2042 GMT: Parliament v. President. After the postponement yesterday of the impeachment process against Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, prominent MPs Ali Motahari and Ahmad Tavakoli have declared in a statement that they will resume the effort at the start of the new Parliament next month.
2028 GMT: Health Watch. Mohammad Reza Rezaei-Koochi, a member of Parliament's Health Committee, has revealed that the Ministry of Health had a 27 trillion Toman (about $$22 billion at official rates) deficit in 2011, and he said this is likely to continue.
2012 GMT: Fraud Watch. A twist in the $2.6 billion bank fraud case --- two defence lawyers, one of whom formerly worked in Iran's judiciary, have been arrested. They are accused of having "intelligence-related problems".
1742 GMT: India and Iran. Back to our opening story, with this snapshot from Sruthi Gottipati in The New York Times of the visit of a 56-member Iranian trade delegation to India:
At a morning reception Tuesday, sponsored by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, or Assocham, the mood was upbeat, with officials and business people from both countries advocating a reduction in tariffs, easing visa restrictions and encouraging investment.
“With a liberal business visa regime, more direct flights, trade fairs and exhibitions, the bilateral trade can be increased by at least 10 billion dollars in the near future,” said Yahya Al Eshagh, president of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines, according to an Assocham statement.
Part of what is shaping the India-Iran trade talks are the banking restrictions put in place by the U.S. sanctions. India, while working to reduce imports of Iranian oil, has devised a payment mechanism to pay for the oil it continues to buy. Under this plan, Iran has agreed to accept rupees as payment for almost half of India’s oil purchases – yet that arrangement also means that Iran, in turn, will spend much of those rupees on Indian exports or on investment inside India.
At the same time, Iran wants Indian investments, too. According to the Assocham statement, Iran was “keen to invite Indian investments in road construction and railway networks.
Notice that none of this is incompatible with the other part of the story, which is that Delhi is reducing its oil imports from Iran. While the total amount of crude may be down 20% --- and may fall further if India is assured of alternatives --- the amount priced in rupees, and thus available for Iranian-Indian non-oil trade will rise significantly.
Speaking during a visit to the South Pars gas field in Asalouyeh, the managing director of Syria’s General Corporation for Oil Refining and Distribution of Petroleum Products, Nazih Jouhara, said Syria is planning to build a pipeline for transferring oil products --- including the two million tons of gasoline and diesel fuel imported from Iran per year --- and distributing them across the country.
1640 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The President has been given a sharp rebuke by the Guardian Council, which has said his recent despatch of a letter violates the Constitution.
“According to Article 113 of the Iranian Constitution, the president cannot send cautionary notes to the Guardian Council or any bodies that are not under the three branches of the government,” spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei.Ahmadinejad had written to challenge a law on oversight of the conduct of MPs, addressing his complaint to Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, the chairman of a special body arbitrating disagreements between the three branches of the Government. The President said the law was discriminatory and in violation of certain articles of the Constitution.
1355 GMT: Oil Watch. The head of the oil traders' union has said that the National Iranian Oil Company has authorised private Iranian exporters to sell up to 20% of its crude stocks to help get around international sanctions on the Central Bank.
"On this basis, the private sector can export 20% of Iran's crude oil exports, or 400,000 barrels per day (bpd)," Hassan Khosrojerdi said.
The journalists complain that the harassment started the day after the second and final round of Parliamentary elections, with morality police monitoring people at the entrance to the building.
More significantly, at least politically, Mohseni Ejei confirmed that the case of Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, a member of President Ahmadinejad's camp who had been accused of financial mismanagement, had been closed.
Malekzadeh, whose appointment as Deputy Foreign Minister last year was withdrawn because of the allegations, was reportedly on the verge of being tried before the Supreme Leader declared an amnesty.
At least 11 prominent Iranian publishing houses have been barred from this year's event.
1055 GMT: Parliament v. President. The back-and-forth between the Majlis and the Government --- having threatened to pursue impeachment proceedings against the Minister of Labour, MPs have cancelled the hearing. Instead, they have begun deliberations on the Government's 2012/13 budget.
0812 GMT: Road Sign of the Day. A road sign in central Iran, "Jomhouri Eslami (Islamic Republic) Dead End":
An EA correspondent notes simply, "No foreign parts."
0759 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Ahmad Reza Yousefi, a former reporter for Iranian Students News Agency, has been sentenced to two years in prison and a further three years on probation.
Yousefi was arrested in June 2010 while en route to continue his studies abroad.
0750 GMT: The Revolutionary Guards' Dying Commanders. Khodnevis notes the recent demise of a number of commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and asks: "Elimination of dissidents or natural deaths?"
Cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar comments, "Diabetes, heart problem, car crash, corruption pressure":
A European Union ban on importing Iranian oil, which takes effect on July 1, will also prevent EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying its crude anywhere in the world.
Britain is seeking to persuade fellow European Union members to postpone by up to six months a ban on providing insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil, arguing that it could lead to a damaging spike in oil prices, European diplomats said.
The impact of the measure is likely to be felt strongly in London's financial district, the center for marine insurance. Iran exports most of its 2.2 million barrels of oil per day to Asia.
Here's the question: is Britain's primary motive really its immediate economic interests? Or is this a political gesture to Tehran amid the preparatory talks for formal discussions in Baghdad on 23 May about Iran's nuclear programme?
0430 GMT: The headline in many of Tehran's newspapers this morning is a claim of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful trip to Delhi, "India Rebuffs Clinton's Call for Reduction in Oil Imports from Iran". Press TV summarises the narrative:
Indian External Affairs minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna has dismissed the US call to ban the purchase of Iran's crude oil.
In a Tuesday meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Delhi, Krishna described Iran as "a key country for our (India’s) energy needs," AP reported.
"It (Iran) remains an important source of oil for us although its share of our imports is declining."
The problem for the Government's economic officials, if not its propagandists, is that the "Indian Rebuff" is not true.
Notice the phrase of Krishna's that Press TV tucks away: "[Iran's] share of our imports is declining." Behind Delhi's public line --- always cautious, sometimes talking of the importance of trade with Iran --- the Government and refiners are privately implementing cuts in supplies. Imports are already down 15-20%, and one major trading company has stopped purchases altogether.
Tehran's bluster is still strong enough to take in some top analysts, such as Juan Cole, and to be promoted by former State Department official Reza Marashi. But it does not match the trend of both discussion and economics.
Clinton's mission was not to halt a surge in Indian imports of Iranian oil, but to reduce them farther. And the key to this is alternative supplies: if Delhi can be assured of replacement from Saudi Arabia and possibly countries such as Iraq and Libya, then expect the Islamic Republic's media to face a greater challenge in months to come.