Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (27 May): Debating Reform and the Green Movement

1830 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch (see 1235 GMT). Do you think former President Hashemi Rafsanjani is making an allusion here: "After removal of [former President Abolhassan] Bani Sadr, unity was created among the people"?

1430 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Men. More pressure on 1st Vice President Hamid Baghaei and Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai....

Fars publishes a damning article on the $400 million hotel deal in which Baghaei and Rahim-Mashai supposedly profited from shares in the company that won the bid. Countering Baghaei's denials and the President's defence this week, Fars posted detailed information on the project.

And Fars continues with an interview with the head of Iran's Inspector General, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who explains that he halted the project when he noticed financial irregularities.

1330 GMT: Our Apology to Ayatollah Khatami. We notice that Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami did mention internal developments in his Friday Prayer --- it's just that Press TV preferred not to report this (see 1315 GMT).

Khatami called on Parliament and the judiciary to work with the executive, he then noted the "deviant current" (i.e, advisors around President Ahmadinejad), identifying its effort "to reduce the influence of religion in society" with initiatives such as the "Iran-first school".

Khatami emphasised that denial of velayat-e faqih (clerical supremacy) united those in the "deviant current".

1315 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. Looks like Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami has missed all the exciting news in Iran today --- his sermon simply declared that the US was purusing “greedy” policies in the Middle East, with repression and torture of protesters by “Zionist-backed regimes".

1310 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has warned that the next "fitna" (sedition) will be bigger and tougher than the protests after the 2009 Presidential election.

1235 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has taken another implicit swing at the Government, declaring that confidence must be restored to the people and "deception, lies, and statistics are not the answer".

1225 GMT: Publishing Front. The Moment of Flight, the first volume of an oral history of the Green Movement, is now available for download.

Several reformist publications have reportedly re-appeared at Isfahan University.

1220 GMT: Replacing Ahmadinejad? A "political advisor close to" Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf reveals in an interview:

Q: There is a lot of discussion that Tehran’s Mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, is a good candidate for president in light of the current political conflict. Is this true?

A: Yes, this is true. Qalibaf canceled all planned foreign visits just to be around if he is needed, as the situation and rift are escalating. It is more possible than ever that president Ahmadinejad will be forced to resign and new elections will be organized two months after his resignation. Now, the most important and serious candidate is Qalibaf. His teams are already working for such a scenario, and are preparing plans to govern, if needed. The Supreme Leader likes Qalibaf a lot, and he is a trusted person with a good record of management with good results, and he is a very obedient servant [of the Supreme Leader]: this makes him the best choice for the system.

The advisors says, "All high-level officials in the judiciary, legislative, and security organizations [have] warned of a tough and crushing reaction to [Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim] Mashai. If this situation just continues without a real confrontation, such as Mashai’s arrest or a similar event, the whole establishment will be discredited even more. They will be seen as weak and their threats as empty noise. It will increase the popularity and legitimacy of Ahmadinejad."

1000 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Men. Even amidst the current political conflict, the attack by Tabnak --- linked to Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei --- is extraordinary:

Tabnak goes into detail about regular private meetings, led by Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, for schemes to make money from hotel contracts, free enterprise zones, and the automotive industry. Names of participants are given, as the article concludes, " "All people who care about the system and the Revolution should have their eyes wide open and take these issues seriously."

0900 GMT: Rumour of the Day. Peyke Iran claims that a Revolutionary Guards commander has told a private meeting that the President's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, is under surveillance and will soon be arrested. The commander allegedly said the case is one of "slow-burning fuel".

0725 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Men Counter-Attack (2). Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who has faced escalating criticism and has been suspended from public service for four years because of "numerous violations", has hit back.

Baghaei said allegations that he personally profited from a $450 deal for construction of a hotel on Kish Island were a "baseless scandal" and "fundamentally wrong".

Alef, a publication linked to Government critic Ahmad Tavakoli, first published the charge that Baghaei and Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai had shares in a company which was awarded the contract for construction, a deal made when Baghaei was head of Iran's Culture and Heritage Organization. On Wednesday, President Ahmadinejad defended Baghaei, saying that he had acted properly in awarding the license and that the claim was part of a personal campaign to bring down the Vice President.

0715 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Men Counter-Attack (1). A Presidential ally has declared that Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council --- both of whom have been critical of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the escalating political conflict --- cannot even manage the clerics of Qom.

An interesting allegation, but just as interesting that it appears in Javan Online, the website linked to the Revolutionary Guard. Javan has been attacking Ahmadinejad's advisors, so is it trying to stir up more trouble with the quote from an unnamed "friend" of the President?

0635 GMT: The House Arrests. In an interview with German media, Mehdi Karroubi's advisor Mojtaba Vahedi says there has been no change in the strict house arrests for Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard after 100 days.

Vahedi said the detentions pointed to the "lies" of the Ahmadinejad Government, which he predicted would soon fall because of its scandals.

0625 GMT: On Campus. According to Rah-e Sabz, a major political science conference had to be moved from Tehran University when organizers protested the removal of some speakers by Iranian authorities.

0615 GMT: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Friend of Israel. That may be a surprising headline for "Western" readers, but it's the view of Mahmoud Nabavian, a student of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazd, who has been called the President's spiritual mentor. 

In a wide-ranging attack on the President and his advisors --- an audio has been posted on the Digarban website --- Nabavi claims that Ahmadinejad sought friendship with the Israeli leadership but the Supreme Leader blocked the initiative.

Nabavi puts the blame for the pro-Israeli position on Presidential aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, whom he claims is leading a "very dangerous team" in Ahmadinejad's office.

0550 GMT: We open this morning with what appears to be an important intervention from Mostafa Tajzadeh, former Deputy Minister of Interior and a leading reformist.

Rah-e Sabz publishes a long letter from Tajzadeh, who was arrested just after the 2009 election and has been sentenced to six years in prison, responding to former President Khatami's recent call for "reconciliation" between the regime and the people.

Khatami's appeal has been criticised by prominent figures in the Green Movement as a concession to the Iranian authorities. So Tajzadeh takes on the task of trying to smooth over the argument while pointing to a way forward. He emphasises Khatami's "clear and courageous criticism of tyranny and dictatorship and scholarly defense of democracy", attention to the "polarization of political and social environments and expanding atmosphere of mutual hatred and anger", and the call for "forgiveness and dialogue based on respect for fundamental rights".

Will Tajzadeh's conclusion these views are "respected", despite the criticism of Khatami's remarks from some Green quarters, not carry weight but also point to a renewal of the challenge to the regime? We await the reactions with interest.

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