Eye on Iran: Hamas and Iran Agree to 'Turn a New Leaf', Focus on 'Shared Enemy'

TOP STORIES

Hamas and Iran Agree to 'Turn a New Leaf', Focus on 'Shared Enemy' | Haaretz

Following a meeting between top Hamas officials and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, a joint statement was released saying, "We concluded that it's time to turn a new leaf in order to address our shared enemy." The delegation of Hamas officials included Saleh al-Arouri, the military commander who oversees West Bank terror cells. He is believed to have orchestrated the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in 2014.

Iran: No Female Ministers in Rouhani's Proposed Cabinet List | CNN

Iran's newly re-elected President has not included any women in his proposed list of 17 ministers, according to Iranian state media, reneging on an election pledge to his largely reformist base. Hassan Rouhani presented his list of Cabinet nominees for all but one of the 18 minister roles on Tuesday. The exclusion of women from the proposed list was widely expected, though appointing a female minister was a central promise made by Rouhani during the election campaign.

Iran's Rouhani Presents New Ministers to Parliament | Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his cabinet to parliament for a vote of confidence on Tuesday, keeping in place the chief architect of Tehran's nuclear accord with global powers. In his first term, Rouhani championed an agreement with the United States and five other powers in 2015 that led to the lifting of most sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program. The cabinet list, published on state media, shows Rouhani has re-appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the lead negotiator in the nuclear deal, and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who is credited with increasing oil production after the lifting of sanctions.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

The Revolutionary Guard: America Wants to Implement the Libyan Model in Iran | Al Arabiya

The commander of the Air Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Ali Hajizadeh, said that the United States wants to apply the Libyan model in Iran in response to reports about the United States pressuring the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect suspicious military sites in Iran. According to Fares news agency, Haji Zadeh said in a press statement that “through manipulations such as sanctions, pressure and psychological warfare, the Americans are seeking to disarm Iran and are in the process of implementing the Libyan model on us, but we will not surrender to their methods.”

EXTREMISM

Iran Says Arrested 27 IS-linked Militants, Foiled Attacks | Associated Press

Iran’s intelligence ministry says its forces have detained 27 militants linked to the Islamic State group who planned to carry out terrorist operations in religious cities inside the country. The ministry says Monday in a statement on its website, vaja.ir, that they were identified during an exchange of intelligence with one of the regional services, ahead of President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration. The report did not say which country Iran exchanged the intelligence with, or mention where they were arrested. It said 10 of them were detained at a “control center” abroad, and sent to Iran, while 17 others were arrested in Iran. The ministry added five of them had planned to carry out terror attacks inside Iran and the others were their supporters.

IRAQ CRISIS

Iran Steps Up Pressure on Iraqi Kurds to Halt Referendum | Al Monitor

Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have become entangled in a war of words as the referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence nears. Both sides are now making veiled threats, which — if they materialize — could have serious consequences on stability in the region. Iran is stepping up pressure on Iraqi Kurdish political parties to refrain from holding their upcoming referendum on independence. The Iranians, whether under the shah or the Islamic Republic, have worked hand in glove with the Kurds to undermine the Iraqi central government’s authority and thus should not be expected to be adamant about preserving the authority of the state at any cost… Iran should be expected to continue its unrelenting pressure on the Kurds to halt the referendum, partly worried about the impact an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq would have on its own 8-million-strong Kurdish community, which fought a bloody battle for independence in the 1980s.

Tensions Build along Iraq-Iran Border | Al Jazeera

The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which seeks Kurdish autonomy in the country and has been exiled to Iraq, has been intensifying its presence along the border area in recent days. The separatist group helped to defend northern Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS), and with the battle for Mosul now over, it is focusing on consolidating its control over parts of the Iraq-Iran border. Last month, the KDPI and local villagers reported an Iranian shelling attack near the party's bases in Iraq, which they described as an escalation of military operations. The upcoming Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum in September could also change the game in this crucial border area.

DOMESTIC POLITICS

OPEC Veteran Zanganeh Tapped to Return as Iran Oil Minister | Bloomberg

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani proposed the reappointment of its longest-serving oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, who fought to restore crude production and closed a landmark deal with Total SA to develop the Persian Gulf country’s share of the biggest natural gas field... During the first of his two terms as oil minister, from 1997 until 2005, Zanganeh enticed foreign companies including Total and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to help revive Iran’s oil and gas fields after years of under-investment. He returned to the post in 2013 and boosted the nation’s oil exports as production rose by about 1 million barrels a day after the easing of economic sanctions in January 2016.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Chaos and Order in a Changing World | Henry Kissinger for CapX

Most non-Isis powers—including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states—agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.

Iran Is Using Syria to Advance toward the Mediterranean | Naftali Bennett for the Wall Street Journal

Hezbollah announced last month that it had captured the Syrian-Lebanese border area of Juroud Arsal from Islamic State forces. Far from being a minor development in a violent and unstable region, this marks another Iranian success in its quest for power and dominance across the Middle East… An essential part of Tehran’s grand strategy is to control a land corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. Under the cover of Syria’s bloody civil war, Hezbollah is helping to build such a highway… Controlling this corridor would directly connect Iran with its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, allowing it to transfer advanced weapons cheaply and quickly. The highway would let Iran build its military presence on the Mediterranean, bringing much of Europe into the range of its air force, navy and midrange missiles. Iran could even build arms factories outside its borders. Iranian apologists frame Hezbollah’s capture of the border area as a victory over ISIS, as if the U.S.-led coalition ought to be cheering. ISIS needs to be stopped, but Iran is a far greater problem in the long run. Tehran shouldn’t be mistaken for part of the solution.

Astana Experts Meet in Tehran | Randa Slim for the Middle East Institute

As part of the ‘Astana Process,’ technical experts from Russia, Turkey and Iran will meet in Tehran this week to discuss further details of the “de-escalation regime” now in place in Syria. On their agenda are monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for local ceasefires, detainee release arrangements, and preparation for implementing their May 4 agreement on de-escalation in the Idlib province… To-date, Moscow has vetoed an Assad-Iran plan to attack Idlib partly in response to US and Turkish opposition to such an attack… The de-escalation regime put in place by Russia with US blessing, is increasingly decreasing the odds of the orderly political transition solution that is endorsed by the US in Syria. While the two countries will continue to pay lip service to the long-term objective of a territorially and politically unified Syria, the most likely interim scenario is a de-facto fragmented Syria that is divided between government-controlled areas and zones ruled by “acceptable” local governing councils. By hosting the discussions on de-escalation zones, Tehran is signaling that it is signing off on this de-facto political reality in Syria.