U.S. Aims a Megaphone at Iranian Public as Part of Pressure Campaign
The Trump administration is trying to win over the Iranian public with an information campaign blaming the country’s economic hardship on its leaders and discrediting those who oppose the White House’s policies.
The information efforts are a less-discussed aspect of the pressure being applied to Iran since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed harsh sanctions in an effort to secure a more-encompassing accord that curbs Tehran’s nuclear program and its alleged regional aggression. (WSJ)
Iran, US clash over claim that US downed Iranian drone
Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed Friday over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.
Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.
At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.” (Time)
After Oil, Washington Weighs Sanctions on Iran’s Other Sources of U.S. Dollars
The Trump administration is considering a more-aggressive enforcement of its economic sanctions on Iran—targeting more companies and financial institutions that do business with the Islamic Republic in an attempt to cut off lucrative sources of U.S. dollar-denominated hard currency, U.S. officials said.
The new sanctions on banks and businesses would be aimed at choking off trade including Iran’s petrochemical sales to Singapore and its consumer-goods sales to Afghanistan.
The prospect of added pressure on Iran comes as Washington kicked off a fresh round of sanctions on Iranian oil exports on Thursday. The U.S. ban is aimed at coercing Iran into reaching a new nuclear and security pact. In targeting the country’s crude—its main income source—the U.S. hopes to sever the financial and trade ties that are keeping Iran’s economy afloat. (WSJ)
Zarif reshuffles key envoys in push for active diplomacy
While rotations and replacements of diplomats and ambassadors are usually routine administrative procedures, they sometimes can signify important policy shifts. The latter may be the case in Iran, where the country’s Foreign Ministry has in the past four months been replacing several heads of mission and representatives abroad.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have in particular made the appointment of Iranian representatives to the UN in New York a complicated process. The position is particularly important given that Iran has no active embassy in the United States. As such, powerful rival elites in Iran are often at odds over who ought to be appointed to this key post. (Al-Monitor)
Iranian Red Crescent says US sanctions impeding flood relief
Iranian towns and villages have been hit with floods for a second straight week as officials trade accusations over their response efforts. Meanwhile, the Iranian Red Crescent is complaining that US sanctions are impeding aid efforts.
The southwestern province of Lorestan is the latest area to be hit by flooding. Iranians on social media shared videos and pictures from today, April 1, showing homes swept away by the floods, blocks of homes completely immersed in water, and collapsed bridges. One viral video showed a home under water up to its roof. (Al-Monitor)
Iran welcomes Luxembourg court decision on U.S. seizure of Iranian assets
Iran welcomed on Thursday a Luxembourg court's decision to refuse to reinforce a U.S. ruling that would have helped families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks claim Iranian assets held by a Luxembourg-based clearing house.
The court ruled on Wednesday that there were no grounds in international law to uphold in Luxembourg a 2012 U.S. court decision to strip Iran of sovereign immunity.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said the decision showed the world still had courts that adopt independent decisions. (Reuters)
U.S. Urges New UN Sanctions On Iran For Missile, Satellite Launches
The United States has urged the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran over its recent ballistic-missile test and launches of two satellites, saying they violate the world body's resolutions.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen on March 7 condemned "Iran's destabilizing activities" in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and called on Tehran "to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons." (Radio Farda)
Iranians are paying for US sanctions with their health
Ali only had two hours to save his baby's life. He careened through traffic and sped along highways to an east Tehran government pharmacy. When he saw some 800 people queued outside the facility, he dropped to his knees. Like him, they were waiting to obtain state-funded medications.
"I cried and screamed, begging people to let me get through," Ali -- whom we have not fully identified for security reasons -- recalls. Eventually, he skipped the line and returned with the medicine in time for his one-year-old daughter, Dory, to recover.
The incident happened just as Iran's landmark nuclear deal with six world powers led by the US was being signed in 2015. It was a moment when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had promised Iranians an easier life, free of medicinal and food shortages, and where desperate scenes such as Ali's outside the pharmacy would become a thing of the past. (CNN)
The Trump administration’s recently issued National Security Strategy for 2017 has already sunk from public sight. Judged by its content, that is as it should be. As The New York Times reflected when the NSS was issued, both its tone and substance were in marked contrast to the remarks that President Donald made at its unveiling, which contained more of the sharp edges his foreign and domestic policies usually possess.
In any event, the annual NSS is a bastard document. Congress mandated its preparation and public issuance in the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act as a means for Capitol Hill to try getting a handle on the administration’s foreign and national security policy. But over the years, few if any of these documents have measured up to the task. Most important, the NSS is not operational: that is, it contains no decisions about foreign policy, defense, and the all-important appropriations to make them work. The Office of Management and Budget plays that role in its annual budget submissions to Congress. At the Pentagon, that role is played by the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), from which cascade progressively more granular documents that culminate in spending requests. The NSS itself has no practical effect.
Iranians dug through rubble in a frantic search for survivors on Monday, after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border, killing more than 450 people and injuring thousands of others in the world’s deadliest earthquake so far this year.
The quake, recorded at 9:18 p.m. on Sunday, was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. The epicenter was near Ezgeleh, Iran, about 135 miles northeast of Baghdad, and had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, according to the United States Geological Survey. Seismologists in the country said it was the biggest quake to hit the western part of Iran.
Samuel Goldwyn Films is releasing its first Iranian film, The Persian Connection this week on July 14th. This stylish neon-noir thriller is set in the opium underworld of "Tehrangeles" and features a protagonist who was a child soldier during the Iran-Iraq War. The film premiered at TriBeCa 2106 to rave reviews. Reza Sixo Safai produced the film and plays the lead role; he spoke with us about it below.
Q: The protagonist in this film was a child soldier in the Iran-Iraq war. How much does that experience define the character? Was it common for children to fight in the war? Also - Does the fact that the protagonist experienced the Iran-Iraq war bring something to the story in a way that perhaps another war wouldn’t?
Safai: That experience is everything, defines everything. Now as human beings we all do our best to live, no matter what tragedy strikes us, we still do our best to go on living. But that pain is always there somewhere underneath, waiting for the right moment when it can come rushing out.
Iran, one of the few countries involved in the Syria conflict not to have been affected by relentless terrorist attacks, woke up to a new reality on Wednesday, when armed men and perhaps one woman simultaneously staged attacks on the Parliament and on the landmark mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
At least two people were killed and 35 others wounded in the assaults, according to the state-sponsored Iranian Students’ News Agency. While the Islamic State immediately issued a claim of responsibility, suspicions in Tehran were also directed at Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional nemesis, newly emboldened by a supportive visit from President Trump last month.
Saudi Arabia recently raised the volume of criticism against Iran, and the country led a regional effort on Monday to isolate Qatar, the one Persian Gulf country that maintains relations with Tehran.
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has registered as a candidate in Iran's presidential election, despite being told not to by the Supreme Leader. Mr Ahmadinejad, a hardliner who served two terms between 2005 and 2013, filed paperwork for the 19 May poll at the interior ministry in Tehran. Last year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned him that such a move was "not in his interest and that of the country". But Mr Ahmadinejad told reporters on Tuesday that had been "just advice". Associated Press journalists who witnessed Mr Ahmadinejad register on Tuesday said election officials were "stunned" when he submitted the paperwork.
Originally posted on Reuters By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
Ex-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad submitted his name on Wednesday for registration as a candidate in Iran's presidential election in May, state media reported. Although the move by the former hardline president was seen as an attempt to bolster the candidacy of an ally, it was also a challenge to the authority of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had ordered him not to run. Registration for the May 19 election started on Monday and will last five days, after which entrants will be screened for their political and Islamic qualifications by a vetting body, the Guardian Council. President
While the ban has been altered from the prior version in an effort to avoid another legal challenge by the judicial branch, the legality of the new order remains highly questionable. For example, the blanket ban on immigration from six Muslim majority countries may still be an unconstitutional "Muslim" ban due to the administration's numerous prior statements about the order's purpose. It may also be illegal pursuant to a 1965 law that prohibits discrimination in immigration on the basis of nationality.
Beyond these legal concerns, the new ban suffers the same broader issues that we raised in our statement opposing the original executive order. In that statement we maintained that targeting entire countries is unjust and counterproductive to U.S. interests. The American Iranian Council is particularly concerned that the executive order doubles down on the perception that America is at war with Islam.
LONDON: Thousands of people braved London's winter drizzle on Sunday for a screening of the Oscar-nominated movie that has become a rallying point for opponents of U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
Hours ahead of what looked set to be the most politicised Academy Awards for years, London Mayor Sadiq Khan made clear his political motivation in hosting the British premiere of the "The Salesman", whose Iranian director is boycotting the Hollywood ceremony.
"President Trump cannot silence me," Khan said to cheers from the crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square. "We stand in solidarity with Asghar Farhadi, one of the world’s greatest directors."
(CNN) - Director Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards.
But Farhadi was not in attendance to claim the Oscar for his film, "The Salesman." He boycotted the awards show in protest of President Donald Trump's executive order that temporarily barred travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the United States. A federal judge has since put the travel ban on hold.
In a prepared speech delivered by Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi explained his decision.
Originally published on The LobeLog by Nader Entessar, AIC Publications Review Committee Member US-Iranian relations since 1979 have been characterized by long periods of animosity and mutual demonization and only fleeting moments of relaxed tensions. Under President Trump, the United States has ratcheted up the anti-Iran rhetoric and actions, causing some analysts to opine that a military confrontation between the two countries is likely. Despite US-Iran tensions and the lack of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, a variety of people-to-people exchanges are among the very few forms of civil engagement between the two sides. Sporting events and other exchanges have played a leading role in enhancing Iranian-American public diplomacy. These examples of public or citizen diplomacy have challenged the malevolent stereotypes of Iranians that have become an ingrained part of American political discourse.
Originally posted on The LobeLog By Shireen T. Hunter, former AIC Board Member
Last year’s nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), has many detractors in the United States and elsewhere, including U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. They have always maintained that the deal benefits Iran more than the United States and its allies. Many of these detractors have thus argued that the JCPOA should be renegotiated or simply cancelled.
Now, however, many of them are singing a different tune. Following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal or violation of the agreement has become real. Suddenly, many of the agreement’s earlier detractors have become its fans. They are finally admitting that the United States and other countries, which want to forestall the possibility that Iran might build nuclear weapons, actually got a good deal. Despite claims by the Iranian government that it could easily turn the nuclear switch back on, it would be hard for Iran to resume its activities without facing intensified economic sanctions, by the United States and many other countries, not to mention the serious risk of a military confrontation or even open conflict with the U.S. Perhaps because of this fact, after a meeting in Tehran with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukio Amano, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Iran will not be the first to leave JCPOA.
Originally posted on Dallas News By Honorary Board Member, Thomas R. Pickering
Our new president will face many tough challenges in devising a strategy to assure America's security. He will be the first since 1979 who will not have to immediately devise a strategy to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
The nuclear agreement with Iran provides strong assurance that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (the so-called P5+1) came together to achieve this objective by negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. Iran without a nuclear weapon is far less threatening to Israel, the region and the U.S.
Originally posted on The LobeLog By Shireen T. Hunter, former AIC Board Member
Those observers in Iran who thought that a victory by Donald Trump in the US presidential race would be in Iran’s interests should by now have realized how wrong they were. It’s not just because President-elect Trump vowed during the election campaign that he would tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action (JCPOA). More importantly, he has made key appointments that will have significant consequences for the future direction of American foreign policy.
Originally posted on The Lobelog By AIC Board Member, Robert Hunter
The surprise election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States has raised far more questions than it has answered about the nation’s future. It has also, not unnaturally, discomfited (or at least confused) friends and allies abroad. Except for the Los Angeles Times, the polls got it wrong, and so did virtually all the pundits, a large fraction of whom wittingly or not became cheerleaders for Hillary Clinton. But there is no point in lamentations, if such are, indeed, in order. Notably, both Trumpand Clinton demonstrated in their victory/concession statements the best of American political culture: the peaceful, even gracious, transfer of power.
To try judging what President Trump will do in foreign policy—the focus of Lobelog—we should return to “first principles.”
Originally posted on The Lobelog By Shireen T. Hunter, Former AIC Board Member
Although disappointed about the economic benefits flowing from the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran’s political leadership feels fairly certain that at least the threat of a potential U.S. military strike has now disappeared. Also, even if the United States were to re-impose sanctions, in addition to those non-nuclear related sanctions already in existence, the Iranian leadership is confident that other countries, including European states, will not follow America’s lead.
Iran’s hardliners, in particular, are pushing this line of thinking as a way to prevent any further steps to move US-Iran relations in a more positive direction. They also argue that America has suffered setbacks in Iraq and Syria and will not risk becoming entangled with Iran. In short, at least judging by various statements and commentaries, especially by hardliners, the nuclear deal has created a false sense of security in Iran.
Originally published on LobeLog By AIC Board Member, Robert E. Hunter
Despite the further stresses introduced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week into this most stressful of modern campaigns, Hillary Clinton is still the odds-on favorite to be elected US president. If that judgment is validated on the morning of November 9th, America’s friends and allies abroad can begin to exhale. Whatever opponents have said about Clinton in the presidential campaign, no one can honestly deny that she is smart, savvy, articulate, experienced, and, more-often-than-not, levelheaded.
But true friends of America abroad shouldn’t return to normal breathing patterns just yet.
First the good news. Despite presidential campaign turmoil and disharmony not seen since the American Republic’s early days—and politics was even rougher back then—after the votes are counted and despite whatever Donald Trump says or does, the American ship of state will, as always, soon right itself. There is also no doubt that, intellectually and temperamentally, Clinton will be a steadying influence on American politics and US engagements abroad.
Originally published on LobeLog By Former AIC Board Member, Shireen T. Hunter
In the last several years, the United States has found it increasingly difficult to gain the support of all of its allies, especially those in the Middle East, for its regional plans and policies.
A dramatic example was the disagreement between the United States and its Middle East allies over the decision to reach a negotiated settlement to the Iran nuclear file. Key American allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia openly and vehemently campaigned against the prospective agreement. The late Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Bin Faisal, even went to Vienna in the last hours of the nuclear negotiations in order to prevent its successful completion. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, used the UN podium and a joint session of the US Congress for his campaign against the nuclear.
Originally published in The Hill By Honorary Board member Thomas R. Pickering and Ali Vaez
The one year anniversary of Iran nuclear agreement’s entering into force on Oct. 18, 2015 was buried in the noise and news of U.S. electoral campaign, operation to liberate Mosul and tragic agonies of Aleppo. This in itself is a testament to the accord’s remarkable success in addressing a major threat to global security. But in this success lies a peril: a “done deal” mentality that diverts attention to other priorities, treats implementation as a mere technical or bureaucratic exercise, and fails to remedy its inevitable hitches. Ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful and opening the door a crack or two for new opportunities to build balance, stability and security in the Middle East are worth fighting for.
Rushing for a plane to Tehran because of a family emergency, the Iranian-American businessman stuffed his mobile phone into his carry-on, forgetting to turn it off.
It was useless in Iran anyway, he knew. American mobile phones never worked in the country, and even after the recent nuclear deal, many economic sanctions remain in place, frustrating foreign businesses interested in cracking the Iranian market.
So it was something of a shock when, having fallen asleep after arriving at his sick grandmother’s house in Tehran, the businessman, Faryar Ghazanfari, an intellectual-property lawyer, heard a buzzing coming from the bag.
At first, he thought it was an alarm. Then he picked up. “I couldn’t believe what was happening,” he said. “It was San Francisco. A colleague wanted an update on a patent case.”