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Monday
Jan142013

Iran Live Coverage: Don't Mention the "Free Elections"

See also Iran Feature: Spotlight Returns to Detained Opposition Leaders Mousavi and Karroubi
Sunday's Iran Live Coverage: The Isolation of the Country


1714 GMT: Scare Story of the Day (cont.). I have now read the 154-page report by 5 US analysts and activists being trumpeted in the media as proof that Iran will have a Bomb by mid-2014.

As I anticipated in an earlier entry (see 1546 GMT), the report sets aside careful analysis for supposition, manipulation of some evidence, and ignorance of other facts. It should be treated as a polemic in its calls for tougher sanctions and threat of military action by the US.

1650 GMT: All the President's Men. A court has cancelled the appointment of senior Presidential aide Saeed Mortazavi as head of Social Funds Organization.

Mortazavi has long been criticised for his alleged role in the abuse and killing of protesters in the Kahrizak detention centre after the disputed 2009 Presidential election. Although he has not been prosecuted, a court ruled that he should not hold a Government post pending investigation.

President Ahmadinejad defied the order, installing Mortazavi as head of the Social Security Fund in early 2012. The Administrative Court ruled against the appointment --- the Government responded with the circumvention of renaming the agency.

1546 GMT: Scare Story of the Day. In a 154-page report, "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East", five analysts have declared, "Based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014," defined as the prodution enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more bombs without detection by other countries.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security asserted that, by mid-2014, Iran would have enough time to build a secret uranium-enrichment site or significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program. He said that, while "we don't think there is any secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now", there is "real worry" that Iran would build such a plant.

The report recommends more sanctions on the Islamic Republic because, once Tehran acquires enough weapon-grade enriched uranium, it would be "far more difficult to stop the program militarily". In addition, "the president should explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran's nuclear program if Iran takes additional decisive steps toward producing a bomb."

I have not yet read the report but the assessment of Albright's ISIS have been notable for their hyperbolic presentation of the Iranian "threat", ignoring and/or distorting some of the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

See Iran Special: The US Nuclear "Experts" at ISIS --- When Propaganda Replaces Analysis

The other four analysts are Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the right-wing Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which has long advocated coercive sanctions and the prospect of military action; Orde Kittrie, law professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies; and Michael Yaffe of the Near East, South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

1540 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Radio Zamaneh posts extracts from the latest letter of detained senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, noted in Sunday's Live Coverage, urging full support for free elections:

In effect, free elections is the strategy of Iranian reformists, and as the Green Movement took shape through the elections, its victory is tied to free elections, and in such a case, whoever really wins the majority vote would naturally gain the respect of all.

In the recent fanfare, we must not fear and we must stand firm with integrity for free elections, because in Iran we can either have free elections or, God forbid, an ignominious one.

If I were on the outside, I would launch the biggest campaign for the defence of free elections, which is a legal and legitimate concern.

I urge any individual who is concerned about Iran’s independence, territorial integrity and security, and who does not want our country to end up with the fate of Libya, Yemen or Syria, to work hard for free elections in Iran, and that is not only in the coming election but for all elections to come.

1527 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has announced that a Syrian delegation led by Prime Minister Wael al-Halki will visit Tehran on Tuesday.

Reports indicate al-Halki will meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and 1st Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. Topics include "establishment of peace in Syria, enhancement of economic and agricultural cooperation between Tehran and Damascus, [and] the latest regional developments".

1307 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. The spokesperson of the Board of Parliament has said that President Ahmadinejad will appear for 90 minutes on Wednesday morning in the Majlis.

Abdollah Masri added, "MPs expect to be heard."

Ahmadinejad reportedly said yesterday that he would go to Parliament but would not take questions. He is expected to challenge the Majlis' block on the second phase of his subsidy cuts plan.

1305 GMT: Supreme Leader Watch. Ayatollah Khamenei has sent a message to Iranian students abroad: "The Iran of tomorrow must be led by capable managers."

An EA correspondent queries, "Is Khamenei saying there are no capable managers in today's Islamic Republic?"

1157 GMT: Economy Watch. Minister of Economy Shamseddin Hosseini makes a bold statement amid economic and currency problems, "The dollar and Euro will be excluded from our foreign trade because our main partners are China and Turkey."

1137 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The medical furlough of Reza Shahabi has been extended.

Shahabi, detained since June 2010, is serving a six-year sentence. He was on hunger strike for 23 days before he was granted a 5-day furlough last week.

1037 GMT: Drugs and the Regime. Former Minister of Interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi has implied that the Ministry of Intelligence has been involved in drug trafficking.

Iran has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the world and struggles with the flow of drugs across borders with countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

1030 GMT: Sedition Watch. Revolutionary Guards Naser Shaabani has expressed hope that President Ahmadinejad "will return to the ship of the Revolution" and has declared that Ahmadinejad's controversial right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashai "has no place in politics anymore".

Even more interesting is Shaabani's admission of the threat of protests because of sanctions and unfavourable living conditions: "A new round of unrest could start in the provinces this time, but we are prepared."

1020 GMT: Free Elections Watch. The latest warning against the use of the words "free elections" comes from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar, who cautions former President Hashemi Rafsanjani not to invoke the term.

0900 GMT: Police Watch. Commander Hassan Karami, the head of Special Forces, has said that policewomen may now form anti-riot units.

Karami said the first women's unit will be established by spring.

0840 GMT: Women's Rights Watch. Kalemeh reports an developments in policy on the movement of single women.

Unmarried females over 18 and up to 40 can get a passport, but they need the signature of a guardian to travel abroad. A married women continues to require the written permission of her husband to obtain a passport.

An EA correspondent explains the background to the issue: "The Islamic Republic cannot ignore the rising number of single women living on their own. About 7% of adults now do so, a rise of 2% in the last five years; however, in some cities, up to 30% of adult women pursue a single life."

The draft legislation was introduced in Parliament in November.

0740 GMT: Free Elections Watch. Far from going away, the furour over "free elections" --- fed by the Supreme Leader's Orwellian warning last week that, while Iran has had more than 80 untainted ballots in 33 years, talk of "free elections" only helped the enemy --- escalated on Sunday.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a Tehran Friday Prayer leader, made one of the most pointed statements when he linked this June's Presidential contest to the disputed 2009 election. The cleric said that the slogan of "free elections" had burned 40 million votes from four years ago, and he declared that the leaders of "sedition"should "take the idea of victory to their graves".

It is unlikely that this will be the final word, however. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has raised the worries of some in the regime with his response to the Supreme Leader that it is the "Iranian people who pave the way to free elections", and he did not pull back on Sunday. Instead, he took aim at President Ahmadinejad: "People don't live on slogans. Government must provide them with an average living --- giving people cash [i.e., support payments for subsidy cuts] is of no help."

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