Insider news & Analysis in Iran

On Wednesday, Reuters reported upon the growing pressure facing the European Union with regard to the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the prospect for a more assertive set of policies on the Islamic Republic. EU member states Britain, France, and Germany, each of which participated in the seven-party negotiations that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in July 2015, continued to hold talks with American officials this week in hopes of arriving at a threat that will keep the US in the deal.

A recent analysis by Janes 360 noted that earlier in March, Iran’s Assembly of Experts held a vote on the makeup of its executive board for the next two years. The 88-member clerical body is tasked with overseeing the office of the supreme leader and selecting his replacement in the event of death or resignation. The current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is 78 years old and has reportedly been suffering from prostate cancer, leading to speculation that the current Assembly could be the one that determines the future course of the Islamic Republic.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera reported upon the latest iteration of the annual speech given by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to mark Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Such speeches traditionally include the declaration of a theme for the year ahead, and Khamenei used the phrase “made in Iran” to describe this year’s theme.

On Tuesday, a report by UPI reiterated the widespread expectations of a shift in American foreign policy following the unceremonious ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In announcing Tillerson’s firing, US President Donald Trump cited apparent differences of strategy over the Iran nuclear deal as a major rationale. Tillerson’s prospective replacement, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo is a noted Iran hawk who has echoed the president’s preference for scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and has also spoken in favor of regime change in Iran.

On a trip to Bahrain alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US Navy Commander William Urban reiterated earlier reports about the change in the posture of Iranian naval forces toward American vessels transiting the Persian Gulf. The Associated Press quoted Urban as saying there had been no “unsafe and unprofessional” actions by those forces since last August. Up to that point in 2017, there had been 14 close encounters between the US Navy and the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This compares to 35 such incidents in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

On Wednesday, the global media featured a number of different reactions to the previous day’s news that Rex Tillerson would be replaced in the position of US Secretary of State by the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo. The move has predictably met with opposition from critics of the Trump administration but praise from supporters of its assertive policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, because Pompeo’s views seem to align more closely with those of the president.

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