IranInsight|Showcasing a Multifaceted Iran

A single word “baba,” dad, appeared on an Instagram post by Iranian punk rocker King Raam taken at his father’s funeral. 

Kavous Seyed-Emami, a prominent Canadian-Iranian environmentalist and academic, was quickly buried without an independent autopsy due to pressure by authorities, according to his family. Officials said Seyed-Emami had committed suicide in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison on February 9, seventeen days after his arrest. 

He was not the first to die under suspicious circumstances in prison during recent weeks. Two protesters—Vahid Heidari and Sina Ghonbadi—who participated in the nationwide unrest last month were also said to have committed suicide in prison. Their deaths sparked public outrage.

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The Trump administration has been ratcheting up pressure on its European allies to agree to unspecified new measures against Iran’s ballistic missile program as the price for conserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The US, referring to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified the 2015 nuclear deal, has repeatedly called on Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles and dramatized what it says is evidence of the transfer of Iranian rockets to Yemen in violation of the resolution. Iran has rebuffed the US demands, arguing that its missile program is for defensive purposes and noting that the UN resolution is not binding with regard to testing. European countries have been consulting with both the US and Iran but remain unsure what the Trump administration wants and are fearful of being asked to make continual new demands on Iran to preserve the JCPOA.

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The development of the strategic Chabahar port is becoming a success story in the Iran-India relationship.

The Iranian port on the Gulf of Oman is a key project for the two countries. Originally agreed to in 2003 during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami and the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the project was suspended during the George W. Bush and early Barack Obama administrations due to US sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

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The December 2017 uprising in Iran was the most significant nationwide unrest seen in that country since 2009. But in many ways it was different from the so-called Green Movement.

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The protests that spread across Iran in late December and early January turned a lot of people into Iran “experts.”

Iranian expatriates ranging from physiotherapists to rocket scientists offered analyses on Twitter, alongside non-Iranians with an interest in the political dynamics of the country. A majority asserted that the protests were the precursors to the final days of the Islamic Republic. Now, that the dust has settled, it is perhaps easier to gauge what happened and what should come next.

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The fate of the Iran nuclear agreement may rest on whether European governments are able to reach a side agreement with the Trump administration on issues that go beyond the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran’s increasingly sophisticated ballistic arsenal has become a major concern for its neighbors and the United States. The Trump Administration sees the missile program as a regional and global threat that was not adequately addressed by the JCPOA and has set up a working group with Britain, France and Germany to deal with missiles and other issues not covered by the nuclear deal.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last week entered its third year of implementation under a cloud of uncertainty from Washington. As President Trump threatens to withdraw from the deal absent major changes, Tehran increasingly views China as a reliable partner and model for economic development.

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President Trump has agreed to waive nuclear-related sanctions against Iran again but has threatened to pull the plug in a few months if European countries don’t agree to renegotiate the landmark agreement.

The decision to continue to waive sanctions, announced today, preserves the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until the next deadline a few months from now but perhaps not much longer. A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters “this is the last such waiver.” The US will work with Europe, he said, on a follow-on agreement that would renegotiate the terms of the accord so that its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would never expire.

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The latest protests that shook Iran seemingly came out of nowhere. What surprised many is that the some 40,000 protesters didn’t come from the perennially disgruntled middle class but were Iranians who hadn’t taken to the streets en masse since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They had—and have—very real grievances about the economy, rampant corruption and with the nature of the Islamic Republic itself.

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Much of the Middle East’s current dysfunction and bloodshed can be attributed to rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen into smithereens to defeat Iran-backed Houthis, for example.

But another more peaceful kind of competition could benefit both societies and have wider implications for the Muslim world at large.

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