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Entries in Ali Akbar Soroush (2)


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 (16 March): Fire and Politics

2100 GMT: Chahrshanbeh Suri. An activist reports a conversation with a relative in Gisha in Tehranm, who said basiji were roaming the streets on their bikes and tried to stop people celebrating. Told of a report that said nothing political had happened tonight, the relative answered, "In Iran everything is political."

2010 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. More temporary releases --- Behzad Nabavi, a leader of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution Party serving a five-year term for "crimes against national security", and journalist and economist Saeed Laylaz have been freed until 4 April. Laylaz posted $500,000 bail.

NEW Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Resistance” (15 March)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Attack on Karroubi’s House (14 March)
Iran Breaking: Ban on Reformist Political Party
Your Super-Special Iran Caption Contest
Iran: The Opposition’s Campaign in the US — Sequel With Revelations and A Lesson
The Latest from Iran (15 March): Breaking Human Rights

2000 GMT: Chahrshanbeh Suri Reza Sayah of CNN reports, via a Tehran witness, that police are spray painting passing cars that toss firecrackers out of windows. Basiji used tasers and batons to chase away 300 partiers near Mehr Park in Farmanieh.

1840 GMT: Justice. We had asked a couple of days what Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi was doing in Qom with marjas (senior clerics).

Here's one answer: Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani told Doulatabadi to try the culprits of Kahrizak Prison's abuses as soon as possible, "so that the people feel the judiciary can act freely". Criticising advisors such as Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, Safi Golpayegani advised Doulatabadi to "treat the people kindly and fairly... [for] if Islamic principle is shattered, the whole system is gone".

1830 GMT: Larijani Pushing for Nuclear Deal? Looks like Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is putting out a signal that he wants the "West" to come back to the table on uranium enrichment talks:

Iran's parliament (Majlis) speaker Ali Larijani advises the West to pursue a diplomatic approach in resolving their differences with Tehran on the issue of its nuclear program.

Speaking at a press conference in Tehran Tuesday, Larijani reiterated that the US, France, Britain and Germany have sought to delay the supplying of fuel to Iran for Tehran's research reactor through "mischievous" acts.

"They eventually came to the understanding that Iran is only willing to act according to the [International Atomic] agency's framework; so they abandoned the 'carrot and stick' approach, only to resort to sanctions," he added.em>

1825 GMT: There is a lot of chatter about clashes in Tehran. We are holding off on reports pending confirmation. A rumour spread of a fire at the house of Mehdi Karroubi's son Hossein is false.

1819 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Saeed Jalalifar, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, has been released on $100,000 bail. Jalalifar, a student at Zanjan University, was arrested on 30 November.

Azar Mansouri of the Islamic Iran Participation Front has been released from prison for a period of twenty days.

1815 GMT: Unconfirmed reports of clashes in Karaj.

1800 GMT: Back from an extended academic break. Thanks to readers for updating on the events of Chahrshanbeh Suri.

CNN's Reza Sayah is reporting, from a witness, "Light traffic on major roads. Parties in side streets with music and dancing. Police patrol major roads and squares but allowing parties along side streets. No reports of clashes."

Another activist reports, "Aryashahr (in Tehran) is just like a war zone, sound of fireworks is constant and security forces have pulled out of the area for now."

1345 GMT: We have posted, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, the English text of Mir Hossein Mousavi's speech to the Islamic Iran Participation Front on "a year of patience and resistance".

1325 GMT: An Arrest Within the Regime. The son of senior Revolutionary Guards commander Esmail Gha’ani has been arrested, according to Green Voices of Freedom. Ali Gha’ani is an electrical engineering student at the Islamic Azad University of Mashhad. GVF speculates that, as the younger Gha'ani has no experience of political activity, the arrest is due to his father’s criticism of Government action after the June election.

1310 GMT: Today's Cyber-Propaganda. Press TV offers the platform:
After a 30-member US-backed cyber network was dismantled in Iran, members of the Parliament (Majlis) have praised efforts to bust one of the main gangs and cyber networks in the country.

[Editor's note: Is it my imagination or did Press TV just rename the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps?]

"The joyful news about the arrest and dismantling of one of the biggest and main groups of cyber networks backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which worked to gather information, once again disclosed another conspiracy against the Islamic Republic," said 220 parliamentarians in a letter to the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC).
1210 GMT: Iran's Threat to Britain (and Its Students). The Foreign Ministry has issued a warning this morning that it will be reducing its links with Britain, specifically by restricting the movement of Iranian students to the United Kingdom.

1200 GMT: The Mousavi Message. Two notes about Mir Hossein Mousavi's speech (see 0655 GMT), made to the Islamic Iran Participation Front, calling for "a year of patience and resistance".

First, note our revised translation, based on an EA correspondent, with "resistance" replacing "endurance". That is a much stronger message of opposition,

Second, Mousavi's timing and language is a blatant attempt to pre-empt the Supreme Leader, whose Nowruz (Iranian New Year) message will call for "a year of...."

Although it is the Karroubi statement that is getting more attention outside Iran today, Mousavi's message --- in connection with the banning of the IIPF --- may have more resonance inside the country.

1045 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Maybe it's the definition of "irony" or just a crafty campaign: only days after an opposition PR move by "a senior aide" to Mehdi Karroubi fell flat in the US, the Western media are rushing to feature the cleric. First it was Sunday's attack on his house, now it is Karroubi's statement (see 0645 GMT) denouncing the despotism of the Iranian Government.

0945 GMT: The IRGC Gets A Contact --- Correction. Yesterday we reported that the engineering firm connected with the Revolutionary Guards just received an $850,000 oil pipeline contract. A reader noted, "The Revolutionary Guard would never settle for such a paltry amount!"

He's right. It's $850 million.

0725 GMT: Winning the Compromise. The Parliament and President Ahmadinejad may have reached an immediate resolution of next year's budget, with Ahmadinejad getting $20 billion of the $40 billion he wanted from subsidy reductions, but the political battle continues. The pro-Larijani Khabar Online pronounces, "The Government Discreetly Withdraws from Executing Subsidy Plan".

0723 GMT: Production assistant Mehdi Pourmousavi, who was arrested in the raid of director Jafar Panahi's house, has been released. Panahi is still detained.

0720 GMT: Watching the Crackdown. Satirist Ebrahim Nabavi's latest --- "I arrest, therefore I am!"

0710 GMT: Endure (cont.). Ahmad Batebi's website posts a statement from Human Rights Activists in Iran on the regime's crackdown and accusations of "cyber-war".

0655 GMT: Endure. Rah-e-Sabz has a lengthy report of Mir Hossein Mousavi's speech to members of the banned Islamic Iran Participation Front. The takeaway line: "1389 (the forthcoming Iranian year) is the year of our patience and endurance".

0645 GMT: Karroubi Watch. We've posted the video of the attack on Mehdi Karroubi's house on Sunday.

The cleric is undaunted, however. In a meeting with students of his party, Etemade Melli, he emphasised that the elections were "unnatural" and that they confirmed "there will be no more real elections in Iran." Karroubi asserted, "This government doesn't rely on people's votes....The Islamic Republic has been struck by dictatorship, only her name remains.

0620 GMT: Today is Chahrshanbeh Suri, the Fire Festival on the eve of the Iranian New Year. It will be an occasion for street celebrations, though it is unclear whether these will take on a political tone. While there has been a great deal of chatter outside Iran about use of the occasion, there have been few signs that the movement within will seek a mass protest.

Perhaps more pertinent is whether the regime politicises the event through ill-considered attempts to condemn the festival. The Supreme Leader has already risked po-faced overreaction with his denunciation of a ceremony without religious roots or value.

Meanwhile, the big political event may be the banning of Iran's largest reformist political party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front. We began tracking the development yesterday afternoon and have posted a separate entry. Given the regime has declared that it has already overcome the post-election crisis, this seems a curious move. Why risk a provocation that further exposes the lack of political freedom in Iran and could bring open conflict?

More arrests to balance the regime's strategy of releasing detainees on bail if they keep their silence. Only Democracy For Iran has a summary of political prisoners in Babol in northern Iran. The head of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s election campaign, Alireza Shahiri, and Ali Akbar Soroush, a university professor and member of the Islamic Iran participation Front, have been arrested.  Student activists Mohsen Barzegar, Iman Sadighi, and Mohammad Esmailzadeh have been moved to solitary confinement.