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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of June 29th

“The Iranian government is squandering its citizens’ resources, whether its adventurism in Syria, its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis, or its ambitions for wastefully expanding its nuclear program, it will only add to the suffering of the people of Iran [. . .]. It should surprise no one that protests continue in Iran. The Iranian people are demanding their leaders share the country’s wealth and respond to their legitimate needs [. . .]. The people of Iran are tired of the corruption, injustice, and incompetence from their leaders.”

- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in response to the recent protests in Iran


The Iranian foreign minister trolled Pompeo’s statement (Twitter).


TEHRAN BAZAAR PROTESTS
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs
 A group of protesters chant slogans at the grand bazaar in Tehran on June 25. (AP)

The latest round of protests started in the capital on Sunday, when small gatherings caused two major shopping centers dedicated to electronics to shut down (Radio Farda). Cell phone vendors said it was impossible to make sales that day because the black market exchange rate was an unprecedented 91,000 rials to one U.S. dollar. The shutdown prompted the minister of information and communications technology to visit one of the shopping centers (Al-Monitor). Afterwards, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi disclosed on social media a list of leading cell phone importers who had been granted foreign currency at the official “unified” rate of 42,000 rials to the U.S. dollar, but had sold the products for almost double the price. Jahromi also posted details about an inspection report on one such firm, which had imported 20,000 iPhones and sold three-quarters of them for about $450 more than the expected rate. His actions were warmly received as a step toward combating rampant corruption inside the country.

On Monday, for the first time since 2012, Tehran’s bazaaris—from the middle class merchant sector—closed their shutters and took to the streets (AP). They marched about two kilometers (1.5 miles) to parliament, where they were met with security forces and tear gas. Bazaars in cities including Arak, Esfahan, and Kermanshah also participated in the strike. Protesters chanted slogans, including: “Leave Syria, think of us.” “Death to the dictator.” “The enemy is here. They lie that it is America.”


Reports also stated that the grand bazaar’s local mosque and board of trustees gave the nod to bazaaris to protest (Financial Times). The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-affiliated news agencies, such as Fars and Tasnim News Agency, capitalized on the unrest, posting articles and video on their social media feeds and websites.

Iran’s judiciary chief threatened protesters with execution if they did not back down (CHRI). Sadegh Larijani told judicial officials, “These actions against the country’s economic order are punishable by execution—if found to be on the level of ‘corruption on earth’—or up to 20 years in prison and the confiscation of all possessions.”

The following day, the Supreme Leader called on the country’s judiciary to ensure the security of “businesses and lives” (RFERL). Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said an “atmosphere of security” must be reinstated and that judiciary officials “must confront those who disrupt economic security.


In response to the unrest, the former chief commander of the IRGC and current advisor to the Supreme Leader said, “Sometimes it seems the country will be run better without the [Rouhani] government.” General Yahya Rahim-Safavi’s comment was soon followed by hardliner MP Amir Khojasteh’s threat of parliament giving ten to 15 days for President Rouhani to confront the problem, or else the president’s “lack of efficiency” would be challenged through impeachment (Financial Times). The last time an Iranian president was impeached was in 1981, with “incompetence” as the cited reason.

General Rahim-Safavi soon dialed back his statement (Reuters). He blamed a trifecta of foreign enemies—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States—adding that, “It is all of our duty to work together to help the respected government and other governmental branches in solving the economic problems.”

On Tuesday, President Rouhani attempted to alleviate financial concerns of the Iranian people (Reuters). Echoing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s recent comment that Reuters was peddling 50 fake news reports daily about the dire state of the Iranian economy, Rouhani blamed the rial’s plunge in value on “foreign media propaganda.” He said, “Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided. We have enough sugar, wheat, and cooking oil. We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market.” On Wednesday, the Iranian president said he would fulfill his duties until the end of his presidency, ruling out the possibility of resignation (Al-Monitor). By then, business was back to normal in Tehran’s grand bazaar.

To address the problems, the government decided to open a second Forex market to circumvent its foreign currency shortage (Bloomberg).


The Iranian government also banned the imports of over 1,300 products, including home appliances, footwear, and furniture (Reuters). This news came just as Iranian social media was in uproar over President Rouhani’s expensive Western gym attire, despite the country’s economic difficulties and a governmental push for Iranian-made products.

Hardliners are trying to capitalize on economic and political instability, including the most recent protests by Iran's bazaaris (Atlantic Council).

Closure of Tehran’s bazaar reflects fierce competition among elites, not popular politics (Bourse & Bazaar).

Iran is changing, but not in ways Trump thinks (New York Times).

There will be several benefits to the national economy if Iran establishes a five-day work week (Al-Monitor).

The best fix for Iran’s economic crisis is greater transparency and a focus on technocratic remedies (Al-Monitor).


A HEROIC EXIT
FILED UNDER:
 Sports
Team Melli returns to Iran. (Mehr News Agency)

The Iranian national team is out of the World Cup, but they returned home to a hero’s welcome (Tehran Times). An estimated 5,000 fans showed up at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport to greet the team.

The big take-away: Iranian goalkeeper blocked Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty kick (Washington Post). Alireza Beiranvand’s blocking of a goal by the “Penalty King” is a moment firmly secured in World Cup history.

Unfortunately, Sardar Azmoun has retired from football, claiming his mother has become seriously ill due to the insults he has received (BBC Sports).

Iran’s national football team unites an otherwise divided nation (Atlantic Council).

Meanwhile, the former captain of Spain’s national soccer team claimed that Iranian state television officials barred him from appearing as a World Cup commentator because of his long hair (BBC). The footballer was set to feature in an IRTV 3 program for the Iran-Spain match, but after traveling to Iran and to the television studio, Carles Puyol was not allowed on air. Jam-e Jam newspaper quoted government official Morteza Mirbagheri as saying the issue was about money, not hair (AP). Mirbagheri said, “There is no need for a foreign figure to receive several hundred million [rials] for a few minutes on a sports program.”

Also, prominent Iranian women living in the West, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, have urged FIFA to demand that Tehran terminate its discriminatory ban on women in stadiums (CHRI). In an open letter, she said, “We call on FIFA to stand on its principles, hold Iran accountable for violating one of FIFA’s most fundamental statutes, and demand that the Islamic Republic permanently end the ban on female attendance.”

Opening World Cup screening and volleyball matches are steps in the right direction (Human Rights Watch).

Will Iran’s ban on women in sports stadiums finally be lifted? (CHRI)


FInal scores:
Iran 🇮🇷 1 – Morocco 🇲🇦 0 
Iran 🇮🇷 0 – Spain 🇪🇸 1
Iran 🇮🇷 1 – Portugal 🇵🇹 1


TALK TO THE GREAT SATAN, SHEESH
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

The daughter of the late Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that Tehran should establish a dialogue with the United States “before the situation gets worse” (Financial Times). Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, an outspoken reformist politician, added, “We have no other choice .  .  .  Belated negotiations could happen under more pressure. Having no relations with the U.S. was not right from the beginning .  .  . The Islamic Republic should resolve its problems with the U.S .  .  . [because] having no ties with the superpower is costly for us.”

The former NATO secretary was refused a visa waiver to enter the U.S. because of his past trips to Iran (The Guardian). Javier Solana, who helped negotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during his time as the European Union’s foreign policy chief, learned that he would not be able to enter the U.S. after trying to apply for an electronic visa waiver. Those who have visited any of the seven blacklisted countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen—on or after March 2011 are barred from receiving a visa waiver and must apply for a visa. The rule was established during the Obama administration.

What Donald Trump doesn’t comprehend about ideology in Iran: It’s about nationalism, not theocracy (Washington Post).

Trump’s unintended allies in Iran: the hardliners (The Hill).

As the U.S. defense secretary drifts further from Trump’s inner circle, his mission gets clearer: preventing war with Tehran (Foreign Policy).


ZERO OIL, ALLIES
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal

The United States threatened to slap sanctions on countries that don’t cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by the November 4 deadline (Wall Street Journal). According to a senior U.S. State Department official, this is part of the Trump administration’s push to further isolate Tehran both economically and politically. The official also said that the administration does not intend to issues waivers to any countries, including allies.

Also, OPEC and allies including Russia will boost oil production starting in July, offering relief to consumers after Saudi Arabia secured a last-minute deal to overcome Iran’s opposition (Bloomberg). While there were some differences between members, the agreement is a victory for Riyadh and Moscow, which for a month have advocated for a production increase to alleviate high prices. It’s also a success for President Trump, who has criticized OPEC for inflating the cost of fuel. Iran had demanded OPEC reject calls from Trump for an increase in oil supply, arguing that the U.S. had contributed to a recent rise in prices by imposing sanctions on Iran and fellow member Venezuela (Reuters).


Tehran criticized Saudi Arabia’s plan to raise oil output, saying it was in breach of OPEC’s decision (Reuters). Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, was reacting to various news reports that Riyadh would boost output in July to 11 million bpd, up from its OPEC target of 10 million bpd.

India’s oil ministry asked refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports of Iranian oil from November (Reuters).

China plans to ignore U.S. demand for oil ban  (Nikkei).

Turkey said that it does not plan to honor the U.S. demanding, saying it is not “binding” on Ankara (RFERL).


Iran is running out of options on oil (Bloomberg).

As Trump goes nuclear on Iranian oil, Europe must match his brinkmanship (LobeLog).


Japan said it will talk with Washington and other nations to avoid Japanese firms being adversely affected by U.S. sanctions on Iran (CNBC).

The day before the zero oil announcement, the Iranian foreign minister warned domestic entrepreneurs that the collapse of the JCPOA would have “very dangerous consequences” for Tehran (RFERL).

President Rouhani sent a list of conditions to Britain, France, and Germany in order for Iran to stay in the JCPOA (Bloomberg).


The U.S. secretary of state told MSNBC that whatever the fate of the nuclear deal, it would not be in Iran’s interest to pursue nuclear weapons (Reuters). Mike Pompeo told Hugh Hewitt, “I hope they understand that if they begin to ramp up their nuclear program, the wrath of the entire world will fall upon them,” adding that he hoped that it would never be necessary to take military action. Iran has never produced a nuclear weapon.

Also, the Trump administration has begun dismantling the sanctions relief that was granted to Iran under the JCPOA (AP). The U.S. Treasury Department announced it had revoked licenses that allowed U.S.-controlled foreign firms to export commercial aircraft parts to Iran as well as permitted Americans to trade in Iranian carpets, caviar, and pistachios. Businesses engaged in any such transactions have to wind down their operations by August 6 or face penalties.


SCOTUS UPHOLDS TRAVEL BAN
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban (CNN). The ruling was 5-4 along partisan lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative majority. This is the third version of the travel ban. It was issued in September, and restricts entry from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. (For instance, only government officials from Venezuela are banned.) Chad was originally on the list, but was recently removed after having met baseline security requirements.

Call Trump’s travel ban what it is: An Iran ban (Washington Post).

An imprisoned human rights lawyer declined a bail offer set at 6.5 billion rials (around $152,500) (CHRI). Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested June 13 on charges of collusion and propaganda against the state. Recently, she defended women who had been arrested for protesting compulsory hijab. Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, said she rejected the offer because of the inappropriate sum and baseless allegations.

Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran released a joint report, I Am Equally Human: Discrimination and Lack of Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Iran (Human Rights Watch).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
UN high commissioner for human rights appalled by execution of juvenile offenders.
Journalist Hengameh Shahidi detained for criticizing judiciary.
Widow hospitalized after IRGC storms home of environmentalist who died in custody.
Injuries reported after detained environmentalists subjected to renewed interrogations.
Kaveh Madani: “The system in Iran could never trust me”.
Child refugees with disabilities struggle to access education and healthcare.

DOMESTIC ISSUES
MP blasts Khamenei-approved foreign policy.
Iranian parliament opposes dividing up three ministries.
Western business schools push into Iran.
Environmental and wildlife degradation in Iran.
Iran’s environmental impasse.
Environmental crisis forces Abadan residents to migrate
Child abuse case brings outrage, but no change in Iran.
Mother of Iranshahr rape victim: “We will not give in”.
Top Afghan graduate: “It’s a struggle being an immigrant student”.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Giuliani and Gingrich to address controversial Iranian group.
Merkel calls on Europe to counter Iran’s “aggressive tendencies”.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says senior commander killed in Syria.
Top Supreme Leader aide threatens Riyadh with missiles, if Tehran is attacked.
Iraq’s maverick al-Sadr moves closer to Iran.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
Trump has no coherent strategy on Iran. Astonishingly, neither does Israel.
Putin benefits from Trump’s anti-Iran sanctions.
U.S. to appeal sentence of Turkish banker in Iran sanctions case.
Turkey could suffer as result of Iran sanctions.
U.S. sanctions to have no effect on China manufacturing Iran’s high-speed railroads.

ECONOMY + TRADE
How Iran dropped dual exchange rates but ended up with four.      
Iran’s car market engulfed in growing economic crisis.

ART + CULTURE
Bold, brilliant and beautiful: A look at Iranian women.
Beyond stereotypes: how Iranian art is challenging preconceptions.

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