Thursday September 17 – the daily story

The main headlines

The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, basing its decision on a determination that Iran’s long-range missile programme does not pose the threat to the US and Europe that was once feared. Wall Street Journal

— Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak said a Mideast-wide nuclear arms ban is impossible until the Muslim world learns to “behave like Western Europe”. In an interview published today he also said that while Iran’s nuclear programme is a threat to world peace and poses a challenge to Israel, “Iran does not pose an existential threat to the state of Israel. Israel is strong.”  AP

— Iran experts at the UN nuclear monitoring agency believe Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and worked on developing a missile system that can carry an atomic warhead, according to a confidential report seen by The Associated Press. AP The International Atomic Energy Agency, however, continues to insist it has no such evidence. AFP

Looking a bit like the cat that got the cream, President Ahmadinejad today gave an interview in Tehran to Ann Curry of NBC News in which he said there were no problems with the election that returned him to power. “The legal frameworks inside Iran are very clear and if a person has an opinion to express within the confines of the law they are free to express such opinions,” he said. Iran’s election laws were built on “the strongest … foundations,” and “the law prevails. I don’t see any problems.” What he did have a problem with was the way the US and British governments tried to “damage and hurt the Islamic Republic of Iran” by “encouraging” the riots that followed the election. “What they did was heinous.” msnbc, video clip

Mir-Hossein Moussavi travelled to Qom Wednesday for talks with top religious leaders, including Hojatoleslam Javad Shahrestani, the representative in Qom of Grand Ayatollah Sistani (and his son-in-law), It was reported today. According to javan-farda.com, in a report picked up[ by Moussavi’s Facebook page, the reformist leader met members of the Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers and Grand Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili, before moving on to the home of Grand Ayatollah Sanei, where also gathered were Grand Ayatollah Bayat, Ayatollah Mousavi-Tabrizi, Shahrestani and the brother of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri (who is it seems still under house arrest). The meeting would appear to be of key importance, even though it has not been picked u[p by the mainstream media. Nor has much word leaked out aboutn what might have been agreed bar a suggestion on Twitter that the clerical hierarchy might be working on some kind of joint statement or fatwa.

You could almost hear a political pin drop today as it seems the entire country girded itself for tomorrow’s important day. The blogosphere was almost at a standstill. The best PressTV could come up with was to relay a statement by the Tehran Jewish Committee called for a big turnout for the Qods Day rallies across the country (even though they are essentially anti-Israel). However, there may have been an ulterior motive on PressTV’s part, in that it allowed an opportunity to quote a passage from the statement repeating the reformist mantra of the last few days: “Palestine and Jerusalem are not the only aims of this day, for the great revolutionary leader [Khomeini] described this day as a day that is ‘not focused on Qods only, but it is a day of confrontation between the oppressed and the oppressors’.”  PressTV

— The newspaper Etemaad today published pictures of the three reformist leaders Moussavi, Karoubi amd Khatami together with Ayatollah Rafsanjani who, it appears, will be joining the Qods rally despite being prevented from giving his traditional Friday prayers sermon. (Hang on, you’re saying, didn’t they ban Etemaad? No, that was Karoubi’s party newspaper Etemaad-e Melli.)

Etemad front page Sept 18 2009

Etemad front page Sept 17 2009

— Adding to a general feeling of tension, the Revolutionary Guards issued a statement declaring the readiness of the intelligence and military forces, “especially the Basij and revolutionary guards”, to confront “any deviating and anti-revolutionary movement that disrupts the march for Qods on Friday. The statement also calls on the public to help security forces “in case of any disruption or deviation in the march”. The mowjcamp website reported that extra Basij forces from outside Tehran have been brought in to bolster security. It has also been reported that the regime has effectively extended the holiday marking the end of Ramadan by allowing all government workers to take a long break starting today, in the hopes that many will thus stay away from the demonstrations.  mowjcamp, Gulf Times

— The Taghir website, which apparently is the new official Etemad-e Melli site, quotes reports from Qom that Grand Ayatollah Sanei planned to travel to Tehran tonight to join the big Qods Day rally.

— Moussavi’s Facebook page urges the Green Wave’s “citizen journalists” to send all the news and pictures they can to international news agencies “so the big lie about Qods Day could be prevented”. The message says information the Green Wave has received indicates international reporters and cameramen will be stationed at carefully chosen locations where regime forces are stationed and they will only be allowed to film them “so that the coup agents could deceive the world into believing Ahmadinejad is in control”. The message adds:  “Our symbol for tomorrow – Green colour and if possible large Green cloths. Our slogan for tomorrow – Put down your gun as I hate bloodshed, whether it be in Gaza, Lebanon, Jerusalem or Iran.” Facebook

Mehdi Mirdamadi, the son of the jailed Secretary General of the Islamic Iran Participation Front son Mohsen Mirdamadi, was arrested Wednesday night along with two other Participation Front members, according to the parlemannews website. The other two were Hossein Nourinejad, head of the front’s information committee, and Mehdi Mahmoudian. The mowjcamp website also reported the arrest of Mahdi Moussavi-Nejad, brother-in-law of the jailed reformist and former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi. Moussavi-Nejad, aged 27,  studies religion in Qom. mowjcamp

Sadegh Larijani, the Head of the Judiciary, has implicitly warned Moussavi and Karoubi that the system will not tolerate their “illegal activities”. He told senior judges that after the election “some people” illegally drew people into street protests, but those who had “spread lies and made false claims” against the Islamic Republic would  have to answer to the law irrespective of their position. Payvand

MPs representing religious minorities in will accompany President Ahmadinejad during his visit to UN General Assembly next week, the first time all five have done so. Usually it’s just one. PressTV

Gunman today assassinated Mamosta Sheikholeslam , Kurdestan’s representative on the Experts Assembly in the Kurdish capital Sanandaj. The Islamic Republic news agency said he was shot twice in the head during evening prayers at the Sayed Qotb mosque west of Sanandaj and died instantly. The death follows the recent assassination of an interim Friday prayers leader in the city and the attempted killing of a local judge. Fars

— Ali-Akbar Garousi, head of Kurdestan’s Justice Department, said the attacks on regime officials in Sanandaj were the work of armed separatists and members of the fundamentalist Salafi Sunni sect. PressTV

— Ayatollah Khamenei condemned the attacks and offered his condolences over Sheikholeslam’s death. PressTV

The United States says Iran has failed to grant requests from the Swiss, who represent US interests in Tehran, to meet three American hikers arrested after straying across the border from Iraq several weeks ago. WAtoday

— The mothers of the three Americans have written to President Ahmadinejad urging him to  bring their children with him to New York next week. AP

Price subsidies are strangling the Iranian economy “like a cancer”, says Kamran Dadkhah, associate professor at Northeastern University in Azerbaijan. “Unfortunately, from what we have seen from Mr Ahmadinejad and his administration, there is little hope that there will be any plan let alone a well thought out one.” Trend News

In more detail

Moussavi’s Facebook site has published a special Green Wave report on accusations that it is in fact President Ahmadinejad who is the tool of the Zionists and not those who, despite always being the closest to Imam Khomeini, are now being accused of using Qods Day to aid Israel. “We should not forget how happy the ex-head of Mossad was at Ahmadinejad’s appointment [as president] and we have a document to hand which shows that erasing the friends of the Imam from the political scene is clearly in the benefit of Israel. What is the story and who is Israel’s real man [in Iran]?”

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