Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More on Iranian Elections - Is a Revolution being Twitted?

The Guardian Council has indicated that it will recount some of the vote tallies in districts where the opposition can demonstrate there were irregularities, per Ladane Nasseri and Ali Sheikholeslami at Bloomberg.
"[S]tate television quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the body’s spokesman, as saying today. He said all three challengers in the June 12 election had made 'vague' complaints and were asked to elaborate. Kadkhodaei didn’t say what proportion of the 39 million votes cast may be reviewed."
Thomas Erdbrink and Debbi Wilgoren at the Washington Post further report:
"Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and two other challengers have called on the council to nullify all of the election results and order new balloting. Their supporters said it would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to request a recount comprehensive enough to overturn what the government has said was a landslide in favor of Ahmadinejad.

So far, the council has rejected those demands and said it would recount only those votes where the opposition has evidence suggesting a problem may have occurred."
As I noted yesterday, the battle over the control of information dissemination appears to be in full swing:

For live updates (and rumors) you can go to Twitterfall and select #iranelections on the left.

The importance of twitter to getting real time information out of Iran was confirmed as the US State Department urged the company to delay an upgrade scheduled to take place last night so that people could continue twitting about the situation to the outside world, per Sue Pleming at Reuters.

Folks at twitter are coloring their profiles green to show solidarity with the protesters in Iran. And so has the BBC--the front end of their website is now green.

This may be in retaliation for the government blocking transmission from a satellite operated by BBC Persian TV, per Oliver Luft at the Guardian. John Plunkett, also at the Guardian, reports that foreign journalists have been
"been barred from reporting from the streets, with a ban on images and eyewitness descriptions of the protests and violence."
(The Guardian is also hosting live updates on events as they take place in Iran.)

The West has made various objections about the treatment of the protesters, but there are legal challenges to the German sanctions regimes that look likely to succeed.

AFP reports that Germany, France, and the UK have officially protested to the Iranian government regarding the treatment of peaceful protesters. Meanwhile, Holger Stark at Der Spiegel reports that German courts may force the government to retract some of its economic sanctions barring trade with Iran.
"But now a decision by the Munich Higher Regional Court could force the government to change its hard line against Iran. ... The federal government views the Bavarian judges' 109-page ruling as potentially explosive. If the ruling prevails, says a senior government official, 'the entire system of foreign trade law will be dead.' The federal prosecutor's office has filed an appeal, and the case is now before Germany's supreme court, the Karlsruhe-based Federal Court of Justice. Its ruling is expected to serve as a landmark decision that will set a precedent for Germany's trade with dubious regimes."
Worth reading in full.

In the meantime, Germany, Armenia, and Turkey have all congratulated Ahmadinejad on the results as Ahmadinejad evidently feels either secure or irrelevant enough to travel to Yekaterinburg to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. (That seems to put the kibosh on the notion that he is in charge of any putative coup with him in the driving seat--at least that notion makes little sense to me given the trip.)

Uwe Klussmann at Der Spiegel reports that President Ahmadinejad traveled to Ekaterinburg, Russia, to participate as an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.
"'We welcome the newly re-elected Iranian president on Russian soil,' said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov upon Ahmadinejad's arrival at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on Tuesday. 'We see this visit as a reflection of partner-like, neighborly and traditionally friendly relations between Moscow and Tehran.'"
Worth reading in full. Also, World Bulletin reports that Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have congratulated Ahmadinejad on his election "victory." RFE/RL reports that President Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia has also congratulated Ahmadinejad in a letter that has now been made public.

In the meantime, Mousavi indicated that he would not attend the protests in Valiasr Square and his website suggested that the protests should be moved to yesterday's route of Enghelab Sq. to Azadi Sq.--see NIAC's Insight. However, the BBC reports that the protests today were even larger than they were yesterday.
"A witness told the BBC that Tuesday's rally was even bigger than Monday's--though this cannot be independently confirmed.

It is being held in northern Tehran--an opposition stronghold quite close to state TV headquarters.

Thousands of supporters of President Ahmadinejad staged their own rally in Vali Asr Square in central Tehran--some bussed in from the provinces, correspondents say."

(Photo from Alireza Sotakbar/Agence France-Presse)

In the meantime, Upstreamonline reports that the Iranian OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi told Reuters that, "The oil industry is 100% secure. here is no affect on production, exports or refining."
"Iran has cut gas exports to neighboring Turkey for 96 hours to repair the pipeline network, the Mehr News Agency reported.

Mahmoud Loghmani, an official of Iran's gas transfer company, told the news agency some cracks had been found on pipeline connections."
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, once the choice of Ayatollah Khomenei to succeed him as Leader of the Revolution until Montazeri publicly backed away from the notion of rule by the just jurist, has published an open letter condemning the elections, per the blog Views from the Occident. Here is a translation:
"In the name of God

People of Iran

These last days, we have witnessed the lively efforts of you brothers and sisters, old and young alike, from any social category, for the 10th presidential elections.

Our youth, hoping to see their rightful will fulfilled, came on the scene and waited patiently. This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people.

But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible. Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics.

Now, based on my religious duties, I will remind you :

1- A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views. I fear that this lead to the lost of people’s faith in Islam.

2- Given the current circumstances, I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.

3- I invite everyone, specially the youth, to continue reclaiming their dues in calm, and not let those who want to associate this movement with chaos succeed.

4- I ask the police and army personals not to ;sell their religion', and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god. Recognize the protesting youth as your children. Today censor and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth.

I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people."
Montazeri is also important because since he disavowed Khomenei's notion of theocratic rule, he was placed under house arrest ... and has been for some time now. Further, Montazeri is widely regarded as a "Grand Ayatollah," a real world-class religious authority, on the level of the Ayatollah Khomenei himself. The current LOTR, Ayatollah Khamenei, is not widely regarded as a world class, or even really a regional-class, religious authority ... one of the credentials that are required to be selected to the position of LOTR.

Jim Robbins at the Washington Times reports that 16 members of the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards have been arrested.

Incredible photos of the protests and clashes with security forces at the Boston Globe.

Der Spiegel also hosts a bunch of photos.

So does faramarz at flikr.


Of yesterday's protests:

It does seem as if the situation may well have spiraled out of control ... and that the genie has left the bottle ... but it is still hard to tell. The most important data points in my view are:

a) the Guardian Council agrees to a limited recount
b) protests continue in the face of violence
c) Revolutionary Guard leaders are allegedly arrested
d) Ahmadinejad leaves country to attend conference (?!)

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