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Week of December 22nd

“A resounding global NO to Trump regime's thuggish intimidation at [the] United Nations.”

- Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Twitter in response to Jerusalem vote

What does Trump's Jerusalem decision mean for Iran? (National Interest)

 Domestic Affairs

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the judiciary (RFERL). According to Mizan, a news website affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, the head of the judicial system, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, accused Ahmadinejad and his close allies of “weakening the ruling system through debilitating the judiciary.” In a video clip circulated by Dolate Bahar, a pro-Ahmadinejad website, the former president demanded the judiciary head publish proof within 48 hours. Ahmadinejad said, “The head of judiciary has charged me and my colleagues with a list of accusations. He has described us as ‘seditionist’, ‘devious’. . .…” In Iran, the term “seditionist” refers to those who incited protests after the controversial 2009 presidential election.

Iran’s chief prosecutor said authorities would soon issue an “appropriate” response to Ahmadinejad’s ultimatum (RFERL).

A day later, Ahmadinejad’s vice president was sentenced to life in prison for corruption (RFERL). Former Vice President Hamid Baghaei was sentenced to 63 years—the longest sentence against a former official in decades—for misuse of public funds. Baghaei attempted to run in the May presidential elections, but was rejected. Baghaei has 20 days to appeal against the sentence for a court case filed in 2015, which analysts suspect is a warning to Ahmadinejad for criticizing the judiciary.

Will the Larijani brothers go for Ahmadinejad’s jugular? (IranWire)

Also, the International Monetary Fund reported that Iran’s economy is recovering rapidly from international sanctions, but needs to shore up its banks (Reuters). Tehran’s gross domestic product (GDP) soared to 12.5 percent this year almost entirely due to oil exports, after most sanctions were removed under the Iran Deal. However, growth is also broadening in the non-oil sector. The IMF predicts 4.2 percent GDP growth this year, with the chance of rising to 4.5 percent in coming years with financial reform.

Meanwhile, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake jolted a town near Tehran, causing people to pour out into the streets in fear (AP). The quake hit Malard, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Tehran.

State media says two people died and dozens of people suffered minor injuries from the earthquake (AP).

An earthquake of similar magnitude hit Iran's southeastern province of Kerman the following day (RFERL). A reported 34 people were injured.

Will Tehran be able to withstand ‘long overdue’ quake? (Al-Monitor)

 Foreign Policy

Another ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels was intercepted over Saudi Arabia’s capital (The Guardian). According to Houthi-affiliated TV Al-Masirah, the missile targeted the Al-Yamamah royal palace in Riyadh, the home of the Saudi king. Unconfirmed videos have emerged on social media showing white smoke in the sky. Al-Masirah said the missile launch was “in response to the heinous crimes committed by the U.S.-Saudi aggression against the people of Yemen.”

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said the latest missile fired at Riyadh bears the hallmarks of a weapon provided by Iran (BBC). Addressing the UN Security Council, Nikki Haley also said, “We must all act co-operatively to expose the crimes of the Tehran regime and do whatever is needed to make sure they get the message. If we do not, then Iran will bring the world deeper into a broadening regional conflict.”

Earlier this week, a Houthi spokesman heavily criticized U.S. charges that Tehran is funneling missiles (AP). Muhammad Abdul Salam wrote on Twitter that Washington is “fabricating lies” to escape the repercussions of its recent decision to recognize the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Iran's speaker of parliament denied Tehran was backing the Houthis (Twitter). Ali Larijani said, “We're not afraid of openly declaring that we're providing military, political and financial support for Palestinian resistance forces, but in case of Yemen, Iran has not had any military intervention, and U.S. is lying.”

Ambassador Haley urged the UN Security Council to punish Iran for violating UN resolutions, but Russia said dialogue is needed rather than threats or sanctions (AP).

The U.S. defense secretary said Washington would deal with Iran through a “diplomatically -led effort.” (RFERL).

How the Mideast’s newest superpower is expanding its footprint across the region—and what it means (Christian Science Monitor).

This is why Trump's Iran strategy will fail (National Interest).

Meanwhile, Politico published a story about the Obama administration letting Hezbollah off the hook in favor of making a nuclear deal with Tehran (Politico). 

Critics are saying the story is poorly sourced and based off speculation (LobeLog).

While former Obama officials are criticizing the story (Washington Post). 

 Iran Deal

The Trump administration is considering a new strategy that could stop Boeing and Airbus from selling passenger planes to Tehran (Wall Street Journal). The two aerospace giants have lined up deals over the past 15 months that have been left in limbo as the White House reassessed its Iran policy and threatened to walk away from the Iran Deal. Any effort to scuttle these deals could have negative consequences, both for the nuclear deal and jet makers. Under the Iran Deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, and there is fear that it would fall apart if the benefits that were promised do not materialize. While options have not yet been presented to U.S. President Donald Trump, they are expected to include prohibiting sales and imposing restrictions that could stop aircraft deliveries or slow down the approval process.

Iran said that any attempt to block sales of aircraft of Iran is a blatant violation of the nuclear deal (Financial Tribune).

How to ensure Iran never resumes reprocessing (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

Meanwhile, a U.S. judge slammed a foreign conspiracy theory in the ongoing Iran sanctions trial (AP). New York District Judge Richard Berman belittled a Turkish official’s claims that a Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania is behind the Iran sanctions evasion trial, labeling it an “illogical foreign conspiracy theory.” Ankara contends the prosecution is fueled by an exiled rival cleric accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of orchestrating a coup attempt from his Pennsylvania compound last year. Turkish officials hope to declare the case a mistrial.

In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, Turkey claimed Washington was collaborating with a terrorist group (NBC News). Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ wrote, “We are deeply saddened that the American legal system has been used as an instrument for such an organization,” referring to exiled Turkish cleric Gulen.

A U.S. jury began deliberations on Wednesday whether to convict a Turkish banker over violating sanctions on Iran (AFP).

 Human Rights

Iranian state television aired a report that an Iranian-born Swedish resident confessed to relaying information to Israeli intelligence (AP). In his confession, Ahmadreza Djalali—a doctor and university lecturer in emergency medicine—said that before he left Tehran, he had worked on a project for Iran’s Defense Ministry, which may have been why his recruiters—allegedly officers from Israel’s Mossad spy agency posing as European authorities—sought him out. Djalali is sentenced to death for providing information to Israel to help assassinate several senior nuclear scientists in exchange for money and residency in Sweden. At least four scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012 in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear energy program. Djalali dismissed the aired confession as false, saying that authorities forced him into making the statements by promising to release him (RFERL).

Four UN rights experts called on Tehran to “immediately” annul the death sentence against Djalali (AFP).

Also, a British-Iranian mother's case has been marked as eligible for early release (The Guardian). However, she will not be released in time for Christmas.

Happy Winter Solstice, also known as Shabeh Yalda!

 + Judiciary should free labor activist Reza Shahabi who suffered stroke.
+ Iran, free ailing labor activist Reza Shahabi.
+ In letter, Narges Mohammadi demands judiciary stop violating due process rights.
+ Baha’i teacher jailed for five years.
+ Baha’is still misunderstood in Iran, says former leader after serving in prison
+ Prosecutor ignores imprisoned Iranian-Austrian's request for back operation.

Rouhani: No one above the law, not even Prophet Muhammad.
+ Iranians furious over rumors of 70% increase in MP salaries.  
+ Culture Ministry pressures director to cancel film screening in Canada.
+ Conservatives are still blocking “I’m Not Angry” from screening in Iran.
+ Iran wakes up to HIV/AIDS epidemic among expectant mothers.  
+ ‘I get threats, I get sworn at’: Iran’s taboo-busting female standup comedian.
Iran shut down schools in Tehran and other cities due to dangerous levels of air pollution.

+ Living in poverty under high-voltage power lines.
+ Iran’s parliament is considering draft legislation against animal cruelty.
+ Asiatic cheetahs on the brink of extinction with only 50 left alive.
+ Iran finds hundreds of dead sharks in Persian Gulf.
+ Iran’s snipers have a .50-caliber rifle that can kill 1,600 meters away.

+ Iran tells France’s Macron not to 'blindly follow' Trump.
+ Iranian hackers have set up a news outlet to court possible targets, security firm says.  
+ Israel questions Iranian blogger after giving her asylum.
+ As Russia redraws the map in Syria, Putin and Iran are left with one major disagreement.
+ Will Iran, Russia find solution to Caspian dilemma?  
+ Iran willing to normalize ties with KRG, but not without change.

+ Iran’s “kitten” cyber hackers poised to strike if Trump shreds nuke deal.  
+ Canadian-Iranian man sentenced to prison over U.S. sanctions.  
+ Mogherini’s strategic case for the Iran Deal.

+ British energy company eyes Iranian oil market.
+ China’s CNPC weighs taking over Iran project if Total leaves.   
+ UN expects Iran’s growth to remain above 5% by 2019.  
+ German and Italian insurers eying Iranian firms
+ Australia’s MRC to spend $2.4 million on further mining exploration in 2018.
+ Ripening of love: An ode to Rumi on the anniversary of his death.  
+ First for Iran as museum celebrates works of woman exiled for decades.
+ All about Googoosh: Pop superstar embarks on concert tour.
+ The voice of Egypt: Shirin Neshat’s latest film 'Looking For Oum Kulthum'.
+ Boston Festival of Films from Iran more relevant than ever.
 + Hot Docs producer learns about Persian art from Iranian docs.  
+ Unearthed in Rome’s new subway: Extinct elephants and Persian peach pits.

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