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Iranian press review: Exiled crown prince's support for US sanctions causes outcry

Meanwhile, interior minister confirms security forces shot at demonstrators' heads during November's unrest, and luxury house market still thriving in Tehran despite sanctions
Reza Pahlavi, who resides in the US, said that 'Iranians understand Trump sanctions' (AFP)

Iranians condemn crown prince's backing of US embargo

An interview by Reza Pahlavi, the older son of Iran’s last king, voicing support for the US’ policy of maximum pressure on Iran, has caused anger among Iranians.

In an interview with Newsweek, Pahlavi, who resides in the US and is addressed by his supporters as the crown prince of Iran, said that “Iranians understand Trump sanctions” and suggested that the nuclear deal signed by the Barack Obama adminstration had been “disastrous”.

The interview quickly caused a backlash, with many social media users condemning his comments at a time when ordinary Iranians are bearng the burden of a devastating US embargo on Iran. 

In reaction to the interview, Iranian foreign policy analyst Amir Ali Abolfath wrote on Twitter: “Those who say today that ‘Iranians understand Trump sanctions’, tomorrow will say that ‘Iranians will also understand Trump bombings’ and also ‘the parade of Trump’s soldiers on Iran’s soil’.”

Pahlavi’s comments also renewed speculation about the amount of money that the royal family pulled out of Iran when they fled the country one month before the 1979 revolution. 

An Iranian social media user wrote on Twitter that Pahlavi was pleased by the sanctions because “he had pulled out enough [money from Iran] that he has been eating and sleeping for the past 40 years, without the slightest understanding of [what it means to] have hungry children and wife”.

Meanwhile, a BBC Persian journalist posted on Twitter a 2015 interview with Pahlavi in which the former king's son supported the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that he believed that “having an agreement with Iran, is better than no agreement”.

Minister confirms protesters' heads shot at during unrest

The Etemad Online website reported that Iran’s conservative interior minister has confirmed that police and security forces shot live ammunition at protesters’ heads during the November riots, which were sparked by an abrupt hike in fuel prices. 

Outspoken Iranian legislator Mahmoud Sadeghi told Etemad that in a meeting with Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the country’s interior minister, MPs had asked him about the reasons why the demonstrators were shot in the head.

“He answered, well, [the protesters] were also shot in the legs,” Sadeghi was quoted by Etemdad as saying.

In response to Rahmani Fazli’s claim that the police were able control the unrest within two days, Sadeghi asked: “Is it masterful to control [the unrest] with this number of shootings [at the protesters]?”

Amnesty International said that at least 304 protesters were killed by security forces during the disturbances, a number that Iranian authorities reject.

Following the MPs’ meeting with Rahmani Fazli, an impeachment petition against the interior minister was signed by a group of reformist lawmakers.

However, the official process of impeachment was halted by strong lobbies related to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

The move marked the sixth thwarted attempt by the reformists to impeach Rahmani Fazli since 2013.

Iran reaffirms readiness to exchange all prisoners with US

Following a recent prisoner exchange between Iran and the US, Iranian officials have restated that they are ready to swap all prisoners as “a package” with the US, the Tasnim news agency reported.

“We are ready to exchange all the [Iranian] hostages that are held in the United States, as a package, and now the ball is in the US’s court,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abba Mousavi told reporters on Saturday.

On 7 December, Iranian stem-cell researcher Massoud Soleimani and US graduate student Xiyue Wang were released in Switzerland. 

Iranian officials said that the exchange was a result of 18 months of negotiations with a former US official.

Azadeh Eftekhari, an assistant editor at the Saudi-funded Independent Persian website, wrote that the prisoner swap should not be assessed as an opening in the recent cold relationship between Iran and the US.

“An agreement to exchange prisoners, does not necessarily mean that Tehran is ready to enter into wider negotiations which embrace topics like Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” said Eftekhari.

High rental demand for luxurious houses in Tehran

As ordinary Iranians suffer from a year-long economic crisis, Iran's elite are enjoying a lavish lifestyle in northern Tehran’s rich neighbourhoods, where luxurious houses are in high demand.

According to the ISNA news agency, despite a 31 present increase in the price of accommodation in the capital, the market for renting plush houses and apartments in the north of the city has been thriving in recent months.

A three-storey villa in Shahrak-e Gharb, an affluent neighbourhood in northwest Tehran, was rented out for 700 million Iranian rial ($5,600 at the local exchange bureau rate) a month, with a 20 billion rial ($160,000) deposit, ISNA reported.   

The report also added that more than 2.5 million properties are vacant in Iran, due to ordinary Iranians’ inability to pay the high rents for the newly constructed apartments.

* Iranian press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.