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Overview: Iran Analysis Weekly Report Oct 30, 2016

30 Oct, 2016

Vistar Business Monitor

President Hassan Rouhani called the American presidential elections a choice between “bad and worse.” President Hassan Rouhani claimed that the presidential elections show that “ethics do not exist” in the U.S. Rouhani added, “Look at how they talk, the way they accuse each other, and the way that they mock each other!” Iranian media outlets and senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have ramped up their commentary on the U.S. election in recent weeks. Iranian state television even aired a presidential debate live for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic. Iran’s leadership, however, has voiced apprehension over the effects of the election on U.S. policy toward Iran. In late September, for example, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran warned that the U.S. presidential elections could bring “difficult days” for the nuclear deal.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denounced Turkey’s push to participate in the operation to retake the city of Mosul. Ghassemi claimed that “any type of participation in the fight against terrorism in Iraq must occur with the coordination and permission of the Iraqi central government.”

President Hassan Rouhani warned that foreign intervention in Iraq would be “very dangerous” without Baghdad’s permission. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Turkey to participate directly in the operation to retake the city of Mosul.

Rouhani presents ministry head candidates to Parliament. President Hassan Rouhani presented Reza Salehi Amiri as his candidate for minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Salehi Amiri has previously served as the head of the National Library and Archives Organization of Iran. Salehi Amiri was Rouhani’s initial choice to head the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs at the beginning of Rouhani’s presidency, but Parliament rejected his nomination.

Rouhani introduced Masoud Soltani Far as his candidate for minister of Sports and Youth Affairs. Soltani Far has served as vice president and head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization. Rouhani previously nominated Soltani Far to lead the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, but Parliament rejected the nomination.

Rouhani designated Fakhreddin Ahmadi Danesh Ashtiani as his nominee to head the Ministry of Education. Rouhani previously nominated Danesh Ashtiani as minister of Science, Research, and Technology following the impeachment of Reza Faraji Dana from that position in 2014, but Parliament did not approve him. Danesh Ashtiani previously served as a deputy minister in the Science, Research, and Technology Ministry under former President Mohammad Khatami.

Parliament is scheduled to review the Rouhani administration’s nominees to head three ministries on November 1. Former hardline parliamentarian Hamid Resaei criticized two of the proposed ministers for their alleged support for the “sedition,” referring to the 2009 Green Movement protests. Resaei added that Rouhani’s decision to propose “three ministers whom the previous [conservative-dominated] Parliament would not have approved due to their presence in the sedition… sends a positive sign to reformists.” The previous ministers were controversial figures in President Hassan Rouhani’s administration and resigned last week in a move likely designed to strengthen Rouhani’s cabinet ahead of the May 2017 presidential elections.

Guardian Council Chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati defended the council’s supervision of parliamentarians amid an ongoing controversy over the extent of its powers. Jannati stated, “Supervision over representatives must not be ceremonial. If a representative enters Parliament, and then it becomes clear that he lacks qualifications or lost qualifications and misused his power and position, should actions not be taken to bring his term to an end?” Jannati added that the Supreme Leader’s recently issued electoral guidelines support Guardian Council supervision beyond the official qualifications review period before Election Day. After the Guardian Council took the unprecedented step in the spring 2016 elections of disqualifying an elected candidate after voting took place, Parliament passed a resolution asserting that the council cannot disqualify candidates it previously approved. The Guardian Council, which must approve all parliamentary legislation, is currently reviewing a revised version of the resolution.

The commander of the IRGC Khatam ol Anbiya Construction Headquarters criticized Iran’s oil and gas model contract as a “shame” for the Islamic Republic, underscoring the IRGC’s continued dissatisfaction with the contract’s new terms. IRGC Commander Brigadier General Second Class Abdollah Abdollahi stated that “it is a shame for the Islamic Republic that talented and capable individuals who 37 years ago were in the Islamic Revolution” are now involved in oil projects with foreigners. The Khatam ol Anbiya Construction Headquarters is the IRGC’s engineering wing and is involved in a number of energy projects, including developing several phases of the South Pars oil field. Abdollahi is referring to the new terms of Iran’s oil and gas model contract, which require foreign companies to partner with Iranian companies in order to invest in Iran’s energy sector. The model contract is designed to provide more incentives for international firms than Iran’s previous model by giving foreign partner companies more control over the development of oil fields. Regime hardliners have therefore repeatedly criticized the contract, despite the benefits that Iranian companies stand to gain from increased technology transfer. In July, Iran’s Oil Ministry identified Khatam ol Anbiya Construction Headquarters as one of the eligible domestic partners for international oil companies.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for a political solution to the Syrian conflict before meeting with his Russian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow. Zarif stated that only “a political solution along with combating takfiri groups” can resolve the Syrian conflict. He claimed that Iran “has always stressed the necessity of a multilateral ceasefire, sending humanitarian aid, and efforts to find a political solution for the Syrian conflict.” He also praised the expansion of Russian-Iranian cooperation during a separate meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Zarif asserted that the humanitarian situation in Yemen and Syria requires “more cooperation” between Russia and Iran. Zarif’s comments come as Syrian rebels have launched a massive operation in order to break the government’s two-month-long siege of Aleppo city.