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Iran News Digest September 17, 2014

Reactions to Rouhani

The lack of military cooperation and progress at negotiations between the US and Iran has other parallels. Person-to-person interactions between the officials of the two nations may be fledgling now, as evidenced by the statements issued by both Tehran and Washington in anticipation of President Rouhani’s speech on September 25 at the UN General Assembly. While it was once speculated that the two figures might meet face-to-face, their administrations have specifically declared that this possibility is remote at best.

Rouhani is expected to leave Tehran for New York on September 22, and the cool reception from the American leadership may be amplified by the protests of Iranian exile communities that are scheduled to coincide with his speech. The website IranFreedom.org has organized the “No to Rouhani” rally to take place at the Dag Hammerskjold Plaza near the UN, with speakers to include former US ambassadors to the UN John Bolton and Bill Richardson.

The rally will highlight continued repressions under the Rouhani administration, the deceptive nature of his negotiations with the West, and the betrayal of the vast majority of his campaign promises, including promises to soften restrictions on the media and on women. These criticisms are supported by a report in Iran Pulse which points out that over the course of a year of Rouhani’s presidency, the IRGC’s concerns about him have largely abated.

IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jaffari said in a press conference on Wednesday that although there were initial doubts about the administration, which claimed to want to decrease the economic and political roles of the IRGC, Rouhani and his advisors seem to have subsequently committed to cooperating with the IRGC instead. The paramilitary organization apparently exerts as much or more influence in Iranian industry and politics as it did a year ago.

Meanwhile, the situation for women in Iran has not improved either, and has grown considerably worse in recent weeks. An article in The Guardian details the recently-revealed case of Ghoncheh Ghavami who was held in solitary confinement for 40 days and remains imprisoned without charge in Evin Prison, due to her participation in a protest demanding that women be allowed to attend public sporting events alongside men.

Welcoming In and Pushing Away Other Countries

While Rouhani has betrayed most of his campaign promises, he has worked to maintain some legitimacy by claiming victories in the economic sphere, although some of these are attributable to relief of Western sanctions amidst nuclear negotiations.

Tasnim News Agency reports that one of Rouhani’s latest plans for expanding, or perhaps merely laying claim to, economic improvement involves turning Iran into a transit corridor for goods traversing Central Asia in all directions. This reflects on an ongoing policy of reaching out to economic partners in the region, and sometimes demanding participation in Iranian oil and trade schemes.

At the same time, Iran has become a less welcoming place in the eyes of some, particularly those with direct ties to the US and its closest allies. According toStars and Stripes, airline carrier DFS Middle East, which frequently transports Western civilian contractors from the United Arab Emirates to Afghanistan, recently made the decision to stop flying the most direct route between those countries, which takes its planes over Iran. It will not avoid Iran and fly over Pakistan instead, following an incident in which one of its planes was forced to land in Bandar Abbas by Iranian officials. If such behavior and such responses are repeated, it may point to a future in which Iran is a trade corridor for regional and Asian partners, but to the exclusion of Western ones.

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