Iran Election Guide

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Iran Live Coverage: Threatening the Reformists

See also Iran Special: 5 Steps for a Breakthrough in the Nuclear Talks
Sunday's Iran Live Coverage: The Smog Shuts Down Tehran

2131 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Labour activist Reza Shehabi has been released from prison on furlough after 23 days on hunger strike.

2108 GMT: Religious Prisoner Watch. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian convert re-arrested on Christmas Day after serving nearly three years in prison, was freed today, according to individuals close to the pastor and his family.

Nadarkhani was initially released in November. He had been charged with apostasy and sentenced to death before a higher court commuted the sentence.

2056 GMT: In The Skies (Grounded Edition). Entekhab writes that the flights of Mahan, Aseman, and Zagros airlines have been cancelled because of debts. Air fuel companies have reportedly set a 24-hour deadline for payment.

1706 GMT: All the President's Men. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a senior Presidential aide, has been replaced as the Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Republic News Agency by Majid Omidi Shahraki.

Omidi Shahraki has served as director general of the Presidential Office for political and security affairs.

Press TV gives no explanation for the replacement of Javanfekr, who has been detained since September on a conviction of insulting Islam and officials and spreading lies and rumours in his Iran newspaper. The aide has recently been hospitalised and has just returned to Evin Prison.

1621 GMT: Health Watch. President Ahmadinejad, speaking about health care, has not dealt directly with the crisis over shortage of drugs and medical supplies, apparently fueled by the failure to release funds for imports.

Instead, Ahmadinejad told university presidents and health sector managers that, while the health system needs to be reviewed, he is opposed to its commercialisation.

1531 GMT: The House Arrests. More on the statement of the children of detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi (see 0947 GMT), calling on authorities to “show the courage to take responsibility for the illegal arrests"....

The children ask officials to "deal immediately with our parents’ file and, after close to two years of illegal arrest, release them immediately without making unfounded excuses". They continue:

Such a violation of the primary human rights and the current laws and regulations of the country...cannot be happening without authorization from the country’s top officials.

After close to two years of house arrest, no official authority has taken responsibility for the judicial state of our loved ones, who are of concern to a large portion of the Iranian people.

1411 GMT: Oil Watch. Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi, who has been saying for months that Iran's oil production and exports remain buoyant, has admitted in a meeting that exports have fallen 40% since March.

Qassemi told Parliament's Budget and Planning Commission, "There has been a 40% decrease in oil sales and a 45% decrease in repatriating oil money," according to MPs quoted by the Iranian Students News Agency.

The Minister said final figures for the Iranian year, ending in March 2013, would show "a significant decrease" in export revenues, but he did not provide any numbers.

Qassemi admitted for the first time last week that Iran had been affected by sanctions between June and August, but he declared that they had recovered to normal in a triumph for the Islamic Republic against its foes.

The Minister has claimed that Iran's production is 4.1 million barrels per day of oil, far above the International Energy Agency's report of 2.6 million bpd.

With his admission to MPs, Qassemi's figures for exports are close to those of the IEA, which has reported a drop in Iran's 2011 exports of 2.2 million bpd to 860,000 this summer before recovering to 1.3 million bpd in October.

1405 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Some mainstream media are noticing President Obama's acceptance of the "Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012", mandating new, sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

The Act calls for additional measures against the energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, as well as against Iran's State broadcaster, moving Washington closer to a trade embargo against the Islamic Republic.

The Obama Administration opposed the Act in the autumn, saying it would jeopardise efforts to maintain an international alliance on sanctions, but gave way when the legislation was put into the budget authorisation for national defence.

The Administration has yet to announce any specific actions emanating from the Act.

1225 GMT: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Pakistani grain exporter Seatrade Group will ship about 100,000 tons of wheat to Iran by early February.

That is not the most significant part of the story, however. This is:

The company noted the amount was only one-tenth of what was originally planned.

An unnamed director at Seatrade Group said "it seems the [Iranian] government does not have the money" to purchase the 1 million tons the two sides had agreed upon in August.

Seatrade Group said that, according to the deal, Iran should have exchanged iron ore and fertilizer for the wheat shipments.

The Pakistani grain export company said the remaining 900,000 tons was still under discussion and "might be done on the private market".

0947 GMT: The House Arrests. The children of detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard have appealed for their parents to be allowed to address the people of Iran.

The children said the detainees "have been imprisoned for 23 months without due process of law" and expressed concern for the health of their parrents.

0940 GMT: Parliament v. President. MP Ali Motahari has warned that, if President Ahmadinejad persists with the attempt to implement the second stage of his subsidy cuts programme, he faces interrogation and impeachment.

Last month, Parliament blocked any move on the long-delayed second stage, but the President's office announced last week that Ahmadinejad is meeting with Ministers on implementation of more cuts.

0740 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ahvaz activist Masoud Ladoni has been summoned to prison to serve a two-year sentence.

A member of the Patriotic-Religious front, Ladoni is accused of actions against national security". He also was imprisoned during the 1980s for his political activism, and following the disputed 2009 Presidential election, he was summoned, interrogated, and detained on several occasions.

Ladoni's wife Parvin Kahzadi has also faced judicial pressure over her activism and journalism. She recently left the country with the couple's son.

0650 GMT: Smog Watch. Amid the surge in air pollution in and near Tehran, a Ministry of Health official said that smog had killed at least 4460 people from March 2011 to March 2012.

Some Tehranis say the current episode is the worst they can recall. A student said, "My head hurts, and I'm constantly dead tired. I try not to go out, but I can smell the pollution in my room as I am trying to study."

An artist is blunt: "It feels as if even God has turned against us....[This] shows we have lost all power to control our lives.”"

Officials on State TV denied that the smog is connected to Iran's increased reliance on cheaper, locally-refined petrol, although Ali Mohammad Sha’eri, the deputy director of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, said that only 20% of the emergency fuel was up to modern standards: “Hopefully in three months that level will be 50%."

Government measures in Tehran, Isfahan, and other cities include an odd-even traffic-control plan, based on the last digit of vehicle license plates, to halve the number of cars on the road.

0620 GMT: Iran's reformists will not win the June Presidential election. Even if most of them choose to participate, their choice of candidate --- with leading possibilities in detention or house arrests, others harassed into near-silence, and the Guardian Council ready to veto anyone who might persist in an inconvenient application to stand --- will be no more than a token figure of the supposed legitimacy of the electoral process.

For some within the regime, the priority --- given that the reformists are marginal to the outcome --- is to ensure that they take part. That is why State media are playing up less-significant figures as possible candidates, and why some politicians are proposing that the house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi be eased.

This does not mean, however, that the reformists should be allowed to proceed without restrictions. The opposition site Green Voice of Freedom offers an example:

An Iranian deputy intelligence minister has threatened the country’s reformists with mass arrest, just days before a scheduled two-day reformist convention....

According to GVF sources, an intelligence ministry deputy, who used the alias “Majidi,” recently summoned Najafgholi Habibi, the chairman of Coordinating Council of the Reformist Front, and threatened to arrest participants in the upcoming reformist congress if organisers refuse to comply with the conditions set forth by the ministry.

The convention is scheduled to be held on the 16th and 17th of January. Its prime focus will be the reformist strategy vis-à-vis the June 2013 presidential election.

The security official reportedly told Habibi that the reformist factions must “draw a line” between themselves and the “seditionists,” and reject any association with the leaders of the opposition Green Movement. “You mustn’t make any mention of Mousavi, [former President Mohammad] Khatami and Karroubi.”...

Habibi was also warned about the appearance of representatives from the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organisation and Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the country’s largest reformist parties, at the congress. Habibi himself is a member of IIPF. The two groups were outlawed in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential race.

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