Iran Digest: Week of February 5-12, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of February 5-12, 2016

Hundreds more candidates allowed to contest Iran election

Iran's powerful election vetting body, the Guardian Council, decided on Saturday to allow hundreds more candidates to take part in a parliamentary election this month, in a move that rekindled the hopes of reformists and moderates.

A power struggle between Iranian conservatives and reformists has intensified since the removal of international economic sanctions against Tehran following its nuclear deal with the West. Hardliners fear Iranian voters will now be more inclined to reward reformist candidates.

Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a close ally of Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, welcomed the decision. "The good news for the disqualified candidates is that 25 percent of them have now been allowed to run in the election ... so we will experience a competitive election in February," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. (Reuters)

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Job Posting: Programs Manager

Job Description

The American Iranian Council invites qualified individuals to apply for the position of Programs Manager. AIC is a non-profit (tax-exempt) and non-partisan educational and research organization dedicated to promoting dialogue and understanding between the United States and Iran. The Council is led by Board of Directors and has offices in Princeton, Washington D.C and New York City.

The Program Manager is required to expand AIC programs in the fields of educational and cultural exchanges, in an effort to enhance partnerships between US institutions and their Iranian counterparts.

The position requires excellent planning and logistical skills, strong communications skills, strategic thinking, the ability to handle multiple tasks and work independently, as well as an appreciation of cultural diversity in the US and Iran. A background working with international exchange programs and use of online dialogue platforms is essential. The position reports to the AIC Executive Director and Director of Development

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LIVE EVENT: Saudi-Iranian Relations, A Conversation with Dr. Andrew Scott Cooper

LIVE EVENT: Saudi-Iranian Relations, A Conversation with Dr. Andrew Scott Cooper

The relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran has often been referred to as a regional Cold War. Their open hostility significantly increased as a result of the recent execution of Shi’a cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. With this tension in mind, the AIC and Marymount Manhattan College will feature a discussion with Dr. David Ottaway to explore the sources of the conflict and the prospects for reconciliation.

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Iran Digest: Week of January 29-February 5, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of January 29-February 5, 2016

House passes bill again to restrict Obama lifting Iran sanctions

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation on Tuesday that would restrict President Barack Obama's ability to lift sanctions under the international nuclear deal with Iran, nearly three weeks after a similar vote was canceled.

House members voted 246-181 to pass the "Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act," almost entirely along party lines, with almost every "yes" vote coming from Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed to it.

The legislation is not expected to become law, even though Republicans control both the House and Senate. Even if it were passed by the Senate, Obama has promised a veto, saying the measure would kill the landmark nuclear agreement.

The House narrowly passed the legislation last month, but the vote was voided after nearly a third of the chamber showed up too late to cast their votes. (Reuters)

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Amb. Thomas Pickering says Saudi Arabia and Iran are Essential Players in solving the Syrian Crisis

Amb. Thomas Pickering says Saudi Arabia and Iran are Essential Players in solving the Syrian Crisis

"US-Russian coordination [in solving the Syrian crisis] is essential, but it's insufficient without other players — Iran, Saudi Arabia… Also it cannot be solved without Syrians themselves, without discussion between Syrians on a transitional government," Pickering said at a conference on Russia-US ties in Moscow.

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Amb. Richard Murphy discusses importance of Rouhani's trips to Italy and France

Amb. Richard Murphy discusses importance of Rouhani's trips to Italy and France

Richard W. Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia, is of the opinion that the visits to Italy and France by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are not intended to show “partiality to the West versus the East”. 

“It will be no surprise if his future travels include Russia and China,” Murphy tells the Tehran Times. 

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Iran Digest: Week of January 22-29, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of January 22-29, 2016

Iran in talks to renew direct flights to US

Iran is hoping to renew direct flights from Iran to the US, the head of Iran Air said Sunday. “Iran Civil Aviation Organization is conducting talks on direct flights between Iran and the US,” Farhad Parvaresh, Chairman and Managing Director of Iran Air, said, according to Iran’s Mehr news agency. He added that “daily flights to New York used to take place before the Islamic Revolution and they will hopefully get resumed in near future.”

Referring to Iran’s recent purchase of 114 Airbus jets to upgrade and expand its ageing fleet, Parvaresh said talks with manufacturing companies had commenced when talks on a nuclear deal began. That deal was eventually sealed earlier this month and all nuclear sanctions were lifted by the UN, the EU and the US. (The Times of Israel)

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Iran Digest: Week of January 15-22, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of January 15-22, 2016

United States Begins Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program

The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).       

  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

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State Department Begins Implementing Discriminatory Visa Waiver Changes

State Department Begins Implementing Discriminatory Visa Waiver Changes

The United States Department of State just issued a memo announcing that implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program would begin today. The American Iranian Council has strongly opposed these changes in their current form on the grounds that they are both discriminatory and will not improve national security.

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State Department Memo on Visa Waiver Program

State Department Memo on Visa Waiver Program

The following is a memo issued by the US Department of State regarding the implementation of changes to the Visa Waiver Program.

For Immediate Release
MEDIA NOTE
January 21, 2016
United States Begins Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program
The United States today began implementing changes under the /Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015/ (the Act).  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

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Amirahmadi calls for a US consulate to be established in Iran

Amirahmadi calls for a US consulate to be established in Iran

AIC President Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi discussed the lifting of sanctions and the need for the US and Iran to improve relations, in an interview with Russia Today.

"Unfortunately, the 'honeymoon' between the US and Iran is going to end unless they move swiftly to normalize the relationship and discuss every other issue," Amirahmadi said. "The nuclear accord within the context of an abnormal relationship cannot be sustained much longer. Moreover, President Rouhani and Supreme Leader Khamenei have put all their eggs in Obama's basket, but he is only going to be around for another 11 months. The next president, whoever it is, is going to be very tough on Iran."

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Emad Kiyaei discusses Prisoner Swap on 'PBS Newshour'

Emad Kiyaei discusses Prisoner Swap on 'PBS Newshour'

AIC Executive Director Emad Kiyaei was interviewed about Implementation Day, the recent release of American sailors, and the prisoner swap between the US and Iran on PBS Newshour.

"This is a major breakthrough. It's a very good day for the Iranians and for the international community," Kiyaei said. "I hope that this nuclear deal, the prisoner exchange, and the swift release of the sailors is just one step toward opening up the relationship between the two countries on issues where they see eye-to-eye.

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Kayvon Afshari quoted by Reuters on Prisoner Exchange

Kayvon Afshari quoted by Reuters on Prisoner Exchange

AIC Director of Communications Kayvon Afshari was quoted in a recent Reuters article on the prisoner swap and other developments in US-Iran relations.

The American Iranian Council, which promotes better relationships between the U.S. and Iran, went further, praising the deals between Washington and Teheran as portending a turning point after 37 years of icy relations between the two countries, beginning with Iranian revolution of 1979.

"The prisoner exchange, Iran's dutiful implementation of its nuclear obligations, and the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions all herald a new era of US-Iran relations,” Kayvon Afshari, council spokesman, said in an email on Sunday

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BREAKING: IAEA Confirms Iran has met its Nuclear Obligations

BREAKING: IAEA Confirms Iran has met its Nuclear Obligations

On the heels of good news about a prisoner swap, today the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to begin implementation of the nuclear accord. The AIC welcomes “Implementation Day”, and will continue to support and push for dutiful implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by both the US and Iran. Specifically, the sanctions outlined in the JCPOA must be dutifully lifted, economic relations with Iran must be normalized, and Iran’s relationship with the IAEA must be normalized

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BREAKING STORY: Jason Rezaian and others to be Released in Prisoner Swap

BREAKING STORY: Jason Rezaian and others to be Released in Prisoner Swap

The American Iranian Council welcomes the announcement of a pending prisoner swap between the United States and Iran, set to free detained Iranian-Americans Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsari in exchange for seven Iranians being held by the US on sanctions violations. Fars News reported that the Iranians due to be released include Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosro Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golastaneh, and Ali Sabonchi. While these long detainments should not have occurred in the first place, the reciprocal pardons are a significant step and a validation of diplomacy’s efficacy

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Iran Digest: Week of January 8-15, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of January 8-15, 2016

Iran’s Swift Release of U.S. Sailors Hailed as a Sign of Warmer Relations

A crisis over the seizing of two American patrol boats in the Persian Gulf was averted Wednesday when Iran returned the craft and released their crews as Pentagon officials struggled to explain how the boats had ended up near a major Iranian naval base.

Their quick release was hailed by the Obama administration as an unintended benefit of the new diplomatic relationship with Iran established by the nuclear accord negotiated between Tehran and the United States and five other nations in July. The accord is expected to go into effect next week, ending the oil and financial sanctions imposed on Iran over the past decade, and giving it access to around $100 billion in frozen funds.

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Kayvon Afshari Discusses the Visa Waiver Improvement Act ("H.R.158")

Kayvon Afshari Discusses the Visa Waiver Improvement Act ("H.R.158")

AIC Director of Communications Kayvon Afshari discussed the visa waiver issue ("HR158") on Brooklyn's BRIC TV, a newly-launched community television station in Brooklyn. He argued that the addition of Iran in the law is both discriminatory and fails to improve national security.

He elaborated on the reason that he is personally opposed to the law.

"Sometimes people say that this law just produces a small inconvenience, and that you should just apply for a visa. However, to me it's not about the inconvenience. I'm affronted by the implication of the law." he said. "And the implication is this: that I, because I am an Iranian-American dual citizen and have traveled to Iran, just may perhaps be a terrorist."

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Obama and the Middle East: Where’s the Strategy?

Obama and the Middle East: Where’s the Strategy?

Originally Published on LobeLog

By Amb. Robert E. Hunter
AIC Board Member
Former US Ambassador to NATO

This critique of the administration’s reluctance to lead and to demonstrate staying power—a matter of orientation as much as of specific policies—raises another key failure: the lack of any overarching strategy for the region as a whole. The United States has been dealing with different parts of the Middle East separately when it should be addressing the region as a whole. The Obama administration needs to engage in strategic thinking, not just problem-solving, which is the forte of lawyers. Such strategic thinking is in stunningly short supply.

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Iran Digest: Week of January 1-8, 2016

Iran Digest: Week of January 1-8, 2016

Iran claims Saudi airstrike hit its embassy in Yemen

A diplomatic crisis roiling the Middle East intensified Thursday as Iran claimed that a Saudi airstrike overnight hit its embassy in Yemen, a charge not supported by signs of damage but that nevertheless raised tensions between the rivals.

There was no visible evidence of harm to the embassy in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, which is held by Iranian-friendly rebels who have faced more than nine months of air raids from a Saudi-led military coalition.

But the accusation signaled dangerously heightened friction after Saudi Arabia and a number of fellow Sunni countries severed or downgraded diplomatic relations with Iran, a Shite-led theocracy, over the last week. The row threatened to intensify the rivals’ destructive proxy conflicts in the region, notably in Yemen. (The Washington Post)

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