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Week of August 3rd

“If we could work something out that is meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet . . . No preconditions . . . If they want to meet, I'll meet. Anytime they want . . . It’s good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”

- U.S. President Donald Trump, on meeting with Iran


U.S. - IRAN RELATIONS

Pompeo on “no preconditions”: After Trump said he’d meet with Iran, the secretary of state clarified the president's comments (New York Times). Mike Pompeo said if Iran can “demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” then President Hassan Rouhani could meet with the American leader.

Tehran isnt interested: After Trump’s latest comments, the Iranian foreign ministry brushed off the meeting offer (New York Times). Bahram Qassemi said that “the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” and given the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the re-imposition of sanctions, “there are no conditions for such a discussion at all.” A senior advisor to the Iranian foreign minister said that “there can only be talks when Trump respects the signatures of the U.S. administration in the nuclear agreement . . . Trump should reverse the pullout from the nuclear deal, or else there will be no talks.” The Iranian foreign minister tweeted that Tehran already had two years of talks under the JCPOA . Mohammad Javad Zarif added, “threats, sanctions and PR stunts won’t work. Try respect: for Iranians and for international commitments.” While the head of the IRGC reminded Trump that “Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting” (Reuters). Contrary to Iranian government officials, many of Iran’s civilians would like their president to establish a dialogue with Trump (New York Times).

Most Americans don’t want war: According to a new survey by the Huffington Post and YouGov, 53 percent of Americans would not support an American declaration of war on Iran (Huffington Post). Twenty-three percent of Americans said they would support such a declaration. Nine percent said they would strongly support it, versus 37 percent who would strongly oppose it.

No regime change: The US defense secretary said that regime change wasn’t the Trump administration’s target for Iran (Reuters). James Mattis told reporters during an off-camera briefing, “We need [Iran] to change their behavior on a number of threats that they can pose with their military, with their secret services, with their surrogates, and with their proxies.”


August 6 sanctions: As part of the United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, the US Treasury Department will restore sanctions on a number of key Iranian sectors and activities on August 6 (Atlantic Council).


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Protesters in Esfahan, Iran's third largest city on August 1. (Radio Farda)

Currency drop: On Sunday, the Iranian rial hit a record low, dropping from 97,500 to 112,000 against the U.S. dollar (Reuters). The plunge was due to a first set of U.S. sanctions snapping back on August 6. After Trump suggested that he would meet with his Iranian counterpart with “no preconditions,” the rial bounced back to 104,000 after it traded at 117,000 on Monday (Bloomberg). The Iranian rial has lost about 20 percent of its value during the past week and 80 percent of its value in the past year. The IRGC called on the Iranian president to do more to prop up the Iranian currency (Bloomberg). In an open letter published by Tasnim News Agency, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, “The unique and extensive backing you benefited from in past weeks should not preclude you from taking revolutionary actions to control prices and prevent the enormous increase in the price of foreign currency and gold.” Parliament plans to question Rouhani about his administration’s economic policy and how it’s responding to the ongoing crisis (Radio Farda).

More protests: According to videos posted on social media, Iranians are taking to the streets to protest the government and the country’s economic problems, including high prices, inflation, and unemployment. Several hundred Iranians have staged a second day of protests in Esfahan, Iran’s third-largest city (VOA). Videos verified by VOA Persian showed protesters chanting slogans: “The silence of any Iranian is a betrayal against the country” and “Khamenei, have some shame. Free the country.” Protesters also gathered in the city of Rasht and the Gohar Dasht area in Karaj (Radio Farda). One video shows at least one police motorcycle had been set on fire. In other videos, protesters are chanting, “Oh Iranians, it’s enough—defend your honor” and “Death to the dictator.” On the third day, protests spread to Mashhad, Shiraz, and the capital (RFE/RL). Some videos show a large anti-riot police presence. There are reports indicating that plainclothes agents had resorted to violence.

Green Movement leaders to be freed? Last week, a rumor circulated that the Green Movement leaders would be released after seven years of house arrest (Atlantic Council). The trio—Mir-Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi—have been under house arrest since early 2011 for leading the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. Karroubi’s son, Hossein, claimed that a “reliable source” said the Supreme National Security Council had ruled in favor of releasing the trio, and that if the Supreme Leader did not block the motion, their house arrest would be lifted. However, when a reformist member of parliament enquired of Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani of the ruling, the speaker said no decision had been made.


REGIONAL AFFAIRS

Golan Heights: Russia’s envoy to Syria claimed that Iranian forces and their proxies have moved 85 km (53 miles) from the Golan Heights frontier between Israel and Syria (Reuters). Alexander Lavrentiev told Russian news agency TASS, “The Iranians withdrew and the Shia formations are not there.”

Persian Gulf exercises: Iran launched a naval exercise in the Persian Gulf on Thursday, days before the U.S. reimposes sanctions (AFP). The timing of the exercise is unusual, as a similar drill usually takes place during the fall. U.S. officials told CNN that the IRGC was holding the naval exercise to demonstrate its ability to close the Strait of Hormuz. For now, the several dozen vessels are mostly small attack boats.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Imprisoned teacher denied hospitalization amid two-month hunger strike.
IRGC-affiliated media trying to “prepare public opinion” for execution of Kurdish man.
Kurdish activist facing prison time for criticizing Supreme Leader.
Iranian human rights lawyer facing prison time for criticizing judiciary.
Nasrin Sotoudeh’s detention order extended under two national security charges.
Rapper detained for over a month without lawyer in Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Woman expelled university just before obtaining degree because she’s Baha’i.
Man convicted of national security crimes for allegedly promoting his Baha’i faith.
Rights groups: Iran confirms prison terms for 8 Baha'is.
Masih Alinejad: My sister disowned me on state TV.

DOMESTIC ISSUES
Khamenei’s 91-year-old ally re-elected chairman of influential body.
Senior clerics ask Rouhani adminstration to fight corruption.
New generation of hardliners move to seize control of state broadcaster.
Iran’s telecommunications company illegally reroutes Telegram app traffic.
+ Protesting railway workers get pledges of help but no salaries.
Rivers dry, Iranian farmers turn to protest.
Nine years after it was drafted, parliament begins debating child abuse bill.
Ahmadinejad appeals to Trump for information on Iranian green card holders.
Glimpse into lifestyles of Iran’s elite kids spurs anger.
Did a concert in Mashhad topple an ayatollah’s ban on music?
Iranians flock to greener pastures on Caspian coast.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
America’s unending hostage crisis with Iran.
Iran and America: A forgotten friendship.
Tehran has cloned America’s Phoenix missile.
Trump seeks ‘Arab NATO’ to tackle Iran.
Why increased U.S. pressure on Iran appears to be backfiring.
China, Russia and Iran ramp up economic spying on US.
UN experts say Iran might want to help end war in Yemen.
Families of 9/11 victims look to seize Iran assets in Britain.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
Why is Europe underplaying its hand on Iran?
Here’s what it’s like to live under Iran sanctions.
Iran’s gold demand at four-year high days before sanctions.
Renault likely to pull out of Iran because of U.S. sanctions.
Russian steelmaker MMK changes tack after tariffs and Iran sanctions.
MTN’s Iranian plans are said to hit wall of new U.S. sanctions.
Iraq says Saudis to sell it power at a fraction of Iran’s price.
 
ECONOMY + TRADE
Larijani brothers make baseless claims about Iran’s economic downturn.
Iran woos local investors as U.S. sanctions loom and currency falls.

OTHER
This UT student is stuck in Iran because of Trump’s travel ban.
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