Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (30 November): Life Beyond Wikileaks

2010 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student activist Nasim Soltanbaygi has been sentenced to six years in prison.

2005 GMT: Strike a (Nuclear) Pose. Back from a break to find President Ahmadinejad carrying out his standard approach --- agree to talks with the "West" but try to establish a position of strength by denouncing the "West" --- in a speech in Sari in northern Iran.

With discussions confirmed with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, Russia) in Geneva on 6-7 December, the President charged, "While the Tehran negotiations [with Brazil and Turkey] were underway, you passed an illegal resolution against the Iranian nation and today you insist on continuing negotiations."

Ahmadinejad said is always ready to enter nuclear negotiations with the West as long as Iran's rights are respected, advising the negotiating side to put away its "tyrannical" attitude.

1655 GMT: Cracking Down. Security forces have raided the home of Fatemeh Arabsorkhi, daughter of the leading reformist Feizollah Arabsorkhi.

1650 GMT: Parliamentary Manoeuvre. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has advised reformists against "breaking norms". At the same time, he has spoken to his own side: “We must not only keep the principlists” but also bring some reformists into the “circle of principlists” to maintain a stable system.

1345 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Vahid Talaee of Mir Hossein Mousavi's Legal Committeehas been arrested.

Alireza Kiani of the alumni organisation Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat has been released on bail.

1340 GMT: Shutting Away Montazeri, Shutting Away Dissent. Hojatoleslam Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, has said there will be no ceremony marking the 1st anniversary of his father's death.

The younger Montazeri said a reason would be given soon. The Iranian regime, however, has been quite nervous about the prospect of dissent during the any ceremony for Montazeri: last December, his funeral was an occasion not only for mourning but also for criticism of the Government and even the Supreme Leader.

1305 GMT: Subsidy Cut Watch. Another manoeuvre by President Ahmadinejad in the yet-to-be-implement subsidy cuts saga....

The President, presumably in an effort to get passage of the measures, has announced a doubling of support funds for those affected by the cuts.

1220 GMT: Parliament v. President. Leading MP Elias Naderan has renewed the challenge against Mahmoud Ahadminejad. He declared that giving more power to the President is the personal opinion of the head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Jannati, and not the opinion of the Council as a whole.

In one area, however, there appears to be consensus. The Majlis has ratified a large increase in the budget for the Basij militia "to teach the people". It is envisioned, at the end of 5th Budget Plan (if it is ever agreed), that the number of special and active Bassij will increase by 1,5 million.

1205 GMT: The Assassinations of the Physicists. The killers may not be known, but Monday's murder of one nuclear physicist and wounding of another (see 0725 GMT) has mobilised politicians from all parties into challenges to the Government.

More than 260 of Iran's 290 MPs have issued a statement, asking security and intelligence forces to present the murderers of Dr Majid Shahriari.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has put out a personal statement insisting on the capture and conviction of the assassins.

Reformist MP Moh Reza Tabesh has criticised, "If the killers of Professor Ali Mohammadi [a nuclear physicist murdered in January] had been prosecuted, we wouldn't have seen such events in the country again.

The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has challenged, "Security forces and intelligence should find the terrorists and eradicate them."

1200 GMT: Nuke Talks Confirmation. Iranian officials, led by Secretary of the National Security Council Saeed Jalili, will meet representatives of the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, Russia) in Geneva on 6-7 December.

The discussions on Iran's nuclear programme will be the first since October 2009, when Islamic Republic and US officials sat at the same table for the first time in public.

1140 GMT: Smog Shutdown. Looks like another self-imposed pause is coming....

Iranian authorities have declared a public holiday on Wednesday and Thursday in Tehran and other cities because of air pollution.

Public offices, banks, schools ,and universities will all be closed. Cars are already allowed on the roads on alternate days.

Authorities also announced a day off last Wednesday just before Iran took a four-day holiday around the religious ceremony of Eid al-Ghadir.

1050 GMT: Back to the Battle. Politics in Tehran returns to its manoeuvres....

Using his outlet Khabar Online, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has issued a quick reply to President Ahmadinejad's Monday press conference.

Ahmadinejad, commenting on tensions between his Government and the Parliament over the budget and other matters, had expressed surprise that the Majlis would question the supposed "compromise" announced by the spokesman of the Guardian Council. He explained that the Constitution gives power to the President in the Iranian system.

Larijani puts out the coded but pointed response, "It is important that conflict will not enter Parliament.

1000 GMT: Recognising the Journalists. Noushabeh Amiri has accepted an award on behalf of the International Associaton of Iranian Journalists in Siena, Italy.

Amiri told the audience: "The story shows that those who fight for democracy are resistant even as those who fight for freedom are disappearing. So we resist. The right to know is a global law. We are part of a force for good, others are for darkness."

0900 GMT: What's Ali Doing? Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani keeps boosting his leadership credentials, met Hamas' political director Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.

Boiler-plate rhetoric after the meeting, as Larijani said people around the world cherish the “resistance” of Palestinians against Israel and declared that the US and NATO have reached a dead end in Iraq and Afghanistan. The significance of the meeting is mostly symbolic, both in the sign of Iran's support for Hamas and in Larijani's continued promotion of his influence.

0855 GMT: Cleric's Corner. The passports of two more Sunni clerics have been confiscated as they tried to catch a flight at Tehran's Imam Khomeni Airport.

0725 GMT: Contrary to much of the superficial flutter about the Wikileaks documents --- for example, Washington pundit Peter Beinart declaring they are "fun, in a voyeuristic sort of way, revealing, but not about important things" --- the first batch of reports have already added vital information about Iran. The document that we have posted in a separate entry this morning has more in 15 paragraphs than some analysts have produced in 15 months.

That said, it's useful to remember that the day-to-day challenge of keeping up with Tehran continues. So today, an attempt to catch up with the political twists and turns....

Assassinating the Scientists

Homy Lafayette posts a useful overview of the context behind both January's assassination of physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi and Monday's killing of one physicist, Majid Shahriari, and wounding of another, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani: 

Ali Mohammadi knew both scientists who were targeted today. Shahriari was a consultant on the SESAME Project, which stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, an international scientific project under the auspices of UNESCO. Ali Mohammadi was one of the Islamic Republic's two official representatives on the project. Dr. Babak Shokri, the other official representative, and Dr. Javad Rahighi, a consultant like Shahriari, are the surviving members of the initial four-man team.

Abbasi Davani and Ali Mohammadi were both nonresident researchers at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (Pajouheshgah Daneshhayeh Bonyadi, also known as IPM, which stands for the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics). The two scientists were allegedly colleagues at Imam Hossein University, which is divided into two institutions: one trains officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the other is open to the general public. They have also both been linked to the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP), which reportedly conducts research for the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Though the evidence for Alimohammadi's and Shahriari's alleged ties to Iran's military nuclear program is tenuous, there were sufficiently compelling indications to place Abbasi Davani under international nonproliferation sanctions as a person "involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities." He appears in Annex I of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1747, adopted on March 24, 2007. The resolution calls for member states to freeze his assets and exercise vigilance in allowing him to enter or transit through their territories.

There is some pressure on the regime to address issues over the killings. Mahmoudreza Aghamiri, a colleague of Shahriari, says that authorities must be responsible for public security. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of Parliament's National Security Commission, has called on the Minister of Interior to answer the Majlis and the people about the assassination. 

A Warning from the Basij

Morteza Kia, the head of Tehran University's Basij military has dark words for London from recent history: "A 1979 takeover could happen for the British Embassy."

In 1979-1980, the US Embassy was occupied, with 52 Americans detained, for 444 days. 

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