See also Iran Snap Analysis: Finding a Scapegoat in the Currency Crisis br>
Iran Audio Feature: Scott Lucas with the BBC "The Economy is More Important than the Missile Tests" br>
The Latest from Iran (2 January): The Currency is Falling
2040 GMT: No Comment. Those conservatives and principlists who have warned of the "deviant current" around President Ahmadinejad may be interested in this from the Tehran Times:
Presidential aide Mojtaba Hashemi-Samareh ruled out the possibility of the manipulation of the March parliamentary elections by administration officials, emphasizing that there is no cause for concern in this regard.
He told the Mehr News Agency that the administration is tasked with holding the elections, but candidates’ representatives and the Guardian Council will oversee the running of the elections, so there is no cause for concern.
1840 GMT: Elections Watch. Mostafa Kavakebian, putting himself at the forefront of those reformists who will stand in March's Parliamentary elections, has told Mehr that more than 700 have applied for candidacy. He said there would be a 15-candidate list in Tehran and that about 100 of those standing are "prominent".
The EU's foreign ministers meet on 30 January to discuss the issue. They deferred a decision this autumn because of concerns among southern European countries over their oil supplies.
The EU, as well as the US, have been seeking alternative suppliers, notably Saudi Arabia, to cover the gap of a cut-off of Iran's oil.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Fars, Central Bank head Mahmoud Bahmani has maintained that the recent sharp drop of the rial was due to "psychological factors" and would not continue.
1720 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, complaining about injustice towards seminaries and universities, has declared that being silent is not "appropriate" and "confronting the cruel is a religious duty".
1625 GMT: Economy Watch. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has swung at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the President's claim that he will create 2.5 million jobs. Bahonar said that employing only 1 million more people would require $120 billion.
1615 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Minu News has cited 64 "violations" by the official website of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, which was suspended this week. The website also posts a copy of the judiciary letter announcing the filtering for the site.
Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei confirmed the suspension in a press conference yesterday.
1600 GMT: CyberWatch. Payam Karbasi of Iran’s Corporate Computer Systems says the country will be cut off from the Worldwide Web once the country launches its system: "With the launch of the national internet, the internet providers can increase the speed of access to their desired websites by two megabytes...However, it will be just like a corporate network, which cannot be accessed by outsiders, and some material cannot be accessed through that network.”
In the past two weeks, Iranian internet users have reported a sharp reduction in Internet speed, possibly in preparation for the national system. Karbasi said, “Imagine there is a monitoring system that checks all the internet packages and then allows it to pass through or regards it unclean. Because of the high volume of internet packages, they remain in a line-up in order to be checked, and this causes the reduction in the speed of access.”
1530 GMT: Reformist Watch. MP Dariush Ghanbari has slammed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for empty promises on provincial tours. He said the President should apologise to the people of Ilam in the west --- having declared that eight large companies would be opened in the province, Ahmadinejad was now advising them to buy some sheep and cattle for a living.
1525 GMT: Elections Watch. Amidst the regime propaganda that reformists will stand in March's Parliamentary elections, this appears to be a development of genuine significance....
MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh has broken with former President Mohammad Khatami over the call not to participate, denying that he ever wanted to boycott the election. At the same time, Tabesh says there is no chance for the reformists to run with a list of candidates because this will be rejected by the Guardian Council.
Meanwhile, Tehran Governor Morteza Tamaddon is declaring that more than 700 reformists are among the almost 5400 applicants to run for election. Fars, carrying the remarks, gives no further support for the claim.
Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has maintained that 260 of Iran's current MPs, as well as 197 former legislators, have registered for candidacy. If true, that would mean at least 34 of the reformist MPs have decided to staff.
1515 GMT: Currency Watch. The rial has continued its small recovery after the slide of Monday and Tuesday, now standing at 16200:1 vs. the US dollar.
The Central Bank has promised stability within two days, sending supervisors to the Tehran Bazaar and declaring that the current "bubble" is caused by currency traders.
1045 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Mehr reports that President Ahmadinejad has cancelled the appointment of his son-in-law, Mehdi Khorshidi, as head of Iran's Standards Organization, reinstating director Nezameddin Barzegari.
Khorshidi was supposed to be installed in his post today, but the appointment had been sharply criticised by conservative and principlist rivals of the President.
1025 GMT: Currency Watch. Minister of Industry, Trade and Mining Mehdi Ghazanfari has said that the Central Bank has been asked to set a single rate exchange rate for the "greater control" of the Iranian currency.
Iran has the "official" Central Bank rate for an open-market rate in which the Iranian rial is much weaker. The gap between the two rates allows for profitable speculation, with those who have access buying foreign currency at the official rate and then selling it at the open-market rate, in which the US dollar is almost 50% stronger than at the official level.
The Central Bank, amidst the currency crisis this week, lowered the official level of the rial to 11800:1 vs. the US dollar, but this is still far from the current open-market rate of about 17400:1.
0900 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Rafsanjani Edition). Fars reports that Faezeh Hashemi, women's rights activist and daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been sentenced for "anti-regime propaganda". She was given six months in prison and suspended from political,cultural, and media activities for five years .
We can still access Meshgal, which gives the current rate of the Iranian rial vs. the US dollar as 17100:1. Erdbrink writes, from a currency trader, that the present rate on Jomhouri Street in Tehran is 17500:1.
0850 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. The commander-in-chief of Iran's army, General Ataollah Salehi, has warned the US that, if its aircraft carrier returns to the Persian Gulf, Tehran "will take action". He continued, "And we never repeat our words."
And General Hassan Firouzabadi, the head of the armed forces, adds that the Islamic Republic is not threatened and anyone who tries do so will "pay a heavy price".
0835 GMT: Propaganda Watch. We have noticed that the regime's declaration of the firing of "long-range missiles", aborted on Saturday but issued on Monday, had little detail. Now an interesting source has cast doubt on it.
Vadim Koval, a spokesman for Russia's Ministry of Defence, told the Interfax news agency, "Iran does not have the technology to create intermediate or long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles. And it will not get such missiles any time soon."
In September 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree banning the sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran. Tehran subsequently claimed that it developed its own version.
AFP added two of the three missiles reportedly tested by Iran have a maximum range of 200 kilometres (125 miles), generally considered "short-range", and the third, a Nasr anti-ship missile, has a maximum of 35 kilometres (about 22 miles).
0825 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Prominent activist Heshmatollah Tabarzadi has sent a 15-minute video message from Rajai Shahr Prison, dismissing the regime's repression and predicting it will fail: "Freedom is the essence of human being I believe, in fact without freedom no choice has a meaning."
Tabarzadi, the head of the banned Democratic Front of Iran, is serving an eight-year sentence for actions against national security. He declares:
We are not terrorists; we are not promoting violence; we have said certain things based on our basic rights; we've expressed our views. The establishment issues heavy prison sentences against us out of fear, it fears what we have to say -- the things we're saying here between us. I don't believe the crackdown, violent measures, prison and other things will stop us. We're determined, we have paid a price, and we're [ready] to pay an even higher price, we know our rights, and we will definitely reach our demands.
Khazali claimed that the only "important reformist" who will stand is former MP Akbar Alami. He continued that current MP Mostafa Kavakebian, who has said he will participate, is "no reformist" and that other reformists likely to withdraw before March's elections.
Khazali said he will file a complaint against Fars and Kayhan over their "lies" about the Parliamentary campaign.
The Iranian rial, after its 15% fall in the last two days vs. the US dollar, has settled this morning at the historic low of 17400:1.
0700 GMT: The quest within the regime to embrace reformists, rather than linking them with the "sedition current" challenging the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Presidential election, continues.
Iranian media is filled with assurances that, yes, the reformists will be present in March's Parliamentary elections rather than putting a question mark over them by boycotting. Fars, despite being challenged last week for putting out false information, continues to post claimed interviews with reformists pointing to participation --- one supposedly says 40 of 64 reformist MPs have registered their candidacy for March; Mohammad Javad Haghshenas of Etemade Melli, a party effectively suspended by authorities in September 2009, reportedly pronounces, "The word boycott has no place in the political culture of reform."
Mehr is also pushing the headline, from an interview with a member of Parliament's National Security Commission, "Joint Meetings between the Reformers and Supporters of the Government".