Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (9 January): The Enemy are Facebook and Twitter

2200 GMT: Plane Crash. Fars is now reporting that 72 of the 105 passengers died when Iran Air's flight from Tehran to Oroumiyeh in the northwest of the country crashed near its final destination.

2010 GMT: Plane Crash. The Red Crescent Society says that "scores have been killed". There are at least 35 survivors, but many of these are in critical condition.

1855 GMT: The Assassinated Scientist. Fars News claims, from an "informed source", that those responsible for the killing of physicist and professor Masoud Alimohammadi in January 2010 have been arrested.

Alimohammadi was killed by an explosive as he left for work. Iranian officials have accused foreign elements of being behind the crime.

1745 GMT: An Iran Air flight from Tehran to Oroumiyeh in the northwest of the country has crashed near its destination.

According to Press TV, there are 105 passengers and an unlisted number of crew aboard. The flight aborted its initial landing due to bad weather, turned, and disappeared from radar.

An Iranian official says 50 passengers were rescued from the wreckage.

1610 GMT: Arrests of the Christians. Earlier this week, the Governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamaddon, said at least 60 Christians had been detained. Michael Ledeen publishes an e-mail received from a contact:

Armed, plain-clothes, special security officers forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation....

Another 16 Christians would have been arrested, but were not at home. The security forces broke into at least five such homes, ransacking them, taking personal possessions, changing the locks and placing a government seal on the door. Family members of these Christians have been called by the authorities and threatened and harassed. They were instructed to tell the Christians to surrender themselves.

After many hours of interrogation, eleven of the detained were released. The other fourteen are still in prison. There has been no contact from eight of the arrested. Six have been able to make a very short call to their families.

1520 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch (cont.). An EA correspondent takes up my challenge to interpret former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's latest speech (see 1449 GMT), made in Qom to celebrate a protest of 19 Dey 1356 (9 January 1978) that helped spur the Islamic Revolution:

Rafsanjani jabs at [Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar[ Rahim-Mashai (Iran School), but also at the Supreme Leader, though indirectly: "those who build their power on cobwebs". He counters the Supreme Leader in his efforts to present himself as sole guardian of Islam by praising Ayatollah Khomeini, and he parallels [Shah-era security service] SAVAK attacks with current attacks on Qom [i.e. clerics].

When Rafsanjani refers to 19 Dey 1356 incident in Qom [during the 1978/79 Revolution] and speaks of "fire under the ashes", the message should be clear to Iranians.

Rafsanjani is blaming "lies and hypocrisy" at the end of his speech. Guess whom he means?

1515 GMT: Corruption Watch. Leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli has written an open letter to head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani asking for action on the corruption allegations against 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. Tavakoli, noting that allegations against former President Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi have been pursued while Hashemi is in London, says the Rahimi case is "more important".

1459 GMT: Principlist Split. MP Ali Motahari uses an interview with Khabar Online to continue his attack on the President with the claim that Ahmadinejad and his chief aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai are trying to attract reformist votes by moving closer to Mir Hossein Mousavi. Motahari vilifies opposition figures like former President Mohammad Khatami for their actions around the 2009 elections but maintains his claim, in light of his challenge to the Government, that principlists are now split.

Shahabeddin Sadr, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, responds that Motahari should not forget he was elected for the Majlis on Ahmadinejad's slate.

However, Tehran Emrooz appears to offer support for Motahari's view, saying that the split amongst the princplists has been caused because some have mixed up the revolutionary camp with outsider groups and only accept their own interpretations.

1449 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Interpretations on a postcard of this statement by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, as he reviewed the history of the Islamic Revolution: "Depressed anti-religious snakes struck at the Qom ulema after insulting religious leaders."

Mardomak is forthright in its analysis: Rafsanjani is using the historical to criticise Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1432 GMT: Government v. Tehran. MP Alireza Mahjoub has asserted that the Majlis should seek court action over government debts to the Tehran Metro.

The Government has been in a protracted battle with Parliament over the Metro, refusing to allocate $2 billion authorised by the Majlis. The dispute is part political between President Ahmadinejad and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.

1419 GMT: Restating the Demand. Zahra Rahnavard, activist and wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has written the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, restating her demand for the release of all political prisoners.

1415 GMT: Subsidy Cut Watch. The Ministry of Oil says demand for gasoline has fallen by 13%, three weeks after the introduction of subsidy cuts.

Daily gasoline consumption last week averaged 55.4 million liters (14.6 million gallons), compared to 63.9 million liters on 18 December, the last day before the cuts that raised the price of gasoline from 400 to 700%.

1400 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, in an interview with a Japanese newspaper, has declared, "When a revolution diverts from the goals of democracy and human security", authorities will "limit the revolutionaries because of betrayal and fear their diversion will be exposed. These people are afraid of knowledge."

Sane'i maintained, "Islam calls for justice in all aspects of life."

1330 GMT: Labour Front. The Free Assembly of Iranian Workers claims that 3500 workers are on strike at Barez Tires.

The current strike started gradually, with a total shutdown of operations by 1 January. Workers struck for four days in September, ending it with assurances from Kerman labor office and a change-over in management.

Activists claim, however, that management used the pretext of subsidy cuts to rebuff workers' demands, leading to the renewed stoppage.

1325 GMT: Sedition Watch (Khamenei Edition). The Supreme Leader, speaking to an audience in Qom, has spoken about the Iranian nation passing various tests over the last 32 years. One of those tests was the "sedition" designed by foreign powers and using leaders inside Iran as their instruments.

1310 GMT: On the Campus. Dr. Samad Nourizad, the brother of imprisoned journalist/filmmaker Mohammad Reza Nourizad, has been dismissed as head of Kermanshah Medical Sciences University.

1300 GMT: An End to the Espionage Non-Story. State broadcaster IRIB says Iranian border guards have released the "American-spying-through-her-teeth" suspect.

IRIB reported, "This 34-year-old woman [who was 55 in earlier reports] who intended to enter Iran at the Norduz terminal on January 5 [but has reported trying to enter at another point on the border 30 miles away] left Iran's borders after her situation became clear and legal procedures were followed."

An Iranian official said, contrary to earlier reports, that the woman had not been photographing guard posts on the border.

The State Department said on Saturday that the woman, who Iranian media named as Hal Talayan, was safe and in Turkey (see 0930 GMT).

1140 GMT: Labour Front. Iran Labor Report posts an overview of the closures of factories, plants, and production lines, including Shahriar Iran Mayeh, Kohgilouyeh Motor Cycle Factory, Khoramdareh Iron Works and China, Ilam Zarinbaft, and Sanandaj Pardis Textiles.

0930 GMT: The Espionage Non-Story. The US State Department says that the "American-spying-through-her-teeth", whom some Iranian media and officials claim was detained this week on the Armenian border, is safe and in Istanbul, Turkey.

The woman has been named as Hal Talayan but conflicting Iranian reports --- some saying she was arrested, some saying she never got into Iran --- put her age at 34 or 55 and her nationality as American or Swiss.

0830 GMT: Inclusion. Hassan Rohani, a senior member of the Expediency Council, has said national elections should accommodate the presence of all parties, not just a particular one.

Talking to the Iranian Labor News Agency, Rohani said, “When we prepare the elections, we must act in a manner that would guarantee the presence of all the people and not to restrict the elections to the presence of one particular party."

Rohani's remarks come after former President Mohammad Khatami called for the satisfaction of conditions --- freeing of political prisoners, fulfillment of the Constitution, and a genuinely free campaign and ballot --- for reformists to participate in the next election. That call has been sharply rebuffed by figures like Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council.

0820 GMT: The "soft war" tops the news in Iran this weekend, and it looks like Iranian officials have added a couple of enemies to the list. 

The Head of Parliament's Article 10 Commission, keeping a close eye on dangerous social activity, says that use by political parties of Facebook and Twitter is illegal.

The problem may not just be new media, however. Seminar students in Qom tried an old-fashioned method of protest: they signed a poster supporting subsidy cuts, but some added the note, "Ahmadinejad without [Presidential aide] Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai".

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    Nice Site, Keep up the good work. Thanks a ton!
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