Iran Digest: Week of November 27 - December 4, 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

Iran Asks UAE Not to Use 'Iranophobia' to Justify Yemen Atrocities

Iran has accused the United Arab Emirates of using “Iranophobia” to justify the bloodshed caused by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Mohammed Gargash earlier said that the Yemen operation by the coalition meant to send “a strong message” to the Islamic republic that the Arab world's stance was unified about the issue.

“There should not be a long transition period depriving Yemen of access to funds needed for development under a temporary political solution,” Khaleej Times quoted Gargash as saying. “A prolonged political solution would be used by Daesh (ISIS) and Al Qaida, as they take advantage of any political vacuum, and this is exactly what happened in Syria, Libya and Iraq.” (International Business Times)

Iran warns against Syria talks violating Vienna agreement

A senior Iranian official has warned against any meetings outside the provisions of the recent agreement reached in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on the crisis in Syria.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday night that any "sideline talks" on the Syrian crisis in Saudi Arabia or Jordan constitute a violation of the Vienna agreement. He further noted that such moves will only derail the political attempts meant to solve the Syrian conflict.

Amir-Abdollahian also stressed the need to abstain from hasty measures on Syria, stating that Vienna negotiations present an opportunity to combat terrorism and pursue a political process for the Syrian crisis. He said some parties are trying to undermine this diplomatic endeavor through actions not included in Vienna accord. (PressTV)

Women of Iran

100 Women 2015: Iranian women's fight for freedom

Iran is better known for its religious conservatism than its history of women's rights. But although it might not be obvious to outsiders, the feminist movement in the country has a rich and varied history.

As well as having the right to vote, many women are members of parliament in Iran. Unlike Saudi women they are allowed to drive. They also work and participate in economic life. Most significantly, women make up more than 70% of students in Iran.

But these freedoms were not achieved without the struggle and sacrifice of many extraordinary women. It is often said that education holds the key to freedom, something understood by early Iranian feminists like Bibi Fatemeh Estarabadi. (BBC)

Iran orchestra barred over women musicians

A high-profile performance in Iran by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was cancelled at the last minute because it was due to feature female musicians, it’s furious conductor said on Sunday. Ali Rahbari said he was told 15 minutes before the orchestra was scheduled to play at a major sporting event that they could not. 

 "The chairs were laid out and everything looked fine," he said, referring to the World Wrestling Clubs Cup competition which opened in the Iranian capital on Thursday. "But before performing the national anthem, all of a sudden they announced women cannot play on stage." Neither Rahbari or the ISNA news agency, which reported his comments, detailed who "they" were.

"I was offended and said it was impossible for me to accept such an insult," Rahbari added. "We either play all together or we leave". (Yahoo News)


Will thawing Iran's frozen assets help slow down climate change?

Iran is facing a major water crisis, widespread drought, hazardous air pollution in its main cities, dust storms and drying up of lakes and aquifers. In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, who heads the country’s Environmental Protection Organization, outlined her views on these challenges — and how to confront them.

Ebtekar was the first person who officially spoke about the negative impact of interferences with satellite TV signals on the health of Iranians. She believes that the environment was far from among the top priorities of the previous administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In this vein, Ebtekar argued that the revived focus on the environment following the election of President Hassan Rouhani has resulted in tangible efforts to combat Iran’s myriad environmental problems. She also said that one outcome of the latter has been successful engagement with international partners and enlistment of their assistance in confronting environmental degradation in Iran. (Al Monitor)

Nuclear Accord

Nuclear Agency Says Iran Worked on Weapons Design Until 2009

Iran was actively designing a nuclear weapon until 2009, more recently than the United States and other Western intelligence agencies have publicly acknowledged, according to a final report by the United Nations nuclear inspection agency.

The report, based on partial answers Iran provided after reaching its nuclear accord with the West in July, concluded that Tehran conducted “computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device” before 2004. It then resumed the efforts during President Bush’s second term and continued them into President Obama’s first year in office.

But while the International Atomic Energy Agency detailed a long list of experiments Iran had conducted that were “relevant to a nuclear explosive device,” it found no evidence that the effort succeeded in developing a complete blueprint for a bomb. (The New York Times)

International Trade

OPEC rift is prelude to Iran market return

OPEC's meeting this week is looking to be a showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but analysts expect Saudi Arabia to prevail and OPEC will not cut production.

As a result, oil prices could continue to head lower after the meeting winds down in Vienna Friday. Oil plunged nearly 5 percent Wednesday, with West Texas Intermediate futures settling at s six-year low of $39.94 per barrel, on growing U.S. supply and a variety of competing comments from OPEC members, both for and against production cuts.

"Iran has made it very clear they feel perfectly entitled to come back to market with as much oil as they can," said Chris Weafer, senior analyst and founding partner at Macro-Advisory. "They believe they're owed by OPEC because they were forced to take a million barrels out. They now want to bring as much of that back as they can. That's what I believe we're going to see very clear at OPEC." (CNBC)

Iran, Russia reject idea of joint oil output cuts with Saudi Arabia

Oil-producing countries looked unlikely to reach a deal to lift languishing prices at a meeting on Friday after Iran, Iraq and Russia swiftly rejected a surprise proposal that appeared to have been floated by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), was prepared to propose members cut oil output by 1 million barrels per day next year if non-OPEC countries joined in, industry publication Energy Intelligence reported.

A Saudi source said later the report was "baseless" but declined further comment and a source at Energy Intelligence said it stood by its story. Oil prices rose 3 percent on Thursday but analysts said a global deal would be hard to reach. (Reuters)

Inside Iran

Iranians tackle homelessness and hunger – one refrigerator at a time

Ali Heidari got in the car with his wife and nine-year-old son and drove to the Harandi neighbourhood in south Tehran, one of the main concentrations for homeless people in the Iranian capital. They were carrying 15 meals for the homeless. When they got there, Heidari was struck by what he saw.

“I couldn’t bear the disaster,” he says. “I walked to two people to put a food container next to them just to realise they were dead. I saw them dead with my own two eyes.”

After that incident Heidari went to his neighbours and friends asking for food for homeless people. “I told them, ‘In south Tehran some people are starving to death. Please help them. Give whatever you can. Even five small cheese sandwiches will do’. I told them I could come and collect the food and distribute it myself.”

That was almost six months ago, in May. Now it is not only Heidari and his family. Thousands of volunteers all over Iran are helping to eliminate homelessness through a group called Payane Kartonkhabi, ending homelessness, or more literally, ‘ending sleeping in cardboard boxes’. (The Guardian)


Leaving Iran’s Nuclear Past a Mystery

The Iranian nuclear crisis began a decade ago when Tehran’s leaders refused to answer questions from international inspectors about evidence that a secret team of scientists, working in a complex organization that sprawled across military and university laboratories, were experimenting with the technology to build a nuclear weapon.

Ten years of standoffs, sanctions, cyberattacks and negotiations followed.

Now, as the United States and its allies try to open a new chapter with Tehran — hoping to build on the deal reached in July limiting its production of nuclear fuel — the political environment is different. There is even talk of “coordination,” though not true cooperation, in fighting the Islamic State.

Yet as the final report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program made clear on Wednesday, Iran’s rulers are unwilling to give much more insight into evidence of their nuclear experimentation than they were before the historic nuclear deal was struck this summer. And for now at least, the Obama administration sees little need to force Tehran to provide answers to questions that, like the Bush administration before it, it once insisted could not remain unaddressed. (The New York Times)