Iran Digest Week of July 19 - July 26

Iran Digest Week of July 19 -July 26

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 Communications Associate Zaynab Siddiqui. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.  

US-Iran Relations

U.S. Aims a Megaphone at Iranian Public as Part of Pressure Campaign

The Trump administration is trying to win over the Iranian public with an information campaign blaming the country’s economic hardship on its leaders and discrediting those who oppose the White House’s policies.

The information efforts are a less-discussed aspect of the pressure being applied to Iran since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed harsh sanctions in an effort to secure a more-encompassing accord that curbs Tehran’s nuclear program and its alleged regional aggression. (WSJ)

Iran says 17 alleged CIA spies arrested and sentenced, though Trump denies claim

Iran claimed Monday it had arrested 17 Iranian nationals allegedly recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on the country's nuclear and military sites and that some have already been sentenced to death. In a Monday morning tweet, President Trump called the report of the arrests "totally false."

The alleged arrests took place in the Iranian calendar year ending in March 2019. Those taken into custody worked on "sensitive sites" in the country's military and nuclear facilities, an Iranian intelligence official told a news conference in Tehran. (CBS)

Suggesting a Tanker Swap, Iran Hints at a Compromise

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran suggested Wednesday that his country might release a British-flagged tanker in exchange for the return of an Iranian ship seized by the British military off the coast of Gibraltar.

Iranian officials had previously implied such an offer might be forthcoming, describing the capture of the British tanker as “retaliation” for the British having impounded the Iranian vessel earlier this month. Britain has already said the Gibraltar court system controls the fate of the Iranian tanker.

Still, Mr. Rouhani’s explicit extension of the offer on Wednesday may have been a gesture toward reducing the escalating tensions between Iran and the West. (NYT)

Nuclear Accord

Iran Test Fires Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile earlier this week that traveled 1,000 kilometers, CNN reported citing an unnamed U.S. official, the latest move escalating tensions around one of the world’s most important shipping- and air-traffic corridors.

The Shabaab-3 missile didn’t pose a threat to shipping or U.S. bases in the region, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr tweeted, citing the official. The U.S. was aware of reports of a projectile launched from Iran, a senior Trump administration official told Bloomberg News, declining further comment.

The move comes amid rising tensions with Iran after attacks on tankers and drones prompted the U.S. to call for a coalition of allies to protect ships passing through the Persian Gulf. President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and tightened sanctions on Tehran in a bid to force negotiations on what he says would be a stronger accord. (Bloomberg)

The U.S. 'Shot Itself in the Foot' by Pulling Out of the Nuclear Deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Says

The U.S. “shot itself in the foot” by pulling out of the nuclear accord with Iran, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, offering a grim outlook for the chance of opening talks with President Donald Trump.

Zarif, in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television, also accused European countries that are part of the agreement of failing to carry out their own commitments under the 2015 deal and after the U.S. withdrawal. He said promises to allow Iran to sell oil and repatriate money have failed to materialize. (Time)

Women of Iran 

British-Iranian aid worker moved back to Iranian prison after 'torture' in hospital ward

British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been transferred back to an Iranian prison from a hospital psychiatric ward, her husband said in a statement.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sent back to Evin Prison in Tehran on Monday, according to a statement released by the "Free Nazanin" campaign group run by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and seen by Reuters news agency.

She had been moved to the psychiatric ward of Tehran's Imam Khomeini hospital on 15 July.

According to the statement, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was discharged from the hospital at her and the hospital doctor's request, after undergoing what she described as "proper torture". (MEE)

Inside Iran

Harsh Sentence For Suspicious Killing Of A Political Prisoner In Iran

The murderer of a political prisoner has been sentenced to Qisas (an eye for an eye or retribution in-kind, according to Sharia law), the spokesman of the Islamic Republic's Judiciary announced.

Alireza Shir-Mohammad-Ali, 21, was stabbed to death on June 10, 2019, in the capital city's infamous prison, the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary (GTCP) aka Fashafouyeh.

The young political prisoner was stabbed more than thirty times in a premeditated plan by Hamidreza Shoja'ii Zavareh as the mastermind and an accomplice, while he had protested for being kept next to criminals charged with murder, rape, and burglary. (Radio Farda)

Regional Politics

A Brazilian Court Has Ordered Petrobras To Refuel Iranian Ships

A Brazilian court has ordered Petrobras to refuel two Iranian ships that have been unable to leave the port of Paranagua for the past 50 days.

The ruling was presented by the president of the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil, Dias Toffoli, on July 24.

The Brazilian state-owned oil company has been refusing to refuel the Iranian vessels for several weeks due to the implications of U.S. sanctions that could expose it to penalties.

The two vessels, named Bavand and Termeh, were carrying 110,000 tons of maize to Iran. Iran is a major buyer of Brazilian corn, with $1.09 billion exported to Iran out of the $3.91 billion exported in total. (Radio Farda)

AIC News

Dr. Amirahmadi named Rutgers University Distinguished Service Professor

Bloustein School professor Hooshang Amirahmadi, acclaimed for his contributions to improving United States-Iran relations through promoting world peace and humanistic studies, was named a Distinguished Service Professor by the Rutgers University Board of Governors on July 23.

Dr. Amirahmadi, who holds a Ph.D. in planning and international development from Cornell University, is the founder of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis, where he served as director for many years, and founder of the American Iranian Council, a nonprofit research organization devoted to improving dialogue and understanding between the peoples of Iran and the United States.

He is the former director of the University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, served as chair and graduate director of his department at the Bloustein School, and was a candidate for President in the ninth presidential elections in Iran in June 2005. Dr. Amirahmadi is also the president of Caspian Associates, Inc., an international strategic consulting firm headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey.  (Rutgers)


Iran is running out of incentives to listen to the west

By: David Gardner

The current crisis in the Gulf, ratcheted up by Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker, is palpably explosive. But it began more than a year ago when Donald Trump, behaving more like the leader of a rogue power than the US, unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal. That act of vandalism sabotaged a functioning international diplomatic achievement. The Islamic Republic was always going to reply with its own variety of pyromania — and it will continue to do so.

What Tehran is doing is extremely dangerous but, if war is to be avoided, it is important to understand Iran’s logic. It came to the negotiating table not just because international sanctions were damaging its economy but because the US, under Barack Obama, took regime change off the table.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with the US and five other world powers in 2015, it mothballed most of its nuclear programme, opening it to verifiable monitoring, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

With Mr Trump, regime change is back on the table, advocated by reckless extremists such as John Bolton, his national security adviser. And what Washington describes as the most draconian sanctions ever have been imposed, with the explicit aim of strangling Iran’s economy by stopping it from exporting oil. (FT)