serious violence at the highest levels. He said that Ahmadinejad is now genuinely scared of Iranian society and of Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The level of tension between them has gone beyond civil limits — and my contact said that Ahmadinejad will try to have them imprisoned and killed.

Likewise, he said, Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mousavi know this — and thus are using all of the instruments at their control within Iran’s government apparatus to fight back — but given Khamenei’s embrace of Ahmadinejad’s actions in the election and victory, there is no recourse but to try and remove Khamenei. Some suggest that Rafsanjani will count votes to see if there is a way to formally dislodge Khamenei — but this source I met said that all of these political giants have resources at their disposal to “do away with” those that get in the way.

He predicted that the so-called reformist camp — who are not exactly humanists in the Western liberal sense — may try and animate efforts to decapitate the regime and “do away with” Ahmadinejad and even the Supreme Leader himself.

I am not convinced that this source “knows” these things will definitely happen but am convinced of his credentials and impressed with the seriousness of the discussion we had and his own concern that there may be political killing sprees ahead.

This is not a vision he advocates — but one he fears. [continued…]

Iran’s day of anguish

I’ve also argued that, although repressive, the Islamic Republic offers significant margins of freedom by regional standards. I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness.

“Here is my country,” a young woman said to me, voice breaking. “This is a coup. I could have worked in Europe but I came back for my people.” And she, too, sobbed.

“Don’t cry, be brave,” a man admonished her.

He was from the Interior Ministry. He showed his ID card. He said he’d worked there 30 years. He said he hadn’t been allowed in; nor had most other employees. He said the votes never got counted. He said numbers just got affixed to each candidate.

He said he’d demanded of the police why “victory” required such oppression. He said he’d fought in the 1980-88 Iraq war, his brother was a martyr, and now his youth seemed wasted and the nation’s sacrifice in vain. [continued…]

Iran: what now?

Clearly, the anti-Ahmadinejad camp has been taken by surprise and is scrambling for a plan. Increasingly, given their failure to get Khamenei to intervene, their only option seems to be to directly challenge — or threaten to challenge — the supreme leader.

Here’s where the powerful chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Mousavi supporter Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, comes in. Only this assembly has the formal authority to call for Khamenei’s dismissal, and it is now widely assumed that Rafsanjani is quietly assessing whether he has the votes to do so or not.

It may be that the first steps toward challenging Khamenei have already been taken. After all, Mousavi went over the supreme leader’s head with an open letter to the clergy in Qom. Rafsanjani clearly failed to win Khamenei’s support in a reported meeting between the two men Friday, but the influential Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, who heads the vote-monitoring committee for Mousavi and fellow candidate Mehdi Karroubi, has officially requested that the Guardian Council cancel the election and schedule a new vote with proper monitoring.

The implications for Washington’s agenda, meanwhile, could be extensive. Although the United States is pursuing diplomacy with Iran in its own self-interest, electoral fraud (or the perception of fraud) complicates this strategy. And if political paralysis reigns in Iran, valuable time to address the nuclear issue through diplomacy will be lost. The White House’s posture thus far is a constructive one — while it cannot remain indifferent to irregularities in the elections, it must be careful never to get ahead of the Iranian people and the anti-Ahmadinejad candidates. [continued…]

Iran erupts as voters back ‘the Democrator’

Back on the streets, there were now worse scenes. The cops had dismounted from their bikes and were breaking up paving stones to hurl at the protesters, many of them now riding their own motorbikes between the rows of police. I saw one immensely tall man – dressed Batman-style in black rubber arm protectors and shin pads, smashing up paving stones with his baton, breaking them with his boots and chucking them pell mell at the Mousavi men. A middle-aged woman walked up to him – the women were braver in confronting the police than the men yesterday – and shouted an obvious question: “Why are you breaking up the pavements of our city?” The policeman raised his baton to strike the woman but an officer ran across the road and stood between them. “You must never hit a woman,” he said. Praise where praise is due, even in a riot.

But the policemen went on breaking up stones, a crazy reverse version of France in May 1968. Then it was the young men who wanted revolution who threw stones. In Tehran – fearful of a green Mousavi revolution – it was the police who threw stones.

An interval here for lunch with a true and faithful friend of the Islamic Republic, a man I have known for many years who has risked his life and been imprisoned for Iran and who has never lied to me. We dined in an all-Iranian-food restaurant, along with his wife. He has often criticised the regime. A man unafraid. But I must repeat what he said. “The election figures are correct, Robert. Whatever you saw in Tehran, in the cities and in thousands of towns outside, they voted overwhelmingly for Ahmadinejad. Tabriz voted 80 per cent for Ahmadinejad. It was he who opened university courses there for the Azeri people to learn and win degrees in Azeri. In Mashad, the second city of Iran, there was a huge majority for Ahmadinejad after the imam of the great mosque attacked Rafsanjani of the Expediency Council who had started to ally himself with Mousavi. They knew what that meant: they had to vote for Ahmadinejad.”

My guest and I drank dookh, the cool Iranian drinking yoghurt so popular here. The streets of Tehran were a thousand miles away. “You know why so many poorer women voted for Ahmadinejad? There are three million of them who make carpets in their homes. They had no insurance. When Ahmadinejad realised this, he immediately brought in a law to give them full insurance. Ahmadinejad’s supporters were very shrewd. They got the people out in huge numbers to vote – and then presented this into their vote for Ahmadinejad.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — “The outcome of the June 12 elections in Iran show the immense popularity of Iran’s policy,” read a statement by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “Ahmadinejad’s victory proves his success in sponsoring and maintaining the people’s interests and hopes and protecting them from the global threats,” he added.

I don’t know exactly when that statement was released, but it might have been prudent to have waited 24 or 48 hours. Right now, Hamas (and Hezbollah) look like they are positioning themselves glaringly on the wrong side of history.

And in Tehran, though one might have expected a brutal and effective clampdown on protests, it has certainly been brutal but not clearly effective. In these protests on Valiasr street today, the marchers are on the advance and the Basij seem to be on the retreat.

And in this video the Basij end up getting caught and rescued by bystanders. How long will it be before battons and tear gas get replaced with live fire? How many of its citizens can the security forces kill before governance becomes untenable?

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