Week of January 12 - 19
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
Iran Sanctions: Tehran Vows Retaliation Over Trump Move
Iran says the US has "crossed a red line" by imposing sanctions on the head of its judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani.
The foreign ministry vowed to retaliate but did not say what form any action might take. Iran also rejected any changes to its nuclear deal with world powers.
US President Donald Trump, a critic of the 2015 accord to prevent Iran developing nuclear arms, said he would extend sanctions relief one last time. However, the US imposed fresh sanctions on 14 individuals and entities over alleged human rights abuses. (BBC)
Iran’s Rouhani Says Trump ‘Failed’ to Kill off Nuclear Deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked Donald Trump for failing to kill off the Iran nuclear deal despite the US leader's 2016 election promise to do so.
Trump signed off on a waiver Friday to keep several sanctions on Iran suspended, essentially keeping the nuclear deal in effect.
The US President must sign such waivers every few months under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement brokered in 2015 that obliges Iran to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions. (CNN)
Lavrov Tells Security Council Iran Nuclear Failure Would be ‘Alarming'
At the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that if the Iran nuclear agreement with world powers fails, it would send an "alarming" message to the international community.
Lavrov was speaking on January 18 to a council meeting on confidence-building measures to tackle the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"Clearly the failure of the JCPOA, especially as a result of one of the parties...would be an alarming message for the entire international community architecture, including the prospects for dealing with the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula," Lavrov said. (RFERL)
Iran Signs $2b Rail Deal with India
Iran and India signed an agreement worth $2 billion for cooperation in the rail sector. The agreement was inked in New Delhi on Friday in the presence of Iran's Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi and his Indian counterpart Nitin Gadkari.
A part of the agreement pertains to a memorandum of understanding worth $600 million for Iran to purchase locomotives and freight cars from India.
Akhoundi was quoted as saying by the news portal of his ministry that India has expressed readiness to finance the purchases. The MoU was signed between the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways deputy for transportation planning and economics, Nourollah Beiranvand, and Rajeev Mehrotra, chairman and managing director of RITES Ltd Co.—a government of India enterprise specialized in the field of transport infrastructure. (Financial Tribune)
Rouhani Doubles Down on Iran’s Conservatives with ‘Digital Economy’ Plan
After receiving criticism for unblocking the popular social media app Telegram, which was closed over the recent protests that rocked Iran, President Hassan Rouhani is not retreating from his position.
In fact, his administration is reportedly preparing to spend money to create more digital jobs and attempt to bring Iran up to date in the cyberworld. According to the president’s news agency, the Cabinet meeting Jan. 17 was devoted to discussing a “digital economy.”
Rouhani said that the internet “drastically changes the understanding of employment, especially when it comes to services.” He added that it is possible to benefit from this field in order to support the government’s efforts to “increase domestic capacities.” (Al - Monitor)
Oil Spill Off China Coast Now the Size of Paris
An oil spill from an Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea is now the size of Paris.
The slick covers an area of 101 square kilometers (39 square miles), after almost doubling in size from the start of the week, according to figures released Wednesday by the Chinese State Oceanic Administration.
Chinese authorities said there were four separate slicks that had formed after the Panama-registered Sanchi tanker sank Sunday. The largest oil slick is 48 square kilometers (19 square miles), it added. (CNN)
Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern
Nigeria. Syria. Somalia. And now Iran. In each country, in different ways, a water crisis has triggered some combination of civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency or even full-scale war.
In the era of climate change, their experiences hold lessons for a great many other countries. The World Resources Institute warned this month of the rise of water stress globally, “with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040.”
A water shortage can spark street protests: Access to water has been a common source of unrest in India. It can be exploited by terrorist groups: The Shabab has sought to take advantage of the most vulnerable drought-stricken communities in Somalia. (The New York Times)
‘Iranian Spies’ Targeted in German Police Searches
German special police teams have searched flats linked to 10 suspected Iranian state spies. The searches were triggered by German counter-intelligence. The Iranians, still at large, are suspected of spying on Israeli and/or Jewish targets.
Germany's Focus news said the raids took place in Berlin, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg. In 1997 a Berlin verdict linked top Iranian politicians to the killing of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents.
German investigators concluded that the assassination at Berlin's Mykonos restaurant in 1992 was the work of Iranian secret service agents. Western intelligence officials accuse Iran's secretive Quds Force of carrying out assassinations abroad. The Iranians in the latest German case are thought to be Quds Force agents, Focus reports. (BBC)
Qatar May Ask Iran for Help in Hosting The World Cup
Football's World Cup in 2022, to be hosted by Qatar, was always billed as a regional event. Other countries in the Gulf offered hotel rooms and training facilities.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would even host matches. But last June the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, angry about its support for Islamists and its ties to their nemesis, Iran.
On the sidelines a substitute is warming up: Iran. It is in early talks with Qatar to take on some of the hosting duties. Iran is already helping to feed Qatar amid a Saudi-led blockade. Its islands of Kish and Qeshm have hotels aplenty that could accommodate fans. Hooligans may be disappointed: Iran enforces sharia at its resorts, including a ban on alcohol. (The Economist)
Trump Uses Uncertainty Against Iran
By: Dina Esfandiary
Last week, President Trump announced that he would renew sanctions waivers for Iran. But he also imposed non-nuclear sanctions and renewed his call to Congress to “fix” the deal or else. By doing so, Trump fosters uncertainty. This has the same impact on Iran as the US walking away from the deal.
Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, the White House must suspend sanctions on Iran every 120 days. This was intended to bypass the US Congress, which was unlikely to approve legislation to lift US sanctions on Iran. But it has proved problematic.
President Trump believes the deal to be “the worst ever.” In October, he refused to certify Iranian compliance to the deal, despite renewing sanctions waivers a month earlier. Next week, he’s expected to re-affirm de-certification again. Trump is loathe to re-examine compliance every three months. It’s a headache and a reminder of a campaign promise he hasn’t fulfilled.