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The Latest from Iran (17 December): Regime to World --- You Need Us

See also The Latest from Iran (16 December): Re-Visiting the Drone

2025 GMT: The House Arrests. Saham News, the outlet of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, reports from a source that Karroubi and fellow 2009 Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi may soon be released from strict house arrest.

Karroubi and his wife Fatemeh and Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been held since mid-February.

1630 GMT: All-is-Well Alert. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said that Iran is prepared for further international sanctions: "We are not really worried. Appropriate responses have been prepared for the worst case scenario, and we have devised a road map."

Salehi did not explain how the "road map" would deal with new sanctions imposed by the US, Canada, Britain, France, and South Korea in recent weeks.

1600 GMT: Drone Watch. US officials have told the Wall Street Journal that they believe a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone, displayed on Iranian TV last week, broke into several pieces in a crash on 29 November.

Challenging Tehran's claim that Iranian cyber-warriors had taken control of the aircraft, the officials said the drone was reassembled and repainted, perhaps to conceal damage to the body of the plane.

US officials initially put out confused and contradictory stories after the drone disappeared, with at least one telling the media that it had been taken "largely intact" by the Iranians. Now, however, the line is, "They did not commandeer it and steer it to the ground," said an Obama administration official. "It crashed, and they put it back together to make it look whole, like a puzzle being put back together."

It is unclear how much internal damage occurred in the incident, but officials maintained that Iran would learn little from pieces of the aircraft, which they say cannot be reverse-engineered. easily.

1545 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Facing a series of criticisms over his management of the economy, President Ahmadinejad has asserted that the government is effectively carrying out its "revolutionary" task, denying that mistakes had been made because of hasty actions.

Ahmadinejad claimed, "Unfortunately some people do not define their interestsas the national interest.

The Government has been challenged recently with allegations of illegal financial actions, diversion of revenues, and mismanagement of its subsidy cuts programme. In addition, it has failed to meet the deadline for submission of the 2012/13 budget to Parliament.

1415 GMT: Spy Watch. The Ministry of Intelligence has announced the arrest of a CIA agent, claiming he was part of "a very complicated and massive plot to pave the way for infiltrating the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Republic".

The statement said the agent was Iranian and had served in US Army Intelligence in Afghanistan and Iraq, claiming he was identified by Iranian intelligence forces as he entered the Bagram military base in Afghanistan and had monitored him as soon as he entered Iran.

The Ministry of Intelligence has issued a series of announcements claiming the detention of US and Israeli spies, including more than 30 in May and 12 in November, without identifying the agents.

1345 GMT: Drone Watch. Back from a lengthy break at the Middle East LiveBlog to find this explanation from Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi about the 10-day gap between the downing of the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone and its claimed display by Tehran:

When our armed forces nicely brought down the stealth American surveillance drone, we didn't announce it for several days to see what the other party (U.S.) says and to test their reaction. Days after Americans made contradictory statements, our friends at the armed forces put this drone on display."

0715 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Zeinab Jalalian has been sentenced to life in prison by Iran's Supreme Court.

Jalalian was arrested in December 2009 and charged with "mohareb" (war against God) and collaboration with the Kurdish insurgency PKK.

0655 GMT: Drone Watch. Reading Press TV, it appears that Tehran's claiming of a US aircraft has received an unexpected endorsement: "Google Praise Follows Iran Downing Drone".

A closer look reveals that the head of Google, Eric Schmidt, is not actually advocating the Iranian cyber-warfare; however, he has told CNN, “The Iranians are unusually talented in cyber war for some reason we don't fully understand."

Press TV's use of Schmidt points to a key feature of the regime presentation of the drone affair, as it seizes on the promotion of Iran's strength by "Western" commentators. Press TV also spotlights former CIA operative Robert Baer for his claim that Iran had brought down the US RQ-170 Sentinel.

The lead story in Fars --- that Iran has managed to penetrate the GPS navigation of the drone --- is drawn from the report in the Christian Science Monitor carried on EA on Friday. And there's more --- the Monitor also gives Fars the platform to claim "CIA Spy Satellites Being Blinded by Laser Weapons".

State news agency IRNA does offer an Iran-based alternative on the drone, with Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi asserting that Iran's seizure of the drone should make the world understand that this is a "very serious battle". Vahidi added that the Iranian operation against the US aircraft was "a divine achievement".

0645 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Mana Neyestani's latest statement is simply titled, "Commemoration":

0640 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student activist Arash Sadeghi has been released from prison.

Sadeghi, a philosophy student who worked on Mir Hossein Mousavi's Presidential campaign, was detained in November 2009 and again during the Ashura protests of December. He was sentenced in June 2010 to six years and 74 lashes.

0630 GMT: We open with a bit of defiance, amidst the tenuous economic situation and the international pressure of sanctions, from Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi: “[Putting] sanctions on Iranian oil is not a wise move, and the market would pay a high price for it. I believe Iranian oil has a unique place in the market, and in terms of its volume and quality there is no replacement for it.”

The immediate cause of Qassemi's remarks is not his assessment of global need but the prospect that the European Union might take the unprecedented step of cutting off imports of Iranian oil. The 27 members approached the measure on 1 December, just after the attack on the British Embassy, but they held off because of the concerns of some countries, notably those in southern Europe, that they could not cover their existing supply from Tehran. The EU is seeking alternative sources, notably Saudi Arabia, and will reconsider a ban on Iran's imports in January.

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