Iran Digest Week of January 18th-25th

Iran Digest Week of January 18th-25th

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 Associate Michel Gomes 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

Germany bans Iranian airline from its airspace after U.S. pressure


Germany has revoked the license of an Iranian airline because it has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after heavy U.S. pressure on Berlin to act.

The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.

The German ban on the airline takes immediate effect, a foreign ministry spokesman said. (Reuters)

Detained US-born Iranian reporter released from US custody


A prominent American-born Iranian journalist who was held in the US as a witness has been released from detention, an advocacy lawyer says.

Marzieh Hashemi was freed in Washington DC after being detained for 10 days, an attorney with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee told the BBC.

Ms Hashemi, who works for Iran's state broadcaster Press TV, was taken into custody in St Louis earlier this month.

Her detention came after Iran had arrested four Americans. (BBC)

US backtracks on Iran-focused conference in Poland after objections


European objections have forced the United States to backtrack on plans to stage a two-day conference in Poland focused on building a global coalition against Iran.

The conference is now being described as a wider brainstorming session about the Middle East.

In announcing the summit earlier this month, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had explicitly said the summit’s purpose was to focus on Iran’s influence and terrorism in the region. (The Guardian)

Nuclear Accord

Iran nuclear deal could crumble in 2019


This will be a perilous year for the Iran nuclear deal and for smoldering U.S.-Iran tensions, according to a report tied to the third anniversary of the deal's implementation.

The big picture: The authors of the International Crisis Group (ICG) report argue that Iran — which is still complying with the deal even though President Trump abandoned it — is unlikely to simply walk away from the pact. But it will seek to inflict pain on the U.S. as sanctions continue to bite, likely through military means. The potential sources of escalation are many, and the risks are far more acute this year than last. (Axios)


European SMEs ready for oil co-op with Iran


As many as 114 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of Europe have expressed readiness for cooperation with Iran in the country’s oil projects, said Reza Padidar, a member of the Energy Commission of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Trend reports via Tasnim News Agency.

He said that 114 foreign companies were registered in the Tehran Chamber of Commerce. 

He said that 114 foreign companies were registered in the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.

He added that Iran intends to use the potential of foreign companies in technology transfer and investment projects. (Trend)


Drought-stricken, parched Iran is sinking – literally


Fissures appear along roads while massive holes open up in the countryside, their gaping maws a visible sign from the air of something Iranian authorities now openly acknowledge: the area around Tehran is literally sinking.

Stressed by a 30-year drought and hollowed by excessive water pumping, the parched landscape around Iran’s capital has begun to sink dramatically. Seen by satellite and on foot around the city, officials warn that what they call land subsidence poses a grave danger to a country where protests over water scarcity already have seen violence.

“Land subsidence is a destructive phenomenon,” said Siavash Arabi, a measurement expert at Iran’s cartography department. “Its impact may not be immediately felt like an earthquake, but as you can see, it can gradually cause destructive changes over time.” (Times of Israel)

Women of Iran

No turning back for Iran's hijab protesters despite crackdown: activists


Women’s rights defenders in Iran will continue their fight against the forced wearing of the hijab this year despite a “sinister crackdown” by authorities in 2018 in which dozens were arrested, activists said on Thursday.

Iranian women took to the streets holding their hijabs aloft in protests at the strict dress code that quickly spread on social media last year, leading to a “bitter backlash” by authorities, Amnesty International said in a statement.

“What the last year has shown is that people in Iran, especially women, are no longer afraid to go out and protest, whether in large numbers or through lone acts of protest,” said Mansoureh Mills, Amnesty International’s Iran researcher. (Reuters)

Inside Iran

Iran arrested 7,000 in crackdown on dissent during 2018 - Amnesty


Amnesty International says Iran arrested 7,000 people last year in a "shameless campaign of repression".

Those swept up by the crackdown included protesters, students, lawyers, journalists, environmental and women's rights activists, and trade unionists.

Hundreds were sentenced to prison or flogging. At least 26 protesters were killed and nine others died in custody.

The crackdown was a response to unrest over poverty, corruption and the lack of political and social freedoms. (BBC)

Regional Politics

Syria war: Israeli jets target Iranian positions around Damascus


Israel says it has hit Iranian targets around the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The Israel Defense Forces say the overnight operation targeted the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Syrian air defences.

The Syrian military says it shot down most of the Israeli missiles. But a monitoring group reported that at least 11 pro-government fighters were killed.

The IDF says it acted after the Quds Force fired a rocket from Syria towards the occupied Golan Heights on Sunday. (BBC)


The Iran Nuclear Deal At Three

By: International Crisis Group


That the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has so far survived the May 2018 U.S. withdrawal is remarkable, owing much to the other signatories’ efforts to keep it alive. But with Washington actively undermining the deal through reimposition and aggressive enforcement of sanctions, with increasing risks of spillover from growing regional tensions, and reports that some U.S. officials want a confrontation, the agreement remains highly vulnerable. Iran might well persist with its present approach of complying with the deal and waiting out the Trump administration, but it will require continued efforts by Europe in particular, as well as Russia and China, to provide it with diplomatic and economic incentives. Tehran could facilitate these efforts by enhancing its banking standards and demonstrating its ability to play a more constructive role in the region, starting with pressing the Houthis in Yemen to fully implement the initial deal brokered by the UN special envoy. Democratic candidates in the 2020 U.S. presidential election should affirm their intent to rejoin the deal. (LobeLog)