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The Iranist
Week of April 29th
Parliamentary elections, Part II
Today, Iran is holding the second round of parliamentary elections for 68 undecided seats out of 290. Already Iranians lined up in 21 provinces—not including Tehran—at the polls to vote. Polling commenced at 8:00 am (3:30 am GMT) and are said to finish 7:00 pm local time (2:30 GMT), but will extend if necessary. Iranian reformists and centrists are expected to make gains.

With a new Majlis (parliament), top reformist Mohammad Reza Aref is likely to challenge Ali Larijani for the position of speaker.

Also, outgoing Iran parliament moves to radically cut cash handouts.

Sidetracking Iran Deal, again
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) sidetracked a spending bill by attempting to block the U.S. purchase of heavy water from Iran through a last minute amendment. On the senate floor, the Arkansas senator explained why Washington shouldn’t be subsidizing Tehran’s nuclear program and noted that nothing in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) mentions the need for the U.S. to buy heavy water. The Obama administration argues this is to protect the material from falling into the wrong hands. The Democrats countered Cotton's actions by preventing the bill from moving forward.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest questioned the senator’s knowledge of heavy water during the daily briefing on Wednesday. “Senator Cotton is certainty no expert when it comes to heavy water. I’m confident that he couldn’t differentiate heavy water from sparkling water,” said Earnest.
Cotton responded on Twitter: “As for you @PressSec, you’re right, I don’t know much about sparkling water. It isn’t served in Army, unlike in your ritzy West Wing.” He then went on MSNBC's Morning Joe and explained, “This guy at the White House may think it's a laughing matter to subsidize Iran's nuclear program, but I don't. I think it's a very serious matter.”
Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) penned an op-ed for Fox News on financial institutions and Iran’s interest in using the U.S. dollar. It reads: “Access to the U.S. dollar is not an international right. But if Tehran wants access, the onus should be entirely on Iran to clean up its act and reduce the risk that Iran’s dangerous activities pose the global financial community.”
$2 billion dispute
Tehran summoned the Swiss Ambassador to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be given to American families of those killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. The Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran. Tehran warned it would take the United States to the International Court of Justice (ICC) at The Hague to put a stop to the distribution of money.
In the past, American terror victims who won judgments against Iran were paid from U.S. taxpayer funds. As The Atlantic Council's Barbara Slavin points out, “This was done to avoid violating a basic principle of international law known as sovereign immunity, under which foreign governments are not supposed to be subject to private lawsuits for fear that U.S. assets abroad could also be seized and distributed.” Since 2012, Congress passed a bill that made exceptions for countries on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, which currently includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
In an interview with the New Yorker, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the ruling as, “the height of absurdity.” He added, “The Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of the United States, not the Supreme Court of the world. We’re not under its jurisdiction, nor is our money. It is a theft. Huge theft. It is highway robbery. And believe you me, we will get it back.”
#FreeOmid Kokabee
Iran’s judiciary rejected calls for releasing Omid Kokabee from Evin Prison after his right kidney was removed due to cancer earlier this month. Kokabee was a post-doctoral student in physics at the University of Texas at Austin when he was arrested in Iran in 2011 for refusing to work on a military research project for the Iranian government. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he was diagnosed with renal cancer after reportedly being denied treatment for a kidney illness for years.
A group of prominent North American professors urged President Rouhani to intervene on behalf of political prisoners being denied access to proper medical care. It reads: “If the urgent release of these political prisoners is not possible, please allow for a group of independent specialist physicians from within Iran or international organizations (such as Doctors without Borders, International Red Crescent/Red Cross and the United Nations) to visit these prisoners and those who have been recently released but who suffer from a variety of ailments. The physicians should be allowed to examine their medical files and assist the medical experts engaged in treatment of these individuals.”
United Nations human rights experts also weighed in, calling the denial of adequate medical treatment to political prisoners unacceptable.

Meanwhile, a former French embassy employee was arrested at the airport and sentenced to six years in prison for activities related to the 2009 post-election protests. French-Iranian citizen Nazak Afshar had traveled to Iran to visit her sick mother.

Bigger than it seems
Check out this land mass comparison of Iran to Europe. Iran is said to be almost 2.5 times the size of Texas and slightly smaller than Alaska at 1,531,595 km2.
Other stories that made headlines

-- Iranian cartoonist Hadi Heydari released from prison.

-- Cartoonist Atena Farghadani’s sentence reduced from 12 years to 18 months.
-- Tehran jails four pro-reform journalists on security charges.
-- Human rights groups condemn journalists' prison sentences in Iran.
-- Censorship, Iranian style: The working journalist in an atmosphere of terror.
-- Two female MPs: People want undercover morality patrols.
-- Undercover squad may mean more covering up for Tehran women.
-- Iran may have secretly tested ballistic missile tech with ‘space launch’.
-- Tehran-trained clerics are planting deep roots in Latin America.
-- U.S. arrest awakens ghosts of Turkey's Iran-Gold Scandal.
-- Tehran to not send pilgrims to Hajj if security conditions aren't met in Saudi Arabia.
-- Egypt sets conditions for dialogue with Iran.
-- Iran’s armed forces reviews media strategy for Syrian operations.
-- Iran in talks with Russia on heavy water sales.         
-- Tehran and Moscow move closer but their alliance has limits.
-- Defense minister travels to Russia to attend conference on international security.
-- The tricky triangle of Iran, Russia and Israel.
-- Despite failure, Iran finds OPEC Doha meeting a positive step.

-- MEK representative attends Donald Trump’s foreign policy address.
-- Trump says President Obama made Iran a great power at Israel's expense.
-- How Hillary Clinton can woo back Iranian-Americans.
-- Head of Central Bank remarks on JCPOA becomes a rallying cry for hardliners.
-- Khamenei says U.S. pushing 'Iranphobia' to block foreign investment.

-- Bombardier to set up new airline in Iran? Tehran says yes, company says no.
-- Uruguay VP to hold enhanced trade, economic talks in Iran.
-- Retired General James Mattis says Iran nuclear deal ‘fell short.

-- Can a burst of entrepreneurship succeed—and even transform the nation?

-- It is proving harder than expected for investors to make a start in Iran.

-- In history: Iran hostage rescue fails after U.S. aircrafts collides in 1980.

-- Iran's feared SAVAK: Norman Schwarzkopf’s father had greater impact on MENA.

-- Air France propels debate over veil in Iran.
-- Iranian meth addict tortured his family for 21 days.

-- Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab.
-- Credit cards are coming back to Iran.
-- Luxury groups should focus their FOMO on Iran.
-- How Iranians' use of Telegram app is changing politics and civil society.
-- Former Iranian refugee—now Belgian citizen—wants to earn gold at the Olympics.
-- WaPost reporter Jason Rezaian named Nieman fellow at Harvard.
-- Iranian cab driver turns his taxi into a mobile library to encourage reading.
-- Meet Kazem Aghlmand, the most famous refreshment server in Iran.
-- 31 signs you grew up with a Persian mom.
...تا هفته بعد

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