Thursday, May 25, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Says It Has Built Third Underground Ballistic Missile Factory

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Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard as saying. The development is likely to fuel tensions with the United States in a week when President Donald Trump, on his first foreign trip, has called Iran a sponsor of militant groups and a threat to countries across the Middle East. "Iran's third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years ... We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully," Fars quoted Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard's airspace division, as saying.

The U.S. Treasury is reviewing licenses for Boeing Co and Airbus to sell aircraft to Iran, department head Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday, telling lawmakers he would increase sanctions pressure on Iran, Syria and North Korea. "We will use everything within our power to put additional sanctions on Iran, Syria and North Korea to protect American lives," Mnuchin said in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee. "I can assure you that's a big focus of mine and I discuss it with the president." Mnuchin did not elaborate on the review of the licenses, which were issued under a 2015 agreement between Tehran and world powers to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities.

The Trump administration is taking significant steps to target a full range of Iranian military aggression and human rights abuses, functionally reversing the Obama administration's near-total prioritization of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to discussions conducted by THE WEEKLY STANDARD with sources inside and outside the White House. The administration this month announced sanctions on seven Iranian and Chinese entities linked to Iran's ballistic missile program, imposed other penalties on persons linked to the Iran-backed Bashar al-Assad regime, and published a State Department report detailing Iranian human rights violations. Those measures coincide with a Treasury Department review of licenses for the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran. Experts and lawmakers charge that Iran regularly uses civilian aircraft to ferry weapons and troops to Syria.


Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said on Tuesday that his country's policy on developing the national ballistic missiles program is not negotiable.  Nobakht's commentary was delivered following a neat roll back on anti-ballistic-missile-program sentiment by Iran's re-elected 'moderate' President Hassan Rouhani.  "The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful. Our missiles are for peace and for defense ... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission," Rouhani said in a news conference, broadcast live on state TV. Second Deputy of the Parliament Ali Motahari urged the quick formation of a qualified administration that would include popular personalities like Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Motahari's suggestions come amid talks on replacing the current conservative parliament chairman Ali Larijani.


Former Secretary of State John Kerry used his first "tweetstorm" as a retired diplomat to warn the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday to "tread carefully" on legislation regarding the future of the Iran nuclear deal. "On the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), we engaged in an important back and forth. And I welcomed that debate," Kerry wrote, referring to the Obama-era deal negotiated between the U.S. and five global powers with Tehran. The former Obama administration official cited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's recent reelection, which was largely seen as a referendum on Iran's nuclear deal, in pushing back against any calls for "a new Iran bill." "After Rouhani's reelection, there is much up in the air/room for misinterpretation. This is not the moment for a new Iran bill," Kerry tweeted.


In the hours after the May 22 terrorist bombing in Manchester that claimed at least 22 lives, Iranian media sought to cover developments second by second and published analyses about it. Iranian media ties the deadly bombing in Manchester to the West's relationship with Saudi Arabia.  On May 23, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said, "We believe that the roots and the ideological origin of the terrorist incidents in Iran's Mirjaveh and the UK's Manchester are one and the same," referring to a recent attack in the southeastern border district of Mirjaveh in which 10 Iranian soldiers were killed by the terrorist group Jeish al-Adl, which is allegedly funded by Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, both Reformist and conservative print and online media in Iran notably tied the bombing in Manchester to US President Donald Trump's recent high-profile trip to Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia blocked access to several Qatari news websites after they carried fake articles about Gulf efforts to isolate Iran, stories Qatari officials said were the result of a hack, exposing tensions among Sunni-ruled monarchies seeking to form a united front against the Islamic Republic. Qatar said hackers first posted a fake story on the Qatar News Agency website at 12.14 a.m. that included comments falsely attributed to the Qatari emir describing attempts to confront Iran as a mistake. They then took over the agency's Twitter account to announce that Qatar was recalling its ambassadors from other Gulf countries and Egypt. The reports, which were later deleted, were picked up by Saudi and Dubai-based media. Regulators in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates then barred access to the Qatari sites, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.


Laws and policies that discriminate against women interfere with Iranian women's right to work, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Women confront an array of restrictions, such as on their ability to travel, prohibitions on entering certain jobs, and an absence of basic legal protections. The 59-page report, "'It's a Men's Club': Discrimination Against Women in Iran's Job Market," examines in detail the discriminatory provisions and insufficient protections in Iran's legal system that represent obstacles to women's equal access to the job market. Over the past four decades, Iranian women have become half of the country's university graduates. But, based on the most recent official statistics available, for the period between March 2016 and March 2017, only 14.9 percent of Iran's women are in the workforce, compared with 64.1 percent of men.


Maryam was 22 days old when Iranians dethroned their king in 1979. The Islamic regime that followed-with its black and brown robes, covered heads, and dour religiosity-was "just a fact" of life, she says. "We never thought about anything different, because we hadn't seen anything else." Thirty-eight years later, that acceptance is wearing thin. The May 19 presidential vote-and the jubilant street celebrations that followed the reelection of President Hassan Rouhani, the nearest thing to a liberal allowed onto the ballot-showed an Iranian society much changed since the days of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution and unwilling to turn back. "One of my teachers used to tell us that if any strand of your hair showed, you would be hung up by it," says Maryam, who like others interviewed for this article declined to give her last name for fear of retribution. "Now you can drive around in a car with your boyfriend, and no one says anything."

Chief executives of state-run banks have pledged their support for President Hassan Rouhani and his economic vision for the country, as he is basking in a landslide reelection victory on May 19. In a letter to Rouhani signed by members of the Coordination Council of Banks, the CEOs congratulated him on his triumph and emphasized the importance of services provided by the banking system, particularly state-owned lenders. "[Public-sector] banks carry the main weight of financing the production and housing sectors and fund industrial, mining and infrastructure projects," the letter was cited as saying by In their letter, the bankers also refer to "non-stop work" of bank executives and staff to ensure the continuity of production and generating jobs. The missive refers to the participation of the banking system in providing working capital for production units and pulling them out of stagnancy caused by years of financial drought.


On May 19, an estimated 70 percent of Iranians partook in the Islamic Republic's 12th presidential "election." Winning 57 percent of the vote, Hassan Rouhani received a larger electoral mandate than he did in 2013. He also beat another man of the cloth - arch-hardliner Seyed Ebrahim Raisi - who had the support of the security services and was widely rumored as a potential next supreme leader. Rouhani's victory was aided by his skillful embrace of anti-establishment and reformist rhetoric. He also benefited by being constantly billed as a "moderate" by select audiences in the West and in Iran. But the arguments in favor of his purported "moderation" miss a larger point. Rouhani is neither a moderate nor an enigma. He is simply an exceedingly competent bureaucrat focused on security matters - a type of adversary the U.S. is most unaccustomed to dealing with in the Middle East.

The latest round of Syria peace talks in Astana concluded May 4 with Russia, Iran and Turkey - the three guarantors of the cease-fire - agreeing on a plan to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria. The initiative, which was first put forward by Moscow with the declared aim of securing the fragile truce and making it easier to concentrate on the political process, sparked different reactions by the various involved parties. While the establishment of "safe zones" has never been part of Russia's or Iran's plans, their agreement to create "de-escalation zones" at this juncture serves the interests of both countries.  Although UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura commended the agreement as "an important, promising, positive step in the right direction," the United States presented a more cautious approach, saying that more details are needed to judge the exact nature of the plan. On the other hand, while the Syrian government declared its full support for the Russian initiative, the main coalition representing the Syrian opposition in Astana refused to accept it, expressing reservations about its noninclusive territorial scope and also the role of Iran as one of the peacekeepers.

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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