Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif  tweeted on 17 August that he will visit six Latin American countries beginning today.  Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi noted that Zarif will lead a 60 member delegation on his first visit to the region.  Ravanchi announced that the visit will begin in Cuba on 21 August.  The rest of the itinerary includes Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela in that order.

Iran’s public links in Latin America involve mostly agricultural-related commerce. Latin American countries send food stuffs to Iran and Tehran ships agricultural equipment, rugs, and pharmaceutical products in return.  Ravanchi speculated that Iran hopes to expand economic ties with the Islamic Republic lending its skills in engineering, dam building, housing construction, and dairy farming techniques to South American countries.  He added there might be opportunities for mutually beneficial oil and gas deals.   

There are only two countries on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) black list, North Korea and Iran. The Islamic Republic is a member since 2008.

Desperate to attract substantial foreign investment, Tehran must clean-up its image as a rogue state before lending institutions gain confidence that Iran is worth the risk.

Former President of Iran Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), a giant of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and arguably the richest man in the country is about to enter political oblivion. Called “kouseh,” Farsi for “shark,” by his countrymen, he seems to be running out of options to remain a political force in Iran. Rafsanjani, labeled by U.S. intelligence analysts as a pragmatic conservative, willing to support a so-called “grand bargain” with the West, is actually a firm believer in the use of terror as a tool of foreign policy. The coordinated Iranian-Hezbollah terror bombings in Argentina: the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 mass murder at the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association both occurred during his presidency.

Financial tidbit: heads roll as Iran’s bank presidents draw criticism for high salaries.

President Rouhani’s Minister of Finance may have fired presidents of some of Iran’s largest banks. The banks in question include at least the Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat.

This action is likely an example of hardliner pressure on Rouhani. The President is most definitely responding to a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Hardliners probably got to Khamenei, convincing him that this was the politically expedient move to make.  

The maneuver is likely linked to the effort to fix in the public eye an image of corruption on the Rouhani Administration. This tactic is probably linked to next year’s presidential election.

There are several reasons which make Ayatollah Mohammad Hashemi Shahroudi a logical choice to succeed Iran’s present Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Shahroudi meets all of the requirements for Leader enumerated  by Iran’s Islamic Constitution. Unlike the current Supreme Leader, Shahroudi has the “suitability with respect to learning.”  He is a scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence and is an instructor in Shi’a theology, neither of which is a part of Khmaenei’s biographical profile.

Shahroudi’s reputation for “piety,”  another prerequisite for “Rahbar” (Supreme Leader) is evidenced by the favorable way in which his religious khutbahs (sermons) are received by pilgrim congregations. This is particularly the case at Iran’s most revered religious shrine, the tomb of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran. Moreover, Shahroudi is the un-official Marja (Spiritual Guide) for Iraq’s Islamic Dawa Party. He also is rumored to be the personal spiritual guide to Muqtadar al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s Jayish al-Mahdi (Mahdi’s Army).