The family of Omid Norouzi celebrate his Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling
2017 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has published a statement "announc[ing] Iran’s readiness to host a meeting of countries committed to immediately implementing these steps in hopes of ending the violence...[and] reiterat[ing] our willingness to facilitate talks between the Syrian government and the opposition and to host such a dialogue".
That is not new --- Salehi has said this on several occasions in recent weeks. What is new is the outlet: an opinion piece in the Washington Post.
And what is even more distinctive is Salehi's recognition --- the first I can recall from a high-ranking Iranian official --- of the legitimacy of protest against the Syrian regime:
When the Islamic Awakening — also known as the Arab Spring — began in December 2010, we all saw people rising up to claim their rights. We have witnessed the emergence of civic movements demanding freedom, democracy, dignity and self-determination.
We in Tehran have watched these developments with delight. After all, a civic movement demanding the same things that many Arabs want today is what led to the emergence of our Islamic Republic in 1979. During the past three decades, Iran has consistently underlined that it is the duty of all governments to respect their people’s demands. We have maintained this position as the Islamic Awakening has unfolded.
1959 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Detained reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has sent a message to Foreign Minister Salehi, "Instead of putting the country up for sale, tell the Leader the world's realities."
Dastgheib was a prominent voice after the disputed 2009 Presidential elections criticising violence against protesters and calling for justice and adherence to the Constitution. In late 2009, however, the mosque in Shiraz where he is based was stormed by a crowd and his offices were shut.
An EA correspondent wonders, "Is this the first sign of the Supreme Leader reducing pressure on dissident clerics? And if so, why?"
1926 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Turkish Front). Looks like two very different versions of Tuesday's meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu (see our separate analysis)....
In Iranian media, all is very cordial, with both sides talking about the need for close relations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry, however, is putting out another line, saying that Davutoğlu gave four messages to Salehi:
1. We strongly denounce baseless accusations and extremely imprudent threats issued against our country by Iranian officials — above all, by Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabad [who threatened Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia with consequences if any of the 48 Iranians abducted in Syria were harmed].
2. Turkey has always acted in a principled manner, as it did in recent nuclear negotiations. The continuation of anti-Turkish remarks amounts, nevertheless, to recklessness.
3. Everyone inside and outside of Syria knows who is responsible for the human drama caused by the Syrian regime and the deaths of hundreds of innocent people every day. They will certainly be called to account for their acts when judged by history and conscience.
4. Irresponsible statements must stop.
1856 GMT: Economy Watch.
1617 GMT: Oil Watch. A South Korean "government source" has said Seoul is likely to resume oil imports from Iran as early as next month, after imports were halted in July because of the European Union's ban on insurance for Iranian oil shipments.
"The Iranian side and local oil refineries are discussing the measure of using Iranian oil tankers," the government source said. "The discussion is making progress."
1548 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal claims, from unnamed sources, that a tour company linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps arranged the travel for 48 Iranians abducted in Syria on Saturday:
Samen Al Aemmeh, the tour operating company, is not open to the Iranian public and solely caters to members and families of Guards or the plainclothes Basij militia. The company is also a subsidiary of Samen Al Aemmeh Industries, one of IRGC's largest umbrella groups, which has been sanctioned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and by the U.S. Treasury for its role in missile building and Iran's nuclear program.
Fassihi also asserts:
A member of the IRGC inside Iran said Tehran had stepped up its technical and training assistance to Syria in recent weeks. He said IRGC members were traveling to Syria to train the army on guerrilla warfare modeled after IRGC's battles with Kurdish and Baluchi separatist groups along Iran's borders. The battle of Aleppo, for example, is a classic example of IRGC tactics, the source said; the army intentionally lets rebels gain territory of neighborhoods then closes in on them by ground and aerial offensives.
President Ahmadinejad had called earlier this week for freedom and respect of the rights of bloggers (see 1248 GMT). Analysts have attributed the detentions to the political battle between Ahmadinejad and the Larijani brothers --- Speaker of Parliament Ali, head of judiciary Sadegh, and high-ranking judiciary official Mohammad Javad --- who have been criticised by the bloggers.
Mohammad-Hossein Forouzan-Mehr said the current official rate of 12.3% will fall by 2% in 2012-13 and then by 1% per year in each of the next three years.
Davoud Qaderi, a member of the High Council of Employment, said the council had developed a package of investment of about $160 billion to create 1.1 million new jobs this year.
Economists believe the actual level of unemployment is far higher than the official rate.
1437 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council, has rejected claims of the presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Syria: “The enemies level these accusations at the IRGC because they have suffered frequent defeats and have not been able to reach their objectives,”
Responding to the abduction of 48 Iranians by the Free Syrian Army last Saturday, Rezaei asserted, “The IRGC is not involved in Syria’s issues. The outright interference of certain countries in Syria which is an independent country and a member of the international community, is violation of international law, [and will cause] anarchy and barbarism in international relations."
1419 GMT: Currency Watch. Despite earlier reports that the Iranian Rial had weakend further on the open market to 22200:1 vs. the US dollar, the website Mesghal is showing a small rebound in the currency today to 20950:1.
The shift may be a reaction to an announcement by the head of the Central Bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, that he will not be declaring a devaluation in the official rate of the Rial, currently at 12260:1 to the dollar. Last week, Bahmani had said there would be an "adjustment", leading to speculation that the new official rate would be between 15000:1 and 16000:1.
1350 GMT: Claims of the Day. Aftab reports that President Ahmadinejad has ceded his power of disposition in councils, commissions, and boards to relevant ministers, while Jomhouri Eslami asserts that some clerics have refused a Ramadan gift of 100,000 Toman (about $80 at official rate) from Ahmadinejad and asked him to respect the senior clergy instead.
The impact of regime change in the Arab World has in fact been largely negative from Tehran’s perspective. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt is closer to Saudi Arabia than it is to Iran. If the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus were to fall, it would mean the loss of a non-Sunni ally.
So, how far will Iran go towards protecting its long-term partner? It will not be happy if Mr. Assad goes. But beyond cash and supplies and the loan of military advisers, there is not much Tehran can do to determine the outcome.
Its best hope might be the emergence of a post-Assad regime that is not openly hostile to its interests, reserving the option of trying to destabilize a successor regime that [is].
1248 GMT: The Battle Within. We return to yesterday's story of President Ahmadinejad, in an address to students on Journalsts' Day, implicitly defending the bloggers who have been filtered and detained while writing in support of him --- we note that Ahmadinejad's declaration that he will write a letter to the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, "Injustice must be met w justice!"
We note an EA correspondent's assessment, "Ahmadinejad is reacting to the Supreme Leader, who had indirectly supported arrest of the bloggers on Monday." And we wonder, "When will the President's letter to Larijani be published?"
1139 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). The war within the Iranian media is heating up --- Baztab, linked to leading political Mohsen Rezaei, has continued to challenge the "hard-line" Kayhan and unwavering support for Damascus. Today, it claims that a photo of a hanged youth, said by Kayhan to be a crime of the Free Syrian Army, is in fact from 2010.
Yalasarat, in another break from the general Iranian line, publishes a picture of the "independence flag" of the opposition.
Residents of Ahwaz, most of whom are Arab, have long complained of economic and political discrimination.
1130 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). There has been a devoloping among different factions within the Iranian establishment over who has better handled the nuclear issue, and it is now spreading to Syria --- Sadegh Kharrazi, Deputy Foreign Minister under President Khatami, has claimed that if reformists were still in power, they could have convinced Syrian President Assad more easily of the need for political reforms.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has acknowledged that some of the 48 Iranians abducted near Damascus on Saturday are retired members of the Revolutionary Guards and Army and others "were from other ministries"; however, he denied any still had a military or official role and said they were on pilgrimage.
In addition to the visits to Lebanon, Turkey, and Damascus by the head of the National Security Council and the Foreign Minister, the Islamic Republic has written United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, asking for his efforts to release 48 Iranians seized by insurgents near Damascus on Saturday.
0605 GMT: Yesterday we noted the spectacle of Press TV's non-stop bashing of the London Olympics, culminating in the "analysis" that Zionists would launch a 9/11-style attack on the Games.
A much different tune is being played this morning in Iranian media, as the Islamic Republic celebrates a flurry of victories. Iranian competitors took two golds and two silvers on Tuesday, including the country's first-ever medal in track and field, as Ehsan Hadadi won silver in discus.
And there is a celebration on another front today --- both Press TV and Fars lead with the release of Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan, held for five years in a US prison on charges of complicity in the import, by her former husband, of night-vision goggles from Austria into Iran.
Mir-Qolikhan arrived in an Omani airport last night and is likely to return to a heroine's welcome in Tehran today.