IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran


In her issue brief for the Atlantic Council, “Iran’s Sunnis Resist Extremism, but for How Long?” Scheherezade Faramarzi discusses the current situation of Sunnis in Iran. While Faramarzi’s work is valuable given her fieldwork in Iran, in the view of this author, her piece contains errors and misleading information.

I agree with Faramazi that the Islamic Republic of Iran has failed to properly integrate its Sunni population into the political system by depriving them of higher political positions such as cabinet ministries. However, I disagree with her presentation about the number of Sunnis in Iran, where they are concentrated and their socio-economic status in comparison to the majority Shia population.

According to Faramazi, “Some fifteen million of Iran’s eighty million people are Sunni Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.” She suggests that according to Sunni leaders and observers, Iran’s Sunni population is somewhere between “12 to 25 percent” of the total population. My research suggests that the percentage is ten percent or about eight million people.

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As French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Washington, a top priority will be convincing his American counterpart to stay within the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran.

But judging from this analyst’s conversations with Iranian diplomats in Europe and New York over the past week, Macron and his colleagues in Germany and Britain may have an equally crucial task persuading Iran to remain within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if US President Donald J. Trump fails to reissue waivers of US sanctions on the next deadline, May 12.

Despite all the attention paid to the US-Iran aspect of the nuclear issue, Iran’s main expectation upon signing the JCPOA was that it would be able to restore and increase economic relations with Europe, traditionally Iran’s major trading partner.

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In January I wrote a piece for this blog after widespread protests in Iran and outlined actions that should be taken by the government to enhance the lives of Iranians. In that piece I talked about the water crisis in Iran very briefly and was told by a reader on Twitter that the water section needed more attention. This piece is my response.

Iran has been facing a crisis regarding water for many years and it’s far more existential than the nuclear program or the fate of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Almost every day in Iran, there are protests by farmers regarding water shortages and the diversion of this precious resource from one area to the other. The effects of a warming climate and lower precipitation over the years have exacerabated the problem but it cannot be fully blamed on meager or inconsistent rainfall. The human factor – especially mismanagement -- is the strongest cause for what Iran is facing now.

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It’s evident that President Donald Trump cares a great deal about himself. He’s sensitive to how the world views him and is quick to lash out or “counter-punch” against anyone who criticizes him. Out of this comes a desire for respect. Those who make historic achievements, his thinking goes, are respected. This motivates the US president to make some unconventional decisions.

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As a May 12 deadline for the US to renew sanctions waivers on Iran approaches, there are a number of possible scenarios for the nuclear deal’s survival or demise.

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In his article published February 12, 2018, “Iran’s Uncertain Future,” Alireza Nader, an Iran expert who spent nearly 10 years working as a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation, raises serious questions about the stability of the Islamic Republic of Iran and offers a set of likely future political scenarios for the country.

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On March 20th, at the time of the Spring Equinox and Iranian New Year celebrations, President Trump wished Iranians “a beautiful and blessed Nowruz.”

The US president has repeatedly cast himself as being on the Iranian people’s side, including amid widespread anti-government protests that took place in Iran in late December and January, and in a message to Iranians last October.

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President Trump has threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May if his demands for “fixing” the deal are not met by Britain, France and Germany (the E3). Iran has categorically rejected any amendments to the nuclear agreement and has argued that it has a range of options to respond if Trump carries out his threat.

Iran’s optimal strategy would be to respond in a way that would mitigate domestic uproar and to the extent possible, protect the country from repercussions. Iran’s national security establishment seems to have come to a strategic decision to stay in the deal if the other parties do and try to isolate and outmaneuver Washington. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Iran would abrogate the JCPOA in its entirety. Rather, it may decide to take limited measures to demonstrate a level of strength and to test the international community’s response.

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News that John Bolton has been named President Trump’s new national security adviser – following the appointment of harsh Iran critic Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State – adds to mounting evidence that the United States will quit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May.

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The intelligence branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has often targeted dual nationals in an effort to find scapegoats for Iran’s many problems. Its recent assault on environmentalists is particularly wrongheaded and cruel at a time when Iran faces unprecedented environmental challenges.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, a Canadian-Iranian and respected advocate for endangered species in Iran, died in detention in Evin prison in suspicious circumstances last month. Seven others, including an Iranian-American, Morad Tahbaz, remain in prison. All are associated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), the most respected conservation and environmentalist NGO in Iran.

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