Week of January 26 - February 2
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.
Tillerson: US, European allies working on Iran nuclear deal
Working groups have begun meeting to discuss possible ways to address what the Trump administration sees as serious flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday.
Speaking to reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Tillerson said that the U.S. had already reached an agreement with Germany, France and the United Kingdom — the three European countries involved in the Iran deal — to identify problem areas within the agreement.
The working groups, he said, are looking at the scope of what to address in the Iran deal, as well as how to engage Tehran on possible fixes to those issues. (The Hill)
EU-Iran: Dialogue Against Ultimatums
As the US issued its ultimatum to the EU on “fixing” the nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action or JCPOA), the European Parliament (EP) hosted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee of the Iranian parliament. Boroujerdi addressed the Foreign Affairs committee of the EP on January 23. The next day, together with his delegation, he engaged in detailed discussions with European counterparts on such topics of mutual interest as counter-terrorism, climate change, migration, and trade.
Although the discussion in the committee was at times tough, even the critical MEPs voiced their support for the JCPOA as it stands. They basically backed the consensus view of the EU that other issues of concern, such as Iran’s ballistic missiles program and regional policies must not be linked to the implementation by all sides of their JCPOA-related commitments. The suggestions of the EU3—France, Germany and Great Britain—that these issues could nevertheless be brought up to ensure that the US remains within the JCPOA were not reflected in the discussion. (Lobelog)
France to finance exports to Iran, aims to sidestep U.S. sanctions
France and other European countries have been looking to increase trade with Iran since Paris, Washington and other world powers agreed in 2015 to lift many economic sanctions in exchange for controls on Iran’s nuclear program.
The plan is to offer dedicated, euro-denominated export guarantees to Iranian buyers of French goods and services. By structuring the financing through vehicles without any U.S. link, whether to the currency or otherwise, the aim is to avoid the extraterritorial reach of U.S. legislation.
The move could anger U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement reached by his predecessor Barack Obama. Washington has maintained some financial restrictions, leaving private banks - even those based outside the United States - wary of financing deals. (Reuters)
Iran's Environmental Problems Discussed With ESCAP
Iranian authorities have called attention to the issue of water shortage and the resulting problems of sand and dust storms as the country's most serious environmental challenges.
The problems were highlighted in a two-day meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific held in Tehran on Jan. 30-31.
In a meeting with Shamshad Akhtar, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations and executive secretary of ESCAP, Isa Kalantari, the head of Iran's Department of Environment, noted that tackling the water problem is the top priority of Iran's environmental authorities, ILNA reported. (Financial Tribune)
Iranians Prayed for Rain, but Were Covered in Snow
Some had started praying for rain. Others were thinking about migrating. The mountains towering over the city were bare and brown, deprived of their usual winter dusting of snow.
A full-blown water crisis is drying out Iran, much to the concern of officials who fear protests and strife if conditions do not improve. There is talk of rationing water in the capital, Tehran, one of the largest cities in the Middle East, because the usual autumn rains had not come.
“God is always testing people with various kinds of disasters,” Ayatollah Reza Ostadi, a member of the Supreme Council of Seminaries, said in a sermon on Jan. 19 in the holy city of Qom. “We ask God’s forgiveness for our sins through rain prayers and entreat him to send us his blessing.” (New York Times)
Women of Iran
Iran frees woman who took off headscarf - lawyer
An Iranian woman detained after defiantly taking off her headscarf and holding it on a stick in Tehran has been freed, a human rights lawyer says.
The woman - whose name remains unknown - became the face of protests in the country in December, and images of her were widely shared on social media. Iranian officials have so far made no public comments on the issue.
Meanwhile, images of another three women repeating the act have gone viral after appearing on social media. The three unidentified women were also protesting in the capital - one at what appeared to be the same spot as the woman pictured in December. (BBC News)
Report: Saudi intelligence agency brought weapons into Iran
An official news agency reports that Iran's intelligence agency has confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition including bombs and grenades and officials are blaming Saudi Arabia for bringing them into the country.
The Wednesday report by the official IRNA news agency says the bombs were seized in the eastern part of the country and accused the Saudi intelligence service of bringing them into the country.
A second operation took place against a "separatist group" in the Kurdish town of Marivan near the Iraqi border, where authorities seized grenades and rockets.
In both areas occasional clashes take place between Iranian forces and IS-linked fighters and militant Kurdish separatists. (ABC News)
Elderly and sick U.S. citizen released temporarily from prison in Iran
Iranian authorities on Sunday granted a four-day prison leave to an ailing 81-year-old U.S. citizen convicted of espionage, and his family and U.S. officials expressed hope he will be allowed to return to the United States soon.
The temporary leave from Evin prison allowed Baquer Namazi to be released from a Tehran hospital where he was being treated for an irregular heartbeat and go to the house where his wife is staying, according to Jared Genser, an attorney for the Namazi family. According to officials, the family was required to post a hefty bail.
It is unknown whether Namazi will be forced to return to the prison when his leave expires on Thursday.
“It is unbearable for me to imagine my father may have to return to Evin prison in a few days when his health has been so rapidly deteriorating,” said his son, Babak Namazi. “I hang on to the hope that humanity will finally prevail.” (The Washington Post)
U.N. calls on Russia, Iran and Turkey to break Syria aid deadlock
A United Nations humanitarian task force has been unable to make deliveries to desperate Syrians for the past two months as President Bashar al-Assad’s government has withheld approval for aid convoys, the U.N. humanitarian adviser said on Thursday.
Before they can move into besieged areas or across front lines, the convoys require letters from the government and security guarantees from armed groups.
“It’s an all-time low in giving us the facilitation letters,” adviser Jan Egeland told reporters after meeting senior diplomats in Geneva. (Reuters)
Can Crazy Still Keep the Peace Between Israel and Iran?
By: Thomas Friedman
Who knew that the future of warfare would present itself with such serene beauty — like one of those warm 19th-century David Roberts landscapes of the Middle East.
How so? I’m traveling along the Israeli border road at the intersection of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and off in the distance there’s a freshly snow-capped Mount Hermon, begging for skiers. It’s framed by Lebanese and Syrian villages nestled into terraced hillsides, crowned by minarets and crosses. The only sound you hear is the occasional rifle burst from Lebanese hunters.
But this is no Roberts painting. It’s actually the second-most-dangerous spot on the planet — after the Korean Peninsula — and it’s the idyllic backdrop to what 21st-century warfare looks like.