Iran Digest Week of July 21- 28

Iran Digest

Week of July 21- 28

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 Sanction Bill Targeting Russia, Iran, and North Korea

The Senate has passed a sweeping sanctions package targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, 97-2.
The U.S. House passed the sanctions package Tuesday in a 419-3 vote, sending the legislation to the Senate. The White House has not definitively said that President Trump will sign the bill, but the the measure won a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate.
The measure -- a reprimand for Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle, among other things -- requires congressional approval before the president can ease or lift sanctions. The White House had criticized attempts to limit the president's sanctions powers, but the legislation's solid bipartisan support may be forcing the president's hand. (CBS)

U.S. Navy Ship Fired Warning Shots At Iranian Boat In The Persian Gulf

A US Navy ship fired warning shots at an armed Iranian patrol boat Tuesday in the northern end of the Persian Gulf, according to two US defense officials.
The USS Thunderbolt was accompanied by the USS Vella Gulf, which is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, and two US Coast Guard vessels at the time. The Iranians did not respond to any warnings from the US ship, including radio calls, firing of flares and five short blasts from the US Navy ship's whistle, which is the internationally recognized communications signal for danger, the officials said. (CNN)

Rouhani Says Iran Will Respond To Any New U.S. Sanctions

Iran will reciprocate if the United States imposes new sanctions on it, president Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday according to state media, casting further doubt over the outlook for the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea, although it was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.
State media quoted Rouhani as citing a verse from the Koran saying: "If the enemy puts part of their promises underfoot then we will also put part of it underfoot. And if they put all of their promises underfoot then we will put promises underfoot." (Reuters)

Nuclear Accord

Trump Seeks Way To Declare Iran In Violation Of Nuclear Deal

President Trump, frustrated that his national security aides have not given him any options on how the United States can leave the Iran nuclear deal, has instructed them to find a rationale for declaring that the country is violating the terms of the accord.
American officials have already told allies they should be prepared to join in reopening negotiations with Iran or expect that the United States may abandon the agreement, as it did the Paris climate accord.
And according to several foreign officials, the United States has begun raising with international inspectors in Vienna the possibility of demanding access to military sites in Iran where there is reasonable suspicion of nuclear research or development. (The New York Times)


Inflation Likely To Rise In Rouhani's Second Term

In terms of economic management, containing inflation has been one of the most significant achievements of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s first term in office. 
The Rouhani administration managed to reduce inflation from close to 40% in mid-2013 to 7.2% in the Iranian year ending on March 20, 2017. As a result, Iranian politicians have been promising a single-digit inflation rate over the next few years that would help stabilize the country’s economy.
However, the first quarterly report on inflation has raised eyebrows. According to the latest report of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), inflation in the 12-month period ending June 21 was 10.2%, and inflation in the last month was 0.3%. (Al-Monitor)


Iranians Urged To Avoid Water-Intensive Crops

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Those juicy Persian honeydews and tasty watermelons might hit the spot in summer, but they're costing Iran a lot of water.
Environment officials and water experts have long implored water authorities and farmers to review their policy of growing water-intensive crops, but little headway has been made despite widespread appeal.
Abolfazl Abesht, director of the Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project, is the latest expert to weigh in on the subject, IRNA reported. "We need to accept the realities of living in an arid region. Our resources aren't deep enough to allow us to grow crops that gobble up water like watermelons," he said. (Financial Tribune)

Inside Iran

Iran Claims Launch Of Satellite Carrying Rocket Into Space

Iran successfully launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, the country’s state media reported Thursday, in what is likely the most significant step yet for the launch vehicle.
A confirmed launch of the “Simorgh” rocket would mark another step forward for the Islamic Republic’s young space program, but is likely to raise alarm among its adversaries, who fear the same technology could be used to produce long-range missiles.
The U.S. State Department called the launch “provocative.” Iranian state television said the rocket, whose name means “phoenix” in Persian, is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds). The report did not elaborate on the rocket’s payload. Other state-linked agencies including the semi-official Fars news agency also described the launch as successful. (The Washington Post)

Iran Plans To Decriminalize Drug Use Allowing Government To Give Diluted Drugs To Addicts

Iran could be on the verge of decriminalising some forms of drug use to allow the government to distribute drugs to addicts.  By allowing the government to give out diluted rugs to addicts, the proposal aims to cut the relationship between drug addicts and drug traffickers.
“The plan to distribute [low-grade] drugs is similar to what used to be implemented before the [1979 Iran’s Islamic] Revolution,” said Hassan Norouzi, the spokesperson for the Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, according to IFPNews.
Mr Norouzi said diluted drugs such as Methadone  would be distributed instead of opium, cannabis and other common drugs in Iran. He went on to say all relevant authorities had given the proposal the go-ahead. (Independent)

Regional Politics

Iranian Hackers Used Female 'Honey Pot' To Lure Targets: Researchers

Hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have impersonated a young female photographer on social media for more than a year, luring men working in industries strategically important to Tehran's regional adversaries, according to research published Thursday.
The so-called Mia Ash persona has been active on sites including LinkedIn, Facebook Inc, WhatsApp and Blogger since at least April of last year, researchers at Dell SecureWorks said.
The campaign showed Iran engaged in a social engineering plot to ensnare its targets with a "honey pot", a classic espionage trap often involving seduction, more commonly used by criminal hackers. (The New York Times)


Sanctions: Can Iran Avoid Taking The Bait

By: Shireen T. Hunter

The U.S. House of Representatives has just imposed new sanctions on Iran as well as on Russia and North Korea. The Iran sanctions have been justified based on its missile development and its disregard of human rights, plus its so-called destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
Because technically these sanctions are not new, they cannot be strictly speaking considered a violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, they will undoubtedly undermine the success of the nuclear deal. Already, the Trump administration’s hostile rhetoric and its constant attacks on the JCPOA, and even President Trump’s own statements to the effect that Iran has violated the spirit of the accord, have given new life to opponents of the deal in Iran.
These opponents, meanwhile, have become emboldened in their attacks on President Hassan Rouhani, frequently pointing out the weakness of the JCPOA from Iran’s perspective and, in general, questioning the wisdom of trusting America. After the announcement of the congressional sanctions, some hardliners have claimed that the Rouhani government’s passivity in the face of what they see as US provocations has been responsible for new U.S. pressure and threats against Iran.

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