The Latest from Iran (25 September): Which is More Important --- The Ahmadinejad Show or an Economy in Crisis?
Full interview of President Ahmadinejad by CNN's Piers Morgan: "How do you feel about being Public Enemy Number One?"
2049 GMT: Cyber Denial of the Day. Minister of Communications Reza Taghipour has said that Google is not filtered in Iran. Gmail's problems were "because of the rule of the judiciary", and "we had to observe the law".
1727 GMT: Nuclear Confusion. Yesterday we noted that Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, had confirmed --- for the first time in a public statement by an Iranian official --- that Tehran had offered to give up enrichment of 20% uranium in return for an easing of sanctions.
Now Soltanieh has denied the remark, reported by InterPress Service, “Let me tell you! I’ve taken part in no interviews about [the country’s uranium] enrichment and relevant issues with anyone in the past one month. I’ve not said such a thing."
1717 GMT: CyberWatch. Baztab writes that some government offices have installed Virtual Private Networks and filter-breakers because of the need to communicate via Gmail, blocked by authorities on Sunday.
1710 GMT: Currency Watch. Mehr reports a new threat to summon "currency disturbers", possibly including some supervising officials of the Central Bank, amidst the latest efforts to halt the slide of the Iranian Rial.
The Government warned of arrest of open-market traders early this year, but was unable to carry out the measure.
1338 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, the lawyer for former President Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi, has rejected all accusations against his client. Asked why Hashemi had come back to Tehran after three years in Britain, the lawyer said Rafsanjani's son was constantly warned by officials that he should come back.
Baztab has posted a video of Hashemi Rafsanjani saying good-bye to Mehdi Hashemi before he went to prison on Monday.
1333 GMT: Brain Drain. Iranian media are citing a report by the International Monetary Fund that 180,000 academics are leaving the Islamic Republic each year.
1329 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Looks like the President is having a far easier time with the US press than with the Iranian media in New York. Video shows Ahmadinejad arriving at the airport to be asked by Iranian journalists why he does not speak to them. However, when one reporter shouts that Parliament has asked "why you travel with 160 people", he does get a Presidential reply. According to some observers, it is, "They messed up to ask."
An EA correspondent explains the Persian "goh khordand" is almost impossible to translate but stronger than this: "They all eat shit instead of talking like this."
1321 GMT: Jabbing at the Government over the Economy. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is continuing to press the Government over its economic management. He has claimed that the money in circulation has soared more than six times --- 65 trillion Toman to 395 trillion Toman in the past seven years.
Larijani also claimed the real rate of inflation is 29% and "sometimes above that".
The Central Bank claims inflation is 22.7%, while the Statistics Center puts the figure at above 27%.
1305 GMT: Human Rights Watch. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters features an interview with journalist and activist Emad Baghi about "fundamental human rights" and the situation in a range of countries.
Baghi said any talk about human rights is "useless" as long as the rights are not internalised and lack legal enforcement. Thus, he said, Iran should establish a Ministry of Human Rights.
Baghi was arrested in December 2009 over an interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and spent six months in detention. He was returned to prison in December 2010, having been sentenced to a total of seven years in prison, and released in June 2011.
There is now a gap of 110% between the open-market rate and the official rate of 12260:1.
The Rial had bottomed out at 25600:1 earlier this month before the Central Bank declared a new round of intervention. Since that intervention yesterday, in the form of a "trade room" backed by injection of Government holdings of foreign currency, the Rial has fallen by more than 8%.
The price of gold is also at an all-time high, with old gold coin bringing more than 1 million Toman (about $830) for the first time.
1235 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Back from an academic break to find more rumblings about the arrest of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi. Saeed Qassemi, a prominent commander in the Iran-Iraq War and a political figure close to the Revolutionary Guards, has warned that Mehdi Hashemi's return to Iran after a three-year exile in Britain is a part of a "project" for the 2013 Presidential elections and that, with the arrest, the judiciary has fallen into a political trap.
Qassemi, however, is facing his own minor difficulties --- activists are mocking him for declaring that he would shave his beard if Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter who was imprisoned last weekend, was ever arrested.
0735 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. BBC Persian is featuring my discussion with them yesterday about the politics around the imprisonment of the children of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. The headline? "This Would Not Have Been Possible Without the Support of the Supreme Leader."
0515 GMT: It's late September so this must be the week --- albeit the last one, as he comes to the end of his eight-year Presidency, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs his Broadway show before and after his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. After Sunday's preview with The Washington Post, the President took centre stage at a Monday breakfast with journalists before last night's pre-recorded broadcast with Piers Morgan of CNN.
And what came out of the day-long performances? Initially, The Wall Street Journal reviewed, "Bluster on Israel", before deciding it saw a revised show, "Iran President Plays Down Israeli Threat". There were make-nice, evasive words --- after last week's declaration from the Revolutionary Guards that they were advising the Assad regime --- "We seek peace in Syria. We like and love both sides." There was the reassurance about the Islamic Republic's economic problems, "The situation in Iran is not as bad as some suggest."
Ahmadinejad also debuted some one-liners, "This kind of support of homosexuality is only engrained in the thoughts of hard-core capitalists," as well as handling the shout from the audience --- CNN's Morgan, "How would you feel if one of your children dated a Jew?" (Ahmadinejad: It depends on who the Jew is.)
To get to the point, as Dave Siavashi of Iran News Now noted, "Piers Morgan asked Ahmadinejad similar questions to what everyone else asks, and for the most part got the same stock answers." The same could be said of other journalists, as they tried to put those stock answers in new, eye-catching packages.
So what else was happening on Monday, away from New York? Here's one example: on a day when the Central Bank intervened to prop up the Iranian currency, the Rial fell more than 3% against the US dollar, ending at 25300:1. That is near its all-time low from earlier this month, with the currency less than half its value of September 2011.
And here's another, from a story which is likely to have far more significance than Ahmadinejad's show. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has finally reacted to the arrests of his daughter Faezeh Hashemi and son Mehdi Hashemi.
For now, Rafsanjani is holding back --- at least in public --- from a showdown from those who want to break his influence in the Iranian system once and for all: "My children are like all others, if they must go to prison, they go, I am not concerned but accustomed to such crises."