Iran Digest Week of March 3 - 10

Iran Digest

Week of March 3 - 10

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’s Top Leader Appears to Rebuke President as Election Nears

Iran’s top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits.
The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer.
“We receive complaints from people,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. “People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now.” (NYTimes)

Iranian ships 'force' US and Royal Navy vessels to change course

A US Navy ship was forced to change course when fast-moving Iranian vessels approached it in the Strait of Hormuz, US officials say.
The USNS Invincible changed direction when the other vessels came within 600 yards (550m) before stopping.
Three British Royal Navy vessels, accompanying the American ship at the time, were also forced to move.  A US official told reporters the Iranian vessel had tried to position itself between them.  The Iranian ships are believed to belong to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. (BBC)

Iranian spokesman has muted response to new travel ban

The Iranian government, which is often given to flowery denunciations of the "Great Satan," as it calls the United States, reacted mildly to President Trump's new travel ban, which includes Iran among the six nations whose citizens are suspended from entering the United States for 90 days.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Tehran would wait and see the details of the new executive order and "would react in proportion."
"However, we have already taken our stance regarding the first executive order and it has been released."  (LATimes)

Nuclear Accord

Trump administration pledges 'great strictness' on Iran nuclear deal

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration pledged on Tuesday to show "great strictness" over restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities imposed by a deal with major powers, but gave little indication of what that might mean for the agreement.
The 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Trump has called the agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated". His administration is now carrying out a review of the accord which could take months, but it has said little about where it stands on specific issues.
The Trump administration also gave few clues about any potential policy shift on Tuesday in a statement to a quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's Board of Governors. (Reuters)

UN Nuclear Chief: Iran Holding up Their End of the Nuclear Deal

The chief of the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Monday he was confident following a visit to Washington of "very good cooperation" with the United States on Iran's nuclear deal, despite President Donald Trump's hawkish comments.
The 2015 agreement between Iran and major powers restricts Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but Trump has called it "the worst deal ever negotiated" and said he wants to "police that contract so tough (the Iranians) don't have a chance". (Business Insider)


ZTE fined $1.1bn for flouting US sanctions against Iran

Chinese telecom giant ZTE has been fined $1.1bn and will plead guilty to charges that it violated US rules by shipping US-made equipment to Iran and North Korea.
ZTE Corp obtained and illegally shipped US-made equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions, the Justice Department said.
It also sent goods to North Korea without the correct export licences.
The US said ZTE lied to authorities and its own lawyer about the violations.
It must now pay a $892m (£740m) penalty as well as $300m which will be suspended for seven years depending on the firm meeting certain conditions.
ZTE says it acknowledges it has made mistakes, and is working towards improving its procedures. (BBC)


Iran’s President Urges Use of New Technologies to Protect Environment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for employment of new technologies and effective management to reduce pressure on the environmental resources, underlining that sustainable development hinges on protection of the environment.
At the beginning of the national week of Natural Resources on Sunday, President Rouhani planted a sapling as a symbolic gesture of respect for the Mother Nature, calling for more active partnership of people in conserving the environment.
The natural resources, including water, land, and air are under intense pressure today, he warned, saying the approach to reducing that pressure is employment of new technologies, appropriate management, and promotion of efficiency. (Tasnim News)

$100m for Combating Dust Storms in Iran

The government has earmarked $100 million to combat dust storms in the next fiscal year that begins on March 21.
The money, which will be supplied from the National Development Fund of Iran, will be used to implement key projects such as reforestation, mulching and revival of wetlands and rivers that have become major hotspots for sand and dust storms, also known as SDS.
The news comes on the heels of recent reports that the embattled Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran is besieged by intense dust storms that have disrupted life in the oil-rich province. (Financial Tribune)

Regional Politics

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow on Thursday seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border.
Until now, the Israeli government has stayed relatively quiet about developments in the six-year-old conflict raging in neighboring Syria, acting militarily only when it feels its security threatened. But now, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives a boost from the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran, Tehran’s expanding influence across the region is causing alarm in Israel. (Washington Post)


Why Moscow Won’t Side with Washington against Tehran

By: Mark N. Katz and Hussein Iish

The administration of President Donald J. Trump has suggested that one of its foreign policy goals may be to attempt to persuade Russia to distance itself from Iran and even cooperate with the United States against Tehran. The benefits for Moscow seem clear to those in Washington who think the United States and Russia have important common interests in the Middle East: Russia’s relations with the West and the Gulf Arabs would markedly improve, and, as the P5+1 nuclear deal demonstrates, the United States and Russia working together have greater prospects for ensuring that Iran does not break out of its commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons (which is just as much of a threat to Russia). Further, sidelining Tehran would enable Moscow and Washington to cooperate on resolving the conflict in Syria and pursue the mutual aim of eliminating the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other extremist groups. 

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