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Week of October 19th

“Reducing the legitimacy of the system is their final goal. When [the United States] say[s] ‘getting rid of’—regime change in their own words—how does regime change happen? Through reducing legitimacy, otherwise, a regime doesn't change.”

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, on the U.S. seeking regime change


DOMESTIC POLITICS
Iranian teachers at a sit-in (social media)

Teachers on strike: Teachers in over a dozen cities and towns, including the capital Tehran, took part in a strike from October 14 to 15 (RFE/RL). The strikeorganized by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI)called on teachers to conduct sit-ins to protest “degradation of education quality,”  “inflation,” “unfair wages,” and “the continuation of the arrest of [teachers rights] activists.” Several teachers are serving prison terms for calling for more rights and for participating in union-related activities. Photos posted on social media showed teachers protesting in Esfahan, Hamadan, Mashhad, Shiraz, Tabriz, and more.

Ahvaz attack update: A member of the Iranian military was arrested in connection with last month’s terror attack in Ahvaz (Reuters). The separatist group Ahvaz National Resistance and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 25 people. Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said that their forces in Iraq killed the “mastermind” of the attack (Reuters). According to Iranian state media, a man named Abu Zaha and four other militants were killed in the Diyala province in retaliation for the act of terror. A state television website reported that Abu Zaha was a member of ISIS.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Twitter fake news campaign: Twitter published more than 10 million tweets by Iran and Russia-backed social media accounts dating back to as early as 2009 (Reuters). Twitter had already identified the two countries as a source of coordinated misinformation campaigns and fake accounts, but mostly surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election and upcoming November midterm elections. According to a breakdown by the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab, 9 million tweets belonged to Russia which primarily focused on undermining the 2016 U.S. election process, while one million belonged to Iran which mainly promoted the Iranian government’s agenda (Medium).

Kidnapping on border: Eleven members of Iran’s border force were kidnapped on the border with Pakistan (Reuters). A separatist group called Jaish al-Adl claimed that they seized the personnel, including members of the IRGC, at a border post in Sistan-Baluchestan province to avenge the oppression of Sunni Muslims in the area. Pakistan’s foreign minister told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that they are searching for the abducted border force (AP). Interestingly, IRGC commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said the men were unconscious after eating drugged food, making them easy targets for a kidnapping (Reuters).


DISAPPOINTMENT IN DEAL

Khashoggi hindering Iran policy: The murder of a Saudi dissident journalist might be hurting the Trump administration’s strategy to pressure Iran’s government (New York Times). The United States was depending on Saudi Arabia as a partner to contain Iran, including coordinated efforts of replacing Iranian oil at a lower price. With talks of Congress imposing sanctions against Riyadh, this might cause prices to rise instead. According to the New York Times, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia’s current goal is to “get the Saudi role in [Jamal] Khashoggi’s disappearance out of the headlines and focus anew on the Iranians.” On October 15, the Iranian foreign ministry said it was “too early to comment” on Khashoggi’s case (Reuters).

The U.S. Secretary of State penned an op-ed on Trump’s Iran strategy (Foreign Affairs).

New sanctions: The U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on institutions with ties to the Basij, a paramilitary force (Politico). The Treasury designated the Basij, a domestic arm of the IRGC, as well as 22 companies and financial institutions associated with the group as “specially designated global terrorists.” The Basij are known to have recruited young Iranians for domestic operations, and even recruited child soldiers as young as 12 years old from Afghanistan to fight in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Al-Assad.


Aim still zero oil: While on a visit to India, the U.S. special envoy for Iran said that the Trump administration still intends to reduce Iranian oil imports to zero and that the international oil market will continue to be balanced and well-supplied (Reuters). The head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) called the U.S. statement a “political bluff” (Reuters).

Help lighten the sanctions blow: At least eight reformist newspapers published a joint editorial in English and Persian criticizing U.S. sanctions on Iran (AP). The editorial asked that “world journalists” defend human rights and claimed that the United States “lied” about the intentions of sanctions, which target ordinary Iranians and hinder access to medical equipment and supplies. The editorial made references to a number of major figures, including: John Locke, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. Meanwhile, a hardline lawmaker called on the Iranian government to negotiate with “anti-Trump movements” in order to lighten the impact of unilateral sanctions (AFP).


HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian women attending the friendly match against Bolivia (ISNA)

Women in the stadium: A hundred Iranian women were allowed to watch a friendly soccer game against Bolivia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium (AFP). Women have been banned from attending sports matches since the 1979 revolution. During the 2018 World Cup, Iranians were permitted to watch a match on a big screen in Azadi Stadium. Iran’s prosecutor-general blasted the women’s presence at the stadium, claiming that it is sinful for women to watch “half-naked” men (RFE/RL). Javad Montazeri also said that “the presence of women in stadiums is harmful and there’s no religious justification for it.”

Senator insults the diaspora: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Fox News that if he took a DNA test, it would probably show that he was “Iranian” and “that’d be, like, terrible” (Newsweek). Graham was speaking on Fox & Friends in response to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) releasing details of her own DNA test. A number of prominent Iranians in the diaspora reacted to the senator’s comments (RFE/RL). CNN’s Christiane Amanpour wrote on Twitter: “Whatever you think of the regime, no need to tar all the people. In fact, just look around to see Iranian-Americans powering major sectors of U.S. life and economy, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, from science and surgery to architecture and engineering, from art and culture to yes, even the media.” Some high-profile technology entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists of Iranian heritage have called on Graham to apologize (CNN).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Iran sentences dual-national man to prison (AP).
Imprisoned activist Farhad Meysami “kept alive” with serum injections (CHRI).
Kurdish political prisoners denied access to lawyer, family visits two months into detention (CHRI).
Tehran penitentiary imposes information blackout on Sufi detainees held in solitary (CHRI).
Iran’s environmentalists are caught up in a political power struggle (Atlantic Council).
Iran’s death penalty laws failing children (Human Rights Watch).


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Khamenei instructs Iranian scholars to look eastward (Al-Monitor).
FATF legislation reflects continuing political divide in Iran (Atlantic Council).
Iranian crackdown on corruption may only be superficial (Atlantic Council).
Two Iranian dailies indicted for reporting on sex tourism by Iraqi pilgrims (Radio Farda).
Iran's new breed of charities on poverty frontline (AFP).
Iranian intelligence forces kill 2 Kurd separatists (AP).
Militants seize 14 Iranian security forces near Pakistan (AP).
Explosion at factory in Iran injures 21 (AP).


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran says its land-to-sea missiles can now travel 700 km (Reuters).
Trump administration has new plan to drive Iran out of Syria (NBC News).
Syria soldier sent back to Afghanistan for demanding days off (IranWire).
IRGC masses troops on Iraq border amid rising tensions with Kurdish groups (Al-Monitor).
Iran dismisses reports of suicide bomb threat at Ankara embassy (Reuters).
Hadi accuses Iran of supporting parties in southern Yemen (Asharq Al-Awsat).
UN report: Banned Somali charcoal exports pass through Iran (AP).
 
IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
With few buyers, Iranian oil armada heads to China ahead of U.S. sanctions (Reuters).
Why Trump should sell grain to Iran (Bloomberg).
Iran’s natural gas: A gateway to U.S.-Iran cooperation (Atlantic Council).


ECONOMY + TRADE
Rouhani touts meeting with top economists on containing crisis (Al-Monitor).
Iran hedges bets on EU, China with focus on trade with neighbors (Al-Monitor).
...تا هفته بعد
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