Week of September 1 - 8
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
How The Travel Ban Left A Family Of Iranian Refugees Stranded In Turkey
Seid Moradi never wanted to leave Iran. But under threats to his life because of his non-Muslim faith, he saw no choice. Savings in hand, he fled his hometown near the Iraqi border with his family, boarding a bus for the more than 20-hour ride across the country’s northwestern border with hopes of starting anew. And for a while, that dream didn’t seem out of reach.
In the central Turkish city of Kayseri, the family — father, wife, sister-in-law and three kids — worked delivering groceries and sewing clothes to cobble together rent while undergoing interviews to become refugees.
But three years later, hope is slipping away. When news arrived this year that the U.S. government would resettle them in Seattle, they moved out of their apartment in June, and sold all but what would fit into seven roller bags days before their scheduled flight. (The Los Angeles Times)
Appeals Court Denies Government On Travel Ban, Says Grandparents OK
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration's limited view of who is allowed into the United States under the president's travel ban, saying grandparents, cousins and similarly close relations of people in the U.S. should not be prevented from coming to the country.
The unanimous ruling from three judges on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also cleared the way for refugees accepted by a resettlement agency to travel here. The decision upheld a ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii who found the administration's view too strict.
"Stated simply, the government does not offer a persuasive explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide relationship, in the Supreme Court's prior reasoning, but a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin is not," the 9th Circuit said. (NBC News)
Trump May Make Congress Decide Future Of Iran Nuclear Deal
In the midst of a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the Trump Administration signaled on Tuesday that it is paving the way for a simultaneous stand off with Iran, suggesting it could refuse to certify that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear accord. But the administration could leave it up to congress to decide whether to withdraw from the deal.
In a speech at the Conservative American Enterprise Institute, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley, the United States representative to the United Nations, presented the administrations argument that Iran was in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement. But by not actually withdrawing from the accord, president Trump could avoid a direct breach with the other signatories- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China- which appear to agree with international inspectors that Iran has complied with direct its obligations in the agreement.
Administration officials said that there was little doubt now that Mr. Trump would not certify Iran's compliance again, as he is required to do every six months. The president said as much in July, when he reluctantly signed the most recent certification. (The New York Times)
France's Foreign Minister Worried By Trump's Stance On Iran Nuclear Deal
France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he was worried that U.S. President Donald Trump could put into doubt a nuclear deal between Iran and a group of major world powers.
“The agreement which was passed two years ago enables Iran to give up on a nuclear weapon and so avoid proliferation. We have to guarantee this stance,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a visit to Science-Po university in Paris.
“I am worried at this moment in time by the position of President Trump, who could put into question this accord. And if this accord is put into question then voices in Iran will speak up to say: ‘Let’s also have a nuclear weapon.’ We are in an extremely dangerous spiral for the world.” (Reuters)
Iran's Tourism Industry Is Booming
Once off limits to many because of international sanctions, Iran is making a big comeback as a tourist destination. More than 6 million people visited Iran in the year ending March 2017, up 50% on the previous year and three times the number in 2009, according to official data.
The surge in visitors follows the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that resulted in many sanctions being lifted early the following year. European airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa(DLAKY) resumed direct flights to the country, and Iranian authorities relaxed visa requirements. And as more people arrive, demand for accommodation is skyrocketing.
That's creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs and foreign businesses. Unlike some Western firms, who are reluctant to invest in Iran because they fear President Trump could yet torpedo the nuclear deal, international hotel chains are moving fast to meet the need for more rooms. (CNN Money)
Iran Q1 Economic Growth At 6.5%
Iran's gross domestic product during the first quarter of the current Iranian year (started March 2) stood at 1.8 quadrillion rials ($47 billion), indicating a 6.5% rise compared with last year's corresponding period.
The Statistical Center of Iran also reported on its website on Wednesday that GDP was at 1.4 quadrillion rials ($37.5 billion) exclusive of oil, meaning non-oil sectors of the economy grew 7% as the oil sector expanded by 4.6% in spring compared with the first quarter of the previous fiscal year.
The sectors of agriculture (fishing, forestry, husbandry and farming), industry (oil & gas extraction, mining, energy and construction) and services (hospitality, retailing, transportation, communications, education and health) stood at 3.1%, 4.9% and 8.3% respectively. (Financial Tribune)
Is Iran's Environment Chief Seeing The Bigger Picture?
Isa Kalantari, the new director of the Department of Environment, is now in charge of one of the most criticized and challenged organizations in the country.
The former agriculture minister (1989-98) seems to be fixated on water-related issues. Since his inauguration speech on August 14, Kalantari has, for several times, reiterated that water issues are the main priority for the department.
Kalantari has put sustainable development and safeguarding the environment on the spotlight ever since. “Each country has their own environmental priorities. Ours is water,” Kalantari told a press conference on Monday. “More than 70 percent of Iran’s environmental problems are affected by water.” (Tehran Times)
Women Of Iran
World Cup: Iranian Women Refused Entry To Match Despite Holding Tickets
Iranian women were refused entry to their national football team's World Cup qualifier against Syria, despite having pre-ordered tickets. The women gathered outside Tehran's Azadi Stadium in protest after they were asked to leave, while Syrian women went through the gates without any issues after showing their passports.
Women are banned from attending men's football matches in Iran. However, several women had been able to buy tickets online a week earlier. It seemed the ban been lifted on Saturday, when an option for women's tickets appeared on the ticketing website.
But Iran's football federation later said the tickets were sold by mistake and promised to refund the women who had bought them. Some of those with tickets still decided to go to the stadium on Tuesday, curious to see whether they could somehow get in. (BBC)
U.S. Charges Former Turkish Minister With Iran Sanctions Evasion
U.S. prosecutors have charged a former Turkish economy minister and the ex-head of a state-owned bank with conspiring to violate Iran sanctions by illegally moving hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on Tehran’s behalf.
The indictment marks the first time an ex-government member with close ties to President Tayyip Erdogan has been charged in an investigation that has strained ties between Washington and Ankara. Ex-minister Zafer Caglayan was also charged with taking bribes in cash and jewelry worth tens of millions of dollars.
The charges stem from the case against Reza Zarrab, a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was arrested in the United States over sanctions evasion last year. Erdogan has said U.S. authorities had “ulterior motives” in charging Zarrab, who has pleaded not guilty. (Reuters)
Iran Plays Hamas Card
Hamas leader cites "breakthrough" in Syria crisis. Hamas appears to be throwing in its lot with Iran, a trend that has accelerated since the US-Saudi-Islamic summit in May, when US President Donald Trump lumped the Islamic Resistance Movement with the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
The shift may signal the increased influence of the hard-line Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the militant armed wing of Hamas, as well as fallout from the Saudi-United Arab Emirates-Egypt-Bahrain dispute with Qatar and the emergence of a regional consensus, including a meeting of minds between Iran and Turkey, to deal with the Syria war.
According to Adnan Abu Amer, al-Qassam Brigades leaders suggested creating a political and security vacuum in the Gaza Strip to force Israel’s hand to either deal with Hamas or deal with the consequences of chaos on its border. (Al-Monitor)
Iran Wants To Talk Muslim World Problems With Saudi Arabia, But Kingdom Demands 'Change' First
Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday his country is prepared to open a dialogue with regional rival Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom appeared not willing to engage.
Both major oil producers, Iran is a majority-Shiite Muslim country and Saudi Arabia is majority-Sunni Muslim. and they have been locked in a battle for influence for decades. Their rivalry has increasingly come into the spotlight as their allies shape conflicts throughout the Middle East.
Ties between the two gradually worsened and were cut entirely early last year, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday his country would be willing to let bygones be bygones and start talks aimed at ending the wars that plague the region. (Newsweek)
A War with Hizbollah Would Essentially Mean War with Iran This Time Around
By: Hanin Ghaddar
The possibility of an imminent war between Israel and Hizbollah has been growing as both Israeli and Hizbollah officials engage in fiery rhetoric about how damaging the next war will be (for the other side, of course). Convinced that Hizbollah has strong control over Lebanon's state institutions, Israel is now threatening to target Lebanon's infrastructure, institutions and army, while the group is vowing to attack Israel's nuclear facilities and cities.
There is no doubt that Hizbollah's build-up of precision weapons presents a serious threat to Israel. Yes, if Iran is not contained in Syria and Hizbollah's threat to Israel from both Lebanon and the Golan Heights is not dealt with, the next war between Israel and Hizbollah may well be inevitable (though at present, not necessarily imminent). Still, despite escalating war rhetoric, both sides understand that there is a lot at stake and that is why there are tell-tale signs of avoidance on both sides.
For Hizbollah, its priorities in the region have changed, and although the Syrian crisis has not yet been resolved, Hizbollah -- and Iran -- continue to achieve gains in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Why would they risk these achievements for another confrontation with Israel, especially when another "divine victory" is not guaranteed? In addition, Hizbollah is stretched in the region and has lost many of its high-ranking commanders and trained fighters. As such, they will certainly need time to redeploy and organise themselves if a war with Israel is to ensue.