Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (29 July): And Now We Bring You This Diversion....

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (0615 GMT)1905 GMT: Oil and Politics. Even though he has not been approved as Minister of Oil by Parliament, Rustam Qassemi --- Revolutionary Guards commander and head of its engineering branch, Khatam al-Anbia --- has called a Saturday meeting of the Ministry's staff and experts in the industry.

Why such a hurry? An EA correspondent observes that a Tehran conference has noted that Qatar is taking 450,000 barrels of oil per day from the South Pars field --- and Iran is taking 0.

Our correspondent mischievously follows up, "[Qassemi is] trying to save his assets after yesterday's conference."

1855 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Dastgheib is sharpening his attacks on the Government. He said, "They are looting nat'l income", plundering the oil reserves, and "humiliating the people".

Dastgheib continued, "We can't sit silent. If the country is really Islamic, it doesn't need so many modern weapons. Rulers should listen to people's demands."

In short, "Instead of importing weapons to oppress people, render your behaviour Islamic."

1840 GMT: Get-Tough Watch. More from the Tehran Friday Prayer....

Hojatoleslam Kazim Seddiqi declared, “Arrogant powers and Iran's enemies intend to create insecurity in the country and prevent the Islamic Republic's development.”

Seddiqi cited last weekend's murder of postgraduate student Daryoush Rezaienejad, who may or may not have been connected with Iran's nuclear programme and attacks by the Kurdish insurgent group PJAK, and he noted in response Iran's claimed expansion of its naval forces.

And what could the "development" to which Seddiqi was referring?

President Ahmadinejad defined it last night, “The enemies of humanity cannot stand up to the willpower of truth-seekers and the Islamic Awakening of nations, which has picked up pace today."

1830 GMT: Border Watch. An Iraqi mayor said that a 10-year-old Kurdish boy has been killed in shelling by Iranian forces of Kurdish separatist bases in north Iraq.

Mohammed Antar Zerrar was the third Iraqi killed in artillery bombardments during two weeks of clashes between the Iranian military and insurgent group PJAK.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday the fighting has displaced hundreds of villagers in the border regions of northern Iraq.

Iranian state outlet Press TV said today that PJAK killed a Basij militiaman and injured four in an attack on an Iranian army base on Wednesday.

1715 GMT: Opposition Watch. The "Green Path" meeting of opposition activists in Paris has issued its final statement. It put forth a cautious line on the issue of boycotting the 2012 elections --- "we won't abandon our right to vote and to be elected" --- but went beyond other opposition statements in emphasising the rights of ethnic and religious minorities "as guaranteed" in the Constitution. It said the Government must furnish them with financial means and ensure the right of assembly."

The meeting asserted, "Our silence is a sign of protest. We adopted patience to accustom dictators to democracy and to break the dictatorship. We want to make it more easy for them to accept a defeat."

1530 GMT: Battling Friday Prayer Messages. Ayatollah Alamolhoda, speaking in Qom today, started with a slap at the Government, "Some Government officials are not interested in dealing with the problems of society and try to divert us." Then he addressed the social situation, "The main problems of people are not economy and subsistence but religion!"

Not so fast, says Grand Ayatollah Javadi Amoli: "Do not expect poor people to be religious. Society needs liberty."

1445 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Summary. Hojaleslam Kazem Siddiqi has an All-is-Well message: "Some cases of violence are no reason to claim there is turmoil in society."

1440 GMT: Elections Watch. Leading principlist MP Mohammad Reza Bahonar offers some advice to reformists: "You can participate [in next March's Parliamentary elections] on condition that you define reforms and reject the Green Movenment and its leaders."

1425 GMT: Loyalty Alert. Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has told Egyptian clerics that Ayatollah Khamenei is a "very informed Leader". He said, "We are not concerned about the future. We are independent of govt and can criticise it when it deviates."

1340 GMT: Factions Watch. Deutsche Welle offers an assessment of the new political faction, the Islamic Constancy Front, launched by clerics --- notably Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi --- and former officials of the Ahmadinejad Government (see Thursday's LiveBlog) to "unify" conservatives and principlists.

1125 GMT: Reformist Watch. Speaking to student activists, former Mohammad Khatami said that history tends towards freedom and liberty.

0800 GMT: Excuse of the Day. The hard-line Raja News explains that the recent raid on the home of Ayatollah Amjad, who has been critical of the Government, was because the cleric had not paid his rent.

0700 GMT: And the Diversions Continue. In recent days, there has been an escalation of headline stories on Iranian influence in Iraq --- take your pick as to whether US officials have uncovered the extent of Tehran's infiltration, whether this is a rationale to keep the American military in Iraq beyond its announced withdrawal date, or whether this is "information" to press the Iraqi Government to distance itself from Iran.

Anyway, The Guardian of London is not asking any questions about motives this morning. Instead, it splashes dramatically, "Qassem Suleimani: the Iranian General 'Secretly Running' Iraq".

The support for this profile of Suleimani, the head of the al-Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, is said to be in "weeks of interviews with key officials, including those who admire him and those who fear the man like no other". The actual evidence is sparse, such as a "senior Shia MP" asserting:

[Suleimani] has managed to form links with every single Shia group, on every level. Last year, in the meeting in Damascus that formed the current Iraqi government, he was present at the meeting along with leaders from Syria, Turkey, Iran and Hezbollah. "He forced them all to change their mind and anoint [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-] Maliki as leader for a second term."

Perhaps an American used in the story is --- inadvertently --- closer to the mark about the game being played in reports about Suleimani and about Iran "running" Iraq:

"He is indeed like Keyser Söze," said a senior US official this week – in reference to the legendary villain in the The Usual Suspects, whose ruthlessness and influence terrified everyone. "Nobody knew who he was and this guy's the same. He is everywhere, but nowhere."

0635 GMT: Reformist Watch. Opposition advisor Mojtaba Vahedi has praised political prisoners Mohammad Reza Nourizad and Mehdi Khazali for "bravely speaking out" against the regime. He said that the debate over forthcoming Parliamentary elections had "tore down the wall between hardliners and reformists".

0615 GMT: For those of you who thought Al Qa'eda was a spent force following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the US Treasury would like you to look at Iran....

On Thursday, the US Treasury found another rationale for sanctions on Tehran, declaring in a formal statement that Iran was a "critical transit point" for Al Qa'eda funds and extremists reaching Pakistan and Afghanistan: "This network serves as the core pipeline through which al-Qaida moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia." 

The Treasury said a branch headed by an Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil had operated with the regime's blessing since 2005 six years. It claimed an Atiyah Abd al-Rahman had been appointed by bin Laden as al-Qaida's envoy in Iran after serving as a commander in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Treasury alleges that, as an emissary, al-Rahman is allowed to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of the authorities.

The announcement offered little of substance on Aziz Khalil or Abd al-Rahman yesterday beyond vague labels and biographical information. Abd al-Rahman had been named by the US State Department in 2006 as a Libyan-born operative, born in 1970, who was the "primary liaison" to Al Qa'eda in Iran. The US offered $1 million for his capture. 

US officials said in autumn 2010 that Abd al-Rahman had "relocated" to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of northern Pakistan. There was a report, never confirmed, that he was killed in a drone attack on 7 October 2010 in Waziristan.

The US Government has argued in the past that Iran has harboured Al Qa'eda personnel, including Saad bin Laden, the eldest son of the former Al Qa'eda leader. Tehran claims that those who fled the fighting in Afghanistan after 2001 were kept under house arrest and not allowed to engage in Al Qa'eda operations.

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