Tough talk from Tehran University's Seyed Mohammad Marandi on Press TV: "The United States knows that its ships in the Persian Gulf are sitting ducks when it comes to Iranian missiles"
1950 GMT: The Battle Within. Back from a break to find an excellent summary in Payvand of the latest contest between President Ahmadinejad and clerics within the establishment....
Ahmadinejad started the fight by removing Mohammad-Hossein Mousavipour, the Governor of the religious centre of Qom, with Karam-Reza Piryiyaei.
Mousavipour was appointed in October 2009 as Qom's first-ever cleric Governor, in an attempt by the Government to repair relations after the disputed Presidential election of June. He is close to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and his deputy Mohammad Reza Bahonar.
Piryiyaei has been Governor of Hamedan Province, but his notable qualification in this case is that he supported Ahmadinejad during the President's controversial 11-day boycott of his duties in spring 2011, prompted by a dispute with the Supreme Leader over control of the Ministry of Intelligece.
Protests against the change of governor have come from the Qom Friday Prayer leader, other senior clerics, Qom MP Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, and students affiliated to the Basij.
1505 GMT: Scare Story of the Day. Fredrik Dahl of Reuters has no apparent interest in the revelation of Tehran's negotiating position over its nuclear programme (see separate EA feature). Instead, he recycles the speculation from last month that the Islamic Republic is up to devious tricks:
Iran's announcement that it plans to build its first nuclear-powered submarine is stoking speculation it could serve as a pretext for the Islamic state to produce highly enriched uranium and move closer to potential atom bomb material.
Western experts doubt that Iran - which is under a U.N. arms embargo - has the capability any time soon to make the kind of sophisticated underwater vessel that only the world's most powerful states currently have.
But they say Iran could use the plan to justify more sensitive atomic activity, because nuclear submarines can be fuelled by uranium refined to a level that would also be suitable for the explosive core of a nuclear warhead.
1435 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Two accounts, with very different emphases, on Syrian Speaker of Parliament's Mohammad Jihad al-Laham visit to President Ahmadinejad --- Syrian State news agency SANA emphasises:
Ahmadinejad affirmed Iran's support for Syria and the ongoing reforms in it, saying that Syria is now paying the price of its stances in support of the resistance and its rejection of foreign dictates.
He also reiterated his country's rejection of attempts at interfering in Syria's internal affairs as Syrians alone should make decisions about their country and its sovereignty.
Iran's Press TV prefers this quote from Ahmadinejad, "The main enemies of nations are desperately trying to revive their dominance over the region and save the Zionist regime (Israel) from the danger of annihilation."
Press TV's account is not nearly as effusive about the support for the Assad regime:
Ahmadinejad said Americans are merely seeking to meet their own interests, but this is a right of regional nations, including the Syrian people, to freely decide on their destiny. The others should not impose their own will on nations.
The Iranian president expressed hope the Syrian people would resolve the ongoing problems in the country and live in peace and security.
Japan and South Korea, among Iran's top customers, have halted all Iranian imports this month, shipments to China are in jeopardy because of a dispute over freight charges, and India has also reduced purchases. All of this is on top of the European Union's cut-off of Tehran crude from 1 July.
Iran's exports in 2011 were estimated at 2.2 million bpd average in 2011. Tehran was said by industry sources to have shipped between 1.2 million and 1.3 million bpd in June.
July's cut translates into a loss of around $3.4 billion in monthly Government revenue compared to a year ago.
1330 GMT: Poll Watch. Back from an extended academic break to find a useful summary from Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi of the poll fiasco of Iran State TV's website, in which it got the inconvenient outcome that 58% of respondents favoured suspension of uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. The website tried for a "better" poll, only to find 89% opposing the closure of the Straits of Hormuz, and then scrapped the exercise in favour of a question about football.
But that's not all: Iranian media "explained" the original surprise on the uranium enrichment question --- the BBC had hacked State TV's website.
0640 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Egypt Edition). The Islamic Republic's troubled campaign to portray itself as the partner of post-Mubarak Egypt in remaking the Middle East continues....
Fars makes another contribution, days after it allegedly posted a "fake" interview with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The site declares that Morsi has been invited to Iran next month, in a personal phone call from President Ahmadinejad.
What Fars does not mention is that it had reported earlier this week that Morsi had already accepted an invitation, only for the Egyptian President's spokesman to deny the claim.
0610 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Thomas Erdbrink and Clifford Krauss of The New York Times follow up on one of the clearest signs of trouble for Iran's oil exports --- the tankers being used for storage of crude that cannot be sold:
The hulking tanker Neptune was floating aimlessly this week in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, a fresh coat of black paint barely concealing its true identity as an Iranian ship loaded with hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil that no one is willing to buy.
The ship’s real name was Iran Astaneh, and it was part of a fleet of about 65 Iranian tankers serving as floating storage facilities for Iranian oil, each one given a nautical makeover to conceal its origin and make a buyer easier to find. The Neptune had been floating there for a month, and local fishermen said there were two even larger tankers anchored nearby.
Iran, faced with increasingly stringent economic sanctions imposed by the international community to force it to abandon any ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, has been reluctant to reduce its oil production, fearing that doing so could damage its wells. But Iran has insufficient space to store the crude it cannot sell. So while it furiously works to build storage capacity on shore, it has turned to mothballing at sea.
“We have never seen so many just waiting around,” said Rostam, a fisherman and smuggler who regularly works these waters.
0500 GMT: A day of rhetoric from Tehran, with military commanders and politicians trying to out-do each other in the presentation of Iranian strength standing up to the US-European-Israeli-Arab States enemy. At the conclusion of three days of military exercises, Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi spoke of "a message signaling Tehran's firm response to enemy threats".
First prize, however, went to the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Hajizadeh, who spoke of Iran's ability to wipe out 35 US bases:
We have thought of measures to set up bases and deploy missiles to destroy all these bases in the early minutes after an attack.
All these bases are within the reach of our missiles. Meantime, the occupied lands (of Israel) are good targets for us as well.