Agriculture and fishing
Only about a tenth of Iran’s land area is cultivated, although perhaps a third could be used for agriculture. Nutrient-poor soils and water scarcity make development difficult. Wheat is the most common crop, followed by barley and rice. Fruits, nuts and spices are important export goods. Iran is a world-leading producer of pistachios, figs, saffron, rose water and barberry berries. In the south and east dates are also grown. Tomatoes and potatoes are important agricultural products, as are cane and beets.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Iran. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
The best soils with natural irrigation can be found in the north and west. Overall, almost half of the cultivated area is artificial irrigation. Nevertheless, agriculture accounts for over 90 percent of water use in the country and is strongly affected when drought strikes.
The lack of water and problems with storage and transport systems make agriculture inefficient. According to calculations, almost a third of the harvest goes for nothing. Iran must import wheat, rice, maize, meat and other basic products to meet its food needs. For Iran defense and foreign policy, please check recipesinthebox.
Sheep are most common in animal husbandry, but goats, cows, donkeys, horses and water buffaloes are also reared. In the country there are around one and a half million nomads belonging to different ethnic minorities.
About seven percent of Iran’s area is wooded. The largest forests are south and west of the Caspian Sea and in the Zagros Mountains. Since the forests became state-owned in 1963, some attempts have been made to stop the rapid decline in tree stocks, which is partly due to damage caused by grazing livestock and partly from uncontrolled logging due to fuel shortages. There are not fully ten national parks and about 60 nature reserves, which comprise a total of 12 percent of the country’s forests. The old forest at the Caspian Sea has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Iran has several fishing waters, but the fishing industry has been poorly developed. During the 1990s large sums were invested in fishing along the south coast, mainly shrimp fishing. Several new fishing ports were built. The most advanced fishing industry takes care of the world-famous caviar from the Caspian Sea. But the disturbance, with the coveted rum, is threatened by depletion, poaching and environmental degradation, mainly emissions from Azerbaijan’s oil and gas plants. However, Iran is considered to handle the fisheries in a sensible way and was not included in the fishing stoppage and temporary export ban imposed by the UN body Cites in other countries around the Caspian Sea after 2001. Five years later, it was decided that only Iran could sell the permitted amount of caviar from the Caspian Sea.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
9.5 percent (2017)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
28.2 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of IRN stands for the state of Iran in geography.
Women who have sought grace are denied
British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in 2016 when visiting relatives with her little daughter, is not pardoned, her lawyer says. The case has become an apple of contention between Iran and the United Kingdom (see April 24, 2019) and highlighted that there are a number of foreign nationals arrested in Iran on unclear grounds. Like human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been denied a conditional release request. The two women, both sentenced to multi-year imprisonment, hunger strike in January but canceled the strike after being promised out-of-prison care.
Amnesty raises death toll after protests
The human rights organization Amnesty counts the death toll after the authorities’ tough interventions over the course of three days against the wave of protests in November. At least 304 lives have been wasted according to the information reached by Amnesty. Thousands of people, not least students, are reported to have been arrested (see November 15). The authorities have so far dismissed Amnesty’s information as excessive.
Russian support for crisis budget
President Rohani announces what he calls a “resistance budget” for the Iranian state. It is based on a $ 5 billion “investment aid” from Russia, which is still under negotiation. Rohani says the US sanctions have caused great hardship for Iran and suffering for the people, which the crisis budget is supposed to alleviate. Among other things, public employees will receive salary increases of 15 percent during the budget year that begins in March 2020. Amnesty International has reported that 208 people lost their lives in connection with the protests that took place in November, aimed at, among other things, increased fuel prices.
Captive exchange between Iran and the United States
An American who has been detained in Iran since 2016, accused of espionage, is exchanged against an Iranian who was arrested in the United States in 2018. The prisoner exchange takes place in Switzerland and causes the US state leadership to thank Iran for constructive negotiations.
The President: “Conspiracy” behind protests
20th of November
President Rohani comments on the protests that have been rejected by the authorities (see November 15). “The people have defeated a hostile conspiracy,” he says. At least 40 places have been shaken by demonstrations, gas stations have been set on fire and roads have been blocked, but there has also been looting. The regime’s information block makes it difficult to know how severe the consequences have become, but data for Amnesty International claims that over 100, if not 200, lives have been wasted.
UN: Iran overloads heavy water
Iran has now exceeded the amount of heavy water the country may have under the 2015 nuclear agreement on its nuclear program, the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency reports. Heavy water can be used in the production of weapons plutonium, and Iran now has 131.5 tonnes – over the 130 tonnes allowed by the agreement. One of the points of the 2015 agreement is that it has allowed the UN to inspect Iran’s facilities, and Iran fulfilled the terms of the agreement until the US signed the agreement in 2018.
US decision complicates Russian Iran project
Following Iran’s announcement that uranium reopening will resume in Fordow (see Nov. 4), the United States is responding to further tightening its Iran policy – and the decision impedes Russia’s path. The US canceled the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in 2018, but then made exceptions to sanctions so that other parties to the agreement could fulfill their commitments. Russia has continued its nuclear cooperation with Iran at the Fordow plant, which, according to the 2015 agreement, will produce civilian nuclear power, and with nuclear expansion at Bushehr (see November 10). But from December 15, there will be a stop for American exceptions that allowed the cooperation at Fordow.
Gasoline prices are shockingly high
The Iranian state, which is heavily pressured by US sanctions, raises the liter price of gasoline by 50 percent. For those who want to refuel more than 60 liters per month, the price is triple. Demonstrations are erupting in several cities, including Yazd, Kermanshah and Sirjan. Authorities turn off access to the internet and social media. Three days later, authorities state that rattles have demanded twelve deaths. Other sources believe that significantly more people have lost their lives. A parliamentarian resigns in protest that the elected officials have not been allowed to discuss the price increases. The decisions have been taken by the Supreme Council for Economic Coordination, which means that the increases have been approved by the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Supreme Chief Justice.
IAEA: Uranium in undeclared location
Inspectors have found uranium particles in a place in Iran where the country does not have nuclear activities declared to the UN, writes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The answers have been delayed when the IAEA asked for an explanation. According to diplomatic sources, the uranium particles have been found during sampling in Turquzabad southwest of Tehran. Israel is said to have previously accused Iran of conducting secretly secret operations. In the report, the IAEA also writes that Iran now has 551 kilos of reprocessed uranium. In the 2015 international agreement that is about to fail since the US withdrew, Iran undertook to limit the amount to 300 kilos.
Construction start for new reactor
Russia and Iran take the next step in their nuclear cooperation: a construction start ceremony for a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the Persian Gulf. The 2015 International Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Energy Program, which was added to make it difficult for Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons, does not prohibit civilian nuclear power. Under the agreement, Russia is also to supply Iran’s power industry with radioactive fuel. The first reactor in Bushehr was commissioned in 2011. A third reactor is planned in the future.
Conflicting about oil finds in the southwest
An oil discovery has been made in Khuzestan in the southwest, the president announces. The deposit is estimated to contain 53 billion barrels of crude oil, which would mean Iran’s known reserves grow by a third. But a few days later, the Minister of Petroleum makes a magnificent correction: firstly, the deposit comprises just over 22 billion barrels, and only a tenth can be recovered with today’s technology. Although the new deposit is not expected, Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest gas resources. The province of Khuzestan lies at the far end of the Persian Gulf and borders Iraq.
Protective action for tankers on site
A US-led naval force, formed to protect merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf, officially begins operations. It happens with Bahrain as a base, since the US has access to a naval base there. Since the force began to form in June, several countries have joined, both Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. Cargo ships will receive military escorts through the Strait of Hormuz, where several tankers have been subjected to attacks or sabotage that the United States holds Iran responsible for.
Underground uranium enrichment is resumed
Iran announces a fourth step of measures that violate the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. Since the US jumped from the 2018 agreement and reintroduced severe sanctions, Iran has also gradually withdrawn its pledges in the agreement. Among other things, Iran has expanded its enrichment of uranium. Now, the enrichment of the radioactive substance will also be resumed in the underground Fordow plant outside Qom, but the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency IAEA is reported to be transparent. When the announcement is made, it has been 40 years since the beginning of a hostage frame at the US embassy in Tehran that has led to hostile relations between Iran and the United States that still prevail. On the anniversary, the United States extends its sanctions with measures aimed at employees of Iran’s highest leaders.
The arrest of scientists is upset
Le Figaro magazine reveals that two academics affiliated with the University of Sciences Po in Paris have been detained in Iran since mid-summer, and that silent diplomacy has failed to free Roland Marchal, a sociologist, and Fariba Adelkhah, Franciscan anthropologist. In the same vein, it turns out that an exile Iranian with a residence permit in France, Ruhollah Zam, has been arrested by Iranian authorities, unclear where and how. Ruhollah Zam has run the site Amadnews, which Iran has previously accused of rioting (see October 5). The charges against Adelkah are later alleviated, as it is said that she is no longer threatened by the death penalty for espionage but in May 2020 she is sentenced to a total of six years in prison. Marchal may, for its part, return to France in March, after the Persian New Year, when France releases an imprisoned Iranian engineer, Jalal Ruhollanejad, who is accused by the United States of sanctioning a penalty.
Explosions on tankers
Two explosions occur on an Iranian tanker in the Red Sea, ten land miles from the Saudi city of Jeddah. Iran accuses “foreign power” of attacking the tanker and shows images of holes in the hull. Oil leaks occur, but the ship manages to make its own machine back towards the Persian Gulf.
Detained tourists and researchers in “barter”
A couple from Australia, who have blogged about their journey through Iran, have been released after several weeks in custody as suspected suspects. At the same time, an Iranian doctoral student has been allowed to return from Australia, where he is accused of trying to send unauthorized high-tech and military products to Iran. There are a number of cases where people living in Western countries have been arrested by Iranian authorities. This is most often the case of Iranians with dual citizenship, which is not recognized by Iran, who were arrested on a visit to their home country (see October 23, 2017, February 12, 2018 and April 24, 2019).
President’s brother sentenced to prison
President Rohani’s brother Hossein Fereydoun is sentenced to five years in prison and fined on charges of corruption; the penalty he received in the lowest instance has been mitigated. Prior to his arrest in the summer of 2017, Fereydoun was an advisor to the president. Few details of the case have been made public.
Death penalty for espionage
Four people have been convicted of espionage. Three have spied for the United States, of which one was sentenced to death and the other two to ten years in prison. According to the Iranian judiciary, the fourth must have spied for Britain and received ten years in prison. It is not clear from the message whether the convicted are among 17 people accused of spying earlier in the year (see July 22). The death sentence can be appealed.
Swedish thoughts may leave Iran
The tanker Stena Impero leaves Iran. The ship, which is owned by Swedish Stena Bulk but is registered in the United Kingdom. It was forced into port in Bandar Abbas two weeks after authorities in Gibraltar, which is British territory, brought up an Iranian tanker (see July 19). Iran denies that Stena Impero was subjected to revenge and says that a legal proceeding is still underway in criminal charges: that the vessel had crashed with a fishing boat in the Hormuz Strait and did not respond to calls.
Smuggling efforts are under scrutiny
Police have blown up a smuggler and found 8.8 tonnes of narcotics on their way to Europe. The seizure of morphine and opium was made near the Turkish border, but the cargo hidden in a tanker truck is said to have come from Afghanistan. The nine suspects also found heroin and 130 firearms. According to UN statistics, in 2017, Iran accounted for 90 percent of opium seizures in the world and 20 percent of heroin and morphine seizures. These are the circumstances that Iran highlights in the US power measurement: If Europe does not give Iran stronger support for sanctions, Iran threatens to reduce its efforts against drug smugglers smuggled through the country.
Double message from Europe
Britain, France and Germany support the assessment that it was Iran that launched attacks on Saudi oil facilities on September 14. In a joint statement, the heads of the three countries’ governments urge Iran to choose dialogue over provocations. But they also stress that they are adhering to the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy agreement which they agreed to conclude in 2015. The United States has abandoned the agreement, which has also led Iran to deviate from its commitments. The agreement aimed, among other things, to limit the amount of radioactive material in Iran.
The United States is reinforcing the Persian Gulf
The US announces military reinforcements to the Persian Gulf in the wake of attacks on Saudi oil facilities that Iran is accused of carrying out. Shortly before the announcement, President Trump also tightened US sanctions on Iran. The reinforcements to be sent to the region, at the request of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are about aerial and robotic defense, says new Defense Minister Mark Esper.
Several vessels seized
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes yet another tanker near the Strait of Hormuz with reference to suspected smuggling (see July 19). The tanker, no bigger than a fishing trawler, has eleven men’s crew. The ship fittings are the second during the month; On September 7, a ship with a Philippine crew of twelve was boarded.
Iran is accused of attacks against Saudi Arabia
Two important oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia meet in what is believed to be drone attacks. Almost half of the country’s oil production is knocked out. There are large quantities of oil in stock, but as Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest producers, international oil prices are rising after the attacks. The Huthi rebels in Yemen assume responsibility for the attacks, but the US accuses Iran of supporting the Huthis. Iran denies interference. After four days, Saudi Arabia shows off wreckage from robots and drones seen as evidence of Iran’s involvement.
Another departure from the core agreement
Iran will no longer restrict the development of uranium enrichment, President Rohani announces. This is the third time Iran is making a departure from the terms of the 2015 Nuclear Energy Agreement. Rohani says the decision could be changed if other contracting parties contribute financial relief to Iran within two months. France proposes $ 15 billion in credit to Iran, but the US instead wants to provide $ 15 billion for information that could help stop Revolution Guard’s business. At the same time, the United States is imposing sanctions on an oil network with connections to the guard.
Foreign Minister Zarif at G7 meeting
Invited by French President Emmanuel Macron, Foreign Minister Zarif attends the G7 meeting in Biarritz in an attempt to break the diplomatic deadlock in the discussions on Iran’s nuclear program. Zarif’s presence comes as a surprise to many of the other leaders. However, US President Trump says he has been informed and does not rule out a trip to Tehran. Iran responds that in that case it assumes that the United States first repeals the sanctions against Iran.
New air defense system is displayed
Iran, on “Defense Industry Day,” unveils a new, home-made air defense system with mobile devices designed to stop long-range robots. The trend has been going on for a few years, since international sanctions in 2010 halted Iran’s purchase of Russian air defense robots. Following the 2015 nuclear agreement, which gave Iran relief in the sanctions, the Russian S-300 robots could be deployed. But the Bavar-373 system that has now been developed is better, claims President Rohani.
Protest against severe penalties for hijabless
Six UN experts – including five independent human rights reporters – are calling on Iran to release three female activists sentenced to long prison terms for protesting against laws that force women to wear headscarves. On March 8, 2019, on International Women’s Day, Mojgan Keshavarz, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi distributed flowers in Tehran’s subway. They didn’t wear hijab. One of them was later sentenced to just over 23 years in prison, the other two to 16 years each.
Gibraltar lets go of thoughts
Authorities in Gibraltar cancel the seizure of an Iranian tanker, despite a US request for the vessel to be detained (see July 4 and July 19). Iran is said to have submitted a written statement that the oil load was not on its way to Syria, whose regime is subject to international sanctions, including from the EU. The ship changes its name and Iran later announces that the cargo has been sold, without specifying who the buyer is. From the United States comes in September that the ship entered the port of Syrian Tartus.
Britons join the protection fleet for tankers
The UK’s new government states that the British Navy will join US efforts to protect merchant vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz. In the tense situation that predominantly exists between the United States and Iran, Theresa May’s government tried in July to gather support for a European-led fleet. Both Americans and Britons have found it difficult to convince other countries to participate.
Pressure penalties lead to currency swaps
The government approves plans to delete four zeros on Iran’s banknotes, and rename the currency rial to toman. The consequence of the economic sanctions that the United States reintroduced in 2018 has become a race for the value of the currency. Even for everyday purchases, Iranians may have to carry around thick banknotes. When the exchange rate plans are approved, the official exchange rate is 42,000 rial against a dollar, while black exchangers are prepared to give 120,000 rial. Currency change must also be approved in Parliament.
Sanctions against Iranian Minister
US Treasury Department imposes sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, blocking any US assets. Zarif thinks it won’t make much difference to him or his family, as they have no assets there. However, measures are also expected to make it more difficult for him to travel. The diplomatic effects are described by international media as the US closing the door on the head of the Iranian diplomatic corps, although Zarif is believed to be able to continue to visit the UN headquarters in New York.
Top politicians doomed to murder
Tehran’s former mayor Ali Najafi is sentenced to death. Najafi, who shot and killed his wife at home two months earlier, reported himself to the police and admitted the murder. Mathematics Professor Najafi has been Minister and Financial Advisor to President Rohani. The case has attracted a great deal of attention, also in state media where politician scandals are otherwise rare. According to news in mid-August, relatives of the victim, whose words weigh heavily on the Iranian justice system, have decided not to require the death penalty to be enforced.
Death penalty for spies accused
Iran says it has revealed 17 people who have spied for the United States. The arrests have been made between March 2018 and March 2019 and several of the arrested have been sentenced to death. Everyone is Iranian. The United States dismisses the data. In June, Iran announced that a person affiliated with the country’s defense ministry had been executed as an American spy.
British flagged oil tanks seized
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard raises a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and forces it to port in Bandar Abbas. The vessel is owned by a subsidiary of the Swedish ferry group Stena. Most of the 23 crew are Indian. Iran claims the ship violated international shipping rules: it must have sailed on a fishing boat and refused to answer calls. The British deny the accusation and state that the ship was in inhuman water. Tensions between the UK and Iran have risen since a crude oil tanker, with cargo from Iran en route to Syria, was seized by British forces at Gibraltar (see July 4 and August 15). In September, the Swedish government states that some of the Indian sailors have been allowed to leave Iran.
European leaders call for dialogue between Iran and the United States
The United Kingdom, France and Germany call on all parties to resume the dialogue in order to reduce the recent stronger US-Iran tensions. However, they place a great responsibility on Iran for the 2015 nuclear energy agreement to survive. Iran rejects a few days later information that it is ready to discuss its robotic program with the US. It has happened since Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview that it could happen if the US raises its sanctions on Iran.
Agreement limit for enriched uranium is passed
Iran increases the enrichment rate in the production of uranium to 4.5 percent, thereby exceeding the 3.67 percent limit stipulated in the 2015 nuclear energy agreement. This is the second time in just over a week that Iran is breaking the rules of the agreement (see July 1). The measure is condemned by the outside world, although there is a long way to go to the level of enrichment required to produce nuclear weapons – 90 percent. Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif says that Iran can return to the lower level if the agreement’s European parties deliver on their part. President Rohani has previously demanded that the countries adhering to the agreement (Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia) take measures to protect Iran from the effects of the sanctions imposed by the United States on the country.
Britons stop Iranian oil for Syria
A crude oil tanker with cargo from Iran is boarded and seized by British forces at Gibraltar. The cargo is on its way to the regime in Syria. Iran calls the action against the ship, registered in Panama, a act of piracy and calls on the British ambassador to protest. The intervention against the ship must have been called for by the United States, but the legal basis for British action is the EU sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria, not the US sanctions on Iran.
Contracting parties to Iran: Take it easy
France, the United Kingdom and Germany – which in 2015 signed an agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy -, together with the EU’s foreign chief, direct a joint statement to Iran. The government of Tehran is urged to back its enrichment of uranium to a level that complies with the agreement, and to refrain from further steps that undermine the agreement. The senders write that they can only stand by the nuclear deal, which gave Iran relief after years of harsh sanctions, if Iran continues to fulfill the conditions (conditions that will ensure that Iran does not manufacture nuclear weapons). China also regrets that Iran has breached the agreement’s uranium enrichment limit, but stresses that the US – which has left the agreement – “is playing with the fire”. Russia urges Iran to keep its head cold and respect the agreement.
Iran’s uranium storage over the allowable limit
Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium has now passed 300 kilograms, the amount allowed in the international agreement JCPOA that the US has dropped. The level is confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This could lead to countries other than the United States reintroducing sanctions on Iran. The 2015 agreement allows low-enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear power plants. High-enriched uranium (weapons uranium) is not allowed at all, but for those who obtain low-enriched uranium in larger quantities, it is possible to produce so high concentrations of the substance that it is sufficient for nuclear weapons.
Sanctions against the supreme leader
President Trump imposes sanctions on Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Penalties against the Ayatollah are believed to have little practical effect – compared to the measures that knocked out trade in oil, foreign investment in Iran and the country’s import of important goods – but have strong signal value. Trump’s stated goal is to reach a new agreement that gives tougher control over both Iran’s nuclear program and the country’s robotic development, and Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo urges Arab governments in the region to form a “coalition” that will push Iran into retreat in the game between the major powers in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was involved in drafting the nuclear agreement in 2015, and eight senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard are also subject to US sanctions.
American drone is shot down
An American reconnaissance drone is shot down by Iranian air defense in the Hormuz Strait – the first direct fighting between the parties since the US-Iran crisis escalated. The Revolutionary Guard claims that the driverless aircraft violated Iran’s airspace, while the United States states that it was over international waters. The RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft is used by the US Navy, but is operated remotely by US-based operators. In the wake of the shooting, Trump states that the United States has been close to responding with a military strike to several targets in Iran, but that at the last moment he chose to interrupt the attack. The risk of war causes international airlines to avoid flights over the area.
The US allows Iraq trade despite sanctions
The US extends Iraq’s exemption from sanctions against Iran. Gas and oil trade between Iran and Iraq can continue for another 90 days without US sanctions. Energy supply in Iraq is dependent on imports and electricity consumption in Iraq increases during the summer heat. A repeat of the 2018 protest wave is feared if there would be major disruptions in the supply of electricity.
Iran is being loaded for attacks on tankers
A Norwegian and a Japanese oil tanker are being attacked in the waters between Oman and Iran, southeast of the Hormuz Strait. The tankers are damaged by explosions and both crews are evacuated to nearby vessels. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims that only Iran is capable of conducting similar attacks. He also soon points out the Revolutionary Guard (see April 8). Iran rejects the allegations, as well as after the sabotage of four tankers outside the United Arab Emirates on May 12.
Grace for espionage
In accordance with tradition, 691 prisoners have their sentences reduced in connection with the holiday of al-fitr, after the fasting month of Ramadan. Lebanon’s president has appealed for a citizen who in 2016 was sentenced to ten years in prison for spying for the United States and now Lebanese regains freedom. The man represents a Beirut-based Arab IT organization that, according to the BBC, has cooperated with the US, but he refuses to spy. He was arrested after attending a technology conference at the invitation of one of Iran’s vice presidents.
Increased enrichment of uranium
Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency reports. However, according to the IAEA, it is unclear when the limit will be exceeded in the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program from 2015. The uranium can be used for fuel in nuclear power plants but also, high-enrichment, for nuclear weapons. Since the US left the agreement and reintroduced sanctions on Iran, the Iranians no longer see themselves as bound by promises in the agreement (see May 8). President Rohani has also demanded from other contracting parties (United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia) that by July 7, they should take measures to protect Iran from sanctions targeting oil sales. Otherwise, Iran is ready to enrich uranium to achieve weapons quality.
Targeted sanctions against industrial giants
The US extends its sanctions on Iran. This time, the sanctions are targeted specifically at the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Group (PGPIC in English abbreviation), which gathers 40 percent of Iran’s industrial capacity in the area and accounts for 50 percent of the industry’s exports. The reason is that the PGPIC has ties to the Revolutionary Guard, which the US has classified as a terrorist organization (see April 8, 2019).
The United States is reinforcing in the Middle East
24th of May
The United States sends 1,500 troops to the Middle East to reinforce its forces on the ground. According to the defense minister, this is happening to meet a growing threat from Iran. On June 17, following new attacks against tankers, which according to the United States were committed by Iran, an additional 1,000 soldiers will be notified.
Mysterious sabotage against ships
Four tankers are sabotaged outside the Fujayra emirate, near the Hormuz Strait, which is the entrance to the Persian Gulf, where there are Iranian and Saudi oil ports, among others. Two of the vessels are Saudi, one Emirate and one Norwegian. Many theories circulate: everything from Iran being behind the sabotage to being carried out by someone who just wants suspicions to be directed at Iran, so that it provides a pretext for attacking Iran militarily. A few weeks later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo points out Iran as responsible. He also claims that the purpose of the attack should have been to raise the price of oil.
Trump targets Iran’s metals
President Trump extends US sanctions on Iran to trade in iron, steel, copper and aluminum (see November 5, 2018). The industry is Iran’s largest source of export revenue alongside oil and gas, about a tenth of the export economy. But analysts believe that sanctions against the metal sector aren’t hitting as hard: Many of the customer companies are located in neighboring countries and have no ties to the United States, so they can ignore US sanctions. Also, the Iranian steel industry does not usually take home all its export profits through its financial systems to Iran, but keeps the money abroad to pay for import goods there.
One year after the US resignation: Iran withdraws pledges
One year after the US withdrew from the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran now also chooses to conclude two important commitments entered into in the deal. Surplus of enriched uranium from civilian nuclear power will be retained in the country instead of being sold abroad, as the agreement prescribes – a rule added to facilitate control that the radioactive substance should not be used for nuclear weapons in Iran. In addition, Iran waives the terms of the heavy water restriction agreement. In addition, it may be relevant to resume enrichment of uranium to a greater extent, the president announces. Iran agreed in the JCPOA 2015 agreement on restrictions in exchange for mitigated sanctions, but since the United States reintroduced severe sanctions, the country’s economy has taken a major blow.
Imprisoned British are offered in exchange
British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Iran since 2016, could be released through a prison exchange. The requirement is that the United States make a request for extradition of Iranian Negar Ghodskani, who was arrested in Australia in 2017. The offer is presented by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at a UN meeting in New York. According to the family, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was on a New Year’s visit with relatives when she was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for spying. Ghodskani must have tried to access data on digital American technology under the pretense that she was working for a Malaysian company. According to the United States, her real employer was a company linked to Iranian robot development. From the British side, Zarif’s proposal is dismissed as a diplomatic trick.
The United States stops exemptions from sanctions
The United States announces that, after May 2, it will no longer be exempt from the Iran sanctions for countries buying Iranian oil. Among eight countries that were told in November that they could continue their oil purchases despite US sanctions, there were major importers such as China, India and Turkey, but as of now, countries like the US also have priority contacts to face (see May 28 2018 and November 5, 2018). President Trump is tweeting that his Saudi ally has the capacity for deliveries that replace the withdrawal from Iran. Turkey protests sharply, but when it passes on May 2, both Turkey and India stop buying Iranian oil. Iraq, which relies heavily on energy imports from Iran, has its own exception that applies until June.
Provincial capital is vacated
Regional government orders immediate evacuation of areas in Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan province in the southwest. Districts that are estimated to have more than 60,000 residents are evacuated as the city is threatened by emergency flooding. Two rivers north of Ahvaz have very high water levels and gaps have been opened in the province’s largest ponds. WHO has dispatched medicines to Iran for the risk of disease spreading in flooded areas and neighboring Pakistan has contributed, including tents and blankets (see also March 26).
Fewer executions for drug offenses
Iran is one of the countries that executes the most people. In 2018, according to Amnesty International, there were at least 253 data executed during the year – but they were fewer than the year before. It has been reported that the courts have raised the threshold for when drug offenses are to be seen as so grave that they justify the death penalty.
US sanctions are biting
The International Monetary Fund has put figures on how much the reintroduced US sanctions cost Iran. According to IMF estimates, the country’s economy will shrink by 6 percent in 2019. The year will be the most difficult for Iran since 2012, according to the forecast. New estimates of what the result was in 2018, when the sanctions were introduced gradually, also land on the minus: Iran’s economy shrank by 3.9 percent.
The Revolutionary Guard is terrorized by the United States
US terrorist stamps Revolutionary Guard. According to the BBC, it is the first time another country’s military organization is terrorized. On the other hand, the United States has already sanctioned both the force and various types of institutions that are connected to the guard.
Severe flooding after heavy rainfall
Rainfall coincides with snowmelt in the mountains, causing floods in two-thirds of the country after a prolonged drought. In some places, so much rain falls on a day that corresponds to half the normal annual rainfall. The weather catastrophe also happens during the Persian New Year celebration, when a lot of people are in motion and senior civil servants are on leave. Only 20 people are killed in Shiraz in the south, a major tourist resort. A couple of weeks later, eleven out of 31 provinces have reported deaths and a total of over 70 people have died.
Strict punishment for female activist
the 12th of March
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an award-winning human rights activist, has been sentenced to prison sentence in at least two different court cases. In total, the judges are sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 whips, according to her husband who also states that she will be forced to serve twelve years. As a lawyer, Sotoudeh has acted against the death penalty and represented women who protested against the order that women must wear a headscarf, but she is charged with breach of security laws. Sotoudeh is one of at least seven MRI activists arrested in 2018. She was also imprisoned in 2010-2013 for conspiring against the state; She had then represented people who participated in demonstrations in 2009. During the last prison term, she was rewarded with the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.
State visit from Iran: Iraq is torn between two fires
11th of March
President Hassan Rohani initiates a three-day state visit to Iraq, the first since he became president. He praises Iran-Iraq relations as “special” and, among other things, talks trade and railway lines with the Iraqi leadership. It is happening at the same time as the US wants the Iraqi government to limit Iran’s influence in the neighboring country, which is large – the Shiite-dominated parties in Iraq have deep contacts with Iran. Iraq also needs exemptions from US sanctions against Iran in order to buy electricity and natural gas (see August 6 and November 8, 2018).
Vida Movahedi, which last winter took the initiative to protest against the coercion, is sentenced to a prison in Tehran. She was arrested in October 2018 after taking off her hijab on Revolution Square. The protest was not her first: In December 2017, she took off her mandatory outer coat and lifted her white hijab on a stick. The gesture was copied by many women in public places. After the first demonstration, Movahedi was fined. The sentence after the second protest is one year in prison, but at the end of May 2019 (shortly before the big weekend id-fitr) it is announced that the sentence will be shortened and she will be released.
Resurrection of visits by Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visits Iran’s leadership – first Ayatollah Khamenei, then President Rohani – and thanks Iran for its help against the uprising. But the visit reveals contradictions within the higher strata of Iran. The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Jerusalem force (an elite federation operating outside Iran) is in place, however, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif does not attend the meetings, and he offers to resign. Zarif is responsible for the 2015 nuclear energy agreement and is in charge of relaxation policy vis-à-vis the Western powers. Should the US-trained international law lawyer leave his post, Rohani is also weakened against Iran’s “hawks”. The president says no to Zarif’s farewell application. The newspaper Ghanoon, which draws attention to the Assad visit with the title “Uninvited guest”, is affected for its part by a temporary publishing ban.
Iran complies with nuclear agreement
Iran still complies with the terms of the 2015 international agreement on its nuclear program, says the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency IAEA. In the last quarter, Iran has expanded its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water, but the quantities remain within the limits allowed by the JCPOA agreement, according to the IAEA (see August 6 and November 12, 2018).
New submarine type is displayed
A submarine of domestic manufacture, which according to reports can be equipped with cruise robots, is presented with a ceremony in the port city of Bandar Abbas. The president and the military leadership are in place, state TV is broadcasting and the statements made are that Iran’s weapons production is for self-defense. The submarine model Fatih (the Conqueror) is described as a middle class; Iran already has a larger and a smaller submarine type.
Attacks and meeting aimed at Tehran
In Warsaw, a number of countries gather for a conference on the Middle East – in practice, about Iran that has not been invited. The speakers include Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Pompeo (see January 11). They hope the meeting will increase the pressure on Iran, but most European countries are cautious and participate with lower-level officials, while the United Kingdom emphasizes that the way to end the Yemen war should be discussed. In Russian Sochi, President Putin steals attention from the conference by arranging a summit on Syria’s future with Iran’s President Rohani and Turkish President Erdoğan. In Iran, both meetings are overshadowed by a blast the day before, demanding the lives of 27 soldiers in the elite Revolutionary Guards force. A Sunni extremist group is taking on the attack in Baluchistan.
UN court examines Iranian claim
Iran has the right to move forward with a request for access to state funds that are frozen in US accounts, the International Court of Justice has concluded. The money – $ 2 billion – is locked up after a decision by the US Supreme Court, which believes they should go to the victims of attacks for which Iran is accused. The case will continue in the UN Court of Justice in The Hague, which has rejected the US attempt to stop the trial.
Revolution is celebrated with robot testing
Iran has begun to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolt against the Shah, which developed into an Islamic revolution and into today’s Islamic state. On the second day of the anniversary, a trial shot of the new cruise ship Hoveizeh will be conducted, which is said to have more than 135 miles in range. Defense Minister Amir Hatami summarizes the test as successful and says that the robot can be prepared quickly and fly at low altitude. So far, Iran has voluntarily limited the range of its robots to 200 miles – but that is enough to reach the enemy of Israel and US bases in the Middle East. A few days after the test, it emerges that Iran has also upgraded another robot model, whose range has been extended from 70 to 100 kilometers.
Options for Iran trade are launched
France, the United Kingdom and Germany set up a payment mechanism to be used in transactions with Iran. Normal business exchange via banking system is hindered by the US having reintroduced sanctions on Iran. Behind the alternative mechanism called Instex (English abbreviation for “Trade Exchange Support Instruments”) are countries that, unlike the United States, want to keep trading going. They point out that, according to the UN, Iran fulfills its commitments in the 2015 Nuclear Energy Agreement (see November 12, 2018). Instex receives support from the rest of the EU at the beginning of February, although several countries are critical of Iran on other issues (see January 8, 2019). Instex shall primarily enable the purchase of food and pharmaceuticals, which are affected by the sanctions, even though they are aimed in particular at the oil trade.
Sanctions against Iran-recruited militias
The United States imposes sanctions on two Shi’ites recruited to the Syrian war by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. One force (Fatimid Brigade) consists of Afghans, the other (Zaynabid brigade) of Pakistanis. “The regime in Iran exploits refugee groups and uses them as human shields in Syria,” said Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin. The sanctions are aimed at making money transfers to the militias difficult through the international banking system. The brigades are named for people in the early history of Islam: the Prophet’s daughter Fatima and the daughter of Zaynab.
UN investigator calls Yemen war
Iranian oil export revenues have been used to finance the wars of the Hirehirbel in Yemen. The information can be found in a UN report on events in 2018 to be submitted to the Security Council. The UN experts have identified companies that were used to hide the real purpose of the business. Loads have been forged documents to avoid UN inspections. The panel of experts has also concluded that opponents of the Saudi-led alliance are guilty of at least four air strikes against skin-controlled areas, including a bombing of a bus that claimed the lives of many children.
Germany: Iran received information on military operations
Germany accuses a military employee of spying on Iran’s behalf. The arrested man, who is a German Afghan, has served as an adviser to the German force in Afghanistan. He is suspected to have disclosed secret information about the operation to the Iranian intelligence service.
Satellite does not reach orbit
Iran launches a carrier rocket with a satellite. According to state television, Iran’s Minister of Telecommunications states that the satellite will not succeed in placing the intended orbit. A further launch is planned. The rocket launches are criticized by the United States, which claims that they can provide Iran with skills that can be used in the development of long-range robots. According to Iran, the space program is about monitoring environmental change.
Military transport plan crashes
15 people die when a cargo plane is about to land crashes outside Tehran. The Boeing plane, which is said to be loaded with meat from Kyrgyzstan, wears the colors of the Iranian Air Force. Aviation safety is one of the areas where sanctions against Iran have consequences; a number of accidents have occurred in recent years. The aircraft fleet is of old date and the sanctions prevent both new purchases and spare parts.
Diplomatic quarrel over Iran meeting in Poland
A summit will be held in Poland with the aim of increasing international pressure against Iran, states US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who states that dozens of countries will participate. Iran, which calls the plans “an anti-Iranian circus”, a few days later a diplomatic protest to Poland. From Polish diplomats come various bids on the extent to which the Warsaw Summit on February 13-14 can be described as anti-Iranian.
Israeli Prime Minister spied for Iran
Gonen Segev, who was Minister of Energy and Infrastructure in Israel in the mid-1990s, will be sentenced to eleven years in prison after admitting to disclosing secret information to Iran, the Israeli Justice Department reports. The information leak must have happened long after Segev’s ministerial term.
EU sanctions against security services
The EU faces sanctions targeting Iran’s intelligence services following events in recent years when Iranian agents are suspected of planning attacks against exile Iranians in several EU countries (see October 2 and October 30, 2018). In at least two cases, in the Netherlands, the suspicions are about murder. Iran, for its part, accuses EU countries of harboring terrorists.
Afghans return home
US sanctions against Iran help Afghans return to their homeland. Almost 800,000 moved back in 2018. That was a 66 percent increase over 2017, according to the UN organization IOM. In the fall of 2018, UNHCR estimated that there were about one million registered Afghan refugees and 1.5-2 million paperless Afghans in Iran; many had crossed the border with the help of smugglers. Now, Iran’s economy is so squeezed that it has become more difficult for Afghans to find livelihoods and the collapse of the Iranian currency is shrinking their assets.