Iran Digest: Week of September 16 - 22

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 Associate Alexander Benthem de Grave and Research Associate Bradford Van Arnum.

U.S. - Iran Relations

With Boeing Deal, Americans Are coming to Iran

Long before the first newly purchased Boeing airliner lands at Imam Khomeini International Airport, Iran and the United States will have had to come to terms with a new reality: American citizens will once again be taking up residence in Tehran, the first to do so since the Islamic Revolution and subsequent hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980.

When the United States on Wednesday gave the green light for the direct sale of Western planes to Iran, much more than nearly four decades of sanctions on such deals came to an end. Not that the deals approved by the Treasury Department are insignificant: 80 Boeing jets and an initial batch of 17 Airbus planes out of a potential total of 118.

But the sale will have the important effect of ending an era of absolute isolation between the countries. Boeing will almost certainly have to open an administrative office in Tehran, and technicians will have to move here to train their Iranian counterparts in the care and maintenance of the planes. Among them, almost certainly, will be many Americans. (The New York Times)

"Iran Must Stand Strong Against US on Regional Conflicts"

Iran's supreme leader said the Islamic republic must stand strong against Washington on the region's conflicts, in an address Sunday to commanders of the elite Republican Guards force.

"The Americans insist we negotiate with them on regional issues, especially on Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in the speech published on his official website.

"What is their main goal for requesting these talks? They have no aim but to prevent the presence in the region of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the main factor of America's failures," said Khamenei. (Yahoo)

Nuclear Accord

Iran's President Accuses US of 'Lack of Compliance' on Nuclear Deal

Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Thursday said that the United States' "lack of compliance" with a nuclear deal reached with six major powers and Iran in 2015 should be "rectified forthwith." 

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, Iran's president also blamed world powers for the spread of terrorism over the past 15 years, saying their "repression and military intervention" has led to a more insecure world.

Rohani criticized a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing families of victims of bombing attacks linked to Iran to receive monetary damages from the country. At risk for Tehran is 1.75 billion in bonds, plus accumulating interest.  (The New York Times)


Oil Markets: Iran's New Message

Iran wants “fair” oil prices – and says they are good for both producers and consumers.

That’s the new message Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent to oil markets during a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Friday. No discussion about pre-sanction market share was mentioned.

Rouhani’s message comes shortly before the September 26-28 meeting in Algeria, where the OPEC countries and other major producers will gather to address an oil production freeze proposed by Saudi Arabia and Russia. (Forbes)

Iran Crude Exports hit Five-Year High near Pre-Sanctions Level

Iran's August crude oil exports jumped 15 percent from July to more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd), according to a source with knowledge of its tanker loading schedule, closing in on Tehran's pre-sanctions shipment levels of five years ago. 

The No. 3 OPEC producer has more than doubled its crude exports, excluding the ultra light oil condensate, since December. Economic sanctions targeting Iran's disputed nuclear program were lifted in January, and it has been battling since then to regain market share lost to other Middle East producers over the previous four years. 

The strong demand for Iran's crude in Asia and Europe has enabled it to raise its oil output to just over 3.8 million bpd as of this month, still shy of the 4 million bpd level Tehran says is a precondition for discussing output limits with Saudi Arabia and Russia. (Reuters)

Women of Iran

Women in Iran defy Fatwa by Riding Bikes in Public

It had been understood women that could cycle as long as religious concerns were respected. 

But when asked recently, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, said women were not allowed to cycle in public or in the presence of strangers.

The issue came into focus earlier this year, when campaigners in Iran began marking "car-free Tuesdays" to encourage people to leave their cars at home in the hope of cutting down on pollution.

When women were seen taking part in campaign bike rides, it was frowned upon by some Iranian clerics. (BBC)


Environment Official says Iran looking for more international cooperation

Faced with mounting environmental challenges, Iran is implementing an ambitious program to reduce greenhouse gases and restore dried wetlands, but it would benefit from more international cooperation, including a resumption of lending by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a senior official says.

In an exclusive interview Sept. 22 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's annual meeting, Majid Shafie-Pour, the deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment, told Al-Monitor that US opposition to GEF support for Iran has hurt his country's ability to achieve even more.

"Environmental challenges in Iran are really on a soaring path," Shafie-Pour said. He cited the impact of climate change, drought and a rise in devastating dust and sandstorms from dried-up lakes and wetlands. (Al-Monitor)

Inside Iran

Abandoning discretion, Iranians proclaim their role in Syrian war

Abandoning a long-standing reticence, Iranians are increasingly candid about their involvement in Syria's war, and informal recruiters are now openly calling for volunteers to defend the Islamic Republic and fellow Shi'ites against Sunni militants. 

With public opinion swinging behind the cause, numbers of would-be fighters have soared far beyond what Tehran is prepared to deploy in Syria, according to former fighters who spoke to Reuters, and commanders quoted by Iranian media.

Iran has been sending fighters to Syria since the early stages of the five-year war to support its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, in the struggle against Sunni rebels backed by Gulf Arab states and Western powers. (Reuters)

Ayatollah Khamenei puts Iran on the Miltary Offensive

On September 1, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said something quite remarkable.

In a speech at an Iranian military expo, the ayatollah stated that the development of Iran’s “defensive and offensive capabilities” is an “inalienable and clear right,” comments subsequently echoed by important clerics and major state media outlets.

Iranian leaders almost always describe their military as strictly “defensive” as a point of moral and political pride. The word offensive is rarely, if ever, used by Tehran when discussing its armed forces. (Newsweek)


The Terror Financing Risks of America's $400 million cash payment to Iran

By Suzanne Maloney

The January 2016 release of five Americans after months or even in some cases years of unjust imprisonment in Iran prompted celebrations and relief among many Americans and the rest of the world. Tehran’s detention of these individuals—including a Washington Post reporter, a Christian pastor, and a former U.S. Marine—as well as many, many other innocents underscores the threats to basic freedoms in Iran’s Islamic Republic.

That the detained Americans’ release was timed to coordinate with the settlement of a nearly forty-year-old financial dispute between the United States and Iran—and that this settlement included payments to Tehran that were transacted via the airlift of foreign currency—has prompted allegations that the Obama administration paid a “ransom” to Tehran.

Read the full article.