LATEST: British Foreign Secretary: I Will Meet My Iranian Counterpart

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In the battle over engagement with Iran, opponents won a victory on Wednesday — three days before the inauguration of Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani — as the US House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to cut Iran’s oil exports by another one million barrels per day over the next year.

The target is ambitious and probably more symbol than substance: the Islamic Republic only sold 800,000 bpd in June, after averaging 1.3 million bpd in 2012 and 2.5 million bpd in 2011.

A similar measure is to be introduced in the Senate next month.

The House adopted the bill 400-20, despite 131 Congressmen writing President Obama earlier this month to urge genuine talks with Iran over the nuclear issue.

The step was accompanied by further public denunciation of the Islamic Republic. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding two sets of hearings on Wednesday and Thursday declaring Iran’s perfidy in Syria and its support of terrorism in Latin America, while the Institute for Science and International Security has put out its third press release in two weeks proclaiming that Tehran, defying the international community, is on the verge of a nuclear weapon — including a “secret site” to achieve the goal.

(Featured Cartoon: Christopher Weyant/Cagle)

Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Rafsanjani Joins Persian-Language Social Networking Site

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, perhaps boosted by his success on Twitter, has joined the Persian-language social networking site Cloob.

Cloob is mostly popular in Iran, but has Persian-speaking members from outside the Islamic Republic too.

Of particular interest are the photographs Rafsanjani has uploaded, which include several of him as a young man.

A number of the photographs and video Rafsanjani has uploaded show him in positions of authority — sitting with President-elect Hassan Rouhani, voting, or presiding over meetings.

Others show the former President being active, including a video of him hiking along a river and a photograph of him riding a horse. These images likely come as a somewhat pointed, if indirect, retort to the Guardian Council and others in the Supreme Leader’s office, who disqualified Rafsanjani from standing in June’s election after the Guardian Council introduced a new rule stating that candidates who were not physically fit enough could not run for President.


[Edit: EA’s Editor-in-Chief, Scott Lucas, suggests to me that Rafsanjani may have drawn inspiration from this gentleman when choosing to show himself on a horse — JP]


Supreme Leader Tweets Solution For Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Over the past two weeks, there has been a noticeable change in tone in the English-language tweets put out from the Supreme Leader’s official Twitter account. Many of the tweets — such as this, from earlier this week — are somewhat incoherent, prompting the question of whether the Supreme Leader’s office hired a new person to tweet in English:

On Thursday, Khamenei’s office uses Twitter to somewhat disjointedly express a plan for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Tehran is not proposing war on Israel but a referendum, in which only Palestinians can vote. Surprisingly, the Supreme Leader, via Twitter, suggests that “Jewish Palestinians” would also take part in the vote.

The resultant Palestinian government would decide what to do with Jewish Israelis, Khamenei suggests.

Khamenei’s office tweets that this proposal is the most logical proposed thus far:

However, Khamenei’s office expressed skepticism over whether others would take up its proposal:

Iran Barters Chinese Subway Cars For Oil

Iran and China have agreed to barter 315 Chinese subway cars for oil, Amir Jafarpour, the deputy head of Iran’s Transportation and Fuel Management Committee, said this week.

Jafarpour said Iran agreed to accept the coaches in lieu of billions of dollars of payments from crude oil exports to China, which cannot be transferred to Tehran because of oil and banking sanctions.

Nicole Kidman Inspires Iranian Playwright, Author

Mehr News, perhaps inspired by the potential for increased engagement with the West under a Rouhani Presidency, published a story on Wednesday with a pro-Western slant.

Mehr describes how no less than a Western actress, Nicole Kidman, had inspired an Iranian author to write a short story.

Chista Yasrebi said that she interviewed Kidman during her time at a Western university.

“I conducted the interview with Kidman when I was studying at the University of Ohio,” Yasrebi admitted to Mehr.

But Mehr does not condemn Yasrebi for her Western studies, or for her choice of a Western actress and Hollywood star to interview.

Mehr quotes Yasrebi as saying:

It was a wonderful interview. In fact, it was a cozy chat between two women: one, a Christian in the United States and the other, a Muslim from Iran.

The short story inspired by Kidman will appear in Yasrebi’s collection, Dying Is Not a Good Job for You”, which contains stories about real-life characters, most of whom are Iranian celebrities.

British Foreign Secretary: I Will Meet My Iranian Counterpart

In contrast to the hard-line signal from the US House of Representative, a conciliatory line from Britain….

Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that he is willing to meet his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, to discuss relations on a “step-by-step” and “reciprocal” basis.

Britain shut its embassy in Tehran after an attack by a crowd on the compound in November. London closed the Iranian Embassy in Britain and expelled the Islamic Republic’s diplomats. government-sponsored militias” on the mission in November 2011. Iran’s embassy in London was also closed.

Meanwhile, Iranian media are pushing the theme, “US Should Engage in Creative Diplomacy with Iran”, using an article from London’s Financial Times: “The goal of western policy over the next few months must be to avoid pushing [President-elect Hassan] Rohani into a corner.”

Rafsanjani: West Should Not Be Worried About Iran’s Nuclear Program

Former President and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani said Monday that the West need not be concerned about Iran’s nuclear program because of a 2005 Fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader, which said that Islam forbids the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons.

“There is no cause for concern since we have both nuclear know-how in the minds of our young people and the Leader’s fatwa that the use of nuclear weapons is haram [forbidden by Islam]. The important point is to make the world understand this through the language of diplomacy,” Rafsanjani told MPs.

Hardline Kayhan: West, Qatar Worried About Assad’s Recent Victories

Hardline Kayhan News — whose front page on Thursday is almost entirely dominated by a feature on the upcoming Qods Day (Iran’s anti-Israel and anti-Zionist ‘celebration’) — spares a small part of its lead for a story explaining that the West and Qatar are concerned by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent “victories” in Homs.

The rest of the story appears to include sections of Syrian State media’s reports on the regime advance in Homs translated into Persian.

Rouhani Advisors Warns Ahmadinejad: Don’t Make Your Last Days In Office A Week Of Looting

Akbar Torkan, a senior advisor to President-elect Hassan Rouhani, and a former Defense Minister under Rafsanjani, asked outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday not to pass legislation before he formally hands over office on August 4.

“At the end of former president Mohammed Khatami’s Presidency, Ahmadinejad’s incoming administration asked Khatami to not pass certain legislation before his administration took office, and we ask Ahmadinejad to honor our requests as well, just as Khatami did his,” Torkan said.

If that were not clear enough, Torkan warned: “The last week of the Ahmadinejad administration shouldn’t be a week of looting.”

Ahmadinejad Talks Imperialism, Forgets About Oil Problems

Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used a visit to the troubled South Pars energy project to declare, “Controlling the assets of nations has always been on the agenda of imperialism and imperialists have always tried their utmost to prevent other nations from achieving their interests.”

The President insisted, “Today, Assalouyeh and South Pars can be the starting point of a new history in our country by resisting against monopolization.”

Ahmadinejad talked about US-led attempts to restrict Iran’s energy sector, “Those who have imposed sanctions against us are the owners of the same companies that do not give us goods and equipments.”

However, the President did not refer to the numerous foreign companies — including from Russia, China, the Netherlands, France, and Spain — who have pulled out of the South Pars project since 2010, or to the long-term delays in development of the oil and gas field.