A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of August 24th

“I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions. Even during the Obama administration the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions it had not lifted rather than implementing its obligation on the sanctions it lifted.”

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with CNN


Sanctions general impact: It has only been weeks since the first phase of U.S. sanctions, but Iranians are starting to feel the bite (Washington Post). Food prices are high, imported medicines are increasingly hard to find, jobs in the mining industry are on the line, and air travel has become more expensive. On Thursday, Air France and British Airways announced they were ending flights to Tehran next month, following KLM”s decision in July. Despite all the gloomy news, Iran’s vice president said that the country’s economy is not at a “dead end” from unilateral sanctions (Reuters). Eshagh Jahangiri said, “This country has plenty of human and natural resources that can rely on.” Adding that, “The size of our oil and gas resources is number one in the world. In minerals and metals we are among the top ten countries.” Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a damning statement on the impact of sanctions on Iran (OHCHR). Special rapporteur Idriss Jazairy said that the sanctions are unjust and harmful, and warned against an economic war.

Sanctions impact on oil: France’s Total gas and oil confirmed it was withdrawing from the multi-billion dollar South Pars gas project after it failed to obtain a waiver from Washington (Reuters). Meanwhile, Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are shifting their cargoes to vessels owned by Tehran to keep their supply flowing amid re-imposition of U.S. sanctions (Reuters). Also, Iraq intends to ask Washington for sanctions waivers since its economy heavily relies on Iran (Reuters).

EU aid package: Tehran urged Europe to hurry its efforts to save the nuclear deal (Reuters). Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, “Europeans and other signatories of the deal have been trying to save the deal . . . but the process has been slow. It should be accelerated.” Just days later, the European Commission announced the adoption of €18 million for projects in support of economic and social development in Iran, including €8 million assistance to the private sector (European Commission).

President Hassan Rouhani briefed by an air force pilot as he sits in the cockpit. (state media)

New fighter jet: Iran unveiled a domestically produced twin-seat fighter jet (RFE/RL). Analysts say the Kowsar fighter jet is a repurposed F-5 Tiger, which is a relic in comparison to today’s jet planes (CNBC). President Hassan Rouhani briefly sat in the jet’s cockpit before its inauguration ceremony. In a televised speech, Rouhani said, “Some think when we increase our military power, this means we seek war. This is peace-seeking, because we don’t want war to happen.” He added, “If we don’t have a deterrent . . . it gives a green light for others to enter this country.” Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader appointed a new air force chief (AP). General Aziz Nasirzadeh, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War and former F-14 pilot, has been the Iranian air force’s acting commander since 2017. The appointment is part of a routine restructuring.

Death threat: A rally participant held a sign allegedly threatening President Rouhani (RFE/RL). A group of clerics at a seminary in the holy city of Qom—the religious center of Shi’ism in Iran—were protesting the state of the economy, which they blame Rouhani for. One cleric held a placard that read, “You whose slogan is negotiation, expect [to end up] in Farah’s swimming pool.” The line was a reference to Farah Pahlavi, the widow of the late shah. The sign suggested that Rouhani, who was in favor of negotiating with the United States, could meet the same fate as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose 2017 death was blamed on a heart attack, though some say it was under suspicious circumstances. Rafsanjani was reportedly found dead by his bodyguards in a swimming pool at his home, which may have once belonged to the Pahlavis.


Disinformation campaign: Iran was behind a disinformation campaign on social media platforms, according to a report by cybersecurity firm FireEye (Washington Post). The Iranian effort dates back to 2011 and has ties to state media operations, which mostly promoted social media accounts and pages with narratives that promoted anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for favorable U.S. policies such as the Iran nuclear deal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hundreds of accounts and pages have already been removed.

Iranian agents caught: Two men of Iranian descent living in the United States were arrested for allegedly spying on behalf of Iran (Washington Post). According to the U.S. Justice Department, the men were conducting surveillance of a Jewish center in Chicago and gathering information on supporters of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a dissident group seeking regime change in Tehran. The men—Majid Ghorbani and Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar—were not charged with espionage.

Iran Action Group: The Iranian foreign minister criticized the creation of the  Iran Action Group, which is aimed at coordinating U.S. policy toward Tehran (Reuters). Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “65 years ago today, the U.S. overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. [Mohammad] Mossadegh, restoring the dictatorship and subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years. Now an ‘Action Group’ dreams of doing the same through pressure, misinformation and demagoguery. Never again.” Last Thursday, the U.S. Secretary of State named senior policy advisor Brian Hook as special representative for Iran. He is in charge of the action group.

Bolton visits Jerusalem: Israel’s prime minister met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor to discuss Iran (AFP). Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem, “I frankly believe that all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should follow America’s lead and ratchet up the pressure on Iran.” The comment seemed to be indirectly addressed to the European Union, which is keen on saving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. John Bolton called Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs “great challenges” for the world. Discussing Iranian presence in Syria, Bolton claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him that “he would be content to see the Iranian forces all sent back to Iran,” which is contrary to the public stance of Moscow (Washington Post). Bolton added that Putin said that “I can’t do it myself” and that a “joint U.S.-Russia effort” may be needed. While in Jerusalem, Bolton told reporters that the Trump administration’s goal was to not provide waivers for U.S. sanctions (Wall Street Journal). However, he also said that two “very limited” sanctions waivers were granted, though it’s unclear who they were for. Bolton reiterated that the Trump administration’s goal was not regime change in Tehran (Reuters). He added, “We are going to do other things to put pressure on Iran as well, beyond economic sanctions.” In response to Bolton’s comments, a hardline Friday prayer leader in Tehran said that Iran would attack U.S. and Israeli targets if the country were attacked by Washington (Reuters).

 Nazanin with her daughter Gabriella. (Family photo)

Nazanin (not really) freed: A British-Iranian woman convicted of espionage, was granted a three-day furlough (The Guardian). After leaving Evin Prison, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reunited with her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who has been living with her Iranian grandparents since she was 22 months old. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted, “Really good news that Nazanin has been released on furlough . . . But being in prison AT ALL is gross injustice and she must be PERMANENTLY released for which every effort will continue.” Western-based human rights organizations are calling on Tehran to permanently release Zaghari-Ratcliffe (ICHRI).

Imprisoned Iranian mystic Mohammad Ali Taheri expects to be freed “this week”.
Iranian spiritual leader sentenced for “insulting Islam”.
Former Tehran mayor sentenced to prison for criticizing Iran’s involvement in Syrian war.
Mass conviction of Sufi protesters “unprecedented in Iran’s judicial history”
Detention of environmentalists “none of your business,” judiciary tells vice president.
Intelligence agents raid Nasrin Sotoudeh’s home, taking hair pins as evidence.
60 European MPs call on President Rouhani to work for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s release.
HRW says Iranian judiciary is “criminalizing rights activism”.
Iranian law should allow people with disabilities to make their own legal decisions.

Unpaid workers arrested at protests against Iran’s biggest sugar production company.
Iran parliament report reveals 17 dual nationals in government.
President Rouhani to appear before parliament over U.S. sanctions.
Iran anti-money laundering law faces challenge as deadline looms.
Iranian elite forced to deny handing lucrative state jobs to their children as unrest grows.
Hackers are infecting Android devices and Iranians don’t even know it.
Thousands left stateless in Iran amid ID card limbo.
Sunnis barred from holding Eid al-Adha prayers in Tehran.
Tehran museum lionizes 1980s war in which Iran took on “whole world”.

Iran’s Mossadegh “would have negotiated with Donald Trump”.

Iran resumes electricity supplies to Iraq.
Caspian Sea convention moves Iran closer to northern neighbors.

U.S. sanctions are forcing Afghan migrants to return home, to worsening violence.
Afghanistan: Iran sanctions, dollar smuggling add to currency woes.
Russia-led regional payment network could blunt US sanctions on Iran.

The hijabi surfers making waves in Iran
...تا هفته بعد
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