2009 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Iran continues to be upbeat about tomorrow's nuclear discussions, “Tehran is optimistic that the Baghdad talks would be a good start to promote cooperation in international, regional and nuclear issues."
However, this inside story from Laura Rozen and Barbara Slavin of Al Monitor may put a damper on expectations:
The United States and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to offer to Iran at nuclear negotiations due to get underway Wednesday in Baghdad. The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap proposal that takes into account Iran’s progress in enriching uranium, American, Russian and European diplomats said.
While the details of the proposed package have not been made public, Western officials told Al Monitor that the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage.
Iranian officials and State media have made clear that a significant easing of US-led sanctions, including a pause on the European Union's suspension of Iranian oil imports --- due to start 1 July --- must be on the table.
This is excluded from the proposal put out via Rozen:
Instead, the United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran’s Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage. Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran’s one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners.
In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.
A "current American official sets out the line, "If we talk substantively on elements of a deal and agree to meet again in three weeks, Baghdad will have been a success. Just hope the Iranians are not deluding themselves they are going to get sanctions relief now—that’s not going to happen at this stage.”
Rahimi has been connected to the long-running scandal over the multi-million dollar fraud, but was not listed among the 85 defendants revealed this week.
The withdrawal for "consultations" in Tehran comes after months of accusations between the two countries of interference, espionage, and plots.
According to Fars, Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani said, "We heard that the government of Azerbaijan is hosting the international Eurovision Song Contest and that during this contest there will also be a gay parade."
Demonstrators in Baku responded with pictures of President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader alongside banners, "Azerbaijan does not need clerics-homosexuals!"
1935 GMT: Posture of the Day. On the eve of the formal resumption of nuclear talks, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has announced that two batches of domestically produced nuclear fuel plates --- based on 20% enriched uranium --=- have been delivered to the operator of the Tehran Research Reactor.
The October 2009 talks in Geneva, the closest that Iran has come to agreement with the US and European powers, were based on outside powers enriching Tehran's uranium to 20%. Similarly, the Tehran Declaration of May 2010 was based on a "uranium swap" with Iran sending out low-enriched fuel in exchange for 20% stock. When that deal was rejected by the US and its allies, the Islamic Republic asserted that it would generate its own 20% uranium.
Some of those arrested were seized at a protest of the drying-up of Lake Urmia, a major environment issue, but most were reportedly taken in raids on their homes.
1525 GMT: Revolutionary Guards Watch. Rooz claims former Minister of Interior Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri has given the Supreme Leader a report that the Revolutionary Guards are the biggest debtor to banks with 45 trillion Toman (about $35.5 billion at official rates) in debts, causing a financial crisis.
Dozens of Iranians, mainly pilgrims and a group of engineers, have been seized in Syria since last autumn, although some have been released in recent weeks.
1504 GMT: Challenging the Revolutionary Guards. This weekend outspoken MP Ali Motahari went even further in his criticisms of activity within the regime, saying that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had intervened in the recent Parliamentary elections to ensure its candidates won. He was met with a wall of anger and rejection by the Guards.
Now Motahari has modified his statement, "I didn't say the entire Sepah (IRGC) was involved in the elections or rigged vote."
Instead, Motahari asserted, he had said that the IRGC should not get involved at all with the voting process, adding "Many commanders agree with that."
Digarban notes that many MPs, including critics of the Government such as Elyas Naderan, had challenged Motahari over his initial statement.
However, former MP Mostafa Kavakebian has supported Motahari, saying that the legislator has documents that prove the IRGC interference in elections and will present them if necessary.
Karami was detained in March 2010, her fifth arrest for her activism. She was sentenced to three years in prison in February 2011.
A photograph of Karami (back row, 4th from left) with supporters after her release.
Workers blame subsidy cuts for closures of the works.
0821 GMT: Nuclear Watch. An update on our opening story and analysis....
Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy, has said on his return from talks in Tehran that an agreement on the IAEA's oversight of Iranian nuclear facilities will “be signed quite soon".
Amano said some details still need to be worked out but added that Iranian officials assured that those will not stand in the way of completing the deal.
0815 GMT: Tension in the Southeast. Golnaz Esfandiari summarises last week's tension in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, with at least one person killed and two injured after police forces opened fire on protesters in Rask on 14 May.
Reports indicated the protests were over the recent arrests of the city's Friday Prayer leader, his son, and other Sunni clerics.
Sunni Muslims, who are 10% of Iran's population, are a majority in Sistan-Baluchistan.
Deutsche Welle's Farsi Service quoted a source in Rask that a number of protesters were rounded up and more arrests could follow after authorities traveled from the provincial capital to investigate: "Protesters were filmed,...security forces came from Zahedan to identify [those who took part in the protest] and arrest them."
Abdolghafar Naghshbandi, the son of Rask Friday Prayers leader Molavi Fathi Naghshbandi, was reportedly arrested upon returning from nearby Zahedan, where he had traveled to learn about the fate of his father, who was imprisoned along with a number of other Sunni scholars in mid-April.
Molavi Fathi Naghshbandi and a dozen others were rpeortedly arrested in connection with the January assassination of pro-government Sunni cleric Molavi Mostafa Jang Zehi.
Ghafarian, an electrical engineering student at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, was given one year for insulting the Supreme Leader, two years for acts against national security, six months in prison plus 35 lashes for disturbing public order, and 35 lashes for insulting the President.
Mansour Radpour has died in Rejai Shahr Prison, apparently from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Radpour was arrested in 2007 and charged with sympathy for the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. He was sentenced to three years for “activities against national security through collaboration with the PMOI”. After that time was served, he was handed another five-year prison sentence.
0545 GMT: We begin with a notable contrast in presentations of Monday's talks in Tehran between Iranian officials and Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Amano maintained a diplomatic line while revealing little about the discussions, which took place two days before the Islamic Republic meets formally with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) in Baghdad:
[The] negotiations were very useful. We held expanded and intensive negotiations in a good atmosphere. Definitely, the progress of talks will have a positive impact on negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. Of course these are two different issues but they can strengthen each other.
Asked about a framework agreement for inspection and safeguards on Iran's nuclear activity, Amano said only, "I will not go into details but the agency has some viewpoints and Iran has its own specific viewpoints."
Iranian State outlet Press TV is not so reserved. Indeed, it is almost gushing. It features the remark of Saeed Jalili, Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, "We had very good talks with Amano today and, God willing, we will have good cooperation in the future." To drive the point home, a second article profiles the Jalili-Amano meeting with the assurance that the Supreme Leader has said nuclear weapons are forbidden, "Leader Fatwa offers great capacity for N-disarmament: Jalili":
“The Islamic Republic of Iran's approach in opposing nuclear weapons is an important capacity for the agency and Iran will actively work with the agency toward [nuclear] disarmament…and peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Saeed Jalili said.
Amano's more cautious statement? It is headlined, "Talks with Iran in Good Atmosphere".
Iran's embrace of the IAEA should be matched with its opening line for the Baghdad talks: the initial step must be a Western easing of sanctions. Two stories on Press TV, including its top "Iran" article, drive the point home: "Lifting Iran Sanctions Can Prove P5+1 Goodwill: Lawmaker" and "Lifting Sanctions N-disarmament, Focus of Baghdad Talks: Iranian MP".
And behind the hope and the "You First" to the US and European powers, there is still the chest-thumping of the Islamic Republic's strength --- Fars is pushing this story:
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said threats and pressures cannot deter Iran from its revolutionary causes and ideals, and stressed that the Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end.