IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

Japan’s energy policy towards Iran has been an area of struggle for independence from the United States for four decades.

Even when Japan tried to pursue its own energy policy towards Iran, the US has generally had the final say. From Japan’s point of view, however, the US stance towards Japan-Iran energy relations has toughened gradually since the 1979 revolution. 

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The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, can hardly be billed as a reformist. For that reason, he maintained his position as Iran’s Supreme Leader’s confidante while acting as his representative in the Iranian Supreme National Security Council for twenty-three years, from its inception until his first term election as president in 2013.

Rouhani also escaped unscathed from the 2009 controversy-marred re-election of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While that election and the mass protests that followed produced numerous political casualties in the reform camp, Rouhani not only emerged intact but was in a good position to run as a consensus reformist-pragmatist candidate down the road.

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Iran has faced widespread demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience for more than one year. Even members of the elite, including the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and daughter of Hashemi Rafsanjani, have said that the collapse of the regime is an increasing possibility. The regime’s vulnerability has not only motivated existing opposition groups, but has sparked the creation of new organizations led by younger Iranians.

One such group is Iran Revival, or farashgard. (In Zoroastrianism, Iran’s ancient pre-Islamic religion, farashgard is the period of the world’s rebirth after the defeat of Ahriman, the God of Darkness.) A loosely organized network of political activists spread across the US, Canada, Europe and Iran, the group, which describes itself as a “political action network,” seeks the overthrow of the Islamic Republic through a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience mimicking past successful revolutions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In particular, Iran Revival has called for “Million Man” demonstrations and gatherings across Iranian cities to overwhelm the security forces and shut down the regime.

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Following the death of Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi after a long illness, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has chosen the current head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to another powerful post: chairman of a council tasked with resolving disputes among government branches and potentially playing a role in selecting Khamenei’s successor.

Shahroudi, who replaced the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Expediency Council in August 2017 after Rafsanjani’s death, was considered a relative moderate within Iran’s political spectrum despite a decade heading the judiciary from 1999 to 2009 and a record of repressing dissidents.

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Between 2004 and 2015, the European Union (EU) coordinated a series of negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. In the early stages, the negotiations took place in the format of the EU and E3—the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. In 2006, the negotiating framework evolved to the P5+1 format—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. In 2015, an agreement was finally reached, with the EU at the helm of the negotiations, in the form of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Yet distrust of Iran continued after the signing of the JCPOA. One of the strongest criticisms is that by excluding curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile program, the JCPOA left Iran with one part of the formula for a fully functioning nuclear weapon, namely the delivery vehicle.

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The speeded up departure of Defense Secretary James Mattis did not come as a surprise after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria—and Mattis’ stinging letter of resignation. The Syria announcement was the final blow to a relationship that had become strained over issues ranging from the importance of alliances to the politically motivated deployment of US troops at the border with Mexico.

The retired Marine general had policy differences with the president about Iran as well. While a supporter of containment, Mattis advocated remaining within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His departure tilts the balance in Trump’s national security team in favor of more hawkish individuals who have openly advocated regime change as the ultimate solution to US differences with the Islamic Republic.

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What do farmers in Esfahan, unemployed youth in Rafsanjan, teachers and students in Hamadan, and fraud victims in Kerman all have in common? On the face of it, not much other than being Iranian. But there is another commonality: They all staged protests on the same day, December 12.  

Reporting on Iran tends to focus on the country’s nuclear program or squabbling of its leaders, while the diverse array of protests that regularly erupt across the country go underreported. 

In the last twelve months, hardly a single day has passed without protests about the government, corruption, and the dwindling state of the economy. US-reimposed sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard and the economic policies of President Hassan Rouhani have done little to take care of the poor— though this is no surprise since his government is dominated by ministers who support policies favoring the private sector.

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The new round of US sanctions against Iran has put neighboring Iraq in a tough position. 

Baghdad heavily relies on Iranian electricity and natural gas imports to meet its energy needs. A forty-five-day sanctions waiver granted to Iraq by the Trump administration in early November is set to expire this week.

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As the United States increases its pressure campaign against Iran, the country’s missile program has emerged as a major source of contention. However, Iran is unlikely to heed US demands to halt its development of ballistic missiles, which comprise the backbone of its defense doctrine. 

In order to better analyze Iran’s defense strategies, it is important to note that for Iran, the line between security concerns and national pride is blurred. Iran’s traumatic historical experiences play a critical role in shaping its approach to defense and in particular, to missiles.  

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Ali Hosseini is a 26-year-old with a normal nine-to-five job in Tehran. He has a bachelor’s degree in information technology and mostly works in social media and public relations. Two months ago, he bought a Bitcoin mining device with his cousin and has been mining since.

Hosseini had no prior knowledge of blockchains and distributed ledger technologies prior to purchasing the device. Hosseini had only heard in passing about cryptocurrencies five years ago, but forgot all about them until last year when they became all the rage globally.

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