Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter. To subscribe, click here.
I'm Hannah Kaviani, a senior broadcaster and editor at RFE/RL's Radio Farda. Here's what I've been following and what I'm watching out for in the days ahead.
The Big Issue
The European Parliament on January 19 voted for Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to be added to the European Union's list of terrorist organizations in "light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters, and its supplying of drones to Russia."
The vote was nonbinding, but it came amid calls by some European governments to blacklist the elite branch of Iran's armed forces. The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that would only happen if a court in an EU nation determined that the IRGC was guilty of terrorism.
Since the vote, the EU has imposed fresh sanctions against Tehran. Iran has expressed outrage at the possibility of the EU blacklisting the IRGC, which would lead to sanctions against the force. Tehran has warned of unspecified "consequences."
Why It Matters: The EU's potential blacklisting of the IRGC has exposed the bloc's hardening position on Iran.
European powers have long pursued engagement with Iran, even as tensions between Tehran and the United States soared in recent years. But Europe's approach has shifted due to the war in Ukraine and unrest in Iran.
Tehran has been accused of supplying combat drones to Russia, which has allegedly used them to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
Iranian authorities have also waged a brutal crackdown on the monthslong anti-establishment protests inside the country, killing hundreds of civilians and detaining thousands more. As Iran's ties with Europe dip, hopes of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers have sunk.
What's Next: Even as calls for the EU to blacklist the IRGC increase, the bloc is far from united on the issue. Two European diplomats who spoke to Radio Farda on the condition of anonymity said France was "not very keen" on the move.
While Germany's foreign minister has supported it, the mood in Berlin appears to be uncertain. According to one diplomat, some Southern European countries such as Portugal and Malta are also opposed to the IRGC being designated.
A senior EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels on January 20 that blacklisting the IRGC "is not a good idea because it prevents you from going ahead on other issues," including Iran's nuclear program. Another diplomat who spoke to Radio Farda said the EU's decision to blacklist the IRGC will "depend on how Iran will act over Russia."
Stories You Might Have Missed
- A 39-year-old Iranian poultry worker and martial arts coach who was executed by Iran earlier this month in connection with the antiestablishment protests has become a symbol of state oppression, with many Iranians grieving his death in absence of his family. Mohammad Hosseini was convicted of killing a member of Iran's paramilitary forces as mourners demonstrated in a city outside the Iranian capital in November. Hosseini was hanged on January 7 along with 22-year-old Mohammad Mehdi Karimi.
- Iranian officials held a controversial six-day conference that began on January 20 called the International Congress for Women of Influence. The conference was hosted by Jamileh Alamolhoda, the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The event was attended by the first ladies and politicians from a number of friendly countries including Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Serbia, and Nigeria. Some Iranian media outlets criticized the extravagance of the event as well as its timing, coinciding with the nationwide protests that have largely been led by women.
What We're Watching
Iran's national currency has lost around 30 percent of its value since the protests erupted in September. On January 21, the rial fell to a new record low against the U.S. dollar. The dollar was selling for as much as 447,000 rials on Iran's unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com.
Why It Matters: Political instability triggered by the current wave of protests has worsened the economic situation in Iran, where the economy has been crippled for years by tough U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement.
Reports suggest that U.S. efforts to curb the flow of dollars to Iran have borne fruit and exacerbated the currency crisis. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has enforced tighter controls on dollar transactions by banks in neighboring Iraq, one of Iran's main sources of hard currency. For years, front companies and smugglers have facilitated the flow of dollars from Iraq into Iran.
That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.
Until next time,
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