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The Farda Briefing: Iran Nuclear Talks, Soaring Food Prices, Taliban Tensions


Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

Welcome to The Farda Briefing, a new RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter.

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I’ve been following during the past week and what I’m watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Washington and Tehran remain at loggerheads over the U.S. designation of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian armed forces that plays a significant role in the economy, as a foreign terrorist organization.

Why It Matters: The IRGC blacklisting is the last major snag in yearlong negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear accord. Observers say the sides are determined to find a solution, considering the high stakes. If a compromise is not found, Iran could soon face alternative approaches that range from more pressure to an interim deal or even military action.

What's Being Said: U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he does not support removing the terrorist designation of the IRGC's Quds Force, which is responsible for Iran's military operations abroad. That has led to speculation that Washington could delist the IRGC while keeping the Quds Force under sanctions.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not commented directly on the IRGC designation. But he said nuclear talks are “going well” and added that Iranian negotiators are resisting Washington’s “excessive demands.”

“It's more likely than not that Washington and Tehran will find a way around this impasse. This will require some creativity and political cost,” said Henry Rome, senior analyst at the Eurasia Group in Washington.

What's Next: The two sides are likely to exchange more proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock. A Western diplomat said the United States was expected to send a response to a proposal sent by Iran via the European Union's coordinator, Enrique Mora, who traveled to Tehran and Washington. No details were disclosed.

The Stories You Might Have Missed

  • Iranians have been angered by the tenfold increase in the price of tomatoes in recent months. The price hike prompted the Aftab-e Yazd daily to note that “omelets are no longer the food of the poor.” Tomatoes are a key ingredient in omelets in Iran. Many Iranians are struggling to make ends meet in a decimated economy that has been crushed by crippling U.S. sanctions and years of mismanagement. Ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi is under mounting pressure to ease the country’s economic woes.
  • Prominent Iranian human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, who had been recovering from surgery for a blocked artery, has been sent back to prison to serve out her eight-year sentence on charges stemming from her advocacy. The outspoken Mohammadi initially refused to go back to prison, but told Radio Farda that she did so to prevent authorities from confiscating a property that her friends submitted as bail.

What We're Watching

Iran has summoned Afghanistan’s envoy in Tehran after angry protesters damaged the Iranian consulates in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the western city of Herat. The rallies began after videos posted on social media in recent days showed Afghan refugees in Iran being beaten and humiliated by ordinary Iranians.

In a separate incident, some Iranian media outlets reported that the man accused of killing two clergymen in a knife attack in the northeastern city of Mashhad last week is an Afghan national. Iranian officials have gone to great lengths not to mention the suspect’s nationality, in an apparent attempt to prevent anti-Afghan sentiments.

Why It Matters. The incidents could increase hostility toward the estimated 3 million Afghan refugees and migrants in Iran. Thousands of Afghans have been pouring into Iran since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Members of the Afghan community have long alleged widespread violence and mistreatment.

The incidents could also result in tensions between Tehran and the Taliban, former foes who have forged ties in recent years. Yet, differences remain between Afghanistan’s Sunni Taliban rulers and Iran's Shi'ite clerical regime. Tehran has yet to recognize the Taliban regime. Clashes have also erupted between Taliban fighters and Iranian border forces.

That’s all from me for now. Don't hesitate to send us any questions, comments, or tips that you have to newsletters@rferl.org

And we invite you to check out the improved Farda website in English and its dedicated Twitter account, which showcase all of our compelling journalism from Iran.

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is the author of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

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