Week of September 29 - October 6
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 Shiva Darian and Research Associate Bryan Falcone. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.
U.S. - Iran Relations
Family Splits Drive Suit Over 'Most Cruel' Trump Travel Ban
A pair of Iranian romances are at the center of the first lawsuit targeting President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries, Venezuela and North Korea.
A complaint filed late Monday in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, pits the Trump administration against a nonprofit group, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, and six unnamed U.S. citizens of Iranian descent, including two women who are seeking visas for the Iranian men they love.
Trump’s Sept. 24 proclamation will indefinitely limit most travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, all of which were part of the original ban. It will also restrict travel to the U.S. from Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. (Bloomberg)
Trump Is Expected to ‘Decertify’ the Iran Deal and Let Congress Deal With the Fallout
President Trump is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Mr. Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.
Still, Mr. Trump’s expected move would allow him to tell supporters that he had disavowed the accord, while bowing to the reality that the United States would isolate itself from its allies if it sabotaged a deal with which Iran is viewed as complying. Mr. Trump repeatedly ridiculed the accord during the 2016 presidential campaign, vowing to rip it up.(New York Times)
Tillerson's Dramatic Plan To Save Iran Deal, Keep Up Pressure
As President Donald Trump considers whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is working behind the scenes with Congress to head off the possibility of an international crisis ahead of the agreement's looming October 15 certification deadline, several US officials and Western diplomats told CNN.
Tillerson and congressional lawmakers are spearheading efforts to amend US legislation regarding Iran to shift focus away from the nuclear issue -- a move that could allow the US to stay in the multilateral nuclear deal forged in 2015 and also push back against Iran's other destabilizing behavior, officials and diplomats said.
"Tillerson has said the problem with the JCPOA is not the JCPOA," one senior administration official said, using the acronym for the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (CNN)
Mattis: JCPOA Is In U.S. National Security Interest
President Donald Trump has made numerous hints that he is considering unravelling the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), potentially at the expense of relations with European allies, Russia, China, and Iran.
But proponents of the deal may have just found an unlikely ally in Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who earlier Tuesday stated unequivocally that the deal serves the national security interest of the U.S.
The accord, according to U.S. negotiators, was focused on the biggest security threat posed by Iran—its potential to build a nuclear weapon within a few weeks. In 2015, when the JCPOA was concluded, Iran agreed to terms that effectively rolled back its nuclear program and subjected it to unprecedented scrutiny by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors in exchange for relief from far-reaching economic sanctions. (LobeLog)
Women Of Iran
Iranian Chess Player, Shunned For Refusing To Wear Hijab, Will Play In U.S.
A female chess champion from Iran has joined the United States Chess Federation, months after learning that she was officially barred from playing for her homeland because she refused to wear a head scarf.
Officials at the United States Chess Federation, the official governing body for chess players in the United States, said on Tuesday that Dorsa Derakhshani, 19, a grandmaster champion who grew up in Tehran, would compete under its oversight after she officially joined in September.
The designation was recorded on the website of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation. The American branch represents the United States in the world federation. (The New York Times)
Turkey, Iran, and Iraq Pledge To Act Jointly Against Kurdistan
Turkey, Iran and Iraq will decide together whether to halt Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil exports as regional powers increase the pressure on the autonomous region after it held an independence referendum.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said after a one-day trip to Iran that the three nations would act jointly on sanctions against the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kurdish authorities depend on a pipeline through Turkey to export about 500,000 barrels of oil a day but also ship oil through Iran.
Ankara had been one of the KRG’s staunchest allies and has often had strained relations with Baghdad and Tehran. But concerns that the referendum threatens to destabilise the region and could embolden Kurds in neighbouring countries to push for greater autonomy have caused a thaw in relations as the three countries align to put more pressure on the KRG. (Financial Times)
Iran's Javad Zarif And Sheikh Tamim Hold Talks In Doha
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, has met Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani for talks on relations and strengthening "cooperation" between the two countries after almost four months of a blockade against Qatar.
The visit is Zarif's first to Doha since four Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt - cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on 5 June and imposed a land, air and sea blockade.
"During the meeting, they reviewed relations of cooperation between the two countries in various fields as well as exchanged views on the current situation in the region," a statement from Qatar News Agency said, referring to Tuesday's talks. (Al Jazeera)
Iran And Iraq To Hold Joint Border Drills
The Iranian and Iraqi armies will hold joint drills at several crossings on Iran's border with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, according to officials.
The announcement on Saturday came amid rising tensions in the wake of a controversial secession referendum in Iraq's Kurdish region, where almost 93 percent of voters backed a split from Baghdad.
Monday's poll was strongly opposed by Iraq and its powerful neighbours Iran and Turkey amid fears it would provoke separatists among their own Kurdish population. (Al Jazeera)
The Nuclear Issue Isn't The Real Iranian Challenge
By: David Ignatius
Various cultures have different phrases for expressing the idea of having it both ways at once. “To take a swim and not get wet” is an Albanian proverb. Poles talk about “having the cookie and eating it.” Iranians want “both God and the sugar dates.
The Trump administration has been weighing a contemporary geopolitical version of this straddle. Hard-liners have been urging the president to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement but insist that he wants to strengthen the deal, not break it. The idea is enticing politically, certainly, but it has as much chance of working as (forgive me) “washing your fur but not getting wet,” as a German aphorism puts it.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading critic of the Iran deal, described this ambiguous diplomatic approach this week at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t propose leaving the deal yet. I propose taking the steps necessary to obtain leverage to get a better deal.” Cotton wants decertification, but no sanctions, so that the United States can . . . what? Apparently, the idea is that U.S. pressure will convince Iran to make unilateral concessions that it refused during the 13 years the deal was being negotiated.