Revolutionary Guards in control — The Revolutionary Guards have publicly declared that they have taken control of Iranian national security. At a news conference late yesterday, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the guards commander, said: “We are convinced that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps must play a deciding role in the preservation and continuation of the revolution.” While he denied this represented meddling in politics, he added: “These events put us in a new stage of the revolution and political struggles, and all of us must fully comprehend its dimensions.” Jafari suggested the guards had no option but to take control to calm the situation. This had led to some confusion, but had resulted in “a revival of the revolution and clarification of the value positions of the establishment at home and abroad.”
The statement is as clear a confirmation as we are likely to get that what we have been witnessing is a coup by the revolutionary guards. For the oppisition, the implications could not be more stark and were spelled out at the same conference by General Yadollah Javani, the corps’s political head: “During these events, the eye of the mischief was damaged, but it was not blinded. Now the eye of the mischief must be blinded completely and gouged out, and this can be done by illuminating the events behind the scenes.” He added: “Today, no one is impartial. There are two currents; those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it. Those who wanted to topple the revolution made a mistake in their calculations. They ignored the awareness of the people and the role of the Leader (of the Islamic Revolution).” Javani referred to the use of the colour green to create a green wave to put pressure on the authorities. This, he said, had only served to expose those who sought to threaten the establishment. The opposition’s plans were so predictable that the guards corps was fully prepared even before the revolution to counter the velvet revolution’ . PressTV
Moussavi in public — The first pictures for some while of Mir-Hossein Moussavi in public were published on the Parsine Iranian website today. They show him entertaning friends at his home at the start of a three-day religious period known as the white days – so-called because the moon appears all night – when fasting and religious reflection are observed by the faithful. He appears to be unfazed by the growing clamour among hardliners for his prosecution, or the declaration last night by the Revolitionary Guards that they now had the country’s security firmly in their grip.
Moussavi said that for any government to rule there must be two types of legitimacy: religious and legal. Pointedly leaving the religious aspect to one side, he said the government had not been formed within the framework of the law “and therefore it is not valid and legitimate in the people’s mind, and so the government’s position is weakened and then the government starts getting violent with the people. At this moment the problem of the government is its political illegitimacy. … Things might have gone quiet at the moment, but the underlying problems will not go away. I believe that this movement of objection will continue and I thank God that all the problems of the regime have been revealed and uncovered.” He urged people, despite the media clampdown, to keep channels of information open and said he was forming a group to pursue his aims within the legal framework: this could be a reference to reported plans to set up a political party, which themselves could be tied in with the group he has already set up to pursue his claims of electoral fraud through legal and poliitcal channels.
The news that Moussavi is to form a party, first reported by his Etemad-e Melli newspaper, has been picked up by the official PressTV website, which says the idea is being backed by Grand Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Mousavi-Tabrizi, head of the Association of Researchers and Tutors of Qom (see Qom statement story ‘overblown’ below) and Mohammad Salamati, general secretary of the Islamic Revolution’s Mujahedin Organization. parsine.com, AP, PressTV
Qom statement story ‘overblown’ — An informed website today debunks the story that gripped much of the western media yesterday, the declaration by the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom condemning the crackdown and calling into question the authority of Khamenei and independence of the Guardian Council. The website, Enduring America, accuses the New York Times, which broke the story, of mistaking the group for the conservative and far more powerful Society of Qom Seminary Teachers and Researchers (or Qom Seminary Teachers Society) which we noted yesterday had congratulated Ahmadinejad on his victory. The association, it says, is in fact headed by Ayatollah Hosein Moussavi-Tabrizi who, although he has a seat on the Assembly of Experts, was barred by the Guardian Council from standing for parliament last year. And Moussavi-Tabrizi was already on the record, towards the end of last month, attacking the impartiality of the Guardian Council and likening the current regime to the Shah’s. So nothing new there then.
The website accuses the NYT of turning “a relatively minor intervention … [into] an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment”. Nor do the rest of the media that “followed up” the story escape criticism. “Far from checking the Times story, broadcasters and newspapers have rushed like lemmings off a cliff behind the headline. … (The New York Times, incidentally, runs away and doesn’t say a single word about its misleading article that started all this unsupported “journalism”.)” The blog singled out CNN, the Guardian and The Times of London for criticism.
The Enduring America website, which blogs regularly on developments in Iran, is run by Scott Lucas, described on the site as a specialist in US and British foreign policy who currently works as Professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK. His interest in the subject was apparently sparked by a certain amount of puzzlement on the Anonymous Iran website, which has become a key hub of information on Iran and exchanges between Iranians inside and out of the country. One of the first reactions to the NYT article when it was posted as a thread on the Anonymous website was: “The article didn’t feel that reliable to me. I hope other people can evaluate it better, based on superior knowledge about Iran to mine.” Other contributors then attempted to find out more about the Association, culminating in yesterday’s revelation. The NYT article, Enduring America, Anonymous Iran thread
French woman held –The French Foreign Ministry has demanded the release of a French woman they say was arrested in Iran on July 1 on spying charges. The woman was not identified beyond the fact that she is an academic, but the ministry said she was held as she was about to board a plane out of Iran after a 5-month visit. “We call on the Iranian authorities to free our compatriot immediately and allow her to leave Iran for France,” the ministry said, adding that the Iranian ambassador in Paris had been summoned and told the spying charges “do not stand up to examination.” Earlier French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Brown, at a summit meeting, condemned the arrest of Iranian staff at the British embassy, one of whom is still being held. Sarkozy said the Iranian people “deserve better than the leaders they have today”. And Sweden, acting as EU President, denounced the current spate of executions in Iran, particularly the hanging of 20 “drug traffickers” in Karaj. Reuters, rferl.org
Dust foils strike plan —The weather appears to have come to the rescue of the regime this week. Dust clouds blowing in from the deserts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia have reportedly been hitting more than half the country, including Tehran, prompting the government to order the closure of all public and private buildings, schools and factories. Some reports out of Tehran say the clouds are so bad the tops of buildings are barely visible and people are finding it difficult to breathe. A special committee set up to deal with the crisis said pollution today reached nine times the normal level, and ordered the closures for at least two days and possibly longer. It also urged people to avoid exercise in parks and squares. By the oddest of coincidences, the storms have hit precisely during the three-day “white days” religious holiday (July 6-8), when Moussavi supporters were urging people to observe Etikaf – seclusion or retreat – when devout Muslims take time off work to go to mosques or stay at home for prayer and contemplation. It was in effect to have been a general strike, with the people all the time wearing green. Now, however, the government has the perfect dust-screen to forestall any such claims – even beyond the holiday to the Thursday when another big demonstration has been threatened by opposition supporters.
And what the weather could not do, the authorities apparently tried to achieve themselves by closing mosques ahead of the threatened Etikaf gatherings. The regular NightOwl column on the Anonymous website reports that because of Etikaf, “notes have been placed on Mosque doors saying they are closed”. m&c, The Daily Beast, Moussavi Facebook site, NightOwl
In other news
Ayatolah Khamenei today reiterated his threats to Western countries against interfering in Iran. “Some leaders of Western countries at the level of president, prime minister and foreign minister openly intervened in Iran’s internal affairs that had nothing to do with them. Then, they said they don’t intervene in Iran’s internal affairs. … These governments must be careful about their hostile remarks and behaviours because the Iranian nation will” react, the television quoted Khamenei as saying. “We will calculate the interventionst remarks and behaviors of these governments. … Definitely, it will have a negative impact on future relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” AP
Canada toughened its stance on Iran today, rescinding an invitation sent to Iranian diplomats in Ottawa to attend its Canada Day celebrations. Lawrence Cannon, the Foreign Affairs Minister, said Canada was “deeply concerned” about the appointment of Said Mortazavi, known in Iran as the “butcher of the press” and blamed for the 2003 death of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, to interrogate and prosecute those arrested in the current unrest. canada.com
Esmail Ahmadi-Moghadam, Iran’s police chief, has denied saying Interpol had been asked to hunt for Arash Hejazi, the doctor who witnessed the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. He said his comments had been distorted. “I had said Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and criminal police are on the case.” PressTV
PressTV quotes an unnamed senior Pakistani official as claiming two key western and Islamic states are putting pressure on Islamabad to scrap the multi-billion-dollar gas deal signed two months ago with Iran. A leading Pakistani politician, Mubashir Hassan, earlier criticised America for interfering in the project and demanded the prime minster stop trying to delay it. PressTV, The Nation
Royal Dutch Shell has returned with an “improved” approach to talks with Iran on developing phases 13 and 14 of the South Pars gas field, which has the world’s largest known reserves. Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said he was satisfied with the new approach, but it was too early to say when final discussions would take place. Yesterday Total was told it had been bumped off development work for earlier phases of the project in favour of the Chinese state oil company. ISNA
Iran still does not have a a budget for the current year that started on March 21 and it does not look like getting one for a few weeks yet. The Majlis has told Ahmadinejad to go back to the drawing board on his “fundamentally flawed” budget. At issue is the move to cut funding to up to 40 unspecified organisations. The president has three weeks to change it or the budget will be kicked into the long grass over parliament’s summer recess. PressTV