IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

The Trump administration on April 8 designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization—the first time a country’s military has received such a status.

US President Donald Trump said in a statement that the designation “sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences.” The statement added that the Trump administration “will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior.”

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Soheila has a monthly routine. At the beginning of each month, she opens the Asan Pardakht app on her iPhone to make gas, phone, and water payments. But on this day, the bill paying application gives her the notification: “Unable to verify app.” Soheila is stuck with unpaid bills. Her only solution is to wait for the next morning to drive to her bank and make individual bank transfers for each of the bills—with a service charge she could have avoided through the app. 

This extra cost and additional errand to run seems like an implausible inconvenience in 2019, when she seemingly has access to all the devices and internet connections—including circumvention tools—that technology has to offer. Suddenly the expensive iPhone 6s Soheila’s son bought her from abroad two birthdays ago seems to have lost all its shine. The Apple notification and the Telegram messages Soheila receives from friends, who have discovered other inaccessible applications, are making it clear that Iranian applications are receiving the boot on iOS devices. 

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Two of Beijing’s close allies, Iran and Pakistan, have been increasingly impacted by China’s growing appetite for fish, both for domestic consumption and to supply its processed fish industry. Stricter regulations in Pakistan and an internal political fight in Iran could make it harder for China to expand its fishing industry into their waters.

Friction between Iranian political factions, chiefly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and President Hassan Rouhani’s government, is on the rise over the growing presence of Chinese fishing vessels in Iranian waters. Growing dissatisfaction by local fishermen over Chinese industrial-style fishing is contributing to the dispute. In Pakistan, meanwhile, new policies and regulations may impact seafood exports to China. 

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Those of us who use social media as a means of procrastination are familiar with the “Which… Are You?” tests. These quizzes are obviously not exact. This author was classified as a Hufflepuff when she obviously should have been a Ravenclaw, while Ringo Starr took the “Which Beatle Are You?” test and got John Lennon. 

It seems that the currently trending quiz is “Which Biblical Iranian Character Is Donald Trump?” In late March, while the Jewish people celebrated Purim, the Feast of Lots—which commemorates events described in the Biblical Book of Esther—US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel, and the media feasted with the headlines such as: “Mike Pompeo said it’s possible that Trump is the modern-day Esther,” “Holy Moses. Mike Pompeo thinks Trump is Queen Esther,” and “Mike Pompeo says it’s ‘possible’ Trump was sent to save the Jewish people from Iran.”

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While US-reimposed sanctions have severely damaged the Iranian economy, one sector is still thriving: emerging technologies. 

The latest success story is the Artificial Intelligence-powered navigation app BALAD which hit a record 1.2 million downloads within a few days of its launch in March.

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Before he was Iran’s Supreme Leader, then-President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited North Korea in 1989—a trip that included a ride on the Pyongyang subway and a motorcade ride past throngs of cheering North Koreans. It was intended to send a strong message: North Korea and Iran, driven by mutual enmity toward the United States, were becoming close friends.

“Among the reasons why Iran is close to Korea is the USA’s enmity toward both our countries,” Khamenei said. “If big countries threaten progressive countries, then progressive countries should threaten them in turn... You have proved in Korea that you have the power to confront America.”

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Iranian authorities barred international journalists from covering the disastrous floods that have stricken most of the country’s provinces and caused death and mayhem during the normally festive two-week Nowruz holidays that follow the Iranian new year. Not even the smattering of foreign journalists still huddled precariously in Tehran were granted permission to head to Golestan and Mazandaran provinces or even Shiraz to speak with victims, rescue workers, and good Samaritans—something reporters do during natural disasters all over the world, including recent floods in Nebraska and Mozambique.

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The Iranian new year, Nowruz, is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration when Iranians visit family and go on vacation in other provinces. But for many this year, it was a time of sorrow and loss. Heavy rains, first welcomed in the drought-stricken country, turned into catastrophic floods. Twenty-eight of Iran’s thirty-one provinces were underwater during the two-week holiday.

So far, 43 people have reportedly died in flashfloods and tens of thousands have been displaced. The historic city of Shiraz in Fars Province was the hardest hit, with 19 dead.

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In the wake of record floods in Iran that have killed more than two dozen people, new attention has focused on the environmental challenges facing the Middle East.

The issues facing the region are complex and reflect a number of factors, according to experts who spoke on March 27 at the Atlantic Council. Among them are climate change, water scarcity, mismanagement, and poor governance. These challenges have become politicized in both the region and in the United States, and have undermined international cooperation to address them.

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On March 13, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed a young cleric, Habibollah ShabanI Mowathaqi, as the Friday Prayer leader of Hamadan, west-central Iran. Mowathaqi, 41, replaces prominent Ayatollah Ghiyath al-Din Taha Muhammadi, who is 73. 

The change was the latest in a series that started about two years ago. The most important so far has been the appointment of Muhammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari as the Friday imam of Tehran in December 2018. Haj Ali Akbari had been chosen as the chief of the “Imams of Friday Prayer Policy Council” a year earlier. The organization is an umbrella body that manages Friday prayers in Iran and nominates prayer leaders to the Supreme Leader, who makes the appointments. Under the auspices of this body, 273 Friday Prayer imams have been replaced over the past two years. Most of the new prayer leaders are young clerics and often pupils of Khamenei, rather than independent traditional clerics of the Qom Seminary.

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