A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of April 14th

“[Ebrahim Raisi running for president] sounds more like a joke. We have many experienced politicians from various factions and some of them have more than a decade of experience in government. [Raisi’s] direct and undeniable participation in the massacres in the summer of 1988 is very important. If any of the candidates had attacked a person with a knife, he would have had a criminal record and would not get clearance from the authorities, never mind Mr. Raisi, whose record is very clear.”

        - Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montezeri,

on Raisi’s presidential run


New York University’s Nahid Siamdoust spoke to The Iranist about her new book, poetic Persian hip-hop, and how musical boundaries are slowly changing in the Islamic Republic.

 Domestic Affairs

More than 150 candidates began registering for the May 19 presidential election (Reuters). The candidates will be vetted by the Guardian Council and then the final list of candidates will be announced by the Interior Minister between April 26 and 27. Those registered includes 13 women, several Arab-Iranians, a 12-year-old boy, and twin brothers in their late twenties. Despite having zero chance of getting on the ballot, some Iranians insist on trying anyways (RFERL). 

The main contenders thus far are incumbent pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, hardliner cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has close ties to the supreme leader, and Hamid Baghaei, a hardliner and former vice president of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Oddly enough, former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also filed to run for president (The Guardian). This came as a surprise to many given that last September, Khamenei advised Ahmadinejad not to run for “his own” and the “country’s good” since he’s a polarizing figure. Ahmadinejad is expected to be disqualified by the Guardian Council as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was during the 2013 election. Analysts say Ahmadinejad registered as a candidate only so the Council could disqualify him and allow Baghaei to remain in the race. Conservative candidates show no indication of being ready to withdraw in support of the leading contender of their camp (Al-Monitor).

Why Iran’s upcoming presidential election is hard to predict (Atlantic Council).

Iran’s judiciary chief warned that a repeat of the 2009 post-election protests would not be tolerated (CHRI). Sadegh Larijani said, “This time, the judiciary, the police and security forces, the authorities, and, most important of all, the people themselves will not allow the 2009 sedition to take shape again. You can be certain that we will not show tolerance and patience for 10 months like we did that year.”

Also, Israel’s defense minister would “not be surprised” if Rouhani is assassinated next month (Newsweek).

Presidential election breakdown:

April 11–15: Candidates register at Interior Ministry

April 16–20: Guardian Council screens candidates

April 26–27: Interior Ministry announces approved candidates

April 28–May 17: Campaigning

May 19: Election

May 26: Second round of election if no candidate secures a majority

Here are the eight political factions that stand out this election (IranWire).

 Foreign Policy

President Hassan Rouhani said “terrorists are celebrating” the U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airbase (BBC). In a speech broadcasted on state television, Rouhani said, “The man who is now in office in America claimed that he wanted to fight terrorism. But today, all the terrorists in Syria are celebrating this U.S. attack. Why did you help terrorist groups and support them in your first move?” By “terrorist groups,” Rouhani was referring to both ISIS and the rebels fighting the Syrian army.

Iran’s foreign minister condemned the use of chemical weapons on social media (Fox News). Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, “As the only recent victim of mass use of chemical weapons (by Saddam in the 1980s), Iran condemns use of all Weapons of Mass Destruction by anyone against anyone.” He then added, “[The] U.S. aids Saddam's use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980's; then resorts to military force over bogus chemical weapons allegations: First in 2003 and now in Syria.”

Tehran and Moscow renewed their support for the Syrian government, saying last week’s U.S. missile strike violated Syrian sovereignty (AP). The countries issued a joint statement: “Both sides noted the inadmissibility of aggressive U.S. actions against a sovereign state in violation of international law.”

Russia and Iran issued a joint call for an “unbiased investigation” into the chemical weapons incident that provoked the U.S. to launch missiles (The Independent).

Here's why Russia's not going to give up on Iran and Syria anytime soon (BuzzFeed).

How U.S. strikes could bring Tehran and Moscow closer (Al-Monitor).

Iranians express solidarity with victims of alleged chemical attack in Syria (RFERL).


The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Sohrab Soleimani and the Tehran Prisons Organization over grave human rights abuses in Iran (AP). Soleimani is the younger brother of Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC commander. He was head of the Tehran Prisons Organization at the time of the alleged abuses and still has a leadership role in the state prison organization that supervises it, according to the Treasury Department.

The European Union extended sanctions on Iran for “serious human rights violations” until April 2018 (Reuters). The sanctions also targeted 82 Iranian citizens on a travel ban and asset freeze, including one entity, as well as a ban on exporting equipment for monitoring telecommunications and any hardware that could be used for repression.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said nothing “is off the table” when it comes to imposing tougher sanctions on Iran and Russia (CNN). Nikki Haley’s comments come after the Syrian government reportedly used chemical weapons in Idlib province.

Tehran may get its first new Boeing commercial jetliner sooner than expected (New York Times). A Boeing 777 originally ordered by Turkish Airlines, but was later cancelled, will be used to fulfil an 80-plane order by Iran. This will be the first business transaction between the U.S. and Tehran since 1979.

Meanwhile, European aircraft manufacturer ATR sealed a $536 million sale with Iran Air for at least 20 aircraft (AP). ATR spokesman David Vargas confirmed the deal for 20 ATR 72-600 twin-propeller aircrafts and said the airline had an option to purchase another 20.


Tehran retaliated against India’s decision to cut oil imports (The Hindu). Iran cut the grace period for payment normally offered to Indian refineries by one-third and has also raised shipping rates. This was in response to New Delhi’s decision to reduce its crude oil imports by 20 percent after Tehran delayed a gas field license decision.

Iran’s oil output to reach four million bpd by March 2018 (PressTV).


Tehran held its first international marathon with men and women from 45 countries (Al Jazeera). The Dutch-sponsored race faced some obstacles when two days prior to the April 7 event, Iranian officials decided to separate male and female participants competing ont the 42 km route. The course took male runners from the Azadi Sports Complex through Azadi Square, while the women ran only on the tracks inside the Azadi Sports Complex. However, a handful of women ignored the segregation order (CHRI).

28 American runners were denied visas ahead of the marathon, likely in response to the U.S. travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran (Washington Post).


“Because of Hamid Baghaei” cartoon by Touka Neyestani.

Former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hammers the photo of his former vice president, who is also running for president. (Read more in DOMESTIC POLITICS).


+ Music producers returned to Evin after request for extended medical furlough denied.

+ Activist Atena Daemi hunger strikes against IRGC-related additional sentence.

+ Political prisoner Narges Mohammadi offered furlough in exchange for silence.

+ Iranian Sunni cleric and critic of Iran’s involvement in Syria released from detention.

+ Intelligence minister calls for release of Telegram prisoners.

+ Fears grow for health of jailed journalist Hengameh Shahidi on hunger strike.

+ Arrests: A short guide for Iranian journalists.

+ Kambiz Hosseini: Self-censorship is like wearing hijab.


  + President Rouhani to the press: We promote free speech and culture.

Iranian government confronts Telegram as election approaches.

+ The supreme leader’s apprentice is running for president.

+ Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi enters Iran's presidential race.

+ Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: How revolutionary
+ Outspoken politician accused state broadcaster IRIB of being lawless.
+ Why empty suit shops and barber's chairs could spell trouble for President Rouhani.
+ Iran's long-exiled prince wants a revolution in the age of Trump.

+ Three IRGC members killed in Sistan and Baluchestan province.

The lasting impact of Saddam’s chemical attack on Iranians.


+ Trump’s Syria strikes don’t bode well for Iran policy.
+ While the U.S. wasn’t looking, Russia and Iran's role increased in Afghanistan.

+ America and Iran are jostling for influence over Iraq.

+ How the Iran-Israel conflict has played out beyond political realm.

+ Appointed former general: Game changer in Iran-Pakistan relations?

+ Tehran condemns Sweden truck attack.
+ Iran detains 25 fishermen from Bahrain.


+ Boeing, Iran, and American jobs.

+ Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla is indicted by U.S. in Iran sanctions case.


+ Return of oil’s ‘risk premium’ hinges on Syria allies Russia and Iran.

+ Iran’s exports to U.S. exceed $13 million.



+ In pictures: How one woman cycled from London to Iran.

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