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IranWatch: June 17

Updated 10:56 p.m. ET: Is Twitter's Impact Overrated?

Joel Schectman of BusinessWeek writes that Twitter is having some impact on getting Iranians in the streets to protest the election, but the majority of the organization is happening through word of mouth an SMS text messages. He quotes Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "Social media is not at all a prime mover of what is happening on the ground," Zuckerman says. "The reason social media is so interesting [for the press] is that the international media doesn't have its members on the ground." On the other hand, Twitter and related Internet technologies are a force multiplier despite the fact that many of the "tweets" simply re-circulate antecedent tweets. Check out the full story.

Updated 10:24 p.m. ET: Mousavi Rally Hits New York

(CBS/Arden Farhi)
Demonstrators gathered in New York City's Union Square Wednesday evening in support of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The rally attracted about 700 people. Most were clad in green, the color Mousavi used during his campaign for president.

Rally-goers held signs, lit candles and peacefully chanted - at times in Farsi - as twilight turned to nighttime. (To read more, click here.)

Updated 7:42 p.m. ET: YouTube's Roll In Iran's Protests

Steve Grove, the head of news and politics at YouTube, sat down with CBS News anchor Harry Smith to discuss the site's critical role in protests in Iran.

"I think the reason it's important is YouTube is the only place they're able to find this footage," he said. "The Iranian government is cracking down on mainstream media presence in Tehran and so really the only glimpse you're getting into these protests is from regular citizens who are uploading videos that they're taking from the middle of the action straight to YouTube and sharing them instantly with the whole world." (To read more of the interview, click here.)

Updated 7:40 p.m. ET: Web Weapons Connect A Revolution

Tonight, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr had a piece on the various types of media connecting protestors in Iran – from Facebook to Twitter. The Iranian government is responding by taking down opposition Web sites and restricting Internet access. But cyber experts say government officials cannot shut down all communications because their supporters use the same tools and they also want to know what opponents are saying. But there are signs tonight Iran's censorship is spreading and becoming more effective. (To read the full story, click here.)

Updated 5:50 p.m. ET: More than 222,000 Tweets In A Single Hour

Everyone's talking about how social media tools have become such a big part of the unfolding story in Iran, but until now the evidence has been largely anecdotal. Now we can add a mind-blowing statistic into the mix.

The Web tracking site Trendrr has been compiling Web data related to the demonstrations in Iran. It found the following: On Monday, the number of Twitter posts mentioning Iran peaked at just more than 221,000 per hour before falling back to the norm of between 10,000 and 50,000 per hour today and yesterday. It's still not clear what triggered the sharp spike. With the demonstrations taking a violent turn in the streets, Trendrr also reports that more than 3,000 YouTube videos have been uploaded in the last day.

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET: YouTube Iran Traffic Down 90%

A company spokesman for YouTube tells Beet TV that traffic is off 90% in Iran since authorities began trying to block access to social media.

Updated 5:05 p.m. ET: Has Ibrahim Yazdi Fallen Victim To The Revolution?

Harvard's Nieman Foundation, which has been doing outstanding work collecting and hosting updates from Iran since the upheaval began late last week, has published a (so far) unconfirmed report that the authorities have arrested Ibrahim Yazdi .

If true, file this one under the heading very big deal.

At one point, Yazdi was considered the second most influential figure in Iran behind Ayatollah Khomeini. The English-speaking Yazdi-he spent close to two decades in the United States-was so close to the revolution's leadership that he returned from exile aboard the same plane which returned Khomeini to Iran. He later headed up Iran's Foreign Ministry. He subsequently had a falling out with the mullahs and became the Secretary-General of the Freedom Movement of Iran.

The Tehran Bureau reports that Yazdi was arrested at Tehran's Pars Hospital after being hospitalized because of unspecified health problems.

"He and close to about 100 others were taken from the hospital to Evin prison. During last few days, dozens have been arrested from the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) in different cities of Iran."

Updated 4:35 p.m. ET: Protests Reported Spreading

What with the regime's media crackdown, it's hard to get a clear idea of the actual scope of the protests. But while most of the attention until now has focused on Tehran, the demonstrations against the results of last Friday's election aren't limited to Iran's capital.

The GlobalPost says it has interviewed a resident in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, who reports protesters setting fire to trash cans.

History buffs may recall that Ahvez is located in what Iranians call Khuzestan and Arabs refer to as Arabistan. The area suffered mightily during the 8 year-long war between Iraq and Iran, which began after Saddam Hussein ordered his forces to invade the area and seize the western part of this oil-rich region.

Updated 4:18 p.m. ET: Student Crackdowns Continue

A source at Tehran University tells NPR that supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are using violence to keep student protesters in check:

"Every night HIS (supporters of Ahmadinejad) people go in different parts of the cities and break all the glasses and traffic lights and windows and shops and yell and beat people with metal sticks. ...

"They've attacked students in their dorm rooms and killed and beaten many. ... About 300 are missing! (Note from The Two-Way: Tehran University tells Reuters there have been no deaths.)

"Last night they set fire in a gas station. ... I was watching ... and shivering and didn't know what to do. ... People helped and put it out ... but death seemed so close!"

Updated 4:00 p.m. ET: Technology 1, Revolutionary Guards 0

With pro-reform groups promising further street protests, Iran's Revolutionary Guards are threatening an Internet crackdown, now that the government has prohibited the foreign media from reporting. So far, that hasn't made much of a dent in the number of reports from citizen journalists in Iran. Here are more photos of street demonstrations, courtesy of Twitpic.

Updated 3:06 p.m. ET: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Listen to the latest reports filed by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, reporting from Tehran:

Updated 2:40 p.m. ET: It's In The Numbers

(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Opposition sources in Iran claim voter turnout in last week's controversial presidential election exceeded 100 percent in at least 30 towns, UK newspaper reports.

If true, the claim would validate charges of vote-rigging and give supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi more ammunition in their ongoing protests.

The voter turnout charge first appeared on the centrist Ayandeh news site, which The Guardian notes was neutral during the campaign. Ayandeh reported unprecedented turnout in 26 provinces, some exceeding the actual number of registered voters.

Among the most egregious examples – the town of Taft had a turnout of 141 percent, Ayandeh quoted an unnamed "political expert" as saying.

While impossible to verify, the claims do support previous statements from former interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, who said there were more ballots returned than eligible voters in 70 precincts, The Guardian notes.

Updated 2:18 p.m. ET: U.S. Denies Iran's Meddling Charges

The U.S. State Department is disputing Iran's charge that the U.S. has meddled in its internal affairs, according to the Associated Press..

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. is withholding judgment on the election's fairness and has not interfered.

Crowley confirmed the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Iran, was summoned by Iranian officials to hear the complaint.

Updated 2:01 p.m. ET: Iran Expert: Re-Doing Election The Only Option

CBS News producer Amy Guttman reports in World Watch that Ali Ansari, director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University, says a re-run of the Iran's presidential election is the only way to restore confidence in the government.

Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London Wednesday, Ansari said he believes there's little point in recounting the results of a foregone election.

He also said Iran's leadership is divided on how to proceed.

Updated 1:36 p.m. ET: New Protest Video

(AP Photo/IRIB)
Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi can be seen peacefully walking down a Tehran street, holding opposition signs over their heads, in this latest video from the BBC.

Updated 1:22 p.m. ET: Journalist Defies Ban, Reports On Near Clash

Robert Fisk, longtime reporter for UK daily The Independent defied Iran's restrictions keeping journalists off the street to report on the latest round of protests.

According to Fisk, Thursday's protests are not as quiet as some outlets are reporting. He said thousands of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi supporters were set to clash Thursday, separated by just 400 Iranian special forces.

The pro-Ahmadinejad leaders were urging their faction to attack the opposition protesters.

Fisk reports that while the army has typically sided with Ahmadinejad supporters in the past, they were the ones keeping the pro-government faction from reaching Mousavi's followers.

"Please, please, keep the Basiji from us," Risk reports one woman begging a police officer.

"With God's help," the officer said.

Fisk called the scene "phenomenal."

Updated 12:48 p.m. ET: Daily Show Offers Coverage From Iran

(Comedy Central)
Comedy Central says "The Daily Show" will start airing a week's worth of dispatches from Iran starting Monday.

Jason Jones, a correspondent for the fake news show, taped segments – including interviews with an Iranian family, and underground rapper and a feminist blogger – over the last month, according to the Associated Press.

Updated 12:40 p.m. ET: Iran Accuses U.S. Of "Intolerable" Meddling

Iran, through state-run television, has accused the U.S. of "intolerable" meddling in its internal affairs.

Updated 12:28 p.m. ET: Video: Protesters Mingle With Police

Amateur video on YouTube shows protesters conversing with Iranian police.

Updated 12:15 p.m. ET: Iranian Prosecutor Warns Protest Leaders Of Death Penalty

An Iranian prosecutor said that leaders of the opposition protest movement could face the death penalty under Islamic law, Reuters reports.

According to the news agency, Mohammadreza Habibi, prosecutor-general in Isfahan province, had this warning Wednesday:

"We warn the few ... controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution."

Last Updated 11:38 a.m. ET: Mousavi Calls On Followers To Mourn Killed Protesters

Iran's reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for his followers gather for a mass rally Thursday and to wear or carry black in mourning of those killed during Tehran's election protests.

Mousavi also repeated calls for "a new presidential election that will not repeat the shameful fraud from the previous election" in a statement on his Web site.

"We want a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy trend of the election and realize our goal of annulling the results," Mousavi said.

Updated 11:18 a.m. ET: Ahmadinejad Rally Photoshopped?

The twittersphere is buzzing with rumors that an image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Tuesday rally was photoshopped to make it appear larger.

The photo was analyzed by Mohammad Kheirkhah, a freelance photographer in Iran.

(Mohammad Kheirkhah)

Updated 10:04 a.m. ET: Iran's Dissident Crackdown Continues

Iran's crackdown on dissidents continued Wednesday, with several dozen reported arrests of reformists, along with threats from Iran's Revolutionary Guard that Web sites and bloggers must remove materials that "create tension" or face legal action.

Updated 9:37 a.m. ET: BBC Video Shows Apparent Dorm Attack

A new video posted by the BBC apparently shows new clashes between university students and pro-government forces.

Updated 9:33 a.m. ET: Cleric Comments Indicate Split

(AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
A senior Islamic cleric threw his voice into the Iran's political upheaval, saying the election results not legitimate.

In a statement on his Web site, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said "no one in their right mind can believe" the results showing a landslide victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reports McClatchy.

"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," he said in the statement. "I ask the police and army (personnel) not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."

The comments could indicate a rift among the country's powerful religious leadership.

Also on

Mousavi Defies Ban, Calls For Rally
Iran Military Warns Online Media
Iran Soccer Players Behind Mousavi?
The Internet Underground Captures The Turmoil In Tehran

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