Iran: Sunday

Laura Rozen:

“Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi is planning a march of his supporters at 4 p.m. Monday in Tehran, Iranian sources said. He apparently went to see the supreme leader Sunday to seek a permit for it, but one hasn’t yet been obtained. If he is prevented from getting permission, he has said he plans to march to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, an act that Iranians say the authorities of the Islamic Republic would be disinclined to prevent.

Iranian sources said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is in Qom, seeking to persuade clerics (the assembly of experts) not to certify the Iranian elections. (…)

“Over the past two evenings, the air in Tehran has been filled with loud cries of ‘Allah-u Akbar’ following a request to this end by Moussavi’s supporters,” a person in Tehran informed an Iran-oriented list Sunday. “Tonight, the chanting started at around 9 pm local time, and has been escalating since. People in all parts of town are reporting the same phenomenon in their neighbourhoods. Amidst the chanting, you can also hear loud bangs, which are either bullets or teargas being fired …”

For the record, 4pm in Tehran is 7:30am EST.

There are a lot of reports of violence. Andrew Sullivan and Nico Pitney have been doing a wonderful job of covering this. Via Nico, here’s a first-hand account from a journalist who was mistaken for a protester and detained.

Spencer Ackerman has a really good post on the Obama administration’s thinking:

“As reports of political violence in Iran intensified after Friday’s fiercely disputed election, the Obama administration insisted that it would not interfere with the struggle for power between regime-backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the thousands of demonstrators who contend the election was stolen. Administration officials, on and off the record, said that President Obama would offer support for human rights in Iran generally and would not back away from his diplomatic outreach to the longtime U.S. adversary, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the election.

The stance began to attract criticism on Sunday, with some politicians arguing that the U.S. needed to come out firmly on the side of protesters who have been victimized by regime-backed violence and had their communications with the outside world restricted. But the administration’s position has the support of Iranian human rights groups, which fear the clerical regime will exploit any perception of U.S. interference to slander the opposition as American puppets — a caustic charge in a nation with a deep memory of U.S. interference in its politics. (…)

A senior Obama administration official who did not want to be identified or quoted explained that the president was deeply conscious of appearing not to favor any side in the election. Officials had ruled out calling for a recount or a revote out of a concern for undermining the Iranian opposition. The official said it was important to have a policy toward Iran that advanced the administration’s desire for liberalization and human rights in Iran, not one that merely vented American outrage at Ahmadinejad. (…)

No administration official mentioned recognizing the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s proclaimed victory at this point as a policy option under consideration (…) But in no case will the administration back away from its long-expressed desire to directly engage Iran diplomatically. (…) At the same time, the official said, the administration would not have endless patience for unreciprocated outreach.”

Read the whole thing. Ackerman details some of the criticism Obama’s approach is getting from people who would like to see us come down clearly on the side of the demonstrators, along with the view of Iranian human rights activists that this would be an enormous mistake. They know a lot more than I do, obviously, but for what it’s worth, I completely agree. I can’t imagine anything more counterproductive than doing anything to make it easier for Ahmedinejad to cast the opposition as American puppets, especially given our history in Iran.

May this end peacefully, and may the Iranian people get the government they chose.