The Week in Review: January 31st – February 7th

Josep Borrell, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Vice-President of the European Commission, visited Iran on Monday to meet with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, the Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Borrel met with Zarif first, and then held separate meetings with Rouhani and Larijani. The talks were driven by a strong mandate from EU foreign ministers to open up diplomatic talks, reduce tensions in the region and to find political solutions to the crisis. The JCPOA and Iran’s nuclear program were also discussed. Rouhani said he was ready to discuss the nuclear deal with the EU and to cooperate with the bloc during his meeting with Borrel.

In a show of defiance against the conservative clerical arm of Iran’s government, reformist President Rouhani asked his top advisors to draft a bill to scrutinize the Guardian Council’s ability to assess and disqualify potential candidates in political elections. Half of the Council’s members are chosen by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rouhani called out the recent mass disqualifications ahead of the Feb 21 vote, which saw 90 reformist lawmakers lose their bid to run in the election, saying the cuts undermined the election process and created a single party race. Khamenei rejected the idea that the voting process was flawed, and urged Iranians to come out and vote.

Canada called on the Iranian government again to release the black boxes belonging to the Ukrainian commercial plane that was shot down by Iranian security forces. Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, asked his counterpart Zarif to arrange for the black boxes to be sent to France to enable a quick download of the data.

And Charming Kitten strikes again. The hacking group, which is suspected to be Iranian, has been trying to break into journalists’ accounts by posing as news outlets requesting interviews. Cyber security firms say the group are tied to the Iranian government, a claim Tehran denies.

  • Leading economists in Iran have warned that Tehran’s budget proposal won’t meet fiscal targets.
    → Link to source
  • The U.S. State Department wants Iranians inside Iran to get in touch via Telegram.
    → Link to source
  • Thousands of birds, including flamingos, are mysteriously dying in the northern provinces of Mazandaran and Golestan. Ecologists suspect industrial waste is the culprit.
    → Link to source.
  • And Iranian fashion designer Farnaz Salmani, unveiled her new collection in Turkey. → Link to source.