Iran Digest: Week of June 19-26, 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.

Nuclear Deal

US, Allies Ready To Offer Nuclear Equipment To Iran In Exchange For Limits On Weapons Program: Report

The United States and other Western nations attempting to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran are willing to offer the latter state-of-the-art nuclear equipment, including high-tech reactors, if it agrees to pare down its program to develop nuclear weapons, the Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday, citing a “confidential document.”

The document, which AP reported is part of the main text of the agreement to be finalized by June 30, promises Iran a supply of light-water nuclear reactors instead of the heavy-water facility that is currently under construction near Arak in western Iran. In order to produce weapons-grade plutonium using a light-water reactor, greater quantities of fissile material are needed. (International Business Times)

U.S. lawmakers lay down 'red lines' on Iran nuclear deal

As talks on an Iran nuclear deal enter the final stretch, U.S. lawmakers are sharpening warnings against a "weak" agreement and laying down red lines that, if crossed, could prompt Congress to trip up a carefully crafted international pact.

Several influential lawmakers said they do not want to see any sanctions lifted before Tehran begins complying with a deal, and want a tough verification regime, in which inspectors could visit Iranian facilities anytime and anywhere.

They also want Tehran to reveal past military dimensions of its nuclear program, particularly after Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to soften the U.S. stance last week, by saying Iran would not be pressed on this point. (Reuters)

Iran's supreme leader, Khamenei, seems to pull back on nuclear talks

With exactly a week left before the deadline for a final agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, the country’s supreme leader appeared to undercut several of the central agreements his negotiators have already reached with the West.

In a speech broadcast live on Iran state television, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, demanded that most sanctions be lifted before Tehran has dismantled part of its nuclear infrastructure and before international inspectors verify that the country is beginning to meet its commitments. He also ruled out any freeze on Iran’s sensitive nuclear enrichment for as long as a decade, as a preliminary understanding announced in April stipulates, and he repeated his refusal to allow inspections of Iranian military sites. (New York Times)


Iran to build hybrid electric cars

Iran Khodro has signed an agreement with two local universities to produce hybrid and electric cars, with the first models expected to roll down the production line in the next three years.

The Middle East's leading automaker inked a memorandum of understanding with Iran's prestigious Sharif and Amir Kabir Universities of Technology for design and production of the country's first hybrid electric cars.

Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said the government was preparing a support package to promote such cars as part of a long-term fuel economy plan.

"This package is a prerequisite to the promotion of hybrid and electric cars in Iran because such automobiles must be produced and presented to the market for customers to buy them," he said during the signing ceremony. (PressTV)

Iran says GEF not paying $26M environment aid

Head of Iran's Environment Protection Organization Masoumeh Ebtekar said the Global Environment Fund (GEF) has suspended an aid package of $26 million to the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian official said the GEF has done so under pressure by Western countries, IRIB news agency reported June 23.

Pointing out that Western sanctions on Iran have even impacted the environment sector, she said that the GEF has so far settled only $4.2 million of a $30 million help that was to empower Iran to carry out environmental projects. (AzerNews)

10 Iranian provinces face severe water shortages

An official at Iran’s Water Resources Management Company claimed that 10 Iranian provinces including Ilam, South Khorasan, Khuzestan, Zanjan, Sistan and Balochestan, Qazvin, Kerman, Kermanshah, Yazd, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad are facing severe water shortages.

Reza Raei Ezabadi said that an additional 17 provinces are facing a similar problem; four of them, including Bushehr, Fars, Golestan and Hormozgan are challenged by water scarcity.

Ezabadi said that 23 out of the 31 provinces in Iran have experienced a significant decrease in precipitations compared to last year, adding that Hormozgan, Sistan and Balochestan, Khuzestan and Ilam provinces are the worst affected. (Tehran Times)

Regional Politics

Iran’s forces and US share a base in Iraq

The U.S. military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are getting closer and closer in Iraq, even sharing a base, while Iran uses those militias to expand its influence in Iraq and fight alongside the Bashar al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.

Two senior administration officials confirmed to us that U.S. soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both using the Taqqadum military base in Anbar, the same Iraqi base where President Obama is sending an additional 450 U.S. military personnel to help train the local forces fighting against the Islamic State. Some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past. (BloombergView)

Iran linking Iraq with Silk Road

Iran and Iraq have agreed to connect their railways, opening a new route to link with the much-coveted Silk Road.

Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi travelled to Basra on Thursday to begin construction of a railway track to connect the Iraqi city with Iran’s Khorramshahr.

Iran has finished the line on its territory for a length of 12 kilometers from Khoramshahr to Shalamcheh on the border, with 32 km of the track left to Iraq to complete.

With the completion of the track between Shalamcheh and Basra, Iran will hook up with the eastern Mediterranean nations. For Iraq, the route will provide an access to the Central Asia, Russia and China. (PressTV)

Inside Iran

US universities on symbolic visit to Iran

A group of senior United States university representatives has visited Iran, in what is believed to be the biggest academic delegation since the 1970s. As relations between the two countries begin to thaw, the delegation met representatives of 13 Iranian universities and research institutes.

The symbolic visit revives what were once strong academic links. Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran was the biggest source of overseas students in the US. There are now about 11,000 Iranian students in the US - compared with 270,000 from China - and it is believed that there are no students at all from US universities on exchanges to Iran. (BBC)

Hoteliers await Iran boom as nuclear deal nears

Hoteliers are eyeing Iran in the run up to a nuclear agreement on June 30, which will see the lifting of sanctions from six nations in exchange for Iran reducing its uranium enrichment capacity.

A lifting of sanctions would pave the way for hotel operators from the aforementioned countries to sign management agreements in Iran.

Christophe Landais, managing director Accor Middle East told Hotelier: “We have been keeping an eye on Iran for many years. It’s a large, 85 million market with an underdeveloped hospitality market and we can certainly develop all of our brands there. (Hotelier Middle East)


The day after a nuclear deal: How will Iranian politics change?

By Hooman Majd

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani may soon discover that negotiating a nuclear deal was the easy part of his job. He is likely to have a much more difficult time in office—with pressure from his opponents and his supporters—once the initial euphoria of a deal passes. Not only will he have to show that the nuclear deal does indeed better the lives of ordinary Iranians by drastically improving the economy, he will no longer have the excuse of the nuclear deal in delaying his other campaign promises. And he will still have his hardline opponents, even less willing to grant him another popular achievement, nipping at his heels on every issue, particularly any issue that relates to a loosening of social restrictions and building a new relationship with the U.S. in the aftermath of a deal.

Read the full article.