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The Iranist
Week of March 31st
Dear subscriber, the movers and shakers in Iran are taking some time off for Nowruz. Here is what we have this week...

“Oh, [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, you cursed person who controls the so-called Islamic Iranian regime, rest assured that soon we will destroy your house… Iran raised its slogans against the U.S. and Israel to deceive the Sunnis, while Iranian Jews live safely in Iran under its protection, and it has provided them with temples and churches as seen in Tehran and Isfahan.”

- Masked member of ISIS, in Persian-language video threatening to conquer Iran (AFP).

 Domestic Affairs

Ebrahim Raisi, a 56-year-old conservative cleric, may be gearing up to run for president (Al-Monitor). While Raisi hasn’t publically announced his candidacy, he has put himself in the national spotlight by going on “listening tours” ahead of the upcoming May 19 presidential election. Presidential candidates register on April 28. His name might sound familiar because there’s buzz he might become the next supreme leader of Iran when Ali Khamenei passes away.

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 has close ties to the supreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He is also known as one of the four judges involved in handing out death sentences to dissidents and leftists in the 1988 Massacre.

Even though Khamenei has publicly "advised" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to run for office again, the former Iranian president seems to think this doesn’t apply to his inner circle (Al-Monitor).

Feizollah Fathi is a centenarian and running as a local council candidate in his village (BBC).

Will President Hassan Rouhani survive the bleak economy? (AFP)

Also, President Rouhani orders investigation into “suspicious” pre-election arrests after MPs ask him for explanation (CHRI).

 Foreign Policy

President Hassan Rouhani was in Moscow for a two-day state visit (Al-Monitor). The Iranian president and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had “important” and “intensive” negotiations about regional and global issues, including Syria. In reference to 515 years of diplomatic relations, Russian President Putin said, “Iran is a good neighbor and a stable and reliable partner.”

During the visit, the Iranian delegation signed 14 cooperation agreements in the fields of culture, economics, politics, and science. The two sides also signed other documents in the fields of information and communications technology, mining, railroad construction, extradition of criminals, nuclear energy, electricity, exports and tourism.

This was Rouhani’s last major trip before he faces re-election in May.

Iran’s foreign minister said Russia could use Iranian military bases to launch air strikes against militants in Syria on a “case by case basis” (Reuters).

Assessing the Putin-Rouhani summit (LobeLog).


Last week, the Senate introduced the "Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017". However, a key provision in the bipartisan Iran sanctions bill is causing confusion and debate about its impact (Al-Monitor). Advocates of the Iran Deal argue that labelling the IRGC a terrorist group, would hurt the nuclear agreement, while others say it won’t add anything new.

New sanctions bill draws support from former senior U.S. officials who support the exiled militant cult, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (VOA).

In response to U.S. sanctions, Tehran imposed sanctions on 15 American companies for alleged human rights violations by cooperating with Israel (Reuters). It was unclear whether the businesses, which were mostly defense technology firms, would be impacted by Iran’s action.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration “has put Iran on notice” and will not tolerate Iranian efforts to “destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel's security” (VOA). The comments were made at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed Pence’s comments (PressTV). Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “The Islamic Republic’s nuclear program has been entirely transparent and all of the reports by the IAEA stress the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.”

At the AIPAC conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) criticized the Iran Deal as a “windfall” for Tehran that prevented the U.S. from taking more aggressive steps against the country (AP). McConnell then added, “But today we can take a different approach. Today, we can combat Iran’s capability to fund, arm, and train terrorists like Hezbollah, Hamas, and its proxies in Syria.”

Meanwhile, third Airbus plane purchased by Iran lands in Tehran (AP).


Russia and Iran have pledged to continue efforts to curb oil production and stabilize markets (Reuters). In December, OPEC agreed to cut their combined output by almost 1.8 million bpd to reduce oil inventories and support prices. Tehran’s oil production is close to 3.8 million bpd.

Turkey’s import of Iranian oil has more than doubled since February of last year (Tehran Times).


April 2 marks one year since British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was imprisoned in Tehran (IranWire). Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently imprisoned in the women’s ward of Evin Prison on unspecified charges related to Iranian national security. She was a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 while on a family visit to Iran with her toddler, Gabriella, who remains in Tehran under the care of her grandparents after Iranian authorities seized her British passport. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, claims his wife is being used as a pawn in political dealings with the United Kingdom.

Reza Aslan, the internationally renowned scholar of religions and writer, spoke to The Iranist about his new show on CNN, sectarianism, and what it’s like being Iranian-American under a Trump presidency.

+ Young Iranian death row inmate Sina Dehghan may soon receive sentence review.
+ Five-year prison sentence upheld against Christian convert for missionary activities.
+ Faezeh Hashemi will face a new trial in April on undeclared charges.
+ Why Yale, Columbia are accepting students from a uni that holds classes in a basement.


+ Iran's supreme leader takes fresh shot at gender equality.
+ Why another Khomeini may soon shape Iranian politics.
+ Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi calls for fewer holidays.


+ General calls Iran ‘destabilizing’ force, suggests U.S. ‘disrupt’ regime by military means.
+ UN Syria envoy called on Russia, Turkey and Iran to salvage the tattered ceasefire in Syria.
+ Why give Donald Trump the keys to war with Iran?
+ Tehran’s waiting game with Trump.
+ Iran and Gulf monarchies seek to ease tension.
+ Tehran warns Arab League not to mistake between friend and foe.
+ The GCC’s three options for dealing with Iran.
+ Bahrain alleges Iran-backed group planned assassinations.
+ Iran’s “Kamikaze” drones in Yemen.
+ Pakistani sentenced to prison in Germany for spying for Iran.


+ China telecom firm ZTE removed from U.S. trade blacklist.
+ U.S. arrests top Turkish banker in Iran sanctions probe.
+ Turkey criticizes U.S. arrests in Iran sanctions case.


+ Can Iran avoid a looming banking crisis?
+ Tehran posts trade surplus for second time in 37 years.
+ How long can Boeing's Iran deal survive?


+ More than 100,000 pack into 78,000-seater stadium to see World Cup qualifier in Tehran.
+ Iran one step away from 2018 World Cup.


Iranian woman visiting family on tourist visa detained in Oregon jail.

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