IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

There’s not much good news to share in Iran as Nowruz, the Iranian new year, approaches. The economic situation that played a role in nationwide protests during December 2017 and January 2018 is still difficult as millions of Iranians struggle to live a decent life. Inflation and perceptions of widespread corruption further fuel popular frustration, prompting dozens of labor groups—including truck drivers, steel workers, and teachers—to lead protests againstthe Iranian government’s economic policies over the past year.

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As far as photographs go, it’s a rather inartful moment. Three aging men dressed in dark clothes sit in a spartan room with small glasses of heavily-brewed tea and a tissue box resting before them, as they engage in conversation.  

But to Iranians and Iran-watchers the March 13 meeting marked a historical moment. The image of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani seated with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif graced the front pages of almost every Iranian newspaper the next day.

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Iran’s 1989 amended constitution states that “in order to fulfill the responsibilities of the judiciary power in all the matters concerning judiciary, administrative and executive areas, the [Supreme] Leader shall appoint a just, honorable man well versed in judiciary affairs and possessing prudence and administrative abilities as the head of the judiciary power for a period of five years who shall be the highest judicial authority.” 

Based on this authority, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointed Ebrahim Raisi as the new chief justice on March 7. 

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Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah once dubbed dividing his group into distinct political and military wings an “English innovation.” Yet, last week, the United Kingdom decided to end this mainstay of British policy. Shortly after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a total ban on Hezbollah, Parliament amended the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 to proscribe the group “in its entirety.” London’s acknowledgment of Hezbollah’s unity aligns British law and policy with the United States. In doing so, the UK is signaling a partial departure from Europe’s approach to the group’s patron, Iran, but more importantly, a third way between American confrontation and European conciliation.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s much-publicized resignation was largely attributed to the existence of parallel power structures in Iran that adversely affect many areas of policymaking and governance, including foreign policy.

One policy issue that has caused a great deal of controversy among Iran’s ruling elite is whether to implement requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering, terrorism financing and transnational organized crime.

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The resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came as a shock, and not just due to the delivery system. He made the announcement on an Instagram post addressed to his followers instead of official channels. 

The timing was suspect as well. Zarif decided to leave office just as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a completely unexpected visit to Tehran which was quite unbeknownst to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to sources in Tehran. To reporters who asked him about the news, Zarif responded, “After the pictures of today meetings, Javad Zarif has no more credibility in the world as the foreign minister.” 

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For years, the Pakistani government has avoided taking sides between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, but now it may be forced to choose. Pakistan is in dire need of financial support and the Saudis have the means to help. Will Pakistan accept the strings attached to Saudi generosity?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has viewed Asia as part of “Saudi Arabia’s visionfor the future.” His trip across Asia this month had a short-term goal as well: repairing a public image badly damaged by the Yemen war and the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

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From its early days, the Trump administration has sought to isolate and weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran, using Iran’s missile and space launch programs as a key justification. 

In addition to withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, expanding extensive trade sanctions, and severely restricting travel to the US by Iranians, the Trump White House “has also accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets,” according to a recent report in The New York Times

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When US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last May, his main argument to justify the move was that the agreement had been one-sided, providing Iran with large amounts of money to finance its “destabilizing policies” throughout the Middle East. 

This argument has become one of the main rationales behind Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran. By re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran, the Trump administration aims to push the Islamic Republic to decrease its regional activities by severely cutting its financial resources, especially oil revenues. 

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The World Cup was over, Germany winning its first world title since 1990. Looking for something else to occupy my attention, this sports-obsessed Iranian American spotted an article in The Washington Post by Jason Rezaian about baseball in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a child of an Iranian immigrant growing up in rural Kentucky, American sports were a rite of passage. Even though soccer would eventually become my passion, I quickly fell in love with America’s triumvirate of sporting traditions: baseball, basketball and football.

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