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Saturday
Dec222012

The Latest from Iran (22 December): "We Are Not Isolated. You Are Isolated"

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Sanctions, Awards for Political Prisoners, and the Supreme Leader on Facebook
The Latest from Iran (21 December): Is the Regime Celebrating Its Longest Night?


2140 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. An EA correspondent summarises the President's performance on national TV tonight:

Subsidy cuts have been successful...Inflation is a structural matter, has existed for past 40 to 50 years....Bank debts were increased and fixed without the Government's assent....Problems are because of domestic abuse (Revolutionary Guards, Parliament, Supreme Leader's gang, clerics --- everyone except me).

2032 GMT: Ahmadinejad Irony Watch. The President declared in his TV interview tonight, "The will of people should be respected in elections --- it will have international ramifications."

2025 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Trying to save his subsidy cuts programme, which is under pressure from Parliament, the President has said that it is not to blame for economic problems and currency issues. Instead, he said, these have been caused by domestic abuses and external pressure.

2015 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters gives a snapshot from President Ahmaidnejad's appearance on national television tonight:

1955 GMT: Economy Watch. MP Astaneh Ashrafieh has challenge the official Government rate of 17-18% unemployment in Gilan Province in northern rate, claiming the real level in the area is 30%.

1645 GMT: Publishing Watch. Deutsche Welle reports that 100 printing offices and 200 publishers have been shut down in Tehran in the past year because of economic problems and the restrictions of censorship.

1555 GMT: Oil Watch. Reuters sumamrises information, much of it already posted on EA, pointing to a further 15-20% fall in Iranian oil exports in the first half of next year: "Asian buyers of Iranian crude will deepen import cuts in 2013 and struggle to send cash to Tehran to pay for oil as tightening Western sanctions choke the flow of hard currency to Iran's coffers."

Iranian exports have been halved this year amid international sanctions.

1525 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Blogger Ali Shariati has been sentenced to eight months for disturbing public order and propaganda against the regime.

1515 GMT: Oil Watch. Some good news for Iran --- China's State-run Zhuhai Zhenrong, the firm that began Chinese import of Iranian oil --- has said it will maintain its contract of 230,000 barrels per day in 2013.

The figure is just over half of China's total imports this year, and almost 15% of Iran's global export of 1.3 million bpd in October.

An official warned, however, that deliveries might fall below the contract, because of complications over the European Union's ban on insurance on Iranian tanks since July. Chinese refineries have relied on Iranian tankers to ship the oil, providing any coverage for accidents and spillages.

1500 GMT: Corruption Watch. Prominent pro-Ahmadinejad MP Hamid Rasaei has been accused of embezzlement of 1.8 billion Toman (about. $1.5 million at official rate) while he was head of the Qom section of Ministery of Culture in President Ahmadinejad's first term.

1430 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was http://www.twitter.com/GEsfandiari" target="_blank">allowed prison leave today to attend the funeral for her mother.

1122 GMT: Sanctions Watch. New European Union sanctions against Iran's banking, shipping, and industrial sectors have come into force today.

The sanctions, agreed in October, include bans on financial transactions, sales to Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian natural gas.

In July, the EU suspended all imports of Iranian oil and banned insurance on Tehran's tankers.

1120 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office has announced that the President will appear on State TV tonight, discussing economic issues and his subsidy cuts programme.

Ahmadinejad is trying to rescue the programme, launched in December 2010 as Parliament has blocked the second phase of its implementation.

0940 GMT: The Battle Within. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has swiped at President Ahmadinejad while calling for unity to come out of next June's Presidential election.

Larijani warned of those who try to "polarise the country" as he said "executive duties should not be politicised". He was confident, however, that "conservative forces would come together in the next Government".

0810 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has thrown the latest jab in the battle with Turkey over the Syrian crisis.

Vahidi repeated the regime's warning about deployment of NATO's Patriot anti-missile systems on the Turkish border with Syria: "The installation...plays no role in establishing Turkey's security and this harms the country of Turkey. The West has always pursued its viewpoints and interests and we disagree with the presence of Western countries in regional interactions."

Last weekend the head of Iran's armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, warned that the deployment could "start a world war" and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also criticised Ankara. Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, responded that Iran had no reason to fear the move and that Tehran should consider its own long-range rockets.

Last evening, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Firouzabadi had "uttered nonsense" when he spoke of the Patriots bringing on a world war.

On another front, Vahidi denied that Iran is working with Syrian troops: "Syria has no need for the training of its forces by the Islamic Republic of Iran, because Syria has a powerful military which has prepared itself for involvement with the Zionist regime."

0800 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Mohammad Ali Shabani, "a London-based political analyst" who worked for the Government's Institute for Strategic Research until recently, puts out the latest declaration that the regime's economic situation is not all that bad. In "Surviving Sanctions, Iran Girds for Further Economic War", he challenges "the limited value of blunt instruments such as broad sanctions".

Shabani acknowledges the impact of sanctions, with "a gradual breaking of the taboo on discussion" inside the Islamic Republic of their effects, and the halving of oil income in 2012. However, he tries to steady fears: "To put things into perspective, Iran earned roughly half as much in the beginning of this millenium, when Mohammad Khatami was president."

That seems a reasonable assurance, until you ponder what 12 years of inflation might mean for Shabani's comparison.

Shabani also tries to set a Government assumption of $49 billion of oil revenues in its 2012/13 budget vs. estimated income, even with reduced exports, of $45 billion. Another not-so-bad calculation --- if you don't consider that the Government has relied on the oil revenues not only to fund its budgets but to build up reserves of foreign currency, reserves which have likely diminished this year.

And then there are the rose-coloured glassses in this assertion --- "Iran is also buoyed by hope that its oil customers will return. There is some evidence to back this optimism" --- given that Tehran's exports may fall to historically-low levels this month.

0650 GMT: Mohammad Khazaei, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, has explained the state of international affairs, focusing on difficutlies for Israel: “The overwhelming majority vote of the [UN] General Assembly’s member states in opposition to the continuation of the Zionist regime’s settlements and its expansion to the occupied lands showed that the regime is becoming more and more isolated in international arenas."

Khazaei said that votes such as this week's 196-6 passage of a non-binding resolution criticising Israel's settlement expansion showed “they must revise Middle Eastern policies, particularly on the Palestinian issue".

Khazaei did not talk about the UN's recent positions on Iran, such as the Security Council's resolutions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme or this week's condemnation by the General Assembly of Tehran's human rights violations. However, he complained in a speech during the Assembly vote.

We wonder if any member of this universal body can claim perfection in human rights situation within its territory and should be beyond the international scrutiny. It is a regret that the present system of human rights monitoring opens doors for a selective, arbitrary, partial, and unproductive treatment. 

How Iran avoided isolation with this "selective, arbitrary, and partial treatment" was left unclear.

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