"My husband is an engineer. He engineers elections." (Cartoon: Maya Neyestani)
See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Political Prisoners, Freedom of Expression, and Killer Smog br>
Thursday's Iran Live Coverage: Ahmadinejad v. Parliament...and the Revolutionary Guards
1605 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Update (Election Edition). More about the distinctive theme in today's Prayer sermon, delivered by the Guardian Council's Ayatollah Jannati, that while Iran has free elections, it is co-operation with the enemy to talk about free elections (see 1155 GMT)....
Jannati's threat to detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both of whom ran in the June 2009 Presidential election, was straightforward: “The public has identified your movement and knows your leaders and the leaders of sedition, and they know what your aim is; you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
And Jannati made clear that, while "those who meet the necessary criteria will never be refused a chance to run in the elections", those who "they lack them...clearly will not be allowed to run".
But here is where it gets really interesting:
Those who consider themselves men of politics and have had important roles in the Revolution should be ashamed of themselves for repeating the statement of the foreign enemies of the regime....
The political losers are now talking about free elections and one of them is quite powerful and since a while ago he has begun talking about this issue and the rest have followed his line.
Who is this "quite powerful...political loser"? Surely not President Ahmadinejad, given that the Supreme Leader handed him the 2009 victory? Former President Mohammad Khatami does not seem to qualify as "quite powerful"?
How about former President Hashemi Rafsanjani?
1535 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has expressed Moscow's concern that no date or venue has been agreed for a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers: "This alarms us, because the pause has dragged on."
Earlier in the day, a Russian official had told State news agency RIA Novosti that negotiations would resume in Istanbul in late January (see 1015 GMT).
1155 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayers Update (Election Edition). Hmm, looks like this fuss over "free elections", five month's before the June ballot for President, is getting serious....
Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, devoted his Friday Prayer to the topic, and it looks like he has a problem with the concept. He called for the Presidential contest to be held in a “healthy” atmosphere”, with participation and candidacy is open to all; however, he added that "free elections" was being used as a code for evildoers pursuing a new "fitna" (sedition) and revolts against the system.
So who were these evildoers? Jannati blamed the propaganda of "free elections" --- thus implying that past Iranian elections have not been so free --- on "hypocrites, monarchists, America, and the Zionist regime [as part of a concerted attempt] to overthrow the Iranian Government".
Even more interesting, it looks Jannati has a special villain. He took aim at former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who declared this that the "Iranian people pave the way to free elections" (see 0610 GMT), implying that Rafsanjani is "gardan-koloft" (a bully or ruffian).
1103 GMT: Religion Watch. An Armenian-Iranian Christian pastor, Rev. Vruir Avanessian, who was arrested with others during a Christmas Day service, was released on bail on Thursday after spending 15 days in Evin Prison.
1055 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said "the outlook is not bright" for next Wednesday's talks in Tehran between the IAEA and Iranian officials over inspections and supervision of nuclear facilities.
Amano said, "Talks with Iran don't proceed in a linear way. It's one step forward, two or three steps back....So we can't say we have an optimistic outlook."
1037 GMT: Censorship Watch. As the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture censors artistic expression that does not adhere to strict requirements, five Iranian musicians have been arrested and charged “with collaborating with dissident Iranian singers and satellite channels based in the US".
A Tehran-based musician describes the situation:
1015 GMT: Nuclear Watch. A Russian official has told the State news agency RIA Novosti that Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) will meet in Istanbul at the end of January.
High-level discussions resumed after a break of 27 months in Istanbul in February 2012, but there has been meeting since June in Moscow.
Last week Iran's lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said discussions would be held before the end of January, but he did not give a location. The US and the European Union refused to confirm the agreement for another round of talks.
0833 GMT: The Battle Within. A pro-Ahmadinejad website has hit back at criticism that the President, trying to build support for his allies in the June election, is packing his office, Governor's offices, and Government agencies with thousands of new employees.
The site claims that it is the Iranian judiciary which is pursuing the job drive, hiring more than 11,000 personnel.
0823 GMT: Elections Watch. Back to our opening item about the manoeuvres for June's Presidential election....
The Society is led by Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the chair of the Assembly of Experts.
Meanwhile, Hossein Fadai, the Chairman of the Association of Self-Sacrifices of the Islamic Revolution, is concentrating on promotion of the Supreme Leader, saying Ayatollah Khamenei has the same “right” in the election as groups, movements, and candidates.
Fadai said, “Our duty and charge is to use all of our capacity to mobilize for understanding the desire of the Leader”.
0817 GMT: Economy Watch. Minister of Industry Mehdi Ghazanfari has admitted to the Supreme Provincial Councils that the international restrictions on Iran are “crippling”: "Sanctions have pressured the economy of the country and have been an obstacle for our securing its needs, because we have not had currency. The Central Bank could not transfer currency, and we cannot provide transport for the import of goods needed by the country."
0810 GMT: Health Watch. The BBC highlights the problems with Iranian health care through the story of an expatriate in the US state of Georgia who smuggled Qualaquin, an anti-malaria drug, to her brother so he could keep his pacemaker functioning after his heart surgery.
A co-operative American doctor wrote a prescription. The pills were taken to Turkey by a family friend, who handed them to another friend who could enter Iran.
0800 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The US Treasury, maintaining pressure on the Iranian economy, has warned that Tehran is using private exchange houses and trading companies in other countries, masking transactions with fake identities, and relying on paperless "hawala" transactions to evade sanctions.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued an advisory on Thursday to American financial institutions about Iranian "evasion techniques".
The Islamic Republic has been beset by financial prohibitions that have blacklisted many Iranian banks, denied them access to international money and credit channels, and restricted the ability to sell oil. A new law, signed by President Obama, expands the measures against the shipping, shipbuilding, and energy sectors.
The Treasury would not say how much money Iran had moved despite the sanctions and would not the countries, let alone the trading houses, who have assisted.
0610 GMT: Iranian State media plays up Thursday's trip by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to Cairo and meetings with Egyptian officials like President Morsi --- IRNA devotes three of its four headline stories to the event --- even though the occasion has produced little beyond an invitation to President Ahmadinejad to visit in February and Salehi's call for a solution in Syria without "foreign intervention".
The far more interesting story is on the domestic front: the Supreme Leader's call for Iranians to vanquish the enemy by showing up in June's Presidential election and his insistence that the Islamic Republic has had more than 80 free elections has had an interesting twist. Within 24 hours, his representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Saeedi, was defining that freedom with the declaration that it was the duty of the Iran's elite military force to "engineer" the election.
The Guards tried to neutralise the statement with the clarification that "engineer" meant "provide security"; however, another passage from Saeedi's declaration drives home the point. It is not just an issue of voting, but of voting for the right candidate --- one who will fulfil the Islamic Republic's religious mission:
One must hit the bull’s-eye and choose in the election someone who exactly moves in the path of the Imam of the Era, and not someone who will make the regime inactive. As Supreme Leader has said...the President must be a revolutionary...
In the era of the reformists we voted, and it was exactly in the era of the reformists that the emergence of the Imam of the Era was postponed for hundreds of years. The problem was that human beings could not discern between the right and wrong path, chose the wrong path and was ignorant of the enemy and the front of justice....
The Imam of the Era will shake the pillars of the White House. We may not have the power to do away with nuclear missiles, but we must prepare the emergence [of the Imam of the Era].
And then the second twist. The fight-back against Saeedi's statement did not come from the ostracised reformists --- they have been scattered by repression, manipulation, and detention. Instead, it is President Ahmadinejad, whose election may have been "engineered" four years ago, who has spoken out against a repeat in 2013 which might not favour his would-be successor:
No individual or group can manage the people and their vote... Experience has shown that if a group desires to manage the people and their choice, the group has reached the opposite result, since it is the people who will manage them.
Then there is the emerging story of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's attempt to carve out a front-line place in the election. In a speech on Wednesday, he effectively chided the Supreme Leader, saying that it is the Iranian people "who will pave the way to free elections". Baztab newspaper went farther: the statements of Ayatollah Khemenei should not become an excuse to attack those who criticise the system because they want to ensure more participation in the campaign.
So what next for the engineers?