2100 GMT: Sanctions Follow-up. Earlier today (1555 GMT) I got a bit wound up about an editorial in The Wall Street Journal pushing --- I thought dishonestly --- for sanctions. Matt Duss follows up by taking apart the editorial's claim "prominent Iranian dissidents [have] moved from adamant opposition to severe sanctions to hesitant acceptance of the idea".
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2050 GMT: Back to "Dirt and Dust". Ruhollah Hosseinian, the head of Islamic Revolution party in the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) and a fervent supporter of President Ahmadinejad, has choice words for the opposition in an interview with Khabar Online: "The opponents received a firm response from the people....Before February 11, I have said that on its way, the raging flood of people on the anniversary of Islamic revolution victory will remove any dirt and dust."
""Dirt and dust" was Ahmadinejad's infamous description of his opponents in his "victory" speech the day after the 12 June Presidential election.
Hosseinian's claim of mass support for the regime? "When Karroubi wanted to join people, they began hitting him. When Mr. Khatami appeared, people followed his car and didn't let him to attend the demonstration. Mousavi was also forced to put something like a scarf on the head and go back to his home. So it's better for them not to taint their reputation anymore."
1940 GMT: And Khatami Chips In. Former President Mohammad Khatami has made his first statement after 22 Bahman, in comments to families of political prisoners:
Our Constitution stipulates that nobody is allowed to restrict political and social freedoms under pretext of establishing security. A major challenge is that one newspaper is muzzled overnight and many journalists lose their jobs. But worse is the existence of 'pseudo-press' enjoying full immunity to lie.
It is no honor for the government to imprison so many journalists. I warn that the regime will be on the receiving end of these painful behaviours
1930 GMT: A Special Karroubi Watch. Back from an academic break to find that the Los Angeles Times has posted a valuable summary of Mehdi Karroubi's statement (see 1450 GMT).
Karroubi's first challenge is a general one. Let the Iranian people assemble to see what they really think of the political situation, he proposes: "Authorize us to rally to show them the difference between majority and minority. We assure the authorities that no unconventional slogans will be chanted." That's a pointed response to the regime: if you really think you have a mandate on the basis of your 30 December and 11 February rallies, then you should have no fear of an opposition gathering. He declared:
Through state television and their state-run mouthpieces, hard-liners and violence-seekers are covering up their savagery during the 22 Bahman rally in order to exploit the massive turnout of people for their political ends. Military and security forces had transformed Tehran into a military barrack. State media did not carry even a single image of their military campaign, firing teargas and beating people. They wrongly imagine they can push ahead with their project of denying people their sovereign rights.
One tendency is to be afraid of people's right to hold gatherings and rallies. This tendency only tolerates the presence of its own supporters in official rallies and considers other people, even though a majority, as dust and dirt. The other tendency recognizes everyone as part of the Iranian nation, regardless of gender and religious, tribal or cultural affiliations.
Then the cleric focused on a specific test and demand, calling for a referendum on the powers of the Guardian Council.
The ruling establishment intends to describe the Feb 11 as a referendum for endorsement of its violent and anti-human policies. I propose a referendum to be held to lead the country out of crisis and spell an end to the sovereignty of the Guardian Council....
The Guardian Council has meddled with people's sovereignty under cover of arbitrary vetting process. The Council's interferences do not allow free and fair elections for people to choose an independent President, Assembly of Experts [the body that chooses the Supreme Leader], and Parliament."
1555 GMT: Regime Change Sleight-of-Hand. Normally there is no significance in publishing the US-based opinion pieces, calling for the toppling of the Iranian system while claiming to uphold the good of the Iranian people, but the artifice is so blatant in this Wall Street Journal offering from Reuel Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz, both of the euphemistically named Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, that it deserves reward. In the space of one paragraph from Green friend to the real agenda:
Now is the time for Mr. Obama to rally Americans and Europeans to the cause of Iranian democracy. If Mr. Khamenei can manage to crush the opposition, we will have lost an enormous opportunity to bring some normality and hope to the Middle East. Gasoline sanctions may well be too little too late to throttle the regime's nuclear aspirations. But we are fooling ourselves if we believe that what we've done so far will stop the Islamic Republic's quest for the bomb.
1450 GMT: Karroubi's Strategy? According to Gooya, Mehdi Karroubi has issued a statement to the Iranian people with two core demands: freedom of assembly and a referendum on the legitimacy of the Guardian Council.
1345 GMT: Why Are All the Security Heads Changing? Hmm....
Commander Ali Fazli, head of Seyed-ol-Shoahda Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, is stepping down. The announcement comes a week, Tehran's police chief, Azizollah Rajabzadeh, "retired" after six months at his post.
The Governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamaddon, praised Commander Fazli’s actions in the post-election events against “the seditious movement and the riots”. Which only raises the question....
So why is he departing now?
1210 GMT: Iran to IAEA Head "You Suck". Missed this when I noted Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman lashing the International Atomic Energy Agency (see 0910 GMT). Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had set the tone on Sunday: “[New IAEA head Yukio] Amano is new to the job and clearly has a long way to go before he can reach the experience held by [former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency] Mohammad El Baradei. The report was Amano's first and, like many other first reports, it was seriously flawed."
1205 GMT: On the Pose Goes. Looks like Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear authority, has gotten his media moment today. Press TV is featuring not only his declaration that construction of two more uranium enrichment plants will begin in March (see 0910 GMT) but also that up to 20 sites for 10 more plants have been located.
The New York Times, for one, spreads Salehi's fame farther, devoting a lengthy summary to the announcement.
1140 GMT: A Lack of Insurance. The Financial Times updates on a significant development in the Iranian economy: leading insurance firm Lloyds has said it will not insure refined oil shipments to Iran if the US Congress passes sanctions legislation. This follows the decision of two prominent German insurers/re-insurers to cease all business in Iran.
As non-Iranian firms will not take on the risk of business in Iran without appropriate cover, the recent moves are likely to constrict investment. Specially, Lloyds' decision may disrupt the flow of oil inside Iran, raising gasoline prices in Iran.
1045 GMT: Pose of the Day. From the BBC:
The Iranian transport minister [Hamid Behbahani] has given foreign airlines 15 days to change the name to Persian Gulf on their in flight monitors.
If they failed, they would be prevented from entering Iranian airspace, he warned. And if the offence was repeated, foreign airliners would be grounded and refused permission to leave Iran.
0910 GMT: Morning Poses. The head of Iran's nuclear authority, Ali Akbar Salehi, declares, "Inshallah (God willing), in the next Iranian year (starting in March) as ordered by the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), we may start the construction of two new enrichment sites." And the Foreign Ministry's spokesman wags a finger at the "West", "To maintain its prestige, we expect the [International Atomic Energy] Agency to not allow certain countries to impose their will on the international community through political approaches."
"The IAEA should adopt a legal approach to the issue of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," he added.
0720 GMT: Our German Bureau sends us a photo from the Berlin International Film Festival, the Berlinale:
0712 GMT: Economy Watch. A shot at the President over health care, with the deputy chairman of Iran’s Association of General Practitioners, Masoud Moslemi-Fard, criticising the lack of funds in the budget and declaring, “At least two million Iranians will be under the poverty line with the current health expenses.”
0710 GMT: We start today with a feature all the way from the eastern United States: "New Jersey to Iran (and Back Again): The Activism of Mehdi Saharkhiz".
0700 GMT: With no big set-piece occasion and the opposition re-assessing its tactics, we're settling in for a long stretch of steady, if largely undramatic, pressure on the Government and regime.
Even as other media, noticing Iran on showpiece occasions but then walking away if there is no quick resolution, declare an end to the post-election conflict, the signals of the medium-term challenge are there to be heard. This weekend, it was the meeting of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and the manoeuvres of Hashemi Rafsanjani and his allies. Rafsanjani played a political card with his speech, backed up by Mohsen Rezaei, at the Expediency Council declaring loyalty to the Supreme Leader but calling for changes in the Iranian system, and then he made a symbolic declaration with his visit to Mehdi Karroubi's son Ali.
And there was the steady thump-thump-thump of the beat against the Government over the Iranian economy, complemented by the political challenge to President Ahmadinejad from "conservative" opposition.
So we're grabbing a cup of tea and taking up a position on the sofa. Nothing dramatic here; just the day-to-day, gradual shifting of Iran's political landscape.