frandroid: YPG logo, Syrian Kurdish defense forces (Default)
Catching up to the news after a few days of Christmas and sleepover over at our shack...

Death Toll Rises to 10 as Clashes in Iran Intensify
There were scattered reports of police officers surrendering, or refusing to fight. Several videos posted to the Internet show officers holding up their helmets and walking away from the melee, as protesters pat them on the back in appreciation. In one photograph, several police officers can be seen holding their arms up, and one of them wears a bright green headband, the signature color of the opposition movement.
Protests and clashes also broke out in the cities of Isfahan, Mashad, Shiraz, Arak, Tabriz, Najafabad, Babol, Ardebil and Orumieh, opposition Web sites said.

It's always good news when orders are not being carried out. Keep an eye open.
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
[ profile] richardhetu, La Presse's indefatigable blogger, posted about Rafsanjani's Friday Prayers sermon at Tehran University. He linked to the New York Times' reportage, The Guardian's analysis and Tehran Bureau's updates of the situation on the ground, outside the prayer hall.

Largest protest held in weeks. Rafsanjani recognizing the legitimacy of the "crisis" and trying to position himself as neutral broker, reminder people that both the "islamic" and "republican" parts of the country are indispensable. Protesters were warning Rafsanjani not to betray them before speech; came away satisfied (13 out of 20, according to one protester). All call and response chants, the usual "Death to America", "Death to Israel", etc. were responded by the crowd with "Death to Russia"! Apparently, the nightly chants were louder tonight than they had been in a while. State TV exceptionally did not broadcast the prayers and sermon live, but there was brief coverage of the protest, a first since the crisis started.

There is still hope.
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
So we ended up going to the Toronto protest in solidarity with the Iranian protesters on Sunday. The protest was at Queen's Park from 2pm to 4pm. We ended up there around 3pm. The front lawn of the provincial parliament building was fairly occupied, I would say that there were a few thousand people. At that point, most of the speeches were either in Farsi, or badly amplified anyway, so I couldn't understand much. From time to time, there would be some people chanting "Marg bar dictator" (Down with the dictator), and "Natarsid! Natarsid! Mah hameh bah ham hastim!” (Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, We are all together!), although mostly the former. There was also a lame "Iran, Iran, Iran" cheer going on. Can't people be more original than this? Finally, very tellingly, not once did I hear Allaho Akbar.  It's good enough for the rooftops of Tehran, but Torontonian Persians seem to have better slogans than them!

You could see a fairly good contingent of socialists/communists, with signs that were more vitriolic, "Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran". One interesting thing is that even though there were tons of Iranian flags, the only version you could see was the monarchist or pre-revolutionary flag, with the lion in the centre, as opposed to the Islamic Republic's flag, with the Farsi text along the coloured borders and the swords in the centre. A lot of people had gotten t-shirts pressed or made their own t-shirts with various slogans along the lines of "Where is my vote?"

Eventually the speakers were done but many protesters decided to stay. The communists decided to do some sloganeering of their own, in complete rejection of the Islamic republic but not touting any program of their own (Other than on some flags, which said Freedom, Equality, Socialism). I accompanied them for a bit with their "Marg bar joomheira islami", "down with the terrorist state", etc. not really convinced but for the sake of yelling something, anyway. A larger part of the protest had moved further south, away from the communists, but they were also saying "Down with the islamic republic".

I thought later on that people's slogans should really have been about the elections and asking for democracy. That is the basis of what's missing in Iran. Maybe many Iranians do want to live in an Islamic republic after all? Maybe (hopefully!) not forced veiling and stoning of adulterous women, but still living under a version of Islam's moral code? Moussavi's extremely reformist statement did come from a position of trying to coopt/split security forces, and of course he is a former ultimate insider, having been the Prime Minister under Khomeini as Supreme Leader and Khamenei as President. But it also made me think that the first priority should be to have a democratic process, both at the level where you elect free parliamentarians (not supervised by an unelected veto-er) and have a free press, but also at the level of popular organization. Everything else flows from there.

The Danger of Hijacked Rallies
State-run TV in Iran is showing demonstrations in other countries such as the US, however with some serious editing. They are not broadcasting the majority of people standing and shouting in solidarity with people in Iran. Rather, they show images of demonstrators who shout, “Death to the Islamic Republic,”
In Paris on June 20, the National Council of Resistance of Iran helped bus in several thousands from all across Europe to hold a rally where the leader of NCRI, Maryam Rajavi spoke. Busing in people from out of town. sound familiar? Just today, June 21, in Washington DC, a rally organized by monarchists – though attended by many non-monarchists – featured Reza Pahlavi, the son of deposed Shah. Many sat down when he arrived, while others moved to the periphery obviously uncomfortable with his presence. Like a celebrity, he spoke for five minutes about democracy in Iran interrupted by cries of “We love you” and was ushered away. “I sensed he was being very opportunistic,” remarked an onlooker.

If one truly aims to help the people in Iran, then one should follow the people lead and not try to hijack their movement by imposing one’s own agenda. Demonstrations outside of Iran should be filled with unity, peace, and reflection for the brave Iranian people fighting for basic freedoms, and void of flags and slogans that undermine their cause with the burden of past political divisions.

After the protest, by sheer coincidence, we had to get to Finch station to get something else. That part of the city is home to many Iranian businesses, so we decided to go try Persian food. There were many people driving around, having decked their cars with many monarchist flags, honking and cheerfully yelling out loud. It felt more like a world cup match victory celebration than a worried protest in support of brave Iranians facing off against the Basij. Some of these seemed to have made it quite well in life, driving cars that I can't afford.


Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad’s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi’a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani’s representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani.

A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani’s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani’s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani’s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.

Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya satellite television news channel reported that a "high-ranking" source in Qom confirmed that Rafsanjani has garnered enough support to remove Ayatollah Khamenei, but an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader. Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach.
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
*** ETA: Can someone explain to me how this is happening? The video underneath should be a dark video of Iranians yelling "Allaho Akbar" in the night, and come from Youtube. That's the video I see when I look at this entry on its entry page. But when I look at this same entry on my friends' page, what I see if a goddamn Christiane Amanpour video on vimeo!!!! How the hell??! The word Vimeo does not appear in my embed code. Also, earlier this morning, the entire contents of this entry had disappeared, I had to rebuild it from scratch. Is the Russian LJ mob trying to support the Revolutionary Guards?!?

2:18 PM ET -- "Allaho Akbar!" Such haunting video. Midway through, you'll hear a woman's voice, whose words were translated by emailer Lily:

The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying "allaho akbar" we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.

The NIAC relays word today from a friend in Iran: "Until it's clear what the fate of the new elections are, we will chant 'Allah Akbar' three times every night - once at 10:00, 11:00, and midnight."
Source: Nico Pitney on HuffPo.
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
[ profile] dariusk wrote, in comment to someone else's entry:
One of my relatives lives in a small village in Iran. After the results came in, things seemed fishy. His town was listed as 85% voting for Ahmadinejad. He called a few friends in the town asking who they voted for, everyone said Mousavi. They finally called a town meeting (this is a very small town, everyone was there). The asked people to volunteer who they voted for. Only one guy voted for Ahmadinejad.

It's a blue-collar area, a village in a rural area. My relative is a construction foreman. I don't think the class breakdown is as easy as "farmers like Ahmadinejad, well-heeled Terhanis like Mousavi."

[ profile] dariusk also posted this, on the same entry: Iran’s Rural Vote and Election Fraud by Eric Hooglund:
Take Bagh-e Iman, for example. It is a village of 850 households in the Zagros Mountains near the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz. According to longtime, close friends who live there, the village is seething with moral outrage because at least two-thirds of all people over 18 years of age believe that the recent presidential election was stolen by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When news spread on Saturday (June 13) morning that Ahmadinejad had won more than 60 percent of the vote cast the day before, the residents were in shock. The week before the vote had witnessed the most intense campaigning in the village’s history, and it became evident that support for Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s candidacy was overwhelming. Supporters of Ahmadinejad were even booed and mocked when they attempted rallies and had to endure scolding lectures from relatives at family gatherings. “No one would dare vote for that hypocrite,” insisted Mrs. Ehsani, an elected member of the village council.

The president was very unpopular in Bagh-e Iman and in most of the other villages around Shiraz, primarily because of his failure to deliver on the reforms he promised in his successful 2005 presidential campaign. He did have some supporters. Village elders confided, “10 to 15 percent of village men, mostly [those who were] Basijis [militia members] and those who worked for government organizations, along with their families.”
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
A list of 7 demands has been distributed to protesters in Tehran:

1. Dismissal of Khamenei for not being a fair leader
2. Dismissal of Ahmadinejad for his illegal acts
3. Temporary appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as the Supreme Leader
4. Recognition of Mousavi as the President
5. Forming the Cabinet by Mousavi to prepare for revising the Constitution
6. Unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
7. Dissolution of all organs of repression, public or secret

I found #3 to be quite otherworldy, but I have found this is not entirely impossible. Pepe Escobar of Asia Times Online: The meaning of the Tehran spring

The trillion-dollar-question regarding this new "revolutionary" situation is that as things stand, no pacifying solution can be found within the institutional framework of the Islamic Republic. In a nutshell, Ahmadinejad has made his power play against Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The Supreme Leader fully supported him. Mousavi and Rafsanjani, plus Khatami, need an urgent counterpunch. And their only possible play is to go after Khamenei.

As Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, among others, has noted, Rafsanjani is now counting his votes at the Council of Experts (86 clerics, no women) - of which he is the chairman - to see if they are able to depose Khamenei. He is in the holy city of Qom for this explicit purpose. To pull it off, the council would imperatively have to be supported by at least some factions within the IRGC. The Ahmadinejad faction will go ballistic. A Supreme Leader implosion is bound to imply the implosion of the whole Khomeini-built edifice.

Null and void
As a prelude, Mousavi has already bypassed the Supreme Leader, sending an open letter to the powerful mullahcracy in Qom asking them to invalidate the election. Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, head of the election vote-monitoring committee, has officially requested that the Council of Guardians void the election and schedule a new, fully monitored one.

One of the stalwarts of Qom power, the moderate Grand Ayatollah Sanei, who had issued a fatwa against vote rigging, calling it a "mortal sin", has already declared the Ahmadinejad presidency "illegitimate". His house and office are now under police siege. Iranians eagerly expect a public pronouncement from Grand Ayatollah Muntazeri, the country's true top religious figure (not Khamenei) and a certified anti-ultra-right wing.

UPDATE: niacINsight reports that Rafsanjani is calling for an emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts.

NYTimes Op-Ed on the militarization of the theocratic regime in Iran.

Michael Ledeen says that Mousavi actually had Khamenei's support, which sounds a little strange, but the second half of this article is interesting nonetheless. Try to put that an the previous op-ed's assertion together...
frandroid: (doomsday clock)
Under the current administration, it is increasingly difficult to know who the enemy is, but what is certain is that the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is a brilliantly executed psychological warfare by way of misinformation. This dastardly plan is so devious that even the anti-war groups are jubilant at its release, and they are naively sharing its contents. Perhaps non are as enthusiastic about the report as the most powerful lobby group in America hostile to Iran.

The NIE claims that ‘Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003’. This report now in circulation, and being repeated by every media outlet, and as importantly, by way of word of mouth, is giving credibility to the warmongers that Iran actually had a nuclear weapons program, with the idea that ‘repetition begets belief’. Drumming home a false message, the White House will get the justification it needs to impose further sanctions, with the idea of escalating into a war.

Repeat after me:

Iran has never had a nuclear weapons programme.
Iran has never had a nuclear weapons programme.
Iran has never had a nuclear weapons programme.
frandroid: A faroher, emblem of the Zoroastrian religion (faroher)
Certainly thought-provoking...

Demographics and Iran's imperial design Sep 13, 2005
Why the West will attack Iran Jan 24, 2006 (!!)
Why war comes when no one wants it May 2, 2006

Spengler is big on demographic pressures informing the reasons behind military and political conflicts.
frandroid: YPG logo, Syrian Kurdish defense forces (great worm)
Timer Harper in the Star:
In Iran, a galvanizing of a splintered nation. An end to hopes for political reform, a rally-around-the-leader phenomenon common among the victimized, an ability to rebuild a nuclear program in two to four years.

The text in bold... You would think that a certain U.S. president would remember how he consolidated his power, eh?

But the cost of inaction could be even higher: a defiant nation with an apparently unstable leadership steeped in hatred for Americans in the heart of the Middle East with nuclear capabilities.

Swap around "Americans" with "the Middle East". Again, is anyone not reminded of what the political landscape was like in late 2001?

"It's going to be tough because they are led by ideologues who have a weird sense of history."

Once again...

Before he did so, he dismissed any influence of the United Nations, according to state media. "They know they cannot do a damned thing," he said.


And at the end of the article, someone actually does point out how Bush should look back on his own history to understand what the reaction would be:

But Pollack adds a sobering point. If the administration truly believes it cannot live in a world in which Iran has nuclear weapons, the military option may be the only way to prevent that.

But it would be seen as an unprovoked attack on a country that has attacked no one. It would be likened to Osama bin Laden's attack on the U.S., Pollack said, reminding his audience how the United States responded to that.


He argues, as many do, that Bush already has congressional approval and needs not go back to lawmakers.

This is of course a complete mockery of democracy.

The full article: U.S. strike on Iran could make Iraq look like a warm-up bout


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