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Iran Live Coverage: A Collapsing Economy?

See also Wednesday's Iran Live Coverage: Ahmadinejad v. Everyone Else

1710 GMT: Economy Watch. A new report by the Iranian Chamber of Commerce indicates that 5931 industrial units --- 67% of those surveyed --- have been shut.

1440 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Ebrahim Raissi, the Deputy Iran Prosecutor General, has promised that indictments in the case of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, will be issued soon.

Hashemi, accused of financial and electoral fraud by his critics, was detained in September on his return from three years in exile in Britain. He was released on bail last month.

1420 GMT: Economy Watch. The General Secretary of the Iranian Labour Party, Hossein Kamali, has warned that "the depth of the current economic crisis is threatening the job security of workers".

1300 GMT: The Battle Within. Khabar Online summarises the dispute over bank debtors, which has become a catalyst for political fights between President Ahmadinejad and his opponents.

Ahmadinejad's critics allege that the Government and individuals connected with it are withholding billions of dollars owed to the banks. The President has countered that most of Iran's economy is in the hands of "300 or 400 people" who have profited from cheap --- and unpaid --- loans.

1250 GMT: Health Watch. An Indian pharmaceutical website reports that Iran’s Ministry of Health, amid its crisis over drugs and medical supplies, is seeking to import medicines from India.

Tehran is seeking 28 types of medications including capsules, solutions, and injectable drugs. Last month, a 26-member Indian delegation visited the Iranian capital to discuss opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector.

Soaring costs and disputes over lack of Central Bank funding for imports led to the dismissal of the Minister of Health, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, last week.

1210 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Saudi Edition). Saudi border guards have arrested 21 Iranians on two boats which they claimed were in Saudi territorial waters.

The Saudis claimed that those detained were trying to "infiltrate the Kingdom" through the Khafji region in the east.

1100 GMT: Economy Watch. The opposition site Rah-e Sabz reports on further problems for the automobile industry, with two major factories in a "dire situation".

Iran's auto manufacturing has been beset by falling sales and rising costs, especially of imported components.

0920 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syria Edition). State outlet Press TV persists with the narrative that Iran is essential to a political resolution of the Syrian crisis. This morning, it features the statement of Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki, in a meeting with the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, of "the deeply rooted historical and strategic relations between the two countries".

Mohammad-Reza Raouf-Sheibani on Wednesday.

The website also tries to play up Iran's "six-point peace plan" with the revelation that the Iranian Ambassador to Beirut, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, gave a copy to former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel on Wednesday.

0910 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Egypt Edition). The Egyptian site Al Masry Al Youm claims from unnamed sources that Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's elite Qods Force, met Egyptian officials in Cairo between 26 and 30 December.

The topic of discussion: "methods of control over the security services".

0750 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch. Leading Iran watcher Eskandar Sadeghi-Borujerdi notes the criticism of Iranian foreign policy by Hassan Rowhani --- former lead nuclear negotiator, current head of the Center for Strategic Research, and possible candidate for the Presidency in June. An extract:

It is not as if the Islamic world says, “Islamic Republic, tell us what to do until we are like you." Just as there is competition in economics, the Islamic world also looks at which country offers better cultural and political merchandise. One cannot offer shoddy and expensive goods, and then say, “Come and buy from us.” A model must be offered which is cheaper, superior and [of better] quality.

Today we have many competitors in the region. Turkey is one of them and we have witnessed the changes in the region in which [Turkey] explicitly introduced itself as the model....

To be inspirational we must offer the best goods with the best packaging. Unfortunately sometimes we have good produce, but our packaging is rotten. Manner and tone, one’s way of speaking, approach, and our type of engagement must pursue a cooperative model. To be enamoured with ourselves and say we are the first country of the region and the only road to salvation is the Islamic Republic is insufficient.

0720 GMT: Economy Watch. State outlet Press TV has no story on the Iranian economy this morning. Indeed, it has not had any economic news since Tuesday afternoon, "Iran Polymer Output Exceeds 6 Million Tons".

Instead, Press TV's economic reporters look far away: "Cliff Deal to Slow US Economic Growth".

0710 GMT: Economy Watch. The head of the Contract Workers Union has said that 1 million out of Iran's 9 million contract workers have been laid off because of the effects of sanctions.

0610 GMT: Banks on the verge of collapse, another 3 million families under the poverty line this year, the threat to the regime of "hunger riots" and an uprising in the Bazaar....

That is the prospect for Iran held out by Mehrdad Emadi, a senior economic advisor to the European Union, in an interview with Manoto TV. Emadi argues that the banks can only survive if there is an injection of Government financing. Meanwhile, businesses are shutting down and workers are struggling to provide for their families.

His advice to the Supreme Leader: withdraw the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from the oil, gas, and transportation industries, otherwise sanctions will bring even more damage to the Iranian economy.

Economist Fereydoun Khavand adds a warning about President Ahmadinejad's insistence on a second phase of subsidy cuts as a "catastrophe for the economy", with yet more cash liquidity raising inflation farther. The silver lining --- for Iranians and the President --- is that Parliament and others in the regime are likely to block any second stage, with Ahmadinejad claiming the political victory that his rivals have prevented him from doing his best for the nation.

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