Iran Digest Week of January 25th-February 1st

Iran Digest Week of January 25th-February 1st

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

European countries set up trade channel with Iran to bypass US sanctions

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Germany, France and Britain have joined forces to establish their own trade channel to Iran and circumvent United States sanctions, according to a joint statement made by the so-called E3 on Thursday.

The three signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been working for months to establish a measure allowing payments between Europe and Iran to continue, in the wake of the US withdrawal from the agreement in May.

Now the European countries have officially established that channel, in a move likely to displease Washington. (CNN)

U.S.-born Iranian TV anchor back in Iran after U.S. detention: Press TV

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A U.S.-born anchor for Iran’s state-run Press TV arrived in Iran on Wednesday after 10 days of detention in the United States, Press TV reported, after U.S. authorities said she had testified as a material witness in an undisclosed federal investigation.

The anchor, Marzieh Hashemi, was freed on Thursday.

Hashemi’s detention added to the tension that has grown between Iran and the United States since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last May to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. (Reuters)


Nuclear Accord

Iran rejects talks on missiles, but says no plan to increase range

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Iran on Tuesday dismissed pressure from France and other Western powers for talks over its ballistic missile program, but said it had no plans to increase the range of the weapons.

France said last week it was ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress was made in talks about the missiles, described by Tehran as defensive but seen in the West as a destabilizing factor in a volatile region.

“Negotiations over Iran’s missile and defensive capabilities are not acceptable in any way,” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency. (Reuters)


Economy

Iran Faces Worst Economic Challenge in 40 Years, President Says

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Iran, squeezed by punishing American sanctions, is confronting its most severe economic challenge in 40 years, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, arguing that the Iranian government “should not be blamed” for the crisis.

The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran last year after President Trump decided to withdraw from the international nuclear accord reached with Tehran in 2015, calling it a “horrible one-sided deal.” Under the pact, Iran agreed to essentially freeze its nuclear program for at least 15 years in exchange for relief from oil and financial sanctions.

Under American pressure, dozens of European companies have abandoned operations in Iran that they had started after the signing of the nuclear agreement, leaving thousands of Iranians jobless. Reimposed banking sanctions have sharply curtailed foreign investment and access to international credit, and oil sanctions have more than halved Iran’s crude exports, its main source of income. (New York Times)

Dollar, Major Currencies Again Rising In Iran

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The U.S. dollar and other major currencies have witnessed a notable rise on the Tehran currency exchange market this week. The dollar’s gain has been about 10 percent.

As a reaction the chief of Iran’s central bank sounded a warning, that this trend will not necessarily stay, and people should not take risks with their money.

Iran’s currency has had a roller-coaster ride in the past one year; with steady declines to steep lows in September and then a partial rebound since then. (Radio Farda)


Environment

Iran's Capital City Is Being Devoured by Sinkholes

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Sinkholes and fissures are opening up the earth around Tehran, Iran's capital city. And according to the Associated Press, they threaten people's homes and the local infrastructure.

The ground is cracking open, according to the AP, thanks to a water crisis that has deepened as Tehran's population has ballooned. The region is in the midst of a three-decade-long drought and ongoing desertification. According to a 2018 report from Circle of Blue, a nonprofit focused on water issues, that problem has been compounded as the city's population has grown to close to 8.5 million.

Water pumped from underground aquifers has gotten saltier every year as the city has increasingly relied on these underground water sources as opposed to rainwater. At the same time, a great deal of the dwindling water supply gets diverted to thirsty and inefficient agriculture, according to the AP. (LiveScience)


Women of Iran

Overlooked No More: Forough Farrokhzad, Iranian Poet Who Broke Barriers of Sex and Society

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When a radio interviewer suggested to the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad that her verses could be characterized as “feminine,” she rejected the notion.

“What is important is humanity, not being a man or a woman,” she said. “If a poem can get to that point, it is no longer connected with its creator but with a world of poetry.”

Farrokhzad was one of Iran’s pre-eminent mid-20th-century writers, both reviled and revered for her poems, which often dealt with female desire. Throughout her life she struggled with how her gender affected the reception of her work in a culture where women were often confined to traditional roles, but where there are few higher callings than the life of a poet. (New York Times)


Inside Iran

Iranian press review: Arrested environmentalists appear in court

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The trial of eight Iranian environmentalists began on 30 January following one year spent by the activists in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, according to the IRNA news agency. The first session of the trial was held behind closed doors and the court only permitted lawyers vetted by Iran’s judiciary to be present.

Nine ecologists and activists were arrested on 24 and 25 January 2018, and have since been kept in custody with no trial or convictions.

Last February, one of the activists Kavous Seyed-Emami, a dual Canadian national, died in prison. (Middle East Eye)

Eight Iranian Environmentalists Accused Of Spying Go On Trial

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Eight Iranian environmentalists accused of spying appeared in a Tehran court on January 30 for a closed-door trial, local media report.

Mohammad-Hossein Aghasi, a representative of one of the accused, said that he was not present in court as the state designated its own handpicked lawyers to represent the defendants, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Four of the defendants were charged last year with “sowing corruption on Earth,” a charge that can carry the death sentence in Iran. (Radio Farda)


Analysis

Trump blames his intelligence chiefs for being ‘naive’ on Iran. Europe has a plan to prove him wrong.

By: Rick Noack

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When President Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal last year, the move wasn’t exactly a quiet departure. Within days, the United States threatened sanctions, not only against Iran, but also against the foreign companies trading with it.

That threat was directed against major enterprises from some of the United States’ closest allies, including Britain, France and Germany. Europe immediately announced that it would not be bullied into following the United States out of the nuclear deal, but the rationale in Washington was that the Europeans would eventually budge.

That bet appears not to have gone according to plan — for both sides. In a statement to The Washington Post, German diplomats confirmed a report by European TV network NDR on Thursday that Britain, France and Germany had registered a Paris-based company called INSTEX, which could theoretically allow some European businesses to keep trading with Iran, despite the threat of U.S. sanctions against banks and corporations. (Washington Post)