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

“With President Donald Trump there is an opportunity to build a new international coalition in the region. We need to carry out a large and inclusive strategic plan to stop the Iranian danger. We are willing to exchange information with moderate Arab countries, including intelligence information in order to deal with Iran.”

- Israeli Military Chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, in an unprecedented interview with Saudi media


EARTHQUAKE BLAME GAME
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

The supreme leader criticized the Rouhani government’s response to the Kermanshah earthquake during his trip to the region (BBC). Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said those involved in the rescue and relief operations had performed well, but he was “not satisfied” with officials from some sectors who needed to “double their efforts.” In the immediate aftermath, many survivors complained that the Iranian government had failed to deliver enough food, water, and tents, prompting citizens from other provinces to raise funds for those affected by the earthquakes and deliver supplies themselves (Atlantic Council). The 7.3-magnitude earthquake near the north-western border with Iraq killed at least 437 people and injured 10,000.

One of Khamenei’s key officials lashed out at Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri for “politicizing” the earthquake (Al-Monitor). Vahid Haghanian, a senior member of the supreme leader’s office and a former military commander, condemned Jahangiri after he said that the poor construction of the residential buildings under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to blame for the casualties. The government-subsidized Mehr Housing Scheme was a key project of the Ahmadinejad-era and was accused of corruption, poor construction, and blamed for driving up inflation. During his trip in Kermanshah, Haghanian told a group of aid workers, “God damn Vice President Jahangiri,” not knowing that his comments were being recorded on a cell phone camera. Haghanian then said, “At the first opportunity, he quickly [brings up] the Mehr Housing Scheme at the resistance economy meeting. What does that have to do with [earthquake recovery]?” After the video went viral on social media, Haghanian apologized and said he didn’t mean to insult the vice president.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State asking him to make it easier to send U.S. aid for Iran’s earthquake relief (Twitter).

Meanwhile, a woman criticized the supreme leader at a protest, questioning why Iran’s money went to Lebanon and Syria when it was needed at home (Twitter).


SYRIA'S FUTURE
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran announced an agreement to sponsor a conference aimed at achieving a peaceful settlement of the Syrian civil war (New York Times). The summit is designed to pave way for President Bashar Al-Assad to remain in power within a reformed Syrian constitution. The announcement by the three powers, who were meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, demonstrated Moscow’s increasingly influential role in determining the outcome of the war. The proposed conference was announced just days before a new round of peace talks was planned in Geneva, convened by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. It was another sign that de Mistura’s efforts were overshadowed by Russia’s actions.

Iran’s foreign minister trolled U.S. President Donald Trump's Riyadh Summit in May with a Tweet (Twitter). Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “No need for empty words or gimmicks--including glowing orbs--when you're busy actually working for peace and against terror. #SochiSummit”

President Hassan Rouhani said that foreign interference in Syria’s conflict must end and foreign military presence in the country may only be acceptable if by the invitation of Syria’s government (Reuters). The Iranian president didn’t name specific nations, but told Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that there was a need to uproot the last terrorist cells in Syria and the ground was prepared for political settlement. Echoing the Iranian president, Chief Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said the IRGC was ready to help rebuild Syria and bring a lasting ceasefire (Reuters). He added that disarming Lebanon's Hezbollah was out of the question.

Rouhani declared the end of ISIS (Reuters). In a television address, President Rouhani said, “Today with God’s guidance and the resistance of people in the region, we can say that this evil has either been lifted from the head of the people or has been reduced. Of course the remnants will continue but the foundation and roots have been destroyed.” Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), also said that ISIS had been defeated, in a message sent to the supreme leader which was published on the Guards’ news site, Sepah News. The supreme leader congratulated IRGC Commander Soleimani on the defeat of ISIS and said it was a “blow both to the terrorist group and its creators and supporters, including the United States.” (Radio Farda)

Also, Britain plans to end a legal dispute with Tehran over 1976 arms deal (The Guardian). The four-decade legal dispute with the Iranian government is over hundreds of Chieftain tanks that Iran bought from the U.K. in 1976, but never received because of the 1979 Revolution.The British government admits it owes Tehran up to £300 million, but the countries have gone back and forth over the precise sum and whether any payment could be made while Iran was still under EU sanctions. Downing Street insists that there is no link between this dispute and ongoing efforts to release British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe imprisoned in Tehran for 601 days (Read HUMAN RIGHTS).

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers criticized Iran and Hezbollah at an emergency meeting of the Arab League (Reuters). The emergency meeting was convened at the request of Riyadh with support from the Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE to discuss means of countering Iranian intervention.

Tehran rejected the Arab League’s statement, saying it was “full of lies” and a product of Saudi “pressure and propaganda” (VOA).

The debacle surrounding the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister amid growing Saudi hostility toward Iran suggests a coming showdown in the region (Al-Monitor).

Saudi Arabia has no idea how to deal with Iran (New York Times).

Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals (BBC).

The Khuzestan factor in Saudi-Iran relations (LobeLog).


HBO HACKER IDENTIFIED
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal + Sanctions

An Iranian national was charged with hacking into HBO’s computer system and stealing unaired episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ in return for Bitcoin ransom (NBC News). Behzad Mesri, a member of the Turk Black Hat Security hacking group, had worked for the Iranian military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure. From Iran, Mesri was able to get his hands on new episodes of shows, including ‘Ballers,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ ‘Room 104,’ as well as scripts for ‘Game of Thrones’. He asked for $5.5 million in Bitcoins and later upped the price to $6 million. It’s unclear whether HBO paid the ransom. Soon after, Mesri began leaking portions of the stolen content over the internet and to media outlets. Court papers do not accuse the Iranian government of orchestrating the attack, but the charges were part of a “name and shame” strategy to quell interference by foreign hackers the FBI doesn’t expect to be turned in.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a group of companies and individuals for counterfeiting Yemeni bank notes for the IRGC’s Qods Force (Reuters). 


#FREENAZANIN
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights

Yesterday marked a British-Iranian mother’s 600th day in prison (Evening Standard). Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is showing signs of advanced depression and insomnia. In April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at the airport in Tehran on her way back to the U.K. after visiting family with her daughter Gabriella, who was 22-months-old at the time. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in jail, and her child was placed in the care of her parents. A December 10 court date has been set for Zaghari-Ratcliffe, according to her husband (The Guardian).

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's three-year-old daughter lashed out at a guard after their weekly coloring session during a prison visit was cut short (DailyMail). Gabriella is only allowed to see her mother for 45 minutes twice a week.

Actress Emma Thompson to lead mothers march for jailed British-Iranian mother (Ham&High).

175 Nobel Laureates call on Iran to release Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali (CHRI).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
 + Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh ignores court summons.
+ Lessons from prison: The release of Baha’i Fariba Kamalabadi.
+ Six more Baha'is sentenced to prison in Iran
+ Baha'i woman's poetry was her best friend in Iranian jail.
+ Outspoken daughter of slain dissidents going on trial for ‘spreading propaganda’.  
+ Rajaee Shahr prison inmates fed with livestock feed.
+ Prisoners transferred to prison in northwest after being beaten by Rajaee Shahr guards.
+ Official threatens “restrictions” on social media networks that reject censorship policies.
+ Intelligence agents blackmailed BBC Persian reporter with ‘naked photo’ threats
+ Iran attempts to deflect responsibility in criticizing UN resolution on human rights record.


DOMESTIC ISSUES
+ Intelligence Ministry tells Rouhani campaign manager to stop advocating for Sunni rights.
+ Ahmadinejad issued a series of verbal attacks against influential figures.
+ Inside the world of social media advertising in Iran
+ Iran emerges as health tourism destination
+ Snapp Taxi app violates user privacy rights by spying on users’ phone data.
+ The wrong way to address Iran’s missile program.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
+ France's Macron tells Iran, Israel leaders of need to preserve Lebanon's stability
+ Khamenei advisor says, “who is Macron to tell Iran what to do.” 

France should not interfere in Iran's missile program: adviser to Iran's supreme leader.
+ IRGC commander, another fighter, killed in Syria.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
+ EU donates €20 million for safe nuclear energy in Iran.
+ Why U.K.-U.S. divide on nuclear deal matters.
+ What you need to know about U.S. tech-related sanctions on Iran.


ECONOMY + TRADE
+ Iran says majority of OPEC members support extending oil output cuts.
+ Tehran pushes to retain Asia oil buyers as possible U.S. sanctions loom.
+ France’s Total risks entire Iran investment if it pulls out of project.
+ Iran's social security in trouble as government owes $36 billion to the fund.

ART + CULTURE
+ Amazing photos reveals how sex and fashion thrived before the Islamic Revolution.
+ Life on the Iranian side of Astara.

EVENTS
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