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Entries in Sadegh Khalilian (4)


The Latest from Iran (25 August): Unity? 

2000 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Update. Minister of Oil Massoud Mirkazemi reassures everyone that sanctions are irrelevant, "We do not have any problem in securing the country's gasoline and we have not been facing any fuel deficiency. Domestic gasoline production will be increased by 20 million liters (a day) soon and, because of this, we announce that we won't need to import gasoline."

1950 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has issued a statement condemning the treatment of its senior member Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was summoned back to prison 10 days ago, and journalist/filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who returned to jail last week.

NEW Iran Propaganda Special: US Soldiers, Bitter Chocolate, & the Prophet Muhammad
Iran: Is President’s Chief of Staff Rahim-Mashai Taking On Foreign Policy?
Iran, Political Prisoners, & New Media: Discovering The Case of Zahra Bahrami
Iran Feature: Why “Normal” is Not Bad (Pedestrian)
The Latest from Iran (24 August): Keeping the News Alive

1815 GMT: Nuke Talks, No Nuke Talks? A relative lull in Iranian comment on discussions with the US is broken by comments by MP Parviz Sarvari in Fars News: “The US has been the greatest guardian of Israel's interests, but on the other hand, Iran opposes the Zionists and supports the Palestinian interests. And because of this opposition, negotiations with the US is of no avail.”

Still no clue from the Iranian media of how absolute rejection of talks squares with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's acceptance of talks, without preconditions, in an interview last Thursday with a Japanese newspaper.

1755 GMT: Fox News Could Learn from This. The Revolutionary Guard daily paper Sobhe Sadegh has "proof" that opposition figures received $1 billion for regime change: a photograph of Mohammad Khatami and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Just for the record, here is a photograph of another Iranian politician with the Saudi king:

1750 GMT: Labour Watch. Peyke Iran reports that telecommunications workers have staged a protest in Shiraz, complaining that some have received no wages for 16 months.

1745 GMT: Unity Watch. Arash Motamed in Rooz Online is not very hopeful about Sunday's show of co-operation between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani: "Some experts dismiss yesterday’s joint meeting as a sham display of unity. They regard internal disagreements in the right-wing camp to run too deep to be resolved by a meeting."

1740 GMT: The President's Men. Camelia Entekhabi-Fard, writing in The Huffington Post, takes a look at the power plays around the President's office, "What Is It About Rahim Mashaie?". Her take-away paragraph:
Iran's political reality is starting to come out from under its curtain, and we should soon expect a new kind of relationship to develop between Ahmadinejad and the orthodox clergy within the Iranian system. We will soon probably see deep, open clashes between the Iranian president and clerics that will culminate into an ugly battle in the run up to the next presidential election.

1540 GMT: Sanctions Watch. LyondellBasell Industries NV, one of the world's biggest plastic and chemical producers, is ending its operations in Iran to shield itself against possible American penalties for violation of trade sanctions.

The Dutch-based company's board approved the decision early this month. LyondellBasell will stop all licensing of its proprietary technology and services to Iranian petrochemical companies, which depend heavily on technology from European concerns to produce plastics and other high-value products derived from natural gas.

1415 GMT: The Kahrizak Suspensions. An EA correspondent checks in: one of the three officials suspended because of alleged connections with the post-election abuses in Kahrizak Prison --- alongside Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi --- is Hassan Haddad, also known as Dehnavi Zare, a prominent foe of journalists and civil society activists.

1359 GMT: Attacking the Clerics. Kalemeh reports that masked men on motorbikes have vandalised the house, daubing the entrance with paint at 2:30 a.m., of Grand Ayatollah Dastgheib in city of Shiraz.

After a highly-publicised Ramadan speech by Dastgheib, a crowd gathered outside Qoba Mosque on Friday to denounce him. On Monday, a rally in front of the Governor’s office culminated with a pro-government speech by the Governor.

1355 GMT: Clash. Five Kurdish insurgents and two Revolutionary Guard troops have been killed in battles on Tuesday.

1350 GMT: The President Speaks. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given a 25-minute interview (translated in Arabic) to Al Jazeera.

1330 GMT: Unity MediaWatch. The Financial Times of London now has the bit between its teeth on the theme of division within the Iranian establishment.

Having published two reports on Monday, "Ayatollah Warns Bickering Politicians" and "Shia Schism Deepens Ahmadi-Nejad's Woes", the newspaper argues in an editorial, "Cracks Widen in Theocratic Facade":
The regime is beginning to look brittle, belying its triumph over reformism – and Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is starting to look expendable....

A west worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be well advised to tread with care. Any attempt to determine the outcome of this faction fight – not to mention any assault on Iran – would stampede everyone back into the tattered tent of the theocrats.

1210 GMT: Matters of Intelligence. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi gave reporters a grand tour of "security" topics today. He proclaimed the success of Iranian authorities in dealing with threats such as the Baluch insurgent group Jundullah, with the execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi. He declared the legitimacy of the espionage case against Hossein Mousavian, the former Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council. And he supported Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati's recent claim that the US and other foreign countries had given $1 billion to opposition leaders for "regime change".

Moslehi even reviewed the curious case of Oriflame, the Swedish cosmetics company, which was shut down in Iran with the arrest of five of its employees on Monday. Moslehi said that Oriflame, which reportedly had been accused of pyramid trading, had received "external support".

1040 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. HRANA writes that Jahangir Mahmoudi has been arrested after an attempt to represent political prisoners in legal cases.

1025 GMT: Economy Watch. The governor of Iran's central bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, quoted in Iran, has said the nation should limit imports to "necessary goods" to help lift domestic production and reduce the amount of hard currency exiting the country.

1010 GMT: Another Kharizak Concession? Keyhan reports that three post-election protesters --- Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadifar and Mohsen Ruholamini --- who died in Kahrizak Prison have been named as "martyrs" by Iran's Foundation of Martyrs and Veteran Affairs. The designation offers benefits and "various facilities in the cultural, social, economic, and welfare fields" to the families of the three men.

The move follows this week's suspension of three officials --- reportedly including Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi --- for involvement in the Kahrizak abuses.

0827 GMT: How Strong is the Movement? In Gozaar, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi writes of "The Weakness of the Islamic Republic":
The Green Movement a year after the electoral coup d’état created a movement as widespread as the 1979. From the most religious layers of the society to the most secular ones consider themselves part of the movement despite their different perspectives. In other words, it is the Green Movement that has defined itself so widely. But it does have a significant difference with the 1979 revolution. While in the 1979 revolution to be anti-monarchy was the point of agreement of many different and even opposing groups, in the Green Movement to be against the Islamic Republic is not the point of convergence for all active forces. Thought there are groups and individuals among the Green Movement who are against the Islamic Republic but this antagonism is part of the movement and not its entirety or its base. The most important factor in brining different members of the movement together is being “against the status quo”.

0825 GMT: Economy Watch. About 100 workers at the Hormozgan Steel Complex in southern Iran staged a protest on Monday, complaining that they have not been paid for three months.

0820 GMT: Cleric Banned. Rah-e-Sabz reports that Gholam-Hossein Gheysari, who presided at the Najafabad mosque, has been banned from the city. Residents have reportedly protested the ban in front of the Governor's office.

0803 GMT: Today's Shiny Media Moment. Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi proclaims that Iran has successfully test-fired a new version of the medium-range ballistic missile Fateh, which has a range of 193 kilometres (120 miles).

State TV broadcast footage of the missile being fired and then hitting a target on the ground.

0800 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz reports that Dr. Amir Hossein Shirvan, the former Chancellor of Jondi-Shapour University in Dezful and campaigner for Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been arrested.

Hamzeh Karami, whose case has become prominent in opposition claims of torture and forced confession, has written an open letter to Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei.

Karami, the managing director of the reformist Jomhouriat and a senior official at the Islamic Azad University, has retracted his televised confession during last summer's mass Tehran trial. He claims that, during 138 days of "torture" and interrogation, he lost consciousness 15 times. He was threatened with rape and execution, as well as the arrest of his wife, his daughter, and his son-in-law. On one occasion, Karami claims, he was told that the screams of a woman down the hall were those of his daughter.

Karami indicates that the push for his "confession" was in part to tarnish former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was accused of an affair with Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi.

0750 GMT: Parliament v. Government. However, it seems some legislators have still not gotten the "unity" message. Elyas Naderan, who was not at Sunday's sit-down with the President, continues his criticism of 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. Naderan says Rahimi's claimed academic credentials are a problem, but his "financial case" --- Naderan has repeatedly accused the Vice President of connection to a major insurance fraud --- is far more serious.

Mohammad Karami-Rad says that, although two MPs withdrew their signatures on the petition for impeachment of Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian, five more have added their names. He claimed that "discussion" with Khalilian would take place this week and next Monday.

And Ahmad Tavakoli, one of the leaders of the challenge to the Government, will not give up. He said that the Majlis should not retreat in front of "illegal" actions, such as the reduction of work hours for Government employees from 44 to 39 hours per week during Ramadan.

0740 GMT: Unity Watch. Khabar Online also follows up Sunday's trumpeted reconciliation between the President and the Majlis by surveying MPs about Ahmadinejad's meeting with legislators.

The general response is that the gathering was mainly ceremonial, as it had no agenda and only addressed minor problems. (Reformist Mohammad Reza Khabbaz: "We sat down, talked, and went away.") However, the word "unity" is used often with references to a softening of tone and cessation of public attacks. Still, legislators say it is too early to declare what will happen.

In another article, Mohsen Rezaei --- former Presidential candidate, Secretary of Expediency Council --- walks in step with the Supreme Leader, talking about his letter to Ayatollah Khamenei. Rezaei said the message for the elite was to adopt unity with a change in tone and substance in media.

Rezaei added, "Now that division has ended... we should start to invest in the economy."

0730 GMT: Challenging the President's Foreign-Policy Move. OK, here comes the reaction we were waiting for....

Khabar Online, linked to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, features comments by Mohammad Sadr, the former Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Nations. Sadr criticises Ahmadinejad for preempting the Foreign Ministry by appointing his four special representatives, devoid of any foreign policy experience. He adds that the decisions were made without the expertise of the Foreign Ministry and are mainly for show. On the specific question of the appointment of Chief of Staff Esfandair Rahim-Mashai, Sadr declares that choosing an "amateur" for the critical Middle East region can have no positive outcome.

Sadr's wider critique is that the President's foreign policy FP decisions are made hastily, without asking experts.

0615 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Press TV indirectly challenges stories of the economic effect of sanctions with a claim from the Ministry of Energy of more than $1 billion in foreign funds: “Germany has invested $445 million in construction of the Pareh-Sar combined cycle power plant in northern Iran, while the UAE has invested $720 million in construction of a gas power plant as well as a combined cycle power plant in Isfahan and Shiraz."

In the last 48 hours, Press TV has also put out the good news that Iran's foreign exchange reserves have doubled, that crude oil production is beginning from a Persian Gulf field, and that Iran is adding 14 airplanes to its commerical fleet.

0550 GMT: The President Speaks. Islamic Republic News Agency headlines a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday to "friendly" students, with his general call for their "boldness and courage", praise for Iran's economy and culture, and declaration that opposition had been quelled.

Nothing very significant at first glance, although there may be some reaction to Ahmadinejad's declaration that fundamentalism does not reside in Iran's political parties. This spring, the President provoked some criticism and concern from conservatives with a remark that Iranians needs only one political faction, the Velayat Party.

Fars News, meanwhile, headlines an interview with Morteza Nabavi, member of the Expediency Council and managing director of Resalat, which pushes the Supreme Leader's line that there must be unity among the authorities.

0535 GMT: A slow start to Wednesday, as we look for reactions to the latest manoeuvres inside the Government. The tensions between the Presidency, the Parliament, and clerics have even overtaken the nuclear issue in some "Western" newspapers, such as the Financial Times and The Guardian of London, and there are signs that the Supreme Leader's effort to calm everyone down and have them shake hands has not worked.

The twist yesterday was the news that the lightning rod for criticism, Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, has not only been appointed one of four special representatives for foreign policy by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- a sign of the President's ascendancy over internal challenges, according to Reuters --- but seems to be taking the role seriously, given his appointment of a Director-General for International Affairs in the President's office. We've asked around, but there is still no reaction from Iranian offices who formally have the foreign-policy role, such as the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry. Nor have we seen any reaction from Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.


Political Prisoner Watch (Bahrami Special)

Our story yesterday on Iranian-Dutch national Zahra Bahrami, detained since December in Iran and facing unknown charges --- one claim from Tehran, now that the case has come out, is that she was arrested for carrying cocaine --- has been getting a lot of attention. The Netherlands Foreign Ministry has finally clarified that, although the Bahrami case was publicised by activists this spring, it did not get confirmation of her dual nationality until 23 July.

The Latest from Iran (24 August): Keeping the News Alive

2030 GMT: Sanctions Watch. A high-level South Korean delegation is in Washington to discuss sanctions against Iran.

2025 GMT: Bad Dog. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has banned Iranian media from publishing any advertisements about pets or pet-related products. The order was issued after a fatwa from Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi.

NEW Iran: Is President’s Chief of Staff Rahim-Mashai Taking On Foreign Policy?
NEW Iran, Political Prisoners, & New Media: Discovering The Case of Zahra Bahrami
NEW Iran Feature: Why "Normal" is Not Bad (Pedestrian)
Iran Document: Interview with Detained Filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad
Iran Special: Have Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani Kissed and Made Up?
The Latest from Iran (23 August): Political Cease-fire?

2015 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reporter Ohne Grenzen has launched a German-language petition for the freeing of human rights activist and journalist Shiva Nazar Ahari, detained since July 2009 and facing a charge of "mohareb" (war against God).

2000 GMT: We've posted an evening feature, mulling over the possibility that the President's office, including controversial Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, is trying to take over Iran's foreign policy.

1630 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Kalemeh has picked up the Sunday statement of Mehdi Karroubi, made as he visited released detainee Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour (see 0715 GMT). Their take-away line is Karroubi's challenge to the regime to release political prisoners for Ramadan.

Saham News has also posted a Karroubi statement on women's rights.

1620 GMT: Truce Over (cont. --- see 0955 GMT)? So much for smooth sailing for the Government after last week's Supreme Leader intervention....

An impeachment bid has been lodged against Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian for excessive import of agricultural products, incompetence, and disregard for the insurance fund of agricultural crops. About 25 MPs have signed a letter to impeach Minister of Energy Majid Namjoo, on grounds of failure to implement plans and appointment of inexperienced personnel, and MP Mousa al-Reza Servati said some legislators are seeking to impeach Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar.

1420 GMT: Mousavi Watch. In his latest statement, made to children of veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, has declared that "the Green Movement has laid the foundation of achieving national reconciliation": “The continuation of the Green Human Chain that was formed [during the Presidential campaign] from Tajrish Square (in north of Tehran) to Rah-Ahan square (in south of Tehran) is being pursued on the national stage and all of us, despite our polarity of votes, different ideas, cultures and ethnicity, will gradually overcome our stammers and will be able to talk to each other more easily.” He added:
The political organizations that had been separated due to wring policies, are gradually coming closer together, talking to each other and sitting at one table. What that is their point of connection is the effort for achieving freedom, justice and understanding to guard people’s rights. The borders of “insiders” and “outsiders” are gradually fading and instead compromise and dialogue are becoming dominant. Today, more than ever, the blessings of the Green Movement of the people have laid the foundation of national reconciliation, friendship and unity among the various cultures, ethnicities, Shia and Sunni and all the layers [of the society].

Mousavi warned, however, "Some who see their interests in creating division and shattering people’s unity are continuing to spread hatred through fabricating false charges and other extensive measures in the name of fighting soft war'....They want to infect the cyber-space that emerged from the Green Movement with their viruses just as they turned the national media to a divisive and biased media with their meddling, so that our Muslim nation loses its trust in this beautiful window that has been opened."

1400 GMT: Reaching Out to the Opposition? Muhammad Sahimi at Tehran Bureau posts a lengthy article, "Hardliners Seek Peace with the Green Movement". I can't quite see how Sahimi's narrative supports that dramatic headline, but this extract is intriguing, especially in light of the Supreme Leader's effort last Wednesday to resolve in-fighting amongst conservatives and the Government:
249 Majles deputies -- almost all of the parliament aside from its Reformist wing -- issued a statement supporting him, and asking for vahdat-e ommat (union of the masses). The most important aspect of the statement was the recognition of the effect of the sanctions and the threat of war. For example, Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, a member of the Majles leadership, said, "Given that the enemies of the people and the nezaam [political system] will do their best to harm them, it is imperative that a united front becomes the top priority of the officials, and those who committed mistakes correct them and come back."

On Saturday, August 21, Reza Akrami, a spokesman for the Society of Combatant Clerics (SCC) of Tehran, the leading right-wing clerical group, said that that the SCC wants mediation between the ruling establishment and the opposition. He said that he had made the same suggestion last year to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, Mahdavi Kani, and former Majles Speaker Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a relatively moderate cleric [presumably during the time when there was talk of a "National Unity Plan" being circulated and even presented to the Supreme Leader], but that they had turned him down. Another leading member of the SCC, Majles deputy Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghaddam, said that the mediation should not be done by the officials, but by those "whose words are influential". The opposition "must become convinced" that the reconciliation gesture is sincere, he said, "otherwise they will not return" to the ruling elite. Jafar Shajooni, a radical SCC member, attacked Akrami for speaking of mediation between the hardliners and the Green leaders. He declared that Akrami does not speak on behalf of the SCC and misunderstands what Khamenei has said.

1200 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Nokia Siemens Edition). The Guardian of London has now noted the lawsuit brought by detained journalist Isa Saharkhiz and his son Mehdi against Nokia Siemens Networks for selling and providing technology used for surveillance by Iranian authorities.

1115 GMT: Opposition Watch. In her latest statement, Zahra Rahnavard declares, "The people are the ones who have the hand of God behind them", in contrast to a "government that claims to be religious, suppresses millions of people on the streets, tortures and executes the children of the people, and, with a thoughtless bill called the Family Protection Act, launches the destruction of the families in this nation."

0955 GMT: Truce Over? So what is happening less than 48 hours after President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani supposedly reconciled with their joint press conference and declarations of co-operation?

Why, it looks like Alef, the publication close to Ahmad Tavakoli, high-profile conservative MP and cousin of Ali Larijani, claims that the President has a 10-point plan to curb the power of clerics through invocation of the "hidden" 12th Imam.

Power game back on?

0745 GMT: Academic Walkout. Shafaf claims that about 50 professors walked out on a speech by Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, the former Speaker of Parliament, at Sharif University.

0735 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim write for the Los Angeles Times:
Businesspeople, officials and analysts inside and outside the Islamic Republic describe the sanctions as taking a toll on the economy and ordinary citizens, increasing the cost of everything from the production of medicine to the manufacture of baguettes.

But they also say key businesses and government operations controlled by the Revolutionary Guard have found ways to skirt the sanctions, which ban trade with state-run firms connected to the nuclear program, by enlisting private-sector firms as fronts.

The reporters cite Kamran Vakil, an official at the private-sector Iranian Union of Mineral Products Manufacturers and Exporters, who says the 2,500-member Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries has become more important than Iran's Central Bank. They describe, from "merchants", how the Revolutionary Guard circumvents sanctions, for example, selling old machinery and buying new equipment from Venezuela through Iranian companies.

Daragahi and Mostaghim also describe how some companies are charging others to move funds in and out of Iran.

With prices for both businesses and consumers rising sharply, an elevator manufacturer says, "To break the sanctions through middlemen costs so much. The private sector loses to the military and Revolutionary Guard-affiliated companies. Now the private sector must import items via governmental companies."

0725 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Nikahang Kowsar portrays the disposal of Presidential aide and former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi, suspended on Sunday with two judges for their alleged role in the post-election Kahrizak Prison abuses.

0715 GMT: A Sledgehammer for a Hazelnut. Mehdi Karroubi has said that he "never imagined" the political situation in which Iran finds itself.

In a visit to Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, the student activist recently freed from prison, Karroubi discussed how Iranian authorities had used a sledgehammer to crack a hazelnut, spreading fear among the people.

0655 GMT: We open today with two features. Pedestrian reflects on the tensions between hopes for political change and hopes for a "normal" life for Iranians, while --- with a huge debt of gratitude to EA readers --- we write how new media helped "discover" the case of Iranian-Dutch national Zahra Bahrami, detained since December.


Iran MediaWatch

In the continuing tale of how Iranian authorities are trying to shut down news, The Guardian of London follows up yesterday's revelations that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has issued an order to newspapers to avoid all mention and images of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami:
Keeping the society and the public opinion calm is the main responsibility of the media. Security officials have considerations about publishing news, photos and speeches of Mr Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami. Therefore, according to Clause 2 of Article 5 of the Press Code, publishing news, photos and reports about the these people are prohibited.

As EA noted, the Ministry has also declared that media should avoid any mention of the effects of sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Academic Protest

We opened Monday by noting that students at Zanjan University had protested the dismissal of Professor Yousef Sobouti. An Iranian blog follows up with news and pictures of the "farewell" to the academic, including claims that the students were beaten by security forces.


The Latest from Iran (23 August): Political Cease-fire?

1830 GMT: Shh, Don't Mention the Sanctions. In an interview with former President Abulhassan Banisadr, Deutsche Welle refers to two directives from Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. One banning newspapers from printing pictures and news of opposition figures has already been mentioned (see 0919 GMT).

The other is new to us: Iranian media have apparently been told to make no mention of the effects of sanctions.

NEW Iran Document: Interview with Detained Filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad
NEW Iran Special: Have Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani Kissed and Made Up?
Iran: Today’s Shiny Object for Media? Why, It’s an Ambassador-of-Death Drone Bomber!
The Latest from Iran (22 August): Ahmadinejad Aide Mortazavi Suspended?

1800 GMT: The President's Men. Fars News is now carrying the story of the suspension of three officials over the Kahrizak Prison abuses, but does not name any of them, including Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi.

1745 GMT: MediaWatch (cont.). Thomas Erdbrink, writing in The Washington Post, is the first "Western" reporter to name Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi as one of the three officials suspended for alleged connections with post-election Kahrizak Prison abuses. Erdbrink quotes human rights lawyer Saleh Nikbakht, "Mortazavi is among them, and now that he no longer has judicial immunity, he could face trial."

And The Financial Times is clearly on a roll with its coverage of the in-fighting. Having noted the Supreme Leader's intervention on Wednesday (see 1735 GMT), the newspaper also features Najmeh Bozorgmehr's article "Shia Schism Deepens Ahmadi-Nejad's Woes": "The infighting between Iran’s fundamentalists has deepened the gulf between supporters and opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad."

1735 GMT: MediaWatch on The President's Men. Credit to Reuters for picking up on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appointment of his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, as one of his four "special representatives" for foreign policy --- Rahim-Mashai's responsibility will be the Near East --- and for putting that in the context of political battles within the establishment.

Not so sure, however, that Reuters' snap conclusion is on the mark: "[This suggests] for now that for now [Ahmadinejad] may have the upper hand over the critics." (Someone might want to consult Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani.)

The Financial Times, belatedly but interestingly, notes the Supreme Leader's intervention last Wednesday and frames it as "Ayatollah Warns Bickering Politicians". The reporter, Monavar Khalaj, picks out this extract from Ayatollah Khamenei's statements, “I gave a serious warning to the officials not to make their differences public....Unity and solidarity among the country’s officials is a religious duty and the intentional rejection [of unity] is, especially in the upper echelon, against religious teachings.”

1720 GMT: Baby Basij. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, drawing from Aftab News, reports that female commander of the Basij militia, Zohreh Abbasi, has said that her unit has introduced a special program that allows baby girls to be registered as members of the force and receive training.

Abbasi said that, in the past six years, 23 baby girls had been trained as Basij members through "Koranic, cultural, educational, and military" classes.

"Basij mothers register their baby girls 40 days after they were born at the Hossein Haj Mousaee unit by presenting documents and IDs," Abbasi said. She declared that two babies have recently been born and  work is under way to prepare a dossiers for the new arrivals to enrol them in the special program.

1715 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detainees at Rajai Shahr Prison written to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, asking him to support human rights and labour activism.

1450 GMT: Energy Squeeze. Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, the company behind the amibitious Asia to Europe "gas bridge", will supply Europe through links to Turkey’s borders with Georgia and Iraq, rejecting a connection to the Turkish-Iranian border. Nabucco said the shareholders' decision was “due to the current political situation".

1335 GMT: MediaWatch (President's Man Edition). Almost 24 hours after the suspension of Ahmadinejad aide and former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi from his post because of alleged links to the Kahrizak Prison abuses, non-Iranian media --- like their counterparts in Tehran --- are not providing a name. The BBC, following the lead of the Associated Press, say only that "Iran has suspended three judicial officers".

1315 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English reports that Amnesty International and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands have expressed concern over the possibility of a death sentence for Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch citizen arrested in Iran after the Ashura protests of 27 December.

1245 GMT: Tough Talk Today. Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the Revolutionary Guard's Navy Commander, says Iran's missile-launching vessels are the best in the world for speed and power. “American warships currently have a maximum speed of 31 knots while Iranian vessels can travel twice as fast on average,” Fadavi said at a ceremony to open production lines for domestically-built Zolfaghar and Seraj craft.

1100 GMT: The Nuclear Front. Yesterday we noted, from a paragraph in a New York Times article on the Bushehr nuclear plant, the significant announcement that "Russia would provide Iran with iodine and molybdenum, nuclear isotopes used in medicine" and asked, "Will Iran withdraw its demand that it be allowed to enrich uranium to 20%, at least while discussions proceed on a long-term deal over the nuclear programme? And is Washington up-to-speed and supportive of the Russian move?"

An EA source offers an answer, noting this statement from the head of Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, Ali Akbar Salehi:
We will go as far as our needs are met. So we have no intention to proceed forever for enriching [uranium] to 20%, although it is our right according to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] statute to enrich uranium to any percentage that is needed for peaceful uses in nuclear energy. But this does not mean that we shall do so. We only embarked on 20% because of the conditions that were imposed on us. I reiterate that we will go as far as our needs are met.

Our source comments, "Seems to me that Iran is gearing up to offer this as a bargaining chip."

0919 GMT: Blackout in the Newspapers. Daneshjoo News publishes a document which it claims is a Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance order barring the names and pictures of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami from newspapers.

0918 GMT: Silence in the Theatre. Voice of America offers an overview of new restrictions by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on Iran's theatre.

0915 GMT: We have published a separate feature: journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, just before returning to prison last week, posted his comments in an interview for his website.

0739 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Jila Bani Yaghoub, the wife of journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, one of 17 detainees who recently went on hunger strike in Evin Prison, has offered an update on her blog.

Bani Yaghoub says the hunger strikers, who ended their fast last week, are "weakened" but in excellent spirits. She claims that, when they were finally returned to the general ward --- Amoui was one of the last three prisoners to be let out of solitary confinement --- they knew already about the international "echo" of their protest.

0735 GMT: Cleric Stands Tough. Following yet another attempt by a crowd to intimidate him by gathering outside the Shiraz mosque where he presides, Grand Ayatollah Dastgheib has warned "those who meet clandestinely to attack Qoba Mosque again". He said that he is interpreting the Qu'ran in mosque, and all that his followers want is justice and implementation the Constitution.

0725 GMT: The Supreme Leader and the Students. More on Ayatollah Khamenei's three-hour meeting with student represenatives on Sunday....

The Supreme Leader declared, "I am united with all those who follow principles, but others are outside" the Iranian system. He added, "We must not eliminate people with weak religious belief on pretext of purifying society."

Khamenei admitted --- interestingly, in light of yesterday's news about the suspension of three officials --- that procedure in the Kahrizak abuse case had been slow.

0650 GMT: An Ahmadinejad-Ali Larijani Deal? Really?

Already EA correspondents are moving beyond the public face of a reconciliation between the President and the Speaker of Parliament --- considered in our special analysis this morning --- and the notion of a resolution between the Majlis and the Government is far from clear-cut.

First, the Ahmadinejad meeting with Parliament that preceded the press conference with Larijani....

The President, attending with Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian (who is under some pressure from the Majlis) and Minister of Economy Shamsoddin Hosseini, welcomed the monthly discussions. Then the questions began on topics which have been long-standing and growing sources of dispute: privatisation, proper implementation of laws, cultural problems (hijab), and the possible impeachment of Khalilian.

That in itself was a bit of a climb-down for Ahmadinejad, who had balked at given an account of his meetings, but it cut off an initiative by some MPs for formal questioning of the President. This, as well as the Supreme Leader's intervention on Wednesday, lay behind the good-news statements that followed the meeting: Ali Larijani said the Majlis has made the first step for unity of powers, while Ahmadinejad declared, "If you make good laws, the Government will implement them."

Whether that reconcililation holds is another issue. In the meeting, Ahmadinejad faced challenges, such as Mohammad Ebrahim Nekounam insisting on the Government's "duty" to implement Majlis legislation and Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel insisting that the President's enforcement of the "hijab and chastity project" is absolutely necessary. (As always, make what you will of the fact that this description is appearing in Khabar Online, linked to Ali Larijani.)

And there are signals of persistence, if not defiance, from each side. The President has given his Chief of Staff --- Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai --- a prime target for the criticisms of conservative MPs --- yet another post, appointing him as special representative for the Near East. (There have also been appointments for Asia, the Caspian Sea area, and Afghanistan.)

From the Parliamentary side, Mohammad Karami-Rad said that a meeting with Minister of Agriculture Khalilian, postponed because of Wednesday's discussions with the Supreme Leader, will take place and the Majlis will proceed with moves for impeachment.

0640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English publishes a letter from Sepideh Pooraghaiee, a friend and colleague of Shiva Nazar Ahari, about the deatined human rights activist and journalist:
Shiva Nazar Ahari has acted very distinguishably throughout the years. She never allowed intimidations and threats to turn into an impenetrable dam against her sacred efforts. Along with her bravery and clarity, she also was calm, patient and hopeful. She never expected to be praised. She never compromised with the resolution of a problem, however small, for a human being.

Nazar Ahari has been imprisoned since July 2009 and reportedly faces a charge of "mohareb" (war against God), which carried the death penalty.

0630 GMT: A Kurdish Political Perspective. Rooz Online carries an interview with the head of the Komeleh Party, Abdollah Mohtadi. The opening exchange:
Rooz: The Komeleh Party and the Green Movement! Is this not strange?

Abdollah Mohtadi: No, I do not believe it to be strange. I view the green movement to be a rightful and democratic movement, and we support any such movement. Even though this movement has not cut its nuptial cord from people who I think are official reformers and is still connected to them, I do not view the green movement to be the simple extension and continuation of what has been known as the reformist path in Iran. On the contrary, I believe that impasse of that model of reforms and ineffectiveness of its methods in its confrontation of dictatorship and the inability of reforms to create change at the top, has caused the green movement to take shape from the bottom through the public to attain its demands.

0615 GMT: We begin today with a special analysis: has the Supreme Leader mediated a political compromise between President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani? And is the Ahmadinejad-Larijani profession of co-operation more than a temporary, public measure?


Political Prisoner Watch

This week we have been noting the case of Abed Tavancheh, the student activist sentenced to one year in prison. To put further pressure on him, Iranian authorities have threatened to seize his family's home.

Now, according to Tavancheh's Facebook page --- as relayed to EA by a reader --- a deal has been proposed. The activist has been told that he should be at home on Wednesday, so agents accompanied by the relative who posted the house as bail can raid it and detain him. This way the relative has made a sign of co-operation and the house will not be confiscated.

Academic Corner

Students at Zanjan University staged a sit-in protest on Sunday to protest the firing of Professor Yousef Sobouti.

The Latest from Iran (13 August): Letters to the Judiciary

1830 GMT: Your Belated Friday Prayer Update. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council, tried to bounce back from a recent rough patch --- you know, the $51 billion US-Saudi-opposition plot episode --- by taking the podium.

Lots of banter about bad America, but no apparent big numbers today, before Jannati laid down the reassurance that everyone was accountable in the Iranian system: "If you don't serve the people, they will not trust you and not vote for you. If they have committed the error to vote for you, they will take back their votes."

1825 GMT: The Battle Within. Mohammad Hashemi, member of the Expediency Council (and brother of former President Hashmei Rafsanjani), has declared that the President's duty is to implement laws, not to interpret them --- saying that he doesn't accept a law is illegal and outside of his duties.

1815 GMT: Ahmadinejad, Unifier-in-Chief. Declaration of the day comes from the President, who told Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a Friday telephone call that unity among Muslim nations will lead to the elimination of inequality and oppression everywhere.

1310 GMT: Black Economy Watch. Iran Focus claims that a leaked internal Islamic Revolution Guards Corps report confirms the IRGC is running a major smuggling network from the southern Iranian island of Qeshm in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

The report also says that the IRGC is building a large base at Roudkhaneh Sarbaz in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan as part of smuggling, including drugs, from Pakistan.

1300 GMT: The Nuclear Plant. Russian officials say that, after repeated delays, nuclear fuel will be loaded from 21 August into Iran's reactor at Bushehr.

Russian and Iranian specialists will spend 2-3 weeks putting uranium-packed fuel rods into the reactor:
"This will be an irreversible step," Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia's state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, said. "At that moment, the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be certified as a nuclear energy installation."

Novikov said the first fissile reaction would take place in early October.

The Bushehr plant is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agnecy and has no link with Iran's uranium enrichment programme. Tehran has agreed to return spent fuel to Russia.

1200 GMT: Parliament v. Government. MP Mehrdad Lahouti says the demand for impeachment of agriculture minister Sadegh Khalilian, with 22 signatories, will be handed over to Parliament on Sunday when it returns from summer vacation. The allegation is that Khalilian has inflicted heavy damage to domestic agriculture and caused severe irregularities in the sector.

Ahmad Tavakoli, speaking about the President's refusal to accept Parliament's authorisation of $2 million for the Tehran metro, has said that Ahmadinejad is "dictatorial in his decisions", breaking the law and the Constitution.

1145 GMT: Execution Watch ---Germany Gets Vocal (cont.). According to Die Welt , an (unnamed) official of Germany's Foreign Ministry has demanded the cancellation of the death sentence Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

1000 GMT: In Afghanistan. The Washington Post claims --- probably from a US Government official ---- that a "human intelligence asset", in a report for Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence agency, has said that Iran has supplied fresh batteries for about three dozen shoulder-fired SA-7 missiles stockpiled by Taliban forces in Kandahar, in anticipation of a U.S. attack.

The Post adds a note to the dramatic claim:
Any reports linking Iran to the Afghan conflict must be viewed with caution. A previous intelligence report, surfaced by WikiLeaks, describing a 2005 missile-buying mission to North Korea by rebel leader Gulbiddin Hekmatyar and a senior aide to Osama bin Laden, is now suspected of having been fabricated by elements in Washington or elsewhere who wanted to implicate Iran in the Afghan insurgency.

0900 GMT: Execution Watch --- Germany Gets Vocal. Leading Free Democrat politician Rainer Stinner, who visited Iran from 31 July to 3 August, has said that not only Tehran's sentences to death by stoning but its entire legal procedure are flagrant violations of human rights. He claimed that Iran cannot pretend this is a domestic affair, as it has ratified the International Human Rights Convention, and it is isolated by such practices.

The statement is a significant modification of the "live and let live" approach of the Free Democrats towards Iran in the 1990s.

0815 GMT: The Battle Within. Mehdi Khalaji, summarising many of the events covered by EA in recent weeks, writes an analysis for the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, "Internal Divisions among Iranian Hardliners Come to the Fore".

0755 GMT: International Affairs Update. Yesterday we noted the British Ambassador's diplomatic response to 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi's rather un-diplomatic remarks about "England". We cited The Daily Telegraph as the source, but we have learned that the original story was by Martin Fletcher in The Times of London.

0715 GMT: US-Iran. We have posted a separate analysis by Greg Thielmann on the latest US intelligence and Iran's nuclear programme.

0710 GMT: Execution (Ashtiani) Watch. Human Rights Activists News Agency has more information on Wednesday's "confession" on Iranian state television by Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, condemned to death for adultery and then complicity in murder of her husband. The New York Times, in an article by William Yong and Robert Worth, has also picked up on the article.

The Guardian of London reports that the execution by stoning sentence of Mariam Ghorbanzadeh, who allegedly miscarried after being beaten up in Tabriz prison this week, has been changed to hanging in a rapid judicial review.

0700 GMT: You Can't Go Home Again. Tehran has set new restrictions on Iranian expatriates coming into the country.

Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, head of the High Council of Iranian Expatriates, said Wednesday that Iranians residing abroad can return for academic reasons only after being approved by certain institutions. Asked if the "Iranian expatriates with political problems" who want to return would face any difficulties, Malekzadeh said that "certain institutions will do their duties in this regard".

0655 GMT: Sanctions(-Busting) Watch. Officials say recent UN Security Council and unilateral sanctions will not affect the €18 billion gas contract between the Swiss energy group EGL and the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC).

According to Fars News, Turkey's Energy Minister has said Ankara will respect its €1 billion deal wfor the construction of a 660km pipeline to transfer Iran's gas supplies to Europe.

The minister also reportedly said that Iran and Turkey will continue plans for the joint construction of power plants with a total capacity of 6,000 megawatts. And another minister has supposedly confirmed that Turkey paid Iran a $600 million fine for failing to import natural gas at the amount previously agreed between the two countries.

0645 GMT: Sensitive Journalism of the Day. The headline in Keyhan in an article on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks on human rights abuses in Iran: "Bill Clinton's Slave Defending the Murderers".

0640 GMT: All the President's Men. More on President Ahmadinejad's defence of his controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, against criticism from clerics, members of Parliament, and even Iran's top military commander:
There is an abnormal sensitivity against Mashai....I fully trust him....If someone has any criticism or believes what he says is wrong, he should invite Mr. Mashai to speak with him and even debate with him. Why all this row? Some want to change the issues of our enemies, illegal sanctions and enemies at home into secondary issues....

0630 GMT: International Affairs. Khabar Online writes of possible problems between the Foreign Ministry and the Government because the President's office is taking over the appointment of ambassadors.

(This is far from a new development, as Ahmadinejad's staff pushed out many Iranian ambassadors soon after thge 2005 election. What is interesting here is that Khabar would highlight this and the timing: only yesterday EA's Scott Lucas spoke with The National about Foreign Ministry disquiet over un-diplomatic statements by the President and 1st Vice-President Rahimi.)

0625 GMT: Economy Watch. MP Musalreza Sarvati has challenged the Minister of Works in Majlis that the official unemployment rate of 14.6% is untrue: "employed" includes people who work 1 hour per week and others who work 100 hours without being able to earn a living.

Sarvati claimed that every year 1.1 million new jobseekers are added in Iran.

0615 GMT: The Cleric's Apology. Ayatollah Dastgheib's has replied to a letter of prisoner families: "I, for my part, apologise for not being able to follow your pledges for justice."

Dastgheib warned Iran's ruling class they are "going the wrong way", asking them to "sit down for once" with a group of the people's representatives and senior clerics without harrassing them to explain the reasons for arresting the so-called "uproarers".

Dastgheib's message to these leaders? "This situation will pass, but your deeds will be documented by God and history."

0545 GMT: Friday is expected to be quiet in Iran, as the holy month of Ramadan begins, but news arrives that the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has more work in his in-box....

The reformist Mosharekat (Islamic Iran Revolution) Party has demanded that the High Court to investigate the files, submitted by seven political prisoners and including a claimed audio proving manipulation by the Revolutionary Guard, of a rigged election:
The wide distribution of a tape of commander Moshfegh's speech, a high official of [Revolutionary Guard] Sarollah Forces, has proven the claims of Green leaders on the manipulation of 10th presidential elections. This person, who boldly and crudely describes the organisation of the putsch intoxicated by power, openly confesses to actions, which cannot be named other than a putsch according to all political schools of the world.

Families of former hunger strikers, having gone three days without news, have written Larijani: "Have our beloved outlived the hunger strike?"

The families of political prisoners have also asked Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi:
How can we be sure of the physical condition of our lovedones after two grueling weeks of hunger strike? The only way we can be reassured of their well-being is if we are given the opportunity to hear their voices, if they are transferred back to the general ward at Evin (Prison), and when we are finally given permission to visit with them.

Students of three Tabriz univerisities have appealed to Larijani that it is time for him to break his silence in the face of major corruption committed by the "ruling body" of Iran. They complain about the lack of justice and the judiciary's independence, with silence amidst unpunished bloodshed, slander, insults, and lies.