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Entries in Ahmad Jannati (3)


The Latest from Iran (28 March): Dealing with Exaggerations

2150 GMT: The website of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri claims that 30 people were arrested at the funeral of his wife, MahSoltan Rabani (see 1730 GMT).

1815 GMT: Sanctions Division. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again rejected new sanctions on Iran. In an interview with Spiegel, ahead of a visit to Turkey by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan maintained, "We must first try to find a diplomatic solution. "What we need here is diplomacy, and then more diplomacy....Everything else threatens world peace."

NEW Iran’s Nukes: The Dangerous News of The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (27 March): Rumours

1745 GMT: Denial of a Rumour. Yesterday we reported the story racing around the Internet that the Revolutionary Guard was laundering money through Dubai and Bahrain, using Ali Jannati, the son of Guardian Council leader Ahmad Jannati, and putting the funds in a Swiss bank.

We would have left it at that, but Press TV now reports:

Iran has denied reports that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was involved in the money-laundering operation allegedly run by a Bahraini minister.

"We strongly deny all claims about an alleged involvement of the Guards in the operations," said Iranian Ambassador to Doha Hossein Amir Abdollahian....

The allegation came to light after Bahraini State Minister Mansour Bin Rajab was sacked for his supposed involvement in a money-laundering operation.

1730 GMT: A Restricted Funeral for Montazeri's Wife. MahSoltan Rabani, the wife of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was laid to rest today under strict security measures in Qom. Rabani's son Saeed Montazeri said:
Security forces and forces in plain clothes created such a security atmosphere that we were basically unable to carry out the special prayers and mourning ceremony. Tens of government vehicles brought the body without allowing any access to it even by her family. They made a small stop at the [Masoumeh] shrine and quickly removed her form the premises....

They not only did not allow us to hold the ceremony, they did not even let us bury her in the location that we had in mind.

Saeed Montazeri's conclusion? "They are even scared of a corpse and its burial.”

1530 GMT: We have updated our analysis on Obama Administration policy and this morning's New York Times claim of a search for undisclosed Iranian nuclear sites.

0950 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims that Tehran University medical student Shirin Gharachedaghi was abducted by plainclothes forces on Friday; her whereabouts are unknown.

Peyke Iran reports that Reza Khandan, a member of the Iranian Writers Association, remains in prison after more than six weeks, even though bail has been paid.

Parleman News writes that Dr. Ali Akbar Soroush of Mazandaran University, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been in prison since 13 March.

Rah-e-Sabz claims 181 human rights violations in Kurdistan over the last three months, leading tothe deaths of at least 25 people.

0945 GMT: We've published an analysis of what I see as poor, even dangerous, journalism from The New York Times on Iran's nuclear programme.

0930 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The reformist Parleman News publishes a barbed "historical" analysis on Hashemi Rafsanjani as a mediator between "right" and "left" positions. The analysis contends that the right stopped supporting Rafsanjani when the "left" had been sufficiently weakened, leaving Rafsanjani without a role. It adds that the former Preisdent should have established a party; if so, Iran would not necessarily be in its current predicament.

0720 GMT: An International Nowruz Exaggeration? Khabar Online claims that the First International Nowruz Celebrations (see 0620 GMT), scheduled for two days, only lasted one and never made it to Shiraz, which was supposed to co-host the ceremonies with Tehran.

0710 GMT: Arab Engagement. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has told the League's summit in Libya, "We have to open a dialogue with Iran. I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran."

0655 GMT: President v. Parliament. The Ahmadinejad fightback for his subsidy cuts and spending plans continues, with three members of Parliament --- Hamid Rassai, Hossein Sobhaninia, and Esmail Kowsari --- pressing in Iranian state media for approval of the President's full request for $40 billion from his subsidy reductions. The Majlis has only approved $20 billion, and Speaker Ali Larijani and allies have taken a strong line against any revision of the decision.

Another MP, Mohammad Kousari, has suggested that Parliament approve $30 billion.

0645 GMT: Repent! Mahdi Kalhor, President Ahmadinejad's media advisor, raises both eyebrows and a smile with his forthright declarations in Khabar Online.

Kalhor started with a move for conciliation, saying that if all who made mistakes during the post-election turmoil adopted modesty and accepted their faults, people would forgive them.

But the advisor then complained that Iran's state media do not suppport Ahmadinejad, claiming this was in contrast to the period of Mohammad Khatami, "Everything was represented as fair enough and it caused damage to Mr. Khatami more than the others."

According to Kalhor, there have been no Ahmadinejad mistakes and "when the rivals constantly accuse you of lying, you may not tolerate or control such a climate."

0620 GMT: We begin Sunday dealing with inflated "news" inside and outside Iran. Iranian state media is hammering away at the two days of the First International Nowruz Celebrations to show the regional legitimacy of the regime. First, there was President Ahmadinejad's declaration alongside compatriots from compatriots from Tajikistan , Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Then there was the Supreme Leader's statement: "This event and its continuity can serve as an appropriate ground for bringing governments and nations in the region closer together....[This can be a] cultural gift and conveyance from nations that mark Nowruz to other nations, particularly the West."

(I leave it to readers to decode the photograph of the Supreme Leader and the regional Presidents, with Ahmadinejad relegated to the back of the group. Surely just an error of positioning?)

Meanwhile in the US, another type of distracting exaggeration. After weeks of silence, the Iran Nuclear Beat of The New York Times (reporters David Sanger and William Broad) are back with two pieces of fear posing as news and analysis. The two, fed by dissenting voices in the International Atomic Energy Agency and by operatives in "Western intelligence agencies", declare, "Agencies Suspect Iran Is Planning New Atomic Sites".

The leap from their sketchy evidence to unsupported conclusion --- Iran is not just pursuing an expansion of uranium enrichment but The Bomb, bringing a climactic showdown --- is propped up by Sanger's "Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran".

The Latest from Iran (27 March): Rumours

2330 GMT: A Quick Note. We've taken the evening off to spend time with friends and unwind. We'll be back bright and early on Sunday.

Meanwhile, here's a new analysis for you: "Israel, Iran, and 'Existential Threat'".

1800 GMT: Public Funeral for Montazeri's Wife Blocked? Iranian officials have objected to a funeral procession for the wife of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who passed away today (see 1125 GMT), from the family house to the shrine of Masoumeh (the sister of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Shia) in Qom.

Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the Ayatollah, told BBC Persian that the officials limited the funeral ceremony to 150 metres from the burial site . The family objected, so the compromise is that the public can gather in the Masoumeh shrine where Grand Ayatollah Shobeyri-Zanjani will say the prayer.

The Latest from Iran (26 March): Break Time

1730 GMT: Temporarily Freed, Politically Active. Mostafa Tajzadeh, senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and former Deputy Minister of Interior, continues to use his temporary release from prison to visit families of detainees and others who have been bailed but face long prison sentences. The last meeting is with key reformist thinker Saeed Hajarian, who was jailed for more than three months and put on trial after the June election.

1515 GMT: Academics and Political Prisoners. Students have sent an open letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to protest the arrest of Abdollah Yousefzadegan, a law student at Allameh Tabatabai University and winner of the nationwide Olympiad of Literature. Yousefzadegan was detained on 15 March in Mashhad and has not yet been charged.

The letter condemns the harsh treatment of the academic elite and maintains that the arrest of Yousefzadegan “destroys the credibility of the judiciary and trust in the security institutions of the Islamic Republic".

1310 GMT: Rumour Denied. Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh is denying the report, first circulated by Farda News, that Mousavi met Hashemi Rafsanjani on the first day of Nowruz.

1125 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that the wife of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri passed away in Qom this morning. Her funeral will take place tomorrow 10:00 am local time.

Montazeri, the one-time successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, died in December.

1100 GMT: Nowruz Visits. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard saw the family of Amir Aboutalebi, a Mousavi advisor who has been detained since January. Despite the efforts of Aboutalebi's family, he was not granted temporary release for Iranian New Year. Aboutalebi recently had his first phone call with his family after 45 days of detention.

A group of pro-Green Movement students of Elm-o-Sana’at University, where Aboutalebi's children study, also sent their sympathy to the family. Aboutalebi was a political prisoner of the Shah, losing an eye during his detention and was also pursued by the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) after the Revolution.

0950 GMT: Reformist Challenge. Rasoul Montakhab-nia, the deputy head of the Etemade Melli party, has declared that the Government "cannot speak with language of force to people." Montakhab-nia say that this new year should be a year of forgiveness(for protesters, and that responsible political figures should try to involve all Iranians in the "nezam" (system) and Revolution of the Islamic Republic.

0940 GMT: Subsidy Fightback. The President's supporters are hitting back at Parliament's criticism of his economic manoeuvres (see 0755 GMT). Former Minister of Health Alireza Marandi says that the duty of the Majlis is to support the Government, while Lotfollah Forouzandeh asks the Parliament to take the burden off the Government's shoulders and accept the subsidy cuts and spending proposals.

0935 GMT: Friday Prayer Round-Up. Rah-e-Sabz has the highlights of prayer addresses throughout the country. An EA correspondent gives the top prize to Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi in Tehran with "the keys  God offered to the Supreme Leader" to solve Iran's problems.  Runner-up is  Ali Hajizadeh from Tabriz, who has discovered a "Velvet Revolution" in Iraq.

0925 GMT: Rumour of Day (2). The Iranian blog Che Mishavad (What Happens) blog claims that the Revolutionary Guard is laundering money, including revenues from drug smuggling, in Bahrain and Kuwait. The money is then placed through Ali Jannati, the son of Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, into a Swiss bank.

0915 GMT: Rumour of Day.  Rah-e-Sabz claims that the Supreme Leader promised Hashemi Rafsanjani that most political prisoners would be freed. However, when the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, tried to do so, the move was blocked by the "hard-line" Judge Abolqasem Salavati.

0755 GMT: The Subsidy Battle. Khabar Online keeps up the pressure on the President, featuring the claim of member of Parliament Hasan Qafouri Fard that Ahmadinejad is not authorised to call for a national referendum on his subsidy reduction and spending plans.

The Parliament approved an extra $20 billion in the Iranian budget from the subsidy cuts but has refused Ahmadinejad's $40 billion request.

0740 GMT: The relative quiet in Iran continues, as global attention focuses on the elections next door in Iraq. Press TV's top domestic headline is "Iran wins 3rd Sitting Volleyball World Championships".

There is a bit of a show for the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran and Shiraz, as President Ahmadinejad tries to boost the image of international legitimacy. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov are in Tehran for the two-day event, and Iranian state media reports that they will be joined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek.

A useful story from the Carnegie Council, which gets behind all the sanctions huffing-and-puffing to identify the key development, "U.S. Pressures Oil Companies to Leave Iran". This passage deserves attention and repetition:

Since the start of 2010, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell stated it would no longer sell gasoline to Iran, along with Glencore (Switzerland), Vitol (Switzerland), and Trafigura (Amsterdam). British Petroleum and Reliance (India) stopped selling to Iran in 2009. With this series of departures, Iran now imports its oil from only five sources: Total (France), Lukoil (Russia), Petronas (Malaysia), Independent Oil Group (Kuwait), and Chinese companies. [Lukoil declared just this week that it, too, would divest.]


Iran: Connecting the Dots --- 5 Signs of Regime Trouble

Mr Verde drops by EA to offer this analysis

The news stories in recent days might appear unrelated, but all of them point to behind-the-scenes manoeuvres and disagreements within the regime. It is too early, given the limited information, to understand exactly what is going on within the Islamic Republic, but it is well worth watching for emerging significance.

1. The Release of Mostafa Tajzadeh

During the week, Mostafa Tajzadeh, leading member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front and former Deputy Interior Minister, was released without bail for the Iranian New Year.

It is an unusual move. The Iranian judiciary has been setting very high bails for post-election detainees. In some instances, even after posting the required bail, detainees have been held for several days. Tajzadeh had refused to pay the bail, saying that he does not own any property to put up as collateral, and now he has been freed temporarily.

Tajzadeh has been a bitter critic of the Guardian Council and its head Ahmad Jannati. He has in the past accused Jannati by name of taking part in fraud during Parliament elections. Given this, who has taken the decision to released Tajzadeh without bail? Why give this small, but very symbolic victory (Tajzadeh has received a hero's welcome, with visits by high-profile political figures) to the reformists at this time?

2. The Parliament Vote Against Ahmadinejad's Subsidy Reform Proposal

To pressure the Majlis to accept his proposal for control of $40 billion from reductions in subsidies, President Ahmadinejad asked the Supreme Leader for help. Khamenei in turn summoned the Majlis Speaker, Ali Larijani, and asked that the Parliament consider the Government's proposal carefully. t

Ahmadinejad then went to the Majlis on the day of the vote and spoke at length in defence of his proposal. He even stayed during the voting to lobby MPs. (Both of these actions are considered illegal.) Despite the Leader’s personal intervention and Ahmadinejad’s appearance, the Majles voted against the President, allowing him to control only $20 billion of the revenue.

Because of the way elections are held in Iran, with the filtering of candidates by the Guardian Council, MPs usually take very seriously what the Supreme Leader says. Many of the current MPs are ex-military, with close links to the Revolutionary Guard and the intelligence services.

So why did 111 MPs vote against the Supreme Leader’s wishes? Has someone else managed to influence the Majles in order to embarrass both Khamenei and Ahamadinejad? Has the Supreme Leader said one thing in public but privately given the go-ahead for the negative vote?

3. The Altered Khamenei Speech

Two weeks after his speech to the Assembly of Experts, the Supreme Leader's website has publisedh a verson of the address with new sections, including references to the Expediency Council’s moves to change the election laws. Khamenei says that he will only approve parts of the Council’s proposals with which he agrees.

Why the two-week delay?  Was this section added to the “speech” after the meeting?  Was it originally omitted not to upset certain people or groups? Is the new version intended to reassure the Guardian Council and its supporters that the Supreme Leader is backing them?

4. Ahmadinejad's Nuclear Story

On Saturday, Fars News quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that, after the 2005 election, he met with the Supreme Leader and asked that the International Atomic Energy Agency's seals be taken off Iran’s nuclear facilities before the President took office.

This directly contradicts Khamenei’s version, as the Supreme Leader has said that he had himself decided for the seals to be removed and uranium enrichment to be resumed.

Is Ahmadinejad deliberately trying to undermine Khamenei? Is he just trying to talk himself up without considering the consequences?

5. Rafsanjani's Moves

Recently Hassan Rohani and Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, both said to be close to Hashemi Rafsanjani, have taken direct aim at Ahmadinejad’s government. Rouhani said that some people want to run the country with one gang. Qalibaf said that for the past 14 months no serious work has been done in the country.

Rafsanjani has recently said that he does not want students to be quiet, but he has warned students against talk and actions that would provide excuses for people who want crackdowns on Iranian society.

So what is "The Shark" up to? Is he, working with or through Rohani and Qalibaf, pushing against Ahmadinejad? Is he sanctioning protest or trying to hold it back?

Too early to answer any of these questions, but more than enough here to question where All is Well within the Islamic Republic.