Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (15 March): OK, Folks, Show's Over....

See also Iran Analysis: Who Won Ahmadinejad's Non-Interrogation? The Supreme Leader.
Iran Feature: What a Joke(r) --- Replaying Ahmadinejad's Defiance in Parliament
The Latest from Iran (14 March): Questioning Ahmadinejad

1545 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Obama Administration officials are putting out the line that sanctions may be imposed on India for failure o reduce its purchases of Iranian oil.

The officials said a decision to levy penalties could come as early as 28 June.

In response to the pressure, Indian officials said Delhi has not significantly cut imports because refiners’ annual crude term deals with Iran typically run from April to March. The planned reductions will start when new annual contracts begin next month.

Curiously, Bloomberg reports that "the U.S. government may not be aware that India’s biggest buyer of Iranian oil, state-owned Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. (MRPL), plans to import less from Iran starting next month, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak".

MRPL's plans are far from private --- EA reported on them earlier this month.

India bought an average of 328,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude in the first six months of last year, making it the third-largest customer, behind China and Japan.

1535 GMT: Human Rights Watch. The head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, is the latest regime official to denounce the recent UN report on "systematic" human rights violations in Iran: “Unfortunately, human rights is a tool in the hands of the Western countries, particularly the US, to pressure independent countries.”

That rhetoric is far from new, as is the accusation of double standards: “Almost all people in the world know that the Western countries are not honest in their human rights claims. Otherwise, they will never keep silent on killing of people in Bahrain or commit crimes in Afghanistan and other countries."

What gives the article distinction is the turn of phrase in Press TV's link, "HR report on Iran fraught with fibs".

1525 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Back from a break for travel to Ireland to find this announcement from SWIFT, the leading global provider for transfers of funds:

Following an EU Council decision, SWIFT is today announcing it has been instructed to discontinue its communications services to Iranian financial institutions that are subject to European sanctions.

The new European Council decision, as confirmed by the Belgian Treasury, prohibits companies such as SWIFT to continue to provide specialised financial messaging services to EU-sanctioned Iranian banks. SWIFT is incorporated under Belgian law and has to comply with this decision....

The EU-sanctioned Iranian financial institutions and the SWIFT customer community have been notified of the disconnection, which will become effective on Saturday 17 March at 16.00 GMT.

0925 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. A snapshot of the sharply differing presentations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this morning....

Press TV is scathing about the President, headlining, "Iran MPs Irked by Ahmadinejad Acerbic Remarks in Majlis", quoting the legislators' anger at the "offensive" presentation.

While State news agency IRNA has a photo gallery of the President in Parliament, its Ahmadinejad news has moved to other, glowing coverage. There is Ahmadinejad's celebration of "10,444 Housing Units in Khuzestan Province" and "The President Attended the Commemoration of the Martyrs of Operation Ramadan".

Fars? It simply ignores the President.

0845 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Middle Eastern Front). Two contrasting claims about Iranian intervention in the region....

Iranian State news agency IRNA highlights that a Tehran aircraft carrying 40 tons of medical aid arrived in Syria today. The cargo was handed over to the Syrian Red Crescent, according to the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani.

Sheibani said the shipment included medicines and medical equipment, with subsequent deliveries of food products, ambulances, tents and blankets.

The New York Times prefers a far different claim of Tehran's involvement in the Middle East: 

In the past several months, Iran appears to have increased its political outreach and arms shipments to rebels and other political figures in Yemen as part of what American military and intelligence officials say is a widening Iranian effort to extend its influence across the greater Middle East.

Iranian smugglers backed by the Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are using small boats to ship AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other arms to replace older weapons used by the rebels, a senior American official said. Using intercepted cellphone conversations between the smugglers and Quds Force operatives provided by the Americans, the Yemeni and Indian coastal authorities have seized some shipments, according to the American official and a senior Indian official.

The scale of Iran’s involvement remains unclear, and some Yemeni officials and analysts remain skeptical about the impact of any weapons shipments, citing a long history of dubious accusations by Saudi Arabia — Iran’s regional nemesis — and Saudi allies in Yemen.

(cross-posted from our Syria and Beyond Live Coverage)

0555 GMT: While we are travelling to Ireland, we post an analysis beyond Wednesday's developments, "Who Won Ahmadinejad's Non-Interrogation? The Supreme Leader."

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