The Latest from Iran (24 January): Watching Carefully

From Enduring America

1210 GMT: Monica Luisa Macovei, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, has publicly declared in the Parliament, “I have decided to use most of my time for this intervention to highlight the names of people who, reportedly, are in detention in Iran, some convicted to death, for criticising the political regime or for defending civil rights.”

Macovei mentioned the cases of five Ashura detainees charged with “mohareb” (war against God), the 33 Mothers of Mourning and supporters recently detained (almost all have been released), arrested members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and other students who have been imprisoned. She asked, “What is the Commission or the Council going to do for the release of those imprisoned for political purposes? What funding does the Commission provide to human rights NGOs working on Iran?”

1150 GMT: The Standard Warning. The head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, has again warned of those seeking to create divisions within Iranian society, announcing that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will be more vigilant in monitoring and punishing publications over false information.

1140 GMT: Blowing Smoke. Unsurprising, given the political and economic contests around him, that President Ahmadinejad would put out this line today: he will have good news within days about Iran being able to produce enriched uranium of 20 percent (versus current levels of 3-4 percent), and this will make all in the Iranian nation very happy.

1025 GMT: For My Next Trick. It will be interesting to see if President Ahmadinejad can pull this off: amidst fears of inflation, he has proposed a rise of almost 25 percent in the Government budget, from $279 billion to $368 billion.

0910 GMT: We’ve posted a Sunday Special which we hope brings both news and a smile, “Iran and Israel: The Start of A Beautiful Friendship?”.

0840 GMT: Ahmadinejad’s Budget. The President has presented his budget proposals to Iran’s Parliament, the Majlis. He summarised, “Emphasizing a reduction of dependence on oil revenues and an increase of non-oil revenues, with a focus on industry, agriculture and housing —these are among the main attributes of the bill,” before making his pitch, “I hope that the bill will be passed with the cooperation of all lawmakers who solve the problems of the country and pave the way for the development of Islamic Iran.”

Now the fun and bargaining begin, as lawmakers have ten days to present comments about the bill to the technical commissions of the Majlis.

0820 GMT: Choose a Side, Rafsanjani? Hashemi Rafsanjani’s general statement on Saturday, which we analysed in our updates, has not been enough to satisfy some who want him to “choose sides” in the conflict.

The bigger news, however, however, is that the battle may not be over whether Rafsanjani backs the Supreme Leader — the former President offered allegiance yesterday, albeit with coded reservations — but whether he is for or against President Ahmadinejad. And there it appears that Rafsanjani has some potential allies pushing him towards the latter position.

For example, the “hard-line” newspaper Kayhan has renewed its attacks on Rafsanjani with a Sunday editorial. What is just as significant, however, is that the news of those attacks is published in Khabar Online, linked to Ali Larijani, possibly to blunt them.

Khabar, reporting from Mehr News, also features a speech by Javad Larijani, a high-ranking official in the Judiciary and the brother of Ali (Speaker of Parliament) and Sadegh (head of Judiciary), praising Rafsanjani as a “great personality” but noting his three mistakes: 1) founding the Kargozaran party in the mid-1990s; 2) running for elections in 2005; 3) making ambiguous statements about Ahmadinejad during those elections.

Analysis? Come off the fence, Hashemi, and do so in support of others, not at the head of the movement.

0815 GMT: Persian2English has published a set of pictures from the “birthday ceremony” at Neda Agha Soltan’s grave yesterday.

0810 GMT: Human Rights Activists in Iran reports that Mehdi Jalil-Khani, a writer, literary critic, and journalist from Zanjan, was arrested last week after a Ministry of Intelligence raid.

0805 GMT: We’re be looking for further development on both the political and economic fronts today, separating facts from rumours as the pressure seems to build on President Ahmadinejad.


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