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The Latest from Iran (30 August): "Conflict & Retaliation"

Former President Mohammad Khatami (left) to Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest since February: "Just make a false confession, and Seyed Ali [the Supreme Leader] will pardon you (like me)" [by Eghbal Mahvari]

See Also, Iran Special: Assessing the Latest Cyber-Threat --- The "Rogue Certificate" (Arseh Sevom)
The Latest from Iran (29 August): Catching Up

2009 GMT: Elections Watch. Akbar Torkan, Minister of Defence in the Rafsanjani Government of the 1990s, said today that the power of the military, the state, and even the Supreme Leader depends on republicanism and the ability for people to vote freely. He also said that the institutions of Iran are threatened if they have no free elections backing them, and thus no popular support.

1958 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Parvin Baharzadeh, assistant professor at Al-Zahra University and member of the "Gnosis Group, and several other people have been arrested by intelligence forces and sent to Evin Prison.

1643 GMT: Economy Front. Economic expert Hossein Qasemi has warned Fararu that 20,000 companies in Iran are in a state of stagnation because of the massive amount of imports and wrong government policies. He also warned that trend lines are moving in the wrong direction, and imports could increase by 50% before the second half of next year.

1631 GMT: Breakaway Journalism, Part 2. Not content to stop there (see our last update below), Ayande News has now compiled a list of potential human rights abuses on the part of Iran's long-time ally, Syria, and has even quoted the Associated Press as well as the leading Syrian dissident group, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria.

Perhaps even more significantly, Ayande did not once mention the arguments --- used by Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Syrian State TV SANA, and the Iranian state-run press and Government --- that Syrian security forces are being deployed to restore order and put down "Armed gangs" and "terrorists", that the military has suffered large amounts of casualties at the hands of armed protesters and thugs, and that the civilian casualties are not being caused by the Syrian military.

1554 GMT: Breakaway Journalism, Part 1. Ayande News, is reporting that seven people have been killed so far today in Syria, and more than 2200 have been killed there since the start of unrest. This is significant because these numbers match those of human rights' activists and the United Nations, in contrast to the downplaying civilian casualties by the government and the media outlets in both Iran and Syria.

An EA correspondent quips, "At least one news agency in Iran is honest."

1546 GMT: Environment Watch. According to Radio Farda, five activists were ar arrested in Ardebil, Sunday, for distributing flyers that describe the situation in Lake Orumiyeh, drying up because of a combination of drought and government policies.

1540 GMT: We've added a new feature, a separate analysis of the "Rogue Certificate" cyber-attack that is threatening dissidents inside Iran.

1439 GMT: MP Ahmad Tavakolisaid that he may be forced to take legal action against the Central Bank because corruption is so extensive, and he even said that this had contributed to a situation where Iranian people were "destitute":

These news reports and development resulted in MP Tavakoli’s heated questioning of the minister of economy in the Majlis. "At a time when we see signs of a recession in the economy why are some individuals positioned to receive permits to create a bank and financial cooperatives?" he asked, continuing, "The reason is that there is a major rentier relationship in the banks which exists because of the financial facilities of these institutions. This money that turns some people into wealthy investors, is in reality money that comes from the pockets of the deprived people. A newly created bank has amassed undue wealth by obtaining loans from Saderat Bank."

According to Khabar Online, Tavakoli further said, "Last Spring I wrote you [the Minister of Economy] a letter and spoke of 84 illegal companies which had been created through the slogan of justice, which we know do not bring any justice. These rentier relationships spread injustice and cruelty. In the north of the country, these companies are tearing up people. People have become destitute. Even though you are not the person directly responsible for this, you are a member of the Finance and Credit Council and a member of the Central Bank’s board of directors, and so why have you not cried out against this and demanded the rights of the people? We cannot question the agencies and ministries under the direct supervision of the president but if this trend continues will have no choice but to file a law suit against the governor of the Central Bank. Such events should not take place in a government that claims to expand justice."

1105 GMT: CyberWatch. The Internet is buzzing over a story claiming a possible surveillance attack, with a "rogue" SLL certificate being used to track computer users in Iran.

The certificate was issued by a Dutch company called DigiNotar on 10 July. The first indication that something was amiss came from an Iranian user, who posted on a Google support forum that he had received a warning message about an invalid certificate. The problem was observed on multiple internet service providers --- it is still unclear why some users got the warning message --- leading to speculation that Iranian regime might be monitoring dissidents and stealing log-in details.

DigiNotar has not said to whom the certificate was issued. The worry is that, while a user thinks he/she is logged securely into a site and that communication are encrypted, attackers controlling the network could eavesdrop on all keystrokes, including passwords in a "man in the middle" attack.

Google has issued a statement:

Today we received reports of attempted SSL man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks against Google users, whereby someone tried to get between them and encrypted Google services. The people affected were primarily located in Iran. The attacker used a fraudulent SSL certificate issued by DigiNotar, a root certificate authority that should not issue certificates for Google (and has since revoked it).

Google Chrome users were protected from this attack because Chrome was able to detect the fraudulent certificate.

To further protect the safety and privacy of our users, we plan to disable the DigiNotar certificate authority in Chrome while investigations continue. Mozilla also moved quickly to protect its users. This means that Chrome and Firefox users will receive alerts if they try to visit websites that use DigiNotar certificates.

To help deter unwanted surveillance, we recommend that users, especially those in Iran, keep their web browsers and operating systems up to date and pay attention to web browser security warnings.

Our colleagues at the civil society organisation, Arseh Sevom, have posted a short note in Persian and are working on a longer story in English.

0945 GMT: Another clip of the clashes on Saturday in Orumiyeh in northwestern Iran between security forces and demonstrators. Protests took place all week over the drying-up of Lake Orumiyeh --- Iran's largest lake is rapidly turning to salt because of drought, misguided irrigation, dams, and development.

One of a series of photographs in Mehr of the shrinking lake:

0930 GMT: Misery Watch. The National Audit Office has reported that its "Misery Index" rose from 21.9% in 2005 to 30.6% in 2011.

MP Alireza Mahjoub, the head of the "Workers House" in Parliament, has declared that Ramadan was marked by the empty tables of workers who have not been paid for months.

0910 GMT: Unity Watch. The efforts of conservatives and principlists to resolve tensions ahead of March's Parliamentary elections continue to stagger: members of the Islamic Constancy Front, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, were again absent from the "7+8" unity front meeting on Sunday.

Factions have been squabbling over which groups should be representing on the 7+8 committee.

0905 GMT: Remembering the Dead. The family of 19 year-old Amir Yousefzadeh, killed in July 2009, has broken its silence.

Yousefzadeh was one of a number of students, protesting around Enghelab Square and Tehran University, who were beaten by security forces. He died in hospital.

Yousefzadeh's father, speaking to Rah-e Sabz, has emerged to say, "[I] will seek justice for my son as long as I am alive."

0855 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Dastgheib, a persistent critic of the Government, has said that there have been "regular and numerous" violations of the law by Iranian authorities in the last two years, raising the prospect of riots.

0740 GMT: And so, another day goes by, and there is yet another warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that all in Iran should avoid "conflict and retaliation" in the face of criticism. Frankly, it's getting hard to remember a time before the infighting between Conservatives was the focus of the political system and the Supreme Leader.

In other news, Sunni Muslims have been banned from participating in Eid al-Fitr prayers in Tehran, and they have written a letter of protest to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is yet another sign of discontent among the Sunnis, and yet another area where the government is increasingly interfering with their ability to practice their religion.

Also, Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, meeting with members of the Central Council of the Islamic Association of Iranian teachers, was asked a question about parliamentary elections being valid. He said that one cannot eliminate, accuse and imprison political rivals and still claim that elections are sane, and he called for the release of all political prisoners:

"Electoral rules are not simply a word or a slogan... Obviously one of the requirements (for a valid election) is a healthy choice, without concern for the social environment and atmosphere for healthy competition between candidates.

"You cannot raise such a significant enterprise (when political rivals) are kept in prison and then ask everyone to come and participate in elections... In fact, the election is just another name to the institution."

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