Week of July 28 - August 4
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
Now U.S. Has Company In Raising Pressure On Iran Over Missile
Joined by three Western allies, the United States on Wednesday escalated pressure on Iran over its space launch last week, saying the act disregarded a United Nations Security Council resolution on the use of missiles and was “threatening and provocative.
In a letter to the Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States and envoys from Britain, France, and Germany said the Iranian missile that carried a satellite into orbit was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.”
Under the Security Council resolution, 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Iran is called upon “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” (The New York Times)
Iran Accuses United States Of Breaching Nuclear Deal
Iran believes new sanctions that the United States has imposed on it breach the nuclear deal it agreed in 2015 and has complained to a body that oversees the pact's implementation, a senior politician said on Tuesday.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the United States, Russia, China and three European powers, Iran curbed its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most sanctions.
However, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms in late July for their role in the development of a ballistic missile program, after Tehran launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit. The U.S. Senate voted on the same day to impose new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. The sanctions in that bill also target Iran's missile programs as well as human rights abuses. (Reuters)
Trump Keeps Scaring Investors Away From Iran
Iran hoped that agreeing to curtail its nuclear program would encourage foreign firms to pour tens of billions into the country. But a flood of major investment has not materialized -- and that's largely because of the United States.
More than two years have passed since Iran signed a landmark nuclear agreement with six world powers including the U.S. The deal allowed Tehran to get a handle on rampant inflation that resulted from years of crippling sanctions, and the country has dramatically boosted its oil production and exports.
Iran has been certified as being in compliance with the nuclear deal. But foreign companies are still reluctant to invest because they fear the agreement could collapse. "The train has left the station but it's not moving at the pace that people expected," said Raul Heraud, head of financial services at strategic advisory firm Solidiance. (CNN Money)
Amazon Says it Might Have Violated Sanctions on Iran
The federal government is investigating Amazon for potentially violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Amazon disclosed the government probe in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week.
The company said that between January 2012 and June 2017, it sold and delivered nearly $25,000 worth of merchandise to an Iranian embassy outside of Iran, and another $8,100 to other individuals with ties to the Iranian government, according to the filing.
The products it sold included books, jewelry, toys, health and beauty products, electronics, lawn and patio equipment, and musical instruments. Amazon said the purchases were made by people covered under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, a 2012 law passed by Congress that imposed sanctions on the country. (CNN Money)
Women of Iran
Iran's President Under Pressure To Appoint Female Ministers
Iran’s president is under pressure to appoint female ministers as he mulls a cabinet reshuffle before his swearing-in ceremony on Sunday.
Hassan Rouhani’s all-male list of ministers during his first term in office dismayed his base even though the moderate cleric appointed a number of women as vice-president, a comparatively less senior position in Iran’s political hierarchy.
As jockeying intensifies before the unveiling of his new cabinet, concerns have grown that Rouhani may give in to pressure from hardliners and not include women as ministers. The expectation is particularly high because he ran on a reformist agenda. Under the Iranian constitution, the Majlis (parliament), would have to approve his appointees. (The Guardian)
In Iran, Rouhani Begins 2nd Term With Signs He's Yielding To Hard-Liners
President Hassan Rouhani, endorsed by Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday with a nationally televised cheek-kiss, is starting his second term under newly intense pressure from both hard-line opponents and many of his own reform-minded supporters.
His brother had to be bailed out from prison after a July arrest on corruption charges that some experts see as political payback for the president’s re-election. A key oil deal Mr. Rouhani negotiated with a French company has led to accusations that he is selling the country off to foreign interests. President Trump has just signed into law new sanctions that undermine the signature achievement of Mr. Rouhani’s first term, the nuclear agreement.
Now, as Iran prepares for his second inauguration on Saturday, some of the forces that helped give Mr. Rouhani a 24 million-vote mandate in May are concerned he will not fulfill his promise of appointing women and young politicians to his 18-member cabinet, and instead is running nominations by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (The New York Times)
The Ride-Hailing App That Rules Tehran's Busy Streets
Tehran's busy streets have five times as many taxis as New York, offering huge potential for a ride-hailing app. And with Uber locked out of the Iran for the foreseeable future due to U.S. sanctions, start-up Snapp is seizing its chance to become the leading local player.
"The Iranian Uber" launched in 2014. Its current CEO, Shahram Shahkar, joined early last year. "I felt that there was this underdeveloped market that I could potentially use the skills and experience that I've gained abroad to help develop further," Shahkar, who previously studied and worked in the U.K. and Canada, told CNN.
Snapp is available on iOS and Android and also has an Apple Watch version. The app promises to find its users a ride in less than five minutes. Shahkar said his company -- backed by South African mobile firm MTN -- has seen the number of rides grow by 70% a month on average during the past year. It has hired more than 400 people in that time and now has 120,000 active drivers. (CNN)
Iran Election and Qatar Crisis Set Middle East on Edge as Saudi Arabia Seeks to Extend Its Influence
“Some of the Saudi-funded mosques in the UK are as dangerous as many mosques in Saudi Arabia and the UK has suffered because of that. We have seen the Saudis spreading the extremist Wahaabi form of Islam in other parts of the world and the highly damaging effect of that as well,” said Mohammad Marandi.
Mr. Marandi, an academic with influence in Iran’s governing circles, was speaking about the state of power-play in the Middle East which is going through a particularly volatile period, even by its turbulent standards, with repercussions spreading far beyond.
A Saudi-led coalition including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt has imposed a blockade on Qatar, gouging a fault line in the region’s Sunni Confederacy. The main reasons for the bitter confrontation are Doha’s amicable relations with Shia Iran, Riyadh’s sectarian rival, as well as Doha’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization loathed by Saudi Arabia. (Independent)
Spain Police Bust Huge Iran-U.K. Immigration Ring
Police in Spain say they have broken up a large immigration ring that smuggled Iranians as young as five into the UK. The gang allegedly supplied fake Spanish passports to Iranian nationals so they could fly into the UK.
More than 100 people were arrested across Europe, including the suspected ringleader, who was apprehended at London's Heathrow airport. The operation involved Spain's federal police, London's Metropolitan Police, and European crime agency Europol.
Europol said the group, operating from Malaga in the south of Spain, charged the migrants about €25,000 (£22,500) each for fake Spanish passports, travel documents, transfers, and accommodation. Spanish police said the criminal organization was 15 people-strong, all of whom had been detained. (BBC)
Provoking Iran into Tearing up the 2015 Nuclear Deal
By: Peter Jenkins
How easy will it be for President Donald Trump to use the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provoke Iran to “tear up” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aka the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran?
Annex 1 of the JCPOA spells out the basis on which the IAEA may request extraordinary access to Iranian locations:
Requests for access pursuant to provisions of this JCPOA will be made in good faith, with due observance of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities under this JCPOA. In line with normal international safeguards practice, such requests will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities, but will be exclusively for resolving concerns regarding fulfilment of the JCPOA commitments and Iran’s other non-proliferation and other safeguards obligations.
In other words, if the United States decides to submit to the IAEA information designed to trigger a request for access to a certain Iranian location or locations, this information must relate to activities involving the use of nuclear material or activities prohibited by the JCPOA.