Khordad 7 1399 - May 27 2020
I Belong In This Country, But The Census Doesn't Recognize That

A couple weeks ago, my friend sent me a TikTok of someone ranting about whether they should be considered a person of color as a Middle Easterner. Her text read something along the lines of, "I feel like this is you in a nutshell." I laughed, knowing full well that I've shared the same gripes with her countless times. I also instinctively looked over at the U.S. census postcard collecting dust and cat hair on the floor of my foyer and cringed. -Nicki Ghafari, Huffington Post 5/27/20

Second Iranian Oil Tanker Arrives At Venezuela's Largest Refinery

A second Iranian tanker carrying gasoline and oil derivatives has arrived at crisis-stricken Venezuela's main oil refinery, amid escalating tensions between Washington and the two U.S.-sanctioned countries. The Forest docked at the Paraguana refinery complex in northwest Falcon state on May 26, Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami wrote on Twitter, also sharing photos of the vessel at the dock. 5/27/20

Iran's president pushes for harsher laws on honor killings

Iran's president urged his Cabinet on Wednesday to speed up harsher laws in so-called honor killings, after a particularly disturbing slaying of a 14-year-old girl by her father shocked the nation. President Hassan Rouhani pushed for speedy adoption of relevant bills, some which have apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran. 5/27/20

The strategic implications of the brewing Iran arms embargo crisis

In the last few weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed a new initiative to extend the arms embargo on Iran. According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, United Nations restrictions on conventional arms sales to Iran would expire after five years, on October 18, 2020. Washington plans to claim that it legally remains a participant state in the JCPOA, which President Donald Trump officially withdrew from in May 2018... -Gawdat Bahgat, Responsible Statecraft 5/27/20

Iran's newly elected parliament convenes despite pandemic

Iran's newly elected parliament convened on Wednesday, dominated by conservative lawmakers and under strict social distancing regulations, as the country struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has hit the nation hard. Iranian state TV said all 268 lawmakers who were in attendance had tested negative for the virus. -Nasser Karimi, AP 5/27/20

Iran-China trade falls 40% in first 4 months of 2020 yr/yr

Based on the data released by the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China, Iranian imports from the Asian country reached $2.92 billion in the January-April period, indicating a three percent rise compared to the same time span in 2019. The exports to China, however, fell 61 percent to stand at $2.34 billion. 5/26/20

Venezuela celebrates docking of tanker with Iran gasoline

Venezuelan authorities celebrated Monday as the first of five Iranian tankers loaded with gasoline docked in the South American country, delivering badly needed fuel to the crisis-stricken nation that sits atop the world's largest oil reserves. The gasoline shipments are arriving in defiance of stiff sanctions by the Trump administration against both nations, and they mark a new era in the burgeoning relationship between Venezuela and Iran, which is expanding its footprint in the Western Hemisphere. -AP 5/26/20

COVID-19: Iran Reopens Religious Shrines After Two Months

Iran has reopened its religious shrines, some two months after closing them due to the Middle East's deadliest coronavirus outbreak. The shrines were reopened on May 25 amid a gradual easing of restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic, which has killed 7,451 people and infected over 137,000, according to official figures. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher. 5/25/20

First Iranian Tanker 'Fortune' Reaches Venezuelan Coast Escorted by Bolivarian Armed Forces

Iran has sent five ocean-going tankers loaded with an estimated 1.53 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela, a move that has reportedly received threats from Washington. Tehran, in response, promised "retaliation" if the US moves to act against the ships. The first of five Iranian fuel tankers, the 'Fortune', entered the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on late Saturday, according to data from Refiniv Eikon. -Sputnik 5/25/20

Iranian spending spree on arms unlikely if UN embargo expires

One of the most important outcomes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - signed in 2015 between the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Iran - is the planned expiration of a U.N. arms embargo imposed on the Islamic Republic. The first major sanctions on Iran were adopted by the U.N. Security Council in March 2007, and reinforced in June 2010 with a U.N. embargo on the export of most major conventional weapons to Iran. -Robert Czulda, Responsible Statecraft 5/25/20

Detained Iranian Lawyer's Husband Criticizes Iran's Refusal to Furlough Her

The husband of one of Iran's most prominent jailed dissidents has strongly criticized authorities for not furloughing her from a coronavirus-plagued prison where he says her health is in danger. In a Thursday phone interview with VOA Persian from Tehran, Reza Khandan faulted the Iranian government for temporarily freeing thousands of common criminals from jails since late February in part to protect them from the virus, while refusing to do the same for dissidents such as his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh. -VOA 5/22/20

Iran and the US 'meet' again over Afghanistan

In an administration short on diplomatic talent, Zalmay Khalilzad stands out. His title is US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and he is charged with extricating the United States' military presence in that country. Tangentially, Khalilzad's deep background as a multilingual former ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations-and his nature as an inveterate schmoozer-have put him in a position to revive US diplomatic engagement with Iran and to help de-escalate what had been a dangerous rise in tensions. -Barbara Slavin, Atlantic Council 5/22/20

Where the Small Things Are: Thoughts on Writing Revolutions and their Histories

Somewhere on the border between Oman and Yemen lies the body of Rafat Afraz. Rafat had been a school administrator at the Refah school for girls in Tehran, a site of Islamic revolutionary activism in the early 70s and the temporary headquarters of the Khomeini-led revolutionary forces in 1979. Rafat and her younger sister Mahbubeh[1] joined the Sazman-i Mujahedin-i Khalq (the People's Mujahedin Organization or Mujahedin) in 1970, a guerilla organization that at its moment of founding was, simply put, a "combination of Islam and Marxism." -Naghmeh Sohrabi, Jadaliyya 5/22/20

Why Iran has the world's best-performing stockmarket

There seems to be no end to Iran's suffering. It has struggled with one of the world's worst outbreaks of covid-19. As it opens back up there are signs that it is being hit by a powerful second wave. Last year the economy shrank by almost 8%. It may do worse this year. American sanctions had largely cut if off from the global market. The coronavirus has just about finished the job. Yet, somehow, the Iranian stockmarket is booming. -Economist 5/22/20

Turkey eyes leverage as it drags feet on Iran gas pipeline repairs

Turkey is delaying the completion of repairs to the Iran-Turkey gas pipeline, which was blown up at the end of March, in an apparent attempt both to curry favor with Washington and to pressure Tehran to reduce its prices, according to industry sources. Register Now Flows through the pipeline were halted early on March 31 following an explosion. -S&P Global 5/22/20

Iran's population growth drops to less than 1% for first time

The country's population growth rate has decreased to less than one percent for the first time over the past four decades, Seyed Hamed Barakati, deputy health minister for family and school population has said. The marriage rate in the country has dropped by 40 percent since 10 years ago, which is an alarm that threatens the country's future in all economic, social and even security dimensions, he lamented. 5/21/20

Iranian journalist Nejat Bahrami begins 1-year jail term

On May 5, Bahrami, a freelance columnist who has written for publications including the Iran Daily and Etemad newspapers and the weekly Tejarat-e Farda and Seda magazines, wrote on Twitter that he had received a written notice from the judiciary summoning him to prison within five days. -Committee to Protect Journalists 5/21/20

Will the US try to interdict Iranian tankers bound for Venezuela?

As five Iranian oil tankers steam toward Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions on both states, President Donald Trump is being presented with options for stopping the delivery of the petroleum fuel they carry. The prospect of killing two "rogue state" birds with one stone must be attractive to Trump. His policy against both countries is "maximum pressure," after all. But what could the U.S. do, would it be legal, and would it make any sense? -Mark Fitzpatrick, Responsible Statecraft 5/21/20

Venezuela's military to escort Iranian tankers bringing petrol

The Venezuelan military will escort Iranian tankers delivering much-needed petrol to the country to prevent any attempt by the US to stop them. Five vessels are on the high seas and are due to arrive in the coming days. Venezuela's defence minister said they would be "welcomed" into its exclusive economic zone, which extends 370km (200 nautical miles) from its shores. -BBC 5/21/20

Iran dismisses new US sanctions as 'fruitless and repetitive'

Iran has dismissed US sanctions on several of its officials, saying they were a sign of the complete inefficiency of Washington's previous sanctions on the country. "Washington's fruitless and repetitive sanctions against Iranian officials is a sign of weakness, despair and confusion of the US administration," state TV quoted Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying on Thursday. -Al Jazeera 5/21/20

Washington's Tall Tale of Iranian-Al Qaeda Alliance Based on Questionably Sourced Book, The Exile

The U.S. assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in January touched off a new wave of disinformation about Soleimani, with Trump administration allies branding him a global terrorist while painting Iran as the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. Much of the propaganda about Soleimani related to his alleged responsibility for the killing of American troops in Iraq, along with Iran's role in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. - Gareth Porter, Antiwar 5/20/20

Iran: Details released of 304 deaths during protests six months after security forces' killing spree

Amnesty International has released details of the deaths of 304 men, women and children killed by Iran's security forces during last November's ruthless crackdown, six months after the protests. The organization found that more than 220 of the recorded deaths took place over just two days on 16 and 17 November. New and extensive research has again concluded that the security forces' use of lethal force against the vast majority of those killed was unlawful. 5/20/20

Iran Quietly Lowers the Temperature With U.S.

After years of increasing tensions that nearly led to war, Iran has moderated its approach to the West, shifting from a policy of provocation to one of limited cooperation. The change reflects an effort to avoid direct confrontation with the United States that the Iranians say could benefit President Trump in the November election. -Alissa J. Rubin and Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times 5/20/20

US tells vessels in Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from its warships

The US Navy has warned vessels in the Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from American warships or risk "lawful defensive measures," in a move that appears to be aimed squarely at Iran. "Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat," according to the text of the notice issued on Tuesday. -Press TV 5/20/20

Iranian Parkour Athlete Reportedly Detained After Posting Romantic Instagram Photos

Iranian parkour athlete and photographer Alireza Japalaghy has been detained, his brother said on May 18. Japalaghy reportedly said in a video posted before his arrest that he had been summoned by security officials just days after he posted photos and a video where he was seen kissing an unidentified woman who was wearing a sports bra and shorts on a rooftop in the Iranian capital. 5/19/20

Iranian husband, wife sentenced to death for corruption

Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili announced on Tuesday that two of the defendants in corruption cases were sentenced to death. The defendants, a husband and a wife, were involved in manipulating the foreign exchange and gold markets and hoarding cars from Siapa Company. 5/19/20

The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution

Before the revolution remade Iran, Khamenei was a young cleric in the city of Mashhad. He had grown up modestly, the son of a cleric; a slender man, he had a long, thin face adorned by large round glasses that gave him an owlish demeanor. He was a devotee of Persian poetry and literature, and also came to admire Tolstoy, Steinbeck, and especially Victor Hugo, whose "Les Mis�rables" he described as "a miracle...a book of sociology, a book of history, a book of criticism, a divine book, a book of love and feeling." -Dexter Filkins, New Yorker 5/19/20

US sanctions make it harder to fight COVID-19

As the United States works to contain the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, resorting to extraordinary measures to limit health and economic damage to its own population, it should also suspend economic sanctions that are making it harder for some countries to fight COVID-19 and keep their citizens safe. -Hrair Balian, Responsible Statecraft 5/18/20

Iranian-French Academic Fariba Adelkhah Sentenced To Six Years In Prison In Iran

An Iranian court has sentenced a French-Iranian academic to six years in prison on security charges, her lawyer said. The lawyer for Fariba Adelkhah said on May 16 that his client was sentenced to five years for "colluding to commit acts against national security" and one year for "propaganda against the system." Her lawyer, Said Dehghan, said they would appeal the ruling. -RFE/RL 5/18/20

Sanctioning Pandemic-plagued Iran

Sanctions are the US government's go-to foreign-policy tool. Sanctions leverage the United States' economic might and dominance of the international financial system and, especially in contrast to military options, are deemed to be cost-free - cost-free for the US, that is. There are always unintended costs, however, on both sides. When sanctions are applied indiscriminately during a global pandemic, the costs spiral. This is clearly the case today with regard to the Trump administration's sanctions on Iran. -Mark Fitzpatrick, IISS 5/18/20

Iran's businesses struggle to stay afloat amid COVID-19

The global coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on economies around the world. Many years under heavy United States sanctions have forced domestic investment in Iran, which has been good for many local businesses, and domestic brands now dominate this big consumer market. - Zein Basravi, Al Jazeera 5/18/20

Iran FM: Threatening Iranian tankers by US amounts to piracy, jeopardizes intl. peace

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has issued stern warning against the US provocative acts through dispatching its naval forces to the Caribbean Sea with the goal of disrupting the course of Iranian tankers carrying fuel for Venezuela. In a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday, Zarif described "the illegal, dangerous and provocative US threats [against the Iranian tankers]" as a form of piracy and a big threat to international peace and security. -Press TV 5/18/20

Iran's OPEC Governor, A Key Oil Strategist, Dies At 68

Iran's longtime OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, has died from a brain hemorrhage two weeks after falling into a coma. The Iranian Oil Ministry's Shana news agency reported on May 16 that Ardebili died in a Tehran hospital. He was 68. -RFE/RL 5/18/20

Iran Unlocks New Funding Stream For Oil & Gas

A small and tedious-looking announcement of the ratification of a bylaw relating to the issuance of securities appeared on Iranian government-affiliated websites last week and was unsurprisingly ignored by the world's international media but not To the blank statement that Iran's First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, signed off on the issuance of Islamic compliant securities in the calendar year of 1399 means Iran will have access to a massive new stream of capital that it will use to drive forward its long-stalled oil and gas development programme. -Simon Watkins 5/18/20

U.S. and Iran Need a Coronavirus Peace Plan

While Americans are rightly focused on handling the coronavirus at home, the government must also remain vigilant to threats around the world. Yet the Donald Trump administration's approach to Iran, in particular, increasingly lacks any clear policy or overarching strategy. The administration is at times threatening and at times conciliatory, giving Iran little sense of what actions the president will take. This could inadvertently lead us to war, and neither the U.S. nor Iran can afford to engage in hostilities that distract us from the pandemic. -Senator Dianne Feinstein, Bloomberg 5/15/20

Iran's FM Zarif likens Trump's 'disinfectant' advice to nuclear deal argument

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has likened Washington's JCPOA argument to U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion to inject disinfectant to treat coronavirus patients. "Those who muse about injecting disinfectant to 'clean' the coronavirus, also argue that they are a 'participant' in a UN Security Council Resolution endorsing a deal that they long ago 'ceased participating' in," Zarif tweeted on Thursday. "Their own words. If only Kafka were around," he added. 5/15/20

Russia, China slam US plan to extend UN arms embargo on Iran

China and Russia have rejected US plans to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran along with a probable push to trigger a return of all sanctions on Tehran at the UN Security Council. "It has no right to extend an arms embargo on Iran, let alone to trigger snapback," China's UN mission wrote in a tweet on Thursday. "Maintaining [the] Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the only right way moving forward," it added. -Press TV 5/15/20

A health crisis as an incentive to foster regional cooperation in the Persian Gulf?

Iran has been the Middle Eastern epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic Republic was hit early on into the global health crisis. While it is still unclear when and how Iran's 'patient zero' entered the country, it is fair to assume that he or she was part of one of the numerous delegations that kept on traveling between Iran and China even after weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Due to the encompassing US sanctions regime imposed on Iran, China has increasingly become an economic lifeline Tehran simply cannot afford to forego. It, thus, took Iran much longer compared to other states to halt flights to and from China. -Adnan Tabatabai, Responsible Statecraft 5/15/20

Iran reports 2,102 new virus cases, highest in over month

Iran on Friday reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections in more than a month as it warned of clusters hitting new regions. The Islamic republic has struggled to contain the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease since its first cases emerged in mid-February. -AFP 5/15/20

Afghan migrants: Unwanted in Iran and at home

Afghans routinely cross the border into Iran and are frequently caught and deported back into Afghanistan. They endure inhumane treatment from smugglers and often lose their savings in the process. In 2019, alone, a total of 451,073 Afghans returned from Iran-a big chunk of them forced through deportation. -Fatemeh Aman, Atlantic Council 5/15/20

Why Iran's Reverse Engineered TOW Missile Is a Powerhouse

Iran's Toophan missile is so similar to America's TOW anti-tank missile, it can be used interchangeably with the U.S. system. Before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, both the United States and Iran were on friendly terms-so friendly in fact, the U.S. decided to allow Iran to import TOW anti-tank missiles. Iran gladly did, and even had TOW repair facilities built to service the TOW missile and its launchers. The Revolution spoiled Iran's relations with the U.S.-but Iran already had the technology it needed to maintain and grow its American-made arsenal. -Caleb Larson, National Interest 5/15/20

Iran Receives Another Cargo Of Medical Supplies From Germany

An official of the Iranian Customs Organization on Thursday confirmed that a consignment of medical equipment purchased from Germany worth around 749,000 euros (about $800,000) has been delivered to Iran. Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the Director-General of Customs Office Sadeq Namdar at the Turkish border said the equipment delivered from Germany consists of haematology testing machines, flow cytometry tubes and autoanalyser machine accessories. 5/14/20

Iranian journalist Hassan Fathi begins 1.5 year jail term over BBC interview

Iranian authorities should release journalist Hassan Fathi from prison and cease arbitrarily jailing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On May 6, Fathi, a freelance columnist and former editor of the Iranian daily Ettelaat, began an 18-month prison term in Tehran's Evin Prison after his appeal in a 2018 criminal case for speaking with the BBC Persian service was denied, according to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a U.S.-based outlet that covers news in Iran. -CPJ 5/14/20

Trump Vetoed the Iran War Powers Resolution, but America's No-War Message Is Clear

To no one's great surprise, President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution last week passed by the Senate and the House to prevent him from starting an unauthorized war with Iran. Though the Senate was unable to override Trump's veto, Congress sent a clear message challenging the Trump administration's Iran policy and reasserting a core principle of the Constitution. -Assal Rad, Newsweek 5/14/20

Top 10 books about Iran

Iran is an ancient country with a complex people, among them some of the greatest poets who ever lived. Sadly, the Iranian novel has yet to reach the popularity of the country's poetry. This is perhaps because there is something enigmatic about how Persian prose is written, often using surrealism and magical realism to mimic the playfulness in its poetry. No matter what Iranians do, even if they write historical textbooks, it seems they can never shed the poetic touch. -Nazanine Hozar, Guardian 5/14/20

US military offers condolences over Iran accident killing 19

The U.S. military offered condolences Thursday to Iran over a friendly fire incident in the Islamic Republic that saw an Iranian missile kill 19 Iranian troops, identifying the weapon that detonated as an anti-ship cruise missile. Iranian authorities on Monday said that the missile struck the Iranian navy vessel Konarak near the port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometers southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman. -AP 5/14/20

Russia's UN Envoy Strongly Opposes U.S. Attempt To Extend Arms Embargo On Iran

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations says Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms embargo on Iran and reimpose UN sanctions against Tehran. Vassily Nebenzia's comments on May 12 made clear that the United States will have difficulty extending the embargo past its expiration in October through the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power. 5/13/20

Doctors and nurses died as Iran ignored virus concerns

They are regarded as heroes, their fallen colleagues as martyrs. But for doctors and nurses still dealing with Iran's growing number of coronavirus infections, such praise rings hollow. While crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. left Iran ill-equipped to deal with the fast-moving virus, some medical professionals say government and religious leaders bear the brunt of the blame for allowing the virus to spread - and for hiding how much it had spread. -AP 5/13/20

Iran's industry minister sacked amid crumbling economy

President Hassan Rouhani sacked his minister of industry, mine and trade at one of the most chaotic moments for the country's industry, particularly in the automotive sector. The Iranian auto industry has been on a downward path in the past two months with prices of domestic products soaring by up to 60%. Yet no mention of that turbulence was made in the official explanations and exchanges on Reza Rahmani's dismissal. -Al-Monitor 5/13/20

Iranian rial drops to lowest rate since September 2018 against the U.S. dollar

The Iranian rial hit its lowest rate against the U.S. dollar since September 2018 on the unofficial market on Tuesday, a foreign exchange website reported, amid a deterioration in the economic situation brought on by crippling U.S. sanctions and restrictions to deal with the new coronavirus outbreak. The dollar was being offered for as much as 170,000 rials, according to website which tracks the unofficial market. The official rate, cited by the central bank website, is 42,000. -Reuters 5/13/20

COVID-19: Iran Allows All Mosques To Open Temporarily As Restrictions Ease

All mosques in Iran will reopen temporarily on May 12 in another step toward easing restrictions implemented to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The decision to reopen the mosques was made in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Iranian state news agency IRIB reported, quoting Mohammad Qomi, the director of the Islamic Development Organization. 5/12/20

After Trump vetoed the Iran war powers resolution, Congress must continue to act

On April 22, President Trump took to Twitter and threatened to attack Iran, instructing the Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." The tweet was both alarming and cringeworthy - boats don't fly. But it was also commonplace. Trump has threatened to start a war with Iran so many times that it almost feels banal. -Erica Fein, Responsible Statecraft 5/12/20

Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Prison Without Access to Counsel

Human rights attorney Payam Derafshan was denied access to counsel while being tried for the charge of "insulting the supreme leader," for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment and suspended from practicing law for an additional two years. "The court did not allow his defense lawyers to be present at the trial," his lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 10, 2020. -CHRI 5/12/20

Iran's economy and the burden of multiple exchange rates

Currently, Iranian businesses have to navigate the official rate, the NIMA rate controlled by the CBI, and the floating market rate. The same "money-moving network" serves the currency exchanges between the Iranian rial and hard currencies. Additionally, it performs international transactions for Iranian importers and exporters and their foreign suppliers and customers independent of the assigned exchange rate. -Mohsen Tavakol, Atlantic Council 5/12/20

How the Trump administration has blundered toward nuclear chaos

People who work on nuclear security and deterrence are divided, like most other people, between optimists and pessimists - or in other words, some people believe that nuclear weapons use and spread can be prevented, and others believe both are inevitable. It is understandable that there are likely many more nuclear pessimists than three years ago, since it seems that all of the nuclear challenges facing the United States are worse today than when President Trump took office, and all are moving in the wrong direction. -Jon Wolfsthal, Responsible Statecraft 5/12/20

Iran Says Ready For Prisoner Swap With U.S. Without Preconditions

Iran is ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei says, adding that Washington has yet to respond to Iran's call for a prisoner swap. "We have announced that we are ready without any preconditions to exchange all prisoners and we are prepared to discuss this issue but the Americans have not responded yet," Rabiei told the news site Khabaronline on May 10. 5/11/20

May 8, 2018: A day that will live in acrimony

Two years ago, on May 8, 2018, the Trump administration withdrew unilaterally from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly called the Iran nuclear deal, and then imposed "maximum pressure" sanctions on Iran. As is well documented, the sanctions have succeeded in devastating the Iranian economy; the U.S. and Iran marched to the brink of war in early 2020, and just last month, the U.S. rejected a request from Tehran to suspend sanctions due to the coronavirus raging through the country. -George A. Lopez, Responsible Statecraft 5/11/20

Iran locks down southwest county after spike in coronavirus cases

A county in southwestern Iran has been placed under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday, also quoting the provincial governor as saying there had been a sharp rise in new cases across the province. Tasnim quoted Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan province, which borders Iraq and includes the county of Abadan, as saying people had not been observing social distancing rules. -Reuters 5/11/20

Pressuring Iran is not the answer to the US's Middle East woes

The United States has for decades been reliant on Israel and a host of autocratic Arab regimes to solidify a U.S.-led security order in the Middle East. This order has proven to be unsustainable as key U.S. allies have weakened or been toppled in popular uprisings over the years. Meanwhile, U.S. efforts to transform the region through military intervention have spectacularly failed and opened the door for U.S. rivals to gain regional influence. -Sina Toossi, Responsible Statecraft 5/11/20

Iran friendly fire missile strike in drill kills 19 sailors

An Iranian missile fired during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman struck a support vessel near its target, killing 19 Iranian sailors and wounding 15, Iran's military and state media said Monday, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington. -AP 5/11/20

Tehran Stocks Top Key Level, Doubling Since First Virus Case

The Tehran Stock Exchange's main index of shares exceeded one million points for the first time on Saturday, extending the record highs reached as the benchmark more than doubled since Iran's first recorded Covid-19 case. The benchmark index has surged by 113% since the country's first Covid-19 case was recorded on Feb. 19. Iran had 106,220 cases and 6,589 deaths as of Saturday. -Bloomberg 5/11/20

Can Iraq's new PM, and the region, escape Suleimani's long shadow?

In late February, six weeks after the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani was killed by a US drone, a candidate for Iraq's vacant premiership was nervously preparing for an interview that would secure him the role. Mustafa al-Kadhimi's rise from intelligence chief to the seat of national power had been unorthodox, as was the journey he had just made - from Baghdad, where high-stakes appointments like his had mostly been made over the past decade. -Martin Chulov, Guardian 5/11/20

IRAN: Magnitude 5.1 quake Tehran province kills 2, injures 33

An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale shook Tehran province early on Friday, killing two and injuring 33. The earthquake occurred at 00:48 a.m. at a depth of 7 kilometers near the city of Damavand, 56km northeast of Tehran. The tremor was also felt in the surrounding provinces of Qom, Alborz, Mazandaran, and Zanjan. 5/8/20

Iranian Human Rights Activist Ali Ajami Mysteriously Drowned In Houston Park Lake

The body of Ali Ajami, an Iranian human rights activist, was discovered in McGovern Lake at Hermann Park, Houston, Texas, on Wednesday. The cause of death remains unknown. Houston Police on Wednesday started an investigation into the death of a deceased male found in a pond at Hermann Park but said no other information was available yet. Iranian social media users have reported that the body belonged to thirty-seven-year-old Iranian human rights activist Ali Ajami. 5/8/20

Iran Has Gotten Nothing from U.S. 'Humanitarian' Channel

The humanitarian banking channel set up by the Trump administration to get medicine and other supplies into Iran-a politically calculated show of compassion amid otherwise draconian U.S. sanctions-has not in fact processed any potentially life-saving transactions, the Swiss government confirmed to The Daily Beast. Knowledgeable observers say the way the channel is structured places substantial burdens in the way of companies looking to sell Iran humanitarian supplies. -Spencer Ackerman, Daily Beast 5/8/20

Sanctions make Iran's coronavirus crisis more deadly

The Trump administration, seemingly in denial about its own shambolic response to the crisis, tried to blame the pandemic's high toll in Iran on the incompetence and corruption of the Iranian government. The Iranian leadership indeed made some mistakes in its handling of this public health emergency, such as initially underestimating the threat posed by the virus and failing to close the country's borders in time. It is, however, impossible to claim that the Iranian government is solely responsible for the devastation the pandemic has caused in the country. -Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Al-Jazeera 5/8/20

Why is the US removing its Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia?

The U.S. is removing Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia as part of a broader drawdown of its military capacity placed there to counter Iran. While the military characterized the move as part of a planned withdrawal that reflects the view that Iran now poses less of a threat, the news has prompted debate over the timing of the decision. -Annelle Sheline, Responsible Statecraft 5/8/20

How the coronavirus is cementing Iran's tilt towards China

The Iran-China bilateral relationship has been gaining strategic significance for more than a decade and the coronavirus pandemic appears to have solidified this trend. While US President Donald Trump is offering medical supplies while refusing to lift sanctions on financial transactions with Iran, the Chinese are airlifting supplies and medical personnel to Tehran. -Ali Dadpay, Atlantic Council 5/7/20

The covid-19 crisis could strengthen Iran's 'invisible government'

Could the coronavirus pandemic bring about regime change or major behavioral shift in the Islamic Republic of Iran? U.S. policy hawks and a wide range of regime critics are increasingly convinced that it might. That's not likely, however - this view misreads the influence of Iran's nonelected political institutions. Rather than regime change, the covid-19 pandemic and escalating U.S. pressure appear more likely to reinforce the position of Iran's religious and military institutions.-Amir Hossein Mahdavi, Washington Post 5/7/20

Iraq appoints new prime minister after months of protests and jockeying

The new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's intelligence chief and a former journalist, will head the new government. He will begin his term without a full cabinet, however, after several ministerial candidates were rejected. Iraqi officials have said Kadhimi is acceptable to both the United States and Iran, whose battle for influence over Iraq has boiled into open confrontation in the past year. -Reuters 5/7/20

Trump vetoes measure to restrain his actions against Iran

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a resolution that said he must get a nod from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. Trump called it "insulting" to the presidency. The nonbinding congressional resolution was introduced first in the House after the U.S. launched an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. -AP 5/7/20

Iran's launch of a military satellite sets the stage for star wars

In the midst of fighting a pandemic and dealing with US sanctions, Iran has launched a military satellite to showcase its technological advancement. On 22 April, the 41st anniversary of the founding of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC successfully launched a "military satellite" into space and simultaneously successfully launched us all into the latest chapter in the saga of the US-Iran battle. -Tallha Abdulrazaq, TRT 5/7/20

As Iran Faces Virus, Trump Admin Fails to Use Swiss Channel to Ease Medical Exports

Just a few days after Iran announced its first deaths from COVID-19 in February, the Trump administration's Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook was asked during a briefing for an update on the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), a payments channel intended to ease the sale of medicine and medical devices by Swiss companies to Iran. Hook acknowledged that no further transactions had been processed since a pilot transaction involving a $2.55 million sale of medication a month earlier, but insisted that there were "more transactions coming."Two months later, over 6,000 Iranians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and the Swiss channel has yet to process any further transactions. -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj & Image of Sahil Shah, European Leadership Network 5/6/20

U.S. expected to deport Iranian professor acquitted of sanctions busting: officials

The United States is expected to deport Iranian professor Sirous Asgari, who was acquitted of stealing trade secrets, once he receives medical clearance to leave, U.S. and Iranian officials said on Tuesday. Asgari might be part of a rare prisoner swap between foes Iran and the United States. Iranian sources have told Reuters that Tehran is prepared to take part in a swap. -Reuters 5/6/20

'The Blob' strikes back, and misses

In an age of war, debt, and plague, is America's foreign policy establishment, or "the Blob" as it has been dubbed, part of the problem? Or part of the answer? According to Hal Brands, Peter Feaver, and William Inboden, three sharp minds who served in government and the academy, America needs its specialist class of experts at the helm. What's more, to challenge the Blob's workings, record, and judgement is to be Trumpian, and hostile to "expertise" in general. -Patrick Porter, Responsible Statecraft 5/6/20

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