Thursday October 1 – the daily story

The main headlines

President Obama said today’s meeting in Geneva between six world powers and Iran was a “constructive beginning”, but he told Iran it must allow international inspectors “unfettered access” to its recently disclosed nuclear facility at Qom within two weeks or face increased pressure from the international community. msnbc, Reuters

— Iran has agreed to allow nuclear inspectors to view the Qom plant and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who chaired the talks, says he hopes the International Atomic Energy Agency can examine it within a fortnight. Besides making some other small concessions, Iran has also agreed to hold more serious talks by October 18.  abcnews, foxnews

— Iran has declared all its atomic sites to the UN nuclear watchdog, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki said, countering suspicions it may have undisclosed facilities. Reuters

— While Iran’s chief negotiator at the talks, Said Jalili, publicly maintained Iran’s firm line on its nuclear rights in public, it was clear from even PressTV’s coverage that one of the most interesting aspects of the meeting was the level of informal bilateral discussions between the Iranians and Americans, including a lunchtime session between Jalili and the chief American negotiator,  William Burns. PressTV, PressTV, PressTV

— Motaki discussed his country’s nuclear programme with two US congressmen during his surprise visit to Washington Wednesday, according to reports in Iran’s official press. ynetnews

— Ground-based interceptor missiles to be deployed in the western United States in 2010 will be able to shoot down long-range Iranian rockets, Pentagon officials said, brushing aside criticism of the Obama administration’s European defence overhaul. Reuters,. ISRIA

The Followers of the Imam and Leadership Front, the ultra-conservative party that backs President Ahmadinejad has issued a fresh call for the prosecution of “the claimants of fraud in the elections”. A statement signed by party chairman Habibollah Asgharoladi says the public has been deceived by the allegations of electoral fraud “and therefore insist that the leaders of the opposition be brought to trial”. The message shows clear concerns among the hardliners over the moves reportedly underway to produce a conciliation plan to end the political crisis, suggesting that the original foreign-inspired moves to provoke “a soft revolution” had been followed by “an internal movement which has become aligned with the aims of the foreign movement”. Radio Zamaneh

— Highly abbreviated versions of Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s latest statement  have appeared on semi-official news agency sites including PressTV, Its report lays emphasis on the reformist leader’s call for national unity, but also quotes him as saying the current situation has created an opportunity for the country to reach a “national consensus”, seen as a clear reference to the  “unity plan” talks reportedly underway. PressTV , ILNA

Behzad Nabavi

Behzad Nabavi

Behzad Nabavi, one the most senior figures in the reformist camp and a member of the Organisation of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution, has been taken to Baghiyatallah hospital with hernia-related complications which require surgery, the Mowjcamp website reports. He was originally arrested June 13, freed the next day and re-arrested the following day. According to the website the former minister and MP has refused to make any false confession. mowjcamp

— Three months after being accused of plotting against the government Iranian businessman Bijan Khajehpour has been released from prison, a week after his case was raised by Steve Inskeep of NPR when he interviewed President Ahmadinejad. NPR

— Families of post-election prisoners have written to Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Head of the Judiciary, demanding to know why they continue to be held without any charges and what is the barrier to the law being properly implemented., according to Mowjcamp.

The Revolutionary Guard is again trying to jam satellite reception using high frequency microwaves, according to several reports. The rouydadnews website says the jamming is the same as was attempted before, but with a much stronger signal. This has prompted public speculation about whether the level of jamming involved is a threat to public health. One report says the Guards are using Russian-made equipment. Stop Fundamentalism

The Foreign ministry has confirmed that the Argentinean embassy attache Sebastian Zavala was stopped by customs officials attempting to smuggle Persian antiquities, including ancient coins, banknotes, handwritten manuscripts and  guns, out of the country. Zavala was eventually allowed to leave but his cargo was confiscated. It may be no coincidence that Argentina’s President de Kirchner, in her address to the UN General Assembly, called for the extradition of Iranian officials wanted over the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish centre which killed 85 people  Fars

— Former Argentine President Carlos Menem was today charged with obstructing justice in an investigation into the bombing of the centre. He is accused of covering up the possible involvement of an Argentine businessman of Syrian origin like Menem. Menem’s brother Munir is a suspect in the case as well. Arutz Sheva 7, BBC

Iran’s largest car maker, Iran Khodro, has signed an agreement with Peugeot of France to produce the Peugeot 207 for export to 63 countries: mainly Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus and Serbia, as well as Central Asia, Northern Africa and Persian Gulf countries. Fars

It is billed as Iran’s most important football match: Esteghlal take on Persepolis Friday at the Azadi stadium. One team plays in red, the other in blue, but the question on many people’s minds is whether the real winners will be green. There has been a great deal of press speculation about a massive security clampdown to prevent green manifestations, with the Islamic Republic news agency saying two judges would be at the match to hand out instant punishments to transgressors. There was even an unconfirmed report that security forces had bought up all the tickets.Payvand

Iran’s ambassador to London, Rasoul Movahedian, has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury complaining about the support he recently  expressed for members of the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq organisation currently under pressure from the authorities in Iraq. Reminding the archbishop that the Mujahedin are also considered a terrorist group in the West, he said his message of support was “dangerous and has a political consequence.” IRIB News

A Florida company has been fined nearly $3 million for activating thousands of electronic currency accounts for customers in Iran, the US Treasury Department said. AP

In more detail

As usual Homylafayette has translated the weekly Newstalk discussion between Alireza Nourizadeh, director of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London,  and Mohsen Sazegara,  a founder of the Revolutionary Guard who now runs the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The two voice strong scepticism that the “National Unity Plan” currently being discussed by the regime can work.


Wednesday September 30 – the daily story

The main headlines

There are growing signs that Iran’s leaders might be groping their way to some kind of accommodation with the reformist movement,  but the situation remains clouded in confusion. Heavy hints were dropped today in a report of a meeting Tuesday between Mir-Hossein Moussavi and  opposition MPs of the Imam’s Line faction. Amidst talk of discussions on a “National Unity Plan”, Moussavi’s comments laid strong evidence on national unity. He re-emphasised what he saw as the correctness of his policy of pursuing a broad movement rather than forming a party and suggested that the reason a more tolerant atmosphere was emerging in Iran was down to the success and growth of the Green Path of Hope. But he also hinted that all this could be undone if intemperate words and behaviour fuelled further violence. This could be seen as a plea to protesters not to demand the end of the Islamic republic and to stop direct verbal attacks on the Supreme Leader. He added: “It is vital for everyone to prevent more radicalism in society by patience and especially by avoiding unwanted confrontations  with security and military forces.” The reformist MPs now plan to meet Ayatollah Rafsanjani and former President Mohammad Khatami, presumably to discuss the “unity plan”. Facebook

— Talk of some form of reconciliation plan, first suggested by Ayatollah Rafsanjani at the recent Experts Assembly meeting, gained traction overnight when Fars news agency published what appeared to be a draft plan worked out by the committee mentioned by Rafsanjani. The agency then withdrew the report, but it returned later. According to the Twitter posts of Mikverbrugge, quoting an “insider”,  three panels are to be formed: one to investigate the election and its aftermath which will allow Moussavi to present any evidence he has that the poll was rigged; a conciliation panel; and bringing them together an over-riding arbitration panel. The panels are intended to be representative of the  countrys’s key groupings and will include a reformist representative. The plan is being brought together under the aegis of the Expediency Council headed by Rafsanjani, who has not been involved in its drafting but, it is assumed, will have the final word bar one – nothing will go ahead without the explicit authorisation of the Supreme Leader. mikverbrugge

— In his latest broadside against the regime, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri warned the authorities to learn from what happened to the Shah, the mowjcamp website reports. In reply to a letter from the Assembly of the Reformist Women condemning the regime’s “brutal repression”, Montazeri said the  government could not rule by “creating an atmosphere of fear, militarising society, arresting activists and opposition figures, filling prisons with intellectuals and freedom-seekers and forcing them to false confessions … In a situation where political activists and opposition intellectuals are in prison and under pressure, and those who deceitfully praise the government are the only ones approved of, society will never have progress, prosperity and growth.”

There were reports of further demonstrations by students for the second day running at Tehran’s Sharif university.

Said Hajarian, the severely incapacitated reformist whose “confession” formed the centrepiece of the first mass trial, has been freed from Evin prison on bail. PressTV, pictures

Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki  made an unscheduled visit to Washington today, ostensibly to visit the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani embassy. The US State Department said it granted him a visa “as a courtesy” and there were no plans for him to meet US officials. AP, VOA, PressTV

— US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran must meet its international obligations over its suspect nuclear programme or face “greater isolation.” AFP

— The White House is weighing sanctions targeting Iran’s dependence on gasoline imports and insurance firms that underwrite the trade. Reuters

— Iran is “on the wrong side of the law” for its delay in revealing its Qom nuclear complex, the head of the  International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El Baradei said. “Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that.”

— The US negotiating team for tomorrow’s nuclear talks with Iran arrived in Geneva, headed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.  The Iranian delegation is led by nuclear negotiator Said Jalili and Ali Bagheri, the foreign policy chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Politico, VOA, Foxnews

— Most Jews in the United States favour  an American military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites, according to a survey conducted before the second Iranian uranium enrichment site was revealed. ynetnews

Ten police officers have been arrested in connection with prisoner abuse at the Kahrizak detention centre, Police Chief Esmail Ahmedi-Moghadam said. Tehran Times

— The Human Rights Activists news agency says several Iranian judges have been questioned in connection with the Kharizak investigation, including the notorious Said Mortazavi, the former Tehran prosecutor-general. However, the report is sceptical that the investigation will lead to the punishment of “those most-deserving of punishment”. Keeping the Change

Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi has announced that 14 members of a “Wahabi terrorist group” affiliated with Al-Qaeeda have been arrested in the recent crackdown in Kurdestan. PressTV

In what  the Tehran Times described as a bizarre decision, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance,  Mohammad Hosseini,  has  appointed Hushang Tavakoli, described by the paper as a minor film and TV series actor, as deputy culture minister for artistic affairs.  The paper makes the point that the job involves major decisions concerning the visual arts, music and the dramatic arts. Tehran Times

Iran’s  delay in constructing facilities has forced the second World Islamic Games to be postponed for close to eight months. New Vision

In more detail:

Khordad88 carries the full; text of Ayatollah Dastgheib’s controversial address to the Experts Assembly last week.

IranWiki has the full text of Mehdi Karoubi’s second letter to Ayatollah Rafsanjani attacking the performance of the ayatollah and the Experts Assembly.

Tuesday September 29 – the daily story

The main headlines

There were more university demonstrations today. At Sanati Sharif University in Tehran an estimated 500 students protested as the science minister Kamran Daneshjou visited the campus. Reports said the minister was unable to enter the building to open a new library and his deputy had to stand in for him. Protests also took place at Azad university in Tehran. Radio Zamaneh, Payvand, photos, NYT, Youtube

— Yesterday’s protest at Tehran university must have been somewhat embarrassing for the people in charge of security as Iranian websites report that the head of campus security and the director of the law enforcement unit at the university were both dismissed in the last week and replaced with a single official responsible directly to the Intelligence Ministry.

— The hardline Kayhan daily, in Monday’s front page editorial expressed shock that the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front is still issuing communiques inciting students to commit disturbances when all of its senior members  “are either in prison or have resigned.” It asks:”So who is writing these communiques? Find this street peddler!” Homylafayette

More judges have been assigned to investigate allegations of prisoner abuse because of the high number of complaints and their complexity, said Parviz Sorouri, head of the special parliamentary committee investigating post-election events. Even so, he announced, even under normal conditions it will take at least a year to process all the complaints. He added that 104 cases involving officials at the  Kahrizak detention centre would go to trial soon. Radio Zamaneh

Mohammad Javad Larijani received a big public slap today for his outspoken attack on Mir-Hossein Moussavi, in which he bracketed him with the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq leader Massoud Rajavi, according to Iranian websites. He was due to give a keynote speech to launch a workshop involving several universities at the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics which he heads. But as he started to speak the students and most professors present rose and walked out. Pedestrian (which has an  amazing picture supposedly of Larijani addressing a virtually empty hall)

The central council of the Assembly of Combatant Clergymen has expressed “deep sorrow” at the treatment of Ayatollah Dastgheib at the recent Experts Assembly meeting, the Rouhanioun website reported. . “The fact that even members of the Assembly of Experts are not free to express their thoughts and opinions is a great danger for the country and in violation of freedom of speech and the principles of democracy.” A council meeting chaired by Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami also condemned the continued detention of  reformist figures in solitary confinement “despite the fact that their interrogations are over and they should be released on bail until their court session.” It urged Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the Head of the Judiciary,  to end this “illegal and unethical behaviour” and keep his promise to reform the judiciary.

Another false ministerial qualification appears to have been uncovered by the French daily newspaper Liberation, which publishes  a letter in which an Iranian scientist demonstrates how Iran’s Minister of Transport Hamid Behbahani allegedly duplicated work done by colleagues between 2002 and 2004 in a paper published two years later. mowjcamp, Flesh and Stone

A clergyman dubbed “the television ethics teacher”,  Hojatoleslam Mehdi Tabatabai Shirazi, launched what was seen as a scathing attack on President Ahmadinejad and all but called the recent election result a big lie during a live TV debate on the state broadcaster’s channel 2. “Why do you keep insisting every now and then that millions participated in the election and voted for a certain person and then congratulate him? … There is a saying that goes: ‘You told me once, and I believed you. You told me twice, and I got suspicious. The third time I became certain you are lying. … It is better for the man who is now president to ask those who support his rivals what they want so that as president he can [represent] their views too.” Tehran Bureau

Iran said today it would not discuss the Qom enrichment plant at its talks with world powers in Geneva this week. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded:  “They may not, but we will.” NYT, Washington Post

— UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Iran’s construction of the Qom facility violates Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt all nuclear enrichment activities, adding that Tehran must prove to the world that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. Washington Post

— In an unusually frank disclosure, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the Qom facility was built for maximum protection from aerial attack: carved into a mountain and near a military compound of the powerful Revolutionary Guard. The effort at openness was seen as an attempt to counter international dismay over the nuclear site. AP, Daily Star

— China’s foreign ministry urged all sides to try to ease mounting tensions. ynetnews

— Britain’s intelligence services say Iran has been secretly designing a nuclear warhead since late 2004 or early 2005, suggesting Tehran has embarked on the final steps towards acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

— A French plant that produces a quarter of the world’s enriched uranium is 10% owned by Iran, which has had the stake for more than 30 years. Reuters

Swiss diplomats were today allowed to visit the three American hikers arrested after straying across the border from Iraq at the end of July. The Swiss, who handle American affairs in Iran, gave no details. The US State Department welcomed the decision, viewing it as a gesture ahead of Thursday’s nuclear talks in Geneva. Reuters, VOAnews

Structural changes to the economy, including the energy sector, are essential if Iran is to meet its economic targets, Jafar Qaderi, deputy head of Iran’s Majlis Plan and Budget Committee, has said. “If the government wants to move unemployment and inflation rates toward single figures it must make infrastructure, the business environment and internal and international capabilities properly functional.” UPI

Larry Klayman, the Freedom Watch lawyer who served President Ahmadinejad with notice of a lawsuit over his terror campaign, alleges that New York police prevented  him from talking to a woman who asked for help after being assaulted by the President’s entourage Friday night outside a New York hotel. Klayman said the woman, a .”peaceful protester”, suffered a bloody face as a result of the attack. worldnetdaily

In more detail

Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s Facebook page has now posted the full text in English of his 13th statement extolling the triumph of the Qods Day protests and urging followers of the Green Path to continue with non-violent protest. A few interesting points emerge:

– The word ‘vote’ or ‘votes’ never appears. Not once does Moussavi mention the opposition claim that the election was rigged. This would seem to back up suggestions (and from some reformist circles complaints)  that Moussavi may be following the lead of Ayatollah Rafsanjani in stepping back from a row that is clearly never going to be resolved under present circumstances.

– Instead the message puts a certain emphasis on economic mismanagement and implied corruption on a massive scale, which again it has been suggested will be a key theme of the new onslaught against Ahmadinejad. “Based on official reports of this very same government, economists announce that tens of billions of dollars of this country’s foreign income has disappeared. [Judicial] institutions that ought to respond to these missing sums – enough even to equip several armies – are ignorant and trapped in political games. … There was a time when missing $20,000 in the treasury was enough for a government to fall. Now, warning cries for the loss of such a huge figure are not even grounds for the slightest reaction.”

— The message confirms that Moussavi was not where he would have liked to be on Qods Day, but stuck among hardline supporters. “This year on Qods day I was among people who greeted me with tight fists and who wished my death.”

Rooz Online interviews religious scholar Mohsen Kadivar about the recent Assembly of Experts conference. He says the majority of members, carefully picked by the Guardian Council for the very task they faced last week, are “palace clerics” and the Assembly barely represents 15% of Iranian society.

Pedestrian carries an interesting piece on efforts by the regime to eliminate Iran’s kings from school text books.

Payvand has an alarming pictorial report on how this year’s drought has dried up the Zayandeh river, the largest on Iran’s central plateau.

Monday September 28 – the daily story

The main headlines

Growing cracks in the opposition ranks were evident today with the publication of a stinging letter from Mehdi Karoubi to Ayatollah Rafsanjani attacking his failure to confront the Experts Assembly with the need for action over the political crisis and force it to review the performance of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. “Not only did you not make any criticism regarding the current situation of the country, but you didn’t even reflect any other criticism [which you should have done] according to your duty, and it is even more strange that you were absent in the closing session of a meeting of this importance and in this critical situation.” Parttial translations of the letter are carried on Moussavi’s Facebook page and by Neo-Resistance

Students demonstrated at Tehran University today against the Ahmadinejad government, NowRouz News reported. The President was due to have attended the opening and given a speech but reports said he was too jet-lagged to attend.  NowRouz News said about 1,000 demonstrators carrying placards in green called for detained students to be freed and the government to resign. Other reports put the number at up to 300 and said it began when the students were not allowed into an official ceremony  to mark the start of the new term. A counter-protest of about 50 shouted slogans against Mir-Hossein Mousavi. A large number of police officers were in the area but there were no reported clashes. Reuters, BBC, Radio Zamaneh, PedestrianPedestrian

The Revolutionary Guard was today reported to have successfully test-fired the Shahab-3 missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and with a range of up to 1,200 miles, which would put Israel, most Arab states and parts of Europe, including much of Turkey, within its range. The missles tested were reportedly upgrades. timesonline, Independent, abs-cbnnews, PressTV, PressTV

— Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi denied any link between the row over the newly announced nuclear enrichment plant and the two days of missile war games. Fars

— The White House condemned as “provocative” Iran’s decision to test-fire missiles capable of hitting targets inside Israel. Press Secretary Robert Gibb said Iran is at a crossroads and has “decisions to make” over its pursuit of nuclear technology.  AFP, WashingtonTV, foxnews

— US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement insisting that America “use the tools at our disposal — from diplomacy to sanctions — to stop Iran’s march toward nuclear capability.”

— Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov  was quoted by his country’s news agencies as saying Iran’s missile tests are causing concern. AP

—  France voiced sharp concern at the news and demanded Tehran immediately stop its “deeply destabilising activities”. zeenews

— Reformist leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi issued a statement today declaring that financial sanctions against Iran would just hit “the people who have already been agonised by this government”’  and not the government of President Ahmadinejad itself. m&c

— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying US politicians to impose harsher sanctions against Iran. WashingtonTV

— Israel must comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency if the Mideast is to become a region free of weapons of mass destruction, Syria’s foreign minister said today. AP

— No date has yet been fixed for UN inspectors to visit the controversial new enrichment  site in Iran the International Atomic Energy Agency said. zeenews

— A militia group reported to be sponsored by Iran has renewed rocket strikes on Israel.  On Saturday at least five Kassam-class, short-range missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and today the Israel Air Force identified and struck a six-man Jihad rocket squad east of Gaza City. World Tribune

Missiles were not the only thing Iran was firing today. The exercise was accompanied by a veritable barrage of rhetoric from top commanders and officials:

— Iran army commander Major General Hassan Firouzabadi. said the country’s latest military exercise was a “firm response” to Israel. “The US is arming Israel with the taxes paid by its citizens and it is upset that Iran can give a firm response to them [Israel].” PressTV

— Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi warned Israel against launching any attack on the Islamic Republic, saying on state television that  it would only speed up the Jewish state’s own demise. Reuters

— The Supreme Leader’s adviser on military affairs, Major General Seyed Yahya Rahim Safavi, underlined the full preparedness of the Iranian Armed Forces to defend the Islamic Republic sayi g they were “now more powerful than ever and fully prepared to foil foreign threats.” Fars

— Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the missile launches were part of annual military drills to hone the country’s defence skills “and commemorate the beginning of the Iraq-imposed war on Iran in the 1980s”. PressTV

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki  blasted the West’s double-standards towards violation of human rights in different parts of the world at a ministerial meeting in New York to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on International Human Rights. Fars

RouydadNews alleges that President Ahmadinejad has ordered the government to deposit a “large amount of money” in the personal account of the manager of “a certain news agency”. Quoting a source in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, it says  the money is to fund a campaign of “spreading lies, rumours and biased news in society”. The report says the President has formed a five-member committee (news agency head, TV anchor, manger of a news website, a cyber expert and a security-judiciary official) reporting directly to him for this purpose. The source said two key projects underway included the campaign to spread false accusations of a meeting between Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami and George Soros.

— IRNA state news agency last night published an interview with reformist leader Said Hajarian basically repeating the attack on Mir-Hossein Moussavi that he made in his mass trial “confession”. Opposition forces and Hajarian’s family maintain he is under severe torture. Radio Zamaneh

— In his latest statement Moussavi says the unprecedented level of  state violence has only served to increase public involvement in the protests. “Fury is a horse that will topple its rider.” The Qods Day Green protests proved the movement was no passing fad. “We request the full execution of the constitution and a return to the Islamic Republic’s original ethics. We demand the Islamic Republic, not a word less; not a word more.” Radio Zamaneh

Two Iranian security officers and four suspected members of a Kurdish “terrorist group” responsible for recent assassinations were killed in a clash in Sanandaj, capital of the western Kurdestan province, on Sunday night, Mehr news agency reported. However, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, quoted by PressTV, said two of the terrorists were killed and others  arrested, while Fars reported that three terrorists were killed and three arrested. Before the clash the Majlis group investigating the situation in Kurdestan also reported several arrests. WashingtonTV, PressTV, Fars, Fars

Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi today launched three “major projects” at the Defence Industries Organisation that will go a long way towards raising Iran’s defence self-sufficiency. They involve ammunition production lines. PressTV

Three Iranian female human rights activists, Shadi Sadr, Ladan Boroumand and Roya Boroumand, are due to receive the Lech Walesa Prize, created by the ex-leader of the Polish Solidarity trade union and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in Gdansk, Poland Tuesday during a ceremony marking Walesa’s 66th birthday. WashingtonTV

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Mehdi Safari, arrived in Moscow today for two-days of talks with Russian officials on joint cooperation in the Caspian Sea and other issues of mutual interest. ISNA

The National Iranian Oil Company announced that development plans for 30 oil and 11 gas fields on and offshore will be implemented with the aim of boosting crude production capacity to 5.1 million barrels per day in 2014 and natural gas production to 1,111 million cubic meters per day in the same year. Fars

— China National Petroleum Corp has signed a contract with National Iranian Oil Company  to develop the South Azadegan oilfield. The Chinese company will buy a 70% share of the whole project, according to an agreement signed Sunday in Lausanne, Switzerland. Payvand

In more detail

The Homylafayette blog takes a closer look at the Revolutionary Guards takeover of the Telecommunications Company of Iran.

Sunday September 27 – the daily story

The main headlines

Deliberate provocation? Iran said it successfully test-fired short-range missiles during military drills by the  Revolutionary Guard today. General Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, said a multiple missile launcher was also tested for the first time. Later a second stage of the  war games exercise, which is code-named The Great Prophet IV, tested new warheads for its Shahab class missiles capable of destroying multiple targets simultaneously.  AP, Gulf Times,  PressTV, PressTV, Fars, Fars, Fars, photos

President Ahmadinejad returned to Iran from New York last night saying that during his US visit the American media conducted a coordinated campaign to damage Iran’s image. “It was obvious that they all followed a certain line.” He added that the West would soon regret its stance on the newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant. “This issue was turned around in a way that we  believe they regret bringing it up. They may pursue this issue through the media but it has turned into a firm blow to the (western) arrogance.” PressTV

— Rouydadnews reported that while official media said a number of “students” had spontaneously gone to welcome the president home, many of them were 50 or 60 years old, taken to the airport in Revolutionary Guard buses, and presented the President with flowers bought at the airport.

— Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said the hue and cry staged by western leaders about Tehran’s nuclear activities were merely aimed at gaining an upper-hand in the upcoming Geneva talks with Iran. Fars

— China may vote in favour of UN sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran’s growing nuclear threat, Chinese experts predicted. Telegraph

—  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, who plans to visit Tehran next month to help resolve the nuclear dispute, warned that any military attack against Iran would be  “insanity”. He also suggested the nuclear debate should be widened to include Israel. “Why aren’t we talking about this?… It’s always Iran… We have to be more fair and honest if we want global peace.”  he said. AFP, Today’s Zaman

— US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t believe Iran can convince the US and other world powers that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. abcnews

— The Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers urged Iran to take positive steps regarding its nuclear programme after meeting Clinton on the sidelines of the General Assembly. gulfnews

— Israel has been holding secret meetings with Arab leaders over the past several months with the aim of establishing a miniaturised Palestinian state and in hopes of gaining Arab acquiescence to a first strike on Iran. maannews

— US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, has announced that missiles from the shield defence system scrapped by President Obama would be moved to the seaborne Aegis ship system and deployed from the Baltic Sea. icenews

— The Pentagon has brought forward to December the target-date for producing the first 15-ton super bunker-buster bomb, according to the Debka website. The rush job was triggered  in May by the discovery of Iran’s second uranium enrichment plant. Debka

— Calling “immediate comprehensive sanctions” against Iran, the exiled National Council of resistance of Iran claimed the “Iranian resistance!” had forst revealed the exiostence of  the underground nuclear facilities near Qom at a press conference in Paris on December 20, 2005.  NCR-Iran

— Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, warned Western leaders they risked strengthening the hand of hardliners in Iran if they “corner” President Ahmadinejad on Iran’s nuclear programme. Independent

Ayatollah Rafsanjani, in a meeting with the Austrian ambassador to Tehran, expressed his hope for the removal of obstacles to Iran-Europe ties. “The European Union should put aside nit-picking over Iran’s use of peaceful nuclear technology.” PressTV

Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai has put forward a plan to create a national committee for election affairs that would eliminate the interference of government and the ruling factions. “A national committee for elections should be established so that the government is barred from involvement in election affairs,” he told a gathering of students in  Masjed Soleyman, Khuzestan Province. Payvand, Radio Zamaneh

Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of the Human Rights Headquarters of Iran’s judiciary and brother of both the Majlis Speaker and Head of the Judiciary, has launched an unprecedented attack on Mir-Hossein Moussavi. He likened the reformist leader’s “betrayal of the revolution” to that of Massoud Rajavi, leader of the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq organisation. Larijani also condemned Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of  Ayatollah Khomeini, for his support of the opposition. “It is inappropriate for the House of Imam Khomeini to support a political movement that is aligned with the Mujahedin Khalq and Zionists, and is after secularising the country.” Radio Zamaneh, Pedestrian

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the former MP and a senior member of the Participation Front, issued a thinly veiled warning against Mir-Hossein Moussavi retracting his objections to the election result, something that is being suggested as part of a deal to end the political crisis. He told Etemad newspaper the front does not recognise the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad  administration. He said he didn’t have a slightest doubt that, even if Moussavi said he had made a mistake and there were no fraud in the election, the people would denounce him and not accept his claim. Khatami added that, despite all the pressure, intolerance and arrests of party members, not one member had quit the party.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the  hardline former Head of the Judiaciary, has resigned as secretary of the Experts Assembly for health reasons, according to his son. His status as vice chairman remains unclear. Yazdi was not present at last week’s big assembly meeting. The resignation has not yet been official accepted by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the assembly Chairman. Neo-Resistance

A consortium affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards bought a controlling stake in Iran’s state telecommunications company for the equivalent of around $7.8 billion, a further sign of the Guards’ growing influence in Iran. Although the winning consortium,  Etemad Mobin Development, was described as an association of  two private companies and one firm partly owned by the government, reports from Tehran indicated it was closely linked to the Guards. The losing bidder was a more clear-cut Guards vehicle led by the Iranians’ Economy Investment Company of Mehr – formerly called the  Basij Loan Institution.  Gulf Times, Bloomberg, AFP

A Tehran-based company specialising in reproducing classic cars is marketing replica vehicles based on the original design of the earliest Rolls-Royce models. The cars are hand-built from scratch to recreate the bodywork and hallmarks of models produced in Britain about 100 years ago. Guardian

In more detail

The armscontrolwonk publishes the two ariel shots of what is believed to be Iran’s secret nuclear enrichment plant near Qom together with a an analysis of its proportions.

Saturday September 26 – the daily story

The main headlines

Is this the secret Qom enrichment facility?

Is this the secret Qom enrichment facility?

President Obama said the discovery of a secret nuclear plant in Iran showed a “disturbing pattern” of evasion by Tehran that added urgency to Thursday’s  talks in Geneva between world powers and Iran.  A senior administration official said the US and its five allies will tell Tehran it must provide “unfettered access” to its Qom enrichment facility within weeks. But  Iran’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog said Tehran was already arranging for the agency to inspect the site “in the very near future”.  Reuters,  AP, AP

— Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, head of the Supreme Leader’s office, said the Qom enrichment facility would come on stream soon “and will blind the eyes of the enemies”. (We hope he doesn’t mean in a military sense, as his boss has clearly declared that to be unIslamic)  Fars

— Egypt has warned that a nuclear-capable Israel and an Iran pursuing nuclear weapons could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Kuwait Times

— President Jalal Talebani of Iraq said new sanctions against Iran will not work and warned that Baghdad will never allow Israel or any other country to use its airspace to carry out an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. AP

— British Foreign Secretary  David Miliband refused to rule out the prospect of military action against Iran over its nuclear ambitions but insisted the international focus was on a diplomatic solution. Guardian

— The Revolutionary Guard said it will begin missile war games from Sunday in a bid to “maintain and improve” its deterrent capability. Fars,  PressTV

President Ahmadinejad has come under fire from conservatives back home for suggesting in an interview  that President Obama should see Iran as a potential friend. MP Ahmad Tavakoli said: “This particular sentence is exceptionally soft… and this softness is useless and harmful, as Obama is yet to show a change of heart towards Iran.” Former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai said: “I don’t know why and based on what analysis did he make those comments, but this kind of wording is not in our interests.” PressTV

Speculation is growing about behind-the-scenes moves to resolve the poltical crisis, with even a hint of a pact between Ayatollahs Khamenei and Rafsanjani. The day after it was reported that Rafsanjani had left the Experts Assembly meeting for talks with Khamenei, the Neo-Resistance website reported a statement from the Assembly chairman saying the plan he revealed at the start of the week to resolve Iran’s problems was being spearheaded from the Expediency Council that he also heads. It was also suggested that beaten presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai was masterminding it. The report also refers to an article on the respected Die Zeit website suggesting that a “special committee of experts”  is examining the option of replacing Ahmadinejad with Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a contender of presidential election in 2005. The report suggests talk of impeaching the President is gaining strength because the city of Tehran is auditing its accounts for the period when Ahmadinejad was Mayor to reopen an investigation into the disappearance of more than 300 billion toman ($300m) from Ahmadinejad’s account books. Neo-Resistance, Die Zeit article translation

Fresh reports on the Experts Assembly meeting last week say both the chairman Ayatollah Rafsanjani  and regime critic Ayatollah Dastgheib came under sharp attack from hardliners. The Radio Zamaneh website, noting that Assembly regulations insist its discussions remain confidential, quotes Ayatollah Abbas Kaabi as telling Fars news agency that out of 16 speakers 12 had reproached Rafsanjani for his pro-opposition stances. Kaabi also condemned Ayatollah Dastgheib for his “disparaging, anti-establishment and illogical” comments.  Ayande news agency said Kaabi, had started a petition among  members  for his dismissal. Radio Zamaneh

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canada’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon issued a joint call to Iran  to resolve several cases of detained or missing Americans and Canadians.

Venezuela’s science and technology minister denied Iran is helping Venezuela seek uranium, saying the South American country is only working with Russia to detect deposits of the radioactive metal. AP

Despite having the world’s second largest gas reserves, Iran will be short of around 200 million cubic metres per day of gas this winter due to rapid growth in demand, Oil Minister Massoud  Mir-Kazemi  said.  He added that the country needs $19 billion toward “unfinished” natural gas projects.  “Iran has difficulty in obtaining the required investment to develop natural gas fields and there will be no new production field added in the coming three years. The need to revise the country’s consumption model is ever more necessary.”  The Peninsula,   Gulf News

— An Iranian  court halted production at the Nargesi oilfield for environmental reasons, after a complaint by Borazjan municipality in Bushehr province, leading to a drop in the country’s crude output of 15,000 barrels per day, Mehr News Agency reported quoting unnamed provincial sources. Reuters

Defence Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi  has appointed General Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi as acting deputy defence minister. Dastjerdi  was  head of the Aerospace Organisation of the Iranian Defence Ministry. Fars

Intelligence forces have disbanded a terrorist group with links to foreign countries  in the Western province of Kermanshah, and four people were arrested Wednesday, the Intelligence Ministry said. PressTV

The Gondaman marsh in Chahar-Mahal Bakhtiari province, an important wintering and breeding ground for several  birds, is still burning after two days and locals say the fire is spreading. Environmental experts had warned about the possibility of fire after the marsh dried up due to a dam built on the nearby Choqakhor wetland.  PressTV

It costs at least 30 million tomans (about $29,000) to get married in Tehran according to research by the Tehran Shahid Beheshti University. Payvand

In more detail

The New York Times reports on the case of Ibrahim Sharifi, the prisoner whose tale of prison rape was one of those revealed by Mehdi Karoubi to the Iranian authorities. Sharifi now lives in Turkey, where he fled after, he says, his family was threatened by the authorities.

Rooz Online reports on an interview the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Aziz Jafari,  gave to Jame Jam newspaper, in which he appears to suggest all the Guards’ forays into the political and economic spheres have been done on the orders of Ayatollah Khamenei. “The IRGC has never got involved in any field that is not related to its revolutionary mission unilaterally.” The opposition is kicking up a fuss because it argues the Guards have no business getting involved in politics and that this was expressly forbidden by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Friday September 25 – the daily story

The main headlines

The nuclear crisis reached a decisive moment when Iran was forced to admit to building a secret uranium enrichment plant inside a mountain near the city of Qom. The US, British and French leaders broke away from the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to announce their intelligence services had uncovered the plant. President Obama said it had been known about for more than two years. He insisted Iran allow UN nuclear inspectors full access to its nuclear programme while Premier Brown and President Sarkozy said the alternative would be tougher sanctions. Guardian, ABC News, Independent, Globe and Mail, complete text of announcement

— Hours before the announcement the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna revealed it had received a letter from Iran on Monday announcing that it had a second uranium enrichment plant under construction, but emphasising that this was to produce nuclear fuel only for electricity generation. Reuters

— New sanctions against Iran will be possible only after all other means of pressure have been exhausted, Russian President Medvedev said. “But if we run out of all other options, we could launch sanctions based on international law.” However, Medvedev also issued a statement declaring that the new plant violated UN Security Council decisions and should be investigated immediately. RIA Novosti, Reuters

— Chinese authorities have indicated they will not support further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. smartbrief

— Military action against Iran would only “buy time” and delay Tehran’s nuclear program by about one to three years, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says in a CNN interview to be aired Sunday. “The reality is there is no military option that does anything more than buy time.” CNN

— President Ahmadinejad was caught out by the announcement and went on the defensive in an interview with Time, saying Obama should not have made such a statement “because it is definitively a mistake”. But later he held a defiant press conference in which he cast Iran as the wronged party, referring to the fact that Iran had alerted the nuclear watchdog to the plant’s existence. Time,

— Israeli officials and analysts said the disclosure of the new Iranian plant strengthened its claim that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons and bolstered the case for tough action. WSJ

— Iran’s UN mission dismissed the “baseless accusations” of French President Nicholas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown about Iran’s nuclear ambitions made at Thursday’s Security Council summit. Fars

— Iran is helping to detect uranium deposits in Venezuela and initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant, President Chavez’s government said. AP

President  Ahmadinejad continued to stir Holocaust controversy in an interview with NPR aired today in which he dismissed the accounts of survivors as “claims” and asked: “Why should everyone be forced to accept the opinion of just a few on a historic event?” NPR

— Ahmadinejad defended growing relations between Tehran and Latin American states, saying they were working toward the establishment of peace in the world. PressTV

Ayatollah Rafsanjani left the second day of the Experts assembly meeting for talks with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, it was claimed by Mahmoud Alavi, Tehran’s representative on the assembly. The claim was made in a report by Rooz Online that also revealed how Rafsanjani had come under bitter attack at the meeting from the Mashad representative, Alam al-Hoda. It said Fars news agency had published the entire text of his speech – even though meetings are meant to be secret – in which he blasted Rafsanjani for “his silence in the face of unprecedented insults against the leader of the revolution”. He invited Rafsanjani to “reform his behaviour before it is too late” . Rooz Online

Qorban Behzadian-Nejad, Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s campaign manager, has hit back at accusations by the hardline media that a committee was formed to communicate with foreign embassies during the election campaign. In an interview with Kaleme, he strongly denied the claims, even though communicating with foreign embassies was not a crime. Not only did such a committee never exist, but in one of the early meetings of the campaign’s foreign affairs committee in March, based on Moussavi’s views, it was decided to have no connection with foreign parties including embassies. He said the false claim was based on the “confession” of one of the reformist figures arrested after the election.

Ayatollah Janati, giving this week’s Friday prayers sermon in Tehran, said that if the judiciary and the security forces were unable to confront “rioters and agitators”, it is the duty of every Muslim to confront them. Payvand

Said Jalili, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, accused Germany of supporting the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq organisation by allowing it to have “bases” there. Fars

Mohsen Rezai, former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has revealed on Iranian state television that the corps’ intelligence service had been cooperating with the Soviet Union’s KGB as early as 1979. Homylafayette

The United States and key Arab states have expressed concern over the unrest in northern Yemen and offered “full support” to President Ali Abdullah Saleh as his army fights Shia rebels the Yemenis say are backed by Iran.  AFP

In a rare interview marking Iran’s Sacred Defence Week, commander of the Iranian navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told the Resalat daily how, in line with orders from Ayatollah Khamenei as commander-in-chief, the navy was expanding its operations from   the Persian Gulf to wider international waters. PressTV

Lord Corbett, chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, has accused Foreign Secretary David Miliband of “a shameful silence” over Iraqi attacks on Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf outside Baghdad. The Foreign Office says officials will visit the camp soon and have written to Iraq’s government on the matter. BBC

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has assured Iran it will not be left out at any decisions to be made on the status of the Caspian Sea. A letter to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki came in response to Mottaki’s protest at Iran’s exclusion from an informal summit of the littoral states.  PressTV

Iran announced plans to increase its natural gas output by one billion cubic feet per day after inauguration of a new gas platform in the South Pars gas field in the first week of October. Fars

In more detail

A Payvand catchup on the meeting of the Experts Assembly with Ayatollah Khemanei is interesting if only because of the wealth of photographs of the men who hold Iran’s fate in their hands.

Little opportunity is being lost by people these days to show their opposition to the regime, even if it is by applauding it. This YouTube video of the funeral of the artist Parviz Meshkatian shows the audience clapping and cheering to drown out the eulogy of a government official.