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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of October 6th

"You either live by [the nuclear deal] or you set it aside. You cannot be half pregnant. My assumption and guess is that [U.S. President Donald Trump] will not certify and then will allow Congress to take the decision. . . I think he has made a policy of being unpredictable, and now he’s turning that into being unreliable as well. He has violated the letter, spirit, everything of the deal. . .There are other options and those options will depend on how the rest of the international community deal with the United States. If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the United States, then I think that will be the end of the deal.”

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, during an interview  


SEVERAL SENTENCES HANDED OUT
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

A court sentenced seven reformist politicians, including the brother of former President Mohammad Khatami (RFERL). The seven were leaders of the reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, that was banned in 2010 during a state crackdown that followed the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. According to their lawyer, Khatami’s brother Mohammad Reza Khatami and four others, were found guilty of “anti-regime propaganda” activity. The men are sentenced to one year in prison and barred from media and political activity for two years. The sentences can be appealed.

A member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team was sentenced to five years in prison for espionage (RFERL). Although state media didn’t name the individual, the only member of the negotiating team known to be facing criminal charges is Abdol Rasul Dori Esfahani, an Iranian-Canadian national. Esfahani was accused of receiving $35 million from the U.S. and Britain in exchange for sensitive information about Iran. Esfahani was later granted bail, which is rare in Iran for those accused of serious crimes, and denied the allegations. Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Also, a young woman banned from the Iranian national chess team has joined the U.S. Chess Federation (IranWire). Dorsa Derakhshani left Tehran and moved to Spain in 2015 after she received an invitation by a chess club with a scholarship. Her refusal to wear the headscarf during a February competition at the Gibraltar Chess Festival, prompted a controversy. Derakhshani is the second female chess grandmaster from Iran. Her brother Borna was also a chess player, and was banned as well after playing against an Israeli, which the Islamic Republic forbids its athletes from doing.

Parliamentarians are debating again over reviving the position of prime minister (Al-Monitor). This time, several MPs are hoping to obtain the backing of the supreme leader. For a decade after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran had a parliamentary political system. Then, in 1989, the constitution was amended to abolish the premiership and divide responsibilities between a president and vice president.


KURDISTAN ON THE TABLE
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Turkey’s president arrived in Iran for a day-long trip to meet with his Iranian counterpart (Al Jazeera). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Tehran has been expected since August, but his original agenda focusing on military cooperation to fight ISIS and the establishment of a de-escalation zones in Syria was overshadowed by the Kurdish referendum. Erdogan has held talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the outcome of the Iraqi Kurdish referendum and other regional security issues. Erdogan and Rouhani pledged they would ensure borders in the region remain unchanged after the recent Kurdish referendum in Iraq (AP).

Iranian and Iraqi central government forces are to hold joint military exercises near their borders (Reuters).

Turkey also called for a summit with Iran and Iraq over the Kurdish independence vote (RFERL).

Security forces detained dozens in Kurdish-populated cities following the “yes” vote in the Kurdish referendum (CHRI).

Iranian Twitter users criticized Iran’s “double standard” after declaring a blockade against the Iraq Kurdistan Regional Government (RFERL). One Twitter user wrote: “Mr. Rouhani! During the presidential campaigns you used to say that you were against sanctions. Why have you kept mum on sanctions imposed on the KRG? Sanctions are bad, as far as they are imposed on us, otherwise they are good?”

Analysis: Iran’s pressure on the Kurds could backfire (Al-Monitor).

Analysis: Why Tehran should balance its relations with Baghdad and Irbil (LobeLog).

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister met with Qatar’s ruling emir, as the Doha siege continues (AP). Iranian state media published images of Foreign Minister Zarif in Doha meeting with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as they discussed relations and strengthening “cooperation” between the two countries. The visit marks Zarif’s first trip to Doha since the Qatar siege began in June. The Iranian foreign minister also met with Omani officials, including Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled Oman since 1970 and has served as an interlocutor between the West and Iran.


Only 25 percent of Saudi citizens believe Iran poses a top threat to the region (Foreign Affairs)


TRUMP TO DECERTIFY
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal

The U.S. defense secretary told Congress it would not be in Washington’s national security interest to abandon the nuclear deal (Politico). Defense Secretary James Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said, “At this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the president should consider staying in.” President Donald Trump must decide by October 15 whether to certify that Iran is keeping up with its end of the deal. Appearing alongside Mattis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joe Dunford, told the panel that Iran “is not in material breach” of the nuclear deal, contending that the agreement has “delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.” However, President Trump is expected to announce next week that he will “decertify” the deal, saying it is not in the national interest of the U.S. and intends to kick the issue to Congress (Washington).

U.S. officials also say Trump will likely deliver an Iran policy speech next week, days ahead of the October 15 deadline (RFERL).

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry penned an op-ed about how to the JCPOA is working (Washington Post).

Iran’s foreign minister told Al-Jazeera if Washington decides to pull out of the deal, Tehran has the option of withdrawal, and other options as well (Reuters).

A top Iranian military official said Tehran won’t be pressured by U.S. threats to pull out of the deal and that Tehran would be better without it (CNBC).


European envoys mounted defenses of the JCPOA at a think tank event, arguing that Iran is complying with the deal (VOA). Part of the lobbying effort by European leaders and envoys has been to argue that the nuclear deal shouldn’t be sacrificed because of other areas of concern, such as the sunset clause.

Interestingly, a former Israeli official is trying to preserve the historic nuclear accord (New Yorker).


CHILD SOLDIERS
FILED UNDER:
 Human Rights

A prominent human rights organization said Afghan immigrant children as young as 14 are being recruited in Iran to fight in Syria (HRW). Human Rights Watch said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were recruiting Afghan children to fight in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Tehran that fights alongside Bashar Al-Assad’s government forces. Under international law, recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
+ Hunger striker sentenced to death wrote will and said goodbye to his family.
+ Exiled members of Sufi Gonabadi dervish order told to “repent” or serve life in prison.
+ Gorgan appeals court issues prison sentences, fines for Facebook posts.
+ Admins of pirated movies website arrested after complaints from “licensed” rivals.
+ Rights activist barred from university under Ahmadinejad faces roadblocks still.
+ Singer offered bribes in exchange for cooperating with Rouhani government.
+ Labor activist Reza Shahabi conditionally ends hunger strike.
+ Attorney calls out local governor for “empty” promises to Iran’s “Kulbar” border couriers.
+ “Iran’s ruling clerics are followers of Machiavelli, not the Mahdi.” 

+ Shirin Ebadi: Rouhani lies about human rights in Iran.
+ U.S. accuses Iran and Venezuela of human trafficking failings.
+ U.S. judge orders Iran to pay $63 million to ex-Marine imprisoned for four years.
+ U.S. resident on “enforced hunger strike” over severe and untreated dental problems.

DOMESTIC ISSUES
+ President Rouhani pushes back against security media.
+ Rouhani government failing to uphold minority rights despite supreme leader’s call.
+ The growing gap of wealth: $150 entry fees and menus with no prices.
+ How did haircuts and nail polish become part of Iran's Shiite mourning rituals?
+ Death of young ‘porter’ highlights plight of Iran’s ‘human mules’.
+ More than 40 percent of Iranian households live below the poverty line.
+ Iran to mark 75th anniversary of hosting Polish WWII refugees.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
+ Deadly fighting rages in Afghan province bordering Iran.
+ Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemns France, Canada terror attacks.
+ Cooperating with Iran to combat ISIS in Iraq.
+ Did Iran murder the prosecutor investigating Argentina’s president?
+ Venezuela sees Iran and Syria riding to the rescue.
+ Iran-funded center a lifeline for Jakarta’s marginalized Shia minority.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
+ The Iran nuclear dealmakers could win the Nobel peace prize.
+ If Trump scraps the nuclear deal, the first loser may be Boeing.
+ Trump slow to implement Russia, Iran, North Korea sanctions law, says senators.
+ U.S. envoy slams Russia for bid to shield Iran from IAEA inspections.
+ Match North Korea overture with Iran offer, Germany tells U.S.
+ Why do mainstream reporters take FDD’s Mark Dubowitz’s Iran analysis seriously?

+ UAE jails Iranian over international sanctions breach.

ECONOMY + TRADE
Europe's business heads aim to keep Iran Deal despite U.S. threat.
+ Asia's Iran oil imports reach five-month high.
+ Total sticks to Iran gas plan despite U.S. sanctions fears
+ Swiss banks coming to Iran.
+ Half of Iran's banks should close or merge, top banker says.
+ French carmaker Renault exports to Iran up 83 percent since March.
+ Samsung to produce Smart televisions in Iran and create 30,000 new jobs.
+ Iran Air to launch regional airline with new ATRs.


ART + CULTURE
+ Iran’s blooming art scene: a bubble of hope.
+ Iranian Shia Muslims attend mud-rubbing ritual–in pictures.
+ Don't miss this documentary about Iran's beloved Hillman Hunters aka Paykans.

SPORTS
+ Iran's freestyle wrestler Emami clinches Dmitry Korkin 2017 gold.

OTHER
+ Iranian baby with heart defect impacted by travel ban is ‘thriving’.
+ Iranian Americans in limbo after Trump’s new travel rules.
+ Muslim Ban runs the risk of turning current Iranian-Americans into the last of their kind.

EVENTS
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