The Supreme Leader addresses Air Force officers on Thursday
Exports of pharmaceuticals fell to $14.8 million from $31.1 million in 2011, while sales of vitamins, medicinal and botanical drugs decreased to $4.9 million from $10.8 million.
US officials have said they tried to sanction Iran without unduly harming ordinary Iranians, granting licenses to American companies who wish to export pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, and other humanitarian goods to Iran.
However, sanctions lawyers have said the blacklisting of the Islamic Republic's major financial institutions has made it difficult to find smaller Iranian banks able to conduct such licensed transactions as well as international banks willing to deal with them.
Overall US exports to Iran rose to $250.2 million from $229.3 million in 2011. However, most of the increase is attributable to $89.2 million in the sale of wheat and other grains.
In 2011, the United States exported no wheat or grains to Iran.
1755 GMT:We're Winning/We're Not Winning Watch. A bit of a contradiction in statements from Mohsen Rezaei --- Secretary of the Expediency Council, former head of the Revolutionary Guards, 2009 Presidential candidate --- today....
Rezaei said Iran has driven NATO "to its knees" with Tehran's support for Syria. However, it was unclear how the Islamic Republic would do this, given the economic problems mentioned by Rezaei: "1000 Toman is worth today what 300 Toman was worth last year".
1745 GMT:Political Prisoner Watch. Detained reformist Abolfazl Ghadiyani, in an open letter, has said the Iranian Revolution failed because “absolute monarchy was reproduced as the absolute leadership of the Faqih [the highest-ranking cleric]": “The Revolution triumphed 37 years ago, but Iran’s freedom-seeking people [did not]; the monarchy was toppled, but democracy was not established, and the people got only a taste of liberty.”
Ghadiani, arrested soon after the disputed 2009 Presidential election and serving a four-year sentence, continued, “Our Revolution did not reach its objective, and we failed because we revolted against an absolute monarch and being ruled by a single individual, and now those very structures are reproduced and established in the absolute leadership of the Faqih."
He said the people must resist the totalitarian regime by “demanding free elections at every opportunity", accusing the Supreme Leader of “a coup against the people’s vote in 2009 and tainting his hands in the innocent blood of peaceful protesters".
The report contrasts with Government claims that the price is 5100 Tomans.
1255 GMT:Sanctions Watch. A Gallup telephone poll with 1000 Iranians released yesterday has suggested that whilst a majority say they feel the “bite of sanctions” imposed by the US and other Western nations but blame Washington for them, rather than the regime in Tehran.
Asked whether sanctions are hurting Iranians’ livelihoods, 56% agreed “A great deal,” 29% agreed “Somewhat”; only 10% responded “Not at all” (5% Don’t know/refused).
On whether the sanctions hurt their livelihoods personally 48% agreed “A great deal,” 35% “Somewhat”; 14% said “Not at all” (2% Don’t know/refused).
Of those questioned, 47% held the US government “most responsible,” compared to 10% who blamed the Iranian government.
The poll also noted that despite the damaging effects of sanctions as a response to Tehran’s nuclear programme, 63% said that Iran should continue to pursue nuclear power capabilities; 17% said Iran should not continue with 19% responding “Don’t know/refused.”
In particular, Kermani declared the need to resist the US-led “conspiracy” of economic pressure and be wary of the dangers of encroaching Western culture on Iranian society.
Kermani also praised Tehran’s diplomacy regarding the Syrian conflict, saying the West and Israel had accepted negotiations because of their "failure" to overthrow President Assad, and urged unity amongst Muslims across the Middle East.
The Iranian UAVs are themselves copies of the US ScanEagle that was captured by Iran in December 2012.
1106 GMT:Foreign Affairs Watch (Argentina Front). Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has defended an agreement with Iran to establish a five-member "truth commission" of international legal specialists to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Fernandez rejected Israeli criticism of the agreement, adding that "The memorandum of understanding we have signed is a step toward unblocking a case that has been paralyzed for 19 years. Dialogue is a part of Argentina's foreign policy.”
Safar Harandi, who is considered to be quite close to the Supreme Leader, also cited a poll that suggested only 13% of Iranians would favour an extension of Ahmadinejad’s government.
There has been tension between Safar Harandi and the President for a number of years. In summer 2009, Safar Harandi resigned as Minister of Culture over his opposition to Ahmadinejad’s appointment of Esfandiar Rahim Mashai as 1st Vice President.
1011 GMT:Election Watch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has criticised the US-led sanctions as part of an effort to “create tension” inside Iran and divert resources from its nuclear programme.
Mehmanparast added that "The new round of sanctions ... are designed to put pressure on the nation and to create a gap between the (Iranian) nation and government... In the remaining time to the [presidential] election, they want to create tension, crisis and instability in the country by imposing great pressure."
0722 GMT: Propaganda Too Much. A curious story from State outlet Press TV "US Claims of Dialogue with Iran Preposterous: Analysts"....
The denial is not curious --- it follows the line set down by the Supreme Leader on Thursday of no direct talks with the malevolent and devious US. What is curious is the framing of the denial --- the article does not name or quote any of the "political analysts" who have supposedly decried the "utterly preposterous" Americans.
0653 GMT: Supreme Leader Watch. While international media have been preoccupied with the passage of the Supreme Leader's speech on Thursday in which he said "no direct talks with the US" --- a passage which has usually been mis-interpreted, but more on that later --- we are most interested in his concern on the domestic front.
After days of political turmoil, sparked by the confrontation between President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani in the Majlis on Sunday, Ayatollah Khamenei bluntly told the heads of the Government branches, "Stop your temper tantrums", and commanded them to unify for the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Monday.
The Supreme Leader had already intervened for a cease-fire on Tuesday night when he met with head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, a discussion that led to the freeing on bail of Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi after his arrest on Monday. Sadegh Larijani subsequently said that, while he was sure of the "slander" of Ahmadinejad and the perfidy of the group around him, he would maintain his silence in deference to Ayatollah Khamenei.
However, Khamenei's latest statement does not answer key questions. It indicates --- but does not prove --- that Sadegh Larijani, angered at Ahmadinejad's attack on his brother, took the initiative in ordering Mortazavi's arrest. We still do not know what the Supreme Leader was doing on Sunday and Monday when the political crisis exploded, in particuar, whether his office was giving quiet support to the Larijanis to cut Ahmadinejad down to size.
Nor we do not know how effective his call for peace and Revolutionary harmony will be. At the very least, Ayatollah Khamenei has been unable to control outbursts of political violence in the highest levels of his regime.
So is he "balancing", not always successfully, the relations between his heads of Government branches? Or is he feeding some of the tension to further contain a troublesome President?