Iranian State TV's presentation of the US "spy", Amir Mirzaei Hekmati
2125 GMT: Spy Watch. The father of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the Iranian-American accused by Tehran of espionage (see 0725 GMT), has said the allegation is "absolutely, positively" wrong: "My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man. These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."
Ali Hekmati said his son did join the military in 2001 --- as the Iranians claimed --- but served the U.S. Marines, not the Army, and worked in linguistics as an Arabic translator, not in military intelligence. He added that Amir Hekmati never did any intelligence work for the Pentagon or the CIA and that, after the military, he went to work for a private security contractor.
The Hekmati fmaily first reported Amir's arrest in September. Ali Hekmati said that he had not been able to see his son, who was only allowed a couple visits by his Iranian grandmothers and who has not been provided a lawyer. US officials have requested access but have yet to received approval.
2120 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalists inside and outside Iran have posted an open letter calling for the release of their colleague Hassan Fathi, arrested last month after he offered comments to BBC Persian about the blast at a Revolutionary Guard base west of Tehran. Fathi was accused of working for the foreign channel.
The Iranian company will install two gas units, each with a production capacity of 160 megawatts, at Dibis power plant in northern Kirkuk province, according to Musab al-Mudarres, a spokesman at the Ministry of Electricity.
Sunir It has already built a $150 million gas power plant in Baghdad, consisting of two units with a total capacity of 320 MW. The first unit became operational this year.
1650 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The Canadian magazine Macleans follows up on the story of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi, ordered by an Ontario court to pay almost $13 million (Canadian) to a man he tortured in Iran.
Macleans interviews the victim, business consultant Houshang Bouzari, who claims Hashemi tried to extort $50 million (Canadian) from him and then had him kidnapped and abused when he would not comply.
Process servers working on Bouzari’s behalf delivered the court’s judgment to Hashemi’s mailbox at Oxford University late last month.
1630 GMT: Elections Watch. The opposition Coordinating Council of Green Hope has issued a statement declaring that the Parliamentary elections in March are "illegal and unjust" and "contrary to the interests of the nation".
Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the hard-line Kayhan, has said that as reformists were silent during the protests over the 2009 Presidential election, they are not eligible to participate in the Parliamentary contest.
The 45-year-old man made his protest in Sari in northern Iran during one of President's speaking tours. Some Iranian media, such as the State news agency IRNA, did not report the incident.
1205 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The Wall Street Journal, drawing from unnamed US and European officials, confirms the analysis we have offered since the European Union held off on a ban on Iranian oil imports on 1 December:
The Obama administration, its European allies and key Arab states are intensifying discussions on how to maintain stability in the global energy markets, in a possible precursor to a formal embargo on Iran's oil exports and its central bank....
In particular, the officials said they are seeking assurances from major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, to increase exports to the European Union and Asian nations if tighter sanctions on Tehran's energy exports and central bank are enforced in the coming months.
These officials said there is also a growing discussion with emerging oil exporters—such as Libya, Iraq, Ghana and Angola—to increase their production capacities to guard against any shortages caused by the West's economic campaign against Iran.
The European Union will re-consider the possibility of an import ban in January.
1155 GMT: Economy Watch. Alef maintains its campaign against President Ahmadinejad and his advisors by featuring a none-too-subtle editorial about the "corruption of government officials in developing countries".
The website also challenges the Government by featuring the pressure put on Iran's agricultural producers because of the import of fruit.
1145 GMT: Currency Watch. The Iranian rial, which broke the 14000:1 level vs. the US dollar for the first time this weekend, has fallen another 3% in the last 48 hours. It now stands at 14450:1 on the open market.
In an apparent effort to bring down the price of gold coins, the Central Bank has said it will sell them without limits from Tuesday.
1045 GMT: Tough-Talk Alert. Unsurprisingly, three of Press TV's top 4 Iran stories this morning are on the spy tale and related displays of Tehran's strength. The statement of an Iranian MP is headlined, "Seize of CIA spy, Iran's Intel. might". The deputy head of the armed forces declares, "Iran to Further Develop Missile Program", while diplomat Hossein Sheikholeslam explains, "Iran Crushed Image of US Superiority".
Fars offers an unexpected addition with a quote from the head of the US Air Force, Norton Schwartz about the drone, "There is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly."
1035 GMT: Drone Watch. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, after a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, reiterated the regime line that Tehran has sent notices to international organisations protesting the overflight of Iran by US drones.
Salehi said message had been despatch to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the United Nations and its Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He added that the US drone downed on 29 November would remain in Iran's possession, with the Supreme National Security Council making the final decision on the aircraft.
0725 GMT: Three weeks ago, it was the escalation in tension with Britain, culminating in the attack on the UK Embassy. Ten days ago, it was the unveiling of the downed US drone. And now the regime has another narrative which has all to do with the foreign threat and nothing to do with the political and economic situation in the Islamic Republic.
Throughout the year, the Ministry of Intelligence has declared the capture of agents working for the US and Israel. It did so again this weekend, claiming that two men had been arrested for espionage.
This time, however, there was a difference. Finally. one of the dozens of enemy spies appeared on State TV. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian-American dual national told the story that he had served in US Army intelligence in Afghanistan and Iraq --- for example, identifying Iraqi politicians with whom Washington could work --- before working with the CIA on a mission to infiltrate Iran. He "confessed" that he contacted Iranian officials with "some valuable information" to earn their trust, then passing on not-so-reliable material and working as a spy within the regime.
Political Prisoner Watch
Journalist Amir Hossein Hajebian, a member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been arrested
Shutting Down the Cleric
Rah-e Sabz reports that the office of Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sane'i, a prominent critic of the regime's actions since the 2009 Presidential election, has been shut in Gorgan in northern Iran.