IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

As part of its efforts to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, Europe is on the verge of launching a special purpose vehicle (SPV)—a payment mechanism described as “a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran.” Yet while Europeans see this mechanism as both legitimate and necessary, the SPV is regarded by the Trump administration as an attempt to evade US sanctions and is thus vulnerable to retaliation from Washington.

As Esfandyar Batmanghelidj and I argue in a new report for the European Leadership Network and Bourse & Bazaar, establishing a humanitarian SPV (H-SPV) would enable the European Union (EU) and European governments to sustain vital trade with Iran while holding the Trump administration accountable for its promises not to target the Iranian people. 

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The trade and economic partnership between Iran and Brazil has expanded in recent years and was slated to grow even further after the completion of the Iran nuclear dealin 2015. But questions are being raised about this relationship after the victory of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil is Iran’s seventh-largest trade partner and by far its most important economic interlocutor in South America. On November 15, a Brazilian vessel arrived at Chabahar, Iran’s only ocean port, carrying 72,000 tons of bulk corn from Brazil.  A year ago, a Brazilian ship, the Living, carried 66,000 tons of sugar into Chabahar.

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Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to denigrate United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions as “worthless paper.” That is not the case anymore.

In the aftermath of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal codified by UNSC resolution 2231, Iranian diplomats are embracing this element of international legality to accuse the Trump administration of wrongdoing.

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Pirouz Hanachi was narrowly elected mayor of Tehran last month by the capital’s city council, besting former roads and urban development minister Amir-Abbas Akhoundi by one vote—eleven to ten.

Hanachi replaces Mohammad Ali Afshani as the third mayor of the capital in the council’s current term. However, the Interior Ministry delayed accepting his election and officially ratifying it. This was due to the fact that the Intelligence Ministry did not swiftly approve Hanachi’s clearance for reasons that have not been disclosed. 

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The Trump administration had major qualms with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) prompting the US withdrawal in May. These included the sunset provisions, which provide expiration dates for certain restrictions, and its narrow targeting of Iran’s nuclear program without addressing the continued enhancement of its ballistic missile arsenal, which enables the regime’s “malign activity” in the region.

Iran has in fact made advancements in the precision and strategic military value of its ballistic missile arsenal, expanding upon its use as a deterrent to include more advanced offensive capabilities that threaten foreign military infrastructure.

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If there were any doubts that the United States under President Donald Trump was trying to pick a fight with Iran over anythingthat Washington had no real agenda with its belligerent anti-Iran rhetoric and moves other than just flicking mud at the country and its rulers in hopes that something would stickthey were dispelled on November 22.

That’s when Kenneth Ward, the US envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), used his slot during the group’s annual meeting to accuse Iran of violating international treaty obligations by maintaining a toxic arms program.

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Iran’s US-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has always had enemies within the Iranian establishment.

When Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari was imprisoned during the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement, his interrogators demanded not only that he admit to being a CIA agent but that Zarif—who had been sidelined by then hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after serving as Iran’s UN ambassador—had ties “to Western intelligence agencies.” By formally accusing Zarif of espionage, hardliners could have ended his career once and for all.

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“You cannot swim without getting wet,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the annual International Mediterranean Dialogues Conference last week, signaling that Iran is losing patience with European leaders and expects the European Union (EU) to back up its political support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with concrete actions.

Six months have passed since the Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear agreement, and nearly a month since the US re-imposed secondary sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities and to allow for a stricter international inspections regime. In return, all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were supposed to be removed to facilitate the country’s re-engagement with the international economy.

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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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