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Saturday
Nov262011

The Latest from Iran (26 November): Embezzlement

Graffiti of the Day. "The Greens Are Awake and Alert"


2125 GMT: Labour Front. ILNA reports on the protests of Tabriz workers and retirees in East Azerbaijan against changes in Iran's labour laws.

2037 GMT: Habil Darvish, the Chief Executive Officer of the Tehran Metro, has criticised the Government for paying only 20% of the allocated subsidies this year.

And Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf has struck a note of defiance: 400 new metro carriages will run until the end of year, even though the Government has ordered banks not to cooperate with the Metro.

2029 GMT: Currency Watch. As the Iranian rial plunges (see 1645 GMT), Etedaal suggests that the Central Bank has abandoned the market to exchange dealers, despite the claims of the Minister of Economy and Bank head to contain the shock of sanctions on the Iranian economy.

2021 GMT: The Battle Within. MP Hassan Norouzi has warned the President that the deviant current "has started to bribe voters with the Government budget all over the country".

2011 GMT: CyberWatch. State broadcaster IRIB has announced that it has created four Basiji cyber-battalions on the Internet.

An EA correspondent sends the message, "Looking around to find them."

2005 GMT: Paging George Orwell. The conservative Jahan News features a comment by a Hezbollah supporter which compares the Islamic Republic to "Animal Farm" after Ali Akbar Javanfekr, resisting security forces, escaped detention on Monday: "Some have more rights than others."

1715 GMT: Elections Watch. Aftab jabs sharply at authorities, notably the Guardian Council in its supervision of the electoral process, by quoting Ayatollah Khomeini: "No one is allowed to prescribe who will run for elections --- people are free to decide."

1645 GMT: Currency Watch. In what may be the critical economic story of the moment, the Iranian rial continues to plunge. It has fallen to 13700:1 and is heading for 14000:1 against the US dollar --- only two months ago, the Central Bank was intervening to prevent it going beyond the 13000:1 level.

Fars, putting the level at 13800:1, has called on the Central Bank to step in once more, but it is unclear if the bank has the foreign exchange reserves to do so effectively.

The price of gold is surging, despite an international drop. A coin sells for 627,000 Toman (about $450) today and the future price is 850,000 Toman (about $625).

1630 GMT: Arresting the President's Men. Chance for a compromise? The next hearing for Presidential senior advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr, sentenced to a year in prison, has been postponed until after the start of the religious days of Muharram. Javanfekr's newspaper Iran is remaining silent on the case to avoid giving ammunition to enemies.

1625 GMT: Economy Watch. Minister of Industry and Mines Mehdi Ghazanfari has warned that industry is not ready for a second phase of subsidy cuts because many firms did not receive support payments to cover price rises from the first round of cuts.

1600 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Civil activist and dancer Jalal Salehpour has been arrested by intelligence forces in Tabriz.

1225 GMT: Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari has indicated Rome might push for a suspension of oil imports from Tehran, "We are deeply convinced that we need to strengthen the pressure of sanctions on Iran and we are ready to discuss sanctions measures with our partners. We are applying moral persuasion on our companies to diversify their supplies of oil imports."

France has announced that it is halting Iranian oil imports "on a national level", and sources are claiming that the European Union will take up the issue in a meeting this week.

1220 GMT: Change Will Come. Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milani, in Goa as a member of the jury of International Film festival of India, comments on the past and future of gender relations:

We had a golden period under the former Khatami regime, as it permitted us to make films on sensitive topics like equality of women. But the new regime is trying to bring back those earlier controls and denying sanction for us to deal with such topics. Now nearly 67 per cent of the students in the universities in Iran are girls, and the ruling class perceives this as a danger. On the other side we who strive for betterment of the lot of women in Iran lay hope on this. The newly educated generation will not accept subjugation of women.

1213 GMT: Tough Talk Alert (Again). Could be a pattern here --- Revolutionary Guards' Air Force Commander Amirali Hajizadeh adds to the recent escalation in rhetoric of the Islamic Republic's readiness to fight enemies, and he is even prepared to risk upsetting Ankara: "In case of war, the NATO defense shield in Turkey will be the first target."

1203 GMT: Limiting the Press. Four journalists of the reformist newspaper Shargh, detained and then released on bail, are due to appear in court on Sunday before the "hard-line" Judge Abulfazal Salavati.

1200 GMT: An Unusual Death. Mohsen Rezaei, the 2009 Presidential candidate and Secretary of Expediency Council, has spoken out about the death of his son Ahmed earlier this month. The elder Rezaei, amidst discussions of why Ahmed apparently committed suicide in a Dubai hotel, claims that his son --- who left Iran for the US in the late 1990s --- was tortured by the FBI to talk against the Islamic Republic.

1045 GMT: More Tough Talk Alert. General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, has said he does not fear assassination by the US and is ready for “martyrdom”, while warning Washington of serious consequences if it does not stop its .

The posturing, reported in several Iranian newspapers, does not match the significance of yesterday's revelation by the head of the Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, that the Quds Force has been active in Iraq (see Friday's LiveBlog).

1030 GMT: Explosion Watch. Thomas Erdbrink surveys the explosions that have beset Iran over the last two years, including blasts at natural gas transport facilities, oil refineries, and military bases.

Erdbrink notes at least 17 gas pipeline explosions since last year, compared with three in 2008 and 2009, and almost a dozen incidents at refineries in the same period. Sabotage is one explanation, but so are industrial accidents --- the claim usually made by Iranian officials --- sub-standard equipment, and a rush to get projects on-line.

0758 GMT: Tough Talk Alert (and a Bit of Theatre). Iranian State media like Press TV and IRNA offer little domestic news this morning. Instead, we have the revelation of the Supreme Leader's military advisor, Yahya Rahim Safavi, that "the Islamic Republic is the greatest power in the Middle East", and the announcement that Iran has the capability to build an aircraft carrier.

IRNA does offer the significant development that Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the President's senior advisor, has finally appeared in court over his one-year sentence for "spreading rumours and inciting public opinion", based on a special issue of his newspaper Iran on women's fashion. Last Monday, Iran was raided by security forces in an attempt to seize Javanfekr.

This, however, is not important enough to be IRNA's lead story on the domestic front. That is reserved for "President Signs Notification for Iran's Membership in International Association of Theatre Critics".

0755 GMT: Not an Exaggeration at All. Ayatollah Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader in Mashhad, used his sermon yesterday to reveal, "Ayatollah Khamenei is the world's Supreme Leader."

0745 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist and human rights activist David Khodakarami has been arrested.

0740 GMT: A late start for the LiveBlog today, as we concentrate on the special feature, "How Big is the Bank Fraud?". Rumours have been circulating that the total is far beyond the $2. 6 billion revealed in September and --- if you go back to 2008 and add up evidence from all the cases that could be in play --- the figure of $12 billion, put to us by a reader this week, is not out of the question.

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