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The Iranist
Week of January 22nd
Let’s make a deal
During the eleventh hour of Implementation Day, news broke of the release of five Americans by Iran, four of which were part of a prisoner swap. Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, previously unknown Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, and student Matthew Trevithick. Khosravi-Roosari decided to remain in Iran and Trevithick took a commercial fight back to Boston, while the three others were sent first to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then finally to Ramstein Air Base in Germany to undergo medical treatment.

In his first statement, Rezaian said he wanted to spend time with his family and “catch up with what's been going on in the world.” Rezaian also said he wanted to watch some Golden State Warriors games and the latest Star Wars. Hekmati told the media, “I feel really lucky. I feel alive for the first time. It's like being born again." They have since all returned home.

However, not everyone was released. Robert Levinson has been reportedly missing in Iran for almost nine years now and his daughter wonders why he wasn’t included in the swap. Similarly, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi’s family is frustrated albeit hopeful of his release.

In return, Iran asked for seven prisoners in the U.S. to be released, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to Iran. There wasn't a swap on a bridge like the movies.

Implementation Day
On Saturday, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was implemented, lifting all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

Only a day after the implementation of the Iran Deal, the U.S. Treasury Department added new sanctions due to Tehran’s ballistic missile testing. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif weighed in while in Davos at the World Economic Forum, “We believe these sanctions are uncalled for. We believe the sanctions are illegal. They violate basic principles. The Iranian missile program is a legitimate defense program. It shows that the United States has an addiction which has been very difficult for it to overcome. Washington suffers from an addiction to pressure, addiction to coercion, addiction to sanctions."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for new sanctions on Iran, while former Iran prisoner Shane Bauer called her actions, “totally irresponsible” on Twitter.

Food for thought: Former CIA deputy director Michael D. Morell said Iran’s nuclear program progressed under the Obama administration. However, “Before the negotiations for the nuclear deal began, we were closer to war with the Islamic Republic than at any time since 1979.” 

Disqualifying the good guys
Iran’s Guardian Council vetted candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections and disqualified 3,000 reformist candidates. That means only 30 or 1% were qualified out of 12,000 candidates.

Hojatoleslam Morteza Eshraghi, the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as well as Mehdi and Fatemeh Rafsanjani, the children of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were all disqualified.

President Hassan Rouhani criticized the Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify thousands of parliamentary candidates. "It is called the House of the Nation, not the house of one faction. If there is one faction and the other is not there, they don't need the February 26 elections, they go to the parliament.” He added, "No official without the vote of the people would be legitimate. Executors and observers should pay attention that the law is respected."
Iran and KSA continue to point fingers
In response to Zarif’s op-ed in the New York Times on January 11, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir penned an op-ed on Iran. At one point the Saudi diplomat said, “In an outlandish lie, Iran maligns and offends all Saudis by saying that my nation, home of the two holy mosques, brainwashes people to spread extremism.. Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism, often at the hands of Iran’s allies.”

During an interview with CNN during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said, "We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia." He added, "We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other, in the region. Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that backed by their Western allies, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region."
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publically addressed the Saudi embassy storming for the first time while in a meeting with election officials. He called the attack “very bad” and “detrimental to the country and Islam.”
Saudi Arabia is worried about Iran’s proxies in the Middle East and that its economy will become competition for regional influence.

HR158 in action
British-Iranian BBC journalist Rana Rahimpour was barred from traveling to the United States due to a new law regarding the Visa Waiver Program. In series of Tweets, Rahimpour (@ranarahimpour) explains why she didn’t have a visa and was denied entry: “I received confusing messages since the U.S. Embassy in the UK wasn't sure whether we needed a visa. ESTA website still says request is pending... Though most people think new U.S. travel restrictions are not effective until April, ESTA told me they are already in place.”
Rahimpour shared an image of herself in tears because she thought it would raise awareness.
Here's what the U.S. Department of State had to say about the changes to the Visa Waiver Program.
Other stories that made headlines
-- Oil glut dampens Iran’s hopes for big cash flows as sanctions lift.

-- The Rape Ward at Tehran’s Rajai Shahr Prison.

-- Saudi Arabia and Iran tussle over exports to China.

-- Iran's hardliners will likely block economic reform.

-- U.S. military releases first account of sailors' Iran detention.

-- What kind of legacy does Iran's supreme leader want?
-- Tehran’s currency market unmoved by sanctions relief.

-- Iran compensation case pits Congress against the Supreme Court.

-- Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to investing in Iran.

-- The U.S.-Iran conflict that never happened: One upside of talking to enemies.

--10 ordinary Iranians speak out about what the lifting of sanctions means to them.

-- South Korea's Eximbank enters Iran with $7.6 billion financial package.

-- Iranian-American chauvinism and the Persian myth.

-- Afghan city of Herat hopes for lift from Iran sanctions deal.

-- Who’s winning in the Iranian-Arab film festival battle?

-- Is Iran really so evil? Maybe it's time to stop the knee-jerk demonizing of Tehran.

-- Lifting of sanctions may help Iran face an accelerating environmental crisis.

-- World’s biggest solar power panel to be set up in Esfahan.

-- Iran to buy 114 Airbus jets, may seek Boeings post-sanctions.

-- Iran’s hi-tech eyes foreign investment after sanctions.

-- Six artists from Iran at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery.

-- From candy to juleps, Persians left imprint on many edible delights.

-- Hey Lady Gaga, your next dress purchase is in Iran.


...تا هفته بعد

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