Iran Digest: Week of August 14-21, 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 Associates Alexander Benthem de Grave and Bradford Van Arnum.

Nuclear Deal

Despite loud opposition, Congress now unlikely to block Obama's nuclear deal with Iran

The fiercely contested Iran nuclear deal will likely survive in Congress despite unified GOP opposition and some Democratic defections, the top Senate Republican says. That would mean a major foreign policy win for President Barack Obama.

Obama has "a great likelihood of success," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his home state of Kentucky this week — giving public voice to what other Republicans have acknowledged in private. "I hope we can defeat it, but the procedure is obviously stacked in the president's favor."

Indeed, even as Congress' August recess has hardened Republicans' opposition to the deal on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail, reality is setting in: They probably can't stop it. Significant Democratic defections from Obama would be required in both chambers of Congress, and even with opponents mounting a strenuous lobbying campaign in key congressional districts, such a prospect looks remote. (US News and World Report)

Red-state Democrats back Obama on Iran

Sen. Claire McCaskill on Thursday become the latest in a string of red-state and centrist Democrats to endorse the Iran nuclear agreement this month — providing a surge of momentum for Barack Obama ahead of a vote even the president has said could turn out to be as consequential as the decision whether to authorize the Iraq War last decade.

McCaskill’s announcement, on the heels of Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) saying he’ll support the agreement a day earlier, is also a sign that moderate Democratic lawmakers don’t appear especially worried about potential political fallout for backing the deal.

“It has become clear to me that the world is united behind this agreement with the exception of the government of Israel,” McCaskill said Thursday morning. “I have become convinced that it is more dangerous to Israel, America and our allies to walk away in the face of unified world wide support.” (Politico)

IAEA chief defends inspection deal with Iran

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is defending its agreement with Iran — saying it gives its inspectors sufficient access to the Parchin military facility, a site long suspected to be used for nuclear weapons research.

International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano issued a statement Thursday pouring cold water on an earlier report from the Associated Press that said draft details of the deal would allow Iranians to inspect the Parchin site, instead of allowing U.N. inspectors access to the facility.

Amano called the report “misleading” and said that although he couldn’t disclose details, the agreement satisfied the IAEA’s access requirements and met Iran’s demands. (Politico)

Regional Politics

Turkey-Iran Tensions on Rise

The cancellation of a visit to Turkey last week by Iran's foreign minister has brought increasingly tense relations between Ankara and Tehran into sharper focus. The two countries back opposite sides in the Syrian civil war and accuse each other of heightening sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

Bilateral tensions between Iran and Turkey are increasingly being fought by the two countries' pro-government media outlets. Iranian reports targeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his daughter, Sumeyye, recently proved too much for Ankara, resulting in the abrupt cancellation of Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif's planned visit to Turkey.

"It's serious. I think the reporting in Iranian media, particularly the state-controlled media, about Erdogan and his family, did upset the presidency," said international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. "There is no doubt in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Syria they are at loggerheads, so maybe because of the presidency [criticism] this is now being made much more public than was the case before." (Voice of America)

International Trade

Japan and Iran are preparing for deals after nuclear sanctions end

Japan and Iran will start negotiations on an investment accord once sanctions are lifted following last month's landmark international deal on Tehran's nuclear program, the Nikkei reported on Wednesday, citing Japanese government sources.

Initial talks are being held between the two countries to prepare for the lifting of sanctions and begin formal negotiations, the business daily said, without identifying the sources.

Japan is keen to boost ties with Iran and invest in resource projects in the country, as well as return imports of Iranian oil to about 10 percent of the total from 5 percent now after sanctions forced Japanese refiners to cut purchases, it said. (Business Insider)

Iran, Germany sign contract to generate power in SW Iran

Iranian media quoted Managing Director of Arvand Free Trade Zone Esmaeil Zamani as saying on Wednesday that the wind farm will be able to generate 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity while the photovoltaic power plants will produce 40 MW of electricity.

He added that the project will be implemented through Germany’s investment in cooperation with Iran's private sector and will see the first wind farm built by Iranian private companies.

“This contract has been signed for the purpose of attracting foreign investment and to promote the use of renewable forms of energy in the region,” he added.

Zamani stated that in the first phase of the project, a total amount of 130,000 MW per year of power will be generated by 30 wind turbines that will be installed within the geographical limits of the Arvand Free Trade Zone. (PressTV)


Iran, Netherlands to cooperate on environment

An Iranian environment official announced plans to promote cooperation with the Netherlands in improving conditions in industries and the natural environment.

Managing Director of the National Fund to Protect Environment Houman Liaghati said that during a meeting with the Dutch Ambassador to Tehran Johannes Duma, the two sides stressed the need to use the latest technologies in a bid to protect the living environment.

He noted that cooperation in such areas as efficient use of water resources was at the center of the issues discussed. (Mehr News Agency)

Heavy metal pollution monitored in Anzali Wetland

Funded by Iran National Science Foundation (INSF), a group of researchers at Khorramshahr University of Marine Science and Technology, Iran, monitored the heavy metal pollution in Anzali Wetland.

The study was carried out in order to determine the major metal pollutants, tissues with the most amount of accumulated heavy metal in birds and the fish, and the difference between the current levels of heavy metal contaminants with that of the international standards.

To conduct the study, the concenterations of lead (Pb), tin (Sn) and zinc (Zn) were measured in 60 pikes (Esox Lucius) and 40 Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) from 6 stations in Anzali Wetland (the south coast of the Caspian Sea) including Pirbazar, Anzali, Abkenar, Sangachin, Beshman, and Khazarvila. (Mehr News Agency)

Inside Iran

UK embassy in Tehran to reopen after thaw in British-Iranian relations

Britain is to reopen its embassy in Tehran, four years after it closed. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will visit Iran at the weekend with a delegation of business leaders, a senior government source said. The embassy was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by Iranian protesters during a demonstration against sanctions imposed by Britain.

The visit comes weeks after Tehran reached a deal with six world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear programme. After the closure of the British embassy in Tehran and the Iranian embassy in London in 2011, diplomatic relations were left at "the lowest possible level", BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus said.

Since then "ties have slowly been warming", our correspondent said, but he added that last month's nuclear deal had clearly been decisive in prompting the UK embassy to be reopened. (BBC)

A new era of US-Iranian educational exchange?

Will American universities send students to Iran on study abroad programs any time soon? Some institutions are certainly thinking about it.

The election of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric, to the Iranian presidency in 2013, and the proposed agreement to impose limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions -- now pending approval by Congress and Iran’s Parliament -- have created a new sense of possibility when it comes to academic cooperation with Iran.

“One by one, there is already since President Rouhani’s election a flow of academic exchange that hasn’t existed for 30 years,” said Allan E. Goodman, the CEO and president of the Institute of International Education (IIE), which led a delegation of officials from five U.S. universities to 13 Iranian universities and research institutes in June. Individual faculty members are traveling to Iran in greater numbers, Goodman said, and over time those teachers are going to want to create opportunities for their students there. (Inside Higher Ed)


How diplomacy can prevent a nuclear Iran

By President Barack Obama

At the height of the Cold War, with Soviet warheads pointed at all of America’s major cities, President Kennedy rejected calls to hasten a confrontation many saw as inevitable. He argued instead that strong and principled American leadership was the surest path to a peace “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”

For decades, Democratic and Republican presidents alike built on this foundation, forging arms control agreements and other international treaties, and ultimately winning the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.

In that tradition of strong, principled diplomacy, my administration has sought to remove one of the greatest threats facing our world today: the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. After two years of negotiations, we have achieved an arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off every one of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and provides the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program. (The Dallas Morning News)

Read the full article.