Tag Archives: Iran

#Rouhani cuts the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) budget by 20%

20 Jan

Iran’s President Rouhani presented his budget to the Iranian parliament 3 days ago.

One of the very interesting facts from his latest budget is that he has cut the IRGC budget by as much as 20% (from $6.1 billion this year to $4.9 billion  next year).

Even after this cut, the budget of the IRGC which has approximately 125000 active personnel will be twice that of Iran’s armed forces (Artesh) which has approximately 500,000 personnel on active duty. Next year the budget has allocated $2.03 billion for the Artesh, a rise of 9% from this year.

In my latest interview (from 2 days ago) for I24 News I discuss President Rouhani’s latest budget in more details.

Debate: A former #Iran and #Saudi official go head to head

18 Jan

The Iran – Saudi cold war entered a new phase after the recent execution of the Saudi Shiite Cleric Sheikh Nimr, and the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Since then we have heard and read comments and accusations made by both sides against each other, but never at the same place.

The debate below is the first debate between a former Saudi and Iranian official since the recent events.

The Iranian side is represented by Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, the former head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Iranian National Security Council and a close ally of President Hassan Rouhani. The Saudi side is represented by Jamal Khashoggi, a former adviser to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal.

If you are in the U.S and can not access the Youtube link below, click here

Was diplomacy the only reason or the biggest reason why a US – #Iran crisis was averted today?

13 Jan

Sorry to be the Party Pooper, but diplomacy and improved relations between Zarif and John Kerry were not the only, nor the biggest reason why the captured U.S sailors were released within 24 hours by Iran.

The biggest reason? The end of sanctions being so close.

The Iranian supreme leader is a realist. He is not going to ruin years of negotiations and sacrifice all the compromises he made to reach a nuclear deal so that sanctions are removed by locking horns with the U.S at this point. Not when he is so close to the finishing line.

And this is what gave the moderates in Iran leverage against the hardliners. The latter would have absolutely loved to turn this incident into something more serious as it would have boosted their “revolutionary” credentials and their defense budgets. Not to mention leveraging it to gain more political room for maneuvering inside Iranian domestic politics.

But today, it wasn’t to be. Lets see how they will react next time, after the supreme leader has received what he has wanted all along: end to sanctions. Then a simple incident like today could get more complicated. And friendly relations between Kerry and Zarif may not be enough to solve things within 24 hours, like today.

From #Iran: a more flexible view regarding the fate of #Assad

21 Dec

On the 6th of December, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati stated:

“Bashar al-Assad is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s red line because he was elected president by the Syrian people,”.

Velayati is part of the unelected regime.

It is believed that the government of President Hassan Rouhani which is elected (after a controlled vetting process of the candidates by the Guardian Council) is more flexible when it comes to the fate of Assad.

The interview below with the well-known Tehran-based political analyst Ghanbar Naderi shows a more flexible narrative which I think is closer to the government’s view than that of the regime.

America maintained 1996 sanctions against #Iran so that it could steal its #gas market share

15 Dec

Lets cut to the chase: according to a new article, one of the main reasons why the United States has kept the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) until today is because America wanted to steal Iran’s potential Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) customers.

The United States was able to do this as the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) targeted European and Asian firms investing more than $20 million for the development of oil in Iran. “While ILSA did not explicitly ban investments in LNG, it made those investments more challenging”, the new article states.

Meanwhile, the United States used the absence of Iran to give its:

“own extractive industries an opportunity to fill the market demand that would have instead been available for Iranian LNG exports.”

So while Iran was under sanctions, the US developed its LNG sector. As a result, Iran has a non-existent LNG sector and can’t export Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), because of the sanctions, and yet the US in a few weeks will start its first LNG exports to customers around the globe.

You can read the entire article here.

Iran’s red line on #Syria: how red is it?

7 Dec

Iran has set red line for its Syria policy. According to Reuters:

A top advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader on Sunday said the future of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could only be determined by the Syrian people and this was a “red line” for Tehran.

In other words: hands off US, France and even Russia, Assad is here to stay until the people of Syria (ie. Assad’s supporters) decide he has to go.

Just how red is this red line? What I am trying to ask is: is this just a maximalist negotiation position which Iran has adopted in order to boost its hand in the Syria negotiations, or does Iran really mean what it says? That there is no way it would be willing to compromise on this issue.

When it comes to Iran, red lines and negotiations, recent history has some interesting examples.

On June 23rd this year, 3 weeks before the historic Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s supreme leader set 3 very public red lines for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. They were:

The first red line is regarding time limitations. During his June 23 speech Khamenei condemned limitation time lines of 10 and 12 years demanded from Iran in the agreement. “Ten years is a lifetime,” stated the supreme leader in his speech, which his official website titled “the most important red lines of the nuclear negotiations.” Later on in the same speech, Khamenei also said that timelines of 15 years and 25 years are unacceptable as well.

The second stated red line that has been crossed regards the inspection of military sites, which Khamenei ruled out in the same speech. From the deal we can see that inspections of military sites by the IAEA are included in the deal.

The third crossed red line has to do with the issue of sanctions. On June 23, Ayatollah Khamenei explicitly ruled out the removal of sanctions being conditional upon Iran first having to reduce its number of centrifuges and wrecking the core of the Arak reactor and sanctions being removed once the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has lived up to its commitments. He instead called for a more reciprocal quid pro quo between two sides of corresponding steps that take place simultaneously.

And what happened? all three red lines were crossed in the final agreement, with Khamenei’s own permission. 

Conclusion? Everything is up for negotiation in Syria, except Iran retaining the right in a future Syria to have secure access from Damascus airport to Hezbollah bases in Lebanon, so that it can continue to supply weapons to Hezbollah. This is one red line which in my opinion Iran will be unwilling to cross. The reddest of all red lines.


Smoking Crystal Meth on the Tehran Metro

22 Nov

Tuesday, 13th of May 2014, the title of the article in the Guardian said: “Breaking bad in Tehran: how Iran got a taste for crystal meth“.

This photo was taken recently in the Tehran Metro: an addict smoking crystal meth on a public train.

The increasing use of narcotics is ravaging Iranian society in every imaginable way. Don’t get me wrong, Iran has always faced the challenge of people using narcotics, but it has never been this bad.