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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of May 5th

“We hear, and we have heard it before, some saying: ‘When we took things in our hands, we could save the country from war.’ No. This is not true. What protected this country during all these years against aggression, and the enemy's intrusion, is the presence of the people.”

- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
in reference to President Hassan Rouhani’s comments in the past


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: HALEH ESFANDIARI

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Haleh Esfandiari spoke to The Iranist about the upcoming Iranian presidential election, imprisonment of dual nationals, and words of wisdom for the next generation.


WE HAVE A DEBATE WINNER
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Election

Iranians on social media declared Rouhani's Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri as the winner of the first presidential debate. They've even nicknamed him "Super Eshaq".

The first of three rounds of televised presidential debates were full of surprises (IranWire). The anticipated confrontation between incumbent pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani and hardliner cleric Ebrahim Raisi did not happen. Raisi tried to emulate the populist rhetoric of former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but fell short. The star of the debate turned out to be Rouhani’s vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, who is expected to drop out later in support of Rouhani. Jahangiri went after Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, criticizing his handling of the Plasco building collapse and corruption record. Eventually, Rouhani stepped in to call Ghalibaf a liar, citing false promises of job creation. Much of the debate’s controversy was over whether they should be aired live or not (Al-Monitor). Today is the second presidential debate.

President Rouhani said Iranians could face greater authoritarianism if they replaced him with a hardline rival in May’s election (Reuters). Rouhani told a rally in Yazd, “We will not let them bring the security and police atmosphere back to the country.” He added, “Iranians will prove to the world at the May 19 election that the era of violence, extremism and pressures in our country is over and Iran is pursuing the path of reason.”

Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami endorsed Rouhani, saying his loss may cause a return to “difficult conditions” (Bloomberg). Khatami posted on his website, “Our candidate is Mr. Rouhani. Not choosing Rouhani means strengthening the possibility of the return of those difficult conditions.” Khatami was banned from appearing in the media since 2015 due to his support of the Green Movement leaders.

Similarly, moderate conservatives, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, have officially thrown their weight behind Rouhani (Al-Monitor).

In addition, Larijani also backed Rouhani by criticizing the spending pledges put forward by conservative rivals (Bloomberg). He said, “The government does not have the ability to multiply subsidies by two or three. Given the government’s revenues and expenses, it’s not feasible to increase.


Raisi released a campaign video claiming drastic income inequality under Rouhani and portrays his government as favoring the rich (Bloomberg).

Why President Rouhani will likely win second term (Al-Monitor).

Good read: The Iranian people care about elections, but the so-called democratic fringe doesn't (The Guardian).


Presidential election breakdown:

May 5: Second presidential debate (2:30 pm GMT, watch it here)
Now–May 17: Campaigning
May 19: Election
May 26: Second round of election if no candidate secures a majority


MINING ACCIDENT
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

A methane gas explosion at a coal mine killed at least 23 workers and injured dozens (New York Times). The blast occurred at the Zemestanyurt mine near the city of Azadshahr in northern Iran. The mine collapsed after workers tried to jump-start a mine locomotive. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei offered condolences as did President Rouhani (Mehr News Agency). President Rouhani also Tweeted: “This painful accident that injured a number of workers in the Azadshahr mine in Golestan province has caused grief and mourning for all the people of Iran.”

The founder and CEO of an Iranian diaspora satellite television network was assassinated with a business partner in Istanbul (BuzzFeed). GEM TV’s Saeed Karimian and an associate were driving when their car was blocked by a jeep and shots were fired. The jeep was later found abandoned and burned. GEM TV is known for entertainment satellite channels which dub foreign films and television programs into Persian; it also produces movies and TV series. Last year, Karimian was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” While Karimian’s family suggests it was the Iranian government, Turkish authorities have ruled out Tehran’s involvement in the assassination (Al-Monitor). The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “The incident is being pursued via diplomatic channels, and we have officially called on the Turkish government to promptly inform us of the results of its investigations.” Istanbul's district mayor suggested the murder was related to a financial dispute.


TO PEACE OR NOT TO PEACE?
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince ruled out dialogue with Iran (Reuters). Prince Mohammed bin Salman said it was impossible to talk to a country that was planning for the return of Imam Mahdi, who is expected to come with Jesus Christ during the Day of Judgement—a belief shared by Sunni Muslims as well. The prince also shared his impression that Iran, “must control the land of Muslims and spread their Twelver Jaafari sect in the Muslim world.” He added that, “We know that the aim of the Iranian regime is to reach the focal point of Muslims (Mecca) and we will not wait until the fight is inside Saudi Arabia and we will work so that the battle is on their side, inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

Royals from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries met in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security and unify their Iran stance (AP). Defense, foreign, and interior ministers of the six-nation GCC attended the meeting.


Iran said it was still ready for talks with Saudi Arabia despite remarks made by the country's deputy crown prince (RFERL). Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, said Tehran has “no desire, nor any interest, in an escalation of tension in our neighborhood.” Adding that Iran is “ready for dialogue and accommodation to promote regional stability, combat destabilizing extremist violence, and reject sectarian hatred. We hope Saudi Arabia will be persuaded to heed the call of reason.”

Meanwhile, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria (New York Times). Presented at the Syria Talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, the agreement — which is said to go into effect on Saturday — intends to pause fighting and allow unhindered aid deliveries in and around the four zones. However, neither rebels nor President Bashar Al-Assad’s government have signed the proposal.

Former Tehran Mayor Gholam Hossein Karbaschi has been indicted for criticizing Iran’s approach to the Syrian civil war (Al-Monitor).


MORE CONFUSION
FILED UNDER:
 IRAN DEAL

A senior hardliner said his faction is committed to the nuclear deal (Financial Times). Former MP Alireza Zakani said, “We consider the nuclear accord a done deal and will remain committed to it unless the US officially withdraws from it.” Reformists are still concerned hardliners will use escalating tensions with the Trump administration as political capital to portray President Rouhani as naive and weak. Zakani led the opposition against the nuclear deal in parliament.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s mixed messages and staffing shortfalls are taking a toll on Congress’s ability to counter Iran (Al-Monitor).

Wary of Donald Trump, the European Union courts Iran to show its commitment to the nuclear deal ahead of the presidential election (Reuters).

Donald Trump’s incoherence on Iran doesn’t serve U.S. interests, writes the LA Times editorial board (Los Angeles Times).


EBB AND OIL FLOW
FILED UNDER:
 ECONOMY + TRADE

Iran has become self-sufficient in producing the amount of gasoline the country needs on a daily basis (AP). President Rouhani inaugurated a new refinery in the port city of Bandar Abbas which produces 3.17 million gallons (12 million liters) of gasoline in its first phase, according to Islamic Republic News Agency. Iranians consume on average about 15.85 million gallons (60 million liters) of fuel daily.

Iran’s crude oil exports in May are likely to hit their lowest in 14 months (Oil Price). According to an anonymous source, Tehran’s exports will decrease since its tankers have cleared storage and Asian buyers intend to purchase less crude oil.


Tehran’s oil and gas output to grow by 2018 (Trend News Agency). Iranian oil production has increased from 2.92 million bpd in 2015 to 3.69 million bpd in 2016. It is expected to increase to 4.06 million bpd in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund.


CARTOON OF THE WEEK
"Happy International Worker's Day" by Mana Neyestani. (Read more about the mining accident under DOMESTIC AFFAIRS)


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS

+ Political prisoner Atena Daemi’s health worsens four weeks into hunger strike.

+ Labor activist freed from Rajaee Shahr prison after serving seven years behind bars.

+ Three sentenced to total of 36 years for their online activity on Telegram app.

+ Videos appear defending Iranian presidential hopeful’s role in 1988 prisoner massacre.

+ World Press Freedom Day: Iran's journalists face arbitrary arrest and persecution.

DOMESTIC ISSUES


Why Iran's conservatives are suddenly rooting for Rouhani's VP.

+ 'National dialogue' initiative indicates shifting political sands in Iran.


Judiciary shuts down reformists’ campaign headquarters in Iran’s second largest city.

+ The story behind the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bid for third term.

+ Imprisoned student activist supports Rouhani, urges those undecided to vote.

+ Nobel Laurate: Iran’s presidential hopefuls have unacceptable human rights records.

+ Former political prisoner: Ruling elite “preventing justice” by supporting Raisi’s bid.

+ An Interview with Historian Ervand Abrahamian on Iran’s “Greatest Crime”.


+ The Iranian election and the nuclear agreement.

+ The role of social media on Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.

+ Iran: The miracle that wasn’t.

+ Crime and denial, or why doest the leader of Iran deny the Holocaust?

+ Iran attempted missile launch from submarine, U.S. officials say.

+ Minibus overturns in Iran, killing 2 German tourists.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

+ Israel seeks U.S. backing to avert permanent Iran foothold in Syria.

+ Iran-linked hackers used Microsoft Word flaw against Israeli targets, security firm says.


+ Tehran's ambitions in the Levant.
Iran in talks with UK over jetliner export funding.

ECONOMY + TRADE

+ Some Iranian business owners say they have yet to see the benefit of the nuclear deal


+ International Airlines Are Connecting to Iran’s Shetab Banking System.

+ Boeing moves ahead on delivering first jets to Iran next year.

+ Iran and the question of international payment networks.

+ Tehran to launch leasing facility to help expand transport.

+ Iran’s oil export to Turkey doubles.

+ California and Iran pistachio producers pitch shells at each other in tariff fight.

+ Slovenian ambassador to Tehran plans to focus on business cooperation.

+ The other green movement: Renewable energy's prospects in Iran.  

ART + CULTURE

+ 'Imperial Threads' at Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

SPORTS

+ Iran finishes runner-up in Asian Footvolley Championships.

+ A soccer fan in Iran looks stunningly identical to Lionel Messi.

OTHER

+ The annual Persian Parade in New York City.

+ Cincinnati family sues Iran and Syria over death of their son in Yemen.
 
+ Iranian DJs denied entry into UK to perform at ‘Raving Iran’ documentary launch.
 
+ Is Iran safe for tourists?

EVENTS
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