The English translation of the Ahmadinejad interview with the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun (see 1145 and 1445 GMT) --- in which the President said, "We are ready for the talks...about Iran's proposed package from around the end of August or the beginning of September" --- makes clears that the discussion took place on Thursday. (hat tip to EA readers for their assistance on this important point)
In other words, Ahmadinejad gave the statement welcoming discussions and offering the prospect of a suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment --- "If the fuel exchange is accomplished and we are assured that our 20 percent fuel [uranium] will be guaranteed, the situation will change" --- a day after the Supreme Leader had thundered:
If one side intends to act like a superpower, threatening the other side, putting it under pressure, and imposing sanctions on it — and showing an iron hand — and at the same time offering talks, this cannot be called talks. We will not hold such talks with anybody.
So is this a case of Khamenei the "bad cop" and Ahmadinejad the "good cop" as Tehran manoeuvres for position ahead of any discussions? Indeed, do the different statements point to private haggling --- directly or indirectly --- with Washington to set up some basis for public talks?
Or could it be that the Supreme Leader and the President are not exactly in agreement on the way forward?
NEW Iran Document & Analysis: Supreme Leader’s Speech on US-Iran Relations & Internal Situation (18 August)
NEW Iran: Obama Administration Dampens Down War Chatter (Mazzetti/Sanger)
Rewriting Iran’s History: The 1953 Coup, the CIA, the Clerics, and “Democracy” (Emery)
Iran Cartoon of the Day: 1953 Speaks to 2010
The Latest from Iran (19 August): Freedom & Detention
1520 GMT: Shutdown. Rah-e-Sabz reports that the blog of former Vice President Massoumeh Ebtekar has been filtered.
1510 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human rights activist Laleh Hassanpour, currently free from detention on bail, has been arraigned on new charges.
1505 GMT: Iran MediaWatch. Reporters Without Borders has condemned this week's closure of three newspapers, including the economic publication Asia and the imposition of a six-year sentence on Badrolsadat Mofidi, the secretary-general of the Association of Iranian Journalists.
RWB notes that more than 20 newspapers have been banned since the June 2009 election.
1455 GMT: A Friday Prayer Admission. Wow, it looks like Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi gave away a bit of nervousness today, at least in the account from Fars News:
Addressing a large and fervent congregation of people on Tehran University campus, Hojjatoleslam Sediqi called on Iranian officials and policy makers to close their ranks and get united.
Hojjatoleslam Sediqi further noted that lack of solidarity among special social strata is a problem which should be removed.
This line follows the one set by the Supreme Leader's speech on Wednesday (see analysis in separate entry), and it is effectively an open admissions of tensions within the Iranian Government.
1445 GMT: Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, & Nuke Talks. Oh, dear, some "Western" media are publishing before reflecting on President Ahmadinejad's supposed declaration to a Japanese newspaper (see 1145 GMT), headlined "Iran Says Might Halt High-Level Uranium Enrichment": both Reuters and Agence France Presse are promoting the story, and it is being pushed by outlets like the National Iranian American Council.
As we noted earlier, timing is critical here: if the interview took place before Wednesday, it has been superseded by the Supreme Leader's line of "Sanctions = No Talks". And no Iranian state media outlet is running the report; to the contrary, the fervent line of Press TV is that Iran will continue uranium enrichment in defiance of US objections.
1440 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Deutsche Welle is quoting Turkish newspapers that a delegation from the US State Department and Treasury have warned Ankara about trade with Iran.
1150 GMT: Tough Talk Today. Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has said during today's Friday Prayers that Tehran has test-fired a new surface-to-surface missile, Qiam 1, "with new technical specifications and exceptional tactical powers". Footage was shown on state television, although it is unclear when the test took place.
On another front, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Moscow does not plan to supply S-300 missiles to Iran: “We are not supplying anything. There is no decision on supplies.”
The S-300 deal has been held up for months amidst Western pressure on Russia to refrain from delivery of the missiles.
1145 GMT: Nuke Talks Confusion. Less than two days after the Supreme Leader ruled out an immediate resumption of discussions on Iran's uranium enrichment, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun has quoted President Ahmadinejad, ''Iran is ready to resume [talks] in late August or in early September'' with the "5+1" powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China, Germany). Ahmadinejad supposedly added, "We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 per cent if fuel supply is ensured."
Now, was the interview with Ahmadinejad conducted before Wednesday, which indicates that Ayatollah Khamenei vetoed the President's wish for resumed talks, or did it occur after Wednesday, which indicates that Ahmadinejad is still not on the same wavelength as the Supreme Leader?
Meanwhile, Islamic Republic News Agency claims that the director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said --- citing the Supreme Leader's comments --- that the country will continue enrichment of uranium for nuclear plants despite Western objections.
1140 GMT: Oil Squeeze? US National Public Radio reports on the supply of oil from Iraq's Kurdistan into Iran, which continues despite sanctions.
0930 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Radio Zamaneh has more on Mehdi Karroubi's on-line discussion with readers this week, including the take-away quote: “People must decide whether they want a religious or non-religious government and they must be allowed to choose their own form of government....The republic aspect of the government must take precedence [over the religious aspect] and people’s will must be accepted.”
0925 GMT: On-Line. Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News website, which was down at the start of today, can again be accessed.
0801 GMT: Rumour of the Week. Earlier this week we noted chatter on social media about a "Basij attack on Mohsen Rezaei", former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, candidate in the 2009 Presidential election, and Secretary of the Expediency Council.
EA readers point us to the following from Rah-e-Sabz:
Media and eyewitnesses report that on the first night of the month of Ramadan (11 August) Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of the Assembly for the Discernment of Expedience and a critic of the government, was accosted by several people when he was about to participate in prayers for one of the nation's famous panegyrists (formal speaker).
Aftab News reports as Rezaei was entering the courtyard of Tehran's Ark Mosque to take part in panegyrics for Hajj Mansour Arzi, two steps inside the courtyard he was stopped along with his guards by Hoseyn Allah-Karam (a leader of the Ansar-e Hezbollah and of the plainclothes agents) and forced to sit on the ground.
The Jahan News site in a report, quoting one of those close to Mohsen Rezaei, wrote that Mohsen Rezaei was accosted by several people when he was about to attend a panegyrics session for Hajj Mansour Arzi.
Another reader sends us the link to the Jahan story. The claim is that the "attack" may have prompted by the criticism of Ahmadinejad chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.
0800 GMT: We have posted an English translation of the full text of the Supreme Leader's speech on Wednesday and a snap analysis: there were important words not only on US-Iran relations but also on Iran's internal situation.
0630 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Dastgheib has urged that Iranians not be set against each other by dividing them into supporters and opponents of velayat-e-faqih (ultimate clerical authority). He said that Iranian authorities had brought people's disillusionment with religion and isolated society from righteous clerics.
0625 GMT: The Hunger Strike. The last of 17 political prisoners who started a hunger strike at Evin Prison have now been removed from solitary confinement. Advar News reported that Abdollah Momeni, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, and Keyvan Samimi were transferred to the general section of Evin on Tuesday night.
0619 GMT: Academic Corner. Citing health problems, Dr. Saeed Soharpour, the Chancellor of Sharif University, has resigned.
Soharpour will be replaced by Dr. Reza Roosta Azad, the Vice Chancellor of Research and a Professor of Chemical Engineering. Roosta Azad is a senior member of the central council of the Isargaran Society, which was co-founded by President Ahmadinejad.
In an interview on Sunday with Fars News, Dr. Roosta Azad supported the ban on Mohammad Reza Shajarian's song of the famous prayer "Rabbana" by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: "His actions during the recent sedition has upset people. Hence Seda-o-Sima [IRIB] is right to ban him on the national broadcasting network."
Two years ago, Sharif University was highlighted by Newsweek as "one of the world's best undergraduate colleges".
0615 GMT: We have posted a separate feature pointing to an Obama Administration effort, via The New York Times, to dampen down talk of an Israeli airstrike on Iran.
0545 GMT: We awake this morning to find that Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News appears to have been shut down by Iranian authorities. The message, "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access /index.php on this server," greets anyone who tries to access the homepage.