1945 GMT: Keeping Rafsanjani in His Box. An EA correspondent puts together an important story: with the 7th general assembly of the Assembly of Experts due next week, probably on Tuesday and Wednesday, new attacks have been launched upon Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Assembly.
A statement from a number of clerics at Qom declares that, due to the performance of Hashemi Rafsanjani in the past few months, he is not suitable to continue in his post. And Fars News, criticising Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi for not returning to Iran after five months abroad, asserts that his settling in London is "strange and suspicious".
NEW Iran Special: Live-Blogging Ahmadinejad Press Conference (16 February)
NEW Iran: Why The Beating of Mehdi Karroubi’s Son Matters
NEW Iran Document: The 10-Demand Declaration of 4 Labour Unions
NEW Iran Document: Shadi Sadr at the UN on Abuse, Justice, and Rights (12 February)
Latest Iran Video: US Analysis (Gary Sick) v. Overreaction (Stephens, Haass)
Iran: The IHRDC Report on Violence and Suppression of Dissent
Iran: Human Rights Watch Report on Post-Election Abuses (11 February)
The Latest from Iran (15 February): Withstanding Abuse
1715 GMT: The Karroubi Wave. It appears that the Karroubi family --- not just Mehdi Karroubi, but the family --- are ready to propel the next wave of opposition to the Government and regime. In addition to Fatemeh Karroubi's interview (1600 GMT), Mehdi Karroubi's son Hossein has spoken out to Radio Zamaneh.
Hossein Karroubi says that his brother Ali was detained, while in the Karroubi entourage on 22 Bahman, by police and then handed to plainsclothesmen, who took him to the Amir-ol-momenin Mosque, mentioned in the letter written by his mother Fatemeh to the Supreme Leader. (The reason why Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi could make his statement that he did not issue an arrest warrant for Ali Karroubi, implying the entire story has been fabricated, is because there was none; Ali Karroubi was simply taken away.)
After his beating, Ali Karroubi was asked by police to sign a declaration that he was not abused in detention. He replied, "How can I sign such a declaration when my skull in fractured and my body is bruised?" So he wask asked to sign that he was not beaten by the police.
Hossein Karroubi says there will be no complaint lodged with the Judiciary as it no longer has power to deal with these matter; not does the Tehran Prosecutor General have any authority, or the courage, to deal with the “lebas shakhsis" (plainclothes operatives) who are operating with complete impunity.
And here's the stinger in Hossein Karroubi's tale: he argues that the plainclothes forces are supported from "very high up" (presumably meaning Ayatollah Khamenei or his office). This is why his mother wrote to the Supreme Leader, because --- as with the Kahrizak Prison scandal --- it is only he who could order a proper investigation into such matters.
More on this in an analysis on Wednesday....
1645 GMT: Releases for the Martyrs? Rahe-Sabz writes that the children of martyrs, such as Ali Motahhari (the son of Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari), have demanded release of political activists at a meeting with Iran's head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani. The report claims that Larijani declared there will be several releases, on low bail, to come.
1640 GMT: The Detention Centres of 22 Bahman. Peyke Iran reports that a former textile company near Azadi Square was used as a holding area for detainees last Thursday, keeping 20 women and 50 men before they were transported to Evin Prison. Amir-ol-momenin Mosque -- significantly the claimed location of the beating of Ali Karroubi --- was also used on 22 Bahman.
1635 GMT: The Economic Challenge. Another piece of evidence to support the pressing questions that Ahmadinejad weakly fielded at today's press conference (see 1455 GMT). The Iranian Labor News Agency says that the denial of industry minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian --- difficulties in the economy will be overcome --- will make no difference to the hardships of companies who are dying faster than they can be created: "Officials should take care today, tomorrow it will be much too late."
1625 GMT: Author and film critic Ardavan Tarakameh has been released on $30,000 bail after 50 days in detention. Mohammad Moin, the son of former Presidential candidate Mostafa Moin, has also been released on bail.
In contrast, economics professor and Mir Hossein Mousavi advisor Ali Arabmazar has not been charged after 50 days in prison.
1620 GMT: Sequel to "A Strange Shooting" (see 1235 GMT). Tabnak reports that the shooting around the car of Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, the former Speaker of Parliament, happened when security forces mistook the vehicle for one used by drug smugglers. When it failed to stop they fired warning shots in the air.
1615 GMT: Diversions. Follow-up on the Ahmadinejad press conference --- Reuters has now decided that the story is the President's hope that the case of the three arrested US citizens, detained while walking in northern Iran, may soon be resolved.
1600 GMT: The Karroubi Challenge. Following up on Mr Verde's analysis of the significance of the beating of Mehdi Karroubi's son Ali....
Fatemeh Karroubi, wife of Mehdi and mother of Ali, has told Rooz Online has spoken about the incident while declaring, “[We] will not under any circumstances back down on the rights of the Iranian people....The letter that I published a few days ago was not only for my own child, but for the children who are in prison. I wrote it with the hope that these things wouldn’t occur again.”
She recalled, “On the night that my [detained] son returned home, I was in shock and could not believe that they could say to Ali: ‘You were lucky, if you had stayed here for a couple more hours, instead of you we would be handing your corpse over [to your family].” Ali Karroubi had been forced to sign a statement saying that he would not give any interviews following his release.
Asked about the possibility of negotiating a settlement with the Government, Fatemeh Karroubi replied:
In my opinion, the interests of the country and demands and rights of the people are very important. This is not at all personal. Such a thing [a settlement] is not in any way possible....
I am stressed. But my concern and stress is neither for my husband nor for my children, but for the country, the revolution and the people of my country. Let me say this clearly, the more pressure there is, the more determined my family and I will be.
1455 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Two-Hour Stumble. The "Western" media is already reducing the President's press conference to the line-item of Tehran's defiance of the West: "Iran says it would respond to any new sanctions" (Reuters); "Iran says the world "will regret" sanctions" (BBC); "Iranian president warns against tougher sanctions" (CNN).
That's a shame, because the nuclear issue was about the only one on which Ahmadinejad was secure during his lengthy appearance. Indeed, the Government's strategy continues to be to use the negotiations with the West to show both strength and legitimacy; thus Press TV walks hand-in-hand with their Western counterparts, "Iran warns powers will 'regret' sanctions response".
The big story should be Ahmadinejad's internal difficulties. He came out fighting over the challenge to his right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, but he floundered badly on the economic issues. It is significant that the majority of questions from Iran's journalists, as opposed to foreign correspondents, were on the economy, and Ahmadinejad was close to incapable of handling challenges over Iran's economic growth, investment plans, unemployment and inflation figures, and even his budget. He was caught out at times by a lack of basic information, and at one point he simply made up a statistic for Iran's Gross Domestic Product.
Nor did Ahmadinejad, perhaps surprisingly, get away on post-election problems, despite his attempt to parade "tens of millions" of Iranians who supported him on 11 February. He evaded, weakly, a couple of questions about detentions before lamenting, "Of course we are sorry" that anyone has been arrested. Time and time again, he fell back on denunciations of the "ugly face" of the US, the regional intrigues of Western powers, and proclamations of their weakness vs. Iran's strength.
We'll watch for reactions but, for all Ahmadinejad's bluster and stamina, this does not look like the post-22 Bahman stamp of authority he was seeking.
1450 GMT: We have moved the live-blog of the Ahmadinejad press conference to a separate entry. A snap analysis follows in a few minutes.
1300 GMT: Journalist Sam Mahmoudi Sarabi has been released on $300,000 bail after 44 days in detention, 30 of which were in solitary confinement.
1235 GMT: A Strange "Shooting". We break from Mahmoud and the Prophets for an unusual story. Iranian media is reporting that shots were fired at a car carrying Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, former Speaker of Parliament, as it was travelling to Shiraz. Some official accounts say the shots were fired by mistake by the police, but the "conservative" Jahan News thinks there might have been foul play.
1210 GMT: On the Economic Front. Yesterday we noted the extensive comments of Mohammad Parsa of Iran's electricity syndicate on the difficulties in the industry, with 900,000 workers on the verge of dismissal and a Government debt of 5 billion toman ($5.06 million) to the electricity providers. Aftab News now also carries the interview.
1200 GMT: No White Smoke Update. At his press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki limited his remarks on uranium enrichment talks to the general statement, "We have informed our Turkish friends about the latest developments on Iran's peaceful nuclear case. While we are continuing our (nuclear) activities we will consider any new idea or proposal, either given directly or indirectly via the agency (International Atomic Energy Agency)." Mottaki also downplayed Turkey's role, saying Ankara was "not a mediator but a major part in constant consultations for restoring peace and calm in the region".
So, while we cannot know if there were advances in the private Mottaki-Davutoglu talks, Tehran's public position is to stretch out the negotiations. Another sign of the low-key Iran approach is that Press TV's website still has no reference to the nuclear issue from this morning's conference.
1030 GMT: No White Smoke. Press TV's broadcast summary of the press conference of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, makes no reference to uranium enrichment. There are only general platitudes about the two countries being "keys to regional stability" and the encouragement of bilateral trade relations.
0855 GMT: Mr Verde checks in with an analysis of the significance of the alleged beating of Mehdi Karroubi's son Ali.
0845 GMT: No, You're the Dictatorship. If we must continue with this story....
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has responded to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's claim that Iran is moving towards "military dictatorship" (see 0710 GMT): "They themselves are involved in a sort of military dictatorship and have practically ignored the realities and the truths in the region. America has a wrong attitude toward the issues in the Middle East and it is the continuation of their past wrong policies."
0755 GMT: A Moving Campaign. Iranian-American Youth (IAY) and Justice Through Music (JTM) will be carrying out a mobile billboard advertising campaign in Washington, D.C. today. Messages on the billboards will try to raise awareness of the internal situation and foster support for the opposition movement.
0740 GMT: Wayward Analysis. Yesterday's un-diplomatic declarations are accompanied by the superficial analysis of The New York Times this morning, "US Encounters Limits of Iran Engagement Policy". This piece builds from this episode:
Gen. James L. Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, and Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, were in the same place at the same time, attending a high-level security conference in Munich with a number of high-ranking officials from around the world. And yet the two made no plans to meet with each other.
This is a very large herring because US-Iranian discussions would not take place between these senior advisors. (Mottaki's visit to Munich was made at the last minute and primarily so he could indicate that Iran might be open to a "swap" of uranium outside the country.) Instead, as in Geneva last autumn, talks would be held formally between the officials handling the nuclear brief or, behind the scales, between lower-level members of the diplomatic staff. The article has no recognition, for example, that quiet chats probably continue over areas of common interest such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And it never considers third-party brokers such as Turkey.
Put bluntly, The Times complements posturing such as Hillary Clinton's declaration by operating under the erroneous assumption that contacts between the US and Iran have been suspended.
0730 GMT: Top Journalism Award for Neda's Filmers. A George Polk Award, one of the top prizes in US journalism, has been given to the unnamed people who filmed the death of Neda Agha Soltan, the 26-year-old woman who died from a Basij gunshot during the 20 June demonstrations. The panel declared, "This award celebrates the fact that, in today's world, a brave bystander with a cell phone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news."
0725 GMT: Pressing for Rights. We have posted the text of human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr's address to the United Nations last Friday: "In addition to the numerous examples of human rights that are systematically violated...during the post-election events, basic and fundamental human rights remain in serious peril, such as equality of persons before the law, the right to peaceful assembly, the rights of political prisoners, and the rights of human rights defenders and civil society activists."
0710 GMT: With few public moves in Iran over the post-election conflict on Monday, most attention was on diplomatic diversions outside the country. Foremost amongst these was Hillary Clinton's apparently impromptu remark, at a Town Hall meeting in Qatar, that Iran was becoming a "military dictatorship".
Clinton's remark is less significant as an analysis of developments in Tehran than as a possible pointer of a shift in Washington's policy. However, if you go below the surface, there are only questions. With Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Iran today in an attempt to broker a deal on uranium enrichment (and he is unlikely to be there without the endorsement of Washington), Clinton's comment appears to be either a dissonant line or a rather clumsy attempt to warn the Iranians into accepting the bargain as well as justifying sanctions against the Republican Guard if the uranium deal is not agreed.
And there was more muddle in Tel Aviv, where the top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, was discussing regional matters with Israeli counterparts and ministers. His refusal to rule out any option, while at the same time warning clearly of adverse consequences if there was an airstrike on Iran, meant that his statement could be seized by both proponents and opponents of military action. (Behind the public posture, I am almost certain that Washington has again warned Israel off any operations, but there is the possibility that the US is offering the clause, "In the future, however....")
If there was a notable setpiece on the international front on Monday, it came in Geneva, where the US, Britain, and France led the effort at the UN Human Rights Council to castigate Iran's post-election abuses. Of course, Tehran responded --- through Iranian High Council for Human Rights SecretaryGeneral Mohammad Javad Larijani --- that all was well and Iran was advancing social rights for groups like women and children. The episode indicated, however, that Washington and its allies will match any "engagement" with public pressure, and not only on the nuclear issue.
Inside Iran, the more important tension was over President Ahmadinejad's economic plans. The high-profile political challenge of the "conservatives" was complemented by a series of statements from members of Parliament criticising part or all of the Ahmadinejad budget. No signs yet that the conservatives will return to their more dramatic confrontation over the post-elections abuses, calling for the head of Ahmadinejad aide Saeed Mortazavi, but it is evident that the President's 22 Bahman performance has not quelled opposition.
Outside the establishment, Monday was notable for signs of labour activism. While a report of planned civil disobedience by the Tehran Bus Workers Union turned out to be untrue, the union joined three others in putting forth a public statement of ten demands (see separate entry).