Iran Digest: Week of November 20-27, 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 Associate Alexander Benthem de Grave and Research Associate Bradford Van Arnum.

Regional Politics

Putin is visiting Iran for the first time in 8 years - and promising to export nuclear equipment to the country

Russian President Vladimir Putin has eased an export ban on nuclear equipment and technology to Iran, a Kremlin decree published on Monday showed, according to Reuters.

Russia was one of the six world powers that signed a landmark agreement with Iran this past Julyaimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The Russian decree, issued on the same day asPutin arrived in Iran on an official visit, said Russian firms were now authorized to export hardware and to provide financial and technical advice to assist Iran in three specific areas of the country's infrastructure. (Business Insider)

Zarif offers framework for Syria solution

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed a framework for the resolution of the Syrian conflict mainly based on the non-interference of foreign players in Syrian internal affairs.

In an op-ed published in Lebanese daily As-Safir, Zarif pointed to recent developments as well as the two rounds of talks on the Syrian crisis in the Austrian capital of Vienna and said glimmers of hope have emerged for an end to “one of the greatest human catastrophes in the contemporary era.”

Such a prospect, he wrote, necessitates that attention be paid to a framework through which the Islamic Republic believes a potential solution to the Syrian conflict is possible.

He said Iran’s view of such a solution has always been based on three principles, namely respecting the Syrian nation’s demands and right to determine their future, opposition to foreign interference in Syrian affairs and negating the idea of exploiting terrorism as a tool for political means. (PressTV)

Iran picks new battle against Islamic State with state-commissioned film

At a dusty compound in Robat Karim, a town just outside Tehran, a thickly-bearded commander in military fatigues gives a rousing speech in Arabic to a group of armed young men ready for martyrdom. The black flag of the Islamic State (Isis) flutters in the background.

Suddenly, from among a crowd of onlookers, a man yells in Farsi: “Cut! If you say it right once, it’s a wrap. If not, we’ll be re-doing this a hundred times!”

This is the set of Songs of My Homeland, a film commissioned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and set for release in the coming weeks. IRIB is touting the film as a groundbreaking counter to Isis propaganda.

The target audience lies outside Iran. The dialogue is completely in Arabic and features mostly Lebanese, Egyptian and Syrian actors, although it will be dubbed in Farsi for Iranian moviegoers. Zeynab Mughniyeh, sister of the late Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, has a speaking role. (The Guardian)

Women of Iran

Women attending a must for 2016 volleyball

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) can and should use its leverage with Iran to seek an end to the discriminatory ban on women and girls attending volleyball matches in Iran, Human Rights Watch said, after a meeting with the FIVB in Lausanne.

In October, the FIVB awarded Iran a February 2016 beach volleyball World Tour tournament, a first for the country. Iran will also host the June 2016 World League tournament—two opportunities to allow women to attend.

“The FIVB says it is committed to gender equality, but so far their policies haven’t worked —only men could buy tickets for their tournament in Iran last June, and hardliners threatened women,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives. “The FIVB can and should make sure it is not cost-free for Iran if it keeps excluding women.” (Human Rights Watch)

Iran: 87% of women are economically inactive

Almost 87 percent of Iranian women are economically inactive, announced Vahideh Negin, advisor on women’s affairs to the Iranian regime's Labor Minister. Her remarks were reported by the website of the NCRI Women’s Committee.

On the anniversary of the adoption of the Labor Law in Iran, in an interview with the state-run news agency ILNA on November 20 Vahideh Negin said there is only 13% of Iranian women’s economic participation and “half of them are employed in the unofficial business sector.”

Negin said, “If we presume that half of the country’s active work force are women, that is 32 million, we will come up with 28 million economically inactive people.” (NCRI)

Nuclear Accord

World powers to help Iran redesign reactor as part of nuclear deal

Six world powers will help Iran redesign its Arak heavy water reactor so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, according to a document released by the state news agency IRNA on Saturday.

The document was signed separately on Nov. 13, 17 and 18 by the foreign ministers of Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany) as well as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. It became effective on the date it was signed by all states.

The fate of the Arak reactor in central Iran was one of the toughest sticking points in the long nuclear negotiations that led to an agreement in July. Removing the core of the heavy water reactor to produce less plutonium is a crucial step before the relief from sanctions starts. (Reuters)

Iran expects nuclear deal to be implemented in early January

Iran expects a deal it reached with world powers in July, under which sanctions will be lifted in return for it scaling down its nuclear program, to be implemented at the start of next year, Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday.

"We expect early January," Araqchi told reporters after meeting the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is tasked with verifying whether Iran is keeping its commitments under the deal.

Iran is holding parliamentary elections on Feb. 26 and diplomats say Tehran has been working hard to fulfill its commitments under the nuclear deal before that date.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani won by a landslide in 2013, promising a rapprochement with the West and an economic revival based on sanctions' relief. (Reuters)

Inside Iran

Iran offers huge economic potential. Can it deliver?

It's been described as the Germany of the Middle East, with nearly 80 million people, an educated workforce, and a proud tradition of manufacturing.

Throw in the world's largest oil and gas reserves, and it's easy to see why investors and international companies are getting very excited about Iran.

After years of economic isolation, the prospect of the world's last major frontier market opening up in 2016 -- assuming sanctions are lifted as planned -- has many executives already beating a path to Tehran.

But it's been an extremely painful time for Iranians -- average incomes have fallen by more than $2,000 since 2011, and Iran now produces just half the economic output of Turkey with roughly the same population. Closing that gap should mean opportunities abound. (CNN Money)

Migrant crisis: 'Iranians' sew lips shut in border protest

Migrants stuck on the border between Greece and Macedonia sewed their lips together to protest against not being allowed to continue their journey.

About six men, apparently from Iran, stripped down during the demonstration near the village of Eidomeni.

Hundreds of migrants have been protesting after Macedonia limited passage to only those fleeing conflict. Europe's border controls have come under renewed scrutiny since the attacks in Paris on 13 November.

Balkan countries said last week they would only open their borders to people fleeing countries affected by war such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (BBC)


Russia and Iran: an uneasy alliance

By Mehrdad Farahmand

Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran this week has been greeted with much enthusiasm in official circles.

There has been warm praise for his decision to head straight from the airport to a meeting with Iran's Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

And the encounter apparently went so well that Iran's veteran former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati was moved to describe it as "the best and the most important in the whole history of the Islamic Republic".

Although few details have emerged of what was said between the two, the Iranian media has widely quoted a comment attributed to Mr Putin, assuring the Ayatollah that "Unlike some others, we never stab our allies in the back".

Read the full article.