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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of March 17th

“U.S. President Donald Trump and the Deputy Crown Prince share the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region. Iran is trying to gain its legitimacy in the Islamic world by supporting terrorist organizations with the aim of reaching Mecca, the Qibla of all Muslims, which gives them the legitimacy they lack in the Islamic world. Iran’s support of terrorist organization such as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS and others along with its obstructing of any deal to settle the Palestinian issue, as a form of exporting its issues abroad, are nothing but another attempt to the gain the legitimacy it lacks among Muslims.”

                                - Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's statement,

while visiting the White House


Iranian FM says Tehran can have good ties with Saudi Arabia (IRNA).


ANOTHER NAME IN THE BAG
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

Former director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ezzatollah Zarghami, announced he will be running for president (Tasnim News Agency). Zarghami is rumored to have the ability to unify the hardliners. He headed IRIB from 2004 until 2014. During Zarghami’s time, he expanded the state broadcaster with more TV and radio stations, including English-language PressTV. The ex-IRIB head isn’t without controversy. Zarghami was a member of the student group involved in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that lasted 444 days. Similarly, he was put under European Union sanctions for “gross human rights violations” pertaining to the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. The presidential election will be held on May 19.

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani is backing President Hassan Rouhani in this year’s upcoming presidential election (Al-Monitor). Larijani, a conservative, backed Rouhani throughout his presidency. Over the years, the speaker has slowly distanced himself from the hardliners to join the moderates.

With President Rouhani's first term coming to an end in the next few months, it's time to assess his management of the Iranian economy (Al-Monitor).

It’s time for Nowruz!
This week, Iranians celebrated Chaharshanbeh Soori, the eve of the last Wednesday of the Iranian calendar, better known as the festival of fire (PressTV). It is a celebration with roots in the Zoroastrian religion, which pre-dates Islam. Iranians jump over bon fires and light fireworks. Next week marks Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 21.

The verdant food of Iran entices at Persian New Year (New York Times).

Don’t have your Haft Seen, Nowruz table, set up yet? Here’s an idea! (Medium)


A HISTORY LESSON
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Iran’s foreign minister criticized Israel’s prime minister on social media for distorting a biblical story from more than 2,500 years ago (Al-Monitor). During a meeting with Russia’s president, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu cited the Jewish holiday of Purim and said, “There is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews.” Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the remarks saying that those events took place in the 5th century B.C. and “we now live in a different world” and to talk about that instead.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Tweeted, “To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews three times, Netanyahu resorting to fake history & falsifying Torah. Force of habit.” Accompanied by the Tweet was a screenshot (See above photo).

Netanyahu’s narrative of Purim, misinterprets important parts of the story, which comes from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament. It was not King Xerxes I that plotted to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia, but the king’s viceroy, Haman the Agagite. Queen Esther of Persia revealed the plot to her husband and that she was also Jewish, which set in motion the killing of Haman and his men. This wasn’t the first time Netanyahu evoked the story of Purim to vilify Iran. He also did it in 2015 when he delivered a speech to Congress.

The Jewish member of Iran’s parliament called the Israeli PM an “insane vampire” for his comments about Purim (Jerusalem Post). MP Siamak Maroh Sedgh said during an open session, “Netanyahu is an insane vampire drowned in crimes from head to toe, and the recent remarks made by the racist Israeli prime minister is not surprising to me.”

It’s not only the Israeli PM who’s focused on the Iranian threat. Television writers also seem to find the country an endless source of inspiration (Haaretz).


ANOTHER PLANE
FILED UNDER:
 IRAN DEAL

An Airbus A330 airliner landed in Tehran (Reuters). The plane was the second of 200 passenger aircrafts ordered by IranAir after sanctions were lifted last year per the Iran nuclear deal. It joins a smaller A321 delivered to Iran last month.


PROGESS, BUT STILL SANCTIONS CONFUSION
FILED UNDER:
 ECONOMY + TRADE

Tehran will keep its oil production at 3.8 million bpd in the second half of 2017 (Reuters). The Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh claimed that if OPEC members stay committed to freezing their output, Iran will remain at this number. Last November, OPEC agreed to cut output by 1.2 million bpd.

Iran replaced Iraq as India’s second biggest oil supplier, after oil imports rose 17 percent in February (Reuters)

Despite sanctions relief, Royal Dutch Shell has purchased only a small fraction of Iranian oil contrary to what it used to buy (Reuters). Experts point to Iranian oil being expensive, combined with the remaining sanctions, which are complicating business between the Anglo-Dutch firm and Tehran.

Iran said it launched crude oil from its Azar oil field at a rate of 15,000 bpd (Oil Price). According to Iran’s oil minister, the production of crude oil from the Azar field can reach 100,000 bpd once its second phase development project becomes operational.

An Iranian investment fund signed a deal with Korea's Hyundai Engineering Company for $3.2 billion (Reuters). The petrochemical project is now awaiting financing from Korean banks.


KEEP THE UN RAPPORTEUR
FILED UNDER:
 HUMAN RIGHTS

Tehran asked the United Nations to end the special human rights rapporteur's mission in Iran (Trend News Agency). The country's Human Rights Council Director for International Affairs Kazem Gharibabadi said, “Given the noticeable human rights progress made in the Islamic Republic and its extensive and constructive interactions with the international human rights mechanisms, it is now time to end the special rapporteur’s mission in an appropriate way.” Last week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir's 40-page human rights report as “unfair and politically-tainted”. In response, cross-regional civil society organizations wrote a joint letter in support of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution to renew the mandate of a special rapporteur in Iran (Human Rights Watch).

While Iran has made some progress on human rights, it still persecutes (VOA).

If you haven't already read the UN report, here it is.
 
The son of Green Movement leader Mehdi Karroubi was sentenced to six months in prison for publishing a letter written by his father to President Rouhani (Washington Post). 

Karroubi is being denied access to timely emergency medical services (CHRI).


CARTOON OF THE WEEK
In this cartoon from Fars News Agency, a dead firefighter from the Plasco building collapse tells the boy lighting a firework, "You promised this year's Chaharshanbeh Soori you'd give us a rest!!"

More than ten dead and 2,000 injured in this year's festival of fire celebrations (The Iran Project).

(Read more about what Chaharshanbeh Soori is under DOMESTIC POLITICS)

Reza Aslan, the internationally renowned scholar of religions and writer, spoke to The Iranist about his new show on CNN, sectarianism, and what it’s like being Iranian-American under a Trump presidency.

OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS

+ Tehran sentences two Iranians to death for founding cult.
 
+ Iran says it arrested two “spies” pretending to be tourists.
 
+ Security agents attack jailed journalist Isa Saharkhiz.
 
+ Ehsan Mazandarani arrested after only weeks of freedom.
 
+ IRGC violently arrests reformist editor one month after release from Evin Prison.
 
+ Predicting her arrest, activist wrote letters criticizing Rouhani’s failure to protect citizens.
 
+ British-Iranian mother imprisoned in Iran is 'virtually unable to walk'.
 
+ Intelligence Ministry demands Ayatollah Montazeri files.
 
+ Grave and baseless new charges against imprisoned Iranian-American couple.
 
+ Teachers hold rallies across Iran for labor and education rights.
 
+ Former FBI agent Bob Levinson’s family is asking Trump for answers.
 
+ Memo to tech and social media companies: allow Iranians access to online tools.
 
+ The battle against models and “cultural infiltration”.
 
+ Self-censorship is self-defense.

DOMESTIC ISSUES

+ Iranian MP threatens to impeach intelligence minister.
 
+ Parliament lets Tehran’s mayor off the hook in corruption scandal.
 
+ Why do Iranian banks remain stuck with toxic assets?
 
+ Telegram was the app where Iranians talked politics, then the government caught on.
 
+ Iranians running ‘No to Road Accidents’ campaign.
 
+ Working women in Iran can receive paid leave for adopting kids.
 
+ Iranian NGO helps disadvantaged Pakistani immigrant family residing in Tehran.
 
+ The Karrar main battle tank is a lot less than it appears, if it actually exists.
 
+ Iran deploys jamming device to counter drones.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

+ Iran is the reason why the Trump White House cares so much about Yemen.

+ In Syria, Iran sees necessary war.
 
+ Why Iran-Turkey tension won’t spiral out of control.
 
+ The time is ripe for a rapprochement between Cairo and Tehran, say Iranian analysts.
 
+ Iran's sovereignty over trio islands 'undeniable reality'.
 
+ Tehran is looking for “good and constructive” cooperation with Russia on the high seas.

ECONOMY + TRADE

+ Pakistan likely to discuss gas agreement with Iran in May.
 
+ Iranian telecom minister says Gazprom and Tehran in talks on gas project investments.
 
+ Iran's biggest cargo line looks at London IPO, but thwarted so far.
 
+ Tehran’s position in region opportunity for EU companies.
 
+ Russian off-road suvs come back to Iran.
 
+ Russia and Iran negotiate contracts worth $10 billion.

ART + CULTURE

+ Photographer Olgaç Bozalp on the difficulties of shooting fashion in Iran.

Did boycott win Asghar Farhadi an Oscar — and Islamic Republic’s embrace?

SCIENCE + ENVIRONMENT

Why dust storms still suffocate Iran’s Khuzestan province.

OTHER

+ Refugee family from Iran reunites in San Antonio, Texas.
 
+ BBC Journalist Benjamin Zand reveals ordeal entering U.S. after Trump’s Muslim Ban.

+ Caught up in travel ban, Iranian transgender asylum seeker sees 'no way forward'.

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