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Wednesday
Nov142012

The Latest from Iran (14 November): Ahmadinejad Threatens to Expose Corruption

See also Iran Opinion: Sanctions Support Regime's "Internet Repression"
The Latest from Iran (13 November): Admitting a Blogger's Death in Detention


1945 GMT: Nuclear Watch. After weeks of signals, the regime has made its public push for renewed nuclear discussions today.

Iran's lead negotiator Saeed Jalili has called on the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, stressing Tehran's readiness for talks.

Press TV pointedly calls Jalili "the representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei" to emphasise the Supreme Leader's blessing of the announcement.

Jalili spoke in Tehran alongside Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who welcomed “an earliest possible resumption of talks...preferably before the end of the year".

1525 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi has again declared that Iran will hit back at US and European sanctions by imposing its own economic restrictions: “In the event of continuation of the imperialist powers’ policy and the European Union and US unilateral sanctions, Iran reserves its right to respond in kind and stop oil exports and also to impose sanctions on their products.”

Qassemi was addressing a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Tehran.

The Minister also said the Government plans to increase oil production to 5.4 million barrels per day in around two years.

Iranian oil production is currently 2.7 million bpd, having fallen from its 2011 level of more than 4 million bpd.

1519 GMT: Supreme Leader Watch. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticised "Western-style freedom", including “freedom in economy” that creates a system with special advantages for a select group of people, “freedom in the political scene” which supports bipartisan monopoly, and “freedom in moral issues” manifesting itself through corruption:

“These issues reflect terrible, bitter, heinous and in some cases abhorrent realities in the Western society, the results of which are discrimination, bullying, warmongering and double standards towards noble issues like human rights and democracy.

Speaking at a meeting with scholars, researchers, academics, and seminary teachers, the Supreme Leader said that, in the liberal way of thinking, freedom is rooted in the notion of Humanism, while belief in God, disbelief in idolatry, and human dignity are the bases of freedom in Islam.

1443 GMT: Currency Watch. Officials have announced that they have provided foreign currency at official exchange rates --- under which dollars and Euros are up to 2/3 "cheaper" --- to 5000 students.

The sharp fall in the Iranian Rial has meant increased living costs and tuition of up to 400-500% for Iranian students abroad.

1038 GMT: Economy Watch. Last week we reported a sudden spike in the cost of domestic airline tickets --- reportedly up to 50% in a day --- amid currency issues.

An EA source in Iran follows up on the situation with overseas airlines:

In the last couple of days, there has been a change of policy as regarding pricing of airline tickets. Previously the price to be paid in Rials was calculated using the official exchange rate [under which foreign currency is 1/3 as cheap as in the open market]. This made for great deals available to anyone with US dollars or Euros at hand --- 400 Euro tickets ended up costing 150-170 Euros in real terms --- because of the huge margin between real and official rates.

But of course this was not advantageous for the airlines, especially as they soon lost ability to convert the Rials back on the official rate. So, over the last two months, some airlines stopped accepting payment in cash, and many considered suspending operations to/from Iran because of the difficulty involved with having a pile of inconvertible Rials.

[Editor's note: Some airlines such as Malaysia's Asia Air and British Airways did halt flights in October because of the currency situation.]

Today customers with outstanding flight reservations have been informed that the prices jumped up significantly --- more than 100%. Meanwhile tickets for domestic flights went up by 70%.

The end of great bargains on one hand, but further limitation of travel between Europe and Iran --- even with prices at the old levels, most of the flights would turn over half-empty.

BBC Persian's Amir Paivar adds another factor, "Squeezed by sanctions, Iran removes some state subsidies for jet fuel, increasing fuel cost for airlines by 75%."

0607 GMT: All the President's Men. Two religious "praisers", Mansour Arzi and Saeed Haddadian, have been given court decisions over a complaint by President Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, that they threatened to kill him. Arzi was acquitted and Haddadian received a small fine.

Arzi has repeatedly said that Rahim Mashai is a Jew who is working with Israel and the US to undermine the Islamic Republic.

0600 GMT: A Death in Detention. A new line to deal with the complication of the death of blogger Sattar Beheshti in prison --- MP Javad Karimi Qodusi has claimed that five political prisoners are the “probable agents”.

Karimi Qodusi said, “This killing is suspicious and I am suspicious of the influence of the seditious movement [Green Movement] in this killing.”

0540 GMT: Speaking at a ceremony honouring retirees, President Ahmadinejad has renewed his threat to expose corruption within the regime:

Another problem is this: At present, as the government decides to transfer some money to the pockets of the people, 80 people are mobilized to prevent this from happening....This country belongs to the nation, and the government, the parliament and the judiciary are the servants of the nation. But as soon as we want to give half of the money which has been taken by some --- and have not returned --- to the pensioners, there are those who scream....If someone receives [borrows] 100 billion and does not return it, it does not create mayhem in the economy of the country. But if we want to give a 5 million interest free loan to someone they will do their utmost to prevent it and claim that it will ruin the economy.

The threat is far from new. As part of his declared "red line" last year against prosecution of members of his inner circle, Ahmadinejad said he had documents that, if revealed, would cause great embarrassment to his political enemies. At one point, he even approached a fight with the Revolutionary Guards over allegations of the miltary's lucrative import of illegal goods.

But is this latest statement aimed at anyone in particular? The Larijani brothers --- Speaker of Parliament Ali and head of judiciary Sadegh? The Guards again? Members of the Supreme Leader's office?

If the target is Ali Larijani, he does not seem to have taken heed. On Tuesday, he reaffirmed the weekend declaration of Parliament blocking the second phase of Ahmadinejad's subsidy cuts. The Speaker said the continued suspension would ensure that Iran could withstand the pressure of US-led sanctions.

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