Iran Digest Week of April 14 - 21

Iran Digest Week of April 14 - 21

U.S. Accuses Iran of 'Alarming Provacations'

The US secretary of state has accused Iran of "alarming ongoing provocations" aimed at destabilizing the Middle East and undermining America's interests.
"An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and to take the world along with it," Rex Tillerson said.
The US has ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal, although it admits Iran is complying with its commitments.Iran's foreign minister dismissed Mr Tillerson's criticism as "worn out". (BBC)

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Iran Chat: Interview with David Collier, Author of "Democracy and the Nature of American Influence in Iran, 1941-1979"

Iran Chat: Interview with David Collier, Author of "Democracy and the Nature of American Influence in Iran, 1941-1979"

Our latest Iran Chat is with Dr. David Collier, author of the new book, Democracy and the Nature of American Influence in Iran 1941-1979.  Dr. Collier is also a research consultant in Washington DC and teaches democracy and democratization in Boston University's Washington DC program.

The first half of our conversation focuses on Dr. Collier's usage of linkage and leverage to analyze and better understand the history of the period; the second half addresses how his analysis of the history applies to current issues in US-Iran relations and US foreign policy more generally.  Dr. Collier's book is being published this month; you can purchase a copy on Amazon or Syracuse University Press.

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AIC's Emad Kiyaei speaks with Reason.com about Iran's compliance with the JCPOA

AIC's Emad Kiyaei speaks with Reason.com about Iran's compliance with the JCPOA

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified to Congress that Iran was complying with Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, before a statutory midnight deadline, while also insisting Iran remained "a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods" and indicating that the Trump administration would evaluate the JCPOA-related suspension of sanctions and whether it was "vital to the national security interests of the United States."

"President Trump… has realized that tearing up a highly complex and multinational agreement is not a wise thing to do at this time," Farideh Farhi, an independent scholar and affiliate graduate faculty member at University of Hawaii-Manoa, told Reason.

"Note that under the Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president has to provide certification every 90 days. Had the Trump administration not done so, it would have triggered legislative procedures and potential reimpositions of sanctions, which would then declare the U.S. intent to renege on its JCPOA obligations," she added.

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Iran Digest Week of April 7 - 14

Iran Digest Week of April 7 - 14

Iran Joins Russia in Denouncing U.S. Strike on Syria, but Stops There

The punitive American missile strike on Syria for the chemical weapons attack a week ago brought Syria’s most important backers, Russia and Iran, publicly closer together — whether the Iranians want to be or not.
Far from accepting the Trump administration’s version of the chemical weapons assault, the Iranians joined the Russians in rejecting it and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Nonetheless, Iran and Russia do not see eye to eye on everything in a relationship shaped by mistrust, a legacy of Iranian resentment of Russia’s historical expansionism and Soviet-era attempts at domination. (NY Times)

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The Effects of the JCPOA on the Iranian Economy

The Effects of the JCPOA on the Iranian Economy

By Michael Schwartz, Kriyana Reddy, and Dr. Reza Ghorashi

Over one year has passed since the formal implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the US and P5+1 members (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK), which lifted certain “nuclear-related secondary sanctions,” on various Iranian business sectors.[1] All parties to the JCPOA agreed to implementing it “in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere” and to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to ... affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”[2]  While initially the JCPOA was met with optimism, critics in both Tehran and Washington have challenged the effectiveness and potential benefits of the agreement.  Iranian public opinion remains steadfastly in support of the deal, but the reality of Iran’s long transition from economic isolation has curbed some enthusiasm.  While the JCPOA has created significant opportunities for economic growth and normalization, the Iranian public has not yet seen many tangible economic benefits.

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Iran election: Ahmadinejad registers despite Khamenei warning

Iran election: Ahmadinejad registers despite Khamenei warning

Originally posted on BBC 

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.

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Ex-Iranian President Ahmadinejad submits his name for presidential election

Ex-Iranian President Ahmadinejad submits his name for presidential election

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

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Iran Digest Week of March 31- April 7​​​​​​​

Iran Digest Week of March 31- April 7​​​​​​​

New U.S. Sanctions Bill Delayed by Concern Over Iran Election  

A bill to slap new sanctions on Iran has been delayed in the U.S. Senate due to concerns about Iran's May presidential election, in which conservative hardliners hope to defeat moderate President Hassan Rouhani, U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday.
A group of Democratic and Republican senators introduced the bill in March seeking to impose tighter U.S. sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile launches and other non-nuclear activities, echoing a harder line on Tehran espoused by Republican President Donald Trump.
But on Tuesday, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said the bill would not move forward for now. (Reuters)

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How Will Iran Respond to US Missile Attack in Syria?

How Will Iran Respond to US Missile Attack in Syria?

Originally published on The LobeLog
By Shireen T. Hunter, former AIC Board Member

Iran has been a major supporter of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s beleaguered president, throughout its civil war, which has entered its sixth year. In fact, until Russia decided to conduct airstrikes in Syria in September 2015, Iran was the only country that actively and meaningfully supported the Syrian regime. In addition to providing military and other support, Iran also enlisted the backing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah for Assad. As volunteers from Sunni states and communities poured in to join various Sunni terrorist groups in Syria, including the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), Iran mobilized Shia volunteers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the so-called “Defenders of the Shrines,” to join the fighting on the Assad’s side.

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Support US-Iran Relations and Receive a “Heart Iran" Pin

Support US-Iran Relations and Receive a “Heart Iran" Pin

What is the Heart Iran pin?

In the wake of the Trump administration's travel ban, many people asked themselves what they could do to help. One such person is the talented graphic designer, Kristina Filler, who contacted AIC and offered to create a "Heart Iran" pin so that Americans could show their support for the Iranian people.

The design of the pin - fittingly about the size of a flag pin at 3/4" wide - was partially inspired by the social media hashtag #lovebeyondflags that has gained popularity among Americans and Iranians alike. The hashtag has been used to emphasize shared experiences, promote dialogue, and express hope for improved relations. 

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Dr. Amirahmadi On Leave From AIC; Announces Candidacy For President Of Iran

Dr. Amirahmadi On Leave From AIC; Announces Candidacy For President Of Iran

I am writing to inform you that I will be taking a temporary leave of absence as President of the American Iranian Council during the period of the Presidential election in Iran.  As many of you are aware, I have previously run for President of Iran. This year, I have again announced my candidacy:

English: https://www.trackpersia.com/iranian-american-professor-gears-presidential-election/ 
Persian: http://masalnews.ir/46222/

My leave will begin on April 10 and last at least through the Presidential election season.  The American Iranian Council is proud to be a non-partisan organization with nearly three decades of achievement in US-Iran relations.  My leave will ensure that the organization remains non-partisan and that there is no conflict of interest or association between my political activities and statements and those of the organization.
 

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Iran Digest Week of March 24 - 31

Iran Digest Week of March 24 - 31

Iran Imposes Sanctions on 15 U.S. Companies
Iran imposed sanctions on 15 American companies, saying that they were involved in human rights violations and had cooperated with Israel, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, in a tit-for-tat reaction to a move by Washington
The agency quoted Iran’s foreign ministry as saying the companies had “flagrantly violated human rights” and cooperated with Israel in its “terrorism” against Palestinians and in the expansion of Jewish settlements.
It was not immediately clear if any of the companies, which included the military technology firm Raytheon, had any dealings with Iran or whether they would be affected by Tehran’s action, which IRNA said would include seizing of their assets and a ban on contacts with them. (The New York Times)

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Iran Digest Week of March 17 - 24

Iran Digest Week of March 17 - 24

Trump Sends Holiday Greetings to Iranians, Does Not Mention Travel Ban

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to ban travelers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, issued a holiday greeting on Wednesday to Iranians celebrating the New Year holiday known as Nowruz.
Trump, who has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers negotiated during President Barack Obama's administration, did not refer to the travel ban in his statement.
"Nowruz means 'new day' in Persian. It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. (Reuters)

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Making America Weaker

Making America Weaker

Originally published on The LobeLog
by Robert E. Hunter, AIC Board Member

Last week, President Donald J. Trump began moving from words and executive orders to the basic stuff of foreign policy and national security. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) delivered its budget estimates under the headline: “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Over the next several months, Congress will decide out how much of this blueprint to use in building the government’s structure for the next fiscal year. This includes the hardware and software and “people-ware” of the tools of American statecraft.

It was no surprise that, as promised, President Trump is asking for a hefty rise in money for the Pentagon, more than 10%, or $52 billion, from the appropriation signed into law by President Barack Obama last December. This brings the total to $639 billion and is the sharpest rise since President Ronald Reagan sought to intimate the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As OMB put it: “This increase alone exceeds the entire defense budget of most countries.”

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Iran Digest Week of March 10 - 17

Iran Digest Week of March 10 - 17

Trump Travel Ban: Second U.S. Judge Blocks the New Executive Order

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked US President Donald Trump's new travel ban, which was due to begin after midnight on Thursday.
The order would have placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. Both judges questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory.
President Trump insists the move is to stop terrorists from entering the United States.He complained of "unprecedented judicial overreach". (BBC News)

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Iran Digest Week of March 3 - 10

Iran Digest Week of March 3 - 10

Iran’s Top Leader Appears to Rebuke President as Election Nears

Iran’s top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits.
The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer.
“We receive complaints from people,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. “People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now.” (NYTimes)

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Iran Digest Week of February 24 - March 3

Iran Digest Week of February 24 - March 3

Iran Uses Oscar Win to Attack Trump, U.S. Response Muted

Tehran has cheered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s second Oscar for best foreign film as an opportunity for more verbal attacks on the Trump administration, which responded with a muted defense of U.S. policy and deletion of a tweet about the movie.
A day after Farhadi’s The Salesman received the honor at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles, three senior Iranian officials sent him congratulatory messages that also contained criticisms of President Donald Trump, whom Tehran blames for increased tensions between the two nations since he took office last month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that he was proud of The Salesman’s cast and crew for taking a stance against what he described as the Trump administration’s ”Muslim ban.” (VOA News)

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Trump Administration Introduces Travel Ban 2.0

Trump Administration Introduces Travel Ban 2.0

On Monday, March 6, the Trump administration introduced a new executive order banning immigration from Iran and five other Muslim majority countries.  

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.

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Part premiere, part Trump protest, Londoners gather for Oscar movie

Part premiere, part Trump protest, Londoners gather for Oscar movie

Originally posted on Channel NewsAsia
By Angus MacSwan

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."

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Nowruz Greetings

Nowruz Greetings

On behalf of everyone here at the American Iranian Council, we wish you a warm Nowruz greetings!  Nowruz is the first day of spring and also the first day of the new Iranian calendar year, which will be 1396 on March 21 (2017).  Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3000 years, and Iranians of all religious and ethnic orientations share in the joys and prosperity it promises.  We sincerely hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.

The closure of 1395 was admittedly a rocky period in US-Iran relations, with increased rhetoric on both sides, the imposition of a blanket travel ban on Iranians, ballistic missile testing by the Iranian government, and the new Trump administration putting Iran “on notice.”  Of course, rocky times are not new.  As a long-standing organization with nearly three decades of experience in this field, we recognize that US-Iran relations have always been challenging. And yet, with time and effort, real progress has been made in the past and can be made moving forward.

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