Iran Special: Forget the News --- Let's Tell Scary Stories br>
Iran Feature: Bush Administration Trained MKO "Terrorists" From 2005 br>
The Latest from Iran (5 April): How Serious Are the Economic Problems?
1845 GMT: All the President's Men. Mohammad Dehghan, a member of the Presiding Board of Parlament, has declared that if the Arbitration Council asks Saeed Mortazavi --- the Presidential aide recently named head of the Social Security Fund --- to resign, he must do so.
Mortazavi's appointment has been challenged because he was the Tehran Prosecutor General during the abuses and killings at the Kahrizak detention centre in summer 2009.
Dehghan and other MPs have called for the impeachment of Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, who has supported Mortazavi, if the Presidential aide does not stand down.
1815 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. See if you can spot the common theme in Friday Prayers across Iran and the Number One person who is being addressed: "Political Arrogance of the Foreign Anti-Iran Movement"; "America's Involvement with Arrogance"; "America's Threats"; "Bringing Up The Topic of Negotiations With America is Tragic"; "We Cannot Deal with America"; "Negotiating with America Does Not Have Any Meaning".
Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, are you listening?
Just to drive the point home, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in Tehran Friday Prayers, "[Making decisions on] the case of the U.S. falls within the authority of the Supreme Jurisprudent [Supreme Leader], and no person is in a position to express views in this regard and take action. I believe those who think that we should negotiate with the leading (member) of the (global) arrogance, namely the U.S., either have a simplistic view or have been intimidated.”
1555 GMT: Claim of the Day. David Ignatius of The Washington Post tells the story of a President Obama message to the Supreme Leader about nuclear talks --- but has it already been overtaken by events? (see 0615, 1240, and 1405 GMT):
President Obama has signaled Iran that the United States would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear program if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent public claim that his nation “will never pursue nuclear weapons".
This verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Khamenei last week. A few days before traveling to Iran, Erdogan had held a two-hour meeting with Obama in Seoul, in which they discussed what Erdogan would tell the ayatollah about the nuclear issue and Syria.
Obama advised Erdogan that the Iranians should realize that time is running out for a peaceful settlement and that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations. Obama didn’t specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically as part of the civilian program the United States would endorse. That delicate issue evidently would be left for the negotiations that are supposed to start April 13, at a venue yet to be decided.
Erdogan is said to have replied that he would convey Obama’s views to Khamenei, and it’s believed he did so when he met the Iranian leader on Thursday.
JPMorgan's energy research team has written:
In total, the reported shifts ... may account for a further reduction of nearly 300,000 bpd in Iranian crude sales during April, which would imply lost sales are now approaching 700,000 bpd below January levels. This is substantially faster than we expected and with likely further adjustments to come...it would imply output could continue to push down below 2.5 million bpd by the time the embargoes are officially implemented, a net loss of 1 million bpd from January's level."
Iran has exported about 2.5 million bpd of its production. Assuming that all the fall is because of reduced demand overseas, Tehran's exports will have dropped 40% this year.
1405 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Turkish Front). Looks like Iran's Foreign Ministry is very worried about the surge in tension between Tehran and Ankara (see 1240 GMT) over the Syrian crisis and the issue of nuclear talks.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today that there must be joint efforts to damage to strategic "due to remarks by various individuals from both sides": “The Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey are two powerful and effective countries in the region with a lot of historical, cultural and ideological commonalties which have strategic relations and close positions on most political and international issues.”
Tehran's interim Friday Prayers leader says Western states have incited and are fueling tensions in Syria to make up for the loss of their allies in the region through the Islamic Awakening.
The loss of subservient dictators in the region such as Tunisian Zein El Abidin Bin Ali, Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, Libyan Muammar Gaddafi, and Yemeni Ali Abdullah Saleh has prompted the West to launch and back the opposition movement in Syria, Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami said.
“Syria is also paying the price for its all-out resistance against the Zionist regime [of Israel],”....
Arrogant powers are frustrated that the Syrian government, backed by its nation, has so far withstood all Western tensions, he added.
The senior cleric warned arrogant powers and Arab regimes, particularly Saudi Arabia, that they will be the first to suffer the consequences of any foreign military intervention in Syria.
1250 GMT: All the President's Men. Young Journalists Club asks, "Who is the Number 1 in President Ahmadinejad's office?" and suggests that it is Homayoun Hamidi, a crony of Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, who hold several Government posts.
1240 GMT: Foreign Relations (Turkish Front). Back to our opening story (see 0615 GMT) of strains in Iranian-Turkish relations....
Esmail Kowsari, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee has said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan "has lost his political position" and Ankara "should be ashamed for gathering Syrian enemies".
Kowsari added, "Turkey has become a puppet of international imperialism."
1020 GMT: Economy Watch. Mehr claims the resignation of Mahmoud Bahmani, the head of the Central Bank, is increasingly likely. The site posts a table of the Central Bank's withdrawal of almost 9 trillion Toman (about $7.3 billion at official rate; about $4.7 billion at open-market rate) from Iranian banks.
If force is used on Iran, it will certainly incur retaliation, cause an even greater military clash, worsen turmoil in the region, threaten the security of the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic passages, drive up global oil prices and strike a blow at the world economic recovery.
There may be 10,000 reasons to go to war but you cannot remedy the terrible consequences of plunging the people into misery and suffering and the collapse of society and the economy caused by the flames of war," Chen said on a web chat hosted by Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily.
Referred to the “Arab Spring”, Tajzadeh, who is serving a six-year sentence, said, "They didn’t make Islamic cover (hijab) compulsory, and they has made the priorities the economica development of the country and prosperity of their citizens." He called this “democratic development”.
Former President Mohammad Khatami has sent a message to student activist Bahareh Hedayat, who is enduring a 9 1/2-year prison term for "insulting the President and Supreme leader and "propaganda against the system": “Blessed are those who step in a path which is humanity's good fortune with faith and who are not afraid of achieving this by any cost. You are one of these praiseworthy people."
The mother of Dr. Ghasem Shole Sadi, a professor of law and politics who was detained after a critical letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, has written the Supreme Leader: "If you don’t care about Iran, our hearts are still restless for this country....I will defend my country and my people with my son, ignoring whether you...and your relatives will join the enemy or not”.
0935 GMT: The House Arrests. According to Kalemeh, opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi --- held under strict house arrest for almost 14 months --- has sent a message inviting people to read a book by Stefan Zweig about the 16th-century Christian cleric Sebastian Castellio, "who stood against the church'ss deviations and oppression and the lies of religious figures".http://www.kaleme.com/1391/01/16/klm-96917/
0635 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. More on former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's significant intervention, courtesy of an article in a quarterly journal, on Iran's domestic situation and foreign policy....
On Thursday we featured the English translation of Rafsanjani's call for better relations with the US and Saudi Arabia and his remarks on Iran's nuclear programme. Now Muhammad Sahami adds notable extracts concerning internal affairs:
Rafsanjani's comment on human rights:
We tried [during my Presidency] to have the minimum number of political prisoners. There were, of course, cases that were out of our control, and certain people were doing such things [arresting and imprisoning dissidents]. I have never been supportive, particularly when I was the President, of imprisoning people for political reasons. We know what jail is. [Rafsanjani was incarcerated on five separate occasions under the Shah]. Shutting down a newspaper was a taboo for me, unless it was out of my control....We always tried to satisfy the religious and ethnic minorities. We all tried, but such things take time. There are some people in any society that act differently [without respect for human rights].
Rafsanjani's sharpest criticism of the current regime was over the current attempt by United Nations Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed to investigate the human rights situation --- Shaheed has been blocked by Iranian authorities from entering the country:
When [Reynaldo] Galindo Pohl visited Iran, the state [of human rights] was not this bad. [When] they sent Mr. Galindo Pohl, we did not have such difficulties at all, and [those that existed] were being addressed. The human rights problems were being solved.
On the economic front, Rafsanjani wrote:
We must find a solution for such issues. If our executive branch had strong scientific and technical qualifications, had employed effective management, had good social relations, had treated people well, and had not created problems with the world, such things would not have happened.
We should not experience these difficulties, given the great income from oil exports and our exports of petrochemical products.... I believe our economic problems and unemployment are abnormal. I believe that, given the huge income from oil exports and the possibilities for creating jobs, the unemployment is unusual. It is a problem of management, and if a powerful management takes control of affairs in the country, it can quickly address the problems.
0625 GMT: Sanctions Watch. State outlet Press TV tries the tactic this morning, "Sanctions are hurting them, not us". It headlines, from comments from a "senior Russian lawmaker", "Iran Oil Boycott to Severely Harm EU [European Union]", alongside the upbeat "Russian Deputy Minister: Iran, Our Valuable Energy Partner".
The most interesting claim is based on a Reuters story quoting French trade unionists: "The French auto-manufacturing group PSA Peugeot Citroen has suspended operations at one of its factories in northeastern France because of a halt to shipments of spare parts from Iran."
0615 GMT: We begin with what appears to be an increasingly serious development over the prospective Iranian talks on its nuclear programme with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China), scheduled to begin next Friday.
The Islamic Republic has been pulling back from the tentative agreement to meet in Istanbul, and last night Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lashed out at Tehran, raising a question mark over not only the venue but the talks themselves.
The offer going round at the moment, Damascus or Baghdad, is a waste of time, it means it won't happen, because they know the other side won't come to Damascus or Baghdad.
We have to be honest. Because of the lack of honesty they (the Iranians) are continually losing their international prestige. This is not the language of diplomacy. The name of this is something else, but I won't say it here.
Erdoğan's comments also point to a far-from-incidental side effect of Iran's manoeuvres. The Islamic Republic's relations with Turkey, which has been a key partner for Tehran amid escalating regional and international tension, have been damaged. And given the balance of play over the US-led sanctions --- Ankara said last week that it has cut imports of Tehran's oil by 20% --- that cannot be good for the Iranian regime.
Iran's leaders have not spoken about the latest issue over the nuclear talks, leaving it to MPs to push the Baghdad venue, and State media appears oblivious to the fallout. Instead, Press TV is assuring, "The Turkish foreign minister says there is no possibility that the religious decree of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei forbidding the possession and use of nuclear weapons might be disobeyed in Iran."