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Iran Live Coverage: Regime Explains --- Talk of "Free Elections" Is "Sedition"

See also Saturday's Iran Live Coverage: Let's Make a Nuclear Deal?

1945 GMT: Obama Billboard in Tehran Watch.

Roland Elliott Brown explains this image of President Obama and a friend, several stories high on a Tehran building by a major highway:

The image is of Barack Obama standing next to Shemr, a villain in Shia Islam, with a BBC-style caption at the bottom attributing to both men, in the years 2013 and 680 respectively, the loaded phrase: "Be with us, be safe."...

The villain Shemr belongs to the narrative of Hussein's martyrdom at the Battle of Karbala in 680, the trauma that split Muslims into Sunni and Shia denominations. The Shia, or "Party of Ali" (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law) sought hereditary leadership of Islam. After the murder of the Caliph Ali, and the death of Ali's son and successor Hassan, Ali's younger son Hussein clashed for succession with the Umayyad Caliph Yazid, who sent Shemr's army to destroy Hussein and his followers. Shemr offered some of Hussein's supporters a "letter of protection" in exchange for betraying him, but they refused.

In the mural, Shemr extends a similar letter to the viewer, as he and Obama utter the words Ba ma bash – "be with us" – playing on the president's name, and insinuating that anyone who still likes Obama in the wake of tightening sanctions – or who advocates meeting American, EU, or International Atomic Energy Agency demands over Iran's nuclear programme to avoid conflict – is a traitor to the faith. Obama, the state insists, is a "Hussein" unworthy of loyalty.

1615 GMT: The House Arrests. The fight among conservative politicians and clerics over the house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi is escalating.

The specific battle is over remarks by leading politician Habibollah Asgarouladi that Mousavi and Karroubi are not "seditious", implying their 23-month detention should be eased. After Ayatollah Hassan Mamdouhi from the conservative Scholars of Qoms rebuked Asgarouladi, another Ayatollah from the association has rebuked his fellow cleric for the expression of a "personal view".

Meanwhile, conservative MP Hamidreza Taraghi has given full support to Asgarouladi as the "mental father" of the Motalefeh Party.

1609 GMT: Parliament v. Central Bank. More on the Parliamentary vote for an enquiry into the Central Bank over the fall of the Iranian currency and claimed mismanagement of economic problems (see 0921 GMT)....

Iranian websites such as Fars, citing an official are claiming that Central Bank head Mahmoud Bahmani, a target of criticism by MPs, handed in his resignation two weeks ago.

The Central Bank has made no comment.

1605 GMT: Campus Watch. An interesting notice on the conservative website Alef --- the Supreme Leader's office has been busy with the "slaughter" of Students Unions at universities.

1554 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati has reiterated the line of the Supreme Leader's office that President Assad must not be forced to step down in Syria. Ayatollah Khamenei's top aide for foreign policy told a Lebanese TV station:

If the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is toppled, the line of resistance in the face of Israel will be broken.

We believe that there should be reforms emanating from the will of the Syrian people, but without resorting to violence and obtaining assistance from the America.

Asked if Iran sees demands for the removal of Assad as a red line, Velayati said: "Yes, it is so. But this does not mean that we ignore the Syrian people's right in choose its own rulers."

1527 GMT: Admission of the Day. Reovlutionary Guards commander Ramezan Sharif has said that the November 2011 attack on the British Embassy was "emotional", and people should have acted sensibly.

A crowd --- "spontaneous", according to the regime --- stormed the Embassy compound and ransacked buildings as some staff hid. After the attack, Britain closed the Embassy, withdraw all personnel, and evicted Iranian diplomats from London.

1517 GMT: Currency Watch. The Currency Exchangers Union has protested against the regime's ban on currency websites, declaring that it has the permit to post foreign exchange rates.

Authorities banned posted rates in October following a 70% fall in the value of the Rial. The Central Bank tried to shut down the open market in favour of a managed "trade room", providing foreign exchange for some importers and privileged customers.

Opposition sites claim that the Rial, which had been boosted to 27000:1 vs. the US dollar by October's measures, has slipped to 33600:1 in the limited trading that is possible. The price of gold is also rising.

1317 GMT: We Are Winning Alert. The Supreme Leader's deputy representative to Revolutionary Guards, Abdullah Haji Sadeqi, has said, "By imposing sanctions against Iran, the enemy has committed suicide and now it is paying the price of boycotting Iran."

1312 GMT: The House Arrests. Banooye Sabz posts an English translation of the latest news that the children of detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard are being prevented from seeing or calling their parents.

1054 GMT: Conspiracy Theory of the Day. I don't see this statement by Army Commander Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan contributing to an improvement in US-Iran relations:

The US, looking for a pretext to invade the Middle East, masterminded the 9/11 incident and pointed an accusing finger at Muslim countries.

To achieve that goal, they launched preemptive attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iran was their next target, but wise policies adopted by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei along with the unity of the Iranian nation prevented them from achieving their objective.

0921 GMT: Economy Watch. Parliament has approved an investigation of the Central Bank by a vote of 171 to 36.

Critical MPs have blamed the Bank for mismanagement contributing to Iran's economic and currency problems.

0909 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Thirty-nine political prisoners, in a letter to head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, have protested "arbitrary and illegal" order and called on Larijani to manage his officials responsibility.

The detainees have been angered by the sudden move of leading reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani, one of Iran's oldest political prisoners, to another facility.

Meanwhile, in a small victory for detainees in Evin Prison's Ward 350, the warden has been forced to return personal documents and reinstate University classes.

0905 GMT: Corruption Watch. The Jomhouri Eslami daily declares that most of the 300 major bank debtors named by President Ahmadinejad are Government officials.

Ahmadinejad and his critics have swapped accusations of corruption for months. The President has alleged that some of his leading rivals --- including implied charges against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani --- have profited from illegal loans to claim land cheaply.

An official in the judiciary said it still does not have the list of debtors.

0748 GMT: Free Elections Watch. Almost two weeks ago, the Supreme Leader set down a marker for June's Presidential contest. While Iran had the free-est elections in the world, someone who spoke of "free election" only aided the Islamic Republic's enemies.

Some people apparently did not get the message. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in particular, gave a barbed response that it was "the Iranian people (implication: not the Supreme Leader) who paved the way to free elections". The Supreme Leader's representative, Ali Saeedi, complicated matters by indicating that the "duty" of the Revolutionary Guardsd was to "engineer" the elections.


Commander Yadollah Javani, the head of the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, has stepped in with the lead article the lead article in the Guards’ weekly newspaper, Sobh-e Sadegh. He answers the question, “Is the Slogan of ‘Free Election’ the Code of Another Sedition?”

In 2009 the biggest and most complex conspiracy against the Islamic Revolution and the established religious regime in Iran took place. In this complicated conspiracy, alongside global arrogance under American leadership and the anti-revolutionary movement, forces with a revolutionary past and [once] possessing immense responsibilities in the Islamic regime active participated.

This conspiracy entered the country on the stage of sedition. The approaches of the movement, claiming to be Reformist, pursued political power and adopted a strategy for obtaining executive power in the 2009 election --- at any price and with the use of any possible means, tool, and method....

Now that we are on the verge of the 11th Presidential election, is it possible in the course of this election another conspiracy and sedition will occur?... Is it possible that the slogan of “free election”..., proclaimed by some of the domestic political spectrum and accompanied by foreign anti-revolutionaries, is the beginning of a road that will result in another sedition in the 2013 election?...

When the election in Iran is free in the framework of the law and is healthy, why do a number both inside and outside, repeat "the free nature of the election" in the form of a slogan? Does the regime want to hold an unfree election?

(hat tip to Eskandar Sadeghi Boroujerdi for translation)

Just as interesting as Javani's effective admission that the Guards fear a repeat of protests of 2009 is his naming of possible culprits in the "free election/sedition" conspiracy. Rafsanjani gets special mention for his comments just before the last Presidential vote, when he warned of manipulation of ballots:

The repetition of the same kind of views with respect to the election and the creation of suspicion regarding its health, was the introduction for the scenario of fraud and expressing that great lie and street campaigns that damaged the security of the country and the credibility of the Islamic regime.

Others named by Javani for inappropriate comments: former President Mohammad Khatami; former Minister of Interior Abdolvahab Mousavi Lari; reformist cleric Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeiniha; the son of the late Shah, Reza Pahlavi; and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

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