Week of June 9 - 16
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
Senate Passes Sweeping Sanctions Bill Targeting Iran, Russia
A frequently polarized Senate found common ground Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russia, putting Congress on a possible collision course with President Donald Trump.
The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after U.S. intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions in order to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups. (ABC News)
Tillerson Calls for Regime Change in Iran
The new U.S. policy towards Iran includes regime change, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on “elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition of that government.”
He made the comments in a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported “a philosophy of regime change.” (ThinkProgress)
Iran Blames US for Creating ISIS Amid Worsening Middle Eastern Tensions
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the US for creating ISIS and fostering instability in the Middle East amid an ongoing crisis in the region.
"That (the) US arms a terrorist group is what causes instability," Khameini wrote on Twitter Monday. "Who created ISIS? The US!"
He added that while US President Donald Trump accuses Iran of supporting terrorists, "terrorism in this region has American roots."
Trump last week responded to terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital of Tehran by warning "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote," a reaction described as "repugnant" by Iran's foreign minister. (CNN)
Is Iran Complying with the Nuclear Deal? For the most part, Yes
Republican Karen Handel took aim at the Iran nuclear deal in two recent televised debates ahead of Georgia’s special election, accusing Iran of failing to comply with the agreement to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
"From the things that I have seen, they are and (have) already violated the terms of the deal," Handel said in a June 8 debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff ahead of the June 20 vote.
In the campaign for Georgia’s 6th, a historically Republican congressional district, Handel has been sharply critical of the agreement, which President Donald Trump disparaged as the "worst deal ever negotiated" during his 2016 run. GOP attack ads launched in May sought to paint Ossoff as a dangerous national security naif in part by highlighting his support for the Obama-era deal. (Politifact)
Iran Confident about $3 Billion Boeing Deal as US Mulls Sanctions
An Iranian airline that signed a $3 billion contract at list prices with Boeing Co. is confident the deal won’t face a political backlash in Washington, days after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a bill that could bring new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Aseman Airlines, a private company whose largest owner is Iran’s National Pension Fund, signed a final purchase agreement with Boeing in Tehran on Saturday for 30 737 Max jets and an option for 30 more, spokesman Amir Reza Mostafavi said in an interview. Boeing will deliver the first jets in 2022.
“We’re a commercial company, like Boeing is a commercial company, and we’re operating in an economic sphere, not a political one,” Mostafavi said. “In this area, work is moving forward and things are getting under way." (Bloomberg)
Iran, China Team Up on New Silk Road Project
The 926-km railroad linking the capital Tehran to the eastern religious tourism hub of Mashhad is part of China's New Silk Road initiative named "One Belt, One Road", which will cut short a long journey for Iranian passengers and cargo.
“All obstacles to the implementation of the project have been removed and, next week, operations for the electrification of Tehran-Mashhad line will begin,” deputy for Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, Maziar Yazdani, said.
“Previously we had signed a contract regarding the financing of the project–a $1.6 billion cheap loan,” he was quoted as saying by ILNA in a press conference. (Financial Tribune)
Women of Iran
Iranian Women Get on their Bikes to Defy Cycling Fatwa
An increasing number of women in Iran are getting on their bicycles to protest against a fatwa banning them from cycling in public.
Hardline Iranian leaders believe women on bikes are a threat to morality and are strictly forbidden as a means of public transport.
Women must also be completely veiled, even in the height of summer, when playing sport or driving.
But a counter-movement, propelled by social media, has emerged over the last year. In a country of record-high air pollution and traffic congestion, more and more women are cycling. (Independent)
Iran Says it Killed Mastermind of Deadly Attacks on Parliament And Mausoleum
Iran says security forces have killed the "mastermind and main commander" of last week's attacks in Tehran that killed 17 people. ISIS had claimed responsibility for the violence at the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iranian Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi said over the weekend that "the terrorist had fled the country following the ensuing security operations after the attack, but was killed with the cooperation of friendly foreign intelligence services," according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.
Alavi did not give details about where the man was killed, other than to say that the commander of the five attackers had been in Iran's border region and had left the country last week. (NPR)
Iran Sends 500 Tons of Food Supplies to Qatar
Iran has so far sent about 500 tons of food supplies including fruits and vegetables to Qatar whose diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia is currently severed.
According to IRIB, head of Iran’s food producers’ union Mehdi Karimi Tafreshi noted Qatar’s 3-billion-dollar worth of annual exports, adding “almost all of Qatar’s food supplies are imports, and Iran exported about $118 million worth of various kinds of foodstuff to the Persian Gulf emirate last year.”
“Given the high volume of food production in Iran and the current restrictions placed on Qatar, we are fully ready to provide the Arab country with its required food supplies,” he added. (Mehr News)
How Iran Fights the Islamic State
By: Dina Esfandiary
This month, the Islamic State successfully carried out its first attack on Iranian soil, resulting in 17 dead and some 50 injured. Iran is a top target for the Islamic State — and has been since the group rose to prominence in 2014. But Iranian security forces had effectively thwarted the threat through an extensive counterterror program. Iran took pride in keeping the fight against the Islamist militants outside its territory. Until now.
The Islamic State views Shiite Muslims as apostates. It portrays Iran as a Shiite power threatening the “real” Muslim community — the Sunnis. Because of this — and the threat the group poses to Iran’s interests in the region — Tehran views the Islamic State as a national security threat. As a result, it placed “no limits” on resources to combat it both inside and outside its borders
To tackle the Islamic State, Iran developed an extensive counterterror program. Iran’s goal is to undermine the Islamic State’s spread, ideology and vision, while working to prevent attacks on Iranian soil or against Iranian citizens. The Iranian approach to countering the Islamic State is more hands-on than that of the U.S.-led coalition, because by virtue of proximity, Tehran feels the threat more acutely.