Iran Digest: Week of October 2-9, 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 Communications Associates Alexander Benthem de Grave and Bradford Van Arnum.

US-Iran Relations

Iran's supreme leader bans negotiations with the United States


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday banned any further negotiations between Iran and the United States, putting the brakes on moderates hoping to end Iran's isolation after reaching a nuclear deal with world powers in July.

Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, already said last month there would be no more talks with the United States after the nuclear deal, but has not previously declared an outright ban.

His statements directly contradict those of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who says his government is ready to hold talks with the United States on how to resolve the conflict in Syria, where the two countries back opposing sides.

"Negotiations with the United States open gates to their economic, cultural, political and security influence. Even during the nuclear negotiations they tried to harm our national interests.," Khamenei was quoted as saying on his website. (Reuters)

Regional Politics

US Officials: Russian Missiles Aimed at Syria Crashed in Iran

As many as four Russian long-range cruise missiles launched from warships in the Caspian Sea fell short of their Syrian targets and crashed in Iran, U.S officials said Thursday.

The officials gave no information about exactly where the errant missiles might have landed or whether they caused any damage.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied that any missiles went awry. Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that "all rockets fired from ships found their targets, however unpleasant and unexpected it may be for the Pentagon and Langley" — a reference to Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Russian officials said 26 cruise missiles had been launched at 11 Islamic State targets, which were destroyed without causing any civilian casualties. (Voice of America)

Promoting Trade Ties with Neighbors among Iran's Top Priorities: Deputy FM


Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ebrahim Rahimpour reiterated that boosting economic relations with neighboring countries is one of the main priorities of the Islamic Republic.

Speaking in a meeting in Anzali Free Zone in northern Iran with ambassadors of Russia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Tehran, Rahimpour made assurances that the Islamic Republic’s relations with other nations, neighbors in particular, will witness “positive and dramatic changes” in the near future.

“Enhancement of trade and economic exchanges with neighboring countries is among the main priorities of the (Iranian) government,” he stressed. Rahimpour further described the Caspian Sea as “the sea of peace and friendship” and said the high security of the sea can guarantee an increase in trade ties between the littoral states. (Tasnim News Agency)

International Trade

Japan to boost business partnership with Iran

Japan’s FM Fumio Kishida will visit Iran next week to pave the way for Japanese investors to participate in Iran’s market after sanctions are lifted.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida heading a high-ranking political-economic delegation is scheduled to visit Iran next Monday to set up a bilateral committee to deal with energy and infrastructure development and other economic issues.

The moves by Japan come as the government plans to keep in step with the US and Europe in lifting economic sanctions on Iran after the nuclear accord reached in July between Iran and the 5+1 group of countries.  

According to Japanese officials, Japan is hoping that such measures would make it easier for more Japanese firms to operate in oil-rich Iran and eventually lead to increased auto exports and participation in Iranian oil field development. (Mehr News Agency)

Banks Absent From UK Trade Trip to Iran Amid Sanctions Concerns

Major British and European banks want greater clarity on how sanctions on Iran will be lifted before they investigate openings in the country, the head of a recent UK delegation to the Islamic Republic said.

Twenty-five British companies were in Tehran this week on a trip organised by the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. But leading banks weren’t among them, Richard Dalton, a former UK ambassador to Iran and chamber president, said in an interview in Tehran. Nor were oil majors BP and Shell, he said, though both have said they’ve visited Iran in recent months.

“British second-tier banks are exploring opportunities in Iran,” Dalton said. But UK “and European first-tier banks are waiting for greater clarity from the United States about the impact of the banking boycott and how that’s going to be wound down.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Inside Iran

Iranians can buy from Amazon, eBay

Iranians can now make online shopping from major retailers Amazon and eBay through a delivery channel established by the Iran Post Company, its managing director says.

“From now on, Iranian citizens can directly buy from Amazon and eBay international retail sites (abroad) and receive their goods in Iran,” Hossein Mehri said Wednesday, quoted by the Fars news agency.

“In our cooperation with eBay and Amazon, an intermediary company has been selected because of sanctions in order to change the dollar into the rial which will also receive post and customs expenses,” he added.

Mehri said Iran Post Company has also started negotiations with post service providers, courier companies and online retailers such as Digikala, Iran’s biggest online store, to deliver packages. He hoped the arrangements would also make package deliveries from Iran to foreign countries possible, Fars reported. (PressTV)

World's biggest tour group investing in Iran

Germany’s TUI Group, the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world, is interested in investment in Iran which is being billed as the most lucrative hospitality development market.

Preliminary negotiations have been held for the multinational tour operator to enter Iran and make investments, minister of economic affairs, labor and transport for the federal state of Lower Saxony Olaf Lies told Press TV.

He is leading a delegation of 100 German politicians and traders on a four-day visit to Iran in what he described as a “big event” at a press meeting in Tehran Tuesday.

The visit comes right on the heels of German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel who traveled to Iran in July at the head of a high-profile delegation of state officials and representatives of Daimler, Siemens, Linde, BASF, GIZ and others. (PressTV)

How Iran's beleaguered reformist party has been reincarnated once again

The Islamic Iranian National Alliance party, the first reformist party permitted to form since the disputed 2009 presidential election, has its eyes on February’s parliamentary election.

“We are ready to cooperate with moderate and wise conservatives and form a joint front against those who are after sectarian rather than national interests,” Hossein Naghashi, a member of the National Alliance’s central committee, told Tehran Bureau.

Naghashi said the party had not yet picked candidates for February. But he argued the watchdog Guardian Council, which has disqualified thousands of reformist candidates from parliamentary and council elections over the past decade, should act “as a regulatory body” and be unbiased. “In our view any approach that could damage the political and basic freedoms of citizens, including setting restrictions on selecting [the candidates], is against the constitution.” (The Guardian)


Iran could be a surprising American ally as chaos grows in Syria

By Joe Klein

Let’s begin with the obvious: There are no easy answers in the Middle East. We should know that by now. We’ve had plenty of experience. And so reasonably informed citizens should hold onto their wallets, and their votes, when politicians (and columnists) make stark declarative statements about the region. The truth is, there hasn’t been a successful act of outside military intervention in the Middle East since George H.W. Bush’s stringent Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which was carried out with robust Arab support—and the subsequent no-fly zones that limited Saddam Hussein’s power in Iraq.

So when assorted Republicans—including almost all the GOP presidential candidates—say that Vladimir Putin is “eating Obama’s lunch in Syria,” it is safe to assume they are wrong. Indeed, the President is probably right that Putin, the desperate presider over a collapsing economy, is wading into “a quagmire” there, a last-ditch attempt to save Bashar Assad’s regime that will inflame the Saudis and end disastrously. But since this is the Middle East, the President doesn’t have it completely right, either. The Russian quagmire is our own. We’re stuck in Syria too—stuck between our national-security interest, which is the defeat of ISIS, even if it means keeping Assad in power, and the interest of our putative allies, the Saudis, who vehemently oppose Assad.

Read the full article.