IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

With four new ministers in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet to help salvage the Iranian economy, it’s too soon to see the genuine impact just yet. But what is evident is that the new economic measures, if any, should focus on improving the ease of doing business in the wake of reimposed US sanctions.

Having that been said, the industry sector appears to bear the highest potential for raising economic output compared to other sectors following a downward trajectory.

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While ordinary Iranians struggle to find imported medicine and buy basic foods due to re-imposed sanctions, the political debate inside the Islamic Republic is anything but static.

As announced, the new wave of US secondary sanctions came into force on November 5. This came after unsuccessful efforts by Europe to dissuade President Donald Trump from unilaterally quitting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and despite efforts to persuade European countries to retain their trade with Iran through a so-called blocking statute and a Special Purpose Vehicle.

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The Trump administration has put into place a punishing new wave of sanctions against Iran that targets critical components of the Iranian economy from banks to energy, shipping and insurance.

From the start of his administration, President Donald Trump has insisted that he can coerce Iran into reaching a “better deal” than the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that would also address Tehran’s military intervention and support of proxies in the Arab world as well as its ballistic missile program. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone further, issuing a dozen demands that resemble an ultimatum calling for capitulation rather than preconditions for negotiations. This much is clear: The Trump administration has decided to wage economic war on Iran to try to bring it to heel.

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The Trump Administration’s second wave of sanctions against Iran went into effect earlier this month, directed against Iran’s vital oil and petrochemical sector, its Central Bank, and other financial institutions. However, Washington’s diplomatic isolation as a result of its unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its desire to mitigate oil prices softened some of the intended negative impact on Iran, which is already employing a variety of coping mechanisms.

The Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative detailed these mechanisms in a new issue brief, How Iran Will Cope with US Sanctions, co-authored by Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center, and Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative. The report highlights a number of ways Iran has used in the past to circumvent previous sanctions and is using again. Among them are relying on neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey, putting oil on tankers that mask their national identity, creating front companies and using barter trade. Iran is also looking forward to the European Union (EU) creating a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to facilitate commerce with the EU and other nations.

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“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said on September 24. Similar rhetoric was followed by James Jeffery, the State Department’s special representative for Syria, on September 30. Then on October 27, Brett McGurk, US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), announced that all Iranian militias must leave Syria. 

These announcements are part of a “maximum pressure” strategy laid out by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But these demands leave policymakers with three questions: what counts as an Iranian militia; how do we force these militias out of Syria and what happens next; and what are the likely consequences of such a venture.

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On November 5th, Ahmad Amirabadi, a member of the Iranian parliamentary board of directors, posted an exasperated tweet: “Almost all the individuals and entities that were active in bypassing the previous [US] sanctions [during the Obama administration] are included [in the new list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons]. The question is, how this information has fallen in enemy’s hands. The security forces should investigate.”

According to the US Treasury Department, “over 700 [new] persons [and entities] have been designated or identified and added” to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.

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In a country where football was traditionally seen as a man’s sport, I was a passionate football fan. For Iranians, it was considered not just strange but taboo that a young Iranian girl be into football the way I was while growing up.

It hurt whenever people mocked me, “Girls know nothing about football, they just love footballers.” But nothing could stop me and many other Iranian girls from following sports in the newspapers and football matches on television.

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Thirty-five years ago, Iran-sponsored terrorists drove a truck laden with explosives into the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. service members — 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers — and injuring many others, some severely. It was the single deadliest day for the Marines since World War II. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut had been victimized six months earlier by a terrorist bombing that left 63 people dead, including 17 Americans, among them several U.S. soldiers and a U.S. Marine.  

At the time of the October 1983 attack, I served as the Marine Corps Senate liaison in the Russell Senate Office Building. The tragedy began several weeks of intense work to try to understand what had happened, and to respond to the deep concerns of senators, their staffs and the public at large regarding the welfare of the Marines and their families. The country’s pain, which intensified as the magnitude of the losses became clear, remains undiminished to this day.

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As a new round of crushing US sanctions against Iran goes into effect and the Iranian people’s frustration with their country’s economic and political situation grows, various foreign-based groups calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic have ratcheted up their rhetoric and activities. At the center of credible opposition forces in exile sits Reza Pahlavi, the last heir apparent to the throne of the Iranian monarchy.

Since his forced exile began in the United States following the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted his father, the well-spoken 58-year-old Pahlavi has consistently used his profile to oppose the policies and actions of the Islamic Republic. Though his message has evolved through the years, Pahlavi has most notably been calling for a referendum through which the Iranian people could decide their form of government within a secular democratic context.

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A recent abduction of border security forces along the Iran-Pakistan border in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province is testing Iran-Pakistan relations.

Iran has suggested that Saudi Arabia was behind the abduction, which it believes was aimed at sabotaging its relationship with Islamabad. Pakistan needs Saudi money more than ever as it struggles economically. So just how resilient are Iran-Pakistan ties?

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