Iran Digest Week of December 9 - 16

Iran Digest

Week of December 9 - 16

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 and Research Associate Bryan Falcone.

US-Iran Relations

Iran sanctions renewal becomes law without Obama signature

In an unexpected reversal, President Barack Obama declined to sign a renewal of sanctions against Iran but let it become law anyway, in an apparent bid to alleviate Tehran's concerns that the U.S. is backsliding on the nuclear deal. 

Although the White House had said that Obama was expected to sign the 10-year-renewal, the midnight deadline came and went Thursday with no approval from the president. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama had decided to let it become law without his signature.

"The administration has, and continues to use, all of the necessary authorities to waive the relevant sanctions" lifted as part of the nuclear deal, Earnest said in a statement. (CNBC)


Iran says extension of sanctions act shows U.S. unreliable

A U.S. Senate vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years shows the world that Washington cannot be relied upon to act on its commitments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the ISA extension, passed unanimously on Thursday, saying it violated last year's agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting of international financial sanctions.

"To the world community, the extension of sanctions against Iran shows the unreliability of the American government," state broadcaster IRIB quoted Zarif as saying on arriving in India for an official visit. "America is acting against its commitment."  (Reuters)

Nuclear Accord

Iran to work on nuclear-powered vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal

Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers.

Nuclear experts said that President Hassan Rouhani's move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set in the nuclear deal to allay fears of Tehran building an atomic bomb.

Rouhani's announcement marked Tehran's first concrete reaction to a decision by the U.S. Congress last month to extend some sanctions on Tehran that would also make it easier to reimpose others lifted under the nuclear pact.

The White House said it was aware of Iran's order and noted that Rouhani had said any such work on the vessels would be done within the framework of Iran's commitments.  (Reuters)


Blasting U.S. nuke deal “violations,” Iran vows new nuclear project

Iran’s president on Tuesday ordered officials to draw up plans to build nuclear-powered ships and to show how the United States violated last year’s nuclear deal, a response to a vote by the U.S. Congress to extend some sanctions on the country.

The move by President Hassan Rouhani came in response to the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, and was widely seen as posturing that would not affect the landmark nuclear deal concluded with world powers.

The sanctions act awaits President Barack Obama’s signature to become law, and comes amid speculation over how President-elect Donald Trump, a critic of the nuclear deal, will address the issue when he assumes office next month.  (CBSNews)


Revolutionary Guard faces new foe in Iran’s opening economy

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard faces a new enemy: the gradual opening of the country’s economy after the nuclear deal with world powers.

Though better known for its hard-line fervor as an elite force created to defend Iran’s cleric-led system, the Guard holds vast business interests both public and hidden across the Islamic Republic. In times of international sanctions, the organization won massive no-bid government contracts and expanded its influence.

But comments made by one Guard general about a new ship deal worth $650 million betray the worry felt in the organization over potential competition, analysts say. It also offers a possible secondary motive for its detention of dual nationals on purported espionage charges and its confrontations with the West: keeping its share of Iran’s market of 80 million people. (Washington Post)


A Boeing-Iran Deal Could Be On President-Elect Trump’s Chopping Block

Boeing plans to sell more than $16 billion in commercial aircraft to Iran. It's the largest deal made by a U.S. companies since international sanctions were lifted on Iran earlier this year. President-elect Donald Trump says he wants to derail the nuclear agreement that makes such deals possible. 

The deal involves the sale of 80 commercial aircraft. It's a mix of single-aisle and wide-body extended-range jets, including the best-selling version of the 777. In a statement, Boeing was careful to note the company worked closely with the U.S. government to secure a license to sell to Iran. And that the deal would affect Boeing's vendors and suppliers across the country. Gordon Johndroe is a spokesman for Boeing. (NPR)


Iran to expand environmental coop. with Belgium on Ebtekar’s visit

Head of Iran’s Department of Environment, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has set off for Belgium on Mon. to sign an MoU on environmental cooperation between Tehran and Brussels.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s Vice President and the Head of Iran’s Environment Protection Department, is also scheduled to meet with two EU commissioners to confer on expanding bilateral cooperation on environmental projects.  

Ebtekar is also set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the European Commissioner for Environment, as well as an MoU with the EU energy and climate change commissioner.

During the two-day visit, the Iranian VP will also meet with a number of senior Belgian officials including Prime Minister Charles Michel, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, and some members of parliament and environmental activists. (Mehr News)

Inside Iran

Iran Increasingly Sees IS as Threat to Islamic Republic

In an unusual display of public candor, Iranian authorities have said in recent speeches that Islamic State infiltrators are becoming a growing threat to the Islamic Republic.

At least three times in recent months, Iranian officials have spoken about breaking up IS-related terror cells and arresting IS-affiliated militants planning attacks inside Iran.

The claims lack many details, including when the alleged incidents took place, the identity of most suspects and concrete links to IS. And at times, the information has conflicted with other accounts. (VoaNews)


IRGC Increases Ballistic Missile Production despite Sanctions

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In a remark that may stir concern in the United States, Israel and the Gulf region, a senior commander of the Islamic Republic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says his country has increased the production of ballistic missiles despite international sanctions.

“In addition to enhancing the precision [precision-striking capability] and quality of ballistic missiles, [Iranian] authorities and experts in this field have used innovative and cross-cutting methods to make missiles at a lower cost. And today we are witnessing an increase in production despite shortage of credits,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the IRGC’s Aerospace Force commander said. (Middle East Institute)


Iran lures the West by rushing business

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani has been rushing to seal business deals with Asian, European, and even American corporations as quickly as possible.

This week, Iran signed a historic deal with Boeing worth nearly $17 billion. It worth noting that this is the first business deal Tehran finalized with an American aviation corporation since the establishment of the Islamic Republic 1979. Iran is also finalizing its purchase of planes from the European firm Airbus.

In addition, another major deal has been signed with Royal Dutch Shell, the second largest listed oil firm in the world. Shell signed a provisional agreement with National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) "to further explore areas of potential cooperation". Royal Dutch Shell will be working with Iran on developing some of Tehran’s largest oil fields. Last month, the energy corporation, Total signed a deal with Iran for working on new projects in the oil and gas sectors.

Remarkably, in a short time Iran has increased its oil sales by nearly 3 millions bpd. Iran has risen to be the third largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Why is Rowhani rushing to bring more business contracts to Iran?

Read the full article here.