2119 GMT: The Tehran Bomb. Fars reports that the Ministry of Interior refused permits for "student" protests, condemning the death of scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, in front of the British, German, and French Embassies today.
Khazali has been seized three times since the 2009 Presidential election.
1917 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Matching our analysis on the course of European Union sanctions against Tehran, a German newspaper, Donau Kurier, reports that the EU is close to final agreement on measures against Iran's oil sector and that refiners have been given six months to cut off trade.
1907 GMT: Economy Watch. More stories of inflation --- Etedaal reports that the prices of essential food items such as imported rice, meat, and chicken have increased in Mazanderan in northern Iran and publishes a price list for areas of Tehran.
1740 GMT: Campus Fight. A new argument has broken out over the Islamic Azad University, with the Board claiming that the election of Farhad Daneshjoo,the brother of the Minister of Science and Higher Education, is illegal.
The University has been the site of a battle for control between allies of the President and allies of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who founded the chain of campuses --- Iran's largest private higher education institution --- in the 1990s.
1735 GMT: The Tehran Bomb. The student alumni organisation Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat has condemned Wednesday's killing of scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, adding that intelligence and security forces should protect citizens instead of harassing them.
1715 GMT: How the Supreme Leader Saved Bad Vlad. High-profile cleric Mehdi Taeb has explained that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was "bi-basirat" (without wisdom) on international matters but regained this after his meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei.
1135 GMT: Economy Watch. Economic tensions are also taking their toll on the Iranian media --- Press TV is in a tangle as it headlines, "New Phase of Iran's Subsidy Reform Plan":
Just as the Iranian government prepared itself to implement the second phase of the economic reform plan, law makers in Iran decided to put a halt on the matter until the Iranian New Year. The plan whose first phase kicked off on October 2010 in the framework of partial subsidy cuts from energy carriers and utilities and cash hand outs to citizens, was followed by souring [soaring] prices of basic commodities especially food items in the Iranian market.
The video accompanying the report is also notable in its presentation of "souring prices", something which has been ignored by Iranian State media in recent months. However, just as you think Press TV has been lined up to support the foes of President Ahmadinejad, there is this covering statement:
What is true is that the government feels committed to implementing the plan very soon and Iranians will be witnessing it in the year ahead.
1105 GMT: Elections Watch. MP Musalreza Servati has claimed that President Ahmadinejad declared, "MPs will get no votes before I approve them." Servati said that Iran's current political problems stemmed from the "constant retreats" of Parliament before the Government.1105 GMT: One to Watch. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is in Turkey today to discuss economic ties and the regional situation.
1100 GMT: Elections Watch. The Tehran Emrooz newspaper, linked to Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, has alleged that the "deviant current" is using the banning of candidates to elevate the costs of action for the Guardian Council, which can reinstate those who are disqualified, and to impose the deviant current's own candidates on Iranian voters.
1050 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A Revolutionary Court has sentenced prominent reformist politician Mohsen Armin to six years in prison and a five-year ban on political activity.
Armin, a former MP and senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution Organisation, was convicted of “assembly and collusion” against the regime, “acting against national security". and “propaganda” against the political establishment.
While in Parliament, Armin accused Tehran Chief Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, who is now an advisor to President Ahmadinejad, of being directly involved in the death of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian journalist beaten into a coma while in the custody of the Iranian judiciary.
Armin was initially arrested on 16 May 2010 after an interview with the reformist Etemaad newspaper. He was released on $180,000 bail on 24 July 2010.
Other detained MIRO members include Abolfazl Ghadyani, Behzad Nabavi, Javad Emam, and Feizollah Arabsorkhi.
0725 GMT: Currency Watch. The published "open-market" rate for the Iranian rial vs. the US dollar stands at 16930:1, unchanged from yesterday, and gold coin remains at 675,000 Tomans (about $400).
Jason Rezaian offers a first-hand overview from Tehran:
The Bazaar Arz, the narrow 19th-century arcade that’s the center of Iran’s foreign exchange market, is crammed with people trying to sell their currency as sanctions tighten and tensions with the U.S. escalate. In nearby shops, imported laptops and smart-phones change price hourly. The rial weakened 20 percent in the past month at the official rate offered to Iranians traveling abroad, and by even more in the bazaar, where demand for dollars and euros is surging.
It’s increasingly tough for Iranians to satisfy that demand. Websites posting currency rates were blocked last week, many official change bureaus were closed, and the government has halved the amount of dollars that Iranians planning trips abroad can buy. Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani denied the sanctions are causing problems, then linked the rial’s plunge to the political standoff. “The enemy is depending on creating psychological tensions,” he said. “If we are intimidated, we will be playing into the enemy’s hands.”The rush for hard currency shows those tensions spreading among Iranians, even before the latest sanctions are fully implemented.
0715 GMT: Who's Meeting Whom? Fars highlights a meeting between Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Reza Jafari. Yazdi supposedly focused on "problems arising from cultural invasion" and the "appropriate solutions."
Yeah, yeah. What I want to know is if Mesbah Yazdi, who heads the conservative/principlist faction Islamic Constancy Front, discussed the forthcoming Parliamentary elections with Jafari, who met other senior clerics in Qom last week.
0645 GMT: Posturing and Rumours. The US military has announced that an aircraft carrier strike group has arrived in the Arabian Sea and that another is on its way to the region, but denied any link to recent tensions with Iran and portrayed the movements as routine.
A Pentagon spokesman said, "I don't want to leave anybody with the impression that we're somehow (sending) two carriers over there because we're concerned about what happened, you know, today in Iran. It's just not the case."
But of course, Reuters says otherwise: "The shift in the powerful U.S. naval assets comes at a moment of heightened tensions with Iran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz --- the world's most important oil shipping lane --- if U.S. and EU [European Union] sanctions over its nuclear program cut off its oil exports."
0550 GMT: We open Thursday with a snap analysis sifting the media's portrayal and the politics of Wednesday's car bomb in Tehran: "Victim Was Not A 'Nuclear Scientist', But Can This Still Mean 'War'?"
Meanwhile, we will seek, perhaps in vain, to keep focus on other developments inside and outside Iran. One of the more significant this morning is the announcement by Japan that it will take "concrete steps" to reduce its oil imports from the Islamic Republic.
Minister of Finance Jun Azumi issued the statement in a press conference with US Secretary of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in Tokyo: "In the past five years, we have reduced...the amount of oil imported (from Iran). We wish to take planned and concrete steps to further reduce this share, which now stands at 10%."
That is a major symbolic victory in Washington's efforts to tighter sanctions on Tehran. Geithner was always unlikely to get public support from China, his first stop in the Asian mission --- though we still expect that Beijing, behind the scenes, will be cutting its oil imports --- but Japanese officials had already signalled that they would reduce, if not halt, the Iranian supplies.
Geithner responded with a pro forma thank you, ''We are working very closely with Europe and Japan and allies around the world to substantially increase the amount of pressure we bring on Iran. We very much appreciate the support Japan has provided standing with us and the international community in support of this very important strategic objective."
Now to see what this victory means in practice, i.e., will the Japanese follow through by taking oil from elsewhere? China, Japan, and South Korea, which also may be cutting its oil from Tehran, account for more than half of Iran's exports of 2.5 million barrels of oil per day.