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Entries in Manouchehr Mottaki (3)


The Latest from Iran (29 August): The "Hidden Imam" Circle

2050 GMT: Larijani v. Ahmadinejad (Foreign Policy Edition). Well, we started the day with a story of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani against the President, so let's close with one....

On Sunday, Larijani implicitly criticised Ahmadinejad's appointment of four special representatives, including Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, for foreign policy affairs, telling reporters, “I have not had the chance to ask the Foreign Ministry about the rationale behind this decision."

Larijani added to the jibe by saying that under current conditions, foreign policy issues must be dealt with more vigilantly.

Larijani is far from alone in his concern. On Saturday, Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Parliament's National Security Commission, which he chairs, is concerned over the appointment of Mashaei due to his lack of expertise and the number of posts that he holds.

The former Iranian ambassador to China and Pakistan, Javad Mansouri, has also said the appointment of inexperienced people as special envoys is “irrational”. He added that the role of the Foreign Ministry, as Iran’s ambassadors do not know whose orders they should follow.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, appearing on Sunday before Parliament, was caught up in heated exchanges over the issue.

NEW Iran: Ahmadinejad Attacks Rafsanjani & “Corrupt” Foes; “Overthrowers Have Not Been Punished Yet” (Kamdar)
UPDATED Iran: Tehran Declares Readiness for Nuclear Talks?
NEW Iran: An Ayatollah's "Larijani is a Jew" Declaration
Iran: Obama Rejects a Public “Red Line” on Nuclear Capability (Porter)
Iran Music Special: The Kanye West No-War Rap
The Latest from Iran (28 August): Music, Sanctions, and Science

2045 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activists Maryam Bidgoli and Fatemeh Masjedi have each been given one-year sentences for “spreading propaganda against the state, through collection of signatures for changing discriminatory laws and publication of materials in support of a feminist group which works in opposition to the Regime.”

Bidgoli and Masjedi are both members of the One Million Signatures Campaign for women's rights.

1850 GMT: No Religion in the Islamic Republic? Kalemeh, the website linked to Mir Hossein Mousavi, reports that Mousavi supporters were prevented by security forces from holding a Ramadan religious ceremony in Mashhad.

1845 GMT: And the Answer Is.... You cannot imagine my excitement just now when I read the Press TV headline, "Ahmadinejad Reveals Source of All Crises".

I'm thinking Britney Spears. Or Justin Bieber. Yes, definitely Justin Bieber.

Alas, not only am I wrong but the President's answer is far more mundane: "Monarchic regimes and hegemonic powers are the source of all global crises."

1835 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Shohreh Taghati, the wife of imprisoned lawyer Mohammad Oliyaifard, has said her husband cannot appeal his one-year sentence --- handed down for speaking to foreign media about Iranian juveniles facing the death penalty --- because the verdict has not been formally given to him.

Oliyaifard was sentenced in February and has been in detention since March.

1830 GMT: The Gasoline Squeeze. Ali-Reza Zeighami, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Products Refining and Distribution Company, has said Iran is about to increase its gasoline production significantly, reaching a target of 191 million litres of gasoline a day.

Iran, according to Zeighami, currently produced 45 million litres of gasoline daily, with 64 million litres being consumed. He warned that, if a gasoline rationing plan is not implemented, the consumption will increase to 100 to 120 million litres a day.

Zeighami said most of the increase in gasoline production plan will occur by the end of the Fifth Development Plan (2015).

1820 GMT: The Purge of the Universities. Minister of Science, Research and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo, who is responsible for higher education, says, "The enemies are making efforts to replace the Islamic atmosphere in [Iranian] universities with their liberal democratic environment."

Daneshjoo's remarks follow last Sunday's statement by Ayatollah Khamenei to university students in Tehran that higher education institutions have become the main "target" of plots by foreign powers.

Daneshjoo said Tehran would publish evidence proving the involvement of several foreign intelligence agencies in efforts to "negatively influence" students.

The Press TV article quoting Daneshjoo does not mention that Iranian authorities have replaced about 20 heads of higher education institutions in recent months.

1440 GMT: Parliament v. Government. Sources report to Tabnak that the impeachment effort against Minister of Energy Majid Namjoo has been halted.

1418 GMT: Protesting Executions. Footage has been posted of a protest in Washington DC yesterday, with EA's Josh Shahryar criticising the stoning of prisoners.


The International Committee Against Stoning has posted reports of demonstrations in other cities around the world.

1415 GMT: Education Watch. Teachers have protested in front of the Parliament over the dismissal of 120,000 colleagues across Iran.

1410 GMT: Lots happening in Iran on both the domestic and international fronts --- we've got two new features. An update brings the latest on Iran's confused but possibly hopeful position over nuclear talks with the US, while Nazanin Kamdar reports on an apparent Ahmadinejad outburst threatening former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and "corrupt" foes.

0915 GMT: Economy Watch. Iran's Statistics Centre reports that 730,000 land labourers have lost their jobs during the last five years. Causes include no loans, no government support for purchase of harvests, and escalating imports.

0905 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Nokia Siemens Edition). Kaveh Shahrooz provides extensive legal background on the lawsuit filed by detained journalist Isa Saharkhiz and his son Media against Nokia Siemens Networks for selling and providing surveillance technology to Iranian authorities.

0805 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English reports on detained Kurdish activist Rahim Rashi, who is on Day 38 of a hunger strike.

0800 GMT: We've got a story you don't see everyday: "An Ayatollah's 'Larijani is a Jew' Declcaration".

0720 GMT: Oops! The President's Foreign Policy Guys. Khabar Online reports the first mis-step for the four special representatives appointed by the President's office this week. Hamid Baghaei, Ahmadinejad's deputy for Asia, called he mass murder of Armenians a "genocide". That caused an uproar in the Turkish media, and Foreign Minister Mottaki's explanatory phone call reportedly did not convince his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

705 GMT: Too Dangerous to Remember Khomeini? For the second year in a row, Iranian authorities have cancelled all religious ceremonies for "Qadr nights" at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, scheduled for mid-September. Clerics who normally preside include former President Mohammad Khatami, former Presidential candidate Nategh Nouri, and Hashemi Rafsanjani ally Hassan Rohani.

0635 GMT: Reconciliation? Last Sunday we were watching as President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, brought together by the Supreme Leader, declared co-operation.

This Sunday we are reading the statement of Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman of the Guardian Council: "We have to pray that the Government implements the Majlis' laws. The Guardian Council cannot do anything else."

Kadkhodaei added that Parliament has abided to the laws and that there has to be a resolution between the Government and Majlis within weeks. If that did not come, then the Supreme Leader had to make decisions.

MP Elyas Naderan, a leading critic of the Government, has protested that the President is trying to establish "unilateral unity". Naderan said that, as the Supreme Leader declared, unity does not mean the constant retreat of one side.

Mehr reports that an arbitration committee is trying to resolve the disputes.

0630 GMT: Khatami Intervention. Former President Mohammad Khatami has declared that a just Government cannot use its monopoly on arms to oppress its citizens and that its most important duty is to defend their rights.

0615 GMT: We start today by noting a most provocative report: Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, the manager of the Etemade Melli newspaper, raided by Iranian authorities and closed last autumn, claims there is an "Urumiyeh Circle", consisting of President Ahmadinejad and close advisors. This group all believe in and pursue policies based on the return of the 12th "hidden" Imam.

According to Haghshenas, the circle began with Ahmadinejad, key advisor Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, and 2005 Presidential campaign manager. Later adherents include Sadegh Masouli, now Minister of Welfare, and the President's controversial Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

Haghshenas adds that Rahim-Mashai was in the Minister of Intelligence but was dismissed because of his messianic views. He says "Ahmadinejad loves [Rahim-Mashai] more than normal and gives him multitude of offices to solidify his position as next President".

Wow, what a claim. Who could dare publish this? Surely some newspaper outside Iran, connected to the Greens, reformists, and/or Ahmadinejad's bitterest foes?

Nope. The report is featured in Khabar Online, connected to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and now --- given the sweeping ban on reformist and Green media --- the effective opposition newspaper inside Iran.

Iran: Is President's Chief of Staff Rahim-Mashai Taking On Foreign Policy?

Two weeks ago, we noted an extraordinary speech by the 1st Vice President, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, who pronounced that the English were “a bunch of retards run by a Mafia, ruled by a youngster, who is even more of an idiot than his predecssor”, that Australians are "a bunch of cattlemen", and that the South Koreans deserved a good slapping for their support of sanctions against Tehran. And we asked....

Is this the sign that President Ahmadinejad is taking over Iran's foreign policy?

I have to admit: our tongue was firmly in our cheek, especially as Rahimi went on to say that the dollar and euro were "dirty" and would be replaced by the Iranian rial and local currencies in oil sales, that tariffs would go up 200%, and that students would force their parents not to buy foreign goods. It was one thing for the President to make his grand-standing comments on sanctions, "Ambassador of Death" weapons, Zionists, and Iran's global supremacy, but was he really going to turn loose a coterie of advisors to handle Tehran's diplomacy?

Guess what? My tongue is coming out of my cheek.

On Monday, an EA correspondent brought news that Ahmadinejad had special representatives covering Asia, the Caspian Sea area, and Afghanistan. And, to oversee the Near East, he named his controversial Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

Still, Rahim-Mashai holds 18 to 20 other Government appointments, so surely this was just a nice little title to add to his resumé and possibly an excuse to claim expenses for a weekend jaunt to Beirut (which is not nearly as hot as Tehran this time of year)? No need for Iran's diplomats to feel crowded out.

Or maybe....

This afternoon, I got this note from a colleague: "IRNA [Islamic Republic News Agency] is reporting that Mohammad-Reza Forqani, Iran's ambassador to Turkmenistan, has just been designated Director-General for International
Affairs at the Presidential Office by Presidential advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai."

So now Ahmadinejad, far from running solo with his foreign policy pronouncements, has his 1st Vice President making expansive claims about idiot Englishmen and slapping South Koreans, and has special representatives who may be seeking to lead Iran's foreign policy in four of the most sensitive areas of the world. And one of those four representatives --- the one who is widely disliked by key members of Parliament and senior clerics, the one who was forced out of a Vice-Presidential office, only to sneak back into Ahmadinejad's office --- is appointing others to a Presidential foreign policy staff?

Looks like I'll need to put in a phone call to Iranian Foreign Minister (or should that now be Foreign Assistant Minister?) Manouchehr Mottaki for his reaction....

The Latest from Iran (2 August): The Campaign Against Jannati

2100 GMT: Confirming the Show Trial. It's one sentence on a Facebook page, but it says volumes.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, cleric and former Vice President, detained soon after the June election and put on trial with more than 100 others in televised hearings last summer, wrote: "A year ago on such a day we had a trial, we had practiced the day before. What a day it was...."

The sentence has not escaped notice: there are more than 200 comments on Abtahi's page.

NEW Iran: Secularists, Reformists, and “Green Movement or Green Revolution?” (Mohammadi)
Iran Analysis: Hyping the War Chatter — US Military Chief Mike Mullen Speaks
The Latest from Iran (1 August): Pressure on Ahmadinejad & Khamenei

2055 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters claims that Javad Laari, detained last autumn on charges of acting against national security, has been sentenced to death.

2045 GMT: Clerical Criticism. Ayatollah Dastgheib, a leading critic of the Government, has declared that none of the post-election arrests of political prisoners conforms with Sharia law.

2035 GMT: Jannati Watch. After much discussion, we think it's time to give Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, his own "Watch".

Why? Because the growing campaign against Jannati by opposition figures is --- given Jannati's long service on the Guardian Council and his "hard-line" defence of velayat-e-faqih (clerical supremacy) --- an indirect challenge to the Supreme Leader. Take down Jannati and Ayatollah Khamenei's authority has been knocked down a couple of pegs.

So Agence France Presse posts a valuable overview of the latest jabs at Jannati: Mir Hossein Mousavi regrets his "lying, especially when one is tasked with fostering people's votes and the constitution" and Mohammad Khatami says, "We are witnessing that they resort to lying, insults and defamation to justify oppression and bad policies."

This comes on top of Mehdi Karroubi's opening salvo last week accusing Jannati of complicity in vote-stealing and Zahra Rahnavard's observation that Jannati's comments would make "a cooked chicken laugh".

2025 GMT: The Battle Within --- Ahmadinejad Sues One of the Planners? OK, having watched this story all day, let's run with it.

Tabnak reports that President Ahmadinejad has filed a lawsuit against member of Parliament Ali Motahari. The charges are unspecified --- Motahari declined to comment, coyly saying, "Making this case public would only Ahmadinejad."

Let's take a look. Motahari is no ordinary MP. The son of Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, one of the key figures in the Islamic Republic until his assassination soon after the Islamic Revolution, the conservative is allied with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani. Indeed, he is so allied that he may have be involved in ongoing talks with Larijani, MP Ahmad Tavakoli, and Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei on moves to curb the President's authority or even remove him from office.

And Tabnak, which brought out the story? It's linked with...Mohsen Rezaei.

2015 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ali Malihi, an officer of the alumni organisation Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat, has been sentenced to four years in prison. An appellate court has confirmed the four-year sentence of activist Amir Khosro Dalirsani.

2010 GMT: Majid Tavakoli's New Message. Daneshjoo News carries what it claims is a letter from detained student activist Majid Tavakoli: "Dictators Only Fear the Brave Who Resist".

1800 GMT: Khatami Targets the Economy. Speaking to students, former President Mohammad Khatami has taken aim at the Government's economic record, noting the lack of growth and asking, "Where has $400 billion in oil revenues over the last five years gone?"

1650 GMT: Fatwa Watch. Amidst all the rumblings over the Supreme Leader's "I am the Rule of the Prophet" declaration, Ayatollah Khamenei has received public support from one prominent figure: Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.

1640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The detainees on hunger strike in Evin Prison --- HRANA says there are 17 --- have issued five conditions for ending their protest.

155 GMT: Mourning. Footage has been posted of the funeral of prominent Iranian singer Mohammad Nouri, with crowd singing one of Nouri's song. A video of a 2007 performance has also been put up.

1545 GMT: Protests. Rah-e-Sabz reports, from human rights activists, that there were demonstrations in Tabriz in Iranian Azerbaijan on Sunday with demands for linguistic and cultural rights. Twelve people have been arrested.

1440 GMT: A Question to the Minister. Minister of Industries and Mines Ali Akbar Mehrabian has said Iran will stop imports from countries which have imposed sanctions on Tehran: "The Islamic Republic's market will be closed to the consuming goods …of countries which prevent the entry of technology, machineries and equipment to Iran."

So, Minister Mehrabian, you'll be saying "No thanks" to gasoline from Russia and China?

1355 GMT: Ahmadinejad "Zionist Assassins are After Me". This just gets better or better (or, worse and worse, depending on perspective)....

So the President spoke this morning to the conference of Iranians from abroad (which, remember, "hardline" Keyhan has already claimed included a "CIA associate" invited by the Iranian Government). Ahmadinejad's significant statement --- that "we want a higher-level dialogue" with the US --- has already been left behind by his grandstanding follow-up that he wants to speak publicly with President Obama "one on one" in the US this September.

But then Ahmadinejad takes the speech in another direction, pretty much ensuring that any importance is lost outside Iran: "Stupid Zionists" are trying to hire assassins to take him out.

1350 GMT: The Missing Lawyer. Persian2English posts the English translation of the letter from human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, still in hiding after last week's attempt to arrest him (see separate analysis), to Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi calling for the release of his wife and brother-in-law from prison.

1315 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student activist Yashar Darolshafaei has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

1215 GMT: Mousavi Watch. Mir Hossein Mousavi has made a speech denouncing "religious dictatorship" as the worst form of dictatorship.

1205 GMT: "Ahmadinejad Invites CIA Associate to Iran". How intense is the evolving dispute between some "hardliners" and the President's inner circle? Follow carefully....

The Government is hosting a conference today and tomorrow of 1200 Iranians who live abroad, hoping to bolster its image in the continuing political crisis. An opportunity for regime unity, right?


Keyhan newspaper and its editor, Hossein Shariatmadari --- now entrenched in hostility towards the President and advisors like chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai --- have denounced the cost of the gathering. It goes further to claim that one participant, Hooshang Amirahmadi of the American Iranian Council, is a "CIA associate".

1200 GMT: The Divided Hardliners. Parleman News posts a long analysis asserting that Iran's hardliners are now split into three groups: 1) those happy about the elimination of reformists and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf; 2) those who are irresponsible and happy about the division; 3) those like Morteza Nabavi who fear they will be eliminated like the reformists.

1005 GMT: You Can Trust Us. Amidst criticism of the Guardian Council (see 0630 GMT), its spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei has said the Council will not eliminate reformists without proof.

Kadkhodaei said that an election law was necessary to clarify the Council's role and regretted that the Parliament and Government had been unwilling to compromise on a measure.

1000 GMT: Mahmoud's Proposal. More of President Ahmadinejad's response to his internal problems....

"Towards the end of summer we will hopefully be [in New York] for the [United Nations] General Assembly and I will be ready for one-on-one talks with Mr Obama, in front of the media of course. We will offer our solutions for world issues to see whose solutions are better."

Ahmadinejad suggested a debate last September but got no response.

0930 GMT: International Front. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said Iran is getting "positive" feedback from other countries, led by the US, over proposals on uranium enrichment: "We can say this process is a positive signal reflecting the political determination of the Vienna group."

<0840 GMT: Parliament v. President. Front-line conservative MP and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli has said the President's $1000 reward for babies must be stopped as it has to be approved by the Majlis.

0835 GMT: Jabbing at Khamenei and the President. Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, in a meeting with the reformist Imam Khomeini Line in Golestan Province, has said that one should follow the late Ayatollah Khomeini, as he never wanted to take over power and eliminate others (take that, current Supreme Leader). He said that an Islamic Republic without clergy is impossible and noted that corruption has been successfully fought in Golestan (take that, Ahmadinejad).

0825 GMT: Corruption Watch. According to Rah-e-Sabz, President Ahmadinejad has said that his First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi "has not committed a single mistake", as five officials in Gilan Province were arrested on charges of embezzlement. The news site claims that Rahimi's fraud, in connection with an insurance scandal and other manoeuvres, allegedly amounts to $700 million.

0800 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Alert. It's come early and it's come from the President, speaking to senior managers in the oil sector, "We believe that all parts related to Iran's oil industry can be produced inside the country. We hope to promise that all needs of the oil industry will be met inside Iran within the next few years."

0755 GMT: Bring Us Your Money. Parliament has instructed the Government to implement the law easing regulations for foreign banks to set up branches in Iran.

0735 GMT: We have posted an analysis by Majid Mohammadi considering "Secularists, Reformists, and 'Green Movement or Green Revolution?'"

0730 GMT: Suspending Transport. Yesterday we noted the news that German engineers working on the construction of a metro system in Isfahan were quitting, supposedly over unpaid wages.

The outcome?

0725 GMT: Media Shutdown. Iran's Journalists Association has issued a statement recalling the passing of a year since its members were "blacked out" by the regime.

0640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz reports that leading Mousavi advisor Alireza Beheshti Shirazi will appear in court today.

0630 GMT: Rahnavard Criticises Head of Guardians. Yesterday we updated with the one-liner from activist Zahra Rahnavard's denunciation of the head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, and his recent statements: "Even a cooked chicken would laugh at his comments."

Alongside the humour is Rahnavard's political challenge that Jannati represents people who have “lost every bit of credibility....The statements of the head of the Guardian Council are cause for consternation for every wise and patriotic individual in the country.”

Appearing alongside her husband, Mir Hossein Mousavi, in a meeting with veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, Rahnavard restated political demands: "holding free elections without the preapproval [of the Guardian Council], eliminating the preapproval process completely from the nation's political scope, freedom of press, and unconditional release of the political prisoners". She also emphasised, "The Green Movement is a pluralist movement and belongs to all those who seek freedom and all the Iranian nation."

0525 GMT: We open this morning with news, carried on Saham News, that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have met. The two men criticised the Government's performance and also denounced outside threats against the country, emphasising the need for independence and national security.

As for opposition tactics, the conversation appears to have been on general notions of forging "social networks".

The Pressure on Ahmadinejad

Michael Theodoulou and Maryam Sinaiee, writing in The National, offers a valuable overview of the growing conflict within the Iranian establishment, with particular focus on "hardliner" concerns: "Iran’s populist and polarising president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is being accused of monopolising power, riding roughshod over parliament, mismanaging the economy and being too aggressive on foreign policy."

(My one minor question for the authors is whether, while bringing out this conflict, they understate the tensions with their sentence, "On social and cultural issues, there is little dispute among principlists." That, I think, misses how even social issues have been used to challenge Ahmadinejad, for example, criticism of his "soft" stance on enforcement of hijab.)

The President's public response to the pressure? On Sunday, he reportedly told his Cabinet, "“The nature of sanctions on Iran is a political game....The enemies are plotting to portray Iran as a weak country” through what he called theatrics, aimed at “convincing the nation to back down....It is a false belief that Tehran can ease pressures by retreating....The nation must take advantage of such threats and propaganda and turn them into opportunities.”

Political Prisoner Watch

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters writes about the alleged torture of Ahmad Baab, a Kurdish activist arrested last September.

HRANA claims the father of Kurdish journalist Shooresh Golkar has been summoned by Iranian authorities and given 20 days to turn in his son.

Economy Watch

Iran Labor Report summarises the latest rise in unemployment and problems for production because of blackouts of electricity.

Cartoon of the Day

Nikahang Kowsar: "Will Mousavi Surpass Khomeini?"