NEW Iran & the “Non-Bomb”: The Real Story on Tehran’s Nuclear Programme
NEW Iran Book Update: No More Good Reads in Tehran
NEW Iran: Are The Banks Failing?
Iran Document: Today’s Mousavi-Karroubi Meeting (18 February)
Iran Analysis: The “Now What” Moment (Farhi)
Iran: Getting to the Point on Detentions & Human Rights (Sadr)
Iran: Another Rethink on Green Opposition (Ansari)
Latest on Iran (18 February): Watching on Many Fronts
1910 GMT: And A Prisoner Released. Javad Askarian, an aide to Mehdi Karroubi, was released yesterday after a week in detention.
According to Saham News The veteran of the Iran-Iraq war had been sent to Evin prison on 10 February after being summoned by the intelligence ministry for providing “some explanations.”
1905 GMT: Another Political Prisoner. Iranian authorities have sentenced student activist Morteza Samiari to six years in prison. Samiari, an executive member of Iran’s national student union, was arrested because he received an open and official invitation to meet with representatives of a European Parliamentary Committee in Tehran.
1900 GMT: Your Friday Prayer Summary. Hardman Ahmad Khatami taking charge in Tehran today, and he is ready to gloat. Apparently "rioters" did not even bother to show up on 22 Bahman, disappointing the international media (you know, the reporters who were bused directly from the press centre to Azadi Square and back, not stopping and not Passing Go on the way) who wanted to relay “disturbances and clashes” rather than reflect the “epic” support of people for the Islamic Republic.
1740 GMT: Moscow's Slapdown. It's news that Russia has demanded "clear explanations" from Tehran about its nuclear programme. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:
We are very alarmed and we cannot accept this, that Iran is refusing to cooperate with the IAEA. For about 20 years, the Iranian leadership carried out its clandestine nuclear program without reporting it to the IAEA. I I do not understand why there was such secrecy.
But it's even more news that Iranian state media is highlighting the apparent division between Tehran and Moscow.
1600 GMT: BloggingHeads. As it's a slowish afternoon, I've been listening to this discussion between Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum about Iran. These are two of the most prominent analytic voices in Washington.
Striking to hear, therefore, the issue of whether Iran should be treated with respect and dignity reduced to "this is a country whose top three exports are pistachios, carpets, and saffron...aside from oil and gas, so it doesn't have a lot of claim to respect". And troubling to ask, after all 36 minutes....
How much knowledge of events inside Iran emerges in this discussion?
1500 GMT: We Pause for Levity. OK, this may not be serious news coverage, but it's Friday afternoon and I am already smiling at the breathless declaration, "Iran's Navy on Friday took the delivery of the first indigenously designed and developed guided missile destroyer Jamaran in the presence of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei."
Then the photo comes in. I think only two words will suffice: Caption Competition:
1350 GMT: Political Prisoner Update. Radio Zamaneh summarises last night's releases: Omid Mehregan, author, translator, and journalist released after two weeks; Ardavan Tarakemeh, film student and cinema critic, on $30,000 bail, after more than three weeks; Orouj Ali-Mohammadi, former governor of Tabriz; Safoura Tofangchi (her two daughters and husband are still detained); Mohammad Dardkeshan, a political activist with ties to the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, after two months.
1315 GMT: The Supreme Leader Says "No Nukes". Ayatollah Khamenei on the draft IAEA report: "Iran will not get emotional in its response to these nonsensical statements, because we have often said that our religious tenets and beliefs consider these kinds of weapons of mass destruction to be symbols of genocide and are, therefore, forbidden and considered to be haram (religiously banned). This is why we do not believe in atomic bombs and weapons and do not seek them."
1245 GMT: Well, Here's a Nuclear Surprise. Not. Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, called the IAEA's draft report "baseless". He said the cited documents were "fabricated and thus do not have any validity".
1240 GMT: The Rise of Rahim-Mashai. Yet another role for President Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai (see 0815 GMT): he has been appointed the President's deputy with full authority for "Rahyan-e Nour", the caravan trips to the battlegrounds of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran.
1100 GMT: A new Green website, Mardomkhabar, has been launched.
1055 GMT: The authorities are still jittery about a show by the opposition. Tehran police chief Ahmad Reza Radan has warned that those arrested during the celebration of Chaharshanbe Souri ("Fire Festival") will not be freed until the end of Iran's New Year celebrations.
1045 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online has recycled the attack of MP Mus al-Reza Servati on the President's budget --- the Parliament would question Ahmadinejad over "irregularities", but is prevented from doing so by political considerations --- by reprinting the interview in English.
Khabar is also featuring an article, "Experts are warning on a drop in the oil production of the country," even as Iran's Oil Ministry is seeking a 25 percent increase by 2015.
0938 GMT: Iran's Nuclear Spin. Press TV is portraying the International Atomic Energy Agency report as "two-sided", verifying "the non-diversion of declared nuclear material" but "call[ing] on Iran to further discuss and cooperate on alleged issues".
0930 GMT: Punishing the Cleric. Kalemeh claims that Molana Abdol-Hamid, the Sunni Friday Prayer leader in Zahedan in eastern Iran has been prevented from leaving the country.
In his Friday Prayer address last week Abdol-Hamid described the Islamic Republic as a system that gives equal freedom to both pro- and anti-Government groups and allows voices of opposition to be heard: “The people of Iran brought the Revolution to victory to achieve its goals and now they demand the reviewing and realization of those goals.”
0925 GMT: Political Prisoner Update. Reporters and Humanright Activists in Iran reports that Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafar Dolatabadi has personally handed down a 16-count indictment to Bahareh Hedayat during an interrogation session at Evin Prison. Charges include spreading propaganda against the regime, taking part in post-election events, talking to foreign media organizations, insulting the Supreme Leader, insulting the President, and conspiring to act against national security.
0820 GMT: It is reported that the prominent German insurers "Münchner Rück" and "Allianz Versicherung" (the largest insurance firm in Europe) are pulling out of Iran because of the political situation.
0815 GMT: Another Office for Rahim-Mashai. President Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, may be widely disliked, but he continues to pile up the honours of office. The latest title is chief of pilgrimage and culture of Razavi Province, whose capital is the important religious city of Mashhad.
0810 GMT: Economy Watch. The leading reformist MP Nasrullah Torabi has criticised the flaws and the deceptive figures in the Ahmadinejad budget, claiming it is based on an estimate of 12-15% inflation rather than the true figure of 20-25% and that the development budget is only 20% of the total expenditure rather than the declared 35%.
0740 GMT: Friday is likely to be a Distraction Day. The "Western" media are likely to be possessed and obsessed by the nuclear story, running the Iran Imminent Threat headlines. They will do that even though the real story is that Tehran is nowhere close to nuclear weapons capability. How do we know? Well, because the Obama Administration said so on Thursday --- see our separate analysis as well as the draft of the International Atomic Energy report.
In Iran, the regime will maintain its post-22 Bahman strategy, declaring that all is now well while condemning foreign instigation of a supposedly marginal protest. Friday Prayers in Tehran will be one venue for the display.
We'll be looking elsewhere, however. The meeting between Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (see separate document) was a big signal yesterday that the opposition is re-assessing and preparing for its next surge. Theirmessage from the two men was "Be Patient. We're Working on This"; we'll be looking for reactions.
And of course the "establishment" challenge to President Ahmadinejad continues to pick up momentum. Economy Watch today has a piece assessing the state of Iran's banking sector.
We also report this morning from the Cultural Front: it appears that the Iranian Government is blocking the booklovers' social site Goodreads as a threat to the regime.