Iran Digest Week of March 8-15

Iran Digest Week of March 8-15

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

Iran's President Rouhani seeks Iraqi help to mitigate US sanctions


Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has begun his first official visit to Iraq since taking office five years ago.

After meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Mr Rouhani said he wanted deeper political and economic ties between their states, which fought a bloody war in the 1980s.

He noted that Iran had come to Iraq's aid in recent years when it was threatened by the Islamic State group.

Iranian officials see Iraq as a way to mitigate the US sanctions reinstated by President Donald Trump last year. (BBC)

Iran Criticizes U.S. Diplomat's Remarks On Rouhani Trip to Iraq


One day after a top U.S. diplomat questioned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s motives for visiting Iraq, Tehran has called his remarks “Interventional and unprofessional”.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahran Ghasemi on Tuesday said that relations between Iran and Iraq are based on good neighborliness and are strategic ties and the two countries “do not ask anyone’s permission to preserve these relations”.

Ghasemi added that “The anger of this American official is no surprise, since it seems that this country after spending billions of dollars in the Middle East has been unable to achieve a desired status among the nations in the region”, Iran state broadcaster reported. (Radio Farda)


Joining FATF ‘Strategic Mistake,’ Iran Assembly Of Experts Warns


In an unprecedented statement, the Islamic Republic's Assembly of Experts (AE) has warned against Iran joining international financial transparency agreements aimed at curbing money laundering and terrorism funding.

Ending its annual meeting March 13, the AE issued a statement saying that joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a step proposed by President Hassan Rouhani’s government, would be a “strategic mistake.”

Rouhani presented the proposal to meet FATF requirements to parliament in November 2017. Backers of the legislation, known collectively as the Palermo Bills, say joining the FATF and other international agreements on financial transparency would reduce international pressure on Iran’s deteriorating economy. (Radio Farda)

  Women of Iran

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran human rights lawyer jailed for 38 years, say family


A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in Tehran, her family say.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was charged with several national security-related offences, all of which she denies.

Rights groups strongly criticised the "shocking" sentence against the award-winning human rights activist.

Ms Sotoudeh is known for representing women who have protested having to wear the headscarf.

"Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women's rights and speaking out against the death penalty," Philip Luther from Amnesty International said.

"It is utterly outrageous that Iran's authorities are punishing her for her human rights work." (BBC)

Inside Iran

Record corruption scandal puts spotlight on Iranians in Iran, US


Shortly after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call on officials to uproot corruption, the Iranian judiciary announced perhaps the largest embezzlement case in the country’s history involving some 6.6 billion euros ($7.4 billion).

Similar to other major embezzlement scandals in recent years — such as the one centered on businessman Babak Zanjani, who is now awaiting execution — the current case relates to murky schemes to bypass sanctions imposed by then US President Barack Obama. Over a dozen executives and board members of petrochemical companies are accused of financial crimes dating back to 2010-13, the final years of previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Eleven of the main suspects are in custody, while three others are reportedly abroad and will be tried in absentia. (Al-Monitor)

Iranian label accused of organising 'un-Islamic' fashion show


An Iranian fashion label organised a private show in the high-end salon Ayneh Divan on March 1 in Lavasan, an affluent suburb of Tehran, sending women down the runway without hijabs, a violation of the country’s strict laws mandating that women appear in public with headscarves. Some were also arrayed in elaborate, fantasy-inspired outfits, which, while not a justifiable crime, is nevertheless seen as promoting a Western lifestyle and not tolerated by conservatives.

Videos of the show appeared immediately on Instagram and Telegram, but it wasn’t until the following day that news outlets and the judiciary system began paying attention, generating further buzz online. (France24)

Report: Verdict issued against US Navy veteran held in Iran


Iran’s judiciary has delivered a verdict against U.S. Navy veteran Michael White who was detained last July in Iran but there is no information as to what the ruling contained, a semi-official news agency reported Monday.

A prosecutor in the northeastern city of Mashdad, Gholamali Sadeghi, was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency that the “verdict has been issued” against White and that he faced unspecified security charges.

Sadeghi's remarks counter a February statement by the Iranian foreign ministry, which said White faces no security or espionage charge. There was no immediate explanation on the discrepancies. (Navy Times)

Regional Politics

Iran's Rouhani urges Pakistan to act against group behind border attack


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called for "decisive" action by Pakistan against a militant group behind a deadly suicide attack last month in a border area, and said inaction by Islamabad could jeopardise relations between the neighbours.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said Rouhani's remarks came in a telephone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said he would soon have "good news" for Iran, Reuters reported.

A suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards on 13 February in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the country's Sunni Muslim minority. (Middle East Eye)

Iran warns of firm response if Israel acts against oil shipments


Iran will respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, Iran's defence minister said, a week after Israel warned its navy could act against what it called Iranian oil smuggling to evade US sanctions.

US President Donald Trump last year quit a nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed some sanctions, aiming to cut Tehran's oil exports to zero.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told naval officers last week that Iran was still resorting to clandestine measures to ship fuel. (Al Jazeera)


Iran Is Mastering the Final Frontier

By: Kevjn Lim, Gil Baram


In mid-January and early February, Iran attempted two satellite launches intended for environmental monitoring purposes. The Payam (Message) and Doosti (Friendship) ascended aboard Iranian-made satellite launch vehicles (SLVs). Both launches failed to place the satellites into orbit. The United States nevertheless protested the space launches—mostly because the SLVs used the same base technology as multistage intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In an anticipatory tweet on Jan. 3, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned that “The launch will advance [Iran’s] missile program. US, France, UK & Germany have already stated this is in defiance of [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 2231. We won’t stand by while the regime threatens international security.” The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has even reportedly revived a Bush-era secret program to sabotage Iran’s missile and space program by planting “faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains.” (Foreign Policy)