The main headlines:
A large explosion more than two weeks ago which killed two people and has crippled the huge petrochemical facility of the Iranian Pars Petrochemical Company in Bandar Assaluyeh was almost certainly an act of sabotage, according to Michael Ledeen, a regular writer on Iran based at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies. Writing on the pajamasmedia website, he says the previously unreported explosion caused fires throughout the facility, at least 30% of which was totally destroyed. He says preliminary estimates are that it will remain closed for a month or two, adding to the Iran’s crisis over refined fuel products, which are in short supply because of sanctions and lack of domestic refining capacity. The plant provided liquid propane used by many buses and taxis which have now had to revert to using petrol. link
More stunning news just in: Said Mortazavi, supposedly “sacked” yesterday as Tehran’s Prosecutor-General, has in fact been moved to become Deputy Prosecutor-General of Iran under Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei. While this might be interpreted as some form of face-saving move, it suggests there might not be a move to prosecute him for his role in the post-election crackdown. In addition, Ayatollah Larijani, the Head of Judiciary, named Gholam-Hossein Esmaili as head of the State Prisons and Security and Corrective Measures Organisation. PressTV, Neo-Resistance
– PressTV puts more flesh on the bones of yesterday’s report that the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, has formed a panel to supervise cases related to the post-election violence. The panels members are Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the Prosecutor-General sacked recently by Ahmadinejad as Intelligence Minister, Ebrahim Raisi , the deputy Head of Judiciary, and Judiciary adviser Ali Khalafi. The panel will monitor all investigations and court proceedings to ensure defendants’ rights are observed and they are treated properly. The panel will report directly to Larijani. link
There was consternation in the Majlis today as it gathered to consider the proposed new cabinet, when President Ahmadinejad turned up surrounded by bodyguards. ParlemanNews said the appearance was unprecedented and provoked strong objections from MPs. One reformist MP insisted the Majlis was a safe place and the President could trust the representatives of the people in parliament. Ali Larijani, the Speaker, had to ask the President to leave his henchmen outside.
– As the session got underway Speaker Larijani praised last week’s speech by Ayatollah Khamenei on the post-election troubles for having displayed the “true face of Islamic justice” and created a “new atmosphere of hope in the country”. He added: “We ask the judiciary… to deal with all violations in the recent incidents.” link
– Coverage of the subsequent debate shows considerable opposition to Ahmadinejad’s choices, most vehemently from the conservative Principlist bloc of MPs. Daily Times, The National, Washington Post, PressTV
Ayatollah Khamenei has pledged that there will be “no compromise” in the prosecution of those who committed crimes against the people during the post-election crackdown. “If a bad deed or crime has been committed, those behind it will be dealt with rightfully and legally, just as those who openly stand against the system are confronted.” But he added that, while Iran enjoyed full freedom in an Islamic context, it “will never consent to or accept the false freedom sought by the West”. AFP, PressTV
Hossein Shariatmadari, for long the blood-curdling voice of the ultra-hardliners as editor-in-chief of Kayhan newspaper, who has constantly demanded the arrest of the reformist leaders, has asked for a court hearing against him to be delayed so that he can settle out of court with those who have sued him, according to the Neo-Resistance website. Previous reports said a judge had ordered Kayhan closed because Shariatmadari had twice failed to answer a summons to appear. The Neo-resistance site, which speculates that his move is related to the dismissal of his close ally Said Mortazavi as Tehran’s Proscecutor-General, has a list of those who are suing him. link
The mowjcamp website says it has found another victim of Basij brutality, similar to Taraneh Moussav, whose burnt body was found at a roadside. Saideh Pouraghai was allegedly raped, murdered and her body was burnt with acid, accordsing to the website. Her family was later nmotified that she had been secretly buried in Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery alongside other unmarked graves in section 309.
The Revolutionary Road website gives more details of the report by MP Ahmad Tavakoli warning that pay protests by blue collar workers would soon put the green wave in the shade. The website says the report says 200,000 workers in 500 factories have not been paid for 3 months and mentions ongoing protests at Bukan weavers, Dena plastic, and the Haft-Tappeh agro-industry. link
Amid signs that, after the regime closed his newspaper Etemad-e Melli, state hackers have now brought down the newspaper’s website, Mehdi Karoubi told a meeting of the organisation that such actions would not persuade them to give up. He said they were strongly determined to continue their battle and he warned the authorities that Quds Day, the last Friday in Ramadan, would witness “the people’s power once again and will know which side the people are on”. Quds day was originally established by Khomeini as a day for all Iranians to protest about the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem (Quds is the Arab name for the city) and this therefore presents the regime with a dilemma. The green movement has long planned to use this as a perfect opportunity to bring out the masses again, because as long as lip-service is paid to the Palestinian cause it cannot be banned. There are reports that Ayatollah Rafsanjani will also be leading Friday prayers on this day. link
Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor handling the case of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina in which 85 died, said in an interview with Radio Farda that it was a grave matter Iran had named a top suspect Ahmad Vahidi as Defence Minister. He said he had no doubt he could prove that Vahidi, along with Ayatollah Rafsanjani, Mohsen Rezai and others, plotted the bombing at a meeting in Mashad in 1993. link
Iran’s state broadcaster, which is coming under increasing criticism for its biased coverage, has revealed that its audiences are down 60% since the election.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki paid a surprise visit to Damascus today in an attempt to defuse the row beteeen Syria and Iraq over recent bomb attacks in Baghdad. link