Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eye on Iran: Why Has Iran's Investment Gold Rush Been So Slow To Emerge?

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When Iran signed its landmark deal with world powers in 2015, curbing its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, many expected an investment gold rush. But despite thousands of business delegates flooding into Tehran from all over Europe, Asia and beyond, big deals have been slow to emerge. That makes Monday's agreement with French energy giant Total -- which will lead to a 20-year, $4.9 billion project to develop an offshore gas field in Iran -- a potential breakthrough for the country. Who has done deals so far? Major investments have been few and far between.

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday described Saudi Arabia as a "terrorist state" as he announced his position had been extended for three years. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari's 10-year stint as commander of the elite military force was due to expire in three months. But in a speech carried by the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies, he said it would continue until at least 2020. In a speech at a Guards meeting in Tehran, he highlighted the threat from Saudi Arabia, which backs opposing sides to Iran in several regional conflicts. "Today, the Saudis are becoming a terrorist state in the region," he said. "Today in our region only the countries that are powerful enough will remain safe," he added. "We face an enemy that only understands the language of force, so we cannot speak to the enemy with another language." However, Jafari said there was still room for negotiations.

Iranian artist Hadi Asadi has beaten hundreds of other contestants to win first place in a "Trumpism" cartoon contest held in Tehran - his winning caricature depicting President Trump as a flame-haired man wearing a suit made of dollar bills, drooling onto a pile of books. The competition, called the International Trumpism Cartoon and Caricature Contest, was announced last month. It was organized by a group that has also organized cartoon contests on themes such as the Islamic State and the Holocaust (the group says the latter was designed to highlight double standards on free speech).


Wallace, the letter writer and a co-founder of the Counter Extremism Project, is a former diplomat who served as part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush. He was also an adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP nominee. More recently, Wallace has also served as the chief executive of another nonprofit, United Against Nuclear Iran, a group that engaged in a similar letter-writing campaign urging against stepped-up investment in the Islamic Republic in the wake of a nuclear agreement that removed some sanctions. And while the Counter Extremism Project's letter on Qatar does not specifically address Iran, the relatively warm relationship between the two nations plays a significant role in tensions between the Qatari government and the blockading states. Iran, a rival to Saudi Arabia for influence in the Islamic world, is seen as hostile by the nations that are blockading Qatar, which has much warmer relations with Iran than its neighbors.


U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing on Friday that a former consultant to Iran's mission to the United Nations recruited a United States-based atomic scientist to meet with Iranian officials about Iran's nuclear program. The filing regarding the former consultant, Ahmad Sheikhzadeh, does not contain criminal charges, but was made to support prosecutors' request for a tough prison sentence for him for tax fraud and conspiracy to violate sanctions against Iran. Sheikhzadeh pleaded guilty last November to the charges, which do not involve the Iranian nuclear program. In the filing, prosecutors said that, starting around 2005, Sheikhzadeh helped arrange meetings between the scientist and Iran's current president, Hassan Rouhani, previously the country's chief negotiator on nuclear issues, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, formerly Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations.

The US Senate on June 15 overwhelmingly passed a bill to impose new sanctions against Iran The Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act targets Iran's ballistic missile program, its alleged support for terrorism and its human rights violations. It also includes new sanctions against Russia. The House of Representatives has found that the Senate bill violates a constitutional requirement that any bill that raises revenue for the government must commence in the House, thus stalling its finalization. Iranian officials and scholars disagree on whether the US Senate's new sanctions bill against the Islamic Republic violates the nuclear deal.  While US officials claim that the Senate bill complies with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there are disagreements between Iranian officials and scholars in the interpretation of the move and its impact on the nuclear deal. At the very least, a majority agree that the new sanctions hurt the spirit of the JCPOA.


Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said the decision has been made as part of the plan to counter hostile actions of US government who equips terrorist groups inside the region against the Resistance Front; "as a strategic policy, Islamic Republic of Iran will seriously confront terrorists." "Given that Americans and their regional allies have been backing groups like ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra as evidenced by presence of their injured members in hospitals of the Zionist regime, it can be concluded that enemy seeks to put a new wave of pressure against Iran," highlighted the officials a


Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the United States is pursuing plans aimed at undermining the Islamic Republic's standing in the region. Addressing a national forum on the occasion of the Judiciary Week in Tehran on Sunday, Larijani said the contents of and pretexts for some of the bills put forward in the US Senate were indicative of such anti-Iran policy. "The Americans have been expressing their [anti-Iran] policies in a much more transparent way in recent months," he said, adding that Washington has taken up a more overt stance against Tehran. He emphasized that missile program, human rights issue and terrorism are merely pretexts by the US Senate to exert more pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Vice president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces Jack Keane has lauded both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed for confronting the Iranian expansion in Yemen and the Arab region. "Thanks to each of the young leaders, Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, for standing against the strategy of the Iranian regime in Yemen," Keen said in the annual general conference of the Iranian resistance in Paris. "The Iranian regime strategy is based on getting US forces out of the region, and control of the region... Iran is moving steadily towards regional dominance, and we must stop it," he added. "We are meeting as people who respect freedom because of one reason, only for Iran to be free," he said.


France's Total signed a deal with Tehran on Monday to develop phase 11 of Iran's South Pars, the world's largest gas field, marking the first major Western energy investment in the Islamic Republic since the lifting of sanctions against it. Total will be the operator with a 50.1 percent stake, alongside Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNPC with 30 percent, and National Iranian Oil Co subsidiary Petropars with 19.9 percent. The project will have a production capacity of 2 billion cubic feet per day, or 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day including condensate, Total said in a statement, adding that the gas will supply the Iranian domestic market starting in 2021. The first stage of the South Pars development will cost around $2 billion, Total added. The project will cost up to $5 billion and production is expected to start within 40 months, Iran's oil ministry said in a statement.

Volkswagen AG plans to sell cars in Iran for the first time in 17 years, taking advantage of easing sanctions to expand amid concerns about stalling growth in Europe and China. Volkswagen has signed a contract with local importer Mammut Khodro to offer Tiguan compact SUVs and the Passat family car, mainly at dealerships in the Tehran area, VW said in a statement. Expanding into emerging economies is part of VW's strategy to reduce its reliance on its main markets and add new sources of revenue. "By returning to Iran, the Volkswagen brand is filling another blank spot on the global automobile map," Anders Sundt Jensen, the company's project manager for Iran, said in the statement.

Official figures show the volume of Iran's non-oil exports to the European Union (EU) saw a gigantic increase over the first four months of 2017.  Figures - as reported by Iran's IRNA news agency - showed that the value of Iran's exports to the EU from January to April 2017 reached as high as €3.4 billion. This, IRNA added, was an increase of five folds compared to the same period last year when Iran's exports to the Union stood at around €0.7 billion.   Other figures showed that the overall volume of Iran's trade with the EU over the same period had reached around €6.5 billion - an increase of around 127 percent compared to last year when mutual trade had been recorded at below €3 billion. To the same degree, EU exports to Iran rose by 44 percent from January to April at a total value of €3.1 billion. In 2016, the figure stood at €2.1 billion.


Ontario's Court of Appeal upheld a US$1.7-billion judgment against the government of Iran in favour of American victims of terrorism, rejecting the state's immunity and accusing Tehran of trying to derail Canada's Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. The appeal court's resounding rejection of Iran's appeal is another victory for victims of terrorism holding Iran accountable for its support of Hamas and Hezbollah during terror campaigns from the 1980s through to 2002. "The terrorist attacks out of which the respondents' U.S. judgments arise are repugnant to civilized society. The fact that a foreign government would engage in the sponsorship of such atrocities is chilling," wrote Justice Justice C. William Hourigan, on behalf of a panel of concurring judges.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Islamic Studies, said in his speech Saturday at the Iranian opposition conference in Paris that "the Iranian government is the greatest sponsor of terrorism" in the world. Al-Faisal said, "Khomeini sought to export revolutions and coups to the region." Al-Faisal stressed that the Iranian elections are undemocratic and illegitimate because Khamenei appoints the candidates, saying, "the behavior of the Iranian regime does not qualify it to be a democratic system." Prince Al-Faisal said, "Officials of the Iranian regime should be presented to the International Criminal Court." Several figures who participated in the Iranian opposition conference in Paris called for supporting the struggle of the Iranian people calling for change by overthrowing Tehran's regime.


Iran's leaders have been noticeably restrained in their response to the Qatar crisis, and for good reason, analysts say. Not only have they welcomed it, they would be happy to see it quietly drag on. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar last month for what they said was its financing of terrorism and working too closely with Iran. They then delivered a list of 13 demands that Qatar has dismissed as a grave infringement on its sovereignty and threatened further sanctions if those were not met. On Sunday, they extended the deadline to meet the demands by 48 hours to late Tuesday. For Tehran's clerical leaders, the confrontation between putative Persian Gulf allies came at a particularly auspicious time - when the entire Sunni Arab world seemed lined up against them after President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Monday criticized Turkey's construction of dams upstream from Syria and Iraq, saying such projects can be "dangerous" for the whole region. He did not name Turkey, but appeared to be referring to several dams built by Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates in recent decades. Turkey has water sharing agreements with both Syria and Iraq, but disagreements arise from time to time. "Many of these sorts of activities should be stopped," Rouhani said. "Construction of dams without sufficient studies can be dangerous for the future of the region," he added, without elaborating. He was speaking at a conference on preventing or minimizing sandstorms. Experts have linked the storms, which afflict Iran's capital and other regions, to upstream dam projects.


Iran will be allowed to set up temporary consulates in Saudi Arabia during the hajj pilgrimage despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two rivals, the foreign ministry in Tehran said Tuesday. "Some officials from the foreign ministry's consular section will be deployed to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina to provide consular services to Iranian pilgrims during the hajj," spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. Iranians were unable to attend the hajj last year after talks on security and logistics fell apart.  But an agreement was reached earlier this year to allow Iranians to take part in this September's hajj. The two countries severed diplomatic ties in January 2016 after Iranians stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran in response to the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.


Iranian authorities have rounded up at least 150 people in Tehran and in the Kurdish areas in the west of the country following the June 7 terrorist attacks in the capital, which claimed 18 lives. Iranian authorities have rounded up a large number of terror suspects in Kurdish areas following the June 7 attacks in Tehran. The five young attackers who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in a video released shortly after the attacks appear to have traveled from Kermanshah province to Tehran undetected in early June. The rare but deadly strikes targeted two of the most guarded locations in the capital: the parliament and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.


One message of President Trump's is popular at home with his political base and embraced abroad by key Middle Eastern allies: The Islamic Republic of Iran is imperialist, repressive, and-unless we adopt a new strategy-on its way toward possessing nuclear weapons. To keep the threat at bay, Mr. Trump should take a page from the playbook Ronald Reagan used against the Soviet Union. In the early 1980s, President Reagan shifted away from his predecessors' containment strategy toward a new plan of rolling back Soviet expansionism. The cornerstone of his strategy was the recognition that the Soviet Union was an aggressive and revolutionary yet internally fragile regime that had to be defeated.

War and poverty have scattered Afghans across the globe like pieces of shrapnel. Millions of Afghans came of age in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran or as workers in the Persian Gulf nations. The migration continues. The past few years have added a new lethal geography to the Afghan diaspora: the battlefields of President Bashar al-Assad's Syria. Two years ago, Abdol Amin, 19, left his home in the Foladi Valley in Bamian, one of Afghanistan's poorest provinces, to find work in Iran. Two million undocumented Afghans and a million Afghans with refugee status already lived in Iran. His sister and brother-in-law lived in Isfahan. He hoped to improve on his life of subsistence farming in impoverished Bamian. Two-thirds of the population in Bamian Province lives on less than $25 a month. The intense poverty and the absence of opportunity forces thousands of young Afghans from Bamian to travel illegally to Iran in search of work. Many, like Mr. Amin, end up fighting other people's wars.

Mocking presidents of the Great Satan, the United States, has long been standard practice during state-backed rallies in Iran, where anti-Americanism is ingrained in state ideology. For decades, Iranian revolutionary families would work late into the night to make sock puppets, cartoons and effigies of every American president since Jimmy Carter, then proudly parade them around during an anti-American protest and burn them in a bonfire. Some would dress up with Uncle Sam top hats, Bill Clinton imitators would always have a big cigar hanging from his puppet mouth, and George W. Bush would be decorated with stars of David, to highlight the special relationship with Israel. But as even the staunchest hard-liners would admit, the number of zealous protesters had dwindled over the years. In recent times, most people have been content just to pick up posters given to them by the authorities. Barack Obama's outreach to Iran, brokering a nuclear agreement and giving up on regime change, was not good for the local sock puppet and effigy industry.

Six years after the outbreak of civil war in Syria, the eastern part of the country has become a critical hotspot that could determine the balance of power between the various domestic and international forces involved. The race to recapture eastern Syria may soon lead to direct confrontation between the US-led coalition and Syria's Russian and Iranian allies. While the United States is becoming increasingly assertive in keeping the Syrian army and its allied forces away from the Iraqi border, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main allies, namely Iran and Russia, have started to redefine their strategies to preserve their vital interests in the war-torn country. The United States' shooting down of a Syrian fighter jet on June 18 was regarded as an indicator of elevated US military activism in Syria in support of its partners.

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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