Iran Digest Week of November 23 - 30

Iran Digest

Week of November 23 - 30

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

U.S. issues fewer student visas to Iranians despite exemption


With offers from four American universities, Mani Rezaei Rad gave up his well-paid job with a Siemens affiliate company in Tehran last year and proposed to his girlfriend so they could be together while he studied in the United States.

Getting a U.S. student visa normally takes a few months, but 16 months later, he was still waiting. The uncertainty and lack of work took its toll on the relationship and the couple split.

“I was sliding into depression. I felt hollow and useless,” said Rezaei Rad, who had won places to study for a post-graduate degree in electrical engineering. Eventually he gave up his American dream and got a place at a European university instead. (Reuters)

US displays weapons it says Iran provided to militants


As some of the most senior members of the Trump Administration sought to fend off a Congressional effort to stop US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, the administration is showcasing evidence of what it says is Iranian support to the Houthis and other militant groups in the region.

On Wednesday, defense officials showed CNN missiles and drones it says were supplied by Iran to Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The latest display of what the US government says are Iranian-supplied weapons and materials follows a similar exhibition last year which also took place at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington near the Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters. (CNN)

U.S. Exposes Bitcoin Addresses of Sanctioned Iranians


The U.S. government just weakened one of Bitcoin’s key selling points: its ability to keep users’ identities private.

In imposing sanctions on two Iran-based individuals it said helped facilitate ransom payments made in Bitcoin, the Office of Foreign Assets Control for the first time linked digital-currency addresses with specific individuals. The Treasury Department branch said in a statement on Wednesday that Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan helped Iranian hackers exchange those Bitcoin payments into the local currency.

In revealing the specific addresses, which are a unique combination of random letters and numbers that represent a destination to send Bitcoins, OFAC has brought into question the privacy of Bitcoin payments. It also shows how U.S. authorities are seeking to stamp out bad behavior in crypto markets. (Bloomberg)


Asia's Iran oil imports plunge to 5-year low in Oct


Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia hit a five-year low in October, as China, Japan and South Korea sharply cut purchases ahead of U.S. sanctions on Tehran that took effect in early November, government and ship-tracking data showed.

China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported about 762,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the data, down 56.4 percent from a year earlier.

This marks the lowest volume of shipments since October 2013, when an earlier round of tough U.S. and E.U. sanctions had slashed exports from the OPEC member starting from early 2012. (Reuters)

US charges Iranian ‘SamSam’ hackers


The hacking attack was said to have lasted for 34 months, holding schools, hospitals, universities in several countries to ransom - earning the perpetrators millions of dollars in the process.

Now US prosecutors have charged two Iranians they believe were behind the attack - though justice is perhaps unlikely.

“Although the alleged criminal actors are in Iran and currently out of the reach of US law enforcement,” the FBI said, “they can be apprehended if they travel, and the United States is exploring other avenues of recourse.” (BBC)

Inside Iran

Magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits western Iran; hundreds injured


At least 361 people were injured in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck near the border with Iraq, Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Sunday's quake in the western part of Iran was about 6 miles deep, the US Geological Survey said.

Buildings were damaged in various rural areas in SarPol-e zahab and Qasr-e-Shirin, causing walls of some homes to fall, says Fars. (CNN)

Regional Politics

Iran says not to wait forever for Europe’s special payment mechanism


Iran has warned that it cannot wait forever for the establishment of a payment mechanism the Europeans have promised to launch in order to maintain trade with Tehran.

“We’ve so far witnessed that the European countries have the political will [to maintain business relations with Iran], and have not seen any sign that proves otherwise,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Friday.

Europe has promised to establish the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a mechanism which is supposed to bypass US sanctions against Tehran. (PressTV)

Why are Iranians crossing the Channel in dinghies?


More than 100 migrants, claiming to be Iranian, have attempted the dangerous journey by small boat to the UK in the past three weeks. Why?

On 23 November, shortly before sunrise, eight migrants were found clinging to a dinghy in choppy waters off the coast of Kent.

They told their rescuers they had spent 12 hours at sea. (BBC)


Why Saudi Arabia Will Acquire Nuclear Weapons

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By: Paul R. Pillar

The Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge. A front-page article by David Sanger and William Broad in the New York Times reviews some of the still-unresolved questions. The Saudi regime insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, which would be different from terms the United States has negotiated with some other states, including the United Arab Emirates, that have sought U.S. assistance in developing their nuclear programs. The Saudis have balked at comprehensive international inspections to detect any work on nuclear weapons. And Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has explicitly threatened to develop nuclear weapons, ostensibly in response to any similar development by Iran. (The National Interest)