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The Latest from Iran (12 April): Strike a Diplomatic Pose

See also Iran Feature: Maya Neyestani --- Challenging Repression Through The Cartoon
The Latest from Iran (11 April): Targeting Ahmadinejad

2040 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi, of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, has been released on $88,000 bail after 8 1/2 months in detention.

1930 GMT: Reformist Watch. An interesting push by MP Mohammad Reza Khabbaz after the debate among reformists whether to boycott March's Parliamentary system....

Even through the reformists have been reduced to a token group of about a dozen in the Majlis --- and even though reformist parties have been suspended or broken up by the regime --- Khabbaz wants a new effort to work within the system. He has said that they can regroup to engage in political activities for the 2013 Presidential election if former President Mohammad Khatami leads the campaign.

Khabbaz said that Khatami's decision to cast a ballot --- a move criticised by many reformists and activists --- had paved the way for his return to the country’s political stage.

1524 GMT: Oil Watch. India has overtaken China as the leading importer of Iranian oil.

Delhi took 433,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2012, compared with 256,000 bpd to China. Whereas India's imports are up 23% from last year, China's have fallen by 40%.

1517 GMT: Food Watch. Traders say the Government will start buying hundreds of thousands of tonnes of feed grains, as private-sector grain importers can no longer arrange payments because of the impact of sanctions.

The regime has bought more than 2 million tonnes of bread-making wheat through the state food agency GTC recently. Now the Iranian government feed agency SLAL is expected to step into international markets.

"I have several Iranian buyers who are currently seeking a total of about 250,000 tonnes of feed wheat, corn and barley but I cannot sell it because I do not know how they will pay," one European grains broker said.

1515 GMT: At the Movies. The website Cultural Heritage reports on "hard times" for Iranian cinema, with 14 films banned by the regime.

Or rather the site reported on the story --- it is now down, with the link "Not Found".

1505 GMT: Ahmadinejad and the Diplomatic Pose. An unexpected spin-off from President Ahmadinejad's attempt to bolster support through appearances in southern Iran....

The UAE has recalled its ambassador to Tehran, claiming a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty when Ahmadinejad who visited Abu Musa Island claimed by both countries since the 1970s.

The island is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the UAE. They have been held by Iran since 1971, shortly before the seven Gulf emirates gained full independence from Britain and formed the UAE.

1455 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kourosh Zaim, a 72-year-old member of the opposition National Front, has been given a three-year suspended sentence for acting against national security and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

Zaim was arrested in February 2011, hours after he told Radio Farda that authoritarian regimes in the region would inevitably face "social explosions", as the majority of the populations are young people who have access to information through social media.

Mohammand Soleimani Nia is reportedly being kept in Evin Prison's high-security Ward 209 because he refused to hand over information on a network of experts, U24, to intelligence officers.

Reporters Without Borders claims Soleimani Nia, arrested in January, is being pressured to work with the regime on the creation of a national Intranet.

1355 GMT: Economy Watch. Earlier this week we noted the Central Bank's declaration of an official inflation rate of 21.5%.

Comments on sites such as Khabar Online reinforce our judgement, from reports to EA and from analysts, that the price rises are far higher. They claim a 50% hike in the cost of milk and meat.

1345 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Conservative media, including Farda News and Baztab Emrooz are criticising the President for "unrealistic" data such as the claimed creation of 1.6 million new jobs over the last year.

Ahmadinejad made the declaration on Tuesday during a provincial tour in southern Iran.

1025 GMT: Terrorism Watch. The Ministry on Intelligence has announced the arrest of 15 "terrorists", involved in the assassination of a Sunni cleric.

Molavi Mostafa Jangi Zehi, the Friday Prayer leader of Rask in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, was killed in January.

The Ministry claimed that the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, which has sought the overthrow of the Islamic Republic since 1979 and "elements affiliated with Wahhabi groups" had been involved in the assassination, supported by the US, Britain, and Israel.

0900 GMT: Oil Watch. Javier Blas of the Financial Times reports:

Iran is trying to skirt US and European sanctions by luring nations to buy its oil on highly advantageous credit terms, say officials in the industry.

Tehran has been offering a handful of potential customers in Asia, including India, 180 days of free credit, according to the officials. They estimate that each month of credit amounts to a discount of roughly $1.2 to $1.5 a barrel.

But Gulf-based officials and European traders said Tehran was struggling to find new customers despite its generous credit terms. Nations in the European Union, as well as Turkey, Japan, South Korea and China, have all announced hefty cuts in their purchases of Iranian oil.

0820 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Offering "A Nuanced Response" on his blog, EA's Josh Shahryar is not optimistic about this weekend's nuclear discussions in Istanbul:

The utter fruitlessness of these endeavors...without anything new to be put on the table by either side, can only elicit this reaction from me....

Hahahahaahah hahahaah hah ahahaha hahahahahaha hahaha hahahaha hahahah ahahhahahahaahahah ahahah haahah haahahahahah haahahahah haahahah haha hah haah hahaahah ha haahah hahahah ahahah hah ha ahah ahahahahahahahah hahahahahahaah haahahahahah haahahahah haahahah haha hah haah hahaahah ha haahah hahahah ahahah hah ha ahahahaha

0710 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Amidst the recent domestic pressure upon him, a victory for the President on Wednesday --- an attempt by prominent MPs to subject him to impeachment, if he fails to answer more than six questions satisfactorily, failed.

The reformist newspaper Shargh headlines "The Jelly-Live Vote of MPs".

0700 GMT: Poetry Corner. Here's a cultural touch to the posing --- amidst Iran's recent issues with countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia over the nuclear and Syrian issues, Fars presents a series of quatrains denouncing Turks and Arabs: "[Turkish Prime Minister] Erdoğan and [Turkish President] Gul are donkeys who play with the lion's tail." (The lion in question is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.)

The poems, by Shujaa al-Din Ibrahimi, also call Arabs “invaders”, continuing, “The Turks follow the invaders and together they conspire against Syria.”

0650 GMT: And Another Posture.... State outlet Al Alam reports that imports from 100 European companies have been banned by the Islamic Republic in response to the European Union's sanctions.

Earlier this month, Iranian authorities placed a temporary ban on 600 imports amidst problems with currency and domestic production.

0550 GMT: After days of manoeuvring by all sides on the nuclear issue, we are now in the lull before the opening of talks in Istanbul on Saturday. The vacuum in developments is filled by ruminations by analysts and commentators on what both Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) should do, while officials put out general warnings and assurances.

So on Wednesday we had President Ahmadinejad --- needing to defend his position against domestic challengers, rather than the US --- wagging his finger at the attempted "bullying" of the West. Meanwhile, Saeed Jalili, Iran's lead negotiator, spoke of Tehran's presentation of "new initiatives" in the talks but somehow failing to give a single detail of the content of those initiatives.

Jalili's vague declaration was still enough to grab this morning's headlines in Iranian newspapers as well as a feature by Reuters which --- after Iranian authorities closed its bureau in Tehran --- is now relying on a correspondent in Dubai.

Iran also struck another pose on Wednesday. As Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi pronounced that sanctions on Tehran were failing --- somehow proving this with the statement that the petrochemical industry will be privatised --- State media blared, "Oil Prices Rise Again as Iran Cuts Crude Exports to Germany".

The story is style rather than substance: with the European Union's suspension of Iranian oil imports coming into effect from 1 July, its members have already cut back on crude from Tehran and pursued alternative supplies, as the global market "prices  in" the shift.

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