Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (4 December): Behind the Postures

2050 GMT: Signs for a Deal? Signals from both Iran and the US that talks in next Monday and Tuesday on Tehran's nuclear programme can move toward a resolution.

The US media are picking up on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's implicit acknowledgement on Friday that Iran has a right to enrich uranium:

The position of the international community is clear. You have the right to a peaceful nuclear program, but with that right comes a reasonable responsibility, that you follow the treaty you signed and fully address the international community’s concerns about your nuclear activity. We urge you to make that choice … we urge you to restore the confidence of the international community and live up to your international obligations.

(And Iranian media and officials, despite the apparent snub to Clinton by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki only a few seats away, have also taken note. Mottaki said today, “This is a step forward that even the United States [officials] admit to Iran's right to acquire nuclear technology and fuel cycle in their every speech.")

Equally notable, however, is the statement of President Ahmadinejad today. After a week filled with denunciations of the "West", the US, and the UN, Ahmadinejad said:

We are ready to cooperate on a wide range of issues including economic, nuclear, international security and international political issues and the resolution of global problems. This is a unique opportunity...that we hope Western leaders will not waste.

2040 GMT: Parliament v. President. Differing moves in the contest today....

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, talking to Basiji elite in Kermanshah, has said that "corrections" to the 5th Budget Plan are aimed at fulfilling general goals: developing the country is essential for a just society; if the bases for that are not laid, people will be impoverished.

MP Asadollah Badamchian put out a warning to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: the Majlis is not dependent on the President, but on the Supreme Leader. Specifically, Badamchian said Ayatollah Khamenei had to solve the dispute over the expansion of the Tehran Metro: the Parliament has approved $2 billion but Ahmadinejad has refused to allow allocation of the funds.

One sign of concilation: the Government and the principlist faction have started moves towards agreement on the 9th Parliamentary elections.

2035 GMT: No, Really, They're Almost Here. Yet another declaration, this time from 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, that President Ahmadinejad will soon publish the order to reform prices, effectively bringing in subsidy cuts.

2000 GMT: On Campus. The Islamic Association of Tehran University has warned Basij militia: profaning Green leaders will bring a severe reaction.

United4Iran (Bayern) has profiled 12 students such as Majid Tavakoli, Shiva Nazar Ahari, and Bahareh Hedayat, "Our Classmates are in Prison".

1950 GMT: Throwing Down the Gauntlet? Revolutionary Guard Commander Yadollah Javani called those who "shaped the Revolution" --- like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Hashemi Rafsanjani --- more dangerous than any other enemy.

1715 GMT: Assessing Resistance. Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar tells an Austrian interviewer that "activists are still under massive pressure" but "resistance is slowly reemerging".

1710 GMT: Pollution. Peyke Iran reports that Football Premier League games, exhibitions, and conferences have been cancelled in Tehran due to smog.

1655 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human rights activist and blogger Laleh Hassanpour has been sentenced to one year in prison, with four more suspended, for collusion, propaganda against the regime, blasphemy, and insulting the President.

President Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, has reportedly told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine that two German journalists detained in September will not be charged with espionage: "We have no evidence that they have operated as spies." Rahim-Mashai said the pair, who were arrested while interviewing the son and lawyer of the condemned woman Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, were guilty of breaking the terms of tourist visas to work as journalists.

Rahim-Mashai reportedly added that Iranian authorities hoped the Germans would be able to spend Christmas with their families in the German embassy in Tehran; however, their freedom was a matter for Iran's judiciary.

1350 GMT: Karroubi and the Students. Mehdi Karroubi has written an open letter for National Students Day on 16 Azar (7 December): "I hope that State officials and custodians to realize their mistakes, restoring the freedom of youth and students as soon as possible and restoring peace and pride to the community so it can flourish."

1300 GMT: Economy Watch. Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani has said Iran's official inflation rate rose for the third month in a row.

The rate reached 9.7%, rising from a 25-year low of 8.8% in August. Many Iranians say the actual increase in prices is much higher.

Bahmani said the rise was due to "psychological atmosphere" and unspecfied curbs on price hikes "keep the inflation rate in single digits".

On another front, Iran's emergency conversion of petrochemical plants to produce gasoline has had a knock-on effect: the Government has banned exports of petrochemical products that are in demand domestically.

1250 GMT: On Campus. More statements for National Students Day on 16 Azar (7 December).

Tabriz University students have said they will be on strike. Students at Iran University of Science and Technology are calling for a silent day of mourning with black symbols. Students at Sari University in northern Iran have declared that they will stand against tyranny to offer hope for the future.

1125 GMT: Apologists and Human Rights. A follow-up to our post yesterday about the PR tour of Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of human rights in Iran's judiciary, and those who put forth his claims without question....

Newsweek belatedly posts an interview from Larijani's recent campaign in New York. Two passages are striking.


First, Larijani puts out this spin on the famous case of Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman killed by a Basiji militiaman on 20 June 2009:

We have a very strong indication that Britain was involved in the violence after the election in Tehran, and through not only huge media-intensive activity but in very clear-cut and concrete action. Poor Neda Agha-Soltan was murdered in cold blood, and we have a strong indication the person who committed that crime is an agent of MI6. In less than 24 hours, he took pictures and went back directly to London. This is not a guess. This position is substantiated by a lot of facts. We are asking for that person to be repatriated and to go before a criminal investigation, but the government of the U.K. is refusing.

Larijani is probably referring to Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried without success to save Neda as she bled to death on the pavement and who got her story out to the international media.

Larijani's linkage of "rights" and dealing with those who give Iran a bad name is even more marked in his repeated justification of the campaign to break Iranian defence attorneys:

No lawyer is jailed because of pursuing their professional duties for their clients. But in place of supporting clients, they are flying from one capital to another in Western countries and making interviews with media. This is a political profession. If they attack Islam or indulge against security to the state, being a lawyer, a peasant, or a carpenter doesn’t matter.

1015 GMT: No Longer On Campus. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran lists 217 students barred from higher education since 2005.

The list is part of a special ICHRI study, "Punishing Stars: Systematic Discrimination and Exclusion in Iranian Higher Education". We will have more coverage on Sunday.

1005 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. An activist website claims that Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch national detained in December 2009, will go on trial on 5 December.

It has been reported that Bahrami is charged with mohareb (war against God), which could be punishable by death.

For more information, see EA's story from August.

0820 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Akram Neghabi, one of two members of the Mothers of Mourning detained in September, has been released on bail.

0815 GMT: Shutting Down the Clerics. Amineh Soghdi, writing for Mianeh, offers an overview of the crackdown on Sunni clerics in southeastern Iran, with some arrested and others prevented from leaving the country through confiscation of their passports.

0755 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Emaduddin Baghi has been summoned to prison to serve his sentence.

Baghi, whose "crimes" included a televised interview with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri --- shown just before the cleric's death last year --- was detained last December and given a seven-year sentence in September.

0740 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Mehdi Karroubi has visited the family of detained student activist Abdollah Momeni. The cleric said:

The existence of deep discontent amongst the people with current trends is undeniable....The situation of political prisoners and governing in these circumstances cannot continue. 

0730 GMT: With the resumption of talks on Iran's nuclear programmes 48 hours away, international media will probably be focusing on the political and diplomatic posing this weekend. Reuters offers this entertaining snapshot from Friday:

The U.S. secretary of state had a rare chance to interact with Iran's foreign minister at a Bahrain security conference, which [Hillary] Clinton used to deliver a message to Tehran on the need to engage with the international community over its nuclear program at next week's talks in Geneva.

But while Clinton's keynote speech from the podium directly addressed the Iranian team led by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, her attempt at a more personal diplomacy with Mottaki fell distinctly flat.

"I got up to leave and he was sitting a couple of seats down from me and shaking people's hands and he saw me and he stopped and began to turn away," Clinton told reporters on her plane returning to Washington on Saturday.

"I said 'Hello, minister.' He just turned away."

Iran's Press TV prefers to highlight that "Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu have met in Bahrain and stressed the need to find ways to expand bilateral ties".

Meanwhile, beyond the notice of most outside Iran, the tensions continue. The family of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri have issued a statement for the 1st anniversary of his death. They note the mass turnout for his funeral last week, the authorities' attempt to curb that expression through arrests, and the attacks on the family home this summer.

The memorial for Montazeri later this month has been cancelled amidst regime warnings against any use of the event for dissent.

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