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Entries in Aram Hessami (1)


The Latest from Iran (30 November): Nuclear Distraction, Trashing the Greens?

IRAN NUKES21915 GMT: Quiet Engagement. News is just emerging of five British nationals who have been held by Iran since their yacht Sail Bahrain strayed into Iranian waters on Wednesday.

The significance behind the headline is that the story was kept quiet for five days. That indicates that Britain does not want the matter to escalate into confrontation and that Iran, for now, does not want to use the detention for political advantage.

NEW Iran: How Washington Views the Green Opposition — The Next Chapter
NEW Video: The Bahari Interview on CNN (Part 2)
Today’s Iran Non-Story: Some Guy Who Looked Like Ahmadinejad Protested in 1984
Video: The Mothers of Martyrs Protest (28 November)
Iran: The Routes of 16 Azar
The Latest from Iran (29 November): Iran’s Nuclear Bluff

1830 GMT: Just for the Nuclear Record. Iranian Foreign Manouchehr Mottaki used a press conference with the Russian Energy Minister (who confirmed Moscow's intention to complete the Bushehr nuclear plant by March 2010) to denounce the IAEA resolution:

We could not find any logical reason for the Board of Governors' decision. We cannot accept discrimination in international relations. Either there are rights or such rights do not exist. The age of discriminatory policies is over. This is the law of the jungle.

Nothing surprising here and no further indication as to Iran's next step.

1625 GMT: Mehdi Karoubi, in an interview on his website Tagheerwebsite (official website of Etemad-Melli party), responded to accusations from Kayhan newspaper:
I really did not want to point out the arrogance of these guys but when I saw that they repeatedly are talking about “conspiracy”, denying their role in the events after the election, and are influencing the Judiciary system, I decided to respond....My message to the management of Kayhan newspaper is that the our interpretation of Islam is different than yours.

1610 GMT: President Postponed. It appears that President Ahmadinejad's national broadcast (see 0715 GMT) has been postponed to Tuesday night.

1555 GMT: A Detainee Speaks. Amidst a slower afternoon, interesting revelations from Behzad Nabavi, the high-profile reform activist who has recently been given a six-year prison sentence. Nabavi is free on a 10-day release pending appeal: "They asked me the night before my release to sign a paper and agree not to engage in political activities or conduct interviews until the appeals court hearing; they told me not to meet or contact political parties and organizations, but I refused. When they couldn't close the deal with me they gave me [only] a 10-day break from prison [instead]."

Nabavi claimed that the former Tehran Prosecutor General, Saeed Mortazavi, was present for at least one of his interrogations. He also claims that his arrest warrant had been issued on 9 June, three days before the Presidential elections (and six days before the supposed basis for his "crime", presence at the mass demonstration on 15 June).

1255 GMT: Larijani Baffles (Part 2). I have a hunch --- and nothing more -- that Ali Larijani, with his statement on the nuclear programme this morning, is setting himself up as an alternative to President Ahmadinejad, both for elements in the Iranian establishment and for the "West".

But who is the target of this Larijani statement, keeping in mind the shaky translation of the Iranian Labour News Agency: "Commenting on the post-election events, the speaker remarked that the unjustified persistence of certain people on their own views would only benefit others"?

1220 GMT: Report that journalist Hengameh Shahidi has been sentenced to six years, three months, and one day in prison.

1204 GMT: Larijani Baffles. Press TV has summarised this morning's comments by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani:
I believe there is still room for diplomacy and it is useful for them [the "5+1 powers] to adopt a diplomatic option. That way Iran would be able to make progress within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) while they would also be certain that Iran activities are peaceful. But of course, if they choose to take a different path Iran would also adopt a different stance.

Here's what puzzles me: given Larijani's hostility to the diplomatic process pursued by the Ahmadinejad Government in recent months, criticising apparent Iranian concessions, why is he now embracing "room for diplomacy"? Why not celebrate the apparent demise of the Ahmadinejad strategy?

Suggestions welcomed.

1200 GMT: This is Interesting. Just over a week before the protests of 16 Azar, students from Amir Kabir University have met Mehdi Karroubi in his home.

1100 GMT: Ahmadinejad and Latin America. An EA reader points us to an intriguing discussion between Mohsen Milani, Aram Hessami and Babak Dad, "What is Ahmadinejad searching for in the USA's backyard?" The reader notes Dad's provocative speculation that one purpose of the President's recent tour of Latin America was to prepare a "safe haven" if one should be noted for him and his allies.

1020 GMT: Montazeri Criticises "lllegal" Violence. Lots of chatter this morning about a video of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri denouncing post-election violence by Basiji militia, betraying its mission “unite and mobilise everyone on the path to God not to the path of evil”.

There's more. Montazeri also implicitly attacks the Supreme Leader for his thanks to the Basiji for "defeating the enemy in the events after election”: “Isn’t it a misery that one [i.e., the Basiji] goes to hell (in afterlife) for the wellbeing of others in this world?!” (Summary of remarks on Facebook page supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi)

0940 GMT: You Might Want to Be More Subtle. The head of Iran's nuclear organisation, Ali Akhbar Salehi, kind of gives the political game away today:
We had no plan to build many nuclear sites like Natanz [enrichment facility but it seems that the West do not want to comprehend Iran's message of peace. The West adopted an attitude toward Iran which made the Iranian government to pass the ratification on construction of ten sites.

Hmm....So you haven't make any previous moves to build beyond the enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordoo but now you've going to throw all your resources at a crash construction programme because of Friday's IAEA resolution?

Wouldn't back Salehi as a poker player: this is either clumsy deception --- Iran has already started on other sites --- or clumsy bluff.

0930 GMT: We've posted the second part of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari's interview with CNN. We've also been moved by his comments on the Green movement(s) to consider again how Washington may be viewing (and belittling) the opposition.

0810 GMT: Blackout. Fears are growing that, in addition to "containing" the protest of 16 Azar (7 December) through a 48-hour holiday just before it, the Government may try to pull the curtains down on it through a cutoff of Internet and mobile phone service.

0730 GMT: Sigh. The coverage of Iran this morning on the BBC's flagship radio programme? Declare "time is running out" for Tehran, then turn over seven minutes of airtime just after 7 a.m. to the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor for comments such as: "Iranians are not just carpet makers but carpet weavers; they will divide one red line into 100 pink lines and then cross the red line"; "Israel's nuclear capability is irrelevant in the current situation"; "all options are on the table".

0720 GMT: Russia Mending Political/Nuclear Fences? Russian energy minister Sergei Shmatko, in Iran for talks with his Iranian counterpart and other officials, has pledged that Iran's first nuclear power station will soon be completely. Shmatko said earlier this month that the Bushehr plant would be delayed beyond its announced opening date of the end of 2009.

The political significance of Shmatko's statement overshadows the technical dimension: days after supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency resolution, Moscow is tacking back politically towards Iran. That means some continuing level of co-operation (though the Russians can always dangle and pull back support) and no sanctions.

0715 GMT: President Ahmadinejad will speak on national television this evening.

0645 GMT: Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is now holding a press conference on Iranian television.

0630 GMT: Reality Check. Here are two reasons, courtesy of Gary Sick, why the Iran Government's nuclear announcement is "all mouth and no trousers".

The declaration of 10 enrichment plants is for 500,000 centrifuges. In the last nine years, Iran has constructed and installed fewer than 9000 centrifuges, of which only about half are operating. At that rate, the plans announced yesterday will be completed in the year 2509.

According to documents, construction began on the second enrichment site at Fordoo in 2003. There are still no centrifuges installed, and the site is due for completion in 2011.

At that rate, 10 enrichment plants would take 80 years to construct, if they were built one after another. If they were all pursued at the same time, it would put great strain on Iranian resources and manpower, to say the least. What's more, the proposed plants would be the same size as Iran's primary enrichment facility at Natanz, much larger than Fordoo.

0610 GMT: One week before the demonstrations of 16 Azar (7 December), but all the headlines are far away from the internal conflict in Iran. The Ahmadinejad Government's declaration of "10 new enrichment plants" has successfully walked the international media down a nuclear garden path, even though the proposal at this point is a fantasy. In addition to our coverage in yesterday's updates, we'll have further analysis laying out both the technical and political realities later this morning.

However, while Tehran's move is political symbolism, it reinforces the mood in the US that engagement is now a long-shot. A clear sign of that is in Trita Parsi's piece for The Huffington Post, "Washington Can Give An Israeli Attack On Iran The Red Light". That headline in itself is a hyperbolic diversion --- for reasons beyond the Obama Administration, Israel will not be launching military operations --- but it shows that Parsi, the President of the National Iranian American Council and a fervent supporter of a political settlement with Iran, has now all but given up on the process.