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Iran Live Coverage: Cheerleading for Sanctions

Al Jazeera English reports on the effect of US sanctions on Iranian air travel

2115 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has reportedly predicted that Syrian President Assad will leave or be forced from power.

1515 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Parliament's National Security Committee, has called for nuclear negotiations to focus on the withdrawal of sanctions against Iran.

Boroujerdi said, "Under US pressures and incited by Britain, the EU [European Union] was a forerunner of sanctions against our nation outside the [United Nations] resolution, and the 5+1 Powers [US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia] should take action to obviate this cruelty and change this policy."

1445 GMT: Press Watch. This week's ban on the reformist paper Shargh has been lifted and its editor Mehdi Rahmanian acquitted.

Shargh, which was banned from 2008 to 2010, has been suspended on several occasions this year. Only last week it was cleared, after months, of a charge based on its publication of a cartoon which critics said insulted veterans of the Iran-Iraq War.

1245 GMT: The Battle Within. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has launched another attack on President Ahmadinejad's subsidy cuts plan --- whose second phase has been blocked by Pariament ---- and the Govvernment's economic performance:

It is certain that the country, instead of the implementation of these types of plans, needs economic stability…...Part of the problem relates to sanctions and another is due to problems with managing the country. Until we accept and believe this, we cannot reform and solve the problems.

1155 GMT: Sedition Watch. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, puts out this morning's declaration of victory over protesters after the disputed 2009 Presidential election: "We won the revolution, and we can follow the path of the hero of the nation [the Supreme Leader]."

Jafari said the triumph was a credit to the "endurance, stamina, intelligence, and insight of the nation", standing against invasion by foreign and domestic enemies.

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the regime's counter-demonstration against the rallies of the Green Movement.

0820 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Buried in a Los Angeles Times report, "Iran May Be Reconsidering Position on Syria", is the article's significant revelation:

Tehran has explored talks with Syrian dissidents. The most prominent is Haytham Manna, who lives in Paris and represents the Damascus-based opposition umbrella group the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change. The group, which emphasizes peaceful change, has been tolerated by Assad.

Iran has talked with Manna about heading a government while Assad stays on as president until elections, said Hossian Royarvan, a state television analyst on Middle Eastern affairs.

"Manna … has taken trips to Tehran several times and talked with Iranian officials. He wants the structure of state to remain intact as he thinks the structure is in the national interest, but he believes Bashar should quit," said Royarvan. "So Iran is talking with him and trying to find a solution for Syria through dialogue. There is no military solution."

0810 GMT: Press Watch. The offices of the weekly Hadith-e Qazvin weekly have been raided and its chief editor Rahim Sarkar arrested, as the publication was banned for the fifth time.

0630 GMT: We open with a bit of sanctions symbolism from Washington. 

On Friday, President Obama signed the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, which gives the State Department 180 days to put forth a plan to "address Iran's growing hostile presence and activity" in Latin America.

The Act is unlikely to lead to a notable change in US policy and operations. Instead, it is hype --- complete with injunctions to bolster surveillance at US borders with Canada and Mexico to "prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps], its Quds Force, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist organization from entering the United States" and to enact mesaures for "counterterrorism and counter-radicalisation" --- to keep the notion of Iranian threat front-and-centre.

The real significance of that hype is that it helps to justify the restrictions that are already in place, far beyond Latin America, to choke off Iran's economic and financial activities. Consider another article on Friday, Reuters' "Special Report: Inside the West's Economic War with Iran".

The ostensible purpose of the special, written by three of the news agency's top reporters and with contributions from four others, is to give the reader an in-depth look at the Obama Administration's move to sweeping sanctions from early 2011.

But make no mistake: this is also a lengthy tribute to the craft and wisdom of President Obama's officials, an economic adaptation of a Boys' Own tale of soldiers and warfare. It opens with the supposed drama of "the intense diplomatic enact the sanctions without causing an oil shock" and continues with narrative of the Obama Administration's negotiations with the US Congress --- ""The debate...was over means, not ends" --- and with the Europeans and Arab States.

So what's missing? Well, just for starters, any notion that the sanctions could have been avoided. The article's choice of starting point is also the establishment of blame: "The final straw that made oil sanctions possible was a January 2011 diplomatic blow-up in Turkey."

That arbitrary selection ignores, as an important example, the Administration's decision in spring 2010 to reject the Tehran Declaration of Iran, Brazil, and Turkey --- a Declaration which would have given stricter limits on Iran's uranium enrichment than what the US is hoping to achieve 2 1/2 years later --- in favour of sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.

So while the article sets up continuing dramatic tension --- "There's no evidence yet the pressure has had its desired effect: to convince Iran to stop spinning the centrifuges to enrich uranium that could be used in a nuclear bomb" --- that tension only serves the conclusion: Must Try Harder:

The sanctions, deliberately crafted in years past to avoid widespread harm to the Iranian people, are now causing real pain....

"We've imposed the toughest sanctions in history," Obama told reporters the week after his re-election, saying he would again try to open a dialogue with Iran. "I can't promise that Iran will walk through the door."

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