Iran Digest Week of March 22-29

Iran Digest Week of March 22-29

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 welcomes Luxembourg court decision on U.S. seizure of Iranian assets


Iran welcomed on Thursday a Luxembourg court's decision to refuse to reinforce a U.S. ruling that would have helped families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks claim Iranian assets held by a Luxembourg-based clearing house.

The court ruled on Wednesday that there were no grounds in international law to uphold in Luxembourg a 2012 U.S. court decision to strip Iran of sovereign immunity.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said the decision showed the world still had courts that adopt independent decisions. (Reuters)

On Nowruz Pompeo Says Iranians Should Have Access To Social Media


The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has once again sent a message greeting the new Iranian Year (beginning March 21) to all the people who celebrate Nowruz (literally the New Day) across the world.

In the message published by the State Department's official website, Pompeo says, "I would like to wish a Happy Nowruz to the people of Iran, and to everyone who celebrates this ancient tradition that marks the arrival of spring and a New Year, including people in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the Kurdish people, and their communities in the United States." (Radio Farda)

After vowing to strangle Iran's economy, Trump admin divided over how far to squeeze Tehran

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The Trump administration is divided over how far to pressure Iran with its sanctions campaign, as it weighs options that could bolster imports of medicine to Iran and permit some foreign governments to keep buying Iranian oil, according to former officials, congressional aides and sources close to the White House.

Republican hard-liners in Congress, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, are pushing the White House to make good on President Donald Trump's vows to place "maximum pressure" on Iran's economy. But so far, the administration has held back from some drastic measures, with officials anxious to avoid triggering a spike in oil and gasoline prices, upsetting delicate trade talks with China or further alienating allies. (NBC)


Iran's Exports, Imports Decline, With U.S. Trade Lowest Since 2000


Iran's trade generally declined in the first two months of 2019, largely due to less oil exports and a substantial reduction in imports, due to its ongoing economic crisis.

Iran’s exports to U.S. reached zero during January 2019, while its imports from the United States plunged to $4.5 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, released March 28.

The monthly trade turnover between the two countries stood at the lowest level since 2000. (Radio Farda)


Flash floods kill at least 19 in southern Iran

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Flash floods in southern Iran have killed at least 19 people and injured at least 100 more, officials say.

Dramatic footage on social media showed torrents of muddy water surging through the city of Shiraz where most of the deaths occurred.

People were seen clinging to lamp posts and the tops of cars. Hundreds of buildings were reported damaged.

Iran's judiciary said the government's handling of the disaster was being investigated.

The floods struck during the Persian New Year holiday when many government offices were closed. (BBC)

Environmental Challenges Plague Iran and the Rest of the Middle East

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In the wake of record floods in Iran that have killed more than two dozen people, new attention has focused on the environmental challenges facing the Middle East.

The issues facing the region are complex and reflect a number of factors, according to experts who spoke on March 27 at the Atlantic Council. Among them are climate change, water scarcity, mismanagement, and poor governance. These challenges have become politicized in both the region and in the United States, and have undermined international cooperation to address them. (Atlantic Council)

  Inside Iran

Iranians enraged by Rouhani's no-show in flood-stricken areas

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A trail of death and destruction left behind by heavy downpours in Iran's north and south has cast a dark shadow over Nowruz this year. The Iranian New Year — which began March 21 — characterized by celebrations, family visits and holiday trips has so far been but a mess for many who had planned it months ahead.

The government says it has been mobilizing all facilities to adequately respond to the disaster, but that does not seem to have appeased many critics. President Hassan Rouhani has come under immense pressure for failing to visit the inundated areas. "After the deadly collapse of the coal mine in Azadshahr [in 2017], Rouhani visited the site as part of his ridiculous election campaign [to garner votes]. But now floods have hit the same province and he is gone," one person tweeted. (Al-Monitor)

  Regional Politics

Syrian army says Israeli air strikes hit Aleppo, causing electricity blackout


The Syrian military said Israel on Wednesday launched raids on an industrial zone in the northern city of Aleppo, causing damage only to materials, while opposition sources said the strikes hit Iranian ammunition stores and a military airport used by Tehran's forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the strikes had hit an arms depot used by Iranian forces and allied groups, killing seven people.

"The Israeli aggression targeted some positions in Sheikh Najjar industrial zone and a number of enemy missiles were brought down," a Syrian army statement said. (Middle East Eye)

Iran, Arab world unite to slam Trump’s Golan Heights recognition


US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights has united Washington's Persian Gulf Arab allies in condemnation, Australian SBS TV network channel reported on Wednesday.

Iran echoed the comments, describing Trump's decision as unprecedented this century.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait criticized Monday’s move of the United States to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation and said the territory was occupied Arab land. (Mehr News)


Would Iranians welcome a new nuclear deal? Think again.

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By: Dina Smeltz and John R. Cookson

It has been almost a year since President Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark nuclear deal with Iran. Yet the expectation Washington will rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a future date remains stubbornly strong. More than 50 retired generals and diplomats issued a statement urging Washington to reenter the deal.

The Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese remain keen on keeping the deal going. So, too, is the American public. According to Chicago Council on Global Affairs polling conducted after the U.S. withdrawal, 66 percent favor U.S. participation in an agreement that lifts some international economic sanctions in exchange for strict limits on Tehran’s nuclear program. (Washington Post)