12:30 PM ET -- "Fighting side by side." This site publishes audio of a colorful voicemail apparently left by a woman in Iran. It begins, "I am 66 year old lady, we are group of 3, that have contact with each other and going out for protest together, and we are our own leader! I am the youngest one in this group, the next two are 70 and 73 years old! We are fighting side by side with our young ones!" 12:22 PM ET -- Ayatollah Watch. Tehran Bureau has an update list of the Ayatollahs who have spoken out in favor of the demonstrators. 8:33 AM ET -- No changes to House Foreign Affairs Committee panel. The communications director for Rep. Howard Berman, the Democratic committee chairman, tells me this morning that no new witnesses have been added to the Iran hearing this morning. As discussed yesterday, the panel is tilted towards neoconservatives, a particularly dangerous imbalance given how crucial it is that members of Congress receive good information on Iran. To make matters worse, I just learned that, before the hearing (actually, as I type), committee member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is holding an Iran briefing with two former Bush administration uber-hawks Elliot Abrams and John Bolton. Here's the release: Ros-Lehtinen Schedules Iran Briefing with Abrams, Bolton Members Only briefing will precede Full Committee hearing on Iran (WASHINGTON) - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will host a briefing next Wednesday (July 22) on Iran with former Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams, and former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: "The Iranian regime has never broken its stride in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, other unconventional weapons, and missile capabilities. Iran has also never waivered in its support of violent Islamist extremist groups with global reach. "The regime has demonstrated an unparalleled disdain for the rights and human dignity of the Iranian people. "Some still want to appease Tehran. But for our security, for the sake of our ally Israel, and in the interest of global peace and stability, we cannot afford to continue with a 'wait and see' approach, looking for the 'magic carrot' that will entice the Iranian regime to reverse course. "No more delays. No more excuses. Let us take control of the process and stop allowing Iran to manipulate the U.S. and other free nations into silence or submission. "The U.S. and other responsible nations must immediately cut off Iran's economic lifelines and block Iran's access to the funds, materials, and technology needed to carry out its deadly agenda." 7:30 AM ET -- Clinton talks Iran. For U.S. policy planners, the great downside of a weaponized Iran is a regional arms race, and Hillary Clinton's latest remarks suggest that the U.S. is trying to reassure relevant states that they will be protected even if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. What do you think? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran Wednesday that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability. Appearing on a Thai TV program, Clinton said the U.S. would also take steps to "upgrade the defense" of America's Gulf allies in such an event, a reference to stepped-up military aid to those countries. Clinton's reference to a U.S. "defense umbrella" over the Persian Gulf represented a potentially significant evolution in America's global defense posture. Washington already explicitly maintains a "nuclear umbrella" over Asian allies like Japan and South Korea, but seldom, if ever, has any senior U.S. official publicly discussed the concept in relation to the Gulf. The secretary's remarks also suggested the course the Obama administration might pursue if, as many analysts predict, an unchecked Iran succeeds in obtaining a nuclear weapons capability before President Obama's term expires -- in effect, how the United States might live with a nuclear-armed Iran. Clinton's comments evoked a vision of the U.S. countering such a threat by bolstering regional defenses and reminding Iran of the dangers of mutually assured destruction -- but not by seeking regime change in Iran or by taking military action to destroy the country's nuclear apparatus. "We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon," Clinton said. 7:20 AM ET -- Khomeini's son leaves Iran. From the NIAC: The 50 year old grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, Sayed Hassan Khomeini, has reportedly left Iran rather than bow to recent pressure that he attend Ahmadinejad's upcoming inauguration ceremony. Sayed Hassan is a mid-level cleric who is also in charge of the beautiful and vast (5,000 acres) Mausoleum of his grandfather. Worth reading the full post. 7:05 AM ET -- Activity in Tehran yesterday. I still haven't seen any accounts on whether the efforts to briefly shut down the electrical grid yesterday were successful. If you see any, let me know. (Update: an anecdotal update here, in Farsi.) Additionally: Amateur video has emerged of today's jittery encounter between would-be demonstrators and plainclothes Basiji militiamen wielding batons. The video above could not be confirmed but appears to conform to witness accounts that described club-wielding Basiji militiamen hurrying pedestrians and would-be demonstrators along in Tehran's Seventh of Tir Square. "Go!" the security forces call out, striking their clubs against metal objects for punctuation. "Don't stop."
The AP has a bit more: Plainclothes Basiji militiamen hit passers-by with batons on a crowded main Tehran street to ensure they wouldn't gather, according to video from the site posted on line. A young woman in a headscarf can be seen arguing with the Basijis, who shove her. Regular police forces were out in large numbers in parts of central Tehran, causing large traffic jams, but witnesses around the city speaking to The Associated Press did not report that any protests came together. There was no immediate report of arrests in the day's clampdown. Here's more coverage from CNN:
7:00 AM ET -- L.A. County supervisors vote to divest from Iranian energy sector. 6:52 AM ET -- Ahmadinejad's VP pick: My praise of Israelis was actually criticism. In the tradition of politicians everywhere, he was for Israelis before he was against them. Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, Iran's newly appointed Vice President, explains his earlier controversial remarks on Israel. Rahim-Mashaei, whose appointment as the Vice President has brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under fire, explained his remarks on Israel in an interview with IRNA released on Tuesday. In 2008, Rahim-Mashaei's comments on Israel unleashed a torrent of criticism in the country when he said Iran was a "friend of the Israeli people". He later detached himself from his earlier stance, saying that his comments had been misinterpreted. The controversial figure, who served as the head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization before receiving the elevation, however explained his remarks on Tuesday from a different perspective. "What I said had nothing to do with the Israeli regime. I did not talk about the usurper Zionist regime. My remarks were about the people of the occupied lands and were in fact a psychological warfare against the Israeli regime," he said. "What I said was that this regime was in such mess that it no longer enjoyed international support," he added, but insisted that he did not mean that Iran was a friend with Israelis. He went on to defend his remarks by saying that he had just criticized Israel two days before his controversial remarks. "I had said just two days before that, in a speech broadcast by the media, that the Zionist regime was a dead one but only no funeral procession had been conducted for it." TUESDAY JULY 21 12:19 PM ET -- Khamenei overrules Ahmadinejad, fires his deputy. Ouch. The Supreme Leader has ordered Ahmadinejad's first deputy to resign from Ahmadinejad's cabinet just days after his appointment, according to the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament. Deputy Speaker Aboutorabi said, "eliminating Mashaei from key positions and the first deputy position is a strategic decision by the regime. The Supreme Leader's opinion about the removal of the Mr. Rahim Mashaei from the position of president's first deputy has been submitted to the President in writing." UPDATE: NIAC notes that Ahmadinejad's camp is fighting back: That apparently did not stop Ahmadinejad's senior assistant from saying on a live TV program that "I have not seen a clear and convincing reason given by anyone to make [Mashaei's] appointment to the first deputy position impossible. Some say he has med mistakes in some of his statements. Well, everyone makes mistakes." 11:45 AM ET -- New demonstrations in Tehran. Reuters reports: Iranian riot police detained dozens of pro-reform protesters in central Tehran on Tuesday, a witness said. The witness said the protesters were chanting slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the government, including: "Ahmadinejad -- resign, resign" and "Death to the dictator." The witness added: "Riot police are taking dozens of protesters into their cars and they are taking them away." More details from the L.A. Times. 11:10 AM ET -- Guardian: Iran prisoner refuses to leave prison in protest. This is the first I've heard of Saeed Hajarian refusing to leave Evin prison, but it's a fascinating display of bravery if true. Of all those dumped in Evin prison and other secret detention centres, the case of Hajarian does most to expose the regime's moral squalor and callousness. Long hailed as the intellectual mastermind of the reformist movement, he is today physically frail thanks to a failed assassination attempt nine years ago ordered, in all probability, by the same hardline zealots who plotted the recent election buffoonery. Hajarian is confined to a wheelchair and able to speak only with great difficulty, having suffered severe spinal cord damage after being shot in the face by a fundamentalist who, though later convicted, hardly served any jail time. [...] Hajarian's captors fear his brain. They are trying to force him to sign a confession owning up to plotting a "colourful" or velvet revolution that would have seen the Islamic republic toppled and replaced by a pro-western puppet government, the political bogeyman that keeps Khamenei and his acolytes awake at night. In return, he would be allowed to leave prison - thereby handing the regime a propaganda coup and sparing it the increasing embarrassment of imprisoning a man whom it is already responsible for reducing to a shell. But Hajarian - himself one of the principle founders and architects of the intelligence ministry in his younger days - has turned the tables by refusing to leave prison. He has refused to give any admission, even when his jailers tried to break his resolve by interrogating his wife and detaining - though later releasing - his son. Effectively, the prisoner is holding his captors hostage, forcing them to provide, and even administer, the treatment needed to keep him alive. His interrogator has been reduced to carrying out his daily physiotherapy sessions. 11:00 AM ET -- Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani's message of support. Jobrani, who also has a touching post on his website, urges people to turn out at Saturday's big worldwide demonstrations.
10:47 AM ET -- Women praying with men. I've received multiple images like this in recent days. The reader who sent this noted, "in Islam, women NEVER pray in front of men - in fact, they typically pray in a separate room and all mosques are segregated." Iran's women breaking barriers again.
10:45 AM ET -- Iran blackout planned tonight. A reader notes, "It looks like opposition supporters are planning to create another blackout tonight in Iran at 9:00 pm to commemorate those killed in the past 30 days (including Neda) by turning on their irons and other electrical goods at the same time." From another reader, "If this works it could create a lot of problems for the government because it could take days trying to start up the power plants again. It's been planned for weeks. It could really shake up the system even more." 10:42 AM ET -- Iran's tragic joke. Roger Cohen's latest in the Times: Allow me to quote the British novelist Martin Amis, writing about Persia in The Guardian: "Iran is one of the most venerable civilizations on earth: it makes China look like an adolescent, and America look like a stripling." Iranians, aware of that history, are a proud people. They do not take kindly to being played around with, nor to seeing their country turned into a laughing stock. They do not like the memory of an election campaign that now seems like pure theater, the expression of the sadistic whim of some puppeteer. So the line I take away from the important Friday sermon of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the two-time former president who believes that the Islamic Republic's future lies in compromise rather than endless confrontation, is this one: "We shouldn't let our enemies laugh at us because we've imprisoned our own people." There's been tragedy aplenty since June 12 -- dozens of killings, thousands of arrests, countless beatings of the innocent -- and I hope I belittle none of it when I say there's also been something laughable. As usual, it's worth reading the complete piece. 10:37 AM ET -- Iran's police chief warns opposition. Khatami's proposal for a nationwide referendum seems to have really shaken Iran's government. Iran's police chief is accusing opposition leaders of provoking instability, after they called for a referendum on the government's legitimacy. The official IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam as saying those who do not abide by law are "liars" who seek to create discord by spreading doubt in the Islamic republic. Update: More fuming over the referendum: Iranian hardliners denounced on Tuesday a call by reformists for a referendum to resolve the deepening political crisis in the Islamic republic, branding it a Western plot to cause more "havoc." The Association of Combatant Clerics, a reformist group led by former president Mohammad Khatami, on Monday urged a referendum to try to end the turmoil gripping Iran since the June 12 disputed presidential election. "They have suggested yet another Western plot to raise havoc by proposing a referendum," said Hossein Shariatmadari, managing director of the hardline newspaper Kayhan who is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The main idea of this plan is to trigger tension. Their proposal is illegal amd impractical," Shariatmadari wrote. 12:40 AM ET -- Popular American interest in Iran. Via reader Goli, a YouTube video posted by an American "grannie"... I mention it less for the content of the video than simply to note again how much the Green uprising has increased Americans' interest in Iran and changed how people view the country.
12:32 AM ET -- "Hard-Line Force Extends Grip Over a Splintered Iran." A wonderful piece of reporting by the New York Times exploring Iran's Revolutionary Guard (and an example, in the midst of the Twitter fascination, of the importance of good journalism). It's worth reading the full story, but I'd like to highlight two pieces. First, on the extent of control over political and economic levers that the Guard now holds: "It is not a theocracy anymore," said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and a co-author of an exhaustive study of the corps for the RAND Corporation. "It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system." The corps has become a vast military-based conglomerate, with control of Iran's missile batteries, oversight of its nuclear program and a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching into nearly every sector of the economy. It runs laser eye-surgery clinics, manufactures cars, builds roads and bridges, develops gas and oil fields and controls black-market smuggling, experts say. If you're interested in digging deeper into Iran, the study by Nafisi mentioned above is essential. Point two, on the ideological roots of the current Guard leadership: Within this bloc is a core of military elites who have displaced -- and at times clashed with -- the clerical revolutionaries who worked beside Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in founding the Islamic republic. They are the second generation of revolutionaries, ideologically united and contemptuous of first-generation clerics like former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and of reformers and those eager to engage with the West. The corps has even trained its own clerics. In an essay describing the rise of the Revolutionary Guards phenomenon, Professor Sahimi drew a portrait of the new elite: leaders in their mid-50s who as young men joined the corps and fought two wars: one against Iraq in the 1980s and another to force out the Mujahedeen Khalq, which the United States considers a terrorist organization and which is now based in Iraq. The corps then split into two groups. One believed that Iran needed a chance to develop politically and socially; the other, which emerged the victor, was intent on maintaining strict control. Mr. Nafisi said Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was close to that second group. Neocons invited to Congressional hearing on Iran. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it was holding a hearing this Wednesday titled, "Iran: Recent Developments and Implications for U.S. Policy." My initial thought was that the panel was decent but a bit disappointing, and lacking in progressive voices. Among the initial four witnesses announced were Patrick Clawson, a Bush administration supporter who repeatedly advocated that the U.S. use the threat of military strikes to shift policy in Iran, and Abbas Milani, whose 2004 op-ed arguing that President Bush should resist negotiations and publicly endorse democracy activists in Iran was distributed by the neocon outfit Project for a New American Century. (Milani has since shifted his position on the matter of negotiations.) Suzanne Maloney, a Bush-era State Department official who notably worked against the administration's hawkish elements, is also invited to testify. So is Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment, who has generally done excellent work on Iran. On Friday, I spoke with committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman's staff and suggested that they invite Trita Parsi, the superb analyst who heads the National Iranian American Council, to testify. I was told that Parsi would be considered but that it was late in the process to add witnesses. But on Monday morning, the committee announced two new additions to the hearing, both aggressive neoconservatives whose Middle East analysis has proven detrimental. One is Orde F. Kittrie of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the other is Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. (These witnesses were chosen by Republican members of the committee.) Rubin's addition, in particular, is rather stunning. His career work include aiding Doug Feith in the notorious Office of Special Plans to advance dubious intelligence that helped lead the U.S. into war in Iraq; repeatedly advocating for military action against Iran over the last several years; and, in June, laying out the case for why Ahmadinejad would be preferable to a "more soft-spoken and less defiant" president like Mousavi -- "it would be easier for Obama to believe that Iran really was figuratively unclenching a fist when, in fact, it had it had its other hand hidden under its cloak, grasping a dagger." This panel really needs some balance. If you're interested in calling the committee and suggesting Trita Parsi (or someone else), you can reach them at (202) 225-5021. You can also call the offices of members of the committee -- here are a few: -- Rep. Gary Ackerman (Chairman, Subcommittee On the Middle East and South Asia): 202-225-2601 -- Rep. Donald Payne: 202-225-3436 -- Rep. Brad Sherman: 202-225-5911 -- Rep. Bill Delahunt: 202-225-3111 -- Rep. Lynn Woolsey: 202-225-5161 -- Rep. Barbara Lee: 202-225-2661 -- Rep. Keith Ellison: 202-225-4755 Let me know if you hear anything back. MONDAY JULY 20 6:38 PM ET -- Seemingly small audience turns up for Ahmadinejad in Mashad. Earlier today, I received a video with the attached caption, "This is how many people that came to see Ahmadinejad speech in Mashad." I didn't post it at first. Though Ahmadinejad delivered his speech in Mashad on Thursday, the video in question was only uploaded today, and you can't actually make out Ahmadinejad's face in the video. But reader Chas Danner was able to track down the original version of the video and indeed, it appears that this was actually from Mashad, during Ahmadijad's speech.
In some related developments, I missed noting this news over the weekend: Mr. Rafsanjani traveled over the weekend to the northeastern city of Mashad to discuss the postelection political crisis with high-ranking Shiite clerics. The move was likely to fuel rumors that Mr. Rafsanjani is building clerical support for the opposition. Two of the clerics Mr. Rafsanjani was meeting have declined to congratulate Mr. Ahmadinejad on his victory and may already be sympathetic to the opposition's claims that the election was rigged for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Rafsanjani's reception in Mashad contrasted strikingly with that of Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was snubbed by at least one top-ranking cleric during his own visit two days earlier. 6:24 PM ET -- Iran proposes frightening new Internet law. Iran has passed a new internet law that experts fear will make information on internet users more readily available to the authorities. Press TV, a news channel funded by the Iranian government, said on Monday that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's president, has issued an order for the implementation of the law. According to Press TV, the cyber law would provide internet users with "more security", as internet service providers are required to save all data sent and received by their clients for at least three months. But critics of the legislation say the stored data would enable the authorities to monitor internet users, including anonymous bloggers opposed to the regime in the Islamic republic. A reader who sent that piece along noted this anecdote from Iran published by Foreign Policy magazine several days ago: A trusted colleague - who is married to an Iranian-American and would thus prefer to stay anonymous - has told me of a very disturbing episode that happened to her friend, another Iranian-American, as she was flying to Iran last week. On passing through the immigration control at the airport in Tehran, she was asked by the officers if she has a Facebook account. When she said "no", the officers pulled up a laptop and searched for her name on Facebook. They found her account and noted down the names of her Facebook friends. 6:14 PM ET -- Bruno on Ahmadinejad. A comedic interlude...
1:51 PM ET -- Government-sanctioned killers. New video, date uncertain, from Iran.
1:41 PM ET -- Man reportedly tortured for information in Evin prison unable to answer their questions because he's deaf and mute. 1:38 PM ET -- Haute culture goes Green. Via the National Iranian American Council: Green has never looked so good. Italian designer Guillermo Mariotto wore a Neda Alive shirt to honor Neda, who was killed during the Iranian election aftermath. Mariotto's attention to detail is quite admirable as every model on the catwalk wore a green ribbon on their wrist