See also Iran Analysis: 5 Challenges to an "It's Not That Bad" Iranian Economist br>
Thursday's Iran Live Coverage: The Supreme Leader's Committee Chooses the "Right Man" for the Presidential Election
1655 GMT: Economic Rumour of the Day. An unnamed MP, cited by economist Mehrdad Emadi, has reportedly said that China has twice blocked Iran from withdrawing dollars from its $25 billion of reserves in Chinese banks.
Iran is only allowed to spend the money in yuans to purchase Chinese goods:
1525 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Imprisoned reformist Mohsen Mirdamadi has slapped down the claim of MP Safar Naimi, one of four legislators who toured Evin Prison this week, that the facility should be known as "Hotel Evin" because of its high-quality services to prisoners.
Mirdamadi, a senior member of the suspended Islamic Iran Participation Front, said, "There are many prisoners that have been subjected to physical and mental pressure during interrogations, and those that have been held in solitary for long stretches without legal justification."
Mirdamadi said that if Naimi feels Evin is like a hotel, then he should live in it for a while to “become fully familiar with all of its hidden aspects".
1515 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activist and blogger Fereshteh Shirazi has been released from prison.
Shirazi was arrested in September 2011, with her three-year sentence upheld by a a court in January 2012.
1505 GMT: Central Bank Watch. Fars, the site linked to the Revolutionary Guards, is not exactly giving embattled Central Bank head Mahmoud Bahmani full support as he flees a snowballing crisis with currency rates and gold prices:
1435 GMT: Engineering the Elections Watch. Hassan Rowhani --- member of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, ally of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, and possible Presidential candidate in June --- has hit back at remarks from Supreme Leader's representative Ali Saeedi about the "duty" of the Revolutionary Guards to "engineer" the elections.
Speaking at the 11th Congress of the Mardomsalari Party, Rowhani said, “The election atmosphere must be political and cultural. We must not securitise the election atmosphere. A securitised atmosphere is to no one’s benefit and is to the detriment of the country and regime."
Rowhani explicitly criticised those who use phrases such as “managed or engineered elections”: "[This] shouldn’t be spoken about in such a way that the people feel that the election is merely ceremonial."
1355 GMT: Engineering the Elections Watch. Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post picks up on the regime's "Don't Talk About Free Elections" warning, using this choice quote from the Supreme Leader's former representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour:
Because the reformists have no hope to win in the next presidential elections, they are using the keyword free election in the political arena of the country to make problems for the elections.
When reformists lose the election, they can put the blame on the system and take advantage of the sympathy and emotion of the people.
1315 GMT:Oil and Sanctions Watch.South Korea's Samsung Total Petrochemicals Co has revived a contract to buy Iranian oil after a year's hiatus, as thin profit margins in plastics make the cheap fuel from Iran an attractive proposition despite the obstacles posed by US-led sanctions.
The low cost of Iranian oil combined with improved margins mean the deal may save Samsung Total an estimated $6.7 million in costs.
Earlier this month, the Guards had to "clarify" the statement, made by the Supreme Leader's representative Ali Saeedi, that it was their "duty" to "engineer" the June Presidential election. They explained that "duty" meant ensuring a high participation in the ballot.
1210 GMT:Friday Prayers Watch. Ayatollah Emami Kashani, the interim leader of Tehran’s Friday Prayers has struck a note of defiance towards Iran’s enemies by arguing that a large turnout on 22 Bahman to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution will both “neutralise enemy propaganda” and demonstrate the “grandeur of the Islamic Republic to the imperialists.”
Alongside the usual anti-Zionist rhetoric there was also an admission that Iran must solve its economic problems but that the people follow the present Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as fervently as they did Imam Khomeini.
An EA correspondent notes that Kashani’s use of revolutionary slogans and call for unity behind the Supreme Leader are part of an effort to transfer Khomeini’s popularity to Khamenei.
1154 GMT:Sabotage at Nuclear Facility (Rumour of the Day).An example of the hype around the nuclear issue....
Reza Kahlili, who portrays himself as a highly-important defector from the regime and CIA agent and is often featured on right-wing US sites, uses WorldNet Daily to declare that an “ explosion deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility has destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground, according to a former intelligence officer of the Islamic regime.”
Kahlili continues, “A source in the security forces protecting Fordow” claims the incident happened on Monday at 11:30 a.m. and is believed by regime officials to be an act of sabotage by foreign intelligence services.
There is no substance elsewhere for Kahlili's story.
WorldNet Daily is an American site with a tendency for eye-catching but outlandish headlines, such as “Are we as asleep as the Germans of the ‘30s?”).
1117 GMT:Everything’s Fine Watch.In keeping with President Ahmadinejad's assurances about the economy and defiance regarding oil sanctions, Iranian media is proudly declaring that despite Western efforts to stymie its oil exports, Iran is the second largest oil producer in OPEC.
0944 GMT:Nuclear Watch. A member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, has insisted that there are “no nuclear activities at Parchin and the center is a recognized military site and not engaged in our country’s nuclear activities.”
The issue of IAEA access to the site at Parchin has long been a stumbling block in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, with Western officials arguing it is central to Tehran’s nuclear arms aspirations, a claim denied by Iran.
Boroujerdi stated that for progress to be made then the West should make some concessions regarding the sanctions directed against Iran: “If we are supposed to have more cooperation with the IAEA, Western countries should know that this is a two-way road and mutual interests are an internationally acknowledged principle.”
0655GMT:Economic Wishes. Earlier this week we highlighted President Ahmadinejad's defiant proclamation that all is well with the economy: "Don't want to buy our oil? Then you go to hell."
But how do you maintain the illusion, amid daily reports of inflation, falling production, a shaky currency, rising imports, and unemployment?
One strategy is to ignore this in favour of a couple of press releases about the advance of Iranian technology and manufacturing. So this morning Press TV's economic stories are "Iran to Launch 1st Ocean-Going Oil Tanker" and "Iran Builds Gas Turbo-Compressor".
Another possibility is to publish a story of a genuine development, but to miss its point. So Tehran TImes proclaimed yesterday that 17 million Iranians will receive food coupons for essential goods. It did not further enquire about the significance of more than 20% of the population being put on urgent assistance. Nor did the website, in reporting that the Parliament and Government had agreed to $2 billion in aid for those food coupons, note the Majlis criticism of the Ahmadinejad administration for bringing Iranians to the point of desperation.
Then there is the tactic of publishing a supportive analysis which says that economic problems are being exaggerated. US-based Djavad Salehi-Isfahani offers a possibility today when he writes, "Is Iranian Hyperinflation a Mirage?" and gives a definitive Yes.
We will explain in a separate feature why Salehi-Isfahani's question --- and most of the answer --- are red herrings, minimising the real economic issues. And in our regular Week in Review from Arseh Sevom, we will be noting some other developments putting Ahmadinejad's "Go to Hell" in perspective.