Direct Talks With America, Yes or No?
The editorial of Ebtekar urges that if direct talks with the United States provide for Iran’s national interests, the government must immediately engage in them.
Apparently, it makes no difference which government is in office; the issue of direct talks with America immediately creates division between the supporters of the Iranian political system. It is as if no government – be it “reformist” or “hardliner” – can create consensus among the pro-government forces in Iran. As soon as there is talk of negotiations with America, two groups of opponents and proponents are formed to face off each other.
The proponents of talks with America raise the issue of national interests, whereas the opponents focus on the so-called “revolutionary stance” of the government. As soon as a government raises the issue of direct talks with the United States, the opponents of talks immediately voice their disagreement.
When the ultra-conservative government of Ebrahim Raisi talked of negotiations with America, it did not expect to face such opposition; but it did. The fact that any political faction which takes office in Iran – “reformist” or “hardliner” – tends toward starting negotiations with America is very meaningful. It seems as if talking with America is one of the requirements of governance.
It has always been said that nothing is more important for any government than providing for national interests. Governments, by nature, are responsible for furthering national interests. This is not only the only condition of their legitimacy, but is also the precondition for their success.
So, there should not be any taboo when it comes to having relations with other governments. If national interests require direct talks with America, there should be no hesitation in this regard. If one day these talks would undermine national interests, then negotiations must be banned.
It is the National Security Council that must decide on national interests. So, if political currents and factions care about national interests, they should not talk of negotiations with America as if it is a taboo, thus undermining the officials who are after pursuing national interests through talks and negotiations.
The Fallout From the Migration of Elites
The editorial of Tejarat argues that due to flawed policies, Iranian elites are leaving the country, and this will have irreparable consequences.
These days, the unprecedented level of migration from the country shows that people do not have much hope for improvement in the country’s socioeconomic policies; meanwhile, people are witnessing measures that make them give up the little hope they have. It seems that policymakers in Iran are blind to the suffering of the people.
The experience of the ninth and 10th governments which implemented policies that destroyed production within the country and caused corruption, has not provided a lesson for the subsequent governments. Destructive economic policies that create unemployment and diminish hope in society have continued and, despite the subsequent changes of government, the same policies are adopted today.
The migration of 3,000 physicians and 900 academics over the past year and the acceleration of migration from Iran in recent months show that policymakers have not learnt from past mistakes and keep repeating them again and again.
The ninth and 10th governments eliminated all opposition, shut down critical newspapers, retired or fired many university professors, and did much more. All these repressive measures swiftly backfired. Not only was there widespread public outrage in response to the government’s draconian stance, but the country’s social problems considerably worsened with a rise in addiction rates, crime, suicides, homelessness, capital flight, and brain drain. These problems represent just part of the damage caused by the government’s disastrous policies.
In the 13th government, headed by Ebrahim Raisi, we can see the return of the same failed policies. Once again, the same policies are adopted in the economy and in society, instead of addressing the main issue of livelihood and people’s essential needs, minor unimportant issues are prioritized. Once again, academics who have devoted themselves to improving people’s lives are driven out of universities.
Those who make such decisions in universities must know that human and social sciences cannot flourish without criticizing the status quo. The idea of university at the service of society means that universities must criticize the status quo, offering innovative solutions to address problems in society.
Capital Flight and Iran’s Economic Prospects
The editorial of Etemad attributes capital flight from Iran to the government’s fluctuating economic policies. Capital flight from the country is an important issue and officials must pay serious attention to it; it cannot be stopped by simply issuing an executive order. To improve conditions in this sector, security of investment must be guaranteed and uncertainties must be minimized.
Lack of certainty and security has a considerable impact on capital flight, because it has made Iran’s economy very unpredictable. Nobody knows how much fluctuation the market is going to go through in a month. When an economy is unpredictable, there will be no investment, because the most important issue in investment is forecasting the future.
No investor would invest in a country for just a couple of months as they are interested in long-term investments. In general, investors need a certain period of time for reaching productivity. A general atmosphere of stability in society and the existence of security have a considerable impact on this issue, helping investors make up their minds.
If there is no security, stability, and other necessary requirements to ensure economic stability, it will be impossible to stop capital flight from the country. For example, individuals need to know the range of the price of the dollar for the next two years because investors must be certain about the future in order to make investments.
We must put ourselves in the shoes of investors who want to bring their capital to Iran: when they look at the official data, they become doubtful, asking themselves why they should bring their capital to Iran when people are taking their capital out of the country.
The country must have positive prospects to attract investment. In the recent decade, the rate of investment has been negative, which has had a damaging impact on exports, employment, and other sectors.
In recent months, there has been talk about the presence of China and Russia in Iran’s economy, and some experts and officials have considered this as a factor that can help to prevent capital flight. This can be a positive factor, but the points mentioned above are more important. First and foremost is the issue of attracting domestic capital. Then, if everything goes well, we can attract foreign investment.
Tehran’s New Approach to Foreign Policy
The editorial of Ebtekar asserts that the recent trip of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Moscow marks a turning point in Iran’s foreign policy, as can already be seen.
It could be predicted that Ebrahim Raisi’s trip to Moscow would be a turning point in Iran’s foreign policy. This incident is not the outcome of any changes in the revolutionary principle of the “negative balance policy” between the East and the West; rather, it is because of forces that have compelled Tehran to recalibrate its foreign policy.
A little after Raisi’s return from Moscow, Tehran suddenly changed its approach in the Vienna talks. The Iranian foreign minister explicitly stated that Tehran is ready to have direct talks with America if it achieves a good agreement. He added that Iran is not only ready to talk directly with America, but is also prepared to consult with neighboring countries about the nuclear deal.
More importantly, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the National Security Council also made remarks in line with the foreign minister, urging that Tehran will hold direct talks with America when a good agreement is within reach. Washington immediately responded and US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price emphasized that they welcome direct talks with Iranian officials regarding nuclear issues.
Now, everybody is expecting openings and effective results in Iran’s foreign policy. Possible agreement over the framework of the Tehran-Washington direct talks will pave the way for this. More importantly, those who vehemently opposed direct talks between Iran and America are now silent about Tehran’s decision. This shows that their previous opposition was without foundation, but rather was motived purely by partisan and political rivalries.
So, Raisi’s trip to Moscow had some immediate outcomes. First, Putin put on display Moscow’s influence over Tehran’s stances and policies. Second, Tehran is finally adopting a new approach in its nuclear activities as well as in its foreign policy. Third, Tehran has accepted to hold talks with its neighbors about the nuclear deal. Fourth, the old foreign policy of favoring neither the West nor the East might change, given Iran’s recent move toward the East. And finally, most agreements and disagreements are based on factional interests and have nothing to do with national interests or ideological values.
Khamenei Evades Responsibility, Blames Former Government for Grave Economic Conditions
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is de facto in charge of all major decisions and plans in Iran; however, he shirks all responsibility and accountability, blaming others for the deplorable economic situation in the country which is the direct outcome of his decisions.
In his recent speech, Khamenei called the country’s economic statistics “unsatisfactory,” blaming former government officials for it.
In his meeting with a number of economic and industrial officials, the Iranian supreme leader admitted that statistics regarding GDP, investment in the country, the inflation rate and growth in liquidity are not acceptable, saying if in these years government officials had cooperated more, the economic conditions would have been better than the current situation.
This is not the first time that the Iranian supreme leader has evaded responsibility for the deteriorating economic conditions, and blames former President Hassan Rouhani’s government.
Last year in his meeting with Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet members, Khamenei accused them of depending too much on the West, seeing it as the reason for their failure.
Ali Khamenei, in his recent meeting, acknowledged the woeful state of Iran’s economy, but attributed it to “the enemies.”
Pointing to economic crises and sanctions against Iran, Khamenei stated that “the enemies intended to shatter Iran’s economy. Economic collapse was just a prelude, because by destroying Iran’s economy, people would threaten the Islamic Republic’s political system.”
In recent years, Iran has witnessed many widespread protests which, according to experts and even the Iranian government, are mainly caused by economic crises. In order to suppress these protests, the Iranian government has killed many protesters.
On a different note, the Iranian supreme leader added that he is against the interference of government officials and bodies in economic activities.
Many experts say Khamenei’s remarks in this regard pave the way for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other bodies under his control to play a bigger role in Iran’s economy.
Iran’s economy, under Khamenei’s leadership and because of the extensive sanctions, is now globally isolated and cannot compete with others in attracting foreign investment.
Raisi Government Signs $3 Billion Contract With IRGC for Producing Rice
In continuation of entrusting large projects to the IRGC , the Minister of Agriculture Javad Sadatinejad announced an agreement with the IRGC’s Khatam al Anbiya Headquarters for producing rice, saying that Ebrahim Raisi’s government has signed a contract with the organization and has allocated $3 billion from bartering oil to this contract over a five-year period.
According to Sadatinejad, currently 700 billion tomans has been allocated to this project, which is going to realize the plan of “self-sufficiency in rice” with the cooperation of the IRGC, so that there will be no need for importing 1 million tons of rice annually.
For the last 15 years, the Iranian government has been seeking to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production. In 2005, the then minister of agriculture had promised that the plan for self-sufficiency in rice would soon be implemented. But in 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that this plan had not come to fruition.
Imported rice in Iran is partly purchased through bartering oil. Recently, an official said that for the oil that is exported to India, Iran cannot import rice from this country, which sends its low-quality produce to Iran.
Last year, the Pakistan government also suggested bartering rice with Iran’s oil and petrochemical products.
Ebrahim Raisi’s government insists on the policy of bartering oil for goods to increase Iran’s foreign trade.
The government has increasingly entrusted big contracts to the IRGC. Recently, Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian announced that a contract worth 30,000 billion tomans was signed with the IRGC for transferring water to villages.
This contract was signed with the Imam Hassan Headquarters which was formed in 2020 to help with coronavirus but is now signing large contracts with Raisi’s government.
In addition to entrusting large projects to the IRGC, Raisi’s government has considerably increased the IRGC’s annual budget. Last year, with a 58 percent increase, the IRGC’s budget reached 38,564 billion tomans, but in the next year’s budget bill, it has reached to 93,000 billion tomans, representing a twofold increase.
EU, Human Rights Watch Call for Immediate, Unconditional Release of Narges Mohammadi
Following the recent jail sentence for human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, Human Rights Watch called this sentence “a sign that the Iranian officials are intent on destroying any popular efforts for human rights.”
This organization called for the “immediate” and “unconditional” release of Narges Mohammadi.
In a statement, the European Union (EU) too had expressed concerns over Narges Mohammadi’s health, condemning the sentence given to her.
The EU spokesperson has asked Iranian officials to act in accordance with their international obligations and, given Narges Mohammadi’s fragile health, release her immediately.
According to the recent verdict issued by the Tehran Revolutionary Court, Narges Mohammadi is sentenced to eight years and two months of imprisonment, 74 lashes, two years of exile from Tehran, a two-year of ban from political and social activities in any parties or institutions and on social networks.
Among the charges levelled against Ms. Mohammadi are “assembly and collusion to act against national security” and “measures against national security and disturbing the public order.”
Tara Sepehri Far, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, pointed to the re-arrest and trial of Narges Mohammadi, urging that Iranian officials are openly seeking to silence and persecute her at any cost by giving her an unfair prison sentence. She added that those countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran must place pressure on the Iranian government to stop the relentless crackdown on human rights defenders.
In response to her sentence, Narges Mohammadi, in an open letter from prison, said that she was convicted because of “being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,” calling the court’s proceedings illegal.
In the letter, she emphasized that since she does not recognize the verdict of the court, she is not going to appeal or accept the sentence.
Narges Mohammadi has been interrogated and arrested by Iranian security forces many times in the past years, and has also been deprived of her passport, leaving the country and visiting her two children who live in France.
Omicron in Iran; Health Officials Warn of Exponential Increase to up to 100,000 Cases a Day
The Omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across Iran and health officials have warned that the number of coronavirus infections might reach up to 100,000 cases per day in the coming weeks. They have recommended implementing social restrictions for at least two weeks all over Iran.
The head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Controlling Infectious Disease said that the number of patients with the Omicron variant is much more than what is announced and it is still on the rise. Ebrahim Ghaderi warned that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is now exponentially increasing in Iran, meaning that the number of patients will be on the rise in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, health officials have recommended implementing social restrictions all over Iran for two weeks, with more decisions to be made after that period of time. They have also underscored that wearing masks in crowded places must become obligatory, and free masks should be given to those who are not wearing any.
Earlier, Iranian health officials had declared that the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in most of provinces of the country, saying that Iran has now entered the sixth wave of coronavirus.
The Omicron variant also hit the Iranian Parliament hard as at least 45 lawmakers were infected with this variant, which resulted in the two day closure of the public sessions of the Parliament.
So far, Iran has gone through at least five waves of coronavirus. While health officials hold that the most effective way to prevent getting infected with the Omicron variant is receiving the third shot of the vaccine, the Iranian health minister stated that only 25 percent of people had received the so-called booster shots.
According to the Iranian health minister, so far 90 percent of the target population in Iran have received the first dose of vaccine, 81 percent the second dose, and 25 percent the third dose.