Reflecting a greater flexibility and movement by Iranian officials to interact with American officials during visits to New York, President Hassan Rouhani held an unprecedented dinner meeting with “twenty former American officials—including a secretary of state, three national-security advisers, and a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—from all six Administrations since the 1979 revolution….Among his guests were the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the former national-security advisers Stephen Hadley, Samuel Berger, and Brent Scowcroft, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and the former congresswoman Jane Harman, who served on the House Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Armed Services Committees.”
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America (VOA), the lead US negotiator Wendy Sherman expressed hope that a nuclear deal with Iran is within reach. This is after President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the UN expressing optimism about the nuclear deal. There is no question that this nuclear deal will significantly change the political environment between Iran and the United States. It will also have a major impact on sanctions, as Wendy Sherman stated, “I have to tell you as soon as we suspend our major sanctions – which will happen very early in the agreement – the world will flood into Iran,” she said. “Many international delegations have already been to Iran and so they will begin to see what they can do. It will be important to show that the agreement is durable, that it will last over a period of many years because we have a long history here that we are trying to solve.” Still, we cannot ignore the domestic pressures on both Rouhani and Obama. They have their own enemies in their political systems, and need to walk the trigger points very carefully.
Watch this video about one of Iran’s most beautiful lakes being destroyed by mismanagement of Iran water resources. Building too many dams and diverting water in the past decade has dried many of Iran’s lakes, creating a major environmental problem in Iran today. “Has Lake Urmia truly reached its final chapter? Or could a miracle save this turquoise gem? There is no way to go back in time; the lake will never be as it once was. Even the most optimistic of experts can’t see a happy ending to the story.”
After months of warnings to Tehran residents that they need to conserve water and not engage in wasteful usage, Iranian officials concerned with impending water shortages cut water supplies to 3,000 residents of Tehran. With a population of over 12 million, Tehran is on the brink of unprecedented water shortages. Most of the water reservoirs around Tehran have reached an all time low level.
In the capital city of Tehran, the number of individual vendors striving to make a living is an ever present phenomena. One such vendor is Rajab, who “is the sole breadwinner in a large family. At home, he struggles to pay for food and utilities and attempts to foot the medical bill of his wife, who suffers from uterine tumors. His youngest son attends fifth grade while his eldest daughter attends university, where she pays about $330 per term for tuition. Each day, he departs from the Shahriyar neighborhood on the outskirts of Tehran at around 6am to get to his selling spot by 9. On hot summer days he sits on the sidewalk until around 8pm before riding the bus back to Shahriyar.” The law enforcement authorities and other governmental agents constantly pick on vendors like Rajab. A 13-second film of an unconscious vendor lying on the ground was captured by witnesses and has since made its way to YouTube. The stories recounted in this article is worth reading.
The water crisis in Iran is rarely mentioned in the Western media. The water crisis in Iran is much more serious than any foreign policy issues, including the nuclear negotiations. This is because little is being to address this crisis. Mismanagements, heavy subsidies for utilities and water, excessive use of water, and overall lack of education about water usage are all contributing to a problem that will only get worse. Here is picture of one river in Isfahan before and now:
Azadeh Moaveni has an excellent article in Iran Wire chronicling the stories of several young Iranian women as they strive to find a balance between gender identity and equality in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In one case, a young musician / cellists, says that “she and many of her musician colleagues hoped that President Hassan Rouhani would address some of these encroaching restrictions ( restrictions on employment, attendance in sport arenas, etc) during his tenure,” but hardliners have managed to slow him down. The struggle between moderates and hardliners impacts women the most, and Rouhani will not be able to count on their votes if he fails on the pledges he made to them when he was elected in 2013.