A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of October 13th

“It’s not for me to judge President [Donald] Trump and his leadership. It’s for the American people. We don't expect the United States to interfere in our internal affairs, and we, for the same reason, do not interfere in the U.S. internal affairs. . . The United States has not benefited from producing alternative facts about our region and basing its policy on [those] alternative facts. Sometimes you produce alternative facts just as a ploy—as a propaganda ploy. That’s not good, but understandable. But then you become prisoner of your own lies. That’s dangerous.”

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, during an interview with Newsweek

 Domestic Affairs

The Iranian vice president’s brother was detained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Al-Monitor). First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri confirmed reports of his brother Mahdi’s detention, and said his brother never held a government position, in order to distance himself and the Rouhani administration. Mahdi Jahangiri is a prominent merchant and a founder of the Tourism Bank. Hinting at the possibility that hardliners may have orchestrated the arrest of his brother for political purposes, the vice president said, “There is no red line in countering corruption, and nobody should have immunity. Nobody has the right to take political revenge under the pretext of fighting corruption, and all the state institutions should act within the law.”

Iranian authorities banned former President Mohammad Khatami—a reformist—from public appearances and receiving political guests for three months (CHRI). According to Khatami’s lawyer, a letter was delivered saying he was barred from all public ceremonies starting September 23. Following the news, thousands of Iranians defended the former president on social media using hashtag Khatami Forever (خاتمی_ماندگار#). Since 2015, Khatami has been restricted from appearing in state media because of his support for the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. Last week, a court sentenced seven reformist politicians, including Khatami’s brother Mohammad Reza Khatami for “anti-regime propaganda” activity.

Interestingly, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry denies claims by the judiciary that a sentenced Iranian nuclear negotiator was a spy (Al-Monitor). Last week, Abdol Rasul Dori Esfahani, a member of the nuclear negotiating team, was sentenced to five years in prison for espionage.

Months after President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection, hardliners appear more divided than ever (Al-Monitor). These rifts began when candidates launched their campaigns for the May 19 presidential elections.

A Zoroastrian member of the Yazd City Council was suspended following a complaint (AP). The Administrative Justice Court issued the suspension for Sepanta Niknam after a candidate for the city council filed a complaint over the fencing around Yazd’s famed Tower of Silence, which is a Zoroastrian burial ground. In April, before the country’s City Council elections, the head of the Guardian Council said that religious minorities should not have a representative in Muslim-majority towns.

 Foreign Policy

The chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that U.S. military bases in the Middle East would be at risk of an Iranian missile attack if Washington imposes new sanctions (Reuters). Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, “As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles.” Jafari added that additional sanctions would end chances for a future dialogue with Washington, and that they’d consider the U.S. army “to be like ISIS around the world.” The IRGC are Tehran’s most powerful internal and external armed forces branch. Its Qods Force, which is the IRGC’s espionage and paramilitary wing, as well as entities associated with the Corps, are on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The Iranian foreign ministry said Tehran would show a crushing response should the U.S. list the IRGC as a terrorist entity (The Guardian).

In a rare occurrence, a photo was released to state media showing Iran’s foreign minister and an IRGC commander laughing and hugging each other (Al-Monitor) The image of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari seems to be designed to send a message of Iranian unity to the Trump administration (See image above).

President Rouhani praised the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as “beloved” by the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurds (Radio Farda). Rouhani added, “If the United States wants to commit the next mistake and take action against the Revolutionary Guards, this is a mistake on top of another mistake; the Revolutionary Guard is not just a military unit, but it has a place in the hearts of the Iranian people and has defended our national interests in times of threats to the country.” The Iranian president’s comments were made during a cabinet meeting, and likely published in state media to counter U.S. President Donald Trump’s possible plan to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.   

Is Iran's Guard Corps a terror group? (The Guardian)

 Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump misleadingly suggested that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) was the driving force behind the Iran Deal (New York Times). Corker, who is chairman of the Senate Relations Foreign Committee, led the Republican opposition to the nuclear agreement, and has even led several sanctions bills against Iran. But this week, President Trump wrote in a tweet that “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it.” The White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified, “Senator Corker worked with Nancy Pelosi and the Obama administration to pave the way for that legislation, and basically rolled out the red carpet for the Iran deal.” She was talking about a bill that Corker sponsored and pushed through in 2015 to give Congress some say over the nuclear deal, as Republicans demanded at the time.

Tehran said it was open to talks on its ballistic missile program, but then backtracked (Times of Israel). Reuters had reported that Iran was open to discussing its disputed ballistic missile program. However, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, “Iran has in all bilateral diplomatic meetings . . . emphasized that [reducing] its defensive missile program is not negotiable.”

A new investigative report by the political branch of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) claims that Tehran has an undercover nuclear weapons program (Fox News). In an exclusive report to Fox News, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claims that Tehran has two nuclear programs, one civilian and one military, which is meant for developing nuclear weapons. The group has a history of getting things wrong, with the exception of one report in 2002. It seems rather convenient that the MEK would issue a report just as the Trump administration plans to decertify the Iran Deal.

Also, according to a new poll by YouGov, 56 percent of Americans support the Iran Deal (YouGov). While 44 percent of American believe presidents need to follow treaties and international agreements signed by previous presidents.

Here’s a breakdown of the Iran Deal, and what you need to know about it (Washington Post).

With possible decertification looming for the nuclear deal, Iran's foreign minister argues that his country has been unfairly maligned (The Atlantic).

The United States’ lead negotiator for the nuclear agreement penned an op-ed on how Trump will be making a huge mistake by decertifying the deal (New York Times).

Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, known for his hawkish views on Iran, said it would be a “mistake” for Trump to decertify the deal (New York Times).

Uncertainty over the nuclear agreement could derail billions of dollars in Western investment heading toward Iran and trigger European economic retaliation against U.S. businesses (USA Today).

Decertifying the nuclear deal and naming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group will only boost hardliners (The Atlantic).

 Human Rights

A British-Iranian mother was hit with new charges while serving a five-year term in Iran (The Guardian). Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was due to become eligible for early release next month, but is facing fresh charges—that may add an additional 16 years in prison—trying to orchestrate a “soft overthrow” of the Iranian government. A judge also ruled that her family would have to pay $8,000 in bail to prevent her from being moved to solitary confinement while awaiting trial. No date has been set for the trial. 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.

+ Labor activist dies because of medical neglect in prison.
+ Bystanders killed in anti-smuggling operations in Sistan and Baluchestan province.
+ Baha’i singer facing prison time after European concert tour.
+ Poet missing two days after Intelligence Ministry raided his home.
+ Imprisoned editor Ehsan Mazandarani told to file for temporary release.
+ Imprisoned teachers’ rights advocate Esmail Abdi denied sentence review.
+ Iran's digital activists are fighting oppression with period trackers.
+ Jailed Iranian Baha’i poet wins International Writer of Courage award
+ Brave human rights defenders and their struggle against the death penalty
+ Officials increase pressure on Telegram App to comply with censorship policies.

Chess grandmaster's brother also abandons Iran.

+ Parliament speaker moves to position himself as Rouhani’s successor.
+ It's illegal to pirate films in Iran, unless you're the government.
+ Iranians shocked at the murder of a young man in Western Azerbaijan.

+ Russia's President Vladimir Putin to visit Iran in November.
+ Russian drone tech may include help from Iran.

+ Iraq, Iran, and Turkey may impose new sanctions on Kurdistan.
+ Tehran sees challenge of Kurdish referendum as opportunity.
+ Iranian universities enter Iraq.
+ Turkey gears up for ‘risky’ Syria mission with Russia and Iran.
+ Nobel peace prize winner rebukes Trump over nuclear standoff
+ ‘He threw a fit’: Trump’s anger over Iran deal forced aides to scramble for a compromise.
+ Senator Cotton thinks ‘military strikes’ against Iran are ‘credible’ option.  
+ Former Israeli defense chief: U.S. should impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran.
+ How the CIA staged sham academic conferences to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
+ Rights organizations urging the U.S. government to expand General License D-1.

+ Iran’s September oil output remains flat at 3.82 million bpd.
+ Cheap oil is here to stay, although new Iran sanctions pose risk.
+ Iran’s economy recovers in time for new sanctions.
+ IMF forecasts sustained growth for Iran’s economy.
+ Majority of business leaders blame Trump for slow Iran investments.
+ Germany to invest $120 million in Yazd solar power venture.
+ Three Iranian banks to open India branch.
+ Italian asset manager buys stake in Iranian rival.
+ Maxim, the Russian ride-hailing app, joins 20 other players in the Iranian market.
+ Tehran startups thrive despite sanctions.

+ Reading Nobel Laurate Ishiguro in Tehran.

...تا هفته بعد
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