Week of January 5 - 12
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.
Trump Is Expected To Stop Short Of Reimposing Strict Sanctions On Iran
President Trump has again stopped short of reimposing draconian sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, two people briefed on his decision said on Thursday, but he is expected to give Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the deal or the United States will pull out of it.
He also approved targeted sanctions against several Iranian government officials for corruption and human rights abuses, some of it related to the antigovernment protests that have convulsed Iranian cities this month, these people said.
Mr. Trump’s action, which the White House will announce on Friday, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it “the worst deal ever” and threatening repeatedly to rip it up. (The New York Times)
Europe urges Trump to honor Iran nuclear deal
Senior European diplomats have urged the United States not to kill off the Iran nuclear deal, as President Donald Trump mulls whether to reimpose sanctions on the country ahead of a Friday deadline.
Trump had vowed to rip up the agreement during his election campaign and has repeatedly referred to it as "the worst deal ever," accusing Iran of violating the "spirit" of the pact. He must sign a series of waivers every few months to maintain the suspension of sanctions on Iran, and to keep the deal fully intact.
After a meeting of European diplomats in Brussels on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made a direct appeal to the US to sign the latest waiver, due Friday. He said France remained dedicated. (CNN)
Cryptocurrencies On The Rise In Iran
The popularity of cryptocurrencies in Iran appears to be on the rise amid mounting economic anxiety in the country.
Experts say Iranians are increasingly turning to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to circumvent sanctions leveled against their country by the U.S. and other world powers.
While investors all over the world have purchased large amounts of digital currencies, their moves are largely speculative based on their expectations of future value. But for Iranians, bitcoin is more than a speculative investment, the experts said. (The Hill)
96% Of Iran Experiencing Prolonged Drought
Nearly 96 percent of Iran’s total area is suffering from different levels of prolonged drought, the director for drought and crisis management department of Iran’s Meteorological Organization said.
Referring to Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) over the past 84 months, Shahrokh Fateh said drought severities range from abnormally dry to moderate, severe and even extreme drought.
SPEI is designed to take into account both precipitation and potential evapotranspiration (PET) in determining drought, he noted. Long and severe drought in the main catchment areas of west and southwestern Iran, as the principal water resource of a large portion of the country, is arousing concerns, ISNA quoted Fateh as saying on Sunday. (The Tehran Times)
8 Earthquakes Strike Along Iran - Iraq Border
A series of eight earthquakes hit the Iran-Iraq border area and rattled Baghdad on Thursday, apparent aftershocks of a temblor that struck the mountainous region in November and killed over 530 people. Four people suffered minor injuries in Iran, state television reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey said seven of the quakes struck near the Iraqi city of Mandali, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital. Mandali is right on the border between the two nations. The eighth hit near Mehran in western Iran, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Mandali along the sparsely populated Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.
All the earthquakes struck within an hour of each other, beginning at 0659 GMT. Six had a preliminary magnitude of at least 5, while two registered at magnitude 4. Scientists consider earthquakes of magnitude 5 as moderate. (Time)
Rouhani Challenges Iran's Hardliners With Call For More Freedoms
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the anger that led to a week of anti-government protests exposed the need for the greater freedoms he has long championed, as well as a stronger economy.
Conservatives have portrayed the demonstrations across the nation as proof that Rouhani’s economic policies have failed to improve living standards for the majority, in the latest clash between the two power blocs tussling for supremacy in Iranian politics. In comments to Iran’s cabinet on Monday, he attempted to ascribe the anger to a broader disenchantment.
“Some believe that people only want money,” Rouhani said. “But would someone be fine having a good monthly pay and have internet access fully blocked, or have his movements outside the house restricted, or not have the right to speak?” (Bloomberg)
Iran Drug Law Change Could Spare Thousands On Death Row
Thousands of Iranians who have been sentenced to death for drug crimes could be spared following a softening in the country's law.
Capital punishment has been abolished for some drug offences, and the head of the judiciary has said all cases on death row can be reviewed.The move is set to be applied retroactively, meaning some 5,000 prisoners could escape execution.
Iran executes hundreds of people every year, mostly for drug offences.In August, Iran's parliament raised the threshold on the amount of drugs that would be considered a capital ofence. Under the previous law, possessing 30g of cocaine would trigger the death penalty but that has been increased to 2kg (4.4lb). The limit on opium and marijuana has been increased tenfold to 50kg. (BBC)
3,700 People Were Arrested During Iran Protests, Lawmaker Says
Roughly 3,700 people were arrested during recent anti-government protests in Iran, one of the country's lawmakers claimed on Tuesday.
The number is far higher than the 450 people Iranian authorities previously said were detained. US officials had put the number held at 1,000. Tehran member of parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi said Tuesday that 3,700 people had been arrested, including 40 to 68 students, in six days of protests that broke out in late December.
He added that "due to the fact that several security organizations had made the arrests, it will take some time to give an accurate count," according to the Iranian parliament's news agency. The new figures come as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that the country had struggled for 40 years against attacks on "the revolution" and would not be daunted now. He made the remarks during a speech commemorating protests against the Shah of Iran in 1978. (CNN)
Iranian Firm Says There May Be Survivors In Fiery Oil Tanker Crash Off China
The Iranian company whose oil tanker burst into flames after a collision in the East China Sea says there is still hope of finding survivors as 31 crew members remain missing and rescue efforts continued Wednesday.
As the stricken Sanchi still lists after colliding with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal late Saturday, a spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Co. said in Tehran that rescuers “likely” will find survivors.
“Since the vessel's engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters [46 feet] underwater, there is still hope,” spokesman Mohsen Bahrami said late Tuesday. “We are persistently working to put out the fire and rescue possible survivors.” (The Los Angeles Times)
Socioeconomic Drivers of the Protests
By: Tamer Badawi
Socioeconomic changes, largely stemming from President Hassan Rouhani’s economic policies since he took office, have had the biggest impact (among several factors) on driving and shaping the recent protests in Iran.
The initial protests that erupted on December 28 in the city of Mashhad, a conservative Principalist stronghold in northeastern Iran, came after President Rouhani presented his government’s draft budget for the 2018–2019 financial year on December 10.
Significantly, the presented budget plans to increase fuel prices by 50 percent. Cash handouts are currently provided to about 75 million Iranians, but next year the government plans to remove 35 million of the recipients.