2300 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reports that student activist and weblog writer Fouad Shams has been released from prison after 96 days. Saeed Nourmohammadi, a member of the youth branch of the Islamic Iran Participation Front has been freed after 4 1/2 months in detention.
2255 GMT: Maintaining Control. Radio Zamaneh headlines, "Iran's Supreme Leader May Approve Changes to Electoral Policies", but the more you read, the more this is an assertion of Khamenei's authority rather than reform.
Meeting members of the Assembly of Experts, the Supreme Leader said that he will approve the changes in “general policies of the elections” under discussion in the Expediency Council, headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani.
However, Khamenei added that the opinion of the Expediency Council regarding election policies is “debatable”, and once he is informed of their decision, he will enforce what he deems necessary. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Council's moves for change.....
2240 GMT: Economy Watch. It's not the headlines over the sanctions that should be garnering attention; instead, keep an eye on the companies ceasing business with Iran.
Royal Dutch Shell has announced that it has stopped selling gasoline/petrol to Iran which, despite its oil reserves, is dependent on imports to meet domestic demand. Shell still receives revenues from an oilfield deal completed in 2005. (The New York Times also reports that Shell "has a natural gas development in the works" but --- and here is where a Washington conference comes in useful --- informed insiders say there is little likelihood of the project moving ahead in the foreseeable future.)
Ingersoll-Rand, a manufactuer of air compressors and cooling systems, has also said that it will no longer allow its foreign subsidiaries to sell parts or products to Iran.
2230 GMT: More In-Fighting. Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari, in an editorial “Outrageous Overstatement”, has gone after Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai for his recent “base,” “hyperbolic”, and “pompous” remarks. Shariatmadari accused Rahim-Mashai of seeking to undermine the presidency, distort the principle of velayat-e-faqih (clerical authority), and cause rifts among the principlists.
2225 GMT: Watch This Closely. Earlier this week Mr Verde picked up on the challenge of the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, that he was going to root out corruption in the Government and punish those responsible, including a high-ranking official.
Well, Sadegh's got back-up from the Parliament that his brother Ali heads:
A majority of Iranian lawmakers have asked Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani to decisively deal with the case of a major ring of corrupt government employees.
Larijani announced on Sunday that the judicial system had arrested 11 members of a ring of corrupt employees who embezzled millions of dollars by forging government documents.
Ayatollah Larijani stated that 11 key members of the ring have been arrested and all of them have made confessions.
In a letter sent to the Judiciary chief on Wednesday, 216 MPs also thanked him for his efforts to ensure that the members of the gang were arrested.
But the MPs said that based on the available information, the embezzlement ring has been active in more than one state organization and therefore the rest of its members should be tracked down and arrested.
They said they have been informed that certain people with high-ranking positions played more active roles in the ring than those who have been arrested.
The lawmakers urged Larijani to deal with all the members of the ring, regardless of their positions.
"Certain people with high-ranking positions"? First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, by chance?
2200 GMT: Back from a most interesting day of Iran panels. Hoping to collect thoughts for an analysis, but I'm very tired. So, for now, thanks a million to everyone for all the great support.
1300 GMT: March on Washington. I'm off to Capitol Hill to see some folks about Iran. We'll be on the road for awhile, so keep us up-to-date with developments by posting in our Comments section.
1220 GMT: We have posted the thoughts of Dr Habibollah Peyman, the head of the banned Movement of Combatant Muslims, on the strategy of the Green Movement.
1115 GMT: Kiarostami Speaks Out. The prominent Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has published an open letter in a Tehran newspaper calling for the release of Jafar Panahi and Mahmoud Rasoulof, fellow directors who were detained last week.
Kiarostami has also sent an English translation thorough a friend to The New York Times, which prints the text.
1105 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Persian2English summarises news of a series of releases on bail:
Emad Bahavar, member of reformist group Nehzat-e Azadi [Freedom Movement of Iran] , and Yashar Darolshafa, a student activist, were released last night.
Political activist Mehrdad Rahimi was released last night after posting a $70,000 bail. Rahimi, who was arrested over two months ago, was under pressure to submit to confessions on live television.
Political activist Hamideh Ghasemi, journalist Ahmad Jalali Farahani, and Saleh Noghrekar were also released after a month in prison.
Saleh Noghrekar is the nephew of opposition leader, Zahra Rahnavard. He was released on a $50,000 bail.
Mehdi Amizesh, children’s rights activist, was also released on bail after two months in prison.
1055 GMT: Mahmoud Knocks, K arzai Not at Home. Here is the not-so-dramatic of the saga of President Ahmadinejad saying he would go to Afghanistan on Monday (Sunday), Ahmadinejad not going to Afghanistan (Monday), Ahmadinejad saying "oh, I meant Wednesday" (Tuesday).
Well, the good news is that the President finally got to see Kabul's sights, and Hamid Karzai is one of them. Initial reports indicated that the Afghanistan President was not at home, but the two men finally showed up at a press conference.
With US Secretary of Defense Gates still in Afghanistan --- his visit with Karzai on Monday was the likely reason for the postponement of Ahmadinejad's trip --- the Iranian President took a swipe at Washington, "I believe that they themselves are playing a double game. They themselves created terrorists and now they're saying that they are fighting terrorists." Gates had put out the "double game" charge against Tehran earlier in the week.
1045 GMT: I Don't Even Like the Guy. If Jahan News was trying to undermine Mehdi Karroubi with the claim that he was very nice to Saeed Mortazavi, the Ahmadinejad aide who has been blamed for the post-election abuses at Kahrizak, the effort does not appear to have worked. Karroubi hasn't reacted, but Mortazavi is more than a bit upset. His office put out this statement:
Mr. Mortazavi attended a memorial service held for the mother of his colleague in Nour Mosque on Saturday....Mr. Mehdi Karroubi was present at the beginning of the ceremony and left approximately half an hour before Mr. Mortazavi arrived. Therefore, Mr. Karroubi and Mortazavi never encountered each other.
It is not clear what the intentions of this website was in reporting the warm exchange of pleasantries and kisses between these two individuals [Karroubi, Mortazavi]. The intention to disseminate such false news reports is also a matter to reflect upon.
The son of Mr. Karroubi was one of the suspects the former Tehran prosecutor [Mortazavi] dealt with and the Etemade Melli newspaper owned by Mr. Karroubi was banned by him therefore such fabricated stories aimed at influencing public opinion will have no success.
0450 GMT: We're off for some downtime before the Wednesday conference. Back in a few hours.
0435 GMT: The War on Football. Yesterday we noted that Iranian authorities had issued a warning, for an unspecified reason, to a football publication.
Well, here's an even more serious football story from Iran Human Rights Voice:
Football journalist Abdollah Sadoughi was arrested in the city of Tabriz, north-west Iran, on 18 January, after publishing a poster supporting the city’s Traktor Sazi football team. He is held without charge at Tabriz prison, and is on hunger strike in protest at what he considers to be his baseless detention....
Abdollah Sadoughi, aged 33, a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, writes for the Iranian publications Goal, Corner and Khosh Khabar (Good News). He supports Tabriz’s Traktor Sazi football team. The authorities have accused him of acts “against national security” including supporting “Pan-Turkism” for publishing posters, one of which says, in the Azerbaijani Turkic language, “All of Azerbaijan feels pride with you”, alongside an image of the football team. Abdollah Sadoughi maintains he had permission from the relevant authorities to print posters [but] Azerbaijani Turkic is not recognized as an official language in Iran....
In late February, Abdollah Sadoughi began a hunger strike. According to media reports, soon after starting his hunger strike he was transferred to solitary confinement and held in filthy conditions, and then moved to a cell with criminal convicts. On 2 March 2010, having lost considerable weight and suffering from various medical problems, he was transferred to the clinic within Tabriz prison. Abdollah Sadoughi has been able to meet his lawyer and his family, most recently on 6 March, when he said he would continue his hunger strike until he is released or brought before a court.
0430 GMT: Does the Movement Live? Mohammad Sadeghi offers a spirited response to those who claimed 22 Bahman (11 February) marked the end of the Green Movement:
Any measure of the movement's success must focus on the incredible changes brought about in Iran thus far, rather than the outcome of specific tactics. Conversations on the proper role of government, which would have been unthinkable less than a year ago, are now commonplace throughout the country. The government is constantly on the defensive on issues ranging from sexual abuse in prisons to its failed economic policies. Although the regime maintains tight control over all levers of power in society -- police and security forces, the media, the oil industry, etc. -- its popular support has been steadily slipping since June's presidential election. These changes have taken place because of the millions of Iranians who see it as their duty to peacefully protest in the streets, document the regime's brutality, and spread this documentation around the world. In other words, the movement owes its greatest successes to the horizontal organization and innovative use of technology that [critics are] so quick to dismiss.
0315 GMT: Now in place in Washington for Wednesday's open hearing on Iran and US-Iran relations. Will get an insider's look later today but already one point of note has emerged: the Ali Larijani mission to Japan for a possible uranium enrichment deal should be taken seriously.
That impression is accompanied by signals from Iranian state media of confidence that the push for tougher international sanctions on Tehran will fail. Under the headline, "Anti-Iran plot failing, Israeli envoy laments", Press TV carries Agence France Presse's quotation from Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev: "The chances now seem grim regarding sanctions that will be crippling." Shalev said Russia and China "are still looking to the diplomatic track" and appear reluctant to back a new round of sanctions.
Back in Iran, the trial of 12 police officers charged with post-election abuses in Kahrizak Prison has begun.