2020 GMT: Warnings of the Day (cont.). Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi appears to have put out a caution to the President's office and to MPs: "There are some currents that try to depict the guardian jurist [the Supreme Leader] as not having the final say and distinguish the decrees of the Leader as governmental and non-governmental ones....From the viewpoint of such currents, seizing the Presidential office and the Parliament is the only way of changing the regime, this is why they are trying to attract the people."
And last but certainly not least, the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has criticised "certain executive offices" which "create obstacles in the path of the fight against economic corruption".
2010 GMT: Warnings of the Day. The Assembly of Experts has warned "seditionists of the past [the Green Movement] and seditionists of today [the Ahmadinejad camp?]" against questioning "the slogans of the revolution" and "sacred matters of religion, especially in the field of hijab". The group adds: "If they don't follow the roaring of the nation, they will be drowned and they should know that any seditionist move creating obstacles, especially up to the [Parliamentary] election [in March] will be dealt with."
Farda News also challenges Ahmadinejad's allies, questioning Sadegh Mahsouli, Hamid Rasaei, and Gholam-Hossein Elham's commitment to fight against "the deviant current". since "throughout six years they have demonstrated their loyalty to the [Ahmadinejad] cabinet despite the presence" of that current.
1600 GMT: Energy Watch. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has downplayed reports that China is limiting its investments in Iran's energy sector: "The Chinese are very active in Iran. There may be one project or two projects that may have (been reported) in the media....One or two projects may be slow but that is no problem."
Four energy executives in Beijing have told Reuters of slowdowns in Chinese investments in Iran in recent months.
1520 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA reports that Ali Reza Roushan, poet, writer, and head of the book section of the newspaper Shargh, has been arrested and transferred to an undisclosed location.
RAHANA also says nine staff of the Majzooban Noor website have been detained.
1510 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Alert. On the domestic front, President Ahmadinejad has rejected criticism of his handling of the economy, declaring that the Government has handed out $40 million in support payments to cover subsidy cuts and saying that three times that amount should be redistributed with the programme: “Up until now, 70 percent of the subsidies would be pocketed by 30 percent of the populace, and some would only accept the subsidies in order to sell them and profit from them.”
Political critics of Ahmadinejad have declared that most Iranians have been punished by rising prices from the subsidy cuts and that support payments have been ineffective and poorly administered.
The President also maintained his insistence, without providing evidence, that his administration has created 1.6 million jobs last year and will create another 2.5 million jobs in this 12 months.
1455 GMT: At the Movies. Iranian authorities have barred filmmaker Mojtaba Mirtahmasb has been barred from travelling to the Toronto International Film Festival to screen his documentary This Is Not a Film, about a day in fellow Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s life.
Panahi was sentenced in December 2010 to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking, accused of "actions against national security" in the making of his movies.
Mirtahasb's 75-minute documentary is opening the Festival, with audiences admitted free to learn more about Iran and Panahi's case.
In a speech to the Assembly of Experts, Khamenei said, "Great developments are taking place in the region and the existing void regarding future direction of these developments should be filled by accurate explanation of correct meaning of religious democracy to Muslim nations.”
Press TV highlights this statement, “Dictators that were dependent on the US are falling one after the other and future of nations is open to various possibilities which should be considered very carefully.”
The website explains that Khamenei was "referring to recent developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.
So no Syria. But let's be fair: could Damascus be included in this warning from the Supreme Leader: “Reestablishment of past dictatorial systems under a different guise as well as the great threat of establishment of West-dependent systems under the cover of democracy and freedom, are other possible paths”?
1440 GMT: Just Look Away (Syrian Front). State news agency IRNA's featured coverage of President Ahmadinejad? He opened a ceremony in Karaj on research achievements: "We Must Look Into New Areas of Agriculture".
So who is not talking about Ahmadinejad's message? Step up Press TV, which makes no mention of the appeal to President Assad:
“Today, US President [Barack Obama] openly threatens Syria's President; this is an obvious interference and it is certainly not intended for helping the Syrian people,” said President Ahmadinejad in an interview with Portugal's RTP channel on Wednesday. The president reiterated that such threats are aimed at saving “the Zionist regime” and protecting US interests in the strategic Middle East region.
“Regional nations can assist the Syrian people and government in the implementation of essential reforms and the resolution of their problems,” the Iranian president said.
The closest Press TV comes to uttering Ahmadinejad's appeal is this vague quotation: “Governments and nations must resolve their problems through negotiations, and other [countries] have no right to interfere in their internal affairs.”
1115 GMT: A note from Scott Lucas --- I have just landed in the UK after an overnight flight from California, so updates will be limited for a few more hours. Thanks to EA readers for their patience and for keeping us going, via the Comments sections, with latest news and ideas.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should back away from his violent crackdown on protesters and enter talks with the opposition.
"There should be talks" between the Syrian government and its opponents, Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in a live interview with Portuguese broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa.
"A military solution is never the right solution," Ahmadinejad said, according to a simultaneous Portuguese translation of his comments.
"Problems have to be dealt with through dialogue," he said.
This is yet another departure from the rhetoric of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Until recently, the government of Iran had been content to blame Israel and the United states for stoking the embers of sectarian violence. (Side note, the great irony is that both Syria and Iran have also described the protesters as terrorists and Islamic radical fundamentalists, so it doesn't make much sense that Israel and the US should want to bring THOSE forces to power).
Still, this is a bit of a hypocrisy alert, as Syrian activists fleeing through Turkey have repeatedly claimed that there are Iranian operatives helping the Syrian military. What it does show, however, is that Iran is afraid to closely link itself with its Syrian ally, despite behind-the-scenes support.
Perhaps Ahmadinejad is losing faith that Assad can weather this storm, and perhaps the storm is a little to close to Ahmadinejad's own ship, the Islamic Republic of Iran.