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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of May 26th

“[Donald Trump] must enter into dialogue with [Saudi Arabia] about ways to prevent terrorists and takfiris from continuing to fuel the fire in the region and repeating the likes of the September 11 incident by their sponsors in Western countries.”

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif,
in an op-ed for Al Araby Al-Jadeed news network


FOUR MORE YEARS OF ROUHANI
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Election

Incumbent president Hassan Rouhani won a second term in a landslide victory (New York Times). The president won 23 million votes, or 57 percent of the 41 million votes that were cast, defeating hardliner cleric Ebrahim Raisi who obtained 15.7 million votes, or 38.5 percent of the ballots counted. Turnout during this election was stronger than in 2013, with 70 percent of Iran’s 56 million eligible voters casting ballots. On Saturday night, Iranians took to the streets to celebrate Rouhani’s win (New York Times).

Some interesting factoids about the election:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wore a gemstone ring that was similar Rouhani’s campaign color on election day (The Guardian). Iranian officials denied the blueish stone was code for his support of the incumbent president, whose campaign color is purple.

So many Iranians voted in Friday’s election that the government had to extend voting until midnight; though many could not meet the deadline (IranWire). There were Iranians in lines for three to seven hours to vote, while some gave up their chance to participate in the election process.


A record number of Iranian expats voted from Los Angeles to Istanbul, except one place: Canada (Global News). Iran doesn't have an embassy or consulate in Canada, so dozens of Canadian-Iranians drove hundreds of miles to polling booths in the United States.

Once it was clear that Rouhani was in the lead, the Raisi campaign and hardliners did not accept the election outcome (Al-Monitor). Even after Rouhani was declared the winner, Raisi said he would be pursuing investigations of election violations before and after the voting day with the Guardian Council. This is unprecedented and seems to be the hardliners’ way of discrediting Rouhani’s victory.

An Iranian rapper was partly blamed for Ebrahim Raisi’s loss (IranWire). Rapper Amir Tataloo met with Raisi days before the election and the meeting may have cost the hardliner cleric votes. Tataloo’s music career in music will surely suffer because of his endorsement of Raisi.

Reformists swept Tehran in the municipal elections, enough to oust hardliner mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf (AP). Qalibaf faced controversy recently due to allegations of corruption. He has also been criticized for his handling of the Plasco building collapse in January that killed 26 people, including 16 firefighters. For the first time since 1999, which is when the first of such elections took place, the reformists are in control of the municipal council. The son of the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani won a seat in the municipal elections. Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani secured 1.7 million votes, surpassing hardliner presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Reformists were also in the lead in other major Iranian cities, including Esfahan, Kerman, Mashhad, Semnan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Zahedan. Interestingly, 415 women won seats in Sistan and Baluchistan province alone.

Some good reads:

A brief backgrounder on Rouhani (AP).


What’s on Rouhani’s second-term economic agenda? (Al-Monitor)

Iran’s Islamic evolution: all factions consider the ballot box to be an essential instrument of the government. (Bloomberg).

Iran just proved Trump wrong: The gravest extremist threat in the Middle East isn't the nation that just voted overwhelmingly for peaceful coexistence with the international community (Foreign Policy).

How Hassan Rouhani won in Iran: the nuclear deal was not enough (The Atlantic).

Winning the election is just the beginning of Rouhani’s political struggles (Huffington Post).

If Rouhani fails to include the poor and the disfranchised in Iran's expanding economy, hardliners will experience a rebirth (Al Jazeera).


TRUMP'S ANTI-IRAN TRIP
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Donald Trump’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia and was used as an opportunity to isolate Iran (New York Times). During a speech at the Riyadh Summit, Trump said Tehran had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” Trump’s visit was a stark contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama, as he tilted toward Sunni Arab governments regardless of their human rights records, to fight extremist ideology and terrorism, but mainly to push back against Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani mocked Trump’s meeting with Saudi leaders as “just a show” without “any political and practical value” (New York Times). During a news conference, Rouhani said, “Mr. Trump arrived in the region at the time when he saw 45 million Iranians participating in the elections. Then he visited a country that I doubt knows the definition of elections. The poor things have never seen a ballot box. I hope one day Saudi Arabia chooses this path.” The Iranian president also criticized the $110 arms deal, suggesting it was Riyadh’s way of making amends for 9/11. Interestingly, Rouhani said Tehran was still interested in a dialogue with Washington and that they “are waiting for the government to be well established so we can pass judgment.”

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said the United States was selling arms to “dangerous terrorists” in the Middle East (Reuters). Spokesman Bahram Qassem said, “Once again, by his repetitive and baseless claims about Iran, the American president . . . tried to encourage the countries of the region to purchase more arms by spreading Iranophobia.”

Iran’s foreign minister criticized Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on social media (Twitter). Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter: “Iran-fresh from real elections-attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?”
Read Zarif's op-ed ‘Beautiful military equipment’ can’t buy Middle East peace (New York Times).

During his visit to Israel, Trump made his peace bid by trying to leverage Iran threat (The Guardian). Trump said in a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, that there’s a “growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran.” The American president also said, “The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Never, ever. And must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of state said talks with Tehran would come at the right time (Times of Israel). When asked if he would speak to his Iranian counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Riyadh, “I’ve never shut off the phone to anyone that wants to talk or have a productive conversation. At this point, I have no plans to call my counterpart in Iran, although in all likelihood, we will talk at the right time.”

Two top U.S. intelligence officials offered varying takes on Iran’s behavior in the Middle East since signing a nuclear accord (Bloomberg).

Targeting Tehran will inflame sectarianism and weaken the war against ISIS (Haaretz).


Rouhani's re-election presents an opportunity to reduce the diplomacy deficit, particularly with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia (Huffington Post).


SANCTIONS, DESPITE A SECOND TERM
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Deal

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to impose the most sweeping sanctions against Tehran since the Iran Deal (New York Times). Since Iran complied with the nuclear deal, the Senate found other reasons to sanction Tehran including its ballistic missile tests, human rights violations, and continued support for terrorism. The timing was awkward, given that Rouhani had just been re-elected. The bipartisan S. 722 ‘Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017’ bill, which has 48 Senate co-sponsors, could be voted on as early as next month.

Obama's secretary of state took to Twitter to urge senators not to pass sanctions bill (Twitter). John Kerry said, “On #JCPOA, we engaged in an important back and forth. And I welcomed that debate. But to my friends & former colleagues, here is my take: this is a time to tread carefully. After Rouhani’s reelection, there is much up in the air/room for misinterpretation. This is not the moment for a new Iran bill. We need to consider the implications of confrontation without conversation. Must also consider how to make any move in coordination/consultation with our European allies, who were and are essential.”

The U.S. Treasury is reviewing licenses for Boeing and Airbus to sell aircraft to Iran (Reuters). Since the Iran Deal, Tehran has purchased 80 jets from Boeing, 100 from Airbus and twenty turboprops from Franco-Italian ATR. All aircraft need U.S. licenses because of their reliance on American parts.

Meanwhile, Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production facility (AP). The facility doesn’t violate the Iran Deal.

CUT FOR NINE MONTHS
FILED UNDER:
 Economy + Trade

OPEC and non-OPEC members agreed to extend oil output cut by nine months to remove 1.7 million bpd surplus from the market (Reuters). OPEC's cuts helped put oil back above $50 a barrel this year, giving a boost to producers, many of which rely on energy revenues and have had to burn through foreign-currency reserves to protect their budgets.

Iran supported the OPEC oil extension cuts, a move that shows Tehran is producing oil at near capacity (Bloomberg). Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, “We do not have any problem between six or nine months. We will go along with what the majority agrees with.”


Tehran and Spain’s Tubacex S.A. signed a $615 million deal for oil pipes (AP). The Spanish company will produce corrosion resistant alloy pipes for a network of 370 miles (600 km). This is the first major deal since Rouhani was re-elected.


CARTOON OF THE WEEK

“The next step” by Touka Neyestani. Iranian voters push re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who is holding a key—a symbol of his campaign—toward the supreme leader with a lock in his turban.

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Haleh Esfandiari spoke to The Iranist about the upcoming Iranian presidential election, imprisonment of dual nationals, and words of wisdom for the next generation.

OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS

+ More than 15,000 petition judiciary to free prominent teachers’ rights activist.

+ Formerly imprisoned minority activist expelled from university without explanation.

+ Activists acquitted of national security charges for peaceful defense of labor rights.

+ Newly reelected Rouhani abandons promise to end house arrest of opposition leaders.

+ Iran prison atlas' database keeps track of Iranian political prisoners.

+ Tehran continues deporting undocumented Afghan refugees.

+ Baha’i persecution worsens under Rouhani government.

DOMESTIC ISSUES

+ Iran’s next big transition is coming sooner than you think.

+ Iran's election results a win-win for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

+ Elections: A street sweeper’s nightmare.

+ Rouhani’s battle over un 2030 educational guidelines follows him into second term.

+ What’s Ebrahim Raisi's next move?

+ Newly elected reformist council member arrested for calling Prophet “secular”.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Seven perils of Donald Trump's attempt to isolate Iran.


+ Why has Trump been so harsh on Iran?

+ U.S. jets attack Iran-backed militiamen in south-eastern Syria.

+ Why Iran wants 'de-escalation' zones in Syria.

+ Tehran blames Trump as Shia protesters killed in Bahrain police raid.

+ Expulsion of Iraqi forces has lessons for Iranians today.

+ After election, UAE minister sees chance for Iran to reset 'troubled' ties with neighbors.

+ Iran condemns UK attack, criticizes Western security ties to Gulf.

+ Iranian media ties Manchester bombing to Trump’s Saudi visit.

ECONOMY + TRADE

+ Iran networking with energy companies from Vienna.

+ Passenger flow via Iranian airports up by 15 percent.

HISTORY

+ Photos from Iran’s WWII efforts and when the country even welcomed Polish refugees.

ART + CULTURE

+ The forgotten history of how ancient Zoroastrians helped create the old Silk Route.
 
+ Juliette Binoche: “I Really Miss Kiarostami”.

OTHER

+ Finding your way around Tehran’s public archives.

EVENTS
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