Iran Digest: Week of June 12-19, 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 AIC Outreach Coordinator Kayvan Vakili and Communications Associate Alexander Benthem de Grave.


Neighboring countries and some of our own provinces are the cause of dust pollution in Iran: official

Ziaudin Shoayee, head of Iran’s national plan to fight dust pollution, said that Iran is exposed to two different sources of dust storms: an internal and an external one, the IRNA reported. Shoayee voiced his concerns during an exclusive interview aired on Thursday on channel two of state TV.

During the interview Shoayee blamed neighboring countries for the external sources while seven provinces including: Khuzestan, Ilam, Hormozgan, Sistan and Balochestan are to blame for the internal ones.

He attributed poor management on the one hand, and natural events on the other for Iran’s failure in dealing with dust pollution. (Tehran Times)

$90.8 million allocated to anti-deforestation projects in Iran

An official at the Department of Environment announced that 3,000 billion rials (about $90.8 million) were allocated to anti-desertification projects including: growing soil, stabilizing trees, erosion control and revival of lagoons, the Mehr news agency reported on Saturday.

According to Motasedi, the Department of Environment, the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization and the ministries of Agriculture and Energy are jointly executing some programs under the Supreme Council of Environment to fight the dust problem and try to bring it under control.

Motasedi argued that patience was needed in order to tackle the problem. He said: “several meetings were held with Iraqi officials and two memorandums of understanding have been signed in this regard.” (Tehran Times)

Nuclear Deal

Iran nuclear deal: Will Tehran be able to protect its secrets?

On the grounds of Tehran’s expansive new military museum, the mangled wreckage of four cars torn apart by assassins’ bombs are enclosed in glass, to honor Iran’s “nuclear martyr” scientists killed from 2010 to 2012.

Those scientists’ deaths were part of a years-long covert war waged by the US and Israel to slow Iran’s nuclear program that included computer viruses and sabotage. And they are one reason Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says he is ruling out inspections of military sites and access to nuclear scientists.

The deal would open Iran’s nuclear program to scrutiny like never before, according to a framework agreed to in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2. The scale and depth of that opening for UN inspectors – and its potential exploitation by intelligence agencies, analysts say – remain key sticking points at the negotiating table. (CS Monitor)

U.S. may name ‘czar’ for Iran nuclear deal

The Obama administration is considering appointing a “czar”-like official to oversee the enforcement of a nuclear deal with Iran, one of several options it is weighing to ensure the still-unfinished accord doesn’t unravel, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

It’s an idea that some argue is smart — even crucial — because of the multiple agencies, countries and international bodies that will be involved in the deal. People familiar with an earlier nuclear agreement with North Korea say having had such a position then would have helped, at least for a while, keep that doomed deal on track. (Politico)

Domestic Politics

Are reformists, Rouhani heading for split?

Without the Reformists’ support, Mr. Rouhani would have gotten less than 2 million votes,” said Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at the University of Tehran, speaking on May 5 about the June 2013 presidential elections.

Zibakalam played an active role in Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign and was even featured in a television documentary encouraging people to vote for Rouhani. The push by Reformists during the last few days leading up to the elections resulted in Rouhani getting more than 50% of the votes in the first round. Perhaps the most important of these developments was when, after pressure from the Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, Mohammad-Reza Aref (the Reformist candidate) withdrew from the race in favor of Rouhani. (Al Monitor)

Iran's next parliamentary elections 'could be on par with Turkey'

President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May.

“No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.”

Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament). The president suggested he would resist attempts by far-right, fundamentalist elements to improperly leverage money, influence, or advertising in order to influence voters. (The Guardian)

Regional Politics

For Saudis, assertive posture is answer to aggressive Iran, cautious U.S.

Saudi Arabia, concerned by the looming nuclear deal between Iran and international powers, is charting a new and unusually robust course aimed at checking what it sees as the Islamic Republic’s expansion of influence across the Middle East.

The recent Saudi assertiveness, under Saudi Arabia’s new monarch, King Salman, is also a reflection of discontent with what it sees as the cautious approach of the United States to multiple crises roiling the Middle East, particularly in Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s “read” on the Middle East and Iran strengthens the impression that the US and one of its most important allies are out of step at a pivotal moment for the region, with increasingly diverging agendas. (CS Monitor)

Inside Iran

The fight in Iran about women in the stands

There’s a very big game in Tehran on Friday: Iran versus the United States of America in the 2015 World League volleyball competition that eventually will determine the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball’s world champion. Even though it’ll be men against men, it’s a sport that attracts a lot of women competitors and a lot of women fans in Iran. So it’s unfortunate that women and girls may be shut out of the stadium all together … again.

The usual arguments have been reignited, with fans calling for their rights to be upheld and hardliners warning that Islamic values are at risk. But this time around the conservative opposition has made some truly outlandish claims. Letting women into sports stadiums, they claim, promotes prostitution. (The Daily Beast)

Iran state TV gives rare airtime to opposition figure

Iranian state television, controlled by conservatives in the Islamic regime, has taken the rare step of giving airtime to a high-ranking member of a silenced reformist opposition leader's party.

Javad Haghshenas was a founding member of Etemad Melli (National Confidence), the party led by Mehdi Karroubi, a former parliament speaker held under house arrest since February 2011 for disputing the result of a presidential election two years earlier.

Karroubi, a candidate, and Hossein Moussavi, a fellow reformist who declared he had won the ballot and who is also under house arrest, are denounced by hardliners as seditionists who tried to fell the regime.

The contested poll result gave birth to the country's so-called Green Movement, but incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardline conservative, was officially declared the winner. (The Daily Star)

Iran matchmaking site: Why Tehran is getting into the online dating business

In Iran, where religious officials encourage early marriage, and long-term dating relationships frustrate clerics and officials, matchmaking is not personal – it's a matter of state.

In a bid to encourage millions of Iranian singles to marry and increase a low population growth rate, Iran on Monday launched its first official matchmaking website.

"We face a family crisis in Iran," Mahmoud Golzari, a deputy minister of youth affairs and sports, told reporters in a ceremony launching in Tehran. "There are many people who are single, and when that happens it means no families and no children," he said. (CS Monitor)


Examining the future of Indian-Iranian relations

By C. Raja Mohan

As the NDA government devotes some attention to high-level political engagement with the Middle East, Iran offers one of the greatest strategic possibilities. But in realising that opportunity, New Delhi will have to negotiate a number of obstacles. The recent visits to Tehran by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar are part of that effort. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to follow soon.

As Tehran and Washington inch towards a nuclear deal, which will begin to ease nearly four decades of hostility between them, there will be much room for expansive engagement between India and Iran. Although the prospect of a nuclear reconciliation appears so close and tantalising, we are not there yet. That casts a shadow over Delhi’s diplomacy towards Tehran.

Read the full report.