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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of July 6th

“I kiss [President Hassan Rouhani’s] hand for expressing such wise and timely comments, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”

- Major General Qassem Soleimani, in response to Rouhani’s comment about blocking the Strait of Hormuz


WATER PROTESTS
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs
Iranians demonstrating the water shortage in Khuzestan (CHRI)

A peaceful protest over water shortage in the oil-rich Khuzestan province turned violent, after clashes between police and protesters broke out (Al-Monitor). Police in Khorramshahr used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and protesters responded by throwing stones and other objects, damaging banks and public buildings, including the Holy Defense Museum and a local bridge. Videos shared on social media showed a motorcycle-mounted man firing a gun at protesters (CHRI). According to Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, one person was injured. There are precedents of protests over water in Iran.

Despite calls for President Hassan Rouhani’s ouster, hardliners actually want him to stay put (Al-Monitor).

Iran protests: Why Rouhani’s foes are backing away from their hard line (Christian Science Monitor).


CULT GATHERING IN PARIS
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy
MEKs annual Paris rally. (Anadolu Agency/Getty)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer called for regime change in Tehran at a Paris rally hosted by an extreme opposition group (The Guardian). Rudy Giuliani spoke to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella coalition controlled by the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which was once listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Europe Union. The MEK is viewed as a Marxist-Islamist cult built around its leader, Maryam Rajavi. “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran,” Giuliani told a crowd of about 4,000 attendees, many of whom were refugees and Eastern Europeans who had been bussed in to be at the event in return for a weekend in Paris. “The mullahs must go, the ayatollah must go, and they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents,” Giuliani said. “Freedom is right around the corner. . . Next year I want to have this convention in Tehran!”

An Iranian diplomat was among four people arrested in connection with what European authorities said was a foiled bombing attack targeting the MEK rally (The Guardian). On Monday, Belgian authorities said Vienna-based Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi was arrested in Germany and stripped of his diplomatic status. A married couple—Belgian citizens of Iranian heritage—were also detained and charged with “attempt at terrorist murder and preparing a terrorist crime” against the MEK, after they were found with 500 grams of homemade explosives and a detonation device. A fourth suspect was arrested in France. The arrests came ahead of President Rouhani’s rare visit to Europe to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The MEK claims that the couple—Amir S. and Nasimeh N.—who were arrested in Belgium pretended to be supporters of the group. Iran’s foreign minister tweeted that Tehran “unequivocally condemns all violence and terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.”


Austria’s chancellor asked visiting President Rouhani for “full clarification” on the Iranian diplomat’s case (AP).

Iran summoned envoys from Belgium, France, and Germany over the arrest of the Iranian diplomat detained in Germany (AP). Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi held separate meetings with the diplomats in Tehran to express Iran’s “strong protest”.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman claimed that the two Belgian suspects were in fact members of the MEK (Reuters). Bahram Qassemi said, “Iranian authorities. . . are prepared to provide the necessary documentation to clarify the dimensions of this scenario.” Qasemi also accused the MEK of “carrying out a scenario to affect the European visit [of President Rouhani] and harm Iran’s position in the European public opinion.” Iranian state media published old pictures of one of the Belgian suspects, not only at MEK rallies, but alongside an MEK leader (Al-Monitor).

Meanwhile, President Trump suggested on Twitter that the Obama administration granted U.S. citizenship to 2,500 Iranians, including government officials (Washington Post). Trump’s comment seems to have originated from a Fox News report published on July 2, which cited comments made by Mojtaba Zonnour, a hardline MP and cleric known for his criticism of the JCPOA and President Rouhani, to Etemad newspaper, which is part of Iranian state media. The Trump administration provided no evidence to back up the president’s tweet.

Trump and Iran’s hardliners read from the same playbook (Washington Post).


TRUMP TO BLAME FOR OIL PRICES
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal

The Trump administration softened its earlier demand that countries end all imports of Iranian oil by November 4 (New York Times). Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy and planning, told reporters, “We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis.”

President Rouhani went on a European tour this week to salvage the JCPOA (Bloomberg). Rouhani sought deeper ties with Switzerland, and in Austria tried to press Europe into delivering on its promise to shore up the nuclear deal after the U.S. withdrawal. The trip to Bern and Vienna was likely the Iranian president’s last European visit before President Trump begins reimposing sanctions on Iran.

President Rouhani appeared to threaten that Iran would disrupt oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz if Washington presses ahead with its goal of zero Iranian oil exports (Reuters). The president’s website quoted Rouhani saying, “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported.” When asked at a news conference in Switzerland whether those comments were a threat to interfere with the shipping of neighboring Arab countries, Rouhani said, “Assuming that Iran could become the only oil producer unable to export its oil is a wrong assumption.” The U.S. military’s Central Command responded saying the U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure free navigation and the flow of commerce (Reuters).

The Iranian president also said that Tehran could reduce its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (Reuters).

Iran’s OPEC governor trolled U.S. President Trump, claiming his tweets are causing oil prices to go up (Bloomberg). “Your tweets have driven the prices up by at least $10 per barrel. Please stop it, otherwise it will go even higher,” Hossein Kazempour Ardebili said in a message shared by the Iranian Oil Ministry’s Shana news service. Kazempour told Reuters that oil will soon cost $100 per barrel due to supply disruptions caused by Trump (Reuters). Trump again accused OPEC of driving fuel prices up, and urged U.S. allies including Saudi Arabia to pump more if they wanted Washington to continue protecting them from Tehran. Iran’s OPEC governor said that Trump “should have expected” when blocking Iran’s access to the global markets that it would end up as “hostage [to] Saudi Arabia and Russia,” who he claimed had little vested interest in bringing down prices. Kazempour added, “The responsibility of paying unnecessary prices for oil by all consumers of the whole world, especially in U.S. gas stations, is solely upon [Trump’s] shoulders and the price of over $100 per barrel is yet to come.”

Iran will allow private companies to export crude oil as part of a strategy to counter U.S. sanctions (Reuters).

Also, foreign ministers from the P4+1 met with their Iranian counterpart in Vienna for the first time since Washington left the pact, but diplomats see limited scope for salvaging it (Reuters).


EU lawmakers gave approval for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to do business in Iran (Reuters). The EIB, the European Union’s not-for-profit long term investment arm, is key to the bloc’s attempts to maintain business links with Tehran in the wake of Washington’s decision to re-impose sanctions.

President Rouhani told his French counterpart over the phone that Europe’s package of economic measures to offset the US withdrawal from the JCPOA does not go far enough (Reuters).

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is debating whether to label the IRGC as a terrorist group (CNN). The decision is formally under the State Department’s purview, and is taking on heightened importance as part of the White House’s aggressive strategy to pressure Iran. Officials have been debating it for several months and have yet to reach a consensus.

How America’s Iran policy hurts both countries (The American Conservative).

U.S. sanctions hurt, but Iran’s wealthy find solace in art (Los Angeles Times).


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
Young man sentenced as juvenile executed despite case ambiguities.
Imprisoned human rights defender Narges Mohammadi hospitalized.
Political prisoner “wasting away” as Iran refuses to provide medical tests for bone tumor.
63 university groups slam Rouhani and reformists for crackdown on students.
Four female Sufis sentenced to five years each under a national security charge.


DOMESTIC ISSUES
Iran’s rulers face discontent as U.S. pressure mounts.
Iranian feminists “are engaged in a global conversation”.
Iran’s national team sees popularity boost, but not just because of World Cup.

 
FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Why Ayatollah Khamenei will not negotiate with Trump.
30 years later, U.S. downing of Iran flight haunts relations.
Does Iran really want to nuke Israel? A top security expert explains.
Former Israeli minister allegedly gave Iran “dozens of reports”.
IDF appoints first Iran project director as northern tensions rise.
John Bolton says removing Iran from Syria Trumps deposing Assad.
Bashar Al-Assad critic seizes chairmanship of key parliament commission.
“Iran killed” terror suspect living in hiding in the Netherlands.


IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
As sanctions bit, Iranian executives bought African passports.
FATF continues to suspend sanctions on Iran.
Trump envoy seeks to sweet talk Germany Inc. out of Iran.
ZTE gets temporary reprieve from U.S. ban over Iran sanctions violations
South Korea turns to Kazakh CPC oil as U.S. sanctions on Iran loom.
India is bracing for more pressure from Washington in the coming weeks.
UAE freezes accounts of nine Iranian individuals and entities.


ECONOMY + TRADE
Iran’s policy to stem currency decline backfires.
Economic crisis gives Rouhani chance to hit ‘corrupt networks’.
Iranian police arrest ‘lord of coins’.


ART + CULTURE
Sights from Iran in the 1970s.
UNESCO adds pre-Islamic Iranian sites to world heritage list.
...تا هفته بعد
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