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Media Watch | Tehran Bazaar Reopens; Currency Trading Remains 'Paralyzed'


08 Oct 2012 21:49Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

FarsBazaar10612.jpgTehran bazaar open again, atmosphere "tense"

Amid a heavy police presence, Tehran's grand bazaar reopened for business this weekend, after most of its shops closed last week in protest over the plummeting foreign-exchange value of the rial. According to a Los Angeles Times report, "The atmosphere at the bazaar this weekend was tense, though the hustle and bustle Sunday probably seemed normal from shoppers' perspective." One shop owner told Reuters, "The dominant thing on every merchant's mind is concern for tomorrow."

The independent travel blog Yomadic published a series of photographs of the Tehran grand bazaar taken on Sunday and offered a description of the scene:

With protests taking place here just a few days ago, today I witnessed armed (and armoured) riot squad police outside one of the entrances, with groups of government security guards sporadically appearing in the immense labyrinth of corridors within. Clearly, the power-base was not in the mood for another protest.

In any case, the show of force was at least slightly intimidating -- especially as an independent camera-toting foreign tourist. I was definitely clicking the shutter with somewhat less than reckless abandon. But today in Tehran, all was well. It was business as usual at the Grand Bazaar, and no signs of anything other than what appeared to be perfectly normal, if somewhat chaotic, capital city human activities.

The AFP reports that foreign currency exchanges meanwhile remain "largely paralysed," despite the lifting of an official moratorium on trading:

Most official exchange shops were open in downtown but refused to conduct any business at a rate of about 28,000 rials per dollar, set by the Central Bank on Saturday in a bid to curb the currency's plunge. [...]

The few transactions happening under the table...were in the range of 30,000 and 32,000 rials per dollar, witnesses told AFP.

Reuters also reported that "dealers in Tehran and Dubai ... [said] there was almost no trade because the rates indicated by state bodies were not commonly accepted in the market."

Iranian legislators move to review second phase of subsidy reform

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Iranian lawmakers on Sunday attacked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the decline of the country's currency, refusing to move forward on his subsidy reform and demanding he account for his handling of the economy.

The Iranian Labour News Agency said a majority of lawmakers voted in favor of a motion for an urgent debate on whether to proceed with the second phase of the reform.

A centerpiece of the president's policies, the reform aims to progressively replace fuel and food subsidies with direct stipends to the poor.

But 179 members of parliament out of 240 voted for an urgent review of the plan -- an effective half -- because of the rial's recent plunge, ILNA said.

Parliamentarians are considering holding hearings with Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani, the Oil Ministry, and President Ahmadinejad himself this coming week.

Islamic Republic denies existence of new nuclear proposal

The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council has denied a New York Times report which claims that the Islamic Republic has offered a new "nine-step plan" to help resolve international concerns over the country's nuclear program.

"No new proposal outside the framework of the negotiations with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) has been presented, and claims made by certain American media outlets in this regard are unfounded," SNSC Secretary Saeed Jalili said.

The New York Times is standing by its story. The Fars News Agency reports that Iran "is waiting for the world powers' response to its proposal which was presented in the Moscow talks in June."

Oil Ministry, analysts dismiss impact of possible E.U. natural gas sanctions

The Islamic Republic has responded to news that the European Union is considering sanctioning Iranian natural gas exports following a high-level meeting of E.U. officials last week. Oil Ministry spokesman Alireza Nikzad Rahbar was quoted by Press TV and Fars describing the sanctions, likely soon to be implemented, as a "propaganda campaign":

"Right now no EU member imports Iranian gas supply," he said, and added, "The new EU threat is just a propaganda maneuvering and will never take place since they (the EU members) can never make themselves politically dependent on the other countries." [...]

Iranian officials have dismissed the sanctions as inefficient, saying that they are finding Asian partners instead. A large number of Chinese, Indian and other Asian firms have negotiated or signed up to oil and gas deals with Iran.

Iran has a several-billion-dollar gas deal with Switzerland which is not a member of the 27-nation EU.

As Iran's main energy customers are now Turkey and a few East Asian countries, the E.U. measure will be largely symbolic in effect. The country most likely to be affected by the measure is, in fact, Turkey because it accepts Iranian gas deliveries and also exports gas to the Balkans. Given that the E.U. has no way of forcing Turkey to keep Iranian natural gas quantities segregated from Azerbajini supplies, one industry source told Reuters, "Either Turkey goes with it or Turkey maintains imports silently."

Fars: U.S. in "open war" with Islamic Republic...over video games

Fars reports that Iran's military will be developing an Attack on Tel Aviv video game in response to a Western first-person shooter released last October that features Iranians as enemies:

The Iranian Army's first produced video game titled "Battle in Gulf of Aden" was unveiled in a ceremony in Tehran earlier this month at the presence of Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.

The computer game which was produced using the powerful motor of "Unity" and enjoying a professional graphic and sounding displays the Iranian Navy's mighty presence in the international waters and Navy commandoes' fight with the [Somali] pirates in the Gulf of Aden. [...]

Meantime, after the US programmers in an open war of media developed "Battlefield 3" depicting a US assault on Iran, the Iranian computer game programmers announced that they would soon release "Attack on Tel Aviv" in a retaliatory move.

Executive-Manager of Iran's National Foundation of Computer Games Behrooz Minaei told FNA in December that the foundation will fund the project, and announced that many Iranian computer game programmers have voiced preparedness to contribute a role in the project.

Minaei said that Battlefield 3 has many technical...faults [and] that the location of the game in Tehran is "unacceptable."

Battlefield 3 includes many game maps familiar to Iranians, including the Tehran bazaar, Kharg Island, the port of Nowshahr, Bandar province, and the Alborz Mountains. Such settings have become more popular in first-person shooter video games over the past decade, many of which pit Western special forces against various anti-American alliances comprising some combination of the Russian military, international terrorist organizations, and pastiche Middle Eastern countries.

While most such games avoid referencing real countries in the Middle East, Battlefield 3 takes place partly in Iran, which in the fictional storyline the United States has invaded due to a coup by an ersatz-nationalist paramilitary group named the People's Liberation and Resistance. The group is portrayed as secretly being used by a rogue CIA agent to carry out nuclear terrorist attacks around the world to set off World War III.

Ironically, Iranian first-person shooters like Battle in Gulf of Aden that rely on "Unity" are in fact using an American-designed video game engine, Eurogamer reported this summer.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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