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What Is Happening in Iran?

The leading news edge really is:

Nico Pitney:

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising: 3:22 PM ET -- Foreign media crackdown intensifying. ABC's Jim Sciutto tweets: "police confiscated our camera and videotapes. We are shooting protests and police violence on our cell phones." Alex Hoder tweets: "NBC offices in Tehran raided, cameras and Equipment confiscated. BBC told to get out Iran immediately. Cell/internet shut down" BBC publishes editorial: "Stop the blocking now."

3:10 PM ET -- Local Iran protests? If there are Iran demonstrations/events happening in your area, we'd love to know about them: email [email protected] with a short description of what happened (300 words or so if possible) and we'll compile them for posting tomorrow. I know about several protests planned in California today, but am sure there are plenty of others out there. Let us know.

3:02 PM ET -- Taking down Ahmadinejad's website. Via emailer Nick: The anti-Ahmadinejad Twitter user @StopAhmadi, who has been posting virtually nonstop over the last few days, mounted an apparently successful effort to swarm Ahmadinejad's website and shut it down. He's now targeting Khamenei's site.

2:58 PM ET -- BBC Persia hit by "heavy electronic jamming." Via emailer Sven, AFP confirms several foreign outlets being banned from reporting, and adds: The British Broadcasting Corporation said the satellites it uses for its Persian television and radio services had been affected since Friday by "heavy electronic jamming" which had become "progressively worse." Satellite technicians had traced the interference to Iran, the BBC said. BBC Arabic television and other language services had also experienced transmission problems, the corporation said.

2:55 PM ET -- More video of violence. Whoever posted this YouTube says the man in the video was beaten to death by the police. It's unclear if that's the case, but he is certainly beaten by several officers and is left, unmoving, on the ground...

Muhammad Sahimi:

Ayatollahs Protest Election Fraud: [TEHRAN BUREAU] Mir Hossein Mousavi’s, the main reformist rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, letter to the important ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom, asking them to protest the fraud and declare it against Islam, has sparked protests by the ayatollahs and clerics as well.

The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.

Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam. Several credible reports indicate that he has traveled to Tehran in order to participate in nationwide protests scheduled for Monday (June 18). It is said that he has planned a sit-in in some public place, in order to further protest election fraud. His website has been blocked.

Credible reports also indicate that security forces have surrounded the offices and homes of several other important ayatollahs who are believed to want to protest election fraud. Their websites cannot be accessed, and all communications with them have been cut off.

The nation is waiting to hear the views of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most important ayatollah living in Iran and the strongest clerical critic of the conservatives. He has been asked to issue a clear statement, explaining his views about the election fraud.

Mr. Khatami, who campaigned strongly for Mr. Mousavi, is also under house arrest.

Hard as it may be to believe, some people are trying to claim that the Iranian vote count may be honest.

Gordon Robison writes:

What Happened in Iran?: Broadly speaking, there seem to be three scenarios...

  • Scenario One: Ahmedinejad and his supporters stole the election, plain and simple. The revolutionary old guard felt threatened by the reformists so it rigged the vote to guarantee a conservative victory.... This scenario sees the outcome, in effect, as a reassertion of power by the Supreme Leader and the religious old-guard. There is, however, another way of looking at things…

  • Scenario Two: There has been a coup. Ahmedinejad and the security services have taken over. The Supreme Leader has been preserved as a figurehead, but the structures of clerical rule have effectively been gutted and are being replaced by a National Security State.... Ahmedinejad and the people around him represent a new generation of Iranian leadership. He and his colleagues were young revolutionaries in 1979. Now in their 50s they have built careers inside the Revolutionary Guard and the other security services. They may be committed to the Islamic Republic as a concept, but they are not part of its clerical aristocracy.... This theory in particular seems to be gaining credibility rapidly among professional Iran-watchers outside of the country...

  • Scenario Three: Ahmedinejad won. Really. At moments like this it is easy to forget that Tehran is not Iran....

So was it stolen? Are we watching a coup? Or did Ahmedinejad actually win? A decent case can be made for any and all of these scenarios and it is far too soon to say how the situation on the ground is going to play out.

Robison's scenario three seems completely wrong: Robert Waldmann reports:

Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli [had] said [on] Saturday that such a[n impression of a Moussavi] lead was a misimpression based on Mr. Moussavi’s higher levels of support in the capital, and that he had less backing elsewhere,"

According to Mahsouli's ministry (same Juan Cole link) Ahmedinejad won Tehran by over 50%.

And Robert criticizes Robert Worth and Nazila Fathi of the New York Times--and Bill Keller and the others who publish them--for High Journamalism:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: It is absolutely clear that the official vote count in the Iranian presidential election is pure fiction. However, it is official and supported by the incumbent president, the supreme leader etc. This poses a problem for reporters who risk "opinions on shape of earth differ" if they follow standard practice. How exactly does one report the demonstrable fact that someone is lying without breaking the rules of Balance ?

ROBERT F. WORTH and NAZILA FATHI show how. One rule is that if one appears to favor one side in an argument (because the facts are biased against the other) then you give someone on the other side the last word. In advocacy one might present argument against the conclusion one favors, but one doesn't close with such arguments. Therefore in the rare cases in which the truth is so obvious that there is no other way to achieve Balance, one can close with an implausible denial of the facts. Or, if one really really can't stand to be Balanced, one can close with a statement from a supporter of the main benificiary of the lies such as this one:

There might be some manipulation in what the government has done,” said Maliheh Afrouz, 55, a supporter of Mr. Ahmadinejad clad in a black chador. “But the other side is exaggerating, making it seem worse than it really is.