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Week of September 7th

“We don't want to see Iran turning Syria into its outpost against Israel. We will try to destroy any Iranian military presence on Syrian territory, be it an air base, a naval base, a missile production factory, or the Shi’ite militias that they are bringing there from Pakistan, Iraq and all of the Middle East.” 
- Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in an interview with RFE/RL


FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Idlib’s end: During a visit to Damascus, the Iranian foreign minister said that militants must be “cleaned out” of Syria's Idlib province (Reuters). Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comment to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and other officials before his discussions about confronting the last major rebel stronghold. A convoy of Iranian forces was hit by airstrikes near a U.S. base in Syria (Haaretz). Though it was not clear who was behind the attack, many assume it was Israel. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an Iranian combatant, four Syrians, and three non-Syrian combatants were killed. The IDF reported that the Israeli army has carried out over 200 airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria over the past year and a half (Jerusalem Post). The Israeli defense minister said that Iran has scaled back their activities in Syria, and attributed it to Israeli intervention and U.S. sanctions (Reuters). Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Twitter that Iran and Russia “would be making a grave humanitarian mistake” if they were to attack Idlib province (CNN). Responding to Trump’s Tweet, the Iranian foreign minister said that the U.S. president needs “to stand aside and allow those who battled terrorism in Syria to do their work.” (Bloomberg) Today, Iran, Russia, and Turkey will meet for a Syria summit in Tehran to “avert a bloodbath” in Idlib province (AP).

Iraq missile controversy: Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shia proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more (Reuters). Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “Such false and ridiculous news have no purpose other than affecting Iran’s foreign relations, especially with its neighbors. This news is solely aimed at creating fears in the countries of the region.” Responding to the report, Israel’s defense minister said it could hit suspected Iranian targets in Iraq, as it has done in Syria (Haaretz).

Trump on UNGA: President Trump will chair a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Iran to highlight its “violations of international law” during the annual United Nations General Assembly (Reuters). The Iranian foreign minister criticized the news on Twitter. Zarif claimed that Trump wants to hijack the UNSC for the purposes of “bullying others” to turn against Tehran (The Guardian). Meanwhile, the U.S. president said that he was open to a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani on the sidelines of UNGA (AFP). Trump told reporters, “It’s possible, anything is possible. We’ll see what happens with Iran. Whether they want to talk or not, that’s up to them, not up to me.”

📢 Check out USA TODAY’s fascinating collection of essays on Iran.


DOMESTIC ISSUES

Crumbling rial: The Iranian rial took a steep drop, prompting foreign exchanges to shut down on Wednesday. At one point the exchange rate was at a record low of 150,000 rials to the U.S. dollar (Reuters). Meanwhile, Iran officially recognized cryptocurrency mining as an industry to counteract sanctions (Bitcoin). Since the announcement, one Bitcoin (BTC) hit a world record of $24,000 on the Iranian exchange.

Diaper problems: Diaper prices are rising in Iran, making them too expensive for the average Iranian to purchase (Al-Monitor). With the value of the Iranian rial in a dive, raw materials from abroad are more expensive to purchase. The Supreme Leader weighed in on the diaper shortage. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “Imagine that in Tehran or other major cities, baby diapers suddenly become scarce. This is happening, this is real, this is not make-believe. Baby diapers! This makes people angry. On the other side, the enemy wants people to be angry with the government and system. This is one of their ways.” Meanwhile, parliament approved a bill that calls on the Iranian government to import essential goods and sell them at subsidized prices (RadioFarda). Similar tactics were used during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

Oil problems: Japanese media is reporting that major oil distributors are preparing to suspend Iranian crude imports next month in response to U.S. sanctions on Tehran (RFE/RL). Meanwhile, the National Iranian Oil Company is trying to save a $1 billion oil deal with Swiss trader Vitol Group (Wall Street Journal). The state-run oil company held discussions whether to extend or renew a deal with Vitol.


HUMAN RIGHTS
Nasrin Sotoudeh and Reza Khandan (CHRI)

Sotoudeh’s husband detained: Iranian intelligence agents arrested the husband of a prominent imprisoned human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh (CHRI). Reza Khandan was detained at his home and then taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Khandan’s lawyer said that Iranian authorities charged him with “spreading propaganda against the system,” “colluding to commit crimes against national security,” and is accused of “promoting the practice of appearing in public without a veil” due to his support for the women’s campaign against forced hijab. Western-based human rights organizations have called for the release of the couple.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Execution of Kurdish death-row prisoner more likely (CHRI).
Detained civil rights activist refusing to break hunger strike (CHRI).
Women activists arrested for trying to raise awareness of women’s rights (CHRI).
Student sentenced to seven years as another is ordered to attend Friday prayers (CHRI).
Tehran penitentiary guards launch “brutal” attack on imprisoned Sufis (CHRI).
Iran’s student activists denied an education (Human Rights Watch).
Intensified crackdown on rights defenders in Iran (Human Rights Watch).
Detained Sufis kept in solitary for refusing to “express remorse” for protests (CHRI).
U.K.'s Alistair Burt visits Iran for talks on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (The Guardian).


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Attack on Rouhani exposes deep crack among Iranian conservatives (Al-Monitor).
Ahmadinejad squawks louder as Tehran cracks down on loyalists (Al-Monitor).
Female reformist MP raises eyebrows with fiery speech in parliament (Al-Monitor).
New unemployment figures “alarming,” says parliament (RadioFarda). 
Iranian officer flees after refusing to suppress protests (VOA).
Young cleric names and shames Iran’s luxury-loving elite (Al-Monitor).
Pleasure and pilgrimage: Sex tourism in Mashhad (IranWire).
Taking on Iran’s TV taboos for women: Cucumbers, earlobes, and the chuckle (RFE/RL).


FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Khamenei: War unlikely but urges boosting Iran’s defenses (VOA).
Khamenei says U.S. and Israel wage media war to discourage Iranians (Reuters).
Iran plans to boost ballistic and cruise missile capacity, acquire new fighter jets and subs (Reuters). 
Russia’s chief rabbi paid secret visit to Iran on trip organized by Putin (Haaretz).
Fighting between IRGC and Kurdish forces results in more deaths of border couriers (CHRI).
Iran’s secret weapons-smuggling air routes to Lebanon revealed by intel sources (Fox News).


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
Europe’s demand for more talks does not help Iran nuclear deal (Reuters).
Tehran forgoes plans to transfer funds from Germany after U.S. opposition (Reuters).
Iran’s only Jewish hospital grapples with fallout of U.S. sanctions (Al-Jazeera).
Science in Iran languishes after Trump re-imposes sanctions (Science Magazine).


ECONOMY + TRADE
Will Iran merge banks owned by military institutions? (Al-Monitor)

ART + CULTURE
Ancient Persian artifact returned to Iran after U.S. court order (RFE/RL).

OTHER
Unprecedented denials from U.S. asylum program leave Christians stranded (Los Angeles Times).
 
...تا هفته بعد
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