Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (30 March): After Turkey's Prime Minister Went Home....

See also Iran Video Special: How Regime Used "Ninjas" to Shut Down Press in Tehran
Iran Snap Analysis: Syria and Ahmadinejad --- Sifting Reality from Propaganda over the Erdoğan Visit
The Latest from Iran (29 March): Erdogan's Meetings with Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader

<2030 GMT: Economy Watch. Die Presse offers an overview of the effect of sanctions on Iran's trade through the United Arab Emirates, affecting 25,000 Iranian exporters in Dubai.

2000 GMT: Assurance of the Day. Parviz Sarvari, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee, has said, "It is sensed that Turkey is gradually withdrawing from its past positions on Syria and is correcting these incorrect positions....Although Turkey has not definitely retreated from its past wrong...positions on Syria, it seems Turkey is gradually distancing itself from the ... hegemonic system on this issue and we take this as a good omen."

A quick reminder of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's statement as soon as he returned to Ankara from his visit to Tehran, "[There is no need] now for me to say I am hoping or expecting something. Because [President Assad] continues to kill. As we now see such a picture, I don't have any hope."

1540 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update. Hojatoleslam Kazem Siddiqi took the podium today but --- have to be honest with you --- there was not much to stir the soul.

1. The holding of the Arab League summit in Baghdad proved that the resistance of the Islamic Revolution and Islamic Awakening has vanquished America.

2. Some at that summit decided to link disparate issues, all of which proved Tehran was excellent: “Leaders of certain Arab states voiced their support for Iran's inalienable right to use peaceful nuclear energy as well as the Palestinian issue and fight against terrorism."

3. That Islamic Awakening? It's going to continue.

4. We told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "“In the Syria issue we will not back down because it is our front line of resistance and in our opinion any American plan with regarding to Damascus is rejected."

5. And we support President Assad's reforms.

1340 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Our recent item (see 1320 GMT) on Turkey's reduction of Iranian oil imports is already overtaken by news of a greater cut....

The Turkish national oil company Tupras says it has cut purchases by 20%, twice the amount of the earlier report.

1330 GMT: The Iranian Engineers. Yet another false alert that kidnapped Iranian engineers in Syria had been released....

Iranian State media circulated a story yesterday, from an unnamed source, that five engineers, seized in December, were free and in Turkey. A similar story had circulated last month,with the men let go and in Iran, but had soon collapsed.

This time it appears that the five released Iranians were among pilgrims who had been abducted while travelling in Syria.

Two men who went to Syria to enquire about the kidnapped engineers were themselves seized in December. Their whereabouts are unknown.

1320 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Another sign that the US-led strategy of weaning countries of Iranian oil, assuring them of alternative supplies, is working:

Turkey will reduce the amount of oil it buys from Iran by around 10 percent, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Friday, a week after Washington warned Iran's customers they could be subject to U.S. sanctions unless they significantly cut purchases.

Turkey will partly replace the oil with 1 million metric tonnes it expects to buy from Libya, Yildiz told reporters. The country is also in talks with Saudi Arabia on spot oil purchases and longer term contacts, Yildiz added.

"We plan to increase the number and the route of countries we buy oil from," Yildiz said.

Turkey imports around 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, representing 30 percent of its total imports and more than 7 percent of Iran's oil exports.

1210 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kamran Hashemi writes in The Guardian:

The first day of April is traditionally a day of fun and laughter in Britain. For most Iranians it is Sizdah-Bidar – a time of family, picnics, and outdoor celebration.

But for Iran's seven Baha'i leaders, it has another meaning: 10,000 cumulative days of unjustified imprisonment, with no prospect of release until 2028. Shut away from the world, their "family" is now the hundreds of other prisoners of conscience that languish in Iran's prisons. The seven are distinguished for their services to society, not criminality, yet they now survive in cramped, pestilential conditions, lacking essential medical care. Their suffering is emblematic of the human rights crisis in Iran. An international campaign is being launched to raise awareness of their plight.

1133 GMT: Economy Watch. Ayatollah Nourollah Tabaresi has claimed in his Friday Prayer in Sari in northern Iran that 1.5 million jobs have been lost because of smuggled goods and that the Majlis and Government must "untie the knot of domestic production".

1127 GMT: Budget Watch. Parliament has commanded the Government to transfer extra oil and gas income to national reserves. The Majlis estimates that the Government earned 73.6 trillion Toman (about $60 billion at official rates; about £8 billion at open-market rates) thru increased prices for energy carriers in the last Iranian year.

1125 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. As soon as he arrived in Ankara from Iran, where he spent two days talking to Tehran's leaders about the Syrian crisis, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dropped his cautious position on the Assad regime.

Erdoğan said there is no reason to expect Damascus to implement a United Nations envoy Kofi Annan's "peace plan" in the face of ongoing violence, despite President Assad's public acceptance of the proposals:

[There is no need] now for me to say I am hoping or expecting something. Because [Assad] continues to kill. As we now see such a picture, I don't have any hope.

(Cross-posted from our Syria Live Coverage)

1035 GMT: 1038 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). An industry source says Iran is helping Syria defy Western sanctions by providing a vessel to ship Damascus' oil to a Chinese state-run company, potentially bringing in $80 million to the Assad regime.

The source said, "The Syrians planned to sell the oil directly to the Chinese but they could not find a vessel." He claimed the Chinese buyer was Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, a state-run company hit by US sanctions in January.

A Zhuhai Zhenrong spokeswoman said: "I've never heard about this."

(Cross-posted from our Syria Live Coverage)

1035 GMT: PR Watch. In our analysis this morning, we claimed that the coverage of Tehran Prime Minister Erdoğan's visit followed a script set out by the Supreme Leader's office.

Well, here's the proof --- Ayatollah Khamenei's website has posted an English translation, which is almost word-for-word the same as the "news" in Iranian media, of its report on Erdoğan's time with the Supreme Leader.

0916 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Arab cultural activist Mohammand Herdani has been given a 10-year prison sentence in Ahwaz.

0908 GMT: All the President's Men. Arash Bahmani of Rooz Online summarises the tension over the naming of Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi as head of the Social Security Fund.

Parliamentary criticism has reached the point where Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslam may be summoned to the Majlis after his backing of Mortazavi: “Every public figure has supporters and opponents and we live in a free and open society, and will look at all aspects of the situation.”

Mortazavi was Tehran Prosecutor General amid the abuses and killings of detainees at the Kahrizak centre in summer 2009. He has been formally suspended from duties by a court over an incident but has not been prosecuted, despite the judiciary file compiled over the episode.

0900 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Speaking in Yazd, Hojatoleslam Mohammad-Kazem Rashed Yazdi told his audience that Islam "entered Iran by war". While this brought blessings and prosperity, Imams did not participate in attack because it was not "jihad" but "harb" (war)."

An EA correspondent assesses, while noting that Yazd is the historic of Zoroastrianism, "This is an attempt by a cleric to reconcile religion with growing nationalism and anti-Islamism."

An "Islam-first" vs. "Iran-first" approach to the Islamic Republic has been a prominent political and social issue, often causing tension.

0730 GMT: The Erdoğan Visit. A bit more de-coding of the Turkish Prime Minister's carefully-framed words on Iranian State TV on Thursday --- Erdoğan said:

The Syrian regime should be receptive to the will of its people, who want elections and democracy....If [President] Bashar al-Assad is not afraid, and is confident about his regime, he should allow the formation of new [political] parties.

Erdogan also called for close cooperation between Ankara and Tehran so "elections are held in Syria": "If Assad wins the elections, Turkey will not have any problems with him."

Note that, while calling for political movement in Damascus, Erdoğan could present himself as being in step with the Iranian leadership's support of Assad "reforms". At the same time, the Turkish Prime Minister did not close the door on a call for Assad's removal if --- be it because he is "afraid" or is not "confident about his regime" --- he balks at any of those reforms, including meaningful elections with free participation by parties and people.

0630 GMT: Iranian media are still featuring the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this morning. The two dominant themes are Erdoğan's meeting with the Supreme Leader on Thursday, with the headline of the Islamic Republic's determination to stand by the Syrian regime, and the Turkish Prime Minister's appearance on State TV yesterday, with his support of Iran's right to nuclear technology.

Beyond this political staging, we offer an analysis, "Syria and Ahmadinejad --- Sifting Reality from Propaganda over the Erdoğan Visit".

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