Week of April 28 - May 5
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 and U.S. Discuss Issue of Americans Imprisoned by Tehran
Iran said Monday that it had discussed the issue of Americans with dual citizenship held in Iranian prisons during a meeting last week with the United States.
The discussion, during a meeting in Vienna on compliance with the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, was the first face-to-face exchange between emissaries from Iran and the United States since President Trump took office.
A State Department spokesman, Mark C. Toner, had suggested on April 25 that the imprisonments would be raised at the meeting, which was held while both sides were attending a session of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nonproliferation monitor. (The New York Times)
Iran Exports to Europe Up by 300% After JCPOA: EU
Iran’s exports to the European Union have increased by over 300 percent after the implementation of the historic 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, European Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete says.
Speaking at the first-ever Iran-EU Business Forum on Sustainable Energy in Tehran on Saturday, Canete added that trade between Iran and the union showed 79 percent boost following the implementation of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), IRNA reported.
According to figures released by the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat in February, Iran's exports to the EU stood at €5.494 billion in 2016 as compared to €1.235 in 2015 due to the EU resuming oil imports from Iran following the nuclear deal. (Press TV)
Iran's Gold Jewelry Demand Rises to 4-Year High, Bucks Oil Slump
Iran’s gold jewelry demand climbed to a four-year high in the first quarter, as the rest of the Middle East was hurt by low oil prices.
An improving economy helped Iran’s jewelry demand climb 27 percent from a year earlier to 12.9 metric tons in the first three months this year, the World Gold Council said in a report Thursday. Iran’s gold bar and coin demand was 3.7 tons, the most for the region, compared with sales of 0.3 ton.
“Demand across the rest of the region remained weak in the face of low oil prices and subdued tourist numbers, the impact of which was exaggerated by rising gold prices,” the World Gold Council said. (Bloomberg)
Iran Becomes Self-Sufficient in Gasoline Production
Iran has become self-sufficient in producing the amount of gasoline the country requires on a daily basis, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.
President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a new refinery that produces some 12 million liters (3.17 million gallons) of gasoline in its first phase, according to the report.
Iranians consume about 60 million liters (15.85 million gallons) of the fuel daily on average. The country already produces about 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons) and some 11 million liters (3 million gallons) had to be imported. (The Washington Post)
Iran in Talks with U.K. Over Jetliner Export Funding
Iran is in talks with Britain's export credit agency to facilitate the financing of aircraft sales to state airline IranAir as part of its pact with world powers to lift sanctions over its nuclear program, a senior Iranian official said.
IranAir's plan to buy more than 180 jets from Airbus [AIR.PA] and Boeing (BA.N) is the most visible economic deal on the table after major powers last year lifted most sanctions on Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear activities.
But financing for the purchases has been hard to secure because most Western banks are holding back, concerned about the future of the 2015 agreement after U.S. President Donald Trump called it a bad deal and ordered a review. (Reuters)
E.U. to Help Iran With Climate Change Funding, Tech
E.U. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete said on Sunday the European Union will provide Iran with technical and financial assistance to cut its carbon emissions.
Speaking on the sidelines of a high-level climate change conference in Tehran, Canete said environmental cooperation between Iran and the EU "is at the highest level".
Senior Iranian officials, including Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, and Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, the head of the Management and Planning Organization as well as Gary Lewis, the UNDP resident coordinator in Iran, were present at the meeting. (The Financial Tribune)
Coal Mine Explosion in Iran's North Kills at Least 35 Miners, Reports Say
A coal mine explosion that struck northern Iran killed at least 35 people, semi-official news agencies reported Thursday, as rescuers worked a second day to reach those trapped inside after the blast
The Fars, Mehr and Tasnim news agencies all carried similar reports Thursday morning. State media did not immediately report on the rise in the death toll in the disaster Wednesday at the Golestan province mine. In a live broadcast by state television, Sadegh Ali Moghadam, the provincial director general of disaster management, said 22 dead bodies had been recovered.
The province will observe three days of mourning after the explosion, Iranian state television reported. Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani issued an order demanding his government use all available resources to rescue those still trapped, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. (Time)
Iran Conducts Failed Missile Launch in Strait of Hormuz
An Iranian submarine has made an unsuccessful missile launch attempt in the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. military official confirmed to VOA on Wednesday.
The Yono-class submarine attempted to launch a cruise missile early Tuesday, the military official said.
Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the region and pledged support for allies' efforts to counter what he called Iran's destabilizing activities in the region and resist "Iran's mischief." (VOA News)
Syria Conflict: Russia, Turkey, Iran Agree on Safe Zones at Ceasefire Talks
Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Thursday to create four de-escalation zones in Syria, Russian and Turkish state media reported, in the latest effort to resolve that country's six-year conflict.
All three countries are sponsors of the latest round of ceasefire talks underway in Astana, Kazakhstan, and a largely ignored ceasefire that was signed late last year. Russia and Iran are both key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports Syrian opposition forces.
The preliminary agreement, signed in Astana, was put forward by Russia and would create security zones in Idlib province, to the north of the city of Homs, in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, and in the south of Syria, Russian state-run Sputnik news agency reported. (CNN)
Dialogue with Iran is Impossible, Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Says
Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince slammed the door Tuesday on the prospect of dialogue with Iran, the kingdom’s regional rival, accusing it of following an “extremist ideology” and seeking to take over the Muslim world.
The prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who is second in line to the throne and serves as defense minister, said Saudi Arabia would fight what he called Iran’s efforts to extend its influence.
“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said, accusing Iran of seeking to take over Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.” (The New York Times)
Will Trump Help Elect a Hard-Liner in Iran?
By: Bob Dreyfuss
This happened once before. A decade and a half ago, there was a moderate, reformist president in Tehran, Mohammad Khatami, who famously supported a “dialogue of civilizations” and who once even shook hands with Israel’s president.
In 2001, following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Khatami’s Iran played a critical role in helping the United States put together a new government in Kabul. In 2003, members of Khatami’s circle, through Swiss channels, offered a tentative proposal, dubbed the Grand Bargain, to the United States, seeking to resolve a host of outstanding issues between the two countries.
And, in a show of good faith, Khatami initiated negotiations with Britain, France, and Germany over Iran’s nuclear program, with Hassan Rouhani as the lead diplomat. You already know that this story doesn’t end well.