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The Latest from Iran (25 October): Ahmadinejad v. the Judiciary, Continued
No one can disobey the decree of the Leader using the pretext that the decree is or may be a mistake....All the people, including the elites and experts, must obey the orders of the Leader.... Everyone is allowed to criticize the law or decrees of the Leader, but criticism is one thing and disobedience another, just as there is a difference between being critical and actively looking for excuses.
But why issue this statement now? And who should be taking notice?
1635 GMT: Currency Watch. Najmeh Bozorgmehr of the Financial Times offers a profile of the regime's attempt to close down much of the "open market" in currency trade because of the near-collapse of the Iranian Rial, "Iran's Currency Traders Forced Underground":
Ahmad paces the street by his shuttered shop in Tehran, waiting for customers to call him on his mobile phone.
For 20 years, he has operated a small currency exchange in the downtown area of Iran’s capital. But earlier this month, state authorities sealed off his shop as part of a wider attempt to counter the sharp fall in the rial.
The 45-year-old now operates in secret, his daily trade slowed to a trickle. He is constantly alert to an impromptu visit by the police. “You can’t buy millions of dollars any more, but you can still purchase about $100,000,” he says....
Ahmad, who asked for his real name not to be used, says he knows of at least 50 other traders who have faced closure in the main centre of the currency market on Ferdowsi and Jomhuri-Eslami streets in central Tehran.
Like him, however, many are still doing some business, and are sought after by Iranian businessmen and ordinary people in need of hard currency....
“As long as the [political and economic] conditions remain like this and sanctions continue, we will not be allowed to open our shops,” says Ahmad. “It is not possible to go back to normality in the foreseeable future.”
1100 GMT: Recognising the Activists. The European Parliament has awarded the 2012 Sakharaov Prize for Freedom of Thought to two Iranian activists, detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi.
Martin Schulz, President of Parliament, said the award "is a message of solidarity and recognition to a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own".
Sotoudeh, a leading attorney for human rights activists, has been in prison since September 2010 and is serving a six-year sentence for "spreading propaganda", "conspiring to harm state security", and speaking to foreign media, including an interview without a hijab. She is in the second week of a hunger strike.
Panahi is an internationally-acclaimed film director who was arrested in March 2010 and later sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on directing any movies or leaving the country. He is currently free on bail.
1000 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, a Tehran Friday Prayer leader, has declared in the sermon for the first day of Eid al-Adha, “The enemy should not think that it can bring our country to its knees through sanctions."
Emami Kashani invoked the unity and solidarity of the Iranian people 0800 GMT: Energy Watch. Reuters details how Iran is trying to maintain coal supplies, amid US-led sanctions, through supplies from Ukraine.
"We have been approached to sell some (metallurgical) coal to Iran and they have been buying more lately," one Ukrainian producer said. "We have done some business but not directly, through another country -- Syria and Lebanon."
Another trader said, "One of the ways around [financial restrictions] being looked at is barter. We've been approached several times but haven't done any deals yet to do barter of coal for steel of equivalent value, that way no money needs to change hands.
A trade source explained the challenge, "To do some business there you must use a bank with specialist knowledge, not the usual banks or Russian banks. I would use a Lebanese bank instead, which has representative offices in Tehran and acts as an agent between the mills and suppliers."
0644 GMT: Scare Story of the Day. David Sanger and William Broad of The New York Times declare, "Iran Said to Nearly Finish Nuclear Enrichment Plant".
The article offers little substance about the development of the Fordoo plant, located underground in a mountain near the city of Qom. It does not examine the current state of Iran's uranium stock and the capability for producing 20% uranium --- useful for civilian purposes but still short of the 95% level needed for the military. Instead it declares:
The installation of the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges...puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon, or come up to the edge, if its leaders ultimately decide to proceed.
The channel is the initiative of Amir Hossein Jahashahi, founder of the opposition movement Green Wave. Its director and editor-in-chief is Ali Asghar Ramezanpoor, a former Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Jahashahi said, “Raha TV is the TV for change because this regime is immoral, inhuman and unreasonable” emphasising that transition had to come “from inside, by Iranian people".
Raha, which means “to free” in Persian, will broadcast from 1630 to 2030 GMT each day. Jahashahi said it will employ 40 people in London, with a network of about 20 freelancers in Iran.
0600 GMT: The conflict between President Ahmadinejad and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, sparked by Ahmadinejad's request to visit Evin Prison, boiled over on Thursday with the publication of a response from Larijani to the President.
Angered that Ahmadinejad had put out a "classified" letter declaring that he was seeking to uphold the Constitution and investigating prison reform --- rather than visiting detained Presidential advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr --- Larijani began:
I am very sorry that under the current special circumstances and following the guidance of the Supreme Leader concerning preservation of the calm and unity and paying attention to the needs of the people, we witness such a public correspondence.
The head of judiciary then stepped up his rhetoric:
I have for a long time chosen silence in the face of your irrational and illegal attacks on the Judiciary and its authorities. This reflects obedience to the orders of the Supreme Leader....
Have you not thought about the meaning of the separation of the powers of the state...? The Judiciary is responsible for the affairs within its sphere of responsibilities, not to the president.
And then Larijani pointed to the political stakes, claiming that Ahmadinejad's verbal blackmail of the judiciary would not work: "Contrary to your accusations,...the Judiciary is proud of having fought economic corruption...and you are not allowed to inspect the prisons."