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Entries in Hashemi Rafsanjani (26)


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.]


The Latest from Iran (26 March): Break Time

1935 GMT: We Will, We Will Rescue You. It's Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi taking Tehran's Friday Prayers, and he's a man with a mission:
We should focus our efforts on freeing Americans from under the yoke of the two ruling parties in the United States. We want to save the West and spread morality in the world. We should concentrate our efforts on the international revolution and rescuing nations from the rule of arrogant powers.

Seddiqi also criticised President Obama for supporting Iran's "civil rights activists".

(So Seddiqi is denouncing the US Government's intervention in another country's affairs but calling on the Iranian Government to...intervene in another country's affair. Well, that seems logically consistent.)

Iran: “We are Going to Make the Future Better”
UPDATED Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
UPDATED Iran: The Controversy over Neda’s “Fiance”
The Latest from Iran (25 March): Lying Low

1930 GMT: Opening Communications. The United Nations' communications agency, the International Telecommunication Union, has called on Iran on Friday to end jamming of foreign satellite broadcasts.

The statement follows a similar announcement by the European Union earlier this week.

1920 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch.  A story to treat with caution, but interesting if true: Rah-e-Sabz is claiming, from a source close to Hashemi Rafsanjani, that the former President has said that people should continue their protests to insist that their demands are met. Rafsanjani allegedly pointed to the end of the Nowruz holidays on 12 Farvardin (next Thursday, 1 April) as an occasion for public demonstrations.

1320 GMT: Nowruz Visits. Mostafa Tajzadeh, former Deputy of Minister of Interior and senior member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has used his temporary release to visit families of political prisoners who were not freed for the holidays. Amongst those seen by Tajzadeh and his wife were the families of Mohammad Nourizad, the filmmaker and former editor-in-chief of Kayhan, Davood Soleimani, member of Islamic Iran Participation Front, journalist Emadeddin Baghi.

1145 GMT: Iran Nukes No, Pakistan Nukes OK. How far will the US go to keep economic pressure on Tehran? This from Asia Times Online:
In 2008, after several years of negotiations, nuclear-armed India and the United States signed a civilian nuclear deal that in essence allowed India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries even though it is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Pakistan, which like its neighbor India has a nuclear arsenal and is not a signatory to the NPT, has long been rankled by India's deal, wanting one of its own with the US. This topic featured high on the agenda of a top-level Pakistani delegation that held talks in Washington this week with senior US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Washington, with some reservations, has been receptive to Pakistan's wishes, especially as Islamabad has emerged as a key strategic partner in the efforts to bring the war in Afghanistan to a conclusion, and in dealing with al-Qaeda and militancy in general in the region.

There will be a price: the US, according to analysts who spoke to Asia Times Online, wants Pakistan to walk away from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Last year, Islamabad and Tehran finalized a US$7.5 billion deal to transfer gas 2,775 kilometers from fields in Iran to terminals in Pakistan, and this month they signed an operational agreement on the project, despite US opposition.

The US, as it seeks to isolate Iran and impose sanctions on it over Tehran's nuclear program, is a vocal critic of the pipeline project, which was initially to have included a third leg going to India. India dropped its participation in the project, ostensibly over pricing disagreements; there is widespread belief that it did so to secure the nuclear deal with the US.

1040 GMT: The Bunker-Busting Bomb Iran Story. This is one that won't go away: Abdul-Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al Arabiya TV, writes in Asharq al-Awsat, "The perplexing question: Will a war be launched on Iran if the economic sanctions fail?"

The evidence is the revelation of the move of bunker-piercing bombs to a US base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Office. I can only repeat what I have posted in comments as this issue has percolated. This move would have been made irrespective of the current crisis with Iran: it is part of a "force projection" plan by the US military in the region, with a view not only to asserting an image of superiority vis-a-vis Iran but also in cases such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

0935 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA reports that Mitra Aali, a graduate student at Sharif University was detained by the Ministry of Intelligence on 10 March and her whereabouts are now unknown.

RAHANA also reports on other political prisoners, including Behrooz Javid Tehrani, who are being held in solitary confinement and inhumane conditions at Evin Prison.

Aali, detained on two previous occasions since the June election, had been asked by the Ministry to come in for a "follow-up" and to receive her confiscated possessions.

0925 GMT: Remembering. A new video tells the story of Ramin Ramezani, who was killed during the 15 June demonstrations.

0750 GMT: Parliament v. President. Continued fighting over the Ahmadinejad subsidy reduction plan --- former Minister of Health Massoud Pezeshkian has said the President "has no excuse" and "must follow laws", a claim echoed by reformist MP Majid Nasirpour. Reformist Mostafa Kavakebian insists the decision about the usefulness of subsidy cuts is with the Majlis not Ahmadinejad.

0745 GMT: Economy Watch. Is this a sign of the President trying to tighten his control over Iran's energy industry? Rah-e-Sabz claims that Minister of Oil Massoud Mirkazemi has been replaced as head of the Government's "oil group" by First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

0710 GMT: With a week left in Iran's Nowruz holidays, political news continues to be slow.

On the international front, the Obama Administration seems to be moving away from its toughest proposed sanctions amidst renewed "5+1" talks on Iran's nuclear programme. Still, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has launched another warning about Tehran's military threat. Gates asserted that Iran's unmanned aerial vehicles --- "drones" --- could cause problems for the US in theatres like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American pressure is still caught up in a complex international game, however. Russia continues with a dual approach, offering signals that it might support some further sanctions while reassuring Iran that the Bushehr nuclear plant will go on-line in 2010.

Fereshteh Ghazi prefers to concentrate on the threat inside Iran. She offers a summary article of the just-concluded Iranian Year 1388 as year for Evin Prison and interrogators.

The Latest from Iran (24 March): Regime Confidence, Regime Fear?

2210 GMT: Neda Propaganda Overkill. You might think it would be enough for Iranian state media that Caspian Makan, the reported fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, had met Israeli President Shimon Peres (see separate entry). But, no, Press TV has to go much, much farther:

One of the suspects believed to be involved in the killing of a young woman during Tehran's post-election violence last year has visited Israel.
Caspian Makan, who claims to be Neda Agha Soltan's fiancé, has met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, during his stay in Israel.

Makan was also interviewed as a guest on an Israeli TV channel.

Agha Soltan was shot dead far away from the riot scene on June 20. Western media accused Iranian security forces of killing her, but police rejected the allegations and said Neda was shot with a small caliber pistol which is not used by the Iranian police.

They have described the killing as a premeditated act of murder "organized by US and Israeli intelligence services."

NEW Iran: The Controversy over Neda’s “Fiance”
NEW Iran: An Internet Strategy to Support the Greens? (Memarian)
The Latest from Iran (23 March): Inside and Outside the Country

2140 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Gooya reports that more than 900 Iranians have signed a petition calling for the release of imprisoned student Omid Montazeri.

Montazeri was arrested in January after he approached the Ministry of Intelligence following the detention of his mother and guests at the Montazeri house.

2015 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. On a slow news day, Parleman News has not one but two features around Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The top story on Rafsanjani's latest declaration is not that earth-shaking: the former President issues another fence-sitting declaration that "the majority of protesters are loyal to the regime", which allows him to back some public pressure on the Government while maintaining his own position of backing the Supreme Leader. No real change there.

More intriguing is the appearance of Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter. The content of the interview is not very subversive. Hashemi talks about her education and passion 4 women's sports as well as making the far-from-controversial assertion that her father wants the common good of society. It's the timing that matters: the interview comes a few days after the regime tried to shut Hashemi up by arresting her son, Hassan Lahouti.

1440 GMT: Sanctions Rebuff. Turkey, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has added to the obstacles for tougher international sanctions on Iran. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "There is still an opportunity ahead of us and we believe that this opportunity should be used effectively. Not less, but more diplomacy (is needed)."

(I am beginning to suspect that these moves might be political theatre, accepted if not directed by Washington. The Obama Administration's approach seems to be a public posture of the international route, primarily as a response to Congressional pressure, while carrying out the meaningful initiatives in bilateral talks with other countries and even with individual companies.)

1420 GMT: Today's Obama-Bashing. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Parliament's National Security Committee, takes on the daily duty of slapping down the US Government's approach to Iran:
[President Obama's Nowruz] comments were nothing but a deception. They (Americans) have sent several messages during the last year calling for talks with Iran, but at the same time passed more than 60 anti-Iranian bills in their Congress. As long as there is no sense of balance between their comments and actions, offering talks could be only a trick....Obama has lost his prestige among the world's public opinion, therefore his new year message has no value.

1400 GMT: On the Economic Front. This could be significant: The Russian energy firm LUKoil has announced its withdrawal from an oil project in Iran "due to the impossibility of carrying out further work at the field because of the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government".

LUKoil has a 25 percent stake in the Anaran project; a Norwegian company, Hydro, has the other 75 percent. We'll see if this withdrawal sticks: LUKoil also announced in October 2007 that it was pulling out of the project, which encompasses Azar, Changuleh-West, Dehloran and Musian oilfields with reserves at the project sites estimated at 2 billion barrels, but it resumed work two months later.

1200 GMT: We've posted an editorial from prominent reformist journalist Masih Alinejad criticising Caspian Makan, the "fiancé" of Neda Agha Soltan.

0925 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Iran Human Rights Voice reports that writer and women's rights activist Laleh Hasanpour was detained by Intelligence agents on 16 March and taken to an undisclosed location.

0745 GMT: Iran and Afghanistan. Readers have noted the latest wave of allegations, spurred by The Sunday Times of London that the Iranian Government is providing support, including funding and training, to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I have been cautious in reporting the allegations, in part because The Sunday Times has been a handy channel in the past for those spreading "information" to discredit Tehran. Far more importantly, key US Government officials and military leaders are also playing down the accusation. General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, has said any Iranian Government role in assistance is limited. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoes, "There is some [training], but it, to this point, I think, has been considered to be pretty low-level."

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sholtis said on Monday, "We've known for some time that Iran has been a source for both materiel and trained fighters for Taliban elements in Afghanistan"; however, he added that US officials do not know if the training is "simply something that is happening beyond the government's control".

(hat-tip to an EA reader for raising the story and providing sources)

0730 GMT: With the Green Movement in a quiet phase (defeated, intimidated, or just lying low?), attention is on the continuing battle between elements of the regime and Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Iranian authorities released Rafsanjani's grandson Hasan Lahouti yesterday, albeit on $70,000 bail, and they had to let go the former President's ally Hassan Marashi after a short detention. The anti-Rafsanjani campaign is far from over, however.

The latest assault comes from Gholam-Hossein Elham, a member of the Guardian Council. In a lengthy "unpublished interview" which somehow is published on Fars, Elham details post-election subversion. Specifically, he targets Rafsanjani for Friday Prayers addresses which did not support the Government and thus opened the way for illegal protest and manoeuvres to undermine the Islamic Republic.

So a question: is the sustained assault on Rafsanjani a sign of regime confidence that, having vanquished the opposition outside the system, it can move aggressively against challengers within? Or is it an indication that this is a Government which will never feel secure in its supposed legitimacy?

The Latest from Iran (23 March): Inside and Outside the Country

2030 GMT: For What It's Worth. Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, a senior aide to President Ahmadinejad, has launched today's attack on the Obama Administration, claiming that its policies were sometimes worse than "the dark era of [former president] George W. Bush":
Today we witness that the US is increasing the number of its forces in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of withdrawing its troops from these countries and is behind the massacre of people and the expansion of poverty in these countries more than before.

Hashemi said that Tehran expects Obama to "rectify the dark Bush-era policies toward the Iranian nuclear program and give up confronting the Iranian nation".

Iran Analysis: Politics and Subsidy Reform (Harris)
Iran: View from Tehran “Changes within the System are Impossible”
The Latest from Iran (22 March): The Economic Clash

1730 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Iranian authorities have released Hassan Lahouti, the grandson of Hashemi Rafsanjani, after less than two days in detention. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said, "After some investigations and after he expressed regret over his actions, he was released from prison on bail." Lahouti's freedom is conditional: his bail was set at $70,000, and Doulatabadi said his completed file would be sent to a court for consideration of further action.

Lahouti, a student in Britain, was arrested early Monday morning as he flew into Iran for the Nowruz holidays. Rah-e-Sabz claims, from an "informed source", that Lahouti was detained for criticising the Supreme Leader in a phone call monitored by Iranian agencies.

Rah-e-Sabz also claims that Hashemi Rafsanjani has spoken with Sadegh Larijani about Lahouti’s arrest.
Larijani allegedly told Rafsanjani that the intelligence services have been tapping Lahouti’s telephone conversation.

1620 GMT: Hey, Let's Have an All-Out War! One problem with a slow news day is that it lets the inmates out of the asylum. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina decided his time addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee would be best spent advocating a full-on military assault: "All options must be on the table....You know exactly what I'm talking about." While war is a "terrible thing", "sometimes it is better to go to war than to allow the Holocaust to develop a second time....Time is not on our side."

What kind of war? A really big one:
If military force is ever employed, it should be done in a decisive fashion. The Iran government's ability to wage conventional war against its neighbors and our troops in the region should not exist. They should not have one plane that can fly or one ship that can float.

The call to arms is at the 2:20 mark:


1300 GMT: Will Sanctions Work? Suzanne Maloney of the Saban Center at The Brookings Institution offers a detailed paper, "The Economics of Influencing Iran". The take-away paragraph:
Sanctions must be narrowly construed, in order to offer any real prospect for obtaining Iranian compliance and for attracting sufficient international support. However, Washington’s interests in Iran transcend the nuclear issue, particularly at a moment when Iranian internal dynamics are more fluid than in recent history. For this reason, the Obama administration should make a concerted effort to couple the new efforts at using economic pressure to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions with an intensification of rhetoric and measures that call attention to Tehran’s human rights abuses.

0905 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Filmmakers have protested in front of Evin Prison on behalf of the detained director Jafar Panahi.

0850 GMT: Green Shoots in Zahedan? Rah-e-Sabz reports that a Green Movement has been formed in Zahedan in southeastern Iran. The statement of "Jonbesh-e sabz-e Zahedan" begins with a commitment to civil rights and equal rights, regardless of gender or belief and goes farther in its political declaration of objectives than figures such as Mir Hossein Mousavi statements. It denies adherence to any ideology.

0800 GMT: Subsidy Battle. The Supreme Leader may have his work cut out for him in the attempt to restore peace (see 0755 GMT). Khabar Online presses Parliament's case with a statement from MP Mohammad Reza Khabbaz: "Instead of [Ahmadinejad's proposed] referendum, the Government can test subsidy cuts in several provinces."

0755 GMT: Parliament v. Ahmadinejad Watch. With all the attention to the Supreme Leader's US-bashing in his Nowruz speech, this important passage has largely been ignored. Khamenei called on the Parliament and the President to reconcile their differences over the subsidy reform plan, declaring that any division into "winners and losers" is the plot of the foreigners.

0745 GMT: A quieter political start today. We've taken the time to update the report on Sunday's protest over Japan's imminent deportation of activist Jamal Saberi.

We're also reading an article by Roger Cohen of The New York Times on "two Iranians, two exiles, one truth of a people defrauded and denied". He uses the cases of Mohammad Reza Heydari, the Iranian diplomat in Norway who resigned his post in protest against his Government, and Negar Azizmoradi, a refugee in Turkey, to put his point: "Her own government stifled Negar’s voice. But the world must listen. It’s her country after all — and the ballot-counting Heydari’s."