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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of July 13th

“Tell your judges to issue heavier triple-digit sentences and use foul language if they want, but it won’t make a difference because women have decided to rule over their own bodies and men are distancing themselves from your actions, which are an insult to their character.”

- Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, in a letter from prison to the judiciary


TEHRAN ATTACKERS EXECUTED
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

Iran executed eight men convicted of terrorism for conducting attacks in Tehran that killed 17 people (CNN). In June 2017, the attackers mounted simultaneous gun and suicide bomb assaults on the parliament building and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary founder. Of the six attackers who died in the assault, five had previously fought with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to Iranian officials. This incident was the only attack by ISIS on Iranian soil.

A frequent target of hardliners, Iran’s president is benefiting from a sudden surge in support from his former critics (AFP). The change in hardline rhetoric followed hawkish comments by Hassan Rouhani in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Also, thousands of residents in Borazjan, a city in Bushehr province, poured into the streets on Saturday to protest the “shortage” and “chaotic” distribution of water (RFERL). Protesters gathered in the city’s main square, chanting slogans against local authorities.

Why Iran’s water problems aren’t going away anytime soon (Atlantic Council).


SYRIA GAME PLAN
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Ali Akbar Velayati. (Reuters)

Israel’s prime minister met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria (Reuters). Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Putin, “We won’t take action against the Assad regime, and you get the Iranians out,” according to an anonymous official. On the same day, a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader arrived in Moscow to deliver a message. The following day, Ali Akbar Velayati met with President Putin and delivered the message from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani (Al-Monitor). It’s unclear what the message said, but Velayati disclosed that a Russian oil company recently signed a $4 billion contract with Tehran, and that Russian Rosneft and Gazprom are also discussing a $10 billion contract. He added that Moscow is ready to invest $50 billion in Tehran’s gas and oil sector to “replace the companies who have left Iran.” Velayati called the meeting “clear, constructive, and friendly.”

While Velayati visited Moscow, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry asked Russia to arrest and extradite him, citing the envoys alleged role in a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people (RFERL). Velayati was foreign minister when a bomb destroyed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association headquarters, a Jewish center. Velayati is said to be one of the “ideological masterminds behind the attack,” which targeted Argentina's Jewish population. The attack was the largest in Argentina’s history.

A senior U.S. lawmaker warned Israel against making a deal with Russia on the future of Syria (Times of Israel). Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted, “To our friends in Israel—be very careful making agreements with Russia [regarding] Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of state told a UAE-based newspaper that the financial resources for curbing the IRGC—and specifically Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani—need to be increased (The National).

Mike Pompeo also accused Iran of using its embassies to plot terror attacks in Europe (AP). Pompeo told Sky News Arabia during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, “Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France.”

Two Iranian embassy staff members were expelled from the Netherlands (RFERL). The two diplomats were removed from the country long before the arrests of six people—including a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat caught in Germany—on suspicion of involvement in an alleged plot to attack a Paris rally hosted by an extreme opposition group. The Dutch intelligence service did not provide further details, though some believe the expulsions are tied to recent news that Iranian intelligence had murdered an Iranian terror suspect in 2015 living under an alias in the Netherlands.

Tehran protested against the ejections and threatened to retaliate after the “unfriendly and destructive move” (AFP).

Was the Paris rally bomb plot an Iranian terror plot or a false flag operation? (NBC News)


NO LUCK
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal

World powers and Iran made no breakthroughs in talks to provide Tehran with an economic package to compensate for U.S. sanctions (Reuters). Foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia met their Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, for the first time since the United States left the nuclear agreement, but diplomats expressed little hope for salvaging the accord.

German authorities are considering a request by Tehran to withdraw €300 million from bank accounts held in Germany (Reuters). According to German newspaper Bild, Tehran wants to withdraw the funds from the Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank because it is concerned about running out of cash when U.S. sanctions take effect. U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies fear the money could be used to fund armed groups in the Middle East, but German government officials said they found no evidence for such plans. The U.S. ambassador to Germany stepped in to urge the country to stop Tehran’s withdrawals (Reuters).

Iran’s vice president acknowledged that U.S. sanctions would hurt the economy, but promised to “sell as much oil” as possible, and vowed to protect the country’s banking system (Reuters).

France’s Total leaves Iran after failing to obtain U.S. sanctions waiver (Mehr News Agency).

France’s CMA CGM, one of the world’s biggest cargo shipping companies, announced that it will pull out of Iran (Reuters).

A Chinese refiner has suspended crude oil purchases from the U.S, and has turned to Iran as a source for crude (Oil Price).

Dutch airline KLM suspending flights to Tehran due to “negative results and financial outlook. (RFERL)

Austrian Airlines announced that it would no longer be flying to the Iranian cities of Esfahan and Shiraz (Tasnim News Agency).

Congress is seeking to use U.S.-funded, Persian-language news programs to advance American interests, opening a new front in the Trump administration’s confrontation with Tehran (Al-Monitor).


DANCE YOUR HEART OUT
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights
Maedeh Hojabri. (Twitter)

Iran arrested a number of people due to the content in their Instagram videos, including a young woman who filmed herself dancing (The Guardian). Maedeh Hojabri, a 18-year-old Instagram user with over 600,000 followers, was arrested. Her account has been suspended. After Hojabri was taken by the authorities, state television aired a forced confession of a distraught young woman with her face blurred, crying while describing her motivation for producing the videos. The woman, who many believe is Hojabri, said that she did not do it for attention and was not trying to encourage others to do the same. The videos of Hojabri are of her dancing to Western pop and rap music without hijab in her bedroom. Shabooneh, an Iranian news website, reported that Hojabri and three other individuals were released on bail. One of the fellow Instagram users that was arrested, now in Canada where her family resides, posted a video on social media saying that everyone has been released and is doing well (Twitter). Western-based human rights groups condemned the arrests.

Many Iranians have posted videos of themselves dancing in solidarity, while thousands more have posted pictures of Hojabri and supportive messages on their social media accounts (New York Times).

In the wake of Hojabri’s forced confession, Western-based Iranian activists signed a letter urging the U.S. secretary of state to impose sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (Radio Farda).

What the arrest of an 18-year-old Instagram star says about Iran’s backward leaders (Washington Post).


Meanwhile, a woman who took off her headscarf to protest mandatory hijab has fled Iran (RFERL). Shaparak Shajarizadeh was abroad when she learned of being sentenced to two years in prison in addition to an 18-year suspended sentence. Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who represented Shajarizadeh and other women arrested for protesting mandatory hijab, was arrested last month.

The Trump administration is exploiting Iran’s burgeoning feminist movement (New Yorker).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Execution shows Iran’s blatant disregard for children’s rights.
Kurdish death row prisoner repeatedly led to believe execution would be carried out.
Family of jailed activist Ramin Hossein Panahi concerned he will be killed in prison.
Detained Azeri rights activists badly injured during interrogations
Rights attorney summoned after signing letter criticizing judiciary.
Iranian man flogged 80 times for drinking alcohol as a child.
British foreign secretary’s resignation complicated the Nazanin's imprisonment.
Baha’i students’ constructive struggle in Iran.
Amnesty calls on Iran to ensure right to safe drinking water.


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Long-jailed former deputy prime minister dies at 86.  
Disillusioned regime insider calls on Khamenei to step down
IRGC-linked corruption cases at Tehran municipality
Why only Khamenei can break deadlock over global watchdog blacklist.
Iran moves closer to reinstating Zoroastrian city councilor
IRGC-linked corruption cases at Tehran municipality
Many reportedly killed in fiery truck-bus crash in Kurdistan province
Should hijab laws apply to tourists? Iranian clergy debates
53 and counting! Heat Wave breaks records in Iran.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
North Korea reportedly asked Israel for $1 billion in cash to halt missile sale to Iran.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
Why Iran’s president won’t close strategic Strait of Hormuz.
+ Turkey’s Erdogan told U.S. senators sanctions on Iran wrong.
+ If U.S. gets its way with Iran, oil could spike to $120, says Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


ECONOMY + TRADE
The Mad Rush to Buy iPhone X in Tehran.

OTHER
Plane built to rescue Iran hostages goes to New York museum.

EVENTS
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