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Nico Pitney Update Nico Pitney  
RSS 6 |  Nico Pitney

Students Fight To Make Sure Their Teachers Aren't Fired

Tonight, in a little strip-mall office next to the local Safeway, a teenage student from Alameda, California will spend the evening dialing up strangers to make an earnest request: please save my school.

The budget ax is about to fall on this Bay Area city. Seven million dollars in K-12 education cuts are planned this year, nearly $10 million will be lopped off next year, and a massive $17 million cut looms in 2012. A few weeks ago, Alameda's Board of Education handed out pink slips to 130 teachers, administrators and staff.

"This is the worst yet," said Superintendent Kirsten Vital, a 20-year veteran of California's education system. "I've never seen anything like it."

And so this month, Vital and a host of parents and students are fighting to pass a "parcel tax" -- basically a flat tax on landowners -- the latest trend in last-ditch efforts to save California's schools.

Unlike with big congressional elections, the campaign to shore up this 10,000-student district runs along on a relative shoe-string budget.

"It's a volunteer army," Vital said. Local residents have "organized block captains, everyone has a caseload. Tuesday through Thursday nights we have 65 to 70 high school students on the phone, doing phone-banking. It's totally a volunteer effort."

The situation in Alameda isn't unique. Parents across the state, including in four other Bay Area counties, have placed parcel taxes on the ballot next Tuesday to make up for sharply reduced school funding.

Last year, California raised $251 million from parcel taxes, according to the Education Data Partnership, despite the fact that they require two-thirds supermajorities to become law. (Alameda's measure would cost residential property owners $659 per year.)

Indeed, schools in Alameda are already funded by a parcel tax that passed in 2008 by the slimmest of margins, 39 votes. Just to maintain current funding levels, another parcel tax of double the amount is needed. "That is to preserve what we have, not to add new programming for young people," Vital said.

And what happens if the measure doesn't pass? It's a grim picture.

Class sizes will grow, from 20 students on average to 25 or even 32. Meanwhile, students' time in class will drop; they'll leave school early as partial days increase, and the total number of school days will be cut by a week.

Teachers and staff will have targets on their backs. All employees will face furlough days, and many teachers -- particularly the next generation of young educators who today are the least experienced -- will be let go. (A bill currently working its way through Congress would provide funding to prevent 300,000 education lay-offs.)

The teachers who keep their jobs will receive no professional development or coaching -- those training days are eliminated. Also on the chopping block are field trips and various enrichment experiences, which already are funded heavily by volunteer community auctions and fundraisers.

The shifts in class size and teaching time impact students immediately. "They'll have different work assigned, maybe not as much writing and reading," Vital explained, "because when teachers have more students, they're not able to assign the same level of work."

The end result, she admits, is that fewer students will meet their grade level standards. "I think that's just the truth. When you defund, this is what happens. And then what happens -- for a kindergartener this year, imagine as they move to first grade, to second grade, what that means as a cost to society when kids are not reading or doing math at grade level."

:: Read More
(Published: Wed, 25 May 2011 14:40:24 -0700)

At War: January 26, 2010

I'm blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email or instant message me at NicoAfPak [at], or follow me on Twitter.

Full Eikenberry memos go public. America's ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry "repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in 'astronomical costs' -- tens of billions of dollars -- and would only deepen the dependence of the Afghan government on the United States," according to memos obtained by Eric Schmitt of the New York Times.

The memos, written (and reported on in broad terms) last November, also express "serious doubts about the ability of the Afghan police and military forces to take over security duties in the country by 2013. 'The Army's high attrition and low recruitment rates for Pashtuns in the south are crippling,' he wrote. 'Simply keeping the force at current levels requires tens of thousands of new recruits every year to replace attrition losses and battlefield casualties.'"

Eikenberry concludes by "cautioning of competing risks 'that we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves, short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.'"

Read the full memos here, and Schmitt's write-up here.

2:07 PM ET -- Taliban car bomb near U.S. base injures 14.

A suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. base in Kabul on Tuesday, wounding 14 people, including eight American, officials said, hours after gunmen killed four policemen in southern Afghanistan.

The car bombing was the latest attack to hit Kabul, coming just over a week after a team of Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers staged an assault that paralyzed the city and left 12 people dead. The violence has underscored fears that militants would try to stage attacks ahead of a key international conference on Afghanistan to be held Thursday in London.

The bomber detonated a minivan packed with explosives near Camp Phoenix, an American base inside Kabul, wounding at least six Afghan civilians, said Jamil Jumbish, the head of Afghanistan's criminal investigation unit.

1:58 PM ET -- Obama team all over the place on Afghan timeline. A really brutal video by Derrick Crowe and the Rethink Afghanistan crew.

1:48 PM ET -- Expectations for the London conference. Laura Rozen recaps a reporter call with Britain's U.S. ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald:

On the security front, Sheinwald said the conference would seek to increase the number of trained and equipped Afghanistan national security forces by 104,000 troops and 71,000 police by October of next year.

Also sought as a deliverable from the meeting is an international trust fund to fund a reintegration and reconciliation program for Afghan Taliban. Sheinwald said the reintegration program was envisioned as an Afghan led effort.

Challenged by journalists about the empirical evidence of whether such a program would work, and whether hard-core Taliban had any interest in being reintegrated or would simply infiltrate supporters into Afghan government jobs and the cities through the program, Sheinwald acknowledged there are "some who remain irreconcilable, there is a always a hard core," but the point is "to whittle down the irreconcilable from the persuadable."

Sheinwald has an op-ed on the London conference here.

1:32 PM ET -- Like reading the Pentagon Papers in real time. Yale professor and HuffPost contributor David Bromwich asses the Eikenberry memos: "It is as if we had been offered a long look at several pages of the most disturbing prognosis in the Pentagon Papers; as if we could see the president reading them with us, and then deciding in spite of everything to go ahead with the war."

:: Read More
(Published: Tue, 26 Jan 2010 11:16:21 -0800)

At War: January 25, 2010

I'm blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email or instant message me news or thoughts at NicoAfPak [at], or follow me on Twitter.

5:02 PM ET -- Taliban's rallying cries ring true. Analyst Peter Bergen revisits the intelligence briefing delivered last month by Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the top U.S. intel officer in Afghanistan (this briefing was first made public weeks ago by's Noah Shachtman).

Bergen highlights:

Among the Taliban's motivations, according to interrogations of the captured insurgents:

• The United States is seen as desiring a permanent presence in Afghanistan;

• Promised infrastructure projects are either incomplete or ineffective;

• The government of President Hamid Karzai is seen as corrupt or ineffective; and

• Crime and corruption are pervasive amongst security forces.

In the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan, it is no small problem that the grievances listed by the Taliban mostly reflect reality.

:: Read More
(Published: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:39:33 -0800)

Iran Uprising Blogging: Week Of July 13

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Updates for the week of July 20 are here.

4:43 PM ET -- Tear gas disrupts large group of people praying. Just awful.

4:29 PM ET -- Reza Aslan: Rafsanjani did not disappoint.

In the end, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did not disappoint. For a man who has made a career out of mediating from the middle and playing both sides, Rafsanjani delivered an unusually pointed criticism of the Iranian regime's handling of the election crisis. He explicitly condemned the Guardian Council's haphazard investigation into claims of election fraud and demanded the immediate release of all the protesters who had been arrested and detained by the Revolutionary Guard. "We do not need people in prison for [demonstrating]," Rafsanjani said. "Let's allow them to return to their families."

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the sermon came when Rafsanjani hinted that progress has been made in his attempts to come up with some kind of compromise with the regime over the election crisis, though he remained elusive about what that could possibly entail. "I have some suggestions," he said, in an oblique reference to his work behind the scenes with Iran's powerbrokers. "I have spoken to some members of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts about them too."

2:40 PM ET -- Defending Karroubi. A reader sends along two interesting videos. In the first watch it here:

Speakers announce Rafsanjani is going to speak, to which people respond: "Hashemi, if you remain silent you are a traitor!" Then at 0:40 -- Karroubi amongst people who greet him: "dorud bar Karroubi" (Hello) then praise him "Karroubi bagheyrat, beres be dade mellat" (Honorable/Brave Karroubi, come to the help of the people!"
The forces attack, people shout "don't shoot." Then they tell Karroubi who is in the front line: "Karroubi remain behind us!" Then they yell "death to the dictator!"

2:33 PM ET -- Video, complete transcript of Rafsanjani's speech. Video (in 10 minute chunks) is on this person's YouTube account. Transcript here.

Via a reader, some notable attendees: Karroubi, Ansari and Yaser Khomeini (Khomeini's grandson)

:: Read More
(Published: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Friday July 10)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

(Blogging will be light today, HuffPost is moving offices in DC.)

10:57 AM ET -- Basiji rush the cameraman. Video apparently from yesterday:

10:15 AM ET -- Tehran police chief: few arrests made. AP:

The head of Tehran's police says few arrests were made in opposition protests that erupted in the Iranian capital in an opposition attempt to revive street demonstrations over the country's disputed election.

Police chief Azizullah Rajabzadeh says those arrested in Thursday's protests were involved in "damaging public property and chanting," according to a report Friday in the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Rajabzadeh gives no exact number of detainees, saying only that they were "few," adding, "there was no widespread campaign of arrests."

Thousands marched in various parts of the capital on Thursday, chanting "death to the dictator." In some places, clashes erupted as police fired tear gas and charges demonstrators with batons.

9:53 AM ET -- The rooftop project. Chas Danner, who has been doing all sorts of yeoman's work on Iran, today posts the most comprehensive set of videos capturing the haunting and inspiring "Allah-o Akbar" chants that are heard around Iran each evening.

This is meant to be the most complete possible collection of recordings of nighttime protest in Iran since the beginning of the uprising. Its goal is to locate and profile at least one video for each night primarily focusing on the nightly chanting of Allah-o-Akbar from the rooftops, whenever that footage is available. Some of these videos have not been widely seen until now.

Go check it out.

9:42 AM ET -- Big demonstration outside Iranian embassy in London. Photos here.

9:35 AM ET -- Iran criticizes Italy's suppression of protesters. "Iran summons the Italian Ambassador to Tehran Alberto Bradanini in protest against the violent suppression of anti-G8 protesters. Bradanini was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Friday to hear Tehran's concerns about the 'violent suppression of justice-seeking protesters by the Italian police.'" No comment.

9:30 AM ET -- Obama: "Further steps" needed if Iran talks fail.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday the G8 message to Iran was that if it failed to change its nuclear defiance by a September deadline "we need to take further steps."

"We're not going to just wait indefinitely," Obama told a news conference at the end of a G8 summit in Italy. He insisted, however, that it had never been the intent for the summit to apply new sanctions on Tehran.


Useful Resources

News: NIAC Insight | Kodoom
Translations: Google Translate | | Translate4Iran
Helping Iranians use the web: Haystack | Tor Project (English & Farsi) | (Farsi)
Demonstrations: Facebook | Sharearchy | WhyWeProtest
Activism: | National Iranian American Council

:: Read More
(Published: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Thursday July 9)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. Support this post on Digg here.

Friday's updates are here.

10:55 PM ET -- The dangers for citizen journalists in Iran. For another reminder of why we're so lucky to get as much citizen-produced video from Iran as we do, watch the end of this clip. Via reader Marc:

8:46 PM ET -- U2 does it again. The band again plays "Sunday Bloody Sunday" with the stage covered in green light and Farsi lyrics streaming on the screen above them, during a concert in Milan.

8:36 PM ET -- Journalist explains time in Iranian prison. From Al Jazeera:

At least 35 Iranian journalists have been arrested since protests against the result of recent elections began.

Some foreign journalists were also detained. Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek-British reporter, was held for three weeks in Tehran's Evin prison.

He's now back home in Athens, where Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips asked him to describe what happened after his arrest.

8:11 PM ET -- No propaganda too ironic. State-run media: Iran "voices concern" over China's crackdown on protesters.

8:04 PM ET -- Good news. On June 17, the site -- which had been posting incredible photos of Iran's huge demonstrations -- suddenly stopped updating. Family members of its publisher, Amir, said he had gone out one night and hadn't returned.

Tonight, via reader Wilcoy, a new post.

7:30 PM ET -- "Russia, Iran will never forgive you." From a reader, "Just wanted to say that one of the photos you linked to says 'Russia, Iran will never forgive you'.
Iranians care a lot about how other countries respond to this crisis."

Russia, as readers know, has celebrated Ahmadinejad's election "victory" and said little about the subsequent violence.

7:27 PM ET -- Allah-o Akbar! Earlier today, the NYT reported:

An Iranian blogger wrote on Twitter about one hour ago that in the Amirabad district of Tehran, "people are all on the roofs" to resume the nightly ritual of shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is Great!") -- a form of protest turned against the Shah in the 1970s.

Video from tonight

:: Read More
(Published: Sun, 09 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Wednesday July 8)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Thursday's updates are here.

Top story -- The brave women of Iran. An incredible dispatch from a woman in Tehran, published by the Jerusalem Post:

"Just yesterday, I saw four plainclothes [members of the security forces] harassing two young men. The two young men had their hands tied behind their backs and were crying. I went to up the security forces and told then to let the boys ago, even though my two daughters were trying to hold me back. The security men grabbed us by the arms and started calling for reinforcements.

"I screamed at them: 'How dare you grab my two daughters, who have never been touched by any man, and how dare you touch me? I have never been touched by any man except my husband.' They let go of our arms and I told them again: Let the boys go."

She said the security men were preparing to drag the two young men away, nonetheless, so "I took out a picture of the Imam from my purse and the Koran. At that point five more of the riot police came

:: Read More
(Published: Sat, 08 Aug 2009 03:12:02 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Tuesday July 7)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Wednesday's updates are here.

Top story -- Ahmadinejad slams rivals over post-election stance. Iran state media's report on Ahmadinejad's remarks on television tonight.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has criticized the stance adopted by certain political figures following the June 12 presidential election.

In a speech broadcast on IRIB channel one, President Ahmadinejad slammed 'foreign meddling' in Iran's internal affairs following the presidential election, saying the massive turnout of the Iranian nation had upset 'arrogant powers'.

:: Read More
(Published: Fri, 07 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Monday July 6)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. Support this post on Digg here.

Tuesday's updates are here.

11:59 PM ET -- The brave women of Iran. Mothers gather in front of the notorious Evin prison -- where beatings and torture have been reported by countless prisoners over years -- to protest the detention of their children.

These videos are reportedly from today:

11:55 PM ET -- Major demonstration in D.C. on Thursday. I'll be posting more on this tomorrow, but a reader writes, "Please Note that on Thursday July 9th at 6pm there will be a large rally for 18 Tir (Iran Student Day) in Washington DC 14th Street and Pennsylvania North West." Here's the Facebook page with more details.

11:01 PM ET -- No change in Iran policy, White House insists. "As White House and Office of the Vice President aides formed a united front against widespread media speculation about a change in policy signaled by Vice President Joseph Biden's statement on a Sunday news show that Israel is a 'sovereign nation' that could 'determine for itself' how to deal with threats from Iran, analysts said that Israel may be wary of any such green light in any case."

That's the lede of Laura Rozen's latest for Foreign Policy. It's the most comprehensive piece written thus far on Biden's remarks and the wide range of reactions. There's way too much to excerpt -- you should just read the complete piece.


:: Read More
(Published: Thu, 06 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Sunday July 5)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Monday's updates are here.

11:36 PM ET -- Where in the world is Grand Ayatollah Sistani? Fareed Zakaria asks the question.

11:07 PM ET -- Did the New York Times err in report on clerical group? Late on Saturday, the New York Times published a story with this lede:

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran has called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment.

The statement by the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult -- if not impossible.

The TImes has since shifted its description of the group -- they're now described as "an important group of religious leaders" -- and several readers believe the Times misidentified the group in question. Here's one such email:

I'd like to point out a couple of important issues. The "Top clerical group defies Supreme Leader" has considerable factual flaw. Seems NYT was a bit confused over the issue and the article's opening as posted on NYT site: "The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment. " is a gross exaggeration of facts, as I will explain.

The statement apparently came from the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum headed by Hojjat-ol-islam Musavi Tabrizi, and is not nearly as powerful as stated by NYT. It is a very loosely worded statement which, certainly does not directly declare the AN's Gov't or the elections illegitimate and, just poses the question "In light of all these discrepancies, would it be possible to accept the legitimacy of elections entirely based on the confirmation of Guardians Council? In current situation, could the government resulted from all these infractions be regarded legitimate?".

But the real powerful top clerical group that has perhaps been innocently presumed as the source of this statement, is the extreme-right Association of Teachers of Quom (a more accurate translation of the name would be: Association of Teachers of Quom's Theological School). The name of both entities in Farsi is exactly the same - except for lack of the word "Researchers" in the latter. Had the second entity actually made a statement in this context, the "KhameneiNejad" show would certainly have been over and done with.

10:57 PM ET -- 30 years later, a family takes to the streets again. A great piece by the L.A. Times: "Three decades ago Mina, an 18-year-old who had recently graduated from high school, took to the streets with her family to protest the injustice and tyranny of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in demonstrations that led to his overthrow. Last month, the 48-year-old professor of physiology again took to the streets, again her with family, to oppose the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid allegations of massive vote fraud."

Definitely worth checking out the nearly identical photos published by the Times -- one from '79, one from '09 -- showing the same bridge filled with demonstrators.

10:50 PM ET -- New communications crackdown. "The head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi today has issued a directive to Iranian courts allowing them to sentence anyone working with satellite television channels or Internet networking websites to up to 10 years in jail, according to several news agencies."

More here.

10:45 PM ET -- Mousavi said to be planning new political party. CNN reports:

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi plans to form a new political party aimed at reining in the power of the Islamic Republic's leadership, a leading reformist newspaper reported Sunday.

Moussavi told supporters the party will be focused on upholding "the remaining principles of the constitution," according to Etemad-e Melli, a newspaper aligned with fellow opposition candidate Mehdi Karrubi.

He is expected to file papers with Iran's Interior Ministry to establish the party before hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sworn in for a new term, the newspaper reported.

More coverage in Farsi here.

7:11 PM ET -- More Biden on Iran. Reader Jon sends along the full video from Biden's discussion of Iran on ABC's This Week. The White House really needs to clarify its position on an Israeli strike on Iran -- Biden today implied that the Obama administration would look the other way, while Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called the prospect of an attack "very destabilizing" (details of both comments are below). Some clarity is needed.

6:54 PM ET -- A hotline for journalists in danger. Reporters Without Borders post information about its hotline to report repression of journalists in Iran: "SOS Presse, a phone hotline for journalists - (33) 1 4777-7414 - is open every day round the clock and, with the help of American Express, a Reporters Without Borders official can be quickly reached."

6:41 PM ET -- Roger Cohen can't give up Iran. And he's written a beautiful column explaining why. I hope you read it all. Here's a piece:

To bear witness means being there -- and that's not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.

No news aggregator tells of the ravaged city exhaling in the dusk, nor summons the defiant cries that rise into the night. No miracle of technology renders the lip-drying taste of fear. No algorithm captures the hush of dignity, nor evokes the adrenalin rush of courage coalescing, nor traces the fresh raw line of a welt.

I confess that, out of Iran, I am bereft. I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness. It can be singular, still. Interconnection is not presence.

A chunk of me is back in Tehran, between Enquelab (Revolution) and Azadi (Freedom), where I saw the Iranian people rise in the millions to reclaim their votes and protest the violation of their Constitution.

We journalists are supposed to move on. Most of the time, like insatiable voyeurs, we do. But once a decade or so, we get undone, as if in love, and our subject has its revenge, turning the tables and refusing to let us be.

3:12 PM ET -- "I must go home to Iran again." I'm very late in posting this op-ed, but wanted to make a point to highlight it because so many Iranian expatriates emailed it to me, saying it represented their own feelings. It's a piece by Marjane Satrapi, whose work includes the book and film Persepolis, that ran in the New York Times. Here's a portion:

Death, torture and prison are part of daily life for the youth of Iran. They are not like us, my friends and I at their age; they are not scared. They are not what we were.

They hold hands and scream: "Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid! We are together!"

They understand that no one will give them their rights; they must go get them.

They understand that unlike the generation before them -- my generation, for whom the dream was to leave Iran -- the real dream is not to leave Iran but to fight for it, to free it, to love it and to reconstruct it.

They hold hands and scream: "We will fight! We will die! But we won't be humiliated!"

They went out knowing that going to each demonstration meant signing their death warrants.

Today I read somewhere that "the velvet revolution" of Iran became the "velvet coup," with a little note of irony, but let me tell you something: This generation, with its hopes, dreams, anger and revolt, has forever changed the course of history. Nothing is going to be the same.

Read the whole piece here.

3:05 PM ET -- Mousavi details alleged election fraud evidence.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate in last month's disputed election, released documents Saturday detailing a campaign of alleged fraud by supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that assured his reelection, while an adviser to Iran's supreme leader accused Mousavi of treason.
:: Read More
(Published: Tue, 04 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Friday July 3)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. You can support this post on Digg here.

Sunday's updates are here.

7:48 PM ET -- Grand Ayatollah Sanei releases another statement supporting demonstrators. A reader writes, "You may have seen this statement from Grand Ayatollah Yousof Sanei -- an Iranian scholar, renowned theologian and Islamic philosopher. He is known as a senior reformist cleric and a Grand Marja (source) of Shia Islam. He is particularly noteworthy for issuing a fatwa in which he declared suicide bombing as haram and a 'terrorist act.'

:: Read More
(Published: Sun, 02 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Thursday July 2)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

9:04 PM ET -- Rafsanjani will not lead Friday prayers. The NIAC relays this report from the news site Mowj:

Mowj announced that Hashemi Rafsanjani has "declined" to lead the Friday prayers for a second time. "Temporary Friday prayer Imams" are scheduled to lead the sermons by taking turns. No official reason has been announced on why Rafsanjani has not been present for his last two turns. "The rumors regarding resignation from his position as a temporary Imam have not been confirmed."

The NIAC also notes, "Twitter feeds are reporting that the mothers of the dead demonstrators are organizing a silent demonstration in the 4 major parks of Tehran on Saturday, July 4. This is interesting, as the 4 major parks in Tehran are very large, so they must be expecting a large crowd."

8:44 PM ET -- Iraqi top Shi'ite clerics silent on Iran. The AP's Hamza Hendawi writes a long-overdue story on the silence of top Shi'ite clerics in Iraq on the uprising in Iran. Iran's political-religious leadership, and about two-thirds of its citizens, are Shi'ite Muslims.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani -- who was born in Iran but resides now in Iraq -- became a de facto U.S. ally in Iraq when he repeatedly urged calm during the heights of Sunni-Shi'ite fighting there. He is considered the senior religious leader of Shi'ites worldwide, and Iranians have been waiting with some anticipation for him to weigh in on the violent crackdown, to no avail. Yet many observers say he would be more likely to have conveyed any protests politely and in private correspondence with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei.

From the AP piece:

There is no place outside Iran that has closer links to Tehran's ruling establishment than Iraq's holy Shiite city of Najaf, where the silence during Iran's post-election crisis says much about the deep complexities of their cross-border bonds.

"Simply put, the whole affair does not concern Najaf," said Sheik Ali al-Najafi, son of and spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Bashir al-Najafi, one of the city's four top Shiite clerics. "We will not interfere in the internal affairs of a dear, next door neighbor."

The four -- who include Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- have remained quiet on the upheavals in Iran since the disputed presidential election June 12. The reasons have to do with both religion and politics.

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(Published: Sat, 01 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging (Wednesday July 1)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Thursday's updates are here.

10:57 PM ET -- EU considers withdrawing envoys from Tehran. European officials are discussing whether to withdraw the ambassadors of all 27 members nations as a reaction to Iran's arrest of nine employees of the British Embassy in Tehran last weekend.

The Iranian reaction to the possible withdrawal was typically "bellicose," reports the New York Times:

The official, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the armed forces chief of staff, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that because of the European Union's "interference" in the postelection unrest, the bloc had "totally lost the competence and qualifications needed for holding any kind of talks with Iran."

He added, "We believe that they don't have the right to speak of negotiations before apologizing for their obvious mistakes and showing their regret in practice," Fars said.

8:19 PM ET -- Khatami calls election outcome a "coup" against democracy. The former Iranian president's strong statement today is his latest condemning the disputed election. Voice of America reports:

Former Iranian president and leading reformist Mohammad Khatami says the outcome of Iran's disputed presidential election is a "coup" against democracy.

The New York Times reports that the Iranian reaction to the possible withdrawal was typically beillicose":

The official, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the armed forces chief of staff, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that because of the European Union's "interference" in the postelection unrest, the bloc had "totally lost the competence and qualifications needed for holding any kind of talks with Iran."

He added, "We believe that they don't have the right to speak of negotiations before apologizing for their obvious mistakes and showing their regret in practice," Fars said.

Khatami also accused Iran's government of suppressing the rights of people to protest the election results

:: Read More
(Published: Sat, 01 Aug 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Live-Blogging (Tuesday June 30)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. You can support this post on Digg here.

Wednesday's updates are here.

6:09 PM ET -- Israel's grand Twitter conspiracy. Via NIAC, a major hard-right newspaper in Iran, Kayhan, "reports" that Israel posted 18,000 Twitter messages urging people to complain about voter fraud two days before Iran's presidential election.

Also today, from Iran's state-backed PressTV:

A senior advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says US President Barack Obama's recent remarks about Iran's election show that he is under pressure from the Zionists.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Tuesday night, Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi said that Obama originally took a soft stance on the results of Iran's presidential election but then was forced by the Zionists and the US neoconservatives to make tough comments about Iran.

Hashemi, who ran Ahmadinejad's most recent presidential election campaign, stated that a president should be strong enough to follow his own principles.

5:34 PM ET -- New photos. publishes new photos taken in Iran in recent days.

5:16 PM ET -- Host quits Iran's Press TV over 'bias' after election. "It is called Press TV, is funded by the Iranian regime, and opponents say that from its nondescript offices off Hanger Lane in northwest London the 24-hour news station is beaming pro-Tehran propaganda into homes across Britain. Nick Ferrari, a leading British radio presenter, quit his show on the station yesterday in protest at the regime crushing dissent after the Iranian elections, but Press TV continues to employ plenty of other Britons -- including MPs and Cherie Blair's sister."

5:06 PM ET -- "Silicon Valley should step up, help Iranians." An op-ed today in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Silicon Valley minds and money should pool resources as a way to help Iranians get around this information blockade by providing easier-to-use proxies, anonymizers and maybe even unfiltered Internet access through hardware.

Long-range Wi-Fi, 3G, satellite or other wireless communications devices from Iran's neighboring countries or even the Persian Gulf could be used to get faster and better information in and out of Iran. One Arizona company, Space Data, even advertises the capability to use helium-filled balloons to provide Internet and mobile phone access. Much of Iran could theoretically be covered with one or two such balloons.

All of that may sound crazy, but not helping Iranian reformers at their darkest hour would be even crazier.

4:59 PM ET -- Sweden: No decision on EU action yet. "The European Union is taking a wait-and-see attitude to the post-election violence in Iran. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says the EU 'will have to assess (a reaction) in close consultation with the Americans.' He says it's 'too early' for the EU to impose retaliatory measures. Sweden takes over the EU presidency on Wednesday. Bildt said Tuesday that 'repression is the order of the day in Iran.' But he announced no specific steps in the wake of Iran's crackdown on protesters and its detention of nine local British Embassy employees."

4:55 PM ET -- After the crackdown. Time magazine: "Iran's Opposition Down But Hardly Out."

3:55 PM ET -- EU states set to recall Iran ambassadors.

Most of the European Union's 27 member states will recall their ambassadors from Tehran as early as this weekend if the Iranian authorities refuse to free four local employees of the British embassy who were arrested last Saturday.

Amid continuing anger across Europe over the arrests of the employees - linked by Tehran to the opposition protests over the disputed outcome of the June 12 presidential election - senior EU diplomats said a co-ordinated diplomatic protest would take place "within days".

"Member states are now very focused on the idea of conducting a co-ordinated withdrawal of ambassadors this weekend if there has been no movement on the side of the Iranians," said one EU diplomat. "We need to see these [four] set free by Friday at the latest."

Also, via the NIAC, here's a list of countries that Ahmadinejad's website claims have recognized his re-election:

-India -Tunisia -Malaysia -Lebanon -North Korea -Kuwait -Nicaragua -Comoros -Cambodia -Senegal -Cuba -Belarus -Sudan -Syria -Libya -Algeria -Turkmenistan -Iraq -Kazakhstan -Indonesia -Bahrain -Yemen -Sri Lanka -Ecuador -Russia -Azerbaijan -Qatar -Tajikistan -Armenia -Oman -Turkey -Afghanistan -Pakistan -China -Venezuela

3:49 PM ET -- Iran state media cover Khatami's call for impartial election probe. PressTV's Englsh write-up is here.

3:39 PM ET -- Digg. You can support this post on Digg here.

3:37 PM ET -- Suspicious ballot photos posted by Iran state media? A reader writes, "I believe this is well worth reporting: many interesting photos are being put on the web as I write, a good number of them published by IRNA itself (see here). These are images from the recent Guardians Council TV broadcast session where they 'recounted' some ballot boxes and found out that indeed Ahmadinejad's votes were higher than previously counted. These pictures show two things very clearly: 1) that a whole lot of the ballots that are being recounted are fresh, crisp, unfolded sheets - which makes no sense, given that people typically had to fold these sheets before they can slip them into the ballot boxes, and 2) that the handwriting on so many of the sheets which are votes for 'Ahmadinejad' are the same handwriting (and very clearly so)."

3:31 PM ET -- "Allah-o Akbar!" It's 11PM in Iran right now. An Iranian-American friend writes, "I'm on the skype with Iran and could hear the Alah-o akbar in the background about 20 min ago."

Here's new video from last night's chants, via reader Jenny:

3:21 PM ET -- Ahmadinejad's post-"victory" remarks. "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed on Tuesday his re-election as a victory for the Iranian people and a defeat for the Islamic Republic's enemies. 'This election was actually a referendum. The Iranian nation were the victors and the enemies, despite their

:: Read More
(Published: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Live-Blogging (Monday June 29)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Tuesday's updates are here.

7:08 PM ET -- Clinton declines comment on Ahmadinejad reelection.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refrained from comment Monday on the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but pointed to a "credibility" gap for Iran's leadership.

"I'm not going to speculate on, you know, what happens with their internal regime," the top US diplomat said.

"Obviously, they have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process, and I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots," Clinton added.

:: Read More
(Published: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Live-Blogging (Sunday June 28)

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time. Click here if you'd like to support this post on Digg.

12:00 AM ET -- Monday's updates are here.

10:18 PM ET -- Mousavi's Facebook site denies arrest reports. There are several accounts tonight that Mousavi was arrested. A message just posted on his Facebook page appears to deny them: "Mir Hossein Mousavi is not under house arrest, he is not about to leave the country, he is under strong pressure to end this. but he always said he will stand for the people's will to the end ! He is amongst people

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(Published: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging: Monday Updates

I'm blogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

2:24 PM ET -- Help Iranians get online: donate thumb drives. The Wall Street Journal spreads the word to its readers.

2:18 PM ET -- Mousavi website: Protests will continue. Reuters reports:

Iran's opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi said on Monday the pro-reform protests which erupted after the country's disputed June presidential vote will continue, his website reported.

"The pro-reform path will continue," Mousavi said in a statement. "The establishment should respect the constitution and let us to gather to commemorate our killed loved ones on Thursday."

Moderate defeated candidates Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi on Sunday called on the authorities to permit a gathering on Thursday at Tehran's "Grand Mosala," a prayer location where tens of thousands can gather, to commemorate unrest victims.

2:12 PM ET -- "Feisty opposition starts new protest campaign." Time magazine's Robin Wright: "Phase 2 has begun. Six weeks after millions took to the streets to protest Iran's presidential election, their uprising has morphed into a feistier, more imaginative and potentially enduring campaign."

11:44 AM ET -- Ahmadinejad fires his intelligence minister.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister and his culture minister resigned under pressure Sunday as further rifts emerged in his camp with just days to go until his controversial inauguration for a second term.

Although Ahmadinejad has frequently replaced his cabinet members over the past four years, Sunday's firing and resignation were significant because both Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei and Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi are especially close to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, analysts say.

"All ministers are close to him," said Amir Mohebbian, a political analyst who shares Ahmadinejad's ideology but has been critical of his actions. "But these two are closer to the leader."

Taken together, the moves suggest deep unhappiness within Ahmadinejad's inner circle at a time when the government is still reeling from the impact of a weeks-long campaign by the opposition to overturn the results of June's disputed election, in which Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in a landslide.

11:28 AM ET -- A rare interview from inside Iran. Via reader Yong, here's an interview that CNN's Fareed Zakaria conducted with Tehran University Professor Mohammed Morandi. The talk gets a bit contentious after Marandi claims that the United States government and its media outlets have urged Iranians to riot and use violence. Zakaria asks Mirandi if he worries that one day he will be viewed as a "mouthpiece for a dying repressive regime."

8:56 AM ET -- Still in the streets. A protest, reportedly from yesterday, in front the headquarters of IRIB, Iran's state-backed media.

8:28 AM ET -- Israeli official: No option off the table. From the AP:

Israel dug in its heels Monday in a disagreement with the United States over a potential military strike to thwart Iran's progress toward a possible nuclear weapon, as the visiting American defense chief urged patience.

"We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said pointedly, following discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"This is our policy; we mean it," Barak continued. "We recommend to others to take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone."

While the United States also reserves the right to use force if need be, the Obama administration is playing down that possibility while it tries to draw Iran into talks about its disputed nuclear program and other topics. Gates said Washington still hopes to have an initial answer in the fall about negotiations.

"The timetable the president laid out still seems to be viable and does not significantly raise the risks to anybody," Gates said.

8:18 AM ET -- Saffar Harandi resigns, Ahmadinejad's cabinet no longer official. "Just eight days before inauguration, Ahmadinejad's cabinet becomes illegal and requires a parliamentary vote of confidence to continue working."


Useful Resources

News: NIAC Insight | Kodoom
Translations: Google Translate | | Translate4Iran
Helping Iranians use the web: Haystack | Tor Project (English & Farsi) | (Farsi)
Demonstrations: Facebook | Sharearchy | WhyWeProtest
Activism: | National Iranian American Council

:: Read More
(Published: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 12:25:45 -0700)

Iran Uprising Blogging: Week Of July 20

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, or follow me on Twitter. Send me instant messages at or njpitney on AIM. Scroll down for news related to the front-page headlines. Local Iran time is 8 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Updates for the week of July 27 are here.

Worldwide demonstrations Saturday. Check for updates. Amnesty International's web sites highlights some of the larger events planned in the United States.

If you attend one of the rallies, click here to submit photos to the Huffington Post. We'll feature them as they come in.

3:16 PM ET -- Photos from readers. Keep submitting them -- either here or to me via email. has a wonderful set of photos from the wire services. BBC Persia has another large slideshow -- via a reader, the first photo is of Shirin Ebadi in Amsterdam, and subsequent photos are of gatherings in Tokyo (Japan), Islamabad (Pakistan) and Berlin (Germany).

Here's one write-up:

Demonstrators in cities around the globe joined protests Saturday denouncing human rights abuses in Iran and showing support for opponents of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad.

Some of the biggest rallies took place in Amsterdam, London and Stockholm, with more than 4,000 alone taking to the streets of the Swedish capital.

Among the 1,000 people in Amsterdam was Iran's Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who led the crowd in chanting: "We want to live in peace. Long live peace".

"We are here to show our solidarity with the people of Iran and to urge the Iranian government to respect human rights," said Tom van den Brand, a spokesman for Amnesty International in Amsterdam.

In London, where more than a thousand gathered outside the Iranian embassy, organisers also spoke of supporting Iranians protesting Ahmandinejad's disputed re-election.

"This is symbolic, it's a global day of solidarity," said Potkin Azarmehr, one of the organisers. "We need to make sure the government pays a price for the way they're treating the people in Iran."

3:12 PM ET -- Ahmadinejad names Mashei as senior advisor.

After a weeklong furor amongst Iran's ruling elite over Ahmadinejad's vice president choice, the president appoints the deputy, who resigned, as an advisor and head of the Presidential Office.

"I appoint you [Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei], as a faithful and competent figure, as advisor and head of the Presidential Office," Ahmadinejad said in a decree on Saturday.

According to the decree published on president's website, Ahmadinejad expressed hope Rahim-Mashaei would be successful in serving the great Iranian nation and the Islamic establishment in cooperation with his colleagues.

Rahim-Mashaei's appointment as the country's vice president unleashed torrents of criticism from both the president's supporters and opponents alike.

Following the political controversy, the president reversed his decision and accepted Rahim-Mashaei resignation.

3:11 PM ET -- Big turnout in Australia. Many more photos here.

3:08 PM ET -- Demonstrators in Kyrgyz Republic reportedly arrested. A press release from

(July 25, 2009) Eight human rights defenders who were planning to hold a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in the city of Bishkek in Kyrgyz Republic were arrested today. The demonstrators had assembled on a sidewalk, walking towards the Iranian Embassy. As they approached the main street leading to the embassy a group of policemen, who were apparently expecting them, detained all of them. As of this writing, 8:30 a.m. GMT, the detainees were held in a local police station and were due to be arraigned in a court. It is not clear under what article of the law they have been detained.

United4Iran, who has called for worldwide rallies to show solidarity with the people of Iran in over a hundred cities on July 25, deplores the actions of the Kyrgyz government denying its citizens the right to peaceful assembly.

United4Iran called on the Kyrgyz authorities to immediately release all the detainees. The names of the detainees are:

1. Tolekan Ismailova, Director of human rights center "Citizens Against Corruption"
2. Baijumanova Aida, national coordinator "Citizens Against Corruption"
3. Shaihutdinov Timur, Youth and Student rights Advocacy Council of Ombudsmen.
4. Diana Makembaeva, coordinator of human rights film festival, "Citizens Against Corruption"
5. Krapivina Evgeniya, lawyer
6. Imankulova Erkingul, Public Association "Karek"
7. Arykova Umutay, human rights activist
8. Urmat Kyzy Mirgul, activist

For more information contact:

Hadi Ghaemi (917)669 5996

Pantea Beigi (303) 455 2099

2:54 PM ET -- Iranians demonstrate outside Evin prison. Via reader Chas Danner -- date unspecified but just uploaded today:

2:41 PM ET -- Green scroll unrolled in Paris. Live video is streaming on Ustream. Diane Tucker has much more.

10:53 AM ET -- CNN covers global protests.


8:41 PM ET -- Ahmadinejad VP Mashaei resigns. Some big news broke while I was away -- Khamenei released a succinct letter demanding that Ahmadinejad dump his controversial choice for vice president Rahim Mashaei (who had come under heavy fire from conservatives and hard-liners in part over comments he'd made praising Israelis), and within hours, Ahmadinejad gave in. From the NIAC blog:

Rahim Mashaei has resigned from his post as First Deputy to Ahmadinejad, Fars News Reports [Persian]. Ahmadinejad had resisted firing Mashaei for six days despite an order to do so from the supreme leader. Mashaei was a controversial nominee in part because he said Iran was the friend of the American and Israeli people.

Samareh Hashemi, President's senior aid, on behalf of Mashaei said, "after the announcement of [Supreme Leader's] order, I no longer consider myself the President's First Deputy and will serve the Revolution and Iran wherever else it is necessary."

8:35 PM ET -- Meeting Austin Heap and his team. I had the great pleasure of watching a demonstration of Austin Heap's Haystack technology today -- it's simply astounding work. It sounds as if they'll be announcing more details in the days and weeks to come but for now, please consider heading to his site and donating either funds or USB thumb drives.

To give you a sense of why this is so important, check out this AP piece that went out over the wires tonight:

The tweets still fly and the videos hit YouTube whenever protesters take to the streets in Iran -- even as the Internet battle there turns more grueling.

Authorities appear to be intensifying their campaign to block Web sites and chase down the opposition online, and the activists search for new ways to elude them.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remain blocked, as they have been since Iran's political turmoil began following the disputed June 12 presidential election. Internet experts believe the government is going further -- including tracking down computers from which images and videos of Iran's protests are sent out to the rest of the world. Activists fear their every move online is watched.

"We are really worried about this. To protect myself, I just limit my posts on social networks, my tweets and also I deleted some parts of my personal blogs and my other notes on the Web," one Iranian who regularly sends tweets about the election turmoil said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Another said, "Every site where people can gather and stay connected and share news and pics

:: Read More
(Published: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 06:16:17 -0700)

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

I'm liveblogging the latest Iran election fallout. Email me with any news or thoughts, and please Digg this post if you feel so inclined.

12:34 PM ET -- Iranians on Twitter. Here's a list of several.

12:08 PM ET -- Mass resignations at Sharif University. NIAC: "It has been confirmed that 120 faculty members at Sharif University have resigned in protest of the election, and are gathering in front of the university for a demonstration."

Twitter is full of accounts of violence at Sharif University right now, including riot police firing rubber bullets and storming through dorms. I have not seen independent confirmation of this yet (please email me if you have) but fyi.

Also, here's video of protests at Khaje Nasir University in Tehran from today, via reader Alex:

12:01 PM ET -- Joe Lieberman weighs in. One of the first official statements from a member of Congress, via email:

[T]hrough intimidation, violence, manipulation, and outright fraud, the Iranian regime has once again made a mockery of democracy, and confirmed its repressive and dictatorial character.

We as Americans have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with people when they are denied their rights by repressive regimes. When elections are stolen, our government should protest. When peaceful demonstrators are beaten and silenced, we have a duty to raise our voices on their behalf. We must tell the Iranian people that we are on their side.

For this reason, I would hope that President Obama and members of both parties in Congress will speak out, loudly and clearly, about what is happening in Iran right now, and unambiguously express their solidarity with the brave Iranians who went to the polls in the hope of change and who are now looking to the outside world for strength and support.

As we've noted below, several Iranian American human rights groups have urged just the opposite -- here, for example, is Trita Parsi's National Iranian American Council:

The Obama administration's approach to the election -- keeping its comments low-key and not signaling support for any candidate -- was exactly the right approach. While tempting, empty and self-serving rhetorical support for Iranians struggling for more freedoms serves only to aid their opponents. History has made Iran wary of foreign meddling, and American policymakers in particular must be sensitive to giving hardliners any pretense to call reform-minded Iranians foreign agents. That's why Iran's most prominent reformers, including Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, have said the best thing the U.S. can do is step back and let Iran's indigenous human rights movement progress on its own, without overt involvement from the U.S-however well intentioned.

11:29 AM ET -- An Ayatollah dissents. Earlier this morning (9:42), I noted rumors that Grand Ayatollah Sanei, an influential Iranian cleric, had condemned the elections as unlawful. Now a reader of Andrew Sullivan's translates this article from Farsi:

Grand Ayatollah Sanei in Iran has declared Ahmadinejad's presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam. There are strong rumors that his house and office are surrounded by the police and his website is filtered. He had previously issued a fatwa, against rigging of the elections in any form or shape, calling it a mortal sin.

11:16 AM ET -- "A smash in the face, a kick in the balls and Long Live the Democrator." Robert Fisk reports from Tehran.

10:50 AM ET -- More details on the crackdown. From the New York Times:

Dozens of reformist politicians were said to have been arrested at their homes overnight, according to news reports on Sunday and a witness who worked with the politicians. There were also reports of politicians and clerics being placed under house arrest.

Meanwhile, some foreign journalists were apparently being told to leave the country.

Reuters quoted a judiciary spokesman on Sunday as saying that the reformists had not been arrested but had been summoned, "warned not to increase tension" and released.

When asked at the news conference about the whereabouts of his opponents, Mr. Ahmadinejad never answered directly but made vague references to those committing crimes deserving to be arrested. Witnesses reported that at least one person had been shot dead on Saturday in clashes with the police in Vanak Square in Tehran.

10:37 AM ET -- Stunning new video. A reader, Alex, emails over an incredible video -- riot cops riding motorcycles charge directly into a massive crowd that is packed into a street. Moments later, the video cuts to one of the bikes engulfed in flames. The video then shows one of the officers, bruised and exhausted, being helped through the crowd by a half dozen or so Iranians.

It's unclear when this all took place -- the video was uploaded today, but it may very well have been from yesterday. Watch:

10:13 AM ET -- Mousavi's latest letter. An emailer, Robert, sends along the full translated version. One key graph:

Today, I officially asked the guardian council (who oversees the elections in IR) in a letter to nullify the outcome of this election and I regard this (the nullification) as the only possible way for regaining the people's trust and cooperation with the government. I strongly urge you again to peacefully protest and defend your legal rights civilly and without confrontation and violence all over the country.

10:02 AM ET -- Tossing away the notebook. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen has a powerful report from Tehran:

She was in tears like many women on the streets of Iran's battered capital. "Throw away your pen and paper and come to our aid," she said, pointing to my notebook. "There is no freedom here."

And she was gone, away through the milling crowds near the locked-down Interior Ministry spewing its pick-ups full of black-clad riot police. The "green wave" of Iran's pre-election euphoria had turned black.

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(Published: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 10:42:19 -0700)

Obama's Political Arm Enters Health Care Fray

A first shot, of sorts, is being fired in the Obama-era battle for health care reform.

Organizing for America, President Obama's political arm, is blasting out an email to its massive list of supporters urging them to join an "Organizing for Health Care" campaign.

The message emphasizes Obama's "three bedrock principles" for reform -- reduce costs, guarantee choice, and "ensure affordable care for all" -- and presses the president's "hard goal" of getting a health overhaul passed into law by the end of this year.

Read the full email below, authored by Mitch Stewart, the executive director of OFA.

* * * * *

Monday morning, an unlikely gathering of health care industry and union leaders emerged from the White House, announcing a historic agreement to lower medical costs and save the average family up to $2,500. This kind of broad coalition would have been unthinkable in the past, when the old politics of division and short-term self interest held sway. But this is a new day.

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced the three bedrock principles that any comprehensive health care reform must achieve: (1) reduce costs, (2) guarantee choice, and (3) ensure all Americans have quality, affordable health care. And he set a hard goal for getting it done by the end of this year.

For those determined to oppose reform, the President's announcement means lobbyists are already scrambling across D.C. For the rest of us, it means there's no time to lose. As we speak, Congress is negotiating the details for health care reform, so the first step is showing where the American people stand.

Please click below to sign a declaration of support urging Congress to follow President Obama's three core principles for health care reform -- and to enact them before the end of this year:

(The more signatures we have, the more powerful our message will be, so please add your name and then forward this note on to family and friends.)

The health care crisis is not new, but it's getting worse. For decades, real health care reform has been blocked by special interest lobbying and political point-scoring. We simply cannot go any further down this dangerous road of delay and denial. But we don't have to.

Yesterday's agreement marks only the beginning of the broad coalition we need. The most important reason this round of health care reform will be different is you. Last fall millions of regular people came together and did the impossible. Now, we've got to roll up our sleeves, join hands with those new to our movement, and do it again.

Congress is already hammering out the details of the health care package, and it could still go any number of ways. Our representatives need to understand that when the President lays out these three bedrock principles, Americans of every stripe are standing with him. Yesterday's diverse gathering was a powerful start -- and now it's up to us.

It's time to stand up. Please sign the declaration of support today:

Reducing costs, guaranteeing choice, and ensuring care for all are ambitious goals, but they are nothing less than what the American people deserve. And passing real health care reform this year is nothing less than what the American people need.

Thank you,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

P.S. -- Here are some excerpts from the President's announcement yesterday that lay out the three principles for health care reform and why we need it this year. Please forward this note to people who want to know where the President stands.

President Obama:

"In the coming weeks and months, Congress will be engaged in the difficult issue of how best to reform health care in America. I'm committed to building a transparent process where all views are welcome. But I'm also committed to ensuring that whatever plan we design upholds three basic principles: First, the rising cost of health care must be brought down; second, Americans must have the freedom to keep whatever doctor and health care plan they have, or to choose a new doctor or health care plan if they want it; and third, all Americans must have quality, affordable health care.

"These are principles that I expect to see upheld in any comprehensive health care reform bill that's sent to my desk -- I mentioned it to the groups that were here today. It's reform that is an imperative for America's economic future, and reform that is a pillar of the new foundation we seek to build for our economy; reform that we can, must, and will achieve by the end of this year.

"Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs -- and the larger debate about health care reform itself -- is not just about numbers; it's not just about forms or systems; it's about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I've mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it's like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country.

"And that's why I was committed to health care reform as a presidential candidate; that's why health care reform is a key priority to this presidency; that's why I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is finally achieved in the United States of America."

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(Published: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 03:12:01 -0700)

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Nico Pitney  |  2

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