PARIS â€" With celebrations from the streets to social media, Iranians have broadly welcomed Tuesday's deal between their country and the six major world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international economic sanctions. Still, there are differing views about how the accord will actually affect the lives of the people in Iran, from the economic impact to questions of diplomacy, security and society at large.
Iran has long been seen by many as a pariah in the international community, and the accord holds the potential to change the very standing the nation holds in the world. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the deal a "triumph of diplomacy," and there were numerous pictures of street celebrations in Tehran in immediate response to the deal. Voice of America"s Persian service showed footage Wednesday of Iranians shouting "condolences" to both Israel and the hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan â€" meaning this was a defeat not only for the historical Zionist enemy that lobbied Washington against talking to Iran, but also for "hardline" Iranian opponents of détente between Tehran and the West.
Jubilant street scenes aside, comments on websites and social media â€" as well as calls in to radio and TV broadcasts â€" indicate Iranian optimism was overall more sober, and the likely effects for people's own individual futures still quite unclear. Some noted the lasting harm Iran's confrontational foreign policy and erratic economics had done in the past 15, 20 or 30 years. One Twitter user Saman O said it would take a "lot more" than the end of sanctions to change life in Iran, and the inflow of cash and foreign businesses would likely provoke an immediate increase in state corruption.
Still the release of frozen assets and other reverberations to the unwinding of sanctions left some Iranians wondering whether now was finally a good time to sell long-held real estate property in Tehran, and others looking forward to the relatively cheaper cost of foreign travel.
In economic terms Iran's regime would likely be the first beneficiary of a gradual lifting of sanctions, though trickle-down effects would inevitably benefit the public. The Prague-based, Persian-language Radio Farda reported on a list of persons and firms due to be taken off the Western sanctions list. They include banks, state-affiliated and private firms (although, is anything really private in Iran?), and prominent members of the Iranian nomenklatura like the revolutionary-guards generals Mohammadreza Naqdi, Mostafa Najjar and Yahya Rahim-Safavi, as well as entities like the Revolutionary Guards navy and the national flagship airline Iran Air.
So, if ordinary Iranians were cautiously optimistic, those in big business â€" more often than not connected to the state â€" could be downright gleeful.
The journalist Vahid Pourostad tweeted a report from Iran's Tasnim news agency, about "Iranian business delegations due to visit the United States this fall." The head of Iran's international trade agency Mohammadreza Sabz'alipur was cited as saying that authorities would announce conditions on who could go.
Yet in spite of the economic opportunities opening up for Iranians and Western firms, some measure of opposition is expected to continue inside Iran, notably from the most conservative elements. Conservative Islamic reactions have so far been cautious and non-confrontational, though some outlets were telling people not to celebrate. Others mentioned the "fine print" in the deal that could give them something to work on later. The daily Resalat cited parliamentarian Fathollah Hosseini as saying that the legislature would soon be double-checking the text of the pact with nuclear policy "red lines."
Despite the strict religiosity of its leaders, Iranians have steadily grown more secular and thirstier for personal freedoms over the past two decades. There is no immediate evidence that the nuclear deal, and a diplomatic rapprochement with the West, will lead to real social changes. Still commentator Ahmad Hakimipur wrote in the reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd that the deal was expected to "unlock" internal problems and "we shall see some very important events" inside Iran. Beyond the economics, he wrote, Iranians expect "other openings in social, political and cultural spheres." The deal, he adds, is a "prelude" to satisfying Iranians' "other needs."
Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.
• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.
• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.
• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.
• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.
• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.
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"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction
Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.
🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.
😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.
🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.
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We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.
— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.
🇮🇷🎓 IN OTHER NEWS
Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement
Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.
Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.
The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.
Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.
Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."
Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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