Iran Digest: Week of August 21-28, 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

Harry Reid: I will back Iran deal

President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran just won the backing of the Senate’s top Democrat.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Sunday that he “strongly” supports the agreement reached by six world powers and Iran meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions – vowing that he will do “everything in my power” to defend the deal.

“At the end of the day, there is no doubt in my mind that the threat of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon — the one outcome we all agree is unacceptable — is far more likely if Congress rejects this agreement,” Reid said in a lengthy statement explaining his support for the nuclear deal. (Politico)

White House pushes for Iran filibuster

President Barack Obama’s almost certain to get the Iran nuclear deal — but whether he gets there by filibuster or sustained veto could make all the difference.

A Democratic filibuster in the Senate would be a clear victory for the president, allowing Obama to say that for all the political noise there wasn’t enough actual opposition to the nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic to even get to a final vote.

Having to save the deal with a veto (just the fifth of his presidency) and relying on liberals in the House and Senate to sustain it would be much more trouble: a procedural pull across the finish line that sows more doubts in a public already skeptical of the deal, leaves international partners worried about America’s long-term commitment and adds weeks of added time and tangles. (Politico)

Regional Politics

Iran is prepared for profound dialogue with all countries in the region

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, has said that her country is ready to hold “fresh, sincere and profound” talks with all neighbouring and Muslim countries.


The official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Afkham as saying on Wednesday that in the past two years, “Iran has proved that it adopts dialogue as a principle and it attaches significant importance to regional and international peace and stability,” and that it also regards “the promotion of stability and cooperation and the reduction of chaos” in the region as a priority.

“Afkham voiced Iran’s readiness for fresh, sincere and profound dialogue with all regional and Muslim countries,” IRNA added. (Middle East Monitor)

International Trade

South Korea seeks to restore pre-sanction trade ties with Iran

South Korean Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Yoo Il-ho says his country is seeking to restore once booming trade ties with Iran before sanctions were imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Yoo, heading a delegation of 30 representatives from International Contractors Association of Korea (ICAK), arrived in Tehran on Saturday to discuss expansion of joint venture projects with Iranian partners.

“We are trying to restore our previously good relations with Iran, which were somehow limited in recent years because of the sanctions”, the South Korean minister stated.

He made the remarks in a meeting with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh in Tehran on Sunday to discuss expansion of bilateral ties in the petrochemical sector as well as oil industry’s development projects. (Tehran Times)


Geopolitical turmoil changes Middle East’s air pollution

Reviving the Lake Urmia in northwest Iran is not possible in short term, the Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said. The administration has ratified some 27 plans in this regard, the minister said, adding each of the plans needs 3-5 years to be materialized.

The plans need operations such as digging tunnels and water transfer canals which would be possible only in long term, he stressed. The administration has prepared a 10-year plan to restore the lake, Chitchian said, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Aug. 24.

The plan includes a two-year period for stabilizing the current water level of the lake and from 2016 the level will start increasing in eight years, the minister said. He further said that transferring water from Georgia and Armenia to revive the lake is impossible. (Trend News Agency)

Inside Iran

In Iran, a women’s soccer revolution

Women, and women’s sports, still face stiff winds of resistance in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hard-liners supported by the highest echelons of government oppose women even watching the country’s most popular sport, much less playing it in public.

But quietly, there is something of a women’s soccer revolution going on here. And one of its leaders, of all people, is an Iranian-American.

Katayoun Khosrowyar, 27, moved here at age 17. She has captained the Iranian women’s national soccer team, lived through a battle over the wearing of headscarves on the field and, last year, evacuated a team of young Iranian girls from earthquake-ravaged Nepal. (Wall Street Journal)

Post-sanctions Iran must focus on building a knowledge economy

In 1979, the Islamic Revolution rid Iran of over two and a half millennia of monarchy. It also led to a three-decade exodus of highly educated Iranians from the country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for over twenty-five years, Iran has consistently had one of the highest rates of brain drain in the world.

As revealed by various World Bank reports, the annual emigration of at least 150,000 skilled individuals from Iran costs the country’s economy tens of billions of dollars per year.

While these issues have been simmering for decades, the administration of president Hassan Rouhani has been more forthcoming than its predecessor in combating and acknowledging this devastating reality. “In today’s world, a traditional economy cannot rival the world and we can compete with the world economy if we have a knowledge-based economy,” the Shana news agency quoted Rouhani as saying last year. (Quartz)


How the Iran deal will pass - and why it should

By Fred Kaplan

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

If current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

Read the full article.