• 2020-12-20

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has instructed the Expediency Council to revisit the principal components of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations, in an apparent effort to pave the way for Iran to rejoin an international system of banking transactions from which it is currently excluded. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The two components are the Palermo Convention and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML). To restart its economy, Iran must be able to access the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a system used for banking transactions, which is only possible if the FATF removes the country from its blacklist.

  • 2020-11-24

    In the 1920s, relations between the United States and Iran had reached a low point, marked by the failure of Arthur Millspaugh’s financial mission (1922-27), the murder of Vice Consul Robert Imbrie (1924), and the withdrawal of American financiers from a railroad syndicate (1928-29), among other imbroglios. According to historian James F. Goode, the American chargé d’affairs at the time, Hugh Millard, wrote to the US State Department’s Near East Bureau Chief, Wallace Murray, stating that there had been “one flub after another in American efforts in Persia” but that ‘‘archaeology is about the only thing [the United States] are likely to be interested in which stands much chance of bringing results.” Perhaps the situation today is not so unlike that of the early 1930s, when—despite the accumulated ill will of the previous decade—American interest in Iran’s heritage brought the two countries into more sustained diplomatic engagement with each other.

  • 2020-11-20

    Regardless of all the difficulties, my sources pointed to several bright spots. To pick just one, the Persepolis Fortification Tablet Archive Return is seen as a model endeavor, and a prime example of how to both keep open and reinforce channels of communication between specialists and stakeholders, both Iranian and foreign. As one of my sources noted, the legal case that opened the door to the 2019 return—Rubin v. Islamic Republic—represents an odd confluence of forces, in which the United States government, the Islamic Republic, and an American institution were all on the same side. How often has this been the case in the general course of the relationship between our two countries over the past four decades? As I have documented in my historical research, despite the poor condition of our bilateral relations today, archaeology and cultural heritage were once seen by US State Department officials as among the best channels for establishing positive ties between the United States in Iran. My hope is that they may someday be so again.

  • 2020-11-14

    One dogma that is likely to persist in US foreign policy during a Biden presidency will be the sanctions regime adopted towards Iran.  Every messianic state craves clearly scripted enemies, and the demonology about the Islamic Republic is not going to go begging.  Elliot Abrahams, the current US special representative for Iran, told Associated Press on November 12 that, “Even if you went back to the (nuclear deal) and even if the Iranians were willing to return … this newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community.” […] The statements of the president-elect suggest nothing comforting to health specialists and policy makers bearing witness to the suffering caused by sanctions.  Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy might be abandoned in name, but will continue exerting a haunting influence.  The hawks in the Republican Party will be sharpening their talons, ever watchful of any softening towards Tehran.

  • 2020-11-13

    U.S. sanctions are preventing Iran from making advance payment to the global COVAX facility set up to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries, the Iranian government said as the virus death toll kept climbing in the Middle East’s hardest-hit state. 

  • 2020-11-12

    American foreign policy has complicated the ability of museums—whether University research museums, like the Oriental Institute and the University of Pennsylvania Museum, or major art museums such as the V&A and the Louvre—to conduct the exchanges of objects and personnel required put on exhibitions related to Iranian cultural heritage. Nevertheless, museum professionals in North America, Europe, and Iran recognize the importance of these events for educating the public and for establishing ties between nations.

  • 2020-11-05

    Currently, it appears that American sanctions have had two outcomes: first, there has been a decrease in foreign tourists from Europe and China coupled with an increase in foreign tourists from neighboring countries, presumably for pilgrimage; and second, policymakers have shifted their attention to stimulating demand for domestic tourism. By all measures, however, the industry has been severely handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering job losses estimated at around 13,000 by August 2020 among tour guides alone, not to mention in hotels and travel agencies. Prognoses for the future remain bleak, as demand is not likely to rebound soon, and promised government support for the industry has been slow to materialize.

  • 2020-10-29

    One area of Iran’s economy and society which has been little discussed in conversations on the impact of maximum pressure sanctions is the cultural heritage sector. Cultural heritage is significant for any country’s national identity, and this is nowhere more true than in Iran, which has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a robust set of heritage institutions, and a public deeply invested in its history. The importance of Iran’s national patrimony is clearly reflected in Donald Trump’s January 2020 threat to strike 52 Iranian heritage sites if Iran were to target American troops, citizens, or assets in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. […] The articles in this series will therefore investigate the impact of American policy on cultural heritage management in Iran, in particular as it relates to the three domains of tourism, heritage diplomacy, and international scientific cooperation. Generally, American sanctions and maximum pressure have created extreme challenges for those working in these areas at every level, from government ministers and policymakers to museum directors, from archaeology professors to tour guides and hospitality workers.

  • 2020-10-26

    The Trump administration imposed sweeping economic sanctions against Iran’s oil sector on Monday as tensions between Washington and Tehran continue to escalate in the days leading up to the American presidential election.

  • 2020-10-11

    As a legal matter, the next U.S. president could remove sanctions on Iranian banks immediately, although there could be practical limitations, such as how quickly the bureaucracy updates regulations and documentation for compliance officers worldwide. But the president has wide-ranging authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to suspend or terminate the sanctions under which these designations were made. He could simply instruct the Treasury Department to terminate the designations. Politically, it may be more complicated. The terms of the designations do not identify any illicit conduct by these institutions, which makes it easier to argue for their termination. But it would be more controversial politically to remove sanctions on banks identified as facilitating terrorism, human rights violations, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy also has support outside the administration; any move to lift sanctions could face opposition and claims that lifting sanctions undermines the broader effort to contain Iran’s ability to conduct terrorism, repress its own population, or build up its military.