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Entries in Najafgholi Habibi (1)


The Latest from Iran (7 August): The President's Man in Trouble?

2005 GMT: The Battle Within (Diaspora Edition). William Yong and Robert Worth, writing in The New York Times, have a colourful account of last week's ill-fated conference in Tehran of Iranians from overseas.

The piece is entertaining --- check out the passage on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech with the phrase, "That breast has gone away with the bogeyman" --- but it misses part of the political significance. Yong and Worth see the problems with the conference as "an ambivalence that had been part of Iranian political culture ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979: an evangelizing impulse coupled with a deep distrust of those who ventured outside the fold".

Perhaps, but the immediate significance of the event is as a stick being used both by "hardliners" (Keyhan) and "conservatives" (members of Parliament) to whack the President and --- back to the theme for today --- his chief aide, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1955 GMT: The Hunger Strike. One of the 17 political prisoners on hunger strike, photojournalist Babak Bordbar, has been released.

1945 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Sources have told Radio Farda that labour activist Mansur Osanloo, detained since June 2007, has been given an additional prison sentence.

Osanloo was tried last week in Revolutionary Court in Karaj without the presence of his lawyers.

NEW Iran: A Protest in Washington (Shahryar)
UPDATED Iran-US Special: The 4-Step Collapse of Obama’s “Engagement” Into Confusion
The Latest from Iran (6 August): The Campaign Against Ahmadinejad’s Aide

1745 GMT: The Human Rights Lawyer. The wife of Mohammad Mostafaei (see video at 1430 GMT), detained on 23 July when Iranian forces tried to arrest her husband, has been released from prison.

1730 GMT: Tough Talk Today. I have to say: Iranian state media is digging pretty deep to pull out military figures to chest-thump against the US.

Today it's the "commander of the anti-aircraft post of the Khatamolanbia Headquarters", Brigadier General Ahmad Miqani: "If Americans attempt to launch an attack against the sacred establishment of the Islamic Republic, they will encounter our firm and decisive defense and we will not let them off....Over the past decade the US has militarily attacked Iraq and Afghanistan and killed hundreds of thousands of people but in the end it suffered defeat."

Press TV frames this as, "If Attacked, Iran Will Annihilate US".

1725 GMT: Wacky Mahmoud. Yes, I've seen the Reuters summary of the President's speech for National Press Day, "Iran's Ahmadinejad doubts Sept 11 attack toll" and yes, I've seen the additional claim, "Ahmadinejad also repeated his denial of the Holocaust".

(Press TV headlines, "Ahmadinejad: 9/11 Scenario Dubious", but does not mention any reference to the Holocaust.)

But, no, I haven't featured it because I'm not sure what political relevance it has.

Far more significant for me is Agence France Presse picking up the story of the internal conflict over Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai: "Ahmadinejad aide 'in new row with Iran conservatives'".

1440 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Students at Tehran's Amir Kabir University have started a hunger strike in sympathy with the 17 detainees fasting in Evin Prison.

In a letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, doctors have warned about the condition of the 17 political prisoners.

1435 GMT: Film Corner. Accordion, directed by Jafar Panahi, will open the Venice Film Festival this year.

Panahi was detained for almost three months this spring by the Iranian authorities.

1430 GMT: The Human Rights Lawyer. Mohammad Mostafaei, now free from immigration detention in Turkey, has given an interview explaining why he had to leave Iran after the arrest of his wife and brother-in-law. In careful English, he gives the defence of his position, "I am crazy about human rights."


1425 GMT: The Rahim-Mashai Controversy. President Ahmadinejad has publicly defended his Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, against heated criticism of Rahim-Mashai's remarks on Iran and Islam (see 0615 and 0855 GMT).

1420 GMT: More on Green Media. RASA, one of two opposition television channels soon to start broadcasting (see 0640 GMT), has posted its mission statement in Rah-e-Sabz.

1415 GMT: The Supreme Leader's Brother Intervenes. Hadi Khamenei has declared that his fellow reformists must use social media to increase awareness.

1410 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani is travelling to Mashaad tomorrow to speak with clerics.

1210 GMT: The Cyber-Campaign. In a profile in Newsweek, Austin Heap --- the creator of Haystack to help Iranians get around restrictions and surveillance on the Internet --- explains how he became involved:
The 25-year-old computer programmer was home in his San Francisco apartment, spending his evening the same way he spent much of his free time: playing videogames. “I was sitting at my computer, as I usually do, playing Warcraft,” recalls Heap. “My boyfriend asked if I was following what was going on in Iran, and I said no. I was busy killing dragons.”

Later that night, Heap logged on to his Twitter account. He read about the growing number of Iranians claiming that their votes had been stolen in the presidential election, and he saw people complaining that the government was censoring their cries of fraud and election rigging. For Heap—who says, “I am for human rights, the Internet, and I check out from there”—something clicked. At that moment, he decided to become involved in a battle more than 7,000 miles away in a country he admits he knew next to nothing about. “I remember literally saying, ‘OK, game on.’?”

1205 GMT: Execution Watch. Our German Bureau reports that the Zonta Club of businesswomen has issued a declaration calling for a halt to the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

1150 GMT: Reformist Watch. Najafgholi Habibi has explained the silence of the reformists: "When no one listens, it is better to be quiet." Habibi said he would not comment on the rift amongst hardliners, as this could be misinterpreted as enmity.

0955 GMT: Economy Watch. Member of Parliament Majid Nasirpour has asserted that the Ministry of Trade did not pay farmers for their harvest, and this could cause unrest in western Azerbaijan. He added that there is no cement for construction, as it has been exported.

0940 GMT: Parliament v. President. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has published a law on water wells operating without official permits, after President Ahmadinjead refused to implement it.

0855 GMT: Rahim-Mashai Review. Back to our lead story today (see 0615 GMT)....

Parleman News rounds up the criticism of the President's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, begins with Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami's Friday Prayer. Perhaps more significant are quotes from two of those planning to curb Ahmadinejad. Ahmad Tavakoli says Rahim-Mashai's comments are the delusions of an insane man and "a treason to Iran", leading to national division, and he has warned the Parliament will react. Ali Motahari says the Chief of Staff's remarks are a serious deviation from the Revolution.

0715 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Letter to America. An EA source confirms from a "reliable" source that President Ahmadinejad has sent another letter to President Obama. We are seeking further information.

0655 GMT: We've posted a feature by Josh Shahryar on Thursday's protest in Washington DC.

0645 GMT: Talking Tough Today. Pro-Ahmadinejad member of Parliament Mehdi Kuchakzadeh has declared that house arrest of "uproar" leaders is the best way to stop social tensions.

0640 GMT: Green Media. Pedestrian takes a look at two forthcoming channels for the Green Movement: RASA, which he sees as "more religiously oriented and closer to the reformist political parties in Iran", and Iran Neda, with "a more artistic/academic and secular orientation".

0635 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Mehdi Karroubi has joined other opposition figures in asking 17 political prisoners to end their hunger strike.

Speaking with the families of imprisoned journalists, Karroubi criticised the authorities' treatment of detainees and expressed concern over the regime's attitude towards the media and reporters.

0615 GMT: A curious Friday, as attention shifted to the President's Chief of Staff, brother-in-law, and good friend Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. He was criticised not only by opposition figures but by key conservatives in Parliament and, most prominently, by the Friday Prayer leader of Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

This is not the first time that Rahim-Mashai, who has stirred up discord with his comment that Iran and not Islam is the source of emulation for others, has been at the centre of controversy. Last August, in a temporary victory over Ahmadinejad, Rahim-Mashai was forced out as 1st Vice President, only to re-enter the President's office as Chief of Staff.

Still, the timing of this current campaign against Ahmadinejad's right-hand man is notable. It comes after months of growing discontent amongst conservatives with the President, and it complements the rising tide against Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council. Will either of these buttresses of the regime be washed away, exposing even more important figures?