Week of June 30 - July 7
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
Trump Mocked in Iran Cartoon Competition
Hundreds of cartoonists from around the world have taken part in a competition in Iran attacking Donald Trump.
The winning image, by Hadi Asadi from Iran, shows the US president wearing a jacket of dollar bills and with burning yellow hair.
Organizers of the Trumpism exhibition in Tehran have held similar contests in the past on themes including the Islamic State group and the Holocaust. This year's logo is based on the Nazi emblem, with a T instead of a swastika. It encouraged many comparisons between the US president and Nazism. (BBC)
New Revelations of the U.S. in Iran
The State Department has finally released a much-awaited volume of internal documents from 1951 to 1954, the period during which Mohammad Mossadeq was prime minister of Iran.
The department is obliged to publish 30-year-old documents in its annual series entitled Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). The original volume for the Mossadeq period, published in 1989, was so skimpy—with long gaps of any communications between the embassy in Tehran and the department in Washington, especially during heightened crises—that many academics, including the American Historical Association, lodged official complaints.
In 1991, the State Department, under congressional pressure, promised to issue a new version of the volume. This was delayed at first because the clearance was needed from a “third party” (UK) mentioned in some documents, and then because the US did not want to “jeopardize” the on-going nuclear negotiations with Iran. (Lobelog)
Congress Targets Iran
As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman, previously of Americans for Peace Now and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. These weekly round-ups cover what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.
(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS – BALLISTIC MISSILES, HUMAN RIGHTS, TERROR) S. 722: Introduced 3/23 by Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ) and having 57 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017.” Amended on the Senate floor the week of 6/12, passed by the Senate 6/15 with a new title, “An Act to Provide Congressional Review and to Counter Iranian and Russian Governments’ Aggression,” by a vote of 98-2 (only “no” votes were Sanders, I-VT and Paul, R-KY). For details see the last edition of the Round-Up. UPDATE: After passage in the Senate, S. 722 got held up in the House, for a “blue slip” violation caused by the inclusion in the bill of language that would raise funds for the US government (under the Constitution, such language MUST originate in the House). Subsequently, on 6/29, the Senate passed S. Res. 210, introduced by SFRC Chair Corker (R-TN), “A resolution to correct the engrossment of S. 722” [text of S. Res. 210 is available here). That resolution appears to be intended to overcome the blue slip issue, putting the ball back in the court of the House. (Lobelog)
Total Signs Deal With Iran, Exposing It to Big Risks and Rewards
Patrick Pouyanné, the chairman and chief executive of the French energy giant Total, worried for months that a breakthrough deal to invest in Iran might not be finalized.
He fretted in particular that the Trump administration would try to scrap the 2015 international agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program. “If one party is going out of the treaty, then we will not be able to invest,” he said in an interview in February.
On Monday, though, Mr. Pouyanné was comfortable enough with the risks to sign an agreement in Tehran committing his company to lead a natural gas project in the Persian Gulf that could open Iran’s huge petroleum reserves to international players. (The New York Times)
Volkswagen Will Sell Cars in Iran for First Time in 17 Years
The German automaker said Tuesday it's starting to export cars to the country and will begin selling its Tiguan and Passat models in August.
Iran was cut off from the world economy for years due to strict trade sanctions. But a historic 2015 deal to curb Iran's nuclear program led the U.S., Germany and other nations to ease those restrictions last year.
"By returning to Iran, the Volkswagen brand is filling in another blank spot on the global automotive map," said Anders Sundt Jensen, Volkwagen's Iran project manager, in a statement. (CNN Money)
U.N. to Help Iran Combat Sandstorms
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program Erik Solheim said the international body is set to assist Iran combat sandstorms.
Solheim is currently visiting Iran, as he participated in the International Conference on Combating Sand and Dust Storms held in Tehran from July 3 to 5, IRNA reported. President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the head of Iran's Department of Environment, Massoumeh Ebtekar, also attended the conference.
On Tuesday, Solheim and 30 other conference attendees visited the Hawizeh Marshes, a complex of marshes that straddles the Iran-Iraq border.The UN Resident Coordinator in Iran Gary Lewis had earlier said Iran is at the forefront of the battle against sandstorms. (Financial Tribune)
For Iran, Qatar Crisis Is a Welcome Distraction
Iran’s leaders have been noticeably restrained in their response to the Qatar crisis, and for good reason, analysts say. Not only have they welcomed it, they would be happy to see it quietly drag on.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar last month for what they said was its financing of terrorism and working too closely with Iran.
They then delivered a list of 13 demands that Qatar has dismissed as a grave infringement on its sovereignty and threatened further sanctions if those were not met. On Sunday, they extended the deadline to meet the demands by 48 hours to late Tuesday. (The New York Times)
Iran's President Criticizes Turkey Dam Projects
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday criticized Turkey’s construction of dams upstream from Syria and Iraq, saying such projects can be “dangerous” for the whole region.
He did not name Turkey, but appeared to be referring to several dams built by Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates in recent decades. Turkey has water sharing agreements with both Syria and Iraq, but disagreements arise from time to time.
“Many of these sorts of activities should be stopped,” Rouhani said. “Construction of dams without sufficient studies can be dangerous for the future of the region,” he added, without elaborating. (The Washington Post)
Kurds Accuse Iran of Cross-Border Shelling in Northern Iraq
Iranian artillery bombed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq on Monday, injuring at least three people and forcing hundreds to flee their homes, Kurdish officials told VOA.
The cross-border shelling in Iraqi Kurdistan's Haji Omaran region targeted positions of Iranian Kurdish rebel groups Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) and Komala, Kurdish officials said.
"The shelling started at 5 a.m. [local time] and continued for several hours, forcing hundreds of civilians from nearby villages to flee their homes," Farzang Ahmad, the local administrator of the Haji Omaran sub-district in Iraqi Kurdistan, told VOA. (VOA News)
It's Time to Prepare for Iran's Political Collapse
By: Ray Takeyh
In recent congressional testimony, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sensibly stressed that the United States should “work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” The commentariat was aghast, and the Islamic republic registered a formal protest note. Both parties seemed surprised that the United States has long assisted those seeking democratic change.
During the Cold War, secretaries of state routinely assured those trapped behind the Iron Curtain that America supported their aspirations. Given that Iran is ruled by an aging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the United States should be prepared for a transition of power there that may yet precipitate the collapse of the entire system.
In a region littered with failed states, Iran is often mischaracterized as an island of stability. The history of the Islamic republic, however, is a turbulent one, featuring a constant struggle between an authoritarian regime and restive population seeking democratic empowerment.