Thursday October 8 – the daily story

The main headlines

The first death sentence for involvement in the post-election protests has apparently been handed out to one of the defendants in the recent televised mass trials. Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani was told of the verdict on Monday, Persian websites reported. It is understood he was charged with assault and membership of a banned monarchist organisation, the name of which is variously translated as Council of the Kingdom of Iran, Iran Kingdom Association or Iranian Empire Society. His ”detailed confession” was among those televised during the second of the mass trials. Reuters, second mass trial report

— The US has called for the immediate release of two foreign nationals, the American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Canadian-Iranian Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who have been held captive by Iran for roughly three months. WSJ

A group of more than 100 Iranian academics and scholars working at institutions outside Iran  have issued a statement calling on the United States to tackle the critical issues of widespread repression and abuse in Iran. “The West, and especially the United States, must not forget the plight of the courageous Iranians who are trying, under the most dire circumstances, to move their nation toward a democratic system of government and respect for the rule of law.” Tehran Bureau

The deputy governor of Tehran province for social and political affairs, Safarali Baratlou, would appear to have been caught out in a big fib. At the beginning of the week the parlemannews  website said Mehdi Chamran, head of Tehran City Council, had confirmed that it had been ordered by Baratlou to stop meetings with families of victims of the post-election unrest. A letter from the deputy governor said such meetings were “against the national interest” and should be left to the Red Crescent society. The report was denied by Baratlou, who said  there was no such order, simply a request for “coordination” with the governor’s office. So parlemnanews has now published the actual letter – which supports the City Council version of events.  homylafayette

Things are looking bleak at the Wagon Pars factory in Arak, about 200km south-west of Tehran, where 1,700 employees have reportedly gone on a hunger strike saying they are owed 75 day’s pay and pension. They are now threatening to block road access to the city. But equipment is already being taken out of the plant on court orders over other non-payment claims. Radio Zamaneh,  wagonpars

Israel and the United States will hold their biggest joint air-defence exercise next week, testing missile interceptors that would serve as a strategic bulwark in any future showdown with Iran. Reuters

— The US House of Representatives called on President Obama to report by January 31 on the progress of his diplomatic outreach with Iran over its nuclear programme and demanded that sanctions be levied against Iran if it fails “to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities” related to its nuclear ambitions. AFP

— US lawmakers have said the sudden decision to deny federal funding to the  Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre in Connecticut – after five years of funding approvals – is “disturbing” and a significant shift in America’s approach to dealing with Iran. Fox News

— The US has denied “baseless Iranian allegations” of being involved in the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist. gulfnews

Iran warned companies that sell petrol not to halt deliveries to the Islamic Republic in response to Western sanctions, saying they would be dropped from its list of suppliers. Forbes

Syrian President Assad and Saudi King Abdullah buried the hatchet over Lebanon and urged the formation of a national unity government, but there was no hint of what of anything they had agreed about Iran. AFP

The Ministry of Culture has lifted a ban on the Iranian film The Colour Purple. a political drama directed by Ebrahim Hatamikia. payvand

Wednesday October 7 – the daily story

The main headlines

National police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam said today that an investigation had found no evidence that any protesters were raped in the Kahrizak detention centre. However, he admitted that “heinous crimes” had been committed there by prison guards.  “I do not seek to justify their actions. What happened in Kahrizak was truly horrible, but I repeat, none of the inmates were raped.” He added that more than 700 complaints had been lodged against police treatment of protesters after the election. and promised to bring security up to the proper standard. His comments were somewhat more credible than those earlier of his deputy Ahmad-Reza Radan who described what happened at Kahrizak as a “minor mistake”. PressTV, Rooz Online

— Reza Moini of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Moghadam’s denial had no value because he denied the same allegations even before any investigation took place. VOA

The Americans were today accused by Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki of kidnapping Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared on a “mini-pilgrimage” to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Reports yesterday suggested Amiri had sought and been granted political asylum by the Saudis. But without mentioning this, Motaki said: “We have found documents that prove US interference in the disappearance of … Amiri.” He said the case would impede moves towards rapprochement between Iran and the US “because it would be considered as a hostile act by the Iranian people on the part of the United States. Kidnapping the citizen of one country is unacceptable.” He also held the Saudi  government responsible for failing to protect the pilgrim. PressTV, timesonline, AP

The closure by the Press Court earlier this week of three newspapers, one close to Ayatollah Rafsanjani and two that backed the reformists, came after the court’s jury lost its remaining moderates in a hardline putsch, it has emerged. Dariush Ghanbari, spokesperson for the Majlis reformist faction, said 10 of the 21 jury members were ditched, including the wife of reformist leader Mehdi Karoubi. “Not even a single critic of the administration is among the new members.” Rooz Online

— New charges have been laid against Mohammad Ghouchani, the imprisoned editor of the banned daily Etemad-e Melli, which will prevent his immediate release, according to his wife. The original investigation of his case was completed 15 days ago and he had been expected to be freed on bail. Radio Zamaneh

Serious concern has been expressed for the wellbeing of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeini Borujerdi, who has been held in prison since 2007. The prisoners committee of the Human Rights Activists in Iran organisation said Borujerdi fell and injured his head and right hand on Saturday in the clerics’ ward of Evin prison where he is being held. But the committee says that despite his poor condition – among his many afflictions he is said to suffer from Parkinson’s disease – officials refuse to let him  leave prison and have even “confiscated his drugs and provided the grounds for a deterioration in  his physical condition.” Borujerdi was an outspoken critic of religious involvement in government. HRAI, rfel, Wikipedia

If you only read PressTV’s report of a speech given by Ayatollah Khamenei in the north today you would think he was back squarely on the Ahmadinejad bandwagon, once again hailing the huge election turnout and accusing “the enemy” of trying to undermine this “huge political victory”. If you read the IRIB news agency’s version, however, you would also learn that he said the country’s officials should ”avoid dictatorship, sycophancy and indifference to the people.” He also advised officials to respect people’s values, reputation, personality and identity. Did PressTV think that was too boring to report?  PressTV, IRIB

President Ahmadinejad suffered a fresh snub Tuesday night when only 70 out of 290 MPs turned up for the second joint session of the government and parliament, which were inaugurated to improve relations between the two, parlemannews reports. Notable among the absentees was Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani (who had been such an enthusiastic backer of the plan when it was first announced as the new cabinet was about to be approved on the explicit orders of the Supreme Leader – read this and reflect on how times change).

Reliable posters on Twitter said 12 members of the teachers union arrested Tuesday as they gathered to mark World Teachers Day were freed today. HRAI, homylafayette

Workers at the Pars Wagon Company have gone on hunger strike to protest delays in salary payment, the ILNA news agency said. Washington TV

Iran  is reviewing options for purchasing uranium for Tehran’s research reactor, President Ahmadinejad said today. “The purchase of nuclear fuel has not been finalised yet.” PressTV

Seven Iranian Arabs have been sentenced to death the assassination of a Shia cleric in the southern city of Ahvaz, the Amir Kabir university student newsletter reported today. Washington TV

Iran has threatened to cease cooperation between the National Museum in Tehran and the British Museum in London if the British don’t lend Iran the  Cyrus the Great cylinder to display. CAIS

An Iran Air Airbus was forced to abort takeoff from Zahedan airport Tuesday after one of its tyres burst. When a replacement tyre was finally flown in the plane again took off for Tehran 13 hours late, but had to return to Zahedan after a short time because of a hydraulics leak caused by the original tyre burst. Aviation Herald

Iraq has released 36 members of the Mujahedin Khalq organisation arrested in a bloody raid on the group’s Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad nearly three months ago. The Iranian dissidents have been on a hunger strike for weeks and recently began refusing water. ABC News, BBC

Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Assad have agreed to “remove the obstacles” to closer ties, the Syrian state news agency reported. Gulf Times, The National, Reuters

— Growing concerns over its Gulf neighbour Iran have prompted Saudi Arabia to negotiate another major order of F-15 fighter-jets from the United States.

A Russian newspaper claimed suspected pirates who boarded the freighter Arctic Sea were actually agents of the Israeli Mossad secret service trying to stop it from smuggling arms into Iran. mina

In more detail

Tehran Bureau reports on Said Mortazavi’s denial that he discussed the Kahrizak detention centre with the Majlis fact-finding commission, which seems to have got him in a spot of trouble.

Pedestrian also gives us some interesting background on the Kahrizak investigation.

Tuesday October 6 – the daily story

The main headlines

President Ahmadinejad’s supporters in Parliament suffered a huge blow today as Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani sailed through his reelection as  the head of Principlist bloc, by a whopping 24-7 vote of the central council. He was up against the hardline candidate  Morteza Agha-Tehrani. In addition the deputy Majlis speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar, a highly vocal opponent of the Ahmadinejad faction,  and Mohammad-Hasan Abutorabi were also re-elected as the bloc’s first and second deputy heads (leaving a slight question mark over Rooz Online’s apparent claim yesterday that Bahonar had been ditched from the central council). The votes suggest tough days to come for Ahmadinejad in Parliament  from the sizeable Principlist group that dislikes him. PressTV

— Three Principlist MPs have filed a complaint against First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi for allegedly forging his doctorate, the latest in a string of ministers uncovered with false qualifications . Homylafayette, mowjcamp

A not very pretty picture is unfolding of the backgrounds of Ayatollah Khamenei’s latest military appointments. Among other things, the new Basij commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi is alleged to have practised widespread torture. But another possibly significant reported fact is that Naqdi was sacked by President Ahmadinejad as head of the Committee to Combat Drug and Currency Smuggling in 2005 after accusing one of Ahmadinejad’s prominent campaign donors of running a smuggling operation. Neo-Resistance, Payvand, mowjcamp, AP

— In the light of possible behind the scenes moves to rein in Ahmadinejad, it may be no coincidence that Ayatollah Khamenei was pictured today in the presence of the military. In a speech he sought to reassure Iran’s neighbours that its military development presented no threat to them “or any other nation in the world”. PressTV, Radio Zamaneh, Mehr

— Commander Abdollah Araghi, head of the special Tehran unit of the Revolutionary Guards,  says the corps was in charge of Tehran’s security from June 15 to August 15 after answering a police request for assistance in the face of unprecedented numbers of protesters. Rooz Online

Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Hassan Rohani, head of strategic research for the Expediency Council, jointly expressed concern about deepening divisions in Iran in a meeting with Principlist clergy from the Majlis. Rafsanjani said rumour-mongering and slander were the “scourge of national unity” while Rohani struck home with three sharp jabs at the hardliners: attacking those who think elections should be mere window-dressing, decrying military interference in politics; and accusing those attacking the views and family of Ayatollah Khomeini of trying to break society into pieces and start a “guerrilla war”. Payvand

— Rafsanjani has asked the Head of the Judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, to investigate rumours circulating about his family, according to the website Khabar Online.

— The Tehran prosecutor has squashed reports that about 20 dissidents were on the verge of being Freed, Tabnak reports.

— The family of 76 year-old Mohammad Maleki, the first ever president of Tehran university after the revolution, released a statement expressing concern about his  condition after 45 days in prison. The statement said he had already been battling several serious illnesses. mowjcamp

— A bit of pressure seems to be building on Said Mortazavi, the notorious former Tehran Prosecutor General, after he denied discussing the Kahrizak detention centre in a meeting with members of the Majlis committee investigating post-election events.  Committee member Farhad Tajari expressed amazement “because in the meeting Mr [Alaedin] Borujerdi and I had with him, the forensic report on [Mohsen] Rouholamini [one of the prisoners killed at Kahrizak] was presented to him in his very own office and he himself offered some information on the issue.” Tehran Bureau

Students at the Azad university in Shahrekord demonstrated against the government today, as did students at the International university of Qazvin, Moussavi’s Facebook page reports.

An Iranian scientist who has been given political asylum in Saudi Arabia either tipped off the Americans about the secret Qom enrichment plant or at least confirmed their suspicions, the Tehran Bureau website reports. Shahram Amiri, a nuclear researcher who worked at the facility, went missing in May after supposedly going on a Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Iran’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed he is missing. Tehran Bureau

Ezatollah Zarghami, head of Iranian state broadcaster IRIB, has been given a set of conditions for continuing in his job by the Ahmadinejad administration, parlemannews reports. They include  changing some of his deputies in key areas and agreeing not to use anyone on a list he was given of ten middle managers, presenters, producers and directors. Tehran Bureau

— A total of three newspapers were closed by the Press Supervisory Committee on Tuesday. AFP

— A High Council of Cinema has been formed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to  overlook all cinematic matters, habaroline reports. It says the council will be headed by President Ahmadinejad himself. Pedestrian

Congressional Democrats pushed the Obama administration to get behind tough economic sanctions against Iran and voiced deep skepticism that direct negotiations with Tehran will prove fruitful. Miami Herald,  AP

For the first time since it was formed five years ago, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Haven, Connecticut has had a federal funding request for $2.7m denied. “If there is one time I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said Rene Redman, the group’s executive director.

The freed reformist leader Said Hajarian was visited today by former president  Ayatollah Khatami. Details of the talks were not  immediately disclosed. Photos on Pedestrian

The Majlis intends to file a complaint to the United Nations and other  international bodies against the United States for the way it held five Iranian diplomats captive in Iraq after US forces stormed the Iranian consulate in Irbil, Speaker Ali Larijani announced. The report did not make clear where the suit would be filed. Fars,  Mehr

Petrol imports this year have left the country with a $6.5 billion budget shortfall and the Oil Ministry will present a bill to the Majlis to plug the gap, described by one newspaper as “an unprecedented and record-breaking budget supplement.” Radio Zamaneh

Arab officials in the Persian Gulf strongly denied a report in the Independent that they are in secret talks to replace the US dollar with a basket of currencies to price oil, an idea being pursued by Iran. WSJ, Reuters, Independent

The Turkish parliament has extended a mandate to launch cross-border military operations against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, as the Turkish Armed Forces prepare for “sweeping operations” in a coordinated effort with Iraq, Syria and Iran.  Today’s Zaman

An annual global survey by the New York-based market research company GfK shows the United States is the most admired country, thanks mostly to the Obama effect, while the last two nations were Angola at number 49 and Iran at number 50. VOA

Monday October 5 – the daily story

The main headlines

The cracks in the majority Principlist faction of the Majlis are widening as hardliners, having reportedly ditched Mohamamed Reza Bahonar from the faction’s central council, have now set their sites on ousting  Ali Larijani as their head. Morteza Agha-Tehrani, MP for Tehran and a cleric close to President Ahmadinejad, revealed he was standing against Larijani for the position while Rooz Online quotes several other Ahmadinejad supporters whose names are in the frame. Agha-Tehrani said the Principlists could have performed much better in the two years they had held sway in the Majlis, and blamed what he said was Larijani’s insistence on considering the views of other MPs and not just the Principlists. The hardliners are even spreading the suggestion that Larijani may be prepared to stand down so he can continue as Majlis Speaker –m splitting the two is said to be part of the discussion. Even Bahonar, the deputy speaker, has indicated that Larijani himself would prefer not to have both roles. Rooz Online said Bahonar, a well-known opponent of Ahmadinejad, sealed his fate by declaring publicly that he only supported the new cabinet in the recent Majlis vote because of the Supreme Leader’s letter. However, the moves are worrying the minority reformist faction who today voiced their strong support for Larijani to continue as Speaker. Spokesman Dariush Qanbari said: “Because of his independent position, the pro-government bloc is trying very hard to eliminate Larijani from the Majlis. If this occurs, then nothing will be left of the independence of the Majlis, and the assembly will fall into the hands of the government.” PressTV, Mehr, Rooz Online

In a statement posted on his website last night Ayatollah Rafsanjani advised people that the only accurate information on the current political situation is that put out by the PR office of the Expediency Council, which he controls. The statement implies that this includes news about the National Unity Plan supposedly being hammered out behind the scenes. Some observers, however, suggest the statement is part of Rafsanjani’s attempt to maintain control over what is eventually decided in the discussions, a position others involved in the process have found irksome.  In his statement, Rafsanjani said his “friendship” and relations with the Supreme leader are excellent and he remains committed to the four pillars of the regime: its revolutionary princples, leadership, the marja  (Grand Ayatollahs) and the people. He said discussions on the national plan are ongoing. The message also repeats concerns Rafsanjani has voiced before about the existence of a “secret current” that has infiltrated the government, media and other sensitive positions. This is taken to be a reference to the Hojatieh.

Mohsen Rezai, beaten candidate in the election and secretary of the Expediency Council,  has been granted permission to publish a newspaper, Mellat-e Ma (Our Nation) by the Press Supervisory Committee. It also approved the publication of another newspaper, three monthlies, and 11 seasonal magazines. However, reports on Twitter quoting Persian websites say the committee also suspended Farhange Ashti (Conciliation Culture),  a newspaper close to Ayatollah Rafsanjani.  PressTV

If Iran is not fully involved in developing nuclear power technology today it will be ;left behind when the world finally starts to develop fusion plants, “the technology of the next 40 to 50 years“, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi said on Channel 2 television. He also explained in some detail about plans for the Fordo enrichment plant near Qom, including the installation of a new generation of centrifuges. PressTV

— Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqai hailed the Geneva meeting last week as a “national success”. He said: “We achieved the outcome of Iran’s resistance [to foreign pressure].” He pledged that Iran would head into the next round of talks with a “positive” approach. PressTV, news24

— After his weekend talks in Tehran the head of the UN atomic agency Mohammad El Baradei has concluded that Ian is moving from confrontation to co-operation over its nuclear programme. BBC, myfox

— General James Jones, President Obama’s national security advisor, said Washington was pleased by some positive signs of cooperation from Iran. “For now, things are moving in the right direction.” WashingtonTV

— Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said an agreement reached between Tehran and six world powers for Russia to help enrich uranium for an Iranian reactor will be finalised at a meeting of experts in Vienna “in the near future”. AP

— US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said in Baku he had discussed new sanctions against Iran with top Azerbaijani officials, including the President.They also discussed Western market access to Azerbaijan’s gas stocks. apa

— The president of the United Arab Emirates has signed a law to regulate the development of a civilian nuclear programme, clearing the way for construction of a nuclear power plant with help from the United States. Taiwan News

— Foreign Ministry spokesman Qashqai said safety at the Bushehr nuclear power plant is of paramount importance and Tehran would never override it to speed up completion of the Russian-built project, which is now more than  a year overdue. Fars

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the brother of Iran’s Speaker and Head of Judiciary, is in hot water again, this time for an attack on Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson Hassan who is in charge of his mausoleum. Parlemannews says Hamid Ansari, the director of the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of the Works of Imam Khomeini, has hit back in an open letter warning against the widespread insults and rumours being spread in the country. He declared that, while there is no velvet coup, there is an “ethical” coup under way..He also asked why those who say any refusal to research the Holocaust issue raised by President Ahmadinejad is undemocratic  will not allow research on the presidential elections. Payvand, meanwhile, has more on Larijani’s run-in with students at Sharif univsirsity,  including some excellent pictures. Payvand, Radio Zamaneh

The new head of the Basij, Brigadier Geneneral  Mohammad Reza Naqdi,  is among those named in a UN Security Council resolution last year as working to circumvent UN sanctions . The resolution also links him to Iran’s alleged proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities and development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. AP, Radio Zamaneh

— Rooz Online says there are unconfirmed reports that Hojatoleslam Hossein Taeb, replaced as Basij commander,  may become the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence director, where he would work with Gholamhossein Ramezani, the Guard’s counter-intelligence and security director, to expand the corps’s intelligence-security apparatus. Rooz Online

The special parliamentary committee investigating post-election events will release its findings to the Majlis on Wednesday, committe head Parviz Sorouri has announced. He added that so far 104 individuals had filed lawsuits alleging mistreatment at the Kahrizak detention centre. Mehr

— Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than three months, has been told his wife is having a difficult pregnancy and will be delivering their first child without him. AP

— Three well-known journalists, Badrossadat Mofidi, secretary of the Association of Iranian Journalists, Zahra Ebrahimi, experienced parliamentary reporter for Hamshahri daily, and Farzaneh Roostaei, editor of Etemad daily’s international section, have been barred from leaving the country by airport forces and their passports confiscated. Rooz Online

— Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, said efforts are underway to recruit qualified judges and insisted that everyone should help maintain the judiciary’s independence. Mehr

Hojatoleslam Mohammad Hossein Mousapour, a former deputy interior minister, has been appointed as governor of Qom, the first cleric to take such a post since the revolution. The move is intended to establish “proper contacts” with the religious leaders in the city. Alireza Zaker Isfahani, director of the centre for strategic studies at the presidential office, was also named governor of Isfahan province. Mehr

Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, is due in Sanaa Tuesday for urgent talks with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, amid growing alarm in Arab countries over the war with Shia rebels in the north who Yemen says are backed by Iran. Guardian

— A leading Yemeni religious leader, Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zandani,  accused Iran of inciting violence in the north to promote the Shia ideology. “The way events are moving in this country latest indicates to us that Iran wants to export the Shia ideology by force, which we utterly reject.” mwcnews

— The Iranian culture attache in Cairo recruited Yemeni students studying in Egypt and arranged for some to make two-week visits to Iran, Hassan Abu Talab, deputy editor in chief of al-Ahram newspaper, told a symposium on Yemen in the Egyptian capital. Yemen News Agency

— The Islamic Republic of Iran has always laid emphasis on Yemen’s sovereignty, independence and national unity, said a statement released by the Iranian embassy in Sanaa today. Fars

Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst who has written a biography of President Ahmadinejad, has written an article in The Guardian debunking the story that Iran’s leader has Jewish roots. Guardian

Muslim states were warned by Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki today that “expansionist powers” are using the media, think-tanks and research institutes to change the world order to their own interests. Addressing the third general assembly of the Islamic Radio and Television Union he said: “Using the media as a tool by certain countries has gifted them the upper hand.” Fars

An Iranian man and woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning have been freed on appeal in Isfahan, the ILNA news agency reported. They had spent six years in jail. WashingtonTV

— Amnesty International today welcomed a move by the Iranian authorities to postpone the execution of an Afghan national accused of committing a murder while still a child. Amnesty

Cyrus the Great’s palace, known as Charkhab and located in the Borazjan plain in Bushehr Province, is on the verge of total destruction if no action is taken soon, according to the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage news agency. Some sections have already been completely destroyed and the remaining edifice is on the verge of collapse.

Now scientists have been told not to speak to strangers. Ali Ahani, director for education and research at the Foreign Ministry and one of those cleared out in the recent purge of ambassadors (he was Paris),  has warned of the danger of the “theft of scientific information” by foreigners from Iran.  “We must protect the professors and researchers against the ploys of some countries and foreign organisations to prevent the unwanted presentation of scientific information to others.” PressTV

Iran’s non-oil exports between March and September fell by more than 15% to $11.3 billion, while imports were also down by more than 21% to $23.6 billion, mainly because of the falling dollar. PressTV

— Iran’s crude steel exports in the six-month period to September 22 exceeded 582,232 tons, worth some $237 million, a 48% increase in volume compared to the previous year, according to the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organisation. Mehr

Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said his country would review its energy cooperation with Iran. India’s oil diplomacy suffered a setback last week when China snatched a deal to develop the South Azadegan oilfield, one of Iran’s biggest. This was followed by an Iranian decision to trim ONGC-Hinduja Group joint venture’s promised 60% stake in Phase 12 of the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, according to highly placed sources. commodity online, Business Standard

In more detail

Tabnak (Persian) has published pictures and a TV programme on the notorious Kahrizak detention centre. Tabnak says the crimes actually took place in an area called “the Quarantine” which is not shown in its pictures, which it claims are doctored to obscure the bad conditions.

Tehran Bureau gives a little more information on the draft unity plan published by Fars at the end of last month.

Sunday October 4 – the daily story

The main headlines

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El Baradei, announced that IAEA inspectors would visit Iran’s new Fordo uranium enrichment plant near Qom on October 25. He also confirmed that US, French, Russian and Iranian officials would meet on October 19 to discuss possible enrichment of Iran’s uranium to a higher grade abroad. PressTV, Fars, PressTV

— Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi was upbeat about future negotiations with the UN nuclear watchdog, saying: “As far as safeguards are concerned, Iran’s nuclear issue has been fully resolved.”  PressTV

— Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has handed the Kremlin a list of Russian scientists believed by the Israelis to be helping Iran to develop a nuclear warhead.  timesonline

— In a meeting with El Baradei, President Ahmadinejad said President Obama was running out of time to put policies in place that showed he really meant to pursue change.  “There is not much time for the materialisation of this motto, and lack of action means losing opportunities.” Fars

— Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Bagheri, acknowledged in an interview on state television that  informal talks took place between American and Iranian officials in the sidelines of last week’s Geneva meeting, which he said was at the request of the Americans. But he insisted that only issues related to the main talks were raised, not other matters like American prisoners in Iran and bilateral relations. The opposition, of course, often complains that while it gets into trouble for so much as looking at a foreign diplomat, the Ahmadinejad regime seems perfectly at liberty to hold cosy tete-a-tetes with the “Great Satan”. Payvand

— Iran’s  Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Ali Shirzadian insisted El Baradei’s visit was not the result of last week’s Geneva talks and had been arranged a week previously. Fars

— Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari increasingly has the air of a man getting carried away with himself. Today he declared that the timing of Iran’s recent missile war games was a  determining factor in the outcome of the Geneva talks. Fars

— Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said the International Atomic Energy Agency had failed to monitor all the nuclear activities of countries. “Its record shows that it has not been successful in this regard because of political issues.” ISNA

The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei today announced a number of changes at the top of the Revolutionary Guard, the significance of which were not immediately apparent. A key change was the replacement of Hojatoleslam Hossein  Taeb as commander of the Basij by Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi. It is not clear how this fits with reports at the weekend that the Basij is to be merged with the ground forces of the Guards. Taeb is a controversial figure held responsible by the opposition for some of the worst excesses in the post-election crackdown. Naqdi is a hardliner and former  Commander of the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Counter-intelligence section who was, according to various internet references, a thorn in the side of the Khatami administration.  Brigadier General Hossein Salami has been promoted to deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, possibly as a reward for the recent missile war games display he put on as commander of the Guards’ air force. He too has a controversial background: as a former guards’ Director of Operations he  was reportedly responsibly for recruiting suicide bombers to attack Western and Israeli targets. According to the Iran Focus website in 2004 he called for the destruction of the United States during a ceremony to recruit suicide bombers. PressTV, ILNA,  Iran Focus, AFP

Ayatollah Ali Safi Golpaygani has said all political parties and groups must learn to be open to criticism and give up trying to establish absolute rights if Iran is to achieve unity, security and peace. Meeting members of the Islamic Coalition Party, he said the atmosphere of sycophancy and animosity must be broken, and he emphasised the danger of weakening ties with the clergy. Mehr

The Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani,  today lamented  the influence of Western human rights thinking on Islamic jurisprudence and urged Muslim scholars to counter the tendency. “We should try to explain the principles of Islamic laws, which are based on respect for man’s high status and exalted position and a monotheistic look, to those who are ignorant of the grandeur and richness of the Islamic law.” Islam’s harsh sentences, attacked by the West, actually protected human rights, he argued. Fars

— Iran will soon release about 20 prominent opposition figures detained after the disputed June presidential election, including Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, the IRNA news agency reported. Reuters

— In an interview with Rooz Online, Rashid Esmaili, a  policy committee member of the Unity Consolidation Bureau whose members were briefly arrested at the weekend, said Iran’s largest alumni organisation would never retreat in the face of such acts. He also expressed concern about the mental and physical condition of secretary general Ahmad Zeidabadi, who appeared in one of the mass trials. and said the group held the Revolutionary Guards commander Jaffari  “directly responsible for Zeidabadi’s fate” .  Rooz Online

Javad Larijani, the third Larijani brother whose comments about Mir-Hossein Moussavi sparked a student protest last week, appears to have modified his position, possibly at the behest of his two brothers running the judiciary and Majlis, according to the Pedestrian blog.  Although he still condemned Moussavi’s post-election behaviour, he halted students who started chanting against Moussavi and the reformists by saying: “We must free our hearts of hate towards Mousavi, Karoubi …”  He referred to Moussavi’s latest statement in which “he said that he plans to move inside the system and right the wrongs. I think this is a step in the right direction.” Pedestrian

— What is a bit puzzling, though, as is also suggested in the above report, is how Larijani got to the stage where he was able to deliver any words at all, let alone halt pro-Ahmadinejad students from chanting. A collection of videos indicate that before he spoke pro-Moussavi student protesters had taken over the hall. OnlyMehdi

A new wave of purges and changes has been launched at Alameh Tabatabai university in the wake of Ayatollah Khamenei’s call  for a review of the “social sciences” at the universities, Rooz Online reports. Quoting an informed source,it says  five prominent university professors from the law school of this university, particularly those in the fields of human rights, have been deprived of their teaching practices. Rooz Online

Fatemeh Ajorlou, the Karaj MP rejected by parliament as Welfare and Social Security Minister, is favourite to become Iran’s first female governor since the revolution, for Tehran province. The post is chosen by President Ahmadinejad. Mehr

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint US chiefs of staff, French chief of staff General Jean-Louis Georgelin and Israel’s armed forces chief, Lieutenant General Gaby Ashkenazi met in Normandy, northern France today, military sources report, to review the “new military conditions emerging in the Middle East”. Debka

US Treasury  Secretary Timothy Geithner  urged global action against “money laundering and terror financing risks” from Iran and said sanctions against Iranian banks should be implemented by all nations. He was speaking at a meeting of the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee in Istanbul. msn news

A team of archaeology students from Marvdasht Azad University have confirmed the destruction of the Achaemenid era Gondashlu stone quarry following in a study carried out after the Fars Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts department denied claims of extensive devastation in early August caused by recent mining operations. Mehr

— The construction of 64 shops near the Soltanieh Dome has almost come to a complete stop after the discovery of historical architectural structures. Unesco has raised objections to the construction projects near the monument, which was put on its World Heritage List in 2005. Mehr

Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Reza Taqipour, has said Iranian scientists are working on preliminary plans to launch a manned space mission. “We have a clear outline of the plans, but at the same time we are aware that implementing our plans depend on a broad national participation.” PressTV

Proven oil reserves have been raised by one billion barrels after a correction to estimates of the reserves of the Abuzar oilfield in the Persian gulf.  PressTV

— Iran has resumed importing natural gas from Azerbaijan after a three-month suspension caused mainly by technical problem and seasonal repairs. Haber 27

The management of Iran’s ports is to be privatised during the current Persian year, Deputy Roads and Transportation Minister has said. PressTV

In more detail

Neo-Resistance has more thoughts on the claim that Ahmadinejad is of Jewish stock, including the suggestion that one of his closest allies, Habibollah Asgharoladi Mussalman is a jewish convert.

Payvand carries some terrific photographs of the rug-washing ceremony at Mashad Ardehal, a village near Kashan that houses the mausoleum of Soltan Ali  – son of  the fifth Shiite Imam – whose death the ceremony marks.

Saturday October 3 – the daily story

The main headlines

The Basij is to be merged with the land force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps according to Persian media reports. Etemad daily said the new force will be called the Land Resistance Force of the Revolutionary Guards. Mehr news agency said the aim was “greater coordination”, with Revolteionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jafari saying it was a first step in preparation for “confrontation with internal threats”. The current Basij commander, Hojatoleslam Hossein Taeb, will take a new post in the revolutionary Guards. Radio Zamaneh, Payvand

— Former culture minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi has been appointed an advisor to Jafari. Mehr

— The office of Iran’s Joint Armed Forces chief of staff denied reports on the Parcham and Sanieh websites  that Major-General Hassan Firouzabadi  is to leave as  Chief of Staff of Joint Armed Forces  to focus on “research and academic” activities. His office said the general’s appointment was made by the Supreme Leader “for an unlimited period” and only he could alter that. PressTV

The group of Tehran student leaders arrested on Friday have now been released, the German website Deutsche Welle reported. In an interview, one of the students said the arrests and quick release suggested the authorities are confused about how to deal with the protests. Radio Zamaneh, Payvand

Grand Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani had a telephone conversation today with Ayatollah Dastegheib praising his “courageous remarks” to the Experts assembly as a jihad in the path of God, the grand ayatollah’s site reported.

Said Hajarian, the prominent reformist just freed by the regime, has told a group from the youth faction of the Participation Front visitors that during his 100 days in detention he was totally cut-off from the outside world, the hammihannews website reports.  He spent a month in solitary confinement in Evin prison and was then transferred to another location where he only had contact with his interrogators. The interrogators told him that outside  people were fighting and many had been killed and the regime was deelply split – all because of his reform theories. He said he could hear chants of Allah-o Akhbar and thought they were gathered in front of Evin prison.

A photograph of President Ahmadinejad holding up his identity card during last year’s elections clearly shows his family has Jewish roots, according to a report today in the Daily Telegraph which largely regurgitates claims that have been swirling around Iran and the internet for ages.  The report says a close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver. It said experts suggested his track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past. Telegraph, Neo-Resistance

— The report has quickly come under attack – from a Jewish quarter.  In a report picked up by a blog monitoring Iran for  a German audience, Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran who regularly broadcasts in Persian from an Israeli radio station, says the family name Sabourjian has “absolutely nothing to do with Jews”. He says the story about Ahmadinejad being Jewish was actually concocted by the son of a conservative ayatollah last year. Julia’s Blog

—  Perhaps it was the Telegraph report that propelled Ahmadinejad into a stinging attack on the Western media today in which he cited its “scant” media coverage of  Israel’s attack on Gaza and the “hype” over Iran’s second nuclear enrichment plant near Qom  as clear examples of Western media bias. “This is how the Western media works. First they distort facts and fabricate news. Then they incessantly repeat their false allegations, just to make sure it is forever etched on the minds of people.” PressTV, Fars

The central council of the Principlist bloc in the Majlis meets Monday to elect its presiding board amid reports of an attempt by hardliners to remove Speaker Ali Larijani from  the position. Tehran MP Reza Akarami ruled out the chances of that succeeding, but it appears there will be discussion of splitting the faction leadership from holding the position of Speaker as well, which would leave Larijani at least having to make a choice. Mehr

Amnesty International called on Iran to issue an immediate order to stay the execution scheduled for Monday of Afghan national Abbas Hosseini, who was only 17 when accused of committing murder. prnewswire

The navy is on target to launch a medium-size submarine within two years, the Lieutenant Commander for Self-Sufficiency, Admiral Farhad Amiri, told Fars. He said Iran’s defence industries are currently mass producing different classes of submarine. “We can claim that all the needs of the (naval) force are supplied from inside the country.”  Fars

The head of the UN nuclear agency, Mohammad El Baradei,  arrived in Iran today for talks on a timetable for inspectors to visit a newly disclosed nuclear enrichment plant near Qom. Reuters

— Hours before his arrival President Ahmadinejad said Iran never tried to hide the existence of the enrichment plant and accused the US of making a big mistake. Turkish Weekly, Daily Times

— Senior staff members of the UN nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. NYT

— Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Said Jalili returned from Geneva last night declaring that Iran and the six powers had not discussed suspending Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities. Fars

— An Iranian claim that construction of the Qom enrichment facility began only last year and  analysis of satellite photos of the site have cast fresh doubt on the US administration charge that there was a covert decision to violate Iran’s obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Dissident Voice

— President Obama has reaffirmed a four-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said. Washington Post

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi urged Iran to let more water flow into Iraq to avoid a water crisis in the south. xinhua

In more detail

Neo-Resistance has a video clip of Ahmadinejad in which he apparently suggests  the Americans invaded Iraq not just for oil but because they were aware of the imminent arrival of the Mahdi or 12th Imam. According to the translation the President also argues that if the Mahdi was not already active, “the world would have turned upside down, the universe would have ended. The Imam manages the world.”

Friday October 2 – the daily story

The main headlines

The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Mohammad El Baradei, will go to Tehran Saturday to discuss inspection of the new nuclear enrichment plant a near Qom. Khaleej Times

— Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki  dismissed media reports that he held talks with two US congressmen  during his visit to Washington last week. “These discussions will take place in the future if need be. But there were no such meetings on this particular trip.” PressTV

— An American official at the Geneva talks confirmed a “significant conversation” between the chief US and Iranian delegates on the sidelines of six-party talks. This is  believed to be the highest level of direct contact between Iranian and US officials since the American hostage crisis. Payvand

— Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed cautious optimism about the results of the Geneva talks.  “Now the most important thing is to make sure these agreements are fully and timely implemented.” Xinhua

— The US House of Representatives late yesterday approved legislation that would impose sanctions on foreign companies that sell petrol to Iran, preventing them from holding contracts with the US Energy Department to supply the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. AFP

The hardline onslaught on the “National Unity Plan” gathered pace today with the Chief Commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari, vowing to have nothing to do with any such plan. “It is not possible to create a unity plan with those who have broken the law and opposed the majority vote of the nation. They must first apologise to the people and submit to their choice.” Radio Zamaneh

— MPs of the powerful Clerics Faction will examine the Expediency Council plan announced by Ayatollah Rafsanjani to resolve the current problems once they are presented with it, their head Mohammad Taqi Rahbar said. He said they also planned to meet Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, secretary-general of the Combatant Clergy Association and the top religious leaders at the Qom seminary. In fact the top religious leaders are continuing their numerous private meetings on the crisis, according to Mehr news. Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei met Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, Grand Ayatollah Ali Safi Golpaygani, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili to report on the current situation in the country. Makarem Shirazi and Golpaygani also held talks on Wednesday. The mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf – mentioned as a possible interim president – and members of the National Coalition Party have also met top clerics. also held meetings with the prominent clerics. Mehr

Security forces arrested 15 members of the central council of the Unity Consolidation Bureau student organisation in an early morning raid on their Tehran office, Radio Zamaneh reported. The students were taken to an unknown location. Tehran Bureau, quoting the Amir Kabir university newsletter, said they had been taken to the Information Ministry. The UCB issued a statement “strongly condemning this illegal act” and warning that the failure to  release them all immediately  would have “irrecoverable and unimaginable consequences.” Such blind acts, the statement said, were like “putting a flame to a  gunpowder barrel”. Radio Zamaneh, Tehran Bureau, Reuters

— Jelveh Javaheri, a women’s rights  activist, has been sentenced to six months jail for  “gathering material and collaborating against national security”. Javaheri, who was arrested June 17 with eight other activists,  is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign demanding a change to discriminatory laws, a fact that is said to have been grounds for the conviction. Payvand

— CNN has broadcast interviews with two Iranians in Turkey who fled after allegedly being raped in prison. One is Ibrahim Sharifi – whose case was highlighted by Mehdi Karoubi – and the other is a woman, Maryam Sabri. CNN

The greens managed the odd shout during the 1-1 Esteghlal-Pirouzi football derby at the Azadi stadium according to various reports, but there were equally enthusiastic chants of ‘Fix, fix” after the seventh draw in a row between the two clubs (many think the result is deliberate to avoid an all out football riot!) and others of ‘We want football, not politics’. There was a huge security presence by all accounts, in and around the stadium and on buses taking fans there, and there was no local mobile phone service. No one was allowed in wearing anything green. Troublemakers inside the ground were quickly being taken away and some minor clashes were reported. Still, at the end the Greens did get a good bit of chanting going which the state broadcaster could not erase from the live coverage. Homylafayette, plenty of videos, Pedestrian

Abdolfattah Soltani, a member of Iran’s Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, was prevented from leaving the country as he prepared to board a plan in Tehran for Germany to receive the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award. His passport was confiscated and he was order to report to the prosecutor’s office next week. Soltani was arrested after the June election but later freed on bail and given his passport back. Amnesty International

Hamid Sourian, the 2009 World Greco-Roman wrestling champion, has given his gold medal to  President Ahmadinejad, declaring that the president “is the real champion due to his strong presence at the United Nations General Assembly. He has gained pride and dignity for Iranians and all Muslims.” PressTV

Friday prayers just aint what it used to be. Today’s was held by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sediqi  who majored on the success of the recent war games and Iran’s absolute right to nuclear technology. Fars

Iran continues to provide significant amounts of support to insurgents in Iraq but to a smaller number of groups than before, the commander of US forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno has said.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has denied reports of the appointment of minor actor Hushang Tavakkoli as Deputy Culture Minister for Artistic Affairs. Tehran Times

Pakistan’s  former federal minister for human rights, Ansar Burney, has contacted Iran about returning the bodies of  17 Pakistanis who died in an accident on September 11 as they were being illegally transported to Turkey. Reports say a total of 43 Pakistanis in the vehicle had paid 600,000 rupees each to be taken to Europe. International News

The America’s cup challenger BMW Oracle Racing will ask a New York court to reject Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates as the latest venue for the race and replace it with Valencia, Spain, citing “grave safety concerns” for their US-based crew because of the proximity to Iran. Independent

Iran’s Now Rouz new year holiday has been officially recognised on the United Nations calendar. NIAC