Sunday July 5 – the daily story

Rafsanjani deal hint — Ayatollah Rafsanjani has hinted at a possible deal to “improve” the situation in the near future, according to the BBC.  It says the ayatollah met some of the families of those detained Saturday and said no one with a conscience could be happy with the present situation. Emphasising the importance of protecting the regime’s long-term interests, he added:  “I hope with good management and wisdom the issues would be settled in the next days and the situation could improve.” PressTV, which also reported his meeting, said Rafsanjani had ridiculed suggestions of a power struggle as an “insult against the people”. But it quoted him as saying: “By respecting the rights of all citizens, we must try to maintain our unity and understanding and raise the trust in our system and its credibility among the people and prevent enemies from taking advantage.”

But another sign of the times is how the chips are gradually falling Ahmadinejad’s way:  Ali Larejani, the Majlis speaker, has now congratulated the president on his re-election. Until recently Larijani had been highly critical of the post-election crackdown and was a notable absentee from the President’s party to celebrate his re-election. According to PressTV Larijani conveyed his congratulations personally in a meeting “believed to have been arranged to reject reports of a political divide among members of Iran’s Principlist [sic] camp.” BBC, PressTV1, PressTV2

Clerical group calls ellection illegitimate –– The way in which the crisis is splitting the religious establishment has come into sharp focus with two conflicting statements from influential religous associations in Qom, the country’s religious centre. The pro-reform Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers accused members of the Guardian Council of not being impartial in studying the complaints  of election fraud, thus rendering the result illegitmate.  The statement said: “How can one accept the legitimacy of the election just because the Guardian Council says so? Can one say that the government born out of these infringements is a legitimate one?” The statement  said the religious establishment should press the government to change its mind about the fraud claims. It also decried the crackdown on protests and urged the authorities to free those detained.  Harking back to the original revolution, and the Iran-Iraq war, it pleaded with the authorities to save “the dignity that was earned with the blood of tens of thousands of martyrs.” Later the Los Angeles Times reported that access to the assembly’s websitehad been blocked.  Meanwhile, the conservative Qom Seminary Teacher’s Society congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his re-election and hailed the “epic” voter turnout. It called for a return to national calm and cooperation. The association is headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a close ally of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

In the wake of the vicous crackdown on protests, the degree to which the debate over the election continues to rage is interesting. Today Ali Reza Beheshti, the son of the assassinated revolutionary leader Ayatollah Beheshti, fanned the flames by calling on parliament to disqualify Ahmadinejad. And Mehdi Karroub, vowing to continue his fight despite the obstacles ahead, said many MPs  “including conservatives, do not support the winner of the election”. On the other side Kayhan newspaper for the second day launched into Moussavi and his supporters, calling them “a dangerous opposition if they were to win, and set the streets on fire if they lose… The meaning of such behaviour is that they do not accept the system.” AFP1Tehran Times, AFP2

Moussavi publishes fraud documents — Mir-Hossein Moussavi has begun keeping his promise to release documents backing his claims of electoral fraud. A 25-page report prepared by the Committee for the Protection of Votes, the formation of which Moussavi announced last week, has been posted on his website. Among those to pick them up was the official PressTV channel, which said the report accused Ahmadinejad of using state money  for his election campaign and enlisting the active support of many Cabinet members, senior executive managers and governor generals in his campaign. It also alleged that the president distributed cash among  Iranians to win votes. Press TV said the committee also accused the Interior Ministry and Guardian Council of publicly endorsing the president before and during the campaign. “The report also charged that some commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps had openly supported Ahmadinejad’s candidacy and, along with the Basij, intervened in the voting process. It questioned an alleged move to prevent representatives of the candidates from attending the vote constituencies.” Finally, it questioned why the Interior Ministry printed 14 million more ballot papers than the total registered electorate of some 46 million. PressTV

Iran to free embassy worker — Iran is set to free the second British embassy employee it holds, leaving just Hossein Rassam, identified by his lawyer as the embassy’s chief political analyst, still imprisoned and facing trial. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said the British ambassador in Tehran had been told the  eighth of the embassy’s nine Iranian employees originally arrested would be freed today, “that the papers had been signed, that there would not be a court process or charges”. All of Britain’s efforts would now be directed at freeing the last remaining detainee, who Miliband described as  “an honourable, patriotic Iranian, who has been working in a completely open and transparent way for the UK”. Miliband added that it was important for him to control his “cold anger” over the arrests, because it would inflame ther situation to nobody’s benefit. “What’s important is that I turn my anger into determination to see that justice is done by our people.”  Later Rassam’s lawyer, Abdul-Samad Khoramshahi, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying he did not believe he had been formally charged. He had talked with the court today and  “I think that in the next few days I will get good news”. Today Brig Gen Esmail Ahmadi-Moghadam, Iran’s police chief, said the British embassy and BBC “spearheaded efforts aimed at provoking unrest and incited people to commit civil disobedience and go on strike.”

Meanwhile, in another escalation of their diplomatic row, Iran says it is preparing to seize Qolhak, the residential compound of the British embassy in north Tehran. “The ground has been prepared for restoring the right of the Iranian nation and materialising its righteous claim (on the Qolhak garden),” said General Mir Feisal Bagherzadeh, the Head of the “Foundation for Safeguarding Sacred Values”.  Quoted by Fars news agency, he said the British occupation of the “garden” was illegal, adding:  “Five years after the Iranian government’s claim was substantiated and the occupation of the Qolhak Garden by the British government was proved, the British government has not yet taken any effective and useful step to acknowledge this legal right and public demand of the Iranian nation.”

Iran says the 200,000 sq m garden was seized by force by the British from the Qajar King Nassereddin Shah. An entry on Wikipedia, however, says ownership of the whole of Qolhak suburb was granted to the British in the Qajar era  by Mohammad Shah and was used by the British ambassador as his summer residence. This ownership came to an end under Reza Shah Pahlavi, but the British hung onto the present compound which, apart from the ambassador’s residence and other diplomatic housing, was also home to the British Council, British school and a war memorial. The compound was attacked by a large group of demonstrators last December protesting against Britain’s support for Israel during the Gaza crisis. According to Iranian reports Britain has threatened to retaliate against any seizure of the compound by grabbing Iranian property in London, although the property in question is unclear. The reports refer to Manchester Garden, which is not on any London map I can find. The issue has been a running sore between the two countries for some time and two years ago was even the subject of a conference in Tehran looking at Britain’s legal case for holding on to the land. BBC, Los Angeles Times, PressTV,   Fars, Wikipedia, peyvand.com1, peyvand.com2

In other news:

Brigadier Abdollah Araqi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, told a media conference Sunday  the guards and Basij forces were forced to taken action against protesters on June 20 after rioters began “breaking shop windows, attacking people, harassing women, and throwing stones”. Detailing the events of that day from the guards’ point of view, he rejected claims that Basij forces had killed a mother and daughter, blaming the deaths on anti-government groups, separatists, royalists and saboteurs. He said only about 100 were still in custody, but his force was still hunting “elements who have gone underground but are still working to create unrest”. PressTV

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, who heads  Iran’s judiciary, has demanded the prosecution of people working for unauthorised satellite TV channels and websites. “The daily growth of anti-regime satellite channels and … websites needs serious measures to confront this phenomenon,” the state broadcaster quoted him as saying. Reuters

US Vice President Joe Biden appeared to sugest the US would not try to stop Israel if it decided to launch a strike on Iran.  “If the Netanyahu  government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that.  That is not our choice,” he said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous. But later Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News that any attack on Iran could have serious unintended consequences. abcnews.comFull Biden interviewAFP

Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, Iran’s police chief,  said two-thirds of the 1,032 people arrested in post election violence in Tehran have now been freed.  AFP

Officials from Bahrain have made the first ever official visit to Israel, but the Israeli government said the trip to Tel Aviv to collect five Bahrainis arrested trying to enter Gaza had no significance  other  than to accompany the deportees home.  jpost.com

Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company, has announced that Iran is to spend $70bn to develop the two Pars gasfields in the Persian Gulf between 2010 and 2015.  The South Pars field, shared with Qatar, has the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world. Work on developing the field has become bogged down in a row between NIOC and the Total oil company over their memorandum of understanding. The French company said on Friday negotiations on developing the field were at a standstill. The following day  Jashnsaz was quoted vas saying that because Total’s haggling had delayed the project  the Iranians had done a deal with the China National Petroleum Corporation instead. He added that Total and its planned partner, Petronas of Malaysia, could cooperate with the Chinese if they wished.  arabianoilandgas.com, Guardian, Tehran Times

Iranian web surfers are being offered a new piece of kit aimed at bypassing their government’s   “extremely effective” online blockade. Austin Heap, a San Fransciscio IT expert, says his Haystack software, now undergoing final stress-testing, will “specifically target the Iranian government’s web filtering mechanisms”.  austinheap.com

As promised, the Iranian authorities today freed the journalist Iason Athanasiadis.  AP

Majlis speaker Ali Larijani flew to Doha for two days of talks at the invitation of the Qataris, a trip postponed because of the elections. PressTV

Dust storms emanating from the deserts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia are causing particular problems this year as far inside Iran as Tehran itself.  PressTV

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