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Entries in New York Times (16)


More Time, Please: Ahmadinejad's Legitimacy and Iran's Nuclear Talks

Iran: Text of Ahmadinejad Speech in Mashaad (29 October)
Latest from Iran (30 October): Now to the Real Contest
The Latest from Iran (29 October): Opposition Momentum?

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AHMADINEJAD7Here is what President Ahmadinejad said in a nationally-televised speech from Mashaad on Thursday.

Iran is strong. I am strong. Iran is strong because I am strong.

While the President covered a range of domestic and international issues, the passage on the talks on Iran's nuclear programme will receive the most attention today. As The Daily Telegraph of London declares, "Iran claims victory in nuclear battle with the West".

Unfortunately most coverage in the West will miss the significance of the speech. The New York Times, relying on usual on unnamed "diplomats in Europe and unnamed officials", is already proclaiming, "Iran Rejects Deal to Ship Out Uranium, Officials Report", a journalistic approach echoed by the Los Angeles Times.

That is untrue, at least according to both the Iranian Government and the International Atomic Energy Agency: Tehran's reply accepts the "framework" but raises issues over timing and amount of uranium stock to be delivered to Russia for reprocessing. More importantly, it shoves aside Ahmadinejad's presentation:
I don’t want to repeat history for you but can you remember where we were a few years ago? Back then, they shouted at us, issued resolutions against us, waged psychological warfare against us and issued sanctions against us. They told us that we should completely give up our nuclear program. Where are we today? Today, they pursue nuclear cooperation with the Iranian nation.

There were days when they said that we should not have the technology at all, but today they say: let us cooperate. Iran’s position in nuclear industry is well-established. Today, Iran’s nuclear activities are considered to be a normal and obvious procedure and an absolute right of the Iranian nation.

That is not a rejection of discussions with the "West"; it is an embrace of them. But it is an embrace based on the premise that the US and other countries have knocked at Tehran's door, gone down on bended knee, and asked forgiveness. Iran is no longer an international outsider; it is an accepted nuclear power.

Iranian state media is running quickly with this line. Press TV, for example, is featuring, "Israel worried by IAEA draft accord on Iran", noting, "Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says a draft accord presented by the IAEA would lead to recognition of Iran's nuclear enrichment program."

This is only part of the story, however. Let's get personal: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is fighting for his authority, not only against the Green opposition but against those within the establishment who object to his high-profile assertion of power. Remember how, only a few days ago, the stories were of Parliamentary leaders like Ali Larijani trashing the nuclear deal and of indications that the Supreme Leader was stepping in both to cast a veto and to put Ahmadinejad in his place?

No sign of those nay-sayers yesterday. Instead this was Iran as the President and the President as Iran.

That's not to say that, for the sake of Ahmadinejad's legitimacy and Iran's international position, Tehran will soon accept the US-led plan for third-party enrichment. To the contrary, the Iranians have serious objections to the details. The most straightforward is that the 80 percent of uranium stock to be shipped to Russia is far more than is necessary to keep Iran's medical research reactor --- the catalyst for this proposal in June --- operating for the rest of its lifespan. So, in Tehran's eyes, the current document is intended as much to keep most of its uranium "hostage" as it is to provide a stable supply for Iran's civilian needs.

And, given Ahmadinejad's position, the political advantages of spinning out the talks are there to be grasped. If there are alterations in the plan to reduce the amount shipped below 80 percent and to send it out in stages rather than in one delivery, these will be concession to Iran's and the President's strength. If the "West" walks away from the table, this will be an indication of their continuing deceptions and mistakes --- despite their apparent request for forgiveness from Tehran --- and Iran will be in the right as it maintains nuclear sovereignty.

Of course, there will be pressure in the US Congress for sanctions (the House of Representatives, despite the ongoing talks, has already passed a measure for tougher economic restrictions). Those, however, are President Obama's worry, as Russia and China are unlikely to give any support for multilateral steps.

So give Ahmadinejad credit for a political victory in Mashaad yesterday. But think of that victory as only a preliminary skirmish on an outside battlefield.

For the next time Ahmadinejad is due in Mashaad is on 13 Aban (4 November).

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KARROUBI MEDIA FAIR 22105 GMT: Mehdi Karroubi's website Tagheer is back on-line (see 1438 GMT).

1945 GMT: We cannot corroborate but it is being reported that flyers of Karroubi's webcast statement (see separate entry) are being put up across Tehran.

1935 GMT: Families of political prisoners have announced that they will demonstrate on Wednesday, protesting the continued imprisonment of their relatives. If the authorities do not heed the protest, the families will continue demonstrations and begin a mass hunger strike.

1925 GMT: Kalemeh, the website associated with Mir Hossein Mousavi, has published its account of the appearance of Mousavi advisor Alireza Beheshti at the Tehran Media Fair yesterday. Beheshti was with his wife and daughter, as well as supporters, when they were surrounded by 50 to 60 people who began yelling loudly against Beheshti. Kalemeh invokes the memory of Beheshti's father, the assassinated Ayatollah, claiming that many were reminded of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq's chant of “Down with Beheshti”. (English summary on Mousavi Facebook page)

1515 GMT: Radio Farda is reporting that 50 striking workers at Ahvaz Pipe Mills were arrested today. Employees have not paid for 10-14 months.

1445 GMT: Mediawatch. Credit to the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Time magazine for picking up on the internal dynamics affecting Iran's decision on the enrichment deal, with varying degrees of success.

Borzou Daragahi in the LA Times is the most effective, noting Ali Larijani's criticism of the proposal. He conflates this, however, with a statement from another high-ranking member of Parliament "close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad", Alaeddin Boroujerdi --- Boroujerdi's shot fits more with moves by the Iranian Government to get better terms, while Larijani's is a direct attack against the negotiations.

David Sanger in The New York Times opens with a reference to Larijani but gets distracted by the Western perspective --- "even some of President Obama’s aides are wary that Iran is setting a trap". Andrew Lee Butters in Time asks the key question, "Why the delay?", but struggles to understand the internal situation.

1438 GMT: Coincidence? While Karroubi seizes the political initiative, his on-line newssite, Tagheer, is down.

1435 GMT: We've posted the video of Mehdi Karroubi, with English translation, drawing lessons from the events at the Iran Media Fair: "We will not retreat."

1355 GMT: A Signal? State television is quoting the Supreme Leader's blame upon foreign agents, seeking Shiite-Sunni conflict, for recent violence: "The bloody actions being committed in some Islamic countries, including Iraq, Pakistan and in some parts of the country (Iran), are aimed at creating division between the Shiites and Sunnis.....Those who carry out these terrorist actions are directly or indirectly foreign agents."

This is a far from surprising statement for Ayatollah Khamenei, but the timing, given our current thoughts about a move to cut off engagement with the West, may be significant.

1345 GMT: Playing for Time. Amidst what could be an extraordinary political story in Iran over the enrichment deal (see analysis in separate entry), Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki offered a very ordinary, non-commital statement today, "Iran's decision on the provision of necessary fuel for the Tehran reactor will be announced in the next few days. There are two options on the table ... either to buy it or to give part of our fuel for further processing abroad."

0930 GMT: We've posted an analysis from Iran, courtesy of Iran Review, pointing to Tehran's move for closer relations with Pakistan in the aftermath of the Sistan-Baluchestan bombings.

0735 GMT: The Story to Watch Today. If we're right, Iran may be on the verge of one of the most important political decisions --- with effects inside and outside the country --- since 12 June. Weekend statements by Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani and Mohammad Reza Bahonar point to the Supreme Leader's intervention to block the Vienna nuclear agreement and engagement with the US. If this happens, the even bigger effect could be on the legimitacy of President Ahmadinejad. We've got the story in a separate entry.

0720 GMT: National Unity Latest. No words for days since the National Unity Plan supposedly went to the Supreme Leader for his consideration. Mizan Press has a useful summary of the political situation, without offering any new details.

0710 GMT: Nuclear Hype. While Iranian state media plays up Washington's alleged backed of "terrorist" organisations, "Western" media --- with the considerable assistance of unnamed Government officials and diplomats --- plays up Iran's imminent Bomb.

In this case, the drum-thumper is Reuters and "imminent" is 18 months. There's no evidence in the article, only the bland assertion of one of the officials, "It's not a formal assessment or formal agreement but a rough agreement that we can all work with more or less."

Actually, "imminent" is not so imminent in this case, perhaps indicating a bit of breathing space for Obama-led engagement as Tehran considers an enrichment deal --- previous media spin has been of an Iranian bomb within a year. Still, we offer this naive question:

Given that Iran cannot even enrich uranium to 20 percent for a medical research reactor --- the technical reality behind Tehran's consideration of third-party enrichment --- wouldn't this indicate obstacles to enrichment of uranium to the 90 percent needed for a weapon?

0650 GMT: More Finger-Pointing at US over Jundallah. Last week La Stampa and Enduring America featured the comments of the retired head of Pakistan's intelligence service, Lieutenant Hamid Gul, linking the Baluch insurgent group Jundallah and last week's deadly suicide bombing to American intelligence services.

Now Iranian state media are headlining the assertion of the former chief of staff of the Pakistani army, General Mirza Aslam Beg: "Helping the Rigi terrorist group launch terrorist attacks against Iranian civilians and military personnel in the border regions is one of the main strategies pursued by the US to confront Iran."

The Islamic Republic News Agency is featuring the interview, which also includes Beg's praise for "the positive steps Iran has taken in Afghanistan and its all-out cooperation with Pakistan", and Press TV is also pushing it.

0630 GMT: The excitement and uncertainty stirred up by Mehdi Karroubi's appearance on Friday at the Tehran Media Fair continued on Sunday, as rumors swirled around possible Green demonstrations and Government reactions. The most prominent story in the end, given that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami did not follow up Karroubi's attendance, concerned Mousavi advisor Alireza Beheshti at the Fair. The cycle of Friday --- arrival, chants of Green support, a response from those backing the Government, Behesti's departure, and opposition celebration of another symbolic victory --- was repeated.

The events of the last 72 hours are now getting some attention outside Iran. Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi, writing in The Los Angeles Times, pick up on the Karroubi episode and also note earlier stories such as the political back-and-forth over the "Kayhan guestbook" (see our updates throughout last week).

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2255 GMT: Steady as she goes with the Western media mulling over the significance of Iran's delay on acceptance of the uranium enrichment deal. The truth is that, given the intracacies (and perhaps disorders) of Tehran's decision-making system, we won't know for a while. For now, it's a matter of reading clues, and the strongest --- with Iranian state TV putting out the line of a "positive response" --- is that the Iranian Government is gradually putting the proposal through the system.

But we'll stand by our initial projection this morning (0630 GMT): the bigger story is inside Iran. Mehdi Karroubi's appearance at the Media Fair, with the loud and fervant chants of his supporters and  the scuffles with bystanders and security forces, will ripple throughout Tehran's political circles. Once again, Karroubi has not backed down (altogether now --- Bring. It. On.), so once again the opposition movement has a boost amidst the Government's ad hoc but still notable shows of force. Indeed, the reformists now get the convergence of the negative, with the arrest of the 60 party members and relatives on Thursday, and the positive with Karroubi's mobilising of public sentiment.

1748 GMT: We're taking a Friday night concert break so will be back later with a round-up on all the news from Iran's nukes to Karroubi at the Media Fair.

1745 GMT: The official statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency says, "Iran informed the Director General today that it is considering the proposal in depth and in a favourable light, but it needs time until the middle of next week to provide a response. The Director General hopes that Iran's response will equally be positive, since approval of this agreement will signal a new era of cooperation."

1730 GMT: Fereshteh Ghazi has posted a series of updates on the status of the 60 people arrested --- some freed, some still detained --- last night.

1645 GMT: Oh, You Teases. Having made the world wait all day for a reply to the deadline for acceptance of the third-party enrichment plan, the Iranian Government is indicating it will formally respond to the proposal next week, says Press TV. Tehran is still putting out the public line that it would prefer to buy uranium directly from other countries.

This could be a tactic to make the West wait and show some Iranian independence, both to home and foreign audiences. Equally, it could be the product of an Iranian system which is in a bit of disarray and confusion over internal and external events.

1630 GMT: Quick update on Friday Prayers. Not much to report from Tehran: Hoatoleslam Kazam Sadighi, very much a supporting cleric in the FP line-up, used the address to call for a "second cultural revolution" in Iran's universities. That message follows the line laid down by the Supreme Leader in a speech in August.

1430 GMT: Fars News, betraying worry about the significance of Mehdi Karroubi's appearance at the Media Fair, have rushed out an article which claims people, chanting "Death to the hypocrite!", chased Karroubi from the exhibition. A photograph smacking of Photoshop shows Karroubi being struck in the head by a shoe as he tries to get into a car. Fars also claim, "One of the bodyguards of this failed presidential candidate fired into the air to disperse the crowd, an act that is rarely carried out by bodyguards of personalities in this country." (English summary from HomyLafayette)

1420 GMT: Norooz reports that 60 people were arrested at last night's prayers for detained reformist Shahabeddin Tabatabei. The newspaper provides the names of many of those detained.

1415 GMT: We've posted two videos of the enthusiastic reception for Mehdi Karroubi's arrival at the Iran Media Fair in Tehran today.

1245 GMT: Report that Mohammad Reza Jalaiepour, detained earlier in the post-election crisis and arrested against last night, has been released.

1230 GMT: Mehdi Karroubi has entered the Iran Media Fair to chants from supporters. Parleman News adds that there are reports of scuffles started by pro-Ahmadinejad groups. Karroubi was escorted outside, though it is unclear whether by his followers or by security forces in an effort to protect him.

1200 GMT: Stalling, Game-Playing, etc. State television is reporting that the Iranian Government is balking at signing the uranium enrichment agreement today. An official says, "Now we are awaiting a positive and constructive response on Iran's proposal from the other party on providing nuclear fuel for Tehran's reactor. The other party is expected to avoid past mistakes in violating agreements ... and to gain Iran's trust."

1155 GMT: Grand Ayatollahs Montazeri and Sane'i have added their voices to those condemning last night’s arrests of 30 Islamic Iran Participation Front members and relatives.

1100 GMT: Union Battles. Meanwhile, on the economic front, there are signs of further unrest for the Government. A strike in Ahvaz received some attention, and an EA reader has just tipped us off the following, adapted from the Persian2English blog:
Members of the board of directors for Haft-Tappeh’s sugar cane labour association are on the verge of getting fired or being imprisoned.

According to reports, threats and pressure on board members and labour workers from Shoosh intelligence service has increased. Since the morning of Wednesday October 21, company guards, who worked under the control of Shoosh intelligence service, prohibited four members of the board from going to work. Three were sentenced to six months of jail time with physical punishment and six months of jail time with partial bail, and one was sentenced to four months of jail time with physical punishment and eight months of jail time with partial bail.

Mr. Ali Nejati, the head of the board of directors of the sugar cane labour association was fired and prohibited from going to work. Over the past six months he has not received any payments or benefits.

1040 GMT: An EA correspondent follows up on our story about the Iran Media Fair, in which the Kayhan "hard-line" newspaper reportedly had to remove its guestbook and flag after they were decorated with pro-Mousavi slogans and Green ribbons:
I went there the first day, Tuesday. The large Kayhan booth had a gaggle of journalists around a table. Different people were taking turns signing the guestbookit. One signed it with a Mousavi slogan, the next with an Ahmadinejad slogan, repeat, rinse.

It was orderly, everyone was pushing up and taking pictures of the guestbook. That went on for at least 3 hours. I left, and perhaps then they "removed" it, but what was more remarkable was that the whole thing seemed playful when I was watching it. That kind of stuff happens here, more often than the bad stuff, actually.

1000 GMT: Still waiting for news of Friday Prayers in Tehran. Meanwhile, the families of political prisoners have condemned last night's arrests of 30 members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front: “If you have no mercy on our innocent children, at least have mercy on your religion; stop ruling in the name of Islam and stop dishonouring Islam."

0855 GMT: On a more serious note with our friends at The New York Times: it appears they are still intent on trying --- through naivete, mischief, or really bad journalism --- to demolish the draft agreement for third-party enrichment of Iran's journalism.

All week David Sanger has been led by the nose to proclaim that Iran was walking out of the talks (not true) and that Tehran was already plotting to circumvent the agreement (speculative propaganda fed to him by "Western officials"). Now Robert Worth chips in with "Iranian Lawmaker Dismisses Uranium Plan".

To give Worth some credit, at least this incident --- unlike Sanger's --- did happen. As we noted yesterday, Reuters was pushing the story that Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that the deal to send Iran's uranium to Russia for processing was "not acceptable".

But we also noted that Bahonar has nothing to do with the Iranian Government's consideration of the proposal --- he is a member of Parliament sniping from the outside. And we suggested that the comments of Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's lead negotiator in the Vienna talks, might be far more important, as he signalled that Tehran would accept the agreement.

On reflection, intrepid New York Times colleagues, go ahead and steal from us (see 0840 GMT). Because channeling off-the-record comments and Reuters' unchecked reports isn't doing anyone any good.

0840 GMT: In a separate entry, we've just had a bit of fun with Michael Slackman of The New York Times, who seems to have stolen our line on Mehdi Karroubi for his story this morning.

0815 GMT: The deputy head of security forces in Sistan-Baluchestan, describing Sunday's bombing, has repeated claims that the attacks are part of "the U.S. plan to create insecurity in our country".

0630 GMT: For the international media, "Iran" today means attention to the Vienna talks, where the Iranian regime and the "5+1" powers face a deadline to accept the draft agreement on third-party enrichment of Tehran's uranium. Make no mistake, however: the bigger stories are inside Iran.

The significance of last night's arrests of members of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, gathered to pray for detainee Shahabeddin Tabatabei (see yesterday's updates), is still not fully known. This was of course a spiteful move against Government opponents, but is it a one-off raid or part of a wider, renewed campaign to break the Green Wave and anyone associated with it? Have President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian security services, whom we believe have been on the back foot since Sunday's bombings, decided to re-assert themselves or is this more a sign of a disjointed regime lashing out in an ad hoc fashion?

The answers should emerge in Government activities over the next 72 hours. Today is the Iranian weekend but still there may be clues in hostility directed at Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and their followers. Even then, questions would remain. How does the regime deal with the rising discontent from senior clerics? And will the pro-Ahmadinejed forces go even farther --- with political moves and "information" --- to blunt the National Unity Plan of conservatives and principlists?

Answers are unlikely to come from Friday Prayers, which are likely to be a relatively low-key affair. And President Ahmadinejad spent Thursday night talking to academics in general terms about the necessity of building "community" for progress and excellence.

Iran: Enduring America Leads, The New York Times Follows

Iran: Karroubi Responds to Government Threats “Bring. It. On.”
The Latest from Iran (23 October): A Government Counter-Attack?

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KARROUBI3So this morning we open up The New York Times, and Michael Slackman is proclaiming, "A Lone Cleric is Loudly Defying Iran's Leaders". Now that headline on Mehdi Karroubi raises one eyebrow (more on that later), but it's this dramatic line that raises the second eyebrow:

"[Karroubi] has been threatened with arrest and, indirectly, the death penalty. His response: bring it on."

Hmm. Bring It On. Where have we read that before? Ahh, yes, this 15 October headline on a website called Enduring America: "Karroubi Responds to Government Threats 'Bring. It. On.'"

Now, Michael, we think you've done a great job covering Iran from Cairo and now from Riyadh, but give a quick mention to your scriptwriter, OK?

And while you're doing that, you might to reconsider your own headline of Karroubi as "Lone Cleric". I know, it resonates with Americans like us who grew up with the Lone Ranger, but you just wrote out dozens of other religious figures who even this week have continued their criticisms of the Ahmadinejad Government, their pressures for reforms, and their talks with "secular" politicians.

So, Michael, be careful with that Dramatic Reductionism, propped up by our one-liners.

Otherwise, we might have to Bring. It. On.

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IRAN GREEN2020 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has named 18 of the people arrested this evening.

1915 GMT: Tonight's Arrests. A group had gathered at the house of Shahabbedin Tabatabei, a detained member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front to pray for his release. Security forces entered the home. They asked 4 everyone's cell phone and filmed them, handcuffed the men, and took away several people.

Among those detained were Tabatabei's wife, Mohammad-Reza Jalaiepour, who was detained earlier in the post-election crisis, Mehrak Mirabzadeh, Faezeh Abtahi, and Saeed Nourmohammadi. Mirabzadeh and Abtahi were later released.

1800 GMT: Iranian activists on Twitter are reporting that a number of high-ranking Islamic Iran Participant Front members have been arrested, and in some cases re-arrested after previous post-election detentions, this evening.

1655 GMT: The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front of the Islamic Revolution has condemned the sentences against political activists. It has God’s promise that no Government or country can survive with such acts; as Prophet Mohammad said, “A state can survive with infidelity but not with tyranny and oppression."

The IIPF added that the coup forces have shown that their only use of religion is to justify despotic and authoritarian actions, issuing unjust sentences against some of the most loyal children of the revolution and the country. (English summary via Mousavi Facebook page)

1640 GMT: More than 2500 students at Sharif University have signed an open letter protesting disciplinary action against their classmates for political activity.

1630 GMT: Heads-Up Announcement. I just finished a 45-minute interview with Fintan Dunne of Sea of Green Radio on Afghanistan and Iran. The broadcast should be available this evening.

1530 GMT: Failure of Day. Earlier this week, we reported on a success for the Green Wave at the Iran Media Fair, when the "hard-line" Kayhan newspaper was forced to remove a guestbook and take down a flag after they were inscribed and decorated with pro-Mousavi slogans and green ribbons.

On the other side, a stand set up by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance to collect names for a complaint against Mousavi did not do very well. So poorly, in fact, that it was taken down.

1300 GMT: Fars Makes Up Clinton Quotes. I'm  not sure if this is another signal that Iran will sign the enrichment deal --- given the image of a US making concessions to a "peaceful" Tehran --- or really bad propaganda.

Fars News is currently leading with the story, "Clinton: Iran's nuclear program is peaceful", quoting her from an interview with The New York Times. Which would be fine, except it bears no resemblance to the truth. In the article in the Times, the summary of the Secretary of State's remarks --- actually made in a speech to the US Institute of Peace --- is "Iran and North Korea must take decisive action to curb their nuclear programs, and not just talk about doing so, if they expected to enjoy an easing of global pressures".

1240 GMT: Will Iran Sign the Uranium Enrichment Deal? Yes.

At least that's the clue offered by Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "The Vienna talks are a new chapter in cooperation between Iran and the other participating states….We will be waiting to see whether they will stay true to their words and promises. The International Atomic Energy Agency will be a witness to the other states' behaviors when it comes to technical cooperation on using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

So there's Tehran's spin: We are the ones in control of this process, putting "the West" to the test on the nuclear issue.

You won't see this in Western media yet --- they're distracted for the moment by the tangential comments of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar that the deal "is not acceptable to us". Bahonar has no role in the nuclear negotiations; his words only come into play if the Parliament decides to resist the Government's engagement with Washington.

1145 GMT: Not Going to Let It Go. The "US linked to Jundallah bombing" narrative lives on. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has repeated his claims from Sunday that this is an American connection to the attack in southeastern Iran that killed at least 41 people: "Unfortunately, a trace of the US crimes can be seen in the latest events in our country. Although [the US] has denied any involvement in the terrorist attack, it is not enough and not unacceptable to us. They should explain why such things are taking place."

I have to say I'm surprised, given the context of this week's talks in Vienna on Iran's uranium enrichment. Perhaps Larijani is maintaining political pressure on Washington. But is that a prelude to walking away from the draft agreement? Is it to maintain a tough public stance, even as Iran accepts the arrangement?

Even more curious, and complicating the questions above, is that Larijani is the only front-line politician to complement the Revolutionary Guard's criticism of Washington. So is the Speaker speaking for the Ahmadinejad Government or cutting an independent path?

0825 GMT: The Shark Surfaces. Fararu News reports that Hashemi Rafsanjani has spoken with scholars at the Qom seminary.

He emphasized the principles of Islam and the Islamic Revolution to deal with the country's "many fundamental problems". The Iranian system was sound but, unfortunately, certain operations had raised public and international concerns. It was important, therefore, that all institutions and individuals respected and upheld the Constitution. And, to support that, there must be "free and uncensored information of events and issues", without lies and distortions.

Nothing unusual or dramatic in those general statements. What may be more significant, as we watch Qom's evolving interest in a resolution to post-election disputes, is the timing of Rafsanjani's encounter.

0600 GMT: In contrast to events in Vienna, where Tehran and the "West" neared an agreement on uranium enrichment, a quieter Wednesday in Iran. There were reports of scattered demonstrations, but rumours of a confrontation between President Ahmadinejad and students at Tehran University never turned into reality.

The quest by pro-Ahmadinejad members of Parliament to put pressure on Mir Hossein Mousavi through a formal complaint appeared to run aground in confusion. For the moment, the Revolutionary Guard continues to be preoccupied with the aftermath of the Sistan-Baluchestan bombing.

On the opposition side, movement is still restricted by the Government's formal and informal measure, but a drip-feed of news continues as the calendar moves towards 13 Aban (4 November). Mehdi Karroubi, meeting the members of the Defenders of Human Rights and the National Peace Council, strongly criticised the measures trying to cut off his communications with the people, such as the shutdown of his newspaper and official website, the arrest of his close allies, and the closure of his office. He assured the audience that he was ready for any further regime moves, e.g. that would be taken against him. The Government's ignorance of the rights of the people made the situation worse, and the Green movement would continue until those rights are reinstated. (English summary available via Radio Zamaneh)

The report of a forthcoming meeting between senior clerics and members of Parliament over the proposed National Election Committee promises another front in the challenge to the President and possibly the Supreme Leader. And reformists took heart from the announcement that former President Mohammad Khatami had won the inaugural Global Dialogue Prize, given for cultural and intercultural research in global communication and cooperation.

One item from the prisons: Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former deputy Minister of Interior, told his wife during a visit that he was unaware of the process of his Detained since June, he remained defiant: " Let [the regime] say whatever they want in an unchallenged environment and in our absence; there is no doubt that there will be an opportunity for the people to hear our side of the story! "