Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Eye on Iran: Meet the Powerful Iranian Cleric Looking to Unseat Rouhani

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A new and powerful figure has joined the list of candidates among Iranian conservatives for the May presidential election: Ebrahim Raisi, a senior cleric who has gradually risen through the ranks to assume powerful positions. Born in the holy city of Mashhad in northeast Iran - home to the shrine of the eighth Shiite imam - Raisi started his career as the prosecutor general of Karaj - a city just west of the capital city, Tehran - two years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 2004, Raisi was appointed as the first deputy of judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. When incumbent Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani took over the judiciary in 2009, Raisi remained as the first deputy. In 2016, following the death of Ayatollah Abbas Vaez Tabasi, Raisi was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as custodian of the shrine of the eighth Shiite imam... While there has been speculation in Western media regarding Raisi as the next supreme leader, only now is Raisi being raised in Iranian media as the likely candidate of the conservative camp in the upcoming presidential election. The conservatives are at present making great efforts to agree on a single candidate as they assume that the nomination of more than one conservative candidate will repeat the same scenario of the 2013 presidential election, when moderate Hassan Rouhani defeated his three conservative rivals.

Iran was in recession a year ago, but the IMF forecast that growth would rebound to 6.6 per cent in the financial year ending in March, driven largely by the doubling of Iran's oil production since sanctions were removed But the fund warned that "the renewed uncertainty surrounding" the nuclear accord and "especially relations with the US, could deter investment and trade with Iran and short-circuit the anticipated recovery." "If the agreement is derailed, the economy could risk recession," it said in a report released late on Monday.

French telecoms network operator Orange will continue to see slow growth in revenues in the Middle East and Africa this year, its regional business chief said. The company sees the region as key to its future, especially since it sold its mobile operations in Britain and Switzerland, but is struggling to turn it into a strong growth driver as talks with a potential partner in Iran drag on and economic conditions in some African markets remain challenging... Talks with Iran's largest mobile operator, Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), meanwhile are "very far" from reaching a final agreement, Mettling said. The discussions, which were revealed last year, first aim at a commercial agreement. "It's very long, it's very slow, it's very complicated," Mettling said.


The chief of the U.N. atomic watchdog will hold talks on Iran's nuclear deal on Thursday for the first time with senior officials from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has branded it "the worst deal ever negotiated"... Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has called for a "full review" of the accord, is among the senior U.S. officials Amano will meet, they said... "IAEA Director General Amano will meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior U.S. officials in Washington on Thursday, March 2," an IAEA spokesman said on Wednesday, declining to elaborate.


Iran and Russia have agreed a roadmap for joint production of nuclear fuel, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), said Saturday. It took the countries over two years to work out the agreement, Salehi added. "Joint fuel production by Iran and Russia was one of the most useful topics that had been discussed during nuclear talks (with Moscow) and eventually finalized. We said we needed Russia's assistance in this sphere," Salehi told iranian students news agency.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Wednesday to improve ties, including in the fight against terrorism, Iran's state news agency IRNA said, following some angry exchanges between the regional rivals... Last month Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu both accused Iran of trying to destabilize Syria and Iraq and of sectarianism, prompting Tehran to summon Ankara's ambassador. Erdogan and Rouhani met on the sideline of an economic cooperation summit in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, IRNA said, though it gave no details of their talks.


Iran is determined to develop its oil and gas fields through tenders for international companies, a top oil official said, as the country strives to hold the first such tender since sanctions were lifted in the January of last year. "We are keen to tender our oil and gas fields, although it would prolong the process of exploration and production," Ali Kardor, the chief executive of National Iranian Oil Company told ILNA on Monday. According Kardor, the giant South Azadegan oilfield that is shared with Iraq, will be the first field to be tendered. He has also hinted at the possibility of developing the South Azadegan project by a consortium of British, Japanese and French companies. Kardor said that a new model of contracts, dubbed as Iran Petroleum Contract, will be used to develop most oil and gas fields. However, the tendering process has hit the rocks since the first details of the IPC were unveiled in late 2015 alongside some 50 oil and gas projects. The NIOC chief had said the tender for the coveted South Azadegan field would be held this month after failing to launch the tender in January. But in recent weeks, officials have kept mum on the possible date of the first oil tender, leading to the inference that in the best-case scenario, the first post-sanctions oil tender could be held in the first half of this year.


Imports of Iranian crude by Asia's four main buyers of the oil rose about two-thirds in January from a year ago when levels were lower as Western sanctions on Tehran had only just been lifted. Iran's top four Asian buyers - China, India, South Korea and Japan - imported 1.64 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 67.6 percent on a year earlier, government and ship-tracking data showed. But that volume was the lowest in six months and marked a third straight month of decline from last year's peak of 1.99 million bpd hit in October, according to data from the International Energy Agency... Japan's trade ministry on Tuesday released official data showing its imports rose 7.9 percent from a year earlier to 209,319 bpd last month. India's imports more than tripled to 554,600 bpd, topping China's for the first time since November. South Korean imports more than doubled to 478,032 bpd, also beating China, to become the second-biggest buyer in Asia.

Iranian and Austrian officials in a meeting in Vienna signed several agreements to further expand their bilateral ties in scientific and technological fields.
Five cooperation pacts were signed by Iranian Vice-President Sorena Sattari and Austrian officials in Vienna on Wednesday. The signed agreements covered cooperation in oil and modern energy fields. Sattari is slated to meet with a group of Austrians active in the area of knowledge-based economy during his stay in Vienna. The Iranian vice-president will also hold meetings with the elites and Iranians residing in Austria.

CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co will supply 100 subway cars for Metro Line 2 in Mashhad, the second-biggest city in Iran in May, the company told China Daily on Thursday. As a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp Ltd, the country's railway vehicle and equipment maker and exporter, CRRC Changchun completed trial operations of the Mashhad metro line this month. The 100 subway cars will be formatted in five sets, said the media office of CRRC Changchun. CRRC Changchun said that Metro Line 2 in Mashhad is just one aspect of the company's business in the country. It already started to ship subway cars to Iran in 2016 after it signed a $1.39 billion contract to supply 1,008 subway cars to Teheran, the Iranian capital, over a five-year period. Iran plans to open 30 urban rail lines in nine cities over the next five years, with a total length of 350 kilometers. The demand for rail vehicles is expected to reach 2,000 subway cars.

Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. So it seems like an unusual outpost for a recruiter. But Alexander Hughes' Iranian office has now officially opened for business. Shayan Shadfar and Christophe Laurent-Atthalin are managing the new operation. CEO Julien Rozet, Mr. Shadfar and Mr. Laurent-Atthalin said in a joint statement: "Our offices in Tehran show the very strong interest of the global economic world in the Iranian market. We are proud to be the first global executive search firm returning to Iran to support businesses here in finding top talent for their great ventures in this promising country."


The victory for Asghar Farhadi's film The Salesman at the Oscars on 26 February sent a strong message from Hollywood to US president Donald Trump, whose attempted travel ban caused the director to boycott the ceremony. Trump's policy was felt by many to have triggered a rash of protest votes for the film - and it is the second time Iran, and Farhadi, have taken the prize this decade. Such a triumph was proudly reported on back in Iran - but with a few changes. The Iranian Labor News Agency's coverage of the win included censorship of the outfits worn by presenter Charlize Theron, and by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space, who accepted the award in lieu of Farhadi... The news clip was shared by My Stealthy Freedom, a lobbying organisation aiming to raise awareness of state rules in Iran which dictate that women should be flogged or imprisoned for failure to wear the hijab. The founder of the group, Masih Alinejad, condemned the censorship on the organisation's Facebook page. "Another typical example of the Islamic Republic's fear of naked arms of Iranian women," she wrote. "It is shameful indeed, but that is how the Iranian media outlets based within the country have been covering such events for years."


Iran may see its first female presidential candidate in the May 19 elections. After a period of silence, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, the Islamic Republic's first and only female minister, has in recent days and weeks made headlines once again. Dastjerdi headed the Ministry of Health and Medical Education between 2009 and 2012 after being one of three women proposed as ministers by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his second term (2009-13).


After Iran's nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom), many outside businesses are enthusiastic to enter the Iranian market. Meanwhile, to boost Iran's collapsed economy, the country's moderate forces-a coalition of progressive politicians, intellectuals and pragmatic conservatives headed by President Hassan Rouhani, who advocates reintegrating Iran into the global market-are encouraging foreign partners and investors to invest in Iran. But the extent of the Iranian market's readiness for international investment has not been addressed yet. Iran's autocratic system has unique characteristics that make it different from other autocracies in terms of dealing with foreign investors. This raises the question: how plausible is it to expect a fruitful economic relationship between Iran and foreign investors, and what are the possible uncertainties and obstacles regarding foreign investment in Iran?

The U.S. cannot drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in the near term Tehran and Moscow share regional and global interests across the Middle East, North Africa, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Their common interests and overarching objective of expelling the U.S. from the Middle East will likely bind Iran and Russia together into an enduring partnership.  

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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