Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (12 December): A 78-Year-Old Academic is Imprisoned for Writing the Supreme Leader

See also Iran Propaganda 101: What's Missing from This Story About Detained Journalists?
The Latest from Iran (11 December): "We Have Confused the US"

Mohammad Maleki1822 GMT: Economy Watch. Reuters posted an incisive overview of the 40% rise in the stock market in the past four months.

Paradoxically, the market has benefited from other areas of weakness in the economy. Companies in certain exports sector are benefiting, as a sharp currency devaluation has made their goods much cheaper on the international market, provided they are not hindered by restrictions on Iran's financial transactions.

One example is the chemical sector, with Sina Chemical Industries up 145% since October and Abadan Petrochemical up 18% in that time.

The surge in demand for shares has also been fed by high inflation, the devalued currency, and a lack of alternatives for local investors to place their cash. The international sanctions have cut much of Iran's access to the global financial system, making difficult for wealthy Iranians to send their money overseas.

1636 GMT: Nuclear Negotiation Watch. Helga Schmid, the deputy negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, has spoken by phone with her Iranian counterpart Ali Bagheri about possible dates and locations for a new round of nuclear talks.

An European diplomat said it is still unclear if talks will resume before or after the new year.

Schmid's office released a statement:

[She] had a telephone call with Iranian deputy nuclear negotiator Dr. Ali Bagheri on 12 December in order to discuss the way ahead, including possible dates and venues for a meeting with Iran/>[?

We hope that agreement with Iran can soon be reached on how to continue the talks and make concrete progress towards addressing international concerns and finding a diplomatic solution.

See also Iran Analysis: Why There is Much Posing --- But No Progress --- On Nuclear Talks

1602 GMT: All-Is-Well Nuclear Watch. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi, has denied reports of technical problems at Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

Recent reports have noted the withdrawal of fuel rods from the plants and an increase in inspections at Russian-built Bushehr, long delayed in its launch and still not at full operational capacity. Abbasi said that the inspections were connectd to the transfer of the responsibility for running the plant from Russians to Iranians.

1555 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, in a letter to his wife, has compared tensions over the regime with those in the last years of the Shah.

Tajzadeh, a former Deputy Minister of Interior serving a six-year sentence, said that since the disputed 2009 Presidential election, authorities had established a form of "religious dictatorship" that was worse than that of the secular predecessor. He asked, "Is it worse to kill three thousand people or kill tens of thousands?"

1235 GMT: President v. Parliament. President Ahmadinejad, responding to Parliamentary pressure to deliver his budget for 2013/14, has said MPs should be patient, with the delivery and passage of a budget "based on mutual understanding".

Ahmadinejad may have a more immediate fight on his hands. The Majlis has said that merger and dissolution of ministries must have its approval.

The declaration is a slap at Ahmadinejad's naming of an ally, Ali Nikzad, to take over the portfolio of Communications in his addition to his current post of Ministry of Roads. Nikzad, a close ally of Ahmadinejad and a possible Presidential candidate in 2013, would head a new "super-Ministry" for Infrastructure.

1229 GMT: Assurance of the Day. The Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Saeedi, has reassured --- with a Presidential election six months away --- "Only conservatives are successful managers."

Saeedi called upon the leaders in the Government to work together and to avoid putting out any differences in the media.

1222 GMT: Cracking Down on the Lawyers. The BBC offers an overview of the regime's repression of attorneys, detaining some such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, threatening others with imprisonment, and forcing still others to flee.

0552 GMT: Oil Watch. Ahead of today's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi has taken a swipe at the arrangements --- negotiated between members of OPEC such as Saudi Arabia and outsiders such as the US --- to replace Iran's sanctioned oil exports with supplies from other countries: “Supply is greater than demand in the market, therefore, at Wednesday’s meeting, OPEC ministers should reach an agreement to reduce [output].”

0448 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Having modified its previous line that US-led sanctions were having no significant effects, Iranian officials try another approach: measures against the Islamic Republic's shipping will seriously affect international maritime and environmental safety.

"During the past months due to direct and indirect measures taken by some governments, unfair and undue restrictions have been imposed against Iran's commercial shipping industry," Ali Akbar Marzban, Iran's deputy representative to the International Maritime Organization, said.

He added, "We strongly believe that these measures undoubtedly would have an adverse impact on regional and international maritime safety, security and pollution prevention and would hamper relevant international co-operation."

0438 GMT: Nuclear Stalemate Watch. Yesterday we noted the Supreme Leader's powerfu, if coded, signal against direct talks with the US in a speech to an international conference: "Any notion that the global arrogance, led by the US, may come to terms with Islamic movements is wrong.

Ayatollah Khamenei's aides were also putting out that message. Hojatoleslam Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, said to clerics and leaders of Basij militia:

Sanctions and the economic situation should not make some people say: "The United States says negotiations, therefore you [Iran] should negotiate."

The enemy is trying to make us join its cafe, but we have many strategic issues with the United States including Hezbollah, Palestine, Shi'a rule in Iraq and Bahrain --- none of which could be solved through negotiations.

Hojatoleslam Mohammad Sedaqat, Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards' Navy, echoed, "Negotiating with the United States means siding with the usurper and turning our backs to the ideals of the revolution," while failing to solve Iran's economic problems.

0428 GMT: The Battle Within. Javan Online, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, continues its campaign against the possible candidacy in the 2013 Presidency election of President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai --- referred to as “the leader of the deviant current”.

Javan alleges that Rahim-Mashai will use his new appointment by Ahmadinejad as head of the secretariat of the Non-Aligned Movement to confer with foreign officials. It then links him to unnamed reformist foes: “It is noteworthy that undertaking trips abroad for attracting financial and spiritual support from foreign authorities in elections, was previously undertaken by some Reformist personalities.”

0423 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Afghan Front). Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi has denied Tuesday's reports that the Iranian Consulate in Herat in western Afghanistan has been closed amid protests by locals.

Last week, the consulate was surrounded by demonstrators claiming the killing of 13 Afghan nationals by Iranian security forces as they were attempted to cross the border into the Islamic Republic.

0415 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Canada has expanded its sanctions against the Islamic Republic, listing an additional 98 persons and groups for supporting Iran’s nuclear program.

The measures target economic sectors such as oil and gas, mining, metals, and shipping, as well as seeking the isolation of Iran's financial system.

0357 GMT: Last week our partner Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society in Iran, reported on the open letter written by Dr Mohammad Maleki, the former Chancellor of Tehran University, to the Supreme Leader.

Maleki urged Ayatollah Khamenei “to accept that Iran is at the verge of collapse”.  Instead of relying on the praise in the image of Iran portrayed by his supporters, Ayatollah Khamenei should see the domestic pressures, disagreements between the three powers of Government, the effects of economic sanctions, and the dissatisfaction of the population.

Maleki went even farther in attributing personal responsibility to the Leader for the problems, citing Khamenei’s mismanagement and poor decision-making and urging his resignation, with a free and fair referendum about the state of the country.

Yesterday Mohammad Maleki was summoned to Evin Prison, as his house was searched by security forces, to serve six years of prison sentences imposed on him 

The 78-year-old Maleki, the first post-Revolution Chancellor of Tehran University, has been detained on numerous occasions for his activism. He was arrested in August 2009, soon after the disputed Presidential election, and charged with  "contact with unspecified foreign groups and working to undermine the Islamic system". Reportedly suffering from poor health, he was released on bail in March 2010.

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