5:33 pm: Robert Tracinski commentary in today's TIA daily (paid only): "Azadi, Azadi"
Yesterday's TIA Daily mentioned the possibility of another showdown in the conflict in Iran today, and that's what we got. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—a powerful regime insider who has quietly backed the protests against Iran's rigged elections—gave the sermon for the Friday prayers at Tehran University. This is a major platform—the sermon is broadcast nationwide on the radio—and the question was what use Rafsanjani would make of it.
According to reports on the sermon, Rafsanjani partly tried to have it both ways, calling for greater freedom while also wanting to preserve the "Islamic republic." He told his audience: "We believe in the Islamic Republic" but that "they have to stand together." By "they," he means the two parts of the phrase "Islamic republic": "If 'Islamic' doesn't exist, we will go astray. And if 'republic' is not there, [our goals] won't be achieved. Where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic."
But of course, it is too late for this. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have already demonstrated that Islamic theocracy and a republic—which have nominally co-existed for the past thirty years—are utterly incompatible. But in seeking to harmonize the two principles, Rafsanjani did make clear that the republican aspect takes precedence, and he advocated appeasement of the Iranian liberals who have been protesting in the streets: "Sympathy must be offered to those who suffered from the events that occurred and reconcile them with the ruling system. This is achievable. We need to placate them."
The Associated Press report on the speech described the overall effect this way:
Rafsanjani couched his sermon in calls for unity in support of Iran's Islamic Republic. But his sermon was an unmistakable challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who declared Ahmadinejad's victory valid and demanded an end to questioning of the results. Rafsanjani said the dispute has split clerics and warned of "crisis." The sermon was Rafsanjani's first since the election, ending his unusual silence over the turmoil. Worshippers interrupted him with chants of "azadi, azadi"—Persian for "freedom"—and Rafsanjani got tears in his eyes as he spoke of how Islam's Prophet Muhammad "respected the rights" of his people. He criticized the postelection wave of arrests, saying the leadership should show sympathy for protesters and urging the release of those detained.
That part about Mohammed respecting rights is news to me. But isn't it interesting that Rafsanjani feels he has to rewrite his religious traditions to reconcile them with liberty? And note that his main concrete demand—the release of political prisoners—would effectively mean an end to the crackdown on Iran's demonstrators, bringing them back into the streets by the millions in triumph.
Inside and outside the hall where Rafsanjani spoke, the audience chanted "azadi, azadi"—"freedom, freedom"—and also "death to the dictator" and "coup-d'etat government, resign, resign." The oddest detail: "Some in the sermon and afterward chanted 'death to Russia' and 'death to China,' referring to Ahmadinejad's alliance with both countries. Ahmadinejad has come under criticism in Iran for not criticizing Beijing over Muslim deaths in China's western Xinjiang province." This will give you some idea of the global domino effect in favor of liberty that we can expect when Iran's regime falls.
But the regime hasn't given up yet, so the scene outside the sermon was another brawl.
When Mahdi Karroubi, another pro-reform candidate in the June election, headed for the prayers, plainclothes hard-line supporters attacked him, shoving him and knocking his turban to the ground, witnesses said. "Death to the opponent of Velayat-e-Faqih," the hard-liners chanted as they attacked him, referring to the supreme leader, the witnesses said.
As she headed for the university, a prominent women's rights activist, Shadi Sadr, was beaten by militiamen, pushed into a car and driven away to an unknown location….
Members of the hard-line Basij militia charged the crowd, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.
Photo of the attack on Karoubi
The same Islamic theocracy that banned wearing green and shouting "Allahu akbar" is now tear-gassing Muslims headed to a prayer service.
The fight is still on in Iran, and the regime's chance of survival goes down with every week that passes, with every establishment figure who publicly goes over to the side of the protesters, and with every sign of continued public defiance.
2:00 pm: Interested in Rafsanjani translation? Jaymax liveblogged it here, (hat tip Jan P)
Twiiter: AN supporters chanting "Dawn with the thief of people's wealth [Rafsanjani]" & "Hizbollah, may god keep you!"
Tear gas fired all around Enghelab, especially Ghods ave. & 16-Azar ave.
To help with the heavy amount of tear gas attacks, people had started fires.
Even a Fars News photographer (from the government) was not allowed in the sermon. (more here)
11:36 am: GUARDIAN: Iran crisis: Rafsanjani attacks regime
One of Iran's most powerful clerics, Hashemi Rafsanjani, attacked the Iranian government for its handling of the unrest that followed the disputed presidential elections. His sermon provoked more protests, followed by another crackdown.
Dozens more videos of today's protests are available at Tehran Bureau. I've never seen so many films come out on a single day during these protests.
9:34 am: Rafsanjani calls for release of Iran's post-election prisoners - CNN.com (hat tip davida)
Iranian nuclear chief resigns
TEHRAN, Iran — The head of Iran’s nuclear agency has resigned, the government said Thursday, a move that may have been connected to the country’s postelection turmoil.
Officials gave no reason for Gholam Reza Aghazadeh’s resignation, but he has long been close to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to be the victor in June 12 presidential elections and says the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is illegitimate.
Iran nuclear arms worst threat to security: Gates
"All of the outcomes are negative"
(AFP) – 7/17/2009
CHICAGO — Iran's nuclear ambitions are the greatest current threat to global security, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"Iran is the one that concerns me the most because there don't seem to be good options (or a scenario) where one can have any optimism that good options will be found," Gates told the Economic Club of Chicago.
The threat rests not only in Iran's apparent determination to seek a nuclear weapon, but in the "inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that," Gates said. "All of the outcomes are negative," he said. "If they achieve one, the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is very, very real.
"If something is done to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable and frankly, very bad."
Gates says he has struggled to convince other nations, particularly Russia, that the Iranian situation does not simply threaten the United States.
"Iran's going to have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to the people in their region a lot sooner than they're going to have the capability to deliver them to us," he added.
Nightly riots continue in Iran Gauntlet News
Taraneh Moussavi's family says they found her burnt body on the road between the Tehran suburb of Karadj and the town of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran. Taraneh was arrested by the regime's guards just after leaving her beauty school class & was waiting for a friend to arrive. Iran Press News (hat tip Banafsheh)
Taraneh M. is a 28 year old trainee beautician who was arrested more than two weeks ago by security forces on the fringe of the rally on 7th tir (28th june).
Atlas July 14th:
Reports indicate that her family were told that she was in danger due to damage to her anus and womb.
According to reports, this young woman was arrested by plain clothes security forces at 6 pm after participating in the 7th tir ceremony at Ghoba mosque. While after interrogation all other detainees were brought to Nobonyad police station by basij and intelligence agents, the plain clothes agents kept Taraneh in a building near Hosseinie Ershad.
According to witnesses, while most of the participants in the ceremony were dressed in normal clothes and trainers, Taraneh was wearing chic clothes and high-heeled shoes, and caught the interrogators’ attention because of her hairstyle, make-up and beauty.
Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the second most powerful man in Iran (after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and one of the principal figures behind the anti-Ahmadinejad movement that has rocked the country over the last month, will deliver the Friday Sermon in Tehran this week, the first time he has been offered the prestigious pulpit in years.Even more surprising, sources in Iran have confirmed that both the main reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi and former president Mohammad Khatami will also attend the sermon.
Twiiter: Seven photographers including a Franco-Iranian arrested
Tomorrow, we shall all attend Friday's prayer wearing green to announce illegitimacy of the coup government!
Protests still continue: 4 professors of Qazvin's Imam Khomeini Int'l U. arrested by plain cloths.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the opposition protests that have rocked Iran over the past month have seriously undermined the credibility of the regime. In the last month, four of Iran's highest ranking ayatollahs have issued statements defiantly declaring the current regime "illegitimate." Iranian Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has asked the international community to refuse to negotiate with the Ahmadinejad presidency until the crackdown on opposition ends. And two of the most important groups within the Shi'ite clerical establishment--Majma' Rohaniyat-e Mobarez and Majma' Moddaresin o Mohaggegin Hozeye Elmiye Qom--have issued statements doubting the legitimacy of the election.
But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lives in a parallel universe peopled by corrupt sycophants whose continued presence at the trough of public funds is dependent on his continued presidency. He is as willfully ignorant of the sentiments of Iranian society as of the realities of the modern world. He talks constantly of his desire to help the world's poor and dispossessed, and expedite the return of Shiism's hidden imam. In a speech delivered about two weeks after his electoral coup in June, he claimed that his election "heralded the death of liberal democracy in the world." Though Ahmadinejad will probably be even more deluded during his second term, the changing domestic and international dynamics will likely force him back to reality.
All previous Atlas archives and liveblogging here: Iran: The Revolution