See also Iran Video: President Ahmadinejad's Address to the United Nations br>
Iran Special Analysis: US Hikers Released --- Everyone, including Ahmadinejad, is a Winner (for Now) br>
Iran Interview: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Runs Circles Around ABC News' Stephanopoulos br>
The Latest from Iran (21 September): The In-Fighting Over the US Hikers
2135 GMT: The UN Speech. An EA correspondent notes that, in his attention to the centuries-long perfidy of the West, President Ahmadinejad failed to mention the current issue of Palestine and its quest for statehood. Any significance?
What is definitely significant is the marker set down by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament's National Security Council, over Ahmadinejad's signals that he would like a resumption of talks with the US: Boroujerdi that is not within the Government's power to decide Tehran's relationship with America.
1945 GMT: Analysis of the Day. Interesting that Press TV opened its de-brief of the Ahmadinejad speech not with praise for the address but by asking about the walkout by many delegates. And Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi ran with the theme:
I think it shows the intolerance that is dominant in the United States and in Europe...at least at the official level. They are unwilling to even listen to a person who has an alternative viewpoint, yet ironically the United States allows the Mujahedin-e-Khalq [MKO], the terrorist organisation, to rally outside the United Nations at the time of President Ahmadinejad's speech.
1940 GMT: Today at the UN. I have to say that, for all my disappointment at the Ahmadinejad speech, the passage at the end about the Hidden Imam coming back with Jesus Christ "to lead the lovers of justice and freedom" to "the sweet taste of life" is pretty distinctive.
For those who want to relive the experience, we have posted the video of the address.
1920 GMT: Today at the UN. A couple of notes far more interesting than the Ahmadinejad speech....
Yes, Iranian media --- at least the English-language Press TV --- did show the delegates who walked out and a mostly-empty auditorium.
And, in the middle of the Press TV, a technical glitch meant that the translator's voice was replaced by a snippet by a very un-Iranian R&B track.
1900 GMT: Today at the UN. I return from a break to watch the videotape of President Ahmadinejad's address to the United Nations General Assembly. He promises to "address international events from a different angle" and....
It's exactly the same scenario as last year. Ahmadinejad criticises "arrogant powers", "slavemasters", and "colonial powers", who suppress other nations and cause worldwide recession and "socio-politico-economic crisis". The same "arrogant powers" threaten anyone who dares question the Holocaust or the real responsibility for the attacks of 11 September 2001.
And as Ahmadinejad positions himself as the spokesman for the oppressed of the globe --- from those taken as slaves centuries ago to those hit by the nuclear bomb to those those suffering from the perpetrators of the "mysterious September 11 incident as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq" and seek the domination of the Middle East and its oil --- a lot of delegates walk out --- just like last year.
In short, nothing much to see here --- time would far better be spent looking for any behind-the-scenes developments from Ahmadinejad's call on the US --- not from the UN podium, of course, but in media interviews --- to talk about Iran's nuclear programme (see separate entry).
1525 GMT: Unity Watch. Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, has said that he has given an ultimatum to the Islamic Constancy Front to co-operate with the effort to form a conservative/principlist front before next March's Parliamentary elections.
The Front, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and including pro-Ahmadinejad MPs, has balked at joining unity talks because of opposition to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.
1520 GMT: Impeachment Watch. MP Ali Motahari, a persistent critic of President Ahmadinejad, said that if Parliament does not allow 86 deputies to summon Ahmadinejad for interrogation, he will resign from the Majlis.
Motahari spoke about the $2.6 billion bank fraud that might engulf the Government: "There are three groups of people that were involved. The top group consists of the management of some of the banks [involved]. If some senior officials have had a role too, they must naturally be considered as being in the top group, but the problem must not be politicized."
The support of just 72 legislators is legally sufficient to summon the President.
1500 GMT: Opposition Watch. The Coordinating Council of the Green Path has issued a statement declaring that the "first step" for the freedom movement is the release of all political prisoners, including Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. This will point "in the direction of overcoming the current political impasse in the country and providing for free elections".
In all likelihood, the Supreme Leader agreed to free the hikers by weighing the pros and cons of not backing Ahmadinejad at a critical time for Iranian diplomacy. In other words, the final credit for the hikers' freedom belongs to Khamenei, even though it was Ahmadinejad that with brilliant chessmanship created an environment that was difficult if not impossible to reverse without tarnishing Iran's image and receptivity in the international community.
After all, as a leading face of the Islamic Republic, Ahmadinejad speaks for more than himself and his personal prerogatives; rather, his actions represent an entire nation.
1230 GMT: Reformist Watch. Reformist cleric Ayatollah Mousavi Khoeini walks a fine line on participation in Parliamentary elections in March. He says that, while reformists are considering involvement, they should be careful to note the sensitivity of the issues involved.
1045 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The one nugget from the President's interview with Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, and from Kristof's thoughts on the interview, is Ahmadinejad's repetition of his offer --- made last week in an e-mail exchange with the The Washington Post: "If they give us the 20% enriched uranium this very week, we will cease the domestic enrichment of uranium of up to 20 percent this very week. We only want the 20% enrichment for our domestic consumption. If they give it to us according to international law, according to IAEA laws, without preconditions, we will cease domestic enrichment."
As for the value of the rest of the interview, it can be summed up on his portrayal of the killing of Neda Agha Soltan by a Basij militiaman amidst the protests of 20 June 2009: "That scene was staged, and she was killed later, at a later point," and by his concluding remark to Kristof:
We have a lot of freedoms in Iran. I do not believe that you can gain this easy of an access and speak so easily, so at ease, with the president of the United States but you can do that with the Iranian president. This is one of the one of the differences between our two countries.
1015 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. I wrote a bit too soon (0945 GMT) in saying there was only one exchange of value from the Charlie Rose interview with the President. A passage from around the 19-minute mark...
ROSE: Were you on the side of the people who were in the streets of Tehran protesting an election [in 2009]? You weren't on their side. br>
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, I was. Yes, I was. br>
ROSE: Their side? The people who were protesting the election, some of them who were....
AHMADINEJAD: Yes, why not? They demonstrated, they made their positions clear. The judiciary went through the proper channels to make their own position clear.
Ahmadinejad rambles on --- when he risks being cornered, he simply does not stop talking --- with standard lines such as that he does not ask anyone who they voted for, thus giving the impression of free exercise of political rights: "We love everyone equally, every one of our citizens equally....You see, we are supporters of the people."
Rose, arms folded, is not buying this (credit to the cameraman who got the quick shot) and finally jumps in with raised voice: "They were challenging your election. That was the protest." Pointing at Ahmadinejad, "Your election."
Ahmadinejad says, "Right. Absolutely. What is wrong? They were demonstrating...."
Rose moves in quickly as Ahmadinejad smiles (in my opinion, nervously), "I'll tell you what's wrong. If you stop them from protesting, that's wrong. You would agree with me."
Ahmadinejad's reply? "I did not stop them, no, no, no," and regains his ground with his standard rhetoric about those who protest peacefully and respectfully --- "No problem with that" --- and "those who burn people's "businesses and buildings and people's dwellings" and "beat up the citizenry and innocent bystanders". Again, he keeps talking and talking to try and burn out the issue....
And this time he succeeds. Rose, instead of citing the numbers of peaceful protesters killed and detained by Iranian security forces, closes off, "That's up to the people of Iran about who broke the law", and returns to a long, inconclusive challenge to Ahmadinejad's position on Libya.
Unfortunately, the video cannot be embedded on EA but --- with one exception --- the interview is another platform for Ahmadinejad's talking points. At times Rose, who has the reputation of being one of the best interviewers on US television, misses opportunities because he is under-prepared. A notable point is his attempt to raise the divisions within the Iranian establishment: asked by Ahmadinejad (in his standard stalling tactic) from where he has such reports, Rose --- rather than saying from the Iranian media and giving a couple of sharp examples --- flutters and says from "experts" who watch Iran. Ahmadinejad thus easily escapes with the conclusion that any thought of division is the inadequacy or manipulations of the West's supposed experts.
Ahmadinejad also gets off very lightly on rights and detainees --- "We have no political prisoners". Rose brings up the case of a Mousavi supporter who was punished for writing a blog, possibly Somayeh Tohidlou, who was given 50 lashes last week for her "crime", but he does not even offer her name or the details of the punishment. Ahmadinejad gives a brief, dismissive reply, and Rose switches subject.
The economy? Nothing more than a chance for the President to put own talking point, repeated in a broadcast to Iranians in North America yesterday, that Iran is flourishing and that sanctions are only weakening the US and Europe, which are the real places experiencing economic crisis.
The only ray of light so far is a gift from Ahmadinejad to his critics in Iran and/or a display of his readiness to fight when he returns to Tehran. Rose, in a rare moment where he has the information to press a point, asks Ahmadinejad if he stands by embattled Chief of Staff and possible 2013 Presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.
Ahmadinejad takes up the challenge, not only praising Rahim-Mashai's abilities but implying they far exceed those of his critics. Rose asks, "Does he have your full support?", and the President makes his intent known in English, "More than full."
0835 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. We noted this morning that the President is signalling to the US Government that he is ready to talk --- see separate analysis --- so this story from Press TV raises an an eyebrow....
Ahmadinejad used a broadcast to Iranian nationals in North America to declare that "the US must respect rights of the Iranian nation because this will prepare the ground for bilateral cooperation which will be beneficial to both sides".
Ahmadinejad portrayed his outreach as one from strength, criticised American sanctions as "sanctions against itself...[because] the US administration currently faces an economic crisis that Iran does not". He continued, “We have always played an effective and influential role in the international scene and have the capacity to become a top economic power in the world."
And, in a dinner at New York's Warwick Hotel with US academics and students, Ahmadinejad reviewed President Obama's speech at the UN: "The Palestinian people should not be threatened by an American President when insist on their sovereignty."
0805 GMT: Political Prisoners Watch. RAHANA writes that there is still no news of the whereabouts of women's rights activist Fereshteh Shirazi and Faranak Farid.
Farid was seized during demonstrations last month in Azerbaijan over the environmental damage to Lake Urmia, while Shirazi was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence in Amol in northern Iran on 3 September.
0755 GMT: The House Arrests. Fatemeh Karroubi, held with her husband Mehdi and other opposition figures Zahra Rahnavard and Mir Hossein Mousavi in strict house arrest for more than seven months, has written to the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani: "If you are wise, will you find on this planet who has imposed the prison on the Karroubi home?"
Fatemeh Karroubi claims that her husband's health is "seriously at risk" and examination by an independent doctor is "essential".
She adds that, as the Karroubis have been deprived of books, other possessions, and fresh air, they "have made us responsible for paying all the expenses of our prison and our prison guards".
0715 GMT: In seven or eight hours, President Ahmadinejad will address the delegates of the UN General Assembly. Before that show, however, we have time to take stock of the political significance of Wednesday's drama, with the release of US national Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer after 26 months in a Tehran prison.
We have a special analysis, "Everyone (Including Ahmadinejad) Is a Winner...For Now". And Karim Sadjadpour, in an interview with the US Public Broadcasting Service, offers a parallel interpretation:
We have to kind of say that the real power in Iran is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Had it not been for Khamenei, these two young men wouldn't have been detained for 26 months. Had it not been for Khamenei, they also wouldn't have been released today.
And Khamenei has this very Machiavellian leadership style, in which he likes to wield power without accountability. And in order to wield power without accountability, he needs a president like Ahmadinejad, who has accountability without power....
On one hand, he wanted to put Ahmadinejad in his place. He wanted to weaken him domestically. On the other hand, I don't think he wanted to render him totally impotent and render Ahmadinejad kind of this totally powerless puppet, because then all eyes would then go on Khamenei.
So, I think that he achieved what he wanted to, which was what that he made Ahmadinejad sweat a little bit. It became obvious that, when Ahmadinejad snaps his finger, these prisoners aren't going to be released. But at the same time, he has allowed Ahmadinejad to deliver on what he said he would do.