Iran Digest Week of March 10 - 17

Iran Digest

Week of March 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.

U.S. - Iran Relations

Trump Travel Ban: Second U.S. Judge Blocks the New Executive Order

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked US President Donald Trump's new travel ban, which was due to begin after midnight on Thursday.
The order would have placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. Both judges questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory.
President Trump insists the move is to stop terrorists from entering the United States.He complained of "unprecedented judicial overreach". (BBC News)

Many Iranian Americans Afraid to Travel Under Trump Travel Order

In the heart of Persian Square, in West Los Angeles, everyone is getting ready for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, when family members visit each other.Normally it’s the busy season for the travel agencies that cater to the Iranian community.i
But not this year. “They ask us questions more than they make reservation,” said Sherry Tahouri, owner of Shahrezad Tour and Travel.
Tahouri caters mostly to the Iranian Community in Los Angeles, many of whom still have family in Iran. President Donald Trump’s revised executive order banning travelers who do not currently have visasfrom six Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. for three months is scheduled to take effect on March 16.Among the six countries on the travel order is Iran. (VOA News)

Nuclear Accord

U.S. to Realize JCPOA Implementation 'Best Option': Iran's Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif highlighted the ineffectiveness of US-led sanctions against Tehran, stressing that the US government will come to realize that implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal is the best option for all sides.
“The US will realize that the best option would be (continued) implementation of the nuclear deal”, he told the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV channel on Wednesday.
Zarif also described imposing economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic as a “futile” policy. Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) reached the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in July 2015 and implemented it in January last year. (Tasnim News Agency)


Iran and Iraq are Making it Harder for Saudi Arabia to Prop Up Oil Prices

Though OPEC has managed to achieve a high standard of compliance, it has mostly been due to the oversized cut by the largest member of the group—Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the actions and statements of the second and third largest producers in OPEC are throwing worrying signs at the oil bulls.
Saudi Arabia is in a catch 22 situation. As the defacto leader of OPEC, it is left to implement most of the production cuts to ensure a high level of overall group compliance. Saudis know that OPEC might not get another chance if it doesn’t adhere to its production cuts.
Another reason is the forthcoming IPO of Saudi Aramco. Without higher oil prices, Saudi Arabia might not get the valuation it is expecting for its crown jewel. (Markets Insider)

Iran Signs $1 Billion Deal to Develop Mehdiabad Zinc Mine

Iran has signed a $1 billion deal with private investors to develop Mehdiabad, one of the world's largest zinc mines, which it expects to go on stream in the next four years and produce 800,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate per year.
The state-owned Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organisation (IMIDRO) said in a weekend statement it signed the deal with a consortium of six private companies, led by Iran's Mobin Mining and Construction Company.
According to media reports, Mehdiabad has zinc ore grades of between 2 to 4 percent, meaning 800,000 tonnes of zinc conentrate a year would add between 16,000 to 32,000 tonnes of refined zinc to the 13.7 million tonne per year global market. (Reuters)


Sand and Dust Storms: A Regional Problem 

For the past 10 years, Iran has been struggling with sand and dust storms that originate from sources both inside and outside the country.
Experts agree that domestic and foreign sources are to blame for the intense storms that batter large swathes of the country every year.
In Iran, dried up wetlands such as Hoor al-Azim and Shadegan in the southwest as well as Jazmourian and the Hamouns in the southeast are among the major sources of dust. A significant amount of the dirt comes from sources that lie outside Iran's borders, mainly in the desiccated plains of Iraq and Syria. (Financial Tribune)

Inside Iran

U.N. Hails Iran for Keeping its Doors Open to Refugees

The United Nations has praised Iran for generously hosting millions of violence-stricken asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those from neighboring Afghanistan.
Iran “has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open,” said Sivanka Dhanapala, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Tehran, on Thursday.
The UN official further hailed a 2015 decree by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, which called on education administrators to allow all Afghan children -- documented or not --  to attend Iranian schools. (Tehran Times)

Top Commander Unveils Plans to Expand Iranian Navy's Presence in International Waters

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says the country’s Navy has taken steps to enhance its capabilities and will expand its presence in international waters in the future.
“In the year 96 [new Iranian calendar year that begins on March 21), we will take greater strides to enhance the capabilities of the naval forces,” he said during a tour of Khoramshahr Naval Base in southwestern Iran earlier today.
“We will increase our presence in international waters, expand the zone of our naval drills, increase the production of [naval] equipment, and pay more attention to training programs,” he added.  (Middle East Institute)

Regional Politics

Egypt Under Pressure Not to Engage with Iran

The former head of Iran's Interests Section in Egypt said the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia exert great pressure on Egypt not to engage in any kind of cooperation or interaction with Iran.
"Egypt will not bow to such pressure, as on several occasions the government has proved that its decisions concerning Iran are not totally swayed by the wishes of the three countries," Mojtaba Amani told Fars News Agency in a recent interview.
"Cairo has even been put under retaliatory political and economic pressure for that from time to time," he said. Amani pointed to conflicts between the two countries that, although rooted in the past events, can be naturally resolved through political negotiations. (Financial Tribune)


Get Real on Iran's Missile Program

By: Bharath Gopalaswamy and Amir Handjani

Last month Iran test fired a new ballistic missile. The Trump administration formally put Iran on “notice” and sanctioned entities close to and within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) they believed were responsible for the missile test. Iran not only escalated its rhetoric but conducted subsequent war games in the Persian Gulf. President Trump and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have traded barbs.
After four years during which the Obama and Rouhani administrations worked on a framework to de-escalate tensions between the United States and Iran, it’s now conceivable to envisage a situation where the war of words and posturing could escalate into a military conflict.
irst, it is important not to confuse Iran’s missile program with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA, signed by Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, only addressed Iran’s nuclear related activity. 
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