A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of December 1st

“If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000 kilometers, it’s not due to lack of technology. . . We are following a strategic doctrine. So far we have felt that Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles.”

- Brigadier General Hossein Salami, in a state media interview

Why are Iran’s hardliners threatening Europe? (Cipher Brief)

 Domestic Affairs

President Hassan Rouhani marked his first 100 days in office by outlining his government’s performance in a televised speech (Financial Tribune). While much of his focus was on the economy, Rouhani noted that he remembered all his campaign promises to the people. “In certain areas we need the participation of all branches of the government, but I will certainly pursue all the people’s demands.”

After criticizing the judiciary, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appealed to the supreme leader (Radio Farda). In an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad criticized the inefficiency of the three branches of government, particularly the judiciary. A
ccording to Ahmadinejad, the judiciary is illegally using its power in favor of its own political and personal interests, and has eliminated any hope of the justice system being reformed. Ahmadinejad is zeroing in on the famed Larijani family, five brothers occupying key posts within the Iran establishment. Weeks before, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a Tehran mosque criticizing the overreach of the Larijani brothers. “I swear to God and the Prophet that we are against the Larijani family,” said Ahmadinejad, referring to Chief Justice Sadegh Larijani and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. “Is opposition a crime? We don’t want the country to fall into their hands. As soon as we criticize them, they say you were insulting and press new charges.” ​So far, Khamenei has remained silent on the ongoing conflict between Ahmadinejad and the Larijani brothers.

Ahmadinejad-related websites and online searches were censored in Iran after his fiery speech (CHRI). Websites affiliated with the former president were blocked in Iran, and searches for the word Ahmadinejad” on Aparat, the state-approved version of YouTube, came up empty. Ahmadinejad fell out of favor with Iran’s ruling elite during his second term for promoting his own version of Iranian nationalism and publicly criticizing powerful politicians. Earlier this year, he was disqualified from running for president in the May election.

The supreme leader has an Ahmadinejad problem, and it may reach a point where the only option is house arrest (IranWire).

Meanwhile, the death toll in the Kermanshah earthquake has risen to 483 (AFP). The increase came after some people died from their injuries, and after authorities identified a number of bodies that were buried in haste.

The earthquake response shows Iranians’ nationalism—and mistrust of authorities (Al-Monitor).

 Foreign Policy
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince called the supreme leader “the new Hitler of the Middle East” (Reuters). “We learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” Mohammed Bin Salman said in a New York Times interview, referring to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Tehran fired back at the crown prince, calling his remarks and behavior “immature, inconsiderate, and baseless” (BBC). Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi added, “I strongly advise him to think and ponder upon the fate of the famous dictators of the region in the past few years now that he is thinking of considering their policies and behavior as a role model. Qasemi also blamed Washington for the atrocities in Yemen through its support for Riyadh (RFERL).

Saudi Arabia hosted the first Muslim anti-terrorism summit, but did not invite Iran (France24).

In an interview with state television, President Rouhani said Saudi Arabia fomented tensions with Tehran to cover its own problems (Al Jazeera).

A Lebanese Druze leader called on Riyadh to have a dialogue with Tehran to reduce regional tensions (Al Jazeera). Walid Jumblatt tweeted, “A settlement at minimum with the Islamic Republic [of Iran] gives us in Lebanon more strength and determination to cooperate to enforce the policy of disassociation.” He added that the modernization of Saudi Arabia could not be successful as long as the war in Yemen continues. The Druze are a minority religious sect present in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and Syria.

During a forum in Washington, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said both Israel and Egypt pushed the Obama administration to “bomb Iran” before the nuclear deal was struck (AP).

Some good reads:

Thamer al-Sabhan has a hand in helping shape the kingdom’s high-stakes gambles to counter rival Iran (AP).

Riyadh’s divide-and-rule strategy has yielded few successes, and it hasn’t made a dent in Iran’s regional influence (The Nation).

Long divided, Iranians unite against Trump and Saudis in a nationalist fervor (New York Times).

A great follow-up piece to NYT: What U.S. enmity has wrought in Iran (LobeLog).

Is Trump going to lie our way into war with Iran? (New York Times) 

 Iran Deal

Senior officials say the White House plans to oust U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (New York Times). U.S. President Donald Trump and Tillerson have been at odds over a number of major issues, including the Iran Deal and North Korea. Tillerson is reportedly being replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a known Iran hawk, and Pompeo is to be replaced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a junior senator who has vehemently opposed the nuclear deal with Tehran. Cotton believes the U.S. policy on Iran should be regime change (LobeLog).

Cotton, Pompeo and Trump are a recipe for war with Iran (HuffPost).

A wealthy Turkish-Iranian businessman pleaded guilty to helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions (New York Times). Reza Zarrab will take the witness stand to detail a conspiracy that was “so large that it was protected by government ministers in Turkey and Iran,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton. Zarrab will reportedly reveal how he and Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla laundered Iranian oil and gas revenues through the U.S. banking system while bribing high-level officials to cover up the scheme.

Turkey’s president said his country did not violate U.S. sanctions against Iran (Reuters). President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told CNN Turk that Ankara “did the right thing” regardless of the outcome of the ongoing case in the United States.

Europeans descend on Washington to defend the Iran Deal (CNN).

Iran’s “behavior” isn’t threatening Americans. Don’t use that pretext to scrap the nuclear deal. (Washington Post).


Thailand’s coach donned a headscarf to sneak into women’s kabaddi games (AFP). The Iranian Federation of Kabaddi slammed the Thai coach after pictures of the unnamed man circulated on social media, showing him wearing a makeshift headscarf in a Gorgan stadium, in northern Iran. The Iranian federation said in a statement that the incident was “unjustifiable” and that the coach had “violated the rules of host country.” Rumors spread on social media that the coach had been instructed to wear a headscarf, but this was denied by the spokesman for the federation.

An Iranian wrestler was told to deliberately lose a match to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in the next round (New York Times). In a viral video, one minute before the final round in the U23 World Championship in Poland, Alireza Karimi-Machiani is seen being told by his coaches to throw the match against a Russian wrestler. Iran does not recognize Israel, and has a policy of avoiding Israelis in competitions at the expense of its own athletes. After his defeat, Karimi-Machiani posted a video on Instagram of him walking through Poland and listening to depressing song: “Silence is the last stronghold; you cannot take away our right.” More than 6,000 comments appeared on the post. Most were sympathetic, while some criticized him for not challenging his coaches and winning the match. In an interview with state media, Karimi-Machiani confirmed he was told to avoid the Israeli wrestler. “I do accept that Israel is an oppressor and commits crimes,” Karimi-Machiani said. “But would it not be oppression if our authorities undermine my hard work again?”

Iran’s Football Federation placed tighter restrictions on photography and video during international women’s futsal games (IranWire).

 Human Rights

A British mother imprisoned in Iran may receive early release, depending on what her health assessment says (The Guardian). Authorities conducted a health assessment to determine whether British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was fit to remain in prison. It is possible she could be released from jail, but not allowed to leave Tehran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family say she suffers from uncontrollable panic attacks, insomnia, bouts of severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Actress Emma Thompson led a protest in London in support of Zaghari-Ratcliffe (CNN). Protesters, including mothers carrying babies, chanted, “Free Nazanin now!” They also collected donations for those affected by the deadly earthquake in the Kermanshah province.

The British actress spoke to the dual national by phone and showed her support (Sky News).

State television aired a smear campaign against imprisoned American and British nationals accused of espionage (Washington Post). American Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang is shown in a video appearing to sign a confession, interspersed with footage of the CIA seal and students strolling across Princeton’s campus with ominous music playing in the background. In his English-language comments, Wang acknowledged nothing more incriminating than looking at historical archives of the Qajar era and talking to a U.S. diplomat about educational programs abroad. A separate video features Zaghari-Ratcliffe and showed “proof” that she was training journalists and “opposition cyber teams” to establish a spy network.

The wife of the American graduate student pleaded in a news interview for the Trump administration to do more to secure his release (NBC News).

For westerners imprisoned in Iran, new signs of a deal (New York Times).

+ Rajaee Shahr prisoners slapped with new charges for engaging in peaceful protest.

+ Asylum seeker claims he was forced to meet Iranian diplomat to discuss return.
+ Iran’s child soldiers in Syria.
+ Saudi reforms put spotlight on Iran’s women’s movement.

+ Prosecutor gets two years for being 'accessory to murder' of protesters.
+ Parliament should pass pending disability rights bill.
+ Parliament is weighing new law to deal with child abuse crisis.
+ Rising HIV infections spreading by sex among youth in Iran.
+ Iranian life expectancy exceeds 75.
+ Long road ahead for Iran’s medicinal plants industry.
+ The fog of app wars in Iran.
+ Iran developed nuclear-powered submarines.

+ Why an expert thinks we’re as close to war with Iran as we’ve been in 25 years.
+ Trump Administration plays media like fiddle on HBO hacking story.
+ Iran extends Islamic volunteer force to region, commander says.
+ Le Figaro reported that Iran hacked Lebanese PM, President’s private servers.
+ Rouhani says Sochi summit ‘right step, at right time’ for Syria.
+ Afghan official thanks Iran-trained Afghan ‘warriors’ for Syrian ‘victory’.


+ Oil sleeps through Saudi-Iran spat and imminent OPEC meeting.
+ Big gas exporters blast unilateral U.S. sanctions.
+ U.S. companies are the biggest losers from sanctions, Iran’s energy minister says.
+ Imprudent foreign financing could jeopardize Iran’s economy.
+ Iran’s Cyberspace Authority says it welcomes Bitcoin, if regulated.

+ Shahrokh Hatami's Beatles photographs from 1963.

+ Soccer politics reaches fever pitch in Iran
+ Ali Karimi, the Robin Hood of Iranian Football.

+ Iranian-American man shot dead by police was unarmed, family says.

+ With killing of Iranian-American, Iran turns tables on U.S.
+ Real-life 'Corpse Bride': Extreme plastic surgery or scary prosthetics?

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