A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of December 9th

"We secured a deal which has neutralized the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade... That was vitally important for regional security. But we must also work together to push back against Iran's aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself."

British Prime Minister Theresa May, on the final day of her Bahrain trip

 Domestic Affairs

The Rouhani administration is proposing to change the name and denomination of Iran's currency from rial to toman (Al-Monitor). Iran’s currency was the toman until the 1930s. Even now, Iranians continue to use the old terminology. Ten rials is equal to one toman.

Why Iran's currency is suddenly wobbling (Al-Monitor).

President Hassan Rouhani also proposed a state budget of about $100 billion for the next year, in an attempt to stimulate economic growth (Reuters). The Iranian president announced a budget that will start on March 21—the Iranian New Year—for 3,200 trillion rials ($99.7 billion at the official exchange rate), excluding state enterprises. Next year's budget will see a 9 percent increase compared to this year's budget. Rouhani is under pressure from hardliners, who are firmly against the Iran Deal, to sustain economic growth. They believe the pragmatist president has failed to improve standards of living as promised after the lifting of sanctions. The next Iranian president elections are slated for May 2017.

Despite appointing three female vice presidents, President Hassan Rouhani remains under pressure from women’s rights activists to appoint more women to his cabinet (Al-Monitor).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence for billionaire Babak Zanjani over charges of corruption under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government (CBS).

Babak Zanjani will be executed—but who wins? (IranWire)

 Foreign Policy

FM Zarif (center) at the Golden Temple in India

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was on a tour of Asia this week that included India, China, and Japan (Press TV). FM Zarif first went to Amritsar, India to take part in the 6th annual Heart of Asia Conference on the situation in Afghanistan. He then visited Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and hold talks with senior officials about Sino-Iranian relations and economic ties. Conversations included the Iran nuclear deal, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as observer. Upon arriving in Japan, the Iranian foreign minister met with Japanese officials, including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss foreign affairs and economic ties. Japan even offered Iran around $2.2 million for nuclear safety initiatives to help implement the nuclear deal (Japan Times).

Tehran ready to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, if asked (Indian Express).

Will the Trump administration start a war with Iran? (The National Interest)


President Rouhani delivered a speech to Iran’s parliament denouncing the 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by Congress (Reuters). “America’s president is obliged to exercise his authority by preventing its approval and particularly its implementation... and if this gross violation is carried out we will firmly respond,” he said on Sunday. Despite opposition from Tehran, the White House says President Barack Obama will be signing the bill into law.

On Tuesday, Rouhani declared that he wouldn’t allow incoming President Donald Trump to rip up the Iran Deal (Reuters). He said: “Do you think the he can rip up the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)? Do you think we and our nation will let him do that?”

The following day, President Rouhani announced that a committee tasked to monitor the JCPOA’s implementation will determine a response to the extension of the latest sanctions on Iran (PressTV).

Iran’s foreign minister made similar comments about ISA during an official visit to India (The Guardian). Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “To the world community, the extension of sanctions against Iran shows the unreliability of the American government.” He added that “America is acting against its commitment.”

Tehran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi also warned of a “strong reaction” if the ISA bill becomes law (AP). While speaking at a nuclear security conference hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Salehi urged Washington to desist from “irrational and provocative” moves. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who was also present at the conference, said Tehran raised these concerns with him and that he stated equally strongly that the U.S. doesn’t view it as such.

Can Iran moderates hold ground against U.S. pressure? (Al-Monitor)

 Economy + Trade

Royal Dutch Shell has signed a preliminary deal with Iran to assess three of the country’s largest oil and gas fields (Bloomberg). The Dutch oil company plans to evaluate the Kish gas deposit in the Persian Gulf as well as the Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields near Iraq’s border. Shell is the largest oil company to embrace Tehran after the Iran nuclear deal. The company had halted its activities in the Islamic Republic since 2010. Oil companies like Shell and Total haven’t been fazed by the imminent Trump presidency.

Iran’s big new oil deal with Shell will help keep its nuclear agreement safe from a Trump presidency (Vox).

How Russia’s President Vladimir Putin played a crucial role in helping OPEC rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia set aside differences to forge an OPEC deal (Reuters).

Why the OPEC deal is a double-edged sword for Iran (Al-Monitor).

 Human Rights

An Iranian-American manager of the Aun Art Gallery in Tehran and his wife are imprisoned in Evin (ICHRI). The couple, Karan Vafadari and Afarin Niasari, have been jailed since July, but the story was only made public recently in hopes of securing their release in private. The couple hasn’t been charged with a crime and haven’t been given access to a lawyer since their arrest, although relatives have visited them on several occasions. Vafadari’s U.S.-based sister wrote a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that the couple has been subjected to “extortion, property seizure, and national security threats.” She asked for their immediate release.

In August, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that “two Iranian dual nationals” were charged with organizing mixed-gender parties with foreign diplomats as well as serving alcohol in their home. He noted that “the enemies of the revolution are engaged in organized corruption and depravity” and claimed 4,000 liters of booze were found in their home. He left out two key details: the couple are of the Zoroastrian faith and religious minorities in Iran aren’t subject to Islamic law. Thus, such actions aren’t illegal.

The former Italian ambassador to Iran Robert Toscano denounced the detention of Karan Vafadari and his wife (ICHRI). Ambassador Toscano condemned the arrest and said the couple were the most dignified people he met during the five years he spent as Italy’s ambassador to Tehran.

Here is a list of dual nationals currently detained by Iran:

Kamal Foroughi (British-Iranian), since May 2011

Nizar Zakka (Lebanese, U.S. permanent resident), since September 2015

Siamak Namazi (Iranian-American), since October 2015

Baquer Namazi (Iranian-American), since February 2016

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (British-Iranian), since March 2016

Robin Shahini (Iranian-American), since July 2016

Karan Vafadari (Iranian-American), since July 2016

Afarin Niasari (Iranian-American), since July 2016

Former Tehran
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian will write a memoir about his detainment in Iran, which lasted longer than the Iran Hostage Crisis (Washington Post).


On Iran's proposal to change the name and denomination of the country's currency (See story in Domestic Politics).

Check out more cartoons pertaining Iran's currency (Fars News Agency).

+ Fake news and the smear campaign against jailed journalist Afarin Chitsaz.
+ Lawyer and writers beaten, arrested at commemoration of murders of political dissidents.
+ Rights activist Atena Daemi files complaint against IRGC agents for excessive force.
+ Iranian official arrested for supporting release of imprisoned activist Narges Mohammadi.
+ In Iran, women's Basij leader demands persecution of gender-rights activism.
+ Anti-riot forces violently attack peacefully protesting Tehran bus union members.
+ How can an Iranian journalist suffering from PTSD be helped?
+ Iranian journalists at risk: Trauma, depression, distress.
+ EU urged to clarify if states are funding mass executions in Iran.

+ The fear that's keeping Iranian-Americans from visiting their homeland: arrest.

+ The crackdown on fashion continues.


+ As U.S. and Iran knock heads again, Tehran hardliners feel vindicated.
+ Iran's political paranoia includes children with foreign fathers.
+ Iran streamlines missile production, makes more weapons for less money.
+ Iran says operator was cause of fatal train crash in Semnan Province.
+ Iran's memory of war: Karbala four and the Iran-Iraq War's legacy.
+ Why Iran is finding it hard to create jobs.
+ Organ donations are still frowned upon among some Iranians.


+ How Trump can avoid his predecessors’ Iran mistakes.
+ Meet Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, Trump’s Iran hawk choice for secretary of defense.
+ General James Mattis’ 33-year grudge against Iran.
+ U.S. commander worries about aid Taliban receives from Pakistan, Russia, Iran.
+ Tehran seeks more cooperation with Saudi Arabia over regional crises.
+ Saudi Arabia sentences 15 Shiites to death for spying for Iran.
+ Saudi central bank systems said to be struck by Iran malware.
+ How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq War.
+ Why is Iran backing Syria's Bashar al-Assad?
+ Kenya urged to release Iranians held on suspicion of plotting attack on Israel embassy.
+ Tehran owns 4.5% share in German company building Israeli subs.


+ Iran says IAEA chief to visit Tehran again.
+ The IAEA confirms Tehran shipped 11 tons of heavy water abroad.
+ Trump team wants public to see unclassified Iran Deal docs kept in ultra-secure facility.
+ In signal to Trump, China and Iran say nuclear deal must stand.            
+ Financial Times writes Iran nuclear deal offers best chance for peace.


Iran shipping lines close to $650 million Korean order with Hyundai Heavy Industries.


+ I want to cry like Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari.


+ Learning to love the ‘Persian Palaces’ of Beverly Hills.


+ Cables from the revolution: Wikileaks showcases 1979.


+ The woman who ignored all the stop signs is now a model of inspiration.


+ Check out AP's photos of the saffron harvest in Iran.


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