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Iranian press review: Tehran sees signs of weakness in Trump’s offer for talks

Meanwhile, an MP has been ousted after revelations his university degree was fake, and prices of a grave could reach up to $60,000
President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet session in the capital Tehran, 6 June 2020 (AFP)

Trump is desperate to talk, say Iranian politicians

Iranian analysts and politicians have said that US President Donald Trump’s recent messages calling for negotiations with Iran is a sign of his weakness and urgent need to play a winner card prior to the November presidential elections. 

Last week, following the release of US navy veteran Michael White, Trump thanked Iran in two separate tweets and invited Iranian officials to begin a new round of talks with Washington. 

Two years ago, the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, a group of world powers and the administration of former president Barak Obama. 

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Since then, the US has imposed devastating sanctions on Iran’s economy and oil exports, with the aim of forcing Tehran to accept a new agreement with the Trump administration.

In an analysis for the Arman daily, Iranian former charge d’affaires to the UK Jalal Sadatian wrote that with regard to the economy and domestic politics, Trump had no winning card to play against his rival Joe Biden.

According to Sadatian, Trump is now seeking a foreign policy achievement to display in his presidential campaign.

“The US president is using all means possible to find an accomplishment with Iran to use as a victory prior to the November elections,” Sadatian wrote. “I believe that, at this time, negotiations [with the US] will not be beneficial to Iran, and it is better to wait at least until November.”

In response to Trump’s offer for talks, Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf posted on Twitter a verse from the Quran with advice for Muslims: “Do not weaken, and call for peace while you are superior.”

Additionally, Mohsen Rezaee, former commander-in-chief of the Republican Guard and the current secretary of Iran’s influential Expediency Discernment Council, warned President Hassan Rouhani’s government about negotiating with the US.

“For the time being you [Trump] are in the quagmire that you have made yourself. Negotiating with you is akin to being poisoned, even if you get out of this quagmire,” Rezaee tweeted.

MP ousted over fake university degree

The discovery that a newly elected legislator presented a fake university degree certificate has brought renewed public attention to the cases of university qualification forgery among Iranian politicians.

Sina Kamalkhani, 32, was elected as a member of parliament from the small city of Tafresh. However, two months after the elections, it was revealed that his master's degree was from a private institute and not the university that he had mentioned in his credentials, Mehr news agency has reported.

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Following the revelation of the forgery, Iran’s Guardian Council, the entity responsible for vetting the candidates, banned Kamalkhani from entering parliament.

It is not the first time that fake university degrees have ousted politicians from office. The most famous episode of such events took place when former interior minister Ali Kordan was impeached for presenting a forged PhD certificate from Oxford University. 

Rouhani is another high-ranking Iranian politician whose PhD degree in law has been at the centre of debate. During Iran’s 2017 presidential elections, he was also accused of plagiarism in his doctoral thesis for Glasgow Caledonian University.

Meanwhile, the Javan daily has reported that a new market has been thriving in Iran for issuing fake university degrees for politicians or people seeking jobs at governmental offices.

According to the daily, high-ranking politicians also apply a smarter tactic by registering in a university without appearing in classes. These politicians use their influence to gain their diplomas very rapidly and “some pass 140 credits in only two semesters”, the paper claimed.

Graves in Iran could cost up to $60,000

The price of graves in Tehran has been rising sharply as Iran’s economic crisis has worsened and the country’s annual inflation rate has increased.

In recent years, with the rise of grave prices in big Iranian cities, official title deeds are needed to sell and buy a plot. This has made investment in the grave market a profitable business in the sanctions-hit country.

In Ibn Babawayh, a cemetery in southern Tehran, the price of certain graves is as high as 3bn rials (about $17,600 in the open market), according to Jameh News. In this part of the Iranian capital, small apartments cost the same.

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The price of graves begins from 800m rials and increases to 3bn rials, based on their proximity to the shrine of Sheikh Sadough, which is located at the centre of the cemetery.

Ibn Babawayh, despite its historic value, is not the most appealing graveyard to affluent Tehran residents. In Behesht-e Zahra, Tehran’s main cemetery and the largest in Iran, a grave can be as expensive as $60,000.

Last year, Borna news agency reported that the Behesht-e Zahra grave market was operated from private offices located in a wealthy northern neighbourhood in Tehran. In the open market, the price of graves in this cemetery began at 400m rials.

According to the news agency, important factors determining the price of graves in the cemetery were the proximity to the main entrance of the graveyard, their distance from the metro and taxi stations, and the possibility of obtaining official permissions to change a one-story grave to a two or three-story one.

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