Iran Digest: Week of September 30 - October 7

Iran Digest

Week of September 30 - October 7

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 Research Fellow Nicolás Pedreira.

U.S. - Iran Relations

Iran’s Take on U.S. Presidential Election

Emad Kiyaei, executive director of the non-partisan and non-profit American Iranian Council, visited Hamilton on Oct. 5 to speak on the recent geopolitical history between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and that history’s significance with regard to the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The icy, and often officially non-existent, diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran since the onset of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis is one of seemingly endless nuance and complexity, said Kiyaei. However, he claimed, particularly with regard to the efforts since 2003 to address the nascent Iranian nuclear program, many of today’s most prominent American politicians have played key roles in determining the current state of relations between the two nations. Most notably, he said, are former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

While U.S.-led economic sanctions on Iran have existed since the aforementioned 1979 hostage crisis, it was the Clinton State Department that most forcefully pushed for a more comprehensive international sanctions regime through the UN Security Council during the early years of the Obama White House. Said sanctions began to push large segments of the Iranian economy underground as the nation became more and more isolated from the outside world and, notably, unable to sell its vast reserves of oil and gas on the international market. (Hamilton)


US Journalist Sues Iran, Says He Was Tortured

A U.S. journalist who was jailed in Iran for 18 months has filed a federal lawsuit against the Iranian government, claiming he was taken hostage and tortured in an attempt to extract concessions from the U.S. government.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian said in the suit that he was targeted for arrest so Iran could gain negotiating leverage with the United States and to ultimately exchange him "for something of value to Iran."

The suit says that Iranian officials repeatedly told Rezaian and his wife, who was also detained for more than two months, that Rezaian was valuable as a bargaining chip for a prisoner swap. (VOA)

Nuclear Accord

U.N. atomic agency chief says Iran sticking to nuclear deal

Iran has kept to a nuclear deal it agreed with six world powers last year limiting its stockpiles of substances that could be used to make atomic weapons, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told French daily Le Monde.

Confirming the findings of a confidential report by the U.N. agency seen by Reuters last month, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said Tehran had observed the deal which was opposed by hardliners inside Iran and by skeptics in the West. 

"The deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem," he told Le Monde in an interview published on Saturday. (Reuters)


Siemens signs Iran rail contract as Germany drums up business

Germany's Siemens signed a contract to upgrade Iran's railway network on Monday, one of several deals agreed by German firms during a two-day visit to Tehran by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel. 

Gabriel has flown to Iran with a plane full of 120 managers who are keen to re-establish business relations with the Islamic Republic after it reached a landmark deal with world powers last year to scale back its disputed nuclear program.

But political concerns, and a range of U.S. sanctions still in place, have so far held back a hoped-for business boom. (Reuters)


IMF Says Iran Economy ‘Rebounded Strongly’ Following Lifting Of Sanctions

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Iran’s economy has “rebounded strongly” over the first half of the year, while authorities are undertaking reforms to boost growth.

In a statement issued on October 3 after a visit to Iran, IMF staff said oil production and exports "rebounded quickly" to presanction levels, as an array of international sanctions targeting Iran were lifted in January following a nuclear deal with world powers that curbed the country’s controversial nuclear program.

Meanwhile, “increased activity” in agriculture, car production, trade, and transport services has led the recovery in growth in the nonoil sector. (RadioFreeEurope)


Iran, OPEC’s Big Winner, Agrees on Landmark Oil Contract

Iran, fresh from an OPEC meeting where it won significant concessions from regional rival Saudi Arabia, accelerated the rejuvenation of its sanctions-ravaged energy industry on Tuesday when the state producer signed a new-model oil investment contract.

National Iranian Oil Co. agreed to the framework of a $2.2 billion deal with Persia Oil & Gas Industry Development Co. to boost output at three fields along the country’s western border with Iraq, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said during a ceremony at the ministry. A second contract will be signed with a local company on Wednesday, Tasnim news agency reported, without giving details. Zanganeh has said the new type of contract, designed to better reward investment in crude and natural gas production, is crucial to increasing the country’s long-term export potential.

Although it may take years for new investment deals to bear fruit, Tuesday’s signing caps a good few days for Zanganeh, who returned from last week’s OPEC meeting in Algiers having secured Iran’s right to pump more oil even as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies agreed to curb output. President Hassan Rouhani’s government has argued that it should be allowed to return production to levels achieved before international sanctions curbed shipments. (Bloomberg)

Women of Iran

Boycott of world chess championship ‘would hurt women in Iran’

One of Iran’s most respected chess players has hit back at calls to boycott next year’s women’s world championship in Tehran over rules about the wearing of the hijab.

A number of chess players, including the US women’s champion, Nazí Paikidze, have called for a boycott of the February 2017 games over concerns that they will have to comply with the Islamic republic’s compulsory headscarf law.

But Mitra Hejazipour, a woman grandmaster (WGM) who won the 2015 Asian continental women’s championship, told the Guardian on Friday that a boycott would be wrong and could undermine hard-fought efforts to promote female sport in Iran. (The Guardian)


Ebtekar in Germany seeking environmental aid

Mrs. Masoumeh Ebtekar is in Germany to advance efforts to bring the country’s technology and science to Iran to help Iran’s environmental protection. She secured some agreements which will seek Germans’ contribution to sectors such as waste management and recycling.

Ebtekar sat in sessions with heads of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and BASF (Baden Aniline and Soda Factory) in Berlin. Mrs. Barbara Hendricks, Federal Environment Minister received Ebtekar where they signed a joint statement on bilateral cooperation. The signatories agreed to cooperate based on equality, mutual interests, and according to their environmental policies of their fellow countries. The subject of the statement was rather broad, embracing diverse elements as protection of biodiversity and improving regional ecosystems, protection of national parks and wildlife refuges, protection of ozone and atmosphere, environmental impact assessment, marine life and coastal regions, fighting desertification, soil pollution management, environmentally-friendly management practices, poisonous chemical waste management, air quality improvement practices, encouraging innovations which are safe to the environments, supporting trade and investment in environmental sectors, providing training and education to the public on environmental issues, improving international cooperation to face challenges of climate change, and exchanging technical know-how on environmental management, among other things. (Mehr News)


Why renewable energy is booming in Iran

On Sept. 10, Iran and Russia launched a project to add two new 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactors to the already existing 1,000-MW reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southwest of the country. The operating plant was connected to Iran’s national grid in September 2011, following a long series of delays and technical problems, and amid a dispute between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran, with a population of over 80 million, has the fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world. But despite its rich hydrocarbon resources, the country is pursuing projects to construct more nuclear reactors as part of efforts to increase its reliance on renewable energy sources as it has an advantageous topography for renewables.

Under such a policy, Iran has in the past years taken measures to increase power capacity via sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Projects to produce 600 MW of electricity through wind and biomass and the construction of a 50-MW geothermal power plant in the northwest of the country are among these measures. (Al-Monitor)

Inside Iran

Iran, one of the world’s top executioners, moves closer to relaxing the death penalty for drug crimes

There is growing momentum in Iran to eliminate the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenders, after hundreds were executed last year for drug crimes. 

A majority of 150 lawmakers in the 290-seat parliament have reportedly endorsed a bill that would end capital punishment for drug trafficking, marking significant progress for reformists and human rights advocates who have been battling to overturn the law for years.

Executing convicted drug smugglers “will not benefit the people or the country,” Yahya Kamalpur, deputy head of the legal and judicial committee in parliament, was quoted as saying this week by the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency. (LA Times)


Why Saudi Arabia Mistrusts Iran?

By Ali al-Shihabi

The current narrative has it that the two countries are simply competing for influence in the region, a struggle inflamed by the historical tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A closer look, however, reveals a different story. Iran, despite the benign noises it occasionally makes, is a revolutionary state that was born out of the overthrow of its monarchy. It is fueled by an expansionist ideology and has been publicly committed from day one to overthrowing the established order in the Middle East. And at the center of that order stands the Saudi state.

The Saudis are keenly aware of this fact. They have not fallen for the claim that Iran has “hard-liners” and “moderates” and that the moderates deserve support and encouragement so that they can triumph in the end. They know Iran is ultimately ruled by a supreme leader, an autocratic cleric, and that it is his word that counts, not that of his “moderates.”

Saudi Arabia, unlike Iran, is a status quo power that has striven for over seventy-five years to be a responsible state and the custodian of a quarter of the world’s oil. While it is accused of exporting ‘Wahhabism’, an argument the Iranians are now eagerly promoting in order to disguise their own actions, many forget that the use of political Islam began as a joint US and Saudi project in the 1950s to fight the spread of communism in the region. This culminated in the joint venture to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Read the full article.