Iran Digest Week of February 16 - 23

Iran Digest

Week of February 16 - 23

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

Supreme Court Forbids Seizure of Ancient Persian Artifacts

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Americans injured in a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem cannot seize ancient Persian artifacts from a Chicago museum to satisfy a $71.5 million court judgment against Iran, which they had accused of complicity in the attack.
The justices, in an 8-0 ruling, upheld a lower court’s decision in favor of Iran that had prevented the plaintiffs from collecting on the judgment, which Tehran has not paid, by obtaining antiquities held at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. The important Persian cultural artifacts, on loan from Iran to the museum since the 1930s, include clay tablets boasting some of the oldest writing in the world. (Reuters)

Nuclear Accord

Iran Hints at Seaborne Reactors While Respecting Nuclear Deal

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Iran has fired a diplomatic warning shot at Washington by raising the prospect of building nuclear reactors for ships while staying within the limits set by its atomic deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has long railed against the 2015 nuclear deal for reasons including its limited duration and the fact it does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile program. He has threatened to pull out unless European allies help “fix” the agreement with a follow-up accord.
Since Trump took office more than a year ago, Iran has stayed within limits on items including its stock of low-enriched uranium imposed by the deal, which also lifted painful international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. (Reuters)

Exclusive: For Now, US Wants Europeans Just to Commit to Improve Iran Deal

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The United States has sketched out a path under which three key European allies would simply commit to try to improve the Iran nuclear deal over time in return for U.S. President Donald Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing U.S. sanctions relief in May.
The approach, outlined in a State Department cable obtained by Reuters and an interview with a senior department official this week, still faces obstacles. The European allies are uncertain what will satisfy Trump and are reluctant to make such a commitment only to find that he asks them for more, two European officials and two former U.S. officials said.
The cable’s characterization of what the United States wants from the Europeans, which has not been previously reported, sets a lower standard than laid out by Trump in January and so might facilitate a meeting of the minds, five current European and four former U.S. officials said. (Reuters)


Iran May Follow Venezuela In Launching Its Own Cryptocurrency

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Iran has announced its intent to establish a national cryptocurrency. In a tweet posted Wednesday, an Iranian official said that a test model for a "cloud-based digital currency" is being developed for submission to the Iranian banking system.
The official, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, heads Iran's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. Jahromi made the announcement after a meeting with the state-owned Post Bank of Iran. (NPR)

Inside Iran

Iran plane crash: Agonising wait continues for relatives

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Relatives of 66 people who were on board a plane that crashed in Iran are desperately waiting for any news.
State media says the Aseman Airlines passenger plane that came down in the Zagros mountains on Sunday has been found.
All those on board are feared to have been killed.
Heavy wind and snow forced rescuers to stop the search late on Sunday. (BBC)

Angry Iranians Are Forcing their Leaders to Reboot their Economic Plans

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When he was studying in Tehran, Abbas would catch a pre-dawn train in from the provinces. A few scenes glimpsed through the window are etched in his mind: street-sweepers huddled around fires, men curled up under blankets in front of closed shops.
Student life didn’t often take him to the affluent downtown, where glitzy malls sell Western-branded clothes and watches.
On the weekends Abbas would head back to the northwestern city of Zanjan, famous for hand-made knives and elaborately decorated shoes. The extremes of poverty and wealth on display in the capital were much less apparent in his hometown. (Bloomberg)

Regional Politics

Fear of War Looms Over Syria Neighbours, Iran Says

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Iran's deputy foreign minister says the situation with its ally Syria is "very complicated" amid growing concern a wider regional war could erupt.
"Fear of war is everywhere in our region," Abbas Araghchi told the BBC.
It comes amid warnings by Israel and the US over Iran's presence in Syria.
Mr Araghchi told the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet that Iran was there to fight terrorism, and dismissed warnings about Iran's intentions as "propaganda". (BBC)

Merkel Calls on Iran, Russia to Curb Syria’s Assault

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged Russia and Iran to rein in Syrian forces’ offensive against a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, calling the attacks a massacre.
The comments come hours before a possible vote by the United Nations Security Council on a resolution for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, an end to sieges and attacks against civilians in Syria. (WSJ)

Netanyahu to Iran: ‘Do Not Test Israel’s Resolve’

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Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, attending a security conference with international leaders here in Munich, on Sunday brandished what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel and warned that he was ready to go to war if Tehran continued to entrench itself in Syria.
Mr. Netanyahu, directly addressing Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, during his speech said: “Do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.” (New York Times)


Trump’s Quick Fix Approach to Iran Nuclear Deal Creates Untenable Policy Dilemma

By: Eric Edelman and Charles Ward

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President Trump’s latest quick-fix approach to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program creates an untenable policy dilemma. Because the deal sacrificed significant U.S. leverage upfront, right now there is currently little Congress can accomplish singlehandedly in trying to strengthen it, and much the administration would place at risk in abruptly leaving it. To truly fix the JCPOA, the United States should stay in it for the time being, so Congress and the administration can focus on rebuilding pressure on Iran to negotiate a better agreement.
This is not to minimize the deal’s severe shortcomings or suggest proposed changes by the president and Congress are misguided. On the contrary, stronger inspections, permanent limits on breakout time and prohibitions on ballistic missiles – as proposed by the Iran Freedom Policy and Sanctions Act introduced in the House – would do far more than the current arrangement to actually thwart a nuclear Iran.

(Read More)