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Wednesday
Nov282012

The Latest from Iran (28 November): Supreme Leader Declares, "We're Winning"

1835 GMT: Gaza Watch. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said that, more than a week after he made his request to enter Gaza, he is still awaiting an answer from Egyptian authorities.

Salehi saild he had spoken by phone and in person with Egypt’s Foreign Minister.

1505 GMT: Economy Watch. Kalemeh reports that 2400 workers of the Saveh Pipe Rolling Plant and other factories in northwestern Iran have been on strike since Sunday over six months of unpaid wages.

1150 GMT: Oil Watch. To little fanfare, the Central Bank's latest report on foreign trade notes a 40% decrease in oil exports compared with the spring. The report also indicates a 100% growth in imports of natural gas and petrochemicals compared with a year ago.

The Bank's figures are in line with international agencies who report a fall in Iranian oil exports from 2.2 million barrels per day in 2011 to 1.3 million bpd in October. Other Iranian officials, notably the Ministry of Oil, have insisted that both exports and production remain buoyant.

1141 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation, has said Iran will continue enriching uranium "with intensity", increasing the number of operating centrifuges.

Abbasi Davani made his comments as Tehran continues to push for resumed talks with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia). The central issue is whether Iran can pursue enrichment of uranium to 20%, which is still for civilian purposes but potentially could be used in a military programme, or whether Tehran must ship uranium outside the country for enrichment by others.

"Despite the sanctions, most likely this year we will have a substantial growth in centrifuge machines and we will continue (uranium) enrichment with intensity," Abbasi-Davani said.

Abbasi Davani also denied reports in Western media of a delay in the launch of the Arab heavy water nuclear reactor to spring 2014.

“Despite rumors...Arak, through the efforts of the Iranian researchers, is progressing as scheduled and without any problem,” he said Wednesday. "The Arak research reactor has no scientific or technical problem and we will launch it with virtual fuel in the near future.”

1134 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Baztab jabs as the President by noting his absence from the Supreme Leader’s five-night mourning ceremonies for the holy month of Moharram, marking the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad: “With his absence at the Leader’s office, he has shown the measure of his gratitude for the support of the government by the Supreme Leader.”

Last week Ayatollah Khamenei intervened to block a proposed interrogation of Ahmadinejad by Parliament.

1128 GMT: The Battle Within. The political dispute between President Ahmadinejad and the Larijani brothers --- Speaker of Parliament Ali, head of judiciary Sadegh, and senior judiciary official Mohammad-Javad --- is threatening to flare up.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani has dismissed accusations against him of land speculation, accusing the Ahmadinejad Government of creating the case for political gain.

Last week, pro-Ahmadinejad outlets published a series of documents claiming to prove that the Larijanis had acquired public land at little or no cost. The publication followed the President's remarks --- without naming any specific individual --- that while the Government was criticised for helping poor people, wealthier Iranians were benefiting from access to cheap loans and favourable terms for deals.

1116 GMT: Gaza Watch. The regime campaign to promote Iranian victory in the recent Gaza War has run into some difficulty.

We reported on Monday that Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy political director of Hamas, warned Tehran over its claims of leadership, "If Iran doesn’t want to provoke public opinion in the Arab world against it, it must review its support for the Syrian government....Iran doesn’t have a good standing in the Arab world and for this reason in order not to lose [the favor] of public opinion in the Arab world, it must review its politics with respect to Syria."

Most Iranian media are pretending the comment was never made, but Tabnak --- linked to Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council and 2009 Presidential candidate --- has published a critical response, "Why Have the Leaders of Hamas Become Forgetful?":

These comments by Abu Marzouk are said immediately after the ceasefire between the Zionist regime and the resistance forces of Palestine --- when Khaled Meshaal, the chief of Hamas’s political bureau and Ismail Haniyeh, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian government in Gaza,...emphasised the pre-eminent role of Iran in the victory of the resistance front.

In this state, it seems that the leaders of Hamas have been afflicted again with the problem of forgetfulness, and with the return to calm, again stress their point of difference with Iran.

Generally, the leaders of the Hamas movement in recent months have shown they are noticeably under the influence of where and when [they happen] to be speaking and interviewed. Because their positioning in the calm of Egypt has pronounced differences with their position during the war and in Gaza!

0919 GMT: CyberWar Watch. The International Atomic Energy Agency has acknowledged that one of its computer servers was hacked by what appears to be an Iranian group.

"Parastoo" posted contact details for more than 100 nuclear experts on its website, asking those listed to sign a petition calling for an IAEA investigation into Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons programme.

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the agency "deeply regrets this publication of information stolen from an old server". She said the server had been shut down "some time ago" and experts had been trying to eliminate any "possible vulnerability" in it even before it was hacked.

0915 GMT: The Battle Within. MP Javid Karimi Ghodousi, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, has claimed in a speech that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani is working with political prisoners in an attempt to overthrow the Ahmadinejad Government.

0910 GMT: Energy Watch. The National Iranian Gas Company's Managing Director Javad Owji has said plans have been launched for a new pipeline, boostist gas supply to the Caspian Sea provinces and thus cutting dependency on imports from Turkmenistan.

Turkmen supplies to Iran were briefly suspended this autumn over a dispute over price.

Iran imports 15-18 million cubic meters of gas per day from Turkmenistan, but the figure reaches 30 million cubic meters during winter. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic exported gas --- about 8.4 billion cubic metres last year --- to Turkey.

0830 GMT: Human Rights Watch. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations General Assembly has expressed "deep concern", by an 83-31 vote with 68 abstentions, at violations by Iran.

The Committee cited continuing use of torture, the death penalty --- including the execution of minors --- and the increasing and systematic targeting of human rights defenders, including lawyers and journalists.

The resolution urged the regime to immediately release all those detained for exercising their right to peaceful assembly. It also criticised restrictions on candidates in the 2012 Parliamentary elections and strongly called on the regime “to ensure free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential elections in 2013 that reflect the will of the people".

0720 GMT: In a Tuesday pep talk to naval commanders, the Supreme Leader summarised Iran's clear victory in the Middle East and beyond:

“A look at the circumstances of the region and the world obviously indicates the upper hand of the Islamic Republic in these developments.
By comparing the Western [governments’] Middle East policy and the Islamic Republic’s Middle East policy, it can be clearly observed that the regional policy of the Islamic Republic has gotten close to its objectives

Ayatollah Khamenei's pronouncement was far from surprising, of course, as the regime --- keen to divert attention from problems closer to home --- continues its attempt to play up its supposed triumph in the Gaza conflict and to find some way of turning the Syrian crisis to its advantage.

Inside Iran, however, others seem to be more concerned not with victory, but with the threat of opposition. State broadcaster IRIB, in the guise of "documentary", tried to shut off thoughts of "unreformed" reformists participating in the June 2013 Presidential election by looking back at the disputed 2009 version. Included pixilated photos of former President Mohammad Khatami and other reformist leaders such as Abdollah Nouri and Mousavi Khoeiniha, it urged the reformist camp to "repent" for their role in the "sedition". The documentary concluded, "Of course, the people will not give such individuals permanent opportunities."

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan, neatly achieved the feat of linking both victory abroad with the challenge at home: he heralded "Israel's recent eight-day defeat in the Gaza war," to chide the Green Movement for not supporting "the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine".

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