Iran Digest: Week of September 25 - October 2, 2015

Iran Digest

AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Alexander Benthem de Grave and Bradford Van Arnum.

Nuclear Deal

Iranian’s U.N. Speech Appears to Favor Engagement

President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Monday in his United Nations speech that the nuclear agreement with major powers including the United States had helped create the basis for a broader engagement, in what appeared to be a difference — in tone, at least — with his own leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Addressing the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, Mr. Rouhani spent considerable time extolling the diplomatic success of the agreement. It will lift years of painful economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable guarantees that its nuclear activities remain peaceful. In what would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago, when Mr. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, emphasized what he viewed as the evils of the United States in his United Nations speeches, there were no shrill anti-American denunciations.

“From our point of view, the agreed-upon deal is not the final objective but a development which can and should be the basis of further achievements to come,” Mr. Rouhani said, according to the official English-language translation of his speech. (New York Times)

White House opposes bill to block implementation of the Iran nuclear deal

The House votes Thursday on a bill aimed at blocking implementation of the Iran nuclear deal until Tehran pays more than $43 billion in damages that U.S. courts have awarded to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror.

The White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama would veto the bill, saying that the Iran nuclear deal addresses only nuclear issues. It said the bill would result in the collapse of the international agreement aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The bill, written by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan, would prohibit the president from lifting sanctions on Iran until it pays the victims billions in compensation. "Not one cent has been paid by Iran toward those damages," Meehan said. (US News and World Report)

Regional Politics

Iran troops to join Syria war, Russia bombs group trained by CIA

Hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria to join a major ground offensive in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government, Lebanese sources said on Thursday, a sign the civil war is turning still more regional and global in scope.

Russian warplanes, in a second day of strikes, bombed a camp run by rebels trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the group's commander said, putting Moscow and Washington on opposing sides in a Middle East conflict for the first time since the Cold War.

Senior U.S. and Russian officials spoke for just over an hour by secure video conference on Thursday, focusing on ways to keep air crews safe, the Pentagon said, as the two militaries carry out parallel campaigns with competing objectives. (Reuters)

Iran criticizes Saudi Arabia over deaths of hundreds at Hajj pilgrimage

Three days after hundreds of people died in a stampede at the holiest Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj, Iran's Supreme Leader lashed out at host nation Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi rulers, instead of shunning (responsibility), must accept their responsibility in this grave incident by apologizing to the Muslim Ummah and bereft families," said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday,according to Iranian state-run Press TV.

At least 769 people were killed in a stampede in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, according to Saudi state-run SPA news agency. At least 934 people were injured.

Whereas many other nations have so far reacted to the tragedy with a more diplomatic and conciliatory tone, Iran, a bitter rival, has blasted Saudi Arabia. (CNN)

Inside Iran

Obama, Zarif handshake stirs controversy

President Barack Obama and Iran’s foreign minister shook hands when they ran into one another on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came upon Obama “accidentally” and the two shook hands, according to a report Tuesday by Iran’s official IRNA agency.

A White House official, speaking on grounds of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed Tuesday that “there was a brief interaction at the luncheon, where they shook hands.”

But Iranian hard-liners appeared bothered by the handshake. 

“The foreign minister [Zarif] has committed a very bad action and he has to apologize to the great Iranian nation,” Mansour Haghighatpour, a member of parliament’s committee on national security and foreign policy, told the semi-official Fars news agency. Others speculated whether the handshake signaled better ties. Maybe the “Islamic Republic intended to convey ... that we are ready to begin a new chapter” with Washington, said lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti. (The Daily Star)

Survey finds President Rouhani's popularity soaring among Iranians

The Iranian government has been far more effective than the American administration in galvanising public opinion in support of the nuclear agreement. According to a recent survey by, a Toronto-based polling company, for the University of Maryland, three in four Iranians support the nuclear agreement and give high marks to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for making it happen.

The deal has helped Rouhani consolidate his political standing, with 89% of Iranians expressing favourable attitudes toward him and 60% saying they want the president’s allies and supporters to win control of parliament in elections due in February. Much of this support, however, appears to rest on misperceptions about Iran’s commitments under the agreement and on unrealistic expectations about its likely economic benefits. (The Guardian)

Women in Iran Are Ready to Show They Mean Business

Iranian money manager Mona Hajialiasghar got her first big career break the same year the world took notice of her country’s nuclear ambitions.

Thirteen years after starting out as an asset manager in Tehran, she’s chief operating officer of Kardan Investment Bank, which oversees about $300 million invested in Iran. As her country edges toward an historic agreement that promises to plug it back into the global economy, she already sees more women joining her.

“The presence of women in Iran in the workplace and in higher education is much more serious now compared to when I first started,” said Hajialiasghar, 35, who has a master’s degree in business management from Iran’s all-female Alzahra University. “With younger women entering the market, firstly their numbers are much higher, but also their confidence is much higher.” (Bloomberg Business)


At UN, Rouhani says Iran nuke deal good for environment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented Iran’s green side – not just Islam, but environmental as well – to the United Nations on Saturday, stressing Tehran’s commitment to sustainability during the United Nations Summit for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Environmental problems have taught us humans living on planet earth that we are all in the same boat,” Rouhani stressed in prepared remarks before the summit.

Rouhani, who is expected to discuss the recent nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran during his speech next Monday at the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate, argued Saturday that the deal itself was beneficial to the environment.

“The process of the past two years and the ensuing nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 has created suitable conditions for regional and international cooperation, including in the field of environmental preservation,” he asserted. (Times of Israel)

Iran’s water import bill under consideration in Defense Ministry, Expediency Council


The Ministry of Defense and the Expediency Council are among the governmental bodies to which a bill to import water from neighboring countries has been sent, said Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Energy Commission Ali Marvi.

Speaking in a conference with lawmakers, water management officials, and agriculture and industry representatives on the sidelines of the 11th International Water and Wastewater Exhibition of Iran, Marvi said importing water is one of the ideas under consideration to make up for water shortage in the country, Trend correspondent reported from Tehran Sept. 28.

“There are three proposals: one is to import water from Tajikistan, the other is to import water from the Caspian Sea, and the last and strongest proposal is to import water from the Gulf of Oman, where 21 provinces would be watered from that source,” he said, adding that expert views are yet awaited to choose the best idea. (Trend News Agency)


Why Iran’s Bellicose Foreign Policy Is Unlikely to Change

By Sven-Eric Fikenscher

As the deadline for Congressional action against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran has passed on September 17, the agreement is finally about to be implemented. Some supporters of the deal have argued that in the absence of a stalemate over Tehran’s nuclear activities, the West can now engage Iran to stabilize the Middle East, most notably with regards to rolling back the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). John Kerry fueled these hopes when he said that Iranian foreign minister Zarif had told him that thanks to the deal he would be “empowered to work with and talk to you about regional issues.” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, even voiced hope that time might be ripe for an entirely new “regional framework […] based on cooperation rather than confrontation.”

Read the full article.