Turmoil in Tehran, Continued

This cycle of protests, counter-protests between the opposition and the Iranian government (and their paid protesters) isn’t even close to being over yet.

Here’s what’s happened in the last 72 hours:

Wednesday, December 30:

Late Tuesday, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement expressing “its most energetic rejection of attempts at destabilization promoted by the U.S. government against the Government and People of Iran.”

Seyyed Ali Mousavi Habibi, the late nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi (pictured), whose body had been kept by the government, was released to the family and was buried in Tehran’s Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told reporters on Wednesday that the government had “no doubt,” that the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) was involved in the killing of Habibi. (The MKO is an exiled Islamic socialist organization that seeks the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The United States considers the MKO to be a terrorist organization.) The opposition continues to maintain that Habibi was killed deliberately by government forces.

State-run Press TV also reported that Iranian police had “detained the owner of the car involved in the shooting.”

The government orchestrated counter-protests on Tuesday and continued them on Wednesday, where they, according to the Los Angeles Times, “[called] for the death of antigovernment protesters and opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.” The Wall Street Journal added that the Tehran metro was free for all riders on Wednesday, presumably as a tactic to encourage people to attend the government rallies.

At a government Tehran rally, conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda stated that the opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi should “repent” or be declared “enemies of God,” whereby they could face possible death sentences.

CNN reported that legislator Hassan Noroozi specifically mentioned three targets who “must be arrested: Mehdi Karrubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Fa’ezeh Hashemi. Hashemi is the daughter of former reformist Iranian president, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and was the founder of a feminist magazine called Zanan (Women).

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), a government-run news service, added that opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi had fled Tehran for a town on the Caspian coast. However, that report that was quickly denied by Karroubi’s son, Hossein Karroubi.

General Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam also told IRNA that Iran had arrested more than 500 protesters during the Ashura protests, adding that 300 were still in prison.

IRNA also reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei “dismissed comments by foreigners” concerning Sunday’s Ashura protests.

In the US, The Denver Post called for “for the U.S. and its allies to more strongly support those seeking basic human rights in Iran.”

The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was preparing to draw up new sanctions against “discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters, marking a shift to a more aggressive U.S. posture toward the Islamic republic.”

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz concluded that “Israel does not have independent strike capability against Iran – not in the broad sense of the term.”

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Stanford professor Abbas Milani said that he didn’t believe anyone was in control of the opposition movement.

Meanwhile in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement that she was “shocked” by the recent violence in Iran.

“People have a right to express their feelings, and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” she said. “Those who have been arrested, for whatever reason, must be accorded due process that is fully in line with international human rights standards and norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The Voice of America said Iran was jamming its broadcasts, and noted that the BBC had been experiencing similar jams since December 20, the day after Ayatollah Montazeri’s passing.

Coincidentally on Wednesday, the British government released previously secret files concerning how the Foreign Office and Downing Street dealt with the shah in the waning days of the royal government. British veteran diplomat Sir Denis Wright, working under the the pseudonym Edward Wilson, met with recently deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi in the Bahamas in March 1979 to deliver the message that the British government would not allow the shah to settle in the UK.

The archives also revealed that Prime Minister Margret Thatcher sad that she was “deeply unhappy” not to be able to offer refuge to the shah, whom she said had been a “firm and helpful friend to the UK.”

Thursday, December 31:

Protests and counter protests continued on New Year’s Eve in Tehran.

According to the state-run Press TV, the Intelligence Ministry of Iran told “rioters not to be manipulated by foreigners seeking to once again dominate Iran.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on a “quiet war” against “star students,” which it explained as “being a star means ranking top of the class, but in Iran it means your name appears on a list of students considered a threat by the intelligence ministry. It also means a partial or complete ban from education.”

That paper also noted that a European Parliament delegation schedule to visit Tehran January 7-11, 2010 had drawn “rebuke” from some of their American counterparts.

The Telegraph (UK) also reported that according to a recent defector from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s private guard who is currently at a safe house in France that Khamenei “has a voracious appetite for trout and caviar; is an avid hoarder of collectables from bejewelled pipes to fine horses; and that he suffers regular bouts of depression which are treated in part by audiences with a mid-ranking mullah who tells vulgar jokes.”

In another bizarre and humorous coincidence, given the timing, the Iranian Football Association accidentally sent a New Year’s greeting to the Israeli Football Association, which responded in kind.

The Associated Press reported that Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah, “urged nations worldwide on Thursday to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran to protest against a relentless government crackdown on opposition demonstrators that resulted in at least eight deaths this week alone.”

I reported on the pushback of the Iranian government online, through the use of null routing and whitelisting during crackdown days.

January 1, 2010:

Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, in his first public statement since the Ashura violence, said on his website that Iran was in “serious crisis,” and that he was ready to become a “martyr” for the cause. He also outlined a five-stage solution for the political crisis, including accountability, transparency, freedom of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and recognition for legal rights for people to freely assemble and associate.

Opposition website Rah-e Sabz (Green Path) also reported today that Chinese-made anti-riot police vehicles were arriving in the Iranian port city of Bandar-e Abbas.

German newspaper Die Welt published an op-ed by famed human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi, whose sister, Dr. Nuschin Ebadi, a professor of dentistry, was arrested earlier this week in Tehran. The Nobel laureate called for the “immediate release” of her sister.

While no clear leader has emerged yet, The Washington Times reports: “Amir Abbas Fakhravar, 35, a former student leader who spent several years in prison in Iran and now lives in the Washington area, said contacts are taking place on Facebook and Skype and that activists plan to create a “revolutionary council” of about 15 people inside and outside Iran to lead the “Iranian Green Revolution.” He said this leadership might emerge before Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – another official holiday when masses of Iranians are likely to go into the streets to continue their protests.”

Conservative American columnist Bill Kristol wrote in The Washington Post: “The United States has not even begun to do what it could — rhetorically and concretely, diplomatically and economically, publicly and covertly, multilaterally and unilaterally — to try to help the Iranian people change the regime of fear and tyranny that denies them justice.”