IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

In the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar, a large sign outside the Sayyida Zaynab shrine boasts of how an Iran-backed paramilitary group returned it from the rubble. 

“With God’s blessing: the engineering and construction personnel from Brigade 40—the Imam Ali Brigades—have undertaken the reconstruction of Sayyida Zaynab the Younger’s shrine in Nineweh Governorate, Sinjar district, after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the enemies of religion and doctrine, destroyed it” reads the green sign, emblazoned with the brigade’s logo.

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Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has seen his domestic political stature fall as the 2015 nuclear deal becomes increasingly dysfunctional.

According to the latest official reports, overall prices have increased by 48 percent compared to this time a year ago and food items have become 72 percent more expensive. A recently announced survey, conducted by the Iranian Student Polling Agency, found that Iranians’ degree of satisfaction in their lives is 3.6—on a scale in which zero equals total dissatisfaction and ten total happiness—down from 6.3 in 2018. 

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The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and full re-imposition of sanctions against Iran have fueled the nationalist and anti-imperialist ideology that has become central to the mission of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). 

At least since fraud-marred 2009 presidential election protests in Iran, the IRGC has been aware that religious ideology can no longer rally nation-wide support among young Iranians. An IRGC captain and media producer admitted: “The youngest generation in our country doesn’t understand our religious language anymore.” The Revolutionary Guards responded by focusing its propaganda efforts on nationalism, as socio-cultural anthropologist Narges Bajoghli has argued.

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A long-awaited bill that would allow the children of Iranian women married to foreign spouses to obtain citizenship for the first time hangs in the balance. Iran’s elected executive and legislative branches have advanced this bill, which would change the lives of thousands of Iranians. But its potential protections have been eroded by appointed bodies, revealing the increasingly steep path for reforms via legislative action in Iran. 

Iran’s Civil Code provides that children and spouses of Iranian men are granted nationality automatically, but Iranian women married to a foreign spouse cannot pass their nationality to their husband and children.

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On July 31, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced Germany’s refusal to join a US-led military mission to safeguard the international shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian aggression and criticized what he called America’s “maximum tension”approach.

US-Iran tensions have been rising since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and especially since it imposed a complete embargo on the export of Iranian oil a year later. In July, President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory strike on Iranian soil after a spate of Iranian acts, including the shoot-down of a $130 million US surveillance drone. 

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In early June, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a law deciding that blood money—compensation paid to relatives for the death or injury of a family member—would be equal between men and women and no longer would a woman’s compensation be worth half of a man's. According to this law, a fund for physical damages will make up the difference in all incidents, not just those involving car accidents. 

The law was structured so as not to contradict Sharia law, which is the basis of the distinction between men and women, but it does effectively circumvent Sharia. Under Sharia law, a woman’s dieh or blood money is declared to be half of that of a man’s. Mandating the fund to provide the other half is a positive step toward equality for women’s rights in Iran and ending discrimination based on gender. 

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Running out of targets for sanctions, the Trump administration has now put Iran’s chief diplomat on its list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.

The stated reason for this is that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was educated in the US and spent much of his life representing Iran at the United Nations, is too good at his job.

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Up until recently, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was an organization relatively unknown to the American public. However, with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran threatening to boil over into actual military confrontation, and the IRGC’s announcements of downing an American drone and seizing oil tankers, the increasing references to this group in the mainstream news and on social media may soon make it a household name. 

But what is the IRGC? While currently there is an intense focus on the Guards’ military actions on behalf of Iranian state interests in the Persian Gulf and its extraterritorial reach in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, the IRGC is an entity that goes far beyond a military force. 

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On its thirteen anniversary, UN Security Council Resolution 1701—intended to degrade and disarm the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah—is no closer to fulfilment than on the day it was passed. 

To the contrary, Hezbollah is now stronger, while the Lebanese government—the party primarily responsible for implementing 1701—continues to passively permit the group’s military build-up. Beirut’s dereliction is not solely a result of intransigence. Rather, Lebanese sectarianism, and Hezbollah’s political alliances and entrenchment among Shias make 1701 inherently unworkable. Instead of admitting this, the international community and the parties most concerned—namely Lebanon and Israel—continue fostering the illusion of 1701’s efficacy. Rather than making war less likely, this guarantees its inevitability. 

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All US secondary sanctions on Iran’s core economic sectors were re-imposed by the Trump administration in November 2018 as a direct consequence of its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

The administration justified its withdrawal from the accord partly on the assertion that the lifting of sanctions required by the 2015 nuclear agreement was enhancing Iran’s ability to exert influence in the region. Leaving the deal and re-imposing sanctions would, according to President Donald Trump and other officials, apply “maximum pressure” on Iran—denying it the revenue to fund, arm, and train a wide network of regional allies and proxies, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, militant groups in Bahrain, and factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

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