Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (6 October): Go On, Fear Our Navy....

2000 GMT: The Green Voice of Freedom website reports that it has been under sustained attack for two days and has been blocked in Iran.

1950 GMT: Deviant Current Watch. Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, has told a seminary in Qom that clerics must oppose the "current" that wants to deviate elections from the concept set by the Supreme Leader.

1930 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. The head of the Central Bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, has come under fire --- for example, from Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei --- for negligence or even complicity that contributed to the $2.6 billion bank fraud. He has hit back, telling a meeting of the Money and Credit Council, "I am a soldier for the system. I will never resign my office."

Meanwhile, the office of Ejei has denied that he interrogated suspects for four hours in Evin Prison.

And Reuters is the latest international service to note the fraud and connect it to the political future of President Ahmadinejad and his advisors, including Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1720 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Jomhouri Eslami claims that there was a less-than-overwhelming reception of President Ahmadinejad in northwestern Iran on Wednesday. The newspaper says he was welcomed by schoolchildren with banners, "We support a government that supports velayat-e faqih (clerical supremacy) minus the deviant current," a term of criticism used for the President's advisors. Many of the children then left the stadium halfway through Ahmadinejad's speech.

1700 GMT: Elections Watch. Shargh reports that Mohammad Reza Khatami, prominent reformist and brother of the former President, said at a funeral ceremony that" target="_blank">reformists will not participate in the Parliamentary elections next March.

Khatami prefaced his declaration with the answer, when asked about the elections, "Will there be any?"

Former President Khatami has set the conditions for participation as freeing of political prisoners, freedom of action for political parties and a fair election process, and adherence to the Constitution.

1600 GMT: Picture of the Day. The anniversary gift from attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, sentenced to 11 years in prison, to her husband, Reza Khandan:

1545 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online estimates that the $90 billion spent on imports in this Iranian year (March 2011-March 2012) will equal oil revenue.

1535 GMT: Currency Watch. It's been a few days since we checked on the Iranian rial....

The value of the currency had dropped significantly in recent months, breaking the 13000:1 barrier vs. the US dollar for the first time. An intervention by the Central Bank last week, injecting foreign funds into the economy, brought the open-market rate down to 12000:1 --- still well above the official rate of 10740:1, but giving the impression of stability.

A short-lived impression, it seems: the rate is already back to 12400:1. A source notes, "Some analysts are saying the currency will continue to weaken much further (to 15,000 or beyond) because the Central Bank doesn't have the cash in its vaults to defend the currency and inflation continues to creep up."

1525 GMT: A Half-Hearted Apology. Kayhan has apologised to former President Mohammad Khatami for the "false news" that he was a shareholder of Bank Saman, implicated in the $2.6 billion bank fraud; however, the newspaper then accused Khatami, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi of receiving foreign funds.

1515 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The President's Tuesday night TV offensive does not seem to have been a complete victory --- an opinion piece in Fars criticises that Ahmadinejad's policy on the Arab Spring is "anarchistic, unclear, and confusing" and says he should not ignore national interests.

Could Fars be indicating that Ahmadinejad's line on Syria --- supporting the notion of reforms and dialogue --- is far too cautious in its backing of President Assad?

1505 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Yet another journalist linked to the Freedom Movement of Iran, Mohsen Hakimi, has been arrested.

The arrest of Hakimi, who was also detained in 2009 during post-election protests, follows this week's seizures of journalists Mohammad Heydari and Mehdi Afshar-Nik, also linked to the Freedom Movement, and Ali Akrami, connected with the media outlets of Mehdi Karroubi.

1500 GMT: Stopping the Doctors. Rah-e Sabz reports that Médécins Sans Frontières has been banned from giving medical aid to Iranians and Afghans in Zahedan in southeastern Iran and that its offices have been closed.

1025 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. The striking extract from CNN's overview of the Ahmadinejad administration and the $2.6 billion bank fraud:

The size and nature of the fraud required "a trend inside the government to make this problem and this scandal," said Tehran economic analyst Saeed Laylaz.

A second economist points out that the main suspect in the case has ties to the Iranian president's chief adviser, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who used his influence in a bank business deal for the accused man, Amir Mansoor Khosravi.

Khosravi had opened a private bank known as the Bank Arya. Getting a license is usually difficult, but Mashaei used his political pull to help pave the way, said economist Dr. Behrooz Hady Zonooz from Tehran.

"More than ten times he has written letters to bank persons," said Zonooz, who spoke with banking officials about the founding of the bank.

A former professor of economics, Zonooz now runs a development consultancy and has closely followed the embezzlement case. He has also spoken to officials close to it and been allowed to see some of the bank data firsthand.

Mashaei and Khosravi also both come from the same province, said Zonooz.

0735 GMT: Press Watch. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has banned the reformist weekly Sobhe Azadi, reportedly for publishing the image of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

0605 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The President, after his Tuesday night interview covering topics from the bank fraud to the economy to talks with the US, took on the easier task yesterday of telling scholars and clerics in Hamadan of "global governance for human development and the perfect man", with academics, clergy, and nations taking on the mission to "introduce and explain the new world order".

0545 GMT: We could have opened today's LiveBlog with the latest on the $2.6 billion bank fraud --- even CNN is now paying attention --- or the political in-fighting or Iran's economic problems. But why do that when you can have a really easy-to-grasp scare story instead?

A senior Iranian Navy captain says the naval forces of Iran are capable of having an active presence and carrying out operations in distant seas.

“Iran's Navy has demonstrated its power and prowess in practice by escorting cargo ships, sending vessels to far-off seas, and confronting pirates,” Captain Alireza Rahmati was quoted by IRNA as saying during a naval ceremony in the port city of Chabahar in southeastern Iran on Wednesday. 

He added that deploying missile-equipped vessels and using advanced technology as well as employing competent forces by Iran's Navy and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have transformed the country's defense capabilities. 

Hmm, not scary enough, Press TV. Let's hand this over to the Associated Press:

Iran has never been shy about claiming military advances such as missiles capable of hitting Israel or an attack drone dubbed the "ambassador of death". Its latest focus: The high seas.

In the past week, Iran has announced the deployment of ship-based missiles that can target shorelines from international waters, and its naval commander said that Islamic Republic warships could someday be cruising near America's Atlantic seaboard.

While many defense analysts believe such a mission is still far beyond Iran's naval reach, the current emphasis on maritime forces suggests a growing drive by Tehran to display power beyond the Gulf and the overwhelming presence right on its doorstep of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

To be fair to reporter Brian Murphy, the rest of the article is a back-and-forth between Tehran's rhetoric and the assessment of analysts that the naval threat is "more bluster than reality".

But that balance, well, it's not as exciting as a bit of worry, is it? Go on, AP, give us the eye-grabbing headine:

"Iran Looks to Sea as Route to Project Power"



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