Iran Digest Week of October 19th - 26th

Iran Digest

Week of October 19th - October 26th

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 Communications Associate Shahab Moghadam. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.


US-Iran Relations

Iran accuses U.S. of imposing more sanctions "deflect" attention from Khashoggi killing

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the U.S. Treasury of announcing new sanctions on Iran to “deflect” attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday targeted Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency with sanctions against eight individuals who were designated global terrorists, including two linked to Iran’s Quds Force, the branch of the elite Revolutionary Guards that oversees operations outside of the Islamic Republic’s borders.

“To deflect from headlines on Saudi brutality in Istanbul and across Yemen, US Treasury — while in Saudi Arabia, no less —sanctions Iran for ‘supporting’ anti-Iran Taliban. Conveniently omitting that US is negotiating with the very same Taliban now & its clients have long backed it,” Zarif wrote on Twitter. (Reuters)


Economy

China Cuts Iran Oil Purchases Ahead of U.S. Sanctions

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China is cutting some of its oil trade with Iran after vowing for months to resist U.S. sanctions on the exports, providing Washington with an unexpected boost to its efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

The move comes as Saudi Arabia, seeking to damp a foreign-relations crisis, said this month that it would increase oil supply, pushing down prices and giving traders further options outside Iran.

The shift by Beijing, Iran’s top customer, gives the U.S. a building block in an economic barrier around Iran as it prepares to renew sanctions on the country’s energy sector in early November. (WSJ)

Anti-money-laundering body gives Iran until Feb to complete reforms

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The international group that monitors money-laundering worldwide said on Friday Iran had until February to complete reforms that would bring it into line with global norms or face consequences.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force said after a meeting of its members that it was disappointed that Tehran had failed to act on nine out of 10 of its guidelines despite pledges to make the grade. It had previously set a deadline of October to compete all 10 reforms.

“We expect Iran to move swiftly to implement the commitments that it undertook at a high level so long ago,” said Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. assistant Treasury Secretary for terrorist financing, after chairing an FATF meeting. (Reuters)

US fears Russia will help Iran evade oil sanctions

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The Trump administration fears Russia could help Tehran evade US sanctions by buying up Iranian oil and reselling it as its own.

The US is due to reimpose hefty sanctions aimed at bringing Iran’s oil exports to a halt after November 5, in what will be its most punitive measure to date following Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a multilateral nuclear deal that granted Tehran sanctions relief.

But senior US officials are scrambling to convince other countries to sever Iranian oil imports and worry Tehran is seeking alternative supply routes. (FT)


Inside Iran

Iran names new economy minister in reshuffle as U.S. sanctions bite

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed academic Farhad Dejpasand as the new economy and finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Sunday, state television reported, as the country faces mounting U.S. sanctions.

The proposed cabinet changes come as the government faces intense pressure over the economic instability mostly caused by U.S. sanctions. The economy has markedly deteriorated in the past year, suffering rising inflation and unemployment, a slump in the rial currency and state corruption.

Rouhani also named a new urban development and roads minister, an industry, mines, and trade minister, and a new labor minister. The new appointments need approval from parliament before they can take effect. (Reuters)

UN Rights Expert Urges Iran to End Death Penalty for Minors

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The U.N. independent expert on human rights in Iran urged Tehran on Wednesday to abolish the death penalty for juveniles.

"I appeal to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law," Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, told a General Assembly human rights committee.

Execution of juvenile convicts violates international law and contravenes the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (VOA News)


Regional Politics

Iraq will prioritise own interests regarding Iran sanctions: new PM

Iraq will prioritise its own interests and independence when it comes to helping the United States enforce sanctions against Iran, new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.

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President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran in May and reimpose sanctions has put Abdul Mahdi’s incoming government in a difficult position, since Iraq’s economy is closely intertwined with neighbouring Iran’s.

“We want to secure Iraq from any interference in issues, affairs of other countries, whether it’s a neighbouring country or it’s any other country in the world,” Abdul Mahdi told a news conference in Baghdad. (Reuters)

Trump signs new Hezbollah sanctions bill in anti-Iran push

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President Donald Trump has signed legislation imposing new sanctions against Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist group behind the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings.

Speaking Thursday at a White House event marking the 35th anniversary of the attack that killed 241 Marines, Trump said, "No terrorist group other than al-Qaida has more American blood on its hands."

Trump is also taking credit for reimposing sanctions on Iran after he pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, in part by citing its support for international terrorist groups. Trump is promising even tougher actions against Iran after most sanctions against the country return to effect on Nov. 5. (ABC News)

Iran: Khashoggi murder would have been impossible without US support

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has condemned the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying perpetrating such a “heinous” crime would have been impossible without the support of the United States, a close Riyadh ally.

“No one would imagine that in today’s world and in this century, we would witness such an organized murder, with an apparatus organizing such a heinous killing,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting, referring to the findings in the case of Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate on October 2, but never emerged.

A Turkish investigation has found that Khashoggi was murdered inside the diplomatic mission. (PressTV)


Analysis

Khashoggi case exposes US contradictions on Iran

By: Mark Fitzpatrick

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US President Donald Trump is no naïf. He said himself that Saudi Arabia’s shifting explanation for what happened to critic Jamal Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October was marked by deception and lies. No sentient citizen could believe the story that the paunchy 59-year-old journalist got into a fistfight with 15 trained security officials who went rogue and accidentally choked him to death, leaving his body to disappear at the hands of a ‘local collaborator’. So when Trump called the Saudi account ‘credible’, he was engaging in diplomatic fiction, giving Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) benefit of the doubt that is undeserved but deemed strategically necessary.

One might ask why. Saudi Arabia’s oil dominance and anti-Communism have long made it a strategic US ally. The fall of the Iron Curtain and America’s reduced dependence on foreign oil sharply reduced the kingdom’s significance, however. And although Trump calls Riyadh a key ally in the fight against terrorism, its spawning of three-quarters of the terrorists who attacked America on 11 September 2001 left the kingdom with a PR problem, exacerbated by the large number of Saudi young men who later joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner clings to the hope that MBS can somehow rescue his doomed Israeli–Palestinian peace plan. (IISS)