Week of August 4 - 11
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 drone forces US jet to take evasive action
An Iranian drone came within 100 feet of a US Navy F/A-18 attempting to land on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, according to two US defense officials with knowledge of the incident. The officials said the drone forced the US aircraft to take evasive action.
The "QOM-1" drone came within 100 feet below the aircraft and 200 feet to the side of the aircraft. The F/A-18 was in a landing pattern several thousand feet off the deck of the ship waiting to land.
The F/A-18 maneuvered repeatedly to avoid the drone officials said and it did not appear to be armed.The officials said the drone encounter was considered "unsafe and unprofessional." The US used an emergency radio frequency in the immediate area to warn those operating the drone to back away. It did eventually move off. (CNN)
Trump says he doesn't think Iran is complying with nuclear agreement
President Trump on Thursday said he doesn't believe Iran is in compliance with the 2015 deal to curtail its nuclear weapons program, weeks after his administration certified that it is in compliance.
The president made the comments to reporters during his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, after his administration certified in July that Iran is living up to its end of the bargain under the nuclear agreement. The administration is required to notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is in compliance with the deal reached under former President Obama, and July was the second time Mr. Trump's administration certified compliance.
But on Thursday, Mr. Trump said some "very strong things" will take place "if they don't get themselves in compliance." "I don't think they're living up to the spirit of the agreement," Mr. Trump told reporters Thursday. (CBS)
US Statesmen Urge Trump to Uphold JCPOA
A statement from four dozen former and current US officials warned that US President Donald Trump's potential withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord could deal "grave" setbacks to American national interests and international image.
"No American national security objective would be served by withdrawing from it, as long as Iran is meeting the agreement's requirements. To the contrary, given continuing assurance by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, such a unilateral act would have grave long-term political and security consequences for the United States," said the letter published by the National Interest website on Tuesday.
Under the action plan, Tehran got relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.The Trump administration has adopted a tough policy on Iran since it came to office in January and seeks to police the deal more strictly. (Financial Tribune)
Iran Reaches Deal With Renault Despite New U.S. Sanctions
The French car maker Renault signed a multi-million-dollar deal in Tehran on Monday, agreeing to raise vehicle production in Iran just days after President Trump signed into law new sanctions against the country.
The roughly $780 million agreement to produce as many as 150,000 additional cars a year is the largest foreign auto deal in Iran’s history, state-run PressTV said. It was a victory for President Hassan Rouhani, who was sworn into office on Saturday after being re-elected this year promising to revitalize an economy hurt by sanctions.
Iran, an Islamic republic, is increasingly attracting foreign investors, despite restrictions imposed by the United States over its missile program and its military activities in the region. (The New York Times)
Women of Iran
Iran's Rouhani appoints female vice-presidents after criticism
Iran President Hassan Rouhani has appointed three women as vice-presidents and one as a civil rights assistant following criticism of his all-male cabinet.
Iran's 12 vice-presidents run organisations linked to the presidency.There has been only one female cabinet member since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.The cabinet, which must be approved by parliament, also lacks Sunni members. Sunnis are 10% of Shia-majority Iran.
Masumeh Ebtekar has been named vice-president for family and women's affairs, Laya Joneydi is vice-president for legal affairs and Shahindokht Mowlaverdi is the president's assistant for civil rights. (BBC)
Iran: Budget Increases for Missiles, Qods Force
Many Western diplomats hoped that the lifting of sanctions and new investments that accompanied the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would bolster the hands of more reform-minded elements within the Iranian political spectrum.
If money talks, however, it seems that more hardline elements have the upper hand in where and how to allocate funding. The accompanying remarks by Kazem Jalali, who runs the major research arm for Iran’s parliament, suggest budget increases are looming for Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Qods Force—the elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) charged with export of the revolution.
The March 2017 to March 2018 Iranian budget allocated $7.4 billion to the IRGC. That figure funds not only the IRGC Ground Forces and Navy, but also IRGC universities and a large bureaucracy including the medical department, telecommunications, a personal department, and internal intelligence service. (AEI)
Iran arrests dozens of 'ISIL suspects plotting attacks'
Iran has arrested 27 people plotting attacks for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, including 10 who were arrested in a regional country, the intelligence ministry said.
"Intelligence agents succeeded in identifying and arresting a terrorist group linked to Daesh, who intended to conduct terrorist attacks in central provinces and religious cities," a ministry statement said on Monday, using the Arabic name for ISIL.
Ten of the suspects were arrested outside Iran "through intelligence-sharing with one of the intelligence services in the region," the statement said, without naming the country or giving further details. (Al Jazeera)
Iran Bans Two Soccer Stars for Playing Against Israelis
Two players on Iran’s national soccer team were banned for life from playing for their country on Thursday after they participated in a match with their club team in Greece against an Israeli team, an Iranian governmental official said.
The players, Masoud Shojaei, 33, the captain of the national team, and Ehsan Haji Safi, 27, one of Iran’s most promising players, played for their Greek club team, Panionios, in a home game last week in Athens against Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel.
“It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line,” Mohammad Reza Davarzani, Iran’s deputy sports minister said Thursday on Iranian state television. (The New York Times)
Iran dismisses Tajik civil war claims as attempt to damage ties
Iran denied on Thursday accusations of involvement in Tajikistan's civil war in the 1990s, labeling the claims an attempt to damage bilateral ties.
In a documentary aired by state television on Wednesday, three Tajiks said that, following training in Iran, they had killed politicians and other prominent figures inside Tajikistan during the 1992-97 war and attacked a Russian military base there.
The Iranian embassy in Tajikistan said the accusations were unfounded. "The airing of such biased films... shows that certain circles do not want to see... stronger friendship between the two countries," it said in a statement. (Reuters)
How Trump’s Iran Threats Could Backfire in North Korea
By: Aaron David Miller, Richard Sokolsky, Robert Malley
If, as he has clearly signaled, President Donald Trump chooses in the coming months to hold Iran in noncompliance of the nuclear accord, the impact will be felt in Tehran and the already volatile Middle East.
But the more serious casualty could be both more widespread and more distant—thousands of miles away, on the Korean Peninsula. And the Trump administration needs to begin connecting the dots now.
The United States has few options for dealing with the North Korean nuclear challenge, and no good ones. A pre-emptive strike risks an unspeakable catastrophe. Sanctions have not worked, and tightening them further is no more likely to. Diplomatic talks will be difficult for the United States because an agreement would involve a compromise that would allow North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons.