A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of April 28th

“The candidates should promise to focus on national capabilities and domestic capacities to resolve the economic issues ... rather than looking abroad. We should bring manufacturing enterprises back to production ... and for this we do not need to look to foreigners.”

  - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
during a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors of Muslim countries


Presidential candidates Ebrahim Raisi and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf are focusing on Rouhani’s weak point: the economy (Al-Monitor). Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf promised to create five million new jobs, increase incomes by 2.5 times, and pay 2.5 million rials ($77) a month to unemployed Iranians. Raisi alluded to solving the unemployment crisis and creating 1.5 million jobs every year. In addition, he said he would triple the 455,000 rials ($14) monthly cash subsidy payments. 

Rouhani kicked off his campaign by saying, “In the coming election, the issue is not all about electing a person for the presidency; the issue is that of whether we want to continue down the path of freedom of speech or not.” He added, “In the coming election, the main issue is whether we want to begin confrontation with the world and bring back the ominous shadow of war to the country or whether we want to continue engaging in honorable interaction with the world.”

Iran will air live presidential debates, after all (AFP). The first debate will be held on Friday, April 28 at 1130 GMT.

Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi is increasingly leaning on officials from former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency (Al-Monitor). Thus far, Raisi has picked Ali Nikzad as chief of staff. Nikzad was Ahmadinejad’s minister of transportation and housing, minister of housing and urban development, and acting minister of information and communications technology. Raisi is also surrounding himself with Ahmadinejad-era officials, including former hardliner nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Is Raisi really a threat to Rouhani? (Al-Monitor) The incumbent president’s political experience remains the biggest thorn in the side of his conservative opponents.

According to IranPoll, 62 percent of Iranians have a favorable opinion of Rouhani and 67 percent favor Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Al-Monitor). When it comes to Ebrahim Raisi, 46 percent of Iranians have no opinion of him, while 32 percent have a favorable opinion.

Does the supreme leader really have a preferred candidate? (Al-Monitor)

An IRGC commander publicly criticized Rouhani’s refusal to block Telegram call service before election (CHRI). According to General Hassan Nejat, the president reportedly said, “Why are you opposed to any kind of technology imported from the West? Telegram is a symbol of technology and modernism. We should import it to our country.”

This app lets Iranians swipe past political propaganda (IranWire).

The U.S. is nearly silent on Iran’s presidential election as policy toughens (VOA).

Presidential election breakdown:

April 28: First presidential debate
Now–May 17: Campaigning
May 19: Election
May 26: Second round of election if no candidate secures a majority

 Foreign Policy

A U.S. Navy warship fired a warning flare at an Iranian vessel in the Persian Gulf (AP). Despite the U.S.S. Mahan turning away, an IRGC boat came within 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) from the American ship. Eventually, the vessel left the area. This marks the seventh incident in 2017. Last year, Donald Trump vowed any Iranian ships harassing the U.S. Navy would be “shot out of the water.”

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to the incident on Twitter (See above image).


Iran met with world powers in Vienna for the first time since Trump took office (AFP). The joint commission regularly meets with Tehran to review its adherence to the 2015 nuclear deal. A European diplomat said the meeting was constructive. He added that, “Everyone is in waiting mode, waiting to hear more from Washington and the outcome of the Iranian election.”

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Donald Trump reiterated Tehran had broken the spirit of the Iran Deal (AP). Asked whether Washington would “stay in the nuclear deal,” Trump replied, “It’s possible that we won’t.”

In turns out that Trump intervened to toughen last week’s letter on the Iran Deal (Wall Street Journal). According to White House officials, the initial letter was deemed “too soft” because it ignored Tehran’s activities in the Middle East and support for terror. The episode highlighted divisions between Trump’s hardline position on Tehran and the approach taken by career State Department diplomats and many European allies.

In response, Iran’s foreign minister told reporters at a cabinet session “do not pay much attention to Trump’s words.” (Washington Post)

A recent polls shows that 56 percent of Americans support the nuclear deal, up by seven percent in August 2016 (Morning Consult).

Demonizing and bullying Iran is not likely to be as effective as dialogue and seeking cooperation from them, writes the NYT editorial board (New York Times).

Meanwhile, the Mojahedin-e Khalq claims Tehran is secretly conducting research into nuclear weapon components, such as enriched uranium and bomb triggers (Washington Times). The totalitarian cult of Marxist-Islamist Iranian dissidents says the tests are being conducted at a walled military complex south of Tehran that is off-limits to IAEA inspectors. If true, this can be a violation of the Iran Deal. However, the MEK has made false claims in the past (Read more).


Iran is set to sign a deal with French Total on the South Pars gas field in the coming weeks, according to the country’s Oil Ministry (RT). The news came after Washington halted the implementation of new sanctions on Tehran.

Iran became South Korea’s second largest oil exporter during the first three months of 2017 (Reuters). Seoul’s imports have more than doubled from 597,935 bpd.


Iran’s supreme court rejected British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s bid to appeal her five year jail sentence for unspecified charges related to national security (The Guardian). Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm. She was detained in April 2016 while on a family visit to Iran with her toddler, Gabriella, who remains in Tehran under the care of her grandparents after Iranian authorities seized her British passport. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, claims his wife is being used as a pawn in political dealings with the United Kingdom. For more background, read this gut-wrenching article on a father’s torment (Wall Street Journal).

Richard Ratcliffe urges the UK government to secure his wife’s release from Iran (CHRI).

Meanwhile, a relative of two Iranian-Americans imprisoned in Tehran has asked Donald Trump to “take personal responsibility” for freeing them (Reuters). 46-year-old Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, were sentenced last October to 10-years in prison on charges of spying and “collusion with an enemy state,” (in other words, the United States). Babak Namazi has been seeking the release of his brother and father and believes Tehran is using his family as leverage.

Big news: Capital punishment for drug traffickers will be commuted to a prison sentence of 25 to 30 years (Mehr News Agency).

Nobel Laurate Shirin Ebadi talks about Islamphobia, self-care and hope (The Guardian).

Former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Disqualified and Disgraced" by Touka Neyestani (IranWire).

New York University’s Nahid Siamdoust spoke to The Iranist about her new book, poetic Persian hip-hop, and how musical boundaries are slowly changing in Iran.


+ Narges Mohammadi celebrated her 45th birthday in Evin Prison.

+ Student arrested by intelligence held in solitary confinement without charge.

+ Three young men to serve 12 years in prison for “insulting” social media posts.

+ Journalist Isa Saharkhiz released—then sentenced again.

+ What does the IRGC have against my daughter Atena Daemi?

+ Swedish resident held in Evin Prison for one year denied lawyer for third time.

+ Eight Baha’is arrested without a warrant by Intelligence Ministry and denied legal council.

+ Star soccer player kicked off national women’s team in Iran for not wearing hijab.


+ Female former council member advocates for women candidates in Iran’s local elections.

+ Iran’s other elections: Local council applicants subjected to arbitrary vetting.

Presidential candidate Mostafa Mirsalim says nuclear deal failed to lift sanctions.

+ Why did over 1,600 Iranians sign up to run for president?

+ Former MP says Guardian Council has “no legal authority” to exclude minorities.

+ Upcoming presidential elections is no easy victory for Rouhani.

+ Student groups decry security climate on campus, rising costs and gender segregation.

+ Ali Khamenei: The strategic theocrat (1981-1989).

+ Militants kill 10 Iranian border guards in attack on frontier with Pakistan.

+ Revisiting ‘Foucault in Iran’: A response.

+ TIME’s 100 Most Influential People: Major General Qasem Soleimani.

Iran spares no effort to boost its military power, says defense minister.

+ Tehran firefighters hold memorial for NY fire department’s William Tolley.


+ Is Vladimir Putin interfering in Iran’s presidential elections?

+ Why region should prepare for long Saudi-Iranian confrontation.

+ Syria chemical attack unsettles Iran's chemical weapons survivors.

+ Israel's Netanyahu issues stern warning on Iran in exclusive interview with Fox News.

+ Israeli defense minister: crucial to place more pressure and sanctions on Iran.

+ UAE soldier ‘dies after confrontation with Iranian ship’.


+ Unraveling the Iran deal would be Donald Trump's biggest mistake.

+ Giuliani downplays Iran sanctions case against Turkish businessman.

+ Who stands to lose if U.S. hits Iran with sanctions again

+ UAE hands Iranian 10-year sentence over sanctions breach.

+ Iran and China sign nuclear plant redesign contract.

+ UK bank accounts of Iranian customers still being closed, says law firm.

With sanctions behind, Iran looks ahead.


+ Iran Oil Ministry minimizes risk of new sanctions.

+ Russia wants to make Iran a member of the Asian power bloc, the Shanghai Five.

Troubled Taiwan shipping line cuts Iran service.


+ Iran rescue mission ends in debacle on April 24, 1980.


+ Donald Trump unites Iranian-Americans.

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