Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Islamic Republic News Agency (5)


The Latest from Iran (21 March): Happy New Year, Mr Ahmadinejad

1750 GMT: It's All About US and Us. A slowish news phase, so the media are focusing on Ayatollah Khamenei's Sunday speech. It's on the lines of the Twitter publicity put out by his office (1330 and 1420 GMT), but this extract is especially provocative:

The enemies wanted to divide the people... and to create a civil war, but the nation was alert. If they were able to do it, the US and Zionist regime would have sent troops to Tehran's streets, but they knew it would hurt them. Thus they spread propaganda and supported the rioters.

1730 GMT: We've posted Iranian New Year videos featuring defiant chants from the opposition.

1440 GMT: Parliament v. President. Islamic Republic News Agency is claiming a fight-back against Parliamentary resistance to Ahmadinejad subsidy reform and spending proposals, quoting Arsalan Fathipour, head of the Parliament's economic commission, "We believe it is not possible to implement the subsidy reform plan at 20,000 billion tomans ($20 billion). So delegates intend to raise the figure to 35-38,000 billion tomans ($35-38 billion)." That would be almost all the $40 billion demanded by the President.

NEW Latest Iran Election Video: Nowruz and the Green Movement
NEW Iran Snap Analysis: A Rights-First Approach in Washington?
NEW Iran Video and Summary: Karroubi’s New Year Message
Latest Iran Video and Transcript: Obama’s Nowruz Message (20 March)
Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
Iran Analysis: Ahmadinejad Fails in Qom? (Verde)
Iran: Inside the Mind of the Interrogator
The Latest from Iran (20 March): Nowruz

1430 GMT: Obama and Iran. Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America claims that there was a "mized" reception amongst "Iranians inside and outside Iran" of President Obama's Nowruz message.

1420 GMT: "Rights" Annoys Khamenei. The emphasis in Barack Obama's Nowruz message on rights for Iran's people has annoyed the Supreme Leader. His office's Twitter barrage continues:
USA President sent letter and message to normalize relations, but his actions was against his words....USA President called distruptives "civil movement" and supported arsonists in recent events....Aren't you ashamed of killing in innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan while talking about Human Rights?

1340 GMT: Winning on the Internet. The Guardian of London offers an interview with Austin Heap, the creator of the Haystack initiative to assist Iranians with access to the Internet, evading regime blocks and protecting their security.

1330 GMT: Everything Most Excellent Here. Really. The Supreme Leader's Twitter machine is extracting English quotes from his Nowruz message. My favourite so far: "Last Iranian year was the nation's year and their victory; a year of seeming presence in glorious arena."

1005 GMT: Speaking of Rights. Nooshabeh Amiri, writing in Rooz Online, considers "Women’s Movement [As] a Prelude to the Green Movement".

1000 GMT: US, Iran, and Rights. We've put our snap analysis of a possible shift in US policy on Iran into a separate ent

0900 GMT: The Ruling of the Umpire. The Iran-based blogger Persian Umpire is back after an absence with three entries: one on the events of 22 Bahman (11 February), one on waiting outside Evin Prison for a detained friend, and one on last week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival) ceremonies.

The summary of the festival offers one of the classic observations of this post-election crisis: "No one gave a certain rodent’s bottom for the fatwa [of Ayatollah Khamenei]. In fact it solidified people’s resolve to come out and celebrate."

0700 GMT: As Iranians celebrate Nowruz, they have been greeted by messages for the New Year. And there is more than a bit of politics behind the best wishes. The most pointed intervention may have come from Mehdi Karroubi, who derided the regime (a "small barge" not a "galleon") as illegitimate. We have the video and a summary.

President Ahmadinejad offered his own message, but the question is whether it has been overshadowed by events which do not point to 1389 as his happiest year. Consider....

As EA's Mr Verde predicted, the President got both a slap and a warning with the release of Hashemi Rafsanjani's relative and political ally Hossein Marashi from prison. Officially, the freedom is only temporary for Nowruz --- Marashi was jailed on Thursday after an appeals court upheld a one-year sentence for "propaganda against the regime". Beyond the official, the political significance will be whether Marashi goes back to prison; if not, it will be a dent in the authority of the Government.

Rooz Online echoes Mr Verde's assessment of an Ahmadinejad failure in his Thursday mission to Qom to get the support of senior clerics, claiming "the chief authorities refused his presence". (Rooz adds a name to those who did meet with Ahmadinejad: Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi.)

In Tehran three lawmakers, prominent in economic discussions, criticised Ahmadinejad for his Friday suggestion of a referendum on his subsidy reform and spending plans, saying he is legally obliged to execute the economic reform plan approved by the Parliament. Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moqaddam, Ali Tavakkoli, and Elyas Naderan  said in ajoint statement, "The president does not have the right to disobey a law which has been approved by the Parliament."

The Latest from Iran (19 March): Untamed?

2120 GMT: Mahmoud Goes to the Country? OK, it's not just Internet chatter. EA readers bring me up to speed: in a televised statement on Friday night, President Ahmadinejad set out the possibility of a referendum on his proposal to control $40 billion from subsidy reductions (the Parliament only gave him $20 billion).

And Ahmadinejad wasn't pulling punches: he said that his "conservative" opponents in Parliament were verging on "treason" with exaggerated statements of the inflationary potential of his plan. Fortunately, he reassured, their economic estimates were not correct.

NEW Iran: Ethnic Minorities and the Green Movement (Ghajar)
NEW Iran Academic Question: Suspending North American Studies?
Latest Iran Video: Mousavi’s and Rahnavard’s New Year Messages (18 March)
Iran: Reading Mousavi & Karroubi “The Fight Will Continue” (Shahryar)
Iran & the US: The Missed Nuclear Deal (Slavin)
The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2110 GMT: Containing the Poet. Another story to pick up --- National Public Radio has a profile of 82-year-old Simin Behbahani, the poet who is so dangerous that Iranian authorities seized her passport as she was about to board a flight for an awards ceremony in Paris.

2100 GMT: Back from a movie break. (Iran as Wonderland? Discuss.) Little happening this evening, though there is Internet chatter that Ahmadinejad may go to the country for a referendum on his subsidy reform proposals.

The break is useful to pick up on a couple of important stories. Persian2English has posted an English translation of the Committee on Human Rights Reporters statement of 17 March, responding to the regime's efforts to break human rights activists with charges of their role in US-backed "cyber-warfare":
Exaggerated claims that human rights activists are connected to foreign or political organizations have been repeatedly disseminated by Tehran’s prosecutor, domestic and military media, intelligence interrogators, and internet bandits. No plausible or credible evidence has been introduced to back their accusations of blatant lies....

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters has indicated in their mission statement, in interviews, and in their official announcements that their activities are limited to human rights issues, and they are proud of their work.

1615 GMT: And Via Satellite. European Union ambassadors have declared in Brussels that the EU is determined to end Iran's "unacceptable" jamming of satellite broadcasting and Internet censorship: "The EU calls on the Iranian authorities to stop the jamming of satellite broadcasting and Internet censorship and to put an end to this electronic interference immediately."

1520 GMT: Internet Diplomacy? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Bloomberg, has highlighted the US Government's support of initiatives to get around Iranian restrictions on Internet access.

Clinton declared, “We’re doing a lot, let me just put it at that, because we think it is in the interests of American values and American strategic concerns to make sure that people have a chance to know what is going on outside of Iran." She claimed that a license had been issued to an (unnamed) company to boost access. Clinton added:
I’m sure that the Iranian authorities will do what they can to block any move that we make, so it’s like a chess game. We’ll go back and make another move, because we think we owe it to the Iranians, particularly during this period when there is so much at stake

1430 GMT: The President and the Clerics. An EA reader brings up to speed on the Ahmadinejad visit to Qom: Khabar Online has pictures of the President with Ayatollahs Mesbah Yazdi, Nouri-Hamedani and Jafar Sobhani, as well as a group shot.

Ahmadinejad's deputy for religious affairs claims that the meeting's atmosphere was good with the President "convincingly" answering some complaints from the clerics. The marjas brought up the people’s income problems, which should be solved, and cultural matters. AN promised to deal with these and also to transform Qom into the most beautiful town of the country.

Another meeting is planned with Jame’eye Modarressin (Association of the Teachers and Researchers of Qom).

1230 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human Rights Activists in Iran have issued a list of 2560 detainees for the Iranian Year 1388 (March 2009-March 2010). The large majority were arrested after the election.

0855 GMT:  Political Prisoner Watch. Philosophy student Ali Moazzami has been released on bail; however, other detainees such as journalist Emadeddin Baghi remain behind bars for Nowruz.

0845 GMT: Remembering. Mourners gathered yesterday at the graves of post-election martyrs, placing flowers and cards.

In front of Evin Prison, relatives gathered to demand the release of detainees, including Ms Elham Ahsani, supporter of the Mothers of Mourning.

0825 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Here's the Rumour of the Day --- Islamic Republic News Agency claims Hashemi Rafsanjani flew to Kish Island to meet his son Mehdi Hashemi, who wants to return illegally to mainland Iran via Dubai.

AFP picks up on the news, which we reported last night, that Hossein Marashi, a relative of Rafsanjani's wife and an ally of the former President, has been jailed for one year for "spreading propaganda".

0820 GMT: Economy Watch. Jahangir Amuzegar offers a broad analysis of the state of Iran's economy and the problems it poses for President Ahmadinejad.

0815 GMT: Qom Absentee. Looks like one person who was not at the President's meetings with senior clerics (see 0645 GMT) was Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. Khabar Online, unsurprisingly, surmises that this is because the President was firmly told to leave Rahim-Mashai behind.

0755 GMT: On the International Front. Lots of media attention to apparent tensions in Moscow between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian hosts over Iran. The immediate focus is on whether Russia will finally help Tehran to bring the Bushehr nuclear power plant on-line (Helpful Hint: the Russians are playing a double game, trying to delay completion while publicly declaring that they will ensure Bushehr will start operations in 2010).

The wider issue --- overlooked in The New York Times summary --- is whether Russia will give public backing to an expanded sanctions programme. The dispute in Moscow moves the arrow towards "No".

0745 GMT: Taming the Internet? The New York Times highlights the ongoing battle of the opposition for access to and dissemination of information with "Iran’s Opposition Seeks More Help in Cyberwar With Government". The article highlights both the steps forward and the sizeable challenge that remains. The take-away quote from Mehdi Yahyanejad of the Persian-language news portal Balatarin:
The Islamic Republic is very efficient in limiting people’s access to these sources, and Iranian people need major help. We need some 50 percent of people to be able to access independent news sources other than the state-controlled media.

0730 GMT: Pick Your Analysis. In sharp contrast to the analyses of other "Western" observers, Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor asks, "Does Iran’s most powerful man – whose official title is God’s Deputy on Earth, infallible to his ardent followers – think he is winning?"

Caution is needed here as well. Peterson's supporting evidence of "several close observers" is primarily two unnamed Iranian academics, and some of their declarations are sweeping:
[The Supreme Leader is] in triumphant mood right now. But deep down, he knows he’s lost the war of legitimacy and popularity....Deep inside –-- this is my belief –-- he does not have a very good sleep at night. He’s very angry –-- that’s what I can see in his face. The slogans they leveled against him, the image he’s got –-- he’s lost a lot of the popularity he had.

More useful may be assessments which don't rely on speculating inside Khamenei's head:
It’s almost like one voice coming out of the establishment, state-run television, all their hard-line newspapers, saying that "we managed to crush them”

At the same time, worries are clear to see. They are not in a state of panic [as] in the past, but are still on very high alert. They feel that enemies are organizing, and reformers are just pawns.

0645 GMT: We start the morning clearing away the underbrush of distorted or wayward analyses of Iran's internal situation.

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett have written another hit piece, with weakly-supported polemic posing as analysis, claiming the death of the Green Movement.

Far more seriously (since I am not sure key circles in Washington are still paying attention to the Leveretts' repetitions), Najmeh Bozorgmehr of the Financial Times, who has been a quality front-line journalist in Iran, has carried out an examination of the opposition which gets muddled in editing. Bozorgmehr's evaluation is sharp and incisive in places, such as "The Green Movement’s leaders have changed course, publicly urging followers to stop mass demonstrations, to avoid bloodshed and to win support of other social groups, notably lower-income people." She adds, "Iranian analysts and western diplomats doubt if the regime has snuffed out the challenge of the opposition."

However, Bozorgmehr also has some loose, unsupported sentences, "Reformists concede that the intensifying radicalism of demonstrations helped Mr Ahmadinejad to shore up support." And the headlines are caricatures: the Financial Times goes for "Iran's Regime Contains Opposition", while the Irish Times creates, "Hard Line Seems to Have Tamed Iran's Green Movement".

Elsewhere, others have not been tamed. Journalist and activist Isa Saharkhiz, who has been detained for eight months, has told his family that he went on hunger strike Thursday morning and that other prisoners in Section 350 of Evin Prison will join him to protest illegal detention and inhumane conditions.

And President Ahmadinejad has tried to carry out his own taming by visiting senior clerics in Qom. The Financial Times reports that Ahmadinejad met six marja but gives no details beyond that. There is only the cryptic sentence from an analyst, "A massive lobby by the most influential authorities happened to convince the clergy to see the president."

That just raises another question: which "most influential authorities"? We are monitoring.

Iran: Ethnic Minorities and the Green Movement (Ghajar)

Shayah Ghajar writes in

Iran is home to a staggeringly diverse population, with a wide variety of languages and cultures. Due to centuries, if not millennia, of cultural exchanges, intermarriages, and the inherent fluidity of identity in such a pluralistic nation, “ethnicity” does not necessarily hold the same racial baggage that it does in Western cultures, and a family’s self-described ethnicity may change from one generation to the next.

Nevertheless, certain minority cultures in Iran are restricted from publishing in their native languages, and face educational and economic disadvantages. Academics and political figures active in promoting their cultures face arrest, and are occasionally executed. Consequently, many Iranian minorities feel antagonized by the current government and support political causes to increase their cultural rights and representation.

The Green Movement and many minority political groups have similar goals, namely to increase popular representation in government, ending media censorship, and open Iranian society for greater internal political dialogue. Additionally, prominent politicians of the Green Movement hail from minority backgrounds as well. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi is an Iranian Azeri, and grew up speaking Azeri Turkish. Mehdi Karroubi, another prominent opposition leader, is from Lorestan and grew up speaking the Lori dialect.

Iran’s minorities first got a taste of a more liberal, open approach to minority rights under President Khatami (served 1997-2005). Khatami pledged to dramatically increase the status of minorities in Iran, taking steps to ensure Kurdish politicians were elected to the national government. However, most of his campaign promises to minority groups were broken, leaving many feeling disenchanted with the possibility of any change coming from Tehran. After the 2005 elections that saw Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, the meager concessions of the Khatami era disappeared utterly.

Before the June elections, Karroubi also addressed the question of inequality and ethnicity in an interview with Press TV, an unprecedented act. He said, “First of all, our constitution states clearly that all minorities and all followers of different religions are equal[…]I think that we should have an approach where all people regardless of their gender, religion, or ethnicity can feel that they are part of this government. Nobody else is saying the things that I am saying.” Thus, considering the backgrounds and goals of prominent opposition leaders, and the commonalities of goals between the Greens and some minority groups, the question arises whether or not the Green Movement and minority political groups have, or will, join forces to achieve these common goals.

The answer is both a resounding no and a qualified yes --- yes in the sense that many minorities participate in the Green Movement, and no in the sense that the Green Movement’s prominent politicians have no known formal or informal ties with minority political groups.

The Green Movement’s most prominent figures have good reason to steer clear of direct contact with minority rights political groups. In Iranian political discourse, many politically active minority groups bear the stigma of ethno-nationalism or separatism. Some Kurdish groups, as well as the Baluchi Jundallah terrorist organization, have used violence for political ends in trying to establish independent regions based on ethnic and religious ties. These ethno-nationalist groups have alienated the Iranian public at large through their use of violence on Iranian civilians, and have made it harder for peaceful minority rights groups to maintain political legitimacy in such a polarized atmosphere. Jundallah, for example, is said to be disliked by most Baluchis for causing economic havoc, murdering locals, and setting back Baluchi political movements by stigmatizing the topic of Baluchi rights, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

In January, the state-controlled news agency IRNA accused the Green Movement of having ties with an armed Kurdish group, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. Mostafa Hejri, the leader of the group, issued statements and published an article in January declaring support for the Green Movement’s ideals, according to Kurdish nationalist website Medya News. The accusations from the Iranian government were exactly what the Green Movement has sought to avoid in its attempts to steer clear of extremist elements both in and outside of the movement.

The reluctance to form an alliance is by no means restricted to the Green Movement–many minority political groups have expressed reluctance to put any faith in the Green Movement. An editorial in the Kurdish Globe, an Irbil-based website affiliated with the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq, may represent many minority activists’ sentiments when it declares the Green Movement to be an anticlimax for ethnic minorities. The Kurdish Globe sees the dispute between opposition leaders and the government as an internal power struggle amongst the political elites of Tehran, saying their dispute is the latest of many “internal power struggles that have existed since the early years of the Islamic Republic in Iran. Therefore, it is logical to argue that a new leader would not have fundamentally changed government’s position on minority rights or its human-rights stand.”

Kaveh Ghoreishi of Rooz Online reported a myriad of sentiments amongst a variety of Kurdish groups, comparing their approaches both before and after the election. He found, despite different decisions on precisely what stance to take, all of the Kurdish political groups showed reluctance to become involved with the Green Movement in any tangible way, opting instead for silence, or, at most, a statement of solidarity.

The reluctance of political groups to form alliances by no means indicates a dearth of Green Movement supporters amongst minorities. The Guardian’s map of the government’s election results and resulting June 2009 protests, indicates that many major protests occurred in areas inhabited predominantly by ethnic minorities. A similar search on youtube for the names of minority-populated cities and the word “protests” likewise shows no shortage of Green protesters: e.g. Kurdish Orumiyeh, the predominantly Azeri city of Tabriz, and Arab/Persian Ahvaz, among others.

The extensive grassroots participation in the Green Movement in minority-dominated areas seems counterintuitive in light of the lack of formal political ties between minorities and Greens. However, this discrepancy may be explained by the awareness amongst minorities that the Green Movement is currently the most powerful vehicle for change in Iranian society, one which lacks the demographic restrictions or political stigma of ethnically-based movements.

The realization of the Green Movement’s goals–the enforcement of the constitution, the end of media censorship and the recognition of basic rights of self-expression in Iranian society–by definition includes the goals of many Iranian minority groups for increased self-expression and cultural autonomy. Article 15 of the Iranian Constitution promises the right to one’s native language, while Article 19 prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity, color, or religion. If opposition leaders live up to their pledges to enforce the existing Constitution, the fulfillment of these two basic rights would satisfy many minorities.

In recent months, however, minority support in key areas may be waning. InsideIRAN’s Mohammad Khiabani reports that Tabriz, cultural capital of Iranian Azerbaijan and the historically the most rebellious province in Iran, is currently experiencing an economic boom thanks to Turkish investment, and politics is far from anyone’s mind. The IWPR article referenced earlier says that in the wake of the arrest of Jundallah’s leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, the border between Iran and Pakistan in the Sistan-Baluchistan province has reopened, prompting a relative boom in the destitute region’s trade. The government’s recent efforts to politically and economically stabilize minority regions may well prove to be effective in distracting would-be supporters from the Green Movement’s arduous path to reform.

The Latest from Iran (13 March): Settling In

2250 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz has published a list of 192 detainees in Section 240 of Evin Prison. Activists have noted that the list is incomplete.

2240 GMT: Human Rights --- The Regime's Breakdown Strategy. But if the Iranian Government on the one hand is offering release from prison if detainees (including a number of prominent journalists and political activists) are silenced, it is also moving aggressively to break apart the human rights movement.

NEW Iran Special: Zahra Rahnavard on Women’s Rights and The Green Movement
NEW Iran: The Opposition’s New PR Campaign in the US
NEW Iran Analysis: Rafsanjani’s “Finger in the Dike” Strategy
UPDATED Iran Document: The Hardliners’ Project — Full Text (Bahavar)
Iran: An Opening Thought on the Disconnection in Washington
Video: “Iran at a Crossroads” Conference (10 March)
The Latest from Iran (12 March): Assessments

The propaganda strategy of tarnishing human rights activists has been re-doubled tonight with Kayhan joining Fars in declaring that 25-30 activists have been arrested because they serve as "cover" for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq and US-sponsored cyber-warfare.

Human Rights Activists in Iran's websites are still hacked and redirected to (a website reportedly run by the Revolutionary Guard) this evening.

2230 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch --- The Regime's Release Strategy.

One of the two big stories this evening is of a flurry of releases from Evin Prison. According to BBC Persian, prominent journalists Lili Farhadpour, Vahid Pourostad and Somayyeh Momeni have been released, all on personal bail (someone else is ready to go to jail if the terms of bail are broken) or small monetary bails. However, other prominent reporters such as Akbar Montajabi, Ehsan Mehrabi and Emad Baghi, are still behind bars.

An EA source also reports that Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh, who had been imprisoned for 15 years, has been released. The terms are unknown.

1810 GMT: Cyber-War on Human Rights. Ahmad Batebi, a spokesman for Human Rights in Iran, confirms that all HRA websites have been hacked and visitors redirected to the regime's "cyber-war" site

1800 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. While his ally Hassan Rohani attacks the Government (see 1340 GMT), Hashemi Rafsanjani continues his political balancing act with a statement that students should not remain silent in political matters but should communicate their demands in a “logical” manner in order to achieve reform.

Rafsanjani advised students to evaluate the current situation so they did not create excuses for people who are trying to use "security" as pretext to take control of society. He expalined added, “The atmosphere needs to remain logical and wise...[so those who] are expressing good ideas will ultimately triumph.” Students should speak in a manner so their enemies could not “take advantage” of them.

1755 GMT: The Attack on Human Rights Activists. The website of Human Rights Activists News Agency, on the same day that HRA was accused of being a cover group for terrorism and cyber-warfare (see 1735 GMT), has been hacked by Iranian authorities. The site re-directs to, which activists claim is a location which tracks its visitors.

1750 GMT: Football and Politics. The latest YouTube video claiming that football has been used as a vehicle for protest comes from a match in Tabriz. Confirmation of the slogan being chanted by the crowd would be appreciated.


1735 GMT: Propaganda (or Worse) Item of Day. Fars News has claimed that Human Rights Activists in Iran is a cover group for the "terrorist" Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) with links to the US Government in a cyber-war against Iran. Naming (in other words, targeting) some of the members, Fars claims that 30 people who provided anti-filtering software have been arrested. It adds that Iranian authorities have asked Interpol to arrest HRA members outside Iran.

1730 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Azar Mansouri, a senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been sentenced to three years in prison. She was convicted of "disturbing public order while participating in gatherings, issuing propaganda against the regime, spreading lies and plotting to harm national security".

1340 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch (and This is Definitely Worth Watching). Tehran Times have now posted an English version of Rafsanjani ally Hassan Rohani's attack on the Government (0940 GMT) and, even in translation, it is striking:

*Speaking at a ceremony to mark the first death anniversary of the late Imam Khomeini’s wife, Rohani...said, “We should not allow a group to make attempts to eliminate another group.”

Interpretation: The Government should back off attempts to "break" or contain Rafsanjani through pressure on his family. Could Rohani be also be warning against an attempt to break reformist leaders?

*It should not be allowed that some elements dare to make every improper and derogatory remarks against Imam’s household and companions, he emphasized.

Interpretation: Stop attacking Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the Imam's grandson, who has been critical of the Government and supportive of the opposition.

*The cleric added some figures believe that the country can be governed by a particular group, but according to Imam’s teachings all people should be engaged.

Interpretation: If a Government is not legitimate, then....

*He also noted that Imam used to attach high importance to the people’s votes and even put the name of the Islamic Republic to the vote.

Interpretation: Well, in the context of June 2009 and "Where is My Vote?", what would you think?

If Rohani is speaking on behalf of Rafsanjani, this is a powerful signal that the former President is now going to let Ahmadinejad rest easy.

1300 GMT: Iran Nuke Update --- Larijani Yes, Ahmadinejad No. You really can't get much more blatant than this from Khabar Online:
Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani paid his last foreign visit in the current Iranian year to Japan. As he earlier has made notable diplomatic achievements through his trips, many local analysts believe the diplomacy adopted by Parliament Speaker reveals the flops and drawbacks of governmental diplomacy.

Larijani's diplomacy consisted of putting forth the proposal for Japan to serve as the 3rd country in a deal to enrich Iran's uranium overseas.

1250 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kurdish writer Susan Mohammadkhani Ghiasvand has been arrested at her home in Karaj.

1245 GMT: Student Protests. Students at Mazandaran University have carried out a two-day hunger strike to protest pressure from university officials. About 15 students had been summoned by the university's disciplinary committee.

1230 GMT: Economy Watch. Opponents of the Ahmadinejad economic strategy are warning that workers' "real wages" will drop 50% in this Iranian year. Labour organisations are demanding a guaranteed minimum wage.

1215 GMT: Women's Rights and the Green Movement. We have posted an extensive, illuminating interview with Zahra Rahnavard: "-It is impossible to expect that the general political movement — in this case, the Green Movement — will be able to successfully eliminate inequality and violence against women without help from an established and independent women’s movement."

1010 GMT: Qalibaf Attacks. An interesting intervention from Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who has kept a low profile but has still been linked to an anti-Ahmadinejad group within the conservatives. In an interview, he has pronounced that Iran has "no time for errors" because "for 14 months no serious work has been done in this country". Qalibaf say dissidents should be invited to share revolutionary goals through hard work.

0940 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Hassan Rohani, a member of the Expediency Council and an ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has  sharply attacked the Government. He said some people want to govern the country with a gang, but Iranians should not allow society to fall into superstition and petrification.

0930 GMT: Rafsanjani Blackout? Rah-e-Sabz has published what it claims is a memorandum from management of the Islamic Republic News Agency, ordering staff not to publish the image of Hashemi Rafsanjani.

0830 GMT: Parliament Slaps Down Ahmadinejad? Have to admit that I missed this while I was on the road....

The latest chapter on the battle over the President's budget has been written over Ahmadinejad's insistence on being able to spend $40 billion of the savings from his subsidy reform plan; Parliament had authorised only $20 billion.

The week began with a meeting between Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and the Supreme Leader, a day after Ahmadinejad requested Khamenei's help. It ended yesterday when the President showed up at the Majlis to make a speech (he has done this before in the post-election crisis, even though it is a technical violation of Parliamentary rules). Ahmadinejad insisted, “I don’t believe in inflation, and inflation will decrease next year.”

The speech and the President's personal lobbying were not enough: the Parliament voted 111-105 against the $40 billion proposal.

0825 GMT: We've posted a separate entry on what appears to be a new push by Iranian opposition leaders, through representatives, to sway US political opinion.

0745 GMT: Rumour of Day - Khamenei and Ahmadinejad Split? Tehran Bureau reports the claim of "a senior aide to opposition cleric Mehdi Karroubi that Iran's supreme leader has cooled his support for president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad". The assertion was made to journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday.

Beyond the headline, it's not much of a story. The senior aide "who worked with [Karroubi] for more than 25 years" is not actually in Iran but living in exile (while he is anonymous in the TB story, skilled Iran-watchers will identify him easily). The claim --- at least as reported in the article --- has no specific evidence but echoes a number of points (such as the incident over Ahmadinejad's close ally Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai) that we have noted since last summer.

What is far more significant is that this is a renewed Green Movement push to get support in the US. Putting forth the vision of a Khamenei-Ahmadinejad rift tries to shift a US Government which is based solely on "engagement"; it may even accept that Washington can work with the Supreme Leader while boycotting the President.

Even more important, but tucked away in the TB story, is this assertion from the senior aide: "The end goal is to have transparent, free and fair elections....Once that happens, you can be certain the Iranian people will elect [a president] who will secure peaceful and friendly relations with the world."

Last October, when a senior aide to Karroubi appeared at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, US journalists criticised the Green Movement's speaker for refusing to declare acceptance of Israel and renunciation of Iran's nuclear programme. In this article, no mention of the Israelis or the Bomb and thus no cause for a dismissal of the Greens.

Instead, the senior aide said that the Obama Administration's nuclear-first approach, at the expense of ignoring Iran's human rights violations, is "exactly what Ahmadinejad wants....If the U.S. reverses this approach and focuses on pressuring Iran for its human rights abuses...this is what the Iranian government fears most." he said.

And another point to notice:
Karroubi's aide recommended the use of "smart sanctions", targeted financial sanctions against members of the Revolutionary Guard. "For such sanctions to be truly 'smart', we need only to look at the multitude of companies set up in Dubai in the past 3-5 years," he said, hinting that much of import traffic to Iran from the UAE happened under the auspices of the Guards....

"As an Iranian, I'd hate to see our citizens suffer. But even if they are hurt in the short term, whatever shortens the life of this government is in the interests of the [Iranian] people."

0720 GMT: A US Rights-Based Strategy? While the panellists at Wednesday's NIAC conference were all focused on a nuclear-first approach to Iran (and I haven't forgotten that I owe you an analysis of the event), there are signs that the US Government is pursuing a more nuanced strategy.

On Friday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issued a statement of Washington's "increasing concern" about Iran's "ongoing persecution" of religious minorities, including Baha'is, and called on Tehran to protect human rights at home.

Crowley noted that at least 25 Baha'is have been detained recently and as many as 60 are now imprisoned in Iran "solely on the basis of their religious beliefs". He also asserted that Iranian authorities had detained more than a dozen Christians, "some of whom are being held in custody without substantiated charges".

Crowley's statement follows Thursday's State Department release ofits annual review of human rights conditions around the world, which including a sharply-worded section on Iran. The report claimed Iran is continuing to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, with 70 people killed and 4,000 more detained since June 2009.

0710 GMT: After five days on the road, a chance to catch breath and review the latest in Iran....

We begin with a separate analysis, as Masoud Shafaee considers the manoeuvres of Hashemi Rafsanjani: "While Rafsanjani’s current primary concern may be preventing Ahmadinejad from tearing Iran’s already-polarized political landscape asunder, that may in time prove to be lead to his grander scheme: he was the boy who saved the city from ruin."

A new website publishes (in Persian) details of 109 victims of post-election conflict.

An open letter by activists calls for immediate assistance for more than 5000 Iranian refugees displaced by the post-election crisis and living in Turkey.

The Latest from Iran (6 March): Justice

2130 GMT: Jailing the Workers. Radio Farda reports the arrests of a number of labour activists in northwestern Iran in recent days.

2120 GMT: Mystery of Day. Iranian Labor News Agency reports that Ayatollahs Safi Golpaygani and Javadi-Amoli have met recently.

Given that these meetings between senior clerics are rare, what were the issues that brought the two ayatollahs together? And was there any connection to the clerical disquiet over the Mohammad Amin Valian death sentence?

UPDATED Death, Confusion, and Clerics in Iran: The Case of Mohammad Amin Valian
NEW An Open Letter to the Editors of Iran’s “Principled” Newspapers
University Special: Iran & Conservapedia Ally Against Dangerous Professors
The Latest from Iran (5 March): Re-aligning

2045 GMT: Mohareb Trial for Dr Maleki? Iranian Labor News Agency reports that Dr Mohammad Maleki, the first post-1979 Chancellor of Tehran University is being charged with "mohareb" (war against God). Maleki's lawyer, Mohammad Sharifi said that his client, who is 76 and suffers from prostate cancer, is also charged with links to an outlawed organisation.

2040 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Banafsheh Darolshafaei, the sister of blogger Agh Bahman, has been released from detention.

1955 GMT: The Khomeini Challenge. Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, has again criticised Iranian authorities. He claimed some people refuse to see the truth, and even when they are told about it, try to “accuse you of an offence”
1945 GMT: A Little Change? The Expediency Council voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to consider changes in Iran's electoral law, starting deliberations on qualification of voters, candidates, and the quality of election campaigns, according to Council member Mohammad Hashemi, the brother of Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Hashemi said a large number of council members insisted on the need to reform the election law, prevailing over others who believed that the issue should be delayed due to the country’s "special condition".

1930 GMT: Nothing to See Here, Move Along. "Conservatives" in the Parliament have decided not to press the Ahmadinejad Government on the issue of last June's attack on Tehran University dormitories.

The spokesman for the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, MP Kazem Jalali, said the committee found nothing new in an 18-minute graphic film --- an abridged version of which was broadcast by Persian and found nothing new --- of the attack.

Jalali claimed that the emergence of the film, which was shot by a member of the attacking force, was because Iran's "enemies" were "disappointed" by massive pro-regime rallies on 11 February, Iran's nuclear, aerospace, and scientific achievements, and the capture of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

1620 GMT: The Rigi-US-Capitalism-Zionism-"9-11 Was a Lie" Conspiracy. Western news media have picked up on President Ahmadinejad's statement, in a meeting with Ministry of Intelligence personnel, that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001 was a "complicated intelligence scenario and act": "The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan."

That, however, is only the top of Mahmoud's West-Did-It-All Iceberg. The full speech, reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency, announces that the arrest of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi exposes the core of the campaign by US and Israeli intelligence services against Iran. This in turn is part of a struggle of "good" human nature against the devils of capitalism, liberal democracy, and US global leadership.

1515 GMT: Women's Solidarity. Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has posted a message for International Women's Day on Monday.

Rahnavard noted that discrimination and oppression of Iranian women has increased and invited the Iranian people and ruling powers to return to compassionate and humane values honouring the dignity of Iranian women.

Rahnavard added that today the leading women of the Green Movement are unjustly in prison only because they demand justice in the political, social and cultural affairs of the country. She stressed that the Green Movement is the manifestation of the ideals of any noble and justice-seeking human and that it honours women because of these humane and moral principles.

1415 GMT: Mohareb Watch. We've published two updates on the case of Mohammad Amin Valian, reportedly sentenced to death this week.

1045 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling on the Iranian judiciary to release six women, connected with Mothers of Mourning, arrested in January and early February 2010.

0945 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reporters Sans Frontieres offers this summary of recent developments:
Journalist Abolfazl Abedini Nasr was arrested at his home in the city of Ahvaz on 2 March by several men in plain clothes. The men, who all wore hoods, broke down the door of his house and brutally beat him. He had been earlier arrested on 30 June 2009 and freed on 26 October after putting up bail of 300 million tomans (270,000 euros).

Several human rights activists were arrested on the same day, among them the blogger and activist Naghipour Nasour. The director of the website was arrested at home in Qazvin by agents in plain-clothes. The reasons for his arrest and the place in which he is being detained are still unknown.

Reporters Without Borders learned on 3 March of the release of three journalists:

Noushin Jafari, journalist for Etemad, arrested on 3 February. Reza Norbakhsh, editor of the daily Farhikhteghan, arrested at his workplace in Tehran on 4 August, and who had been sentenced to six years in prison for “taking part in illegal demonstrations” and for articles posted on the news website Jomhoryat. Mortaza Kazemian, journalist for several reformist newspapers, arrested on 28 December 2009, was released after spending 34 days in solitary confinement in section 209 of Evin prison.

Journalist Said Laylaz had his sentence of nine years in jail reduced to three years by the Tehran appeal court. Kambiz Norrozi, head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, sentenced on 17 November to two years in jail and 76 strokes of the whip for making “publicity against the regime and disturbing public order”, had his sentence reduced on appeal to one year in prison.

0850 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. HRA News Agency publishes reports, which we have heard for days, of "the widespread arrests of human rights activists, particularly members and affiliates of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA)". Among those detained in "at least 27 incidents of arrests" is Milad Abrahamian.

0845 GMT: Iran Down Under. Our partner, Arshama3's Blog, offers an interesting account of a meeting of activists in New Zealand supporting democratic change in Iran.

0835 GMT: We begin this morning with two specials, one putting a wry smile on a regime threat, the other offering a response to a story which has no smile.

Our "black comedy" moment comes out of a speech by Iran's Minister of Science and Higher Education, Kamran Daneshjoo, in which he threatens to dismiss deviant professors. And our more serious reflections are in an open letter responding to the editors of Iran's "principlist" newspapers, who have criticised "Western" media for unfair coverage of Iranian events.