Thursday, June 1, 2017

Eye on Iran: Rouhani Vows To Shed Iran Sanctions As Trump Piles On More

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A day after winning re-election last month, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed a campaign pledge: that he'll find a way to free his country from sanctions that hobble its economy. That's a vow President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers are making harder than ever to keep. Trump used his first overseas trip last week to portray Shiite-led Iran as the embodiment of evil, the common enemy that could bring America's Sunni-led Gulf allies together with Israel to achieve Middle East peace. In Washington, Republicans in Congress are also doubling down, pressing for legislation to add more sanctions, not lift those that remain after the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Against those odds, Rouhani's best bet after taking 57 percent of the vote is to get the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to seek negotiations with the U.S. while cultivating European leaders to work around the restrictions, said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior analyst at the Center for A New American Security.

Iran will reportedly resume financial assistance to the Palestinian militant group Hamas following a freeze in relations, caused by Hamas' refusal to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Tehran, and the group's unwillingness to take Iran's side in its rivalry with regional enemy, Saudi Arabia. Iran appears to have backed down on these demands and ties have warmed in recent weeks after the election of Ismail Haniyeh as Hamas's new political leader on May 6 over former deputy head Moussa Abu Marzouk, who Tehran reportedly did not want to work with. For the past two weeks, senior Hamas figures have been meeting officials from Iran's military arm, the Revolutionary Guards, and Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian sources told London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat on Tuesday.

When Iran's scientists sent a monkey into space in 2013, the country's president volunteered to be the first Iranian to blast aloft in a domestically built rocket, possibly as early as 2018. But the term of that president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also expired in 2013. And now, apparently, so have Iran's ambitions for homegrown human spaceflight. The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Wednesday that the government-run space agency had canceled a project to launch a human-carrying rocket. It quoted Mohammad Homayoun Sadr, deputy head of the agency, as saying the $15 billion to $20 billion developmental costs over 15 years had been judged too expensive, according to a translation by The Associated Press. In January 2013, when Iran said it had successfully launched a monkey named Pishgam - Persian for pioneer - more than 70 miles into the edge of space and then retrieved the animal alive, the experiment was regarded by Iranian scientists as a prelude to human flight within five to eight years. Previously, Iran had sent a mouse, a turtle and worms aloft.


A political analyst said the new sanctions bill passed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee does not contravene the nuclear pact, albeit it is against the spirit of the historic agreement. "This matter was already been raised when [former US president ] Barack Obama was in office. All sides were then convinced that those sanctions were not a breach of JCPOA. There is no difference now," Ali Khorram, a former diplomat and representative to the UN office in Geneva, said in a talk with IRNA. He was referring to the official title of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Senate committee voted 18-3 in favour of the legislation on May 25, paving the way for its consideration by the full senate. If passed by the senate, the bill would impose new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile development and alleged human rights violations.


In Iran, there is one civil servant for every 26 to 28 people whereas the international average is one for every 600 to 800 people, Iran Productivity Association announced. The excessive number of government employees has become a recurrent subject of discussion among officials and experts these days. "The surplus workforce [in state bodies] is consuming 90% of the current budget, leaving no breathing room for other activities," said Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani last year. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has also complained of 100,000 excessive workforce in the ministry under his watch, saying they were all employed during the eight-year tenure of former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Persian daily Shahrvand reported. Last month, the ministries of energy and education also announced that they have 25,700 and 50,000 workforce in excess respectively. Every now and then, other ministries and governmental organizations speak of the same problem.


After the lifting of some of Iran's sanctions following the nuclear accord, the country's banking system connected with small Malaysian banks though there are still no ties with major lenders, the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said in a meeting with Malaysia's ambassador to Iran on Wednesday. "Banking issues pose major obstacles to bilateral trade since we are facing problems of transferring money or opening letters of credit," Gholamhossein Shafei was also quoted as saying by ICCIMA's website. He noted that both countries' officials and central bankers had constructive negotiations during President Hassan Rouhani's trip to Malaysia and it is hoped that major Malaysian banks resolve their issues as soon as possible to boost bilateral trade.


In April, Syrian rebel fighters and their US special-forces trainers repulsed an ISIS attackin an hours-long battle marked by suicide bombers and coalition airstrikes. The battle took place at al Tanf near the Syria-Iraq border, and the camp there is still used by US and UK personnel to train Western-backed fighters. But with ISIS' territorial presence in Syria continuing to erode, al Tanf and the area around it - near the intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders - looks to be the site of a potential clash between the US-led coalition, its local partners, and the Assad regime and its partners, backed by Iran. With US-backed forces gearing up to liberate ISIS' self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa and ISIS losing ground elsewhere in the Syria, combatants in the country are reportedly trying to position themselves to assume control of territory vacated by terrorist group.


The leader of Iran's Sunni population, Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that Sunnis should be invited to participate in the second-term government of newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani. "Through interviews and articles, Mr. Rouhani has been made aware of the demands of ethnic and religious minorities, especially Sunnis," said Molavi Abdolhamid, the Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, the capital of the Sunni-dominated Sistan-Baluchistan Province. "Now that the elections have been held with great excitement and he has received a high number of votes, Mr. Rouhani should implement the law and end discrimination so that competent individuals from ethnic and religious minorities could be properly utilized in government," added Molavi Abdolhamid, who endorsed Rouhani. "This would make a great impact on national solidarity and security."


Qatar's policies of continuing its relations with countries undermining the security of the region have aggravated the crises in the region, especially its relations with organizations classified as terrorist groups in the Gulf, like the Hezbollah militia. Doha's interference is similar to Iran's interference in the internal affairs of several countries. In Qatar's case, its interference through its many positions on various regional issues are on record at various points in time and have contributed to the escalation of regional crises and deterioration of ties with the other Gulf countries. Regarding the Palestinian case, Doha supported the Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority, thus deepening the Palestinian division. It has also highlighted its relations with Israel, although the latter considered Hamas as a terrorist organization.

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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