Friday, 4 January 2013

Iran Live Coverage: The Supreme Leader Tries to Bolster His Popularity

0627 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been released from solitary confinement in Evin Prison.

Hashemi was placed in solitary last month because of her role in protests against prison conditions. She is serving a six-month sentence for propaganda against the regime and has been barred for five years from political and cultural activities.

0603 GMT: We have noted in analyses in recent months that the Supreme Leader and his inner circle need to protect Ayatollah Khamenei from any rising criticism because of the economic situation. In part, that can be done by ensuring that others take the blame --- thus the Supreme Leader's interest in a continuing, but "balanced", dispute between President Ahmadinejad and other factions about who should be blamed.

But that might not be enough. What happens when Ahmadinejad is gone next June and the economy is in dire shape?

A well-placed EA correspondent in Iran observes that the Supreme Leader's office have been busy this week setting up a firewall of publicity, with statements and public appearances hailing Khamenei's wise and virtuous leadership.

>[?The correspondent notes the Supreme Leader's participation in the funeral of Ayatollah Mojtaba Tehrani, featured prominently throughout Iranian media. The photos not only brought images of compassion but also virtue by association: Ayatollah Tehrani was very popular, especially in Tehran. because he was the great teacher of morality".

Equally interesting are the statements from Khamenei's camp trying to settle the system before next June's Presidential elections. Our correspondent is particularly interested in a declaration by Ayatollah Khoshvaght, the father-in-law of the Supreme Leader's son Mostafa.

>[?Khoshvaght said "a red line should be drawn over sedition and provocation, as these people are infidels and apostates and will not be purified". He continued, "They do not deserve to be candidates for the Presidency."

The correspondent assures us of Khoshvaght's significance, "Ayatollah Khamenei has insisted that [State broadcaster] IRIB and other cultural organisations use him, and Khoshvaght's son is the head of the Fararu website."

That still leaves the questions: was Khoshvaght referring to the "sedition" of opposition leaders such as Mir Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, justifying their continued detention? Alternatively, was he indicating that they can be released but that both men --- candidates in the disputed Presidential election --- must be barred from politics? Or was Khoshvaght putting out a warning about another faction, say, Ahmadinejad's?

While those issues are unresolved, our correspondent returns to his opening line: "Ayatollah Khamenei has interest in making use of 'non-political' clergy to increase his own popularity."

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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