"The liberation of Mosul and the inevitable, approaching liberation of Raqqa in Syria will not be the end of the Islamic State and its evil ideology. But they crush the group’s pretense to having an actual “state” based upon it. As its surviving leaders scurry to the corners of the desert, no longer can they claim to head a winning movement. Their defeat diminishes the inspiration for violent extremists, or simply lost souls on social media, to attack Americans and our friends. This is a necessary step forward in combating terrorism. Americans are safer for it."
"Win or lose, conservatives decided the battle lines would be drawn between true believers and the increasing amount of conservatives peeling away to join Rouhani’s moderate alliance that defines itself as 'anti-extremist'" (05/26/17).
— Payam Mohseni, Director of the Belfer Center's Iran Project, in the Washington Post
Poverty rates in Iran increased during Rouhani’s first year in office because “growth was apparently not pro-poor” (04/17/17).
— Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Prof. of Economics at Virginia Tech & Visiting Scholar at the Belfer Center's Iran Project, in Bloomberg Politics: "Talent War Shows Nuclear Deal Rewards for Skilled Iranians"
Diplomacy and nuclear issue
Reuters reported that U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley will travel to Vienna later this month to discuss Iran’s nuclear activities with International Atomic Energy Agency. This will be part of President Trump’s review of Iran’s JCPOA compliance. (Reuters, 8/9)
Sanctions and Iran's economy
France’s Renault signed $778 million deal to establish joint venture to raise its vehicle production in Iran. Renault will open factories with Iranian conglomerate Industrial Development and Renovation Organization and Negin Khodro, a private company. Renault, which will be majority shareholder with 60 percent share, will have its own distribution network in Iran for first time. The agreement is the largest foreign auto deal in Iranian history. (NYT, 8/7) (AP, 8/7)
Iranian media reported that Iran’s Ghadir, Russia’s Zarubezhneft, and Turkey’s Unit International signed agreement for joint investment in oil and gas development projects in Iran. (PressTV, 8/9)
South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction signed $1.6 billion deal with Iran’s Tabriz Oil Refining Company to renovate the company’s refinery facility. (Reuters, 8/6)
Iranian domestic politics
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani selected his new cabinet. He reappointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and a few other ministers. His cabinet must be approved by parliament. (Bloomberg, 8/8)
Rouhani nominated Iran’s acting defense minister, Iranian Army Gen. Amir Hatami, to permanently stay in position. This was surprising pick since position has gone to Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) members since 1993. (BBC, 8/9)
Rouhani appointed three women as vice-presidents following criticism of his all-male cabinet. (AP, 8/8)
ISIS captured and beheaded IRGC adviser Mohsen Hojaji in Syria. Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada claimed several IRGC troops had been killed in airstrike by US-led coalition, who denied its forces had been involved. It seems ISIS was behind attack. (PressTV, 8/11) (Radio Farda, 8/9)
Tehran city council unanimously elected reformist Mohammad-Ali Najaf as new mayor. His election ended hardliners’ 14-year hold on position. (FT, 8/10)
IRGC clashed with militants in Iran’s northwest, killing two militants. (Reuters, 8/6)
During press conference, Trump said he did not believe Iran was living up to spirit of JCPOA. He also said: “I don’t think Iran is in compliance.” (Reuters, 8/10)
Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee passed bill titled “Countering America’s Adventurous and Terrorist Actions.” Bill obliges the government to increase funding for its missile program and for Quds Force activities. (MEI, 8/10)
Unarmed Iranian QOM-1 drone harassed and nearly collided with Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet as it prepared to land on USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in Persian Gulf. Hornet’s pilot was forced to make sudden maneuver to avoid striking the drone, and they passed within 100 feet of each other. (Washington Post, 8/9) (CNN, 8/8)
During meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Rouhani praised Europe for their determination to expand ties with Tehran despite U.S. pressures. (Reuters, 8/5)
Geopolitics and Iran
Prominent Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to dismantle Hash’d al-Shaabi, paramilitary organization dominated by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, and integrate its members into Iraqi army. (RFERL, 8/5)
Turkish, Russian, and Iranian representatives met in Tehran for joint technical meeting ahead of sixth round of Syria talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Middle East Monitor, 8/8)
United Arab Emirates court convicted Iranian national for spying and aiding Tehran’s nuclear program. (Reuters, 8/10)
Turkey began construction of wall along country’s border with Iran. (AP, 8/8)
Zarif hosted delegation of senior Hamas officials in Tehran. Hamas statement: “The visit has opened a new page in our bilateral relations with Iran aimed at confronting the common enemy and supporting Palestine, the Al-Aksa Mosque and the resistance [against Israeli occupation].” (Jerusalem Post, 9/8) (Haaretz, 8/8)
Two players on Iran’s national soccer team were banned for life from playing for Iran after they participated in match with their club team against Israeli team. (NYT, 8/10)
The Iran Working Group serves as a channel for internal discussions on fundamental issues of Iranian and regional affairs, including Iranian foreign policy, domestic politics, sectarianism and the Iran-Saudi rivalry, as well as the nuclear challenge. The project, which since its inception in summer 2013 has grown dramatically in size and scope, is co-chaired by Professor and Belfer Center Director Graham Allison and Belfer Center Iran Project Director and Fellow for Iran Studies Payam Mohseni. Working Group participants come from the Belfer Center, Harvard University, Brandeis University and MIT, and the group draws upon local expertise that spans Iranian state and society, negotiation strategy, nuclear physics and policy, economics, and Iranian politics.
Members of the Iran Working Group meet regularly to dissect the latest developments from the implementation of the nuclear deal, the economic impacts of international sanctions, and relevant regional trends. The Working Group regularly hosts private, off-the-record discussions on these topics with distinguished scholars and practitioners in the field from across the globe.
Iran Experts Group
For More Information
The mission of the Iran Project is threefold:
- To produce advanced, policy-relevant knowledge on salient issues of Iranian affairs
- To serve as a hub in a network that synergizes scholarly collaborations and intellectual discussions among Iran experts and analysts across the world
- To become a diplomatic bridge to advance dialogue between students and scholars in Iran and the United States, particularly for the Harvard University community, as well as to support the efforts of Iranian students and those involved in Iranian studies at Harvard University across disciplines
The Iran Project is dedicated to promoting the study of contemporary Iranian politics, particularly on issues that pertain to important challenges of international security, such as the Iranian nuclear program, US-Iran relations, and Iran’s role in the Middle East.
From its nuclear program and sponsorship of hostile state and non-state actors to its soft-power influence in the region, Iran has outsized abilities to shape events beyond its borders in a dramatic fashion. The Iran Project seeks to bring greater knowledge and analytic clarity to policy discussions on Iran as an important power in the Middle East region.
Dr. Payam Mohseni, the Director of the Iran Project, frequently travels to Iran to conduct research and is fluent in Persian. His work focuses on the internal policymaking process of the Iranian state, the dynamics of factional politics in post-revolutionary Iran, the political economy of development, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Mohseni also teaches Iranian and Middle East politics at Harvard’s Department of Government.
Research Focus Areas
- The Iranian nuclear program, implementation challenges for the JCPOA, and its implications for regional order
- Iranian domestic and foreign politics, elite factional dynamics, Iran’s role in the Middle East, sectarian conflict in the region, and Iranian soft power and ideology
- The Iranian economy, Iran’s business environment, its economic policymaking process, sanctions, and the country’s energy sector