Week of July 14 - 21
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
Iranian President Says Country Will "Stand Up" To U.S. Sanctions
Iran's president said Wednesday that it will stand up to the United States and reciprocate for any new sanctions that Washington imposes on the Islamic republic.
Hassan Rouhani's remarks came a day after the Trump administration announced new, non-nuclear sanctions while at the same time warning Tehran that it would face consequences for breaching "the spirit" of the nuclear deal with world powers.
The new sanctions, perceived as the latest attempt to clamp down on Iran's military financing, target 18 Iranian individuals and groups, ranging from an Iran-based company accused of aiding the country's drone program to a Turkey-based provider of naval equipment and a China-based network that helped secure electronics for Tehran. (CBS)
Iran Still Top State Sponsor Of Terrorism, U.S. Reports Says
Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said Wednesday in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism” released Wednesday, the State Department said Iran was the planet’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, a dubious distinction the country has held for many years. It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel groups as well as proxies that have destabilized already devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Shiite militia members to fight in Syria and Iraq. And, it said Iranian support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement was unchanged.
In terms of non-state actors, the report said the Islamic State group was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2016, and was seeking to widen its operations particularly as it lost territory in Iraq and Syria. (PBS)
Trump Recertifies Iran Nuclear Deal, But Only Reluctantly
President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers, briefly upending a planned announcement as a legal deadline loomed.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly condemned the deal brokered by President Barack Obama as a dangerous capitulation to Iran, but six months into his presidency he has not abandoned it. The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran’s compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely.
Administration officials announced the certification on Monday evening while emphasizing that they intended to toughen enforcement of the deal, apply new sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing activities, and negotiate with European partners to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran. (The New York Times)
Women of Iran
Iran's Latest Culture Battle: Should Women In Cars Keep Their Heads Covered?
Reihane Taravati, an outspoken social media activist, was riding in a taxi the other day when she received a stern reprimand from the driver.
Unbeknownst to Taravati, 26, her headscarf — which Iranian women are required to wear as a show of modesty — had slipped down the back of her head, leaving most of her hair exposed.
“Fix your scarf, or the undercover [moral] police will see it,” the cabbie told her. He worried about receiving a ticket in the mail, which would cost him about $30.
As Taravati relayed this story while sipping tea with friends in a Tehran cafe, a debate was raging in the Iranian capital that combines two things that people here obsess over: cars and the way women dress. (LA Times)
Why Iran Broke Its Strict Hijab Rules For the 'Queen Of Math'
Maryam Mirzakhani will be remembered as a woman who broke glass ceilings in life and in death. In 2014, the Iranian mathematician became the first and only woman ever to win the Fields Medal, popularly known as the Nobel Prize of the math world.
And when she died last Friday at age 40, some Iranian media outlets, as well as President Rouhani himself, broke a national taboo by publishing photos in which she appeared with her hair uncovered.
In Iran, women have been required to wear the hijab in public since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian women rarely appear without the headscarf in the press. Mirzakhani, who grew up in Tehran but attended graduate school at Harvard and became a professor at Stanford, did not wear the hijab. (The Atlantic)
Qatar Warms Up To Iran On Natural Gas
The world’s biggest gas field lies between Qatar and Iran, and the half-competitive, half-cooperative race to exploit it has taken a new turn. For both countries, this enormous resource is also a source of political power.
Now, with the emirate at odds with Tehran’s foe, Saudi Arabia, its tacit cooperation with Iran is gaining, even as the two are set to compete more intensely in gas markets.
In 1971, Shell first drilled into what became Qatar’s North Field and was disappointed to find not oil, but gas, though in vast quantities. The country was only a modest oil producer with a tiny domestic and regional energy market. Through the 1980s and 1990s, it struggled to develop a liquefied natural gas project to export to Asia, but with low global energy prices, a cost-cutting BP gave up and Mobil took over. (Bloomberg)
Iran Cases Step Up Pressure On President Rouhani
Two high-profile judiciary cases in Iran this weekend have underlined renewed political tensions between the country's recently re-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, and establishment hardliners.
The first case involves the arrest of the president's own brother, and the second an American academic jailed for 10 years after being convicted of espionage. The arrest of Hossein Ferydoun, Hassan Rouhani's brother who goes by a different surname, was not wholly unexpected.
During Mr Rouhani's first term, Hossein Ferydoun was one of his most trusted advisors. Although he did not occupy any official position Mr Ferydoun was present at the high-level international nuclear negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, acting as the president's "eyes and ears". (BBC)
Iranian Ambassador Ordered To Leave Kuwait Over Spy Case
Kuwait ordered the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats for alleged links to a "spy and terror" cell, Iranian and Kuwaiti media reported on Thursday, worsening an unusual public dispute between the two countries.
Kuwait also told Iran's cultural and military missions to shut down, following a court case that increased tensions between the Gulf Arab state and Tehran. Iran responded to the expulsions by filing a complaint with the Kuwaiti charge d'affaires, the Iranian news agency ISNA said. ISNA also said Kuwait is allowing only four of 19 embassy staff to remain in the country. Some sources said those expelled were given 45 days to leave the country; others said 48 days.
The expulsions were an unusual move for Kuwait, which avoids conflict and has worked at keeping good relations with all the countries in the region, and whose ruling emir is a regional diplomatic broker. (Reuters)
Netanyahu Accidentally Reveals Israel Has Struck Iran - Backed Fighters In Syria 'Dozens Of Times'
It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred “dozens” of times.
The Israeli prime minister made this admission accidentally — all thanks to a hot mic. Netanyahu's remarks came during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest on Wednesday. Although the meeting occurred behind closed doors, the Israeli leader's microphone remained on and his voice was transmitted to headphones given to reporters earlier.
Speaking to the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, Netanyahu said Israel had specifically targeted Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria, where Hezbollah is helping bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the ongoing civil war. (The Washington Post)
Is The Nuclear Deal With Iran Slipping Away?
By: Robin Wright
On Monday, the White House hastily organized a press teleconference on the Iranian nuclear deal. The accord—brokered by the world’s six major powers two years ago—is to President Trump’s foreign policy what Obamacare is to his domestic policy: he is determined to destroy it, without a coherent or viable strategy, so far, to replace it. It’s also not clear that Trump fully understands its details, complex diplomatic process, or long-term stakes any more than he does health care.
During the White House briefing, I asked the three senior Administration officials whether, after months of inflammatory declarations about the “bad deal” and the “bad” government in Tehran, the Trump Administration is moving toward a policy of regime change. It often sounds like it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in June that U.S. policy includes “support of those elements inside Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”
Last month, the Defense Secretary, James Mattis, described Iran as “a country that is acting more like a revolutionary cause, not to the best interests of their own people,” and added, “until the Iranian people can get rid of this theocracy.” Shortly after Trump’s Inauguration, a memo circulated by hawks within the Administration suggested that Iran was susceptible to “coerced democratization,” a euphemism for regime change.