Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (28 September): And Now to the Real News....

1910 GMT: Where's Esfandiar? The mystery over the whereabout of President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai continues....

Asr-e Iran asks why Rahim-Mashai has not been seen on Ahmadinejad's return on his overseas tour, either from the US or from Mauritania, where the President stopped on his way back from New York. In a new theory, Asr-e Iran doubts Rahim-Mashai even went to America, calling him a "ghost".

1710 GMT: Oil Watch. Allegations are now coming thick and fast about the Government's misuse of oil revenues (see 1415 GMT). Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the head of the Supreme Audit Court, has claimed that the Central Bank has not recovered billions of dollars in oil debts from India, that the Ministry of Energy owes $350 million to the private sector, that $2.9 billion in oil income has been spent on support payments for the subsidy cuts programme, and that oil revenues have been illegally transferred to foreign accounts of the National Iranian Oil Company.

Former Minister of Oil Masoud Mir Kazemi has reportedly submitted documents to the judiciary defending himself against accusations of involvement in the "disappearance" of $11.2 billion in oil revenue.

1705 GMT: Claimed footage of the strike, which began last month, by cloth vendors in the Tehran Bazaar:

Kalemeh reports that the cloth merchants, who are protesting about the Government's value-added tax, have announced a rally in the Bazaar on Saturday, with a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Finance.

1645 GMT: Corruption Watch. Robin Pomeroy of Reuters has written about today's developments --- noted throughout the LiveBlog --- in the £2.6 billion bank fraud. The take-away paragraphs:

The most senior official to lose his post so far is Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the head of Iran's biggest bank, state-owned Bank Melli, who resigned on Tuesday.

[Mohammad] Jahromi [the head of Bank Saderat, who was dismissed on Tuesday] said Khavari had fled Iran for Canada to avoid arrest, something a Bank Melli spokesman denied, saying he was merely out of the country for one day and would return on Thursday, the ISNA news agency reported.

"Despite my follow-ups and contacting the intelligence ministry and judiciary for the arrest of the main culprits, the main backers of this corruption have publicly blamed Bank Saderat and its manager," Jahromi said in comments carried by the semi-official Fars news agency.

In a leader column in Iran daily, Ahmadinejad's senior media adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr said other arms of government -- supposedly parliament and the judiciary -- should be blamed for the scandal.

"Other bodies have the duty to supervise affairs in a way that prevents corruption ... If they had done this duty correctly, would corruption like embezzlement and disorder in the country's economic system happen?" he wrote.

1505 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Parliament's Article 90 Commission overseeing Government activities has published a report on President Ahmadinejad "four major misconducts", including his unfulfilled programme to give $1000 to families for each newborn child and his ignorance of the 4th Development Plan (2005-2010) and of legislation on the budget.

1445 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Both The Guardian of London and Egypt's Ahram Online have picked up the story of the 11-year prison sentence for Narges Mohammadi, women's right activist and officer at the Center for Defenders of Human Rights.

1420 GMT: Claim of the Day (Bank Fraud Special). This bank fraud fuss (see 1400 GMT)is escalating quickly....

The head of the Central Bank of Iran, Mahmoud Bahmani says he has no idea of the whereabouts of Bank Melli managing director Mahmoud Reza Khavari, accused of fleeing to Canada. A spokesman for Bank Melli maintains that Khavari is on an official mission abroad and will return tomorrow.

Babak Dad claims that Mohammad Jahromi, the dismissed managing director of Bank Saderat is the son-in-law of prominent conservative politician and former Presidential candidate Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, that he changed his first name and obtained a Ph.D. certificate, and that financed the Ahmadinejad team as Minister of Labour.

Dad continues that Jahromi founded a secret army to oppress dissidents and distributed quick-return loans, many of which were given to Basiji. When that project failed, Jahromi urged Ahmadinejad to abolish Audit Office and asked the President to transfer mutual assistance funds to the "Imam Reza Mehr Mutual Assistance Fund" to prevent Parliamentary control.

1415 GMT: Oil Watch. The controversy over the Government's collection and use of oil revenues continues....

Days after an MP on Parliament's Energy Commission suggested that $11.2 billion of oil money was "missing" as it had not been deposited in the Iranian Treasury, another Commission member, Moayed Hosseini Sadr, has accused the Government of transferring oil income money to foreign branches of Bank Melli.

1405 GMT: Chest-Thumping Diversion Watch. Back to our opening entry (0620 GMT)....

Not content with scaring Reuters, the Iranian military has pressed ahead with its scary PR campaign --- Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has said Iran has started large-scale production of a domestically-developed cruise missile, "Ghader (Capable)", designed for sea-based targets and capable of destroying warships.

Far more significant is the news that Vahidi, along with the Revolutionary Guard, objected to the US proposal for a military hotline to avert conflicts, even as President Ahmadinejad said he would consider it.

1400 GMT: Claim of the Day (Bank Fraud Special). A dramatic turn in the $2.6 billion bank fraud scandal....

One of the resigned/dismissed bank executives, Bank Saderat managing director Mohammad Jahromi, has accused another of the resigned/dismissed, Bank Melli managing director Mahmoud Reza Khavari, of fleeing to Canada with the assistance of senior Iranian officials.

1250 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (At the Movies Edition). After the Iran House of Cinema expressed support for six filmmakers arrested last night, on the pretext that they worked with BBC Persian (see 0810 GMT), the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance has questioned the "legality" of the association.

0950 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Rah-e Sabz reports that the name of Minister Rustam Qassemi has been withdrawn from a list of individuals sanctioned by the US and the European Union over Iran's nuclear programme and human rights record.

The website says the step was taken so Qassemi, who is also a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, can attend a meeting in Vienna, Austria of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

0945 GMT: On the Border. An official of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government has told the website Rudaw that Iran and the Kurdish insurgency PJAK have agreed to a cease-fire, brokered by former Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Under the deal, the KRG is responsible for deploying forces to secure the border with Iran if fighting flares again between the two sides.

The official said, “[PJAK] will end its attacks on Iran and its fighters will not infiltrate Iran. In return Iran will end its shelling on the borders. So far both sides have committed to the agreement, and no attacks have been carried out by either side for the last 10 days.”

“We declared a ceasefire and hopefully the Iranian government will have a positive response and take steps toward a peaceful solution for the Kurdish issue,” Seid Khan, the public relations liaison of PJAK told Rudaw. “That’s in the best interest of both Iranians and the Kurds.”

The agreement comes after months of bloody clashes between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and PJAK, with shelling of PJAK's camps inside northern Iraq.

0935 GMT: Campus Watch. As some universities in Iran implement gender segregation, the University of Science and Culture in Tehran has put in separate entrances for male and female students. HRANA reports that Iran’s semi-secret police monitoring all educational institutions, Herasat, inspected female students' clothing and make-up behind a curtain, subjecting several women to body searches.

0915 GMT: Press Watch. The reformist daily newspaper Etemaad and the website Hemmat Online have been sanctioned by Iran's Media Court for "publishing lies" and "disturbing public opinion".

0815 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A photograph of detained student activist Ali Akbar Mohammadzadeh, handcuffed to a bed in hospital --- Mohammadzadeh, the Secretary of the Islamic Association at Sharif University of Technology, was detained in February and sentenced earlier this month to six years in prison for "illegal gathering and collusion" and another year for "'propaganda against the regime":

0810 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (At the Movies Edition). Activist Hadi Ghaemi, has maintained that six filmmakers were arrested last week because of fear they would bring bad publicity for the Islamic Republic through their participation in international festivals.

Iranian authorities claim the six detainees were working with BBC Persian, but Ghaemi asserts that State broadcaster IRIB had prepared reports on the "underground" filmmakers, expressing concern that they would smuggle out uncensored information of conditions in Iran.

0800 GMT: Self-Regulation Watch. Parliament has approved, by a 45-vote margin, legislation that will limit MPs' freedom of speech and criticism.

The bill was proposed after the Supreme Leader suggested that Parliament exert greater oversight on its members. It established that if a MP violates laws --- which laws are now specified --- he/she can be punished, from a private oral warning to a publicly-recorded written reprimand to expulsion.

0755 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Narges Mohammadi, a prominent women's rights activist and a colleague of Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi at the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Mohammadi was arrested in April 2010 and again in June during a raid on her home. She was released on $50,000 bail in July as her health deteriorated, spending a month in hospital after she left prison.

Mohammadi, charged with “assembly and collusion against national security and membership in organizations that aim to disrupt national security as well as propaganda against the regime", put out the statement: “I am neither political nor a seditionist and do not accept such a sentence for myself.”

0745 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Mohammad Jafar Behdad, the President's Deputy Chief of Staff, has warned that Ahmadinejad will begin revealing information about his "revengeful" critics when "the interests of the state allow them". He continued, "[The revelations] will terrify some; due to the anger of the society they will not be safe even in their own safe houses. Now it is time for smart and skillful silence."

Pro-Ahmadinejad publications have said that Ahmadinejad's camp have damaging information on more than 300 members of the Iranian elite.

0740 GMT: The Battle Within. The Parliamentary commission monitoring President Ahmadinejad's subsidy cuts programme has claimed that the Government violated the law in a dozen cases, moving more quickly than legally mandated and failing to deposit revenue from the cuts into a special treasury account. The commission asserted that, by the end of the Iranian year on 20 March 2012, the Government will have lost about $15 billion as a result of paying cash handouts in lieu of subsidies.

0730 GMT: Corruption Watch. More on the removal of several top officials in Iran's banks amidst the $2.6 billion fraud case....

After a day of conflicting reports, the Ministry of Economic and Financial Affairs announced that, in addition to the dismissal of the managing director of Bank Melli, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, a member of the Board of Directors, Farzad Ahmadi, had been fired. The Central Bank was sacking the heads of the privately-owned Bank Saderat and Bank Saman --- Mohammad Jahromi and Valli-ollah Zarabieh, respectively.

There was still some confusion, however. Some reports say Khavari resigned before he could be fired, apologising in his resignation letter to the Supreme Leader and the Iranian people. Mehr added that Jahromi --- considered a leading economic advisor to the Ahmadinejad Government --- had refused to resign, forcing his dismissal.

0620 GMT: We begin this morning with a cheeky poke at international media coverage of Iran, "The Iranians Are Coming (to the Gulf of Mexico)!" --- in this case Reuters' panicking, exaggerated presentation of some propaganda by the Iranian military as "a major escalation of tensions" between Tehran and Washington.

It is not as if there is a shortage of news inside Iran. The report in Mehr that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, was not seen when the President returned to Tehran from his overseas trip may be treated as speculation rather than news --- did Rahim-Mashai stay behind in the US for some quiet talks with the Americans? And Ayande may or may not be right that there is an even bigger corruption scandal on the horizon than the $2.6 billion bank embezzlement that has seized the attention of Iranians.

There is no doubt, however, that the political in-fighting has resumed after Ahmadinejad's overseas break. And that conflict is now intertwined with the escalation of the embezzlement scandal: this morning's Iranian newspapers opens with headlines and photos of the resignation/dismissal of the managing directors of two of Iran's largest banks, Melli and Saderat.

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