Friday June 26 – the daily story

Partial election recount set — The Guardian Council has set up a special commission to recount 10% of the ballot boxes from the “disputed election” and prepare a report.  The boxes will be picked at random and the count may be broadcast live. The move was announced by the council’s spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodai, who said it was an additional gesture to the  five-day extension the council had set before reportin g its findings, and was designed to “secure the additional confidence of the complaining candidates and their supporters.” Quoted by PressTV, he said the council would be made up of  six “outstanding political, social and religious figures” and the representatives of the two defeated candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi “who persist with their complaints and demand a re-run”. They include former foreign minister and current foreign affairs adviser to the supreme leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, the former Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Shahid Beheshti University Goudarz Eftekhar-Jahromi, Chief Prosecutor Qurban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, Majlis deputy Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi, and the Supreme Leader’s representative at the Martyrs’ Foundation Mohammad-Hassan Rahimian.

The announcement leaves a number of issues unclear, apart from evaluating  exactly whose side the six council members are on. It is not certain that Moussavi and Kharroubi will send respresentatives – the report suggested they had a 24-hour deadline that ended Friday night. The two have previously spurned an invitation to discuss their coimplaints with the council, suggesting they would not get a fair hearing. It is also not clear whether this forms part (or indeed all) of a deal struck betwen the factions that have clearly been doing much manoeuvring behind the scenes over the last few days. Some reports have suggested Atyatollah Rafsanjani has forged a deal that would water down the powers of Khamenei, but Rafsanjani has been extremely quiet of late. However, there have been a number of hints from other directions of pressure on Khamenei to step back from his confrontational position, and this move by the Guardian Council might represent  one of the fruits of that pressure. On the other hand it could simply be a way of the Guardian Council putting on a show of bending over backwards to resolve the crisis without  eventually changing anything.

Execution call –– Hardline Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami called for key rioters to be given the death sentence when he led Tehran’s Friday prayers. There had been suggestions during the week that Khamenei would again address the Friday faithful, but Khatami resumed his role as Friday prayers leader instead to deliver a somewhat harsher message than the Supreme Leader’s last week, albeit along the same lines. “Rioters and those who mastermind the unrest must know the Iranian nation will not give in to pressure and accept the nullification of the election results,” he said according to PressTV. “I ask the Judiciary to firmly deal with these people and set an example for everyone.” Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, said that under Islamic law the “saboteurs” were considered to be waging war against God, an offence for which Islam had the severest punishments. He also accused blamed saboteurs and the foreign media for the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, adding that the “evil” media in the US and Europe had used her death for propaganda purposes.

Down but not entirely out — “You can never put out a fire by beating it, the flames may wane but underneath the ashes will go on burning. Wheels have been set in motion. A vast movement has started to take place. In time, the tide will turn.” These words are taken from a genuine-looking blog carried on the inestimable Tehran Bureau site. It is written by one who took part in the protests, possibly a doctor or medical student since he/she talks of forming a medical team to treat injured protesters. In it he/she argues that the Ahmadinejad camp had enacted what they thought was a “perfect plan” to take power but they made two big miscalculations. The first was that they never bargained for the huge wave of protests that followed their move, the second that they reacted by coming down hard on the protests. The blogger says the June 20 violence was the Islamic republic’s Black Saturday, and compared it with the Black Friday killing of  tens of  demonstrators by the Shah’s troops at Jaleh Square in 1978. Apart from that, the writer makes the point that during the rising against the Shah, “the army chiefs decided to prevent bloodshed and a civil war, so they refused to crack down on the demonstrators. They were thanked for this by swift executions that took place as soon as the revolutionaries came to power. Sepah, or the Revolutionary Guard, is apparently determined not to go down the same path.” So now, the writer paints a picture of a totally demoralised opposition. “We are disillusioned, battered and betrayed. Many are talking about leaving the country. Many young souls are looking for the first exit.”

The Larijani faction — The Eurasia website provides this interesting insight into current Iranian power politics in the shape of an insight into how Majlis speaker Larijani and his family are supposedly shaping an influential third force with strong ties to the religious community. The article by someone writing under the pseudonym Kamel Nazer Yasin, suggets much of the impetus for the grouping comes from a strong dislike of Ahmadinejad. However Etemad Meli reports that a group of MPs that support the president is now attempting to organise a vote of no confidence in the speaker.

Jackson’s death  steals the show — The Iranian crisis was finally knocked of the top rungs of the “trending topics” on Twitter by the death of Michael Jackson, a fact that spread some alarm and despondency among tweeters. But enterprising video producers were quick to pounce on the potential of Jackson to flag up the opposition cause. One of the best efforts I found was this adaptation of Jackson’s controversial song They Don’t Really Care About Us , for which he took heavy flak over the alleged anti-semitic lyrics of the original version (he rewrote them).

Deathly calm — The BBC might be having its troubles, with the expulsion of John Leyne and crackddown on its Persian service, but Jeremy Bowen struggles on and has produced this report about the eerie calm in Tehran. The masses of security forces have l;argely evaporated, he says, but in their stead “black cars with the words special police painted on them move steadily through the traffic, each one containing four or five men in camouflage uniforms.” Baradar bozorg is watching you.

Aerial protest — Like green shoots, there were a few green balloons in the Tehran sky, sent aloft at the behest of Moussavi, but it was apparently no blizzard. Some people used inflated green rubbish bags.

Foreign protests — One person was arrested after a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in Stockhlom turned violent. Stones were thrown and Iranian  embassy employees grappled with some demonstrators who broke through a fence. A molotv cocktail was thrown at the Iranian embassy in Bern, Switzerland.

Obama rebuff — The war of words between Iran and the United States is getting more personal, according to this report in The Washington Post, with Ahmadinejad demanding an apology from Obama for criticising the regime’s crackdown, and Obama blowing his complaint away. Subsequently Iran’s UN representative accused the US of denying visas to an Iranian delegation that wanted to attend a three-day UN conference on the global financial crisis.

‘Butcher’ asks the questionsThe Times reports that Saaed Mortazavi, dubbed  “the butcher of the press”,  has been appointed to interrogate arested protesters. It says the relatives of several detained protesters “have confirmed that the interrogation of prisoners is now being headed by Mortazavi.” Mortazavi,  prosecutor-general of Tehran since 2003, was responsible earlier this year for the arrest and trial of Roxana Saberi, the American-Iranian journalist jailed for eight years for spying. He first came to foreign attention in 2003 over the death in custody of Zahra Kazemi, a freelance photojournalist with dual Iranian and Canadian nationality. At first Mortazavi iussued a statement saying she had was killed by a stroke during interrogation. Then another statement said she had fallen and hit her head. But three days after that Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Vice-President, admitted Kazemi had died of a fractured skull after being beaten. Ironically, according to the Times, Abtahi  is among those arrested in the current crackdown.

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