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Week of February 26th
SPECIAL: Elections
Today marked the first election since the implementation of the Iran Deal. Iranians went to the polls to elect new members of the country’s 290-seat parliament (Majles) and 88 clergy for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints the next supreme leader.

Why these elections matter
According to Payam Mohseni, the director of the Iran Project and a fellow of Iran Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, “The results will provide an important barometer of Iranian opinion of the deal and of popular satisfaction regarding the Rouhani administration’s policies thus far. Just as importantly, the consensus which brought Rouhani to power has now come to an end — how these factional actors choose to realign themselves as a result of the elections will shape the relative balance of power domestically in Iran as well as the future direction of the country.”

"These elections will not change Iran’s foreign policy, nor will they jeopardize the nuclear deal. A cooperative parliament can, however, allow Rouhani’s ministers to focus on the difficult challenges ahead of them rather than being constantly summoned to parliament, as they have been in record numbers,” explains Arash Karami of Al-Monitor.

At the same time, it’s important to remember these elections “are not free,” as Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi points out. “All the candidates have to be approved by the Council of Guardians… and 40 percent of the candidates were not accepted, many of them reformers.”

Just how important is it for the reformists to win?
Suzanne Maloney of the Brooking Institution raises an important point, “Mr. Rouhani has found less need of reformist support in order to govern. He has articulated some sympathy with reformers’ agenda. But the focus of his presidency remains consistent with his priorities throughout his long career in government: bolstering Iran’s economy and national security. In those arenas, reformists are less essential allies than conservatives–and certainly less vital than sustaining a viable equilibrium with the Islamic Republic’s real heavyweight, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

However, Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of former President Akbari Hashemi Rafsanjani said, “The most important goal we want as reformists is to have a pragmatic, intelligent and balanced parliament that will stand behind Mr. Rouhani and his programs, not a parliament like the current one that tries to block the government.”


On Iranians abstaining/boycotting
Sadegh Zibakalam, a political scientist at Tehran University, believes, “If we can persuade 10 percent to 20 percent of undecided voters to overcome their indifference and go to the polling stations then there could be a historic outcome.”

Iranian journalist Saeid Jafari explains how reformists got voters attention: “Reformist groups face generally low turnout in the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, compared to the presidential ones. To address this issue, candidates are now being promoted not only by posters and other forms of physical advertisement, but also through social media platforms such as Facebook and Telegram, which have grown to become key advertisement conduits.”

How should the West react to the outcome?
Emma Bonino, Javier Solana and Ali Vaez write: “Questioning the legitimacy of the Iranian political system, even obliquely, will neither usher in reforms nor win Western capitals any goodwill—either among ordinary Iranians or the country’s elites. Just as important, the West’s continued policy of supporting pragmatists to temper Iran’s behavior is misguided. The experience of the nuclear talks clearly demonstrates that no policy shift is possible without popular demand, the backing of the supreme leader and the support of conservatives more generally. Internal consensus, reached through a credible domestic process, is the only stable basis for progress in Iran.”
 
Interesting facts on the elections:
-- Over 6200 people are running for parliament, here are some names of note.

-- A new poll by iPOS suggests that despite limited candidate choices, 70-80 percent of eligible Iranian voters likely participated in today’s election.

-- 28 million Iranians participated in today’s election, a quarter of the country’s population.

-- More than 60 percent of Iranians received election campaign news from apps and the Internet, whereas only 20 percent from state media, according to a poll by Iranian news site Tabnak. Of the 59 million eligible to vote, 20 million users use the popular messaging app Telegram.

-- Candidates and voters are going green, putting a lot more emphasis on the environment than ever before.

-- Only about eight major cities hold 1/3 of Iran’s population and that’s not just the urban vote. If anything, their priorities differ from those in the capital.


-- “The female MPs of the next parliament are not going to think alike… But I think they are going to agree on most of the issues related to women.”
The Persian carpet really accentuates this voting scene, don't you think?

“It’s the work of the British!”
In an effort to undermine their opponents, hardliners are alleging that the British government is backing certain candidates and electoral lists. They accuse BBC Persian of swaying the Iranian vote. Ayatollah Hassan Mamduhi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, said the following: "The British government is evil, and when it supports only some of the election lists, we should be worried.”
 
Ayatollah Mohsen Qomi, a member of the Assembly of Experts and deputy chief of the Supreme Leader’s Office for International Affairs, explained, “Foreign media supporting one candidate list to compete with another is done in order to create divisions within the country.”
 
Iranian state media wasted no time drawing cartoons about the BBC.
With all the blame directed at Britain, it’s no surprise that the Iranian government started jamming BBC Persian satellite signals.
Saudi Arabia leads
Saudi Arabia announced the cutting of $4 billion in aid grants from Lebanon and told its citizens to leave the country due to its tilt towards Tehran. The Kingdom also warned  nationals not to travel to Lebanon. In solidary, other Gulf states including Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar followed Riyadh’s lead with similar warnings for its citizens. The United Arab Emirates took a step further by withdrawing some diplomats and banning its citizens from traveling to Lebanon.
 
Saudi Arabia put 30 Shiites citizens, two Afghans, and an Iranian on trial for spying. Their charges include establishing a spy ring with Iranian intelligence, passing on sensitive data on military zones, and treason.

 

Iran to attack U.S., according to Israel
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon accused Iran of aiming to destabilize the Middle East by building an international terror network. “The Iranian regime through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is building a complex terror infrastructure including sleeping cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives and are ready to act on order including in Europe and America,” said Yaalon. He also stated that Tehran is the anchor of a “dangerous axis,” which includes Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and other cities in the region.
Namazi family dilemma
Imprisoned Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi was denied access to his lawyer. Some media outlets report no charges were announced for Namazi. However, according to Tasnim News Agency, Namazi was charged with cooperating with the hostile U.S. government.

Namazi’s mother, Effie Namazi, announced that her 80-year-old husband Baquer Namazi was also detained in Tehran and likely taken to Evin Prison. In a Facebook post she writes:
"..I have been trying to find out more information but have been unable to do so and the lawyer also couldn’t get any information or get to see him. I am extremely concerned and worried sick for Baquer’s health since he is an 80 year old man and has a serious heart and other conditions which requires him to take special heart and other medicine."

Secretary of State John Kerry says he is aware of the Namazi arrests. "I am very familiar with this and I am engaged on it specifically," Kerry said. "I am not permitted, due to privacy reasons, to go into details here."



The devil is in the details
An Iranian photographer on Instagram (@m1rasoulifard) takes his followers on a journey of the details in Iran’s architecture and designs.
Other stories that made headlines
 

-- Iran to spend $36 million on Internet “smart filtering” to strengthen censorship.

-- Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi sentenced to one year in prison.

-- In pictures: meet the teenage girls on Iran’s death row.

-- Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz transferred to solitary without explanation.
 
-- Entire male population of an Iranian village executed for drug trafficking.

-- Ex-BBC Persian journalist Bahman Daroshafaei released on bail.

-- 4 indicted in U.S. on charges of violating Iran sanctions.

-- Hardliner media organizations increase bounty for novelist Salman Rushdie.

-- Iran's Supreme Council of Cyberspace have plans for social media monitoring.

-- Viral video of a hunter beating a dog sparks protests in Tehran.

-- Does Iran's alliance with Russia mean no more "Death to Israel"?
 
-- Iran to pay Palestinian families killed by IDF, ones with demolished homes.
 
-- Sanctions impacted the quality of Iran's cigarettes, now they're upgrading filters.

-- Iran to export 60k bpd of crude oil to Greece.

-- Boeing gets U.S. license to talk deals with Iranian airlines.

-- China deepens its footprint in Iran after the lifting of sanctions.

-- Iran and Oman forge closer energy ties

-- Iranian economy minister says Tehran seeks $45 billion in foreign investment.

-- South Africa's president scheduled to visit Tehran next week.
 
-- Iran shows off U.S.-made Tehran Research Reactor to foreign, Iranian journalists.
 
-- Over 400 foreign journalists in Iran, is reporting from there easier than we think?

-- Silicon Valley executives want changes to new Visa Waiver law

-- UK Embassy in Tehran commences consular activities.

-- Female Iranian chess player finished second in FIDE chess tournament.

-- Study: 214 taxis stopped for women in manteau, only 39 for women in chador.

-- Oh, Nuts! U.S. pistachio growers worry about competition from Iran.

-- What it's like to be a hacker in Iran.

-- Luxury Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli opens in Tehran.

Events

...تا هفته بعد
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