Friday, April 28, 2017

Eye on Iran: The Nuclear Deal Takes Center Stage As Iran's Election Campaign Gets Underway

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Iran's short, intense presidential campaign kicks off Friday with the first televised debate featuring six candidates in a race widely seen as a referendum on whether Iranians feel they have benefited from the nuclear deal that took effect last year. The May 19 vote will see the moderate incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, facing off against conservative and reformist challengers, including a hard-line cleric with backing from the country's religious establishment. Iran's influential Guardian Council, a body of senior clerics and jurists appointed by the supreme leader, vets the candidates each election. This year, Rouhani's approved challengers include the hard-line mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf; a conservative former culture minister, Mostafa Mirsalim; Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a moderate; and former vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba, a reformist.

Royals from Gulf Arab countries met on Thursday in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security and try and formulate a unified voice on rival Iran. The meeting in Riyadh included the defense, interior and foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, a tightly allied bloc led by Saudi Arabia that also includes the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. A joint statement after the meeting said the ministers discussed ways to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism, including efforts to build up a military alliance of Muslim-majority countries. The alliance of mostly Sunni countries was announced by Saudi Arabia in late 2015 and doesn't include Shiite-ruled Iran, or Syria and Iraq.

Syria's military said Israel struck a military installation southwest of Damascus International Airport before dawn Thursday, setting off a series of explosions and raising tensions further between the two neighbors. Apparently seeking to interrupt weapons transfers to the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, Israel has struck inside Syria with increasing frequency in recent weeks, making the war-torn country a proxy theater for Israel's wider war with Iran. The increasing tempo of attacks risks inflaming a highly combustible situation drawing in Israel, Syria and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad's government with thousands of fighters in Syria. Israel's military said later Thursday that its Patriot Missile Defense system intercepted an incoming projectile from Syria over the Golan Heights. An Israeli defense official said the Patriot hit a drone, and the military is checking if it was a Russian aircraft that entered the Israeli side by mistake or if it was Syrian. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with protocol.


A cadre of German companies seeking to engage in business with Iran is remaining silent in the face of calls by an international advocacy group to shun working with the Islamic Republic until it disavows its institutionalized anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI, has petitioned more than a dozen major German companies, asking them to sign a declaration promising to not do business with Iran until its leadership stops denying the Holocaust and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. The declaration, which was sent to the companies ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, has not been signed by a single German company thus far, according to UANI, which has advocated against doing business with Iran since the landmark nuclear agreement was signed.

A global conference in London promoting trade with Iran has drawn a warning from a leading advocacy group opposed to the Tehran regime's nuclear program about the "severe political, financial and reputational risks associated with doing business in the Islamic Republic of Iran." In a full page advertisement published in the UK's Telegraph newspaper to coincide with the Global Trade Review's (GTR) 2017 Iran Trade Business Briefing in London, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) listed ten major risks associated with doing business in Iran. These include the dangers of unwittingly trading with front companies for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), violating international sanctions and money laundering rules, the potential harassment and even kidnap of employees working in Iran, and inadvertently aiding the Islamist regime's internal repression.


U.S. diplomats used a meeting with their Iranian counterparts to press the release of Americans being detained in Iran, the Trump administration said Thursday. It is the first public acknowledgment of direct U.S.-Iranian discussions since President Donald Trump took office. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the talks occurred on the sidelines of a meeting in Vienna this week that focused on implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has railed against the seven-nation accord that President Barack Obama's administration led to completion in 2015. But Trump's aides recently certified that Iran was upholding its commitment to not advance its nuclear program toward weapons capability.


A Singaporean man was sentenced on Thursday to 40 months in a U.S. prison for his role in exporting to Iran radio frequency modules, some of which were later found in bombs in Iraq, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement. Lim Yong Nam, also known as Steven Lim, 43, pleaded guilty in December to illegally exporting the modules through Singapore, and later to Iran, knowing that the export of U.S. goods to Iran was a violation of U.S. law, the statement said. Of the 6,000 modules that Lim and others routed from the United States to Iran in 2007 and 2008, 14 were later recovered in Iraq being used to remotely detonate improvised explosive devices, it said.


IranAir has abandoned plans to take early delivery of a Boeing 777-300ER jetliner because the passenger plane is no longer available, the head of the Islamic Republic's national flag carrier was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Iran had been expected to receive the first of 80 aircraft ordered from the U.S. planemaker in April or May 2018, but Iranian media and industry sources said this month it might get the first Boeing jet a year earlier than expected under a proposal to swap deliveries with Turkish Airlines. "Boeing had proposed to hand over a 777-300ER by summer after Turkish Airlines withdrew its order for it. We welcomed it ... However, when we were almost certain that we wanted the plane, it was no longer available," Chairman Farhad Parvaresh was quoted by Iran's English language Press TV as saying.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, is losing market share to Iraq and Iran as a result of OPEC's agreement to curb supplies to bolster prices, according to the head of research at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. "If you're talking about winners, you can count Iran and Iraq," Christof Ruehl said Wednesday at a conference in Dubai. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to production limits for most of its members at a meeting in November and brought 11 other nations on board with the deal in December. Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer, agreed to cut output by 486,000 barrels a day while Iraq said it would cut 210,000 barrels a day. Iran was permitted to increase output by 90,000 barrels a day, according to the OPEC accord.


Last year, Russia fulfilled all its commitments under the contract to deliver S-300 air defense systems to Iran, said Sergei Chemezov, the CEO of Russia's state corporation Rostec. "We also completed the S-300 deliveries to Iran. We fulfilled all our commitments," Chemezov said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. The $800 contract with Iran to deliver S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, capable of engaging aircraft or short-and medium-range ballistic missiles, was concluded in 2007. It was suspended in 2010 due to fierce objections from Israel and United States.


Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that the country's foreign ministry has summoned the Pakistani envoy to protest an attack on Iranian guards near the border with Pakistan that left nine dead. The Friday report said the Iranian side demanded "essential and serious" action by Pakistan to punish the "terrorists" and applying measures to prevent such incidents in the future. Iran says the attackers opened fire Wednesday from the Pakistan side on the guards and killed nine. An earlier report put the death toll at 10. Three others were injured. The area in southeast Iran is the scene of occasional clashes between Iranian forces and the Sunni militant group Jaish-ul-Adl, as well as armed drug traffickers. It lies on a major drug smuggling transit route.


A female Iranian football has been kicked out of the national team for playing without a hijab while on a personal trip to Switzerland. Shiva Amini was on holiday when she took part in a kick-about with a group of men and officials from the Iranian Futsal Federation waded through her social media accounts to find a picture of her playing in a pair of shorts and without a headscarf. The veil has been a mandatory dress requirement for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and officials suspended her from the national team.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended his economic record on Thursday, three weeks ahead of Iran's presidential election, and called for further engagement with other countries as the key to economic growth. His remarks contrasted with the view of the country's ultimate authority, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called on the six presidential candidates not to rely on foreign investment to revive the country's economy. The pragmatist president, who is seeking re-election in the May 19 vote, said Iran's economy had improved since his election in 2013 on a platform of ending the country's isolation and creating a freer society.  "We should avoid scaring away foreign and domestic investors ... we can attract 140 billion dollars of investment that can help to tackle unemployment," Rouhani said in a live radio program.

In the first televised interview of the six Iranian candidates approved to run in the presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of Iran's largest religious endowment, described a dark economic condition in Iran and said he would be able to fix it. Ebrahim Raisi expressed support for economic policies that led to high inflation in Iran.  "In my own life I've tasted poverty," Raisi began when asked what his plans are for the poor. "And since I became the custodian of the Astan-e Quds Razavi, I've encountered men and women who are dealing with numerous difficulties." In March 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Raisi as custodian of the shrine of Imam Reza, the holiest (and wealthiest) site in Iran for Shiite Muslims. Since his appointment, he began taking trips to poor villages outside the northeastern city of Mashhad, where the shrine is located.

Outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the meddling of security bodies with the country's economy. In a speech delivered three weeks ahead of Iran's presidential elections, Rouhani underlined the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), without naming it, on the Iranian economy and the private sector in particular, which has driven foreign investors out.  "How can we think of productivity while the economic atmosphere is not competitive," the president asked.  "We should not disappoint employers and intimidate investors," Rouhani warned, according to ILNA news agency. Rouhani also called for preserving the "path of moderation" to overcome current challenges, noting: "Extremism and violence did not lead to happiness in any country."


On April 18, the State Department certified Iran to be in compliance with its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). As France's iconic foreign minister, the Marquis de Talleyrand, once reportedly said: "This was worse than a crime; it was a mistake." The applicable statute not only did not require such a certification, it openly invited President Trump not to make one if circumstances warranted, as they clearly did here. More seriously, the certification raises fundamental questions whether the State Department's bureaucracy knows or cares that U.S. Iran policy has changed with the Trump administration's advent.

"The real war" with the West, Iran's supreme leader declared in a recent speech, "is a cultural war." It unfolds not on Middle East battlefields, but on the "many television and internet networks which are busy diverting the hearts and minds of our youth away from religion, our sacred beliefs, morality, modesty and the like." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would know. After all, thousands of Iranians languish in his regime's notorious prisons for the high crime of opposing its radical Islamist ideology. By contrast, notwithstanding his commendable insistence on deploying the phrase "radical Islamist terrorism," President Trump has portrayed the Iranian threat largely in military terms, devoting little attention to the regime's longstanding human rights abuses. Yet precisely because Tehran's dogma guides the full range of its malign behavior in the Middle East, a robust effort to challenge Tehran's domestic repression would advance America's self-interest. The Trump organization should recognize that any U.S. strategy to counter Iran requires Washington to combat the regime's authoritarian creed.

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.

American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, P.O. Box 1028, New York, NY 10185-1028

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