A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
NOTE: No newsletter during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Friday November 25th. 
The Iranist
Week of November 18th

"If [Donald Trump] keeps his promise to withdraw American forces from the Middle East to focus more on U.S. domestic affairs, the region would benefit the most, as the presence of American troops is the biggest trouble in the region already."

       – Hardliner politician Hassan Ghafouri-Fard, on President-elect Donald Trump

 Domestic Affairs

Tehran has been inundated with noxious smog during the past week (New York Times). A member of Tehran’s Municipal Council announced 412 Iranian citizens have died in the past 23 days. The pollution levels are three times above the safe limit, prompting Iranian officials to close schools citywide since Monday. In the past four of six days, air quality was specifically a danger to those suffering from respiratory diseases. On the two other days, it was said to be dangerous to all Tehranis. In 2011, TIME said four Iranian cities were among the top 10 polluted in the world. Some even equate Tehran’s air quality with Beijing-like pollution levels.

Air pollution is a persistent problem in Iran’s capital since it lies in a valley basin surrounded by the Alborz Mountain Range. The problem is so recurrent that it has become the norm and most Iranians go about their day despite the hazard. The capital boasts an easily accessible underground metro and bus lines, though millions of private cars continue to fill the streets. One of the key factors contributing to pollution is the burning of refined petrol, a low-quality fuel.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said President-elect Donald Trump should “respectfully apologize to the nation” for calling Iranians terrorists during his campaign (AP). Khatami warned Trump to be careful about playing with the “tail of a lion”
the ayatollah bears no relation to former President Mohammad Khatami.

“What’s Going to Happen Now?” The Trump victory as heard on the streets of Tehran (IranWire).

Donald Trump's victory sparks optimism in an unlikely place: Iran (Los Angeles Times).

Farideh Farhi weighs in on the Trump presidency and Iran’s domestic politics (LobeLog).

FILED UNDER: Foreign Policy

President-elect Donald Trump has two possible finalists for Secretary of State and both have advocated on behalf of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (Washington Post). The once Iraq-based MEK led by Maryam Rajavi are a totalitarian cult of Marxist-Islamist Iranian dissidents who claim to be the “democratic alternative” to the mullahs in Tehran. In 2012, the group was removed from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have both publicly promoted the MEK. Giuliani gave numerous paid speeches that called on the State Department to remove the MEK from the FTO list and also criticized the U.S. government’s handling of MEK members in Iraq. This past summer, the remaining members of the MEK were moved to Albania.

For years, Bolton said the only way to put an end to Tehran’s nuclear program was to bomb Iran. Now he's pushing for the Iran Deal to be reversed. Just this week he wrote about it. Bolton was paid handsomely by the MEK to advocate for the dissident group while they were still listed as an FTO. In comparison to Giuliani’s role, Bolton’s was minor.  

Possible Trump cabinet members’ links to the MEK cult could spell trouble for Iran (Global Voices).

Also, the holy city of Qom held a funeral for 10 soldiers killed in Syria (AP). In August, it was revealed that at least 400 fighters were killed in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he won’t allow Iran to turn Syria into a base of military operations (Jerusalem Post).


76 national security experts have urged President-elect Donald Trump to keep the Iran nuclear deal (New York Times). The experts, which included former U.S. officials from the Democratic and Republican parties, argue that the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has reduced the threat of war in the Middle East. Their comments were recorded in a report prepared by the National Iranian American Council entitled, Maximizing the Opening with Iran: How President Trump Can Secure American Interests in the Middle East.

The report also stated: “The deal proved that diplomacy with Iran can bear fruit despite skepticism about Iranian sincerity, the inclination of Iran’s supreme leader to abide by the deal, or the ability of Iranian hard-liners to sabotage diplomacy.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said during a press conference that it is unlikely Trump will pull out of the JCPOA (Los Angeles Times). “When you are not responsible for it, you can call it a terrible deal,” said Obama. “When you are responsible … you are more likely to look at the facts.”

The head of the IAEA urged Tehran to honor the nuclear deal (AP).

Despite Trump’s comments on the JCPOA, the European Union will continue its commitment to seeking ties with Tehran (Reuters).

Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia says Trump shouldn’t scrap the Iran Deal, but should hold Tehran accountable for its interference in the Middle East (Reuters). Turki was once Saudi intelligence chief and a former ambassador to the United States and Britain. He currently doesn’t hold any leadership position in the Saudi government.

In case you missed it, the Rouhani administration rejected the idea that Trump can scrap the deal (NBC News).

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a 10-year extension on the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which was set to expire at the end of the year (Washington Post). ISA was first adopted in 1996 to sanction banking, energy, and defense in order to quell Iran’s nuclear and missile activities. Lawmakers wanted 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.

Iran's secretary of the Supreme National Security Council gave warned of passing ISA (PressTV). Ali Shamkhani said, "If you extend the sanctions, this will mean kicking the JCPOA away and we will confront it through implementing powerful technical packages." He didn't elaborate.

President Obama promises to veto bill that would block aircraft exports to Iran (Reuters).

 Economy + Trade

Iran increased output at three western oil fields (Bloomberg). This happened while Saudi Arabia called for an output cut to rebalance the oil market. OPEC members will meet on November 30th to discuss a plan to limit group output to a range of 32.5 million to 33 million bpd. This target has become harder to accomplish due to several countries boosting output, including Iran and Iraq.

Baghdad and Tehran's oil ministers will bypass energy talks in Doha this week (Bloomberg).

Russian oil and gas companies will visit Tehran for talks on possible energy contracts (RFERL). Iran's Deputy Minister of Petroleum for International Affairs and Commerce said a memoranda of understanding was already signed with Russian firms.

In this cartoon by Mana Neyestani, noxious smog is a death sentence for Tehranis.


+ Macabre propaganda videos feature forced 'confessions' of executed Sunni men in Iran.

+ Pressured by IRGC, court orders Iranian teachers’ rights leader back to prison.
+ Trial of seven leading members of banned reformist party postponed.
+ Iranian officials ignore demands of eight ailing political prisoners on hunger strike.
+ Authorities punish Maryam Akbari-Monfared by denying medical treatment, visitation.
+ The misfortune of 426 children living with their mothers in prison.
+ Three Christian Azerbaijani men freed in Iran.
+ Three Christians are sentenced to 80 lashes by court in Iran for taking communion wine.
+ Amnesty Int'l and Iranian rock band launch campaign to free artists jailed in Iran.
+ Baha’i businesses shuttered across Iran in ongoing persecution campaign.
+ Iran draws “red lines” before talks with EU on human rights.
UN Committee flags Iran over human rights.

+ Childhood’s end: forced into marriage at age 10 in Iran.
+ Iran continues its crackdown on models and fashion photographers.
+ Babak Namazi speaks out after brother and father are sentenced in Iran.


+ A week after cleric Jafar Shojooni passed away, photos emerge of him with prostitutes.

+ Iranian conservative economist: After victory, Donald Trump sounds more rational.
+ Basij commander says the U.S. will fall by 2035 and Trump is speeding up the process.
+ Can Donald Trump master the ‘Art of the Hostage Deal’ for dual nationals?
+ Tehran University Professor Sadegh Zibakalam: I will not trample on the American flag.
+ More women in Iran are forgoing marriage. One reason? The men aren't good enough.
+ U.S. firms join international air show in Iran.
+ Kish Island hopes relaxed rules will attract tourists.
+ U.S. tour company booking luxury trips to Iran.
+ Iran intelligence service confiscated ISIS-linked explosives.
+ Tehran to unveil Karrar tank and Saba-248 helicopter soon.
+ The Washington Institute report: The role of missiles in Iran's military strategy.


+ IRGC commander says U.S. struck Iran-built arms factory in Syria.
+ Iranian official pledges unwavering support for Iraq's anti-terror fight.
+ 11 Arab nations accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism.
+ Tehran rejects 'baseless' claims by Arab states.
+ Iran says there's intel on Israel-US involvement with terror groups in Middle East.
+ Official claims 4 Iranian diplomats abducted in Lebanon during 1980s might still be alive.
+ Russia may sell $10 billion worth of tanks and jets to Tehran in new arms deal.
+ The Russian-Iranian alliance that wasn't.
+ Iran and China sign military cooperation agreement.

+ Iran's FM Mohammad Javad Zarif in Prague to discuss business, nuclear cooperation.


+ Critics hated the nuclear agreement, but now they're urging Trump not to kill it.

+ Can the Iran Deal survive a U.S. withdrawal?
+ Will the Iran Deal meet the same fate as a past U.S.-North Korean arms deal?
+ Did J Street win congressional election battle over Iran Deal?
+ Senator Tom Cotton called on president-elect Trump to reimpose sanctions on Iran.


+ Will Iran attract international oil firms in post-sanctions era?
+ Trump may torpedo European oil giants' return to Iran, says RBC Capital Markets.
+ Will gold exports help boost Iran's economy?
+ Downtrend in Iran's basic commodities imports.
+ Leather industry misses out on added value.
+ Mazandaran citrus fruit production to reach more than 2.5 million tons.


+ The Persian art of etiquette

Stairway to heaven: Iranian artist's U.S. wall mural turns heads.
Arab art exhibition in Iran uses culture to bridge Middle East divides.
I miss Tehran. I miss my mother. I miss Leonard Cohen.

+ Iran’s first feminist Qorrat al-Ayn is brought back to life in new movie.


+ Iranian-American women pledge: Together we thrive.


Farhang Foundation wants to gift ‘Freedom Sculpture’ based off the Cyrus Cylinder.

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