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The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2225 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. This could be interesting --- Hossein Marashi, cousin of Hashemi Rafsanjani's wife and a Vice Secretary-General of the Kargozaran Party. has been arrested.

2220 GMT: Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America offers an analysis, "Iranian Government Releases Prisoners for Persian New Year", with contributions from EA staff.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Mousavi's and Rahnavard's New Year Messages (18 March)
NEW Iran: Reading Mousavi & Karroubi “The Fight Will Continue” (Shahryar)
NEW Iran & the US: The Missed Nuclear Deal (Slavin)
Iran Labour Front: Minimum Wage, “Unprecedent Poverty and Hunger”, and Strikes
Iran Analysis: What Does the Fire Festival Mean?
Latest Iran Video: Two Views of the Fire Festival (16 March)
UPDATED Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Perseverance” (15 March)
The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2215 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activist Somaiyeh Farid was arrested on Wednesday. Farid was at Evin Prison enquiring about her husband, Hojat (Siavash) Montazeri, who was arrested on 5 March.

2145 GMT: A Ray of Light. Amidst some poor analyses today of the Iranian political situation and the Green Movement, Melody Moezzi comes to the rescue with this piece in The Huffington Post:
The arrests before Revolution Day last month (11 February) surely dissuaded many opposition protesters not already in jail from pouring into the streets and risking beatings and unlawful detentions. I personally know of several opposition activists who stayed home as a result of the intimidation, and I can't say that I blame them. Still, no matter how few or many pro-democracy demonstrators show up in the streets for Nowruz the Iranian opposition has far from died. Rather, it has merely been pushed underground, but it is germinating like a stubborn hyacinth, taking on a course and a life of its own, teeming with the sweet smell of a freedom to come.

2100 GMT: A slow evening. Only significant news that we've noted is the release of Abolhasan Darolshafaei from detention. He is the last member of the family to be freed, following the releases of daughters Banafsheh and Jamileh and nephew Yashar.

No members of the Darolshafaei family are any longer in custody, just in time for New Year festivities.

1625 GMT: We have posted the New Year's video greetings of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, to the Iranian people.

1440 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Bahman Amoui, who has been detained since 20 June (read the letter to him from his wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub), has reportedly been released.

1415 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch: Journalist Akbar Montajabi has been released on bail. So have journalist Keyvan Samimi and Hojatoleslam Mir Ahmadizadeh.

1410 GMT: The Case for Change. Hassan Rowhani, a member of the Expediency Council and ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has used a long interview to discuss nuclear issues and to make the case for electoral reforms.

1355 GMT: Escape. The BBC is now reporting the story, which we carried last week, of student activist Ali Kantouri, who has fled Iran after being given a 15-year prison sentence for abduction and extortion.

1340 GMT: We have posted a special analysis by Mr Verde of the political significance of this week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival).

1220 GMT: On the Economic Front. Following up on our Wednesday special on the minimum wage and "unprecedented poverty and hunger"....

Six independent labor organizations have argued that the poverty line is $900 per month and asked for that to be new minimum wage. (The Government has authorised $303.) Economists at Mehr News Agency” have set the poverty line in the coming year at above $1000.

(Persian readers may also be interested in Faribors Raisdana's detailed analysis of minimum wages and labourer's poverty.)

1000 GMT: We have two specials for you this morning (and there's a third on the way). We've posted an excellent account by Barbara Slavin of the US-Iran deal on uranium enrichment that almost came off but then collapsed last autumn, and we have Josh Shahryar's analysis of the latest moves by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

0855 GMT: We're Taking Our Subsidy Bill and Going Home. The ongoing fight between the President and Parliament for control of the budget and expenditure is highlighted by a bad-tempered interview of Ahmadinejad supporter Ruhollah Hosseinian in Khabar Online.

Hosseinian declares that, since the Majlis only gave the President $20 billion of the $40 billion he wanted from subsidy reductions, Ahmadinejad should withdraw the proposal: "It's not clear which portion of the government's revenue will be channeled to other sectors by the Parliament, so I believe implementing subsidy reform bill is against our interests."

Asked how the Administration could avoid implementing a plan which has been passed by Parliament, Hosseinian replied:
Although the bill has become a law, a way must be explored to halt its execution, since enforcing this law in its current form will simply add to the problems. As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coordinates the interactions between state branches of the country, a method must be found to annul implementing subsidy reform bill.

0830 GMT: The Uranium Issue. An EA reader asks for clarification on the claim that Iran may be facing a crisis over uranium stock for its medical research reactor.

I am strongly influenced by the knowledge that Iran's approach to the International Atomic Energy Agency last June, which set off this round of talks over uranium enrichment, was prompted by the specific issue of isotopes for medical treatment. I have my suspicions, though no firm evidence, that the renewal of a Tehran push for a deal may also be prompted by this immediate need for 20 percent enriched uranium.

We will soon be posting an excellent investigative piece by Barbara Slavin highlighting this issue.

0605 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amnesty International is featuring the case of student activist Milad Asadi, detained without charge since 1 December.

0555 GMT: We might have been concerned with the Fire Festival and the renewed protest through the statements of prominent opposition figures (Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami), parties (Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution), and activist groups (Committee of Human Rights Reporters).

Looks like the Ahmadinejad Government wants to talk uranium, however. Iran's atomic energy agency chief, Ali Akhbar Salehi, put out the line that it was time to agree a uranium swap inside Iran. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi insisted, "During the new year, new nuclear plants will be built and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with its path without allowing the arrogant powers to meddle."

But, with the US threatening more sanctions and no sign that the "West" will accept a deal where the swap occurs inside Iran, where is the hope for Tehran? No problem: "Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin has called for stronger ties...and urged closer cooperation between Iran and Russia to confront existing regional and international threats."

Better hope so. I get the sense that not only is Iran concerned about economic restrictions, primarily through the withdrawal of foreign companies and investment, but also that there may be a crisis looming over uranium for the medical research reactor.

Reader Comments (16)


Could you expand a bit on this please? --"that there may be a crisis looming over uranium for the medical research reactor."


March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

I am just thinking that Nuclear Medicine is a very important thing in industrialized sophisticated developed countries - it is still important in less developed nations, but generally does not feature/exist.

I would have thought the a Medical Research reactor would not be one of the most important considerations in the Governance of Iran. Important - yes, but possibly/probably many other things that are far more important and need more attention.



March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Satellite Distractions ;-)

According to the Figaro and Standard (Austria), Germany and other European states are planning sanctions against the IRI on behalf of constant disturbances of their satellite programmes, possibly by prohibiting Nokia and Siemens to sell control devices for mails and mobiles:

Greetings to this excellent decision!
ma bishomarim V V V

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama


Thanks for this - although I have to admit that I can't read French and German :(

Please, what do you mean by this ? -- "possibly by prohibiting Nokia and Siemens to sell control devices for mails and mobiles"


March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

@ Barry

You are welcome. I can't write real English instead ;-)

By "control devices" I mean those programmes, which help to track e-mails or mobile phones, spy ware or so. Is there no one, who can explain it, please...


March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

post 8:55gmt...

"As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coordinates the interactions between state branches of the country, a method must be found to annul implementing subsidy reform bill."

Whats the matter with these people? asking the Supreme Leader to intervene in economic affairs, alright I know he does it already along with other affairs that do not relate to cleric, but are they so incompetent that they cant convince parliament. Lets see who Khamenei sides with...Ahmadinejad or Larijani

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanial

RE Political Prisoner Watch
Remember the student activist who was sentenced to 15 years for "abduction"? Well he's jumped bail and fled to Turkey:

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Yesterday in the Latest From Iran thread I posted a link to this story:
Iran ready for nuclear fuel exchange inside country

Has the Obama administration or any other P5+1 government specifically responded to or acknowledged this offer?

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Brazil-Iran Watch:
Check out this thorough look by Pepe Escobar at Brazil's attempts so far at walking the diplomatic minefield between Israel, the US and Iran without getting blown up. The article isn't short, but the style is delightfully pithy, and I at least found the contents very informative because I haven't been watching Brazil's recent moves beyond headline level. President Lula is a smooth operator.

Brazil steps between Israel and Iran

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine


There won't be a response --- official named in Slavin's article said yesterday that US is "waiting" on Tehran.


March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

Ah. When I read her article I thought since both the article and Iran's latest offer were from yesterday, that it was now Washington's turn, not the other way around. At any rate, it seems both players are finally getting close to the "who blinks first" moment.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Barry and Arshama, the official name for these "control device" programs is "lawful intercept" technology, because it's supposed to let law enforcement officials under due process intercept private communications. Obviously there is no such thing as due process in Iran, which many people feel Nokia Siemens had every reason to know, thus making them complicit in the human rights abuses made possible by their technology.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRev. Magdalen

zahra rahnavard video on mousavi facebook page...

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanial

Rev. Magdalen,

Thank you for explaining the "lawful intercept" technology. Perhaps the EU will now be able to stop Nokia Siemens's shameful business with the IRI.

A tip to all German readers: tonight Kerner will have an interview with Neda's fiancé, Caspian Makan, on SAT.1 (23.45 h). Here is a short preview by Spiegel:

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

@ Arshama
Thanks – Danke für den Tipp und Deine Mail!:)

@Barry & Rev. Magdalene
According to a motion of a resolution from the European Parliament “European and Russian companies have been providing Iran with the filtering and
jamming devices”

1. That means: Nokia Siemens admitted in a statement that its gear could
"intercept phone calls and text messages," so it's clear that there are data
recording and analysis features built into the gear in addition to simple
voice recording”.
2. What is the meaning of lawful?
“The judge's role is to grant a permission for the surveillance. The
administrator initiates and stops surveillance processes. The police officer
investigates the phone calls, messages and internet traffic that are
caught in the process. The surveillance
auditor ensures that unlawful usage isn't conducted”.

As it could easily be seen - if a country has no serious laws or the laws are misused - what maybe can happen everywhere – calls and messages can easily be tracked.
The sad results of this terible " business" is known - and so far as we Know Siemens finished their business relations to Iran. They aren `t providing maintenance anymore.
But this case leeds directly to the question of sanctions: According to the laws
in EU and Germany this business was " lawful".

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergunni

Pardon the poor analogy, but the flurry of detainees being released prior to Nowrouz reminds me of Stockholm Syndrome.

The FBI describes Stockholm Syndrome as where hostages develop positive feelings towards their captors, whereby "they view the perpetrator as giving life by simply not taking it." (See:

Here, political prisoners should have never been arrested to begin with, as their detention is clearly illegal under the Islamic Republic's own constitution and penal code. By releasing detainees as a Nowrouz "gift" of sorts, it seems as though the regime is similarly trying to project an image of a compassionate government, when in fact such 'compassion' is in relation to the very harm that it has itself inflicted.

Of course, there's also the exorbitant bail amounts that the judiciary is requiring, but seeing that the Revolutionary Guard has essentially transformed the Islamic Republic into a kleptocracy (among other things), even $1,000,000 USD should be viewed as pocket change, so there is surely something more behind the sudden reprieves.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMasoud Shafaee

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