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Iranians walking their dogs in public could be sentenced to 74 lashes and a fine of more than $3,500.

Their pet dogs could also be confiscated, taken to the zoo, or left in a desert.

That is according to a draft bill proposed by 32 Iranian lawmakers who have claimed that walking dogs and other "harmful" animals in public is not only a health hazard but also a "blind imitation of decadent Western culture."

The draft bill is the latest measure by Iranian hard-liners who have over the years denounced dog ownership and called for action against dog owners. Iranian authorities and conservative clerics say that, according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty animals.

The lawmakers have argued that they're proposing the draft bill in an effort to confront the "growing trend" of dog walking in public and dog ownership in big cities, particularly in Tehran.

The lawmakers submitted their proposals for tougher punishments for dog owners earlier this week. According to the text of the proposed article of the Islamic Penal Code, posted on the website of Iran's Parliament Research Center, monkey owners could also face punishments. Lawmakers have said that they will issue a list of other animals that are "dirty," "dangerous," or "harmful" to public health three months after the approval of the bill by Iran's Health Ministry.

"Those walking or petting publicly animals such as dogs and monkeys [whose] presence in public places damages the health or calm of others, especially women and children, and those who trade them or keep them at home while ignoring warnings by the police, will be sentenced to fines ranging from 10 million to 100 million rials [$377-$3770] or 74 lashes and the confiscation of the mentioned animals,' the proposed law reads.

It also says that following court orders, the confiscated animals will be transferred to a "zoo, forest, or desert" based on the condition of the animals, while owners will have to take care of all the financial charges before the transfer takes place.

The law will not apply to those who need dogs to perform their work, including police forces, farmers, and licensed hunters.

If passed, the bill would also criminalize "the promotion of dog walking" by the media.

Dog owners have faced harassment in the Islamic republic. In past years, pet dogs have been impounded on several occasions in the Iranian capital and held in a special "dog prison."

The measures have been condemned by Iranian animal lovers including the Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals, which in 2012 documented a dog detention center in Tehran.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Republican supporters cheer as a giant TV screen displays the results of the Senate race in the U.S. midterm elections in Denver, Colorado, on November 4.

With a deadline for a nuclear deal less than three weeks away, many in Iran have focused their attention on the likely impact of the victory of the Republicans in the U.S. midterm elections on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States and other major world powers.

The two sides have set November 24 as the target date for reaching a lasting accord that would end the crisis over Iran's sensitive work and result in the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic republic.

A few Iranian officials who have so far reacted publicly sought to downplay the likely impact of the Republican victory on the ongoing nuclear talks. Analysts, however, warned that the Republicans could increase the pressure on Iran by imposing more sanctions, if a deal is not reached by the target date.

Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy presidential chief of staff for political affairs, offered his analysis on Twitter, a social-media site filtered by Iranian authorities. He said Washington's ties with Iran and the nuclear issues is one of the three crises that the United States is facing.

He added that Iran is a major regional player while claiming that it has "the upper hand" due to the "astute views of [Iran's] supreme leader and the policies of President [Hassan Rohani]."

Aboutalebi then argued that both Republicans and Democrats need Iran for the 2016 presidential election, "especially Republicans who are trying to create a change in the foreign policy."

"Therefore, both U.S. parties will be after reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran and strategic cooperation with Iran in regional issues, especially in fighting ISIL and....," Aboutalebi tweeted.

Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmud Vaezi said the victory of the Republicans in the November 4 elections will not have "any effect" on the nuclear negotiations. "We do not see what is happening in the U.S. as a factional shift which will change [the U.S.'s] aims. What has been done in the nuclear negotiations is important and binding, " Vaezi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

But former diplomat Ali Khorram, who reportedly advises Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the Obama administration could be forced into taking a harder line in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, if both sides fail to reach a final agreement by November 24. "Obama has to use the remaining time to reach a deal with Iran," Khoram said.

Apparently addressing domestic critics, he said those who oppose the talks "out of ignorance" should "wake up" because he said Iran's national interests could be jeopardized if there was no deal. "We should not allow Republicans to unite with Israel and witness the tensions we saw under [former President] Mahmud Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush because it is not in the interests of Iran and the region," Khorram said in an interview with the official IRNA news agency.

University professor Davoud Hermidas Bavand, also a former diplomat, had a similar analysis. Speaking to the semiofficial ISNA news agency, Bavand said that if the nuclear negotiations fail to bring results, the U.S. Congress would push for more sanctions on Iran, which he said would be "worrying" for the talks.

In the talks succeed in reaching a comprehensive agreement, then he said the impact of the Congress would be minimal.

Analyst Hassan Beheshtipour, described by as an expert on Iran's nuclear dossier, said that even if Iran and the United States reached an agreement by the end of November, Congress could make it difficult for the U.S. government to lift sanctions against Iran.

Another Iranian analyst, university professor Alireza Kouhkan, said the victory of the Republicans in the midterm elections makes a nuclear deal more difficult to achieve. "[It] can strengthen those in Congress who oppose any deal with Iran," he said in an interview with the hard-line Fars news agency.

Analyst Foad Izadi warned that following their victory on November 4, Republicans are likely to move to confront Iran. "The problem the Islamic republic has had with the U.S. Congress in the past 30 years is likely to become more tangible in the coming days and months."

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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