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Friday
Jun032011

The Latest from Iran (3 June): An All-is-Well Day?

State TV: "Ms Haleh Sahabi was first heart attacked, then deceased" (Cartoon: Nikahang Kowsar)

2055 GMT: Erasing the Dead. Kalemeh reports that, in the aftermath of the death of activist Haleh Sahabi after she was accosted by security forces, both "Haleh" and "Sahabi" have been filtered from SMS texts in Iran.

2040 GMT: There May Be Trouble Ahead. The hard-line Majmal News claims that, for the ceremonies commemorating Ayatollah Khomeini tomorrow, the CIA and anti-Revolutionary groups will bring ammunition across the western borders of Iran and to Tehran.

Even more distinctive, however, is the analysis of Digarban, which is critical of the Government: hardliners are are afraid of the reactions of Ahmadinejad and his team, so they are spreading news abt something grave happening on Saturday.

2030 GMT: An All-is-Well Day? Not so soon....

And just one note about Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi's warning of the "extreme danger" of "secularism" to the clerical nature of the Iranian system --- he called Ahmadinejad's team "ashghal" (trash) who can't do anything about the Islamic Republic.

2020 GMT: An All-is-Well Day? Not so soon....

Ayatollah Namazi, the Supreme Leader's representative in Kashan, has caused further difficulties today.

Earlier this week, Namazi started a media flutter with his claim that Ayatollah Khamenei had ordered the arrests of some of the President's advisors, although the Supreme Leader had refused the request of the Revolutionary Guards to detain Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

The Supreme Leader's office tried to limit the controversy with a declaration that only statements from the office should be considered "reliable". End of matter.

Or not. Today Namazi used his Friday Prayer to criticise both the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei's office: "You aren't the vali [Leader], only moqaled [copiers], don't lie about him....Spreading lies will bring 80 lashes to you."

2010 GMT: An All-is-Well Day? Not so soon....

President Ahmadinejad's speech at the memorial for Ayatollah Khomeini was punctuated tonight by rival chants from the audience. Some denounced Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, "Mashai, Shame on you, let go of Ahmadinejad." Others countered by backing the President.

The conflict amongst the audience apparently caused some confusion with the broadcast of the speech, carried live on radio but delayed on State television.

1810 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. We take a break from our coverage of the Middle East to look at Hojatoleslam Kazem Siddiqi's Friday Prayertoday.

Siddiqi said it was the late Ayatollah Khomeini who had awakened Muslims across the world against arrogant powers: “Today this ideology has moved the world and in Egypt and Tunisia and other Muslim countries they speak of jihad and martyrdom, which proves Muslims have this awakening from the late Imam."

OK, so the events of the Arab Spring are all propelled by Khomeini, 22 years after his death, rather than any trivial political or economic consideration closer to home.

And with that, we're back to the Yemen, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Beyond LiveBlog.

1645 GMT: India's state-owned Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals has said the National Iranian Oil Company will continue the supply of crude oil although the amount owing exceeds $1 billion.

Payments to Iran have been suspended since January, since India's Central Bank, in the context of international sanctions, withdrew the Asian Clearing Unit (ACU) mechanism for payments.

About 60% of MRPL's crude oil comes from Iran.

1600 GMT: Oil and Politics. According to Asr Iran, the head of Khatam al-Anbia, the economic division of the Revolutionary Guards, says they are reviewing President Ahmadinejad's nomination of Mohammad Aliabadi as Minister of Oil.

1245 GMT: The Funerals of the Sahabis. Kalemeh carries a first-hand account of the attempt to hold a service for Ezzatollah and Haleh Sahabi in Tehran yesterday. Security forces prevented people from gathering in the mosque.

Long-time opposition figure Ezzatollah Sahabi died from a stroke at the start of the week. His daughter Haleh collapsed and died at his funeral after security forces accosted her while trying to break up the procession.

1145 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reza Safari, a member of the reformist Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, www on bail after his arrest last month.

1100 GMT: Oil and Politics. It looks like the fight over the Ministry of Oil is far from over....

Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of Parliament's Energy Commission, has declared that President Ahmadinejad's nominee Mohammad Aliabadi (see Thursday LiveBlog and 0530 GMT) is the "worst choice", as "he has to start from below zero", given his lack of experience with energy.

Aliabadi is head of Iran's Sport Organization and the national Olympic Committee.

1050 GMT: A Clerical Warning. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, once called the "spiritual mentor" of President Ahmadinejad but now firmly supporting the Supreme Leader, has warned of the "extreme danger" of "secularism" with "spiritual power" being transferred to "someone who is seeking political power".

0735 GMT: Maybe They Should Stick to Literature. The Iranian regime, in the midst of its internal issues, may also be assisted by a renewal of nuclear diversions. Press TV, for example, headlines, "Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov challenges US claims against Iran's nuclear activities, stressing there is 'no proof' that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program."

The Iranian media are getting a boost from a spate of articles by their US counterparts, fed by Government officials, about Tehran's nuclear threat. Earlier this week we featured a wayward New York Times "exclusive", exaggerating and misrepresenting the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Politico has given a platform to "senior administration officials" to respond --- with assertion but no evidence --- to a New Yorker piece by Seymour Hersh, who has his own officials to downplay Tehran's supposed military nuclear programme.

But it is the eruption of the nuclear menace in the pages of The New York Review of Books that distinguishes this latest diversion.

You might think the NYRB would be concerned with poems and prose rather than politics and peril, but Jeremy Bernstein bursts in with "Iran and the Bomb: An Update".

Bernstein thinks he has proof of the smoking bomb in this sentence from the IAEA report: "The Agency is unable to provide credible evidence about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

In fact, that IAEA language is exactly the same as that in reports over the last few years. It always follows the statement that the Agency has found no evidence of diversion of nuclear material to the military but always emphasises that the IAEA wants access to all areas of the Iranian programme.

The rest of Bernstein's evidence --- "having studied Iran’s nuclear program for some time" --- is a hodge-podge of half-truth, progaganda (from both Washington and Tehran) treated as fact, and speculation. But this allows him to turn NYRB into a Prophet of Doom:

What, then, to do? As I said, it is very clear what the Israelis will do. They must have drawn a line in the sand. Perhaps they will wait until the Iranians test or perhaps they won’t.

0625 GMT: A Death at the Funeral. Another detail from Green Voice of Freedom, extending the report from a doctor we mentioned in Thursday's LiveBlog:

A physician who claims to have observed Haleh Sahabi at the hospital where she was brought after being struck by a security agent during her father's funeral procession said that she probably died due to a rupture in her spleen. He said that Sahabi was pale when she arrived at the hospital, which is not how people who have had a heart attack look. In addition, he said that her heart and lungs were still functioning and that she had bruises on the left side of her chest.

0530 GMT: It appears that a sort of peace has broken out within the Iranian establishment. On Thursday, President Ahmadinejad finally caved in to the criticism of Parliament, the Guardian Council, and allies of the Supreme Leader, replacing himself as caretaker Minister of Oil. The new minister, Mohammad Aliabadi, is an Ahmadinejad ally, moving over from the very different posts of head of Iran's Sports Organization and the country's Olympic Committee.

There will undoubtedly be questions as to whether Aliabadi is going to represent Iran at next week's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but no one appears to be taking shots yet. And Ahmadinejad was given a platform for publicity last night, speaking to staff of the State news agency IRNA on the eve of the commemorations of Ayatollah Khomeini's death: "The ideas and thoughts of Imam Khomeini survive because they cross borders and races." The President will also be speaking this evening at a memorial for Khomeini.

In this temporary peace, State media are not mentioning the topic which dominates the Internet and opposition sites: the death of activist Haleh Sahabi at her father's funeral on Wednesday. Press TV --- as it headlines a speech by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, "West seeks to use HR [Human Rights] against Iran" --- has not breathed a word. IRNA continues to feature a two-day-old article on its front page, denying that Sahabi was touched by security forces.

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