Iran Digest Week of December 23 - 30

Iran Digest
Week of December 23 - 30

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.

U.S. - Iran Relations

Inside the 37- Year Standoff Over Iran's Frozen U.S. Dollars

When the shah of Iran fell in 1979, the U.S. froze at least $400 million of Iranian money sitting in a Pentagon trust fund. The Islamic Republic of Iran never stopped trying to get it back.

Tehran unsuccessfully sought the money from Jimmy Carter in return for 52 American diplomats held hostage for 444 days. It asked the Reagan administration for the same money during dealings that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. The issue came up yet again during negotiations with George H.W. Bush’s White House.

No administration agreed to surrender all the money, until Jan.17, shortly after four American citizens were released from Iranian jailsin a prisoner exchange. That is when an Iranian government Boeing737 lifted off from Geneva’s Cointrin airport carrying $400 million—stacks of Swiss francs delivered on wooden pallets earlier that day by the U.S. government. (The Wall Street Journal)


Iranian dissidents seeking meeting with Trump

President-elect Donald Trump infuriated the Chinese by breaking with years of protocol in accepting a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Now, members of the Iranian opposition are seeking a similar phone call – even a sit-down – with the incoming president, hoping he keeps to his campaign vows to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal and get tough with Tehran.

Fox News has exclusively obtained a letter being presented soon to Trump from a group of influential Iranian dissidents, asking him to follow through on reconsidering the deal, even as President Obama has cautioned against ripping it up. (Fox News)

Nuclear Accord

Iran nuclear powers to meet January 10

A high-level commission that oversees Iran's nuclear deal with world powers will meet in Vienna on January 10 to address a complaint by Tehran about the renewing of sanctions by the United States.

The meeting was called on Saturday by the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who coordinates follow-up of the nuclear deal for its signatories -- Iran, the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

"The meeting will review the implementation of the agreement and discuss the issues raised in the letter (Iranian) Foreign Minister Zarif addressed on 16 December to (Mogherini)," a short statement from the EU said. (Yahoo News)


Iran, U.S. likely to start re-negotiations on nuclear deal

In an interview conducted by Mehr News International Service, Olli Hainonen talked about the possible scenarios for Iran’s nuclear deal once Donald Trump takes over as President of the United States. The following is the full text of the interview:

President-elect Donald Trump noted during his presidential campaign that Obama gave more points to Iran on nuclear agreement and voiced his intention to hold a new round of negotiations with Iran in regard to the nuclear deal. What will Trump ultimately do about the deal?

Currently the transition teams of President Obama and President-Elect Trump are meeting to review issues, including topics related to US national security. Mr. Trump is also receiving other security briefings. (Mehr News)


Iran's currency hits record low as Trump worries deter fund inflows

Iran's rial hit a record low against the U.S. dollar on Monday in a sign of concern about the country's ability to attract foreign money after U.S. president-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The rial was quoted in the free market at 41,500 to the dollar, weakening from around 41,250 on Sunday and 35,570 in mid-September. Before this month, the record low was about 40,000, hit in late 2012, traders said.

Economists said there were several reasons for the slide, including the dollar's strength against many currencies in the last few weeks, and uncertainty before next year's presidential elections in Iran. (Reuters)


Why Iran's 'green gold' is set to rebound

While Iran may be known for its massive oil and natural gas reserves to many people around the world, it is also known to some for its top-quality pistachios. Production of the nut in Iran dates to the fifth century B.C. For the last Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2016), Iran produced 261,000 tons of pistachios, 50% of which was exported. According to official figures, Iran earned as much as $1.2 billion from the export of 130,000 tons of pistachios last year, making it the biggest source of income in the agricultural sector.

Iran was for a time the unrivaled, leading producer of pistachios, with southeastern Kerman province being the hub of production for so-called green gold. (Al-Monitor)


Dreaming Of Blue Skies: Tehran's Battle for Clean Air

Nested on the southern portion of the Alborz mountain range, Tehran's prime location historically provided protection and freshwater sources to Iranians, earning the title as the nation's capital in the late 18th century. The Alborz Mountains, which once stood as an emblem of protection for the Iranian people, have become a key obstacle in pollution alleviation. Strong winds from the western and southern belts of Tehran blow pollution from industrial factories to the center, which become captured by the mountain range in the north and east in what some refer to as a "gas chamber".

Last month, a natural-color image produced by NASA revealed an alarming grey streak of heavy smog over Tehran. This same smog resulted in 412 Iranian lives lost in the last few weeks in the nation's capital from pollution-related causes. (Payvand)

Inside Iran

Pictures of homeless sleeping in empty graves shock Iran

Photographs of homeless people sleeping in empty graves outside Iran’s capital shocked even the country’s president on Wednesday, and pointed to the continuing economic struggles gripping the nation.

The images by Saeed Gholamhoseini were shot in Shahriar, some 12 miles west of Tehran, and published in the Shahrvand daily, a Persian-language newspaper, which said some 50 men, women and children, many of them drug addicts, live in the cemetery.

In one of the images published this week, a grime-streaked man rises out of a grave, smoke from a fire providing warmth inside rising around him. Others gather for warmth, smoking. (CBS)


Iran says it warns off fighters, drones during drill

An Iranian general said Wednesday that his country’s air defenses have warned off several fighter jets and drones during an ongoing military drill.

“In the past three days of military drills, the air defense has given warnings to 12 aircraft of trans-regional countries to stay away from the country’s airspace.” Gen. Abbas Farajpour was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Tasnim, which is close to Iran’s military, said the aircraft included U.S. fighter jets and drones.

Calls to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, rang unanswered Wednesday. In recent months, the 5th Fleet has complained about interactions with Iran’s military at sea and in the air. (The Washington Post)


The Iran Nuclear Deal is doing its Job

By Sina Azodi

U.S.-Iran relations have been affected by a series of tragic historical incidents and a long-running geopolitical competition over power and influence in the Middle East. Iran views the U.S. presence in the region not only as a security threat, but as a deterring force against its ambitions. The United States also views Iran’s actions as destabilizing and seeks to contain its rise by employing a variety of diplomatic and economic tools. This mutual hostility and mistrust have created an atmosphere that fosters miscalculation, and could easily escalate to another conflict in the region.

Despite some deep-rooted issues, I believe that the rational choice for Iran and the United States is to adopt a cooperative course, and work on the framework of a potential detente, which can be mutually beneficial for both countries and the region. The purpose of this piece is to summarize some of the issues that need to be addressed in working out such a plan.

Three important historical episodes continue to overshadow the U.S.-Iranian relations. In 1953, the Eisenhower administration, fearful of a Communist takeover, overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government and restored the young Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power.

Read the full article here.