Eye on Iran: Trump Says Doesn't Think Iran Living Up to Spirit of Nuclear Deal

TOP STORIES

Trump Says Doesn't Think Iran Living Up to Spirit of Nuclear Deal | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he did not believe that Iran was living up to the spirit of the 2015 deal to curtail its nuclear weapons program. "I don't think Iran is in compliance," Trump told reporters at his private New Jersey golf club. "I don't they're living up to the spirit of the agreement."

Iran Executes Alireza Tajiki Who was Arrested at Age 15 for Sodomy, Murder | Associated Press

A young Iranian who was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death as a child was executed Thursday, a semi-official news agency in Iran reported. Human rights group Amnesty International called the killing of Alireza Tajiki "shameful." Tajiki was 15 years old when he was arrested six years ago for murder and sodomy.

Iran Bans Two Soccer Stars for Playing against Israelis | New York Times

Two players on Iran’s national soccer team were banned for life from playing for their country on Thursday after they participated in a match with their club team in Greece against an Israeli team, an Iranian governmental official said. The players, Masoud Shojaei, 33, the captain of the national team, and Ehsan Haji Safi, 27, one of Iran’s most promising players, played for their Greek club team, Panionios, in a home game last week in Athens against Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel. “It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line,” Mohammad Reza Davarzani, Iran’s deputy sports minister said Thursday on Iranian state television.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Iran: Tehran Strikes Back against U.S. Sanctions | Stratfor

The Persian empire strikes back. The Iranian parliament's Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy agreed on Aug. 9 to allocate additional money to projects intended to counter recent U.S. foreign policy. The funds are included in a draft law pulled together specifically in response to a new raft of U.S. sanctions. The draft law proposes that, within six months, Iran will put together a new strategy to counter persistent U.S. threats against Iran. The draft law will be discussed in more detail when parliament reconvenes next week. Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency reported that 1 trillion Iranian tomans (about $305 million) are to be allocated to expand ballistic missile activities and another 1 trillion tomans will be divided between the Ministry of Intelligence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. Yet another 1 trillion tomans potentially will be allocated for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force, which manages Iranian military activities abroad and is therefore a source of concern for Washington.

Iran-US Bilateral Trade Drops By $29% In 6 Months | Tasnim News Agency (Iran)

The total value of trade exchanges between Iran and the US over the first half of 2017 has decreased by 29 percent, according to the latest data released by the US Census Bureau. The bilateral trade between the Islamic Republic and the US from January to June amounted to $77.2 million, showing a 29% drop, compared to the same period last year, the data showed. The trade transactions between the two countries in the first half of 2016 had reached $109.2 million, according to the report. The data also showed that US exports to Iran from January to June this year amounted to $41.3 million, a drop of 42 percent compared to the same period in 2016. From January to June 2016, the United States had exported $71.9 million worth of goods to Iran. US imports from Iran during the first six months of this year also reached $35.9 million, showing a 4% decrease compared to the same period last year.

EXTREMISM

German Green Party Probes Iran’s Activity against Israel And Dissidents | Jerusalem Post

The expansion of Iranian regime institutions in Germany has prompted the opening of an inquiry by the Green Party in the Bundestag on Friday to assess Tehran’s anti-Israel and espionage activities. A Green Party document titled “Direction of Shi’ite associations and their connection to the Iranian regime,” which contains 21 detailed questions on Iran’s influence in Germany, was sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration for a response.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

India Cuts Iranian Crude Oil Imports over Gas Field Snub | OilPrice.com

India has been cutting imports of Iranian crude oil, making good on its promise to reduce imports by around 20 percent this fiscal year ending March 2018, in a possible retaliation for Tehran not awarding the development of a gas field in Iran to Indian firms. According to ship tracking data from sources and data compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts, India’s oil imports from Iran dropped by 16.3 percent in July from June, to 414,900 bpd. Compared to July last year, India’s crude imports from the Islamic Republic plunged by 20.7 percent, Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts data show. At the end of May, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said that Tehran had signed an initial agreement with Russia’s gas giant Gazprom for the development of the Farzad B gas field, in what was the latest episode of the saga over the field which Tehran had been taking its time to award to an Indian consortium.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Iranian Blogger Arrives In Israel To Flee Possible Persecution | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

An Iranian blogger for an Israeli news site has arrived in Israel from Turkey where she says she had faced possible deportation back to the Islamic republic. Speaking at a press conference after her arrival in Israel on August 10, Neda Amin said she feels "safe now." Amin, 32, wrote for the Persian-language edition of The Times of Israel. She said she left Iran for Turkey in 2014 after being threatened with prison for writing material critical of the Iranian government. Amin said Turkish authorities recently told her she would be deported to Iran, and she feared that her writing in an Israeli media outlet jeopardized her safety there.

DOMESTIC POLITICS

Persian Speakers Demand Iran be Punished for Banning Soccer stars Who Played against Israel | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Thousands of speakers of Persian appealed on social media to the world soccer federation to punish Iran for its banning of two athletes on the national soccer team from playing for their country over their participating in a match against Israelis. The players, Masoud Shojaei, 33, the captain of the national team, and Ehsan Haji Safi, 27, one of Iran’s most promising players, were banned Thursday for playing for their Greek club team, Panionios, in a home game last week in Athens against Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel, the New York Times reported...The move prompted thousands of speakers of Persian, including Iranians living in the Islamic Republic or beyond, to call on the FIFA soccer federation to impose sanctions on Iran for the move, according to Omid Memarian, a New York-based journalist.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

No, We Don’t Need An Iran-Style Nuclear Deal With North Korea | John Daniel Davidson for the Federalist

One idea floating around is that we need an Iran-style nuclear deal with North Korea—and that if we’d had one, we wouldn’t be debating the merits of nuclear versus conventional war on the Korean peninsula, President Trump wouldn’t be blustering about “fire and fury,” and Pyongyang wouldn’t be publically mulling a ballistic missile strike on Guam… The problem is, we had an Iran-style nuclear deal with North Korea, and now North Korea has nuclear weapons.

No, the Iran Deal Isn’t a Blueprint for Dealing with North Korea | David French for National Review

[T]he Iran Deal may well be the worst possible model. For example, agreement with Iran famously provides the regime up to 24 days of notice before inspectors are allowed access to some suspect cites, and a regime with a record of cheating like North Korea’s is the worst possible regime to grant any leeway or any trust. Moreover that same deal granted Iran enormous economic benefits, access to international arms markets, and the ability to build ballistic missiles. A similar deal with North Korea would have the potential to supercharge the DPRK threat. That’s not to say that no agreement could work. Deals depend on their terms, obviously, but any deal based on the Iran model puts America in a position of weakness. In fact, given the failure of the North Korean beta test, the Iran Deal itself is difficult to understand. Remember the old saying — fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But what if we’re fooled three times? That just makes us fools.

The Other Player in the North Korea Crisis: Iran | Bridget Johnson for the New York Daily News

Sure, Iran and North Korea — along with another of their toxic allies, Russia — were partners as targets of the nearly unanimous sanctions that recently sailed through Congress. But they’re partners in so many ways — other than both holding U.S. hostages — from the weapons trade to circumvention of sanctions that every action coming out of Pyongyang needs to be weighed in broader context of the Iran relationship, and even as a test run of Iran’s ultimate ambitions for its own weapons capability. Iran is almost living vicariously through North Korea’s horn-locking with the Trump administration, engaging in weapons-grade trolling with state media loving the story and underscoring that Pyongyang is simply moving to protect the DPRK from unbridled U.S. aggression — the same convenient argument that Tehran makes to justify its own provocative actions.

Iran: Budget Increases for Missiles, Qods Force | Michael Rubin for the American Enterprise Institute

Many Western diplomats hoped that the lifting of sanctions and new investments that accompanied the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would bolster the hands of more reform-minded elements within the Iranian political spectrum. If money talks, however, it seems that more hardline elements have the upper hand in where and how to allocate funding. The accompanying remarks by Kazem Jalali, who runs the major research arm for Iran’s parliament, suggest budget increases are looming for Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Qods Force—the elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) charged with export of the revolution.

The Real Footprint of the IRGC in Iran's Economy | Bijan Khajehpour for Al-Monitor

The Iranian economy consists of three distinct sectors: public, private and semi-state — which includes religious, revolutionary, military foundations and cooperatives, as well as social security and pension funds. Experts agree that as a result of flawed privatization processes in the past three decades, the ownership of top governmental enterprises has been transferred to the semi-state sector. Consequently, gradually the semi-state sector has become the largest constituency in the country’s economy. One of the players in this semi-state sector is the network of companies around the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whose role in the economy is usually subject to guessing games by all types of commentators.

Focus on Clear Goals to Contain Iran in Iraq and Syria | James Jeffrey for the Cipher Brief

With the liberation of Mosul from ISIS and the impending conquest of the “Caliphate” capital Raqqa, the U.S. is at a decision point in the Middle East. But it does not yet have a coherent strategy… The biggest problem facing the administration is an Iran poised to control Iraq and Syria, and thus a corridor from Tehran to southern Lebanon, in the wake of ISIS’s defeat. Tehran, with its Shia militias and missile arsenals and at least limited Russian support, seeks thereby to upend regional security, threatening Jordan, Israel, Turkey, and ultimately the Gulf states from this corridor. The Trump Administration signed up to contain this threat at the May Riyadh summit but so far has not figured out how… To that end, the Administration should turn to the 1980’s “Powell Doctrine,” a set of principles developed by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and then General Colin Powell.

Iran Suspends Flights to Najaf, Iraq | Michael Rubin for the American Enterprise Institute

Iraqi politicians and civil society leaders resent the tendency of outside analysts to depict Iraq as an Iranian puppet. Beyond the ethnic differences between the two republics, there are also religious differences. The concept of clerical rule inaugurated by the late Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is widely dismissed by the clerical leadership based in the Iraqi shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, where senior ayatollahs advocate a greater separation between mosque and state. Economic interests also distinguish the two countries. Iraqi businessmen resent the Iranian dominance in some markets and accuse Iranian leaders of purposely dumping manufactured goods into the Iraqi market in order to undercut Iraqi factories.
It is against this backdrop that the excerpted report in the Islamic Students’ News Agency is interesting: It suggests that Iranian authorities have suspended flights into Najaf International Airport, Iraq’s main gateway for Shi’ite pilgrims... Whatever the ultimate resolution of the dispute, it may very well leave lasting resentments between the two neighbors.

Afghanistan is Fracturing, Creating a Vacuum that Russia and Iran are Filling | Terry Glavin for the National Post

The ethnic stresses now stretching to their limits in Afghanistan broke out into the open in Afghanistan’s embassy in Ottawa last week, when Ambassador Shinkai Karokhail was recalled to Kabul in an uproar involving claims and counterclaims of in-house ethnic power plays and recrimination. But that’s small spuds. In the bigger picture, Afghanistan’s fracturing along ethnic lines, exacerbated by the “war weariness” of the NATO countries, has opened up a political and military vacuum that Russia and Iran are happily filling, just as they did in Syria….When the Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed in a drone strike last year in Balochistan, he was returning from meeting government officials in Iran, where he also met Russian officials. In recent weeks, Taliban commanders have confirmed that Tehran is boosting its supply of funding and weaponry to the Taliban leadership, and that some of those arms shipments originate in Russia.

Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan: Heading Towards Confrontation | Zmkan A. Saleem for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq maintain cordial relations, and the two neighbors have publicly cooperated in battling the Islamic State (IS). However, this might change soon. The authorities in Tehran are increasingly frustrated with the Kurdish leadership’s decision to hold an independence referendum on September 25 in territories under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Tehran speculates that the vote would speed up Kurdistan’s walk towards full independence, an event which Iran sees as a challenge not only to Iranian stability but also to their regional ambitions… The United States should not allow Iran to subvert the Iraqi Kurds’ quest for independence, as they have been an important ally to Washington in Iraq. If the Iranian regime gets its way, it will only be emboldened to act in the same manner against the United States’ other allies in the region. The United States has invested great military efforts and resources to defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and bringing a degree of stability to the country. An Arab-Kurdish war sponsored by Iran over Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence will only pave the way for chaos, instability, and extremism to reemerge in Iraq, which will again result in wasting American money and lives.

Iran Finalizing Plan to “Counter America’s Adventurous and Terrorist Actions” | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on Wednesday approved a bill titled “Countering America’s Adventurous and Terrorist Actions” in response to the latest U.S. sanctions, the Iranian media reported. According to the text of the bill published today by the Islamic Republic News Agency, the legislation obliges the ministries of foreign affairs, defense and intelligence as well as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and its elite Quds Force to work together to prepare a “comprehensive strategic plan” in coordination with the Supreme National Security Council to “counter the U.S. threats and subversive activities” against the Islamic Republic… In the past, Tehran’s countermeasures have been symbolic as they targeted American companies that do not do business in Iran. But since the new U.S. sanctions target the I.R.G.C. and its elite Quds Force in a more significant way, it is expected that Iran’s response will carry more weight this time.