Iran Brief: Iran Announces Date of 2017 Presidential Elections – July 29, 2016

Domestic Politics

Iran Announces Date of 2017 Presidential Elections: ISNA media outlet reported [Pr] that Iran’s 2017 president elections will take place on May 19, 2017 (29 Ordibehesht in the Persian calendar). Iranian officials are reportedly slating the election to take place a month earlier than usual to ensure the voting does not coincide with the holy month of Ramadan.

Authorities Destroy Thousands of Satellites for “Degrading Morality:” Iranian authorities destroyed over 100,000 satellite dishes in a crackdown for the devices’ supposed role in degrading Iran’s “morality and culture.” The head of Iran’s Basij militia, General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, justified the decision, saying, “Most of these satellite channels not only weaken the foundation of families but also cause disruptions in children’s education and children who are under the influence of satellite have improper behavior… What these televisions really achieve is increased divorce, addiction, and insecurity in society.”

Iranian law bans satellite equipment and imposes hefty fines on those who are found to use or otherwise maintain satellite dishes. Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Jannati responded to the satellite seizure by calling for the law to be revised. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has similarly denounced the ban on satellite dishes as “unnecessary and counterproductive.” London-based Small Media, an NGO focused on supporting civil society actors, wrote in a report that Iran’s government continues to crackdown on satellite dishes because it sees them as “a Western front in the ‘soft war’ being waged against their rule” and as “a ‘weapon’ intent on undermining the country’s religious and cultural beliefs.”

Arrests of Dual-Nationals Continue with Detention of Iranian-American: A recent uptick in the number of dual nationals arrested in Iran continued this month, with Fars News reporting Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei as saying, ”The reports on the detention of a dual-national Iranian-American individual are confirmed,” without further details about any charges. The arrest coincides with reports of the disappearance of Iranian-American Robin Reza Shahini, who was reportedly detained while visiting his mother in Gorgan this month. Shahani’s girlfriend told the press that she feared Shahini was arrested for criticizing Iran’s human rights situation online. Two other Iranian-Americans remain detained in Iran, including businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer Namazi.

Foreign Policy

Zarif Completes Four-Nation Tour of West Africa: State-affiliated PressTV reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, accompanied by a trade delegation, undertook a six-day, four-nation tour to explore expanding ties with Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali. This latest visit follows two previous visits to East and North Africa in 2015. In remarks made during a meeting with Guinea Prime Minister Mamady Youla, Zarif remarked that he anticipates the visit to “open a new chapter in cooperation between the Islamic Republic and the African nations.”

On Tuesday, Zarif visited the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where he emphasized the importance of both Ghana and Iran “[facilitating] relations in the private sector” as well as increasing “banking cooperation.” During a meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Zarif also reaffirmed[Pr] Iran’s commitment “to cooperate with Nigeria to fight Boko Haram and terrorist groups hostile to… Nigeria and Iran.” Zarif concluded the tour with a meeting with Mali’s Prime Minister Modibo Keita on Thursday, during which he similarly underscored Iran’s desire to “cooperate with Mali in the area of fighting terrorism and extremism.”

Foreign Ministry Denies U.S. Claim of al-Qaeda Figures in Iran: Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied allegations made by the United States last week that three senior al-Qaida figures are based in Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said [Pr] that Iran “has no information whatsoever on the presence of these people on its soil” and further underscored Iran’s “unflinching will to confront terrorist groups and has taken the necessary measures [to confront them] in line with relevant international obligations.” Ghasemi criticized the United States for the claims, suggesting that “instead of issuing generalities, the U.S. government should provide for the coordinated international fight against terrorist groups by sharing precise information.”

Economy

Aircraft Deals Delayed, Iran Looks to Alternate Suppliers: Agreements between Iran Air and Boeing and AirBus to purchase some 200 aircraft are reportedly delayed after legislation passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month that could block the deals. Despite reports suggesting that President Barack Obama will veto the legislation, the legislation has effectively frozen the deal’s progress. Iranian aviation officials expressed frustration this week and indicated they may look to alternate suppliers for the purchase of planes. Press TV reported late last week that Iran is planning on buying 25 planes from Japan’s Mitsubishi conglomerate in a deal estimated to be worth $500 million. The planes are slated to be provided to Iran’s Aseman Airlines. It remains unclear if Iran could lease other aircraft, either as an alternative or to supplement future purchases, with analysts question whether the companies leasing the planes could recover the aircraft should Iran violate the nuclear agreement.

Media

The illustration depicts an Iranian mother shielding her son from weapons, cigarettes, satellite television, and Facebook. Demonizing satellite television and Facebook are common themes in hardliner news outlets. Credit: Taher Shabani