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The Latest from Iran (10 December): Worries over Opposition Leaders Under House Arrest

See also Iran Photo Feature: Faces in Tehran
The Latest from Iran (9 December): Talking Tough on Sanctions

Mir Hossein Mousavi & Zahra Rahnavard2000 GMT: The House Arrests. Back to the opening story of the 22-month house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi....

Karroubi's wife Fatemeh, who was also detained but released after several months, has given an interview about her husband's condition and current situation. She said that the uncertainty of being held under perpetual house arrest is worse than a defined prison sentence.

She said, "I repeat and emphasise that I am proud of my husband."

1900 GMT: Economic Admission of the Day. For all his tough talk --- "The Iranian nation has successfully passed through military, cultural, scientific and soft wars imposed on it over the past 34 years" --- it is this sentence from Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, the head of the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, that stands out: “Today, Iran faces an economic war imposed on it by its enemies."

1730 GMT: Economy Watch. In the latest sign of the decline in automobile manufacturing, the Zagros Khodro plant in Lorestan Province in western Iran has closed with the loss of 400 jobs.

Iran's auto industry has been rocked by rising costs, notably for imported parts and components, and falling markets amid subsidy cuts.

1430 GMT: Economy Watch. The conservative site Tasnim News, citing a report from a Government department, says the number of manufacturing companies facing financial crisis has increased four-fold over the past four years to nearly 1,600.

Leading MP Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam said last month that 60-70% of Iran's manufacturing had closed or was "stagnant".

1310 GMT: Rafsnajani Watch. Opposition sites claim that security forces prevented political and civic activists from meeting former President Hashemi Rafsanjani in Isfahan.

1302 GMT: Campus Watch. As President Ahmadinejad tells an international conference of "the unique and prominent role of scholars and academics in reforming societies and [realising] the ideals of humankind", an activist reports on the treatment of one Iranian academic:

1131 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). The best parts of Thomas Erdbrink's article, "For Iran, Unrest in Syria Is Noise, Not Brutal War", are the paragraphs that go beyond regime propaganda. This is the passage on dissenting voices:

“The Syrian Army is on the brink of complete collapse, and the downfall of al-Assad is inevitable,” Ebrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister who is a member of the opposition, wrote Saturday in the newspaper Etemaad, which is critical of Iran’s government. “Syria’s leaders respond to reforms with bloody crackdowns. Their future is very bleak.”

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a Middle East analyst who has been imprisoned for his involvement in Iran’s opposition movement, echoed that view. “In reality, Syria will be in turmoil for years to come,” he said. “There will be nothing left of our anti-Israel front.”

And here is the indication of what some in the regime think behind the public facade:

Off the record, Iranian officials sometimes hint that Mr. Assad, as a symbol, could be sacrificed in Iran’s future vision for the country. But they insist that his political and security apparatus should remain in power, continuing to lead Syria as a regional spear against Iran’s archnemesis, Israel.

“We are seeking a peaceful solution in which the Syrian government implements reforms,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a politician who is close to Iran’s leaders. “But whatever the cost, we want to keep Syria in the group of resistance against Israel.”

1115 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has told a conference in Tehran that the Islamic Republic has offered a comprehensive plan to end the crisis in Syria to United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, “We consider commitment to national talks as the most apt way to resolve the issues of Syria and Bahrain.”

Brahimi has not referred to any Iranian initiative; indeed, there has been no appearance outside Salehi's declaration of a "comprehensive plan".

1015 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Pakistani Front). Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has cancelled a visit to Tehran to sign a $1.5 billion gas pipeline deal, amid mounting US objections to the contract.

Iran has offered Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the long-delayed gas pipeline, an offer repeated in Iranian State media last weekend.

Saying that Iran has offered $500 million, Asim Hussain, Zardari's chief adviser on oil and natural resources, declared, “It’s a feasible project for Pakistan. It’s the quickest route, the cheapest route where we can fulfil our energy needs."

However, Hussain said, negotiations had reached a critical point. Because it will take two years to build the Pakistani sections of the pipeline, Islamabad has to start paying Iran $200 million per month from now under a “take or pay” contract, whether it receives any gas or not.

0900 GMT: Gaza Watch. The Supreme Leader's advisor on foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, has made another attempt to claim the Gazan "victory" in the eight-day war with Israel last month.

Addressing the international conference of Muslim University Professors and Islamic Awakening, Velayati said “new regional and global atmosphere” made the achievement possible, with Palestine as a main priority of the Islamic Awakening and Iranian foreign policy: "The [Palestinian] resistance succeeded in exposing the vulnerabilities of the Zionist regime and the ceasefire to which this regime submitted indicated its weakness and retreat."

0705 GMT: Kalemeh, linked to detained opposition leader and 2009 Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, expresses its concern over his treatment under strict house arrest.

The website claims that security forces have refused responsibility for providing Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, also held since 2011, with food for some time, making the family responsible. Mousavi and Rahnavard's relatives complain that they have no means to verify the quantity and quality of food being provided. The family currently hands over food to the security agents at the gate, who then supposedly deliver it to the detainees. 

The couple's daughters have had no contact with their parents, apart from a single phone call, since 20 November.
Mousavi was hospitalised this autumn for a heart condition, and Rahnavard is reportedly suffering from shaking in the hands and the face. Fellow 2009 Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, also put under house arrest 22 months ago, is also said to be in declining health and was briefly hospitalised earlier this month, according to his son.

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