Iran: Petrol rationing and price hikes take Iranians by surprise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Petrol rationing and price hikes take Iranians by surprise

Drivers in Iran were caught off-guard by snap plan that includes a steep increase in the cost of motor fuel.

by

Iranians queued at petrol stations after fuel rationing and price hikes were announced [File: Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters]
Iranians queued at petrol stations after fuel rationing and price hikes were announced [File: Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters]

Tehran, Iran  When 37-year-old apparel retailer Farshad was getting ready to go to sleep just after midnight on Friday, his phone alerts suddenly blew up with social media posts reacting to a government policy that many figured was in the pipeline, but that had still struck without warning.

The government in Iran had announced that – effective immediately – petrol would be rationed and prices would triple.

“I guess we all knew this was happening one way or another, since the government has been reintroducing fuel cards for rationing,” said Farshad, who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname to protect his privacy. “But a midnight announcement and this price hike came out of nowhere.”

In the early hours of Friday morning, Iranian state television broad cast a statement by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company saying petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards.

Vehicles for private use are to be restricted to 60 litres (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol will jump 50 percent to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13 at open market rates) per litre. Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) per litre.

‘We’re all drowning’

In early May, after hardline Iranian news websites reported that fuel rationing was imminent, long queues formed at petrol stations all over the country.

Friday’s news was not telegraphed in advance, but people still started queueing at petrol stations. Though the price hike was immediate, any unused monthly ration quotas can be saved for up to six months.

Petrol in Iran – the world’s number five oil producer – is cheaper than in most countries. That could bolster justifications for a price hike, given the beating that Iran’s budget has sustained since the administration of United States President Donald Trump started applying its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on Iran over a year ago.

Still, as many Iranians pointed out on social media, average incomes are too low to comfortably absorb the fuel price hike.

“I wish economic austerity wasn’t only for average people. That way this would hurt less,” wrote a journalist on her Instagram account. “We’re all drowning, it’s only a matter of time.”

Iranians, especially those getting by on low- and middle-income wages, have taken a massive hit due to a currency crisis and an inflationary wave that formed on the back of US sanctions imposed after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

‘At the expense of the people’

The government of President Hassan Rouhani has tried to reassure the general public that the initiative is meant to help improve peoples’ quality of life.

Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of the Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced that the revenues from the initiative will be distributed among 18 million households – about 60 million people – in the form of monthly cash handouts.

A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18). This is separate from the 445,000 rials ($3.90) that each household member is eligible to receive under Iran’s long-running monthly state cash subsidies plan.

According to the Rouhani administration, not a single rial yielded from the rationing initiative will go to government coffers.

“The government is doing it differently this time, but it still feels like they’re trying to make up for their deficits at the expense of the people,” said Saeed, a 48-year-old architect who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname.

“And whenever gasoline prices go up, prices of other goods go up, too, so I doubt the cash handouts will be able to make up for it,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘Can afford less fuel’

The populist administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007 rationed gasoline and increased prices, but that move failed to curb rampant fuel smuggling or decrease consumption.

Some Iranians on social media have pointed to the irony of a 2015 tweet by President Rouhani, in which he said, “Gasoline offered at two prices created corruption, so we unified the prices”.

Iran has some of the largest energy reserves in the world, but due to limited refining capacity – and sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance – it has for years faced an uphill battle in meeting its domestic fuel needs.

Despite the public dissatisfaction and anger, some Iranians still hold out hope that a silver lining may emerge from the rationing scheme if fewer people are driving. Tehran has been battling smog and air pollution for the past week that led to the closure of schools.

“People are under so much pressure,” said 27-year-old Tehran resident Anahid, who asked that his surname be withheld. “But there’s no denying this pollution and traffic either, so maybe more people will turn to public transport if they literally can afford less fuel.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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Iran’s Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘Not anti-Semitic’: Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

Belying Tehran’s relentless threats to ensure ‘nothing left’ of Jewish state, ‘raze’ Tel Aviv and Haifa, leader says aim is to abolish ‘regime,’ get rid of ‘thugs’ like Netanyahu

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn’t mean the mass slaughter of the country’s Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state’s “imposed regime,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews],” Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

“Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Khamenei further argued that “had the Islamic world been committed to unity, there would have been no tragedy in Palestine.” He lamented that Muslims couldn’t even adhere to what he called the lowest level of unity — non-aggression between Muslims.

“We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence,” he said.

“Our position on the case of Palestine is definitive,” he said. “Early after the victory of the [1979 Islamic] revolution, the Islamic Republic gave the Zionists’ center in Tehran to the Palestinians. We helped the Palestinians, and we will continue to do so. The entire Muslim world should do so.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran regularly threatens to annihilate Israel, viewing the country as a powerful enemy allied with the United States and Sunni countries in the region against Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.

Contrary to Khamenei’s claims, those threats commonly refer to the physical destruction of Israeli cities, rather than of just the regime.

In September, Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces of Tel Aviv from the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim.

“Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Last year, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a key leader of weekly Muslim prayers in Iran, reacted to reports that Israel viewed a war with Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as likely by saying: “If you want Haifa and Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground, you can take your chance.”

In September, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaks at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense museum, during the unveiling of an exhibition of what Iran says are US and other drones captured in its territory, on September 21, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

Iran has lately been on edge, fearing an attack on the country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September attributed to Tehran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, but the US and others allege Iran was behind it.

The attack in Saudi Arabia was the latest incident following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the accord. The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons — something Iran denies it wants to do — in exchange for economic incentives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a sharp critic of the nuclear deal negotiated under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, and welcomed Washington’s pull-back from the accord, urging further pressure on Iran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Iran: Air Pollution Shuts Schools in Iran’s Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Air Pollution Shuts Schools in Iran’s Capital

Wednesday, 13 November, 2019 – 12:30
In the Nov. 14, 2016, Tehran is shrouded in a blanket of brown-white smog as the first of the winter’s heavy pollution hit the city. (Getty Images)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Schools in Tehran were ordered to be closed on Wednesday after the Iranian capital was cloaked in dangerously high levels of air pollution, authorities said.

Governor Anoushiravan Mohseni-Bandpey said kindergartens, preschools and primary schools would be shut in the city and the counties of Gharchak, Pishva and Varamin.

“The air quality index for the city of Tehran still has not passed the unhealthy status for sensitive groups,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Average concentrations of hazardous airborne particles hit 133 micrograms per cubic meter in the city and were as high as 150 for 10 districts, he said.

That is far above the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum of 25 micro-grams per cubic meter on average over a 24-hour period.

Warnings were issued for children, pregnant women, the elderly and people suffering from cardio-vascular or respiratory diseases to stay indoors.

Many people were seen wearing face masks to avoid fumes as they waited for buses on the sides of traffic-choked streets of southern Tehran during morning rush-hour.

A layer of thick smog covered Tehran on Tuesday, but it appeared to dissipate in northern areas on Wednesday morning with fewer school buses on the roads.

Air pollution was the cause of nearly 30,000 deaths per year in Iranian cities, IRNA reported earlier this year, citing a health ministry official.

Each winter, Iran’s sprawling capital suffers some of the worst pollution in the world through thermal inversion — a phenomenon that traps hazardous air over the city.

According to a World Bank report last year, most of the pollution in the city of eight million inhabitants is caused by heavy duty vehicles, motorbikes, refineries and power plants.

Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Seizure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT) 

 

Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Seizure

Tuesday, 5 November, 2019 – 12:30
A woman walks in front of new murals of the former US embassy in Tehran, Iran November 2, 2019. (Reuters)
London, Tehran – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran marked the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the mission of the US Embassy in Tehran with dozens of rallies in several cities across the country chanting against the US.

State television showed footage of crowds packed in the streets surrounding the former embassy building, dubbed the “den of spies” after Iran’s 1979 revolution. The building is currently under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

State television broadcast live footage of similar gatherings in several cities, including Mashhad, Qazvin and Tabriz in the north; Ilam, Bushehr, Ahvaz and Shiraz in the south; Isfahan in the center, as well as Zahedan in the southeast.

According to the Mehr news agency, “millions are taking part in these gatherings” across the country.

In Tehran, men, women and children waved placards in English and Farsi, reading: “Down with USA.. Death to Israel..Victory to Islam.” They carried effigies mocking US President Donald Trump.

In 1979, hard line students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza, and took 52 US citizens hostage. The protesters demanded Washington hand over the Shah for persecution inside Iran in exchange for releasing the hostages. They released them after 444 days when the Shah died in Egypt.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for trying to promote talks between the United States and Iran.

“The French president, who says a meeting will end all the problems between Tehran and America, is either naive or complicit with the US,” he said in remarks reported by state television.

He warned Iranian officials against holding talks with the US unless it returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and lifts reimposed sanctions. “Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100 percent wrong,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about “America’s crimes”, as lawmakers attending the session chanted “Death to America”.

Relations between the two countries have been deeply strained since President Trump abandoned in 2018 the 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.

The United States has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal that includes Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities.

Britain says Iran has seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Britain says Iran has seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

UK confirms two vessels taken, one of them British, in ‘unacceptable’ act; Iranian media says second ship released after being detained; US accuses Tehran of ‘escalatory violence’

This undated photo issued Friday July 19, 2019, by Stena Bulk, shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero at unknown location (Stena Bulk via AP)

This undated photo issued Friday July 19, 2019, by Stena Bulk, shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero at unknown location (Stena Bulk via AP)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, officials in London said, in a move that further raised tensions and infuriated American and British leaders.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said it had seized British oil tanker Stena Impero, claiming it “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

US officials told CNN there were indications that Iran had seized a second vessel, the Liberian tanker MV Mesdar. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that Masdar had been detained by Iranian forces but was released and left Iranian waters.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that two ships had been seized, condemning the incidents as “unacceptable” and saying he was “extremely concerned” by the incidents.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt addresses the final Conservative Party leadership election hustings in London on July 17, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” he said in a statement. “These seizures are unacceptable.”

The government was to hold an emergency ministerial meeting later on Friday “to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels,” Hunt said.

Britain’s ambassador in Tehran was in contact with Iranian authorities “to resolve the situation,” he added.

Hunt later warned of “serious consequences” if the ships were not released.

“We will respond in a way is considered but robust, and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences,” he was quoted saying by Sky News.

“We’re not looking at military options, we are a looking at diplomatic way to resolve the situation,” he added.

Britain confirmed that one of the boats seized was British registered. The other was Liberian-flagged, but reported to be owned by British company Norbulk Shipping.

Fars reported the Liberian-flagged tanker was briefly detained in the Strait of Hormuz and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

The UK is “urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a British government spokesperson said.

Asked about the latest incident as he departed the White House, President Donald Trump told reporters “We will talk to the UK. We’ll be working with the UK.”

He added: “This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble. It goes to show you I was right about Iran.”

US President Donald Trump talks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House on July 19, 2019, in Washington, DC (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The US accused Iran of “escalatory violence,” with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying: “The US will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.”

The Swedish owners of the Stena Impero said the vessel had come under “attack” in the Strait of Hormuz.

Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management said in a statement that it “can confirm that… our managed vessel Stena Impero was attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter while transiting the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now tracking as heading north towards Iran,” it said.

UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti said the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iranian forces represents an escalation in tensions in the Persian Gulf that makes it clear more protection for merchant vessels is urgently needed.

He said the action was “in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters.”

He called on the British government to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship’s crew.

The announcement by the Guards came hours after the British territory of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled that a seized Iranian tanker suspected of breaching sanctions by shipping oil to Syria can be detained for 30 more days.

The Grace 1 supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil, was intercepted by British Royal Marines and Gibraltar’s police on July 4 as it transited through waters claimed by Gibraltar, which is located on Spain’s southern tip.

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Thursday he had had a “constructive and positive” meeting with Iranian officials in London aimed at defusing tensions around the detention of the tanker in the British territory’s waters.

Gibraltar and US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.

Iran has reacted with fury to what it termed “piracy” and warned it would not let the interception go unanswered.

Last week, a British warship in the Gulf warned off armed Iranian boats that tried to stop a UK supertanker. London has since announced the deployment of two more warships to the Gulf region for the coming months.

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2019, Iranian soldiers take part in the ‘National Persian Gulf Day’ in the Strait of Hormuz. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

The Gibraltar court ruling comes as tensions in the Gulf region mounted Friday after Washington said an Iranian drone was destroyed after threatening a US naval vessel at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz.

It was believed to be the first US military engagement with Iran following a series of increasingly serious incidents. Iran has denied losing any drones.

On Thursday the Guards said they’d seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil. The vessel appeared to be a United Arab Emirates-based tanker that had disappeared off trackers in Iranian territorial waters.

Iran’s state television did not identify the seized vessel or nationalities of the crew, but said it was intercepted on Sunday. It said the oil tanker had 12 foreign crew members on board and was involved in smuggling some 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.

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Iran seizes two British tankers and makes a huge mistake

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Iran seizes two British tankers and makes a huge mistake

00:0100:54

There will be furious embarrassment in the British government this evening over Iran’s seizure of two British oil tankers today. One of those tankers is British-flagged, and the other is British-owned.

Still, Iran has made a strategic miscalculation here.

Acting against the British while the U.K. and Iranian foreign ministers were seeking compromise over Britain’s recent seizure of an Iranian tanker, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have further isolated Iran on the international stage. With a multinational naval task force for tanker escorts likely to be announced next week, the Iranians are increasingly outgunned and diplomatically isolated. Losing a drone to a U.S. warship on Thursday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is also now aware of American red lines against threats to U.S. life.

00:0100:39

Columnist Salena Zito on the expanded Washington Examiner magazine

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But none of that will distract from London’s embarrassment.

Britain was well aware that this kind of Iranian aggression was likely. Deploying an advanced warship to the Persian Gulf, the U.K. expected to deter Iran. That calculation has clearly failed in quite spectacular fashion. The military options to retake these tankers are also weak. While Britain’s Special Boat Service special forces unit has an advanced maritime counter-terrorism capability, recovering tankers now in Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps port would be an extraordinary challenge.

That said, Iran’s action here presents two problems for Tehran.

First, it will encourage Britain to support the U.S. sanctions pressure campaign against Iran. With a new British prime minister entering office next week, the U.K. will want to regain the initiative here against appearing weak. But Iran’s action also makes it likelier that France and Germany will adopt a tougher stance against it. Those nations have pursued an appeasement strategy until now, but they will view Iran’s escalated endangerment of global energy supplies as intolerable.

Ultimately, then, Iran is heading for more economic damage. These seizures might make the hard-liners feel good, but they’ve made a big mistake.

Iran’s President Decries US Policy Of Maximum Pressure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iran’s Rouhani Decries US Policy of Maximum Pressure

Wednesday, 1 May, 2019 – 09:15
Rouhani speaks during a ceremony marking national Workers’ Week in Tehran, Iran April 30, 2019. (Reuters)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered Tuesday a vocal defiance to Washington’s latest measure to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

“We will bring the US to its knees,” said Rouhani two days ahead of US decision to end waivers for country’s buying Iranian oil goes into effect.

Rouhani’s bellicose words followed an even tougher speech delivered by Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

“Enemies are looking to harm us through coercion, sanctions and threatening the country’s stability,” Soleimani said, while stressing that the US is going full-throttle in its attempt to trigger regime change in Tehran.

Last week, Washington announced it will no longer exempt eight countries that mainly import oil from Iran from economic sanctions. The move is set to place maximum pressure on Tehran so that it returns to negotiations and complies with 12 demands which include ending its support for regional militias, as well as freezing its development of ballistic missiles.

Since then, Rouhani and Iran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have signaled willingness to reopen negotiation channels.

But Soleimani blasted any talks under the pressure of economic sanctions as “degrading, capitulation and surrender.”

The country’s ultra-conservative Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, for his part, deemed returning to the roundtable a “strategic blunder.”

“America’s decision that Iranian oil exports should reach zero is wrong and incorrect, and we will not allow this decision to be implemented,” Rouhani said.

“In the coming months, the Americans themselves will see that we will continue our oil exports,” Rouhani said, taking pride in Tehran having “six methods” to circumvent US sanctions.

Rouhani and Iranian officials have threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to halt Iranian oil exports.

The Strait of Hormuz links the crude-producing countries of the Middle East and markets in Asia and the Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond, and a third of the world’s sea-transported oil passes through it every day.

Iran has also threatened to pull out of the nuclear deal itself if European powers do not succeed in ensuring Tehran’s economic benefits.

European countries have said they would help companies keep their operations with Iran as long as they are committed to the deal, but Tehran has criticized what it sees as a slow pace of progress in the implementation of a payment mechanism for trade settlement between Iran and Europe.

France points finger at Iran over bomb plot, seizes assets

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

France points finger at Iran over bomb plot, seizes assets

PARIS (Reuters) – France said on Tuesday there was no doubt Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind a June plot to attack an exiled opposition group’s rally outside Paris and it seized assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals.

The hardening of relations between Paris and Tehran could have far-reaching consequences for Iran as President Hassan Rouhani’s government looks to European capitals to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.

“Behind all this was a long, meticulous and detailed investigation by our (intelligence) services that enabled us to reach the conclusion, without any doubt, that responsibility fell on the Iranian intelligence ministry,” a French diplomatic source said.

The source, speaking after the government announced asset freezes, added that deputy minister and director general of intelligence Saeid Hashemi Moghadam had ordered the attack and Assadollah Asadi, a Vienna-based diplomat held by German authorities, had put it into action.

The ministry is under control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,

“We deny once again the allegations against Iran and demand the immediate release of the Iranian diplomat,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

The incident was a plot “designed by those who want to damage Iran’s long-established relations with France and Europe,” he said.

The plot targeted a meeting of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) outside the French capital. U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and several former European and Arab ministers attended the rally.

It unraveled after Asadi, an accredited diplomat in Austria, was arrested in Germany, two other individuals were detained in Belgium in possession of explosives, and one other individual in France.

On Monday, a court in southern Germany ruled the diplomat could be extradited to Belgium.

“We cannot accept any terrorist threat on our national territory and this plot needed a firm response,” the diplomatic source said.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), attend a rally in Villepinte, near Paris, France, June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

TARGETED ASSET FREEZES

The asset freezes targeted Asadi and Moghadam. A unit within the Iranian intelligence services was also targeted.

The French government gave no details of the assets involved, describing its measures as “targeted and proportionate”.

The diplomatic source said the freezes covered assets and financing means in France, although neither individual at this stage had any assets in the country.

“We hope this matter is now over. We have taken measures and said what we needed to say,” the source said, suggesting Paris was seeking to turn a page on the issue.

France had warned Tehran to expect a robust response to the thwarted bombing and diplomatic relations were becoming increasingly strained.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke to their Iranian counterparts about the issue at the U.N. General Assembly after demanding explanations over Iran’s role.

An internal French foreign ministry memo in August told diplomats not to travel to Iran, Reuters revealed, citing the Villepinte bomb plot and a toughening of Iran’s position toward the West.

Paris has also suspended nominating a new ambassador to Iran and not responded to Tehran nominations for diplomatic positions in France.

While not directly linked to the plot, the diplomatic source said a French police raid on a Shi’ite Muslim faith center earlier on Tuesday was aimed at also sending a signal at Iran.

The deterioration of relations with France could have wider implications for Iran.

France has been one of the strongest advocates of salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran agree to curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of economic sanctions.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), attend a rally in Villepinte, near Paris, France, June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said it expects renewed sanctions to hurt the Iranian economy hard.

Additional reporting by Paris bureau, Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; Editing by Jon Boyle, William Maclean, Richard Balmforth

Iran: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Great People With The Hate Filled Dictator

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Iran

Introduction Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts. US-Iranian relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987 and 1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US and UN economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and conventional weapons proliferation. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformer Majles (parliament) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians, through the control of un-elected institutions, prevented reform measures from being enacted and increased repressive measures. Starting with nationwide municipal elections in 2003 and continuing through Majles elections in 2004, conservatives reestablished control over Iran’s elected government institutions, which culminated with the August 2005 inauguration of hardliner Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD as president. In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program. In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
History Early history (3200 BC–728 BC)

Dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau point to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC,[6][7][8] centuries before the earliest civilizations arose in nearby Mesopotamia.[31]

Proto-Iranians first emerged following the separation of Indo-Iranians, and are traced to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.[32] Aryan, (Proto-Iranian) tribes arrived in the Iranian plateau in the third and second millennium BC, probably in more than one wave of emigration, and settled as nomads. Further separation of Proto-Iranians into “Eastern” and “Western” groups occurred due to migration. By the first millennium BC, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians populated the western part, while Cimmerians, Sarmatians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea. Other tribes began to settle on the eastern edge, as far as on the mountainous frontier of north-western Indian subcontinent and into the area which is now Balochistan. Others, such as the Scythian tribes spread as far west as the Balkans and as far east as Xinjiang. Avestan is an eastern Old Iranian language that was used to compose the sacred hymns and canon of the Zoroastrian Avesta in c. 1000 BC. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid empire and later Iranian empires, until the 7th century.

Pre-Islamic Statehood (728 BC–651 AD)

The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and empire (728–559 BC), the largest of its day, until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians leading to the Achaemenid Empire (559–330 BC), and further unification between peoples and cultures. After Cyrus’s death, his son Cambyses continued his father’s work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. A power struggle followed Cambyses’ death and, despite his tenuous connection to the royal line, Darius I was declared king (ruled 522–486 BC). He was to be arguably the greatest of the ancient Iranian rulers.

Under Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest and most powerful empire in human history up until that point.[33] The borders of the Persian empire stretched from the Indus and Oxus Rivers in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, extending through Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and Egypt. In 499 BC Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC. During the Greco-Persian wars Persia made some major advantages and razed Athens in 480 BC, But after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw. Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC.

The Achaemenid’s greatest achievement was the empire itself. The rules and ethics emanating from Zoroaster’s teachings were strictly followed by the Achaemenids who introduced and adopted policies based on human rights, equality and banning of slavery. Zoroastrianism spread un-imposed during the time of the Achaemenids and through contacts with the exiled Jewish people in Babylon freed by Cyrus, Zoroastrian concepts further propagated and influenced into other Abrahamic religions. The Golden Age of Athens marked by Aristotle, Plato and Socrates also came about during the Achaemenid period while their contacts with Persia and the Near East abounded. The peace, tranquility, security and prosperity that were afforded to the people of the Near East and Southeastern Europe proved to be a rare historical occurrence, an unparalleled period where commerce prospered, and the standard of living for all people of the region improved.

Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid territory in 334 BC, defeating the last Achaemenid Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. He left the annexed territory in 328–327. In each of the former Achaemenid territories he installed his own officers as caretakers, which led to friction and ultimately to the partitioning of the former empire after Alexander’s death. A reunification would not occur until 700 years later, under the Sassanids (see below). Unlike the diadochic Seleucids and the succeeding Arsacids, who used a vassalary system, the Sassanids—like the Achaemenids—had a system of governors (MP: shahrab) personally appointed by the Emperor and directed by the central government. The new empire led by Alexander became the first, of other, later, foreign ruled Iranian empires that came to promote a Persianate society.

Parthia was led by the Arsacid Dynasty (اشکانیان Ashkâniân), who reunited and ruled over the Iranian plateau, after defeating the Greek Seleucid Empire, beginning in the late 3rd century BC, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between ca. 150 BC and 224 AD. These were the third native dynasty of ancient Iran and lasted five centuries. After the conquests of Media, Assyria, Babylonia and Elam, the Parthians had to organize their empire. The former elites of these countries were Greek, and the new rulers had to adapt to their customs if they wanted their rule to last. As a result, the cities retained their ancient rights and civil administrations remained more or less undisturbed.

Parthia was the arch-enemy of the Roman Empire in the east, limiting Rome’s expansion beyond Cappadocia (central Anatolia). By using a heavily-armed and armored cataphract cavalry, and lightly armed but highly-mobile mounted archers, the Parthians “held their own against Rome for almost 300 years”.[35] Rome’s acclaimed general Mark Antony led a disastrous campaign against the Parthians in 36 BC in which he lost 32,000 men. By the time of Roman emperor Augustus, Rome and Parthia were settling some of their differences through diplomacy. By this time, Parthia had acquired an assortment of golden eagles, the cherished standards of Rome’s legions, captured from Mark Antony, and Crassus, who suffered “a disastrous defeat” at Carrhae in 53 BC.

The end of the Parthian Empire came in 224 AD, when the empire was loosely organized and the last king was defeated by Ardashir I, one of the empire’s vassals. Ardashir I then went on to create the Sassanid Empire. Soon he started reforming the country both economically and militarily. The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, referring to it as Erânshahr or Iranshahr, , “Dominion of the Aryans”, i.e. of Iranians), with their capital at Ctesiphon.[37] The Romans suffered repeated losses particularly by Ardashir I, Shapur I, and Shapur II.[38] During their reign, Sassanid battles with the Roman Empire caused such pessimism in Rome that the historian Cassius Dio wrote:“
Here was a source of great fear to us. So formidable does the Sassanid king seem to our eastern legions, that some are liable to go over to him, and others are unwilling to fight at all. ”

In 632 raiders from the Arab peninsula began attacking the Sassanid Empire. Iran was defeated in the Battle of al-Qâdisiyah, paving way for the Islamic conquest of Persia.

During Parthian, and later Sassanid era, trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Indian subcontinent, and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. Parthian remains display classically Greek influences in some instances and retain their oriental mode in others, a clear expression of “the cultural diversity that characterized Parthian art and life”.[40] The Parthians were innovators of many architecture designs such as that of Ctesiphon, which bears resemblance to, and might have influenced, European Romanesque architecture.[41][42] Under the Sassanids, Iran expanded relations with China, the arts, music, and architecture greatly flourished, and centers such as the School of Nisibis and Academy of Gundishapur became world renowned centers of science and scholarship.

Middle Ages (652–1501)

After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Iran was annexed into the Arab Umayyad Caliphate. But the Islamization of Iran was to yield deep transformations within the cultural, scientific, and political structure of Iran’s society: The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine and art became major elements of the newly-forming Muslim civilization. Culturally, politically, and religiously, the Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense importance. Indeed, the culmination of Iran caused the “Islamic Golden Age”.

Abu Moslem, an Iranian general , expelled the Umayyads from Damascus and helped the Abbasid caliphs to conquer Baghdad. The Abbasid caliphs frequently chose their “wazirs” (viziers) among Iranians, and Iranian governors acquired a certain amount of local autonomy. Thus in 822, the governor of Khorasan, Tahir, proclaimed his independence and founded a new Persian dynasty of Tahirids. And by the Samanid era, Iran’s efforts to regain its independence had been well solidified.

Attempts of Arabization thus never succeeded in Iran, and movements such as the Shuubiyah became catalysts for Iranians to regain their independence in their relations with the Arab invaders. The cultural revival of the post-Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of Iranian national identity. The resulting cultural movement reached its peak during the 9th and 10th centuries. The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language, the language of the Persians and the official language of Iran to the present day. Ferdowsi, Iran’s greatest epic poet, is regarded today as the most important figure in maintaining the Persian language.

After an interval of silence Iran re-emerged as a separate, different and distinctive element within Islam. Iranian philosophy after the Islamic conquest, is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia.

The movement continued well into the 11th century, when Mahmud-a Ghaznavi founded a vast empire, with its capital at Isfahan and Ghazna. Their successors, the Seljuks, asserted their domination from the Mediterranean Sea to Central Asia. As with their predecessors, the divan of the empire was in the hands of Iranian viziers, who founded the Nizamiyya. During this period, hundreds of scholars and scientists vastly contributed to technology, science and medicine, later influencing the rise of European science during the Renaissance.

In 1218, the eastern Khwarazmid provinces of Transoxiana and Khorasan suffered a devastating invasion by Genghis Khan. During this period more than half of Iran’s population were killed,[46] turning the streets of Persian cities like Neishabur into “rivers of blood”, as the severed heads of men, women, and children were “neatly stacked into carefully constructed pyramids around which the carcasses of the city’s dogs and cats were placed”.[47] Between 1220 and 1260, the total population of Iran had dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of mass extermination and famine.[48] In a letter to King Louis IX of France, Holaku, one of the Genghis Khan’s grandsons, alone took responsibility for 200,000 deaths in his raids of Iran and the Caliphate.[49] He was followed by yet another conqueror, Tamerlane, who established his capital in Samarkand.[50] The waves of devastation prevented many cities such as Neishabur from reaching their pre-invasion population levels until the 20th century, eight centuries later.[51] But both Hulagu, Timur, and their successors soon came to adopt the ways and customs of that which they had conquered, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Persian.[52]

Early Modern Era (1501–1921)

Iran’s first encompassing Shi’a Islamic state was established under the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1722) by Shah Ismail I. The Safavid Dynasty soon became a major political power and promoted the flow of bilateral state contacts. The Safavid peak was during the rule of Shah Abbas The Great.[53] The Safavid Dynasty frequently locked horns with Ottoman Empire, Uzbek tribes and the Portuguese Empire. The Safavids moved their capital from Tabriz to Qazvin and then to Isfahan where their patronage for the arts propelled Iran into one of its most aesthetically productive eras. Under their rule, the state became highly centralized, the first attempts to modernize the military were made, and even a distinct style of architecture developed. In 1722 Afghan rebels defeated Shah Sultan Hossein and ended the Safavid Dynasty, but in 1735, Nader Shah successfully drove out the Afghan rebels from Isfahan and established the Afsharid Dynasty. He then staged an incursion into India in 1738 securing the Peacock throne, Koh-i-Noor, and Darya-ye Noor among other royal treasures. His rule did not last long however, and he was assassinated in 1747. The Mashhad based Afshar Dynasty was succeeded by the Zand dynasty in 1750, founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz. His rule brought a period of relative peace and renewed prosperity.

The Zand dynasty lasted three generations, until Aga Muhammad Khan executed Lotf Ali Khan, and founded his new capital in Tehran, marking the dawn of the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. The capable Qajar chancellor Amir Kabir established Iran’s first modern college system, among other modernizing reforms. Iran suffered several wars with Imperial Russia during the Qajar era, resulting in Iran losing almost half of its territories to Imperial Russia and the British Empire, via the treaties of Gulistan, Turkmenchay and Akhal. In spite of The Great Game Iran managed to maintain her sovereignty and was never colonized, unlike neighboring states in the region. Repeated foreign intervention and a corrupt and weakened Qajar rule led to various protests, which by the end of the Qajar period resulted in Persia’s constitutional revolution establishing the nation’s first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy.

Late Modern Era (1921–)

In 1921, Reza Khan overthrew the weakening Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. Reza Shah initiated industrialization, railroad construction, and the establishment of a national education system. Reza Shah sought to balance Russian and British influence, but when World War II started, his nascent ties to Germany alarmed Britain and Russia. In 1941, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran in order to utilize Iranian railroad capacity during World War II. The Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s oil reserves. In response Britain embargoed Iranian oil and invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. After Operation Ajax Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah’s White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini, who was popular in religious circles, was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964 Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile he continued to denounce the Shah.

The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution,[54][55][56] began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.[57] After strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini soon returned from exile to Tehran, enthusiastically greeted by millions of Iranians.[58] The Pahlavi Dynasty collapsed ten days later on 11 February when Iran’s military declared itself “neutral” after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979 when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so.[59][60] In December 1979 the country approved a theocratic constitution, whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country. The speed and success of the revolution surprised many throughout the world,[61] as it had not been precipitated by a military defeat, a financial crisis, or a peasant rebellion.[62] Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, the revolution ultimately resulted in an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984, the day the UN reported that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The New York Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the US, and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name.”

Iran’s relationship with the United States deteriorated rapidly during the revolution. On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students seized US embassy personnel, labelling the embassy a “den of spies”.[65] They accused its personnel of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the revolutionary government, as the CIA had done to Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. While the student ringleaders had not asked for permission from Khomeini to seize the embassy, Khomeini nonetheless supported the embassy takeover after hearing of its success.[66] While most of the female and African American hostages were released within the first months,[66] the remaining fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days. The students demanded the handover of the Shah in exchange for the hostages, and following the Shah’s death in the summer of 1980, that the hostages be put on trial for espionage. Subsequently attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate or rescue were unsuccessful. But in January 19 1981 the hostages were set free according to the Algiers declaration. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of what he perceived to be disorder in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and its unpopularity with Western governments. The once-strong Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolution. Saddam sought to expand Iraq’s access to the Persian Gulf by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah’s rule. Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan which not only has a substantial Arab population, but boasted rich oil fields as well. On the unilateral behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs became objectives as well. With these ambitions in mind, Hussein planned a full-scale assault on Iran, boasting that his forces could reach the capital within three days. On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran-Iraq War. The attack took revolutionary Iran completely by surprise.

Although Saddam Hussein’s forces made several early advances, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push the Iraqi army back into Iraq. Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution westward into Iraq, especially on the majority Shi’a Arabs living in the country. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini, in his words, “drank the cup of poison” and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians and military personnel were killed when Iraq used chemical weapons in its warfare. Iraq was financially backed by Egypt, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states, the United States (beginning in 1983), France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and the People’s Republic of China (which also sold weapons to Iran). There were more than 100,000 Iranian victims[67] of Iraq’s chemical weapons during the eight-year war. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Almost all relevant international agencies have confirmed that Saddam engaged in chemical warfare to blunt Iranian human wave attacks; these agencies unanimously confirmed that Iran never used chemical weapons during the war.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries: total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km
Coastline: 2,440 km; note – Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate: mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
Terrain: rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use: arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: 76,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 137.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
Politics The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution. The system comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Supreme Leader of Iran is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[71] The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace.[71] The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Council of Guardians are appointed by the Supreme Leader.[71] The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.[72] The Assembly of Experts is responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader in the performance of legal duties.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority.[71][73] The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[73] Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.[74] The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters.[71] The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature.[75] Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.[76] Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence. Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected in a run-off poll in the 2005 presidential elections. His term expires in 2009.

Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran

As of 2008 the legislature of Iran (also known as the Majlis of Iran) is a unicameral body.[78] Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, but the upper house was removed under the new constitution. The Majlis of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms.[78] The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget.[79] All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.[79][80] The Council of Guardians comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary.[81][73] The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision.[73]

The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran’s Judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor.[82] There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and “revolutionary courts” which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed.[82] The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed.[82]

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 “virtuous and learned” clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians determines candidates’ eligibility.[82] The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.[82] As all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the Assembly has never been publicly known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader’s decisions.[82]

Finally, Local City Councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article seven of Iran’s Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are “decision-making and administrative organs of the State”. This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying the social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies; planning and co-ordinating national participation in the implementation of social, economic, constructive, cultural, educational and other welfare affairs.

People Population: 65,397,521 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.2% (male 7,783,794/female 7,385,721)
15-64 years: 71.4% (male 23,636,883/female 23,088,934)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,701,727/female 1,800,462) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 25.8 years
male: 25.6 years
female: 26 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.663% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 16.57 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.65 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.054 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.945 male(s)/female
total population: 1.026 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 38.12 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 38.29 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.56 years
male: 69.12 years
female: 72.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.71 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 66,000 (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 1,600 (2005 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever and malaria
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian
Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Religions: Muslim 98% (Shi’a 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i) 2%
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 77%
male: 83.5%
female: 70.4%

In Tehran, Economic Protests Flare As Iran’s Currency Plunges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NPR’)

 

In Tehran, Economic Protests Flare As Iran’s Currency Plunges

Demonstrators filled the streets of Tehran on Monday to protest economic downtown in Iran.

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s capital has been racked by protests this week over a plunge in the value of the country’s currency, the rial. Crowds at one point shut down Tehran’s sprawling Grand Bazaar, an economic center and a place where the 1979 revolution gained footing.

Protesters called for shop owners to close their businesses as the demonstrations ramped up on Monday. They marched to the gates of Iran’s parliament, and police tried to quell them with what multiple news outlets said appeared to be tear gas. Videos purportedly showing clashes between security forces and protesters were put up online Tuesday. BBC Persian posted footage of people running as security forces approached.

The rial has fallen to a new low — 90,000 against the U.S. dollar on the country’s black market, Iranian media said, despite government efforts to control the currency rate. The official exchange rate is about 42,000 rials to the dollar.

Anti-government demonstrations driven by economic troubles erupted across the country last December and January. But they didn’t gain traction in Tehran. This week’s demonstrations in the capital were the biggest in years, multiple media outlets have reported.

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, tells NPR via email that these demonstrations are different. “They have taken place amongst the regime’s hitherto reliable basis of support — the members of the bazaar and the working classes. For over a hundred years, strikes in bazaars have been harbingers of change and invariably the clergy were allied with these merchants. Now the ruling clergy are the subject of the merchants’ wrath.”

President Hassan Rouhani addressed the protests on state television Monday night, telling the Iranian people that the United States is to blame for the country’s economic difficulties. He said the spontaneous demonstrations were caused by “foreign media propaganda.”

He was also quoted as saying that the government would be able to endure the rial’s downward spiral and upcoming sanctions, which the Trump administration plans to impose after announcing a withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May. “Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided. We have enough sugar, wheat, and cooking oil. We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market,” Rouhani said, per Reuters.

Iran’s economy was lagging before President Trump announced the exit from the Iran nuclear deal, and it has grown weaker in anticipation of U.S. sanctions, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports. The country’s buying power and retail sector have suffered.

The Central Bank of Iran reportedly announced that it will create a secondary currency market to relieve pressure on the country’s currency.

Citing economic security, Iran is also clamping down on foreign products by banning imports of more than 1,300 items, according to Reuters.

It wasn’t immediately clear who led the Tehran protests. Some observers believe that conservative factions in the government may have encouraged the demonstrations in an attempt to undermine the more moderate Rouhani. But some protests evolved into chants with anti-government slogans, according to the U.S.-government funded Voice of America.

Milani said that Rouhani faces pressure not just from the angered public, but radical conservatives such as the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The hardliners clearly think they can ride public dissent into more consolidated power for themselves,” he said. “But they might well have underestimated the seriousness of the crisis and its possible outcome.”