Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (20 July): "Harmless" Opposition?

1710 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A friend of physician and blogger Mehdi Khazali has given an account of the arrest after Khazali was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence on Monday:

When Dr. Khazali arrived at the Intelligence Ministry they presented him with an arrest warrant. Dr. Khazali told them this warrant is 10 days old and he already posted bond for it four days ago.

The agent replied that he has to arrest him and the Court’s instructions don’t mean anything to him. Dr. Khazali told him this warrant is illegal and I won't go with you.

All of a sudden three people jumped on him and throw him to the ground and handcuffed him. They placed him in a car, positioned him laying down with one agent sitting on his neck and one sitting on his stomach as his teenaged son was watching in shock.

The friend was also in court when Khazali was arraigned on Tuesday:

After they brought the doctor in, I was shocked, he was in prison attire, handcuffed and shackled, with his bruised swollen neck bent to one side and accompanied by two agents on each side.

1700 GMT: The Kahrizak Deaths. Tabnak has a sharp response to the claim of Saeed Mortazavi, then Tehran Prosecutor General and now Presidential advisor, that he has been found innocent of the abuses and deaths after the 2009 election at the Kahrizak detention centre, "Mr Mortazavi, which court acquitted you?"

The website notes that there has been no court hearing with the parents of Mohsen Ruholamini and Amir Javadifar, two of the three men who were murdered in Kahrizak in summer 2009, as plaintiffs.

1650 GMT: Loyalty Watch. Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, has made clear where he stands in any political conflict: "When the President said 'I don't accept the law', Imam [the Supreme Leader] said, 'The law doesn't accept you.'"

In short, Mahdavi Kavi explained, "The Supreme Leader has the final word."

1540 GMT: Fashion Watch. Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post summarises the dispute over hijab in Iran, noting that the Ahmadinejad camp is considered "liberal" by some clerics on the issue of headscarves.

1530 GMT: Propaganda of the Week (cont.). We reported earlier today (see 1120 GMT) on the Iranian claim that the Revolutionary Guards' air defences had shot down a US drone near the Fordoo nuclear enrichment facility, noting that CNN had elevated this to the status of "news".

For what it is worth, "[American] intelligence and military officials told VOA [Voice of America] on Wednesday that the U.S. rejects the claim and has not lost a drone".

1150 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Prominent reformists Faizollah Arabsorkhi, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and Mohsen Mirdamadi are back in Evin Prison after a short furlough.

1135 GMT: Elections Claim of Day. Ali Larijani's Khabar Online says that the "outcasts of the Ahamadinejad Government" will form a new political faction, the "Islamic Revolution Constancy Front".

The members, whom Khabar labels "fake Ahmadinejad critics", supposedly include former Goverment spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham and Minister of Welfare Sadegh Mahsouli, and MPs Hamid Rasaei and Ruhollah Hosseinian.

1120 GMT: Propaganda of Week. So the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards, Javan News, features a claim by a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, Ali Aqazadeh Dafsari, that the Guard's air defence has shot down an unmanned US spy plane near the Fordoo nuclear enrichment plant in central Iran.

The regime's English-language outlet Press TV recycles the report, with Dafsari explaining that the US drone was on a mission to identify the location of the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant and gather information about the nuclear facility for the CIA.

There is no other evidence for the "news", which is remarkably similar to claims last year that US drones were brought down near the Bushehr nuclear plant. So that's the end of the propanganda wheeze, right?

Tell that to CNN: "Iran Says It Shoots Down US 'Spy Drone'".

0905 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. MP Ali Motahari is not happy that his campaign for Parliamentary interrogation of the President has been blocked, in part by the intervention of the Supreme Leader's office: "Should we leave questioning Ahmadinejad for the time after the US and Israel have fallen and foreign media has been dissolved?"

0900 GMT: Elections Watch (Confusion Edition). On Tuesday, the spokesman of the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kahkhodaei, said that the reformist parties Islamic Iran Participation Front and Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution had not been dissolved by court order. Today, Mahmoud Abbaszadeh, secretary of the Article 10 Commission overseeing political parties, says the dissolution of the parties has been announced in daily newspapers.

0855 GMT: Creative Accounting. Fars reports that the National Development Fund has $20 billion, but officials plan to withdraw $37 billion for projects.

0720 GMT: All the President's Men. Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi may be proclaiming that he has been declared innocent of wrongdoing over the abuses and murders in Kahrizak detention centre, but he faces new accusations. Ayande News claims the former Tehran Prosecutor General, who now advises on smuggling and drugs, has provided false data on the amount of smuggled cigarettes and asks, "Where has the money gone?"

See also Iran Special Analysis: 5 Points for Discussion of the "New Green Manifesto"
Iran Document: The Authors of "New Green Manifesto" Issue Another Statement

0615 GMT: A striking English-language summary in Mehr News of a declaration by MP Ali Motahari earlier this week: 

MP Ali Motahari says he does not believe in efforts made by principlist groups to achieve unity in the run-up to the March parliamentary elections, saying principlists should enter into an alliance when they have a serious rival like staunch reformists who sought to restructure the Islamic system.
But the reformists who will be endorsed by the Guardian Council to run for the next election will be “sensible and harmless” figures who will not pose any threat to the Islamic system, he added.
Mehr omits the far sharper comments by Motahari, a fervent critic of the Government, about President Ahmadinejad over "unity", but what is of interest here is the lifting of the veil from the political process --- Motahari, as a "principlist", is free to go as far as calling for Ahmadinejad's impeachment, but even he believes that the system must only allow "harmless" reformists to run for office.
That is pretty much the theme of conservatives/principlists as they seek an arrangement for "harmless" reformists to add to the legislative numbers against the Ahmadinejad camp. The problem is that it is looking less and less likely that leading reformists will accept their meek and mild role.
Former President Mohammad Khatami continues to move away from his call for "reconciliation" --- which an EA source is now saying was taken out of context to indicate Khatami's compliance with the system. Khatami re-stated Tuesday that there would be no participation in the 2012 Parliamentary elections unless conditions were met such as the freeing of political prisoners and the reinstatement of reformist political parties.
And we wait to see if there is a new element in the political mix with the dissemination of the "New Green Manifesto" by "representatives of more than a dozen underground groups inside Iran". The text, which had been put out in English at the start of the week, finally appeared in Persian last night.
An EA correspondent's initial reading:
The document addresses eight groups: industrial workers, elite and middle class, producers and small enterprises, ethnic minorities, the poor, students, women, and clergy, defining specific demands for them, such as equality, unions, free organistations, and more rights.
This manifesto has the same tension as earlier ones: cling to the Constitution --- which still allows Ayatollah Khamenei to  intervene --- but demand equality. 
That tension continues with the demand for human rights according to int'l standards while upholding the Islamic Republic's Constitution. Is that possible?
And there is an issue involving the clergy. While stating that the Government should not interfere in their realms, ending government abuse of religion, the manifesto is silent about the extensive interests of clerics, for example, the bonyads which allow them to control a large amount of funds in Iran.

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