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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Iran Digest Week of February 17 - 24

Iran Digest Week of February 17 - 24

Iran Army Chief Threatens to Give U.S. 'Slap in the Face' After Donald Trump Puts Tehran 'On Notice'

The US should expect a "strong slap in the face" if it underestimates Iran's defensive capabilities, a commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards has warned.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump promised a tougher approach on Iran and warned the Islamic Republic it was playing with fire after its recent ballistic missile test.
"The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake," General Mohammad Pakpour said, in quotes reported on the Guards' website. (Independent)

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Asghar Farhadi, 'Salesman' director who protested travel ban, wins Oscar

Asghar Farhadi, 'Salesman' director who protested travel ban, wins Oscar

Originally posted on CNN
By Delaney Strunk

(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.

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Iran Digest Week of February 10 - 17

Iran Digest Week of February 10 - 17

In Escalating Conflict with Trump, Iran's Supreme Leader Says his Country is 'Not Afraid of Threats'

Escalating a war of words with President Trump, Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday that the Islamic Republic was "not afraid of threats" and vowed large anti-American protests beginning Friday.
The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks were his first since Trump attempted to bar Iranians from entering the United States and said he was putting Iran "on notice" after it tested a ballistic missile.
Meeting with military commanders, Khamenei said Trump's attempt to impose a travel ban against Iran and six other predominantly Muslim countries showed “the reality of American human rights.” (The Los Angeles Times)

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Entropy in Geopolitics

Entropy in Geopolitics

Originally published on The LobeLog
By, Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr, AIC Board Member

A hundred and fifty years ago, a German physicist derived the concept of “entropy” from the second law of thermodynamics.  Since then, entropy has stood for the idea that everything in the universe eventually moves from order to disorder, from structure to formlessness, and from predictability to uncertainty.  Entropy is the measurement of that change.  It is also the most fitting description of current trends in geopolitics and geoeconomics.

The strategic stabilities of the old order are all in various stages of decay.  Some in my country and abroad had come to view the United States as the next best thing to a world government and global policeman.  But, even before tweets replaced policy papers in Washington, this conception had become preposterous.  The established presumptions no longer operate.

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Iran Digest Week of February 3 - 10

Iran Digest Week of February 3 - 10

Defense, Intelligence Officials Caution White House on Terrorist Designation for Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Senior defense and intelligence officials have cautioned the White House that a proposal to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and the overall fight against the Islamic State, and would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions.
Defense and intelligence concerns have been expressed at the highest levels over the past several days, as the White House was preparing to roll out an executive order dealing with both Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Muslim Brotherhood, according to administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive matter.  (The Washington Post)

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Iran Digest Week of January 27 - February 3

Iran Digest Week of January 27 - February 3

Trump says "Nothing off the table" on Iran, as Republicans plan action

U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to impose new sanctions on multiple Iranian entities, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Tehran while crafting a broader strategy to counter what he sees as its destabilizing behavior, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
In the first tangible action against Iran since Trump took office on Jan. 20, the administration, on the same day he insisted that "nothing is off the table," prepared to roll out new measures against more than two dozen Iranian targets, the sources said. The announcement is expected as early as Friday, they added. (Reuters)

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The Limits of Sports Diplomacy in US-Iran Relations

The Limits of Sports Diplomacy in US-Iran Relations

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.  

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Amirahmadi Interview with Radio France (Persian Language)

Amirahmadi Interview with Radio France (Persian Language)

هوشنگ امیراحمدی استاد دانشگاه راتگرز آمریکا معتقد است که دونالد ترامپ و هیئت حاکمۀ جدید آمریکا قصد سازش با جمهوری اسلامی را ندارند و از هر فرصت و بهانه ایی که رهبران ایران در اختیار آنان بگذارند برای اعمال فشار بر حکومت این کشور استفاده می کنند. هوشنگ امیراحمدی همچنین می گوید : خطا است اگر رهبران تهران تصور کنند که دونالد ترامپ بلوف می زند. او می افزاید : خطر بسیار جدی است و رهبران ایران باید در پی راه حل حقیقی باشند...
دونالد ترامپ، رییس جمهوری آمریکا، در صفحۀ توئیترش نوشت که جمهوری اسلامی ایران با آتش بازی می کند و اینکه رهبران تهران متوجه نیستند که تا حد رییس جمهوری پیشین آمریکا، باراک اوباما، با آنان مهربان بوده است. دونالد ترامپ سپس تأکید کرده است که این "مهربانی" در قبال تهران شامل حال او نمی شود.
در پی هشدار رسمی دولت آمریکا علیه ایران پس از آزمایش اخیر موشکی این کشور، دونالد ترامپ به کارگیری گزینۀ نظامی را علیه حکومت اسلامی ایران منتفی ندانست.
هوشنگ امیراحمدی استاد دانشگاه راتگرز آمریکا معتقد است که دونالد ترامپ و هیئت حاکمۀ جدید آمریکا قصد سازش با جمهوری اسلامی را ندارند و از هر فرصت و بهانه ایی که رهبران ایران در اختیار آنان بگذارند برای اعمال فشار بر حکومت این کشور استفاده می کنند. هوشنگ امیراحمدی همچنین می گوید : خطا است اگر رهبران تهران تصور کنند که دونالد ترامپ بلوف می زند. او می افزاید : خطر بسیار جدی است و رهبران ایران باید در پی راه حل حقیقی باشند...

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Open Letter to the People of Iran

Open Letter to the People of Iran

If you support this message please add your signature by leaving a comment below the Persian translation of this letter.

Open Letter to the People of Iran:

We, the American People who disavow President Trump’s executive order denying you entry into our country, are writing to say that we stand with you.

We, who oppose this order, are American citizens of all backgrounds, races, religions and creeds.  We are old and young, rich and poor, and work in all professions.  We are government officials who are refusing to implement this order.  We are lawyers who are contesting this order in court.  We are journalists who are sharing the stories of those affected.  We are ordinary citizens protesting on the streets.  We are Americans who believe in democracy and the values enshrined in our Constitution, and we stand with you.

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Interview about President Trump's Immigration Ban with Harvard Law Lecturer, Ian Samuel

Interview about President Trump's Immigration Ban with Harvard Law Lecturer, Ian Samuel

Less than one week after President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, our latest Iran Chat is with Ian Samuel, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.  Ian previously served in the United States Department of Justice in the Office of the Solicitor General and on the appellate staff of the Civil Division.  Following his government service, Ian joined the appellate litigation practice at the law firm Jones Day. 

Our conversation covers the legal issues surrounding President Trump's executive order as well as Ian’s offer to personally provide legal services to any government employee who refuses to help implement this ban. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @isamuel, and subscribe to his podcast about the Supreme Court at firstmondays.fm/subscribe.

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Iran Digest Week of January 20 - 27

Iran Digest Week of January 20 - 27

US Senators Rubio, Young, Cornyn, Introduce Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act
In the first session of the new Congress, U.S. Republican Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Todd Young (R-IN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) reintroduced the Iran Non-nuclear Sanctions Act, a legislation that would impose harsh financial and economic sanctions countering Iran’s non-nuclear activities.
The hawkish GOP senators, who had introduced the same bill last December, slammed the Obama administration for not adopting adequate measures against Iran.
“I look forward to working with the new administration to hold Iran fully accountable for both its nonnuclear and nuclear threats,” Rubio said during the session, his official website reported on Tuesday. (Tehran Times)

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President Trump’s Ban On Immigration From Iran Is Heartbreaking And Against US National Interest

President Trump’s Ban On Immigration From Iran Is Heartbreaking And Against US National Interest

By Stephanie Lester, Director of Operations
Originally published on the Huffington Post 

Since the 1979 revolution, the US and Iranian governments have always had their differences, but US policy has generally focused on opposing the government of Iran; not the Iranian people. With yesterday’s new blanket ban on immigration from Iran (one of seven Muslim-majority countries targeted), President Trump is going well beyond US precedent and taking steps directly against Iran’s population.

Even if banning entire countries were an effective way to fight terrorism (which it is not), the inclusion of Iran in this ban is extremely hard to justify. While the list does not include the countries of origin for the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks, it includes Iran because its government is a state sponsor of terror; not because of the actions of its citizens. In fact, not a single Iranian national has committed an act of terror against the US homeland

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