Iran Election Guide

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Iran Live Coverage: All-Is-Well Oil Alerts

See also Sunday's Iran Live Coverage: Celebrating Victory Over Protests

2050 GMT: The Battle Within. Facing renewed attacks over his economic policies (see 1740 GMT), President Ahmadinejad has repeated his allegation that most of the Iranian economy is in the hands of 300 or 400 influential people. He said the Government cannot control them because "they reject it via the media".

Ahmadinejad continued --- in what can be construed as an attack on the Revolutionary Guards --- that "some organisations have their own banks and businesses and don't explain themselves" as they pursue "privatisation without rules".

1740 GMT: The Battle Within. Leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli has warned that President Ahmadinejad will pursue "scorched earth" policies in his last months in office, further damaging Iran's economy.

1524 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a founder of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights Center, may be showing signs of impaired memory at Evin Prison, according to his brother.

Seyed Hossein Dadkhah said:

He did not recognize his daughter during the in-person visitation and he was talking nonsense. It is very sad. I met Mohammad through a booth. I was surprised to observe that he constructed his sentences in haphazard ways. Mohammad has always had excellent speech, he would never make mistakes or talk haphazardly, he never paused in the middle of his talks. I don’t know what happened to him. He wasn’t the same last week.

I don’t know what resulted in this. Maybe he can’t speak very frankly during booth visits. Whatever I asked him he answered, "It’s good." I asked, "Are they abusing you?" He said, "No. Everything is good."’ I asked, "Are you eating?" He said, "Good." [I asked] "Do you sleep well?" He said, "Everything is good."

Before his detention, Dadkhah represented political activists such as Ebrahim Yazdi and Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, as well as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian convert accused of apostasy. He was sentenced to nine years in prison with a ten-year ban on legal practice and teaching in July 2011.

1444 GMT: Shipping Watch. The managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines says one of its vessels has been seized in Sri Lanka because of failure to pay dues.

The Times of India said the ship was held by authorities at the request of a German bank.

1436 GMT: Challenging the Supreme Leader. In an open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has criticised the Supreme Leader for interfering in local elections in 2002.

Tajzadeh, serving a six-year sentence, compared Khamenei to opposition leaders and 2009 Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, held under strict house arrest for 22 months for continuing to challenge the system that upheld Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election: "Who should apologise? You or Mousavi and Karroubi?"

0843 GMT: Press Watch. The reformist newspaper Shargh has resumed publication after its latest ban by authorities.

Shargh, shut down by the regime from 2008 to 2010, has been periodically raided and suspended this year. It was acquitted by the Press Court last week of charges that one of its cartoons had insulted veterans of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.

0703 GMT: There is a notable shortage of domestic news this morning, with Iranian media preferring to look at Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and even Belarus rather than matters at home. 

However, there are a few stories that converge on one theme: all is very well with Iran's oil and gas industry --- and even if that's not true, all is still OK.

Fars leads the way with an "informed source" who says that Iranian oil output and exports have recovered after a temporary shock from sanctions, "Fortunately, oil production has surpassed 3.1mln bpd [barrels per days] and reached 3.25mln bpd." 

Iran's oil production was 3.6 million bpd in the last quarter of 2011, but fell to 2.6 million bpd this autumn, according to the International Energy Agency. Its exports of 2.2 million bpd dropped to 860,000 bpd this summer before recovering to 1.3 million bpd in October.

Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi said throughout the autumn that sanctions had had no effect on production, which he claimed had soared to 4.1 million bpd. However, in the last two weeks, he has altered his message to say that Iran was affected in July and August by the US-led restrictions but has overcome them with renewed production.

Deputy Minister of Oil Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr claimed on Sunday Phases 15 and 16 of the South Pars gas field, the largest in the world, will be launched in March 2013. He said that 55 oil industry projects, worth $21.5 billion, will come online within the next three months.

Khojasteh-Mehr did not mention that existing phases of South Pars have yet to start production because of a sharp decline in foreign investment. Russian, French, Spanish, and Dutch companies have withdrawn in the last three years, and China's largest firm effectively pulled out of a $5 billion contract this month.

But even if these declarations are fantasies, that is fine, according to a member of Parliament's Economic Committee. Nasser Mousavi Laregani said that the Government can cope with the sharp fall in income through a "targeted tax" and a reduction in dependence on oil exports.

The MP did not explain how an increase in non-oil revenues can make up for the decrease of up to 60% in oil exports, which have provided more than 80% of Iran's foreign income.

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