Iran Digest: Week of September 2-9, 2016

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

Iran vessel 'harasses,' sails close to U.S. Navy ship in Gulf: U.S. officials

A U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after a fast-attack craft from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it in the central Gulf on Sunday, U.S. Defense Department officials said on Tuesday.

It was at least the fourth such incident in less than a month. U.S. officials are concerned that these actions by Iran could lead to mistakes.

Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran in January after a deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. But serious differences still remain over Iran's ballistic missile program, and over conflicts in Syria and Iraq. (Reuters)

Republicans seek to censure Obama administration on $400 million 'ransom' to Iran

Congressional Republicans want to censure the Obama administration for sending $400 million in “ransom” to Iran on the same day as American prisoners were released – an issue they bet will play big on the campaign trail two months before election day.

The move comes as new details are emerging about just how and when the Obama administration completed the transfer of $1.7 billion to settle claims related to the incomplete sale of military weapons before the Iranian Revolution in 1979. (Washington Post)

Nuclear Accord

Think tank says Iran given 'secret' exemptions to nuclear deal

A frequent critic of the Iran nuclear deal said Thursday that the United States and its negotiating partners have allowed Tehran to exceed agreed-upon caps for stockpiles of enriched uranium and other materials.

David Albright, the founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said key “exemptions” to the deal’s limits were made in what he characterized as “secret” meetings of the Joint Commission. That is the body established to decide issues that arise in implementing the deal. Its members are Iran and the countries that negotiated the agreement — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, as well as the European Union.  (Washington Post)

Obama administration denies secret loopholes in Iran nuclear agreement

The Obama administration has insisted that the terms of a nuclear agreement signed last year with Iran were being upheld after a Washington think tank alleged that Tehran had been granted secret exemptions.

A report by the Institute for Science and International Security alleged that a joint commission set up to implement the Vienna deal had allowed Iran to keep more than the agreed maximum of 300 kg of low enriched uranium (LEU) by excluding waste material in Iran’s nuclear facilities. If enriched further, LEU could be used in a nuclear warhead.

The institute’s director and co-author of the report, David Albright, said that this and other exemptions were granted by the commission in secret. (The Guardian)


As Iran Reopens to the International Oil Business, Risks Abound for Foreign Companies

The Iranian cabinet has just approved new contracts for petroleum exploration, hoping to attract foreign capital and technology to boost production (and revenue).  Some uncertainty remains about the precise nature of the contracts and whether or not it will be necessary to submit them for Parliamentary approval. Although there is a lot of interest in developing Iranian oil resources, entering the sector will not be for the faint of heart. 

The biggest change is apparently a switch from buyback to production-sharing contracts.  The former is disliked by the industry and often seems to result in poor returns, at least according to European firms that operated in Iran in the 1990s.  Production-sharing contracts are the preferred model throughout most of the world, but are apparently somewhat controversial in Iran, judging from the 2-year debate and 150 amendments.  (Forbes)

Oil Minister: Iran Backs OPEC Moves Geared Toward Stability

Iran's oil minister says his country would support any decision by the oil producing group of nations that seeks to stabilize the oil market, Iranian state TV reported on Tuesday.

The remarks by the minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, came after talks with OPEC chief Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo on Tuesday in Tehran.

According to Zangeneh, most OPEC members want to see the price of crude oil at 50 to 60 dollars per barrel.

"This price makes production of oil by OPEC members profitable, economical and useful, while preventing the rivals from raising their output," he said.  (New York Times)

Women of Iran

Iranian Women Made History at Rio Olympics

The Islamic Republic of Iran participated in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with 63 athletes, only nine of whom were women. Yet Kimia Alizadeh, competing in taekwondo, made history when she became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal. 

It was a momentous event for Iranian female athletes, who are often shamed by religious and political figures for participating in sports and suffer a serious disadvantage compared to many of their competitors due to the Iranian government’s refusal to support them.

After Iran’s 1979 revolution, Iranian women were banned from taking part in international sports competitions for more than a decade. Finally, Iranian women shooters became the first female athletes to represent post-revolutionary Iran in an international competition in the 1990 Asian Games. Then, in 1996, shooter Lida Fariman became the first Iranian woman to participate in the Olympics from the Islamic Republic. (

Inside Iran

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of 'murdering' pilgrims during hajj stampede

Iran’s supreme leader has said Saudi Arabian authorities “murdered” Muslim pilgrims who were injured during last year’s hajj stampede, as Mecca prepares to host the annual event again.

“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers — instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on his website marking the anniversary of the disaster and calling for new management of the event. He offered no evidence to support the allegations. (The Guardian)

UK appoints first ambassador to Iran since 2011

The UK Foreign Office has appointed Nicholas Hopton as its new ambassador to Iran in the latest sign of renewed diplomatic relations between the two countries a year on from Tehran’s historic nuclear deal.

Britain’s foreign office said it hoped the appointment of Mr Hopton, the UK’s current charge D’affaires in Iran, would “mark the start of more productive cooperation” with the Islamic Republic, five years after the UK withdrew its diplomatic corps from the country.

Mr Hopton has previously served as the UK’s ambassador to Qatar and Yemen. He joined the FCO in 1989 and said he was “delighted” to take the role.

“I look forward to the next phase of cooperation between out countries”, tweeted Mr Hopton. (The Financial Times)


Iran Nuclear Deal Likely to Survive Next Administration

By Barbara Slavin

Like a car that has lost its new car smell and has a few nicks on its bumpers, the nuclear agreement reached last year between Iran and six world powers is showing some wear just nine months after its full implementation.

But the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is known, has survived efforts to wreck it by opponents in both Iran and the United States, and the deal is likely to endure into the next U.S. administration.

The problems with the agreement relate more to underlying hostility between the United States and Iran, which have not had normal diplomatic relations since 1980.

Seeking to prove that the JCPOA does not mean appeasement of the Great Satan, Iranian hardliners have stepped up provocative actions including arresting dual nationals, testing ballistic missiles, and harassing U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly warned Iranian government officials not to negotiate with the United States on non-nuclear matters, even as senior diplomats continue to meet to review implementation of the nuclear agreement and to discuss a potential settlement to the war in Syria.

Read the full article.