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The Latest from Iran (10 March): Oh, the US is So Weak

See also The Latest from Iran (9 March): "Legitimacy" --- Home and Abroad

Iran Media: "Objective Reality of US Society"2028 GMT: Protest Watch. The Mothers of Laleh Park and their supporters have issued a statement challenging the Iranian judiciary’s harsh sentencing of human rights activists.

The Mothers of Laleh Park, who emerged after the June 2009 Presidential election to protest killings and detentions, declared, “While the possibility of a humane life is evaporating for Iranian people and especially freedom seekers, the criminals are rising in stature, and there are no fair courts answerable to the people.”

The statement condemned the sentences imposed on human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani and the deputy head of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, Nargess Mohammad, contrasting their judicial fate with that of Saeed Mortazavi, the Tehran Prosecutor General when the abuses occurred at the Kahrizak Detention Centre in summer 2009.

The Mothers wrote, “Judge Mortazavi, whose many crimes are common knowledge, was dismissed after his offences regarding Kahrizak were revealed. But not only did he not stand trial, he was instead appointed as head of the task force against drug trafficking. And now he is being appointed to the helm of the Organization for Social Security.”

1843 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Keyvan Mehregan has been sentenced to one year in prison.

Mehregan was one of several staff of the reformist Shargh newspaper who were arrested in December 2010. He was released the following month on a bail of $9600.

1758 GMT: CyberWatch. In the continuing regime assault against an uncontrolled Internet, Minister of Communications Reza Taghipour has said the Web is used by the US and the West for espionage and corruption.

Earlier this week the Supreme Leader announced the creation of a Supreme Council of Cyberspace, led by the President, to prevent harm to Iranians who go online.

1700 GMT: Hunger Strike Watch. Iran and India have signed an agreement for Delhi to pay for 45% of its Iranian oil imports in rupees.

The announcement was made during the visit by an Indian delegation to Tehran on Saturday.

Arrangements for India's $9 billion per year in Iranian oil have been complicated since the end of 2010 by sanctions, with the Indian Central Bank suspending payments from an Asian currency basket. Delhi now owes billions for oil purchased over the last 15 months.

Iran has been pressing, during months of talks, for payments in a convertible currency such as Japanese yen or for barter arrangements. No news was given today of arrangements for the other 55% of oil imports.

1547 GMT: Hunger Strike Watch. Students at Elm-o-Sanat University fasted on Friday in support of detained hunger striker Mahdi Khazali, calling for his freedom and that of other political prisoners.

Khazali, a physician and blogger condemned to 14 years in prison, is on Day 62 of his hunger strike.

1541 GMT: Elections Watch. The Tehran Friday Prayer of Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, has received some notable criticism.

Jannati thanked people for participating in the Parliamentary election on 2 March, saying their ballots "defeated the enemies and awakened the sedition current": "Even though Guardian council had to qualify (accept) some of the MPs and candidates, fortunately people did not vote for them so we have to give a special thanks to these people."

The Jomhouri Islami newspaper, close to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, responded: "What [Jannati] said was strange as it does not fit legal criteria and only brings the Guardian Council’s position and neutrality into question."

1536 GMT: Making a Move. Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the head of Parliament's Cultural Committee --- and a likely candidate to become the next Speaker --- has criticised the Government because it "did not offer any cultural plans so this committee could not be as active as it should have been".

Asked about the Speaker's post, Haddad Adel said, "We should wait for the start of the new Parliament. For me, this position is important as I could be responsible for more significant duties."

Haddad Adel was top of the official count in the Parliamentary election in Tehran and is close to the camp of the Supreme Leader.

1446 GMT: Impeachment Watch. President Ahmadinejad has finally agreed to his interrogation by Parliament on Wednesday, answering the "10 most important questions".

However, the President's ally and media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr criticised MPs, saying it is strange that some have “closed their eyes on truth” and do not think about the destructive consequences of this session: “Why do these MPs want to make enemies happy by attacking and weakening the President?"

1239 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, has warned Washington and West Jerusalem against any attack on Tehran: “We have prepared ourselves and currently have 11,000 missiles ready to launch at the U.S. and Israel and their interests in the world. We are in a defensive position and if we are attacked we will give a tough and painful response.”

1226 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student and women's rights activist Bahareh Hedayat, serving a 9 1/2-year prison sentence, has been awarded the Edelstam Prize for Human Rights.

The prize is given by the Swedish-based Harald Edelstam Foundation, recognised Hedayat for “her courageous actions.” She was arrested in December 2009 in part of a crackdown on leading student activists.

The Foundation jury formally stated, “Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat has through her outstanding courage and commitment to justice actively worked against the violation of human rights in Iran. Despite of serious warnings and threats from the regime’s security and intelligence forces, she has repeatedly risked her own life and freedom when defending human rights. She has been arrested upon several occasions, and is imprisoned right now for these reasons."

The jury continued, "“The Harald Edelstam Foundation considers her a prisoner of conscience, and in consequence respectfully asks the authorities of the Republic of Iran to set her free."

The prize will be awarded during a ceremony in the House of Nobility in Stockholm on 16 April 2012. It is given in memory of Swedish diplomat and Ambassador Harald Edelstam.

said a formal statement just released from the Jury for the Edelstam Prize. continued the Jury

1151 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. Authorities have announced that the second hearing in the trial of 33 defendants over the $2.6 billion bank fraud will be held tomorrow.

1143 GMT: Sanctions Watch. A spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell has said the company will stop buying crude oil from Iran before 1 July, when the European Union's embargo of Iranian oil imports begins.

The spokesman confirmed a Reuters report that quoted Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser, who was speaking in Houston, Texas.

Voser said, "We are complying with the sanctions." He added that old contracts will be fulfilled and shipments delivered "within a matter of weeks".

0700 GMT: Drumbeats of War Watch. Reuters reports:

Israel has asked the United States for advanced "bunker-buster" bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran's underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

"Such a request was made" around the time of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week, the official said, confirming media reports.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, played down as "unrealistic" Israeli reports that the United States would condition supplying the hardware on Israel promising not to attack Iran this year.

0640 GMT: On Thursday, we evaluated why the Supreme Leader was endorsing the Islamic Republic's resumption of nuclear discussions with the "West": "'Strength' right now comes from a defiant entry into talks. The question, of course, is what happens next."

Later in the day, Turkish Foreign Ahmet Davutoğlu --- confirming reports from earlier in the week --- announced that the talks would take place in early April. And this morning, Iranian State news agency IRNA gives vivid testimony to the first part of our analysis: its lead story is "Injustice, Corruption, Poverty, Unemployment, and the Objective Reality of American Society". It cites an "influential American author and journalist":

Currently 47 million Americans live below the poverty line live. The day the number of homeless is increasing and baskets  are becoming empty. All aspects of life from university education to health care are affected by this economic crisis. 

Meanwhile, Fars uses the Tehran Friday Prayer by Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, to explain why Iran is so strong: "[Jannati] praised the Iranian nation's high public turnout in March 2 parliamentary elections, and stressed that the nation hit a heavy blow to enemies."

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