Iran Digest: Week of July 3-10, 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

Iran negotiator: Nuclear talks likely to be extended through weekend

Nuclear negotiations will likely stretch in to the weekend, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Friday.

"I doubt it will happen today," Zarif told reporters in Vienna about reaching a deal. But when asked if negotiators would all be there on Monday Zarif yelled from a balcony "I hope not."

This would be the latest extension for Iran nuclear talks, which have a Friday self-imposed deadline -- and which followed missing two other previous deadlines. (CNN)

Why Iran’s supreme leader wants a deal

When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was about to leave Tehran for Vienna last week, the Twitter handler for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted a tweet in English to show strong support for the negotiation team: "I recognize our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful," the tweet said. It was clearly another attempt by the supreme leader to protect Zarif and his team from attacks by hard-liners in Tehran.

Despite his image as a hard-liner—and his occasional fulminations against Western perfidy—it is Khamenei who has been the guardian angel for Iran’s nuclear negotiators for the past 18 months. And if the negotiations end in a final agreement by July 7—the new deadline set as the original June 30 deadline expired last week—it will be Khamenei who makes the deal. Or breaks it. (Politico Magazine)

Post-sanctions Iran ‘could be the best emerging market for years to come’

Hamid Mohammadi is excited at the prospect of international sanctions on Iran being lifted once a nuclear agreement has been signed. But he’s not that excited. The CEO of the Islamic Republic’s equivalent of Amazon is certainly looking forward to being re-connected to the outside world – vital for a fast-growing company at the cutting edge of digital innovation. Still, ending sanctions will not be a miracle cure for the country’s economic ills.

Digikala, launched with three employees in 2007, will have 1,500 by the year’s end as its slick Farsi-language online shopping service expands. It symbolises the energy of a young generation of wired and entrepreneurial Iranians who have built a domestic market from scratch and prospered despite international isolation. It guarantees deliveries within four hours in Tehran and its site boasts a whopping 750,000 unique visitors a day. (The Guardian)

Regional Politics

U.S. offers billions in arms to ease Mideast’s Iran anxiety

U.S. defense contractors who already are benefiting as the Obama administration tries to assuage Israeli and Gulf Arab concerns by cutting deals for more than $6 billion in military hardware.

The details of a potential deal being negotiated between Iran and six world powers -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. -- would determine what steps the U.S. takes to help its allies. A nuclear agreement is likely to prompt Mideast partners to seek improved defense systems from American contractors such as Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. as well as weapons-makers in France and elsewhere. (Bloomberg)

Iran Extends Financial Support To Syria, Approves $1B Credit Loan

Iran has extended financial support worth $1 billion to Syria. The credit loan will help the Syrian government ease economic problems caused by the ongoing war.

A law on the ratification of the credit loan was signed by Syrian President Bashar Assad. According to Syrian news agency SANA, two state-owned banks were involved in the deal: the Export Development Bank of Iran and the Syrian Commercial Bank.

Bankers said that Syria previously used credit loans from Iran. The earlier agreement, signed in July 2013, fetched $3.6 billion -- mostly used for oil imports. Reuters reported that the Syrian parliament only approved the new deal Tuesday, even though it was signed May 19. (International Business Times)


Iran burns more gasoline despite price hike

Iran’s gasoline consumption rose in the first quarter of this year which began on March 21 despite the country’s cancellation of subsidized fuel to motorists, the Ministry of Petroleum said on Monday.

Iranians burnt 6.65 billion liters of gasoline in the period, a rise of three percent versus the similar period a year ago, figures published by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) showed.

In May, the government stopped allotting 60 liters of subsidized gasoline a month to every Iranian who drove a homemade car after raising the gas price earlier. Fuel prices in Iran are still among the cheapest in the world, which have resulted in a habit of prodigal consumption by many citizens. More than 15 million vehicles ply the country’s roads which guzzle enormous amounts of fuel. (PressTV)

Iran imports $5 billion worth of genetically modified crops despite restrictions

In the absence of clear regulations, the Ministry of Agriculture has approved repeated imports of GM crops such as rice, soybeans, rapeseed and edible oil “with prior knowledge”, a review by the ministry's Behzad Qareyazi says.

The imports mostly come from Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the US but those countries do not declare them as GM products “in violation of Cartagena Convention” for protection and development of the environment, he says.

“The Iranian officials’ failure to discover the imported GM products leads to public misconceptions about the inability at a national level to distinguish them.” (Albawaba)

Inside Iran

Why your next vacation could be in Iran

When you fly to Iran these days the planes are a little more full than before. Business travelers are making their way to Tehran scoping out opportunities, hoping that sanctions might be lifted soon. More tourists also appear to be on the planes coming from Frankfurt, Rome, Istanbul and the few other places that have direct flights to Iran.

The Iranian government says it expects a 6.6% rise in the number of tourists for 2015. President Hassan Rouhani's administration has made tourism development one of its major policy goals in a drive to revive an economy buckling under sanctions. (CNN)

Iranian ‘Tinder’ seeks to encourage marriage but not dating

Iran has launched its first official matchmaking website to try to encourage more young people to marry. Nearly half of all Iranians from 18 to 35 are unmarried, around 11 million people, but the Tebyan Cultural and Information Center, a government affiliated organisation has launched a website, to combat the rising trend among Iranian youth to marry later or even forego marriage completely.

“The median marriage age in the capital Tehran has already reached 30 for men and 28 for women. This greatly increases the chance of an individual never marrying and alarm bells are ringing,” says Zohreh Hosseini, the website project manager at Tebyan. “The drop in marriage rates is one of the most important challenges facing the country today. Issues such as unemployment, economic means and housing have all contributed to this. Here in Tebyan we are focusing on one aspect, finding an appropriate spouse,” she explains. (TIME)


A nuclear deal, then a choice to co-operate on extremism

By Mohammad Javad Zarif

We have come a long way over the past 21 months of negotiations over my country’s nuclear energy program. A very long way. Never have Iran and its counterparts been this close to a final accord. But success is far from assured. All that is clear about what will happen next is that things will not go back to the way they were.

Serious political decisions still need to be made. Countless technical solutions have been discussed and devised, and in many cases now resolved, but this crisis has at its core always been political. Some say they are trying to shut down this or that pathway to the bomb. The agreement within our reach will do just that through a plethora of measures. But the truth is that there really is only one pathway to the bomb, and that is through a political decision to build a nuclear weapon. Sober strategic calculations, and more importantly our religious obligations, have firmly distanced Iran from this calamity, and these calculations have been put to the test. 

Read the full article.