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Entries in Peyke Iran (3)


The Latest from Iran (29 March): Questionable Authority

1755 GMT: "Expert" Speculation of the Day. Meir Javedanfar gets himself into The Huffington Post with this assertion:
Until recently, both Tehran and Jerusalem saw the health care debate as an item that could significantly weaken Obama's standing at home, which in turn would reduce his leverage abroad. They were hoping that a defeat would force Obama to focus on his troubles at home.

I'll check with Ali Yenidunya on the Israeli angle, but I have seen nothing to indicate that the Iranian Government was counting on the health care issue to limit and even damage the US President.

1525 GMT: Jailing Persian Cats. On the same day that we noted the drama-posing-as-documentary No Time for Persian Cats, its storyline of Iranians trying to evade the authorities to play music comes true: underground rap artist Sasi Mankan has been arrested.

Just trying to learn more about Mankan, but here's a sample of his music:


NEW Iran: A View from the Labour Front (Rahnema)
NEW Iran’s Nukes: False Alarm Journalism (Sick)
Iran’s Nukes: The Dangerous News of The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (28 March): Dealing with Exaggerations

1300 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA claims that children's rights activist Maryam Zia Movahed, detained since 31 December, has been moved to a clinic in Evin Prison after starting a hunger strike on 17 March.

Peyke Iran writes that Azeri journalist and human rights activist Shahnaz Gholami has been given a prison sentence of eight years in absentia by a Tabriz court. Gholami is currently in Turkey and seeking asylum. The site also claims that Abdolreza Qanbari, a teacher from Pakdasht, has been sentenced to death for "mohareb" (war against God).

Rah-e-Sabz has published the names of 41 detained human rights activists.

1230 GMT: Parliament v. President. There's a sharp analysis by Hamid Takapu in Rah-e-Sabz of the debate over subsidy cuts since 2008. Takapu argues that the sword of a referendum, demanded by the President on his current proposals, could cut two ways: a successful challenge could reduce Parliament to a symbolic body (Takapu uses the analogy of the Russian Duma) but it could also strike Ahmadinejad if people ask for referendums on bigger issues.

0950 GMT: Labour Watch. We've posted a lengthy extract from an interview with Saeed Rahnema, a labour activist in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, analysing the state of the labour movement and, more broadly, of activism in the post-election conflict.

0655 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Professor Seyed Ahmad Miri of the Islamic Iran Participation Front has been arrested in Babol, while journalist Sasan Aghaei and women's rights activist Somaiyeh Farid have been released on bail.

0615 GMT: We begin this morning with a series of dubious attempts to claim authority in and about Iran. The New York Times' claimed reporting on the Iranian nuclear programme, which we criticised yesterday, is taken apart further by Gary Sick.

Inside Iran, President Ahmadinejad continued his campaign to overturn the Parliament's decision on his subsidy reforms and spending plan, using a marker and whiteboard to provide the truth to journalists. He thus proved beyond doubt that this will be another year of prosperity and "huge victories" for Iran.

The problem for the President is that not everyone believes him. While his supporter Mohammad Karim Shahrzad has challenged one of Ahmadinejad's leading Parliamentary critics, Ahmad Tavakoli, to a televised debate, legislator Seyed Reza Akrami says the President has taken an oath to implement the law and thus the decision of the Parliament.

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 (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.