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Entries in Mir Hossein Mousavi (25)


Iran: The Green Movement's Next Steps (Shahryar)

Josh Shahryar writes for EA:

Yesterday was the funeral in Qom of Banoo Rabbani, the wife of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri. Despite claims by some activists that Greens were going to join the funeral and protest, the atmosphere for most participants was one of silent contemplation. Security forces essentially took over the funeral procession,arresting 30 people, and Rabbani was not even buried in the location selected by her family.

The funeral follows Chahrshanbeh Suri, the Fire Festival, on 16 March. Although there was much celebration, despite the disapproval of authorities including a Supreme Leader fatwa, no protest was planned or executed by the Green Movement.

So is the decision not to use public holidays or funerals for staging protests a bad one by the Movement?

The answer is no. The movement has endured for more than nine months. It has sufficient backing and is confident enough that it will survive, despite every repressive measure of the regime, that it does not have to periodically show the world, the Iranian government, and ordinary Iranians that it can put people on the streets. At the same time, the Greens have made clear that they will not be backing down from their demands, let alone giving up.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's Nowruz address clearly hinted at this, as he . declared, "Withdrawing our demands of unconditional execution of the Constitution is an act of treason for Iran and for Islam. This is a demand that we will not abandon."

So next question: What is the Green Movement going to do if not hold protests on holidays?

Again, Mousavi's address offers a good answer:
Faced with such a situation [overwhelming violence by the government], the Green Movement must expand its reach to all segments of society. The Green Movement must revive the timeless social and Islamic principle of inclusion. We must lend a hand to neighbors and neighborhoods both near and far, through job creation and other forms of interaction.

This Iranian Year 1389, according to Mousavi, is the year of "persistence". Several activists with whom I have spoken are hopeful that within the next few months, the Green Movement will not only survive but also thrive as it wins more supporters to its side.

Indeed, their resolve is that they need not just a majority of Iran's people to back them, but an overwhelming majority. One activist noted that next time they hold a protest in Tehran, they don't want "only" one or two million participants but hope to have as much as half the city on the streets.

Only time will demonstrate how successful this will be. The Green Movement, though, is not just a spontaneous mass of discontented citizens, but an organized and well-informed movement whose members are slowly building up networks within the country and unifying their goals, all the while preparing for future confrontations with the Government.

Iran: A View from the Labour Front (Rahnema)

This is an extract from a Tehran Bureau interview with Saeed Rahnema, a labour activist in the 1979 Islamic Revolution who is now a Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada. The full interview includes Rahnema's analysis of labour's role in 1979 and the aftermath of the Revolution:

TEHRAN BUREAU: When I read articles about Iran today, there is a great deal of social unrest around economic issues, particularly workers not getting paid. There are many labor actions but not a labor movement per se. I wonder what kind of possibilities there are for economic issues becoming more of a question for the Green Movement?

The Latest from Iran (29 March): Questionable Authority

RAHNEMA: There is now a major economic crisis in Iran. Massive unemployment, terrible inflation (close to 30%), and at the same time, as you rightly said, there are many factories that cannot pay their employees. In terms of leadership there is political anarchy.

You have got government-owned industries and then you have partially state-owned industries under the control of bonyads or Islamic foundations. The most significant bonyad is the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled (Bonyad-e Mostazafan va Janfazan). These are industries which had belonged to the Shahs' family and the pre-revolution bourgeoisie. After the time of the Shah they were all transferred to this particular foundation, which is now run by people close to the Bazaar of Iran and the clerical establishment. The bonyads are so large and so important that they are responsible for 20% of the Iranian GDP [Gross Domestic Product], which is only a bit lower than the Oil sector. Bonyads are not under the control of the state and pay no taxes.

It is an anarchic system with no serious protection for workers. Workers do not have a right to strike. They do not have unions and this is the main problem.

Many of these industries are heavily subsidized. But the government has decided to end some subsidies, along with the elimination of many gas, flour, and transportation subsides too. By ending subsidies, or having targeted subsidies, there will be more problems and more industrial actions. But these industrial actions --- and you rightly separate labor actions from a labor movement --- need labor unions. Labor unions are the most significant aspect of the rights of workers. Unions need democracy and political freedoms, a freedom of assembly and a free press. That is why the present movement within civil society is so significant for the labour movement.

This is something that tragically some so-called Leftists in the West do not understand. We read here and there, for example, James Petras among others, who support the brutal suppressive Islamic regime, and take a position against women, youth and the workers/employees of Iran who confront this regime. It is quite ironic that the formal site of the regime's news agency posted a translation of Petras' article accusing civil society activists of being agents of foreign imperialism.

What we need is continued weakening of the regime by street protests along with labor organizing. And, I think it is very important that we recognize that the Green Movement is part of a larger movement in Iranian civil society. The Green Movement is a very important part, but, it is not the whole picture. The Green Movement is now closely identified with Mr. Mousavi. So far he has been on the side of the people and civil society. Everyone supports him. But what will happen? Will he make major concessions? That remains to be seen.

TEHRAN BUREAU: There is a lot of confusion about the character of the regime because of its populist rhetoric. I am wondering what effect this confusion has on the possibility of organizing a trade union movement in Iran?

RAHNEMA: From the beginning, there were many illusions about the regime. One section of the Left, seeking immediate socialist revolution, immaturely confronted the regime and was brutally eliminated during the revolution. Another section of the Iranian left supported the regime, under the illusion of its anti-imperialism, and undermined democracy by supporting or even in some cases collaborating with the regime. This section paid a heavy price as well. Now, ironically, some leftist in the west are making the same mistakes under the same illusions.

There are four major illusions about Iran. The first is that the regime is democratic because it has elections. Leaving aside election fraud, in Iran not everyone can run for Parliament or the Presidency because an unelected twelve-member religious body, the Guardian Council, decides who can be nominated. Also, the Supreme Leader, who has absolute power, is not accountable to anybody.

The second illusion is the Regimes' anti-imperialism. Other than strong rhetoric against Israel and the U.S., the regime has done nothing that shows that they are anti-imperialist. Actually on several occasions they whole-heartedly supported the Americans in Afghanistan and at times in Iraq. Anti-imperialism has a much deeper meaning and does not apply to a reactionary force which dreams of expanding influence beyond its borders. If that is anti-imperialism, then the better example is Osama Bin Laden.

The third illusion is that this is a government of the dispossessed. A lot can be said about this, but I will limit myself to two income inequality measurements. Currently the Gini coefficient is around 44. (The range is from zero to a hundred, with zero as the most equal and one hundred as the most unequal.) This is worse than Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, and many other countries, despite the enormous riches of Iran. Interestingly, this figure is not so different from the time of the Shah. The other measurement, the deciles distribution of the top 10% and lowest 10 % income groups, shows that the top deciles' per capita per day expenditure is about 17 times that of the lowest deciles. This figure is also quite similar to the pre-revolutionary period.

The fourth illusion is that the regime is based on a 'moral' Islamic economy and not a capitalist economy. This moral economy, as Petras calls it, is nothing but the most corrupt capitalist system that we could possibly imagine.

TEHRAN BUREAU: There are some nascent unions, such as the bus drivers, sugar cane workers at Haft Tapeh, as well as teachers. These groups have been asking for international solidarity for a long time now. I wonder why those groups have had such a difficult time developing support. Have the conversations among "left" groups about anti-Imperialism blinded them to these small but very real organizing efforts?

RAHNEMA: No doubt. Some among the left in the West make the same mistakes that the Iranian left made during the revolution -- focusing on anti-imperialism and undermining and minimizing democracy and political freedoms. If the left really cares about the working class, how can this class improve its status without trade unions? How can trade unions exist and function without democracy and social and political freedoms?

Another aspect that some leftists don't take into consideration is the significance of secularism and the dangers of a religious state, particularly, the manner in which such regimes impinge on the most basic private rights of the individual, particularly women. Even if the Islamic regime were anti-imperialist, no progressive individual could possibly condone the brutal suppression of workers, women, and youth, who want to get rid of an obscurantist authoritarian and corrupt regime. The underground workers groups and other activists within civil society need all the support they can get from progressive people outside Iran, and they despise those so-called leftists in the West who support Ahmadinejad and the Islamic regime.

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 (25 March): Lying Low

2200 GMT: A Very Quiet Day. Little to report, with only ripples coming from references backs to earlier stories. Human Rights Watch, for example, has issued a statement declaring that "Iran's state-owned media, judiciary, and security forces have opened a coordinated attack on human rights groups in recent weeks".

NEW 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”
Iran: An Internet Strategy to Support the Greens? (Memarian)
The Latest from Iran (24 March): Regime Confidence, Regime Fear?

1730 GMT: Khabar Online is now also running the report on the supposed  Mousavi-Rafsanjani meeting.

1630 GMT: Rumour of the Day. According to Green Voice of Freedom, Farda News reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi met with Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday afternoon. The story comes from “news sources close to the government....This source, which is known for its support for [Ahmadinejad advisor Esfandair Rahim] Mashai, has spoken of the presence of Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard and a group of reformist leaders in this meeting.”

Hmm.... Neither the Mousavi nor Rafsanjani camps have released any word of such a meeting, nor have websites linked to the men offered any clue of this. The source is close to Rahim-Mashai, who is no friend of Mousavi and no fan of Rafsanjani.

I'll put my money on this as another arrow in the volley being fired at Rafsanjani by groups within the regime. Anyone --- including Mr Rahim-Mashai --- care to enlighten me?

1310 GMT: Meanwhile, in Local Government.... Outside Tehran, there's a claim of major fraud by city council in Mahabad in northwestern Iran, amounting to billion of tomans (millions of dollars), which has supposedly been reported to Ali Larijani. Peyke Iran claims a boycott of the last city council elections by the people, with the current council being backed by the Iranian Government.

1135 GMT: Mahmoud Says "Quit Your Fussing". And here is the latest on that Ahmadinejad nuclear policy, courtesy of a televised speech announcing the construction of a new dam in southwest Iran:
[Western powers] are saying we are worried that Iran may be building a bomb. But we are saying you have built it and even used it. So who should be worried? We or you? They are just making a fuss. They have ended up humiliating themselves.

Let me tell you, the era when they could hurt the Iranian nation is over. The Iranian nation is at such a height that their evil hands can't touch it. They want to stop, even for an hour, the fast speeding train of Iranian progress. But they will be unable to do it.

1125 GMT: Challenging Ahmadinejad on Nukes. Khabar Online offers space to Elaheh Koulaei, professor of political science at Tehran University and a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, to denounce the President for his failure to protect national interests in his nuclear policy.

1120 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA updates on Mousavi campaigner Mansour Miri-Kalanaki, who has been held incommunicado since 17 July.

1100 GMT: Mousavi Watch. So what has Mir Hossein Mousavi been up to? Well, he and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, visited journalist Azar Mansouri, who was recently released from detention after receiving a three-year suspended sentence from the Revolutionary Court. Rah-e-Sabz has the story and photographs.

Mousavi and Rahnavard also saw the family of Seyed Alireza Beheshti-Shirazi, a senior advisor of Mousavi who has been detained for more than three months.

Former President Mohammad Khatami has been doing his own visiting, spending time with released economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz.

0755 GMT: Parliament v. President. Khabar Online's English-language site headlines, "Ahmadinejad calls for referendum on subsidy plan execution".

It's a strange article, as there is nothing new beyond the President's appeal last Friday and the subsequent hostility from some members of Parliament, including Speaker Ali Larijani. The purpose seems to be to fire a warning shot: "It would be risky measurement [measure] taken by the head of the government since the first referendum led to the early retirement of...the head of the Iran Statistics Center who cooperated with the government on the plan."

Khabar is also featuring more criticisms from individual MPs, such as Sattar Hedayatkhah's declaration that the Government should forward its ideas about subsidy reductions "within legal boundaries".

0730 GMT: The Makan Controversy. As the concern and confusion over Caspian Makan, the purported "fiancé" of Neda Agha Soltan, increases (see separate entry), Josh Shahryar intervenes:
No one speaks for [Neda]....[So] does Caspian Makan speak for the Green Movement? The answer is again, no....

Let’s get over this.

0715 GMT: We begin the morning with an update on a human rights case, with a new protest at the Japanese Embassy in Washington over the attempted deportation to Iran of activist Jamal Saberi. And, with news slowing down from inside Iran on the state of the opposition, we counter pessimism with a note from a reader, "We Are Going to Make the Future Better".

On the international front, "5+1" talks (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) resumed Wednesday on how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. The Wall Street Journal offers evidence to back up our evaluation that the Obama Administration is downplaying tougher international sanctions against Tehran while pursuing bilateral discussions with countries and companies for withdrawal of investment:
The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions....Among provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran's access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran's national air cargo and shipping lines.

The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2225 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. This could be interesting --- Hossein Marashi, cousin of Hashemi Rafsanjani's wife and a Vice Secretary-General of the Kargozaran Party. has been arrested.

2220 GMT: Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America offers an analysis, "Iranian Government Releases Prisoners for Persian New Year", with contributions from EA staff.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Mousavi's and Rahnavard's New Year Messages (18 March)
NEW Iran: Reading Mousavi & Karroubi “The Fight Will Continue” (Shahryar)
NEW Iran & the US: The Missed Nuclear Deal (Slavin)
Iran Labour Front: Minimum Wage, “Unprecedent Poverty and Hunger”, and Strikes
Iran Analysis: What Does the Fire Festival Mean?
Latest Iran Video: Two Views of the Fire Festival (16 March)
UPDATED Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Perseverance” (15 March)
The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2215 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activist Somaiyeh Farid was arrested on Wednesday. Farid was at Evin Prison enquiring about her husband, Hojat (Siavash) Montazeri, who was arrested on 5 March.

2145 GMT: A Ray of Light. Amidst some poor analyses today of the Iranian political situation and the Green Movement, Melody Moezzi comes to the rescue with this piece in The Huffington Post:
The arrests before Revolution Day last month (11 February) surely dissuaded many opposition protesters not already in jail from pouring into the streets and risking beatings and unlawful detentions. I personally know of several opposition activists who stayed home as a result of the intimidation, and I can't say that I blame them. Still, no matter how few or many pro-democracy demonstrators show up in the streets for Nowruz the Iranian opposition has far from died. Rather, it has merely been pushed underground, but it is germinating like a stubborn hyacinth, taking on a course and a life of its own, teeming with the sweet smell of a freedom to come.

2100 GMT: A slow evening. Only significant news that we've noted is the release of Abolhasan Darolshafaei from detention. He is the last member of the family to be freed, following the releases of daughters Banafsheh and Jamileh and nephew Yashar.

No members of the Darolshafaei family are any longer in custody, just in time for New Year festivities.

1625 GMT: We have posted the New Year's video greetings of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, to the Iranian people.

1440 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Bahman Amoui, who has been detained since 20 June (read the letter to him from his wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub), has reportedly been released.

1415 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch: Journalist Akbar Montajabi has been released on bail. So have journalist Keyvan Samimi and Hojatoleslam Mir Ahmadizadeh.

1410 GMT: The Case for Change. Hassan Rowhani, a member of the Expediency Council and ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has used a long interview to discuss nuclear issues and to make the case for electoral reforms.

1355 GMT: Escape. The BBC is now reporting the story, which we carried last week, of student activist Ali Kantouri, who has fled Iran after being given a 15-year prison sentence for abduction and extortion.

1340 GMT: We have posted a special analysis by Mr Verde of the political significance of this week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival).

1220 GMT: On the Economic Front. Following up on our Wednesday special on the minimum wage and "unprecedented poverty and hunger"....

Six independent labor organizations have argued that the poverty line is $900 per month and asked for that to be new minimum wage. (The Government has authorised $303.) Economists at Mehr News Agency” have set the poverty line in the coming year at above $1000.

(Persian readers may also be interested in Faribors Raisdana's detailed analysis of minimum wages and labourer's poverty.)

1000 GMT: We have two specials for you this morning (and there's a third on the way). We've posted an excellent account by Barbara Slavin of the US-Iran deal on uranium enrichment that almost came off but then collapsed last autumn, and we have Josh Shahryar's analysis of the latest moves by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

0855 GMT: We're Taking Our Subsidy Bill and Going Home. The ongoing fight between the President and Parliament for control of the budget and expenditure is highlighted by a bad-tempered interview of Ahmadinejad supporter Ruhollah Hosseinian in Khabar Online.

Hosseinian declares that, since the Majlis only gave the President $20 billion of the $40 billion he wanted from subsidy reductions, Ahmadinejad should withdraw the proposal: "It's not clear which portion of the government's revenue will be channeled to other sectors by the Parliament, so I believe implementing subsidy reform bill is against our interests."

Asked how the Administration could avoid implementing a plan which has been passed by Parliament, Hosseinian replied:
Although the bill has become a law, a way must be explored to halt its execution, since enforcing this law in its current form will simply add to the problems. As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coordinates the interactions between state branches of the country, a method must be found to annul implementing subsidy reform bill.

0830 GMT: The Uranium Issue. An EA reader asks for clarification on the claim that Iran may be facing a crisis over uranium stock for its medical research reactor.

I am strongly influenced by the knowledge that Iran's approach to the International Atomic Energy Agency last June, which set off this round of talks over uranium enrichment, was prompted by the specific issue of isotopes for medical treatment. I have my suspicions, though no firm evidence, that the renewal of a Tehran push for a deal may also be prompted by this immediate need for 20 percent enriched uranium.

We will soon be posting an excellent investigative piece by Barbara Slavin highlighting this issue.

0605 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amnesty International is featuring the case of student activist Milad Asadi, detained without charge since 1 December.

0555 GMT: We might have been concerned with the Fire Festival and the renewed protest through the statements of prominent opposition figures (Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami), parties (Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution), and activist groups (Committee of Human Rights Reporters).

Looks like the Ahmadinejad Government wants to talk uranium, however. Iran's atomic energy agency chief, Ali Akhbar Salehi, put out the line that it was time to agree a uranium swap inside Iran. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi insisted, "During the new year, new nuclear plants will be built and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with its path without allowing the arrogant powers to meddle."

But, with the US threatening more sanctions and no sign that the "West" will accept a deal where the swap occurs inside Iran, where is the hope for Tehran? No problem: "Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin has called for stronger ties...and urged closer cooperation between Iran and Russia to confront existing regional and international threats."

Better hope so. I get the sense that not only is Iran concerned about economic restrictions, primarily through the withdrawal of foreign companies and investment, but also that there may be a crisis looming over uranium for the medical research reactor.