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Entries in Dmitry Medvedev (9)


The Latest from Iran (29 May): Statements for 22 Khordad/12 June

1655 GMT: Visiting Panahi. Mehdi Karroubi has met with Jafar Panahi, the prominent filmmaker who was detained for almost three months before being released this week.

1650 GMT: CyberPolice? Lots of chatter today that Google was filtered in Iran, at least for a short time.

1635 GMT: To Russia, With Criticism. All is still not well in Tehran over Moscow's position on the nuclear issue.

After President Ahmadinejad's public telling-off of Russia earlier in the week, senior Iranian lawmakers have taken up the criticism. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani went after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by exalting his predecessor,
If the approach agreed on with the former Russian president (Vladimir Putin) had been pursued, it could have served the interests of both sides. Concerning nuclear issues, Russia has always sought to fit things within the frame of its own interests, and efforts must be made to return this approach to its precise path.

Kazem Jalali of Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said said Moscow was under the same "analytical misconception" as the US but offered a way back, "Russia can be effective in rejecting the [sanctions] resolution, and can save face internationally through a positive response to Iran's letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency."

NEW Iran Document: Mousavi “Greens Will Not be Stopped by Arrests, Prisons, or Killing”
NEW Iran: A Poem for Executed Teacher Farzad Kamangar
Friends or Obstacles?: Iran, Human Rights, & US “Concern”
Iran Analysis: When Allies Co-ordinate (Mousavi & Karroubi)
NEW Iran Analysis: When Allies Fight (Tehran and Moscow
The Latest from Iran (28 May): A Pause in Discussion?

1435 GMT: Political Prisoners Watch. Maziar Khosravi, editor of the Hammihan website, has been released from detention. Khosravi had been detained after his reports on last June's attacks on Tehran University's dormitories.

Activists are reporting that student activist Majid Tavakoli, who is on hunger strike, has been moved out of solitary confinement.

1410 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. As news emerges of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani reasserting his critical statements from last year (see 1350 GMT), we also get a report that assailants have raided the office of Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi.

1405 GMT: The Students' Declaration. Student activists have released a statement calling for innovation in civil disobedience and asserting "perseverance on the way to democracy".

1350 GMT: And More Statements. I don't we think we quite expected, selecting the title for this morning's updates, how appropriate it would be.

We have posted in a separate entry the English translation of Mir Hossein Mousavi's latest lengthy critique of the Government and statement of the Green Movement's defiance.

And another prominent politician is making mischief: Agence France Presse reports that the website of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has posted the 2009 letter he sent to the Supreme Leader, criticising the regime:
Even if I keep quiet, part of the people, groups and parties will undoubtedly not bear this situation any more and set off social upheavals, examples of which can be seen in street rallies and universities....

The website also posts extracts from Rafsanjani's Friday Prayer sermon of 17 July --- the last one he has given:
What should we do? Our key issue is to return the trust which the people had and now to some extent is broken....

It is not necessary that in this situation people be jailed. Let them join their families. We should not allow enemies to rebuke and ridicule us because of detentions. We should tolerate each other.

1245 GMT: Monitoring the Cleric. Back from a break to find the report that banners supporting Ayatollah Yusuf Sane'i for 4 June --- the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's death --- have been removed from Khomeini's mausoleum because of "deceitful phrases".

Posters for Sane'i, a critic of the current Government, were also removed from the recent Tehran Book Fair.

0810 GMT: Corruption vs. Corruption at Highest Levels. The political battle within the establishment over corruption allegations continues.

More details on the Fatemi Street insurance fraud, with which 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi is allegedly involved, have emerged.Two companies were established in 2005/2006, and Rahimi reportedly used his influence to arrange large loans (eventually more than $1 billion) for them, receiving 10-15%.

Ahmadinejad supporters have countered that Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior official in Iran's judiciary, has seized 300,000 hectares of land. Emrooz claims that the President, in his speech this week in Kerman, implied that Larijani's brothers, Speaker of Parliament Ali and head of judiciary Sadegh, blocked the Government from taking back the property.

0805 GMT: Raising the Stakes (cont.). More on this week's Friday Prayer, on the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's death, from the Supreme Leader (see 0650 GMT)....

The warm-up act for Ayatollah Khamenei will be President Ahmadinejad.

And Ayatollah Khamenei's title, at least according to his office? “The Leader of All Muslims in World Affairs”.

0800 GMT: Another Statement. Visiting the family of political prisoner Mohsen Armin, a senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Speaker and former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi declared that the "imprisonment of the Revolution's children is a shame".

0755 GMT: Film Corner. Concern is growing over filmmaker Dariush Shokouf, an Iranian expatriate in Germany, who has disappeared. Shokouf, a vocal critic of Iran's regime, was last seen in Cologne, boarding a train for Paris.

0750 GMT: The Executions. We have posted a poem by Fatemeh Shams in memory of teacher Farzad Kamanager, executed on 9 May.

0650 GMT: Raising the Stakes. Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Liberty reports that the Supreme Leader will lead Tehran Friday Prayers this week, presiding at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Friday will be the anniversary of Khomeini's death in 1989.

This will be the first time that Ayatollah Khamenei has led Friday Prayers since his appearance one week after last year's Presidential election.

0555 GMT: Two weeks before the anniversary of the 2009 election, and we awake to a flurry of opposition statements.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, in his latest meeting, asserts that Iran should be "run by freedom and justice not by imprisonment". He argues, "We do not want the Government to give up rule in the name of Islam, but the content [of its rule] is empty and it does not address our desires."

Mousavi adds that this Government "monologue", meeting the wishes of the people with repression rather than discussion, leads to "tyranny" and "dictatorship".

The Assembly of Combatant Clergymen, like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi earlier this week, use the "historical importance" of the month of Khordad (May/June) to invoke the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini, remember the Presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and cite "the great participation" of the Iranian people in last year’s election.

The clergymen say this participation could have led to a better future for Iran; instead, it ws met by the brutal confrontation of the Government, which continues today with "heavy and unfair" prison sentences. They call for the release of all political prisoners and free elections.

The banned Islamic Iran Participation Front declares that the reform movement is an attempt to fix errant behaviour arising from narcissism, despotism, and fundamentalism that had shaped. The continuation of that effort of that effort led to a bitter showdown, with Government attacks on people’s freedom, security, and dignity in the name of religion.

The party calls for adherence to the Constitution and recognition of people’s demands for their rights, free assembly, political parties, a free press, and free elections.

Iran Analysis: When Allies Fight (Tehran and Moscow)

The international headlines this morning are on the drama of an apparent public row between the Iranian and Russian leaders. As we noted in yesterday's updates, the fuse was lit in a speech by President Ahmadinejad in Kerman. As usual, he focused on the international rather than the domestic front, but this time he had a surprise:
Today it has become very difficult to explain [Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev's behaviour to our people. Iranians do not understand whether they (the Russians) are our neighbour and friend standing by our side or are after other things.

But non-Western media really noticed the bangs when Moscow, through Presidential advisors, fought back. Foreign Policy specialist Sergei Prikhodko stated:
Any unpredictability, any political extremism, lack of transparency or inconsistency in taking decisions that affect and concern the entire world community is unacceptable for us. It would be good if those who are now speaking in the name of the wise people of Iran ... would remember this.

Russia has been playing a balancing game between Tehran and "Western" powers for months. Medvedev was one of the rare leaders who dared to appear in public with Ahmadinejad last summer, and the Russians maintained that projects such as the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be completed.

On the other hand, Medvedev --- in contrast to his Foreign Ministry --- has publicly signalled since last autumn that further sanctions can be considered if Iran did not shift its position over uranium enrichment. The Russians have delayed shipments and confirmation of contracts over missiles, and Bushehr's opening date repeatedly slips.

Even last week, the Janus-faced policy of Russia continued. The sharp US response, with the introduction of a sanctions resolution to the UN Security Council, to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey declaration on uranium enrichment came after discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Yet Moscow restated that Bushehr would come on-line in August, and the US press reported that Russian suppliers would continue to send missile components to Tehran.

So what happened for Ahmadinejad to disrupt the balance with his public statement? The obvious speculation is that Russia has refused to peel away from the sanctions move in the UN, but the truth is we don't know. It's unlikely that the warning from the Iran President is going to worry Moscow --- what cards of pain can Tehran play against the Russians? --- so Ahmadinejad's statement appears as pique, anger, or even miscalculation.

For its part, the US has kept quiet, which seems the wise move. And China, the other "balancing" power in the UN Security Council, has also said nothing.

We'll keep eyes well-open today to see if the fight escalates. More importantly, we'll try to figure out why.

The Latest from Iran (26 May): Panahi Out But 100s Still Imprisoned

1503 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Peyke Iran reports that detainees in Evin Prison have joined student leader Majid Tavakoli (see 1425 GMT) on hunger strike.

An EA reader notifies us that a Facebook campaign for a three-day hunger strike, starting today, in sympathy with Tavakoli has been launched.

1459 GMT: Ahmadinejad "Something's Not Right with Russia". Radio Zamaneh has extracts from the President's speech today in Kerman (see 0940 GMT), and he is sounding more than worried about Moscow's position on nuclear issues: "“Today, explaining the actions of the Russian President [Dmitry Medvedev] to the Iranian people has become difficult. The people wonder whether they are our friends, whether they are beside us and with us or if they have other objectives.”

1455 GMT: M0usavi on Political Parties. We've posted, in a separate entry, Mir Hossein Mousavi's comments made today to youth and student activists in Mehdi Karroubi's Etemade Melli party.

NEW Iran Document: Mousavi “On the Importance of Political Parties” (26 May)
NEW Iran Document: Karroubi “Aligning the Green Movement Inside and Outside Country”
Middle East/Iran (& Beyond) Revealed: US to Expand Covert Activities (Mazzetti)
NEW Turkey’s Diplomatic Dance: The Nuclear Two-Step Between Iran & the US (Yenidunya)
Iran Analysis: Towards the Final Battle? (Zahra)
The Latest from Iran (25 May): Panahi Freed; Will There Be a 12 June Protest?

1425 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Lots of internet chatter about an interview with the mother of detained student leader Majid Tavakoli, as she calls on all Iranians abroad to help him. 

Ali Tavakoli has spoken with Human Rights Activists News Agency about his brother's condition and hunger strike and revealed that his mother is also refusing food.

1400 GMT: Mousavi, Rahnavard, and the Students. Back from an academic break to find news Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard met student activists from Tehran's Amir Kabir University this morning to share "views and concerns". We are keeping eyes open for more details.
0940 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? (Nuclear Special Edition). President Ahmadinejad has delivered his speech in Kerman.

Press TV's article features standard rhetoric on the uranium enrichment deal, such as "[President Obama] should bear in mind that if he does not use this opportunity, Iranians are unlikely to give him a new chance....Arrogant and tyrant powers should either give up or be obliterated."

There are interesting revelations, however. Ahmadinejad tipped off his worry over Russia's position on sanctions, urging President Dmitry Medvedev to support the Iranian nuclear programme.

And Ahmadinejad actually pointed to Tehran's weakness rather than strength in the manoeuvres over uranium:
We have a reactor in Tehran which produces radio medicines. Around 800,000 people annually use radio medicines. Twenty five years ago Iran bought nuclear fuel enriched up to the level of 20 percent from Argentina for use in Tehran Research Reactor. It is currently running out of fuel.

No clue in the story whether Ahmadinejad mentioned unemployment, which is what his crowd in Khorramshahr wanted to address on Monday, or indeed any internal issue apart from uranium.
0840 GMT: We have posted an extract, in a separate entry, from Mehdi Karroubi's interview with Rah-e-Sabz (see 0715 GMT), “Aligning the Green Movement Inside and Outside Country”.

And our colleague James Miller has written for The Huffington Post, "A Year of Blood and Promise in Iran", using the review of events to conclude with a look forward:
It's been a long, interesting, and tumultuous year in Iran, but the Green Movement is far from dead, or even asleep. Rather, it has been waiting for June 2010 to pounce. We'll have to wait to see who is the Caspian Tiger in Iran, the government or the people. If I were a betting man, I'd say that the next year may give us the answer.

0815 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA reports on female detainees facing charges of "mohareb" (war against God), with its death sentence, including Maryam Akbari-Monfared, the mother of three children, and the youngest female prisoner, 22-year-old Parvin Javanzadeh.

0810 GMT: Economy Watch. Fararu claims that growth in 2009 was about 0.5 % --- that compares with a Government projection of 8% in its 5th Plan.

Not that this will necesarily trouble the Revolutionary Guard. Rah-e-Sabz has another article on the millions (billions?) of dollars in oil and gas projects being picked up by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (see 0710 GMT).

0800 GMT: The Challenge to Ahmadinejad. Fatemeh Badaghi, the President''s legal advisor, has said that if necessary, lawsuits will be filed against members of Parliament for criticising the Government.

Badeghi might be quite busy. Ali Larijani has easily retained his seat as Speaker by a 214-44 vote with 32 abstentions; the suggestion of some Ahmadinejad supporters that Larijani could and should be challenged soon fizzled out.

And as the Iranian judiciary claims that it is investigating the corruption allegations against First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, MP Gholamreza  Mesbahi Moghaddam has criticised the Guardian Council blocking a law on  money laundering.

0730 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? After his appearance in Khorramshahr on Monday, distinguished by heckling from the crowd over unemployment, President Ahmadinejad is on his way to Kerman Province in central Iran.

0715 GMT: Karroubi and the Green Movement, One Year Later. Rah-e-Sabz features an interview with Mehdi Karroubi, with the cleric's responses to questions such as "Entering the second year of the Green Movement, where do you think you were wrong and what do you think are the strengths and successes of the movement?"

0710 GMT: Revealing the Revolutionary Guard. Peyke Iran features an article by Jaleh Vafa claiming the devleopment of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps into a military and financial "mafia" over the past 30 years

0640 GMT: News of One Still Detained. Speaking of imprisoned journalists....

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has said that Emaduddin Baghi will be relocated in a general ward. Baghi's family have claimed that the journalist has been held in solitary confinement and in poor conditions during his 5 months behind bars.

0630 GMT: Those Who Are Not Free. Arshama3's blog, which has maintained a list of journalists in prison (reposted on Enduring America last month), adds two more names:

Ramin Jabbari, Blogger and Journalist, Bayram, Nedaye Moghan, Yashil Moghan, Detained 17 May 2010

Mostafa Jamshidi, Journalist, Redaktion Yashil Moghan, Nedaye Moghan, Detained 18 May 2010

Up to 102 journalists are still imprisoned or restricted by bail conditions.

0555 GMT: A Call for Reflection. An EA correspondent sends us the translation of an open letter from Saeedeh Montazeri, the daughter of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, to Mir Hossein Mousavi. An extract....
After your reaction to recent political executions, [Tehran Prosecutor General] Jafari Doulatabadi [said]: "How could those who claim to follow the line of Imam forget his teaching of standing up to dissident groups?....In the same years that the executions were carried out against the hypocrites by the order of Imam Khomeini (RA), Mousavi] was Prime Minister. If we consider his present claim, how did he serve then?"

Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi! I do not intend to confirm what he [Mr. Jaafari Dowlatabadi] said, but it is fair to conclude from his words that we need to be critical according to society’s needs. Why do we all virtually have history safeguard our deeds, so that the future generation can criticize us?! This is our collective duty, to criticize our past; and if we have made any mistakes, we should attempt to compensate for it. This is especially important for politicians. Before the future generation criticizes them, politicians should attempt to criticise their deeds themselves. You must know well how this criticism can be helpful to the Green Movement.

This point must be made that the critical principle is that no one is immune from error, and our affairs should be based on this hadith that the Prophet said: "All of Adam’s children are fallible, and the best would recant."

0545 GMT: Ironic Headline of Day. Press TV writes with a straight face, "Protesters Silenced before Queen's Speech".

0500 GMT: Tuesday's late news outside Iran was dominated by the emerging information of the release of film director Jafar Panahi on $200,000 bail. Panahi, gaunt after almost three months in detention and a reported hunger strike, was freed after a meeting last week with Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi. (A question to consider: was Panahi's silence on political issues and abandonment of plans to film about the post-election situation a condition for his release?)

Because of Panahi's high profile --- and because a photograph was released to the international media --- the news was picked up by international media. Some noted that another director, Mohammad Nourizad, had been freed a day earlier --- in fact, that news on state media has still not been confirmed (t0 our knowledge) by Nourizad's family.

The essential context was provided, however, by those who circulate news on social media. One activist reminded, "Let's not forget the other filmmakers who was jailed with Jafar Panahi. Mohammad Ali Shirzadi is still detained at Even prison." Others put out the information that blogger Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki (Babak Khoramdin) has been placed in solitary confinement and is the third day of a hunger strike.

And, of course, it's not directors and journalists who languish, sometimes without formal charges, sometimes in isolation, sometimes with lengthy sentences from closed trials and little known evidence, in Iran's prisons during the post-election crisis. There are doctors, lawyers, politicians, students, human rights activists, woman's rights activists, housewives....

So another day begins....

Iran Analysis: Washington and the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Parsi)

Trita Parsi, writing for Foreign Policy, evaluates Monday's Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on procedure for an uranium enrichment deal and Washington's reaction. His analysis complements that of Gary Sick and EA's Ms Zahra:

The Brazilian-Turkish diplomatic breakthrough with Iran has taken Washington by surprise. Clearly, the geopolitical center of gravity has shifted-five years of EU-led negotiations led nowhere while the new emerging powers Brazil and Turkey only needed a few months to produce a breakthrough. Now, the West needs to pull off some political acrobatics to avoid being on the diplomatic defensive.

Before Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's trip to Iran this past weekend, few among the permanent members of the UN Security Council were optimistic about his chances of success. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was charitable when he put Lula's odds at 30 percent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly called her Brazilian counterpart to discourage Brazil from undertaking the diplomatic mission. And few in Washington seemed to have been prepared for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Iran Analysis: The Contest at Home Over (and Beyond) the Uranium Agreement (Zahra)
Iran Analysis: Assessing the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Gary Sick)
The Latest from Iran (18 May): Getting Beyond the Uranium Agreement

But against all odds, Turkey and Brazil seem to have succeeded in resolving the most critical obstacle in the Iranian nuclear stand-off: the issue of trust. Both through the modalities of the new deal as well as by virtue of who they are, Turkey and Brazil have succeeded in filling the trust gap.

For the Iranians --- beyond their political paralysis of last year --- the issue of trust was the primary flaw of the October 2009 proposal. As the Iranians saw it, the deal would have required that Iran place disproportionate trust in the Western powers by agreeing to give up its low-enriched uranium stockpile in one shipment, only to receive fuel rods for Iran's research reactor nine to twelve months later. This would have required a significant leap of faith on their behalf.

Iran's relations with most permanent Security Council states (P5) are fraught with tension and mistrust. This includes its relations with Russia. The European power's past support for Saddam Hussein --- including providing him with high-tech weaponry and components for chemical weapons --- has not been forgotten in Tehran, particularly not by those in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's circles.

Iran's relations with Turkey and Brazil are different, however. Though tensions and rivalry with Turkey have historic roots, relations have improved significantly under the Erdogan government. Though some skepticism remains, Iran has nevertheless noted Turkey's increased independence from --- and at times, defiance of --- the United States. In particular, Turkey's position on the Iraq war as well as its campaign to prevent a new round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran must have impressed Tehran.

Moreover, unlike with the P5 states, Iran does not only have some trust in Turkey, it also senses that it has some leverage over its Western neighbor. In 2009, Iranian-Turkish trade stood at around $11 billion, with Iran providing a significant portion of Turkey's gas needs. The combination of trust and leverage seems to have been critical in getting the Iranians to agree to put their stockpiles in Turkish territory.

In Brazil, Iran has found an unlikely but much needed ally. Brazil is a rising global power, with a legitimate claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council. It's a state with a long history of sympathizing and identifying with the Iranian position on nuclear matters. If the reprocessing takes place in Brazil, as opposed to Russia, it would be a political victory for Iran to have it occur in an emerging power who for long has endorsed Iran's right to enrichment and who itself achieved recognition of its enrichment right in spite of international pressure.

While Iran has been suspicious of European and American maneuvers and proposals, out of a fear that the ultimate objective of the West is to eliminate Iran's enrichment program, that suspicion is unlikely to arise in a Brazilian-sponsored deal due to Brazil's own nuclear program and self-interest in ensuring that Iran's nuclear rights aren't inhibited and turned into a legally binding precedent.

In fact, the Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian agreement explicitly endorses Iran's right to enrichment, a position the US has refused to officially accept.

Beyond economic interests, international prestige and the opportunity for Brazil and Turkey to become indispensible global actors, it should not be forgotten than both states have viewed war and confrontation as the likely alternative to their diplomacy. In particular, there has been a fear that the current Security Council draft resolution, while not providing an explicit justification for military action, would nevertheless provide regional states outside of the Security Council with a legal basis to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Washington's reaction has thus far been muted. Though details of the agreement remain unknown, two potential points of objection have emerged.

First, the amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that will be shipped to Turkey, 1200 kilograms, constituted approximately 75 percent of Iran's entire stockpile back in October. Though that percentage has shrunk, it will still leave Iran with less LEU than it would need for a bomb. Still, even though Washington insisted that the deal from October remains on the table and that it is non-negotiable, it may be the US itself that ends up seeking to renegotiate the terms. Second, Iran has expanded its enrichment activities and is currently enriching uranium to 19.75 percent. The US insists that this activity must be suspended.

In spite of these potential sticking points, it is important to note that both Brazilian and Turkish decision-makers have intimate knowledge of the American position. America's red lines are crystal clear to both. And even though both have shown significant independence from the US, it is unlikely that they would announce a deal with Iran that wouldn't meet America's requirements.

Rather, the Obama administration's problem with domestic actors may be a greater challenge. Both the House and the Senate have prepared broad sanctions bills, which they intend to send to the President in the next few days. Even if the deal meets American security requirements, Congress may still push forward its extraterritorial sanctions bill, citing other concerns with Iranian behavior.

With the November elections only months away, President Obama may face some stiff opposition from Congress, even over a deal that meets America's red lines on the nuclear issue.

The Latest from Iran (15 May): Executions, Detentions and a Cancellation

1900 GMT: Punishing Panahi. Rah-e-Sabz reports that, as punishment for the publication of his letter to the organisers of the Cannes Film Festival (see yesterday's updates), detained film director Jafar Panahi's stay in "temporary prison" has been extended by two months.

1820 GMT: The Nuclear Non-Story (clarification). Borzou Daragahi pulls us up on our criticism of his Los Angeles Times article on Iran's nuclear programme, a day after a Reuters story over "a move which shows Tehran seeking to enhance its atomic work" (0800 GMT):

NEW Iran: Last Words of Executed Alamhouli “For God’s Sake, Let Me Hear My Mother’s Voice” (Ghazi)
Iran Analysis: The Economic Squeeze and the Real Sanctions Story (Colvin)
UPDATED Iran Special: Executions, Politics, and the Attack on Nazila Fathi and The New York Times
The Latest from Iran (15 May): Executions, Detentions and a Cancellation

"The story published today did not refer to the new-generation centrifuges that Ahmadinejad has already trumpeted numerous times. It referred to the addition of an additional cascade of (presumably old-fashioned) centrifuges placed inside the 20% enrichment hall. This is something that had not been previously reported."

My apology that I missed this distinction, which was made in the Reuters report. The Los Angeles Times article, however, does not make the distinction clear, saying only, "Iran has expanded the number of machines producing medical reactor-grade uranium."

But here's the key point: even if we note that Reuters is referring to an additional cascade of older centrifuges, there is no dramatic "nuclear threat" story here, irrespective of the whispers of unnamed Western diplomats. From the Reuters article:

Iran has been using one set or "cascade" of 164 centrifuge machines to refine small amounts of uranium to up to 20 percent purity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's last report in February.

But a system using just one cascade is inefficient, analysts said, as it produces a large proportion of leftover low-enriched uranium (LEU) alongside the sought-after highly enriched material.

In recent weeks Iranian officials have been adding a second cascade at the Natanz pilot plant to allow the leftover material to be re-fed into the machines more easily, obtaining its full potential and making the work more efficient, diplomats said.

"The second cascade is aimed at supporting the work of the first," a Western diplomat said....

The changes do not appear be aimed at increasing the amounts produced or to raise the enrichment level further, moves which would ring alarm bells, diplomats said. But they said the second cascade could be reconfigured to do this should Iran decide to.

So in other words, Iran --- suffering a shortage of 20% enriched uranium to keep its medical research reactor operational --- is taking the logical step of trying to produce more stock by adding the second cascade. The jump to a higher enrichment for military use exists only in the speculation of the Western diplomats.

1655 GMT: Prisoner Swap? Earlier today we reported that French graduate student Clotilde Reiss, arrested in July and confined on bail to the French Embassy in Iran since August, will be able to leave Iran after paying a $285,000 fine.

Radio Farda raises another possible reason for the decision to let Reiss go. It notes that Majid Kakavand, an Iranian detained in France on accusations he purchased technology over the Internet to sell to Iran's military, was not extradited to the US and is now back in Iran.

1650 GMT: The Hijab Issue. Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Fazlollah has pronounced that wearing of hijab is not an area for the governbment but is a personal issue. Now, as Fazlollah is Lebanese, that may not be earth-shattering: what goes in Beirut may not apply in Tehran.

The location of the interview, however, does raise an eyebrow: it is the "conservative" Khabar Online.

1640 GMT: The Oil Squeeze. Parleman News reports that members of Parliament --- almost 1/5 of the Majlis --- have asked Minister of Oil Masoud Mirkazemi about problems in his area. Mirkazemi's answers were not accepted last time;if they are turned down three times, he may be impeached.

1635 GMT: Economy Watch. Mus al-Reza Servati, a member of Parliament's Planning and Budget Commission, has complained that --- two months into the Iranian year --- the government's budget has not been passed to its administration.

1620 GMT:Today's Death Sentences and More. Agence France Presse has summarised the sentences announced by Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi and his office:

*Death sentences for six protestors have been confirmed.

Three of those sentenced to die --- Mohammad Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi, and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai --- were arrested in September. Three --- Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam, Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam and Alireza Ghanbari --- were arrested on Ashura (27 December). All six are accused of belonging to the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, the political wing of the "terrorist" Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MKO). the opposition group the Islamic republic's regime calls "the hypocrites."

*Three other people arrested on Ashura --- Motahare Bahrami Haqiqi, Reyhane Haj Ebrahim, and Hadi Qaemi --- have been sentenced to jail after an appeal court overturned their death sentences.

*A death sentence against student Mohammad Amin Valian has been reduced to three-and-a-half years by an appeal court.

*Azar Mansouri, a senior leader of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been given a three-year prison term in an appeal court. Reformist journalist Masoud Bastani has been sentenced to six years.

1610 GMT: Today's All-is-Well Moment. You might think that the cancellation by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his trip to Iran (see 0545 GMT) would have put a dent in Iran's rhetoric over a possible deal on uranium enrichment.

Nope, not if you're Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast: "It would have been better for Erdogan if he could have been physically in Tehran but in the era of communications, there are other ways to stay in touch."

Mehmanparast played up the not-cancelled visit of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: "Concerning the negotiations, I believe the conditions are conducive to reach a serious agreement over the swap deal."

1600 GMT: Mousavi Watch. Make of this what you will: the public statements of Mir Hossein Mousavi appear to have increased in frequency and intensity recently.

Meeting with teachers and clerics of seminaries for the anniversary of the martyrdom of Fatemeh, daughter of Prophet Mohammad, Mousavi said: “If a system claims to be Islamic....[it] should truly pay attention to the way [Prophet Mohammad] treat people and make that their role model.” Mousavi continued:

Now the question of the people is whether the path taken by those in power, who claim to be Muslim and followers of Islam but then lie, has any compatibility with the path of Fatemeh (peace be upon her), whose title Sadigheh means honestly and staying away from wrongdoings and slightest lies....Would the prophet [Mohammad] that we know ever have made such prisons in the territory of Islamic and religious state?

Mousavi then linked the Green Movement to the virtues of the Prophet Mohammad and his family:
Some people gave us the idea of choosing the colour Green in one of the campaign trips Ms. Rahnavard and I had to the holy city of Mashahd, with religious intentions. Therefore this shows the link of this movement to the verdure, beauty and spirituality of our religion and the family of the prophet Mohammad; we considered this as a good sign and, because of the respect of the people for the family of Prophet Mohammad, this colour and Green Wave have become so popular among the people....

The Green Movement has roots in our religious thoughts and as long as the Green Movement is in this path the people of our country support it.

1240 GMT: Damocles' Sword for 12 June. In Khabar Online's account of today's interview with Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi (see 0950 GMT), there is a clear warning for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Dowlatabadi says that his office continues to collect evidence on Mousavi, in anticipation of a prosecution if Mousavi does not curb his opposition.

1130 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. As EA readers note in comments below, Clotilde Reiss, the French graduate student, arrested in July for participation in demonstrations, will be allowed to leave Iran upon the payment of $285,000.

Reiss' lawyer Mohammad Ali Mahdavi Sabet said, "There has been a court verdict which is not an acquittal but will enable her to leave the country."

Reiss was released on bail in August and confined to the French Embassy.

0950 GMT: Death Sentences. An Iranian activist reports that the Iranian judiciary has ruled on death sentences for 10 political prisoners, detained over the Ashura demonstrations, for "mohareb" (war against God): three were overturned, three upheld, two charges were dropped, and two cases are pending.

Meanwhile, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi has attempted again to defend Sunday's execution of five Iranians, four of them Kurdish. Dowlatabadi's interview with Fars News follows that newspaper's publication of the "official" report on the case from Dowlatabadi's office (see the critique in Thursday's updates).

0825 GMT: Non-Story (cont.). We're watching to see if this dramatic non-news makes it into general circulation, "US Space Planes 'Worry Iran'".

0800 GMT: Non-Story of the Day? We noticed the breathless report from Reuters yesterday:
Iran has been setting up extra equipment which could improve the way it enriches uranium to higher levels, diplomats said, a move which shows Tehran seeking to enhance its atomic work as big powers discuss new sanctions.

Iran first started enriching small amounts of uranium to higher levels in February, saying it wanted to make fuel for a medical research reactor. This raised Western suspicion as Iran is seen to lack the ability to make the fuel assemblies needed.

I did not mention this in updates, as I hoped this pretence at an exclusive would just go away. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times has not been so judicious:
Iran has expanded the number of machines producing medical reactor-grade uranium, an incremental step that could increase its ability to produce the highly refined material necessary to build a nuclear bomb, said two diplomats in Vienna, home of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency.

The disclosure, first revealed by news agencies Friday, ups pressure on diplomats struggling to find a resolution of the confrontation between Tehran and the United States, Israel and their European allies over the nuclear program.

Beyond the standard ritual of using unnamed sources as the basis for sweeping claims, the story is not very new: a named, non-Western source --- a Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- declared Iran's plans to construct a new generation of centrifuges. These would produce the 20-percent uranium needed for the Tehran medical reactor.

Of course, what is distinctive about Reuters' story is not the content but the timing: it comes out in the context of chatter and pressure, both in response to Ahmadinejad's own move in New York at the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference and as part of a publicly-renewed effort for tougher sanctions on Iran.

0630 GMT: We have posted, in a separate entry, Fereshteh Ghazi's report on the last moments of Shirin Alamhouli during her sudden, unexpected execution. Ghazi concludes, "A regime such as this must live in fear. Even the dead haunt it."

0545 GMT: A purported letter from Saeed Massouri on death row in Gohardasht Prison:
In the midst of the country’s serious turmoil, I learnt of the execution of my late-found friends and acquaintances from prison with whom we spent years in the jail cells of Ward 209 [at Evin Prison].

Perhaps they [the regime] think that by executing them, they have managed to frighten us and our people. But shame on us if instead of being more motivated [to continue the struggle against the regime], the execution of our friends and countrymen and compatriots were to frighten us. Indeed, what is to be done at a time when people have no other fate but imprisonment, torture and execution simply for being human; and when this is the price to pay for the slightest attempt to be free and have humanity? Where do those who remain silent in the face of such crimes draw the line between being human or not?....

For my own part, I want to be clear on the degree of fear that these executions really instilled in me: I declare that after the hanging of these five, I am more than ready to be the sixth one to kiss the hangman's noose.

Long live their memory and that of all those whose blood runs through the veins of history.

“The frenzy of the flame subsides only as ashes/Such is what needs to be done to live honourably”

Our updates have been filled this week with a steady stream of new interrogations and arrests, including Kurdish teachers and activists following the execution of 5 Iranians almost a week ago. The latest news is that Kurdish author and civil rights activist Ali Mahomoodi, arrested on 27 September, has been sentenced to six years in prison without possibility of appeal.

On the international front, the significant but largely unnoticed news is that Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled this week's trip to Iran. Tehran had been trumpeting the news that Erdogan's visit, coinciding with the arrival of Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, would be the occasion for an important round of talks for a uranium enrichment deal.

Erdogan told reporters on Friday, "It seems that a trip to Iran on Monday is no longer possible for me as Iran has not taken that step on the issue. If necessary my foreign minister may go, or I may go later." Erdoğan asked "for a statement of determination" from the Iranians.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev poured more cold water on the possibility of a breakthrough during Lula's attendance at a summit of non-aligned nations in Iran this week: "You want me to give the odds on President Lula. Okay. As my friend the Brazilian president is an optimist, I shall also be an optimist. I give 30 percent."

Lula, asked about his chances of success on a scale of one to 10, had replied, "I would give 9.9."

Iran has freed an Iraqi soldier captured during a border skirmish on Thursday.