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Iran Election: Khamenei Calls for National Unity

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls for National Unity, June 16, 11:20 p.m. IRT

(TEHRAN, Iran) — State television says Iran’s Supreme Leader has called for national unity during a meeting with representatives of the four candidates in the disputed presidential election.

Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei called for Iranians to unite behind the cleric-led ruling system despite rival demonstrations and street clashes between supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his reformist opponent Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who says Ahmadinejad stole re-election.

Khamenei was quoted as saying, “In the elections, voters had different tendencies but they equally believe in the ruling system and support the Islamic Republic.”

Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate authority, says that representatives of all four candidates should be present for any limited recount of disputed ballots, which the country’s cleric-led Guardian Council said Tuesday it would be willing to conduct. —Ali Akbar Dareini and Nasser Karimi / AP

See pictures of the lasting influence of Ayatullah Khamenei.

Read “Khamenei: The Power Behind the President.”

Move Along, There’s Nothing to See Here, June 16, 9:12 p.m. IRT

The Financial Times reports that “Iran on Tuesday banned journalists working for foreign media from leaving their offices to cover protests in the capital.” Wire services also announced that due to the ban on their photographers’ covering the demonstrations, they were forced to relay only images from official Iranian sources.

With or Without Mousavi, June 16, 8:20 p.m. IRT

The BBC reports that, according to eyewitness accounts, thousands of opposition protesters took to the streets in north Tehran on Tuesday night despite calls by their presidential candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, to stay off the streets to avoid violence.

Pro-Government Rally, June 16, 6 p.m. IRT

Iranian TV shows pictures of President Ahmadinejad’s supporters gathering in Tehran. It’s estimated that about 10,000 people are on the streets. His opponent Mousavi, according to al-Jazeera, has just urged his own supporters not to protest until after the partial election recount agreed to earlier Tuesday by the Guardian Council is completed.

See pictures of Ahmadinejad’s supporters on LIFE.com.

The Limits of Mousavi’s Ambitions, June 16, 5:25 p.m. IRT

The attempts on Tuesday by opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi to call off a huge protest rally called for by his supporters in Tehran is a prudent move to avoid further bloodshed after yesterday’s attacks on demonstrators by supporters of the regime. After all, Ahmadinejad’s supporters had scheduled a counterdemonstration of their own for the same part of the city, clearly looking for a fight. But it also reveals a deeper truth about the showdown currently under way: Mousavi represents a faction of the regime (whose key figure is former President Hashemi Rafsanjani) that is vying for power with a rival faction led by Ahmadinejad. The opposition candidate is not even identified as a reformist, as such, but rather a pragmatic conservative who was backed by the reformists because he had a better chance of winning. As fierce as the power struggle within the regime may be, neither side can afford to bring the house down. And that suggests that Mousavi may be reluctant to lead any kind of “people power” challenge to the regime itself. —Tony Karon

Read an exclusive interview with Ahmadinejad’s opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Varying Views, June 16, 5 p.m. IRT

As Iran’s parliamentary speaker Al Larijani purportedly told the West to mind its own business, E.U. spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said the European Commission is “extremely worried” about the deaths of protesters. Meanwhile, Meir Dagan — head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad — told the Israeli parliament he doesn’t think the civil unrest in Iran will last long.

Read “Ahmadinejad Wins, but the Regime Cracks.”

Foreign Media Banned, June 16, 3:45 p.m. IRT

As Mousavi’s supporters gather at Valisar Square, the BBC is reporting that foreign media have been banned from covering it in addition to other “unauthorised events.” A tweet warns against attending the rally due to claims that armed police will be there in force.

See pictures of daily life in Iran.

‘Ahmadinejad Won’: A Contrarian View, June 16, 3:30 p.m. IRT

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, National Security Council officials on the Iran file under the Bush Administration (who later publicly broke with and denounced its policies) argue on Politico.com that “the shock of the ‘Iran experts’ [in the U.S.] over Friday’s [election] results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.” They remind readers that Ahmadinejad was generally agreed to have a commanding lead in the polls two weeks before voting and that his combative performance in the televised debates had boosted his standing and demoralized the opposition. They sketch the sociology of the incumbent’s support base and why it would support him against a candidate backed by the widely disliked establishment heavyweight Hashemi Rafsanjani, against whom Ahmadinejad campaigned. They don’t, however, deal with substantive questions about whether and how the votes were counted. The Guardian Council has, after all, ordered a partial recount (meaning that they’re going to recount ballots only from voting stations contested by the losing candidates). And obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of people willing to take to the streets to rebut their argument. Still, a timely reminder that nothing is simple in the current political showdown in Iran. — Tony Karon

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Mousavi Rejects the Recount, June 16, 3 p.m. IRT

Despite Iran’s authorities’ agreement to recount disputed votes in the presidential election, the main opposition candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, rejected the offer, reiterating his demand for a fresh election, according to CNN. Looks likely that the rival demonstrations planned Tuesday night by supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi will go ahead. Nevertheless, rumors circulate that Mousavi has told supporters the rally shouldn’t proceed. But misinformation has been previously employed to try to confuse protesters.

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Russia’s Show of Support for Ahmadinejad, June 16, 2:30 p.m. IRT

Iran’s President attends the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (comprising Russia, China and four Central Asian nations) and also speaks briefly with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov endorses Ahmadinejad and says, “We welcome the fact that the elections have taken place, and we welcome the newly re-elected Iranian President on the Russian soil.” During the summit itself, Ahmadinejad says “America is enveloped in economic and political crises, and there is no hope for their resolution.” Neither the Iranian election nor unrest were mentioned.

See what Ahmadinejad’s win means for other world leaders.

See pictures of Iran’s presidential elections.

Iran’s Guardian Council: Ready for Recount, June 16, 1:30 p.m. IRT

After three days of protests, Iran’s powerful 12-member Guardian Council says it will call for a recount of specific ballot boxes from Friday’s heavily disputed elections, according to the BBC and CNN. The Associated Press is reporting that “the recount would be limited to voting sites where candidates claim irregularities occurred.” The unexpected concession came as pro-government and opposition supporters planned opposing marches in Tehran on Tuesday, raising fears of more violence following at least seven deaths the day before.

See pictures of the lasting influence of Ayatullah Khomeini.

Reformist Leader Mohammad Ali Abtahi Arrested, June 16, 12 p.m. IRT

The offices of reformist leader Mohammad Ali Abtahi have reported that the former Vice President has been arrested, according to Reuters. Abtahi, who backed reformist candidate Mehdi Karoubi in Friday’s elections, was arrested early Tuesday morning. Reports of other opposition figures being detained have trickled out during the day.

Iran Netizens Hunt for Overseas Proxies, June 16, 10:50 a.m. IRT

As cell phones and text messaging have seen interrupted service, Web users in Iran are sending out calls for overseas proxies that can provide them with unmonitored Internet access, the WSJ’s Digits blog reports. Meanwhile, Twitter responds to requests not to go through with a routine maintenance shutdown of the microblogging service, and reschedules the procedure to keep the flow of tweets from Iran coming.

Read “The Iran Election: Twitter’s Big Moment.”

AP: Seven Killed in Monday-Night Clashes, June 16, 9:45 a.m. IRT

Iran’s state radio says seven people died in clashes in Tehran after an “unauthorized gathering” occurred following a mass rally over alleged election fraud. The report says the seven died in shooting that erupted after several people at the gathering on Monday night in western Tehran “tried to attack a military location.” More than 100,000 opponents of President Ahmadinejad had marched through Tehran earlier on Monday protesting alleged vote-rigging in last week’s elections. The report on Tuesday gave no details. It was the first official confirmation of shooting in Tehran’s Azadi Square. Witnesses there saw at least one person shot dead and several others seriously wounded after shooting from a compound for volunteer militia linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. — AP

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Official: Ahmadinejad Goes to Security Summit in Russia, June 16, 9 a.m. IRT

AFP reports that President Ahmadinejad landed early Tuesday morning in Yekaterinburg, Russia, to attend a regional security conference.

NIAC: Iran Parliament Sets Up Committee to Investigate Violence, June 16, 8:30 a.m. IRT

The National Iranian American Council has blogged that Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, has established a special committee to investigate the violent events that have unfolded across the nation since the election.

Andrew Sullivan: The Resistance Manifesto, June 16, 5:55 a.m. IRT

Andrew Sullivan posts on the Daily Dish a seven-point manifesto that was reportedly being distributed in the resistance on Monday. The manifesto calls for, among other things, the removal of Khameini from the post of Supreme Leader and for Ayatullah Montazeri to step in until a new constitution is established.

Martyrs May Give Demos Momentum, June 15, 10:09 p.m. IRT

The BBC has confirmed the death of at least one protester and injuries to several more, after security forces opened fire on Monday’s massive protest in Tehran against the theft of the election. (To see a photo from one of the incidents, click here. Be warned that the photo contains graphic content.) Although the authorities have been trying to tamp down the protests, partly by agreeing to hear complaints about the conduct of the election from opposition candidates, firing on crowds could have the exact opposite effect. As Trita Parsi noted below, those who protested today took to the streets despite warnings that live ammunition may be used against them. He believes they’ve lost their fear. And the problem for the authorities is that making martyrs out of demonstrators gives the protest movement its own momentum: regardless of the state of the investigation into the election, the victims have to be buried. Their funerals become the new locus of protest, and their killings are added to the theft of the election as a new source of escalating outrage. —Tony Karon

Click center arrow to watch footage of today’s rally.

See what Ahmadinejad’s win means for other world leaders.

‘Ahmadinejad Win No Longer a Done Deal,’ June 15, 9:30 p.m. IRT

Reports out of Tehran describe security forces shooting at protesters. No word yet on how widespread this shooting is or on casualties. (To see a photo from one of the incidents, click here. Be warned that the photo contains graphic content.) Trita Parsi, a U.S.-based Iran expert and head of the National Iranian-American Council, tells TIME that the hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters on the streets today have been emboldened by Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei’s backing down from his initial certification of the election result. “He came out first and said the results were certified, and people said he could not reverse himself,” says Parsi. “Now he has, and the Guardian Council has asked for 10 days rather than the traditional three to verify the results. Even if they still try to cheat, the message to Iranians is that the re-election of Ahmadinejad is no longer a done deal. They’re protesting now not just because they’re angry but because they believe they can win. It seems like a psychological barrier has been overcome. They’ve seen [opposition leader Mir-Hossein] Mousavi stand firm and refuse to be intimidated by threats against him. People were warned that the authorities might shoot at them, but still they came out in the hundreds of thousands today. They’ve lost their fear. And state TV is carrying images of the demonstrations, which they’ve been avoiding. Something very important is happening here.” — Tony Karon

See pictures of Iran’s presidential elections.

See pictures of Iranian society.

Ahmadinejad’s Shock Troops, June 15, 9:27 p.m. IRT

The thugs at the forefront of the effort to crush protests against Iran’s election result have been the Basij militia, which has waded into opposition crowds with flailing batons. This 2005 piece by TIME’s Azadeh Moaveni explains the origins of the group, which comprises thousands of young men organized into neighborhood militias. “The militia, whose name means mobilization in Persian, was created by Ayatullah Khomeini in the 1980s to recruit young men to fight against Iraq. But a decade later, they took on the role of an official morality police, becoming better known for raiding parties than for raiding the Iraqi front line.” In 2005, she says, they took on an unprecedented function when they got out the vote that propelled Ahmadinejad into the presidency by a landslide. Now, it appears, they’re being deployed to ensure he remains in office.

See pictures of daily life in Iran.

Read an exclusive interview with Ahmadinejad’s opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Wired: Online Activists Attacking Government Sites, June 15, 9:44 p.m. IRT

Wired.com reports that “pro-democracy activists on the Web are asking supporters to use relatively simple hacking tools to overflood the regime’s propaganda sites with junk traffic.”

Read “The Iran Election: Twitter’s Big Moment.”

AP Photographer: 1 Dead As Militia Fire on Rally

Gunmen have fired on opposition protesters at a massive march over alleged election fraud, killing at least one person. (To see a photo from the incident, click here. Be warned that the photo contains graphic content.)

An Associated Press photographer saw one person shot dead and several others who appeared seriously wounded in Tehran’s Azadi Square. The shooting came from a compound for volunteer militia linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

The gunfire on Monday came after more than 100,000 opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad streamed through Tehran. They were not challenged by security forces despite an earlier ban on rallies for reformist leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Disputes over alleged vote-rigging in last week’s elections have touched off days of rioting in Tehran. —AP

Click center arrow to watch footage from Azadi Square.

See pictures of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

See the top 10 Ahmadinejad-isms.

The Ayatullah’s Tactical Shift, June 15, 4 p.m. IRT

Iranian state TV reports that Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei has ordered the Guardian Council, an unelected clerical body that oversees elections in the Islamic Republic, to investigate complaints from opposition candidates of electoral fraud. At the same time, the authorities banned opposition rallies, although that didn’t stop some 200,000 from gathering in Tehran to support opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Khamenei’s decision may be a smart tactical retreat from his premature endorsement of the results on Friday — the Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days and hear complaints over any irregularities before presenting the results to Khamenei for certification. (The haste with which the results were declared was a prime reason for many to question their authenticity.)

Ordering the Guardian Council, dominated by conservatives loyal to Khamenei, to take up Mousavi’s complaint takes away the main demand around which the opposition is rallying on the streets — the allegation that the state has not followed its own laws during the election. By taking up Mousavi’s complaints through the proper legal channels, Khamenei creates an acute dilemma for the opposition: the Guardian Council will deliver an answer only sometime next week, and if protests are suspended pending its outcome, it may be harder to get people back on the streets later. But an opposition that is demanding that the law be applied may find it hard to keep crowds on the street in defiance of the law. — Tony Karon

Read “Ahmadinejad Wins, but the Regime Cracks.”

See pictures of the lasting influence of Ayatullah Khameini.

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