Iran Brief: Iranian Journalists Receive Warning against Contacting Foreign Organizations – July 15, 2016

Domestic Politics

713ea885-edca-4b98-802a-23d08637ade0Iranian Journalists Receive Text Warnings: Earlier this month, a reported 700 Iranian journalists and public figures received an anonymous text message warning against having contact with “hostile” foreign organizations. The message allegedly read that “all contact and collaboration with hostile elements based abroad, by mail or other methods of communication, is a crime and will be brought to justice.” Iran’s Information Ministry denied [Pr] responsibility for the text messages, saying that such an act “contradicts the ministry’s policy of protecting the rights of citizens.” Authorities have long banned contact with foreign media outlets, such as Voice of America and BBC Persian. A number of Iranian lawmakers, including Ali Motahari and Mohammad Ali Vasili (who also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Ebtekar news), called for an investigation into the source of the messages.

HIV Transmission on the Rise in Iran: An official from Iran’s Health Ministry reported this week that the sexual transmission of HIV is rising across the country, with a two-fold increase [Pr] in the last decade. Ali Akbar Sayari, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, noted during a July 13 press conference that “the pattern of AIDS transmission through sex is on the rise and people need to be openly informed about it if it’s going to be controlled.” Sayari attributed the rise in HIV transmission to the inability of health officials to discuss “these issues openly and transparently to the people.” In an effort to increase the nation’s birthrate, Iran has restricted the use of contraceptives in recent years.

At the UN High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, Gholamali Khoshroo, Permanent Representative of Iran to the UN, outlined Iran’s national strategy designed to “end the AIDS epidemic in the country by 2030.” Khoshroo further underscored Iran’s commitment to “the health and dignity of people living with HIV” and that the nation “will strive to bridge the testing and treatment gaps over the next few years.”

Foreign Policy

Detention of of Dual-Nationals Threatens Iran-Canada Relations: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government attempts to rebuild diplomacy with Iran after his predecessor broke ties [Pr] in 2012 may be at risk due to Iran’s ongoing detentions of a number of dual citizens [Pr]. Among those recently imprisoned are Homa Hoodfar, a 65-year-old Canadian professor, who was jailed by the counterintelligence unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for allegedly “dabbling in feminism and security matters.” This month, Iranian authorities also arrested and confiscated the passport of dual national, artist Parviz Tanavoli. Appearing in court last week, Tanavoli was accused [Pr] of “causing confusion in the public mind” and “spreading lies.” More than 100 artists published [Pr] a letter protesting the ban on Tanavoli from leaving the country for a book launch [Pr] in London.

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was detained in June 2009 and held for 118 days without charge, emphasized the need “to publicize these cases… and put pressure on the Iranian officials as soon as possible.” He further noted that imprisoned dual nationals “can be treated as assets — they can be used as bargaining chips in Iran’s relations with other countries.” In the midst of tensions between Canada and Iran, Trudeau’s government announced that Canada, for the 14th year in a row, would lead an effort at the United Nations General Assembly this fall to highlight Iran’s poor human rights record.

UN Report Highlights Iran’s Missile ProgramIn a confidential report seen by Reuters, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran’s ballistic missile launches “are not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated by the signing of the (Iran nuclear deal).” The report comes only months after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps conducted missile tests in a demonstration of its non-nuclear deterrent power. While Ban emphasized that Iran had not engaged in activities “related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” he expressed concern over an arms seizure in the Gulf of Oman, which the United States claimed originated in Iran and were likely bound for Yemen.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said Iran would “severely confront any move – be it political, legal, or technical – that hinders our missile program.” He underscored [Pr] the importance of decoupling Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. An unnamed Iranian official called the report unrealistic, saying that Ban should “not yield to political pressures” from the UN Security Council. Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, criticized Ban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for bringing up Iran’s inconsistency with the UN resolution. Salehi said [Pr] “they are cooking up a plot against us” and Iran “should remain vigilant.” The Security Council is due to discuss Ban’s report on July 18th.

Economy

Meeting between Iran’s Central Bank, U.S. Treasury, and International Banks Postponed: A meeting due to take place in London on Tuesday between Iran’s Central Bank, the U.S. Treasury, and international banks was postponed, though officials gave no reason and only noted it would be rescheduled. The meeting was designed to discuss next steps for banks to resume ties with Iran following the lifting of sanctions. European banks remain reluctant [Pr] to resume ties until receiving assurances that they would not be punished for any dealings. A spokesman for Standard Chartered said the company has no intent to “accept any new clients who reside in Iran, or which are an entity owned or controlled by a person there, nor will we undertake any new transactions involving Iran or any party in Iran.”

U.S. House of Representatives Moves to Block Commercial Plane Sales to Iran: In June, Boeing and Iran Air agreed to a deal worth an estimated $18 billion for 80 aircraft. Should the sale be completed, it would mark the largest entry of a U.S. company into Iran’s market since the 1979 revolution. However, last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which included two amendments that would block Boeing and Airbus from being able to sell aircraft to Iran. Despite Airbus being a European company, it sources plane components from the United States. Airbus’ separate, 118-aircraft deal with Iran Air is estimated to be worth up to $25 billion. The Senate would also have to agree to the restrictions, though President Obama could also elect to veto the bill.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg responded by emphasizing that there “has to be equal treatment for everybody that’s involved, and if we can’t get licensed to sell these airplanes, then nobody should,” referring to Airbus. Ali Abedzadeh, the Head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, previously highlighted [Pr] the importance of the deal, underscoring Iran’s dilapidated fleet and the need to replace 90 percent of its planes. Iran’s nuclear negotiator Hamid Baeidinejad also responded, noting that blocking the plane dealings “is certainly a violation of [the nuclear agreement].” Iran’s Tasnim News Agency quoted a senior official with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp as saying that the Japanese company is exploring opportunities in Iran’s plane market.

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Questioning the Dictator”: On July 2, a university student stood up to the Supreme Leader about Khamenei’s stance towards the eight year house arrest of the leaders of the 2009 Green Movement. Credit: Assad Binakhahi