1945 GMT: Elections Watch. Radio Zamaneh offers an overview of the MPs who have been blocked from running in Parliamentary elections in March. It notes that nine of them --- Ali Motahari, Hamidreza Katouzian, Alireza Mahjoub, Ali Abbaspour Tehrani, Fatemeh Ajorloo, Abbasali Noura, Peymon Forouzesh, Ghodratollah Alikhani and Dariush Ghanbari --- "have all been involved in strong criticism of the administration over the past year".
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mohammadreza Bahonar, said disqualifying government critics among the Principlists from running for office is “narrow-minded". However, Tehran Governor Morteza Tamaddon insisted that the disqualifications were carried out according to the law and in the “interests of the sacred Islamic Republic system".
The nominees have four days to appeal the decision, with the final decision to be made by the Guardian Council.
Interference is coming from two locations, one west of Tehran and the other near the northwestern city of Maraghen.
"We believe that this is happening because of our coverage of Syria," a senior official at Al Jazeera told Reuters.
On Saturday Al Jazeera announced a new frequency for Arabsat viewers due to "continued interference".
1735 GMT: Econony Watch 1st-Hand. An EA source reports that a relative in Tehran ordered a washing machine for 400,000 Toman (about $240) this week. When he went to the shop the next day, he was told that --- amidst the currency crisis and rising import costs --- the price was now 800,000 Toman (about $480).
Another EA source says that the price of an item of software for a laptop computer has tripled from 50,000 Toman to 150,000 Toman within days.
Analysts believe this is likely to rise further. "A large part of its exports will be dislocated from Europe, and they will have to find new buyers or be replaced by other buyers," said Samuel Ciszuk, a consultant at KBC Energy Economics. "In any of those cases, Iran in sales price negotiations will have a very limited set of cards in its hands, and it's a very plausible assumption that we will see an increase in floating storage."
1720 GMT: Economy Watch. The Supreme Leader may have declared this week that Iran would triumph over those who imposed sanctions, but not everyone seems to have read the script --- Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has said the domestic economic situation will not improve soon.
And a deputy in the Ministry of Industry has said that 890 production units have reduced output, with 4108 people losing jobs because of subsidy cuts.
1620 GMT: Elections Watch. Bultan News publishes the names of 33 current MPs whose applications for candidacy have been rejected by Iranian authorities. Among them are the conservative Ali Motahari (see 1035 GMT) and Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of Parliament's Energy Commission --- both of whom are staunch critics of the Government --- and Ali Reza Mahjoub of the Workers House faction. [1755 GMT: ILNA is now reporting, from a Ministry of Interior source, that Mahjoub has been approved.]
Another applicant who reportedly has been turned down is leading reformist MP Dariush Ghanbari, who tells Peyke Iran that he received a call saying, "Come and take your banning order."
The MPs' candidacy may be restored in a review by the Guardian Council.
Meanwhile, a bit of spin by Fars who breaks down the 5405 applicants as Principlist: 1801; Reformist: 1295; Deviationist: 442; Independent: 1867.
Given Fars' less-than-stellar record of objectivity, the numbers are not as significant as the political labels: who or what is a "Deviationist"?
1523 GMT: The Supreme Leader and the Shah. Green Voice of Freedom offers an English summary of the article by the former head of the Revolutionary Guards' Navy, Hossein Alaei, which appears to offer a warning by comparing the Supreme Leader to the Shah, a piece so sensitive that mentions of it have been deleted by sites like Khabar Online.
In Etelaat, Alaei summarised the events of January 1978 in Qom that sparked widespread demonstrations against the Shah’s regime:
“9 January 1978 is the beginning of a popular and pervasive uprising which, in about a year, was able to expel the Shah from the country and bring an end to 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran,” Alaei writes. “But this incident was ignited very easily, and the regime itself provided the pretence.”
“The wrongful behaviour of the Shah’s security forces had amplified the people’s dissatisfaction with the monarchy and helped maintain it,” the former commander continued. “As the number of people killed on the streets, imprisonments and political prisoners rose, the Shah’s regime essentially lost its valour too.”
The article goes on to add, “Up until that point, the people would not address the Shah directly in their protests and would [instead] try to voice their criticism regarding the lack of freedom of speech, the lack of political freedoms and the maltreatment exercised by state agents such as the Imperial Guard. But a continuation of the state’s violent conduct and a harsh clampdown on protests caused the people to direct their opposition against the Shah himself and to demand a fundamental change in the ruling system.”
“The writing of letters to the Shah was [soon] under way and he was rightfully pronounced as the person behind all the country’s upheavals.”
In his piece, Alaei argues that the 1979 Islamic Revolution was aimed at preventing another “lifelong rule” and allowing Iranians “to determine their own destiny through free elections.”
Alaei then raises a number of questions he says the Shah “probably” pondered after being forced into exile, questions that might serve as an “important lesson for others.”
“Would the situation have not ended in a better way, had I shown restraint at the funeral of Imam Khomeini’s son and refrained from provoking the population with an offensive article written by my information Minister under an alias? If, after the publication of the article in a state-owned newspaper, I had allowed for it to be responded to, wouldn’t my rule have lasted longer? If I had allowed for the people to hold peaceful protests … wouldn’t the affair have ended there? Wouldn’t I have obtained better results, had I not ordered agents to shoot at protesters … ?”
In an apparent reference to the illegal house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, Alaei writes that the Shah probably asked himself, “If instead of placing prominent [political leaders] under house arrest and exiling them to remote cities and imprisoning political activists I had paved the way for a dialogue, would I have been forced to flee the country?..."
“If instead of accusing the people of being provoked by foreign [powers] I had refrained from insulting their collective intelligence, would I still have been forced to seek sanctuary abroad?” Alaei’s note continues. “If instead of accusing opponents of acting against national security I had accepted the opposition, recognised it as legal and guaranteed their rights, could I not have stayed in power longer?”
1103 GMT: Espionage Watch. A website supporting Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the Iranian-American sentenced to death this week for espionage, has been launched. It opens with a message from Hekmati's mother:
My husband Ali and I are shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death.
We believe that this verdict is the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair.
The Iranian authorities are denying that Amir is a United States citizen, despite the fact he was born in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or "fighting against God," as the convicting Judge has claimed in his sentence. Amir is not a criminal. His very life is being exploited for political gain.
A grave error has been committed, and we have authorized our legal representatives to make direct contact with the Iranian authorities to find a solution to this misunderstanding.
We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time.
Moghaddam said the Intranet would protect people's information security: "We are not cutting our cyber relations with abroad and international internet service by launching own national internet."
1045 GMT: Economy Watch. Leading conservative MP Habiballah Asgaroladi has claimed that inflation in December was 40% because of the currency crisis. He said that President Ahmadinejad's subsidy cuts project has failed.
1035 GMT: Elections Watch. Khabar Online reports that the applications of most people claiming to be "reformists" have been vetted for the Parliamentary elections in March, but it lists only a few --- such as Mohammad Reza Tabesh and Mohammad Reza Khabbaz --- who have been approved.
Khabar also gives news of a significant rejection --- conservative MP Ali Motahari, one of the leading critics of President Ahmadinejad, has been excluded because he is "not obedient to the Constitution, Islam, and velayat-e faqih (clerical supremacy)".
0845 GMT: Elections Watch. Following an order from the Supreme Leader, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has appointed Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar as head of Parliament's Elections Supervisory Council.
The rial's low point, more than a week ago, was 17800:1. The Central Bank then tried, and failed, to impose an "open-market" rate of 14000:1.
0830 GMT: Executions Watch. Rooz Online publishes the statement of human rights activist Asieh Amini, who has been gathering information about secret executions in Mashhad’s Vakilabad Prison, “Many executed prisoners learned of their fate just a few hours before being executed and were not allowed to say goodbye to their family members.”
The International Campaign on Human Rights in Iran has published the details of 101 secret executions between June and December 2010 at Vakilabad.
Last Friday, the European Union's representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, expressed concern about the rising number of executions and called for their suspension.
Iran is second in the world, behind China, in the number of people put to death.
0815 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Is this a signal of further sanctions against Tehran, backed by alternative oil suppliers? From Arab News:
Saudi Arabia and Japan pledged to boost cooperation in the energy sector with a proposal to provide more oil to Tokyo in case of a shortage or supply disruptions following fresh sanctions imposed on Iran by the West.
“Defense Minister Prince Salman and Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi held talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and discussed bilateral and regional issues as well as ways and means to cooperate in energy sector,” Abdulaziz A. Turkistani, Saudi ambassador to Japan, said on Sunday.
Japanese officials have indicated in the last week that Tokyo may reduce its oil imports from Iran, although it will not impose an embargo. US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is visiting Tokyo this week.
Meanwhile, Die Presse of Austria reports that the European Union's foreign ministers will now be meeting on 23 January to discuss a suspension of Iranian oil imports. The discussion has been moved up by a week so it does not clash with a summit of Heads of Government.
No details are given, but Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said Monday that Ahmadi had been detained over charges of financial fraud. Others have claimed that Ahmadi was seized on the orders of the "deviant current" around President Ahmadinejad.
0805 GMT: Economy Watch. Aftab reports that due bank payments, affecting 34 million people, rose by 17% from March to October 2011. The total of the payments is now 33 trillion Toman (about $20 billion).
The website adds that 1 out of 8 cheques are now "bad".
0800 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Mohammad Reza Mohammadkhani, the head of Parliament's Energy Research Committee, has said that President Ahmadinejad should be removed as the head of the National Iranian Oil Company: since Ahmadinejad was not answering questions about the industry, his duties should be assigned to the Minister of Oil.
0755 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Nikahang Kowsar offers his perspective on the Supreme Leader's prediction of a high turnout for the Parliamentary elections in March:
0735 GMT: It's a Love Bomb. Having offered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's jest, alongside President Ahmadinejad, "A big atomic bomb will come out" (see 0645 GMT), it is only right that we offer Ahmadinejad's reassurance that, if a bomb was being built, "the fuel of that bomb is love".
0725 GMT: The House Arrests. BanooyeSabz has translated the account of the recent meeting between former political prisoners and activists and Fatemeh Karroubi, under house arrest along with her husband, opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, since February.
Fatemeh Karroubi made a direct comparison between the current actions of security forces and the repression during the time of the Shah: “The inhumane and irreligious behavior by security agents witnessed during this time was unprecedented during the 15 years we battled the Shah’s regime. We never heard of such behavior even in the stories recounted by friends and other families of political activists during that era.”
Karroubi added, ” Today a regime that claims to be Islamic, brutally attacks the residence of a twice former head of Parliament [Mehdi Karroubi] and an individual whom they themselves referred to as a member of their ranks, as though they have found a safe house or conquered a castle." She then declared, ”We are the ones who determine what is legal and what is not."
And, in an interesting insight into the regime's nerves over a possible boycott of the Parliamentary election in March, Fatemeh Karroubi claimed, ”Mr. Karroubi asked me to express his opinions regarding the upcoming elections to my compatriots and I did exactly as he asked. Since the publication of his opinion, my visitation rights with my husband have been revoked and the behavior by the agents of the Intelligence Ministry has become extremely insulting.”
In remarks carried by his outlet Saham News, Mehdi Karroubi has effectively asked people not to participate in the March vote by condemning the "rigged and forced eprocess of past elections" and repression of the opposition.
Javad Lari, alleged to have supported the "terrorist" Mujahedin-e-Khalq since the 1980s, was arrested last year and was tried and sentenced to death by Judge Salavati. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the Revolutoinary Court.
Javad Lari, a Tehran Bazaar businessman, was arrested in September 2009.
0615 GMT: So Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez are having their high-profile meeting for the cameras, hugging, holding hands, and smiling. Chavez delivers the line of the day for the journalists, eager for any snippet about Iran's nuclear programme --- pointing a grassy knoll in front of the Miraflores Palace, he assured, "That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out."
It would not be a political occasion if Chavez did not bring out his pointed humour, but I am not sure this was the best timing for his one-liner. The Western media, jumpy to turn any snippet into the confirmation of the Iranian menace, is playing up another far-from-bomb-shattering announcement:
Iran has begun enriching uranium at a heavily fortified underground site, the UN's nuclear watchdog has confirmed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said medium-level enrichment had begun at the Fordo plant, in northern Iran.
The Fordoo plant, declared by Iran in September 2009, was always going to be part of an enrichment programme for a country short on uranium for its civilian projects. But as uranium can have a military use, if it is enriched to a high-enough level, the warning is inevitably going to be across headlines this morning:
The US said the Fordo work was a "further escalation" in the row. The UK and France also condemned the project....BBC Iran correspondent James Reynolds says the facility has attracted plenty of attention and suspicion.