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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of January 12th

“The deal is working; it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance. The unity of the international community is essential to preserve a deal that is working, that is making the world safer and that is preventing a potential nuclear arms race in the region. And we expect all parties to continue to fully implement this agreement.”

- EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, on the Iran Deal


MORE ON #IRANPROTESTS
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs
President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran (European Pressphoto Agency)

President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at his hardline opponents, saying the protesters objected not just to the bad economy but also to widespread corruption (New York Times). Rouhani said, “One cannot force one’s lifestyle on the future generations. The problem is that we want two generations after us to live the way we like them to.” In his most extensive comments yet on the protests, the Iranian president said that those people who took to the streets across the country did so because they were seeking a better life. “Some imagine that the people only want money and a good economy, but will someone accept a considerable amount of money per month when for instance the cyber network would be completely blocked?” he asked. “Is freedom and the life of the people purchasable with money? Why do some give the wrong reasons? This is an insult to the people.”

In a series of Twitter posts and statements on his website, the supreme leader called U.S. President Donald Trump “psychotic” and repeated accusations that Washington instigated the protests (New York Times).

Iranian lawmakers held a closed-door session to discuss the deadly protests that hit the country (AFP). MP Mohammad Reza Kachouie said most of those detained were unemployed people “without university degrees.” He added, “The parliament meeting principally looked into the condition of the people, the economic situation and unemployment. The enemy is trying to infiltrate the country by using these issues.” MP Bahram Parsaie said blame should not focus on President Rouhani, but on decades of poor governance. He said, “I hope we face up to reality and take lessons from past mistakes.” Some lawmakers voiced concern over the internet controls put in place during the unrest, including a ban on Iran’s most popular messaging app, Telegram, which officials claims had been used to incite violence. Tehran also tried blocking the internet to stop the protests, but wound up disrupting daily life (Los Angeles Times).

Iranian government supporters continued staging rallies in Iran in a backlash against widespread protests (Reuters).

A former state media game show host is behind the violence in Iran (IranWire). Mohammad Hosseini—an administrator for Amad News that was shut down by Telegram recently—worked with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) as the host of a game show called 'Simorgh' from 1994 to 2010. The managers of Amad News claimed that the person responsible for encouraging violence had been fired. They have since launched a new channel, Sedaye Mardom or "People’s Voice," which has already attracted around 1.2 million subscribers.


Rumor has it that former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was arrested by authorities for allegedly inciting the protests (Times of Israel). The news was first reported by London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, citing “reliable sources in Tehran.” However, Ahmadinejad’s supporters released a photo of him on Telegram allegedly taken in the capital (Twitter).

Karate woman and the boy who’s still alive: Fake images in Iran’s protests (France24).


Here’s a solidarity song for the #IranProtests in Persian (YouTube).

Meanwhile, some media outlets are reporting that the supreme leader banned teaching English in primary schools (Reuters). Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said early learning of the language opened the way to a Western “cultural invasion.” But as many journalists pointed out on social media, the ban was put in effect at least two years ago (Twitter). Similarly, English courses only start in secondary school; no public primary school has ever taught English.

Some good analysis on the protests:
Will Iran’s protests help the hardliners? (New York Times)


Entrenched interests based in Mashhad stand to gain politically from the protests, leaving Rouhani’s administration at a crossroads (Carnegie Endowment).

While much of the anger has been directed at the conservative clerical establishment, reformists have as much at stake as their hardline rivals (Project Syndicate).

Protests in Iran took many by surprise—but not Iranian labor activists (The Intercept).

Until and unless the urban middle classes and the poor join in common cause—as they did in 1979—there will be no revolution (The Atlantic).

Grievance against governance in Iran (LobeLog).

Socioeconomic changes have driven the spread of protests across Iran, particularly to provinces facing greater economic inequality (Carnegie Endowment).

Questioning Iran’s regional ambitions in the wake of the protests (Carnegie Endowment).

Why the Iranian uprising won’t die (Politico).

Iran’s protesters want one thing: accountability (New York Times).

How #IranProtests compare with the 2009 Green Movement (Atlantic Council).


DENYING INVOLVEMENT
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen (Emil Salman)

Mossad’s chief said in a rare public appearance that Israel “has eyes, ears and even more” in Iran (Haaretz). Speaking at a Finance Ministry conference, Yossi Cohen also said that Iranian civilians are protesting Tehran’s current economic woes “because despite high expectations from the popular [President Hassan] Rouhani, he has not managed in the eyes of a large part of the population to improve the economic situation.”

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency denied his agency had any role in fomenting the recent anti-government protests in Iran (Al-Araby). Mike Pompeo told Fox News that economic conditions in Iran are not good and “that’s what caused the people to take to the streets.” Pompeo blamed what he called Tehran’s “backward-looking” government for turning a deaf ear to the voices of the people.

Iran’s foreign minister warned neighboring countries over fomenting insecurity in Iran in a reference to anti-government protests (AP). The remarks by Mohammad Javad Zarif at a security conference in Tehran echoed the Iranian authorities’ stance, which alleges that foreign powers—including regional rival Saudi Arabia—stirred up unrest linked to the protests.

Protests threaten Iran’s ascendant role in the Middle East (Washington Post).

Meanwhile, an Iranian oil tanker caught fire after colliding with a Chinese freight ship (BBC). The Sanchi, run by Tehran’s top oil shipping operator, collided with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles (260 km) off the coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta. No large oil spill has been detected so far from a tanker that has been burning since Saturday. The tanker’s 32 crew members are missing. Twenty-one Chinese nationals on the cargo ship were rescued. Rescue boats resumed their search in choppy waters of the East China Sea on Thursday for any survivors (Reuters).


Vice President Mike Pence’s comment that Obama repeatedly failed to express America’s solidarity with the Iranian protesters in 2009 is false (Factcheck.org).


WILL TRUMP RENEW?
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (Getty Images)

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned Iran that no government can legitimately deny human rights, adding that the regime is “now on notice” (CNN). Nikki Haley’s comments come at a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting that centered on Iran after Washington requested an emergency session amid protests in the country. Although most nations echoed Haley’s support for human rights and free speech, some also voiced concern that the UNSC was not the appropriate venue to discuss protests in Iran. While most envoys criticized the violence and called on Iran’s government to show restraint, several also used the opportunity to defend the Iran Deal (Bloomberg).

The Trump administration is planning to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), as part of measures to punish those involved in the crackdown of protesters (The Guardian). The state-run organization whose head is directly appointed by the supreme leader has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2013, but both Barack Obama and Donald Trump have signed presidential waivers every 180 days to prevent them coming into force. The Trump administration is expected to decide on Friday whether to continue waiving U.S. penalties on Iran, as agreed under the Iran Deal (Reuters). President Trump had vowed to rip up the agreement during his election campaign and has repeatedly referred to it as “the worst deal ever,” accusing Iran of violating the "spirit" of the pact. He must sign a series of waivers every few months to maintain the suspension of sanctions on Iran, in order to keep the deal fully intact.

Europe urged Trump to honor the nuclear deal (Washington Post). European diplomats offered Iran’s foreign minister renewed support for the landmark deal, but they also questioned Mohammad Javad Zarif over contentious matters such as Iran’s missile program and its role in Syria’s war as a key ally of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Dozens of British MPs are backing a motion to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization over its suppression of protesters and support for militants (Telegraph).

An Iranian Nobel Peace laureate urged the international community to support protesters with political sanctions, not economic measures that could hit the general population (Reuters).

To help Iranian protesters, keep the nuclear agreement intact (Brookings Institute).

The New York Times Editorial Board argues how the unrest shows the nuclear deal’s value, not its danger (New York Times).

Is Trump stuck with an Iran deal he loathes? (Politico)

How Trump could use the Iran protests to kill the nuclear agreement (The Nation).


SOME 3,700 ARRESTED
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights
Relatives outside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison (CHRI)

Iranian security forces arrested some 3,700 people during widespread protests over the past two weeks (AP). Human rights activists outside of Iran told The Associated Press that they weren’t surprised by the figure as authorities also allegedly carried out so-called “preventative arrests” of students not involved in the protests. Iranians on Twitter condemned authorities’ use of such tactics, using the hashtag #بازداشت_پیشگیرانه or “preventive arrest,” insisting that the practice is illegal under Iranian law (IranWire).

More than 40 university students, mostly activists, were arrested during the protests (CHRI). Some of the detainees are being held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209, which is controlled by the Intelligence Ministry. The detainees’ relatives were threatened with arrests for talking to the media. Tehran University is working to track and secure the release of its students who were arrested (CNN).

Similarly, a top reformist lawmaker has pledged to investigate the arrests of the university students (CHRI). MP Parvaneh Salahshouri, the leader of the women’s faction in Parliament, told state media, “According to a list that was given to me, about 90 students have been arrested throughout the country in the past few days.” Adding that, “We will officially discuss this matter among a few MPs and seek answers from the relevant authorities.”


The families of several members of a Muslim Sufi order known as the Gonabadi Dervishes are still seeking answers to the whereabouts of their loved ones (CHRI).

More than 100 family members and friends of those who have been detained gathered outside Evin Prison (New York Times).

A 23-year-old protester died while in custody at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison (RFERL). The head of the prison authority in Tehran Province said that Sina Ghanbari had hanged himself in a prison lavatory. At least 22 other deaths have been reported in connection with the December-January protests, but Ghanbari’s is the first report of a death in custody. A prominent human rights lawyer said that at least two other unidentified protesters had died in the jail (The Guardian).

A second protester, identified as a drug dealer, was also said to have committed suicide (IHR). Vahid Heidari’s family says he was a vendor from Arak and that he was “protesting over the high cost of living.”

Without the safety valve of civil society and organized peaceful channels, it is not surprising that many people took to the streets (Carnegie Endowment).

Meanwhile, Iranian human rights organizations filed a motion in Germany against Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi for crimes against humanity (CHRI). Shahroudi, the former head of the Judiciary from 1999 and 2009, was responsible for the Islamic revolutionary courts that sent numerous human rights activists, defense lawyers, journalists, bloggers, political dissidents, and religious minorities, to Iran’s prisons where they were subject to torture, rape, and murder. He was in the German city of Hannover for medical treatment for a week, and left yesterday (Twitter).

Also, the lives of more than 5,000 prisoners on death row could be spared as a change in the law abolishes capital punishment for some drug-trafficking offences (The Guardian).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
+ Two prisoners executed in northern Iran on murder charges.
+ 100 Christians waiting to enter U.S. could be sent back to Iran this week.
+ New report details growing ability for Iran to block, censor and monitor the internet.
+ Johnson to raise Zaghari-Ratcliffe's plight with Iranian counterpart.

DOMESTIC ISSUES
+ Leaked video shows supreme leader doubted his legitimacy.
+ Iran’s conservative-dominated judiciary under attack—from conservatives
+ Tehran reopens investigation into Rafsanjani death
+ Report: Voter behavior and political mobilization in Iran.
+ Sugar cane factory workers launch collective strike.  
+ How to deal with Islamist hackers
+ Report: Voter behavior and political mobilization in Iran.

+ These young women are raising awareness about sexual health in Iran.
+
A series of eight earthquakes hit the Iran-Iraq border area and rattled Baghdad.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
+ Iran-Hamas reconciliation in the works, Amit Center says.
+ Germany orders Iran: Stop spying on Israel.
+ A virtuous rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia?  
+ Confronting Iran takes a back seat to Sunni bickering.
+ A history of support for Kurdish extremists comes back to haunt Tehran.
+ Iran’s Afghan allies demand recognition.
+ Sanctions, refugees and the marginalized: Iran uprisings are Australia's concern too.
+ Iranian-Canadians rally to condemn violence, but clash over sanctions.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
+ Erdogan calls U.S. Iran-sanctions case 'political coup attempt' against him

ECONOMY + TRADE
+ OPEC won't react to small, short-lived oil supply disruptions like Iran protests.
+ Iranians are 15 percent poorer than a decade ago.
+ Looming disaster for pension funds in Iran
+ Rouhani’s bad news budget.

OTHER
+ The Iranian entrepreneur tackling Silicon Valley’s diversity problem.  
+ Demonstrators flood Westwood to back anti-regime protests in Iran.

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