Iran Digest: Week of June 26-July 3, 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

Diplomacy with Iran enjoys strong support from US public

By a 2-to-1 margin, more Americans support the United States and other world powers pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran than oppose it, according to new results from the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Thirty-six percent of respondents say they back the deal, which intends to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by increasing inspections into the country’s nuclear sites in exchange for reducing economic sanctions that are currently in place. By comparison, 17 percent oppose it. (MSNBC)

IAEA Chief heads to Iran as nuclear talks reach last stretch

The global nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday its chief would fly to Tehran to discuss one of the biggest sticking points that need to be resolved so that Iran and world powers can reach a breakthrough final nuclear deal by a new deadline of next week.

Iran and six world powers gave themselves an extra week on Tuesday to reach an accord that would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, after it became clear that a June 30 deadline would not be met. Despite the lapsed deadline, diplomats have given upbeat assessments of the prospects for a deal. (Reuters)

Confidential UN report positive on Iran nuclear commitments

Iran has met a key commitment under a preliminary nuclear deal setting up the current talks on a final agreement, leaving it with several tons less of the material it could use to make weapons, according to a U.N. report issued Wednesday.

Obtained by The Associated Press, the confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report said more than four tons of the enriched uranium had been fed into a pipeline that ends with conversion of it into oxide, which is much less likely to be used to make nuclear arms.

The report indicated that only several hundred pounds of the oxide that is the end product had been made. But a U.S. official told the AP the rest of the enriched uranium in the pipeline has been transformed into another form of the oxide that would be even more difficult to reconvert into enriched uranium. (New York Times)

Regional Politics

Ex-US envoy to Iraq says Iran playing 'unhelpful' role

A former U.S. ambassador to Iraq has accused Iran of playing an "unhelpful" and "very damaging" role in Iraq by furthering sectarian tensions.

In a July 1 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Ryan Crocker pointed a finger at a wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) known as the Quds Force, which he suggested was still fighting a decades-old war.

"It seems to me that the Quds Force, at least, is pursuing a policy aimed at a permanent division of Iraq into a Sunni area, a Shi'ite area, and a Kurdish area," Crocker said. (RFERL)

US to resume military aid to Bahrain despite human rights criticism

The United States said on Monday that it would lift its ban on providing security and military aid to Bahrain, which was imposed after the Gulf state cracked down on Shia-led protests in 2011. U.S. officials said the decision was taken because Bahrain had made meaningful reforms since then. 

However, Washington did not specify the weapons or military equipment that would be sent to the country. 

Dozens of people died when the government clamped down on protesters in 2011, who were demanding that the ruling Sunni family end its discrimination against the country’s majority Shia population.

"While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate ... we believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. (International Business Times)


Salt particles emerging from Iran’s drying Urmia Lake cause cancer

Salt particles emerging from drying Lake Urmia, in northwestern Iran, are causes of cancer and high blood pressure among people in the region, said Armin Nourbakhsh, an official with the Committee for Urmia Lake Restoration.

Salt particles threaten the health of people living around the lake seriously and cause problems such as eye burns, lung cancer, skin diseases, and high blood pressure, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Nourbakhsh as saying on June 29.

Although there is no specific study or report about diseases arising from the drying of Lake Urmia, data shows that certain problems, such as eye burn, are rampant among people in the city of Tabriz, he said. (Trend News Agency)

Iran accounts for 15% of the world’s dust storms

Iran is the source of 15 percent of dust storms in the world, said Razieh Lak, an official with the Geological Survey and Mineral Explorations Organization of Iran.

Deserts and dried out wetlands, such as Hamoon, Helmand, and Bakhtegan, are the main sources of dust storms in the country, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Lak as saying on June 28.

She referred to Iraq, Syria, and Jordan as other sources of dust storms in Iran.

Increasing dam construction and changing the efficiency of agricultural lands have also led to emerging of dust storms, she said. (Trend News Agency)

International Trade

Is Iran worth the risk for foreign oil companies?

Iran has somewhere around 158 billion barrels of oil reserves, the fourth largest in the world. It is also sitting on the second largest reserves of natural gas. But much of that has not been developed yet, due to the isolation it has faced in recent years. U.S. oil companies have been largely blocked from the country since Iran’s 1979 revolution, and as sanctions tightened over the last several years, other exploration companies have been unable to operate there. Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC have helped develop some oil and gas projects, but they too have run into trouble.

When international companies do operate in Iran, the Iranian government does not allow foreign ownership of its oil reserves. Instead, foreign companies are paid for production, but cannot book the reserves (Iran might reform these terms in the coming months). That has deterred investment. (CSM)

Glencore is latest firm talking with Iran over future oil business

Global mining and commodity trading firm Glencore met with Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss possible business deals should economic sanctions be lifted, industry sources said on Thursday.

Iran is negotiating with the United States and five other big powers - Britain, China, France,Germany and Russia - a deal under which Tehran would curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.

"Exploratory talks took place around potential business opportunities subject to the removal of the relevant sanctions," the spokesman for Glencore said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Inside Iran

Bullet-riddled cars and lush gardens: Iran’s memorial to its ‘nuclear martyrs’

On a terraced hillside in north Tehran, four white canvas marquees contain a disturbing sight: ordinary-looking cars damaged by bombs or riddled with bullets. Each is a macabre memorial to the scientists who died in them – victims of the shadowy war on Iran’s nuclear programme.

In a week that has seen another deadline for international negotiations on the issue come and go, Iranians have been paying their respects to these “nuclear martyrs” at the Museum of Holy Defence and the Promotion of Resistance Culture, a spacious modern structure surrounded by beautifully tended gardens and an artificial lake teeming with visiting families on hot Ramadan nights. (The Guardian)

In Iran, Instagram provides a platform for women entrepreneurs

Vocativ, a media and technology venture, analyzed social media trends in Tehran this week using its unique geo-data technology and found that trending keywords include fashion, style and design, especially on Instagram. The results highlighted Iranian women entrepreneurs who have built thriving businesses in the capital city, home to a booming fashion industry despite sanctions.

In February, the city hosted the country’s first fashion week, featuring six upcoming designers including Neda Sadeghi, who told Al-Monitor that Iranian women are increasingly becoming business owners and investors in the fashion industry. (Vocativ)


Who benefits from Iran sanctions relief?

By Alireza Nader

So who would benefit from the post-deal sanctions relief? There is no easy answer to this, as all parties concerned—the Rouhani government, the Iranian people, and the Revolutionary Guards in control of Iran’s regional policies­—are likely to benefit. Nevertheless, much of the economic boost from sanctions relief is likely to be consumed internally by the Rouhani government, the political-economic elite, and to some extent the Iranian people. Those responsible for Iran’s foreign policy, including the Revolutionary Guards, will have more resources, but Iran’s regional influence is not as much dependent on money as it is on Tehran’s ability to exploit the growing instability around it. And that takes less funding than often assumed.

Read the full article.