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The Latest from Iran (23 September): Sending Out the Message, Cutting Off the Message

1559 GMT: Propaganda of Day. So I'm watching Press TV for a hint of when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will take the podium at the UN and these glorious shots of high-technology plants and hard-working engineers appears....

"The proud Iranian nation has accomplished another ground-breaking feat: the beginning of gasoline production in six petrochemical plants....Self-sufficiency in gasoline production is now within reach. The National Iranian Petrochemical Company. 'Yes, We Can'."

1555 GMT: Another Russia Snub? Novosti, via Peyke Iran, reports that President Medvedev has banned Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi and Iranian nuclear officials from entering Russia. 

1220 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Arash Aramesh, writing for insideIRAN, interprets former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's highly-public meeting on Tuesday with families of political prisoners and his promise to raise their concerns with Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rafsanjani’s significant because it is believed that he and Supreme Leader Khamenei are now moving closer to each other in an effort to curb the increasing powers of President Ahmadinejad and his political faction. By meeting with these families and promising them help from the Leader, Rafsanjani is demonstrating once again that he has the ears of the Supreme Leader and that Khamenei is the only man in Iran capable of addressing these issues.

1215 GMT: Moscow Stops the Missiles. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has confirmed the announcement --- noted on EA yesterday --- that Russia will not send S-300 missiles to Iran.

The declaration ends months of ambiguity by Moscow, which had delayed shipment of the mssiles but had not called this a suspension. Sources told The New York Times that the announcement publicly confirmed the message from Russian officials to American and French counterparts in June: the UNsanctions against Iran as mandating that Russia should permanently halt the delivery of the S-300s. 

1200 GMT: Sanctions Watch. ThyssenKrupp, Germany's biggest steelmaker, has said it will freeze all new business with Iran with immediate effect and terminate existing contracts as soon as possible.

"By halting business with Iran we are supporting the sanctions policies of the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Union and the United States," said Ekkehard Schulz, ThyssenKrupp's chief executive.

ThyssenKrupp's decision followed the withdrawal or reduction in trade of other German companies, including automobile anufacturer Daimler, Siemens, Munich Re, and Allianz, as well as German insurers.

0930 GMT: Parliament v. President. Fereshteh Ghazi adds more criticisms from members of Parliament of Ahmadinejad's declaration that the Majlis is secondary to the Executive Branch.

Mohsen Kouhkan, a prominent Principlist lawmaker, told Ghazi, “We don’t plan to dwell on this issue very much because we want to preserve our unity, but we evaluate these statements and do not agree with them.”

Far sharper is the comment from Nader Ghazipour:

I don’t know if these words are Ahmadinejad’s, or if Mashaei has put them in his mouth, but I say that Ahmadinejad is wrong to say such things. Before him, all presidents agreed that the Majlis is the top branch. The supreme leader accepts this also, and we emphasize that all of the administration’s actions must be supervised by the Majlis and that is the essence of the Constitution. This is the view of not just me, who is a Majlis representative, but also respected lawmakers who have positions in the cabinet. This is the view of the Iranian people, and the president is not permitted to say such things. 

In addition to various lawmakers, Majlis speaker Ali Larijani officially announced yesterday, “If Imam Khomeini said Majlis has full authority, it was to prevent the reemergence of dictatorship in Iran.”

0900 GMT: The Battle Within. The Los Angeles Times parallels our analysis with an article this morning, "Iran is Far From United Behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad".

And this passage in an interview with Professor Kaveh Ehsani, who is based at Chicago's DePaul University, is striking:

I don't think Ahmadinejad is in such a strong position. In fact, nobody is in a strong position in Iran at this moment.

It's very unclear who has the ultimate legitimacy. The population seems to be highly angered, disillusioned with a lot of the leaders. The Green Movement leaders --- [Mir Hossein] Mousavi and [Mehdi] Karroubi, the two presidential candidates who were the victims of the rigged elections --- seem to have retained their popular support among those who are unsatisfied with the system, but we don't know how strong these sSaveentiments are because there is no way to measure it. There are no opinion polls, there is no free media. All the oppositional press has been suppressed.

I wouldn't say that Ahmadinejad has a lot of power, nor does the leader. The point is, it's a Catch-22. They need each other; they can't do without each other. If Khamenei comes out and says Ahmadinejad should go, then he's admitting openly that they made a huge mistake by promoting him and supporting him against all odds and against his own conservative constituency, through a very disputed election and against huge popular discontent. His own position would become really shaky.

Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, really has not that much popular support anymore. People like the fact that he's spreading money [around], but he's not really improving the economy. The conservative establishment is really uncomfortable with the way that he has handled foreign policy, the nuclear issue, the Israel issue. His confrontational style has really increased the cost of Iran's policies and its place in the international community. They are really uncomfortable with what he's been doing domestically and internationally. But, in some ways, they're caught in this dance that they prepared themselves. They can't do without each other.

0830 GMT: A Crack in the Spin Machine. Keyhan, the "hard-line" newspaper, has reportedly left any mention of President Ahmadinejad's trip to New York off its front page.

Keyhan is embroiled in an increasingly bitter public argument with Ahmadinejad's advisors, notably Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

0825 GMT: Today's Tough Talk. Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has responded to the announcement by a Russian general that Moscow is suspending plans to deliver S-300 missiles to Tehran: "We plan to build the S-300 ourselves". 

0815 GMT: The Challenge to the President. More leading politicians offer concerns about Ahmadinejad....

Emad Afrough, a prominent "hard-line" theorist, has declared that "this government changes its colour according to the situation". He continued that the government is just searching for opportunities and "follows religious Machiavellism" in chosing people, slogans, and goals. 
Read an interesting article by Moh Majidi who noted that influential theorists like Afrough and Khoshchehreh have turned against AN...

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel has defended Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani in the argument over Ahmadinejad's "I Rule" declaration last week, saying that the Majlis will have to deal with the issue of legislative authority in its next meeting.

0700 GMT: The Mosque Attackers. Green Voice of Freedom publishes the names of 41 people, allegedly identified on video, in the pro-regime crowd that attacked Qoba Mosque in Shiraz on Qods (Palestine) Day on 3 September.

Top of the list is Hojatoleslam Alizadeh, the Supreme Leader's representative in the Fajr Army of Fars Province, followed by Hojatoleslam Voldan, the head of Policy-Making for Friday Preachers in Fars Province. There are also Revolutionary Guard members, Basij militiamen, and employees from the Fars Governor's office. 

Qoba Mosque is the base of Ayatollah Dastgheib, a prominent critic of the Government. Worshippers were assaulted, with several injured, and the mosque was closed.

On a related note, Ayatollah Sadeghi Tehrani has condemned the attacks and insults against Ayatollah Dasthgheyb, saying they "destroy religion in the name of religion". 

0605 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. In Rooz Online, Nikahang Kowsar portrays former Hashemi Rafsanjani's manoeuvres: "Odd Days, Islamic Republic. Even Days, Opposition".

0515 GMT: We begin this morning with two examples of the regime's continuing attempt to make sure "bad" messages --- as opposed to the "good" messages it is putting out in New York --- don't circulate.

Mehdi Karroubi's Saham News reports that the phones at the Karroubi house were cut off at noon on Wednesday. The shutdown following the five-night siege of the residence by pro-regime crowds at the start of September.

On another front, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini has announced plans to create a five-person board that will approve the content of all books before publication.

The five board members will be appointed by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. 

Meanwhile, on the "open" side of communications, we have begun putting up the video of President Ahmadinejad's interview on CNN with Larry King last evening.

And the Supreme Leader yesterday told young members of the Basij militia that the idea that the Revolution and Imam are finished "is a pure invention", as all good things come from them. 

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