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Week of October 12th

“Following vast explorations, the enemy has arrived at sanctions [as a solution] to counter the Islamic Republic. It has no other solution but economic sanctions. Other paths in front of it are blocked. Our national economy can defeat sanctions. The defeat of sanctions will be America’s defeat, and the US, with this defeat, should once again be slapped in the face by the Iranian nation, God willing.”

- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during a speech


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

Cutting funds from terrorism: Iran’s parliament voted to join the “Combating the Financing of Terrorism” (CFT) global convention to avoid more sanctions (Bloomberg). Speaker Ali Larijani said that 143 out of 268 MPs voted to join the CFT, which would cut off terror financing. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional body that vets elections and legislation, before it can become a law. Tehran has provided financial and material support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which are designated as terrorist organizations by the West, though being a part of the CFT is “unlikely to prevent Iran from continuing to support such groups.” Joining the CFT is a precondition to being removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) blacklist, giving Tehran more access to international banks and providing greater financial transparency. Hardliners oppose the bill and say that Iran is giving up its independence and looking to the West to solve its economic problems. The bill caused a heated debate in parliament, and even resulted in some parliamentarians receiving death threats online (Al-Monitor). Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that neither he nor the president “can guarantee that all problems will go away” if Tehran joins the CFT convention. He added, “But I guarantee that not joining will provide the U.S. with more excuses to increase our problems.”

EU-US tensions: Different approaches on Iran are causing a rift between the European Union and the Trump administration (New York Times). In September, National Security Advisor John Bolton criticized the EU for being “strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through.” He added, “We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anyone else.” The White House believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is flawed since it does not constrain Iran’s influence in the Middle East. The EU claims that the U.S. has not countered Iran’s actions, and that it is the Europeans who are sitting down with Tehran for negotiations about its regional activities in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

Oil numbers: There is incongruity in Iranian oil export numbers (Bourse & Bazaar). According to S&P Global Platts, Iran’s September exports were at about 1.7 million bpd. However, according to TankTrackers.com, which studies Iranian oil shipments through satellite imagery, the export volume is over 2 million bpd. Recent reports demonstrate that Iran has resorted to its old playbook of sanctions evasion. This includes turning off its oil tankers’ tracking devices, floating oil in tankers as storage, and relying on ship-to-ship transfers of oil. Interestingly, an oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels was discharged onto a storage tank at the Chinese port of Dalian (Reuters). Contrary to previous reports that New Delhi would reduce its Iranian oil imports to zero, sources say that India will purchase 9 million barrels of Iranian crude in November (Reuters). India’s oil minister said that two Indian oil companies plan to import Iranian crude next month (CNBC). Also, the Iranian oil minister dismissed talks of Saudi Arabia replacing Iranian oil as “nonsense” (Reuters). Meanwhile, the Trump administration is “actively considering” waivers on Iranian oil. The U.S. granted BP and Serica Energy a new license to run a North Sea gas field partly owned by Iran (Reuters). However, President Donald Trump warned that the United States will take care of countries that defy bringing Iranian oil imports to zero by November 4 (Economic Times).


ECONOMY
Shops closed in unnamed town (CHRI)

Strikes across Iran: Shopkeepers went on strike in at least half a dozen Iranian cities on October 8 to protest the state of the economy (CHRI). Photos and footage posted on social media showed that shops were closed in the capital city Tehran, Esfahan, Kermanshah, Mashhad, Orumiyeh, and Tabriz. However, state media reported that businesses were open at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. The shopkeepers were joining a three-week strike by Iranian truck drivers that have spread to dozens of provincial cities and towns (The National). The truck drivers started their second strike on September 30 to protest rising prices.

IMF report: According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran’s economy was expected to grow four percent from 2018 to 2019, but it has now entered recession due to U.S. sanctions (RFERL). The IMF World Economic Outlook report predicts that Iran’s economy will contract by 1.5 percent this year, with the trend increasing in 2019 to 3.6 percent. The IMF expects the recession to only last through 2019, but foresees that the Iranian economy will return to “modest positive growth” from 2020 to 2023.

Tomato paste shortage: Iranian have started panic-buying tomato paste, an important staple in Iranian cooking (Reuters). Due to the fluctuating Iranian rial, some shops are limiting their customers’ tomato paste purchases while others are selling out. A 28 ounce (800 gram) can of tomato paste sold in Tehran for around 60,000 rials in March. Now the price is 180,000 rials. As sanctions mount, resentment is growing against the Iranian elite (Christian Science Monitor). An anonymous observer in Iran said, “It’s astonishing the last few years, this desire to show their wealth. It’s a sickness. It’s a social disease, when there is so much pressure on ordinary people.” Meanwhile, the judiciary and security officials are pressuring Iranian media to refrain from reporting on the economic crisis (Radio Farda).


DOMESTIC AFFAIRS

New ministers: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani nominated new ministers for his cabinet (Radio Farda). According to state media, Rouhani put forward the current minister of industry, mining and trade Mohammad Shariatmadari as labor minister; Reza Veyseh as the minister of industry, mining and trade; Farhad Dejpasand as the minister of economy and finance; and Ali Akbar Hajmohammadi as the minister of roads and urban development. In September, parliament dismissed Rouhani’s picks for labor and economy ministers.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Bomb plot update: An Iranian diplomat was extradited to Belgium to face charges for a foiled bomb plot targeting an exiled group’s rally in July (RFE/RL). Iranian diplomat Assadollah Asadi, who was based in Vienna, was arrested by German authorities in the southern state of Bavaria on July 1. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Germany's ambassador to Tehran over the German court decision to extradite Asadi (AFP).


HUMAN RIGHTS
A poster calling for the release of the eight environmentalists (Human Rights Watch)

Environmentalists: Eight environmentalists detained between the months of January and February remain imprisoned without “clear charges” after eight months (Human Rights Watch). Western-based human rights groups have called on the Iranian government to release them or “charge them with recognizable crimes and produce evidence to justify their continued detention.” In February, Tehran’s prosecutor told reporters that the environmentalists were accused of using their projects as a front to collect classified information on Iran’s military bases.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Kurdish mechanic sentenced to death despite judge’s acknowledgement of his innocence (CHRI).
Three people sentenced to death as 32 others issued harsh sentences for alleged currency hoarding (CHRI).
Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband charged with national security crimes for anti-compulsory hijab activism (CHRI).
These four educators were behind bars on World Teachers’ Day 2018 (CHRI).
Iran cracks down on women’s rights activists as leader offers his solution to sexual harassment, assault: Cover up (Los Angeles Times).
Iran’s deaf community launches campaign urging government to end discrimination (CHRI).
“Oppression stops life:” Narges Mohammadi recounts returning to an empty home (CHRI).


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Fraud-accused businessman returns to Iran (Reuters).
Iran summons soccer icon Ali Daei over quake relief donations (Al-Monitor).
Iran’s security forces face calls for accountability in wake of terrorist attack (Al-Monitor).
Iran risks losing 70 percent of its farmland (AFP).
Wildfires ravage marshlands on Iran-Iraq border (Al-Monitor).


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
U.S. rejects Iran’s legal claim to recover $1.75 billion in frozen assets (Reuters).
Iran media: Haley resigned after failing Trump at UN Security Council (Al-Monitor).
Students at Qom seminary are leaving for Najaf (Al-Monitor).
Moscow mediating between Israel and Iran after S-300 delivery, report says (Haaretz).
Iran’s launch of ‘Look East’ 2.0 (Al-Monitor).
Serbia scraps visa-free entry for Iranians (Radio Farda).                                               + Iranian media see Saudi-Turkey rift in Khashoggi case (Al-Monitor).


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
The EU can’t avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran (Foreign Affairs).
Will EU’s ‘SPV’ be able to sustain Iran trade, investment? (Al-Monitor)
U.S. sanctions hit Iran’s plan to tap giant gas trove (Wall Street Journal).
How can Turkey survive US sanctions on Iran? (Al-Monitor)
Qatar Airways commits to Iran flights despite sanctions (AFP).
Chinese oil company official talked arms deals and evading Iran sanctions, U.S. says (New York Times).
 

ECONOMY + TRADE
+ Sanctions or liquidity—which one is more dangerous for Iran’s economy? (Atlantic Council)
Iran maneuvers to win back public trust in the rial (Al-Monitor).

ART + CULTURE
Stolen ancient artifact returns to Iran museum (AFP).
Regional food from every corner of Iran celebrated in a new cookbook (Boston Globe).
‘Tehran Taboo’: Vice and virtue on the streets of Iran’s capital (CNN).
...تا هفته بعد
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