Eye on Iran: Spurned by Trump, Europeans Ponder How to Meet Iran Ultimatum

TOP STORIES

Spurned by Trump, Europeans Ponder How to Meet Iran Ultimatum | Reuters

With Trump warning of a last chance for “the worst deal ever negotiated”, Britain, France and Germany have begun talks on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its regional influence while preserving the 2015 accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions for at least a decade.

Iran Deal ‘Fixes’ to Dominate Tillerson’s Agenda in Europe | Associated Press

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran and preventing a U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe, and a U.S. official said Iran was expected to dominate Tillerson’s talks in London and Paris, the first two stops.

Iran May Try to Loosen Revolutionary Guard’s Grip On Economy | Associated Press

Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to loosen its hold on the economy, the country’s defense minister says, raising the possibility that the paramilitary organization might privatize some of its vast holdings… But whether the Guard would agree remains unclear, as the organization is estimated to hold around a third of the country’s entire economy.

UANI IN THE NEWS

Claiming Ignorance of Iran’s Actions Is No Longer Viable | UANI President David Ibsen for the Hill

Clearly, the financial, legal and socio-political uncertainties of doing business with Iran are great. UANI will continue to work to ensure such risks are universally understood, including in Congress and among companies as they contemplate their respective next steps in relation to the murderous and terror-sponsoring regime in Tehran. Claiming ignorance of the risks associated with Iran is longer an excuse for either.

The Trump Trick: How to Make Iran Look Like It Is Complying with U.S. Demands | UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky for the National Interest

With President Trump’s decision last week to lay down a red line on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and at the same time slap more onerous nonnuclear sanctions on Iran, its clerical establishment has vowed a “severe response.” But while Tehran’s rhetoric has been threatening, its riposte is likely to be restrained due to three inconvenient realities: the Iranians need the JCPOA more than Washington; the United States has limited equities in Iran; and Iran is overextended in the region.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Germany Weighs New Sanctions Against Iran: Report | Reuters

Germany is lobbying among European allies to agree new sanctions against Iran in an attempt to prevent U.S. President Donald Trump from terminating an international deal curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday. The report cited diplomats in Brussels as saying that Germany was pushing for new sanctions together with Britain and France to show the United States that European allies were taking Trump’s criticism against Iran seriously.

France’s Le Drian Plans March Trip to Iran after Trump Ultimatum on Nuclear Deal | Reuters

France’s foreign minister said on Sunday he would visit Iran on March 5 to discuss its ballistic missile program and the nuclear deal agreed with world powers in 2015, as tensions between the two countries rise.

Iran Deal Won't Survive Beyond May 2018, Sanctions Expert Says | CNBC

The Iran nuclear deal is on life support and on a trajectory for collapse, many policy experts believe, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's current continuation of sanctions relief. 

NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS

France Says Iran Not Respecting U.N. Text On Ballistic Missiles | Reuters

France’s foreign minister accused Iran on Monday of not respecting part of a U.N. resolution that calls on Tehran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

Iran Rejects Missile Talks in Defiance of Western Pressure | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

Iran’s defense minister today denied a report that Tehran has accepted Western demands to hold negotiations on the country’s controversial missile program, according to Tasnim News Agency. 

IRAN PROTESTS

EU to Host a ‘Key Figure’ in Iran’s Violent Crackdown on Protests | Times of Israel

The European Parliament is set to host a senior Iranian official said to have been involved in a violent crackdown on protesters, prompting criticism from Iranian opposition groups and Israeli politicians. 

Iranian Parliamentary Group to Get Access to Detained Protesters | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iranian media are reporting that members of parliament will be allowed access to prisoners who were detained during antigovernment protests that rocked the country, beginning last December. 

Iran's Protests Suppressed, But Not Forgotten | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The biggest challenge to Iran's establishment in years fizzled out after a couple of weeks of violent demonstrations, but while widespread discontent has been quieted for now, the calm won't last forever. The roots of the protests -- frustration among the youth over their lack of freedoms and opportunities -- remain just below the surface. And with the younger generation clearly exhibiting its willingness to take to the streets to express its anger over the status quo, the onus is on the Islamic republic's aging leadership to bridge a growing generational divide.

How Corruption And Cronyism In Banking Fueled Iran’s Protests | Thomas Erdbrink, David Kirkpatrick & Nilo Tabrizy for New York Times

At 25 percent, the interest rate paid on a savings account at the Caspian Finance and Credit Institution in Tehran was a better return than Mehrdad Asgari could earn investing in his own business renting out construction equipment. So in December 2016, he jumped at the chance, depositing $42,000 in a savings account. Before long though, Caspian stopped allowing withdrawals. After three months, it stopped paying interest. Finally, in May, it shut its doors for good — becoming one of the largest in a long series of failures of Iranian financial institutions in recent years. The closings have destroyed the savings of thousands of people, imperiled the banking system and helped fuel the anti-government protests that roiled the country late last year. 

On Iran’s Protests, Europe Must Find Its Voice | Tzvi Kahn for The Hill

As protests recently began to consume Iran, European capitals were at a seeming loss for words. After several days of silence, Europe’s leaders issued curt statements of sympathy for the protestors — but with a notable tinge of moral equivocation. A European Union statement and Britain’s foreign secretary separately called on “all concerned to refrain from violence.” Germany’s foreign minister urged “all sides” to abstain from bloodshed. What accounts for Europe’s apparent conflation of victim and oppressor?

How Years of Increasing Labor Unrest Signaled Iran’s Latest Protest Wave | Kevan Harris and Zep Kalb for The Washington Post

Beginning on Dec. 28, a wave of protests surged across Iran, with at least 75 cities reportedly experiencing one or more demonstrations in the first week. Soon after they began, commentators rushed to attribute the protests to various grievances, from Ponzi-like banking scheme collapses and budget corruption allegations to soaring prices of eggs and gasoline. However, our research suggests that rather than grievances alone, an underappreciated precursor for the protests was the buildup of demonstrations and rallies by teachers, workers, trade unions and civil society associations.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Harvard Rewards an Iranian Hate-Monger | Sohrab Ahmari for Commentary

What is it with the Harvard Kennedy School’s penchant for celebrating dishonorable characters?... I’m speaking of Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian blogger and vehement apologist for the Tehran regime. Last week, the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy named Derakhshan a fellow for the spring semester…. Derakhshan has spent years viciously assailing real dissidents, and he has a long record of public statements in support of the regime, its leadership and security apparatus, and its conspiratorial and anti-Semitic worldview.

An Iranian Dissident's Open Letter to Harvard | Ramin Jahanbeglo for Iran Wire

As an Iranian-Canadian academic, an international writer and an ex-fellow of Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies who spent 125 days in solitary confinement in the Evin Prison, I am writing to you [Harvard] to express my great concern over the news of extending a fellowship to Hossein Derakhshan. Hossein Derakhshan is a notorious figure among Iranian intellectuals, artists and civil society activists, certainly not because of any achievements in academia or in science and technology, but mainly because of his infamous character of betraying and denouncing his fellow countrymen and collaborating closely with the Iranian security forces.

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Iran-EU Trade Tops €18b, Italy Tops List of Partners (Jan-Nov 2017) | Financial Tribune (Iran) 

Iran’s trade with the European Union member states during the 11 months to Nov. 30, 2017, stood at close to €18.56 billion, registering a 57% increase compared with the corresponding period of last year. Iran's top five trading partners over the period were Italy with more than €4.54 billion, France with €3.45 billion, Germany with €2.99 billion, Spain with €1.67 billion and the Netherlands with €1.34 billion worth of exchanges, the report reads. Trade with Italy saw a 117% upsurge year-on-year–the highest increase in bilateral exchanges between Iran and EU members over the period, latest Eurostat figures shared with Financial Tribune show.

Export Credit Bank of Norway Ready to Ease Banking Exchanges with Iran | Mehr News Agency (Iran)

In his meeting with the Norwegian Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran Lars Nordrum on Saturday, Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian revealed the expansion of cooperation between Iran and Norway in the field of renewable energies. 

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM

Hamas Leader Vows New Intifada Against Israel in Letter to Iran's Khamenei | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

In a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Palestinian Hamas, has praised Iranian support for the militant group, and particularly Tehran’s “unwavering and valuable” stance on the issue of Jerusalem. According to the Iranian media, Haniyeh denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and emphasized in the letter that launching another intifada against Israel would be the best course of action at present.

New Image of Osama Bin Laden’s Spokesman and Son-in-law in Iran Revealed | Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia / UAE)

A new photo has been released of Osama bin Laden’s son in law and al-Qaeda spokesman in Iran.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Iranian movement ‘White Wednesdays’ Finds Solidarity with U.S. Women’s March | NBC News

As marchers across the United States took to the streets on the second anniversary of the Women's March, it had a meaning that for some went far beyond the nation’s borders. One of the thousands of people marching in New York City on Saturday was Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who founded the social media movement My Stealthy Freedom in 2014, which uses social media to collect images and videos of women in public without wearing hijab.

Detained Iranian Protesters Told to Admit Being Drug Addicts to Speed Up Release | Center for Human Rights in Iran

Detainees arrested during the protests that began in Iran in December 2017 have been told to tell officials that they’re drug addicts, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. 

Execution of the Juvenile Offender Postponed in Iran | Iran Human Rights

According to a close source, authorities had informed Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi’s family that his execution was scheduled to be carried out on Wednesday, January 17. However, the execution of this juvenile-offender was delayed… for unknown reasons. However, he still stays in danger of execution.

Iran’s Constitution Needs To Be Amended: Sunni Leader | Radio Farda

There are articles in the Islamic Republic’s Constitution that should be revised, the most prominent Sunni religious leader in Iran has said, noting, “People’s problems and hardship are not limited to economic matters.” In his Friday speech, January 19, the head of dar-ul-uloom (seminary) of Zahedan, Molavi Abdolhamid reiterated, “People are not only under economic pressures; the political and social pressures should be addressed [as well], and all people of Iran should live freely according to the Constitution.”

MILITARY MATTERS

Iran's Navy Kicks Off Annual Drill Near Key Strait Of Hormuz | Associated Press

Iran's state TV says the country's navy has kicked off its two-day annual drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

SYRIA & IRAN

Iran Calls for End to Turkish Offensive in Syria | Reuters

Iran on Sunday called for a quick end to a Turkish incursion into northern Syria’s Afrin province, saying it may help “terrorist” groups, state news agency IRNA reported.

GULF STATES, YEMEN, LEBANON, & IRAN

Iran-backed Yemeni Rebels Fire Another Missile into Saudi Arabia | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The Houthi rebels, Iran’s allies in Yemen, Thursday launched another missile attack into Saudi Arabia, targeting an air defense operations center in the kingdom’s border province of Najran, Iranian and Lebanese media outlets reported.  

Iran’s Economy and Financial System Faces Uncertain Future | Gulf News (UAE)

The Iranian economy, which had been on a strong revival path following the 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers, appears be on shaky ground as the deal itself is facing uncertainty and the country is facing huge political upheaval, according to Institute of International Finance (IIF)...

IRAQ & IRAN

Iran's Rouhani Says Wants to Improve Ties with Iraqi Kurds | Reuters

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday called for boosting relations with the Iraqi Kurdish region as part of a united Iraq, Iranian media reported, after ties were strained over an independence referendum in the area last year. 

IRANIAN DOMESTIC ISSUES

Closing the Door on English in Iran | Negar Mottahedeh for Salon

Last week, after two weeks of protests in Iran, the country’s High Education Council announced that teaching English is now banned from Iranian primary schools. The announcement has me thinking about King Kong.