Week of March 9 - 16
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.
Pompeo expected to reinforce Trump's hardline instincts on Iran and North Korea
CIA Director Mike Pompeo's expected move to lead the State Department is likely to lead to harder-line policies toward Iran and North Korea, though his ability to shape policy under President Donald Trump remains to be seen.
Pompeo has advocated for military strikes against Iran while lobbying hard against the nuclear deal with Tehran. He's also been a force behind the administration's drive to squeeze North Korea.
In the short term, the announcement that Pompeo would take on the leadership of the oldest US Cabinet agency is creating uncertainty and instability, observers said, as the Trump Administration pushes out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (CNN)
U.S. commander: "Definitely a change" in Iran's behavior
Iranian naval forces appear to have deliberately halted their provocations of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf in recent months, a U.S. military official said Thursday. According to Navy Cmdr. William Urban, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, there have been no "unsafe and unprofessional" actions by Iranian naval forces in the Gulf since August 2017.
Prior to that, Iranian vessels had periodically made high-speed approaches to U.S. ships that were considered dangerous provocations.
Urban declined to speculate on the reason for the change. (CBS News)
Iran Hit With Rare Material-Support Suit Over 9/11
Several survivors of the 9/11 attacks and representatives of those killed brought a federal complaint against Saudi Arabia and Iran, alleging that the latter knew about the attacks and helped plan and coordinate them.
Filed late Friday in Washington, D.C., the 105-page complaint also claims that al-Qaida was able to carry out the attacks because of charities that were established, funded and directed by Saudi Arabia.
Although Saudi Arabia has been named as a defendant in several other lawsuits related to 9/11, claims against Iran are less common. Caragh Fay with the Fay Law Group brought the new suits. (Courthouse News)
US to pressure Europe to ‘fix’ Iran nuclear deal
The US will on Thursday ramp up pressure on European countries to “fix” a landmark Iran nuclear deal that president Donald Trump has threatened to scrap.
A team of senior US foreign policy officials will meet their European counterparts in Berlin in a third formal effort to keep the US in the nuclear deal with Iran.
Mr Trump has given European signatories a deadline of May 12 to address his grievances or risk a US withdrawal. Mr Trump has called the multi-party pact, reached during the Obama administration, “the worst deal ever”. (FT)
Iran Signs $740 Million Agreement on Oil Project
Iran's state-run oil company has signed a $740 million agreement with a Russian-Iranian consortium to develop two oil fields near the Iraqi border.
Under the agreement signed Wednesday, some 105 million barrels of crude will be produced over a 10-year span in oil fields in Aban and West Paidar in the southwest near the border with Iraq.
The consortium includes the Russian state-controlled Zarubezhneft Oil Co. and the Iranian private Dana Energy Co.
This is the second energy contract with foreign companies following the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. (US News & World Report)
Women of Iran
Women’s Day Protesters Released from Gharchak Prison
They stand next to each other, smiling at the camera, holding bouquets that they have received as welcome home presents. Behind them is the prison that they have just left — Gharchak in Varamin, near Tehran. Right there in front of Gharchak, they sing a song celebrating gender equality with the group of people who have come to greet them.
The 14 women were arrested for taking part in a protest rally for women’s rights on March 8, International Women’s Day, which was due to take place outside the Ministry of Labor and Welfare. But even before it got underway, police violently dispersed the demonstration and arrested more than 80 people. These 14 were released on the night of March 12. (IranWire)
Apple appears to have totally cut off Iran from the App Store
iPhone users in Iran discovered today that they’re no longer able to access the App Store, in what appears to be a total block of the country, according to Bleeping Computer. While Apple doesn’t sell phones or operate the App Store in Iran, Iranians could still import Apple products from another county and set them up to access portions of the App Store meant for other regions. It appears that now, Apple has closed that loophole, blocking any traffic coming from inside Iran from accessing the App Store in any capacity. (The Verge)
Saudi Arabia pledges to create a nuclear bomb if Iran does
Saudi Arabia has warned that it will develop its own nuclear weapon if regional rival Iran acquires one.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US network CBS News his country did not want to acquire nuclear weapons.
"But without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we would follow suit as soon as possible," he added.
Iran limited its nuclear programme under a 2015 deal with several world powers - but US President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from it. (BBC News)
BBC UN appeal: Stop Iran harassing Persian service staff
The BBC is making an unprecedented appeal to the UN to stop Iran from harassing its Persian service staff in London and their families in Iran.
It says Iran has stepped up a campaign of intimidation, including threats, arrests of relatives and travel bans.
Iran began targeting the BBC's Persian service after the disputed 2009 presidential election, when Tehran accused foreign powers of interference.
The appeal will be made at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. (BBC News)
Trump’s And Pompeo’s Path To Nuclear Crisis
By: Paul R. Pillar
The prospective replacement of Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo clears one of the last apparent hurdles between Donald Trump and his destruction of a significant diplomatic achievement that has been squarely in the interests of the United States, of nuclear nonproliferation, and of the containment of conflict in the Middle East. This is, of course, the multilateral agreement that restricts Iran’s nuclear program, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). There is ample reason to worry that such destruction is a step toward an even worse consequence: a new U.S. war in the Middle East. Even if events stop short of that neocon dream, Trump and Pompeo are charting a course toward endless conflict, escalating tension, and an upsurge in weapons proliferation. (LobeLog)