Week of February 17 - 24
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.
U.S. - Iran Relations
Iran Army Chief Threatens to Give U.S. 'Slap in the Face' After Donald Trump Puts Tehran 'On Notice'
The US should expect a "strong slap in the face" if it underestimates Iran's defensive capabilities, a commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards has warned.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump promised a tougher approach on Iran and warned the Islamic Republic it was playing with fire after its recent ballistic missile test.
"The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake," General Mohammad Pakpour said, in quotes reported on the Guards' website. (Independent)
Iran's Foreign Minister Dismisses Possibility of Renegotiating the Nuclear Deal
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal, telling NBC News there's little appetite for opening "Pandora's box."
His remarks Sunday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference come amid a recent escalation in hostilities between the Trump administration and Tehran.
"I believe the nuclear deal is going to last," the foreign minister said firmly.The White House recently said it was putting Iran "on notice" over a ballistic missile test and then imposed new sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals. (NBC News)
Iran Says Oil Prices Over $55 per Barrel are Harmful for OPEC: Fars
Iran said on Thursday an increase in oil prices to more than $55 per barrel was not in the interest of OPEC as it would lead to a rise in output by non-OPEC producers, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
"If oil prices specifically surge over $55 or $60 per barrel, non-OPEC producers will increase their crude production to benefit the most from the price hike," Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted by Fars as saying.
"OPEC is determined to reduce its production to help manage the market." (Reuters)
Money Talks Louder than Trump for Iran in Natural Gas Push
Iran is hard at work gaining a foothold in the global energy market, and it’s not letting U.S. President Donald Trump’s confrontational tone stop it from trying.
Political rhetoric is unlikely to turn into tangible impediments for Iran’s ambition to join Russia and Norway in the ranks of major gas exporters, according to Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia.
The nation has about $7 trillion worth of gas reserves sitting underground, based on European benchmark prices, and its doors are open to those who will help it cash in on the fortune. (Bloomberg Markets)
Women of Iran
Teenage Iranian Chess Master Banned From National Team for Refusing to Wear a Headscarf
To most observers, nothing stood out about Dorsa Derakhshani last month when she competed at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival. The 18-year-old female grand master fared fine on the board, twice using the Four Knights defense, and looked like any other teenager you might see in the British territory that borders southern Spain.
But to the head of the Iranian Chess Federation, Derakhshani practically committed an act of treason.
Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh didn’t have a problem with Derakhshani’s play, but her headwear. Derakhshani wore a simple headband in her long hair, instead of a hijab, Iran’s traditional headscarf, which became a compulsory accessory for women after the 1979 revolution. (The Washington Post)
Protests in Iranian City Where 'Everything is Covered in Brown Dust'
Days of protests over dust storms, power failures and government mismanagement in one of Iran’s most oil-rich cities subsided on Sunday after security forces declared all demonstrations illegal.
Residents of Ahvaz, a city with a majority Arab population near the border with Iraq, had been protesting for five days in increasingly large gatherings, shown in cellphone video clips shared on social media.
The region around Ahvaz is a center of oil production in Iran, and since economic sanctions were lifted, Iran’s government has been hoping for foreign investment in the area to update refineries and power stations and fix deepening ecological problems. (The New York Times)
Tension Rising between Regional Rivals Turkey and Iran
Tensions are on the rise between Turkey and Iran. A growing war of words between the countries' diplomats has brought to the surface simmering competition for influence in the region.
“Iran is an important neighbor to us. We have always been in dialogue with Iran. But it does not mean we will ignore Iran’s efforts in penetrating the region,” said Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin in the latest thinly veiled threat between the countries during his weekly news conference.
Kalin was responding to comments by Ali Akbar Velayati, a key adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who told Turkish soldiers to leave Iraq and Syria, or the people would “kick them out.” (VOA News)
Iran's Supreme Leader Rejects Calls to Release Leaders of the 2009 Green Movement Protests
Three months before presidential elections in Iran, it appears incumbent Hassan Rouhani will not fulfill a key pledge he made before winning office: to free opposition leaders held under house arrest since a 2009 crackdown.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has rejected calls for “national reconciliation,” in effect guaranteeing that opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi — leaders of the Green Movement protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election — will remain under house arrest.
It was the latest setback to reformists who back the moderate Rouhani, who signed the historic nuclear agreement that improved Iran’s relations with the West, but is facing criticism from conservatives as the economy has failed to improve even as many international sanctions were lifted. (The Los Angeles Times)
Iran Sends Military Students to Syrian Front
Iran is increasingly using Syrian battlefields as a proving ground for fresh military officers in training, according to Iranian media reports and Syrian opposition figures.Tehran-based Imam Hossein University, a school affiliated with The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said it recently deployed military leadership students to fight in Syria as part of an educational program designed for future officers, according to state-run media.
Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi'ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC expanding far beyond the shrine area. (VOA News)
Ten Things Iranians can do to Preempt a Trump War
By: Hamid Dabashi
Are nations entirely helpless in the face of blatant warmongering targeting their homeland? What can ordinary people do, independent of the state that is ruling them, to prevent, or at least make it difficult, for US militarism, now under the command of a mentally unstable"commander-in-chief", first to demonise before starting to bomb them.
For those of us who still actively remember the preparatory stage of the United States-led invasion, destruction, and occupation of first Afghanistan in 2001 and then Iraq in 2003, we know how demonising entire nations was and remains the indispensable first step before starting to bomb a country.
That history has now assumed an added urgency. Donald Trump needs a war and all the indications point to Iran as what seems like the easiest target in his crosshairs. He will never pick a fight with China, or Russia, or even North Korea. Like all bullies, he picks a fight he thinks (falsely) he can easily win.