Assad wants Obama summit — Perhaps the key story today relating to Iran is the invitation from Syria to President Obama to attend a summit in Damascus. Even the manner of it’s announcement was intriguing: in an exclusive interview President Bashir Assad gave to Britain’s Sky News channel.
According to Sky’s website Assad told Dominic Waghorn, its Middle East correspondent, he wanted to discuss Mideast peace with Obama. “We would like to welcome him in Syria, definitely. I am very clear about this.” He then, perhaps half jokingly, said to the newsman: “I will ask you to convey the invitation to him.”
Assad said his move could not hide the differences between the two countries. “But I think the United States has a special role as the greatest power. I think President Obama should visit as many countries as he can in order to make these dialogues and of course that includes Syria.”
The move is a clear reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech and his decision to return an ambassador to Damascus. Coming hot on the heels of yesterday’s suggestion out of Damascus of a summit later this month between Assad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see yesterday’s report), the news is likely to set alarm bells ringing in Tehran if they have not already begun doing so. Syria has been a close ally of Iran and an important conduit for its involvement in Lebanon. Sky News, AP
True or false? — The perils of getting the facts straight are well illustrated by the case of the Shiraz ballot boxes that had the Tittterati chattering today. It appears to have started on the Anonymous.Iran website with the exceptional blog of Josh Shahryar, aka NightOwl, an exiled Iranian who puts together a pretty spot-on daily report on how things are going inside Iran. This morning he said “reporters accompanying the governor of Fars province and the Friday prayers Imam of Shiraz stumbled upon four unopened ballot boxes from the elections in Shiraz’s main library. … According to reports, the governor promptly declared the contents of the boxes ‘national documents’ and asked the reporters not to report the incident. ” The report includes a link to the pictures. “The last picture shows the Imam voting on Election Day, wearing a different robe. We cannot fully authenticate the pictures as no dates can be seen in them”. However a registered member of the website later posted that he had examined the pictures in Photoshop and extracted the following from the metadata: the first pic, the single ballot box, was taken on April 10 2008; the second with the four ballot boxes was taken on April 17 2007; the third of the Imam walking past the ballot boxes was taken in 2003 and photoshopped [ie doctored]; the last photo with the Imam holding the ballot was edited in Photoshop 7 with no date on when it was taken. Since I can’t afford Photoshop I am unable to corroborate that analysis.
In other news:
The crackdown on the opposition continues, with the Qazvin intelligence department reporting the arrest of seven members of “anti-government groups” – the banned Mujahedin Khalq was singled out for mention – active in provoking the unrest in Tehran and Qazvin. “The seven caused insecurity and created chaos during the unrest … by provoking thugs to violence,” a statement said. PressTV, AP,
Iran’s media dropped a further hint today of why they are holding Maziar Bahari, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who worked for Newsweek among others. They say he supplied the film to Britain’s Channel 4 of the shooting from the Basij building which reportedly killed eight protesters at Azadi Square on June 15. But a PressTV report alleges that the video shown by C4 (and for copyright reasons seemingly no longer available on the web) “censored” the preceding attack on the building by demonstrators with molotov cocktails. PressTv
Sweden today repeated its warning to Iran to free the remaining British embassy staff it holds or face the consequences. “We are ready to take action if we don’t get a reaction,” from the Iranian government, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said. But it was unclear what the action might be, amid hints that European capitals are not overkeen on the British suggestion of pulling all their ambassadors out of Tehran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, did liken the Iranian regime to East Germany under the Stasi. Meanwhile Russia made it plain today that it would not be supporting any callls for sanctions against Iran at next week’s G8 summit in Italy. Wall Street Journal, Malaysia Sun, Iran Focus, AP
More executions appear to be taking place in Iran. A Reuters report confirming the execution of six murderers in Tehran’s Evin prison, said another six were put to death in Qom for drug trafficking. gulfnews.com
Three years after a death sentence on him was quashed, a court in the Kurdish area of Iran has sentenced journalist Adnan Hassanpur to 10 years in jail for “subversive activities against national security, espionage and separatist propaganda”, according to Reporters Without Borders. Hassanpur, who did work for Voice of America and Radio Farda among others, has staged two hunger strikes to protest his conditions. Washington TV
The authorities appear to have unblocked SMS messages, although the system appears to be creaking. Herald de Paris