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The Latest from Iran (5 September): It's the Economy, Stupid

See also Iran Snapshot: So How Does the Supreme Leader Spend His Day?

WikiLeaks and Iran Document: Why US Diplomats Suspected Fraud in 2009 Election
Iran Snapshot: A Protest With a Difference --- This One is by Kermanshah’s Basiji
Iran: Assessing Latest Cyber-Threat, Rogue Certificate Part 2
The Latest from Iran (4 September): Shrinking Lake, Growing Protests

0350 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Nader Karimi Jooni, who has worked for Jahan-e-Sanat and Shargh, has been released 33 months after his arrest.

0335 GMT: When An Arrest is not an Arrest Watch. More from the slightly surreal press conference of Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei (see 1430 GMT)....

Mohseni Ejei explained that opposition figures Mir Hossein Ejei and Mehdi Karroubi were not under arrest -- "staying at home", i.e., their strict house arrests, was to their benefit to prevent "other things".

The Prosecutor General then applied his logic to the detentions of youths for water games in parks in Tehran and Mashhad. These were "not crimes" but "immoral actions must be punished".

And other acts escaping punishment altogether? Nothing was being done in cases of bank fraud and an alleged $11 billion in oil money "missing" from Iran's foreign reserves.

0315 GMT: He's Back. The President's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, has accompanied Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the official visit to Tajikistan. It is Rahim-Mashai's first trip with Ahmadinejad in four months.

0115 GMT: Press Watch. Iranian authorities have shut down two publications which carried articles critical of President Ahmadinejad's policies.

Shahrvand-e Emrouz, a weekly reformist news magazine, has been shut down and the daily Rouzegar has been banned for two months. Both publications have had their licenses revoked in the past and subsequently reopened under their current names.

A source said that Sharvand-e Emrouz had been punished because of cover photographs of the President which could be seen as criticism.

0045 GMT: Environment Watch. Iranian media report that the head of Iran’s Organization for the Protection of the Environment has confirmed the declaration of President Ahmadinejad's Parliamentary deputy that 950 billion tomans (about $900 million) has been allotted to redirect water from the Aras and Kurdistan Rivers to threatened Lake Urmia.

The President’s deputy also announced the formation of a committee to resolve the problems facing the lake. Projects to be considered include redirecting water from the Aras River and building a 40-kilometer tunnel to direct underground waters from Zaub to Lake Urmia.

Earlier in the day, 500 activists and students had written in protest against the lack of response to the drying up of the lake.

1710 GMT: Environment Watch. Amidst the protests over the drying-up of Lake Urmia, Mohammad Reza Mirtajoddini, President Ahmadinejad's Parliamentary deputy, has said the Government has budgeted $900 million for saving the lake.

1700 GMT: Our Athletes Are Missing. Seventeen young men and women of the Iranian speed skating team have reportedly been "lost" at the World Speed Skating Championships in South Korea.

There is no indication where "lost" means "asking for asylum".

1630 GMT: Economy Watch. A curious story from Aftab --- while Iranian consumers face rising inflation for basic products, 195,000 tons of tea, worth 351 billion Tomans (about $320 million) and equal to two years of domestic consumption, has been composted.

1625 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The releases of actor Ramin Parchami and Moein Mohammadbeygi, seized in the Ashura protests of December 2009, have been confirmed.

1615 GMT: The Battle Within. Earlier we noted the positioning of Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, as he distanced himself from President Ahmadinejad and held out an olive branch to reformists (see 1330 GMT)....

Add to this the report that Bahonar and other MPs have criticised Ahmadinejad for his provincial tours while an Audit Office report on government legislation, submitted a year ago, is unpublished. The MPs claim that 70% of development plans are unfulfilled.

Meanwhile, the Audit Office has claimed that the Government has used funds for energy development for support payments covering subsidy cuts and has noted the failure of the Minister of Oil to report on investments.

1445 GMT: An Anniversary. It is now one year since the arrest of prominent defence attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, sentenced to 11 years in prison after she refused to bow to pressure over her representation of political detainees.

1440 GMT: Reformist Watch. A group of reformist activists has written to Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, asking him to dissolve current supervision of elections by the Guardian Council, replacing Council members with representatives of all political currents. The activists also called for the release of political prisoners.

Signatories of the letter include Fazlollah Salavati, Seyed Mahmoud Hosseini, Seyed Ali Nekouie, and Mostafa Meskin.

1430 GMT: Excuse of the Day. Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has said, "We keep some people under house arrest for their own interests."

Opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi have been held under strict house arrest --- without any formal charges --- since mid-February.

1420 GMT: Mardomak claims that 90% of classes in Allameh Tabatabai University have been gender-segregated.Iranian officials had announced plans to separate men and women in freshmen classes at some universities this autumn, but this had been criticised by members of the Ahmadinejad Administration.

1410 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Poetess, translator, and women rights activist Faranak Farid has been arrested in Tabriz.

A clip of Farid speaking on women's rights is available on YouTube.

1330 GMT: Manoeuvre of Day. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, has taken on "hard-line" opponents by claiming that they are trying to eliminate alP those who voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 Presidential elections.

Signalling his support for a deal between "moderate conservatives" and reformists ahead of Parliamentary elections, Bahonar made sure he rejected the accusation that he had backed Mousavi in the campaign. At the same time, he said he did not wish for the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and had voted for Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council.

And Bahonar also said that he did not support the strict house arrests on Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, also a candidate in the 2009 election: "[Hard-line] calls for execution of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi pressured Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani into saying in an interview that he is in favor of arresting the leaders of sedition, but high-ranking officials of the establishment were opposed to their arrest."

1320 GMT: The Battle Within. Taamol News tries a different line of attack against the Government, "Why do the children of high officials go to Great Britain [for study]? What are the political implications?"

1310 GMT: Rumour of Day. Both Mashregh News and Khabar Online are claiming that President Ahmadinejad will remove controversial members of his inner circle --- notably Chief of Staff Esfandiar Mashaei and Vice Presidents Hamid Baghaei and Mohammad Reza Rahimi --- ahead of March's Parliamentary elections in an effort to win more votes.

1305 GMT: No More Golden Ice Cream. Remember the embarrassment for the regime over this summer's story in The Washington Post about disparities between the lifestyles of rich and poor, symbolised by the Tehran restaurant serving ice cream covered in gold flake for those who can afford it?

Well, Fars says that the golden ice cream is no more: the Supreme Leader's has issued a fetwa against the dessert as "haram" (forbidden).

Tehran municipal officials have reportedly ordered the Milad Tower restaurant to stop serving the expensive dessert.

1300 GMT: Border Watch. An Iraqi Kurdish military commander says Iran, continuing its shelling of border areas, has struck bases of his troops: “The shells are shot overhead and have hit the bunkers of the Peshmarga forces."

Hussein Pirot claimed at least a dozen Iranian artillery shells have landed near the Peshmerga bases. One hit a bunker but did not cause casualties.

The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Peshmerga deployed soldiers to the border areas in July, as Iran attacked camps of the Iranian Kurdish insurgency PJAK.

1220 GMT: Economy Watch. The Governor of the Central Bank has said that the annual inflation rate climbed to 17.3% in August.

The official rate has risen steadily from its level of 14.2% in the spring. Economists inside and outside Iran, supported by evidence of significant increases in the cost of items such as food and utilities, believe the actual rate is much higher.

1215 GMT: The Battle Within. Javan Online, the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards, continues its assault on the advisors around President Ahmadinejad. The website asserts that the "deviant current" wants to incite the Assembly of Experts to remove the Supreme Leader, with a four-phase restart of unrest: 1. creation of public groups and non-government organisations; 2. use of foreign contacts and media, including the establishment of relations with the US; 3. removal of the Supreme Leader; 4. sedition.

1200 GMT: Environment Watch. Rooz Online, in its summary of the weekend clashes in Tabriz and Urmia over the drying-up of Lake Urmia, claims there was one security officer for every four protesters> It asserts that, while uniformed police were "decent", plainclothes men were violent.

0600 GMT: About 400 employees of an Iranian firm working for Ahwaz Metro are on strike for the eighth day in a row, protesting over seven months of unpaid wages. Meanwhile, the strike of Tehran Bazaar cloth merchants over a 4% special tax is in a second month, even though the vendors met with MPs last week.

When Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992, he used a simple yet effective campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." He won. With rolling labor strikes, unpaid wages, and an ecological disaster eating at the livelihoods of the inhabitants around Urmia Lake, who will pick up on Clinton's campaign slogan. Ahmadinejad? He is catching much of the blame. The conservatives? They have failed to manage the crisis through Parliament. The reformists? Or maybe someone else...

We'll be updating in a few short hours.

In the meantime, France24 has a fascinating article about the expansion of the Revolutionary Guards into the economic realm, and it's not a flattering picture.

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