Week of May 26 - June 2
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
Rouhani Vows to Shed Iran Sanctions as Trump Piles on More
A day after winning re-election last month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed a campaign pledge: that he’ll find a way to free his country from sanctions that hobble its economy.
That’s a vow President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers are making harder than ever to keep.Trump used his first overseas trip last week to portray Shiite-led Iran as the embodiment of evil, the common enemy that could bring America’s Sunni-led Gulf allies together with Israel to achieve Middle East peace.
In Washington, Republicans in Congress are also doubling down, pressing for legislation to add more sanctions, not lift those that remain after the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. (Bloomberg Politics)
C.I.A. Names New Iran Chief in a Sign of Trump's Hard Line
He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians.
Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.
Mr. D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to espionage and covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. (The New York Times)
Lawyer: U.S. Lawyers Want to Destroy Iranian-American Charity
The lawyer for a charity formed to promote the history and culture of Iran told a jury on Tuesday that the U.S. government was trying to destroy it by seeking to seize a skyscraper that provides most of its revenue.
“This misguided case is looking to wipe us off the face of the planet,” attorney John Gleeson told jurors at the start of a civil trial to determine the fate of the 36-story office building near Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. “Something is deeply wrong in this case.”
Gleeson urged jurors to reject the arguments of Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell, who said the building’s operation has violated U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Iran in 1995. (The Washington Post)
Eurasian Economic Union Close to Free Trade Deal with Iran
The Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union aims to finalise a free-trade deal with Iran by the end of the year, in an attempt by Russia and its fellow members to deepen ties with Tehran.
The trade overtures are taking place amid signs that Iran’s relationship with the US will deteriorate under the administration of Donald Trump.
The US president last week attacked Iran for fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” during visits to the country’s regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel, days after Iran re-elected moderate President Hassan Rouhani on a platform of international re-engagement. (Financial Times)
Majlis Drops Iran Environment Ministry Bill Outline
A proposal to elevate the status of the Department of Environment to that of a ministry has been rejected by the Majlis Social Affairs Commission.
Speaking to ISNA, Rouhollah Babaei, a member of the commission, said, “Legislators rejected the outline of the bill … It has now been dropped from our agenda.”
Lawmakers had reignited talks of turning DOE into a ministry last October, a year after efforts to elevate the department failed. (Financial Tribune)
Rouhani Faces Pressure to Improve Human Rights in Iran
In the week before the May 19 presidential election in Iran, the eventual victor, Hassan Rouhani, criticised the judiciary and the powerful Revolutionary Guards with rhetoric rarely heard in public in the Islamic republic.
Now, in the eyes of his supporters, it is time to deliver. Millions of Rouhani's followers expect him to keep pushing on human rights issues.
"The majority of Iranians have made it clear that they want improvement on human rights," said Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a New York-based advocacy group. "Expectations are running high." (Reuters)
Iran Drops Plan to Send Human Into Space, Citing Cost
When Iran’s scientists sent a monkey into space in 2013, the country’s president volunteered to be the first Iranian to blast aloft in a domestically built rocket, possibly as early as 2018.
But the term of that president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also expired in 2013. And now, apparently, so have Iran’s ambitions for homegrown human spaceflight.
The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Wednesday that the government-run space agency had canceled a project to launch a human-carrying rocket. It quoted Mohammad Homayoun Sadr, deputy head of the agency, as saying the $15 billion to $20 billion developmental costs over 15 years had been judged too expensive, according to a translation by The Associated Press. (New York Times)
Iran's President Expresses Solidarity with Afghanistan Over Kabul Bombing
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed Iran’s solidarity with Afghanistan in the ongoing campaign against terrorism and extremism following a recent deadly attack in Kabul.
“In this great tragedy, the Islamic Republic of Iran will stand beside the brotherly Afghan government and nation and keep up... its decisive battle to completely eradicate terror and extremism,” Rouhani wrote in a Thursday message to his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani.
Rouhani expressed condolences to the Afghan government and nation and wished patience for the families of the victims of the Wednesday bombing. (Press TV)
Iran's Supreme Leader Says Saudi Arabia is 'a Cow being Milked' by the U.S.
Iran's Supreme Leader has said that Saudi Arabia is a "cow being milked" by the United States.A Saturday report by the semi-official Fars news agency quotes Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying that Saudi Arabia trades its wealth with "pagans and enemies."
"The stupid Saudi government thinks it can attract the friendship of enemies by giving them money," said Khamenei.
Khamenei added that bastion of Islam Saudi Arabia is "cruel toward believers and kind toward pagans." President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia during his visit to kingdom last week. (Time)
Iran's Long Economic Journey
By: Hassan Hakimian
The landslide re-election of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, reflects the by now familiar pattern of continuity and change that has characterized Iran’s major elections over the last two decades.
For starters, the result defied most expectations. While Rouhani was the favorite, few anticipated his large margin of victory (by winning 57% of the vote, he precluded a runoff). Previous landslide victories in Iran – those of the reformist Mohammad Khatami in 1997, of the little-known populist firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, and, arguably, even of Rouhani four years ago – were also largely unexpected outcomes.
The second familiar feature of the latest election was high voter turnout – about 73% – which has been a hallmark of elections involving popular reform-minded candidates. The highest-ever turnout – nearly 85% – was recorded in the disputed 2009 election, when Mir-Hossein Mousavi seemed certain to win, yet Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, was declared the victor.