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The Latest from Iran (19 July): Nervously Watching Syria

See also The Latest from Iran (18 July): Storm Clouds Gather Over The Economy

2023 GMT: Reformist Watch. Deutsche Welle summarises the reformist manoeuvres over the 2013 Presidential election (see 0929 GMT) --- former President Mohammad Khatami, his brother Mohammed Reza Khatami, and former Minister of Interior Abdollah Nouri are all busy "giving the green light" to participation.

1643 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Iranian Teachers Union is challenging the arrest of a member of its executive board, Mahmoud Bagheri, in a letter to the head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani.

The physics teacher has been sentenced to a total of 9 1/2 years in prison on two charges. He was arrested on Monday to serve out his term.

The Teachers Union condemned the “unprecedented” sentence, noting that Bagheri is a model physics teacher with 27 years of experience and a veteran who served 18 months at the front during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Bagheri was first arrested six years ago during a teachers’ demonstration in front of Parliament. After a month in prison, he was given a suspended sentence of 3 1/2 years.

He was later arrested in July of 2011 for his work with the Teachers Union and, after three months in Evin Prison, he was handed another six years in prison.

1326 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. President Ahmadinejad says has put out defiant rhetoric today, "I assure the Iranian people that the government will not retreat even one iota from their rights, principles and values against the declining materialistic powers, even if [the enemies] mobilize their past and future [capabilities] and are accompanied by certain parties inside the country.”

He added, “The enemy deals a blow to the Iranian nations step by step; but, in return, it receives a stronger, heavier blow."

1146 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi, one of the Tehran Friday Prayers Leaders, has assured, "A nation that stood against 52 countries can withstand sanctions."

Seddiqi added the jibe that those who criticise the Supreme Leader are "with the Green Movement".

1139 GMT: Economy Watch. A correspondent for Tehran Bureau offers a snapshot:

Mohammed owns a company that imports base chemicals to supply Iran's plastic industry....

"It gets worse and worse every day," Mohammed explains. "Before the sanctions it took two days to get an import permit from the Ministry of Commerce or a letter of credit from the Iranian bank that pays the exporter.

"Now it takes two weeks for the import permit and 15-20 days for the letter. Customs is blocked up too. Last week we had a shipment that was held at Bandar Abbas for two months!" he said, referring to Iran's largest port....

Mohammed is particularly bitter about what he sees as the free ride for Iran's government-affiliated firms, mostly linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Labeled by many as "a state within a state," the Guards control a vast business empire estimated at around 30 percent of Iran's GDP, spanning construction to online shopping. This has attracted the ire of the many businesses outside what are seen as cosy government-protected circles, beset by patronage and nepotism.

"The sanctions only affect private businesses. Sepah [the Revolutionary Guards] are close to the banks so they can get all the cheap dollars they like and import whatever they like without permits. We can't compete."

0929 GMT: Reformist Watch. A notable split among reformists over participation in next year's Presidential election....

Former President Mohammad Khatami, who had set conditions for involvement in March's Parliamentary ballot before relenting and casting a vote, has apparently taken a different line over 2013. He said, as there are signs of small changes, reformists must take steps and agree on an approach to the election.

However, Mohammad Reza Tabesh has said that "rulers have pulled the shutters down for reformists" and there is no basis for participation.

0924 GMT: Remembering the Dead. A memorial will be held this afternoon in Noor Mosque in Tehran on the third anniversary of the deaths of post-election protestors in the Kahrizak detention centre.

0920 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Khabar Online reports that President Ahmadinejad will meet clerics, two days before the start of Ramadan, to improve his relationship with the clergy.

0850 GMT: Chicken Watch. A photo montage depicting the queues of Iranians for cheaper chicken, as the price of meat soars before Ramadan:

0840 GMT: Strait Watch. Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council and a Presidential candidate for 2013, has declared, "We do not need to shut the Strait of Hormuz. We can easily defend our interests without doing so."

0550 GMT: Chicken Watch. Amid the tension over rising prices, the Tehran Provincial Government issues the reassurance, "Basic goods will be sold at a 5 to 25 percent discount at chain stores during the holy month of Ramadan", which begins this weekend. "The commodities that will be sold at a discount are red meat, chicken, rice, oil, and sugar."

0515 GMT: Iranian State media was overtaken on Wednesday by news from Damascus, as the Assad regime was rocked by attacks and the bomb that killed four of its top officials.

The day had started with the assurance of Press TV, "Syrian Security Forces in Full Control of Damascus". By late afternoon, however, the new message was that of Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in a phone call to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “Today’s terrorist attack…indicates that terrorism is taking root in Syria and the region."

Later, Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi put out the defiant line in a letter to Syria’s new Defense Minister General, Fahd al-Jassem al-Freij, appointed after the death of his predecessor in the Damascus bomb:

Today’s terrorist act against a number of Syrian military and security officials, especially Defense Minister Lieutenant General Dawoud Rajiha saddened and pained me. Terrorists have never managed to overcome the will of nations and this time they will not be able to defeat the will of the resistant and dignified nation of Syria.

Fars proclaims, from a "military source", that the "terrorists will be cleared" from Damascus in the next 48 hours. And IRNA has the most interesting strategy: it sweeps the events in the Syrian capital off its homepage in favour of last night's speech by the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, with the headline, "Syria is the Bridge Between Iran and the Resistance".

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