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Entries in Parleman News (3)


The Latest from Iran (28 March): Dealing with Exaggerations

2150 GMT: The website of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri claims that 30 people were arrested at the funeral of his wife, MahSoltan Rabani (see 1730 GMT).

1815 GMT: Sanctions Division. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again rejected new sanctions on Iran. In an interview with Spiegel, ahead of a visit to Turkey by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan maintained, "We must first try to find a diplomatic solution. "What we need here is diplomacy, and then more diplomacy....Everything else threatens world peace."

NEW Iran’s Nukes: The Dangerous News of The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (27 March): Rumours

1745 GMT: Denial of a Rumour. Yesterday we reported the story racing around the Internet that the Revolutionary Guard was laundering money through Dubai and Bahrain, using Ali Jannati, the son of Guardian Council leader Ahmad Jannati, and putting the funds in a Swiss bank.

We would have left it at that, but Press TV now reports:

Iran has denied reports that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was involved in the money-laundering operation allegedly run by a Bahraini minister.

"We strongly deny all claims about an alleged involvement of the Guards in the operations," said Iranian Ambassador to Doha Hossein Amir Abdollahian....

The allegation came to light after Bahraini State Minister Mansour Bin Rajab was sacked for his supposed involvement in a money-laundering operation.

1730 GMT: A Restricted Funeral for Montazeri's Wife. MahSoltan Rabani, the wife of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was laid to rest today under strict security measures in Qom. Rabani's son Saeed Montazeri said:
Security forces and forces in plain clothes created such a security atmosphere that we were basically unable to carry out the special prayers and mourning ceremony. Tens of government vehicles brought the body without allowing any access to it even by her family. They made a small stop at the [Masoumeh] shrine and quickly removed her form the premises....

They not only did not allow us to hold the ceremony, they did not even let us bury her in the location that we had in mind.

Saeed Montazeri's conclusion? "They are even scared of a corpse and its burial.”

1530 GMT: We have updated our analysis on Obama Administration policy and this morning's New York Times claim of a search for undisclosed Iranian nuclear sites.

0950 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims that Tehran University medical student Shirin Gharachedaghi was abducted by plainclothes forces on Friday; her whereabouts are unknown.

Peyke Iran reports that Reza Khandan, a member of the Iranian Writers Association, remains in prison after more than six weeks, even though bail has been paid.

Parleman News writes that Dr. Ali Akbar Soroush of Mazandaran University, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been in prison since 13 March.

Rah-e-Sabz claims 181 human rights violations in Kurdistan over the last three months, leading tothe deaths of at least 25 people.

0945 GMT: We've published an analysis of what I see as poor, even dangerous, journalism from The New York Times on Iran's nuclear programme.

0930 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The reformist Parleman News publishes a barbed "historical" analysis on Hashemi Rafsanjani as a mediator between "right" and "left" positions. The analysis contends that the right stopped supporting Rafsanjani when the "left" had been sufficiently weakened, leaving Rafsanjani without a role. It adds that the former Preisdent should have established a party; if so, Iran would not necessarily be in its current predicament.

0720 GMT: An International Nowruz Exaggeration? Khabar Online claims that the First International Nowruz Celebrations (see 0620 GMT), scheduled for two days, only lasted one and never made it to Shiraz, which was supposed to co-host the ceremonies with Tehran.

0710 GMT: Arab Engagement. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has told the League's summit in Libya, "We have to open a dialogue with Iran. I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran."

0655 GMT: President v. Parliament. The Ahmadinejad fightback for his subsidy cuts and spending plans continues, with three members of Parliament --- Hamid Rassai, Hossein Sobhaninia, and Esmail Kowsari --- pressing in Iranian state media for approval of the President's full request for $40 billion from his subsidy reductions. The Majlis has only approved $20 billion, and Speaker Ali Larijani and allies have taken a strong line against any revision of the decision.

Another MP, Mohammad Kousari, has suggested that Parliament approve $30 billion.

0645 GMT: Repent! Mahdi Kalhor, President Ahmadinejad's media advisor, raises both eyebrows and a smile with his forthright declarations in Khabar Online.

Kalhor started with a move for conciliation, saying that if all who made mistakes during the post-election turmoil adopted modesty and accepted their faults, people would forgive them.

But the advisor then complained that Iran's state media do not suppport Ahmadinejad, claiming this was in contrast to the period of Mohammad Khatami, "Everything was represented as fair enough and it caused damage to Mr. Khatami more than the others."

According to Kalhor, there have been no Ahmadinejad mistakes and "when the rivals constantly accuse you of lying, you may not tolerate or control such a climate."

0620 GMT: We begin Sunday dealing with inflated "news" inside and outside Iran. Iranian state media is hammering away at the two days of the First International Nowruz Celebrations to show the regional legitimacy of the regime. First, there was President Ahmadinejad's declaration alongside compatriots from compatriots from Tajikistan , Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Then there was the Supreme Leader's statement: "This event and its continuity can serve as an appropriate ground for bringing governments and nations in the region closer together....[This can be a] cultural gift and conveyance from nations that mark Nowruz to other nations, particularly the West."

(I leave it to readers to decode the photograph of the Supreme Leader and the regional Presidents, with Ahmadinejad relegated to the back of the group. Surely just an error of positioning?)

Meanwhile in the US, another type of distracting exaggeration. After weeks of silence, the Iran Nuclear Beat of The New York Times (reporters David Sanger and William Broad) are back with two pieces of fear posing as news and analysis. The two, fed by dissenting voices in the International Atomic Energy Agency and by operatives in "Western intelligence agencies", declare, "Agencies Suspect Iran Is Planning New Atomic Sites".

The leap from their sketchy evidence to unsupported conclusion --- Iran is not just pursuing an expansion of uranium enrichment but The Bomb, bringing a climactic showdown --- is propped up by Sanger's "Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Latest from Iran (17 March): Celebration

2125 GMT: We Persist. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters, many of whose members have been detaineed, has issued a statement:

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters once again by maintaining the path that it has taken and by supporting other human rights organizations, emphasizes that it will continue its decisive activities in reporting human rights conditions on both national and international levels through collaborations with independent and credible international human rights organizations.

NEW Iran Labour Front: Minimum Wage, “Unprecedent Poverty and Hunger”, and Strikes
NEW Iran Analysis: What Does the Fire Festival Mean?
NEW Latest Iran Video: Two Views of the Fire Festival (16 March)
Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Resistance” (15 March)
Latest Iran Video: The Attack on Karroubi’s House (14 March)
Iran Breaking: Ban on Reformist Political Party
The Latest from Iran (16 March): Fire and Politics

2115 GMT: Karroubi's Big Line. Here's the stinger statement from Mehdi Karroubi as he addressed the (banned) Islamic Iran Participation Front: "Why is it that the justifications of the Shah for his actions were wrong but the very logic and content of his words coming from you is to be considered right?"

1945  GMT: Political Prisoner News. Documentary maker Mohammad Rasoulof, who was arrested in the raid on director Jafar Panahi's house, has been released. Panahi is the only person from the incident who remains in detention.

1915 GMT: Picture of the Day. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, on his release from detention:

1910 GMT: Economy Watch. Iran has cut the cheap petrol ration by 25% to 60 litres per vehicle per month from 21 March. Currently, each vehicle is allowed a quota of 80 litres of fuel at 10 cents a litre, with any amount needed on top of that priced at 40 cents.

Now is the move part of President Ahmadinejad's subsidies reduction plan or a response to tightening fuel supplies with the prospect of reduced imports? Or both?

1900 GMT: Labour News. We've posted an interview with Jafar Azim Zadeh, the head of the Free Assembly of Iranian Workers, about the minimum wage, inflation, and the prospect of "poverty and hunger" for Iran's labourers.

1745 GMT: Reformist Relay. Once again, prominent opposition figures are putting out a series of statements. There is Mir Hossein Mousavi's speech to the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mehdi Karroubi's "Let Us Rally" statement (see 1600 GMT), and Mohammad Khatami's address to members of the Islamic associations of Tehran universities.

Khatami insisted that the government "does not have the right to defy the constitution" and declare that its opponents are "adversaries of the regime". He asked the Iranian judiciary, "How is it that baseless accusations against some people are pursued fiercely by the judiciary whilst deviant groups are free to insult and slander any Shiite leader they might dislike?"

Khatami emphasized that the establishment can resolve problems by releasing political prisoners and upholding liberties that are the people's legal right.

1600 GMT: Karroubi Watch. The Facebook site that supports Mir Hossein Mousavi is carrying a statement from Mehdi Karroubi, "Let Us Hold a Rally".

1345 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The reformist Parleman News declares "One Step Forward" for former President Hashemi Rafsanjani in his political manoeuvres.

1245 GMT: I'm Not Sure You Get It, Dude. At a news conference, Minister of Oil Masoud Mir Kazemi has warned that Tehran will blacklist companies which stop their gasoline exports to the country.

With respect, Mr Kazemi, I think the point here is not that you might blacklist them but that they are blacklisting you (since Iran imports 40 percent of its consumption of gasoline). As Khabar Online, which carries the report, notes, "It's not clear how Iranian government is to punish the companies which cut off gasoline delivery to the country."

1235 GMT: Another Death Sentence. Amidst chatter, some of it from the regime, about capital punishments, the International Committee for Human Rights in Iran claims a confirmed case. Abdolreza Ghanbari, accused of "mohareb" (war against God) for participation in Ashura protests, has been sentenced to death.

1230 GMT: We Will Not Be Silent (2). The wife of Mostafa Tajzadeh. former Deputy Minister of Interior and senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has declared that he "will talk to the people on a convenient occasion". Tajzadeh was released without bail for the Iranian New Year.

1210 GMT: We Will Not Be Silent (1). The Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution party has issued a statement: Ahmadinejad has erased freedom and taken the bread from people's tables.

1205 GMT: Etemaad To Re-Open (at a Cost)? Aftab News is reporting that the ban on Etemaad will be lifted after payment of a "bail" (we are confirming whether 100 billion or 100 million toman, which corresponds to either $100 million or $100,000), with the newspaper reappearing in the Iranian New Year.

1025 GMT: Happy New Year, "Rioters". Under the heading of not-very-surprising news, Press TV reports:
Sentences have been handed down to 86 detainees of Tehran's Western-led post-election unrests on charges that include taking part in illegal riots and disrupting public order....
According to the statement, the sentences were issued for charges such as "conspiring against national security, spreading propaganda against the establishment, membership in hostile and anti-Revolutionary groups, taking part in illegal gatherings, and disrupting public order."

0848 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. A poor attempt at analysis, simplifying a complex politician, in Foreign Policy. The magazine headlines a piece by Genevieve Abdo, a front-line writer on Iranian politics, "Iran's most independent politician finally casts his lot with the hard-liners."

There's a huge difference between giving support to the Supreme Leader, which Rafsanjani has clearly set out in recent months, and giving support to the Government. Abdo's evidence for the latter consists of this: Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad were both at a celebration on 4 March of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hmm.... Might want to set this against the steady sniping at the Government from Rafsanjani allies like Hassan Rohani. And it might be useful to speak with someone in the opposition before telling readers:
The green movement is taking Rafsanjani's return to the fold as a setback. With his independent voice now subsumed into the hard-line camp, there is no doubt this development will lead him to curtail his recent criticism of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

(Normally I wouldn't put such a poor analysis in the updates. But Foreign Policy is a front-line website for the Washington networks, so assertions like these can be read by US officials and journalists as the "hot intelligence" on Iran.)

0844 GMT: Mousavi's New Year. Mir Hossein Mousavi has already set down a marker for "a year of patience and steadfastness" in his speech to the Islamic Iran Participation Front. Now he and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, announce they are putting out a video message, addressed to the people of Iran, for the Nowruz (the Iranian New Year).

0840 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. An activist reports that Saeed Nourmohammadi, a leading member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been released on bail.

0830 GMT: We begin this morning with a look at last night's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival) celebrations. There are two videos with different visions of the evening, and we have an analysis: "Sometimes a celebration should be considered first as a celebration....Sometimes a celebration should then be considered political."