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Entries in Mohammad Amin Valian (5)


The Latest from Iran (7 March): The Elections Next Door

2225 GMT: Petraeus Pronounces. On a slowish political evening, General David Petraeus dishes out some rhetoric on Iran's "thugocracy". We'll have an analysis tomorrow (hint: it's actually a signal that US is backing off any immediate military pressure), but for now, we've posted the video.

1945 GMT: Larijani Watch. Nice move by the head of Iran's judiciary, Mohammad Sadegh Larijani. He has announced the discovery of a large group inside the Government carrying out fraud and economic corruption: one case alone was embezzlement of 6 bilionl Toman more than $6 million).

NEW Iran: Senior Reformist Amani “We Have Not Decided to Remain Silent”
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
The Latest from Iran (7 March): The Elections Next Door

Thus, Larijani takes a swipe at Ahmadinejad and poses as a a defender of justice for the Iranian people.

1930 GMT: Bypassing Sanctions. All the way back to our first update (0730 GMT) on "Western" firms who trade with Tehran: Welt Online has a lengthy article on German companies who use Dubai as a "back door" to get into Iran.

1900 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Madhi Forouzandehpour, who was in charge of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s office, has been released after more than two months in detention.

1750 GMT: The Uranium Enrichment Deal. Don't say EA didn't tell you....
A couple of weeks after the visit by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani to Tokyo, this nugget from the Foreign Ministry:
Iran is ready to conduct its uranium exchange plan also with fresh countries, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Sunday, according to the Fars News Agency.

"As we have reached no results yet with France, Russia and the United States over the uranium exchange plan, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head has asked other countries to get involved," Mehmanparast said.

"We will wait and see whether other countries would be capable to provide us with the required fuel," the spokesman added in a meeting with students at the Shahid Beheshti university in Tehran.

Japan is reportedly one of the countries interested to get engaged in the deal.

1730 GMT: Political Prisoner/Mohareb Watch. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatababi announced that 250 Ashura detainees have been indicted, but he said reports of a confirmed death sentence for Mohammad Amin Valian were false.

1710 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Leading student activist Abdollah Momeni has reportedly been released on $800,000 bail.

1645 GMT: Karroubi Takes on Mohareb. It looks like Mehdi Karroubi may have another front in his battle against the regime over its conception of "justice". He told an audience today,
I have previously pointed out [the need for] changing the definition of Mohareb [warring against God] in the current situation and have asked judiciary officials for its abolition....Some officials, unpremeditatedly or premeditatedly and even intentionally, called the streets protests and movements Moharebeh, and this is unfortunate.

Karroubi referred to the case of Mohammad Amin Valian, the Ashura protester condemned to death, as a “negative point” since Valian was only “taking part in street protests.” Karroubi claimed that Iranian officials "don’t know that Iran’s reputation in the international community is tarnished with such acts”.

1640 GMT: On the Women's Front. The Iranian Labor News Agency dares to proclaim, on the eve of International Women's Day, that "statistics and recent events in Iran indicate Iranian women did not experience an enjoyable year".

1630 GMT: That Cyber-War Thing. Following the declaration of Iranian officials that the Green Movement will be "crushed" in the battle of the Internet, an Islamic Revolution Guard Corps commander has said that 18,000 IRGC troops will be deployed in the "cyber-war".

1615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amirhossein Kazemi, weblog writer and member of the Freedom Movement of Iran, was arrested last night after being summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and taken to an unknown location. Emad Behavar, the head of the youth branch and member of the political bureau of the FMI, has been arrested for the third time in the post-election crisis.

Many of the FMI's leaders have been detained.

1200 GMT: We've posted an interview with a senior reformist, Shahrbanou Amani, considering the state of the Green Movement: "We Have Not Decided to Remain Silent".

1000 GMT: Posture of the Day. The Iranian Government, represented by Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi, is boasting of a new domestically-manufactured short-range cruise missile that can "eliminate targets of up to 300 tons".

0800 GMT: Butterfly on a Wheel. Golshifteh Farahani, the first Iranian actress since 1979 to appear in a major Hollywood film, has spoken of the oppression of Iran's artists by the current regime.

After her appearance in Body of Lies with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, Farahani was harassed by Iranian intelligence services for months before she went into exile in Paris.

Reacting to the arrest of award-winning director Jafar Panahi last week, Farahani said, "We are so angry. Jafar is one, maybe the only one… still in Iran who is talking. Most artists [in Iran] don't talk because they would rather work somehow. I appreciate that, but Jafar is the one who had the courage to talk, and he talked for everyone."

0755 GMT: A Government's Satanic Aims. Former President Mohammad Khatami has delcared in a speech:
It is a catastrophe that satanic aims and inhuman methods are imposed on the people in the name of God and holiness. Peace is the most beautiful word that exists, but unfortunately we see rare examples in the historical reality (today).

0750 GMT: Here's Some Culture for You. Former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi has declared at a conference that Iran's "cyber-army" will reach "greater achievements", crushing the Green Movement.

0730 GMT: Nine months after Iran's Presidential election, media attention --- including that of Iranian outlets --- will be focused on a vote next door, as Iraqis go to the polls. We'll be starting our Iran morning in a reflective mood, with a senior reformist politician, Shahrbanou Amani, considering the state of the movement: "We have not decided to remain silent."

Anticipating US legislating punishing firms who trade both with the American Government and with Iran, The New York Times has published a list of 74 companies who could have been affected. Heading the list is Halliburton, the oil and gas drilling services firm connected with former Vice President Dick Cheney, at $27.1 billion. (Like a number of others on the list, Halliburton has now officially withdrawn from Iran.)

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.

UPDATED Death, Confusion, and Clerics in Iran: The Case of Mohammad Amin Valian

UPDATE 6 MARCH: Iranian Students News Agency has confirmed the "mohareb" death sentence handed down to Mohammad Amin Valian. Valian's attorney says the case has not yet gone to appeal.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims, from a source, that "[Valian's] family is under immense pressure to withhold interviews with the media and human rights organizations....Ministry of Information authorities have promised his family that if they don’t get the media involved, they would somehow secure a clemency for him from the Supreme Leader."

We still do not have confirmation of the "mohareb" (war against God) death sentence allegedly handed to Mohammad Amin Valian. What we do have, however, are some high-profile politics and religious moves which may point to deeper issues for the Islamic Republic. Mr Verde analyses:

Ayatollah Sane'i, in response to the question: “What are the criteria for identifying mohareb and what are the punishments for it?” has issued a fatwa (decree) on his site.

The Latest from Iran (4 March): A Death Penalty Mystery

The fatwa describes what is mohareb (which, from my reading, clearly does not include the actions of protesters, even on Ashura --- 27 December). More significantly, it says that in certain conditions when people are protesting for their rights, their defence of those rights is not only permitted, but is obligatory. [Sane'i uses the word “vajeb”, which is a strong word when it is used in fatwas --- for example, "vajeb" is used in relations to namaz (daily prayers), roozeh (fasting in Ramadan), and Hajj (the once in the lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca).]

In addition to Sane'i's fatwas, there are rumors that Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh-Damad is lobbying the Qom Grand Ayatollahs to give fatwas to stop the execution of Valian. As EA has reported, Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has denied that he ever issued a fatwa calling for the execution of protesters, even those who demonstrated on Ashura.

(A side note: both the Sane'i fatwa and Makarem-Shirazi denial were issued on the eve of the Prophet’s birthday. That may also be an indication of how important they think the issue is.)

We know that the Sane'i fatwa and Marakem-Shirazi's denial of fatwa are authentic: they are published on their own websites.  We are not sure of the authenticity of the Mohaghegh-Damad move. However, I am thinking that it might be true. The reason: his name has always been mentioned in an alleged protest to Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, about the two executions in January.

Usually the clergy do not talk much about their behind-the-scene moves (they don’t like to publicize what they do). But if an untruth is told about what they are saying or doing, they usually issue a very strong denial. as Makarem-Shirazi has now done. Makarem has left no doubt that he not only does not want people executed, but he also wants them released).

If all of the above is true, we may be witnessing a new front (or better put, a new crack) appearing within the regime:

Sane'i supports the reformist camp. His fatwas are usually a slap down for Ayatollah Khamenei, who has --- far from incidentally --- lesser religious credentials.

Neither Mohaghegh-Damad or Makarem-Shirazi are reformists, however. They are conservative clerics who have good religious credentials. So we might be witnessing the conservative clerics trying to distance themselves from the actions of the regime and also from the Supreme Leader.

If this process continues, either the regime (and more significantly, Khamenei) will have to give in, or the regime will have to rely even more on the military and less on its religious legitimacy. (Its public legimimtacy no longer exists.)
These moves would be the first time that the reformists and conservative clerics have allied publicly.  It may also give more meaning and significance to Hashemi Rafsanjani’s speech on Wednesday.

This cannot be good for Khamenei.

The Latest from Iran (5 March): Re-aligning

2030 GMT: Academic Special. We've posted an entry noting how Iran's regime and America's self-proclaimed "Truthful Encyclopedia", Conservapedia, have allied against deviant professors.

NEW University Special: Iran & Conservapedia Ally Against Dangerous Professors
Death, Confusion, and Clerics in Iran: The Case of Mohammad Amin Valian
Iran Film Special: Watching Shrek in Tehran
The Latest from Iran (4 March): A Death Penalty Mystery

2015 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Iranian authorities have prevented the son of Mehdi Karroubi, Professor Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, from flying to Britain. Mohammad Karroubi's passport was seized at the airport.

Mehdi Karroubi's website, Saham News, reported, "[Mohammad Karroubi] was planning to fly to London for university related work, including the re-publication of his book 'Just or Unjust War?' and the completion of another book related to international law."

1915 GMT: The Valian "Mohareb" Case. The US Government, shifting its attention from the nuclear issue, has called on Iran to release Mohammad Amin Valian, allegedly condemned to death for protests between July and December: "We find this disproportionate punishment deplorable and urge his immediate release. If the Iranian government wants the respect of the international community, it must respect the fundamental freedoms of its people."

1905 GMT: Smoke Screen. In a letter to "Western" media, the editors of six Iranian websites associated with "principlist" politicians have complained about the presentation of post-election events, accusing the Western outlets of distorting events in Iran and acting “unprofessionally.”

The operators of Alef, Tabnak, Jahan, Khabar Online, Farda, and Hamshahri Online websites, asking the Western journalists to use “professional conscience" to review events, focus on the case of Neda Agha-Soltan, killed by a Basiji gunman:
Since the Iranian government was struggling to calm the public and the opposition sought to whip up excitement, in your opinion which side could expect to gain from murdering Neda?....How are the inconsistencies in remarks made by Arash Hejazi in the video clip that is available and the BBC interview where he provides details justifiable? And as a more general question, how credible is the story when an assassination on a quiet street prompts passersby to move closer to film the victim up close instead of fleeing the scene? Did you consider such skepticism before you publicized the story? Was your conduct professional?

The letter continues with the report of the rape and murder of Taraneh Mousavi, a claim which proved to be unsubstantied, accuse Western media of reporting on the news by resorting to an “obscure blog.”

1855 GMT: The Clerical Challenge (cont.).  Remember Mr Verde's column yesterday on how the Supreme Leader and the regime may have let themselves in for some religious trouble over the alleged death sentence handed out to 20-year-old Mohammad Amin Valian as "mohareb" (warrior against God)?

Well, Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has joined Ayatollah Sane'i in criticism of the "justice" in the Valian case: "Mohareb are those who attack people with arms and shed their blood, not protesters."

1630 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reports claim that the head of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s presidential campaign in Shahinshahr in Isfahan Province has been in prison since 11 February.

Prominent reformist Behzad Nabavi was released for five days on Wednesday night.

The sentence for journalist and economist Saeed Leylaz has been reduced to three years.

1500 GMT: Well, Here's a Surprise. The pro-Larijani Khabar Online prints a sustained attack on the foreign policy of the Ahmadinejad Government, notably its pursuit of Iran's nuclear case.

1455 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Rah-e-Sabz continues to press the line that Hashemi Rafsanjani is keeping his distance from the Government. The website claims that Rafsanjani, his ally Hassan Rouhani, and former Presidential candidate Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri are staying away from meetings of the Combatant Clergy Association because of their differences with the group.

1445 GMT: Another Warning to Mousavi. Iran's Prosecutor-General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie has attacked Mir Hossein Mousavi: If a Government cannot pursue someone because of his attachments [Note: Attachments to whom or what?], that is a deviation. People expect Mousavi's public punishment.

0740 GMT: Yesterday's Top Statement. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced:
Our atomic bombs are our youth and athletic heroes. A nation that possesses determination, intellect, culture and civilization doesn't need to make atomic bombs. Those who suffer from inferiority complex and lack a historical background and civilization are the ones that claim they need atomic bombs.

0725 GMT: Washington Endorses A Nuclear Deal? Perhaps the most significant Iran-related signal that will be missed today....

US Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg met Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada yesterday on the Iran issue. Steinberg's media statement was bland:
Japan plays a very critical role on this question. It's a leader and a very strong voice in supporting a non-proliferation regime with a very strong commitment to dealing with the challenge of nuclear weapons.

But for those who can de-code diplomatic statements, the Deputy Secretary offered an important signal: "(Japan) is very influential with Iranians and can have a very big impact....(I am) grateful for the strong statements they made during a recent visit by Iranian officials here."

The significance is missed by Agence France Presse, which reports the statement. That "visit by Iranian officials" was the occasion for Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani to embrace a "third-party" deal in which Japan would enrich Iran's uranium stock to 20 percent.

So now what do you think Steinberg was discussing with Foreign Minister Okada?

0640 GMT: The Sanctions Dance. Outside Iran, a lot of attention will be expended on the continuing discussion of tougher sanctions on Tehran. Brazil's pointed rejection, made during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit, has checked the momentum --- whipped up in the media --- for an American resolution in the UN Security Council. The Council on Foreign Relations has a useful analysis.

Clinton is now talking about "months", rather than "weeks", for a US initiative. That may not be a bad thing for Obama, who reportedly is sceptical of the impact of further economic measures, but the battle will now move to the US Congress, which continues to press for sweeping rather than gradual sanctions.

0625 GMT: And so the end of another week in Iran. Beyond the bluster of the regime, most of the daily news has concerned political prisoners: some released, usually on bail and commanded to silence or face a return to jail, others swept up and detained.  A case we had not noted before: Radio Farda reports that student Ali Kanturi has been sentenced to 15 years for "abduction" and "extortion".

The regime's heavy hand, despite all the tensions and confusions within the Government, does seem to have quelled public protest. Perhaps most notable is that there do not appear to be the university demonstrations that marked the period between 13 Aban (4 November) and Ashura (27 December). With the regime also continues to try and choke off the opposition media, the public face of resistance now comes primarily through the statements and interviews of figures like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

Of course, that does not mean that resistance has been quelled. It is more a case that, in this period between 22 Bahman and the Iranian New Year, it lies smoldering. Another crisis or mis-step by the Government could bring it to the fore; more likely, however, is that the challenge to President Ahmadinejad and, indeed, to the Iranian system will come through erosion.
Not an erosion of legitimacy --- the point that should not be forgotten is that legitimacy has been beyond this Government for many Iranians --- but an erosion of authority as the economy stumbles and there is no visible sign of the "unity" that the regime trumpets again and again in its pronouncements.

That is why the curious "death penalty" case of student Mohammad Amin Valian raises interest. As the affair unfolds, with no confirmation that the Ashura protester has actually been condemned to die, the disquiet and now open opposition of clerics indicates that the Government will continue to face problems --- and the Supreme Leader will be pressured --- over the notion of "justice".

The Latest from Iran (4 March): A Death Penalty Mystery

2200 GMT: The Dilemma. Paused when I read this statement from Trita Parsi: "Here is the central dilemma of Iranian policy: Iran's greens need time, but Washington does not seem to think it can afford to wait."

2150 GMT: Political Prisoner News. Reports that journalist Payman Aref has been released for ten days on a $100,000 bail.

2140 GMT: Today's Super Spy Case. Here is one to watch: Italian authorities have rounded up five Iranians and two Italians (according to Associated Press, the BBC says two Iranians and five Italians), with two more Iranians being sought, on charges of sending arms to Iran in violation of the international embargo. Amongst those detained is the Rome correspondent of Iranian state television, Hamid Masouminejad.

NEW Death, Confusion, and Clerics in Iran: The Case of Mohammad Amin Valian
NEW Iran Film Special: Watching Shrek in Tehran
Iran: Today’s Rafsanjani Watch — Clarity or Confusion?
Iran Interview: The State of Tehran’s Nuclear Programme (Cirincione)
The Latest from Iran (3 March): Love and Hate

2045 GMT: Waging Soft War for the Regime. From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
A controversial reporter with the ultraconservative Kayhan daily has been praised as Iran's first soft-war hero.

Payam Fazlinejad, who was attacked last month by unknown assailants, was described as Iran's first soft-war "janbaz" (someone who sacrifices his or her life) during a conference titled "The Celebration of Eight Months of Cyberwar" held in Tehran earlier this week....

Following the attack on Fazlinejad, the head of the semi-official Fars news agency said that Fazlinejad's writing had shed light on the true nature of the "sedition" movement and that as a writer he's been fighting in the soft-war sphere against those opposed to the Iranian establishment. He suggested that Fazlinejad's attackers are those who have been damaged by his writings.

At the ceremony, Fazlinejad, who appeared with his head bandaged, blasted the Green Movement, which he said has a "Freemason" nature and added that former President Mohammad Khatami is also a Freemason....

Following last year's disputed presidential vote, Fazlinejad has often referred ironically to the opposition press and dissidents as "nato-cultural," in an allusion to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

1800 GMT: Undermining Khamenei (While Backing Him). Abbas Salimi-Naeem, a right-wing politician and Head of the Office for Research and Documenting Iranian Contemporary History, has declared, "Hashemi Rafsanjani has problems with the election engineering that has been drawn up by the Supreme Leader."

On the surface, that is another attack on Rafsanjani and defense of Khamenei. But it is yet another public statement that raises the allegation, denied by the Supreme Leader and his inner circle, that he was involved with rigging of the election.

1410 GMT: Today's Clerics --- What Matters, What Doesn't. The Supreme Leader has used a meeting with Iran's top officials on the occasion of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday to put out some ritual phrases: "the endless oppression by the criminal Zionist regime against the innocent people of Palestine...the fake Zionist regime [is] a dangerous tumor...continuous efforts of the US, Britain, and other enemies of Islam to cause discord among the Islamic Ummah".

Meanwhile, we have a special analysis by Mr Verde of significant clerical moves, which may pose a problem for Ayatollah Khamenei beyond the Zionist tumour and enemies of Islam, over the reported death sentence on post-election protester Mohammad Amin Valian.

1240 GMT: So There. Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, has warned, "Iran's proposal for a simultaneous exchange on Iranian soil of our low enriched uranium for fuel enriched to 20 percent is still on the table but it will not stay there forever."

1150 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Amidst the current surge in activity for economic measures against Tehran, Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has spoken out: "We oppose military attack on Iran or economic sanctions because that's to the detriment of the people."
1120 GMT: Economy Watch. Time magazine notes the significance of the economic issue for the Ahmadinejad Government:
Labor unrest and economic anxiety may not be among the headlines coming out of Iran since the controversial presidential election of June 2009, but they could turn out to be critical factors in the fate of the Islamic Republic. Indeed, the regime is so sensitive about the country's well-being that it has been obfuscating economic statistics — or simply not reporting them.

1100 GMT: The Detained Director. Peyke Iran reports the release of almost all those detained in the Monday night raid by Iranian security force on the home of prominent film director Jafar Panahi. However, Panahi, his production manager, and documentary maker Mohammad Rasoulof are still imprisoned.

0900 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Payvand has a useful round-up of recent developments. These include the detention of Hessam Firouzi, human rights activist and physician to several political prisoners, and his neighbour after raids on Firouzi's home. The security forces also went through the home of Firouzi's nephew, who has been missing since January.

As we noted yesterday, Mohboubeh Karami, member of the One Million Signature Campaign, has been charged with "disturbance and participation in gatherings." This is her fifth detention.

Human rights activist and blogger Behzad Mehrani was taken into custody and at least two more activists were arrested in Isfahan.

0645 GMT: The chatter this morning continues to be over the possible death sentence handed down on 20-year-old university student Mohammad Amin Valian, detained after the Ashura demonstrations of 27 December.

Iranian authorities have still offered no confirmation (or denial). However, the office of Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, who was accused of handing down the fatwa that led to Valian's sentence, has issued a denial. An anonymous visitor to Makarem-Shirazi's website wrote, "Many news organizations are reporting that an unjust execution sentence handed down to a student from Damghan is based on a decree by Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi. Please clarify whether this is true."

The reply from the website operators: "We have definitely not issued any fatwa [decrees] with regard to such people and this is the mischief of some sites. God willing, you’ll act according to Islamic criteria and not rush to judgement. May God’s kindness encompass everyone. Also we know that some youth have acted violently under the effects of certain emotions. These people have to be guided and if they have no links to corrupt groups they should be pardoned."

Meanwhile, a much different, if tangled, story plays out on the international front. The US is trying to set up a push for a UN Security Council resolution for tougher sanctions, with a flood of stories yesterday about a firm line from Europe and assurances that China was coming around to the American position.

However, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her Latin American tour, has offered a firm rebuff in their news conference:
We think with our own mind. We want a world without nuclear arms, certainly without proliferation. It is not about simply bending to an opinion that may not be true. We can't simply be taken along. We have to think with our own head.

Brazil holds one of the 10 rotating, non-veto seats on the Council.