Week of November 24 - December 1
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
Turkish Gold Trader Implicates Erdogan In Iran Money Laundering
A Turkish-Iranian gold trader on Thursday told jurors in a New York federal court that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan authorized a transaction in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
Reza Zarrab is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive accused of helping to launder money for Iran. At the time of the alleged conspiracy, Erdogan was Turkey's prime minister.
Zarrab said he had learned from Zafer Caglayan, who was Turkey's economy minister, that Erdogan and then-treasury minister Ali Babacan had authorized two Turkish banks, Ziraat Bank and VakifBank, to move funds for Iran. (U.S. News)
Iran Promises To Send Warships To Gulf Of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean
Iran's new naval commander has vowed to send warships to America's backyard.Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi said plans were being drawn up for vessels to be deployed to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean "in the near future." They would also visit South American countries, he added.
Tehran has long complained about U.S. ships being based in the Persian Gulf. Speaking at his first press conference since being appointed, Khanzadi promised his navy would "wave the flag of our country in the Gulf of Mexico."
He pointed out that "the appearance of our vessels in the Mediterranean and Suez Canal shocked the world and the U.S. also made comments on it." It isn't the first time Iran's military has pledged its ships would enter the Gulf of Mexico. (NBC)
Europeans Descend On DC To Defend Iran Deal
Some of the US's closest allies, the UK, Germany and France, who have been growing increasingly frustrated after months of lobbying to keep the Iran nuclear deal intact, have formed a united front.
Without being invited, they've organized a joint team to travel to Washington this week, setting up their own meetings to ramp up the pressure on the US, according to a senior diplomatic source from one of the participating countries.
The team of senior European diplomats will meet with members of Congress, the State Department and possibly at the White House on Thursday and Friday, the source said. The visit continues an extended pressure campaign by key European nations, which has included visits from senior figures, including the EU foreign policy chief and UK foreign secretary, to protect the Iran nuclear deal in the face of hostility from President Donald Trump, who has declared he wants the agreement changed or canceled. (CNN)
Israel, Egypt Pushed U.S. To Bomb Iran Before Nuclear Deal, John Kerry Says
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said both Israel and Egypt pushed the United States to “bomb Iran” before the 2015 nuclear deal was struck.
Kerry defended the deal during a forum in Washington, where he said that a number of kings and foreign presidents told the U.S. that bombing was the only language Iran would understand.
Kerry said that in his opinion it was “a trap” because the same countries would have publicly criticized the U.S. if it did carry out a bombing of Iran as they were secretly supporting. Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “genuinely agitating toward action.” (Haaretz)
China Pushing Billions Into Iranian Economy As Western Firms Stall
China is financing billions of dollars worth of Chinese-led projects in Iran, making deep inroads into the economy while European competitors struggle to find banks willing to fund their ambitions, Iranian government and industry officials said.
Freed from crippling nuclear sanctions two years ago, Iran is drawing unprecedented Chinese funding for everything from railways to hospitals, they said. State-owned investment arm CITIC Group recently established a $10 billion credit line and China Development Bank is considering $15 billion more.
"They (Western firms) had better come quickly to Iran otherwise China will take over," said Ferial Mostofi, head of the Iran Chamber of Commerce's investment commission, speaking on the sidelines of an Iran-Italy investment meeting in Rome. (U.S. News)
Women of Iran
Iran: Women Allowed To Compete At International Weightlifter Contests
Iranian women can now take part in international weightlifting competitions as authorities on Thursday lifted the ban. The sport is one of the country’s most advanced sport activities to have offered the Islamic Republic international accolades with several world champions and Olympic medals.
Women have never been allowed to lock horns with their world counterparts. Ali Moradi, president of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation indicated that the Federation Women’s committee has been established to promote female athletes.
“They have high capacity like men athletes, and I hope that, wearing special clothes for Muslim athletes, they will be able to take part in international championships in the near future,” he said. Attila Adamfi, director general of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) welcomed the move. (Middle East Confidential)
Strong Quake Strikes Southeastern Iran
A strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck southeastern Iran on Friday, followed quickly by an aftershock measuring 5.1, the U.S. Geological Survey says. At least 42 people were injured and several homes destroyed, officials say.
The epicenter of the quake was located about 36 miles northeast of the city of Kerman in a sparsely populated area of the country. The depth of the quake, at only 6 miles, was likely to intensify the effects.
"The quake destroyed some houses in eight villages but so far there has been no fatalities," a local official told state TV, according to Reuters. "Assessment teams are surveying the earthquake-stricken areas and villages in Kerman province," Morteza Salimi, the head of the Relief and Rescue Organization of Iran's Red Crescent, told state television, according to the news agency. (NPR)
Russia, Iran, Turkey Agree To Hold Syrian 'Congress' To Talk Peace
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to hold a "congress" in Russia that would bring together the warring factions in Syria for peace talks.
Putin's comments came after he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
The three leaders have issued a joint statement aimed at continuing the Syrian peace talks and finding a sustainable solution for the post-conflict period by convening a "Syrian National Congress of Dialogue," Putin said. (CNN)
Iran Guards Ready To Help Rebuild Syria, Hezbollah Will Not Disarm: TV
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are ready to help rebuild Syria and bring about a lasting “ceasefire” there, chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, adding that disarming Lebanon’s Hezbollah is out of the question, state TV reported on Thursday.
Regional tensions have risen in recent weeks between Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran, whose rivalry has wrought upheaval in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia has accused the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah of helping Houthi forces in Yemen and playing a role in a ballistic missile attack on the kingdom earlier this month. Iran and Hezbollah both denied the claims. (Reuters)
Translated Doc Debunks Narrative Of Al Qaeda - Iran 'Alliance'
By: Gareth Porter
For many years, major U.S. institutions ranging from the Pentagon to the 9/11 Commission have been pushing the line that Iran secretly cooperated with Al Qaeda both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the evidence for those claims remained either secret or sketchy, and always highly questionable.
In early November, however, the mainstream media claimed to have its “smoking gun”—a CIA document written by an unidentified Al Qaeda official and released in conjunction with 47,000 never-before-seen documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The Associated Press reported that the Al Qaeda document “appears to bolster U.S. claims that Iran supported the extremist network leading up to the September 11 terror attacks.” The Wall Street Journal said the document “provides new insights into Al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, suggesting a pragmatic alliance that emerged out of shared hatred of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”