Tuesday September 22 – the daily story

The main headlines

Ayatollah Rafsanjani announced today that a plan was being drawn up to end the political crisis and create a constructive atmosphere in the country. “People with experience and goodwill are working on a plan to get out of the current situation,” Rafsanjani said at the opening session of the Experts Assembly meeting. He did not identify the people involved, but there was more than  a hint in his speech that there would be at least some input from the marjas, the highest religious authorities in Shia Islam who he noted had voiced unprecedented disquiet with the regime. “The cooperation of the marjas and seminaries with the system is very important. We have never had problems with the seminaries over the past 30 years, and God willing we will not have (any in the future).”

Although he emphasised the need for unity in the face of foreign plots, the tenor of Rafsanjani’s speech was a clear attack on the Ahmadinejad government and the “atmosphere of slander and illegal disputes” it had engendered. He said it was essential to find a way to bring the nation’s disaffected youth and educated people back into the fold and he again insisted that the key to a solution lay in observing the law. Observers noted that, in his speech Rafsanjani seemed deliberately to refer to Ayatollah Khamenei as the leader rather than supreme leader (as sloppily reported in some mainstream media), which was seen as disrespectful. Some reports, however, were less impressed with his statements. Radio Zamaneh, for instance, noted that he went nowhere near suggesting the assembly re-examine Khamenei’s fitness to rule, made no mention of election fraud, and even ignored the huge Green presence at the Qods Day rallies. Tehran Times, Payvand, PressTV, FT.com,  Radio Zamaneh

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has praised Mir-Hossein Moussavi for his courage and resistance against the “crimes committed after the election” and  expressed his support for Moussavi’s “Green Path” movement, according to the ayatollah’s website. He was responding to a letter from Moussavi setting out his thoughts on the Green Path and expressing his concern over a situation that was “making the people angrier by the day”. Moussavi’s letter warned that the country faced “dangerous consequences”.

President Ahmadinejad embroiled himself in a fresh row as the France 2 TV channel aired an interview with him in which he suggested Paris should consider a prisoner swap to free Clotilde Reiss, the French teaching assistant accused of spying by Iran. He did not name names, but there was speculation his prime target was Ali Vakili Rad, the killer of former prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar. Elsewhere in the interview, Ahmadinejad said France merited a better leader than Sarkozy and dismissed criticism of his claim that the Holocaust was a lie. Reuters, PressTV, PressTV

— The President opened the celebration of Sacred Defence Week by declaring that no power will ever dare launch an attack on Iran because the country is more powerful than ever. “Our powerful armed forces will cut the hands of every power who intends to shoot a bullet at us from anywhere.” PressTV

— However, he adopted a more conciliatory tone as he arrived in America for the UN General Assembly. In an interview with AP he urged President Obama to see Iran as a potential friend instead of a threat, adding that he expects “free and open” discussion of nuclear issues at next week’s meeting with six world powers. AP

Did he or didn’t he? Former president Mohammad Khatami  denied reports that he had met the financier George Soros twice to discuss a “velvet coup” in Iran. “Sayed Mohammad Khatami neither knows this person nor has he met him in person in Davos or in any other place,” a statement by Khatami’s office said. The hardline Kayhan newspaper and the official Islamic Republic News Agency yesterday quoted Soros as saying he had two meetings with Khatami. PressTV

Another woman was put forward for the government today when Ahmadinejad named Nasrin Soltankhah  as Vice President for Science and Technology. PressTV

Iran held big military parades today to celebrate Sacred Defence Week involving all the country’s military branches. PressTV, Fars pictures

— The Revolutionary Guards said they had shot down an “unidentified shining object”, one of three spotted over Persian Gulf waters, but had not yet located it to find out what it was. PressTV, Homylafayette

— The crash of a warplane in Qarchak today,  in which at least seven people were reported killed, happened during a training exercise and had nothing to do with the day’s big military displays, the Air Force said. PressTV

— Brigadier General Mohammad-Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, denied the guards represented a “military mafia” in the country, saying it had  grown in power only because it had to counter exceptionally well-equipped enemies. Asked about its control of large sections of Iran’s economy, he said the corps was a “popular revolutionary structure” and did not have a “military identity by nature”. PressTV

As the school year begins, the police have announced that they will be keeping “a careful watch” on all schools “to stop those trying to sell drugs to students, and to stop any other people attempting to create a disturbance around the school.” pedestrian

Iran says it has built a new generation of centrifuges for enriching uranium, and is testing them. Nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the new centrifuges would more than double its separation properties. BBC, Fars

One hundred Iranian poets have said in a statement that they will boycott all government literary awards to protest the oppression of their people’s movement toward “peace and democracy”. Payvand

Religious dress codes are back, although in this case it’s show window mannequins. Iranian police warned shopkeepers not to display mannequins without headscarves or in a way that exposed body curves. Reuters

The district attorney of Manhattan says Iran is using Venezuela’s banking system to evade UN sanctions. “Generally speaking, nobody is focused sufficiently on the threat of the Iran-Venezuela connection,” Robert Morgenthau said. World Tribune

— A joint Iran-Venezuela oil company plans to build a refinery in Syria with a capacity of 140,000 barrels of oil per day. Trend

Chinese state companies this month began supplying petrol to Iran and now provide up to one-third of its imports in a development that threatens to undermine US-led efforts to shut off the supply of fuel on which Iran’s economy depends. FT, Telegraph

In more detail

The Twitter poster mikverbrugge, who always has an intriguing take on events inside the Islamic republic with reports from Tehran “insiders”, suggests Rafsanjani is at the end of his tether over his attempts to broker a peaceful solution to the Iranian crisis. Indeed his “take it or leave it” announcement of a plan that, the blogger suggests, will be signed up to by the marjas, may represent his last desperate throw of the dice. In a similar vein, he reports that Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, in his Qom meeting last week with Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, was told that Khamenei had lost any Islamic and constitutional legitimacy and should be unseated by the Experts Assembly. On Rafsanjani speech, Qom report, source reports, on the truce,

Homylafayette carries a full translation of Ahmadinejad’s interview with France 2 (plus some stinging criticism of the interviewer).

In interviews with Payvand, two leading legal experts take Khamenei to task over his assertion that televised confessions are admissible as long as they don’t implicate others.

A great video has been posted of dignitaries lining up for Sunday’s Eid- Fetr prayers. It shows how officials  attempted to persuade Ayatollah Rafsanjani to stand next to President Ahmadinejad. The wily ayatollah was having none of it however. YouTube

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