Iran 2017 – 2018

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See also Middle East & Arab World – Saudi Arabia 2017

11 June
China President Xi Jinping backs nuclear deal in talks with Iran leader
(AFP) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for the Iran nuclear deal to be “earnestly” implemented as he met the country’s president following the US withdrawal from the pact, state media said on Monday (June 11).
Xi met one-on-one with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Sunday following a two-day regional security summit in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao that also included Russia and former Soviet republics.
In his meeting with Rouhani, Xi described the deal as “an important outcome of multilateralism”, according to the official Xinhua news service.
Xi said the deal is “conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East and the international non-proliferation regime, and should continue to be implemented earnestly”, according to Xinhua.
Rouhani said Iran expects the international community, including China, “to play a positive role in properly dealing with relevant issues”, the agency reported.

16 May
Trump is wrong over Iran, but Europe can’t afford to divorce the US
No other US president has been as antagonistic to European principles. But there’s no alternative to a strong transatlantic partnership
(The Guardian) This US move amounts to an open assault on multilateralism – something that, as history has taught us, Europeans have an existential interest in protecting and upholding. Trump’s decision can only be an own goal. US credibility will be severely affected. When a German chancellor declares – as Angela Merkel has just done, for the second time in a year – that Europe can no longer rely on the United States, you know something is amiss. Many others will now ask: how can we ever again trust a country that can withdraw overnight from solemn international agreements?

15 May
Thomas Friedman: Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move
Trump, by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal. But to do so would have required Trump to admit that there was merit in the deal Obama had forged and to be content with limited, but valuable, fixes that our European allies likely would have embraced.
Instead, Trump pushed for the max, torched the whole bridge, separating us from Germany, France and Britain, undermining the forces of moderation in Iran and requiring Trump to now manage — on his own — a complex, multidimensional confrontation with Tehran.
Europe adopts defiant stance in attempt to save Iran nuclear deal
(WaPost) The European Union’s chief diplomat took a defiant stance Tuesday after meeting with Iran’s foreign minister and other top European diplomats to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States
Federica Mogherini, who negotiated the deal on behalf of the European Union, listed a string of proposals that taken together may not be enough to convince Iran’s leaders to hold to the deal but probably will be seen in Washington as a raised fist against U.S. policy.
The Trump administration has announced that it will be reimposing sanctions on Iran and is seeking to prevent companies around the world from doing business there.
Comparing the 2015 nuclear agreement to “a relative in intensive care,” Mogherini said ideas under consideration include plans to deepen Europe’s economic relationship with Iran, shield banking transactions with Tehran, keep purchasing Iranian oil and gas, and use E.U. financing for investments there.

9 May
Robert Fisk: Donald Trump has shown himself to be the American version of Gaddafi in his behaviour towards Iran and the nuclear deal
Having withdrawn America from the Iran nuclear deal with such capriciousness, the US president has demonstrated that – like the late Libyan leader – he is totally divorced from reality
Dumping Iran Deal May Well Spur Regime Change. But It Could Be Trump’s Regime. Or Bibi’s
It may be time for both men to consider why ‘be careful what you wish for’ is such a useful cliche
Within both the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government, the message – that crippling the nuclear deal could and should lead to regime change in Tehran – has been growing increasingly explicit of late. But as the drumbeat gains momentum with the recent appointments of Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Trump defense attorney Rudy Giuliani, vocal regime change advocates all, there is reason for concern that in both Washington and Jerusalem, the hardliners’ tactics for effecting Death to the Islamic Republic could backfire, and badly.
Iran’s Rouhani seen as lame duck after Trump ditches deal
(Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put his political life on the line to champion a nuclear deal with Western powers in the face of fierce opposition from hardliners at home.
A pragmatic politician with an impeccable background in Iran’s clerical establishment, Rouhani came into his own in 2013 when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to shore up the establishment’s legitimacy.
Already threatened in 2009 when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest against alleged election fraud, Iran’s rulers came under mounting Western pressure in 2013 over the country’s nuclear program and concerns Israel might attack.
Rouhani, who established a track record for bridge-building in nuclear talks with European powers a decade earlier, promised change and in 2013 he secured the votes of pro-reform Iranians who had been politically muzzled for years.
Elected in a landslide, Rouhani opened the door to nuclear diplomacy with six major powers to try to lift the sanctions that had held back Iran’s economy for years and meet the demands of young, restless Iranians.
Iran’s leader lambasts Trump over US exit from nuclear deal
Conservatives in Iran seize on chance to consolidate power over reformists who championed pact
(The Guardian) Hardliners in Iran have been given a new lease of political life with Trump’s decision to torpedo the agreement and reimpose economic sanctions at the highest level, seizing on an opportunity to consolidate their power over reformists who championed the pact.

6 May
All the ingredients for regime change in Iran are there — Payam Akhavan (video)
This week on Perspective with Alison Smith: The Iran Nuclear Deal and Human Rights Payam Akhavan, human rights lawyer and McGill University associate professor, discusses the human rights situation in Iran and the precarious situation in which the country’s ruling regime currently finds itself. Watch the full episode

2 May
Commentary: Trump’s political theater on Iran
(Reuters) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Monday presented what he claimed was evidence of a secret (Reuters) Iranian nuclear weapons program, may have added fuel to a looming foreign policy crisis for the United States. On May 12, President Donald Trump is expected to decide to re-impose sanctions on Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That will significantly increase the chances of war – and may be exactly the outcome Washington seeks. 

30 April
(The Atlantic) Deal or No Deal: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was cheating on the international agreement to limit its nuclear activities, yet the PowerPoint presentation he delivered at a news conference on Monday contained no smoking-gun evidence for that accusation. Krishnadev Calamur unpacks what Netanyahu did and didn’t say. President Trump has threatened to withdraw from the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, unless Iran makes significant new concessions by May 12. However, the U.S. may already be violating the terms of the deal.
(The Economist) Yesterday Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, presented 55,000 pages of a “secret atomic archive” stolen by Israeli spies that purports to prove that Iran cannot be trusted on nuclear weapons. His show was seemingly aimed only at Donald Trump, who by May 12th must decide whether to pull America out of the Iran nuclear deal. But the evidence he presented is not new, and the deal is still the most effective means of containment

19 March
On eve of Trump-Saudi meeting, Riyadh calls Iran nuclear deal flawed
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia called the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers a “flawed agreement” on Monday, on the eve of a meeting between the Saudi crown prince and U.S. President Donald Trump who have both been highly critical of Iran.

25 February
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a thorn in side of Iranian regime
Iran’s hardline factions once dubbed him “the miracle of the third millennium”.
But former firebrand president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has turned into “the ally of the Satan,” in the words of one hardliner, as he has become an increasingly disruptive force embarrassing those who secured his path to power.
The populist politician whose presidency was tainted by corruption allegations, suppression and crippling sanctions, has recently heightened his criticism of regime leaders whom he accuses of inefficiency. Some officials believe he may have indirectly stoked the anger against the regime that triggered protests in December that rattled the republic and led to at least 25 deaths.

11 January
Iranian ayatollah Shahroudi in Hanover – ‘Germany should not be a haven for criminals’
Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi was responsible for overseeing hundreds of death sentences as head of Iran’s justice ministry. Many in Germany were outraged by his stay in the country and filed complaints against him.
Police in the northern German city of Hanover told the newspaper Neue Presse that Iranian Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi has left the city. The Iranian cleric was receiving medical treatment for a reported brain tumor at a private hospital in the city.
The office of Germany’s federal prosecutor says it is continuing to investigate whether to bring charges against Shahroudi.

8 January
Protests that shook Iran were not just aimed at the economy, President Hassan Rouhani said, remarks suggesting the real targets were powerful conservatives opposed to his plans to expand individual freedoms at home and promote detente abroad.
(Reuters) – In a swipe at his hardline rivals, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday young Iranian protesters were unhappy about far more than just the economy and they would no longer defer to the views and lifestyle of an aging revolutionary elite.

4 January
Iranians demand—and deserve—a less oppressive regime
For now, alas, they probably won’t get one
(The Economist) Is this the start of something even bigger? It is impossible to know. But it is already clear that the protests hold three damning messages for Iran’s regime. The first concerns its aggressive foreign policy. The Guards have spent billions of dollars in recent years supporting armed groups in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as propping up a blood-soaked dictator in Syria. As Iran has filled the vacuum created by America’s unwillingness to exert hard power in the Middle East, it has extended its influence and tormented its big Sunni rival, Saudi Arabia.
To many outsiders this policy has seemed a stunning success. However, the protests are a blow to Iran’s adventurism. A draft budget leaked last month would increase funding for the Guards, while slashing subsidies for the poor. The protesters are having none of it: “Leave Syria, remember us!” they shout. “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran!” The regime is not about to pull back from its region but, increasingly, its ambitions face limits at home.
The second blow is to the reformist faction headed by Mr Rouhani—and to all those who have pinned their hopes on him as the architect of a sort of Iranian glasnost.

2 January
(Quartz) Protests rage on in Iran. State TV reported that another nine people were killed overnight, bringing the death toll from six days of anti-government protests to an estimated 21. Hundreds have been arrested in rallies held across the country to protest corruption and economic hardship, with demonstrators attacking police stations late last night.

31 December
Five things you need to know about protests in Iran
Iranians began protesting on Thursday in the second-largest city of Masshad, rallying against high prices.
(Al Jazeera News) While some say economic woes are caused by Iran’s foreign policy, as the country is involved in regional conflicts, others say sanctions have ultimately hit people’s pockets.
By Friday, rallies spread to the capital, Tehran, and other major cities.
According to local media reports, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their frustration against the government.
The demonstrations have gained momentum and are described as the largest in nearly a decade.
Anti-government protests in Iran enter third day
Others are also chanting anti-government slogans against the country’s foreign policy, such as “Death to Rouhani”, “Forget Palestine”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”.
Why are people protesting in Iran?
“Because of [President Hassan] Rouhani’s failed economic policies, there was a simmering discontent below the surface that is now emerging,” Ali Fathollah-Nejad, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, told Al Jazeera.
On the other hand when it comes to political repression, things have not improved,” he said. “So basically, there are both socioeconomic and political grievances.”
Meanwhile, Potkin Azarmehr, a blogger who focuses on the secular pro-democracy struggle in Iran, told Al Jazeera that several groups have been protesting for some time “and now their slogans have become more radical.”

9 November
Comment from Nick’s Gleanings
Shiite crescent? – There are reports Iran is building a permanent military base in Syria; if so, the battle for regional hegemony may well be over; for Tehran will then have ‘boots on the ground’ from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and Saudi Arabia, & Israel, will have good reason to become really concerned.

12 October
The Economist comments: Decertification of the deal, which is likely, is classic Trump: a flashy move with little substance that allows him to claim some kind of victory, thus exciting his base temporarily while allowing him to pass off the real responsibility—knowing that someone else will probably ultimately do the opposite to what he has said.
Trump Iran deal plan risks opening nuclear ‘Pandora’s box’
(CNN) While Trump will likely stop short of scrapping the agreement entirely, he is expected to lay out an aggressive new whole-of-government strategy to counter Iran’s regional aggression and its threats worldwide.
The plan is also expected to highlight how the United States can work with allies to counter Iranian behavior and also address certain flaws in the nuclear deal.
This approach could allow the US to stay in the deal but help Trump avoid the political headache of having to re-certify it every 90 days.
It might also help keep the Europeans on board with administration efforts to fight Iran’s other destabilizing activities.
Congress will have 60 days to pass legislation reimposing sanctions on Iran, but the plan for Trump to declare that the agreement is no longer in the best interests of the United States has sparked warnings that the decision could backfire in a way that ultimately expedites Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon.
“The nuclear deal wasn’t meant to fix Iran’s regional meddling, irritating as that may be. Its goal, rather, was to ensure that Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons, which would then set off a regional nuclear arms race in the Middle East where Saudi Arabia would quickly follow suit,” CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen wrote in a recent op-ed.

24 September
Breaking nuclear deal could bring hacking onslaught from Iran
‘They’re plenty good enough to cause a lot of difficulty,’ said one cyber expert
(Politico) Trump has indicated that he may not recertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, which would trigger a 60-day window in which Congress could reimpose sanctions on Iran. Those new sanctions would violate the deal and effectively remove the U.S. from it.
A move by President Donald Trump to discard the Obama-era nuclear deal with Tehran could bring a swift retaliation from an increasingly aggressive Iranian hacker army. Some of those attacks may target America’s power plants, hospitals, airports and other pieces of critical infrastructure, multiple cyber experts that track Tehran’s hackers are warning. Iran’s current Western hacking is limited almost entirely to commercial espionage and dissident surveillance, but the country could quickly redirect its efforts in the event of a rupture of the nuclear pact.

20 September
Donald Trump’s UN speech risks turning Iran into a rogue state again
Once America walks away from the deal and seeks to re-impose sanctions, it will only embolden Iran, now free from any external constraints to pursue its nuclear ambitions while sending a strong signal to other states like North Korea that America will not stick to an agreement.
(The Independent) Iran decided to engage with the international community in 2015, signing a nuclear deal that in exchange for the lifting of sanctions meant that Iran would roll back its nuclear programme by eliminating it’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, reduce its centrifuges and would only enrich uranium up to a certain percentage.
Undoubtedly Iran’s human rights record along with its threats and meddling in the affairs of neighbouring countries in the Middle East ought to be condemned. Deplorable as such acts are, they are not in gross violation of the nuclear agreement that Trump is so keen to jettison.
Iran Leader Rips Trump Speech as ‘Ignorant, Absurd and Hateful’
(NBC) In a scathing 23-minute speech to the chamber, Rouhani did not mention Trump by name, but referred to him on several occasions, citing his threats to tear up the nuclear pact.
“It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” Rouhani said. “The world will have lost a great opportunity, but such unfortunate behavior will never impede Iran’s course of progress.”
Iran Blasts Trump ‘Hate Speech,’ as World Leaders React to President’s First United Nations Address
(Newsweek) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to local and social media to counter Trump’s attack on Tehran and the 2015 nuclear treaty negotiated by President Barack Obama, Iran and other leading powers. Zarif, who was deeply involved in negotiations to establish the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, defended Iran against Trump’s accusations that it funds terrorism and destabilizes the Gulf region—where it supports various groups opposed to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) as well as the U.S. presence.
31 August
Contradicting Trump, U.N. Monitor Says Iran Complies With Nuclear Deal
The world’s nuclear inspectors complicated President Trump’s effort to find Iran in violation of the two-year-old nuclear accord with the United States and five other world powers, declaring on Thursday that the latest inspections found no evidence that the country is breaching the agreement.
Mr. Trump has made no secret of his desire to scrap the agreement, even over the objections of many of his top national security officials. But the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency make it harder to create an argument that Iran is in violation.
The latest declaration by the I.A.E.A. came just a week after Mr. Trump had sent his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, to Vienna to meet with the top agency officials, who are responsible for conducting the inspections and monitoring Iranian compliance.

30 August
Rouhani: Saudis ‘should stop backing terrorists’
Kingdom’s policies in Yemen and Syria described as main hurdles to improving ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
(Al Jazeera) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused the country’s rival Saudi Arabia of backing terrorists in the Yemeni civil war, according to state TV.
Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, where they support rival groups in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
In his address, Rouhani also discussed the 2015 nuclear deal and said that Iran would honour it.
However, he dismissed the idea of inspections at its military sites, reportedly floated by the United States, saying they were not required under the deal with world powers.
“Our commitments to the world are clear … our relations with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) are defined by rules, not by the US,” Rouhani said in the televised address.

3 August
In Iran, Rouhani Begins 2nd Term With Signs He’s Yielding to Hard-Liners
President Hassan Rouhani, endorsed by Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday with a nationally televised cheek-kiss, is starting his second term under newly intense pressure from both hard-line opponents and many of his own reform-minded supporters.
His brother had to be bailed out from prison after a July arrest on corruption charges that some experts see as political payback for the president’s re-election. A key oil deal Mr. Rouhani negotiated with a French company has led to accusations that he is selling the country off to foreign interests. President Trump has just signed into law new sanctions that undermine the signature achievement of Mr. Rouhani’s first term, the nuclear agreement.
Now, as Iran prepares for his second inauguration on Saturday, some of the forces that helped give Mr. Rouhani a 24 million-vote mandate in May are concerned he will not fulfill his promise of appointing women and young politicians to his 18-member cabinet, and instead is running nominations by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

14 July
The Iran Paradox
By Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University
The Islamic Republic of Iran is both a historical relic and a contemporary dynamo. Despite having lost legitimacy in the eyes of most Iranians, the regime has managed to expand its influence beyond its borders – and is close to achieving its goal of regional hegemony.
(Project Syndicate) Of the states that emerged from the twentieth century’s three great revolutions – in Russia in 1917, China in 1949, and Iran in 1979 – the Islamic Republic of Iran alone endures in something close to its original form. Modern-day Iran is thus a historical relic; but it is also a contemporary dynamo. Its revolutionary regime is increasingly sclerotic and beleaguered. And yet, in recent years, it has managed to exert ever-more power and influence beyond its borders.
Two recent books help to explain how this paradox came about. Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed, by Dartmouth College sociologist Misagh Parsa, examines Iran’s domestic political evolution since the revolution. And The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals that Reshaped the Middle East, by Jay Solomon, a former foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, assesses Iran’s foreign policy in the twenty-first century, with an emphasis on its relations with the United States.

30 June
A Turning Point for Iran?
By Christopher R. Hill, former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
(Project Syndicate) … the real news from Trump’s trip is that he has now fully embraced the Sunni Arab world, not least for its opposition to Iran. In his speech at a gathering of Sunni Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Trump delivered a sharp and visceral rebuke of all things Iranian – including, it seems, that country’s recent elections. His remarks were music to the ears of Sunni Arab leaders, who regard Iran as the root of all evil, and the source of the Shia resurgence in Iraq.
While Trump was en route to Saudi Arabia, Iranian voters elected their moderate incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, to a second term, and gave him a mandate to introduce urgently needed reforms. To be sure, Iran’s electoral process is often questioned, and for good reason. The Guardian Council, an unelected body of Islamic jurists, vets every candidate; and the Revolutionary Guard oversees all elections. Still, the spirited campaign between Rouhani and his main opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, suggests that this election was not a sham.
In Rouhani and Raisi, Iranian voters faced a stark choice. Raisi has a well-deserved reputation as a hardline cleric and former prosecutor with anti-Western views. Had he been elected, the future of the Iranian nuclear deal with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany) might have been called into question.
The high voter turnout in the election – more than 75% – suggests that Iranians do not want to turn away from the deal. While most households have not benefited from the slow lifting of international sanctions, and unemployment remains high, they remain willing to trust Rouhani to deliver on his promise to improve ordinary Iranians’ livelihoods.
But it will be up to Iranians themselves to push for the reforms they need. It is clear that neither the Sunni Arab world nor the current US government is betting on – or even rooting for – Rouhani’s success.
Iran’s bitter internal politics suggest that it may be on the brink of change. But the country’s dark legacy, from the hostage crisis in 1979 to its involvement in Syria today, is not one that many US policymakers will readily forgive or forget.
In the end, it is up to Iranians to decide their future. They have taken an important first step by re-electing Rouhani, and they will now have to support him as he pursues difficult domestic and foreign-policy reforms.
Iran has much to make up for in its relations with the rest of the world. But if reforms can be implemented and sustained, and if the nuclear deal can be protected from hardliners, Iran will be able to break free of its past and become a normal member of the international community.

7 June
Iran Assails U.S. and Saudi Arabia After Pair of Deadly Terrorist Attacks
(NYT) Iran’s revolutionary guard lashed out at the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, hours after 12 people were killed and 42 others were wounded in devastating attacks on two of the nation’s most potent symbols: the national Parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The Islamic State immediately said it was behind the attacks, the first time that the Sunni Muslim extremist group has claimed responsibility for an assault in Iran, which is predominately Shiite Muslim. The terrorist group is battling with Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and in Syria, and it views Shiite Muslims as apostates.

23 May
Here’s What Americans Want Trump to Do in the Middle East
Exclusive new survey data finds the U.S. public at odds with much of the president’s strategy.
(Politico) Much of Trump’s rhetorical focus while visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel has been on Iran. While this resonates in these countries, as Iran is perhaps their top strategic priority, the U.S. public does not rank Iran as high in its priorities. This of course could change if Trump makes Iran a focus. But for now, Americans may be receiving contradictory signals: They rank ISIS as a higher priority than Iran, and, in Syria, Iran is the enemy of ISIS; Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel rank Iran as a higher priority than even ISIS—a message Trump seemed to embrace in his Middle East speeches.

22 May
Trump tells Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons
(BBC) Speaking in Jerusalem, he said Iran had negotiated a “fantastic deal” with his predecessor, Barack Obama, winning “a lifeline and prosperity”.
But “instead of saying thank you”, the Iranians were backing terrorism, he said. In a speech earlier on Monday, he accused Iran of “deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias”.

Trump’s anti-Iran aggression couldn’t come at a worse time
(CNN) At first glance, it appears that there are only two clear paths that the US can take when dealing with the Middle East: the Sunni path of Saudi Arabia and the bulk of its Gulf allies, on the one hand; or the Shiite path represented by Iran.
There is the path of dictators — like Egypt’s autocratic Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the blinkered and aging royal family of Saudi Arabia, and the corrupt and helpless rulers of Iraq — all Sunnis.
By contrast, there is the young and desperately eager majority of Iranians, all Shiites, seeking to drag their nation out from under the yoke of a medieval clerical oppression. (emphasis added)
The correct, if difficult, third path for America is to straddle between Sunni and Shiite. But going on the evidence of Trump’s first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel — both firm enemies of Iran and critical of the Obama administration’s perceived warmth towards Iran — this is a path that the President seems determined to ignore.
Such a path is especially important since the landslide victory Friday of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in his bid for a second term, and the suggestion that Iran’s Shiite leadership may be preparing for a new and more enlightened future for its people.
Of course, while that new road can be paved with good intentions, we know where such paths can lead. Still, it is of vital importance that we give these youths a chance to explore it.
Rouhani dismisses Trump warning over Iran ‘threat’

20 May
Diplomatic dilemma: DJT is in Saudi Arabia; will he tweet or phone congratulations from there?
Rouhani Wins Re-election in Iran by a Wide Margin
(NYT) Riding a large turnout from Iran’s urban middle classes, President Hassan Rouhani won re-election in a landslide on Saturday, giving him a mandate to continue his quest to expand personal freedoms and open Iran’s ailing economy to global investors.
Perhaps as important, analysts say, the resounding victory should enable him to strengthen the position of the moderate and reformist faction as the country prepares for the end of the rule of the 78-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Of the 41 million votes cast, the Interior Ministry said, Mr. Rouhani won 23 million (or 57 percent), soundly defeating his chief opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, who received 15.7 million (38.5 percent). Iranian state television congratulated Mr. Rouhani on his victory.
Turnout was heavy, with more than 70 percent of Iran’s 56 million voters casting ballots.
Despite the healthy margin of victory, Mr. Rouhani, 68, will face considerable headwinds, both at home and abroad, as he embarks on his second term. He badly needs to demonstrate progress on overhauling the moribund economy.

Robert Fisk: Rouhani’s victory is good news for Iran, but bad news for Trump and his Sunni allies
The Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranian has won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold
So it’s a good win for the Iranian regime – and its enormous population of young people – and a bad win for Trump’s regime, which would far rather have had an ex-judicial killer as Iranian president so that Americans would find it easy to hate him. Maybe Hassan Rouhani’s final-week assault on his grim rival candidate and his supporters – “those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonment over the past 38 years” – paid off. Who among Iran’s under 25s, more than 40 per cent of the population, would have wanted to vote for Ebrahim Raisi whose hands had touched the execution certificates of up to 8,000 political prisoners in 1988?
So the man who signed Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States, who struggled (often vainly, it has to be said) to reap the economic rewards of this nuclear bomb “truce” with the West, who believed in a civil society not unlike that of former president Mohamed Khatami – who supported him in the election – won with 57 per cent of the vote, backed by 23½ million of the 41 million who cast their ballot. The corrupt and censorious old men of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the bazaaris and the rural poor – the cannon fodder of the Iran-Iraq war as they often are in elections – have been told they no longer belong to the future.

$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner’s Personal Touch
After a strained relationship with Mr. Obama, Saudi officials have expressed delight at Mr. Trump’s tough rhetoric on Iran. This White House is viewed as more sympathetic to the military campaign that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are carrying out against the Houthis, Iranian-backed rebels who are waging an insurgency in neighboring Yemen.

Rouhani Could Lose Iran Presidency: Seven Charts Illustrate Why
(Bloomberg) Rouhani’s supporters are worried about voters staying home on election day. The president is a pragmatic regime stalwart, and a victory will hinge on persuading enough Iranian liberals, known as reformists, to back him. That’s something the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, another pragmatic regime veteran, failed to manage in 2005, when low turnout handed the election to populist conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformists came out for Rouhani in 2013, as did many rural voters looking for economic improvement. But will they again?

11 May
At Rouhani Rally, Daring Slogans and Reminders of Iran’s Political Ghosts
(NYT) As supporters of Iran’s president awaited his arrival to fire them up for his May 19 re-election bid, the thoughts of many were with two other men under house arrest for years.
“Moussavi, Karroubi must be released!” the crowd of thousands thundered over and over, a reference to the country’s most prominent opposition leaders.
Hands raised, they drowned out a warm-up speaker at the campaign event for the president, Hassan Rouhani. Many wore green wristbands, a political symbol that, not too long ago, could get someone arrested in Iran.

A Vision of Trump at War
(Foreign Affairs May/June) … Iran dismissed the administration’s tough talk. It continued to test its missiles, insisting that neither the nuclear deal nor UN Security Council resolutions prohibited it from doing so. Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, even taunted Trump for his controversial immigration and travel ban, thanking him on Twitter for revealing the “true face” of the United States. Tehran also continued its policy of shipping arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and providing military assistance to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, neither of which proved particularly costly to the Iranian treasury. U.S. efforts to get Russia to limit Iran’s role in Syria were ignored, adding to the White House’s frustration.
To the surprise of many, growing U.S. pressure on Iran did not immediately lead to the collapse of the nuclear deal. As soon as he took office, Trump ended the Obama administration’s practice of encouraging banks and international companies to ensure that Iran benefited economically from the deal. And he expressed support for congressional plans to sanction additional Iranian entities for terrorism or human rights violations, as top officials insisted was permitted by the nuclear deal. Iran complained that these “backdoor” sanctions would violate the agreement yet took no action. By March 2017, U.S. officials were concluding internally—and some of the administration’s supporters began to gloat—that Trump’s tougher approach was succeeding.

1 February
Trump administration ‘officially putting Iran on notice’, says Michael Flynn
National security adviser issues statement in response to recent Iranian actions as expert warns the White House ‘could stumble into war’
(The Guardian) The Pentagon was informed before the announcement and the defense secretary, James Mattis, prevailed upon Flynn to soften his language about Iran from an earlier version. At the time of the Flynn’s statement, Mattis was en route to Asia for an official visit to Japan and South Korea.
Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the International Crisis Group in Washington, said: “It’s either an empty threat or a clear statement of intent to go to war with Iran. Both are reckless and dangerous … In an attempt to look strong, the administration could stumble into a war that would make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

10 January
Iranians bid farewell to moderate leader Rafsanjani
(Gulf Times) Hundreds of thousands of mourners yesterday attended the funeral of Iran’s ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose death leaves a hole in the upper reaches of power for the country’s moderates.
His death is a blow for President Hassan Rouhani, whose 2013 election was largely due to Rafsanjani’s support.
Rouhani, who spearheaded the thaw with the West that culminated in a 2015 nuclear deal, faces a tough re-election battle in May amid disappointment over the smaller than anticipated economic dividends of the lifting of international sanctions.
9 January
ayatollah-rajsanjani

Death of Iran’s Rafsanjani Removes Influential Voice Against Hard-liners

(NYT) With the death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday, Iran’s political factions knew immediately that any space by reformers to maneuver had just significantly decreased.
Change had come, and it did not favor those seeking to turn Iran into a less revolutionary country with more tolerance and outreach to the West — especially the United States.
Mr. Rafsanjani, a former president who helped found the Islamic republic, had been the one man too large to be sidelined by conservative hard-liners. Now he was suddenly gone, dead from what state media described as cardiac arrest — and with no one influential enough to fill his shoes.
Iran’s long-marginalized reformists and moderates, who would use Mr. Rafsanjani’s regular calls for more personal freedoms and requests to establish better relations with the United States to advance their political agendas, suddenly felt exposed and weakened.
(The Atlantic) A Leader Remembered: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, died on Sunday at the age of 82, leaving behind a deep impact on Iranian politics. Rafsanjani began his career as a revolutionary, allied with the movement that established the Islamic Republic in 1979. Later on, against the more extreme conservatism of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—a rival he’d formerly placed in power—Rafsanjani became known as a more moderate figure of the establishment, though he was tainted by rumors of corruption and by a failure to curb repressive policies.

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