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Week of October 26

To deflect from headlines on Saudi brutality in Istanbul and across Yemen, US Treasury—while in Saudi Arabia, no less—sanctions Iran for supporting anti-Iran Taliban. Conveniently omitting that US is negotiating with the very same Taliban now and its clients have long backed it.

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Twitter


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

Taliban sanctions: While on a trip to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Treasury Secretary imposed sanctions on eight individuals affiliated with Afghanistan’s Taliban, including two linked to the IRGC’s Qods Force (Reuters). Steven Mnuchin told reporters, “Iran’s provision of military training, financing and weapons to the Taliban is yet another example of Tehran’s blatant regional meddling and support for terrorism. The United States and our partners will not tolerate the Iranian regime exploiting Afghanistan to further their destabilizing behavior.” Mnuchin was visiting the Middle East to discuss Iran sanctions and ways to fight terrorism financing. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also joined imposing sanction on the IRGC and senior officers on the Qods Force, including Commander Qassem Soleimani (Reuters).

Oil waivers update: The U.S. Treasury Secretary also said that it will be harder for Iranian oil importers to receive waivers from the United States (Reuters). Mnuchin said that only countries that reduce their Iranian oil imports by more than 20 percent will receive a waiver.

EU embracing for sanctions: The European Union said that a new financial mechanism to facilitate payments to Iran should be ready to use by the November 4 sanctions (Reuters). The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is designed to help evade U.S. sanctions, by allowing an EU intermediary to handle trade with Tehran. The Trump administration is debating on how hard it wants to push its European allies to cut Iranian banks from SWIFT, the Belgium-based financial-messaging service (Wall Street Journal). Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said that he’s confident that Tehran will overcome U.S. sanctions (PressTV).

Humanitarian goods: U.S. sanctions may also have “unintended consequences” for humanitarian goods in Iran because of the blacklisting of a certain bank (Wall Street Journal). Parsian Bank is integral for international humanitarian trade with Iran. Analysts claim that the bank has no affiliation with Iran’s illicit activities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. humanitarian exports to Iran are down 40 percent since President Donald Trump took office (Bourse & Bazaar).  Recognizing the dangers, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the international community to establish a mechanism to ensure that humanitarian goods be sold to Iran (CHRI). CHRI also called on the Iranian government to make sure that these goods remain “accessible and affordable.”

FATF extension: A global financial watchdog gave Iran a February deadline to curb its terror financing (AFP). The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said that it would blacklist Tehran if it does not fulfill its promises to pass laws against financing terror groups. The Paris-based FATF said it was disappointed that Tehran had acted on only nine out of ten of its guidelines despite pledges to do so.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Iran comments on Khashoggi: President Rouhani said that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi would not have been murdered by Saudi Arabia without U.S. protection (Reuters). The Iranian president added, “No one would imagine that in today’s world and a new century that we would witness such an organized murder and a system would plan out such a heinous murder.” A top commander accused Saudi Arabia of trying to distract from Khashoggi’s murder by joining the U.S. sanctions on Iran that will be re-imposed on November 5 (RFE/RL).

Pakistan abduction: A jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of 12 Iranian security officers (AFP). Jaish al-Adl claimed that they seized the personnel, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at a border post in Sistan-Baluchestan province in response to the oppression of Sunni Muslims in the area. The group released two photos of the abducted individuals. Iran’s chief of staff of the armed forces demanded that the Pakistani government push for their release (PressTV). The abduction is putting Iran and Pakistan’s security cooperation to the test (Al-Monitor).


DOMESTIC POLITICS
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri (Wikimedia Commons)

Resignations? There is speculation that the Iranian vice president will resign (Al-Monitor). According to Arman newspaper, Eshaq Jahangiri is rarely consulted by President Hassan Rouhani on important decisions. Similarly, Jahan Sanat newspaper reported that “Jahangiri has set off the alarms of departure” since the vice president “was not let in” to a meeting about the economy. There were rumors of Foreign Minister Zarif resigning as well, though the Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected the hearsay (IRNA).

Death sentences upheld: The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of three men convicted of financial crimes (Al-Monitor). A gold dealer referred to by Iranian media as the “Sultan of Coins” was one of three men sentenced for corruption. This served as a warning to merchants and officials, cautioning them against exploiting the current economic downturn in the country. Corruption, mismanagement, and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions have led to a lack of confidence in the short-term economic development in Iran.


HUMAN RIGHTS
The eight environmentalists imprisoned in Iran (CHRI)

Environmentalists charged: Five of the eight environmentalists imprisoned in Iran since February have been charged with “corruption on earth” (The Guardian). The activists—Houman Jowkar, Morad Tahbaz, Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, and Sepideh Kashani—potentially face the death penalty. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the charge was changed from “espionage” to “corruption on earth” after he received a letter from the Iranian military. In February, Dolatabadi told reporters that the environmentalists were accused of using their projects as a front to collect classified information about Iran’s military bases. Meanwhile, the burned corpse of a prominent environmentalist was found in the trunk of his car last week (CHRI). Farshid Hakki’s lawyer said the death was “suspicious” and called on the judiciary and police to investigate and arrest the perpetrators. IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said that Hakki suffered from depression and committed suicide.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Iranian faces charges for saying Shi’ite imam ‘died’ (RFE/RL).
+Five young female protesters sentenced to prison (Radio Farda).
Four teachers detained and several others summoned to court after peaceful sit-in (CHRI).
Farhad Meysami’s “life is in danger” two months into hunger strike (CHRI).
UN rights expert urges Iran to end death penalty for minors (VOA).
For Iran’s activists, prison’s just the start (Human Rights Watch).
For Iran’s women’s movement, progress is slow. But it’s progress (Christian Science Monitor).
Discrimination and lacking accessibility prevent blind people from obtaining employment (CHRI). 


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Will Iran’s Reformists succeed in gathering all factions under one roof? (Al-Monitor)
Iran names new economy minister in reshuffle as U.S. sanctions bite (Reuters).
Watered down domestic violence bill in approval stage eight years after drafting (CHRI).
Iran braces for more general strikes as budget negotiations in sight (Al-Monitor).
UFO flies over prominent cleric’s home (IRNA).
Three crew members die on board Iranian ship, eight hospitalized (AP).


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
U.S. says Russia, China, Iran seek to disrupt elections (Reuters).
John Bolton visits Caucasus amid anti-Iran campaign (Eurasianet).
+ Royal Navy ships in the Gulf confronted by Iran's fast-attack machine gun boats (Telegraph).
Netanyahu ignores Iran’s scientific, educational advances (Al-Monitor).
Iran arrests militants planning attacks on pilgrims (Reuters).
Video released by al-Nusra Front offshoot shows Iranian colonel alive (Iran Front Page).

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
Given pushback from friends and foes, Trump’s goal of zero Iranian exports is still far off (Foreign Policy).
Pompeo adds human rights to twelve demands for Iran (Atlantic Council).
Tensions with Iran don't hit soybeans (Northwest Arkansas).
As U.S. sanctions loom, China’s Bank of Kunlun to stop receiving Iran payments (Reuters).
China cuts Iran oil purchases ahead of U.S. Sanctions (Wall Street Journal).
Iran moves to shelter millions as U.S. sanctions bite (Wall Street Journal). 


ARTS + CULTURE
+ Will Iran drive its musicians off the streets? (Al-Monitor)
Iran’s fascinating way to tell fortunes (BBC).
...تا هفته بعد
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