Sunrise over Tehran, Aug. 225:28 a.m., Tehran: Sunrise over Tehran. All is quiet in Haft-e-Tir Square as the city awakens. World hasn’t ended yet. At least, not that I’ve noticed.

The Islamic Republic News Agency reports:

Javier Solana, EU high representative for the common foreign and security policy, held a telephone conversation with Dr. Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Sunday.

“I have had a telephone conversation with Dr. Ali Larijani. It has been a constructive conversation in which we reviewed different aspects of the Iranian nuclear program,” said Solana in a statement Monday.

“We both agreed on our openness, under the right circumstances, to further contacts with the aim of reestablishing confidence in the purely civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” he added in a brief statement.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with a Syrian diplomat, Iran tries to rally all Muslims in support of Iran’s goals:

Chairman of Expediency Council(EC) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a meeting with Syrian Grand Mufti Sheikh Badreddin Hassoun here Monday stressed on necessity of solidarity among all Muslims.

EC chairman appreciated wise stances of President Bashar al-Assad on regional developments and said the Zionists were defeated in war with Lebanese and could not achieve their pre-designed military and political goals.

Rafsanjani emphasized that the regional countries should be aware and avoid domestic differences.

The Lebanese resistance showed that unity and solidarity among Muslims and Christians could remove differences.

Conveying President Assad’s warm and sincere congratulations for Iranian scientific achievements, Sheikh Hassoun said the West’s efforts to deprive Iran of peaceful nuclear technology is a plan to deprive Muslims of advanced sciences.

Referring to Rafsanjani’s speech in the Islamic Unity Conference, the Syrian grand mufti said, “Your comprehensive viewpoints on Islamic unity need further elaboration at international circles and in the presence of the heads of Islamic states.”

Earlier this summer, in June, Haft-e-Tir Square was the site of an organized protest of nearly 5,000 women, holding placards demanding “The right to divorce, the right to give evidence, the right to judge, and all the other violated rights.” According to the Iranian Revolutionary Socialist League,

The response of the security forces shows how seriously the regime took this protest: four mini-buses full of officers from the police and other repressive bodies of the state were present. They included female police officers who attacked the women using their batons and tear gas. In addition to beating the women, women’s activists and their supporters, the security forces used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd and to stop any onlookers joining the demonstration.

Is this more evidence of a robust moderate democratic movement? Not exactly. As Kamangir, “an Iranian looking at Iran as a foreigner,” writes:

Unlike reports in the Western media, the average Iranian is not the well-dressed, lipstick-wearing woman of northern Tehran who speaks with Western reporters about Channel, Gucci and Jennifer Lopez. The average Iranian is from the lower income brackets and lives outside Tehran.

Fair enough. All that the June demonstration proves is that Iran is a multi-dimensional society that is feeling cultural pressures at the edges.

It’s sunrise on Haft-e-Tir Square, August 22, and not a peep out of anyone — not even a lipstick-wearing woman.

7:15 a.m., Tehran: I still don’t see the Mahdi anywhere, at least not on any of the Tehran Traffic Control and Surveillance Center webcams. And Jon Stewart is pointedly ignoring the issue.

The Baha’is, by the way, beg to differ with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Shi’ite Muslims over the reappearance of the Mahdi: they claim that shortly after the 1000th anniversary of the imam’s disappearance, Sayyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi proclaimed himself to be the incarnation of the 12th Shi’ite imam,and announced that he was bringing Islamic law to an end, initiating a new prophetic cycle. Shirazi, also known as “The Bab,” was executed by a Persian firing squad in July 1850. I guess it’d be quite embarrassing if The Bab were, indeed, the real thing.

The Sunnis, meanwhile, do not believe in any of this. They believe the 11th imam died without offspring. So dialogue between Shi’ite regimes who mutter about the return of the Mahdi, and Sunni regimes who think that’s crazy-talk, is always a little sketchy. It takes something big — like an Israeli foray into Lebanon — to get these folks back in each other’s good graces.

8:24 a.m., Tehran: Mrs. Fortuna is fast asleep here in the Heartland.

For those who believe that Iranian institutions are monolithic, here is a pleasant surprise in this morning’s Guardian coverage:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran has urged the hard-line judiciary to prosecute media that publish “lies” and “baseless accusations,” the government’s spokesman said Monday.

But some legislators said they opposed the idea because it could stem the flow of information.

Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said he sent a letter to Tehran’s prosecutor urging him to go after those who make false accusations against the government.

. . . Some newspapers recently have published accusations charging the government with embezzlement, including an article that alleged about $300 million in public funds was misused for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidential campaign last year.

Some legislators did not welcome the Elham’s letter.

“Such a statement is against the free flow of information and could be considered as a threat to the press,” said legislator Jalal Yahyazadeh.

Another legislator, Gholam Reza Hajbabai, feared such actions could be extended to all critics.

Since 2000, Iran’s conservative judiciary has closed more than 100 newspapers, most accused of “false reporting” and “spreading lies.”

Full article here.

On the other hand, the existence of dissent within Iran has little effect on Iran’s influence on world oil markets:

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices steadied on Tuesday over $72 after a two-day rally as Iran vowed to press ahead with its nuclear programme, raising the prospect of sanctions against the world’s fourth largest oil exporter.

U.S. crude traded 1 cent up at $72.46 a barrel by 0227 GMT, after surging $2.39 over the past two trading days. London Brent crude rose 10 cents to $73.48 a barrel.

Iran is due to give its reply on Tuesday to a package on incentives by world powers that aims to end a nuclear standoff with the West, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Monday that Iran would continue its path on nuclear energy.

The United Nations Security Council has demanded Iran halt its nuclear work by a deadline of August 31, raising the prospect of punitive action by the U.N.

. . . Analysts say Iran is calculating any sanctions would start with modest steps, such as travel bans or asset freezes, while Moscow, Beijing and many European Union states may be unwilling to join sanctions that would jeopardise export contracts.

“The (oil) industry is desperately short of foreign exchange for investments — money which can no longer be borrowed,” said Fereidun Fesharaki of consultancy FACTS Inc. in an Iran report.

The Iran concern has driven U.S. crude back up from a dip below $70 on Monday, which came after a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon helped push prices down from a record $78.40 in July.

Full article here.

Traffic is still fairly light in downtown Tehran this morning.

9:45 a.m., Tehran: Shops will open in a moment. Here in the Heartland, I’m having trouble staying awake for doomsday.

The war of press reports continues:

Turkish authorities have managed to prevent several Iranian and Syrian aircraft from flying into Lebanon to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

According to the report, Israeli and the U.S. intelligence agencies warned Turkish authorities last Friday that several Lebanon-bound Iranian planes, loaded with arms meant for the Hezbollah, were making their way over Turkish airspace.

Shortly after Turkey was tipped off, Iranian officials ordered the planes to return to their point of departure, where the arms were allegedly removed from the planes.

The planes then took off again and were forced to land in Turkey for inspection by airport authorities. Turkish aviation officials told the daily that no weapons were found on the planes.

Since the war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah erupted on July 12, Turkey had intercepted several Iranian and Syrian Lebanon- bound ships in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, as well as two transit trucks from Syria, the daily said.

Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al- Awsat reported on Monday that large amounts of rockets have been transferred from Iran to Syria en route to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard formed an emergency committee on logistics in Damascus, which will be responsible for supplying Hezbollah’s military needs.

Full article here.

See Part 3 of this post here.