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The Latest from Iran (21 December): Is the Regime Celebrating Its Longest Night?

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Sanctions, Awards for Political Prisoners, and the Supreme Leader on Facebook
Iran Propaganda 101: Mass Killing of Children in Connecticut --- The Jews Did It
The Latest from Iran (20 December): Revolutionary Guards Decide Which Reformists Can Stand in Presidential Election

A Table for Yalda Celebrations1720 GMT: Irony Watch. Well, here is one advocate for free speech who is not in detention in Iran....

Political analyst Mohsen Saleh seizes the moment after Spain’s satellite provider Hispasat took Iranian State outlets Press TV and Spanish-language Hispan TV off the air. He tells Press TV: "[This] contradicts the basic law of...freedom of speech of any party or any people from all over the world. That is why…the Iranian channels could sue the Americans and the Europeans even according to their law."

Saleh continued with the claim that it is the West who are scared of a free press, “When Press TV covers the 99-percent protests in New York and in other places…the Americans and the capitalists, the materialists, do not like to see such cover and they do not like to see others’ opinions in terms of these issues."

Saleh concluded, “I guess the Europeans and the Americans will finally find themselves really isolated from the whole world."

And who is responsible for the sudden ban of the Iranian channels? "Analyst" Stephen Landman knows: "The usual Israeli suspects."

See also Iran Propaganda 101: Mass Killing of Children in Connecticut --- The Jews Did It

1450 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister has fired the latest volley in the war of words with Iran over the deployment of NATO's Patriot anti-missile systems on the Turkish border with Syria.

Ali Babacan told Parliament on Thursday said that remarks made by Iranian officials are “no doubt unacceptable”, as Tehran has rockets with a range of 1200-1500 miles and thus could hit Turkey.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the deployment was "provocative". The previous day, the head of Iran's armed forces said the move could start a world war.

Amid the tension, President Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned trip to Ankara.

1317 GMT: Friday Prayer Watch. Ayatollah Emami Kashani, after praising the Islamic Awakening, sets out the rules for next President: "Be obedient to the Supreme Leader."

An EA correspondent adds --- Emami Kashani stated that the West has provided itself with capital through its monopoly on industry & technology, and likened it to a wolf and pig wearing a nice dress.

Emami Kashani also claimed that only Islam --- unlike Christianity, Judaism, or humanism --- has real humanity therefore making it capable of solving economic, social and political problems, which will ultimately lead to an Islamic Awakening in the West.

1234 GMT:The War on Satellite Dishes. Iranian police have begun a major operation to remove satellite dishes from the roofs of Tehran.

Satellite dishes are illegal in Iran as they allow Iranians to receive foreign channels, such as BBC Persian, which are seen as a threat to the Islamic regime.

Estimates suggest about 65 percent of Tehran’s residents use satellites – the figures dropping to 30-40 percent in other cities – whilst it is noted that most people simply replace the relatively cheap dishes once they have been removed by the police.

One journalist also commented that “Many people in Iran believe the rumour that Revolutionary Guards are actually behind the importation of satellite equipment to Iran, and that they profit from the mass destruction of dishes.”

1102 GMT: Human Rights Watch. The Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, has condemned a resolution by the UN General Assembly criticising the regime over human rights violations.

On Thursday, the General Assembly passed a Canadian-sponsored resolution by 86-32 with 65 abstentions.

Khazaei said there were political motivations behind the resolution, claiming it failed to mirror realities. He pointed to Canada’s own human rights issues regarding indigenous peoples.

1048 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch Part 2. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has said that accusations levelled against former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi by Hojatoleslam Hamid Rasaei, a pro-Ahmadnejad MP, are “criminal".

Rasaei had openly condemned Hashemi as the “mother of corruption” and claimed his activities had been supported by his father, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Tehran Prosecutor’s rejection of Raseai’s allegations raise the question whether he will also condemn the remarks of MP Zohreh Tabib Zadeh --- who, like Rasei, is a member of the Endurance Front for the Islamic Revolution --- in which she demanded Hashemi’s execution.

1013 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Zohreh Tabib Zadeh, a former Ahmadinejad deputy and chief of the Center for Women’s Affairs and currently an MP and member of the neoconservative Endurance Front for the Islamic Revolution, has opposed the release on bail of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Tabib Zadeh went much farther in her call for justice, demanding Hashemi’s execution for his alleged role in the unrest that followed the disputed 2009 Presidential Election. She claimed that the only reason he has been released is “because he uses the wealth and influence of his father, he has every kind of freedom and resource in his control.”

Tabib Zadeh directly compared Hashemi’s actions to those of Abdolmalek Rigi, the former head of the armed Baluchi insurgency Jundullah, who was executed in 2011. The MP said Rigi was put to death because of his lack of connections within the regime.

0715 GMT: Sanctions Watch. A United Nations Security Council committee has imposed sanctions on two Iranian firms, Yas Air and SAD Import Export Company, claiming they violated an arms embargo by shipping weapons to the Syrian government.

0650 GMT: Tonight is Yalda, the Iranian celebration of the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. Families will gather around a table of sweetmeats, nuts. and fruits, staying up late telling stories.

It is uncertain how and even if the regime will celebrate this evening, amid the growing economic difficulties. The political tensions around those problems surfaced again this week. President Ahmadinejad lashed out at Parliament for blocking --- perhaps for good --- the second stage of his subsidy cuts plan and declared that his "critics" were trying to undermine the "most impressive" Government in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, Tehran continues to plead for a resumption of nuclear talks. Of course, this is not being said directly by the Supreme Leader or even Ahmadinejad, who has long pushed for a deal with the "West". Instead, the message comes through the steady flow of stories in State media about others who are pressing for negotations. Yesterday Press TV headlined, "Russia Hopes for P5+1 Talks Next Month", and this morning, it plays up a report from 24 American analysts and former officials, "Obama Urged to Change Tactics on Iran".

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