Maya Neyestani on the recent detention of 14 journalists by the regime
On its front page, Shargh published an empty space where Pouria Alami's column would usually have appeared and explained that "it will not be printed until further notice".
The newspaper Bahar wrote, "Our journalists deserve respect." It said that it is not possible at this point to comment on the charges of "spying and ties with foreign news organizations", but added that it is not clear how 14 journalists without any such backgrounds could suddenly have been detained, since all are fully aware of the red lines that cannot be crossed in the Islamic republic.
"Therefore, it doesn't seem that they could come close to such charges," the paper wrote.
Europe's General Court said the EU had failed to provide enough evidence that Bank Mellat was linked to Iran's nuclear progamme when sanctions were imposed in July 2010.
EU governments may appeal the decision, and diplomats said broader European sanctions against Iranian banks could still limit Bank Mellat's ability to function in Europe.
However, law firm Zaiwalla & Co said that the bank "will now be able to commence trading internationally and try and draw back the losses incurred over the last three years since the sanctions were imposed. Furthermore, the bank will now look to claim damages from the EU Council."
Mehr did not identify those who were freed. Motahareh Shafii, who works for the reformist daily Arman, left prison for health reasons on Monday night.
A recovery in Chinese demand and arrangements for tankers left uninsured after the EU measure helped the rise to around 1.4 million barrels per day.
That figure is still almost 40% below Iran's exports in 2011 of 2.2 million bpd.
1515 GMT: The Battle Within. In the latest event in the ongoing saga of President Ahmadinejad's controversial advisor Saeed Mortazavi, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has declared that the Government decree to keep Mortazavi as the head of Social Security Funds is illegal and has cancelled it.
A court has ruled that Mortazavi, alleged to be involved in the abuses and killings at the Kahrizak detention centre in summer 2009, had to give up the post. The Government renamed the Fund and also declared Mortazavi an "administrator", rather than the head of it, to keep him in the position.
1405 GMT: Free Elections Watch. What do you do when the Supreme Leader says that talks of "free elections" aids the enemy? Rooz Online summarises the response of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a talk with journalists: "He said what the country needed was “splendid elections” which our enemies could acknowledge were held with “global modern standards.”
1155 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Back from an academic break for more analysis of the comments from Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani (see 0615 GMT) about direct US-Iran talks on the nuclear issue.
While Press TV did not mention Larijani's statement that there was no "red line" to such discussions, the English-language Tehran Times features the remark:
The Supreme Leader said in a speech in Mashhad a few years ago, "We monitor the Americans’ actions." So it should be seen what attitude the US President will display during his new term,
What's more, while Larijani denied the report --- carried by EA, after confirmation from a source in Iran --- that the Supreme Leader's top aide Ali Velayati had met American officials in a Gulf State last autumn, he acknowledged the back-channel discussions: “Recently, such a thing has not taken place, but we had some talks in Iraq.”
Joanna Paraszczuk offers further insight with a translation of Larijani's remarks, made on Monday night to Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam TV.
Larijani, answering a question about the possibility of direct talks during the second term of President Obama, emphasised that the Islamic Republic was "waiting to see what steps they will take" while calling on the US not to impede Tehran's dialogue with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia). He then made his "no red line" comment: "Such a meeting had been held earlier [with the Americans], but since it was not fruitful, Iran did not want to respond to the request."
With all this in hand, a revision of my analysis: Larijani is putting out the signal to the Americans that, although it is now unlikely that talks can be held in the short-term, they can resume after the Presidential election in June.
Now to watch for the reaction, if any, from Washington.
0615 GMT: Nuclear Watch. As the prospect of renewed nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers recedes, State media put out conflicting accounts of an interview with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on the Islamic Republic's Arabic-language Al Alam TV..
Fars put out Larijani's apparent declaration that bilateral talks with the US are still possible, as negotiations with Washington are not a "red line" for the regime.
In contrast, Press TV features Larijani's chiding of the Americans, “Instead of undermining the Iran-P5+1 talks, the US should help the negotiations move forward."
Another note: in the Fars summary, Larijani repeats the denial of the Supreme Leader's top aide Ali Akbar Velayati that the advisor met American officials in Oman or another country in early October.
Explanation? 1) The regime is preparing for the revelation, soon after the breakdown of any possibility of talks in the near-future, that it was in "back-channel" discussions with the US in the autumn. 2) The blame will be put firmly on the Americans for being intransigent and refusing genuine negotiations that could have led to an agreement over Iran's uranium enrichment.
0600 GMT: Engineering the Elections Watch. The Supreme Leader's senior advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, offers more detail on the plan to ensure that the right "unity" candidate wins the Presidency in June:
With attention to the sensitivity of this issue, I first discussed it with Mr [Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer] Qhalibaf and then with Mr. [leading MP Gholam Ali] Haddad Adel, and fortunately both of their graces accepted, and based on the principle of this design all three individuals accepted it. The principle of this plan is that it should be the goal of the three of us to not have more than a single candidate between believers in Islam, the system, the Islamic Republic, the Constitution, and velayat-e faghih [guardianship of the Supreme Leader]....Division and animosity amongst candidates will not result in a positive outcome for the election, particularly because we are in a sensitive situation.
It can be said that it is the most sensitive election conditions in the history of the Islamic revolution. and therefore, there are no options other than preventing deep [divisions].
0550 GMT: Free Elections Watch. Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Assembly of Experts member snd head of the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers, explains why talk of "free elections" before June's Presidential ballot is a devious plot: “In the sedition of 2009 they conspired and this took place even before the elections, then they said that there has been cheating.”
0540 GMT: Unity Watch. The Islamic Republic may have some issues with unity at home, but the Supreme Leader's priority on Tuesday was to proclaim Iran's leadership of unity abroad.
Addressing the 26th Conference of Islamic Unity in Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei declared:
Today the main policy of the Global Arrogance in dealing with the Islamic awakening is to create divisions and have Muslims at each other’s throats in Islamic countries; therefore the duties of religious, political, and academic leaders of the Islamic world is to explain the enemy’s design for the ummah and seriously try to make slogan of Islamic unity a reality.
After decades of pressure and Western dominance of the Islamic world, Muslims are feeling that Islam is the foundation for the realization of their independence, pride, and grandeur and all the wishes of the Islamic ummah can be realized with the grace of Islam.
The Islamic awakening that began 34 years ago in Iran and is currently spreading in the Islamic world is a sign of the realization of divine will and the movement towards victory.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and former President Hsshemi Rafsanjani listen as the Supreme Leader addresses the Conference of Islamic Unity on Tuesday