KAYHAN
Kayhan ("Universe") is a Persian-language daily founded in 1943 and based in Tehran. Its views are considered conservative and representative of Iran's Supreme Leader.
Iran's Hard Line On Nuclear Talks Keeps Getting Harder
Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat and Hamed Mohammadi

Iran's Hard Line On Nuclear Talks Keeps Getting Harder

In spite of the toll sanctions have taken on its economy, Iran wants a deal on its nuclear program that addresses none of the West's concerns about its military ambitions. It is also moving forward with new uranium enrichment technology.

-Analysis-

After a four-month hiatus, Iran has resumed talks on its nuclear program with other signatory countries of the suspended, multilateral pact of 2015. These are Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and the European Union (EU). The talks that began this week in Vienna exclude the United States, an original signatory that withdrew from the pact in 2018 — and while the U.S. administration under President Joe Biden says it favors a deal, it is only indirectly involved, through the EU.

Prospects for this round remain dim, given Iran's preconditions and the stated objectives of Western states. The Iranian deputy-foreign minister, Ali Baqeri-Kani, said on a recent trip to several EU states that Iran would only resume talks to discuss ending sanctions on it, and there would be no discussions for a nuclear agreement. He was suggesting that an end to all sanctions — whether for Tehran's nuclear program, rights violations or terrorism abroad — was the central condition for more talks.

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Photo of gas station in Iran
Geopolitics

Israel Blamed For Cyberattack On Iran Gas Stations

Gas stations in many Iranian cities had trouble supplying fuel earlier in the week in what was a suspected cyberattack on the fuel distribution system. One Tehran daily on Thursday blamed Israel, which may have carried out similar acts in past years, to weaken Iran's hostile regime.

The incident reportedly disrupted the credit and debit card payments system this time, forcing users to pay cash and higher prices, the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported.

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Passengers line up to enter the Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan on Wednesday.
BBC
Worldcrunch

Coronavirus — Global Brief: What Happens In Wuhan Matters In Wichita

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT HAPPENS IN WUHAN MATTERS IN WICHITA

And 76 days later…

It was Jan. 23, 2020 when the central Chinese city of Wuhan was cut off from the rest of the world, as government authorities took action to severely restrict people's movements at the epicenter of what was then just the beginning of the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, the two-and-a-half-month ban on travel was lifted, ending the world's longest mass quarantine in memory.

That, of course, leaves much time for the rest of the world to count the days shut inside our own homes and cities. But even as each of us monitors our respective local situation, we will all be watching Wuhan closely to see what happens after its landmark "liberation" from coronavirus lockdown.

The international criticism for what were considered draconian measures in Wuhan are no doubt seen in a new light as other countries are now enforcing lockdowns of their own. And now, we will see another real-world experiment as restrictions are eased, providing precious data: to epidemiologists on the resurgence of cases, to economists on how quickly businesses can bounce back, and to all of us on how much it will take to get back to normal after weeks or months in isolation.

There is certainly a lot to learn from the Wuhan example, even if containment measures in different countries have varied widely. In China, the virus has been contained by forcing anyone with a fever and people who had been in close contact with someone believed to be infected into "centralized quarantine." This means that thousands of people were taken from their homes and placed in converted hotels, dorms and classrooms in order to stop transmission, even among family members at home. This has not been the case in most Western countries, where authorities have sought to keep people out of hospitals unless their cases are severe and advised people with symptoms to self-isolate at home.

All this to say that what happens in Wuhan won't necessarily determine what will happen in the rest of the world. If the resurgence of cases depends on how much immunity is already in the population, as some epidemiologists claim, China's efficient containment might eventually prove to be a weak spot. So, even as we count the days, there will be plenty of other data to calculate as well.

Michaela Kozminova

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Wuhan reopens: Coronavirus lockdown ends after 76 days in the central Chinese city where it was believed to have begun.

  • Toll: Deaths pass 10,000 in France, as the U.S. records highest death toll in a single day with more than 1,800 fatalities, 731 in New York state alone.

  • Europe blocked: Talks of European Union recovery fund to help southern countries, especially Italy and Spain, have stalled after 16 hours, leading the head of the European Research Council to resign, "extremely disappointed by the European response".

  • Polish vote: parliament approves legislation to allow presidential elections in May to be held as a postal ballot.

  • Pyongyang tests: In North Korea, 709 people have been tested and 509 are in quarantine, according to a WHO representative, but the country still reports no cases.

  • Where's El Señor Presidente? Even as Nicaragua continues to promote gatherings and mass events, while President Daniel Ortega has been absent for almost a month.

  • RIP Prine: U.S. raspy-voiced country icon John Prine dies from coronavirus complications in Nashville at age 73.

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Soleimani poster in Tehran on Jan. 6
BBC
Worldcrunch

Next Move Tehran? Iran Buries General, Plots 'Strategic Revenge'

With a battered economy and recent anti-government street protests, can Iran fulfill its promise to avenge the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani? Can it afford not to?

Iran and the U.S. have spent the past 48 hours trading threats after an American drone strike Friday that killed General Qasem Soleimani, head of its Revolutionary Guards Quds force. Even as Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei led prayers at Soleimani's funeral on Monday, the question of how and where Tehran will respond looms over the region and the world.

After Iran's announcement Sunday that they would pull out of the remaining restrictions of the 2015 nuclear accord, the leaders of France, Germany and the UK urged a "deescalation" of tensions in the region. French daily Le Monde described the move as a sign that Tehran will "play two tables," targeting U.S. interests militarily and dividing the broader international community by pursuing its nuclear program.

The question of how and where Tehran will respond looms over the region and the world.

Iranian media has carried non-stop images of mass mournings in Baghdad and Tehran, leaving the impression of unanimous national and regional outrage. Still, it is difficult to gauge both public sentiment, and how exactly Iran's rulers will respond to the assassination of the most iconic and influential military leader of his generation.

The official talk in Tehran has cast left little doubt that it will target the United States and/or American interests around the world. The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, was reported as telling state television that Soleimani's killing would entail "a strategic revenge" that would "end U.S. presence in the Middle East." His deputy, Mohammad Naqdi, has likewise said that revenge would be "definitive" and the "Americans are not capable of withstanding an extensive" war. They should "pack" their bases and leave, if "they want to save their lives," the semi-official Fars agency cited him as saying.

Crowds mourning Soleimani in Tehran on Jan. 6 — Photo: Salampix/Abaca/ZUMA

His comments may suggest multiple actions over time rather than a single major strike, in keeping with the country's strategy of waging "asymmetrical" warfare. Fars agency cited one prominent hardliner in Tehran, the editor of the Kayhan newspaper Hossein Shariatmadari, as saying that "America is not sitting in a glass room. It is vulnerable on all sides," which again may suggest hit-and-run tactics or a bomb attack somewhere. Iran has a range of allies and agents like Lebanon's Hezbollah or Iraq's Shia militias, apparently ready to do its bidding.

BBC Persian picked up on a division of opinions among ordinary Iranians concerning the killing. A European-based Iranian listener to the broadcaster who gave her name as Paniz called to say Soleimani did not "deserve this," saying he had worked hard for Iran and fought ISIS and the Taliban (at the height of its caliphate ISIS did not hide its hostility to Iran). A listener named Mas'ud said Iranians were "confused" if they were mourning the Supreme Leader's "right-hand man" just weeks after protesting against the country's "dictatorship." Another listener, Hamidreza, called Soleimani a decisive "shaper" of Iran's regime, saying he could not be deemed as uninvolved in its repressive practices.

No room for diplomacy.

The broadcaster observed on similar divisions on social media, with one user accusing Iranians of suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" for mourning the general.

Taking a more detached view, Iranian commentators abroad took the incident as a strategic challenge to the regime and its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ali Sadrzadeh wrote on Radio Farda, part of Radio Free Europe, that Khamenei was mistaken if he thought President Trump would shy away from war because of upcoming U.S. elections. Any action by Iran, he wrote, would prompt a "heavy" response. He observed that Khamenei was keen to stay in power and must know that war with the United States could "burn down the house."

Another commentator, Ali Afshari, an exiled former student activist, wrote on the same website that the Islamic Republic usually responded to such hostilities "asymmetrically and without haste," and had weaknesses to consider now, including opposition to its influence in Iraq and Lebanon, and a half-battered economy that have prompted popular protests in recent months.

Whatever happens, it's clear that the stakes for Iran and its leaders couldn't be higher. Kayhan newspaper was already hinting at the need to tighten controls on commentary, accusing social networking sites of engaging in Soleimani's "proxy assassination" through hostile propaganda, and urged leaders to push ahead with plans to restrict the internet inside Iran. As for outside the country, the same its editorial made it clear to moderates that with "this act of war," there was "no more room for any diplomacy with the United States."

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
blog
Worldcrunch

Iran's Supreme Leader Offers Nod To Environment

TEHRANEmerging after years of sanctions, Iran appears almost single-mindedly eager to boost its economic growth. Thus a photo op this week of the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei planting and watering a tree, and cited as telling "all" Iranians to care for "green spaces," was a minor newsstand surprise Wednesday around the polluted and congested streets of Tehran.

The Tuesday event was carried in papers like the conservative Kayhan, though with far fewer details than most reports on the Leader's pronouncements.

The brevity shows perhaps both the media's and Ayatollah Khamenei's lack of interest in trees and nature. He did however declare that "attacking" and destroying gardens and forests was "not sensible," nor in the country's interest.

The comments may be belated given the utter neglect and wholesale destruction of the natural world that has characterized Iran since the 1979 revolution: From the disappearance of the gardens of northern Tehran, which have morphed into a concrete jungle altering the capital's climate (smog inversions rather than rain and snow, now characterize its winters), to widespread desertification and overuse of water resources.

Though rare, this was not the first time Ayatollah Khamenei has publicly referred to the impact of environmental damage. He spoke this week about "certain violations" of the country's forests threatening Iran's native tree species, and alluded to persistent reports on the dwindling scale of Iran's ancient forests.