Iran Digest Week of February 24 - March 3

Iran Digest

Week of February 24 - March 3

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 Uses Oscar Win to Attack Trump, U.S. Response Muted

Tehran has cheered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s second Oscar for best foreign film as an opportunity for more verbal attacks on the Trump administration, which responded with a muted defense of U.S. policy and deletion of a tweet about the movie.
A day after Farhadi’s The Salesman received the honor at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles, three senior Iranian officials sent him congratulatory messages that also contained criticisms of President Donald Trump, whom Tehran blames for increased tensions between the two nations since he took office last month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that he was proud of The Salesman’s cast and crew for taking a stance against what he described as the Trump administration’s ”Muslim ban.” (VOA News)

Obama Administration Made Last-Ditch Attempt to Free Americans From Iranian Prison

In the final weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, administration representatives held secret negotiations with Iranian officials, aimed at securing the release of American citizens imprisoned in Tehran.
The talks, described publicly for the first time by a lawyer working on behalf of two of the prisoners, began in mid-December and collapsed days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
Iranian negotiators, aware that the Obama administration was eager to strike a deal before leaving office, made unmeetable demands, said Jared Genser, a human rights attorney who has been in frequent contact with U.S. government officials about the effort to free the prisoners. (The Huffington Post)

Former Iranian President Sends Open Letter to the U.S. President

Iran's former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter Sunday to President Donald Trump, striking a somewhat conciliatory tone while applauding immigration to America and saying it shows 'the contemporary U.S. belongs to all nations.'
It isn't the first dispatch sent by Ahmadinejad, who has counted U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama among his pen pals.
But this letter, weighing in at over 3,500 words, comes as criticism of Trump over his travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran mounts in Tehran.  (Daily Mail)


Iran's 'Impressive Recovery' Clouded by 'Uncertainty,' IMF Says

The Iranian economy has had an “impressive recovery” following sanctions relief last year, though uncertainty regarding the fate of the nuclear deal and relations with the U.S. threaten to undermine it, the International Monetary Fund said.
Growth is expected to be 6.6 percent in the calendar year ending March 20, reflecting the rebound in oil production and exports, and stabilize at 4.5 percent “over the medium-term as the recovery broadens,” the IMF said in a report released on Monday.
It also highlighted the government’s ability to maintain inflation in single digits and stabilize the foreign exchange market. (Bloomberg)

Women of Iran

Will this Woman Become Iran's First Female President

Iran may see its first female presidential candidate in the May 19 elections. After a period of silence, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, the Islamic Republic’s first and only female minister, has in recent days and weeks made headlines once again.
Dastjerdi headed the Ministry of Health and Medical Education between 2009 and 2012 after being one of three women proposed as ministers by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his second term (2009-13). The other two nominees were Susan Keshavarz for the post of education minister and Fatemeh Ajorlu for welfare and social security minister. (Al-Monitor)


Iran's Priciest Export at Risk

With Iran to its south and Russia to its north and west, the Caspian Sea is not only rich in oil and natural gas reserves, but it is also the world’s primary and largest habitat for the beluga, the most famous of the caviar sturgeons, as well as four other sturgeon species.
This ancient fish, often described as a living fossil, has been swimming in the Caspian Sea since the time of the dinosaurs.
It is one of the world’s most expensive and highly sought-after seafood, mainly for its coveted eggs. However, the deteriorating condition of the Caspian Sea has long been threatening this fish with extinction. (Al-Monitor)

Legal Vacuum Harming Environment

Decades-old regulations and a lack of laws have contributed to years of environmental degradation that has now plagued Iran, according to a legal expert at the Department of Environment.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the Iran International Environment Exhibition in Tehran on Sunday, Daryoush Karimi, thehead of the department's Legal Affairs Office, said, "From a legal perspective, environmental law is a very young concept. We do not yet have sufficient laws to protect the environment—there's a vacuum."
As reported by ISNA, the official also pointed to "outdated regulations" that have exacerbated Iran's environmental problems. (Financial Tribune)

Inside Iran

Iran's Navy to Benefit From an Expiring U.N. Ban, U.S. Study Says

Iran is likely to go on an international shopping spree for surface warships, submarines and anti-ship missiles after the expiration in 2020 of a United Nations resolution prohibiting it from acquiring sophisticated weapons, according to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.
The expiration “will allow Iran to pursue foreign acquisitions that have been inaccessible since sanctions were imposed,” according to a new assessment of Iran’s naval forces, strategy and capability obtained by Bloomberg News. Entitled “Iran’s Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies,” the 44-page publication is an update to a 2009 version.
The ban on conventional weapons will be lifted as part of the international deal reached in July 2015 between the U.S., five allies and Iran to curtail its nuclear program in return for easing international sanctions. (Bloomberg)

Regional Politics

Iran, Turkey Presidents Meet to Defuse Tensions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Wednesday to improve ties, including in the fight against terrorism, Iran's state news agency IRNA said, following some angry exchanges between the regional rivals.
Tehran and Ankara support opposite sides in the conflict in Syria. Largely Shi’ite Muslim Iran backs the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey, which is majority Sunni, has backed elements of the Syrian opposition.
Last month Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu both accused Iran of trying to destabilize Syria and Iraq and of sectarianism, prompting Tehran to summon Ankara's ambassador. (Reuters)


Dealing with a Difficult Iran: Get Smart

By: Ambassador John Limbert

Like it or not, the Trump Administration will have to pay attention to Iran.  The President’s pre­de­cessors, beginning in 1979, have taken multiple paths, usually with few results beyond frustration.  Unable to ignore the Islamic Republic, they tried contain­ment, regime change, and engagement.  Nothing much worked, and – with a few exceptions – little changed as the two countries remained camped on opposite sides of an abyss trading threats, insults, and accusations.
Even those decades of futility, however, have provided lessons to be learned and suggest a path for the new administration.  
FIRST, we should ask ourselves, what are our goals?  What do we want to achieve in this relationship?  We can begin by doing what President Richard Nixon did when he traveled to China in 1972.  He made two columns on a yellow pad titled, “What We Want” and “What They Want.”  If we have no goals, then we have no way to measure the success of our actions and will end up taking steps with no visible purpose beyond making us feel good.

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