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The Latest from Iran (7 September): The Real Stories

2140 GMT: Is It Really OK to Criticise the President Now? We noted last evening that the chairman of the Supreme Audit Court, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, had "taken apart the Ahmadinejad Government over its development plans, privatisation, imports, and subsidy reform".

Iran's Press TV either A) forgot to read EA or B) thought long and hard about whether it would be wise and appropriate to publicise Fazli's criticism. Finally, this afternoon it decided it was OK to let Ahmadinejad have it: "The Iranian government's plans to scrap state subsidies should not lead to 'political disputes' in the country, says the head of Iran's Supreme Audit Court."

Press also noted Fazli's comments on the suspect nature of the Government's privatisation but left out the chairman's scathing remarks on cheap imports pushing out Iranian goods and costing Iranian jobs.

NEW Iran Exclusive: Rafsanjani Declares “I Won’t Bear This Situation”
NEW Iran Exclusive: FM Mottaki Attempted to Resign over Ahmadinejad Foreign Policy
Iran Witness: Political Prisoner Arjang Davoudi From Evin on Human Rights (2008)
Iran Feature: Inside Rajai Shahr Prison (Bijnen)
The Latest from Iran (6 September): Stresses on Authority

2120 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Foreign Policy Problem. You know it's been a bad day for the President when even the Foreign Ministry spokesman is slapping him around.

At his press briefing today, Ramin Mehmanparast was asked if foreign policy had been hindered by the President's appointment of special representatives for international affairs.

Mehmanparast replied, "We believe the Foreign Ministry should not be undermined....The Foreign Ministry is the only body that makes final decision and implement foreign policy."

1540 GMT: School Days. "Free teachers", with between four and eight years of experience, from 5 provinces have protested in front of Parliament over discrimination in professional examinations and lack of jobs.

1535 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online reports that about 800,000 jobs have been lost in agriculture since 2005.

1530 GMT: Sedition Alerts. The head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Mohammad Ali Jafari, says fitna (sedition) is much more dangerous than the 1980s war with Iraq. Commander Ali Fazli has asserted that tens of thousands were arrested during the past year's fitna. Of these, 5000 have "repented".

1525 GMT: A New Political Contender? The supporters of the new "Front for Justice and Welfare", linked to Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, met yesterday. They defended the and his Government and sharply attacked the hardline newspaper Keyhan, which has been critical of Rahim-Mashai.

1510 GMT: Parliament v. President. Challenges to Ahmadinejad on a number of fronts....

122 of the 290 MPs in the Majlis have issued a warning to the President about "parallel actions" in foreign policy, reminding him to follow the command of the Supreme Leader.

The Article 90 Commission has threatened to send its file on the National Iranian Oil Company, whose statutes since 2007 are supposedly missing, to the judiciary.

On Wednesday the Parliament will officially present letters of impeachment of Minister of Energy Majid Namjoo and Minister of Agriculture minister Sadegh Khalilian.

Reformist MPs have demanded the pursuit and punishment of the perpetrators, and those who led them, of last week's attacks on the home of Mehdi Karroubi and Qoba Mosque in Shiraz.

1500 GMT: The Battle Within. Mohammad Nabi-Habibi, the Secretary-General of the Motalefeh party, has issued a stinging criticism of the President in Khabar Online.

Nabi Habibi rebuked Ahmadnejad for his "parallel actions" in foreign policy and said he should stop them immediately to please the Supreme Leader. While noting the "good performance" of the Ahmadinejad Governments, he added that they should also accept criticism, end quarrels, and create a better life for the people by establishing justice. He urged concentration on the creation of jobs and economic growth.

Nabi Habibi called for a Government commission with Parliament and the Expediency Council to resolve problems.

1440 GMT: Labour Front. Textile workers in Amol in northern Iran have rallied in front of the governor's office.

1435 GMT: Execution (Sakineh) Watch. The Parliament's Human Rights Commission has condemned the intervention of the French and Italian Governments in the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, condemned to death for adultery.

1430 GMT: Putting Away the Rumour of the Day. The Majlis has denied the story, which we noticed this morning, that Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani suffered a heart attack last week.

1315 GMT: MediaWatch. A quick answer to our enquiry earlier today (see 0650 GMT) about whether Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post, one of the few front-line "Western" correspondents in Tehran, would be returning to Iran after a break in The Netherlands.

Turns out Erdbrink's story on the Iranian opposition in Delft, published today, was developed last month, and he is already back in post in the Iranian capital.

1250 GMT: Sanctions Watch. On Monday, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates froze four Iranian bank accounts, in accordance with the recent sanctions on 41 firms and individuals adopted by the United Nations Security Council.

A source at the CBE said the other 37 accounts on the UN list were outside the country and the amounts frozen in the UAE were "very limited".

1245 GMT: Power Squeeze. Peyke Iran reports that electricity bills for some people in Tehran have risen five times. Khabar Online is also carrying the story.

1120 GMT: Transport News. Claims are circulating that, with a shortage of gasoline in Tehran, private bus drivers are waiting hours at stations.

1025 GMT: Execution (Sakineh) Watch. For the second time in two weeks, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has warned other countries not to interfere in Iran's legal system over Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery.

"Unfortunately, (they are) defending a person who is being tried for murder and adultery, which are two major crimes of this lady and should not become a human rights issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. "If releasing all those who have committed murder is to be perceived as a human rights issue, then all European countries should release all the murderers in their countries."

Not sure that the latest Iranian protest will check the pressure, however: the Parliament of the European Union will pass a resolution on Wednesday in support of Ashtiani. On Monday, the introduction of the resolution brought more than 30 minutes of denunciation of Tehran:

1020 GMT: The Foreign Policy Battle. Key MP Ahmad Tavakoli has issued a harsh warning to President Ahmadinejad over his naming and retention of special envoys for foreign policy, amidst the growing dispute with the Foreign Ministry. Tavakoli said that ignoring the commands of Ayatollah Khamenei to cease "parallel actions" would have "grave consequences".

1015 GMT: Stopping the Lawyers. Reporters Without Borders has condemned the detention of defense attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose office was raided on 28 August and who was summoned to the prosecutor's office inside Evin Prison on Sunday over charges of anti-government propaganda and conspiring against the regime

Reporters Without Borders said. “Detained journalists and other political prisoners are denied their most basic rights. Lawyers cannot visit their detained clients or see their case files. Now the repression is being stepped up a notch. By arresting lawyers, the regime is trying to gag the last dissenting voices. Lawyers’ organisations throughout the world must demand this courageous lawyer’s immediate release.”

0755 GMT: Nothing to See Here, Move Along (Nuclear Edition). And now the other side of the headline hype (see 0525 GMT). Press TV quotes Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, on the IAEA's latest statement: "After seven years of constant inspections, the report once again confirms the non-diversion of Iran's nuclear activities towards military and banned objectives

Ali Abkar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, chimes in, "Like the previous reports, the new report reiterates the non-diversion of declared nuclear material ….Therefore, we believe that the other issues mentioned in the report are minor."

It is useful to note Salehi's response to the most challenging remarks in the IAEA reports, criticising Iran's denial of inspections of its heavy water plant: "The IAEA should tell us that by which clause of the mutual agreement can it inspect the heavy water facilities. We have not found such a clause…if they prove it, I will immediately allow inspectors to visit [the plant]."

0700 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. We have posted an exclusive, based on sources in Iran, "Rafsanjani Declares, 'I Won't Bear This Situation'".

0650 GMT: Opposition Abroad. Here's a story I suspect some EA readers already knew, brought out by Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post:
A dreamy university town in the Netherlands known as the birthplace of 17th-century painter Johannes Vermeer has become a major center for Iranian activists abroad.

Over 1,000 Iranian students, the majority fresh arrivals from Iran's best universities, are studying courses such as applied physics and aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and meeting during evenings in cafes that line the city's canals.

The university hosts one of the largest communities of visiting Iranian scholars in Europe, and many are involved with the Iranian opposition movement.

Now a question: Erdbrink, one of the few front-line "Western" correspondents who remained in Iran during the post-election conflict, by-lines the story from Delft. Is the Dutch national now outside Iran and, if so, will he be able to get back in?
0535 GMT: We're going to leave the nuclear chatter to others, unless there is a significant development. We've got more important matters to consider....

Our exclusive on the tension between the President and the Foreign Ministry, including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's attempted resignation, was posted last night. This morning, we'll be putting up an equally important story involving former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, and tomorrow or Thursday we should have an analysis --- based on new information from inside Iran --- of the battle within the regime.

0525 GMT: As we noted at the end of last night, there will be a lot of "Western"media brushfires to put out today,  with the coverage of the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on the Iranian nuclear programme. Even though there is almost nothing new of substance in the IAEA summary, most newspapers will be looking for --- actually, they have already seized upon --- a morsel of information to turn into a dramatic statement of conflict and threat.

So far, however, the Obama Administration has put out a relatively muted statement of "disappointment" in Iran over its failure to co-operate fully with the IAEA inspectors. That indicates the US Government is putting more emphasis on the possible resumption of talks with Tehran via the 5+1 Powers rather on a public conflict with Iran.

There is the slighter possibility that another rogue story may be whipped up into a cause for showdown. Reza Aslan, who normally is a good reporter and analyst of Iran affairs, is pushing the speculative and over-hyped claims of the agency STRATFOR that Iran "may have orchestrated last week's brutal attacks by Hamas militants against Israeli settlers in the West Bank in an attempt to derail the Middle East peace talks".