See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Attacks on Journalists, A Death Bounty for A Rapper, A Woman Dragged from the Book Fair br>
The Latest from Iran (16 May): Remembering Political Prisoners from Science to Religion
1955 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Saeed Jalili, Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, has told a university audience six days before talks resume with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China):
Those who feel they can pressure the Iranian nation through sanctions are playing our game. This move leads to new formations within the Islamic Republic and its efficacy in different fields, which will gain momentum. Our progress is the result of the very thought of sanctions.
Minister of Industry Mehdi Ghazanfari chips in, "Iran enters the 5+1 Group negotiations as the 17th largest economy of the world."
Jalili also offers an interesting claim of a missed opportunity for the US and European Powers when talks broke down in October 2009: "Had the Geneva II [negotiations] given us 20% fuel, we may not have managed to achieve our fuel."
1450 GMT: Economy Watch. Sayyad Farhadi, the President of the Association of Fertilizer Producers, claims that about 15,000 workers have lost their jobs because of the closure of 325 fertilizer factories amid the unregulated import of Chinese replacements.
The claim comes among further news of layoffs in the textile and dairy sectors.
1440 GMT: Sports Report. According to State news agency IRNA, President Ahmadinejad wants to attend the London Olympics but is getting a No from Her Majesty's Government: "I would like to be next to our young athletes at the 2012 Olympics but the host has a problem with this."
1350 GMT: Admission of the Day. Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council and Presidential candidate in 2009, has reportedly said that if the Government had allowed the recount of votes in that election, demonstrations would never have led to sedition.
1210 GMT: Death to the Rapper Watch. MP Mohammad Ebrahimi, a member of the Commission for Internal Security, has added to the calls for the execution of rapper Shahin Najafi over his son "Naqi".
In a telephone interview with Masih Alinejad, Ebrahimi declared that it is the duty of every Muslim to carry out their Islamic obligation in Germany, where Najafi lives in exile, or any other country to ensure the "death fatwa" is carried out.
The MP continued that it is possible that foreign governments will offer protection for Najafi, as Britain did for writer Salman Rushdie when he was condemned by Ayatollah Khomeini, but it is "our Islamic duty" to follow the religious directions of the Ayatoollahs who said Najafi must be punished.
When Alinejad suggested that "this action in other part of the world will be regarded as terorism and assassination and will bring negetive reactions against Iran", Ebrahimi replied, "It is nor terrorism to act against anyone offending Prophet Mohammad and his family. We, as Muslims, should carry out our duty."
Najafi's "Naqi" invokes the 10th Imam of Shi'a to criticise the Islamic Republic's political and social situation.
1040 GMT: Export Watch. Iran's petrochemical exports have fallen nearly 90% in the last two weeks because most maritime firms, including those in Iran, cannot find insurance to transport cargoes due to European Union sanctions, according to traders and shipping data.
EU sanctions prohibiting European insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian petrochemicals came into effect on 1 May. Around 90% of the world's tanker fleet, including those operated by Iran's Petrochemical Transportation Company, is covered by Western-based protection and indemnity clubs, which insure against personal injury and environmental clean-up claims.
Shipping data indicates Iranian petrochemical exports, which include methanol, xylene, and caustic soda, fell to around 60,000 tonnes a week in May from a weekly average of 350,000 tonnes last year.
Iran's Deputy Minister of Oil, Abdolhossein Bayat, told media earlier this month that Tehran's petrochemical exports had not declined, despite the EU sanctions. There is the possibility that Iran is exporting petrochemicals than those in shipping data, as captains on some of Iran's ships have turned off the black box transponders that monitor vessel movements.
The $462 billion budget, which was supposed to be in place in March, was submitted two months late by the Government and then was held up by Parliamentary objections to a range of measures.
The budget has a 9% cut in expenditure from 2011/12, because of changes in the official exchange rate. It is based on an expected income of $85 per barrel.
Earlier this week, Javan News, affiliated with the IRGC, posted an interview in which the commander of the Quds Force of the Guards, Qasem Soleimani, warned the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, against attacking Israel.
The IRGC's public-relations section has now said the reports were a "big lie".
0925 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Family and the Political Prisoners. Mehdi Farahi Shandiz, the cousin of President Ahmadinejad's wife, has reportedly started a hunger strike for the release of opposition leaders from Evin Prison.
0905 GMT: Islamic Awakening Watch. Digarban summarises the efforts of the Supreme Leader's office to influence changes in the Arab world, with Ayatollah Khamenei's aide and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati appointed as a special envoy.
Velayati has met groups from Egypt, for example, as Secretary General of the "Global Council of Islamic Awakening", and several sites for that Awakening have been set up.
0850 GMT: Death-to-Insulters Watch. Ayatollah Malakouti has issued a fatwa saying that it is a necessity to kill those who insult the Prophet Mohammad, his family, and Shia's Imams with jokes, cartoons, and lies.
Malakouti specifically mentioned the 10th Imam of Shia, Naqi. That may be implied support for the demand of senior clerics for the death of Shahin Najafi, the rapper who invoked Naqi in a song criticising Iran's political and social situation.
0845 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, which handles most of Japan's payments for oil imports from Tehran, has frozen transactions with Iranian banks, following an order last month by the New York District Court.
The development stems from a US court decision in 2007 that ordered Iran to pay more than $2.6 billion to survivors and victims' family members of the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, a bank spokesman said.
0835 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. A drawing chosen not for its quality but for its political significance --- Fars, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, is not regularly featuring cartoon about economic worries. In this one, a man carrying the heavy ball of inflation faces the imposing step of the second, still-to-be-implemented phase of the Government's subsidy cuts:
0455 GMT: We start on the foreign front.
Iranian officials and media continue to play the spectre of Saudi Arabia's political union with Bahrain --- even though the Saudis rejected the option on Monday --- for perceived advantage at home and in the Middle East. The head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, declared Wednesday, "Having seen that Bahraini people will not give up their absolute rights over time, the Western [powers] and Arab countries in the region have now initiated a dangerous game. We hope that the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will come to their senses in this respect and leave the Bahraini people alone."
Far more interesting to us are developments over Syria, however. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said two of the five engineers seized in December have been released and handed to the Iranian Embassy in Turkey.
A series of Iranians, most of them pilgrims, have been freed over the last month. Some of the pilgrims, as well as three more engineers and the two men sent to check on their situation, are still held.
Then there is this report from Reuters:
Syria remains the top destination for Iranian arms shipments in violation of a U.N. Security Council ban on weapons exports by the Islamic Republic, according to a confidential draft report by a U.N. panel of experts seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
"The Panel recommends the designation (blacklisting) of two entities related to these interdictions," it said. "The report also takes note of information concerning arms shipments by Iran to other destinations."
Iran, like Russia, is one of Syria's few allies as it presses ahead with a 14-month old assault on opposition forces determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The report, which the expert panel has submitted to the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee, said there were three seizures of large shipments of Iranian weapons investigated by the panel over the past year.
"Two of these cases involved the Syrian Arab Republic, as were the majority of cases inspected by the Panel during its previous mandate, underscoring that Syria continues to be the central party to illicit Iranian arms transfers," it said.