A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of September 16th

"And, by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."

                                                          – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump,                                                               during a speech (Washington Post)


   Read why Iran matters to the next president (AP).

 Domestic Politics

Iran has commenced work on a second nuclear power plant with the help of Russia in the southern port city of Bushehr (Wall Street Journal). The $10 billion project is expected to take 10 years and is in accordance with last year’s landmark nuclear deal. Iran’s sole operational nuclear reactor, also built in Bushehr with Russian scientists, went online in 2011. The countries have agreed to cooperate on future projects.

Per the Iran Deal, the second Bushehr plant isn’t viewed as a proliferation risk since Moscow supplies the fuel for the reactor and takes away spent fuel that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.

 Foreign Policy

After Friday prayers, thousands of Iranians marched in the streets of Tehran to protest Saudi Arabia before the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (AP). As part of the five pillars of Islam, all able-bodied Muslims are required to make the pilgrimage once in their life. Iranians didn’t participate this year due to Saudi Arabia’s handling of the 2015 Hajj stampede that killed over 2,000 pilgrims in Mina, including 472 Iranians.

There have been reports that Iran endorsed an alternative pilgrimage this year since Iranians were barred from preforming the Hajj in Mecca. However, the Iranian Interests Section in Cairo denies claims that the supreme leader issued an edict for Iranians to perform Hajj in Karbala (Tehran Times).

Saudi Arabia has launched a Persian language satellite television channel that broadcasts the Hajj (AP).

The Mecca province governor urged Iran to end wrong attitudes toward fellow Muslims in the Arab World and warned against using force in its rivalry with the kingdom (Reuters). Prince Khaled al-Faisal said, “If they are preparing an army to invade us, we are not easily taken by someone who would make war on us.” No top Iranian officials have called for war with Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif penned an op-ed about riding the world of Wahhabism (New York Times).

Despite tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, some believe rapprochement is still a possibility (Al-Monitor).

Qatar's emir called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to offer eid greetings for the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha (RFERL). He also urged Gulf Arab states and Tehran to settle their issues through “dialogue.”

Interestingly, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) called for Iran to strengthen ties with Gulf states and avoid confrontation with Saudi Arabia (Al-Monitor). Major General Yayha Rahim Safavi, who is also a special military advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said, “Either way, in this realm, my recommendation is that we have to improve our relations with Oman, Kuwait and even Qatar. And in our relations with Saudi Arabia, we have to act cautiously. In no way must we move toward the conflict [with the] Saudis.”

Saudi scholar Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni revealed that an Iranian student was behind the assassination attempt on his life in the Philippines last March (Asharq Al-Awsat).

In case you’re wondering, here are five reasons Iranians hate Saudi rulers (Mehr News Agency).

 Iran Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif will meet his P5+1 counterparts on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly to discuss "some differences" over the implementation of the Iran Deal (AP). The September 22nd meeting will be the first between Iran and world powers since the deal went into effect in January. Much of the conversation will be about banking sanctions, which Tehran says haven't entirely been lifted.

Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 21-16 for a ban on future so-called 'ransom' payments to Iran (Bloomberg). The House of Representatives may vote on this measure later this month.The money was part of a decades-old dispute over an undelivered military sale that was withheld due to the 1979 revolution.

Also, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) demands documents from White House proving Iran money wasn't 'ransom' (Fox News).

If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, she should keep John Kerry as her special envoy to Iran (National Interest).


 Trade + Economy

Saudi Arabia and Iran are boosting oil production ahead of an OPEC meeting in Algeria where members are expected to discuss an oil output freeze (CNN). Tehran has reiterated that it needs to reach pre-sanctions level of at least 4 million bpd before it discusses a production freeze.

Interestingly, Iran’s oil output growth has stagnated during the past three months, according to new data (Reuters). Tehran’s production reached 3.64 million bpd in June, but stagnated at 3.63 bpd in August.

Read about Tehran’s new contracting model, the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), that aims to lure big oil companies (Bloomberg).

 Human Rights

A British-Iranian mother was sentenced to five years in prison (The Guardian). Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works as project coordinator for the charitable arm of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced on secret charges. The IRGC accused Zaghari-Ratcliffe of plotting to topple the Iranian government. “She headed one of the main obstinate networks that have continued their criminal activities during the past few years, under the guidance and support of media and foreign government spy services,” said the IRGC. The sentence came 24 hours after London and Tehran established full diplomatic relations for the first time since 2011.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport in April after arriving to spend a holiday with family. Her 22-month old daughter, Gabriella, was with her. The toddler is currently staying with her grandparents in Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband writes that the British government must act now to free Nazanin (The Guardian).

Iran ranks 14th in the world for medal count at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro (Paralympics). The Iranian Paralympic team bagged 18 medals so far: six gold, six silver, and six bronze.

Heavyweight powerlifter Siamand Rahman is the world's strongest Paralympian, lifting a total of 310kg (Euro News). He broke his own world record for the third time.
Iran's volleyball player Morteza Mehrzadselakjani is the tallest Paralympian in history at 8ft 1in (2.46m) tall (Washington Post).
Watch blind Iranian footballer Behzad Zadaliasghar channel Leonel Messi when making a goal (Metro).

Iran’s Paralympic team wasn’t without controversy. During the opening ceremony at Rio, Iranians on social media noted that the Paralympic team name and flag-bearer’s dress was a subtle dig at Saudi Arabia (BBC News). Tehran named its Rio Paralympic team "Mina" in honor of those who died during the 2015 Hajj stampede. The team’s female flag-bearer wore an all-white costume, similar to the ihram, an item of clothing worn by many female Hajj pilgrims.

'Eaten Fish' is a 25-year-old Iranian cartoonist detained on Australia’s Manus Island (The Conversation). Ali's ink drawings, sketched on torn pages from a notepad, chronicle everyday life in the controversial refugee detention camp.

Eaten Fish has won the 2016 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from Cartoonists Rights Network International. Read more about Eaten Fish.

Another refugee's tale: He escaped Iran, now he's stuck on a Pacific island (NPR).


+ The world must step up for imprisoned professor Homa Hoodfar.
Jailed journalist Ehsan Mazandarani: "I will go on hunger strike unless I get answers".
Scourge of hypocrites or master of distraction? How Iran’s FM talks about human rights.
How to talk to Iran’s FM about human rights.

+ Kahrizak Prison survivors: Mortazavi’s apology opens old wounds.

+ Harlem solidarity with Baha’is in Iran.

+ Freed by Iran, Washington Post reporter and wife settle in as journalism fellows at Harvard.


 + What Would You ask President Hassan Rouhani and FM Zarif if you could?

Can President Rouhani reel in the IRGC's financial empire?

The IRGC clash and kill members of Jaish ul-Adl near border with Pakistan.
IRGC unveils high-speed catamaran.

+ IRGC deputy commander: U.S trying to repeat Libya's disarmament scenario in Iran.
How former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to propel political comeback.

+ Ahmadinejad ally makes apology to families of 3 men who died in detention during 2009.
Rouhani Meter: Where the Iranian president stands after three years?
Arrested Afghans put on display by police in Iran, sparking anger.

Fire at Iranian petrochemical factory injures four

European food jostles for more position in Iran.
Millions of Iranians are re-discovering the seductions of the northern Caspian Sea coast.
Iranian women are getting into surfing.


IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani blasts Dennis Ross' "divisive" remarks.

IRGC commander tells U.S. to leave Persian Gulf amid confrontations between ships.

Close encounters with Iran show need for rules of behavior, says U.S. Navy.

+ Iran denies it harassed U.S. warships in and around Persian Gulf.

+ Punished U.S. navy officer believes he prevented a war with Iran.

+ Tehran welcomes Syria cease-fire.

+ As Syrian cease-fire takes hold, Iran’s role remains murky.

+ The new power couple: Russia and Iran in the Middle East.

+ Russia, Iran: Armed “opposition” groups’ cease-fire violation proves support of terrorism.

+ Lebanon's Hariri denounces Iran’s role of 'spreading terrorism' in Islamic World.

+ U.S. Department of State removes last MEK members from Iraq.

+ Iran’s President Rouhani to visit Germany this month.

Azerbaijan delivers 22 Iranian prisoners to Iran, in prisoner swap.

+ Iranian-Canadians, Liberal MP call on Ottawa to re-establish relations with Iran.


+ Iran dissidents went to an Israeli conference to discuss nuclear deal consequences.

Colin Powell emails reveal Iran doesn't have the "bomb," but Israel has nukes.


Iran oil terminal offers Japan priority deals as a ‘thank you’ for support.
Tehran to import salmon from Russia.


Travels with the (not so) intrepid Mr. D’Arcy: A Persian story.


+ Persian film festival puts strong female characters in the spotlight.

Check out this monochrome holiday home by the Caspian Sea.
Afro-Iranian music in Harlem, New York.
Legendary Iranian folk musician Sima Bina preforms everywhere except in Iran.


Orange is after Iran’s largest mobile operator.
Iranian researchers culture eye stem cells on nano scaffolds.
Iranian and German scientists produce alumina nanoparticles.

+ A shady market in scientific papers mars Iran’s rise in science.

+ Can international cooperation revitalize wetlands on Afghanistan-Iran border?

+ Tehranis are experiencing drops in water pressure and may now start water rationing


+ The voice of Ms. Marvel on animated Avengers is a superhero in her own right.

Soraya Sebghati's Stream Night talks about new single, "Mr. Bloom".

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