Week of September 22 - 29
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
U.S. Sees No 'Indication' Iran Launched A Ballistic Missile, Despite Trump Tweet
US intelligence radars and sensors "picked up no indication" of an Iranian ballistic missile launch in the days surrounding a reported test, according to a Trump administration official familiar with the latest US assessment.
Iranian reports that the nation tested a new ballistic missile so far does not appear to be true, the official said, adding: "As far as we can see, it did not happen."
State-run broadcaster Press TV reported the launch on Saturday, according to footage broadcast on Iranian state television."Iran has released footage of the successful test-launch of its new ballistic missile, Khorramshahr, a few hours after it was unveiled during a military parade in the capital city of Tehran," Press TV said. (CNN)
Iranian Americans In Limbo After Trump's New Travel Rules
U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar has traveled overseas four times in the last year to visit his Iranian fiancee, most recently hoping to complete government paperwork that would allow her to come live with him in the United States.
But the 39-year-old now fears they will be forever separated after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out new restrictions blocking most Iranians from traveling to America. The new restrictions covering citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families — are to go into effect Oct. 18.
“It is devastating,” said Jahanfar, who works as a salesman in Long Beach, California, and has lived in the United States for three decades. “There should be no reason why my fiancée, who is an educated person in Iran, who has a master’s degree, why we cannot be with each other. I cannot wrap my head around it.” (PBS)
Iran May Abandon Nuclear Deal If U.S. Withdraws: F.M. Zarif
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran may walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries if the US withdraws from the agreement.
"If Washington decides to pull out of the deal, Iran has the option of withdrawal and other options," the Twitter feed of the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera quoted Zarif as saying in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The remarks came amid repeated threats by Washington to quit the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the JCPOA in July 2015 and started implementing it in January 2016. (Press TV)
U.S. Envoy Slams Russia For Bid To Shield Iran From I.A.E.A. Inspections
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday slammed a bid by Russia to shield Iran from inspections by the United Nations nuclear watchdog relating to a specific section of a landmark 2015 deal restricting Tehran’s nuclear activities.
Iran agreed to the nuclear deal with six major powers in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Compliance with the nuclear restrictions is being verified by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
Haley has infuriated Iran by saying the IAEA should widen inspections to include military sites, but diplomats say Russia has been trying to restrict the agency’s role by arguing it has no authority to police a broadly worded section of the deal. (Reuters)
Iran Says Tougher Inspections Of Nuclear Program Come In 6 Years
Iran’s foreign minister said the country is willing to formally accept a tougher nuclear inspection regime in six years, while continuing to rule out any renegotiation of a 2015 agreement U.S. President Donald Trump has called an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever.
“If Congress behaves, in 6 years from now, we will be ratifying the Additional Protocol, the most intrusive inspection regime that is available,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday in an interview with Charlie Rose at the Asia Society in New York. “We will become a party to the Additional Protocol, provided the U.S. takes care of its responsibilities.”
Zarif was referring to a broader and more intrusive, but voluntary, inspection regime of nuclear facilities established by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran previously signed, but never ratified, the Additional Protocol, and while it was included as part of the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran’s government had not set a timeline for when it would be ratified. (Bloomberg)
E.U. Ambassadors Defend Iran Deal, Pushing Back At Trump
European ambassadors to the US mounted a united defense of the Iran nuclear deal as Washington signals it may walk away from the pact.
Envoys from the European Union, Germany, France and Britain laid out their arguments, returning frequently to their central point that the deal is working and Iran is complying with the agreement reached in July 2015 and implemented in January 2016.
The diplomats said the deal is in the national security interests of their countries, the Middle East and the world. They said a decision to walk away would undermine Western credibility, particularly with North Korea. And while they're happy to discuss Iran's behavior outside of the nuclear deal, they said the pact itself is not open for renegotiation. (CNN)
Western Allies Diverge Further Over Iran, With Europe Offering Finance As U.S. Launches New Travel Ban
European banks have begun a fresh wave of investment in Iran, just as Washington launches another attempt at restricting links between the US and Iran.
Over the past week, banks in Austria, Denmark and France have announced investment deals with Iran worth a collective €2bn ($2.4bn), while in contrast the White House on September 24 announced a fresh travel ban on the citizens of Iran and seven other countries.
The wave of European financing began on September 21, when Austria's Oberbank agreed to extend a €1bn line of credit to 14 Iranian banks. The money will be used for infrastructure projects in Iran. On the same day, Denmark’s Danske Bank signing a deal for a €500m line of credit with ten Iranian banks. Since then, French state-owned bank BPI France has said it will also provide a €500m credit line to French companies wanting to invest in Iran. (Forbes)
Iran's Leaders Opposed Kurdish Independence Vote In Iraq. Iran's Kurds Celebrated In The Streets
Nearly every Middle East government was opposed to Monday's vote for independence in the Kurdish region of Iraq. But not so just across the border in the cities and towns of western Iran.
There, thousands of Iranian Kurds, jubilant for their Iraqi kin, staged demonstrations in support of the vote. (Iran is home to roughly 8 million Kurds. The rest of the region's Kurdish population is spread across Iraq, Syria and Turkey.)
Crowds waving glowing cellphone screens marched in main squares in places including Baneh, Sanandaj and Mahabad, the capital of a short-lived republic declared by Kurds in 1946. Images posted on social media showed demonstrators singing the Kurdish national anthem, chanting for “freedom!” and in some cases marching past Iranian security forces. (The Washington Post)
Iran Tries To Reconcile Syria And Hamas, Rebuilding Alliance
Iran is working to restore a lost link in its network of alliances in the Middle East, trying to bring Hamas fully back into the fold after the Palestinian militant group had a bitter fall-out with Iranian ally Syria over that country's civil war.
Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are quietly trying to mediate a reconciliation between Syria and Hamas. If they succeed, it would shore up a weak spot in the alliance at a time when Iran has strengthened ties with Syria and Iraq, building a bloc of support across the region to counter Israel and the United States' Arab allies.
Hamas had long been based in Syria, receiving Damascus' support in the militant group's campaign against Israel. Hamas' powerful leadership-in-exile remained in Syria even after the group took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Together with Iran and the Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah, they touted themselves as the "Axis of Resistance" to oppose Israel. (Bloomberg)
Iran's Ballistic Missiles Are Here To Stay - For Now
By: Jarrett Blanc
Iran’s increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile arsenal worries its neighbors and the United States. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, not its ballistic missiles, but somehow the missiles weigh heavily as the Trump administration decides whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal in October or to allow Congress to re-impose the U.S. sanctions lifted by the deal.
Judging the JCPOA on ballistic missiles, a problem it was not intended to solve, is dangerous and self-defeating. Withdrawing from the deal would make a peaceful settlement of Iran’s missile problem less likely in the long term while making the missiles — and Iran in general — a more dire and immediate threat by opening a path to nuclear weapons development. For anyone serious about addressing Iran’s ballistic missile threat, the JCPOA offers important guideposts to the art — and limits — of the possible.
The JCPOA did not address ballistic missile for a simple reason. The U.S. and its allies were not positioned to get a good deal on missiles and wisely chose not to forfeit the achievable nuclear solution. There is an international consensus that an Iranian nuclear weapons program would pose an international threat.