Iran Digest Week of April 12-19
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.
Zarif reshuffles key envoys in push for active diplomacy
While rotations and replacements of diplomats and ambassadors are usually routine administrative procedures, they sometimes can signify important policy shifts. The latter may be the case in Iran, where the country’s Foreign Ministry has in the past four months been replacing several heads of mission and representatives abroad.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have in particular made the appointment of Iranian representatives to the UN in New York a complicated process. The position is particularly important given that Iran has no active embassy in the United States. As such, powerful rival elites in Iran are often at odds over who ought to be appointed to this key post. (Al-Monitor)
Trump’s Iran strategy collides with oil market realities
The Trump administration must decide by May 2 whether to allow Iran to continue exporting crude oil — a decision with huge implications for Washington’s Iran strategy and the oil market.
The big picture: Since withdrawing from the nuclear deal last May, the U.S. has steadily ratcheted up economic and political pressure on Iran. The core component of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy is reducing the Islamic Republic's oil exports, which provide provide a third of government revenues. (Axios)
Iran Protests French Ambassador's Remarks On Nuclear Deal
Iran has protested to France about remarks made by the French ambassador in Washington over Tehran's right to enrich uranium after 2025.
Iran agreed under a 2015 deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Some of these limits are due to expire after 10 years, and others after 15 years. (RFE/RL)
Iran’s Lake Urmia Revives Amid Heavy Rains In Recent Months
Recent prolonged and at times severe rains in Iran have helped put the country’s Lake Urmia on its way to revival, according to the governor of West Azerbaijan Province.
Lake Urmia, a salt lake, which once had a surface area of 5,000 square kilometers (almost 2,000sq miles) had shrank to just 700sq km in 2013. The reasons were both mismanagement by local and central governments and also a prolonged drought.
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. (The Iranian)
Iran closes oil wells in flood-hit Khuzestan province, output drops
Iran has shut around a dozen oil wells in its oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province because of massive floods, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday, leading to a drop of up to 20,000 barrels per day in crude production.
Iran’s worst flooding in 70 years, which started on March 19, has killed at least 76 people, forced more than 220,000 into emergency shelters and caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland.
“There are no oil leaks at the Hoor al-Azim wetland area. We have closed 10 to 12 oil wells there as a precautionary measure to prevent any environmental damages,” Mehr quoted Touraj Dehghani, the head of Iran’s Petroleum Engineering and Development Company (PEDEC), as saying. (Reuters)
Women of Iran
Female Iranian Boxer Cancels Trip Home After Arrest Warrant Issued
The first Iranian woman to box in a professional match has cancelled plans to return home from France after a warrant for her arrest was issued in Tehran.
Sadef Khadem beat French boxer Anne Chavin in the bout on April 13. She had planned to fly to Iran this week with Mahyar Monshipour, an Iranian-born former boxing world champion who is now a French citizen.
Khadem's representative, Clara Dallay, told Reuters that the authorities had issued arrest warrants against her and Monshipour. (RFE/RL)
Jailed Iranian Journalist Gets Appeal Hearing After Months of Isolation
An Iranian court has held an appeal hearing for a jailed Iranian journalist and rights activist who faces a 12-year prison sentence for her social media criticisms of Iran’s judiciary.
A report by Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted a lawyer for journalist Hengameh Shahidi as saying he and his client appeared in court for the Tuesday hearing.
Mostafa Tork Hamedani told ISNA that the presiding judge announced the end of the appeals process for Shahidi and pledged to issue a ruling soon. The report gave no other details of the hearing. (VOA)
Iranians debate freedom of expression as Instagram shuts down IRGC pages
"Sorry, this page isn't available." That's the message that now greets Instagram users trying to access accounts purportedly run by top figures of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Last week, President Donald Trump designated the IRGC a "foreign terrorist organization," and a day after the measure took effect, Instagram banned the accounts.
"We work with appropriate government authorities to ensure we meet our legal obligations, including those relating to the recent designation of the IRGC," a spokesperson for the social media platform told AFP. (Al-Monitor)
Iran Says Floods Killed 76, Caused $2.2 Billion In Damage
Floods caused by heavy rain across Iran have killed 76 people and caused more than $2.2 billion in damage over the past several weeks, officials say.
"With the death of five people in the [southwestern] Khuzestan Province flood and another person in [western] Ilam Province, the death toll has now reached 76" since March 19, a statement published online on April 14 by the coroner's office said.
The two provinces are the latest affected by floods that first hit the northeast of the usually arid Iran, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate from cities and villages. (RFL/RL)
The Trump Administration’s Terrorist Label Is Strengthening the IRGC
By: Kayhan Barzegar
The recent White House designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist group is the latest extension of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy toward Iran. Yet this policy, aimed at containing Iran’s regional role and limiting its advanced missile program, has backfired, strengthening the status of the IRGC in Iranian domestic politics and further legitimizing its regional and missile activities in the view of many Iranians.
The result is the opposite of the Trump administration’s announced goal in withdrawing in May 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to reach a “better” nuclear deal. Re-imposed draconian sanctions were meant to challenge the value of the country’s regional policy in domestic politics, weaken Iran’s deterrence strength and push Tehran to accept political and security trends favored by President Donald Trump and his regional allies—Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (The Atlantic Council)