A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of December 15th

“Iran is ready to cooperate with all Muslim countries without any precondition to defend the legitimate rights of Palestinians. Unity among Muslim countries is very important and Quds (Jerusalem) should become our top priority.”

- President Hassan Rouhaniat an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders

“[I'm] inspired by [the] very high level participation at [the] extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit, despite handful of telling exceptions. The entire Muslim world stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Trump's gifting of what he does not own to those who have no right to it.”

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a Tweet

 Domestic Affairs

President Hassan Rouhani announced a draft budget of about $104 billion (Bloomberg). The president’s proposed budget for the coming Iranian year starting March 21 excludes state enterprise spending. The budget is up almost six percent for the current year, but since inflation is running at almost ten percent, the budget extends the conservative fiscal policy which Rouhani introduced after taking office in 2013. It also earmarks about $100 billion for public service programs that would create jobs, address a banking crisis, and introduce a new social security program. The draft also shows a 16 percent cut in allocations for infrastructure projects by $3.1 billion.

German electronic band Schiller gave the first Western pop concert in Iran in 39 years (DW). Of the five concerts in Tehran, the first two concerts were sold out, according to the Iranian music website Ritmeno, which organized the event. There were only a few tickets left for the three other concerts. Schiller is one of the most popular European electronic bands in Iran. Earlier this week, Icelandic pianist Ólafur Arnalds performed in Tehran too (Mehr News Agency). Hardliner clerics see Western music as part of a conspiracy leading to the “cultural invasion” of Iran.

Arnalds later Tweeted, “Leaving Iran with so much love in my heart.” (Twitter) 

Culture Minister said he’s trying to “transform” conservative clerics’ views on music (CHRI)

 Foreign Policy

Hundreds of Iranians took part in rallies across the country on Friday to condemn U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (Reuters). The Iranian government—whose opposition to Israel and support for Palestinian groups has been central to foreign policy since the 1979 revolution—denounced Trump’s move. Some Iranians burned effigies of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel.” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an ultra-conservative and a key leader of the main Friday prayers, said Trump erased years of peace efforts with his statement. Khatami said, “He proved that the cure for the issue of Palestine is only, only, an intifada (uprising). Only intifadas can turn day into a dark night for the Zionist regime.”

The Iranian defense minister said Trump’s announcement will only hasten Israel’s destruction and increase the unity of Muslims (Reuters).

Also, President Rouhani said Tehran is ready to restore ties with Riyadh (AP). During a speech, Rouhani claimed regional rivals could have “good relations” if the Saudis end their “misguided friendship” with Israel and halt the “inhuman bombardment” of Yemen. Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 2016 after Iranian demonstrators attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in response to the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite dissident cleric.

Iranian foreign minister pens why Europe must work with Tehran (New York Times).

Wife and daughter of imprisoned Americans write a response to Zarif’s op-ed (New York Times).

 Iran Deal

The Trump administration attempted to mount a case that Iran violated an international agreement to limit its arms dealing, but evidence fell short (New York Times). Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accused Tehran of providing weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen who toppled the government in Sana’a. At a military base in Washington, Haley stood in front of pieces of what defense officials said were Iranian-made Qiam missiles, including one that was fired by Houthi militants at an airport in Saudi Arabia. Haley cited the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 that prevents Iran from supplying, selling or transferring certain weapons outside the country unless approved by the Security Council. It also prohibits Iran from transferring weapons capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Defense officials said they could not say exactly when the weapons—the Qiam missiles, an anti-tank missile and a drone that were both recovered in Yemen—were given and used by the Houthis, which means that they could have been transferred before the UNSC resolution was enacted. They were also unable to say exactly where or when the drone, a broken Qasef-1, was found. It was evidently turned over without its warhead or guidance system. A UN panel of experts issued a confidential report that reach no such conclusion as what Haley made. (Foreign Policy).

The Iranian foreign minister compared Haley’s speech to Colin Powell’s Iraq WMD claims (The Hill). Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a side-by-side photo of Ambassador Haley and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Colin Powell: “When I was based at the UN, I saw this show and what it begat.” 

The advisor to President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at Haley’s comment, calling it a “fabricated show.” (IFP)

While the EU foreign policy said a part of the nuclear deal's preamble hinting at more engagement was added the request of Tehran, the latter denies the accord was intended to open the door to other talks (Al-Monitor).

How to stop Iran’s missile program (National Interest).

Congress allowed deadline on reimposing Iran sanctions to pass this week (Reuters). In October, Trump declined to certify Tehran was complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His decision triggered a 60-day window for Congress to decide whether to bring back sanctions on Iran. Congressional leaders announced no plans to introduce a resolution to re-impose sanctions and aides say lawmakers will let the deadline pass without action. However, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman is “semi-hopeful” that Congress and the White House will come to an agreement on Iran legislation (The Hill). Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) told reporters, “We’ve been having very good meetings with the White House and national security staff, and I think we’re making progress. And with our communications with the Europeans.”

Interestingly, the House passed a bill that could undermine the Iran Deal by complicating civilian aircraft sales to Tehran, although its future in the Senate remains murky (Al-Monitor).

Trump’s big decertification strategy hasn’t borne fruit yet (Vox).

Will someone save Trump from his disastrous Iran Deal decision? (Washington Post)

A pair of senior Republican lawmakers are calling for sanctions on Iran over its role in the war in Yemen (The Hill).

The star witness in a major case regarding sanctions evasions said there was a jailhouse attempt to kill him (New York Times). In Reza Zarrab’s seventh day of testimony, he told the jury that an inmate pulled a knife and said he had been instructed to kill him.

The former head of Iran’s Central Bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, said he never met with jailed Turkish-Iranian tycoon Reza Zarrab (Al-Monitor).

Turkish police summoned FBI representative at the U.S. Embassy over the testimony of a former Turkish police investigator in the Zarrab case (RFERL).

Unexplained rises in Turkey’s gold exports and imports have led experts to wonder whether Iran has reintroduced its trade mechanisms to circumvent international sanctions (Al-Monitor).

 Human Rights

Britain’s foreign secretary expressed concern in Tehran about a British-Iranian mother’s detainment (New York Times). The Foreign Office said Boris Johnson spoke “frankly” with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif about “consular cases of dual nationals” such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The case has taken on domestic political importance in Britain, especially since Johnson said last month that Zaghari-Ratcliffe trained journalists, which her employer denies. Johnson later apologized. Opponents have called for him to resign if his comments lead to her serving longer in prison. Johnson also said the U.K. would keep its commitment for full implementation of the landmark nuclear deal (AP). After Zarif, Johnson met Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, but no details of the talks were released. Johnson is the first British foreign secretary to visit Tehran since 2015.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence issued against an Iranian-born Swedish resident (CHRI). Ahmadreza Djalali, a doctor and university lecturer in emergency medicine, is accused of providing information to Israel to help assassinate several senior nuclear scientists in exchange for money and residency in Sweden. At least four scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012 in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Scientists campaigning for the protection and freedom of academics have called for the immediate release of Jalali (IranWire).

+ Security forces block annual ceremony to commemorate “chain murders” victims.
+ Intelligence Ministry has been pressuring families of “chain murder” for decades.
+ Three young Baha’is arrested in Kermanshah.
+ Baluchi hunger strikes against repeated beatings.
+ Judge demands political prisoner Mohammad Ali Taheri pick lawyer from judiciary’s list.
+ Attorney calls for reform in Iran’s “blood money” scheme.
+ IRGC commander turned musician banned from producing music by intelligence.
+ Be careful, murdered Iranian activist's daughter tells European exiles.
+ After burn victims denied compensation, lawyer says law must change.
+ There are no homosexuals in Iran: a photo series.


+ Is the supreme leader afraid to contradict grand ayatollahs?
+ Student movement faces roadblocks under Rouhani despite campaign promises.
+ The genesis of a new Iranian nationalism.
+ Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to prison in absentia.
+ Ahmadinejad moves to target influential Iranian political family.
+ Supreme leader says wrestler will get ‘spiritual reward’ for not fighting Israeli.
+ Ayatollah Shirazi gives thumbs down to women in stadiums.
+ A new round of strikes and protests at Haft Tapeh Complex.
+ Iranian intelligence disbands huge banknote forgery network.
+ Media workers warn of ‘death of independent journalism’.
+ The Afghan schools in Iran run by Afghan refugees.
+ Iran’s water crisis passes tipping point.
+ Avalanche in Iran kills eight climbers.
+ Strong 6-magnitude quake rocks western Iran.

+ White House names Trump loyalist to Iran policy job at State Department.
+ France's Le Drian says ‘no’ to Iran Mediterranean axis.
+ Europe and Iran’s threat perception.
+ The logic behind Iran’s regional posture.
+ Tehran believes ISIS will now prop up in Afghanistan and Pakistan following losses.
+ Iran-backed militia saved Iraq from ISIS. Now Washington wants them to disband.
+ U.S. looks to counter Iran in post-war Iraq.
Iran’s envoy in Jordan: Support for Hezbollah maintains Arab security.
+ Israeli defense minister urges cooperation with Saudis against Iran
+ Iranian terror. Argentinian cover up. Justice at last?

+ HSBC spared further U.S. money laundering sanctions as it battles to clean up its act.

+ Iranian oil minister moves to forge new regional partnerships.
+ South Korea’s November crude oil imports fall to 5-month low.
+ Iran ready for broader cooperation with China.
+ Tehran's hand-woven carpet exports near $270 million

+ Allocation of loans to SMEs detailed.

+ Petition by Iranian-Jewish community calls for anti-Semitic singer not to perform.

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