See also Iran Feature: The Supreme Leader Is Worried --- Three Developments You Probably Don't Know br>
Iran Feature: The EA Story That Made It Big in Iranian Media br>
The Latest from Iran (13 December): Shoes Are Thrown at the President
1855 GMT: Elections Watch. Ali Mohammad Gharibani, the head of the Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, has said that, that in the “absence of any possibility for the reformists to inform and campaign,” the reformists will not present a list of candidates or endorse any candidates in March's Parliamentary elections.
The council's announcement asserted, "After months of anticipation and struggle to open the political arena to fair elections and to provide a transparent election process, the situation is in effect becoming more and more restrictive.”
In addition to the standard vetting of candidates by the Guardian Council, the regime has suspended and suppressed major reformist groups such as the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution, and Etemade Melli.
The alleged violations include diversion of revenues, issue over subsidy cuts, and transfer of state-owned enterprises. Earlier this week it reported that 64% of the budget provisions 2009/10 were unfulfilled.1815 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Turkish Front). Back to our opening story (see 0655 GMT)....
In a further sign that the Iranian Foreign Ministry is pulling back on others within the regime who have challenged Ankara, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has condemned the comments in an interview with Turkish State news agency Anatolia.
Asked about remarks that Tehran will target NATO’s missile shield in Turkey if it is threatened, Salehi said, “We reject those views completely." He said those who had made the statements had been warned: “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s official stance on Turkey is based on deep brotherhood and friendship....Other statements are considered personal views."
There is no indication, however, that Salehi commented on Tuesday's remarks by the Supreme Leader's representative, Ali Akbar Velayati, denouncing Turkey as a "secular" system following errant Western liberalism.
1710 GMT: Economy Watch. The opening of a Reuters overview of the economic situation is a diversion: "Tehran does not look like a city under siege. Its shops and markets are full of goods and customers; signs that international sanctions are ravaging Iran's economy are hard to detect."
Fortunately, the article finds the main point --- the rising prices that are having a significant effect on most Iranian households:
The sanctions are mainly being felt in the form of inflation, which is hitting some companies' bottom lines as well as consumers' wallets....
The official inflation rate stands at just under 20 percent -- up from a 25-year low of 8.8 percent in August 2010. According to an International Monetary Fund report based on government data, Iran can expect consumer price inflation of 22.5 percent for the fiscal year ending in March 2012.
Many Iranians believe the statistics grossly underestimate the true cost of living, which is eroding their spending power in a country where the average monthly household income in urban areas is just 10 million rials (around $750) and unemployment is estimated at 14.6 percent.
And the rest of the article usefully notes the combined effect of a falling Iranian currency, higher prices for imports, subsidy cuts, and issues of economic management.
1525 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Inside Iran follows on the report, posted in EA earlier this week, of the statement of Central Bank head Mahmoud Bahmani that sanctions are having a harsher effect than that of physical war.
Bahmani openly took on regime propaganda that the measures were only hurting those who imposed them when he criticised “a group of people who have not yet believed the country is under sanctions....This group thinks that the conditions are normal and the [country’s economic] laws and provisions should also be normal. However, the conditions are hard, and harsh circumstances call for harsh measures.”
Bahmani, speaking to members of the Chamber of Commerce, continued, “Sanctioning the Central Bank is immoral and fundamentally wrong. However, if they do happen to sanction [the Central Bank], we have to be ready to manage the country as if we were under siege for two years and needed to survive.”
An EA source comments, especially with regard to Iran's falling currency, "Every time Bahmani speaks, it makes matters worse rather than better --- people rush to put their money in gold coins."
1515 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. A day after an unemployed textile worker threw shoes at him, President Ahmadinejad has told a crowd in Basht in western Iran that the country will move with a "national commitment towards the eradication of unemployment".
1425 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Turkish Front). Here is one way to turn a significant story into a tangential --- at best --- soundbite....
Pundit Walter Russell Mead reduces recent political tension between Turkey and Iran, including the involvement of the Supreme Leader's representative (see 0725 GMT) to this conclusion: "One thing looks increasingly clear. If the mullahs get the bomb, the Turks will want one too."
At the same time, Jalali reassured, "Our vulnerability in the nuclear field is minimal. If Americans and Israelis were able to attack and harm our nuclear facilities, they would have definitely done so by now."
Iran's primary uranium enrichment site at Natanz is partly underground, while the Fordoo complex, revealed in 2009, is deep inside a mountain as a precaution from aerial attacks.
1215 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Saudi Front). Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan, has condemned the meeting of Iran's Minister of Intelligence with Saudi Crown Prince Nayef, questioning Iran's "diplomatic apparatus" and asking who planned the trip and why.
1158 GMT: Corruption Watch. The head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has said that indictments will soon be issued in cases of corruption, including the acquisition of steel factories with money from the $2.6 billion bank fraud.
1155 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Speaking in Yasuj in southwestern Iran today, President Ahmadinejad has called on "bullies of the world to modify their behaviour and speech", as they have "no other way of dialogue and cooperation to the benefit of recognising the honour, dignity and rights of the Iranian nation".
0805 GMT: The President's Brother vs. The President's Men. A striking example of the tension within Iranian politics, as the lawyer for President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, lashes out at the "slander and lies" of the President's brother Davoud....
Davoud Ahmadinejad had reportedly said that Rahim-Mashai has "a history of liberal hypocrisy", with sympathy towards "America and the Zionist regime" and a "lack of belief in and commitment to velayat-e faqih", the Islamic Republic's system of clerical supremacy.
0725 GMT: Earlier this year, Iran was exalting its relationship with Turkey --- for example, through a visit of the Supreme Leader's representative Ali Akbar Velayati --- as a sign of Islamic unity against the aggressions of the West. And, in tension over Tehran's position in the Middle East and its nuclear programme, Turkey has been a link for the regime, even a bridge to Iranian foes, as with the 2010 Tehran Declaration that pursued a settlement over Iran's uranium enrichment.
Those days are receding. On Tuesday, Velayati --- a former Foreign Minister --- signalled the displeasure of the Supreme Leader with Ankara. He told a news conference that Turkey’s model of “secular Islam” was a version of western liberal democracy, unacceptable for countries going through an “Islamic awakening.”
Velayati’s remarks came as Ankara demanded an explanation from Iran for "threatening remarks" by officials. Sources told the Turkish newspaper Zaman that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu chastised his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, over a statement by Hussein Ibrahim, the deputy head of Parliament's National Security Committee: “It is Iran's natural right to target the missile defense shield system in Turkey in case of an attack, and we will definitely resort to that.”
Turkish diplomats said that the Iranian Foreign Ministry had assured Turkey that it does not back such threats, asking that Ankara only acknowledge statements from officials who are in charge. However, Ibrahim's remarks followed a warning by General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division: “Should we [Iran] be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit our next targets.”
The Iranian regime has been increasingly critical of the NATO warning system as a US-led effort to support a possible attack on Tehran.
Two weeks, Davutoğlu told Salehi, at a meeting in Saudi Arabia, that Turkey is uneasy over recent statements by some Iranian officials. The Iranian Foreign Minister assured that he did not share these views and that they do not reflect the official Iranian position.
Could it be that there is a growing --- and significant --- division within the Iranian establishment, with the Supreme Leader's camp putting pressure on Turkey and the Foreign Ministry worrying that such pressure may cost Iran a vital friend as it faces international political and economic pressure? And where stands President Ahmadinejad, who --- despite his efforts at trying to craft foreign policy from his office --- has been silent on the matter?