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Week of February 23rd

I know you have to go. I want to know: You live in a tinderbox right now. The relationship with Saudi Arabia has never been worse. Do you think President Trump has the experience to fully understand the region?
I hope by the time you air this show, he would have gained it.

Are you worried about him?
Well, I think at the end of the day, cooler heads prevail.

He’s put you on notice.
And we are unmoved.”

- PBS Frontline Q&A with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Watch PART I of Frontline's "Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia" (PBS).


AIRPLANE CRASH
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs
Rescue workers searching for the wreckage of the Aseman Airlines plane (Tasnim News Agency)

A commercial airplane crashed into the Zagros Mountains, killing all 65 people on board (New York Times). The Iran Aseman Airlines plane went down near its destination, Yasuj, about 485 miles south of its departure point, Tehran. Due to decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircrafts have aged, causing regular accidents in recent years. The twin-engine ATR-72 that crashed was more than 24 years old. According to data cited by the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network, the plane was returned to service just three months ago, after being in storage for six years.

Fog initially prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the site, so many rescue teams climbed Mount Dena, which has an elevation of 14,500 feet (4,420 meters). The bodies of 32 passengers have been found so far, and many of the remaining bodies are buried under ice and snow (Reuters).


Earlier reports said that 66 people had died in the crash, but one would-be passenger did not board the flight (Twitter). Farhad Aramesh-Nia was the sole passenger that missed the Aseman Airlines flight. Aramesh-Nia posted a copy of his ticket on social media and said, “God has been very gracious to me, but with all my heart I'm saddened by the loved ones lost.”

U.S. sanctions have turned Iranian airplanes into “flying coffins” (ThinkProgress).

Iranian airline covertly bought parts from U.S. suppliers (CBS News).

Meanwhile, former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter addressed to the Supreme Leader calling for “free” presidential and parliamentary elections (Reuters). Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009 prompted the post-election protests known as the Green Movement over alleged vote rigging.

Also, Iranian officials have promised to end the house arrest of the Green Movement leaders by the end of the Iranian year, March 20 (Tehran Times). Deputy Majlis Speaker Ali Motahari said that certain measures were taken and now the authorities are “waiting to see if they deliver what they promised.” Reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest since 2011.


POSSIBLE NEW UN SANCTIONS
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said that a new UN report highlights Iran’s non-compliance with multiple Security Council resolutions (CBS News). The 329-page report by a UN Panel of Experts said that it has “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.” The report found that Tehran “failed to take the necessary measures to prevent those weapons from reaching sanctioned individuals and entities,” including supplies to Yemen Houthi rebels for missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the UN, while at the same time threatening to quit the nuclear deal if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.

Britain, France, and the United States want the UNSC to condemn Tehran for failing to stop its ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Yemen’s Houthis (Reuters). The trio also want to renew UN sanctions on Yemen for another year to target “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” Saudi Arabia welcomed the draft resolution. The Russian UN ambassador resisted the Western bid to condemn Tehran over the resolution (Reuters).

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations penned an op-ed on how Tehran is violating UN Security Council resolutions (New York Times).

The U.S. should offer incentives for Iran missile testing moratorium (Atlantic Council).

Iran among the ruins: Tehran’s advantage in a turbulent Middle East (Foreign Affairs).


RECOGNIZE THIS?
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves part of a downed Iranian drone (Times of Israel)

The IAEA’s quarterly report said that Tehran stayed within the main restrictions of its nuclear activists imposed by the nuclear deal (Reuters).

Israel’s prime minister warned that Tehran should “not test Israel’s resolve” as he showed off what he said was part of an Iranian drone that was shot down last week (Times of Israel). PM Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) that if the U.S. scrapped the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there was nothing that Tehran could do. Appearing two hours later at the MSC, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fired back, calling Netanyahu’s comment “delusional thinking.” Zarif said: “I can assure that if Iran’s interests are not secured, Iran will respond, will respond seriously. And I believe it would be a response that means people would be sorry for taking the erroneous action they did.” Zarif added that “we will not be the first ones to violate” the nuclear deal. Some Iranians suggested that Iranian FM Zarif should deliver a speech with a piece of an Israeli drone shot down in Natanz in 2014 (Twitter). 


FM Zarif also called for a regional security dialogue involving countries bordering the Persian Gulf (Times of Israel).

To push Iran back, Israel is ramping up support for Syrian rebels (Haaretz).

Amid the chaos of Syria, will Israel and Iran launch an all-out war? (The Guardian)


Neocons call for war against Iran in Syria after Israeli strikes (LobeLog).

Also, U.S. President Donald Trump is asking Europeans to commit to improving the Iran Deal so that he can renew sanctions relief in May (Reuters). European allies are uncertain what will satisfy Trump and are reluctant to make such a commitment only to find America making additional demands, two European officials and two former U.S. officials said. But Vice President Mike Pence said his administration would not re-certify the nuclear deal (Platts).

France reaffirmed its commitment to the nuclear deal, saying that it wants the JCPOA strictly implemented (Reuters).

Iran's deputy foreign minister said that it will withdraw from the nuclear deal if there is no economic benefit and major banks continue to shun Tehran (Reuters). Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in a speech at London's Chatham House, “The deal would not survive this way even if the ultimatum is passed and waivers are extended.” He added, “If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the JCPOA continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us. That’s a fact.”



SUFI PROTESTS
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights
Iranian security forces clash with the Gonabadi Sufi community in Tehran (Social Media)

Five security officers were killed during clashes with members of a Sufi Islam order (New York Times). State media reported that the police have arrested more than 300 protesters, most of them Gonabadi dervishes. Though Sufism is not outlawedin Iran, the dervishes are often harassed and discriminated by authorities. The group was protesting outside a police station to demand the release of some members who had been detained. Violence broke out when security officers arrived. Photographs posted on social media showed several dervishes who had been severely beaten. Later in the evening, one protester drove a bus into a group of riot police officers, killing three and wounding others. One member of the Basij, the voluntary paramilitary security forces, was run over and killed in a separate attack, while another was stabbed to death.

A detailed account of the clashes between Gonabadi dervishes and the Iranian government (RFERL).

Iranians debate Gonabadis use of violence against security forces (CHRI).

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Sweden’s ambassador after it granted citizenship to an Iranian-born Swedish resident facing the death penalty (AP). Ahmadreza Djalali—a doctor and university lecturer in emergency medicine—has been sentenced to death for allegedly providing information to Israel to help assassinate several senior nuclear scientists in exchange for financial payment and residency in Sweden. At least four scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012 in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear energy program. Rights groups have condemned Jalali's detention, saying it follows a pattern of Tehran detaining dual nationals and expatriates without due process. Iran does not recognize dual nationals.

Iran’s history of suspicious deaths in prison (Atlantic Council).

Environmentalist’s family lawyers issue statement countering state television smear campaign (CHRI).

A backgrounder on Kavous Seyed-Emami's death (New York Times).

Forced confessions in Iran’s house of the dead (New York Times).


Iran’s suppression of recent unrest is marked by brutal violations of law, according to new briefing by the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
+ Trump Administration turns away Iranian Christians.
+ Seven rights activists denied legal counsel after being arrested by Intelligence Ministry.
+ Narges Mohammadi condemns judiciary’s “subservience” to security agencies
+ Civil rights activist Parastou Forouhar fights six-year suspended prison sentence.
+ Letter from Evin Prison highlights grim plight of political prisoners
+ Freed Baha’i leader: Jailing Baha’is is futile and pointless.
+ UN should keep engaging Iran on its rights record by renewing special rapporteur.
+ UN urges Iran to stop executions of juveniles on death row.
+ Another woman arrested for protesting compulsory veiling.

DOMESTIC ISSUES
+ Does Khamenei’s apology for “injustice” mean anything
+ An Iranian soccer star takes on the state
+ “Traitor” journalist suspended and demoted for tweet about hardliner cleric
+ The conductor smashing Iranian taboos over women and music.
+ Police warn of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to foster Wahhabism inside Iran.
+ Iranian film on Tehran's role in Syria war creates controversy.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
+ What Trump needs to know about Iranians.  
+ Saudi foreign minister calls Iran most dangerous nation for cyberattacks.  
+ Saudi FM chastises Europe’s business with Iran, says it ‘enriches’ sponsors of terror.
+ Saudi Arabia and Iran battle it out in Azerbaijan.
+ Afrin puts Turkish-Iranian-Russian mistrust on full display.  
+ French foreign minister to head to Russia and Iran to discuss Syria.  
+ India and Iran to step up cooperation on Afghanistan.
+ Iran and India revive economic relations with new Chabahar agreement.  
+ Iranian president and supreme leader regard ties to Pakistan as top priority

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
+ Iran’s sanctions evasion went east after Europe cracked down.

ECONOMY + TRADE
+ World financial watchdog keeps punting on Iran.
+ Six factors driving Iran’s sudden currency devaluation.
+ Iran takes measures to combat rial’s fall to record lows.
+ After curbs on Iranian fruit import, Pakistan exporters fear retaliation.

ART + CULTURE
+ Supreme Court forbids seizure of ancient Persian artifacts.
+ Louvre blockbuster show heads to Iran in major move of cultural diplomacy.

OTHER
+ As unrest simmers, Scotland's Iranian diaspora look on.
+ Iranian writer retains author’s intent when translating poetry.

EVENTS
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