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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of December 2nd

"First of all for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented. It would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up [the Iran nuclear] agreement."

       – CIA Director John Brennan, on the Iran Deal
 


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SPEAK YOUR MIND
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

A reformist parliamentarian representing Tehran was almost arrested by Iranian judicial authorities this week (The Guardian). Mahmoud Sadeghi questioned Iran’s justice minister over its chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, for possessing 63 personal bank accounts filled with public funds that may have accumulated over $64 million annually. The judiciary denied the allegations and decided to arrest MP Sadeghi, even though he has the privilege of legislative immunity. Judicial authorities reversed their decision after they were thwarted from detaining Sadeghi when activists, students, and fellow parliamentarians assembled in front of his home as a sign of support.

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani is from a prominent political family. Both of his brothers also hold senior positions in the Iranian government. Ali Larijani is speaker of the Majlis (parliament) and Mohammad Javad Larijani is the head of the Human Rights Council.


MP Sadeghi has since appeared at the Culture and Media Court to respond to questions about several complaints made against him since criticizing Larijani (ICHRI).

Meanwhile, the son of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was sentenced to six years in prison for an array of national security related charges including "anti-regime propaganda" and "releasing a classified audio file" (RFERL). Earlier this year, Ahmad Montazeri published an audio file of his father criticizing the 1988 massacre that took place in prisons throughout Iran. Ayatollah Montazeri, once the deputy supreme leader of Iran, was the designated successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini until he fell out of favor for opposing the massacre, months before the leader of the revolution died in 1989.

On the 40-minute tape, Montazeri says, “The biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic, which will be condemned by history, happened by your hands.” He goes on to denounce Iranian officials involved in carrying out the orders and showed remorse for the families of the victims. The audio file confirms everything written in Montazeri’s autobiography, but also reveals just how critical he was of those individuals. Although Montazeri passed away in 2009, his son Ahmad decided to release the tape because some officials had been tarnishing his father’s image.


CAREFUL WHERE YOU POINT THAT THING!
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

An Iranian vessel belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pointed its weapon at a U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz (Reuters). According to U.S. defense officials, the helicopter flew within half a mile (0.8 km) of two Iranian vessels in international waters. They called Tehran’s behavior “provocative”. Whereas an unnamed IRGC official told Iranian state media, “Everybody knows that the main problem in the Persian Gulf is the U.S. presence.” The unidentified Iranian official called the U.S. behavior “improper and unprofessional”.

Several similar incidents have occurred early this year. The latest incident occurred in September when an Iranian fast-attack craft came within 295 feet (90 meters) of a U.S. Navy coastal patrol. The U.S. Navy ship quickly changed course.


SANCTIONS RENEWAL HAPPENING
FILED UNDER:
 IRAN DEAL

The Senate unanimously passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which was set to expire at the end of this year (New York Times). The ISA was first adopted in 1996 to sanction banking, energy, and defense, with the ultimate goal of deterring Iran’s nuclear and missile activities. Lawmakers want to send a message that the United States would respond to any provocations by Tehran or if the Islamic Republic acts in violation of the Iran Deal. The House of Representatives already voted in favor of renewing sanctions in November and the Obama administration is said to sign the legislation, contrary to previous reports about vetoing.

A U.S. official said the renewal of ISA won't affect the United States' commitment to the nuclear deal and that the Secretary of State has the authority to waive all nuclear-related sanctions in the legislation.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said renewing sanctions is a violation of the JCPOA (PressTV). He added that, “Iran has made necessary preparations for potential US decisions about the extension of sanctions.” The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made similar remarks in the past.



AN OPEC DEAL, FINALLY
FILED UNDER:
 Economy + Trade

After a deadlock, OPEC finally agreed to its first oil cut since 2008, with non-member Russia also joining the reduction for the first time in 15 years (Bloomberg). Iran was the big winner of the negotiations with a 3.8 million bpd allowance to recover from sanctions. Despite needing funds to fight ISIS, Iraq agreed to reduce production by 0.2 million bpd. Saudi Arabia agreed to the bulk of the cuts by reducing production to 10.06 million bpd. OPEC plans to reduce output by 1.2 million bpd by January 2017, but exempted Libya and Nigeria.

OPEC will meet on May 25th, which it will extend cuts for another six months. In the meantime, Indonesia, the only east Asian member, froze its OPEC membership for the time being. Jakarta wasn't willing to cut production as agreed by OPEC members.


Interestingly, Iranian media praised the OPEC deal as a victory over Saudi Arabia (Al-Monitor).

France’s Total becomes first major Western oil company to return to Tehran. Will it pave the way for others (Al-Monitor)?


CARTOON OF THE WEEK

Touka Neyestani on how Judicial Chief Sadegh Larijani keeps his money (See story in Domestic Politics).


NEW BOOK ALERT
Check out Joobin Bekhrad's "Coming Down Again".
Looking for more books on Iran?


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
 
+ Women’s rights activist Alieh Matlabzadeh arrested after attending workshop in Georgia.
 
+ Prison and lashes for unfinished film, ‘Writing on the City’.
 
+ Missing spiritual leader’s supporters beaten by intelligence agents at Iran’s parliament.

+ Iranian musician hospitalised after one-month hunger strike.

+ Imprisoned human rights activist to sue IRGC agents for violent and illegal arrest.

+ Sedigheh Moradi freed from prison after serving five years “for nothing”.
 
+ German-Iranian assistant for Berlin Film Festival barred from leaving Iran.
 
+ 'I haven't given up on getting my wife Nazanin out of jail in Iran by Christmas'.

+ Momentum growing to end Iran’s death sentences for drug offenses.

+ In Evin, some prisoners face a cold winter.

DOMESTIC ISSUES

+ Canceled reformist speech is causing political turmoil in Iran.
 
+ Should the IRGC be worried by latest Iran army promotion?
 
+ Underground Church movement grows in Iran despite regime's efforts.
 
+ Iranian online shopping site launches its own version of Black Friday.
 
+ How it became cool to order in English at restaurants in Iran.
 
+ Mullahs, skateparks, and designer knock-offs: inside modern Iran.
 
+ Next stop, Shiraz: How Iran is becoming a hot tourism destination.
 
+ Passenger trains collide in Iran, over 43 killed.
 
+ IRGC helicopter crash in Iran kills 5.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

+ New Iranian ambassador to London hands credentials to Queen Elizabeth II.
 
+ Tehran should be worried about a Trump administration.
 
+ While many Iranians fear Trump presidency, others see opportunities.
 
+ Iran and Bashar Al-Assad in the Age of Trump.
 
+ How Donald Trump can deal with Iran-GCC conflict.

+ IDF general says Iran hasn’t changed in light of the nuclear deal.

+ How Iranian weapons are ending up in Yemen.
 
+ Tehran considers naval bases in Syria and Yemen.
 
+ Iran claims to have thwarted ISIS attack in Tehran.
 
+ Iranian Kurds fighting ISIS in Iraq put Tehran on alert.
 
+ Russia and Iran tear down visa walls, pave way for mutual tourism influx.

+ Fidel Castro’s death elicits mixed coverage in Iranian media.
 
+ Suicide truck bomb kills about 100 in Iraq, mostly Iranian pilgrims.
 
+ Iran arrests 10 Pakistani fishermen.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

+ General James Mattis on Iran: belligerent, but don’t tear up nuclear deal.
 
+ Obama administration races to shore up Iran Deal.

ECONOMY + TRADE

+ World’s largest oil driller Schlumberger signs early deal with Iran.
 
+ Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project still in doldrums due to sanctions.
 
+ Iranian chain restaurant Baguette invites franchises to Tehran.

+ Iran and Romania sign $700 million energy deal.

+ Iran and Philippines to improve banking relations.
 
+ Iran’s rial keeps slumping against the U.S. dollar.

ARTS + CULTURE

+ Iran pulls the plug on Tehran art exhibition in Berlin.
 
+ No war zone art: Iran exhibits Arab modern art.
 
+ Don’t mean what you say: the Persian art of taarof.
 
+ Memories of the Peace Corps: Love and learning in Mashhad.
 
+ Seven things about Iranian fashion you should know.
 
+ These stunningly beautiful photos show what ordinary life in Iran is like.


+ From Brooklyn to Kentucky to Iran: Cookbooks for every taste.


DIASPORA


+ This op-ed on Fidel Castro’s impact echoes everything about the Iranian diaspora.

HISTORY

+ On this day in history: Iran-Contra dealings revealed, Nov. 25, 1986.

OTHER

+ #MannequinChallenge Shiraz, Iran edition.

EVENTS
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