Iran Digest: Week of September 11-18, 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

Dems rebuff last GOP attempt to kill Iran deal

The Senate’s last showdown on Iran ended as expected Thursday, as Democrats blocked two separate measures from Republicans meant to unravel President Barack Obama’s nuclear accord with Tehran.

First, Democrats filibustered a plan from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would require Iran to recognize Israel and release U.S. prisoners under Iranian custody before U.S. sanctions would be lifted. The tally was 53-45.

Then on a 56-42 vote, Democrats blocked a resolution meant to kill the Iran deal – the third such Senate tally in a week. Both measures needed 60 votes to advance.

Republicans wanted to push that bill to Obama’s desk and force him to veto it, but 42 Senate Democrats ultimately backed the nuclear accord. That was enough to deny the GOP a final vote on the disapproval measure. (Politico)

Pope Francis Endorses Iran Nuclear Deal

The Vatican endorsed the Iran nuclear accord Monday as a positive step towards its broader goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

“We hope that the full implementation of [the nuclear deal] will ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme under the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and will be a definitive step toward greater stability and security in the region,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, said in a statement delivered at the International Atomic Energy Association in Vienna.

“The way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation,” he said, a possible allusion to opponents of the nuclear agreement who have called for military strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites. (Huffington Post)

US Republicans in GOP presidential debate blast Iran deal

Republican front-runner Donald Trump traded jabs with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former business executive Carly Fiorina and other presidential rivals in a contentious three-hour-long debate on Wednesday marked by frequent bickering and personal attacks.

In the second debate of the 2016 Republican White House race, the candidates battled over Iraq and condemned President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran among foreign policy issues.

Among the candidates,Ted Cruz, a US senator from Texas, said the nuclear deal with Iran should be ripped up, but Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said it should be enforced because Congress had not been able to stop it.

Cruz pointed to the threat of a nuclear Iran as the main threat to America's national security, saying the deal back by the Obama administration will provide Iran with $100 billion, "making the Obama administration the world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism." (Jerusalem Post)

Regional Politics

Political motives to blame for regional divides: Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says “political motives” have triggered divisions in several crisis-hit countries in the Middle East.

He made the comments in a Wednesday visit to Bangladesh, where he met with a number of top officials, including President Abdul Hamid, Premier Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali.

“What has created divisions in Yemen, Syria and Iraq is not sectarianism, but political motives,” Zarif said in his meeting with the Bangladeshi prime minister.

Iraq and Syria have been engaged in battles with the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group, which has committed gross human rights violations in the areas under its control in the two Arab countries. Saudi Arabia has also been launching airstrikes against Yemen over the past several months in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh. (PressTV)

International Trade

Iran to host trade teams from 10 EU states

Iran says it is preparing to host 10 European trade delegations within the next two weeks, stressing that the rise in the frequency of visits by trade delegations is a result of the July nuclear breakthrough with the P5+1.

Masoud Khansari, the president of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, has told the media that a surprise influx of trade delegations has created a challenge for the Chamber as well as the administration of President Hassan Rouhani in terms of planning.

Khansari added that eight major European trade delegations have so far visited Iran in light of the Iran nuclear breakthrough which was achieved in mid-July.

He expressed delight over this and said President Rouhani’s team deserve praise for bringing Iran out of what he described as “relative [trade] isolation”. (PressTV)

Pakistan, Iran trade ties to hit $5 billion

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Tehran Noor Mohammad Jadmani in a meeting with Iranian officials announced that Pakistan was keen to boost its trade ties with Iran up to five billion dollars.

"During the past four years, mutual economic cooperation plunged due to the anti-Iranian financial embargoes; however, on the eve of the termination of the West-led sanctions on Iran in coming months we plan to bolster our economic ties with the country," Jadmani said.

In April, Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan and Iranian Minister for Economy Ali Tayyebnia voiced their enthusiasm for promotion of Islamabad-Tehran all-out cooperation. In a meeting with Dastgir, Tayyebnia expressed the hope that effective steps would soon be taken to implement the agreements reached by the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission. (Daily Times)


Water transfer from Turkish Lake Van into Lake Urmia to cost $1B

Lake Van is located 350 meters above Lake Urmia. This facilitates the transfer of water into Lake Urmia from Turkey, Isa Kalantari, Iran’s Lake Urmia restoration center, told Tasnim News agency Sept. 16.

“Lakes Van and Urmia share 170 kilometers,” he said. “The work over a water transfer project is underway.”

“The two countries are holding the technical and political negotiations to implement the project,” he said.

According to the Iranian media, one of the representatives of the Lake Urmia restoration center, Hadi Bahaduri, said that at the moment, Turkey has frozen funds from the sale of Iranian oil in the amount of $9 billion. “The water is planned to be transferred from Lake Van to Lake Urmia through these funds,” he said. (Trend News Agency)

Inside Iran

Rouhani's nuclear dividend to feature in Iranian elections

 Iran's nuclear deal may be eroding its isolation overseas, but at home it is deepening political infighting within the country's complex power structure before two important elections, officials and analysts say.

The agreement - welcomed by Iranians eager for a lifting of sanctions and improved living standards - has increased the popularity of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, alarming hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

They fear Rouhani could challenge Khamenei's power if Iranians, grateful for a deal that may bring jobs and prosperity, reward the president in the votes early next year to parliament and the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body with nominal power over the supreme leader. (Reuters)

Post-Deal Iran Asks if U.S. Is Still ‘Great Satan,’ or Something Less

Post-Deal Iran Asks.jpg

Negotiating the nuclear agreement was a torturous, two-year process for Iran’s leaders, but a new kind of struggle is unfolding now in Iran, where the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani have begun to tackle a question Iranians have not thought about much since the revolution 37 years ago: How to deal with their great enemy, the United States, after having reached a compromise with it.

The two leaders are offering starkly opposing visions of Iran’s post-deal future, reflecting their divergent attitudes toward the “Great Satan.”

“We have announced that we will not negotiate with the Americans on any issue other than the nuclear case,” Mr. Khamenei said this month. Speaking to a group of hard-line students recently he was even more explicit, telling them to “prepare for the continuation of the fight against America.” (The New York Times)


Iran deal is a huge win for Obama

By David Ignatius

The political circus surrounding the Iran nuclear deal shouldn’t obscure the fact that President Obama won an enormous victory in negotiating the agreement and mustering the necessary congressional votes to sustain it. It’s the most determined, strategic success of his presidency.

Republican presidential candidates have denounced the deal as a sellout by a weak, feckless Obama. And polls make clear that the public is wary about a deal painted by critics as a bargain with the devil.

But Obama’s bet is endorsed by many leading strategists in the U.S. and abroad. Even in Israel, there’s grudging support from a growing share of the national-security establishment, who see the deal as preferable to any realistic alternative. The outliers are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Republican leadership, who reject an agreement most nations endorse. The political reality is that Obama outfoxed them at nearly every turn.

Read the full article.