Iran Digest Week of December 21-28

Iran Digest

Week of December 21-28

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

US Aircraft Carrier Enters Persian Gulf After Long Absence

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A U.S. aircraft carrier sailed into the Persian Gulf on Friday, becoming the first since America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May and breaking the longest carrier absence in the volatile region since at least the September 11 terror attacks.

The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis comes as Iranian officials have returned to repeatedly threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels shadowed the Stennis and its strike group, at one point launching rockets away from it and flying a drone nearby. (VOA)


Economy

Iran’s Economic Crisis Drags Down the Middle Class Almost Overnight

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Less than a year ago, he was running a thriving computer accessories business, driving a new car and renting a comfortable two-bedroom apartment in the center of Tehran. But last month, Kaveh Taymouri found himself riding a rusty motorcycle on his hourlong commute to his family’s new lodgings, a 485-square-foot apartment in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, next to its sprawling cemetery.

When he arrived home one recent night at 10:30 from his new job at an arcade, there was no food on the stove. The sandwich he had for lunch would have to do.

Nevertheless, his wife and former business partner, Reihaneh, said she thought his mood was improving. (NYT)

Iran's Economy In 2018: Pressure Of Sanctions And Fear of Recurrent Unrest

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Like almost everything else in Iran in 2018, the economy was largely affected by two factors: The reimposition of U.S. sanctions and the protest demonstrations that swept across the country in over 100 cities at the beginning of the year.

The protests in late December 2017 and January 2018 were not totally propelled by economic factors. Concerns about rising inflation, high unemployment and corruption were only partly behind the protests, which had stronger political motivations. It will long be remembered how protesters chanted slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and demanded regime change. (Radio Farda)

Iran Oil Waivers: How Buyers Are Lining Up After U.S. Exemptions

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Armed with waivers to keep importing Iranian oil without running afoul of U.S. sanctions, some of the Islamic Republic’s top customers are preparing to buy.

The exemptions mean at least some supplies from OPEC’s third-biggest producer will keep flowing into international markets, after its exports plunged almost 40 percent since April -- the month before Washington announced the curbs. In a bid to keep customers, the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. has been offering record discounts on its crude. (Bloomberg)


Women of Iran

Iran's Judiciary Signals A Less Restrictive Position On Women Attending Men's Sports

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The deputy head of Iran's judiciary says women can be allowed to go to stadiums to watch men’s sports if certain "conditions" are met.

"Women attending matches at the sports arenas, is not a problem, per se," says mid-ranking cleric Hadi Sadeqi, adding, "They are allowed to go to sports arenas, as men are, provided a number of moral and religious matters and standards are respected."

Sadeqi's comments are in sharp contrast with earlier remarks made by Iran's Prosecutor-General on the same subject. Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has repeatedly warned that his office would not tolerate women entering sports arenas, watching “half-naked” soccer players running on the pitch. (Radio Farda)


Inside Iran

Iran executes businessman dubbed 'Sultan of Bitumen'

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A prominent Iranian businessman, known as the "Sultan of Bitumen", has been executed for bribery and corruption.

Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani was found guilty of forging documents to secure state-backed loans.

He then used front companies to procure more than 300,000 tonnes of bitumen - a substance used in making asphalt - one of Iran's most profitable industries.

Darmani, 49, is the third businessman to be executed since an anti-corruption drive was launched earlier this year. (BBC)

Abbas Edalat: British professor returns to UK after detention in Iran

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A British-Iranian academic who was arrested and detained in Iran on security charges has returned to the UK, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Prof Abbas Edalat, who works at Imperial College London, was detained in Tehran in April.

The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran said he was released last week. (BBC)


Regional Politics

Syria Faces Brittle Future, Dominated by Russia and Iran

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Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria. And Russia could soon move to crush the last vestige of the Syrian anti-government insurgency.

The Syria that the United States military is vacating on President Trump’s orders is a Balkanized version of the country that plunged into a calamitous civil war nearly eight years ago.

Now, with the American troop withdrawal and the demise of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia will be even freer to flex their power in Syria. (NYT)

Iran in talks with Afghan Taliban - Iranian state media report

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Iran has been holding talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government, a senior Iranian security official was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as saying on Wednesday during a visit to Kabul.

The news came days after reports last week of talks between U.S. and Taliban officials over proposals for a ceasefire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops ahead of possible peace negotiations.

Talks between Iran and the Taliban were held “to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted by IRNA as saying. (Reuters)


Analysis

Trump Delivers a Victory to Iran

By: Reuel Marc Gerecht

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During the presidential campaign, the outlier in Donald Trump’s foreign-policy orations was his treatment of Iran. On Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Russia (remember President Barack Obama’s “off-mic” tête-à-tête with President Dmitry Medvedev?), and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump largely followed his predecessor. Differences existed, certainly in style and manner, but the overlap between the two men on most of the big foreign-policy questions was profound.

When it came to the clerical regime in Iran, however, the two men were polar opposites. Trump thought the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was “the worst deal ever.” He also let loose against Tehran’s Islamic radicalism, terrorism, quest for regional hegemony, and fondness for sowing mayhem in the Middle East. Trump’s serrated rhetoric stood in contrast to the comments of Obama, his secretary of state, and other senior officials, who had muted their criticisms of Tehran in their pursuit of the atomic accord and, as important, a new strategic realignment, wherein a less interventionist America might, so the theory went, find a modus vivendi with a richer, commercially engaged, and moderating Islamic Republic. (The Atlantic)