Insider news & Analysis in Iran

On Thursday, Newsweek reported that Syria was slated to host a decades-old international trade fair, in what was being regarded as a declaration of victory in the more than six year long civil war. The last instance of the Damascus International Fair was five years ago, and if the current plans reach fruition it may be a major sign of growing stability in the aftermath of fighting that killed upwards of half a million people and displaced millions of others. But the trade fair might also be a sign of the depth of Iranian influence in post-war Syria, especially in light of the makeup of the event’s guest list.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported upon what it described as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s recurring “hobby” of using social media to voice criticisms of domestic affairs in the United States. Leading social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are banned throughout the Islamic Republic, yet various leading officials maintain their own Twitter accounts, often using them to reach global, English-speaking audiences. Many Iranian citizens also have such accounts, but in their case this is the result of technical workarounds for the regime’s blockage, such as the use of virtual private networks.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Mehdi Karroubi, one of the Iran regime’s rival faction leaders who havs been under indefinite house arrest since 2011, announced that he was beginning a hunger strike as a means of demanding a public trial. To date, no formal charges have been levied against Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, or the latter’s wife Zahra Rahnavard, and the terms of their detention have never been defined. The three rose to prominence after endorsing claims of widespread fraud in the 2009 reelection of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Tuesday, Voice of America News reported that Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, had departed for a visit to Ankara. This is the first visit to the Turkish capital by any Iranian military chief of staff since before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which led to the rise of the Islamic Republic and to many years of tense relations between the Shiite theocracy and the traditionally more secular Turkish government.

On Tuesday, numerous global media outlets picked up on reports in Iranian state media which quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as saying that the country was prepared to dramatically increase its output of enriched nuclear material in response to increasing amounts of pressure from the US government. Both the administration of US President Donald Trump and the US Congress have taken measures in recent months to impose new sanctions on the Islamic Republic and its foreign affiliates over the regime’s illicit ballistic missile tests, human rights violations, and wide-ranging support of terrorist organizations.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the judiciary in the Islamic Republic of Iran was preparing to implement the death sentence for another offender who was under the age of 18 at the time of his arrest and conviction. Mehdi Bohlouli was 17 in 2001, when he was sentenced to hanging for fatally stabbing a man during a fight. International law prohibits the execution of minor offenders, but the Islamic Republic has repeatedly ignored this fact despite being a signatory to the international documents that establish it.

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