Iran Digest Week of February 2 - 9

Iran Digest

Week of February 2 - 9


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 Plays Down Report that US Secretly Asked for Talks on Prisoners

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An Iranian official dismissed as “old news” on Thursday a report in the Western news media that Washington had reached out to Tehran in December to establish secret, back-channel talks to negotiate the release of prisoners held by both sides.
The official, Hamidreza Taraghi, said that he had given interviews as far back as July to Iranian news outlets about similar attempts by the Trump administration to arrange secret talks on prisoners using intermediaries from Oman and from Europe.
But Mr. Taraghi, an adviser to the hard-liners around the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Iran had rejected the entreaties then and would never enter into discussions with the Trump administration. (New York Times)

White House Calls For Immediate Release of Sick US Citizen in Iran

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The Trump administration is “deeply concerned” that a U.S. citizen was returned to prison in Iran after a brief medical leave and wants him released immediately, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday.
Baquer Namazi, an 81-year-old Iranian-American man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges by foreign authorities, was sent back to Evin Prison after undergoing a medical examination, his family announced on Tuesday.
The White House, which in July called for the release of Namazi and other Iranian prisoners, called the charges against him “false” and urged authorities to release him given the status of his medical condition. (Politico)


Nuclear Accord

EU could impose blocking regulations if U.S. pulls out of Iran deal

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The European Union could put in place regulations to protect its firms doing business in Iran if the United States withdraws from the 2015 nuclear deal and restores extraterritorial sanctions, a senior EU official said on Thursday.
European countries have been looking to increase trade with Iran since Paris, Washington and other world powers agreed to lift most economic sanctions in 2016 in exchange for limitations on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
But U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 12 vowed to restore U.S. sanctions unless France, Britain and Germany change what he calls the “worst deal ever” to his liking, effectively putting it on life support until mid-May. (Reuters)


Economy
 

Iran Orders Armed Forces to Sell All Energy, Business Assets

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Iran’s armed forces, some of which are under U.S. sanctions, must divest from energy assets and other businesses to help save the Persian Gulf nation’s economy, President Hassan Rouhani said.
Armed forces, together with the largest state pension fund and other branches of the government, must withdraw from all their commercial holdings, Rouhani said Tuesday at a news conference in Tehran. Armed forces in Iran include the U.S.-sanctioned Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful military organization that controls a wide range of local companies. (Bloomberg)


Women of Iran

Iran's female skier blazes a trail to Winter Olympics

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When Samaneh Bayrami Baher marches in Pyeongchang on Friday for the opening of the 2018 Winter Games, she will be one of only four athletes representing Iran's national colours.
Getting a spot to compete in the 23rd Olympic Games in South Korea was no easy feat for the 26-year-old athlete, who is the only female member of the country's national cross-country skiing team.  
Aside from limited financial resources, Iran also doesn't have enough facilities for ski training. While the world's top skiers train year-round, Iranian athletes are limited to about three months when it snows on the mountains. (Al Jazeera)


Inside Iran

Iran publishes report saying 49% of Iranians against compulsory veil

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has waded into a highly charged debate over the country's mandatory hijab law, abruptly releasing a three-year-old report suggesting that nearly half of Iranians were opposed to the government dictating what women should wear.
The release of the report on Sunday by the Iranian Center for Strategic Studies -- a research arm of the President's office -- came just days after 29 people were arrested by police in the capital Tehran for their involvement in protests against the headscarf law.
Women across Iran have been removing their hijabs in public to protest Iran's strict Islamic dress code in recent weeks. The movement gained momentum amid a wave of anti-government demonstrations late last year, sparked by concerns over rising living costs and a stagnant economy. (CNN)


Regional Politics


Turkey, Russia and Iran Leaders to Discuss Syria in Istanbul: Turkish Source

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The leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed on Thursday to meet in Istanbul to discuss the conflict in Syria, a Turkish presidential source said.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed the meeting in two phone calls on Thursday with the Russian and Iranian presidents, the source said. The date of the summit would be set in coming weeks.
The three countries have worked together in recent months to try to reduce violence in Syria, even though they have backed rival sides in the nearly seven-year civil war and remain deeply involved in the conflict. (US News and World Report) 

No country should feel threatened by its neighbors, Rouhani tells Turkish FM

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed opposition to any move that will lead to a change in geographical borders of countries, saying no state in the region should feel threatened by its neighbors.   
He made the remarks during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Tehran on Wednesday.
Rouhani also underlined the need for fighting terrorism and reinforcing regional stability and security. (PressTV) 

Samsung caught in storm over phones for Iran's Olympic team

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Samsung smartphones are at the center of a diplomatic spat between Iran and South Korea that erupted ahead of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The Iranian Olympic Committee said its athletes were initially excluded from a giveaway of special edition Galaxy Note 8 phones that was arranged by the organizers of the games.
"The athletes didn't receive phones when they arrived in [South] Korea. The reason given was because of sanctions," said Mahmoud Abdollahi, spokesman for the Iranian Olympic Committee. (CNN Money)


Analysis

FATF Iran Decision and US Tactics- OpEd

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By: Hossein Gharibi

In about 10 days from now, the Financial Action Task Force–an international anti-money laundering group–will hold its regular plenary meeting in Paris to consider, among other items on its agenda, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s progress report on implementing an action plan to improve its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism system. 
Under the action plan agreed upon in June 2016, Iran committed itself to enforce a set of tough standards in its entire financial and banking system within 18 months. At the end of the timeline, FATF, in its upcoming meeting, should decide whether measures taken by Iran are satisfactory enough for the group to fully delist the country from its non-cooperative list. 
There are clear indications that an absolute majority of FATF members are convinced by Iran’s progress report and would lend their support to a favorable conclusion for the country. However, the administration of US President Donald Trump is working hard to influence what is supposed to be a technical decision by this multilateral body. 

(Read More)