Week of April 7 - 14
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
Iran Joins Russia in Denouncing U.S. Strike on Syria, but Stops There
The punitive American missile strike on Syria for the chemical weapons attack a week ago brought Syria’s most important backers, Russia and Iran, publicly closer together — whether the Iranians want to be or not.
Far from accepting the Trump administration’s version of the chemical weapons assault, the Iranians joined the Russians in rejecting it and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Nonetheless, Iran and Russia do not see eye to eye on everything in a relationship shaped by mistrust, a legacy of Iranian resentment of Russia’s historical expansionism and Soviet-era attempts at domination. (NY Times)
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Brother of Iranian General
The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on the brother of a well-known Iranian general. A Treasury Department statement says sanctions were imposed on the Tehran Prisons Organization and Sohrab Soleimani in connection with serious human rights abuses in Iran. Soleimani is a senior official in the organization.
The statement says the action reflects deep concern regarding human rights in Iran.
Soleimani is the younger brother of Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of Iran's elite Quds force who also advised Iraq's Shiite militias in their fight against the Islamic State group. (Associated Press)
Rouhani Unveils Iran's New Nuclear Achievements
President Hassan Rouhani has unveiled two major nuclear achievements on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day.
The Iranian chief executive lifted the curtain off the accomplishments made by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, namely a rock core centrifuge, and high-temperature condensate pump.
The former product is used to analyze samples gleaned from oil fields in order to estimate the general geological conditions governing the terrains. (Press TV)
Iran Air Signs $536 Million Order for 20 ATR Turboprop Aircraft
European turboprop manufacturer ATR sealed a long-awaited deal with Iran Air worth $536 million at list prices, making it the latest aerospace company to benefit after a nuclear accord eased international restrictions on trade with the Middle Eastern state.
Iran Air will take 20 ATR 72-600 aircraft and has options for 20 more, ATR spokesman David Vargas said by telephone Thursday. The first plane from the joint venture of Airbus SE and Leonardo SpA is due for delivery “within weeks,” with all scheduled to have been handed over by the end of 2018, he said.
Iran is splurging on new aircraft after economic sanctions stopped the nation of 80 million people from renewing its fleet for several years, making the average age of its planes one of the highest in the world and pushing up accident rates. (Bloomberg)
Women of Iran
Women barred from Tehran marathon defy rules to complete their own race instead
A group of female runners who were told at the last minute they could not take part in the Tehran marathon risked being arrested and detained by Iran’s strict religious authorities in order to stage their own race instead.
Around 160 women out of a total of 600 runners had registered to compete in Friday’s first ever ‘TehRUN’, a 26 mile (42 kilometre) race around the Iranian capital, including dozens of foreigners.
However, female participants were dismayed to be told in an email from organisers three weeks ago that they would actually not be allowed to take part, as men and women cannot participate in sports together in the conservative country. (The Independent)
Dept. of Environment authorized to shut down pollutant industries
The authorization has been granted by Majlis (the Iranian parliament) to the department following the approval of the general outlines of the clean air bill on October 23, 2016.
The bill could greatly help deal with sources of air pollution once it comes into force. However the bill is still being discussed and weighed up in the parliament commission for agriculture, water and natural resources to resolve some certain ambiguities.
Under the newly approved article the Department of Environment is tasked with identifying industrial units emitting pollution above standard levels and issue warnings, levy fines, and or even shut them down temporarily or permanently. (The Tehran Times)
EU prolongs sanctions on Iran over human rights violations
The European Union on Tuesday extended until April 2018 sanctions against Iran for "serious human rights violations", a narrower measure than restrictions the bloc had already lifted after an international accord on Tehran's nuclear program.
The EU has pursued rapprochement with Iran since the 2015 nuclear deal, which reversed a decade of hard-hitting Western financial and trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Top EU officials have been shuttling in and out of Tehran since, often accompanied by large European business delegations. (Reuters)
Iran Presidential Hopefuls Sign Up as Rouhani Defends Record
Iran began registering potential candidates for next month’s presidential election, kicking off a contest that will in large part be a verdict on incumbent Hassan Rouhani’s policy of engagement with the West.
More than 70 hopefuls, including one woman, signed up by midday at the Interior Ministry in Tehran, a process that runs until April 15. Absent on the first day were Rouhani and conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a 56-year-old ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose surprise announcement to run last week jolted a race previously seen as a straightforward contest for the president. (Bloomberg)
Iran moves up in travel and tourism competitiveness rankings
Iran ranked 93rd out of 136 countries in the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, jumping four positions in the biennial report released by the World Economic Forum.
Published on April 5, the report reveals that Iran has preserved its topmost global rank in the “price competitiveness” category, which shows how costly it is to travel or invest in a country.
The overall score given to the country points as 3.4 out of 7, up 0.1 from a previous edition released in 2015. Iran stands 8th in a Middle East ranking as well.
“Starting from different levels, Bahrain, Iran, Morocco and Algeria have all improved their security significantly, while Saudi Arabia has registered the largest regional improvement in health and hygiene,” the report says. (Tehran Times)
Iran Open to Engagement With Saudis
President Hassan Rouhani reiterated the readiness to work toward a detente with Saudi Arabia, in a sign of goodwill in the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.
"Iran has been striving to engage in better relations with other regional countries. Our ties with neighbors, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq and other surrounding countries, even Kuwait and Oman in the south, have improved," the president was quoted as saying by his official website.
"Our policy revolves around efforts to promote relations with our neighbors and even with Saudi Arabia. If they [Saudis] are ready, we are also ready to help mend the fences." (Financial Tribune)
What Ahmadinejad’s Run Says About the State of Iranian Politics
By: Amanda Erickson
Well, he’s got this going for him: He knows the job.
As “stunned” onlookers watched, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered to run — once again — for president. In doing so, he defied the country’s supreme leader, who told him not to compete. (“I told him he should not participate in that matter,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last year, according to his official website. It’s “not in his interest and that of the country.”)
The former president’s surprising decision to run adds even more uncertainty to the upcoming election. It’s widely seen as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear deal, in which Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for international sanctions relief. A majority of Iranians support the deal, though many say that they’re disappointed by its limited economic impact.