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Entries in Committee of Human Rights Reporters (5)


The Latest from Iran (29 January): Sideshows and Main Events

2320 GMT: The Committee of Human Rights Reporters has issued a statement on recent allegations against its members, many of whom are detained:
The civil society’s endurance depends on acceptance and realization of modern norms and principles. When a ruling establishment with an outdated legal system tries to impose itself politically and ideologically on a modern society, the result will be widespread protests.

2315 GMT: Correction of the Day. Although it was not widely noted, there were 40th Day memorial ceremonies for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Qom.

2310 GMT: Diversion of the Day. From Press TV:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top aide said Friday Tehran is concerned about the direction of the US administration after President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address.

"We have concerns Obama will not be successful in bring change to US policies," Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, the senior aide to President Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, said.

With respect, Esfandiar, I don't think President Obama is your biggest concern right now.

NEW Iran Patriotism Special: Wiping the Green From The Flag
Iran Document: Karroubi Maintains the Pressure (28 January)
Iran Document: Resignation Letter of Diplomat in Japan “Join the People”
Iran Document/Analysis: Karroubi’s Statement on the Political Situation (27 January)
Iran Analysis: Leadership in the Green Movement
The Latest from Iran (28 January): Trouble Brewing

2300 GMT: Yawn. Well, we started the day with a sanctions sideshow (see 0650 GMT), so I guess it is fitting to close with one. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Paris:
China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the [Persian] Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their own supplies....We understand that right now it seems counterproductive to [China] to sanction a country from which you get so much of the natural resources your growing economy needs....[But China] needs to think about the longer-term implications.

1. The White House is not even at the point of agreeing a sanctions package with the US Congress, let alone countries with far different agendas.
2. China is not going to agree tough sanctions in the UN Security Council. Really. Clinton is blowing smoke.
3. About the only outcome of this will be Press TV running a story on bad America threatening good Iran Government.

2250 GMT: Back after a break (Up In The Air is fantastic --- there, I've said it) to find that the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has written an open letter to Iran's head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, putting a series of questions over the executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Ramanipour.

1820 GMT: We've moved our item on the regime's apparent removal of Green from Iran's flag to a separate entry.

1755 GMT: Today's Pot-Kettle-Black Moment. Just came across a discussion on Press TV of a bill, passed in the US House of Representatives, threatening to block "anti-US" television channels.

Don't get me wrong: this is an incredibly stupid measure, although as Professor William Beeman, the most reflective of the three guests notes, it is a symbolic declaration unlikely to become law. However, I have to note that at no point do the words "Internet filtering", "expulsion/imprisonment of journalists", "jamming of satellite signals" (say, of Voice of America Persian or BBC Persian) come up in the conversation, which also includes a Dr Franklin Lamb and a Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi.

1750 GMT: The Judiciary v. Ahmadinejad. At insideIRAN, Arash Aramesh has a useful summary of the suspension of the publication Hemmat by Iran's judiciary. The twist is that Hemmat, which ran into trouble for running an attack piece against Hashemi Rafsanjani, is a supporter of the Ahmadinejad Government. No surprise then that the President reportedly declared:
I am not very happy with some of the Judiciary’s actions. Someone published a paper and you shut it down. It is the job of a jury to order the closure of publications. We do not agree with such actions and believe that these actions show a spirit of dictatorship.

However, Aramesh does not connect the Hemmat story to the imprisonment of Mohammad Jafar Behdad (see 1230 GMT), an official in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, for four months.

1725 GMT: The Latest from Gohardasht Prison. Peyke Iran reports that 300 Ashura detainees are under severe pressure by Ministry of Intelligence agents, demanding confessions of "mohareb" (war against God), in sections controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.

1700 GMT: The International Committee for Human Rights in Iran has started a new blog. Current posts consider the Zamani/Rahmanipour executions and "Members of Committee of Human Rights Reporters Under Pressure to Make Forced Confessions".

1600 GMT: The Strategy of Deaths. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has offered details on the regime's handling of executions: having put to death two pre-election detainees to death yesterday, the Government has handed down five more sentences on five people arrested on Ashura (27 December). The sentences are currently being appealed.

Doulatabadi's declaration complements a recent announcement that by Iran Prosecutor General Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejei that at least three Ashura Day detainees will be executed. Ejei also said four more pre-election prisoners had been sentenced to death. (Added to Thursday's executions, Doulatabadi and Ejei's numbers match up to the "eleven" death sentences announced by Iranian state media yesterday.)

1410 GMT: Man, 1) Ayatollah Jannati is in a really bad mood after being verbally slapped by Mehdi Karroubi; 2) the Government is scared of the forthcoming demonstrations on 22 Bahman (11 February); 3) both. The Los Angeles Times offers translated extracts from Jannati's Friday Prayers address (see 1155 GMT) in Tehran:
The prophet Muhammad signed non-aggression pacts with three Jewish tribes. The Jews failed to meet their commitments, and God ordered their massacre (by Imam Ali, the 3rd Imam Shia, despite his reputation for compassion)....When it comes to suppressing the enemy, divine compassion and leniency have no meaning.

The judiciary is tasked with dealing with the detained rioters. I know you well, judiciary officials! You came forward sincerely and accepted this responsibility. You are revolutionary and committed to the Supreme Leader. For God's sake, stand firm as you already did with your quick execution of these two convicts....

God ordered the prophet Muhammad to brutally slay hypocrites and ill-intentioned people who stuck to their convictions. Koran insistently orders such deaths. May God not forgive anyone showing leniency toward the corrupt on earth.

1230 GMT: An Ahmadinejad Official in Jail. Mohammad Jafar Behdad, head of internal media at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, has been sentenced to 4 months in prison. Behdad, a former head of the Islamic Republic News Agency, was convicted of disregarding judiciary warnings against provocative publications. His newspaper Hemmat had been suspended for a feature on "Hashemi [Rafsanjani] and his band of brothers".

1220 GMT: Verbal Skirmishes. Retired Revolutionary Guard General Ali Asgari, a former minister in the Khatami Government, has declared that Hashemi Rafsanjani must remain by the side of the Supreme Leader and denounced Rafsanjani's verbal attacker, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, as a radical who defends a backward Islam.

On the regime side, Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has announced that "some of the elite are against the regime and with the enemy". At the same time, he appears to have held out a hand to Mir Hossein Mousavi, saying he "was deceived" by these wrong-doers.

1210 GMT: The "Real" Karroubi Interview. Fars News, whose distorted report on Mehdi Karroubi's views inadvertently moved Karroubi's challenge to the Ahmadinejad Government centre-stage, makes another clumsy intervention today.

Selecting extracts from Karroubi's interview with Britain's Financial Times and quoting them out of context, Fars declares that Karroubi has "100%" backed the Supreme Leader and denounced protesters.

Yeah, right.

1155 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayer Summary. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, had the podium today. Given that Mehdi Karroubi knocked him about a bit yesterday, Jannati was probably not in the most conciliatory of moods as he said:
Weakness in the face of events such as the "irreverence" of demonstrations on Ashura will undermine the regime. Ayatollah [Sadegh] Larijani, be a man, get tough, bring in some protesters. (Hey, but it was pretty cool that you executed those two guys yesterday to please God.)

1140 GMT: A very slow day, both for sideshows and main events. During the lull, this comment from a reader to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, reacting to the Zamani/Rahmanipour executions, is striking:
You see the strategy is an obvious one: start with the people who are the weakest links, some obscure monarchist group and not directly related to the reformist/Mousavi's camp or the greens, that way it would make it harder politically for [Mir Hossein] Mousavi or [Mehdi] Karoubi to defend them. Then they will advance. This is, in their mind, also the best way to send a message about Feb 11th that if you are arrested on that day, you could be executed. The combination of desperation and cruelty.

0750 GMT: Remembering Montazeri. Video of the bazaar at Najafabad, the birthplace of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was empty on Thursday to mark the passing of the cleric in late December. Memorials for the "40th Day" of Montazeri's death were planned for both yesterday and today.)

0650 GMT: There are a number of obstacles to clear this morning before getting to the important developments. Foremost amongst these is last night's news that the US Senate, the upper house of the Congress, has approved tougher sanctions against Iran. The focus is on petroleum, denying loans and other assistance from American financial institutions to companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand its oil-refining capacity. The penalties would extend to companies that build oil and gas pipelines in Iran and provide tankers to move Iran’s petroleum. The measure also prohibits the United States Government from buying goods from foreign companies that do business in Iran’s energy sector.

Even if sanctions are central to a resolution of Iran's political crisis, as opposed to their place in the manoeuvres over Iran's nuclear programme --- personally, I don't think they are --- there is a lot of bureaucratic road to cover before they are in place. The Senate has to agree its version of the bill with the House of Representatives. More importantly (and The New York Times story ignores this point), the Obama Administration so far has opposed the petroleum measures because they are unlikely to be effective. The White House and State Department prefer "targeted" sanctions, aimed especially at economic interests of bodies like the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

Then there is the Washington sideshow of Very Important People battering each other in the guise of offering the Very Best US Policy on Iran. The Washington Post announces the boxing match between Richard Haass, formerly of the State Department and now head of the Council for Foreign Relations, and the Flynt/Hillary Leverett duo, formerly of State and the National Security Council. The punches are entirely predictable --- Haass, while proclaiming himself a "realist", has joined the chorus of US experts singing of "regime change", while the Leveretts are staunchly defending the legitimacy of the Iran Government --- and pretty much swatting air when it comes to the complexities of the Iranian situation. (But Haass was best man at the Leveretts' wedding, which turns a marginal story into a "quirky" one.)

So where are the significant stories? Well, there is yesterday's execution of two detainees, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, who were jailed in April 2009 for endangering Iran's national security. In one sense, this is another sideshow. Obviously, neither Zamani and Rahmanipour were involved in post-election protest and the "monarchist" group to which they allegedly belonged is not significant in the Green movement.

However, the regime was far from subtle in linking the hangings of the two men to the demonstrations of Ashura (27 December), and that linkage --- inadvertently --- displays its fear of the forthcoming marches on 22 Bahman/11 February, the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution. What's more, by promising the executions of nine more detainees if everyone didn't just shut up and go away, the Government made a risky commitment. Either it goes ahead with the executions, making more martyrs for the protests, or it backs down.

And then there is The Week of Mehdi Karroubi, with the cleric launching another broadside against President Ahmadinejad and his allies yesterday. Some media continue to be led astray by confusion over Karroubi's loud and emerging strategy --- The New York Times, for example, mis-reads Karroubi's latest statement as "conciliatory remarks...shifting the blame for the violent postelection crackdown away from Ayatollah Khamenei".

They are not. Karroubi is both giving the Supreme Leader (or "Mr Khamenei", as he was labelled on Monday) a chance and setting him a test: do what you are supposed to do under our Constitution and Islamic Republic, Supreme Leader, and make your President accountable for injustices and abuses.

Enjoy all the sideshows, folks, but in this political circus, that's your centre-ring main event.

The Latest from Iran (26 January): Now for the Follow-Up....

2200 GMT: Closing Notes (Until Tomorrow). Big news is that, despite attempts by some analysts to declare "Much Ado About Nothing", Mehdi Karroubi has not only clarified his challenge today, not only maintained it, but declared that he will soon be extending it by setting out his demands on the electoral, legal, and political processes.

Elsewhere, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has maintained his own defiance by appointing aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, the target of both "reformist" and "conservative" opposition,  as the chief of the President’s youth advisors. This is an addition to Mashai’s positions of President’s deputy for affairs of Iranians living abroad, special advisory of President in oil affairs, head of assembly for free economic zones, and the chairman of the cultural commission in the cabinet.

Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, the head of the clergies committee in Parliament, is not impressed, however: he has criticised Ahmadinejad’s special relationship with Mashai, declaring that the President is sacrificing the regime and Government for Mashai’s favour.

NEW Iran: Rafsanjani Chooses A Side?
NEW Iran Special Analysis: What Karroubi’s Statement on “Mr Khamenei”/”Head of Government” Means
NEW Latest Iran Audio: Hossein Karroubi on His Father’s Statement (25 January)
Iran Snap Analysis: The Karroubi and Khatami Manoeuvres
The Latest from Iran (25 January): Who Makes A Move Today?

And now your nominee for bravest/most ridiculous sentence of the week: the head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati says: "We (the Guardian Council) held the recent election without the tiniest problem."

2030 GMT: Going after the Reporters. Two senior members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Koohyar Goodarzi and Mehrdad Rahimi, have been accused of "mohareb" (war against God).

1930 GMT: We've posted a special snap analysis of Hashemi Rafsanjani's statement today, which may or may not indicate he has "chosen a side" in the current conflict.

1745 GMT: Rumour of Day (3). Saham News claims that Mohammad Jafar Behdad, the political deputy of President Ahmadinejad’s bureau, has been sentenced to jail on the basis of two accusations by Ali Larijani and one by Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The charge is that Behdad wrote in an online article, deleted 50 minutes later, that those who are to blame for the killing of protesters are the persons who called Mir Hossein Mousavi on the afternoon of the elections to congratulate him, causing his delusion and subsequent decision for instigating the people to revolt. That claim points at Larjiani who, according to politicians like Ali Reza Zakani, contacted Mousavi with the news of "victory".

1740 GMT: Rumour of Day (2). Rah-e-Sabz follows up the story, linked to our analysis of Mehdi Karroubi's initiative, that former President Mohammad Khatami wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader, asking for Ayatollah Khamenei's intervention to stop the illegal activities and disregard of citizen rights of the regime.

The website reports, from an "informed source", that the Supreme Leader rejected the analysis and recommendations. It adds, dampening down the "recogntion of the President" story and any serious Karroubi-Khatami split, that rumours of Khatami criticising the reformists or endorsing the legitimacy of the government are untrue and are being spread by the regime to cause divisions in the Green movement.

1730 GMT: Rumour of Day (1). Rah-e-Sabz claims that the son of Ali Larijani was arrested during the Ashura demonstrations. He was allegedly released 24 hours later when his identity was established.

1620 GMT: The Supreme Leader's Response: It's All About the Internet. Not sure if this is really going to answer the challenge put forth in the last 24 hours....

Ayatollah Khamenei has declared in a speech on state television, "The Americans have said that they have allocated a $45 million budget to help them to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran via the Internet....This decision shows the height of the enemy's frustration. They have spent tens of billions of dollars in the past (in confronting Iran), but have achieved no results."

Leave aside the fact that the facts are a bit off-the-mark (the US Senate voted in July to allocate $50 million to expand American broadcasts and get around Internet restrictions). Can't see how Mehdi Karroubi's "Mr Khamenei" is a product of Washington's schemes.

1610 GMT: Karroubi Makes It Clear. We've posted an update on our special analysis, with Mehdi Karroubi's speech today bearing out our interpretation. It's not only that he challenged both the Government and the Supreme Leader yesterday; he's going to keep doing it.

Get ready for an escalation in the conflict.

1310 GMT: MediaFail of the Day. I've stayed away from the "Western" media coverage of the Karroubi statement, even though a lot of it is still wrong over the recognition of Ahmadinejad: this has been a confusing story and I was well off-the-mark yesterday afternoon.

That said, The Washington Post has screwed up well beyond the norm in this item in its World Digest: "Opposition's Mehdi Karroubi softens stance on Iran's leadership". It condenses an Associated Press story to the basics: "In a major shift, a senior opposition figure announced that he now recognizes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the head of Iran's government while standing by his assertions that the presidential election was rigged....Mehdi Karroubi's new position is a retreat from his statements after the June 12 election, when he insisted that Ahmadinejad's government was illegitimate."

The original AP story by Akbar Dareini was muddled and missed important points, such as Karroubi's use of "Mr Khameini"; however, it had key passages such as, "The elder Karroubi deliberately refrained from using the word 'president' in order not to give full legitimacy to Ahmadinejad's administration." Its claim, from Karroubi's son Hossein, that the cleric "believes Ahmadinejad's government was on the verge of collapse" is softened in the World Digest to the opposition is "seeking Ahmadinejad's removal".

1210 GMT: Not Recognising Ahmadinejad. An EA reader reports that German and Swedish media are still dominated by line that Mehdi Karroubi recognised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "President", so these related comments from Zahra Rahnavard (see 0640 GMT), the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, deserve repetition:
We neither recognise Ahmadinejad’s administration [as legitimate government] nor compromise but we honestly are following on people’s rights and demands....

We have put our hearts as our shields and we are ready for any bullet, attack or assassination.

1030 GMT: Remain Calm, All is Well (with Bonus Cultural Reference). Press TV puts out the reassurance this morning:
Bank Melli Iran (BMI) is the largest bank in Iran and across the Islamic world, considering its total assets of around $54bn, a BMI official says. The total assets of BMI at the end of second quarter of 1388 (September, 2009) have increased to US $59 billion, the head of financial department at BMI, Hojatollah Ghasemi, said Monday, denying reports that the bank is bankrupt.

Ghasemi said that BMI has no debt to Iran's central Bank, adding that the bank has no delay in repaying its international commitments.

Forgive me, but when I read the story, given the recent flurry of rumours of the demise of Iran's banks, I made this cross-cultural jump:


0905 GMT: The Mothers of Mourning have called for the immediate release of Parvaneh Maddah-Raad, who has been detained since late December. Maddah-Raad was arrested when she intervened to protest the beating of a young demonstrator at the weekly gather of the Mothers of Mourning in Laleh Park.
0900 GMT: We've posted the audio of Hossein Karroubi, the son of Mehdi Karroubi, talking to BBC Persian about his father's statement.

Also, in response to readers who are asking about the reasons for our current analysis of Karroubi's challenge to the Supreme Leader and Government, we are posting an update on our special analysis.

0734 GMT: The Regime Fights Over Newspaper. Now it appears that Government officials can't even see straight on which publications should be banned. According to Ayande News, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi summoned officials of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance officials. He declared that he would act against media spreading false news, then criticized the Ministry for arbitrarily banning some of the media while others were openly violating laws by spreading lies and offending top members of the Government and regime.

0730 GMT: On the Economic Front. Not even Press TV tries to spin this news:
Iran's labor and social affairs minister says the country has failed to decrease the jobless rate to below 7 percent due to "the crises and global sanctions."

On Monday, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami told the Fars News Agency that the unemployment rate is about 11 percent.

The Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010) had obliged the government to bring the jobless rate to under 7 percent by the end of the plan.

"A seven percent unemployment rate had not been achieved, as a goal, in the Fourth Five-Year Development Plan, due to the crises and global sanctions," Sheikholeslami said, without elaborating.

The Statistics Center of Iran announced that the national unemployment rate rose to 11.3 percent in the third quarter of the calendar year (ended December 21, 2009), up 1.8 percent compared to the previous year.

0640 GMT: Rahnavard on "Legitimacy". Amidst the discussion of Mehdi Karroubi's statement, Mir Hossein Mousavi has been silent. However, his wife, Tehran University academic Zahra Rahnavard, has not.

In an interview with Fereshteh Ghazi, Rahnavard makes clear that Mousavi does not and will not recognise the Ahmadinejad Government.

0635 GMT: Here's one to raise the eyebrows on the international front. The three-day visit to Russia by Saeed Jalili, Secretary of the National Security Council, due to start today, has been postponed "indefinitely".

0630 GMT: Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani's Intervention. We made an error in translation when reporting the cleric's latest criticism of the regime yesterday. His demand of the Government was that it should "prohibit" the bad and undesirable in its actions.

0600 GMT: We will spend today seeing just how important yesterday's Karroubi statement, on Mr Khamenei and the "President", is. That will depend not only on whether Karroubi modifies the declaration or lets it stand but also on the reactions of others. Key participants like Mir Hossein Mousavi have not emerged; perhaps more importantly, there is still confusion and division in the Green movement(s) over Karroubi's move.

Some activists take the line that the statement is a concession, if not to Ahmadinejad by "recognising" him as President, then to the Supreme Leader by acknowledging his legitimacy. That opinion is sometimes linked to the assessment that Karroubi, like the regime, wants to avoid a bloody confrontation on 22 Bahman (11 February). Others, however --- and this is the current EA line, after my initial confusion and mis-interpretation --- see this as a challenge to both Government and Ayatollah Khamenei.

For now, we'll stand by the analysis that we debated and then put out last night, watching for the follow-up --- from Karroubi, from opposition leaders like Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami, from  the regime, and from the Green movement(s) --- today before making any revisions.

The Latest from Iran (24 January): Watching Carefully

2200 GMT: And, on the political front, Mehdi Karroubi's Etemade Melli party has issued a statement calling for the holding of a free election and permission to stage demonstrations.

Etemade Melli, via the Saham News website, repeated that Karroubi had the material to back up his accusations of detainee abuse: "It is necessary for you to know that Mr. Karroubi is standing firm and tall and has evidence for all his comments." it added in an address to the country's regime.

2145 GMT: Little hard news tonight, although rumours about Iran's economic situation continue to swirl. There is also nothing to clarify an increasingly complex domestic political contest.

One news item catches the eye, however:
A Russian banking delegation, headed by the deputy governor of the country's Central Bank, is due to visit Tehran on Monday, the Iranian envoy to Moscow announced on Saturday.

NEW Iran and Israel: The Start of a Beautiful Friendship?
Iran Analysis: Should the Greens Be Waiting for Economic Collapse?
Iran Discussion: How Would Ahmadinejad Fall? (And What Would Come Next?)
UPDATED Iran: The Plot Against President Ahmadinejad

The Latest from Iran (23 January): Looking for Clues

"Deputy governor of Russia's Central Bank Melnikov and a number of officials from the other Russian banks will pay a visit to Iran on Monday in a bid to resolve banking issues and facilitate exchange and economic and trade activities between the two countries," Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi told [Fars News Agency].

The Russian delegation is scheduled to meet Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Pourmohammadi and managing directors of a number of Iranian banks to discuss ways to expand banking relations between the two states.

1745 GMT: Your Economic Update. Reuters has a useful English-language summary of President Ahmadinejad's budget presentation to the Iranian Parliament today. Kalemeh reports that the Central Bank has extended the deadline on the validity of banknotes marked with Green slogans, effectively allowing their circulation for the indefinite future. And Persian2English carries claims of difficulties with banks in Isfahan.

1535 GMT: Ayande News keeps up its recent jabbing at the Government and regime, asking why the Supreme Leader has SL dedicated 21 speeches to post-election events if this is not a crisis.

1530 GMT: Rezaei's Latest Manoeuvre. A valued EA correspondent reports on the latest speech by Presidential candidate (and possible Ahmadinejad opponent) Mohsen Rezaei, given to students in Gilan.

Rezaei, as his recent Press TV interview, maintained his distance from the opposition by emphasising that he made his complaints about the Presidential election within the law. At the same time he complained, "We still don’t know how to face the opposition group," and noted, "In some other countries, police keeps the opposition safe rather than attacking them." Rezaei also repeated his criticism of the "very weak" Ahmadinejad Government.

And a curious post-script: news of Rezaei's speech was on Tabnak, the website linked to him, but was removed after a few minutes.

1520 GMT: Head-Spinner. OK, I'm going to have this one to smarter people to interpret. According to Kalemeh, Davoud Ahmadinejad, the brother of the President and former head of the Investigation Office of Presidency, has labeled Presidential aide and ally Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai as an Israeli agent.

1510 GMT: Bank Issues. Peyke Iran supports Internet chatter with the story that shots have been fired at Bank Melli in the city of Ram Hormuz in southwestern Iran.

1340 GMT: The State of the Detainees. Fereshteh Ghazi has published a lengthy and wide-ranging article on those arrested after the election, including the detentions of family members of activists, the lack of information on Ashura and post-Ashura detainees for families and lawyers , and the health of prisoners such as former Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi.

1210 GMT: Monica Luisa Macovei, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, has publicly declared in the Parliament, "I have decided to use most of my time for this intervention to highlight the names of people who, reportedly, are in detention in Iran, some convicted to death, for criticising the political regime or for defending civil rights."

Macovei mentioned the cases of five Ashura detainees charged with "mohareb" (war against God), the 33 Mothers of Mourning and supporters recently detained (almost all have been released), arrested members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and other students who have been imprisoned. She asked, "What is the Commission or the Council going to do for the release of those imprisoned for political purposes? What funding does the Commission provide to human rights NGOs working on Iran?"

1150 GMT: The Standard Warning. The head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has again warned of those seeking to create divisions within Iranian society, announcing that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will be more vigilant in monitoring and punishing publications over false information.

1140 GMT: Blowing Smoke. Unsurprising, given the political and economic contests around him, that President Ahmadinejad would put out this line today: he will have good news within days about Iran being able to produce enriched uranium of 20 percent (versus current levels of 3-4 percent), and this will make all in the Iranian nation very happy.

1025 GMT: For My Next Trick. It will be interesting to see if President Ahmadinejad can pull this off: amidst fears of inflation, he has proposed a rise of almost 25 percent in the Government budget, from $279 billion to $368 billion.

0910 GMT: We've posted a Sunday Special which we hope brings both news and a smile, "Iran and Israel: The Start of A Beautiful Friendship?".

0840 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Budget. The President has presented his budget proposals to Iran's Parliament, the Majlis. He summarised, "Emphasizing a reduction of dependence on oil revenues and an increase of non-oil revenues, with a focus on industry, agriculture and housing —these are among the main attributes of the bill," before making his pitch, "I hope that the bill will be passed with the cooperation of all lawmakers who solve the problems of the country and pave the way for the development of Islamic Iran."

Now the fun and bargaining begin, as lawmakers have ten days to present comments about the bill to the technical commissions of the Majlis.

0820 GMT: Choose a Side, Rafsanjani? Hashemi Rafsanjani's general statement on Saturday, which we analysed in our updates, has not been enough to satisfy some who want him to "choose sides" in the conflict.

The bigger news, however, however, is that the battle may not be over whether Rafsanjani backs the Supreme Leader --- the former President offered allegiance yesterday, albeit with coded reservations --- but whether he is for or against President Ahmadinejad. And there it appears that Rafsanjani has some potential allies pushing him towards the latter position.

For example, the "hard-line" newspaper Kayhan has renewed its attacks on Rafsanjani with a Sunday editorial. What is just as significant, however, is that the news of those attacks is published in Khabar Online, linked to Ali Larijani, possibly to blunt them.

Khabar, reporting from Mehr News, also features a speech by Javad Larijani, a high-ranking official in the Judiciary and the brother of Ali (Speaker of Parliament) and Sadegh (head of Judiciary), praising Rafsanjani as a "great personality" but noting his three mistakes: 1) founding the Kargozaran party in the mid-1990s; 2) running for elections in 2005; 3) making ambiguous statements about Ahmadinejad during those elections.

Analysis? Come off the fence, Hashemi, and do so in support of others, not at the head of the movement.

0815 GMT: Persian2English has published a set of pictures from the "birthday ceremony" at Neda Agha Soltan's grave yesterday.

0810 GMT: Human Rights Activists in Iran reports that Mehdi Jalil-Khani, a writer, literary critic, and journalist from Zanjan, was arrested last week after a Ministry of Intelligence raid.

0805 GMT: We're be looking for further development on both the political and economic fronts today, separating facts from rumours as the pressure seems to build on President Ahmadinejad.

We have a special analysis which offers some caution, as an EA correspondent asks, "Should The Greens Be Waiting for Economic Collapse?"

Today on EA (4 January 2010)

TOWN CRIERIran: Leaks abound relating to Iran. Is Washington "genuis punditocracy" putting pressure on Israel relating to nukes and sanctions? EA's Scott Lucas' reaction is here : he wonders whether the policy may be "too clever by half" but guest writer Gary Sick praises President Obama's "strategic leaking".

We have a guest commentary from Babak Siavoshy of Georgetown University which defends Mir Houssein Mousavi's "5-Point Plan".  Meanwhile, five expatriateIranian intellectuals have followed Mousavi's statement with their own 10-point list of demands from the Iranian Government.

Saeed Habibi from the Committee of Human Rights Reporters is in hiding  in Iran. Britain's C4 News interviewed him last night, see have the video here.

All the latest news is on our timeline blog which also includes links to other stories from EA and other news media.

Israel: There was a hullabuloo in the Channel 1 studio last Thursday when Jamal Zahalka was removed following a heated argument with host Dan Margalit. See the programme video here. Zahalka subsequently accused the state media of "surrendering to the state".

Israel's Parliament has passed a bill on a  "loyalty oath" to the coalition leaders but, more importantly, rejected another proposing the state enforce equal allocation of land to Jews and Arabs.

USA: We have the video and a transcript of President Obama's weekly address to the American people on 2 January concentrating on the "War on Terror".

The Latest from Iran (4 January): Watching and Debating

IRAN GREEN2330 GMT: Mahmoud Down. Signing off tonight with this news --- looks like the latest victim in the cyber-war is President Ahmadinejad's blog.

2320 GMT: Another Rights-First Shot from the Obama Administration. Despite (possibly because of) the recent sanctions-related rush of spin in US newspapers, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a moment to focus on Iran's political conflict today, criticising the regime's “ruthless repression” of protesters: “We have deep concerns about their behavior, we have concerns about their intentions and we are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear.”

2220 GMT: Have You Made "The List"? Fars News has published the names of the 60 organisations and media outlets "outed" by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence as unacceptable for contact by Iranians.

There are a lot of familiar faces, given that many of these dangerous groups were listed in indictments in the Tehran trials in August: Georges Soros' Open Society Institute is here, as is the Carnegie Foundation, Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center, whose scholar Haleh Esfandiari was detained by the Iranians in 2007. Both the National Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute get a mention. So doe the Council on Foreign Relations, the Hoover Institute in California, Freedom House, and of course the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The National Endowment for Democracy, funded but not run by the US Government, also gets a citation, and Human Rights Watch is a definite no-go area.

Looks like we've missed out --- in the United Kingdom, the conference centre at Wilton Park, where foreign agents must gather to plan regime change, is mentioned as is the "Centre for Democracy Studies".

Just one question, if anyone at the Ministry of Intelligence is on Overnight Foreigner Watch: why does Yale get to be the one university to receive the Great Satan's Helper prize? (And, yes, we're already getting furious e-mails from our Harvard friends.)

2200 GMT: Have just arrived in Beirut, where I will be learning from the best specialists on the Middle East and Iran this week. Thanks to EA staff for finding journalist Maziar Bahari's interview with Britain's Channel 4. We've now posted the video of Bahari, who was detained for four months after the Presidential election.

2000 GMT: Britain's Channel 4 News has just broadcast a moving interview with journalist Maziar Bahari who was held in Evin prison for 119 days. We'll post a link when it becomes available. Chief political correspondent Jon Snow also referred back to his exclusive interview with President Ahmadinejad which took place in Shiraz just before  Christmas. Ahmadinejad denied troops were intimidating opponents and warned the West not to assume his country was weak.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Maziar Bahari on Britain’s Channel 4
NEW Iran: Five Expatriate Intellectuals Issue “The Demands of the Green Movement”
NEW Latest Iran Video: Interview with Committee of Human Rights Reporters (3 January)
NEW Iran: In Defence of Mousavi’s “5 Proposals”
NEW Iran: The Genius of Washington’s “Strategic Leaking” on Nukes & Sanctions
Iran: Authority and Challenge — Bring Out the (Multi-Sided) Chessboard
The Latest from Iran (3 January): Re-positioning

1540 GMT: I'm en route to a conference in the Middle East (more news tomorrow) so updates may be limited today. The EA team is minding the shop so keep sending in information and analysis.

1500 GMT: The Foreign Menace (see if you are on the list). The Islamic Republic News Agency has just published a long interview with the Deputy Minister for International Affairs in the Ministry of Intelligence ministry. He lists 62 foreign research centres and media outlets, with which all contact by Iranians is considered forbidden. The list includes Yale University, Brookings Institute, Saban Centre, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New American Foundation, various Iran human rights groups, BBC, Voice of America, and

1415 GMT: Regime Spokesman of Day. Hats off to Kaveh Afrasiabi, who at no point lets analysis get in the way of his re-presentation of the Mousavi statement, "Iran: From Confrontation to Reconciliation" in Asia Times.

Afrasiabi, who has been a loud proclaimer of President Ahmadinejad's legitimacy since 12 June, wears the shoes of Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei in announcing a Mousavi "retreat" (perhaps needless to say, he does not consider the actual statement). He is pleased to report that many figures, including former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, are now behind "unity" So expect "a qualitative turn-around from the tumult of the past seven months".

And those who haven't read Afrasiabi's script? No worries, for the Green movement, given "an opportunity to drum up its democratization demands" with the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri", has been stopped by "a serious miscalculation" with its resort to violence on Ashura

1340 GMT: Engagement Revised. A delegation from the European Parliament has postponed its trip to Iran.

1330 GMT: Reuters is reporting from Iran state television the assertion of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi: "Several foreigners are among those who were arrested on the day of Ashura....They were leading a psychological war against the system....They entered Iran two days before Ashura."

1020 GMT: Irony Defined. Press TV's website features this headline, "Iran deplores French crackdown on protesters".

Still not convinced of our definition? Here is the opening sentence: "Iran's Foreign Ministry has lashed out at France over resorting to violence in dealing with protesters in the country, describing it as violation of human rights."

0930 GMT: A Platform for the Green Movement? Five Iranian intellectuals abroad --- Abdolkarim Soroush, Akbar Ganji, Mohsen Kadivar, Abdolali Bazargan, Ataollah Mohajerani --- have put out a statement of objectives. We are summarising in a separate entry.

0920 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? President Ahmadinejad is focusing on Iran's regional ties, especially in areas like energy and transportation. He is in Tajikistan before moving to Turkmenistan.

0910 GMT: We've posted the video of an interview with Saeed Habibi, a senior member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters who is in hiding in Iran.

0720 GMT: The Clerical Opposition? We are looking for further information on the tantalising report, offered late Sunday, that Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has met separately with Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili and with Ayatollah Sanei in Qom.

0710 GMT: Another low-key start to the political day in Iran, as it appears that the regime ponders --- amidst its threats --- how to deal with the persistence of protests, the Green opposition gathers itself --- amidst arrests --- for the next big show of resistance, Mir Hossein Mousavi watches the response to his 5-proposal statement, and conservative/principlist politicians and clerics look for support for their alternative approach.

We have two guest analyses. Babak Siavoshy puts forth a defence of Mousavi's statement, while Gary Sick praises the "strategic leaking" of Barack Obama amidst domestic pressure for US sanctions against Iran and its nuclear programme.

Meanwhile, a Sunday testimony both to Iran's ascent up the US news agenda and the problems, as well as the possibilities, that this brings. One of the showpiece Sunday talk shows, ABC's This Week, turned over part of its Roundtable to a discussion of recent protests in Iran.

Unfortunately, after paying token attention to the internal developments --- "Every time this cycle happens, the Iranian opposition seems to come back stronger and stronger" --- David Sanger of The New York Times promoted his Sunday article (see yesterday's updates) and declared, "The first priority is the nuclear programme." Cue another round of chit-chat among the talking heads on sanctions and the reduction of Iran's political battle to "Is it more or less likely for the Iranian regime to want a deal with the West?"