Week of August 25 - September 1
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.
Iran Upholds Convictions of Iranian-American Father and Son
An Iranian appeals court has upheld the convictions of a prominent Iranian-American father and son accused of collaborating with the United States, their lawyer said Monday, posing a new source of tension in the increasing hostility between the countries.
Iran’s incarceration of the defendants, Baquer Namazi and his son, Siamak, who were convicted last year and sentenced to 10-year terms, has been repeatedly cited by President Trump in his denunciations of the Iranian authorities.
News that their appeal had been rejected came amid numerous signs of the downward spiral in the relations between Iran and the United States. The most notable is the Trump administration’s assertions that Iran is violating the 2015 nuclear agreement reached under President Barack Obama. The administration also has infuriated Iran by imposing new sanctions on the country in recent weeks. (NYTimes)
Iran Is Sticking To The Nuclear Deal, IAEA Says
Iran stuck by its nuclear deal with world powers by keeping its uranium stockpile and production capacity below-set thresholds, according to United Nations inspectors.
Verification of the agreement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, published Thursday in a quarterly report, may come as a surprise to the U.S. administration. President Donald Trump said earlier this month he didn’t consider Iran in compliance and dispatched his UN envoy to convey his concerns.
“Iran has conducted its enrichment activities in line with its long-term enrichment and R&D enrichment plan” agreed with world powers, according to the six-page restricted document published in Vienna. (Bloomberg)
Iran Rejects U.S. Call For U.N. Nuclear Watchdog To Inspect More Sites
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed US demands for the UN's nuclear watchdog to inspect Iran's military sites, saying in a televised interview that "we will not accept anything by force."
His comments Tuesday were a response to demands by US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect military as well as nonmilitary sites in Iran, to check the country's compliance with a deal that curbs Iran's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
"It is regulations that determine our relations with the IAEA, not US pressure. I don't think that the IAEA does anything under US pressure but if hypothetically, this happens, we will not accept anything by force," Rouhani said, according to a transcript of the interview published on his official presidential website. (CNN)
White House "Pressuring" Intelligence Officials To Find Iran In Violation With Nuclear Deal
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicisation of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations. (The Guardian)
Tehran Home Sales At Three-Year High
After four years of a stubborn downturn in the Iranian housing sector, Tehran finally broke the chains as its home sales hit a 39-month high in a sign that the key sector's recovery has begun in earnest.
According to the latest report of the Central Bank of Iran, nearly 18,000 apartments were sold in the month ending August 22, which has been unprecedented since May 2014.
The number of residential deals during the month indicates an annualized growth of 23.7% while the figure marks an increase of 6.1% compared to the previous month. This is while in the past three years, the average number of home sales in Tehran had not exceeded 13,000 per month. (Financial Tribune)
Oil Swaps Bring Iran, Caspian Neighbors Together
On Aug. 18, Iranian officials announced that they had now put in place the infrastructure to swap up to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil with its Caspian neighbors.
Under these agreements, Iran would receive crude oil from Caspian producers at the northern port of Neka, feed that crude to northern refineries and then allocate crude oil from southern terminals to international clients designated by the Caspian producers.
Prior to 2010, Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), oversaw this practice. In 2010, Tehran stopped the swap arrangement, arguing that the $1 a barrel fee charged had to be increased and based on the international crude oil price. (Al-Monitor)
Apple Cuts Iran-Made Apps From Store Over Sanctions
On a Saturday in mid-August, Iranian entrepreneur Mehdi Nayebi received an email from Apple Inc.’s App Store Review stating that his application, AloPeyk, a delivery service in Tehran, had been removed due to sanctions put in place by the U.S. government.
He wasn’t the only one. About a dozen other Iran-focused apps, including Delion Foods, a meals delivery start-up, online store Digikala, Bamilo, an e-commerce marketplace, and ride-hailing app Snapp, were also similarly removed, according to Nayebi, and Delion’s co-founder Mahdi Taghizadeh.
“We got removed from App Store overnight, without any sort of warning,” Nayebi said. “We had just published a new version with enormous improvements. When users woke up the next morning, they saw the app is not available anymore.” (Bloomberg)
Iranian Police Seize Carrier Pigeons Used to Smuggle Drugs
Police in western Iran have seized 100 carrier pigeons used to smuggle drugs.
Anti-narcotics officers seized homing pigeons trained for delivering drugs carried in small blue plastic bags attached to their legs, the Irna state news agency reported.
According to Irna, the use of birds to transport recreational substances is unprecedented.
A young population and an abundance of cheap, addictive substances, many coming over the border from Afghanistan, pose a twin challenged to Iranian authorities. Almost 3 million Iranians are estimated to be addicted to drugs, out of a population of 80m. (The Guardian)
Iran Building Weapons Factories in Lebanon and Syria, Israel Says
Israel is using a visit this week by the United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres, to highlight concerns about what it says are Iran’s efforts to produce advanced, precision weapons in Lebanon and Syria.
“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference with Mr. Guterres on Monday, “and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”
Mr. Netanyahu asserted that Iran “is building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon.” He added: “This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept.” (NYTimes)
Iran Out to Remake Mideast With Arab Enforcer: Hezbollah
By: Ben Hubbard
For three decades, Hezbollah maintained a singular focus as a Lebanese military group fighting Israel. It built a network of bunkers and tunnels near Lebanon’s southern border, trained thousands of committed fighters to battle Israel’s army and built up an arsenal of rockets capable of striking far across the Jewish state.
But as the Middle East has changed, with conflicts often having nothing to do with Israel flaring up around the region, Hezbollah has changed, too.
It has rapidly expanded its realm of operations. It has sent legions of fighters to Syria. It has sent trainers to Iraq. It has backed rebels in Yemen. And it has helped organize a battalion of militants from Afghanistan that can fight almost anywhere. As a result, Hezbollah is not just a power unto itself, but is one of the most important instruments in the drive for regional supremacy by its sponsor: Iran.