Iran Digest Week of March 24 - 31

Iran Digest

Week of March 24 - 31

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 Imposes Sanctions on 15 U.S. Companies

Iran imposed sanctions on 15 American companies, saying that they were involved in human rights violations and had cooperated with Israel, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, in a tit-for-tat reaction to a move by Washington
The agency quoted Iran’s foreign ministry as saying the companies had “flagrantly violated human rights” and cooperated with Israel in its “terrorism” against Palestinians and in the expansion of Jewish settlements.
It was not immediately clear if any of the companies, which included the military technology firm Raytheon, had any dealings with Iran or whether they would be affected by Tehran’s action, which IRNA said would include seizing of their assets and a ban on contacts with them. (The New York Times)

Iran Denies Harassing U.S. Warships in Gulf, Warns of Clashes

Iran denied on Saturday U.S. accusations that its fast-attack boats were "harassing" warships at the mouth of the Gulf, and said Washington would be responsible for any clashes in the key oil shipping route.
U.S. Navy commanders earlier accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by "harassing" warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash.
They spoke after the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted what one of the commanding officers described as two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait on Tuesday on a journey from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf. (Reuters)

U.S. Arrests Top Turkish Banker in Iran Sanctions Probe

A senior executive at one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks was arrested in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to evade trade sanctions on Iran, escalating a case that has prompted diplomatic tensions and political maneuvering between the two countries.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy chief executive officer at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, is accused of conspiring with Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran and its companies.
Atilla was taken into custody Monday night, a prosecutor told a magistrate judge at a hearing on Tuesday. Atilla didn’t enter a plea or make any statements during the brief court appearance and was ordered held without bail. (Bloomberg)

Iran is the 'Greatest Long - Term Threat to Stability,' Army General Warns

Iran increasingly poses a threat to U.S. interests because of its "destabilizing role" in the Mideast, the nation's top military official in that region told House lawmakers Wednesday. Commander of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, told the House Armed Services Committee that Iran's behavior was provocative and potentially "unsafe." 
Votel told the House committee that Iran's behavior has not improved since Tehran and Washington agreed to a deal limiting Iran's nuclear development.
"I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone," he said. "And it's an area between normal competition between states—and it's just short of open conflict." (Newsweek)


Iran's Khamenei Criticizes Government's Economic Record

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Monday the government's economic policies had fallen short and called for a new "resistance economy" to create jobs, piling pressure on the president before May elections.
Hardliners led by Khamenei have repeatedly criticized President Hassan Rouhani, particularly for the terms of a nuclear deal he reached with world powers which lifted economic sanctions and was supposed to boost the economy.
"I feel the pain of the poor and lower class people with my soul, especially because of high prices, unemployment and inequalities," Khamenei said in his New Year's message. (Reuters)

Iran Eyes Tourism a Fertile Source of Revenue

Based on official figures compiled by the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization, foreign tourist arrivals in Iran has been more than double that of the global average since the implementation of the deal.
CHTHO Director Zahra Ahmadipour has said that the country needs to breathe fresh air into the sector in order to achieve sustainable growth and grasp boom in the number of foreign arrivals.
Ahmadipour who also doubles as vice president plans to integrate variety of Iranian hotels into an umbrella brand, which travelers find it a reliable source for arranging accommodation and other services. (Tehran Times)


Oslo, Tehran after Stronger Environmental Cooperation

Norwegian climate minister has stressed the importance of expanding cooperation between Iran and Norway in promoting environmental agreements and reducing pollution caused by oil and gas industry.
Iran's Ambassador to Norway Mohammad Hassan Habibolahzadeh and Minister of Climate and the Environment of Norway Vidar Helgesen met in Oslo and shared views over environmental issues.
At the meeting, Norway’s Helgesen pointed to the significance of Tehran-Oslo collaborations for implementation of international environmental accords stressing the need for bilateral cooperation in the field of environment both at bilateral and international levels. (Mehr News)

Inside Iran

Iran Responds to Islamic State Threatening Video

Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iranian Expediency Council Secretary, an influential consultative body appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader, said the Islamic State will be penalized in case it carried out minimal threat against Iran, Shafaq News reported on Thursday.
In response to a recent video released by IS, Rezai said, “You are escaping everywhere. In case you took any step against Iran or its interests abroad, we will follow you at any place in the world. We will punish you.”
“The curse that will befall you will be more than your defeat in Mosul and Aleppo. You were not punished because of presence of civilians and you escaped,” he added. (Iraqi News)

Regional Politics

Putin, Rouhani Discuss Legal Status of Caspian Sea

Russia and Iran intend to expand cooperation in the Caspian Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani said in a joint statement following the bilateral talks held in Moscow on March 28.
"The parties spoke in favor of further expanding all-round cooperation in the Caspian Sea, including creation of guarantees for peace, stability and security in the region, the safety of navigation, transit and multimodal transport, sustainable development, environmental protection, protection and management of aquatic biological resources, counteraction to oil pollution, as well as trade, tourism and marine scientific research," the statement reads.
Given the forthcoming fifth Caspian Summit in Astana this year, the heads of the two states consider it expedient to complete the preparation of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea as soon as possible. (Azer News)


Iran Provides a Rare Moment of Bipartisanship

By: Jennifer Rubin

At Monday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran there was, given the political environment, rare and welcomed unanimity. Ranking member Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) remarked that although he voted against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, he doesn’t think it would be wise to withdraw. He continued:
Having said that, Iran’s activities today are as bad as they have ever been and probably worse. They are certainly increasing their terrorist sponsorship in the Middle East as we see in so many different countries in that region.
Their record on violating the ballistic missile obligations are well known and well understood. Their human rights violations against their own citizens are horrible, one of the worst countries in the world. They violate the arms embargo and the list goes on and on. 

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