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The Latest from Iran (18 April): A Matter of Intelligence --- Ahmadinejad v. Khamenei?

2115 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, former media advisor to President Ahmadinejad and now managing director of State news agency IRNA, reinforces his paper's line (see 2030 GMT): "The lying media, claiming the aupreme leader has refused the change of the intelligence minister, are executing new scenarios against the government and pretending the president isn't loyal to the supreme leader. Changing a minister in such a strategic and important ministry is impossible without coordination between the president and the dear supreme Leader."

2050 GMT: Claim of Day. Tahavol-e Sabz asserts that a domestic flight was cancelled because of the high price of fuel, which has tripled recently. The website says a senior deputy of the Ministry of Oil stopped the flight at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, even though President Ahmadinejad ordered payment on credit for domestic airlines.

2040 GMT: The Intelligence Affair. Leading MP and Government critic Ahmad Tavakoli has had a cheeky poke at the President over the Minister of Intelligence affair: "I'm happy that Ahmadinejad followed the opinion by the Supreme Leader."

2030 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. State news agency IRNA has now come out swinging over the controversy about the resignation/non-resignation of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi.

Insisting that Moslehi did send a letter of resignation to the President, IRNA cast doubt on the story --- put out by most of the "conservative" Iranian press --- that the Supreme Leader had nullified the resignation: "The Supreme Leader's office has not released any official statement."

IRNA then took aim at others within the Iranian media establishment, "Spreading rumours and false news is the base of a new plot against the Government," causing division between the President and the Supreme Leader.

1955 GMT: Ahwaz Watch. The Guardian has become one of the first mainstream newspapers to pick up on the claimed clashes and killings in Ahwaz in southwestern Iran.

The coverage is prompted by latter from Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in which she said "more than 12" protesters had been killed in Khuzestan Province.

Ebadi said hundreds of people in Ahwaz had gathered for a peaceful demonstration challenging the regime's discrimination against its Sunni Muslim minority: "During these clashes, more than 12 people were killed, around 20 injured and tens of protesters have been arrested."

The Guardian adds that, while Iranian media initially ignored any news about Ahwaz, Fars has now that one person had been killed and one other injured.

A spokesman for the Iranian Minorities' Human Rights Organisation told The Guardian that participants in the Ahwaz protest said at least 12 were killed when regime forces opened fire. He added, "Unfortunately, the fate of those protesters who have been arrested is unclear and we even don't know where they have been taken to."

1400 GMT: Ahwaz Watch. More claims around the reported tension in the southwestern city of Ahwaz....

Voice of America is asserting that the Parliament has discussed the dissolution of the Ahwaz city council.(Fars had reported that the Majlis considered "events in Khuzestan Province", but gave no details.)

1325 GMT: Intelligence Confusion. Back from an extended break to find near-chaos in the dispute over the resignation/non-resignation of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi.

One of our readers, "Mukharbish", corrects our earlier accounts in a comment below. He agrees with our earlier explanation that the original source of the dispute was a clash between Moslehi and Ahmadinejad's aide and confidante, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. However, drawing from the accounts of both Javan, associated with the Revolutionary Guards, and Jahan, associated with conservative MP Alireza Zakani, our reader says the dispute escalated when Moslehi tried to fire a deputy, Hossein Abdollahian, whom he considered an ally of the President's office.

Tehran Bureau, using a different article from Jahan, supports this analysis.

Khabar Online, close to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, adds another dimension: it claims that Moslehi had said the Ministry had referred some people to the judiciary (headed by Ali Larijani's brother Sadegh) for "unlawful actions by roge elements" and "insulting some officials or their relatives". The latter offence presumably refers to February's public humiliation of Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

And then there is the claim of Mehr that Moslehi tried to resign some time ago, but Ahmadinejad set this aside until the President finally decided to accept the resignation on Sunday. (This account is strikingly similar to the narrative put out by Ahmadinejad's supporters when Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was forced out last December.)

0610 GMT: Intelligence, Ahmadinejad, and Khamenei. Pro-Ahmadinejad State news agency IRNA is trying to dash away from the furour over Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi this morning, with the story disappearing from its homepage. Press TV also maintains silence beyond its brief announcement last night of the Supreme Leader's nullification of the Minister's departure.

Fars, however, continues to lead with the story, and adds another shot at the Ahmadinejad camp with a denunciation of the controversial "Hidden Imam" documentary.

And the conservative Jahan is putting out the tale --- also pushed by the Revolutionary Guard's Javan News --- that the demand for the resignation of the Minister of Intelligence was prompted by Ahmadinejad's close advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

The opposition Rooz Online posts the letter of Ahmadinejad accepting the resignation of Moslehi and thanking the Minister for his service.

0600 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? President Ahmadinejad has spoken this morning in a ceremony marking the national Army Day. 

No reference to internal matters, let alone the controversy over the resignation/non-resignation of the Minister of Intelligence --- instead, Ahmadinejad looked away, “Arrogant powers are trying to sow the seeds of discord in the region. They are trying to provoke regional divisions and provoke wars among nations and governments in order to sell their weapons.”

Ahmadinejad declared that a new Middle East would take shape without the presence of the United States and Israel, “The era of Zionism and capitalism is over....The US is not an honest friend because it has always betrayed its friends. However, Iran is a true friend of all nations.

0430 GMT: Sunday's big story was unexpected, confusing, and possibly very important.

Early in the evening, the news came out that Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi had resigned. That in itself would have been a significant turn of events: the likelihood, as Fars was soon claiming from unidentified sources, was that Moslehi had been pushed out by President Ahmadinejad and his inner circle. (Javan News later claimed that the move started with Ahmadinejad's controversial aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, who believed intelligence-gathering was "weak" and who had demanded the firing of a Moslehi deputy. The Minister of Intelligence had refused.)

But this only the first act. Just over an hour later, Fars reported that the Supreme Leader had nullified the resignation. Again, the language was anodyne compared to the importance: Ayatollah Khamenei had sharply rebuked the Ahmadinejad camp. This challenge was played out in the play, with newspapers like Javan turning against the President's advisors and the State news agency IRNA for putting out the story as one of Moslehi's voluntary resignation.

All of this overtook but did not replace another ongoing mystery. It is still not clear, more than three days after first reports, what has happened in Khuzestan Province and Ahwaz city in southwestern Iran. Activists and a leading journalist claim that up to 15 people have been killed by security forces, but amidst reports of a security lock-down of the province, there is still little confirmed news.

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