Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (20 July): Reformists and the Next Election

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

1342 GMT: Trade Watch. Fars reports that the first load of Indian wheat exchanged in barter for oil has been distributed among Tehran bakeries.

Just as interesting is the jibe by the website that domestic wheat mills are working at 50% capacity.

1253 GMT: Support Your Leader. Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi, a Tehran Friday Prayer Leader, has declared, "Today the whole world envies us for the Supreme Leader as the defender of religion. In Islamic society, the ruler is like qibla [the direction faced by a Muslim during prayer]."

Seddiqi added, "Those who don't accept the Supreme Leader, don't accept the rule of God."

1148 GMT: Oil Watch. A Reuters article points to the lengths to which the Islamic Republic and merchants are going to get round sanctions:

Obscure private firms are offering Iranian crude oil at steep discounts to European oil traders as Tehran seeks ways to restore oil export flows hit by Western sanctions.

Traders who buy crude for European refineries say they are getting daily calls offering Iranian crude, sometimes accompanied by the promise of fake paperwork to disguise it as oil from a different origin....

"They are all crazy offshore companies, mainly Iranian guys behind them," said a senior crude trader at a large state oil firm. He said most of the offers were made by telephone.

Not all sellers of the crude are based outside Europe. One offer seen by Reuters was posted on the online marketplace Alibaba by a firm based in Italy.

1143 GMT: Economy Watch. ILNA reports that vegetables are 25% and watermelon 50% more expensive this Ramadan, compared to last year.

1135 GMT: Finance Watch. The Indian Express reports, from an unnamed official that India's home ministry has refused to allow three Iranian banks --- arsian Bank, Bank Pasargad and Eghtesad-e-Novin Bank --- to open branches on Indian soil because of concerns about money-laundering and financing of terrorists.

The step complicates New Delhi's efforts to arrange oil trade, amid US-led sanctions, with the Islamic Republic.

1015 GMT: Scare Story of the Day. The Wall Street Journal, with no evidence but some US officials eager to put out a line, raises fears:

U.S. government officials, citing new intelligence, said Iran has developed plans to disrupt international oil trade, including through attacks on oil platforms and tankers.

Officials said the information suggests that Iran could take action against facilities both inside and outside the Persian Gulf, even absent an overt military conflict....

"Iran is very unpredictable," said a senior defense official. "We have been very clear what we as well as the international community find unacceptable."...

Defense officials cautioned there is no evidence that Tehran has moved assets in position to disrupt tankers or attack other sites, but stressed that Iran's intent appears clear.

The officials wouldn't describe the intelligence or its sources.

0915 GMT: Strait Watch. MP Karimi-Ghodussi has claimed 150 of the 290-member Majlis has signed a measure supporting the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz as a response to Western action.

0837 GMT: Assurance of the Day. Press TV declares --- again --- that the Bushehr nuclear plant will soon be at full capacity for electricity generation.

The website cites the Russian contractor, quoted by the news service Ria Novosti, “Bushehr nuclear power plant is scheduled to reach its 100 percent capacity this August."

Bushehr, after protracted delays, was formally opened in autumn 2010 and connected to the national power grid last September. Iranian State media have said on numerous occasions since then that the plant was on the point of full capacity.

0822 GMT: Justice Watch. Leading conservative activist Abdolhossein Ruholamini, speaking at Thursday's memorial service for those who died in the Kahrizak detention centre after the 2009 Presidential election, said, "We are counting the days for the Kahrizak trial to start."

Ruholamini's son Mohsen was one of three detainees whose deaths from abuse were confirmed. Although some Kahrizak guards were sentenced, activists and politicians have been pressing for the trial of Saeed Mortazavi, then Tehran Prosecutor General and now an aide to President Ahmadinejad.

0737 GMT: Election Watch. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman of the Guardian Council, has said that the elections law will be rewritten as it is "not accountable" to "respond to the needs of today". He said the Council was supporting the Assembly of Experts in rewriting the law and that the Supreme Leader had asked for the changes.

Kadkhodaei did not give details of the proposed revisions.

0727 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online reports that President Ahmadinejad has repeated his assertion that, while the Islamic Republic is now 17th among the world's economies, it will be 15th by the end of his Presidential term in 2013.

0712 GMT: Opposition Watch. Citing differences over the approach to an "Islamic Republic", opposition activist Mojtaba Vahedi has split from Mehdi Karroubi --- the former Speaker of Parliament and 2009 Presidential candidate, held under strict house arrest since February 2011 --- after 30 years of co-operation.

0612 GMT: Chicken Watch. Khabar Online posts a chart of "official" chicken prices, putting fresh poultry at 5200 Toman per kilogramme (about $1.90 per pound at official rate) and frozen at 3100 Toman.

Reports indicate that the "open-market" rate for fresh chicken has been up to 9000 Toman per kilogramme in parts of Tehran, leading to lengthy queues for poultry at the official price.

Arshama3's Blog summarises, "Islamic Republic's #1 Enemy: Chicken".

0535 GMT: A different start to Friday, as we take a glance at debate within the reformist camp.

The leading issue for most Iranians might be the here-and-now of the economy, but it was the question of the next Presidential election that was dominating news about the reformists. Former President Mohammad Khatami, adjusting his position of 2011 calling for fulfillment of conditions before participation in a campaign --- he later voted in March's Parliamentary ballot --- has said there has a been a "small sign of change", so reformists must reach an agreed position over the 2013 Presidential vote.

Reports indicate that Khatami put out his message after talks with other leading reformists, including his brother Mohammad Reza Khatami and the Minister of Interior in his Government, Abdollah Nouri. However, at least one prominent reformist, MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh, has objected that the conditions for involvement --- Khatami had set out freeing of political prisoners, freedom for political parties, and adherence to the Constitution --- have not been met.

Meanwhile, there was a reminder for Mohammad Khatami that even an embrace of the 2013 election may not bring an easy reunion with others within the Iranian system. "Hard-line" MP and cleric Ahmed Salek declared that, with more than 100 senior reformists sentenced after the disputed 2009 Presidential vote for cooperation with fitna (sedition), Khatami and Nouri "must pay a heavy price for their return" to the system.

Salek focused on Nouri's recent proposal for a referendum on Iran's nuclear programme, saying it "supported the Satanic beliefs of the world".

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