Author Archives: Gareth Smyth

A promising start

A promising start

Reading Time: 3 minutes Mohammad Khatami has criticized a six year jail sentence handed to journalist and activist Serajeddin Mirdamadi. In speaking out, the former president reflects a sense among fellow reformists that little has changed in the year since Hassan Rouhani assumed the presidency promising to “desecuritize” Iran’s domestic atmosphere. Mir-Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karroubi, former presidential candidates

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli speaks during press conference in which he announced Iran has seized 530 tons of illegal drugs since April 2013, on March 18, 2014 in Tehran. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE

The neighbor’s exports

Reading Time: 6 minutes Afghan opium is contributing to Iran’s drug problem — an issue which Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli is being surprisingly candid about. In recent pronouncements, he said 1.3 million Iranians, from a population of 75 million, are addicts. Drug seizures were up by 17 percent in the 11 months to February 2014 to 532 tons,

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C-L) greets Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah (C-R) upon his arrival in Tehran on June 1, 2014. Kuwait's Emir started a landmark visit to Tehran focused on mending fences between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled monarchies in the Gulf. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE

A game of nuance

Reading Time: 3 minutes There has been a note of triumph in Iran’s welcoming of Bashar al-Assad’s reelection. “In Syria, America is building castles in the air,” said Major General Hassan Firuzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, proclaiming the Syrian opposition “defeated”. And there was confidence as well as grief in the recent public mourning of Abdollah Eskandari,

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

Easing the pressure on Iran nuclear talks

Reading Time: 3 minutes Sergei Ryabkov, deputy Russian foreign minister, spoke in early May of the potential for agreement between Iran and world powers on “elements of a coordinated text and details of a general text” in the latest round of negotiations that concluded last Friday. The fragile confidence in a substantial deal superseding November’s interim Geneva accord, due

Syrian Kurds waving a Kurdish flag and image of Abdullah Ocalan in Aleppo

Are Syria’s Kurds headed toward autonomy?

Reading Time: 3 minutes Anyone who witnessed events in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s will feel déjà vu as events in Kurdish Syria unfold. After Saddam Hussein withdrew from northern Iraq in 1991, due partly to a United States ‘no fly’ zone, the Kurds carved out a de facto autonomy that eventually became today’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in

Iran’s economic jihad

Reading Time: 3 minutes Fighting talk is nothing new in Iran, and cries of ‘economic jihad’ have revived since February’s decree on the ‘resistance economy’ from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Despite November’s Geneva interim agreement on the nuclear issue, Iran’s leader is aware of the continuing damage of western sanctions, especially United States and European Union measures that have halved

35 years on: Marking the Iranian Revolution

Reading Time: 3 minutes When Iranian students first seized the American embassy in Tehran in November 1979, Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi went to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for guidance and was told to “go and kick them out.” But when he had returned to Tehran from the Ayatollah’s residence in Qom, he heard on the radio that Khomeini had dubbed

Uncoiling Iran

Reading Time: 3 minutes Nothing raises the entrepreneurial juices like the smell of a new market. Last month’s implementation of November’s interim Geneva nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers alerted United States and European companies to the prospect that, sooner or later, sanctions will loosen and Iran will open up. The business potential is immense. Income that

Iran comes in from the cold

Reading Time: 3 minutes So far, so good. Few would have expected the early months of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency to go so well. World powers including the United States have, at least for now, abandoned the United Nations Security Council requirement for Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment — allowing Rouhani to claim they have recognized Iran’s ‘right’ to

Iran’s power dynamics – the old and the new

Reading Time: 3 minutes As 2013 opened, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was struggling to manage an unpredictable and often truculent president in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the end of 2013, Iran’s supreme leader oversees a president trying to improve relations with the United States, Europe and the Saudis and to instill tighter fiscal discipline. That culminated in the November deal