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Saturday
Feb162013

Iran Live Coverage: Tehran's Support for Syria Will Cause "War Between Shia and Sunni"

See also Iran Analysis: The US Makes a Non-Offer on the Nuclear Talks</ br>
Friday's Iran Live Coverage: Syria --- The Islamic Republic's "35th Province"


Supreme Leader & President Assad

2110 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Journalist Edition). One of the 16 journalists seized three weeks ago, Fatemeh Sagharchi of Jamaran and former head of the Strategic Research Library, has been released on bail of 120 million Toman (about $30,000 at unofficial.rate).

Fourteen journalists, most of them from reformists publications, remain behind bars. No formal charges have been announced, although authorities and politicians have put out the message that they collaborated with foreign media.

1730 GMT: The Battle Within. The Larijani brothers --- Speaker of Parliament Ali and head of judiciary Sadegh --- have responded quickly to the criticism of the Supreme Leader (see 1030 and 1630 GMT) with letters accepting the "compassionate advice".

There has been no response from President Ahmadinejad to the Supreme Leader's denunciation of his "immoral" and "illegal" behaviour, referring to Ahmadinejad's attack on the Larijani family on the floor of Parliament.

1630 GMT: The Battle Within. AFP have picked up on the Supreme Leader's sharp criticism of President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani (see 1040 GMT), following their confrontation in the Majlis on 3 February, in his speech this morning:

This is bad. This is wrong and against the law and sharia [Islamic law] and morals, and violates the rights of people....One head of a branch (Ahmadinejad) uses an accusation that is unproven in court and accuses the other two branches --- Parliament and the judiciary [headed by Larijani's brother Sadegh].

The article later notes:

Khamenei criticised Larijani's handling of the session, saying he had "gone too far in defending himself" against Ahmadinejad.

He criticised the impeachment [of the Minister of Labour, which prompted the Ahmadinejad-Larijani clash] as a "bad decision" since Ahmadinejad will leave office in the summer when his term is over.

Khamenei also criticised the judiciary for "inaction" against corruption.

1430 GMT: Nuts Watch. Officials have reversed the six-month ban on the export of pistachios.

First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi had said this week that the sale abroad of pistachios, one of Iran's most lucrative non-oil exports, would be suspended because of the doubling of their price in a week on the domestic market.

1330 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). The Supreme Leader's representative, Ali Saeedi, has declared, "We will soon take revenge on Israelis for the killing of [Revolutionary Guards commander Hassan] Shateri."

Shateri, the head of Iran's reconstruction efforts in Lebanon, was slain while travelling near the Syrian town of Zabadani, while travelling from Damascus to Beirut. It is unclear why he was in Syria and how he was killed --- some reports claim he died in an Israeli airstrike on 28 January on a Syrian military convoy moving to Lebanon.

1320 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Given the recent drumbeat against direct talks with the US, it is interesting that Press TV features a more conciliatory statement by Hassan Rohani, the director of the Expediency Council’s Center of Strategic Studies.

Rohani --- who is close to Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President and current head of the Expediency Council --- said, “If the Americans show honesty and they are ready to resolve the problems between the two countries, a win-win game is possible....I reject [the idea of] war. War between us and the US is neither to our benefit, nor to the US benefit. I don’t think, at this juncture, the Americans seek to engage in a war with Iran."

1304 GMT: Press Watch. State outlet Press TV headlines part of the Supreme Leader's speech to the people of Tabriz, "Leader Urges Destruction of Nuclear Weapons Worldwide".

However, there is not a single word from Press TV about another, important part of the speech --- Ayatollah Khamenei's denunciation of President Ahmadinejad for his "immoral" and "illegal" behaviour and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani's "excessive" response in their clash in Parliament on 3 February.

1052 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The Supreme Leader, continuing his defiance of the US --- even as Iran moves towards nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers --- has said, "We believe in a world free of nuclear weapons --- we do not want to build a nuclear weapon. But, if we did want to build one, no power could stop us."

1040 GMT: The Battle Within. Has the Supreme Leader just enforced a cease-fire in Iran's political conflict or has he made the situation worse?

In a notable intervention during an address to people from Tabriz in northwestern Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei has criticised President Ahmadinejad for his appearance 13 days ago in Parliament, when he dramatically produced an audio tape which he said proved the corruption of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani's family.

The Supreme Leader said Ahmadinejad's behaviour was "bad", "inappropriate", "immoral", and "illegal". He denounced the audio --- and, presumably, videos that subsequently emerged from the Ahmadinejad camp claiming Larijani's brother Fazel had sought a political favour --- as an "unconfirmed document".

At the same time, Khamenei said Larijani showed "extravagance in defending himself". And he criticised Parliament for seeking the dismissal of the Minister of Labour, which prompted Ahmadinejad's display in the Majlis.

0720 GMT: The House Arrests. Senior conservative Habibollah Asgarouladi, whose statements on the two-year detentions of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have sparked controversy among the Iranian elite, has made his clearest statement linking the treatment of the two men and June's Presidential election:

I saw the 2013 election as locked. In these circumstances what can Mousavi and Karroubi do? What can the Reformists do? Those who are around them, what can they do? I believe eventually a path [for solving the impasse] will be found … On the whole, we must open society and I will make an effort to open up space....

If they have done something, the Judiciary must investigate.

0700 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Not everyone has welcomed the regime's recent declarations of support for the Syrian regime, including the confirmation of Tehran's military assistance and the insistence of a senior cleric that Syria must be considered "Iran's 35th Province".

Senior reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, serving a six-year prison sentence, has written to the Supreme Leader, “The result of your support for [Syrian President] Assad is a war between Shia and Sunni.” He said the “absolute defense” of Damascus will expand the war to Lebanon and Iraq.

Tajzadeh, a former Deputy Minister of Interior, rejected Ayatollah Khamenei's declaration of an Iranian-led "Islamic Awakening" in the Middle East. The reformist, detained soon after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, said people across the region had rejected the Iranian "model" giving “absolute power of a person [who controls] over 70% of the powers” of the State".

Tajzadeh asserted, "Such a regime is similar to authoritarian regimes like that of the Pahlavis [the former Shahs of Iran], Mubarak, Qaddafi, and Assad.”

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