A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of April 21st

“I’ve been informed from Iran that the Trump administration is being sent a secret message ‘not to increase the pressure on Iran not to increase the sanctions because [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei is ill and dying and his successor will play the same role as Ayatollah [Ali] Al-Sistani in Iraq. In my view, this information is correct because the American Congress has postponed voting on the sanctions until after the presidential election in Iran. This is the same message they sent to [U.S. President Ronald] Reagan at the end of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini’s life.”

 Iran Election

Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani has registered to run in May’s upcoming presidential election (BBC). “Once again, I am here for Iran, for Islam, for freedom and for more stability in this country,” Rouhani told reporters while registering his candidacy.

Other candidates registered this week, including Rouhani’s vice president (Financial Times). Eshaq Jahangiri may have registered to run because there are concerns amongst reformists and pragmatists that Rouhani would've been barred from running by the Guardian Council. Similarly, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf also registered to run for his third consecutive election (Al-Monitor). While Iranian conservatives claim to have unified, Ebrahim Raisi’s supporters believe Ghalibaf is maneuvering to sideline him.

On April 20, the Guardian Council approved six presidential candidates to run, including incumbent President Rouhani (The Guardian). The others included hardline cleric Raisi, Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf, Rouhani’s Vice President Jahangiri, and low-profile politicians Mostafa Hashemi-Taba and Mostafa Agha Mirsalim. Hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Vice President Hamid Baghaei were both disqualified, in addition to 1,600 candidates that included 137 women.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman says former President Ahmadinejad and his vice president still have open legal cases (Al-Monitor). Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei didn’t mention the nature of the case or the charges. This may also be one of the reasons Ahmadinejad and Baghaei were disqualified.

According to Iran's Interior Ministry, there will be no live debates (AFP). Live debates were made popular during the 2009 and 2013 presidential elections. 

A poll conducted inside Iran shows Rouhani could lose the vote despite his popularity (Bloomberg). While the majority of Iranians shared a favorable view of the president, they said the economy and living standards had not improved under the nuclear deal. More than 40 percent said Rouhani was “somewhat likely” to lose this May’s election, while 14 percent said his defeat was “very likely.”

Interestingly, Raisi attacked Iranian state media for excessively covering President Rouhani’s speeches (Al-Monitor).

Meanwhile, the head of the Guardian Council has called for Iran’s religious minorities to be barred from running in city council elections on May 19 (RFERL). In a letter, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said religious minorities should not be allowed to run in Muslim-majority cities, claiming it violates Islamic law and goes against comments made by the founder of the Islamic Republic. Iran’s constitution recognizes Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians as minorities. Iran's Interior Ministry said in late March that 287,425 candidates had registered for the city council elections.

Iran's judiciary has clashed with members of the Rouhani administration over the recent arrests of journalists and Telegram administrators (IranWire).

Presidential election breakdown:

April 20: Interior Ministry announced approved candidates

April 28–May 17: Campaigning

May 19: Election

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

 Domestic Affairs

Tuesday marked National Army Day in Iran (PressTV). A parade was held in Tehran, which included troops from all branches of the armed forces, as well as a ground display with Iranian-made anti-aircraft missiles and a newly received Russian S-300 air defense system. One banner at the parade read “Death to Israel” with a fist punching thru a Star of David (Daily Mail).

Addressing the parade, President Rouhani said Iran didn’t need anyone’s permission to build up its missile capability (Reuters). Rouhani said, “The strengthening of the capability of the Iranian armed forces[...] is only for defending the country and we will ask no one's permission to build up the armed forces, and to build missiles and aircraft.” He also added that Iran never had “aggressive aims, but peace is not a one-way road and if we decide to be peaceful the other party[...] may not. So there is a need for vigilance.”

Check out these fascinating photos from Army Day (IranWire).


In a letter written to Congress on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State said Tehran is complying with the nuclear deal, but is conducting an inter-agency review of lifting sanctions against Iran (Reuters). The letter directed to House Speaker Paul Ryan is required by Congress every 90 days. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said the Trump administration is reviewing sanctions due to Tehran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The following day, Tillerson said the nuclear deal failed to prevent Iran from going on a path of acquiring nuclear weapons and called the country's involvement in the Middle East a threat to peace and security (Washington Post). Tillerson also said that “an unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it. The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach.”

Iran’s foreign minister criticized the United States on social media in response to Tillerson's comments (The Guardian). Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter: “Worn-out US accusations can't mask its admission of Iran's compliance with JCPOA, obligating US to change course & fulfill its own commitments.”

Just two days after Tillerson’s comments, Donald Trump said Iran was “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear deal (ABC News). His remarks were made at a joint conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni after Trump was asked if he suspected Tehran might be cheating on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed,” he added. “We're analyzing it very, very carefully and we'll have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future.”

Has Donald Trump learned to love the Iran Deal? (Huffington Post)

Tensions between Washington and Tehran on other issues must be contained for the nuclear deal to survive (New York Times).

Meanwhile, a Turkish banker plead not guilty in Iran sanctions-busting case (Bloomberg). Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy chief executive at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, was charged with being part of scheme to help Iran launder money through the U.S. financial system. He is part of a larger trial involving Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman.

Read more about the case: A mysterious case involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani (New Yorker).


Iran’s oil minister said most oil-producing countries support an extension of output cuts (Reuters). Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh added, “Iran also supports such a decision and if others comply, so would Iran.” OPEC will meet on May 25 to decide if they want to extend oil production cuts beyond June.

Tehran may be allowed to keep the same oil production if OPEC decides to extend its six-month agreement on output cuts, according to Kuwaiti oil minister (Bloomberg). Iran was allowed to increase oil output to return back to pre-sanctions production.

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani said the South Pars offshore gas field has more than doubled its production (AP). It went from 240 million m3 in 2013 to 540 million m3 in 2017.

Iran inaugurated six projects at the South Pars with investments of $20 billion (Bloomberg). Tehran’s recent endeavors in gas has put it on par with the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar, which produces from the same deposit. The project might place Tehran ahead of Doha in terms of production. However, most of the gas won’t be exported because Iranians will likely consume it.

"Should I shave? Should I not shave?" by Mana Neyestani (IranWire). Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei contemplates whether to trim former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or not. (Read more in IRAN ELECTION).

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 Iran.


+ Ailing former political activist Majid Asadi held without charge by Intelligence Ministry.

+ “Be my daughter’s voice,” pleads mother of hunger-striking activist serving seven years.
+ Searching for sanctuary: Iranian asylum seekers in the UK.

Int'l law expert denounces Iranian presidential bid of rights violator Ebrahim Raisi.

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Investigate presidential hopeful Raisi for 1988 mass executions.

+ Judiciary blocks Telegram app’s voice calls.


+ The view from prison: Who votes and why?

Low female participation in Iranian elections symptom of gender inequality.

Iranian economist says Rouhani inherited an economy in ruins

Don’t let Ahmadinejad’s candidacy distract you from the real danger.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 'Why are we fighting each other?'

Iranian media banned from covering Ahmadinejad’s presidential campaign

Tehran shifting focus to housing sector.
Iran’s army warns against 'any strategic mistake' by enemies.

The rise and fall of Iran’s Khuzestan: A calamity of international significance.
Floods have killed at least 30 people in north-west Iran.

The Baha'i faith: Flourishing throughout the world, it faces persecution in its homeland.


James Mattis: U.S. must overcome Iran's destabilization efforts to help Yemen.

U.S. ambassador to UN says Iran, not Israel, bears blame for Middle East crisis.
Exiled cleric points to Iran's widening influence in Bahrain.
Russia, Iran and Syria issue warning to the U.S.
Will Europe and America diverge on Iran?

How Iran's military strategy against ISIS may backfire

Former Israeli ambassador writes Iran is bigger threat than Syria and North Korea.
Syria: The hidden power of Iran.


+ South Korea’s Iran oil imports soar to record high.

+ Lufthansa in talks with Iran Air over catering, maintenance deals.

+ Why Iran won’t ditch the U.S. dollar soon

+ UK cautiously eyes $600 billion opportunity in Iran investment drive.


Why has the history of Iran’s left been erased?

+ A backgrounder on Mohammad Ali Rajai: The clerics’ loyalist.


+ Vacation in Iran: Photographs by Newsha Tavakolian.
+ UW student hopes new Iranian Film Festival will build cultural bridges.


+ Science in Iran: Headscarves and nanotech.

+ Iranian archaeologists unearth 2,000 year old underground city.
+ Iranian researchers say eating avocados every day might prevent metabolic syndrome.
+ Iran's 'stealth' fighter is a total joke.


+ Iranian-American groups testify in Washington seeking new ban on Trump travel order.

The House of Bijan--now with a 21st century business model.


+ Mr. Trump, lovers of Iran would like to thank you for helping our cause.

+ At U.S. competition, Iranian law students 'surprised' by reception

+ An education in Alaska draws a student from Iran.

+ Is it safe to travel to Iran?

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