Week of November 10 - 17
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
Criticism Of U.S. Sanctions Returns In Iran After Earthquake
With Iranian-Americans abroad unable to send money directly to Iran to aid those affected by this week’s powerful earthquake that killed over 530 people, criticism of U.S. sanctions on Iran flared up anew on Thursday.
The 2015 nuclear deal Tehran struck with world powers lifted some sanctions but others, dating back as far as the days after the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover, still stand, including those that prohibit about 1 million Iranian-Americans from directly sending cash to Iran.
The state-run IRNA news agency, as well as other media, published articles criticizing the rules. “Despite all the difficulties, Iranians living in the U.S. are doing their best to devise innovative solutions to send their humanitarian supplies to the quake-hit areas in western Iran,” IRNA’s report said. (The Washington Post)
Congress Moves Bill Jeopardizing Iran Nuclear Deal
As Congress moves to ratchet up pressure on Iran, a key House panel today approved a bill that could run afoul of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act would make it much more difficult for Iran to purchase commercial aircraft from firms that do business in the United States. Iran’s ability to replenish its aging civil aviation fleet, which was depleted by decades of sanctions, was a key incentive for Tehran to sign onto the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The House Financial Services Committee voted to advance the bill 38-21 today, paving the way for the full House to vote. All of the Republicans on the commitee voted yes, joined by only five Democrats. “Iran would view [the bill’s] enactment into law as a breach of the JCPOA,” Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert at the Congressional Research Service, told Al-Monitor. (Al-Monitor)
IAEA Confirms Iran Is Meeting Its Commitments Under Nuclear Agreement
Iran is adhering to the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program under a 2015 agreement, the United Nations agency charged with monitoring the country’s facilities has said in its first report since President Trump refused to certify the Islamic republic’s compliance.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report viewed by Reuters and several other news outlets Monday that Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium have not exceeded the agreed limit of 300 kilograms. It also reported that IAEA inspectors were able to gain access to any sites they tried to visit.
The quarterly report marked the ninth successive time the IAEA has attested that Iran is meeting its commitments since the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, including the United States, was implemented early last year. (The Washington Post)
Iran, Singapore Resolving Banking Ties
Iran and Singapore called for resolving banking issues to boost trade. In a meeting with the head of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Singapore’s Ambassador to Iran Ong Keng Yong said, “We are currently working to come up with a suitable solution to establish banking relations between Singapore and Iran,” the official news portal of ICCIMA reported.
He met with ICCIMA chief, Gholamhossein Shafei, on Wednesday to discuss the capacities for bilateral economic cooperation as well as the requirements for joint investments.
“Because banking hurdles have to be resolved, we can improve the level of our relations by establishing more ties between our respective small- and medium-sized enterprises,” he said. As examples of potential fields of cooperation, the ambassador referred to SMEs active in food processing and production of electronic consumer goods and cosmetics. (Financial Tribune)
Iran - Iraq Earthquake Kills More Than 500
Iranians dug through rubble in a frantic search for survivors on Monday, after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border, killing more than 500 People and injuring thousands of other in the world's deadliest earthquake so far this year.
The quake, recorded at 9:48 p.m. on Sunday, was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. The epicenter was near Ezgeleh, Iran, about 135 miles northeast of Baghdad, and had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, according to the United States Geological Survey. Seismologists in the country said it was the biggest quake to hit the western part of Iran.
Photographs from the region - a patchwork of farms and home to many Kurds, a large ethnic minority in Iran - posted on the internet showed collapsed buildings, cars destroyed by rubble and people sleeping in the streets in fear of aftershocks. (The New York Times)
Iran Factions Use Earthquake Relief Effort To Pursue Power Struggle
Political infighting among Iran’s ruling elite has moved on to a new battleground - the relief effort after an earthquake that killed at least 530 people and injured thousands.
Hardline media are accusing the government of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani of reacting too slowly to last weekend’s quake, while highlighting aid work by the Revolutionary Guards - a rival power center.
While the government said enough help had been sent to the thousands of people left homeless by the devastation, media affiliated to Rouhani’s hardline rivals painted a different picture with reports from villages where survivors complained about a lack of shelter from the bitter cold. (Reuters)
Israel 'Willing To Share' Iran Intelligence With Saudis
A prominent Saudi website has published an unprecedented interview with Israel's army chief of staff, signalling closer cooperation between the two countries against regional rival, Iran.
In an interview published by Elaph on Thursday, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot said that Israel is ready to share intelligence information to face the "threat" posed by Tehran.
Israel's military confirmed the content of the interview, a rare episode given that Saudi Arabia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations. In the interview, Eisenkot called Iran the "true and biggest threat" in the Middle East, accusing it of supporting armed groups throughout the region. (Al Jazeera)
U.K. Hopes To End Long Legal Dispute With Iran Over 1976 Arms Deal
The UK hopes to finally end a near four-decade legal dispute with the Iranian government over hundreds of Chieftain tanks Tehran bought from the UK in 1976, but never received.
The British government admits it owes Iran up to £300m, but the countries have wrangled over the precise sum and whether any payment could be made while Tehran was still under EU economic sanctions for its nuclear programme.
Downing Street insists there is no link between the dispute and efforts by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, to release the Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during an expected visit to the country soon. (The Guardian)
Russia, Iran, Turkey To Meet Over Syria Amid U.S. Tensions
Russia, Turkey and Iran will hold summit talks on Syria next week as Ankara threatens a possible attack on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces and tensions rise between Moscow and Washington over the future of the war-torn state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will host his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani, on Nov. 22 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss Syria and regional developments, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news service said Thursday. The three powers are key players in Syria, where they’ve spearheaded a cease-fire initiative and are now cooperating on a political settlement.
As the battle to defeat Islamic State nears its end, Russia is stepping up criticism of U.S. military involvement in Syria after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that American forces could stay on to ensure a political transition in the country. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday branded the U.S.-led coalition as “practically occupying forces” because they’re operating in Syria without the agreement of the government in Damascus. (Bloomberg)
Trump Administration Misses Opportunities to Show Concern for Iranian People
By: Barbara Slavin
While opposing many policies of the Iranian government, Trump administration officials have frequently claimed to care for the Iranian people. But such sentiments are belied by the feeble US official response to a massive earthquake that has killed more than 500 Iranians in a remote area on the Iran-Iraq border.
It took the US State Department more than 24 hours after the quake to express “sincere condolences” for the loss of life and property in the quake. The White House has yet to say anything about the tragedy.
Contrast this with the response of the George W. Bush administration in 2003, when a devastating earthquake hit the ancient Iranian city of Bam. The chief White House spokesman expressed the personal condolences of the US president and the Pentagon dispatched an entire medical brigade and tons of emergency aid on C-130 transit planes – the first US military aircraft to land in Iran in more than 20 years.