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Entries in Mehdi Karroubi (28)


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.

The Latest from Iran (27 November): Where Now?

16 AZAR POSTER32020 GMT: We've posted news of a campaign, "I Am Atefeh", to express support for Atefeh Nabavi, the first woman jailed for post-election protest.

2015 GMT: Ayatollah JavAdi-Amoli announced, during today's Friday Prayers in Qom, that this was his last sermon. Since June, Javadi-Amoli had expressed his displeasure over post-election events.

NEW Iran: The Campaign to Free Atefeh Nabavi
NEW Iran: A Nobel Gesture from Obama Towards the Green Movement?
NEW Iran’s Nukes: IAEA Non-Resolution on Enrichment Means Talks Still Alive
Iran: Where Now for the Green Wave(s)? A Discussion on (Non)-Violence
Iran: Where Now for the Green Wave(s)? The EA Discussion
Latest Iran Video: BBC’s Neda Documentary “An Iranian Martyr”
NEW Iran MediaWatch: Has “Green Reform” Disappeared in Washington?
NEW Iran: 3 Problems (for the Greens, for the US, for Ahmadinejad
The Latest from Iran (26 November): Corridors of Conflict

1815 GMT: One More Time --- The Talks Go On (But Time for Tehran to Deal). Here's the White House statement on today's IAEA resolution:

Today's overwhelming vote at the IAEA's Board of Governors demonstrates the resolve and unity of the international community with regard to Iran's nuclear program. It underscores broad consensus in calling upon Iran to live up to its international obligations and offer transparency in its nuclear program. It also underscores a commitment to strengthen the rules of the international system, and to support the ability of the IAEA and UN Security Council to enforce the rules of the road, and to hold Iran accountable to those rules. Indeed, the fact that 25 countries from all parts of the world cast their votes in favor shows the urgent need for Iran to address the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions.

The United States has strongly supported the Director General’s positive proposal to provide Iran fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor - a proposal intended to help meet the medical and humanitarian needs of the Iranian people while building confidence in Iran’s intentions. The United States has recognized Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy and remains willing to engage Iran to work toward a diplomatic solution to the concerns about its nuclear program, if - and only if - Iran chooses such a course. To date, Iran has refused a follow-on meeting to the October 1 meeting with the P5+1 countries if its nuclear program is included on the agenda. Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out. If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.

Here's what it means:

1. The second enrichment plant at Fordoo near Qom --- of no relevance except as pretext;
2. The El Baradei statement of a "dead end" on verification --- tangential
3. The Iranian response to the Vienna "third-party enrichment" deal --- the be-all and end-all of this meeting.

In other words, this IAEA meeting has been a two-day setpiece to put Tehran's feet to the fire on the October proposal. If Iran now refuses that plan, and if the "West" decides that the Tehran counter-offer of a "swap" is out of bounds, then and only then will there a move beyond engagement. Even then, it is far from clear if that push for sanctions will have any backing from Russia and China.

1455 GMT: Forgive us for being Nukes, Nukes, Nukes, but little else is breaking at the moment. More posturing, this time from Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, but note that this follows script of keeping channel open for discussions --- "jeopardise" is a mild democratic warning not to go farther:

.Adoption of this resolution is not only unhelpful in improving the current situation, but it will jeopardise the conducive environment vitally needed for success in the process of Geneva and Vienna negotiations expected to lead to a common understanding.

1355 GMT: At some point someone is going to figure out that IAEA members have not forced a showdown with Iran and, indeed, that they have not even moved away from talks and towards further sanctions. Here's the latest coded signal, courtesy of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband:

The resolution passed today by the IAEA Board of Governors sends the strongest possible signal to Iran that its actions and intentions remain a matter of grave international concern. As the resolution makes clear, Iran needs to comply with its obligations both to the IAEA and to the UNSC. Unless it does this, it remains impossible for the international community to have any confidence in Iranian intentions.

Britain and the other members of the E3+3 have made it very clear that our hand is stretched out to Iran. We are waiting for Iran to respond meaningfully. But if it is clear that Iran has chosen not to do so, we will have no alternative but to consider further pressure on Iran, in line with the dual track policy we have been pursuing.

And this position is not altered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown's rhetorical blast: "[Iran] should accept the offers that have been made that they can have civil nuclear power with our support, but they've got to renounce nuclear weapons. I believe the next stage will have to be sanctions if Iran does not respond to what is a very clear vote from the world community."

1210 GMT: We've just posted an urgent assessment on the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution, passed today, on Iran's nuclear programme. The real significance --- and this is being missed by the media, who are just following the original Reuters report (see Al Jazeera English, for example) --- is that it is a very mild rebuke of Iran. That in turn means talks with Tehran on uranium enrichment are still alive.

1120 GMT: Iran's Nobel Prize Response. We saw this one coming yesterday when we reported on the Iranian Government's seizure of the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma of lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said today, "Much the same as European countries, tax evasion is a crime in Iran and individuals would face legal penalties should they commit such an act."

Mehman-Parast added that if Norwegian officials really cared about human rights, they would not have abstained in the United Nations vote on the Goldstone Report on the Gaza War.

1023 GMT: Filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf has won the Freedom to Create Prize, donating the $125,000 prize to non-governmental organisations helping victims of Iran's post-election conflict and dedicating the award to Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. A video of the presentation has been posted on YouTube.

0955 GMT: Nuke Update. Nothing yet coming out of the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna. The media, as in this CNN report, is just recycling yesterday's leaked soundbite of Mohammad El Baradei's statement that IAEA analysis of Iran's nuclear status is at a "dead end".

0945 GMT: Dutch television has obtained an interview with Mehdi Karroubi. The exchange is in Farsi with Dutch subtitles.

0830 GMT: Morning Media Moment. Emily Landau of The Jerusalem Post gets in a pre-emptive strike of fanciful "analysis" with her claim, "Dangerous Misreading Iran". That "misreading" is any thought that Iran's position in the nuclear talks is affected by internal development and, in particular, the post-12 June tensions:
The confusion emanating from Iran is simply the most recent manifestation of a well-known pattern that has been repeated in different forms for close to seven years. The "yes, no, maybe" answers from Iran are the tactic that serves its overall strategy in the nuclear realm.

Which would be a fair hypothesis if Landau produced a paragraph, a sentence, even a few words setting out this "well-known pattern". She doesn't.

The serious point here is a leading Israeli academic, "the director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project, Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University", could show not one scrap of perception about the internal dynamics behind Iran's nuclear programme and foreign policy. Instead, "analysis" rests on the unshakeable position: There Cannot (and Should Not) Be a Deal with Iran.

At least the headline's good: I just suspect it's better applied to the author than to her straw-person targets.

0755 GMT: The international media are likely to be dominated today by speculations and leaks about the second day of discussions at the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear programme.

So, before getting drawn into that issue, we've taken the time --- with the help of readers and fellow bloggers --- to post two discussions about the next steps for the Green Wave(s). The use of the plural is deliberate, as you'll soon see in the debate on the evolving nature of the movement(s); the other, equally important discussion is on non-violence as protest moves towards 16 Azar (7 December) . So is our desire in posting them, not for a conclusive answer but for reflection on how and where protest and resistance develop in this marathon conflict.

Iran Revelation: Pro-Government MP Admits Election Was Manipulated

The Latest on Iran (23 November): Reading the Signals of Abtahi’s Release

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VOTING BOXYesterday, I noticed this entry in the blog of Pedestrian, Sidewalk Lyrics:
This has got to be one of the most important pieces of – official state – news to get out after the election.

Ali Reza Zakani, a hardline, pro-government MP and a member of Parliament’s election committee, in a speech he gave at Imam Sadegh University has said, that based on two polls the day before the election by both the Interior Minister and the Ministry of Intelligence, the results would be close between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. According to the Supreme National Security Council's reports the day before the election, the same results were predicted.

I had noted the Zakani statement in our updates but my translation was not strong to bring out the analysis offered by Pedestrian. He adds, from Zakani's speech, the evidence of Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei that votes were manipulated through "ballot-stuffing" in the last five hours of the day.

And there is this: "In the statement released by the six-member Parliamentary committee, the lines congratulating Ahmadinejad were crossed out and this was done by “a source close to the speaker of parliament” [Ali Larijani] who stated that “fraud in the election” had taken place.

Beyond the election, here's a bonus revelation which indicates why the National Unity Plan has been stalled if not demolished and points to the deep split in the conservative/principlist movement between those who back the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, and those who oppose him:


Pedestrian's summary

On the committee’s tasks:

The committee consisted of me, Katouzian, Naderan, Abbaspour, Aboutorrabi and Kazem Jalali. We met with all three candidates. On the Tuesday following the election, we met with Mir Hossein Mousavi for one and half hours and Mousavi had nothing special to say.

Rafsanjani’s opinion was a council other than the Guardian Council

A day after meeting with Mousavi, we went to meet with Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani stressed: “Mousavi did not give you all his arguments, he hid them from you. Because the day after the election, Khatami, Mousavi and Seyed Hassan [Khomeini] called me and came to my office.” Rafsanjani said that Mousavi’s request was another election and he also pointed out that he had reminded them [Mousavi and Khatami] to stick to the laws. He [Rafsanjani] also had a council other than the Guardian Council in mind to investigate the allegations.

Rafsanjani said that society has changed and that students are now at the forefront as opposed to the clerics. We can’t get these 3.5 million people to go home, we should meet their demands ourselves.

Regarding Rafsanjani’s letter to the Supreme Leader:

[A few days before the election, Rafsanjani wrote a letter to the Leader in which he warned of "forces" who wanted to create chaos in the election.]

Rafsanjani said that he had first sent the letter in private but because the Leader did not respond, he went public with it.

A few weeks before the election they [Mousavi camp] had found out that they would not succeed in the election, so they had planned to hit the streets and to slowly take away the leader’s powers. They have been working on this since the 1980s to slowly form a core outside the country, and they were even successful at bringing people like Nategh Nouri [Khatami's main rival in the 1997 presidential election] to their side.

Zakani referred to the Unity Plan brought forth by Nategh Nouri and said, “They wanted to make Larijani president and it’s interesting that even Rafsanjani came out and said that the unity plan is not my plan. It was Larijani and Nategh Nouri’s.”

Overall this faction used all its capacities and used the online world to the best of its advantage. After the sixth parliament [when all the reformist MPs were banned from running again] the reformists reached the conclusion that their agendas would go nowhere, so they organized well throughout the years and we saw that even groups of 20 to 30 hooligans were organized and were able to create chaos.

The government polls showed that the election would go to a second round

All the polls, even the ones conducted by the university showed that Ahmadinejad would win. Then, on the days before the election, on June 10th and June 11th, polls by the interior ministry and ministry of intelligence and also the Supreme Security Council indicated that voting would go to a second round.

After the elections, we understood that those forces which planned to create chaos even had members in the ministries.

Rezaie said that he would follow his complaints in a lawful manner

In a meeting we had with Rafsanjani, he said that Rezaie believed 32 million votes were cast in this election and that the remaining 8 million votes were fraudulent. He said that up to 5 p.m. on election day, 17 million votes were cast and it was impossible to have another 21 million votes in 5 hours [voting ended at 10 p.m.].

Later on representatives for all four candidates had a meeting with the Leader and criticized the process in the harshest ways.

We were willing to count all the boxes

Referring to the committee’s meeting with Karroubi: Karroubi also made claims of fraud and he said that last time [in 2005], he had 3 to 4 million votes and this had decreased to 300,000. His allegation was that in some voting center in a town like Bojnourd, he’d had 200 votes [in a box] before, and he had that this time too. But in the remaining 700 boxes in that town, he’d had a total of 400 votes. We told him we’d be willing to count all 700 boxes.

This is how the counting process works: after the counting of votes in each box is complete, the results are written on five sheets and the representatives at that center sign them. One goes inside the box, two go to the interior ministry and the remaining two to the Guardian Council. Therefore, the difference between the Council’s result during counting with that of the interior ministry is not an indicator of anything and we must wait for the final result.

In the committee’s final statement, the congratulatory note to the president was crossed out

The Friday Prayer led by Rafsanjani (17 July)

Rafsanjani claimed that on the day of the Friday prayer, the population was split 50-50 and apparently Larijani was the one to give him this estimate.

The Latest from Iran (22 November): Abtahi Freed on Bail, Ahmadinejad Scrambles

NEW Iran: Maziar Bahari on His 118 Days in Detention
Video and English Text: Mousavi Interview with Kalemeh (21 November)
The Latest from Iran (21 November): Mousavi, Khomeini, and Ahmadinejad

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ABTAHI KHATAMI2125 GMT: Activists on Twitter are reporting the arrest of blogger/journalist Sasan Aghaei.

1940 GMT: Karroubi's Latest Letter. Mehdi Karroubi has written to Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie and Habib-allah Askaroladi, the secretary general of the conservative Mo'talefe party, posting the letter on his Tagheer website.

The letter is a renewal of Karroubi's campaign for the truth on reports of abuse of detainees, responding to the attempts of Mohseni-Ejeie and Askaroladi to cast doubt on his claims and motives. He repeats his earlier account of meetings with the three-member judiciary panel that was appointed to consider the charges. In particular, he states that, while he raised the case of Saeedeh Pouraghai but warned that it might be false. (The claims that Pouraghai had been raped and killed by security forces are now discounted. Some believe the case was "manufactured" by the regime so it would discredit the opposition when the falsehood emerged.)

Karroubi also challenges Askaroladi's claims that the Green movement is financed by millions of dollars from the US Government and demands that Mousavi and Karroubi "must be dealt with".

1740 GMT: The Visits Begin. Former President Mohammad Khatami has visited Mohammad Ali Abtahi in his home.

1625 GMT: Rumour of Day "Mortazavi in Evin Prison". Norooz claims that Saeed Mortazavi, who was Tehran's Prosecutor General in the early part of the post-election crisis, has been spotted in prison garb at Evin Prison. The website claims that Mortazavi has not been seen in public in two months and raises the possibility that he will disappear via "suicide", just like Kahrizak prison doctor Ramin Pourandarjan. (Norooz also sees parallels with the case of Said Emami, the intelligence operative and deputy minister found dead in his cell a decade ago. He was blamed for a series of murders after his death.)

1610 GMT: Abtahi Freed. The picture of former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi provides happy confirmation of his release on bail after 160 days in detention (see 0735 and1405 GMT).


Abtahi has also posted on his blog. He says he will soon return to updating the blog on a daily basis. He hopes for the freedom of his fellow inmates, especially Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and Mohsen Safai-Farahani, to whom he bade a tearful farewell this morning.

1525 GMT: Economic Pressure. Following up our initial item this morning on the pressures on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (0735 GMT), Presidential candidate and secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei , has criticised the President's proposed legislation on subsidies and taxes. “As a result of the new law, the effect of the global economy on the domestic economy will be more than before,” Rezaei wrote to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani.

Rezaei suggested the formation of an independent council of financial experts to study the impact of the bill on the lives of Iranians.

1520 GMT: Today's University Protests. There has been chatter throughout the day of clashes between students and security at Khaje Nasir University, and a short video has been posted of the demonstration at Tehran University.

1505 GMT: More Tehran Signals on the Nuke Deal. Ali Ashar Soltanieh, Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has reiterated his comments (see 0955 GMT) about Iran's desire to negotiate an enrichment deal, provided it keeps uranium within the country. “We are ready for talks with a positive approach, but the main issue is a guarantee for the timely supply of fuel for Iran's medical needs." Soltanieh referred to Iran's grievances with France and Russia over delays and failures to fulfil previous contracts: “Considering Iran's lack of confidence towards the West regarding the past nuclear activities, we need to have these guarantees."

1405 GMT: Abtahi Update. Former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who was sentenced to a six-year prison term yesterday (see 0735 GMT), has been released on a bail of 700 million tomans (about $700,000) while the sentence is appealed.

1035 GMT: The Election was Most Fair. Really. Fars News offers acres of space to Ali Zakani, a member of the six-member Parliamentary committee that "investigated" the Presidential election, to defend the outcome and the committee's proceedings.

Zakani details meetings with Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohsen Rezaei and with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. All of this is to establish that the election was fair and to indicate that any "fraud" is on the part of those challenging President Ahmadinejad's legitimacy.

0955 GMT: The Government Wants a Nuclear Deal. Can't be a clearer signal than this:
Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog [International Atomic Energy Agency] says over 200 hospitals in the country urgently need higher-enriched uranium. As a timely reminder that obtaining higher-enriched uranium is a matter of great urgency for Iran, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh said that the fuel is required for the Tehran nuclear reactor, which is designed to produce radioisotopes used by Iranian hospitals for medical treatment.

He warned that if Iran's proposal to purchase the fuel from abroad falls through, the country would have no choice but to enrich uranium to the required level of 20 percent...."We need the fuel because more than 200 hospitals depend on it."

o935 GMT: A Clerical Putsch? We held off on noting this story, but as a sharp-eyed EA reader has raised it.... Rooz Online summarises reports circulating in Iran:
Following the escalation of protests by Iran’s senior ayatollahs against the regime, some members of the Qom Seminary Teachers Association (the most important organization of clerics affiliated with the regime) are planning to present a new list of “grand ayatollahs” under the supervision of Mohammad Yazdi, Ahmad Jannati and Mesbah Yazdi....

According to rumors, the new list of grand ayatollahs will include people such as Jafar Sobhani, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Khoshvaght, and a number of other ayatollahs approved by the regime. Credible reports indicate that prominent grand ayatollahs such as Montazeri and [Bayat] Zanjani will not have a place on the list....[Nor will] Dastgheib.

I still think the key word in the story is "rumors". The significance of the article is that it shows the concern of the regime and its supporters over the ongoing (and possibly escalating) resistance from Qom. A radical change to the list of Grand Ayatollahs, especially when it is clearly based on political rather than religious considerations, is likely to stoke that resistance.

0740 GMT: A depressing end to Saturday for the opposition movement, as Mowj-e-Sabz claimed that former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi has been sentenced to six years in prison. Abtahi, as one of the highest-profile detainees, was seen by the Government as a potential asset for propaganda. His televised "confession" was one of the low-lights of the first Tehran trial, and the regime even tried (briefly) to have Abtahi blog from prison to offset criticisms about the conditions of detainees.

Now it appears that the Government has given up on that use of Abtahi, and it has also decided that the advantage lies in keeping him in jail rather than extending a hand to the reformists through his release.

0735 GMT: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has always cut a confident, even cocky figure. And when challenged, he fights back.

So it's no surprise that the President would "go big" with a tour covering five days in five countries: Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia in South America and Senega land Gambia in Africa. He can finally project himself as a world leader, having been shut out by almost every head of state in the first three months after the disputed election. He can play on the assured support of Venezuela for Iran's nuclear programme and foreign policy. He can present Iran's expanding influence with the African leg of the trip. And no doubt there will be more than a few words on oil and natural gas, as well as the signing of commercial agreements.

Don't let this fool you, however. Ahmadinejad's travels are also a deliberate distraction from the homefront. For all the questions over the future course of the opposition, for all the "busted flush" of the National Unity Plan, the President has not been able to nail down a secure position.

The photographs of Ahmadinejad's visit to Tabriz are more than symbolic. Whether or not most Iranians support the Green movement, they are not turning out in the 63% claimed by the President in the June vote. The conservative/principlist politicians are rumbling again in Parliament, especially over Ahmadinejad's economic proposals, and the clerics in Qom are discussing and planning.

The President returns from his journey at the end of November. At that point, it will be just over a week to the demonstrations of 16 Azar (7 December).

The Latest in Iran (19 November): It's the Nukes Today

NEW Iran: What Happened on Election Night? The Ghalam News Editor’s Account
NEW Iran Nuclear Special: What Tehran’s Latest Offer Means (and Why the West Should Consider It)
NEW Iran’s 16 Azar Video: Greens Fight “The Pirates of the Persian Gulf”
The Latest Iran Video: Demonstration at University in Karaj (17 November)
Iran: Re-Evaluating the Green Movement After 5+ Months
The Iran Cul-de-Sac: 4 Points on Obama’s Embrace of Ahmadinejad (and Rejection of the Green Movement)
The Latest from Iran (18 November): Bubbling and Surfacing

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IRAN NUKES2055 GMT: Keeping the Students Down. The Government effort to contain student protest continues. Iran's national student organisation Daftar-Tahkim-Vahdat reports that its political director, Abbas Hakimzadeh, has been arrested.

Kohzad Esmaili, head of the Gilan branch of the alumni organisation Advar-Tahkim-Vahdat (Office of Strengthening Unity), has been re-arrested after being freed on $20,000 bail.

2045 GMT: A Non-Crowd Story? While those pre-occupied with the nuclear issue try to read Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Tabriz speech for signals (see 1425 GMT), the Green movement has other concerns, namely those who did or did not turn out:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a very cold welcome from the citizens. Yoldash, the Green news organisation in Tabriz, reported that, despite the fact that the chief of "popular welcoming staff" of Ahmadinejad assured 100,000 people would be present at his speech today, only about 10-15,000 people participated in this event which can be easily recognized in the pictures taken by pro-coup Mehr news agency.

An EA source says that the Government tried to ensure a large turnout by giving university students, school children, and workers time off and transport to the rally. However, possibly because of the rain, possibly for other reasons, seats remained empty.

1805 GMT: Is Rafsanjani Lining Up with the Government's Nuclear Proposal? Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has told the Swedish Ambassador to Iran that the International Atomic Energy Agency is legally obliged to provide 20 percent nuclear fuel to Tehran.

Sweden currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

1800 GMT: Clinton Speaks Out? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared to journalists in Kabul:

It is a very unfortunate, distressing development to see these sentences handed down in Iran, imposing the death penalty on people who participated in expressing their opposition to the government in demonstrating in the streets.It underscores the approach that the government in Iran takes for their own people.

We will continue to stand up for the rights of the people of Iran to speak for themselves, to have their votes counted, to be given an opportunity to have the measure of freedom and rights that any person deserves to have

1755 GMT: What Happened on Election Night? We've posted the account of Abolfazl Fateh, the editor of Ghalam News, a paper close to Mir Hossein Mousavi.

1550 GMT: Football Politics. In its latest friendly match, Iran's national football team drew 1-1 with Macedonia. The Tehran Times says 1000 people attended; an EA source says the number was closer to 500.

Still, that's better than the 100 who turned up at the match earlier this month with Iceland.

1455 GMT: The Clerics Plot. An EA source brings intriguing information from Qom. On Wednesday, Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi and Ayatollah Nouri-Hamedani, whom Karroubi wrote last week, discussed next moves in the post-election crisis. Nouri-Hamedani reportedly said,  "I am ready to go to Tehran and talk to both sides" about a plan for national unity, and the two clerics (possibly joined by others) decided to seek a meeting with the Supreme Leader.

1440 GMT: And What is "The West" Doing? "Six world powers will meet in Brussels to discuss what measures could be applied against Tehran for its refusal to halt its nuclear enrichment program, an EU official said Thursday. Friday's meeting will include the U.N. Security Council's permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. — plus Germany, the official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to disclose details of the gathering."

1435 GMT: Negotiating from Strength, I Tell You. And hundreds of miles away in The Philippines, Foreign Minister Mottaki --- having put the Iranian counter-offer on uranium enrichment --- is serving as Ahmadinejad's wingman, warning against further sanctions on Iran: "“I think they [the world powers] are wise enough not to repeat failed experiences. Of course it's totally up to them."

1425 GMT: Mahmoud's Negotiating from Strength. Back from an academic break to read about President Ahmadinejad's speech in Tabriz today. His twin-track rhetoric is now established: the door is open to agreement with "the West", but Iran is holding that door open out of its principled leadership in the world, not out of weakness:

Iran is a nation supportive of peace and friendship and backs constructive cooperation on the international arena. Tehran is therefore ready to cooperate with the international community in different arenas including the revival of economy and the establishment of stable security across the globe....

....Iran is not after aggression. It only seeks its legal rights ... Those who say they want constructive interaction should know that...if the Iranian nation witnesses a genuine transparent change of their policy…if they respect the rights of the Iranian nation…if they honestly extend their hand of friendship then the people of Iran will accept [such overture]....

But the President added, "They should also know that if they are after deception and corruption in our region,” the Iranian nation would be the same “decisive” answer that it has already given to arrogant powers.

1140 GMT: Worst Media "Analysis" of the Day. In The Wall Street Journal, Mark "Black Hawk Down" Bowden explains, "How Iran's [1979] Revolution Was Hijacked". The historical part of the article is OK, with Bowden --- who has written a book on the US Embassy crisis -- claiming, "Nine months after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled it was still unclear what kind of government Iran was going to have....[Ayatollah Khomeini] was ambivalent about the idea of clerical rule."

It's Bowden's jump to 2009 that turns reflection into farce: "So 30 years after seizing power, the mullahs of Qom find themselves in a difficult spot. To turn back the domestic tide of reform they must employ the very tools employed by the despised shah—mass arrests and trials, torture, execution and censorship."

Which "mullahs of Qom" would these be? Montazeri? Sane'i? Bayat-Zanjani? Dastgheib? Safi Golpaygani? Makarem Shirazi?

1050 GMT: The Preview of the Deal? Press TV, quoting from the Islamic Republic News Agency, has just posted a significant statement from Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who says that UN inspectors will visit the second uranium enrichment facility at Fordoo today.

Here is the key line, however, from Soltanieh: "This site will from now on be under the IAEA supervision." That may be an unsubtle olive branch to the international community for the bigger deal: you can oversee our facilities inside Iran, so you can trust that we'll let you oversee uranium stocks as well.

1000 GMT: So What About Those Sanctions? President Obama may be issuing the warning that he's opening up a can of economic pain if Iran does not accept a nuclear deal, but the signals --- which we've noted for weeks --- are that the US is limited in what it can do:
Western powers are gearing up for talks on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program but will not target Iran's energy sector to ensure Russia's and China's support....The scaling back of the West's expectations for new U.N. steps against Iran for defying Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium shows that the Europeans and Americans have accepted that Moscow and Beijing, with their close trade ties to Tehran, will not let Iran's economy be crippled.

Diplomats said the Western powers are eager to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic. But they also need to keep Moscow and Beijing on board to send a clear signal to Tehran that the world's big powers are united against it.

If there is a move for UN sanctions, they will target "at least another bank, more individuals, more companies -- possibly a shipping company -- a tighter ban on arms, possibly political measures". Meanwhile, Washington will fall back on the notion that it can organise multilateral restrictions outside the United Nations. Steps could include a ban on Euro transactions for Iranian and withholding technology to produce liquefied natural gas.

0855 GMT: Extending our initial update (0650 GMT), Mr Smith brings us the Analysis of the Day, considering the latest Iranian offer in the nuclear talks and advising the "West" how to respond to it.

0815 GMT: Anticipating the protests of 16 Azar (7 December), we have posted a video "advertisement" for the demonstrations which is a pretty good parody: Welcome to "The Pirates of the Persian Gulf".

0800 GMT: Away from the nuclear issue, Michael Slackman of The New York Times has picked up on the case of Ramin Pourandarjan, the 26-year-0ld physician at Kahrizak Prison who died in mysterious circumstances (see our updates throughout this week).

0650 GMT: International media is likely to be dominated this morning by stories on the nuclear negotiations. Most outlets have noted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's counter-proposal, replacing the delivery of 50-80% of Iran's uranium stock to Russia with a "swap" inside Iran of 20% enriched uranium for Tehran's 3.5% supply. And almost all are jumping on the soundbite reactions, from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to President Obama.

Obama warned again that time was short for a deal and "consequences" would follow if Iran did not accept an agreement. He did the same on Sunday but, on this occasion, he added a tough if vague post-script: "Our expectations are that over the next several weeks we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran." (It's notable that not only international media like Al Jazeera but also Iran's state broadcaster Press TV are carrying the story.)

But do the news agencies really have a handle on what is going on? CNN, for example, headlines, "Iran rejects key part of nuclear deal" and drops in, as one line in a 26-paragraph story, "Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran might allow its nuclear material to be reprocessed inside Iran."

In contrast, the Los Angeles Times devotes almost all of its article to Mottaki's statement. Its headline and opening sentence, however, are just as negative: "Iran's foreign minister vowed Wednesday that his nation wouldn't allow any of its enriched uranium supply out of the country." This is "either a dismissal of a U.S.- and United Nations-backed proposal to ease international tensions over Iran's nuclear program by lowering Tehran's supply below the threshold required to make a bomb, or an attempt by Iran to haggle over the deal".

None of the coverage considers that, from the perspective of the Ahmadinejad Government (and possibly others), Mottaki's response is far from a rejection or a dismissal. Instead, it is a counter-offer which keeps the discussions alive --- indeed, I suspect it may have come out of talks with International Atomic Energy head Mohammad El Baradei. It puts the question to the US and its partners: will they accept a bargain in which Iran's uranium supply is swapped for 20% fuel which is for civilian rather than military purposes? Or is the initial export and warehousing of the majority of Tehran's low-enriched supply an unconditional requirement?

Beyond the negotiating table, Mottaki's statement is a pointer to another story, one which I suspect will go unnoticed today. In the context of the Iranian establishment, this is an attempt to bring peace between battling factions. President Ahmadinejad wants an agreement --- not perpetual "haggling" but an agreement --- and Mottaki's suggestion keeps open that prospect. Others (the Larijanis? the Supreme Leader?) have consented to or been forced to accept the opening.

If the Washington-led "5+1" powers reject that proposal, however, what next? What next not only for the nuclear discussions but also for the interna contests in Iran?