IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

A priority for those in Iran seeking re-integration into the international economy has been banking reforms that conform to globally accepted standards.

But hardline factions oppose the reforms as surrender to US-led financial institutions and their views have been reinforced by the US decision to unilaterally leave the Iran nuclear deal.

On June 10, the parliament postponed for at least two months approval of key legislation establishing safeguards against financing terrorism and money laundering required for Iran to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based international financial watchdog institution. This decision could have a negative impact at the next FATF plenary June 24-29 where members will decide whether to keep Iran on a “gray list” of transgressors or put it back on a “black list” with North Korea.

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Until recently, few observers inside or outside Iran gave much weight to the notion of a comeback for discredited former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The disqualification of Ahmadinejad and his former top aide, Esfandiyar Rahim Mashaei, for the presidency in 2017, followed by the arrests of Mashaei and former vice president Hamid Baghaei on charges of corruption and misuse of public funds, seemed to signal the complete defeat of Ahmadinejad’s  “deviant current” (Jaryan-e enhefari), the label that conservative factions had given to his group.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on June 25, 2012.
On June 1, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya told the press that he “believes” that his country and Israel reached an agreement regarding “certain disengagement in the southwest of Syria.” Other sources reported that the agreement will include the withdrawal of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces from the Syrian-Israeli border in return for implicit Israeli acceptance of the Syrian forces’ redeployment there. More speculative reports even suggested that Russia promised to look the other way during future Israeli attacks in Syria, as long as Jerusalem commits not to target Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The Russian ambassador’s statement was the only formal recognition that such an agreement was reached. All other Russian and Israeli officials refused to confirm that such a deal was secured. Indeed, on June 2, a “senior Israeli diplomatic source” denied that an agreement was reached, and so did the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Mualem. The reports came amid intensive Israeli-Russian diplomatic interactions. 

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his first speech in his new position on May 21, 2018, to send a message to the Iranian leadership and people.

Pompeo laid out twelve demands including ending Iran’s ballistic missiles development, halting support for Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian groups including Hamas, allowing nuclear inspectors "unqualified access to all sites throughout the country,” shutting down Iran’s uranium enrichment program, ending involvement in Syria and Iraq and disarming Shi’ite militias.

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As the Syrian government increasingly consolidates control over its territory after seven years of civil strife, cracks are widening between its key external supporters, Iran and Russia.

The issue of Syria’s future has generated a heated debate among political elites in Tehran and in Farsi media over Iran’s continued military presence and how it can leverage its expenditure of blood and treasure to preserve its strategic and economic interests.

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When Iran reached a landmark nuclear agreement with the international community in 2015, Iranian youth were especially happy.

After struggling with sanctions and isolation for many years, young people hoped their country was entering a new chapter in which it would be seen as a constructive actor on the international stage. They were proud of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a seasoned diplomat and negotiator, and believed that economic growth would return and that their society would become more politically open.

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A female truck driver in a burgundy headscarf stood on the side of a highway to Mashhad, explaining in a video sent to Voice of America Persian that she was joining a truck driver strike. It wasn’t long before the video and others like it caught the attention of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). ITF posted a statement on its Twitter account saying it stood in solidarity “with the truck drivers across Iran who are on strike calling for better pay, lower fees, basic workers’ rights, and safer roads.”

Social media has played an important role in spreading images and footage of the striking drivers as they parked their trucks in port cities and the Esfahan and Kermanshah provinces. Since the truck drivers’ strike commenced on May 22, drivers have heavily relied on social media platforms accessed through circumvention tools to get the word out, including the now-banned messaging app Telegram. Thanks to coverage of the strike, which reportedly now includes gasoline tanker and taxi drivers in some cities, the Teamsters—the largest labor union in the world—also threw their support behind the strikers.

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Following the lifting of international sanctions in January 2016, there was a great deal of optimism for Iran’s oil economy. Even though the global oil industry was a year into a price collapse, many companies were eager to explore investment opportunities in Iran’s neglected oil and gas assets. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Iran’s oil ministry were also enthusiastic about revitalizing Iran’s oil and gas fields and bringing new discoveries online with the help of foreign investment and expertise. 

However, in the nearly two and half years between the end of international sanctions and President Trump’s May 2018 decision to reinstate US sanctions, Iran accomplished very little in terms of revitalizing its oil industry. In the early months that followed the lifting of sanctions, Iran’s oil industry appeared to make a strong return to the global market. Although Iran’s initial production and export numbers seemed to paint a picture of a vigorous and recovering oil industry, the facts behind the numbers tell a different story.

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In negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Barack Obama administration had goals beyond non-proliferation. It was seeking to “pivot” to Asia and to reduce US military involvement in the Persian Gulf that dates back to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

This goal, which was ennunciated before Obama took office in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, reflected US concern about a rising China, the huge costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars, as well as a desire to benefit from more interaction with the fastest growing economies in the world.

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Since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear agreement on May 8, political debates in Tehran over leaving or remaining a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have become increasingly tense.

The twelve steep demands outlined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 as supposed ingredients for a “better” deal have further fueled what is shaping up as a revival of the power struggle within Iran’s complex and opaque political structure.

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