Iran Digest Week of December 21-28

Iran Digest

Week of December 28-January 4

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

U.S. warns Iran not to launch satellites into space

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday to scuttle its plans to launch satellites into space that the United States said could be used to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Pompeo stopped short of saying how the United States might react if Iran goes ahead with its announced intention to test three Space Launch Vehicles (SLVs), but his warning suggested that the move could lead to new sanctions. (Washington Post)


Economy

Iranian Plan To Spend $2B On Russian Passenger Jets Collapses Due To U.S. Sanctions

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A plan for Iranian airlines to buy Russian-built passenger jets appears to have collapsed as a result of U.S. sanctions, marking a further set-back for the country's beleaguered aviation sector.

Iranian airlines have been struggling to find ways to replace their ageing fleets ever since President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was going to pull the U.S. out of the Iranian nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions.

Prior to that, in the brief period when most international sanctions on Iran were lifted, the country's airlines had ordered hundreds of new planes worth tens of billions of dollars from Boeing and Airbus. (Forbes)

Iran Boosts Gasoline Production To Insulate From U.S. Sanctions

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Iran is closer to achieving self-sufficiency in gasoline by raising its national production capacity to more than 100 million liters daily, Iranian media report.

The increase will come from a capacity increase at the Persian Gulf Star refinery on the Persian Gulf, which is fed condensate from the giant South Pars gas field that Iran shares with Qatar.

The Persian Gulf Star began operation in 2017, with a production capacity of 12 million liters of gasoline and diesel daily. Two expansion phases later, the refinery has a daily capacity of 360,000 barrels daily of condensate and 36 million liters of gasoline per day. (OilPrice)


Environment

Iran sees ‘revival’ of imperiled Lake Urmia

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It is one of the worst ecological disasters of recent decades, but the shrinking of Iran’s great Lake Urmia finally appears to be stabilizing and officials see the start of a revival.

A rusty cargo ship and a row of colorful pedal boats lying untouched on the bone-dry basin are a sign of the devastating loss of water in what was once the largest lake in the Middle East.

Situated in the mountains of northwest Iran, Lake Urmia is fed by 13 rivers and designated as a site of international importance under the UN Convention on Wetlands that was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. (Jakarta Post)


Women of Iran

Shaparak Shajarizadeh and the fight for women’s rights in Iran

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Meet Shaparak Shajarizadeh. Recently named by the BBC as one of the 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2018, she is part of a growing wave of activists pushing back against Iran’s compulsory hijab law and participating in protest campaigns known online as #WhiteWednesdays and #TheGirlsofRevolutionStreet.

The hijab holds a complicated place in Iran’s political landscape. In 1936, Reza Shah Pahlavi banned it as part of his efforts to modernize the country. Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, many Iranian women wore Western-style clothing. During the revolution, publicly wearing a hijab was a symbol of protest against the pro-Western monarchy of then-ruler Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. (OpenCanada)

Meet Iran's first ever Sunni female ambassador

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For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, a woman from Iran's Sunni minority has been offered an ambassadorship. Homeira Rigi, currently the governor of a southeastern town, is set to make history as the head of the Iranian mission in Brunei. The 43-year-old Reformist has been serving in different executive positions for the past 20 years.

First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri announced the appointment during his visit to Ghasrghand, an impoverished town in the underdeveloped Sistan and Baluchistan province. (Al-Monitor)


Inside Iran

Iran's Health Minister Resigns Over Proposed Budget Cuts

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Iran's health minister has resigned over proposed budget cuts as the country struggles with an economic crisis.

Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that President Hassan Rohani accepted the resignation of Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi on January 3.

IRNA reported that Hashemi had repeatedly complained of a shortage of funds in the past and about proposed cuts to his ministry in the government's next budget. (Radio Farda)

Supreme Leader's Moves Seen As Successive Blows To Iran's Moderates

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By appointing a conservative ally to head the influential Expediency Council, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to have made a move to strengthen the hard-line camp and weaken the moderates -- and also may have cleaned up his line of succession.

"This is not good news for the moderates within the establishment," Paris-based political analyst Taghi Rahmani said of Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani's appointment to both head the Expediency Council and take a seat the powerful Guardians Council.

The Expediency Council is tasked with mediating disputes between parliament and the Guardians Council, which determines whether laws are compliant with the Islamic republic's constitution and also vets election candidates. In addition to taking on his new roles, Larijani will retain his seat as head of the country's Judiciary. (Radio Farda)


Analysis

Why Iran is Not The Winner in Syria

By: Shireen Hunter

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After Donald Trump declared that he was pulling U.S. forces out of Syria, nearly all commentators declared that Iran would be one of the major beneficiaries–if not the major beneficiary–of the move. This is not surprising, since as a rule, U,S,, Arab, and even European commentators have declared Iran the winner of nearly all U.S. actions in the Middle East and West Asia since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

No doubt, some U.S. policies have led to some strategic gains for Iran. The weakening of the Taliban, following the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, initially relieved Tehran from the threat posed by the Taliban on its eastern frontiers. However, the extended U.S.  military presence in Afghanistan and its political sway over subsequent Afghan governments has burdened Tehran-Kabul relations. Today there are U.S. forces less than 250 miles from Iran’s eastern border. Should the United States decide to use force against Iran, its presence in Afghanistan would enable it to attack it on several fronts. Moreover, America’s military and political presence in Afghanistan has made Afghanistan less responsive to Iran’s legitimate demands regarding the sharing of the Hirmand (Helmand) River and other matters of interest to Tehran. (Lobelog)