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Entries in European Commission (2)


The Latest from Iran (31 March): Nuclear Chatter & Political Prisoners

2000 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The physicians of Ebrahim Yazdi, the 78-year-0ld former Foreign Minister and leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran, have requested an extension of his temporary leave from prison on grounds of ill health.

UPDATED Iran Politics and Music Video: “Karroubi” and the Arrest of Sasi Mankan
UPDATED Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
Iran: Preventing Tehran from “Going Nuclear” (Ramazani)
Iran Politics and Music: Sasi Mankan’s “Karroubi”
Iran: The Green Movement’s Next Steps (Shahryar)
The Latest from Iran (30 March): Strategies

1840 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kalemeh reports that reformist journalist Masoud Lavasani will be set free tonight on a bail of around $500,000, four months after his arrest.

Bastani's initial prison sentence was reduced from 8 1/2 years to 4 1/2 years after appeal.

It is reported, from human rights activists in Iran, that Jafar Ashari who has been on hunger strike since March 17, has been transferred to Mahabad prison and is now in quarantine. Ashari has been in detention for more than five months.

1835 GMT: The Nuclear Defector. Press TV publishes an account, from Iranian state media, of "Missing Iran N-scientist 'defected to US'". What is interesting is that there is no denial of Shahram Amiri's claimed position in Iran's nuclear programme.

That means that, contrary to its initial position, the Iranian Government is no longer denying that Amiri is a nuclear scientist while the US Government is no longer denying that it is involved in Amiri's disappearance.

1500 GMT: More US-Iran Fencing. This time, the sparring is over Afghanistan, with the US military setting up Iran as a negative influence rather than a possible ally. The Chairman of the Joint Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told a news conference in Kabul:
Iran is working to increase its influence in the area. On the one hand, that's not surprising, she is a neighbor state, a neighbor country. On the other hand, the influence I see is all too often negative. I was advised last night about a significant shipment of weapons from Iran into Kandahar, for example.

I have seen them over the last several years -- the last couple of years anyway, certainly be more than just interested, provide some capabilities. I am also concerned that that desire to be influential is increasing....I was taken aback. [The arms shipment] wasn't insignificant.

1355 GMT: More on Iran Air in Europe. An EA reader sends us an update:
Ramp checks on Iran Air - which has been subject to US Government sanctions - have turned up evidence of "insufficient oversight" over the past year, says the Commission.

But Iran Air will still be permitted to operate 18 Airbus A300/310s, nine Boeing 747s, six Airbus A320s and a single Boeing 737 into Europe.

The Commission says it will send representatives to Iran over the next few months to examine the situation with Iran Air.

1040 GMT: Nuke Chatter Continues. Iranian state media is reporting that Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council and the country's primary negotiator on nuclear issues, will visit China tomorrow for discussions.

0645 GMT: Trouble in the Air? An Iran Air official claims that, despite the European Commission's ban on the airline within Europe, that "nothing has changed" and no restrictions have been imposed on the airline.

An EA correspondent offers a contrasting view: "Even though the ban is limited in financial terms, its international outcome is devastating. From now on the regime must answer the question, for all of its boasting, if it is able to provide essential safety for its airplanes. This ban is the best reply to Iran's jamming of European satellite broadcast, as the safety issue is untouchable."

0635 GMT: Political Prisoner Resistance Watch. Rooz Online reports on the defiance, often humourous, of political prisoners.

0610 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz reports on the poor conditions and hygiene in the women's section of  Evin Prison.

Christian pastor Wilson Issavi has been released on bail after 54 days in detention.

Rah-e-Sabz writes that 51-year-old university instructor Rahmatollah Bastani has been re-arrested by the Intelligence Bureau in Qom. Bastani was one of 30 people detained during Sunday's funeral for the wife of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. He was released five hours later but was summoned on Monday for further interrogation.

0555 GMT: Economy Watch. Asre Iran reports that some Kuwaiti banks have stopped dealing with their Iranian counterparts, who have protested to the Kuwaiti Central Bank about the "unbearable injustice".

0545 GMT: Subsidy Watch. Back to more pressing concerns for most Iranians and for the President. In an unprecedented move, Ahmadinejad has proposed an "addendum" to the Parliament's approved budget, allowing him access to the extra $20 billion of revenues he wants from subsidy cuts.

0500 GMT: Lots of white noise about the Iranian nuclear programme yesterday and this morning.

Following this week's New York Times wayward article on supposedly secret Iranian nuclear site, The Washington Times goes farther by mangling --- through misunderstanding or wilful distortion --- a story on the latest public US intelligence finding on Tehran's nuclear development. The newspaper headlines, "Iran is poised to begin producing nuclear weapons after its uranium program expansion in 2009, even though it has had problems with thousands of its centrifuges."

The report says no such thing. Here's the take-away, as noted by other Iran observers:
We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.

During the reporting period, Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspension of those activities. Although Iran made progress in expanding its nuclear infrastructure during 2009, some obstacles slowed progress during this period.

The misleading story seems to have disappeared with little notice, replaced by an intriguing claim:
An award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials.

The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, "an intelligence coup" in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran's nuclear program....

Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.

On the political front, President Obama maintained the public stance of US and international pressure on Tehran, declaring at a press conference with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
I'm not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place....I am interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks. And we are working diligently with our international partners, emphasizing to them, that as Nicolas said, this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran, it has enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region.

The Latest from Iran (30 March): Strategies

2000 GMT: Politics, Religion, and Culture. Reihaneh Mazaheri in Mianeh offers a detailed article setting out how President Ahmadinejad has tried to use financial support of religious and cultural centres, often supervised by his close allies, to reinforce his political base. An extract:
The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using state funds to spread its political and religious ideology and at the same time maintain powerful allies during times of turmoil, critics say.

The authorities have set aside 4.5 billion of the 347 billion US dollar, 2010-11 budget, which took effect on March 21, for cultural matters - but much of it is spent on religious and culturally hardline institutions sympathetic to the administration.

Ever since first becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad has made a clear effort to defend religious groups and organisations to a degree previously unknown in the country.

He set out his thinking in a speech to clergy in southern Fars province in 2007, saying, “In the budget of previous administrations, no room was found for religious centres and religious matters. However, we have taken them into consideration in the budget.”

The budget for “mosque centres”, one of the government’s main sources of popular support, has increased to 25 million dollars from 1.6 million in 2005 at the end of the term of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, according to Mohammad Hosseini, the minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

NEW Iran: Preventing Tehran from “Going Nuclear” (Ramazani)
NEW Iran Politics and Music: Sasi Mankan’s “Karroubi”
NEW Iran: The Green Movement’s Next Steps (Shahryar)
Iran: A View from the Labour Front (Rahnema)
Iran’s Nukes: False Alarm Journalism (Sick)
The Latest from Iran (29 March): Questionable Authority

1545 GMT: A Media Note. To the Charlie Rose Show on the US Public Broadcasting Service: I've now viewed what amounted to a half-hour propaganda special for the Iranian regime, aired in the US last night. Given the substitution of polemic, distortions, and misrepresentations posing as "analysis", I'm not even posting a link.

I'm hoping that this unfortunate interview disappears quickly. However, if it receives any attention as supposed "insight" into post-election Iran, I will be back with a fury.

In the meantime, this should suffice: this programme is a disservice and, indeed, a disgrace given the thousands detained, abused, and denied rights and freedoms. Speak to them, not the two "experts" to whom you turned over airtime last evening.

1540 GMT: Today's Propaganda Drama. After the reported rescue of Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niaki from abductors in Pakistan, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has declared, “The Islamic Republic did not capitulate to any of this armed group’s demands which is supported by the US and Mossad.”

1535 GMT: Grounding Iran's Airliine. The European Commission has imposed a ban on flights by Iran Air within Europe.

1530 GMT: The "Other" Khamenei Visits Freed Reformist. Hadi Khamenei, the brother of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, joined others in visiting Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former Deputy Minister of Interior who is on temporary release for Nowruz, at his house last night.

1520 GMT: Revival of the Photograph. Pedestrian reports that Amir Sadeqi of the photo blog Tehran Live is out of prison and again taking and posting his photographs.

1500 GMT: Another Death Sentence. Back from an academic break and an appearance on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story (airing 1730 GMT) about the latest in Iraq's power politics, I find confirmation on websites of the news --- reported yesterday --- that 42-year-old schoolteacher Abdolreza Ghanbari has been sentenced to death for  "Mohareb (war against God) through contacts with dissident groups". This broad charge covers "suspicious emails and having contacts with television media outside the country".

1110 GMT: Joke of the Day. An EA correspondent has pointed out the feature from the blog Persian Letters on post-election humour in Iran but, in my opinion, the best joke came from a reader in the comments:

Q. How Many Basijis Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?
A. None. The Basijis will sit in the dark and blame Israel and the USA.

0810 GMT: Latest on the battle over subsidy reform comes from "principlist" member of Parliament Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, who says the Government is obliged to act according to the vote of the Majlis.

0800 GMT: Rule of Law. Rah-e-Sabz tries to interpret what a meeting between the Supreme Leader and the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, means for Iran's judicial procedure and sentencing.

Rah-e-Sabz also claims information on a strategy by the Revolutionary Guards to avoid exposure of human rights violations, including the effort to crack down on human rights organisations in Iran.

0655 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Children's rights activist Maryam Zia Mohaved has reportedly been released from Evin Prison after a 13-day hunger strike.

0645 GMT: We begin today with three Iran specials. Josh Shahryar thinks about the next steps for the Green Movement. R.K. Ramazani evaluates the best US strategy to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. And, after the arrest of underground rap artist Sasi Mankan, we post his April 2009 single "Karroubi".