IranWatch: June 18

For highlights of yesterday's coverage, see IranWatch: June 17

Updated 10:43 p.m. ET: Iran Protest Movement Gains Strength

For the fourth day in a row, a river of protestors streamed through the streets of Tehran.

"The only thing we want now is to have a new election," a protestor told CBS News by phone.

Tens of thousands of people marching silently, morning those killed at the start of the week.

State television is now saying eight people died in violent clashes, and unconfirmed reports say some of them were students at the University of Tehran.

Today, Mir Hossein Mousavi made a personal appearance, thrilling the vast crowd.

Organizers say they are inspired by the ideals and solidarity of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a mass protest movement which overthrew the government. Now, 30 years later, no one wants to a return to chaos and bloodshed, but that hasn't stopped authorities from embarking on a wave of arrests.

Click below to watch all of CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer's report from Iran.






Updated 07:15p.m. ET: Another Take On Iran: There Will Be Blood

When power slipped away from the Shah in 1979, the so-called bazaaris, or merchant class, played a key role in forcing out the old regime. But in the years since the revolution, that famous alliance forged with the clergy has frayed, according to Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Indeed, he suggests, the economic distress of the bazaaris may impact the regime's ability to hold on.

"...they recognize that the Islamic Republic and in particular Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have not been good for their interests. Instead of coveting foreign investment, Ahmadinejad has been repelling foreign investment. I think their economic interests are quite clear here—they want to see a more open economy, a more vibrant economy, and Ahmadinejad profoundly mismanaged the economy."

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Another point made by Sadjadpou: The Shah and his acolytes had education, wealth and their pick of places abroad to flee. Many were educated in the United States and Europe and when the going got tough, they could pick up and transplant their lives. Not so the mullahs and their supporters.

"With this current regime, Ayatollah Khamenei and others, they recognize that Iran is all they have. They grew up in Iran, they were educated, many of them, in the seminaries in Qom and elsewhere. So there are not that many options out there for them."

"So I think that they—it's been speculated for a long time, people have always said that these guys will fight to the death. And, again, if you try to get inside Khamenei's head, the lesson he learned from 1979 is that by trying to pacify the revolutionaries the Shah in fact emboldened them because they sensed weakness. This time around Khamenei doesn't want to, he wants to project a different persona than the Shah. Rather than accede to the demands of the people in the streets, he fears that if he compromises he's going to project weakness and that will lead to his downfall. So I do fear a massive clampdown by the regime. A potential bloodbath is unfortunately within the realm of possibilities."


Updated 06:20 p.m. ET: Why Iran Can't Count On A Tiananmen Redux

(AP Photo/Ghalam News)
Take a look at Mark LeVine's exceptionally nuanced analysis of the acute challenges facing Iran's regime.

As the nation's political and military elites grapple with the fast-changing situation on the ground, LeVine argues that the government can't bank on enforcing a Tiananmen-like crackdown. In China, he says, the bargain put forward by the Communist party in China was predicated on a formula in which it liberalized culturally in return for staying out of politics.

"Cultural liberalization became the safety valve that allowed the emerging generation of Chinese citizens to accept the continued power of the Communist party. Needless to say, no such safety valve exists in the Islamic Republic, where a cultural perestroika is precisely what Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the leadership and among the people want to prevent."

"In China the government struck a bargain with the people, telling them: "You can do whatever you want as long as you don't challenge the power of the state." The Iranian government has over the last two decades negotiated a very different and more narrow bargain with its citizens: "You can do what you want behind closed doors, as long as you keep the music down. But we own the street and the public sphere. So put your headscarf on before you leave the house, and don't think about challenging cultural or political limits publicly."

At least for the time being, LeVine writes, that bargain is off the table.


Updated 06:00 p.m. ET: Regime Claims To Have Thwarted Election Day Bomb Plot

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
As anti-government protests continued for another day, Iranian state television claims the authorities have uncovered a plot involving Israel and other unnamed foreign agents to bomb mosques and other places where crowds gathered to vote during the June 12 presidential election.

"Members of one of the uncovered networks were planning to plant bombs on election day at various crowded Tehran spots, including Ershad and al-Nabi mosques," according to the statement said, referring to two Tehran mosques.

Need we say that when all hell is breaking loose, look for the hand of foreign intrigue. For regimes under pressure, it's as old a playbook as there is.


Updated 05:35 p.m. ET: Robert Gates Marks Rise Of Social Networking

(AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)
When you hear that a certain Mr. Gates was quoted hailing the importance of social networking, it's likely not going to qualify big news. But I'm not referring to Mr. Gates.

During remarks to reporters on Thursday, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the "advance of communications technology in the hands of average citizens around the world" as one of the biggest developments in the last couple of decades.

Although American officials have been careful with their public remarks about the demonstrations in Iran, Gates said the emergence of "Western communications and media"-singling out Twitter-has played a key role in helping individuals circumvent attempts by authoritarian governments to control the flow of information in their countries.

You can read more about what Gates had to say by clicking here.


Updated 05:25 p.m. ET: Top Relgious Leaders Asked To Intercede On Behalf Of Families

Senior religious leaders in the Iranian holy city of Qom are being asked to intercede by families of beaten and incarcerated protestors. The clerics were sent a beseeching letter in the aftermath of the violent crackdown against demonstrators in the last few days.

"To whom should we plead, we mothers of this country? Today, that our daughters and sons in universities, dormitories, alleys and streets are slapped in the face and killed or beaten with electric batons, sticks and mace, and lose their lives. This is while they have stepped in to resist and defend their rights, their vote and the nation's vote."

"Dear Ulema, to whom should we plead when all this injustice is perpetrated in the name of religion and Islam? What can we do, we who have brought up our children with the love of God and Islam and taught them to resist tyranny as [Shia saint] Hossein did, and today? Exactly when they are carrying out these teachings, they have become the target of attacks by those who claim to be pious."

"What is with the Islamic Republic that it is devouring its own children and what can we do, we who are devoted to this revolution and its sublime ideals, but at the same time, cannot watch in silence when the rights of the people and the Ummat is trampled underfoot?"

You can read the full text at the The Guardian, which offered the full translation.


Updated 04:55 p.m. ET: Iranian Demonstrators Mourn Slain Protestors

(AP Photo/Ghalam News)
In this image made available from Mir Hossein Mousavi's election campaign media operation, Ghalam News shows Iranians with candles for 3 demonstrators who were died on Monday during a demonstration in support of the opposition leader, in Tehran on June, 18, 2009 (AP Photo/Ghalam News.)


Updated 04:35 p.m. ET: Mousavi Urges On Supporters

(AP Photo/Ghalam News)
In this image made available from Mousavi's election campaign media operation Ghalam News shows Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, center right, as he addresses supporters at a demonstration in Tehran on June, 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Ghalam News.)


Updated 04:05 p.m. ET: Symbolism On Display In Tehran

President Barack Obama is under pressure to insert the United States more directly into the Iranian situation. But that would be a mistake, writes Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in Middle East history.

"The regime's attempt to paint the protesters as nothing more than US intelligence agents underlines how wise President Obama has been not to insert himself forcefully into the situation in Iran. The reformers and the hard liners are not stable groupings. The core of each is competing for the allegiance of the general Iranian public. If the reformers can convince most Iranians of the justice of their cause, they will swing behind the opposition. If the hard liners can convince the public that the reformers are nothing more than cat's paws of a grasping, imperialist West-- i.e. that they are Ahmad Chalabis trying to bring Iran foreign occupation so as to get power themselves-- then the reformists will be crushed. Iranians value national independence above all, having suffered with a CIA-installed government for decades in the mid-twentieth century."


Updated 2:58 p.m. ET: Mousavi Supporters' Attendance At Friday Prayer In Doubt

Mousavi supporters were told not to participate in the Friday prayer, where Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is scheduled to speak, a correspondent for The Guardian, told CBS Radio News

"There have been rumors that the government is going to have a show…so that they can crack down on people more" said Saeed Kamali Dehghan, reporting from Tehran.

There had been reports that Mousavi and his followers would be in attendance.

According to Dehghan, Thursday's protests were "very, very huge" and continued to catch Iran's government off-guard.

"The government is surprised. They were not expecting this to continue.

Dehghan said the crowd was diverse, peaceful and mostly silent during the two hours of the protest he witnessed, carrying signs demanding a re-vote, not the limited recount offered by the Iranian government.

But there was also a somber tone, with supporters wearing black to mourn protesters killed earlier in the week.

"People were very devastated. They were very depressed about what the government did to these students and these innocent people," Dehghan said.

There was a police presence, Dehghan said, but more to direct traffic than confront a riot.

Dehghan also said information is limited because of the government crackdown on media and Internet communication.


Updated 2:29 p.m. ET: Mousavi Calls For Calm, Restraint

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi called for his supporters to show calm and restraint during a brief address at Thursday's rally.

Estimates put attendance of the latest protest in the hundreds of thousands.

Click here for updated story.


Updated 1:23 p.m. ET: Ahmadinejad: "We Are A Big Family"

On Iranian state television, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad explained an earlier statement made about the protesters in which he called them "dust and tinder."

"I meant those few who were causing disturbances and burn and damaging public property. I meant they are not part of our great nation. All Iranians are respected and held dear. We like all Iranians. All Iranians are loved. They are all victorious. The 40 million are victorious. We are a big family and we have to build this country together."


Updated 1:17 p.m. ET: Report: Candidates To Attend Emergency Meeting

According to Iranian state television, the presidential candidates will accept the Guardian Council's invitation to attend an emergency meeting next week.

The council's invitation was reported earlier Thursday.


Updated 1:03 p.m. ET: Video Of Tehran Rally On BBC

BBC posted this amateur video from today's rally in Tehran.




Updated 12:38 p.m. ET: More Photos Of Tehran Protests

The Guardian's Saeed Kamali Dehghan, on the ground in Tehran, compiled this photo essay of Thursday's protests.


Updated 12:05 p.m. ET: Mousavi Reportedly Joins Protesters

Couple of items from U.K.'s :

Mir Hossein Mousavi joined protesters Thursday evening as demonstrators chanted "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein," according to a source on the ground.

The newspaper also cites Fars News, a Iranian news site reportedly loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as reporting that a son and daughter of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani have been barred from leaving the country.

The agency claims Faezeh and Mehdi Rafsanjani organized "illegal demonstrations and acts of destructions" during the last few days.

The elder Rafsanjani chairs two key councils and is one of the individuals who might be capable of fomenting enough internal dissent to force change in the country's clerical leadership, Time magazine reporter Joe Klein, who just returned from Iran, said on CBS' The Early Show Wednesday.

One of the councils is the Assembly of Experts, which hold responsibility for electing Iran's Supreme Leader. It can also remove the Supreme Leader, though such a move would be unprecedented.

While Rafsanjani hasn't publicly declared support for Mousavi, he has been a political foe of Ahmadinejad in the past.


Updated 11:15 a.m. ET: New Photos Of Rally Surface

A collection of photos, reportedly from today's rally, is available on Flickr.


Updated 11:09 a.m. ET: Protest Update: Tens Of Thousands Turn Out Clad In Black

Opposition supporters poured into the streets of Tehran by the tens of thousands, according to witnesses.

Most were wearing black, as reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi had requested, to honor those killed in protests earlier in the week. Many also wore green wristbands, a symbol of solidarity within the movement, and carried flowers, witnesses said.

According to the report, demonstrators were silent until they reached Iman Khomenei Square, where some started chanting "Death to the Dictator!" and "Where are our votes!"

Click here for the updated story.


Updated 10:53 a.m. ET: Obama Walks Tightrope With Iran

The Washington Post reports on the dilemma facing the Obama administration regarding Iran, as overt support for the opposition movement might jeopardize negotiations with Ayatollah Ali over Iran's nuclear program.

Click here for the story.


Updated 10:45 a.m. ET: Rights Groups: At Least 200 Opposition Figures Arrested Or Have Vanished

International human rights groups are claiming that Iranian authorities have arrested or simply taken at least 200 prominent opposition figures throughout the country.

Click here for the story, which also includes a partial list compiled by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.


Updated 10:27 a.m. ET: Group Alleges Iranian Authorities Kidnapped Patients, Tortured Students

According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, medical workers at Hezar-Takhtekhabi Hospital in Tehran are on strike to protest the alleged kidnapping of injured opposition supporters.

The group says Iranian authorities have taken protesters from hospitals to prisons over the last few days.

The NCRI also alleges that students arrested earlier in the week in a raid on the University of Tehran were subjected to physical and psychological torture as well as rape by authorities in Iran's Interior Ministry. The victims were told to keep quiet about their treatment by university's dean, the group says.

The NCRI describes itself on its website as "a broad coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups and personalities" that was founded in 1981.

Neither of these claims have been independently confirmed.


Updated 9:29 a.m. ET: Alleged Police Attack Caught On Video

YouTube video claims to show Iranian police beating a person to death. It's not clear where or when the video was shot and the status of the victim can't be confirmed:




Updated 9:19 a.m. ET: Guardian Council Invites Candidates To Emergency Meeting

Iranian state television reports that the Guardian Council has invited the presidential candidates to join an emergency meeting early next week to discuss issues surrounding the election.


Updated 9:14 a.m. ET: Protesters Rally For Fourth Straight Day

Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi are back in the streets of Tehran Thursday for their fourth straight day of protest over the disputed presidential election.

Click here for the story.


Updated 8:25 a.m. ET: A Friday Prayer To Be Remembered

Iranian TV is reporting that the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will lead Friday prayers in Tehran. Also according to television reports, opposition presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi will join the crowd to hear the Ayatollah speak.

This ought to be interesting.

Many Mousavi supporters believe Khamenei is behind a dramatic robbery of the June 12 election that, according to the government, saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reelected with 62 percent of the vote.

A supposed secret letter being disseminated far and wide by opposition supporters was allegedly sent to Khamenei by the Interior Minister the day after the vote, basically telling him not to worry, it was all taken care of, but here are the real results if you care (the letter shows an easy Mousavi victory – click here for more on the purported "evidence").

When demonstrators fill the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, chanting "death to the dictator," they are referring to Khamenei.

Mousavi has made one appearance in public since the election. Anywhere he goes, or is supposed to pop up, so too will thousands of his frustrated supporters.

Friday prayers in Tehran always draw a huge crowd, but the chance that a large contingent of opposition supporters could be crammed into the same space as a large contingent of regime supporters comes with inherent risks amid the tension that has gripped the Islamic Republic.


Updated 6:51 a.m. ET: A Voice From The Front Line

CBS News has just spoken on the phone with Amir, a young man in his 20s who lived for a long time in the U.S. but is currently in his native Iran, preparing to join the masses expected at a rally of mourning Thursday in Tehran.

When we spoke to him, Amir was at Tehran University, which has been an epicenter of the opposition movement and has been raided repeatedly by paramilitaries and police in recent days.

Asked whether he would join the fourth day of rallying called by opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Amir did not hesitate: "Definitely."

He said there was lots of commotion on the university campus Thursday morning — the enthusiasm of a young population reaching boiling point. "People hope they can make a difference. We have to overturn the corruption in the election."

I have no access to Western media today," said Amir, "But I've heard that the demonstration yesterday was huge, and today's will be even bigger."

We asked whether Amir thought Iran's paramilitaries, know as the Basij, or the police would use force against him and the thousands of others expected to gather Thursday.

"I Don't know. Authorities have been running pictures (of the rallies) on television, and a lot of people are reading into that that it's safe to go out and they won't crack down on us."



Updated 5:40 a.m. ET: Iran Film Makers Appeal To EU With Purported Evidence Of Fraud

Two prominent Iranian film makers have asked European countries not to acknowledge the legitimacy of Iran's June 12 elections. Marjane Satrapi, who was behind the acclaimed animated movie "Persepolis," and filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf addressed a gathering of Green Party members of the European Parliament on Tuesday and presented a letter which they claim shows the real vote count from the disputed election.

A video posted on YouTube shows the two addressing the meeting in Farsi and English (the Farsi remarks are translated, so don't stop watching when you fail to hear a recognizable word right away). Makhmalbaf is reportedly a known acquaintance of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The letter they present to the MEPs has been circulated for several days, but its contents can not be verified. It is claimed the letter was a confidential note sent by Iran's Interior Minister (the Interior Ministry is in charge of running elections in the country) to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Below is the complete text of the letter, dated June 13, translated by CBS News:

Following your concerns regarding the results of the presidential election and per your given discretion to have Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remain as president during this sensitive juncture. Therefore, everything has been planned in a way that the public announcement will be made in accordance with the interests of the regime and the revolution. All necessary precautions have been taken to deal with any unexpected events of election aftermath and the intense monitoring of all the parties' leaders as well as the election candidates.

However, for your information, the real votes counted are as follows:

Total number of votes: 43,026,078
Mir Hossein Mousavi: 19,075,623
Mehdi Karoubi 13,387,104
Mhmoud Ahmadinejad: 5,698,417
Muhsen Rezai: 3,754,218
Void: 38,716


Minister of Interior

Sadegh Mahsouli


Again, CBS News has no way of verifying the authenticity of the document, which has been widely circulated by Mousavi's supporters. The official results, as announced by the government just hours after polls closed, showed a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad – with more than 60 percent of the vote tally.

  • CBSNews.com

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