Category Archive 'Iranian Election Protests'

30 Jun 2009

George Friedman: The Real Story in Iran

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Stratfor’s George Friedman puts a regional analyst’s gloss on recent events in Iran, contending that current disorders really only represent a power struggle between competing Revolutionary Islamist factions, that the struggle for democracy depicted in the international media is a gross oversimplification pandering to Western stereotypes and wishful thinking, and that, whoever wins, Iran will not cease to be anti-Western, religiously bigoted and fanatical, a state sponsor of terrorism, and eager to use the development of nuclear weapons as a threat.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran his re-election campaign against the old clerical elite, charging them with corruption, luxurious living and running the state for their own benefit rather than that of the people. He particularly targeted Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an extremely senior leader, and his family. Indeed, during the demonstrations, Rafsanjani’s daughter and four other relatives were arrested, held and then released a day later.

Rafsanjani represents the class of clergy that came to power in 1979. He served as president from 1989-1997, but Ahmadinejad defeated him in 2005. Rafsanjani carries enormous clout within the system as head of the regime’s two most powerful institutions — the Expediency Council, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council and parliament, and the Assembly of Experts, whose powers include oversight of the supreme leader. Forbes has called him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Rafsanjani, in other words, remains at the heart of the post-1979 Iranian establishment.

Ahmadinejad expressly ran his recent presidential campaign against Rafsanjani, using the latter’s family’s vast wealth to discredit Rafsanjani along with many of the senior clerics who dominate the Iranian political scene. It was not the regime as such that he opposed, but the individuals who currently dominate it. Ahmadinejad wants to retain the regime, but he wants to repopulate the leadership councils with clerics who share his populist values and want to revive the ascetic foundations of the regime. The Iranian president constantly contrasts his own modest lifestyle with the opulence of the current religious leadership.

Recognizing the threat Ahmadinejad represented to him personally and to the clerical class he belongs to, Rafsanjani fired back at Ahmadinejad, accusing him of having wrecked the economy. At his side were other powerful members of the regime, including Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, who has made no secret of his antipathy toward Ahmadinejad and whose family links to the Shiite holy city of Qom give him substantial leverage. The underlying issue was about the kind of people who ought to be leading the clerical establishment. The battlefield was economic: Ahmadinejad’s charges of financial corruption versus charges of economic mismanagement leveled by Rafsanjani and others.

When Ahmadinejad defeated Mir Hossein Mousavi on the night of the election, the clerical elite saw themselves in serious danger. The margin of victory Ahmadinejad claimed might have given him the political clout to challenge their position. Mousavi immediately claimed fraud, and Rafsanjani backed him up. Whatever the motives of those in the streets, the real action was a knife fight between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. By the end of the week, Khamenei decided to end the situation. In essence, he tried to hold things together by ordering the demonstrations to halt while throwing a bone to Rafsanjani and Mousavi by extending a probe into the election irregularities and postponing a partial recount by five days.

The key to understanding the situation in Iran is realizing that the past weeks have seen not an uprising against the regime, but a struggle within the regime. Ahmadinejad is not part of the establishment, but rather has been struggling against it, accusing it of having betrayed the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The post-election unrest in Iran therefore was not a matter of a repressive regime suppressing liberals (as in Prague in 1989), but a struggle between two Islamist factions that are each committed to the regime, but opposed to each other.

The demonstrators certainly included Western-style liberalizing elements, but they also included adherents of senior clerics who wanted to block Ahmadinejad’s re-election. And while Ahmadinejad undoubtedly committed electoral fraud to bulk up his numbers, his ability to commit unlimited fraud was blocked, because very powerful people looking for a chance to bring him down were arrayed against him.

The situation is even more complex because it is not simply a fight between Ahmadinejad and the clerics, but also a fight among the clerical elite regarding perks and privileges — and Ahmadinejad is himself being used within this infighting. The Iranian president’s populism suits the interests of clerics who oppose Rafsanjani; Ahmadinejad is their battering ram. But as Ahmadinejad increases his power, he could turn on his patrons very quickly. In short, the political situation in Iran is extremely volatile, just not for the reason that the media portrayed.

Rafsanjani is an extraordinarily powerful figure in the establishment who clearly sees Ahmadinejad and his faction as a mortal threat. Ahmadinejad’s ability to survive the unified opposition of the clergy, election or not, is not at all certain. But the problem is that there is no unified clergy. The supreme leader is clearly trying to find a new political balance while making it clear that public unrest will not be tolerated. Removing “public unrest” (i.e., demonstrations) from the tool kits of both sides may take away one of Rafsanjani’s more effective tools. But ultimately, it actually could benefit him. Should the internal politics move against the Iranian president, it would be Ahmadinejad — who has a substantial public following — who would not be able to have his supporters take to the streets.

The question for the rest of the world is simple: Does it matter who wins this fight?…

(T)here was no democratic uprising of any significance in Iran. Second, there is a major political crisis within the Iranian political elite, the outcome of which probably tilts toward Ahmadinejad but remains uncertain. Third, there will be no change in the substance of Iran’s foreign policy, regardless of the outcome of this fight. The fantasy of a democratic revolution overthrowing the Islamic Republic — and thus solving everyone’s foreign policy problems a la the 1991 Soviet collapse — has passed.

Depressing, and he may be right.

Read the whole thing.

25 Jun 2009

June 24th: Mullahs Crackdown on Protests

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Iranian woman describes regime brutality in Baharestan Square, Teheran CNN 4:04 video

Snipers firing on protesters 0:59 video

Irish reporter abducted, forced to leave Iran.

70 professors arrested for meeting with Moussavi.

24 Jun 2009

Obama Angry at the Press, Answering Planted Question from HuffPo

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Walter Shapiro finds that Barack Obama’s customarily deft public performance deteriorates markedly when he encounters negative questioning.

(I)n response to the next question – about the potential consequences if Iran continued to suppress demonstrations – Obama said with a sharp edge in his voice, “We don’t know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not. Okay?”

Now I am not going to claim that the First Amendment requires presidents always to wear smiley faces when taking questions from reporters. Nor am I going to deny that occasionally – very occasionally – the short-term mindset of the press pack can be irritating for presidents with a more transcendent view of global events.

Instead, I am bringing this up because I want to tentatively advance a larger theory about the president’s public moods. Obama tends to drop his cool veneer and sound exasperated when he knows that he is in the wrong.
When it comes to Iran, Obama has at times spoken in particularly mealy mouthed fashion because he is fearful (as he has repeatedly explained) that his words could be hijacked by the Iranian theocrats. Even during Tuesday’s press conference, Obama ducked condemning the Iranian election as totally fraudulent by carefully saying, “We didn’t have international observers on the ground. We can’t say definitely what happened at polling places throughout the country.” Obama – who more than most leaders understands the power of inspirational rhetoric – has been forced to keep his most potent weapon (his moral outrage) sheathed through most of the Iranian crisis.

But it was on a far smaller matter (and not one that often comes up during his morning national security briefings) that Obama really put his ire on the fire. What set the president off was a question trying to link Obama’s own smoking history with new legislation giving the FDA the power to regulate nicotine. In response, Obama claimed that the reporter just thought that it was “neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. But that’s fine. I understand. It’s a interesting human — it’s a interesting human-interest story.” (Words alone cannot convey Obama’s mocking tone and his obvious disdain for this “human-interest story.”)

Smoking, of course, is the secret vice that humanizes Obama. He cannot be that perfect – that in control of himself – if he cannot kick his yen to inhale carcinogenic smoke. Obama, in fact, likened himself (maybe a bit melodramatically) to “folks who go to AA.” Small wonder Obama becomes annoyed when he is asked for a monthly update on his cigarette consumption.
The truth is that the Obama White House certainly does not resist human-interest stories when they portray the president in a favorable glow. Obama’s grumpiness about the smoking question was not about an intrusive boxers-or-briefs press corps, but about the president’s own frailties.

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Which probably explains why the President preferred, with respect to the sensitive topic of Iran, to answer a previously-arranged softball question from an editor of the Huffington Post.

In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.

“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”

He then noted that the site had solicited questions from people in the country “who were still courageous enough to be communicating online.”

“Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of the — of what the demonstrators there are working towards?”

Reporters typically don’t coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be. Also, it was a departure from White House protocol by calling on The Huffington Post second, in between the AP and Reuter. …

The Huffington Post reporter was brought out of lower press by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest and placed just inside the barricade for reporters a few minutes before the start of the press conference.

23 Jun 2009

Family of Victim Charged $3000 For Bullets

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Haaretz.com:

The family of an Iranian man killed in a demonstration against the country’s contested presidential election has been ordered to pay the equivalent of $3,000 for the bullets that took his life. …

Kaveh Alipour, 19, was shot in the head in downtown Tehran on Saturday during one of the most violent clashes between protesters and security forces since the riots began last week.

Iranian authorities later told the family they would not turn over the slain man’s body for burial until they received compensation for the bullets security forces used to shoot him.

Officials finally surrendered the request after the family argued it did not have that much money in possession, but said that the man could not be buried within the city limits.

22 Jun 2009

Neda’s Death Becames Symbol of Iranian Rebellion

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The video of the young woman’s death was originally posted on Facebook, where it has been since deleted, by by an Iranian expatriate in Holland who said it was sent to him by a friend in Tehran, a doctor who tried to save the shooting victim’s life. It was captioned as follows:

0:53 video

At 19:05 June 20th

Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st.

A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes.

The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass (sic) used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know.”

The video was republished repeatedly on YouTube, and quickly seen by countless viewers who learned of it on Tweeter.

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Mainstream media outlets, like Time and CNN have recognized the electrifying impact of the tragic images of her death and their potency as a symbol of of the brutality of the current dictatorship.

“RIP NEDA, The World cries seeing your last breath, you didn’t die in vain. We remember you.”

That Twitter post was from a man who said he is a guitarist from Nashville, Tennessee.

Amid the hundreds of images of Saturday’s crackdown on protesters in Iran that were distributed to the world over the Internet, it was the graphic video showing the dying moments of a young woman shot in the heart that touched a nerve for many people around the world.

Like most of the information coming out of Tehran, it is impossible to verify her name, Neda, or the circumstances of her apparent death, which was captured close-up on a bystander’s camera. …

It shows a woman in jeans and white sneakers collapsed on the street, as the person with the camera — most likely from a cell phone — runs toward her and focuses on her face.

One blogger posted that Neda was protesting with her father in Tehran when pro-government Basiji militia opened fire and shot her.

“The final moments of her tender young life leaked into the pavement of Karegeh Street today, captured by cell phone cameras,” the unnamed blogger posted on Newsvine.com. “And not long after, took on new life, flickering across computer screens around the world on YouTube, and even CNN.”

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Even one blogger at the normally cynical Gawker found himself haunted by the video.

I first saw the video of Neda’s death on Sunday afternoon at around 2PM. For the remainder of the day and up to this point, I’ve failed every effort, and there have been many, to get it out of my head. Even when I went to the gym late in the day, a place of solace where I’m usually able to blast music in my ears while exercising and just forget about everything going on in the outside world, I found myself unable to remove Neda from my mind.

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Wikipedia entry

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A candlelight vigil was held last night for Neda in front of the University in the Pasdaran district

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Regime cancels Neda’s funeral at prestigious mosque.

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mahmoudg blames a Hamas or Hezbollah sniper.

When you look at the video footage before Neda was shot, you can see that her death is the result of a sniper targeting the crowd from a secure location. Where the bullet entered her body (upper Torso) and the number of people around her is a sure signature of a professional soldier’s work. Now, there are only a few armies in the world that have trained soldiers for this type of work. America, Russia and China to name a few. None of these and others are likely suspects. The Iranian army does not need nor has been training for this type of surgical operations or clandestine needs. So who does that leave? The evidence points to the Hamas and/or Hezbollah Terrorist snipers who have been training for decades in the Bekaa Valley with the Iranian money. We have known for some time that Arabs have been imported into Iran from Palestine and Lebanon, trained to be markesmen to take out Israeli Soldiers. Today we saw that the time and money spend on these Arab murderors by their Arab bosses who are ruling Iran has paid off. They sniped the crowd and picked out this innocent girl to murder. The one thing they did not count on, was the world to take notice. The act would take a life of its own. Now the world knows that unless the Arabs are stopped, Iran and soon the world will start to burn.

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Alleged shooter of Neda Soltani, identified as Sattar Najafi.

Neda’s alleged shooter identified on Twitter. There is no confirmation, of course. Whoever it was had to be a coward and a villain to shoot to kill deliberately an unarmed and defenseless woman.

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Original posted link to 0:37 version of the video on 6/21.

21 Jun 2009

Election Protesters Fired Upon in Tehran; Rafsanjani’s Daughter Arrested

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Official sources say 13 were killed yesterday in clashes between demonstrators and police.

AFP says “more than a hundred wounded.”

Basij headquarters blown up. 0:30 video

Iranian girl shot by basij 0:37 video

Latest street chants 1:49 video:

“Natarseen, Natarsee, Ma Hameh Baham Hasteem.”
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, We are all together.”

and

“Marg bar Dictator!”
“Down with the Dictator.”

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, arrested with four other relatives on Saturday.

Moussavi rumored under house arrest.

Iran security forces spreading disinformation via Twitter.

20 Jun 2009

From Tehran: “No Longer Rally But Street Fighting”

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Riot Police Stand Guard in Tehran

LA Times:

Iranian security forces reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse as many as 3,000 people who attempted to gather in central Tehran today, defying warnings from the country’s Supreme Leader against further protests over disputed elections.

Witnesses described fierce clashes between protesters and police, as cordons of police attempted to block the rally from forming.

The Iranian Fars News Agency and other media outlets are also reporting that one person was killed and two were injured when a bomb exploded near a shrine to Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tehran Bureau: Some forces are refusing to attack the people, but basij and special forces are attacking people

OxfordGirl: Protesters coming in waves, will go on till dark and beyond. This no longer rally but street fighting

Basji open fire on protestors: Persian BBC 5:52 video

Reuters: Mousavi supports set fire to Ahmajinedad supporter headquarters.

TehranBureau (7 minutes ago): reports from Azadi square and that whole area say very brutal clashes taking place

TehranBureau (6 minutes ago): Gunshots continuously heard from Ghasr-ol-dasht street

19 Jun 2009

American Values and the Obama Presidency

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Watching Barack Obama turn his back on protests in Iran asking for democracy while resuming his sycophantic courtship of the dictatorship of mullahs, Charles Krauthammer wonders just how America’s moral standing in the world is doing these days.

Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued “dialogue” with their clerical masters.

Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with — which inevitably confers legitimacy upon — leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging.

Then, after treating this popular revolution as an inconvenience to the real business of Obama-Khamenei negotiations, the president speaks favorably of “some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.”

Where to begin? “Supreme Leader”? Note the abject solicitousness with which the American president confers this honorific on a clerical dictator who, even as his minions attack demonstrators, offers to examine some returns in some electoral districts — a farcical fix that will do nothing to alter the fraudulence of the election. …

All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None. Except for the desire that this “vigorous debate” (press secretary Robert Gibbs’s disgraceful euphemism) over election “irregularities” not stand in the way of U.S.-Iranian engagement on nuclear weapons.

Even from the narrow perspective of the nuclear issue, the administration’s geopolitical calculus is absurd. There is zero chance that any such talks will denuclearize Iran. On Monday, President Ahmadinejad declared yet again that the nuclear “file is shut, forever.” The only hope for a resolution of the nuclear question is regime change, which (if the successor regime were as moderate as pre-Khomeini Iran) might either stop the program, or make it manageable and nonthreatening.

That’s our fundamental interest. And our fundamental values demand that America stand with demonstrators opposing a regime that is the antithesis of all we believe.

And where is our president? Afraid of “meddling.” Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror — and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America’s moral standing in the world.

18 Jun 2009

Iran Revolution Update: “Where Is My Vote?”

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A strange Cubist-cum-Mesoamerican cartoon figure has become an internationally-recognized spokesman for the Iranian resistance movement. The most recent example asks “Where is my vote?”

Andrew Sullivan posted some earlier appearances on Tuesday.

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Many players on the Iranian football team playing in a qualifying match for the World Cup in Seoul sported green armbands.

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The opposition movement called for another major rally today.

15 Jun 2009

Protests and Brutality in Iran

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Breitbart has assembled a montage of fourteen videos from a variety of sources featuring riot police brutality, protests, and Iranian crowds besting riot police thugs.

Meanwhile, on the domestic insanity front, New Republic’s Laura Secor thinks Ahmadinejad is George W. Bush and Mousavi is John Kerry.

Identifying American conservative opponents with nasty foreign dictators is a reflexive habit of the left, it seems. Andrew Sullivan is comparing Ahmadinejad to Karl Rove this morning.

Ahmadinejad’s bag of tricks is eerily like that of Karl Rove – the constant use of fear, the exploitation of religion, the demonization of liberals, the deployment of Potemkin symbolism like Sarah Palin.

Personally, I think the demonization of opponents and exploitation of wild and emotional exaggerations of reality (fear) is really characteristic of the political approach of Secor and Sullivan’s side.


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