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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of April 7th

“At the time when I spoke about Iran, I was a commander of U.S. Central Command and that [Iran] was the primary exporter of terrorism. Frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today.”

- U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis,
in response to question about his comment in 2012.


Tehran quickly rejected Mattis’ allegation and claimed U.S. ally Saudi Arabia was the main exporter of terrorism (Reuters).


A VIABLE CONTENDER AGAINST ROUHANI
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi announced his candidacy for president of Iran (RFERL). The 56-year-old cleric has close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), supreme leader, and intelligence circles. He also has the ability to unify the hardliners as a viable contender against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in May.

Raisi was appointed a year ago as custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity in the Muslim World and the organization in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine, the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. He is also known as one of the four judges who handed out death sentences to dissidents and leftists in the 1988 Massacre.

Mayor and two-time presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf announced he won’t be running in the upcoming election (Al-Monitor).

Recent arrests show Rouhani's difficulty in shielding reformists ahead of vote (Reuters).


IDLIB CHEMICAL ATTACK REACTION
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Tehran condemned the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria (Reuters). Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, “Iran condemns any use of chemical weapons, regardless of who has used it and who are the victims.” He added that Tehran was open to bringing victims to Iran for treatment.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations accused Russia of sharing a “false narrative” to protect Syria and allowing Tehran to prop up Bashar Al-Assad’s regime (NBC News). During a UN Security Council meeting, Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.” She offered no further elaboration.

Israel’s prime minister praised the U.S. missile strike on Syria as a “message of resolve” (Times of Israel). Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”

Iran condemned the strike on Syrian bases, saying that “unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law” (AP). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ghasemi added that Tehran was the “biggest victim of chemical weapons in recent history.” His comment was in reference to Iraq's use of chemical weapons on Iranian soldiers during the eight year war with Iran.

It's unclear whether Tehran knew beforehand, but Iran must stop Bashar Al-Assad's gas attacks (Atlantic Council).


MONEY REALLY DOES TALK
FILED UNDER:
 IRAN DEAL

A Turkish-Iranian businessman charged with helping Iran evade sanctions hired former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey as part of his defense team (Bloomberg). Guiliani and Mukasey are part of a team of 20 lawyers. They are said to be serving an “ancillary role” that won’t have any direct interaction with the court. The two men traveled to Turkey last week to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Iranian-born Turkish citizen Reza Zarrab is accused of conducting hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions. A gold trader and operator of Royal Holding A.S., Zarrab was charged in an indictment filed in a Manhattan federal court along side his employee Kamelia Jamshidy and a senior officer of a Bank Mellat unit in Iran, Hossein Najafzadeh. Roughly two years ago, Zarrab was at the center of a bribery scandal involving the Turkish president’s ministers.


New sanctions bill in the U.S. delayed by concern over Iran’s upcoming presidential election (Reuters).

The Trump administration is considering asking the State Department to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization (American Media Institute).

Boeing signed a deal with Iran’s Aseman Airlines to purchase 30 of their 727 MAX planes (Bloomberg). The $3 billion deal is Boeing’s second with Tehran. The first was a separate $16.6 billion agreement with Iran Air.


RUNNING OUT OF OIL
FILED UNDER:
 ECONOMY + TRADE

Iran sold its last stocks of oil from floating storage in the past two weeks (Reuters). According to sources in the shipping and oil industries, Tehran is now struggling to keep oil exports growing as it grapples with production constraints.

Iran’s crude oil and gas exports neared a record three million bpd last month (PressTV).

Meanwhile, India punished Iran for the delay in a gas field license decision by reducing its crude oil imports by 20 percent (Oil Price).

Even bold foreign investors tiptoe in Iran (New York Times).


IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELEASED
FILED UNDER:
 HUMAN RIGHTS

An Iranian-American man arrested in July and sentenced to 18 years on alleged security charges has been released on bail (New York Times). Robin “Reza” Shahini was on hunger strike since February 15 to protest his sentence and harsh prison conditions. He was released on $60,000 bail just before the start of the Iranian new year. It’s unclear whether Shahini’s release was temporary or if he could leave Iran.

46-year-old Shahini was visiting his ailing mother in northeast Iran when the IRGC arrested him last July. Shahini migrated to the United States in 2000, where he studied at San Diego State University and received a degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution. He planned to begin his master’s studies in homeland security at the same university last fall. Shahini participated in the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. Photos of his activities were previously published on Iranian state media websites. According to Shahini, “Whatever information they had is all the pictures I posted in Facebook, in my web blog, and they use all those evidence to accuse me.”


The family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Tehran for allegedly plotting to topple the government, mark one year since her arrest (The Guardian).

Amnesty International criticized Boris Johnson for a lack of action over British mother held in Iran for a year (Telegraph).

Here is a list of dual nationals currently detained by Iran:



Kamal Foroughi (British-Iranian), since May 2011

Nizar Zakka (Lebanese, U.S. permanent resident), since September 2015

Siamak Namazi (Iranian-American), since October 2015

Baquer Namazi (Iranian-American), since February 2016

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (British-Iranian), since March 2016

Karan Vafadari (Iranian-American), since July 2016

Afarin Niasari (Iranian-American), since July 2016


CARTOON OF THE WEEK
In this cartoon by Mohammed Rayes for Arab News, the United States breaks from its Obama Doctrine on Syria.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
+ Atena Daemi’s seven-year sentence gets an additional 91 days for IRGC charges.

+ Hunger-striking Hengameh Shahidi detained without charge writes will in Evin Prison.

+ Rough body searches on visiting children prompts hunger strike in Rajaee Shahr Prison.

+ Five Iranian Baha’is arrested in Esfahan without warrant on unknown charges.

+ Rouhani government criticizes IRGC arrests of journalists.

+ My father, the 1988 Massacre and the need for truth.


+ Iranian female billiard players banned from competing for alleged “un-Islamic conduct”.

+ Women forced to run indoors while men compete outside in Iran’s first marathon.

DOMESTIC ISSUES

+ Khamenei versus Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The battle continues.

+ Structural issues cloud the supreme leader’s economic vision for Iran.

+ Why not all in Iran celebrate the Iranian New Year.

+ The Iranian government needs to take steps to allow private sector expansion.

+ Why Iran sees its missile program as a red line.

+ From L.A. to Tehran, nose jobs are a rite of passage and a quiet rebellion.

+ Tehran’s infamous $80 caviar burger.

+ 6.1 magnitude earthquake strikes near Iranian city of Mashhad.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

+ Saudi-Iranian rivalry spills over to Europe

+ Iranian defense minister compares U.S. to ‘armed robber breaking into your house’.

+ President Hassan Rouhani condemned the St. Petersburg terrorist attack.

+ U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants.

+ Tehran offers to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

+ New Iran sanctions bill could kill the nuclear deal and pave the way to war.

+ Gun makers respond to Iran’s sanctions.

ECONOMY + TRADE

+ Iran pressing ahead with plan to ditch dollar.

+ Despite nuclear deal, EU firms still cautious on Iran.

+ Iran to dilute dollar role in currency basket in the wake of Luxemburg court case.  

ART + CULTURE

+ Why the Iran-Iraq War is still minefield for artists and authors.

+ How Donald Trump is making Iran great again–through arts and culture.

An interview with Iranian-American polymath Siah Armajani.

OTHER

+ Croydon community in shock after attack on teenage Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker.

+ See one of Iran's most popular tourist destinations: the Imam Khomeini Shrine.

+ Joint statement of Iranian-American organizations on detentions of Iranians in U.S.

+ This girl has cool moves dancing in the streets of Tehran.

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