Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Eye on Iran: Trump Faces Test As Boeing Announces Deal To Sell Jetliners To Iran

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The Boeing Company announced a tentative agreement on Tuesday to sell up to 60 737s to an Iranian airline, a transaction valued at $6 billion that angered American critics of Iran and appeared likely to test the Trump administration's avowed hostility toward that country. Boeing, a leading commercial aerospace company and a top American exporter, said in a statement that the agreement, which requires United States government approval, would create about 18,000 American jobs. The company's agreement with Aseman Airlines, an Iranian carrier described as the nation's third largest, is the first to be announced by any big American business with Iran since President Trump took office in January. Boeing announced an agreement last December to sell 80 commercial aircraft to Iran Air, the national carrier, a deal valued at $16.6 billion.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday urged Russia and Iran to prevent Syrian President Bashar Assad from launching chemical weapons attacks following a deadly chemical attack in Syria. "While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism," Tillerson said in a statement. "Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions," Tillerson continued. "Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable." The top U.S. diplomat urged Iran and Russia to commit to a peace agreement in the region and to "exercise their influence" over Assad to prevent future chemical attacks.

A bill to slap new sanctions on Iran has been delayed in the U.S. Senate due to concerns about Iran's May presidential election, in which conservative hardliners hope to defeat moderate President Hassan Rouhani, U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday. A group of Democratic and Republican senators introduced the bill in March seeking to impose tighter U.S. sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile launches and other non-nuclear activities, echoing a harder line on Tehran espoused by Republican President Donald Trump. But on Tuesday, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said the bill would not move forward for now. "We've got a Iran sanctions bill that has a number of co-sponsors that wasn't able to markup at present because of concerns about how the European Union might react and (Iranian) elections that are coming up," Corker said during a hearing on the EU as a U.S. partner in dealings with Russia.


The Trump administration is undertaking a critical review of Obama administration-era policies permitting the sale of American airplanes to Iran, which have been used in the past to ferry weapons to terrorists and conduct other illicit activities, according to U.S. officials familiar with the situation. U.S. airline manufacturer Boeing announced on Tuesday that it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Iran guaranteeing the sale of up to 60 planes pending review by the Trump administration. Sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon speculated the latest announcement, which was announced earlier in the day by Iran, could be meant to pressure U.S. officials to sign off on the deal. While the newly installed administration had come under fire earlier this year for seeming to continue Obama-era policies meant to approve these sales, U.S. officials now tell the Free Beacon that all past and future deals are coming under review by the new administration as part of a larger assessment of the landmark Iran nuclear deal.


Iran's oil minister dismissed India's decision to cut oil imports from Tehran in 2017/18 by a fifth as a threat on Wednesday, in an escalation of a dispute over a giant gas field contract. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last week that Indian state refiners were going to cut oil imports from Iran, as New Delhi seeks to put pressure on Tehran to award the Farzad B gas field to an Indian consortium. "India is one of our good costumers, but we cannot sign (a) contract under threat," Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency. "India's cut of oil imports from Iran will not cause any trouble to us as we have other buyers," he added. Zanganeh said despite an extension of deadlines, India has not offered an acceptable proposal for the development of the gas field. "Their proposal was not profitable to Iran ... We sent (the) Indians a letter and told them we are keen to continue negotiations, but under sensible conditions, not under threats."

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a former U.S. attorney general are seeking a "diplomatic solution" to resolving charges that a prominent Turkish businessman helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions, a defense lawyer said Tuesday, insisting that their actions - including meeting Turkey's president - weren't intended to derail prosecutors."We've acted aboveboard," attorney Ben Brafman told a Manhattan judge as he explained that he told prosecutors last month that Giuliani and ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey were going to meet Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of their work on behalf of Reza Zarrab. "Nobody was trying to hide their involvement."


Since the signing and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, European businesses have shown great interest in reentering Iran. Trade between Iran and the EU has already picked up considerably. Last year, European exports to Iran amounted to €8.3 billion ($8.9 billion), approximately 28% higher than the year before. European imports grew by some 345%, amounting to €5.5 billion ($5.8 billion)-mostly driven by oil shipments from Iran. But despite the uptick in trade, economic relations between Iran and the EU are still below pre-sanctions levels. In 2011, before the imposition of stringent nuclear-related sanctions, including the previous EU oil embargo, EU exports to Iran amounted to more than €10 billion ($10.7 billion), while imports were as high as almost €18 billion ($19.2 billion), reads an Al-Monitor article. Excerpts follow: Europeans eager to return to Iran are facing two main obstacles.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-Ravanchi said on Tuesday that Iran enjoys great capacities and is willing to expand ties with the European countries. The nuclear deal has created a good atmosphere to expand relations, he said during a meeting with Latvian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrejs Pildegovics in Tehran. Majid Takht-Ravanchi said that Iran is ready to increase relations with Latvia in various areas. For his part, Pildegovics said Latvia attaches great importance to ties with Iran. Pildegovics said that Latvia has prioritized expansion of ties with Iran in areas of transportation, energy, technology, agriculture, tourism, education, fishery, forestry and food industry.


Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said on Tuesday that it was difficult for Pakistan to maintain equal relations with both the countries, but Pakistan would not go against Iran's interests. Briefing members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, who met at the Parliament House - with Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari in the chair- to discuss the issue of clearance given to former army chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif to lead the Saudi-led 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance and Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan was making efforts to reduce tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. She informed the Lower House that Pakistan remained committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries. She told the committee that the Islamic Military Alliance was against terrorism, not any country. "Pakistan wants Muslim countries to stand united against terrorism"


Iran sent drones used by Yemen's Houthis to strike Saudi Arabia via the UAE and Oman, a British intelligence organisation has revealed. In a report quoted by IranWire, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which specialises in tracking armament, said that Iran sent drones to Yemen via UAE and Omani territories and that the Houthis used them to hit Saudi missile defence system radars. Tehran supplied the Houthis with Iranian manufactured Qasef-1 and Ababil-II drones, CAR added, with specialists examining the remnants of another drone used to hit the missile defence system radars in Saudi Arabia and confirming they were manufactured by Iran as well. The drones cost no more than $10,000, CAR's Tim Michetti noted, however they cause great losses to Patriot missile defence systems which cost millions of dollars. Michetti firmly refuted Houthi claims of manufacturing the drones themselves and denying that they were Iranian. The CAR experts also confirmed that Iran transported the drones to Dubai and then Oman and that they were then taken from there by ground into Yemen.

An EU-funded report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) has documented an arms smuggling route from Iran to the Horn of Africa and Yemen that was used to send light weapons and anti-tank missiles to Houthi militias. The recent report also found that Houthis are using "kamikaze" drones sourced from Iran to attack radar systems on anti-missile batteries operated by the Arab coalition According to the report, "These findings strengthen a body of evidence compiled by CAR, which links weapons captured from Houthi and [former President] Saleh-aligned forces to transfers from Iranian national stockpiles." CAR has also reported drones being smuggled without their nose cones or engines, indicating that different components were being shipped separately. CAR said it had evidence showing that the Qasef-1 UAV drone was made in Iran and was not of indigenous design and construction "in contrast to Houthi statements".


Five Baha'is were arrested at their homes in the city of Isfahan on March 28, 2017, Simin Fahandej, the faith's spokesperson at the United Nations in Geneva confirmed to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). The agents, who did not identify themselves or show a warrant, searched the homes of Ehsan Eshtiagh, Enayat Naimi, Farzad Homayouni, Soroush Pezeshki and Sohrab Taghipour and took away some of their personal belongings before detaining them, said Fahandej. "Unfortunately, we don't know which authority arrested them or why," she added. "All we know is that if there were warrants, they did not show them at the time of the arrests." An informed source told CHRI that the five were taken to Isfahan Prison, but no information is available on their current condition. Iranian officials deny prosecuting Baha'is for their religious beliefs, but the Baha'i community is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran.


Hengameh Shahidi knew the security agents were coming for her. An Iranian journalist and activist, she had been tipped off by contacts close to the government and prepared letters for her family to post on social media in case of her arrest, which happened on March 9. In a hand-written letter posted on Instagram two days later, Shahidi, 41, wrote that her arrest was part of a "project before the elections for the widespread arrest of political activists and journalists in order to secure votes for the candidate of their choice". When Iranians vote for president in May, the election will not only decide whether pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani can remain in power, it will also test his ability to protect his own supporters from a hardline state.


The Syrian crisis has recently been gaining increasing attention in the international stage, with the tide turning against Assad and his main supporter, Iran. As rebels staged surprising attacks in Damascus recently, social media activists campaigned through the hashtag #IranOutOfSyria to raise voice against Tehran's deadly meddling in Syria. Public opinion in the Arab World has been increasingly against the role played by Iran through its Revolutionary Guards - the entity behind Tehran's human rights violations, nuclear program and ballistic missile drive- and a conglomerate of proxy groups in Syria. There no longer is any doubt in the Middle East that the main element behind the ongoing catastrophes caused by the war in Syria is none other than the regime in Iran. Over 500,000 people killed and 14 million displaced throughout the country or scattered across the globe has been the end result to date.

The collapse of the Republican healthcare bill is good news not only for President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, but also for one of his central foreign policy accomplishments - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Two years ago I argued that the Iran deal would be the foreign policy equivalent of Obamacare and today that looks more likely than ever. Both face similar political dynamics and are extraordinarily complicated to unwind, meaning that in the near term they will most likely stay in place. However, lack of focus on implementation or quiet steps by a new administration to actively weaken and undercut them could result in their long-term collapse. The JCPOA and Affordable Care Act were both extraordinarily complex and imperfect agreements because they had to meet the needs of so many stakeholders and also tackled incredibly complex subject matters.

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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