niacINsight on Rachel Maddow tonight:
Before we sign off for the night, we wanted to share with you a clip from the Rachel Maddow show from tonight, which quoted this blog’s account of the rally in Baharestan Square earlier today (posted at 3:23 pm):
This was definitely a first for this blog, so thank you to Rachel, MSNBC, and–most importantly–all of you for reading.
5:12 pm: Iran’s Interior Minister is accusing demonstrators of receiving financial support from the US government and a terrorist organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (via semi-official Fars News):
Many of those participating in the post-election unrests in Iran have received financial backup from the US, CIA and anti-Iran terrorist group Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), Iranian Interior Minister Seyed Sadeq Mahsouli said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting, Mahsouli described the US, Britain and Israel as among the foreign states which o contributed a major role in the recent unrests in Iran, and said that rioters are in contact with the US, CIA and MKO.
He said that Iranians’ massive turnout in the country’s 10th presidential election, which was a vote of support for the Islamic Republic, angered the US, Britain and Israel, adding that these states intended to undermine the popular support for the Islamic Republic.
“All the terrorist groups, which receive support from outside (from the foreign countries) in different ways, mobilized to join the riots” in a bid to deteriorate the situation, Mahsouli added.
“A large number of rioters receive financial backup from the US, CIA and the MKO,” the official reiterated.
Iran’s government has been making a concerted effort to paint the demonstrators as under the influence of foreign agents.
4:17 pm: Mousavi’s facebook page now contains four posters of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, highlighting one of his more famous quotes:
“The measure of a nation is its vote.”
4:05 pm: 70 university professors arrested – According to Kalemeh, 70 university professors were arrested today after meeting with Mousavi. According to the report, “there is no information available on where these professors were taken.”
3:59 pm: After getting slammed in the editorial pages of the Washington Post, NY Times, and WSJ for days, the LA Times comes to Obama’s defense, saying he is hitting the “exact right note on Iran.”
As Obama has argued, tarring the opposition with U.S. support would only strengthen the regime without helping the protesters. Already, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed the U.S. for backing the dissidents. Why give his false accusations real ammunition? Especially when backing the protesters would neither deter the crackdown nor embolden the opposition.
3:48 pm: The importance of history
To understand the events taking place in Iran and why President Obama has taken the approach he has, we need to take a look back at the long history of Iran and of U.S.-Iran relations. The Council on Foreign Relations has a short, interactive resource on key events in the history of U.S.-Iran relations since World War II. Everyone knows about the 1979 Revolution and hostage crisis, but here are two things from it that some of our readers might not have known:
1953 – Overthrow of Mussadeq: With covert assistance from American and British intelligence, the Iranian military overthrows democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and reinstalls the Shah in Operation Ajax. Tried for high treason, he [Mossadeq] received a three-year prison sentence and spent the remainder of his life under house arrest in his home village before dying in 1967.
2001 – Post-9/11 Cooperation: Ayatollah Khamenei condemns the attacks of 9/11 and many Iranians hold candlelight vigils. After the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan topples the Taliban government, American and Iranian diplomats meet together in Bonn, with a handful of representatives from other UN members, to form a new government and constitution for Kabul. Iran also cooperates with the United Nations to repatriate nearly one million Afghan refugees residing on its soil and provides support to the Northern Alliance. The brief U.S.-Iranian cooperation ends after President Bush labels Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union.
3:23 pm: From a trusted source who attended today’s silent rally at Baharestan Square.
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.
3:06 pm: Video purporting to be from today’s demonstrations in Tehran:
2:51 pm: State media: “US House passes sanctions to support Mousavi”
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to prohibit US Export-Import loans from helping companies involved in Iran’s petroleum industry. Today, Iran’s Kayhan Newspaper said this:
“Representatives of the US 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 US 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. Creating sanctions against gas importation by Iran, is one of the tools that has been suggested in the US political arenas during the past year.”
Yesterday, NIAC’s own Patrick Disney was quoted in CQ saying Congress would actually be undermining Mousavi’s cause if it passed the sanctions. “The perception would be ‘U.S. Congress imposes harsh new sanctions to destabilize the Iranian economy,” he said.
What’s done is done, but it is so unfortunate that members of Congress don’t see the danger of using the situation in Iran as a political football. Such a shame.
2:12 pm: Less than 15 minutes ago, Mousavi’s facebook page released this statement with regard to the demonstrations that were held today at Baharestan St:
“Guns versus ‘the greatness of God’; armed forces versus mobile phones, batons versus mourning, lies versus cameras, state-run television versus twitter, bullets versus Facebook, power versus dignity… who wins?”
2:08 pm: Ghalibaf speaks about “electoral flaws”:
BBC Persian released a statement from the Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, in which he states: “the situation in Iran must be solved, but it cannot be solved by the use of coercion”.
Mr. Ghalibaf appeared on a live television broadcast last night in Tehran, where he indicated “that the Iranian electoral system has flaws, but why have they not be addressed so far?”.
In addition, Mr. Ghalibaf stated “the people that attended the demonstrations are there to fight for their rights, however there are a number of hooligans that are amongst them as well.”
He is also urging the demonstrators and reminding them that they are obligated to uphold the law and must avoid criminal activities.
2:02 pm: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing right now about the situation in Iran. You can watch it live here. Chairman Kerry is promising a more free-flowing conversation than what is normal. Chairman Kerry should be commended for putting together such a quality, balanced panel, which includes Hooman Majd, Karim Sadjadpour, Michael Singh, and Mehdi Khalaji, and Suzanne Maloney.
1:26 pm: BBC Persia just released a statement released by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenaie who addressed the members of the Iranian Parliament today.
“The security of the nation and the will of the faithful people of the Islamic Republic will not bend under pressure.”
He further emphasized that the laws, especially the electoral laws must be respected, yet again endorsing the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad.
Lastly he stated:
“The candidates (referring to Mousavi and Karroubi) must take into account that their regional actions/behaviors have an effect at the national level.”
It seems that his intention here is to warn Mousavi and Karroubi that their actions in Tehran are disrupting the whole security structure of the establishment.
12:18 pm: The Daily Show’s satire was a little more serious than normal last night. Jason Jones went to Iran and spoke with three individuals who were later arrested by the government. John Stewart then spoke to the son of one of the individuals.
11:57 am: Tweets –
“The behavior of the armed forces and the plainclothes is indicative that under any circumstances people’s gatherings will be suppressed even if it costs more lives.”
“There is a lot of firing in the air and some reports say people are being shot at which has not been confirmed yet but a young girl has been shot.”
“Today tear gas was used in Baharestan and people have been attacked by batons and cables.”
“About ten black vans of special forces are patrolling Shahrak Gharb.”
11:41 am: Razavi Faghih – Memorial ceremony for the freedom martyrs will be held next week
Saeed Razavi Faghih, Karroubi’s spokesperson, said despite all the efforts, the memorial ceremony for the martyrs that was scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled because no location was available. “It is a shame that even political leaders such as Karroubi cannot hold a memorial ceremony in a mosque or a shrine.” The spokesperson said the memorial will be held next week either in Tehran University or at the Behesht Zahra cemetery.
11:25 am: “Suspicious distribution of weapons in Tehran”
According to IRNA, a large number of firearms have entered Tehran from different regions and are being sold to the rioters on the cheap.
IRNA reported that “the armed forces found a load containing 30 pieces of side arms earlier this week. It is important to note that the supporters of rioters and behind the scene agents leading the crooks have long planned to import firearms to Tehran in order to take advantage of periods of unrest.”
11:21 am: Over at The Corner, Michael Rubin picks up a bizarre theme that we’ve been seeing for a day or two now: taking shots at President Obama for his “hot dog diplomacy” overture to Iranian diplomats before the election. The invitation for Iranian diplomats to attend US Embassies’ 4th of July parties will go ahead as planned despite the unrest in Iran, prompting Rubin to ask “What’s next?”:
Inviting North Korean officials to share cake at a celebration commemorating the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Perhaps inviting the Taliban to a festival celebrating International Women’s Day? Maybe we can even invite Zimbabwe to party with the Department of Agriculture, or have Libyan diplomats as guests of honor at a commemoration of human rights?
The White House and the State Department seem completely blind to the optics of this, something strange given the president’s campaigning acumen. It is also a dagger in the heart of the imagery of hope and change which the Obama White House hopes to convey. President Obama, there’s always next year. This is not neutrality; it is diplomatic malpractice and an insult to the Iranian people who are watching you so intently right now.
Diplomatic malpractice? Inviting bureaucrats to a barbecue that they probably won’t even show up to? What’s going on in Iran these days is extremely troubling, and watching all of this unfold is incredibly dramatic. But the folks slamming the President over this are making mountains out of mole-hills. With the President’s deft handling of the situation for nearly two weeks now, Rubin is really scraping the bottom of the barrel…
11:06 am: Conservative MP: “Larijani is Rafsanjani’s agent for weakening Ahmadinejad”
Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament, is now under attack by conservatives forces who have been on a mission to destroy Khatami, Mousavi and Rafsanjani. According to Sarmayeh Newspaper, Hamid Rasaee, a member of the majlis and an Ahmadinejad supporter, harshly criticized Mousavi in a speech yesterday but ran out of time to express his criticism of Larijani. However, he posted the text of his speech on his website, [Persian] where he addressed Larijani, saying:
[Your] hypocritical positions that are supportive of the crooks and partly against the Supreme Leader’s positions, and your questioning of the health of the Guardian Council, are very regretful. Your position was so offensive that it was welcomed by the foreign media and the new divisive newspapers inside…God willing, in another time we will speak and write about your positions, and particularly your efforts to prevent the principalists to issue their statement and your public and hidden assistance to Mousavi.
10:47 am: Roxana Saberi on her detention and the demonstrations:
10:38 am: The future of diplomacy (via the NY Times):
While Mr. Obama did not rule out the possibility of engaging with Iran over the nuclear issue, administration officials and European diplomats say that the door to talks has all but closed, at least for now.
“I think that under these circumstances, no one is going to be able to pursue anything because there is nothing to pursue,” said Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, who has been consulting with White House officials “on a daily basis,” he said, about the unfolding situation in Iran.
Mr. Parsi said that all past assumptions about where Iran was headed had been cast aside by the disputed election results and the response of the protesters.
Administration officials acknowledged that after reading reams of intelligence reports, watching videos of the street demonstrations and absorbing the trickle of intelligence from Iran, they were unable to predict how the protests might turn out.
10:27 am: We missed this when it first came out, but the Guardian has a brief profile of Ayatollah Khamenei’s son:
Iran’s supreme leader’s second son, Mojtaba Khamenei, has emerged as one of the driving forces behind the government’s crackdown, diplomats and observers said .
Mojtaba is an ally of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the disputed president, and was credited with winning his father’s endorsement for the then Tehran mayor in the 2005 elections, leading to Ahmadinejad’s shock second round victory.
Mojtaba is an austere figure, generally seen as more hardline than his father and has become a gatekeeper for access to the beit-e-rahbari, the supreme leader’s home, and the supreme leader himself.
According to some Iran analysts, Khamenei, 70, is manoeuvring to position his son as his successor.
10:19 am: Heart-breaking tweets about the rally in Baharestan Ave this morning:
they were waiting for us – they all have guns and riot uniforms – it was like a mouse trap – ppl being shot like animals
Ppl gathered in Baharestan but police & plain cloths don’t let the core of the rally to form
I see many ppl with broken arms/legs/heads – blood everywhere – pepper gas like war… ppl run into alleys and militia standing there waiting – from 2 sides they attack ppl in middle of alleys…
10:10 am: Here is a very useful link from Mousavi’s facebook page describing all the demonstrations that are planned worldwide, giving dates, cities, contact information, and more in English.
10:02 am: Karroubi’s facebook page confirmed that there were demonstrations scheduled for today at 4:30 pm in Baharestan Ave, across the street from the Parliament.
In addition he urged people to gather in 5 of the major squares in the capital: Vanak Sq, Tajrish Sq, Sadegieh Sq, Resalat Sq, Jomhori Sq. He is also urging the demonstrators to be peaceful and not to engage the armed forces.
9:51 am: BBC Persian reported on the Minister of Intelligence Golam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehei saying “those who are provoking the people to take part in the demonstrations should be held responsible and arrested for criminal charges”. He did not mention Mousavi and his staff explicitly.
He also hinted that those individuals, both foreign and Iranian, who have been arrested or detained over the last week and a half will be released once they have been questioned.
Finally, he indicated that since the election there have been 18 casualties in Tehran.
9:38 am: More tweets from human rights activist “iranbaan“:
“Clashes are escalating in Baharestan.” “People have gathered in Baharestan but the anti-riot guard and plainclothes prevent the formation of a group. Scattered clashes have been reported.”
9:31 am: The University of Tehran has reported that the students who were arrested during the attack on the campus last week have been released. This report has not been confirmed by independent media.
9:23 am:US sent letter to Khamenei before election
The Washington Times’ Barbara Slavin has an exclusive this morning, reporting that the Obama administration sent a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei before Iranians went to the polls on June 12. The letter reportedly called for improved ties between the US and Iran.
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In a lengthy sermon Friday that reaffirmed the disputed re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei made an oblique reference to a letter from the U.S. but embedded the reference in a diatribe against purported U.S. interference in Iranian affairs.
“The American president was quoted as saying that he expected the people of Iran to take to the streets,” Ayatollah Khamenei misquoted Mr. Obama as saying, according to a translation by Mideastwire.com.
“On the one hand, they [the Obama administration] write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe? Inside the country, their agents were activated. Vandalism started. Sabotaging and setting fires on the streets started. Some shops were looted. They wanted to create chaos. Public security was violated. The violators are not the public or the supporters of the candidates. They are the ill-wishers, mercenaries and agents of the Western intelligence services and the Zionists.”