Week of June 23 - 30
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
Iran Accuses U.S. of 'Brazen' Plan to Change its Government
Iran is accusing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of "a brazen interventionist plan" to change the current government that violates international law and the U.N. Charter.
Iran's U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Tuesday that Tillerson's comments are also "a flagrant violation" of the 1981 Algiers Accords in which the United States pledged "not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."
Tillerson said in a June 14 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the 2018 State Department budget that U.S. policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons "and work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government." (CNBC)
Supreme Court Takes up Dispute Over Iran Antiquities in Terror Case
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up a long running legal battle over a claim by victims of terrorism to Iranian antiquities held in a Chicago museum.
Nine U.S. citizens sued Iran after a 1997 suicide bombing in Israel. The Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, took responsibility for the attack, which killed five Israelis and injured others, including Americans who were in Ben Yehuda as tourists. Iran was sued as a sponsor of Hamas.
Although foreign countries are generally immune from U.S. lawsuits, the law makes exceptions for acts of terrorism. A federal judge eventually awarded the Americans $71.5 million. (NBC)
Iran's Zarif Raps U.S. Supreme Court's Partial Revival of Travel Ban
Iran's foreign minister criticized on Tuesday a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to revive part of President Donald Trump's travel ban imposed on citizens from six majority Muslim countries, saying it would boost militants in the Middle East.
The justices narrowed the scope of lower court rulings that had completely blocked key parts of a March 6 executive order that Trump had said was needed to prevent terrorism attacks, allowing his temporary ban to go into effect for people with no strong ties to the United States.
"We always believed that the Muslim ban that President Trump imposed soon after assuming office had no basis in facts and would not help fight terrorism," Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif told a joint news conference in Berlin with his German counterpart. (Reuters)
U.S. Can Seize Iran-Owned NYC Tower After Jury Sanction Ruling
Federal prosecutors won a major victory in their nine-year effort to seize a midtown Manhattan office tower owned by an Iranian charity.
A Manhattan jury on Thursday found that the charity, the Alavi Foundation, was controlled by the Iranian government. It also agreed with prosecutors that the charity’s management of the Fifth Avenue office building, which has generated millions of dollars in rental income annually, constituted a violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The verdict, which came after a day of deliberations, means that prosecutors can move ahead with their attempt to seize the building at 650 Fifth Avenue, a prime location.The government plans to sell the property, valued at more than $500 million, and distribute much of the proceeds to victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. (Bloomberg)
Will Their Loved Ones Be Allowed In? Iranian Community On Edge Over Trump Travel Rules
A revived version of President Trump’s travel ban expected to take effect late in the day is sparking new fears in Los Angeles’ large Iranian community.
Ameena Mirza Qazi, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said immigration rights attorneys are still “very concerned” about the travel ban, even in its restricted form.
“There’s still a lot of confusion about how this affects people, how this affects family members,” Qazi said. “Community members are extremely concerned. The [visa] process is already so thorough and it’s been that way for a very long time. (The L.A. Times)
UN and EU Praise Iran over Nuclear Deal but US is Critical
The United Nations and the European Union praised Iran on Thursday for implementing the landmark nuclear deal with six major powers, but U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Tehran of “destructive and destabilizing” actions from ballistic missile launches to arms smuggling.
The speeches at a Security Council meeting on implementation of a U.N. resolution endorsing the July 2015 nuclear agreement showed the deep division over Iran between the five major powers who view the deal as a major achievement and the Trump administration, which is reviewing it.
President Donald Trump, congressional Republicans and Israel have assailed the agreement as a windfall to Iran that only delayed its pursuit of nuclear weapons. GOP lawmakers say it saved Iran’s economy by lifting economic penalties and allowed the country to funnel more money to terrorist groups. (Associated Press)
How Iran is Transforming its Aviation Industry With Multi-Billion Dollar Orders for Hundreds of Jets
In the space of 18 months, Iran has set about what amounts to a complete overhaul of its aviation sector. Since most international sanctions were lifted on the country in January 2016, its airlines have placed orders for more than 300 new aircraft and options for a further 50 planes.
To put that in context, these orders are twice as large as the entire fleet of planes currently being flown by the country’s 17 commercial airlines.
Until sanctions were eased early last year, Iranian airlines had found it impossible to buy new aircraft or spare parts and they were often forced to cannibalize some planes to keep others in the air. Although they theoretically had a fleet of 250 planes, around 100 of them were sidelined, having broken down or been stripped for parts, meaning only 150 were taking off and landing on a regular basis. (Forbes)
Iranian City Soars to Record 129 Degrees: Near Hottest on Earth in Modern Measurements
A city in southwest Iran posted the country’s hottest temperature ever recorded Thursday afternoon, and may have tied the world record for the most extreme high temperature.
Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster at French meteorological agency MeteoFrance, posted to Twitter that the city of Ahvaz soared to “53.7°C” (128.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Kapikian said the temperature is a “new absolute national record of reliable Iranian heat” and that it was the hottest temperature ever recorded in June over mainland Asia. Iran’s previous hottest temperature was 127.4.
If that 129.2 degrees reading is accurate, it would arguably tie the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth in modern times. (The Washington Post)
Brain Drain to the West: Why Iran's Brightest Young Graduates are Leaving their Country Behind
Sporting earbuds and sagging backpacks, students lounge on patches of grass, shaded by trees from the harsh sun. They sit in the library, hunched over laptops, massaging their temples, cramming for tests or bashing out lines of code.
It could be a college campus anywhere in the world, but Sharif University of Technology sits in the shadow of the Azadi tower in Iran's capital, Tehran.
SUT represents the aspirations of a generation of Iranian policy makers who, in the wake of the 1979 revolution, were determined to put their country on the science and technology map. It is often called the MIT of Iran -- re-imagined after austere beginnings, based on the example of that American powerhouse, Sharif President Mahmud Fotuhi Firuzabad told CNN on a recent spring morning in Tehran. (CNN)
The Iran Nuclear Deal Faces 'Death by a Thousand Cuts'
By: Ladane Nasseri
President Donald Trump decided against killing off the Iran nuclear deal in a day-one spectacular. It may face a lingering death instead. Trump’s administration sends out mixed signals on many issues, but on the need for a tougher line against Iran, it speaks with one voice. And words have been accompanied by action.
In Syria, the U.S. military is directly clashing with Iranian allies. In Saudi Arabia, Trump performed a sword-dance with Iran’s bitterest foes. In the Senate, new sanctions on the Islamic Republic sailed through with near-unanimous approval.
The 2015 accord reined in Iran’s nuclear program, and offered the Islamic Republic a route back to the mainstream of the world economy. It was the fruit of many years of work by many governments. It was the fruit of many years of work by many governments. Its breakdown would likely add to turbulence in the Middle East, and impose new strains on America’s ties with Europe. Yet there’s a serious risk that the deal could unravel, according to one former U.S. official who was intimately involved.