Eye on Iran: Exclusive: Iran's Biggest Cargo Line Looks At London IPO; Thwarted So Far

TOP STORIES

Exclusive: Iran's biggest cargo line looks at London IPO; thwarted so far | Reuters

Iran's top cargo shipping company has held meetings in London to discuss a possible listing on the London Stock Exchange, but has so far been thwarted by U.S. sanctions that still scare banks off Iranian business, four Iranian and two Western sources said. Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) was removed from international sanctions blacklists last year and after years of isolation aims to raise funds to modernize its fleet. It has already placed an order for new ships estimated to be worth $626 million. A flotation on the LSE would make it the first Iranian company to list on Britain's main exchange since the Islamic revolution in 1979. But the difficulty in achieving such a landmark shows how far Tehran still remains from its goal of integrating fully with the global economic mainstream, since its 2015 deal with world powers to lift international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

UN Rights Monitor Highlights Political Repression, Abuse, Executions In Iran | Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Reformists in Iran are under pressure, detainees face torture and abuse, and people are being executed at an "alarming" rate, a UN monitor studying human rights in the tightly controlled country says. The bleak picture presented to the UN Human Rights Council on March 13 comes ahead of a May 19 presidential election in Iran. "All reports indicate a high level of control over citizens and that democratic space is severely limited," Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur for Iran, told the council in Geneva. Jahangir did not refer directly to the election, but she noted that three opposition figures who publicly challenged the official results of Iran's 2009 presidential election -- former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Musavi; his wife, university professor Zahra Rahnavard; and reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi -- have been kept under house arrest for nearly six years without being formally charged.

Iran sets up underground rocket factories in Lebanon - report | Times of Israel

Iran has established rocket factories in Lebanon that are under the full control of the Hezbollah terror group, a top Iranian general told a Kuwaiti newspaper. Citing one of the deputy heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the al-Jarida newspaper reported Monday that Iran in recent months has established factories for manufacturing both rockets and firearms in Lebanon. The newspaper did not say which of IRGC chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari's deputies made the assertion. The report came just days after Iran's Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, a former brigadier general in the IRGC, said Hezbollah is now capable of producing rockets that can hit any part of Israel. Dehghan offered no details of the new capabilities.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Zarif says Ahmadinejad's letter to Trump out of 'diplomatic etiquette' | Tehran Times

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has implicitly chided former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for writing a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, saying it was out of "diplomatic" etiquette. "The nature of diplomatic work requires certain etiquettes in the area to be observed," ILNA news agency quoted the top diplomat as saying on Tuesday. In making the comments, Zarif was hinting at Ahmadinejad who published an open letter in both English and Farsi to Trump, lauding the American leader for what he called "truthfully describing the U.S. political system and electoral structure as corrupt". Ahmadinejad was Iran's president for two consecutive terms from 2005 to 2013, during which Iran faced serious political and economic challenges inside the country as well as the international arena. The lengthy letter also criticized Trump for his planned visa ban on seven countries, including Iran, saying "the contemporary U.S. belongs to all nations". He acknowledged, however, the immigration of some 1 million people of Iranian descent to the U.S.

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Iran to keep oil cap at 3.8 mln barrels a day in second half 2017 | Reuters

Iran will keep its oil production cap at 3.8 million barrels per day in the second half of 2017, the country's oil minister said on Tuesday, provided other OPEC members stick to the output level they agreed in November. "If OPEC members stay committed to the agreement (on freezing output), Iran will produce 3.8 million BPD of oil in (the) second half of the current year," Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed on Nov. 30 to cut output by 1.2 million bpd to 32.5 million bpd for the first six months of 2017, in addition to 558,000 bpd of cuts agreed to by independent producers such as Russia, Oman and Mexico.

Infrastructures prepared for Iran-Russia all-out economic ties | Tehran Times

Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi in a Monday meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Moscow announced that the required infrastructure to expand all-out economic ties between the two countries have been prepared, IRNA reported. Vaezi, who leads the Iranian side of Iran-Russia Joint Economic Committee, referred to the 29 MOUs signed between the two sides in the committee, hoping that mutual trade will witness increase after establishing a customs green channel between the two sides and also banking relations will improve. The Iranian minister expressed content about the 80-percent annual rise in mutual trade balance during the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20) but called for more efforts to be done in this regard. Novak, leading the Russian side of the joint committee, in his turn, hoped that implementation of accorded MOUs will develop the common relations between Iran and Russia in the intended fields.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Diplomatic strides as Iran's Rouhani sends Kuwait's ruler a letter | Reuters

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani sent a letter on Monday to Kuwait's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, state media reported, a further sign that the two might be trying to defuse tensions between the Islamic Republic and the Gulf Arab states. Predominantly Shi'ite Iran and the Sunni Arab-dominated Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia, support opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen but, in January, Kuwait's foreign minister paid a rare visit to Tehran. He delivered a message from the emir to Rouhani, describing a "basis of dialogue" between Gulf Arab states and Iran. Iran's state news agency IRNA said Rouhani replied to the message in the letter delivered by Iran's ambassador on Monday.

Why Iran-Turkey tension won't spiral out of control | Al Monitor

Relations between Iran and Turkey have long displayed a sinusoidal cycle, with ups and downs. On Feb. 13, speaking at the International Peace Institute in Bahrain, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added fuel to the fire of the regional conflict between Tehran and Ankara by saying, "There are those who are working to divide Iraq. There is a sectarian and ethnic struggle there because of the question of Persian nationalism. ... We also have to prevent this in Syria and do what is necessary together with the Gulf [states], because we cannot just sit back - and will not sit back - in the face of oppression." A few days later, on Feb. 19, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at the Munich Security Conference, "Iran is trying to turn Syria and Iraq into two Shiite states," adding, "This has to be stopped. Security and stability in the region can only be secured then." Both comments were criticized by Iran.

EXTREMISM 

Rejecting Purim parallel, Iran speaker tells Netanyahu to 'read the Torah' | Times of Israel

Iran's parliament speaker on Sunday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comparison of the ancient Persians who sought the annihilation of the Jews in the Purim story to modern-day Iran, advising the Israeli premier to study history and the Jewish Bible. In an address to parliament on Sunday, which coincided with the Purim holiday, Iranian Speaker Ali Larijani said in Tehran that "apparently, [Netanyahu] is neither acquainted with history, nor has read the Torah," according to Iranian media reports. Larijani said that Netanyahu "has distorted the Iranians' pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events. Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist," he said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Iran: Israel showed it masterminds Syria war | Press TV

Iran says the Israeli prime minister "clearly" showed in his recent remarks opposing Iranian counterterror contribution to Syria that Tel Aviv is behind the ongoing war in the Arab country. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani made the remarks on Sunday, concerning a Friday conversation between Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Netanyahu reportedly expressed "Israel's strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces" north of Israel "in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind." Iran has been lending advisory support to the Syrian military in its battle against foreign-backed militancy, while avoiding any direct military involvement in the conflict. "Netanyahu laid the conditions for peace in Syria," Larijani told the parliament session in Tehran. "He clearly stated that the Zionist regime is behind the war in Syria."

MILITARY MATTERS

Iran: Domestic Weapons Production up 69 Percent | American Enterprise Institute

The end of many military sanctions on Iran in the wake of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and Tehran's ability to purchase sophisticated, off-the-shelf weapons systems (even if the timeline of sanctions expiration may impact delivery dates) has not led the Islamic Republic to abandon let alone scale down its investment in its domestic armament industry. In the excerpted article, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan brags at a ribbon cutting for new production lines that Iran's domestic armament industry has increased production by 69 percent over the past three years. This suggests that Iran has used some of the hard currency windfall in the form of new investment and unfrozen assets since negotiations began for the Joint Plan of Action (the temporary agreement which predated the JCPOA) to bolster its military industries. While Dehqan bragged about 115 new products, the five main achievements he noted in other articles surrounding his appearance and speech included the Fajr 5 guided rocket, the Misaq 33 shoulder-launched rocket system, a 40- mm grenade-launcher system, the Masaf 5.56 x 445mm -caliber gun and a new pistol.

HUMAN RIGHTS

British mum held prisoner in Iran is 'virtually unable to walk' as she suffers severe weight and hair loss | Mirror

The health of a British mum locked up in an Iranian prison on "secret charges" is rapidly deteriorating as she suffers dramatic weight and hair loss and is left "virtually unable to walk", her family have said. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a British-Iranian citizen, was detained as she was trying to return to Britain with her daughter Gabriella after visiting family in Iran last April. Since then she has been held as a political prisoner and sentenced to five years behind bars for charges which have not been made public. The charity worker was accused of plotting to topple the Iranian regime and an appeal made to lower her sentence was rejected in January. Now Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sister-in-law Rebecca Jones, who lives in Cardiff, said that while her brother Richard's wife was no longer being kept in high security, she was starting to suffer physically.

Iran arrests journalist shortly after release: judiciary | AFP

Iran has arrested a reformist journalist after he was released from custody, a prosecutor in Tehran confirmed today. Ehsan Mazandarani, who runs the reformist daily Farhikhtegan, was initially detained in late 2015 and sentenced last April to seven years for "acting against national security". "The arrest of this convict on security charges is in line with the continuation and completion of his previous sentence," Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the judiciary-linked Mizan Online website today. Mazandarani was temporarily released in October for health concerns after a hunger strike but was required to return to prison following treatment. His re-arrest yesterday comes after he was reportedly released in February when unofficial sources suggested that his sentence had been reduced to less than two years.

Son of Iranian opposition leader sentenced to six months in jail | Reuters

The son of a detained Iranian opposition leader has been sentenced to six months in jail, his brother said on Monday, after releasing an open letter from his father demanding to be put on trial after years of his house arrest. Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, has been under house arrest since 2011 with his fellow presidential contender Mir Hussein Mousavi after denouncing the results of 2009 election as rigged, and calling for street protests. His son, Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, was accused of publishing propaganda against the state over the letter to President Hassan Rouhani in which Karroubi said: "I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial."

UN Investigator: Iran Makes Some Progress on Rights But Still Persecutes | Voice of America

A U.N. investigator presenting her first report on Iran's human rights record says Iranian leaders have made some progress, but must do more to stop what she calls the "persecution" of Iranian people. In an exclusive interview with VOA Persian in Geneva on Monday, U.N. special rapporteur on Iran's human rights situation Asma Jahangir credited Iran for boosting engagement with her office. "They are now responding to our communications more and more, which was not the case earlier," she said. Jahangir, an independent Pakistani rights activist who took up her post last November, spoke to VOA on the day she presented her first Iran report to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. "Iran gave extensive comments to my report (covering the second half of 2016) - whether I agreed with those comments is not the point. But at least there were the comments, and I learned a lot from them."

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Iran: Who Are Our Enemies? | Michael Rubin with The American Enterprise Institute

Almost every week since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran's clerical leadership have presided over Friday prayer sermons and rallies in which they encouraged chants of 'Death to America.' After more than three decades of such behavior, many Western diplomats and politicians have become inured to it, and many suggest it is just pro forma and should not be taken as a true expression of the Iranian leadership's attitudes toward the United States or the West. In an address excerpted here to prominent officials and citizens in Qom, Iran's main clerical center, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressed the notion of enmity and argued that the United States, alongside Great Britain, Israel, and the international elite should be considered Iran's true enemies.