United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Kerry on Amir Hekmati’s Detention in Iran

On August 28, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement marking the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention in Iran. Iranian authorities arrested Hekmati—a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and a former Marine— in August 2011 for allegedly working for the CIA. A 2012 retrial overturned the espionage conviction and instead charged him with “cooperating with hostile governments.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The following is the full text of Kerry’s statement and information on recent Congressional action on this issue.

Four-Year Anniversary of the Detention of Amir Hekmati
 
This Saturday marks the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention on false espionage charges while visiting his relatives in Iran.
 
We repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Amir on humanitarian grounds. The Hekmati family needs Amir - their brother, their son, their uncle - to be home where he belongs. 
 
This is a milestone no family wants to mark, and the Hekmati family has shown inspiring perseverance in the face of this injustice. And as befits a former Marine, Amir has shown tremendous courage in the face of this unjust detention.    
 
As President Obama said recently in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we are not going to relent until we bring Amir home. I join the President in his steadfast commitment to reunite Amir with his family.   
 
We also call on the government ‎of Iran to release Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, and to work cooperatively with us to locate Robert Levinson, so that all can be returned to their families.
 
Congress Calls on Iran to Release U.S. Citizens
 
On May 11, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran to immediately release three Americans held there and to help locate another who is missing. Concurrent Resolution 16 passed 90-0. On June 15, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar resolution, introduced by Dan Kildee (D-MI), who represents the Hekmati family in Congress. The full text of the Senate resolution is below, followed by statements from Kildee’s office.
 
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring),
 
SECTION 1. STATEMENT OF POLICY ON RELEASE OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS IN IRAN.
 
(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
 
(1) Saeed Abedini of Idaho is a Christian pastor unjustly detained in Iran since 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs.
 
(2) Amir Hekmati of Michigan is a former United States Marine unjustly detained in 2011 while visiting his Iranian relatives and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
 
(3) Jason Rezaian of California is a Washington Post journalist credentialed by the Government of Iran. He was unjustly detained in 2014 and has been held without a trial.
 
(4) Robert Levinson of Florida is a former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) official who disappeared in 2007 in Iran. He is the longest held United States citizen in United States history.
 
(b) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that--
 
(1) the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran should immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the United States Government to locate and return Robert Levinson; and
 
(2) the United States Government should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their immediate release.
 
Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI)
 
“I applaud the Senate for taking bipartisan action to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold innocent political prisoners like Amir Hekmati. It is important that Congress speaks with one voice on this important matter telling Iran that it must release the Americans it holds if they expect to be accepted or trusted in the international community. Iran says it seeks to reengage other world nations, and the world is now watching and waiting to see if their words will be matched by actions. Iran can act today to release Amir and the other American political prisoners they hold.”
—May 12, 2015 in a statement
 
“Today Congress spoke with one voice to tell Iran that it cannot continue to hold American political prisoners like Amir Hekmati if they are serious about reengaging the global community,” Congressman Kildee said. “The world needs to know Amir’s name because he is a real person – not just a pawn in a geopolitical struggle between Iran and the rest of the world. He is innocent, yet has been held prisoner in Iran for 1,386 days. It is long past time for him to be reunited with his family in Michigan.
“I thank Chairman Ed Royce, Ranking Member Eliot Engel and every Member of Congress for unanimously supporting this bipartisan resolution. The onus is now on Iran to do what is right and release Amir and the other Americans it holds.”
—June 15, 2015 in a statement
 

 

The Final Deal: U.S. Officials React

The following are excerpted statements by U.S. officials on the final nuclear deal that was announced by the world’s six major powers and Iran on July 14.

Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

"If the United States rejects this deal, we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions. Those partners believe that this is a sound deal—with a rigorous set of inspection measures that would allow us to know if Iran is not playing by the rules. And those countries have been very clear that they are not prepared to walk away from this deal to try to secure different terms. So if we walk away, there is no diplomatic door number two. No do over. No rewrite of the deal on the table." 

"In the case of Iran, the United States persuaded other countries to apply pressure for a purpose—in order to secure significant, long-term constraints that would cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. If we move the goalpost now—arguing, for example, that there should not be sanctions relief until Iran stops supporting terrorist proxies or until it permanently gives up nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes—we would give detractors a powerful tool to try to obstruct our future efforts on issues unrelated to Iran. Our efforts to reach this deal have affirmed the view of the United States as a tough but principled leader; rejecting it would be read in many quarters as a superpower intent on inflicting pain for its own sake."

"The Iran nuclear deal has been championed by the president of the United States, every one of America’s European friends and countless other countries around the world. If Congress rejects the deal, we will project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place."
—Aug. 26, 2015, in an op-ed in Politico 

Secretary of State John Kerry

“If Congress doesn't pass this, if Congress were to kill this, then we have no inspections, we have no sanctions, we have no ability to negotiate, because I assure you the ayatollah, if the United States arbitrarily and unilaterally kills this, you're not going to have another negotiation. And they will feel free to go do the very things that this prevents.” 
 
“We're expanding that breakout from those two months to one year for 10 years and longer. And we have lifetime inspection, adherence to the IAEA, adherence to the advanced protocol, 25 years of tracking and monitoring their uranium, from mining, to milling, to yellow cake, to gas, to centrifuge, to waste. That's unprecedented. And we would not have had that without this agreement.” 
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
 
“There's no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere [inspections]. There isn't any nation in the world, none, that has an anytime, anywhere. And the truth is, what we always were negotiating was an end to the interminable delays that people had previously…We have a finite time period. That's never happened before. And we have one nation's ability to take this to the Security Council to enforce it. That is unique. And we think it was a huge accomplishment to be able to get this finite period.”
 
“The same way that Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, and the same way that Richard Nixon negotiated what we then called Red China, we have now negotiated with somebody who took our embassy over, took hostages, killed Americans, many of the things you hear people say, supported terrorism. But what we need to recognize is that an Iran that we want to stop the behavior of with a nuclear weapon is a very different Iran than an Iran without a nuclear weapon. And we saw this opportunity. The president saw it, and committed us to try to find a way through diplomacy to end that program of nuclearization with a weapon, and that's exactly what we have done.”
 
“We believe that Israel, we believe the region will ultimately be much safer because of this deep. Now, if you don't -- if we don't do this deal, if Congress says no to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran, there will be no sanctions left. Our friends in this effort will desert us. We will be viewed as having killed the opportunity to stop them from having a weapons. They will begin to enrich again, and the greater likelihood is what the president said the other day; you will have a war.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
 
Resuming diplomatic relations with Iran is “not being contemplated. We don’t have relations at this point.”
 —July 19, 2015, on ABC’s This Week
 

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman

 

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
 
"Today’s announcement between the P5+1 and Iran is a historic accomplishment. Building on the Lausanne framework, it will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is – and will remain – a peaceful one, or that the international community will have more than enough time to respond if Iran’s program proves otherwise. This deal will extend the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a first nuclear explosive device to a year for at least ten years, from the current breakout time of just two to three months.
 
Drawing on the vast scientific and technological expertise from across the Department of Energy’s National Laboratory system, Department and Lab experts helped shape the nuclear negotiations through rigorous technical analysis. The Department of Energy backs the deal and stands ready to assist in its implementation.
 
This agreement will be implemented in phases – with some provisions in place for 10 years, others for 15 and others for 20 or 25 years. Iran has committed to the Additional Protocol indefinitely as part of its adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.
 
This agreement is the result of tireless work from our experts at the Department and the National Labs, our interagency colleagues and specifically, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. The U.S. multi-agency delegation worked together collegially and seamlessly, and the P5+1 displayed remarkable cooperation and cohesion throughout this complex endeavor. These are tributes to Secretary Kerry’s personal commitment and leadership.
 
I also want to thank the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Salehi (MIT PhD ’77) for his dedication to this process. His professionalism, dedication and commitment to advancing Iran’s nuclear science and education programs, while at the same time building the international community’s trust in Iran’s nuclear program, were key to this agreement.
 
This is a good deal for America, for our allies, and for our global security. Most important, this deal is based on hard science and analysis. The facts of this agreement meet the nuclear objectives set down by President Obama: verification of a peaceful Iranian nuclear program and sufficient lead time if it proves otherwise."
—July 14, 2015, according to the press
 
“With regard to the Americans unjustly held or missing, again, the secretary -- I was there -- every meeting, this was always raised, and remains, I think, an area of considerable focus.”
 —July 19, 2015, on CNN’s State of the Union
 
“Under IAEA engagements, they have no time frame for resolving issues when going to undeclared sites. So, first of all, getting a defined time frame is very, very critical. There has to be a process to go through with the P5-plus-one to force -- in case of a dispute, to force inspection. Iran otherwise is in breach. Now, 24 days, we feel very confident in the capability of IAEA with environmental sampling to detect any nuclear activity very, very long after it has occurred,” commenting on the 24-day waiting period for inspections of undeclared nuclear sites.
 
“For the long term, we are certainly better off with regard to any weapon possibility with this deal than without it. That starts day one. And it goes on essentially indefinitely.
 —July 19, 2015, on CBS’s Face the Nation
 
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice
 
“Let’s say that the United States, for example, gathers some information that we believe indicates that there is a suspicious or secret site. We would take that information to the IAEA. The IAEA would investigate. The IAEA would go to Iran and say, 'We want to visit this site. We want to check it out.'
 
“And by checking it out, it's not just visiting, it's doing environmental sampling, soil sampling, radioactive materials would be tested for and if they are detected. If the Iranians said, 'No, you can't see that site,' whether it's a military site or not, the IAEA, if it deems the site suspicious, can ask for access to it. So there are no limitations on the type of facility that can be accessed but there has to be a reasonable suspicion.”
 
“It's not a request. It's a requirement.”
 
“We are working very hard…on the issue of our Americans who are detained in Iran and have been not only throughout this process but since the time of their detention.
 
“And we were very specific about the need not to link their fate to that of the negotiations because we had no idea for certain whether negotiations would succeed or fail. We didn’t want to give the Iranians a bargaining chip to use against us in the negotiations.”
 
“In our judgment, and I think in the judgment of many thoughtful people in those countries, the best thing we can do for their security [Israel and the Gulf states] is to ensure that they don’t have a neighbor with nefarious intentions armed with a nuclear weapon. And this deal does that.”
 
“What [opponents] are arguing is that in Iran, out from under sanctions, if in fact eventually Iran fulfills its obligations under this deal - and they don’t get any sanctions relief until they’ve completely fulfilled their key obligations - but if they have, and we can then verifiably determine that they are not in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon, then there will be incremental sanctions relief.”
 
“I also want to make sure people understand that this deal was never about trying to prevent Iran from using proxies in the region, or destabilizing the region.
 
“This was always about our principle and primary concern as shared by the government of Israel and their neighbors in the region. Israel has said that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is an existential threat. We are addressing that threat directly and effectively in this deal.
 
“But we understand that Iran has played a very destabilizing role in the region, it continues to foment unrest and to have supported terrorism, so we want to do what we can to bolster the capacity of our allies and partners in the region to resist that.”
 
“There will be no sanctions relief including of the oil sanctions unless and until Iran fulfils all of the steps that it needs to take under this agreement related to its nuclear program.
 
“So it's got to dismantle two-thirds of its centrifuges. It's got to get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile. It's got to allow continuous and extraordinary access to its nuclear facilities. It's got to take steps to make inoperable its current heavy-water plutonium reactor, among other steps.
 
“It's got to satisfy the IAEA that any questions that the IAEA has that remain about Iran's past history of pursuing nuclear weapons have been resolved satisfactorily. Those are all prior steps, before any sanctions relief, that Iran has to take.
 
“So let's say they do all those things. And based on their performance under the interim agreement, where they've done everything they said they would do, I think there's reason to expect that they will fulfill those steps.”
—July 15, 2015, in an interview with Reuters
 
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
 

“Today’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an historic deal that will cut off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, cements intrusive inspections that will be at an unprecedented level, and ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  This significant accomplishment would not have been possible without strong and rigorously applied economic sanctions, which were designed and enforced by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, alongside many others worldwide.  These sanctions disrupted Iran's access to the materials and infrastructure necessary to develop its nuclear program, more than halved its oil exports, and severed its banking system from the world – providing the leverage necessary to compel Iran to negotiate in a constructive and serious way.

“Today, Iran committed to take far-reaching steps, some of them permanent, to ensure that it will not develop a nuclear weapon.  Only after Iran takes those steps, the P5+1 will relieve broad nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in a phased manner as international inspectors confirm that Iran has upheld its commitments.  All current sanctions will remain in place until such steps have been verified, with the only exceptions being the limited sanctions relief that has been in place since negotiations began.  No new U.S. nor international sanctions are being relieved today.
 
“When Iran does what it needs to do, we will provide timely guidance to governments and businesses worldwide to clearly explain the changes to U.S. sanctions on Iran.  As Iran fulfills its responsibilities, we will make good on our JCPOA commitments.  However, we retain the ability to snap back both U.S. and international sanctions if Iran does not abide by the agreement reached today.  While we hope that does not come to pass, we have ensured through this deal that we will have the means to respond swiftly and powerfully. 
 
“Furthermore, we harbor no illusions about the Iranian government’s nefarious activities beyond its nuclear program.  Make no mistake: we will continue to impose and aggressively enforce sanctions to combat Iran’s support for terrorist groups, its fomenting of violence in the region, and its perpetration of human rights abuses. The JCPOA frees the world of the specter of a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and we retain the tools to confront both terrorism and regional destabilization without the added risk of nuclear weapons.  This is a very positive development.
 
“Reaching this deal today is a milestone that means that the world will no longer be threatened by an active Iranian nuclear program.  We look forward to working with Congress and our international partners in the coming months to ensure successful implementation of the JCPOA‎.”
—July 14, 2015, in a press release
 
Photo credit: Moniz by Energy.gov via Flickr Commons (public domain as U.S. Government work)

 

Where US Senators Stand on Iran Deal

In July and August, U.S. Senators began indicating how they plan to vote on the final nuclear deal. Lawmakers have until September 17 to review the agreement, and if the majority disapprove, they can pass a resolution to block the deal from being implemented. President Obama, however, has said he will veto any efforts to block the deal. Congress would need a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
 
As of August 28, 30 Senators had indicated that they planned to support the deal, while 23 said that they planned to vote to disapprove it. The remaining 47 had not declared how they planned to vote. The following is a rundown of U.S. Senators on the deal.
 
Supporters of the Deal
Opponents of the Deal
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
 
 
Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL)
 
"This Iran agreement is our opportunity to test diplomacy, and I invite Israel, our friends and allies in Israel, to join us in holding Iran to the letter of the law in this agreement.
—August 5, 2015, in a hearing

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
 
"It’s critical that we prevent Iran from developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon. This agreement is the only viable option to achieve that goal." 
—August 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
 
 
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
 
 
Al Franken (D-MN)
 
"After careful review, I have decided that I will vote in support of the agreement the United States and our international partners reached with Iran last month."
—August 13, 2015, in a statement
 
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
 
“I’ve concluded that this is the best available option we have for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. When this agreement comes to the Senate floor in September, I intend to support it.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
 
“I will support this international agreement because it will best serve America’s national security interests and it is built on verification with a robust inspections and compliance regime that will cut off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon.”
—August 7, 2015, in a statement
 

Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
 
“Our goal has been, and remains, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We have far more ability to achieve that outcome if we approve this deal‎.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement
 
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
 
 
Angus King (I-ME)
 
“I have concluded that the terms of this agreement are preferable to the alternatives and that it would be in the best interest of the United States to join our partners in approving it.”
—August 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
 
“While the agreement is by no means perfect, I have concluded that it is our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and that is why I will support it.”
—August 10, 2015, in a statement
 
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
 
"The hasty critics of this agreement are long on scorn but short on alternatives."
—August 5, 2015, in a statement
 
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
 
“I am optimistic this accord is in the best interest of our nation and our allies.”
—July 30, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
 
 
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
 
"Unless there is an unexpected change in the conditions and facts before the vote is called in September...I will support the nuclear agreement."
—August 4, 2015, according to the press
 
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
 
“If Iran moves toward a nuclear weapon, all available options remain on the table. I think it is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed. That is why I will support the agreement.
—August 7, 2015, in a statement
 
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
 
“Iran must never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, and that is why I support this agreement. This is the best possible way to deny Iran from acquiring the bomb.”
—August 10, 2015, in a statement
 
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
 
“Those who oppose this deal…have presented no realistic alternatives. Because I believe that this deal is our best available option, I support it.”
—August 4, 2015, according to the press
 
Tom Udall (D-NM)
 
“I urge my colleagues to support this agreement. We have a choice between this deal and no deal. I do not believe we will get another chance.”
—July 30, 2015, in a hearing
 
Jon Tester (D-MT)

Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

"This agreement is the best option to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon program."
—Aug. 17, 2015, in a statement

Jack Reed (D-RI)

“I support the JCPOA because it cuts off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and gives international inspectors unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and supply chains."
—Aug. 18, 2015, in a statement

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"I’ve decided to support the P5+1 agreement with Iran, not because it assures anything on its own, but because -- with persistent watchfulness and effort -- it could open a new doorway in the precarious Middle East."
—Aug. 18, 2015, in a statement 

Ed Markey (D-MA)

“I have concluded that diplomacy remains our best tool to secure a nuclear-weapon-free Iran. That’s why I intend to support the Iran nuclear agreement when it comes before Congress in September.”
—Aug. 19, 2015, in a statement

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

"Despite having questions about Iran’s intentions, I am willing to give this agreement the opportunity to succeed."
—Aug. 19, 2015, in a press release

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

“I have become convinced that it is more dangerous to Israel, America and our allies to walk away [from this agreement] in the face of unified world wide support.”
—Aug. 20, 2015, in a statement

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

"I have determined that the imminent threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon outweighs any flaws I see in the international agreement. For this reason, I must support the agreement.”
—Aug. 24, 2015, in a statement
 
Patty Murray (D-WA)
 
 
Tom Carper (D-DE)
 
"Most Iranians want a better relationship with America and the world. They’re ready to take yes for an answer. We should, too. This is a good deal for America and our allies, including Israel, one of our closest allies. And, oh yes. It beats the likely alternative – war with Iran – hands down.”
—Aug. 28, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Democratic Policy Committee Chair Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
 
“I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change.”
—August 6, 2015, in a statement
 
Bob Corker (R-TN)
 
"This deal...leaves the United States vulnerable to a resurgent Iran wealthier and more able to work its will in the Middle East. Congress should reject this deal and send it back to the president."
—August 17, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
 
"I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto."
—Aug. 18, 2015 in a speech
 
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
 
“If Congress doesn't stop this bad deal, the American people will be left with a nuclear Iran and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Congress can and should insist on a better deal.”
— July 20, 2015 in an op-ed
 
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
 
“In 10 years, in 12 years, when Iran has a nuclear weapon and we can’t target them, people are going to remember this vote that’s coming up and this deal as what laid the groundwork for it, and I keep hearing this notion that there is no other alternative and no other way forward, but I disagree.”
—July 30, 2015, in a hearing
 
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
 
 

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

“While I have supported the negotiations that led to the JCPOA from the beginning, I cannot vote in support of this deal."
—August 15, 2015, in a statement
 
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
 
“The president’s deal with Iran failed to meet the only standard that ensures the future safety of America and its allies, which is the complete dismantling of Iran’s capability to build a nuclear bomb.”
—July 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Tom Cotton (R-AR)
 
“No one understands the horrors of war more than a soldier who has fought one. That’s why I’m opposed to the President's deal.”

 

Thom Tillis (R-NC)

“The old American alliances are collapsing, and the only answer the Administration seems to have is a clear path to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
— July 22, 2015 in a floor statement
 
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
 
 
 
David Perdue (R-GA)
 
“This is a bad deal. It does not achieve what the President himself said he wanted, and that is to preclude Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
—August 7, 2015, according to the press
 
Rand Paul (R-KY)
 
 
Roy Blunt (R-MO)

“This deal undermines the security of our friends and allies and legitimizes Iran’s unapologetic sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East.”
—July 14, 2015, in a statement
 
Jim Risch (R-ID)
 
“To be able to walk away from this and say that this is a good deal was ludicrous. With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled, and the American people are going to pay for that.”
—July 23, 2015 in an exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry during a Senate hearing
 
Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
 
“I think there’s plenty of better alternatives to this. And, you know, there’s this idea that it’s this agreement or war, and I just simply don’t accept that.”
—July 29, 2015 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe
 
David Vitter (R-LA)
 
“This agreement is a really, really bad deal for America, for Israel, and for freedom.”
— July 14, 2015 in a statement
 
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
 
“I think this is a bad deal for the American people, it’s a bad deal for our allies in the Middle East, and it has bipartisan opposition.”
— Aug. 10, 2015 on 710 KNUS’s “Kelley and Company
 
Ben Sasse (R-NE)
 
 
John Hoeven (R-ND)
 
“I oppose the deal with Iran because it will not make our nation safer and does not prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the first and foremost requirement of any agreement.”
—Aug. 23, 2015, in an op-ed       
 
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
 
“The administration claims this deal makes the world a safer place, but I have grave doubts. As such, I will vote against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action when it comes before the Senate in September.”
—Aug. 21, 2015, in a statement

Pat Toomey (R-PA)
 
“I will actively support and vote for the Resolution of Disapproval to strike down the agreement.”
—Aug. 3, 2015, in an op-ed
 
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
 
“When you’re dealing with somebody, you consider the past conduct of who you’re negotiating with … the people in charge of Iran have shown no indication that they’re trustworthy.”
—Aug. 18, 2015, according to the press
Undeclared
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
James Lankford (R-OK)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Thune (R-SD)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
 

 

Heated Debate in Iran on Nuclear Deal

Garrett Nada

The debate over the nuclear deal is heating up in Iran. President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been trying to sell the agreement since it was announced on July 14. But hardliners' criticism of the deal is mounting.
 
Part of the debate is over whether or not the agreement and its accompanying U.N. Security Council resolution have crossed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s guidelines. “Some parts of the [U.N. resolution] draft have clearly crossed the Islamic republic's red lines, especially in Iran's military capabilities,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards commander, on July 20.
 
Supreme Leader Khamenei has expressed serious skepticism about the intentions of the West, especially the United States. He has vowed that the deal will not open Iran to American influence. Khamenei, however, has not explicitly declared support for or opposition to the deal.
 
 
Powerful officials, especially in the military and parliament, have argued that the deal does not further Iran’s national interests.
 
Khamenei’s foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that the deal is not free of weak points. Yet in a televised exchange with a news anchor critical of the deal, Velayati defended Iran’s negotiating team. “Whatever I say about the deal won’t convince you … I don’t want to argue with you… If there is something that hasn't been achieved, definitely they [negotiators] could not have done more.”
 
Among hardliners, Hossein Shariatmadari argued that the supreme leader’s position was clear. “One can definitely say that the supreme leader is not, by any means, satisfied with the text of the deal,” the editor of the hardline paper Kayhan wrote in an August 15 editorial. In the past, Shariatmadari has been regarded as the unofficial mouthpiece of the supreme leader’s office.
 
The editorial sparked a whole separate debate over who speaks for Khamenei. In a reflection of divisions among hardliners, Shariatmadari’s comment, prompted a swift retort from Hamid Reza Moghaddam-Far, the IRGC media advisor. “How come a revolutionary brother like you is insisting on instilling in his audience a feeling that the supreme leader’s line of thinking is like his?” Moghaddam-Far wrote in an Entekhab op-ed on August 16. (It was translated by Iran Front Page.) “Don’t you think it would be better if you expressed your own views, rather than talk on behalf of the supreme leader?”
 
Other top revolutionary names have also come under fire during the internal debate. Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, who was the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy hostage-takers, has (ironically) supported the nuclear agreement. “Everyone is going to benefit more or less [from the diplomacy],” she told BBC reporter Kim Ghattas in August. But Ebtekar added that the deal has given reformists “a lot of leverage among the Iranian political groups.”
 
A front-page article in the hardline newspaper Vatan Emrooz then attacked Ebtekar for her “partisan sentiment.” It also warned about possible U.S. attempts to influence Iran’s domestic politics through the nuclear deal.
 
The following is a sampling of remarks by supporters and critics of the deal in Iran.

Supporters
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 “is an unprecedented event in the history of the Islamic republic of Iran. Iran's goal was to attain its legal right to enrich uranium and today, the UNSC has explicitly accepted this."
 
"We were in a [football] field where our diplomats were on one side, and on the other, the six world powers were present. In this competition, the referee favored the other side; we won this competition."
—July 22, 2015, in a cabinet meeting
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
“This is definitely a trade-off, and no one would claim a maximal gain for Iran in the JCPOA. However, the major issues of concern for Iran had been well-balanced vis-à-vis the Western demands, which is first to retain the enrichment right and second removal of sanctions, which will not be without its own consequences.”
—Aug. 8, 2015 in an address to Parliament’s Joint Budget Commission as reported by Khorosan
 
The nuclear deal is a “national achievement” that should lead to growth in production and prosperity in the cultural, defense and science fields.
—July 23, 2015 according to IRIB News
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
Iran achieved its goals of “maintaining Iran’s dignity and might, establishing the nuclear program [of the country], enrichment and retaining the heavy-water reactor.”
 
“For 12 years, great powers have tried to prevent an Iranian nuclear program. But today they should tolerate thousands of centrifuges spinning, plus the continuation of research and development. This shows our power.”
—July 21, 2015, in remarks to parliament via Iran Front Page and The New York Times
 
Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar
 
“This is ultimately a step forward. This agreement is a step for the future of not only Iran and the region, but for peace at the global level.” 
 
“I think that there is this internal debate and you can hear these different voices - some criticizing the agreement, and some opposing it entirely.”
 
“But in general... the majority of the Iranian people view this as a successful step forward.”
—August 2015 in an interview with the BBC
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, chief nuclear negotiator
 
“I completely support this agreement, and honest to God, I believe we should celebrate [it].”
—Aug. 9, 2015 at a public event in Tehran via Al Monitor
Critics
 
Revolutionary Guards Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
“Some parts of the [U.N. resolution] draft have clearly crossed the Islamic republic's red lines, especially in Iran's military capabilities… We will never accept it.”
—July 20, 2015 via Reuters
 
Kayhan Editor Hossein Shariatmadari
 
“Even by simply looking at the deal you can see some vital red lines of the Islamic Republic have not been preserved.”
—July 2015 in an editorial
 
Ibrahim Karkhaneh, a member of the parliamentary committee to review the nuclear deal
 
“The limitations [imposed on Iran] go beyond the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
—Aug. 1, 2015 according to Fars New Agency
 
Foad Izadi, University of Tehran professor
 
“People realize that Iran has given away a lot of things. The nuclear program has become a symbol of national pride – and people didn’t like that the agreement came at a great price.”
—July 2015 in an interview with The Telegraph
 
Hossein Nejabat, a member of the parliamentary committee to review the nuclear deal
“We will not allow any intrusion to our defense and military installations… There are points of contention in the agreement.”
—July 26, 2015 via Tasnim News
 
Commander of Iran's Basij Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi
 
“Any Iranian who reads the Vienna documents will hate the US 100 times more [than in the past].”
 
“All paragraphs of the resolution that the U.S. proposed to the U.N. Security Council are full of enmity towards Iran and show the U.S.’ deep grudge against the Iranian nation.”
 
“The U.S. needs the agreement merely to legalize the sanctions and continue pressure against Iran.”
—July 21, 2015, according to Fars News Agency
 
 
 

Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP.

 

Iranian Lawmakers on Nuclear Deal

On August 19, Iran’s parliament selected 15 members for a panel that will review the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Two dozen law makers volunteered to serve on the panel; 15 were then elected by the full parliament. The group includes 13 conservatives.
 
 
In an interview with Alef news, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the nuclear deal is not a treaty, and therefore does not require Parliament’s ratification. “As a person who has taught law for quite some time, I have to tell you that the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is, in fact, under the management and supervision of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions, which has nullified the previous resolutions,” he said in the interview, which was published on August 21.
 
Another senior member of the negotiating team, Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi, also does not see a need for  ratification. “The JCPOA’s nature is not like a protocol or an international treaty. The other parties [to the deal], namely the six countries that negotiated with Iran, are not going to ratify it. Thus, there is no need for its ratification by the parliament,” he said on August 26.
 
On August 16, a petition signed by 201 out of 290 members of parliament called on the government to formally submit the deal for review. The following is a translation of the petition, as published by Entekhab News and translated by Iran Front Page, along with key remarks by the 15 lawmakers on the review panel.
 
Petition Signed by 201 Lawmakers
 
In line with our legal obligations, we, the deputies of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, who have signed this petition announce that:
 
1. We thank the nuclear negotiating team for its tireless efforts in the course of the talks.
 
2. Under Articles 77 and 125 of the Constitution, the review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action falls under the purview of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and requires cooperation from all relevant institutions.
 
3. The executive branch should immediately present the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the form of a bill.
 
4. Any voluntary measures and implementation of the deal – be it temporary, permanent or conditional – would be illegal before the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and subsequent confirmation of the Guardian Council.
 
Members of the 15-member panel to review the deal
 
Alaeddin Boroujerdi (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman
 
“We are still distrustful of the United States because of the country’s arrogant nature and its support for the Zionist regime [Israel] in the massacre of the oppressed people of Palestine and its move to back Saudi Arabia’s killing of the Yemeni people. In this climate of mistrust, there are concerns and if they renege [on the nuclear agreement], we will do the same.”
—Aug. 9, 2015 to al Alam TV via Tasnim News Agency
 
Ibrahim Karkhaneh (Hamedan) 
“The limitations [imposed on Iran] go beyond the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
—Aug. 1, 2015 according to Fars New Agency
 
Ismail Kowsari (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
“The JCPOA [the final nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is an international treaty. Therefore, Parliament must ratify it.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 in remarks via the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency  
 
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini (Varamin), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
 
“Ever since news about a confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA was made public, US lawmakers have been seeking to learn about its content.”
 
“What is surprising is that Amano, who is the director general of an independent international agency, and not a US government secretary, is summoned to the US Senate and he accepts to show up.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 according to Fars News Agency via Iran Front Page
 
Hossein Nejabat (Tehran) 
“We will not allow any intrusion to our defense and military installations.” 
 
“There are points of contention in the agreement.”
—July 26, 2015 via Tasnim News
 
Alireza Zakani (Tehran), Chairman of the JCPOA Committee
“The Administration’s only option is to send the JCPOA as a bill.”
—Aug. 19, 2015 in an interview with Tasnim News Agency
 
Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard (Tehran), First Vice-Speaker
 
Vahid Ahmadi (Kangavar) 
 
Mansour Arani (Aran and Bigdel) 
 
Mehrdad Bazrpash (Tehran) 
 
Mansour Haghighatpour (Ardebil) 
 
Seyyed Mahmoud Nabavian (Tehran) 
 
Masoud Pezeshkian (Tabriz) 
 
Gholamreza Tajgardoun (Gachsaran) 
 
Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi (Kerman) 
 
Other lawmakers
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
“We should understand that the current situation is a new era; the negotiations should not be scaled down to merely facile verbal give and take and without difficulty; this has been one of the most difficult negotiations in the history of Revolution; talks had been in constant frequenting between negotiation venue and Tehran to be discussed by authorities and get rechanneled into another module, and it was a two-way street.”
 
“What appears on paper reflects only one side of the difficulties inherent in the negotiations. The deal is the end of a period; however, it is the onset of an eventful era; it should not be assumed that the path after the deal will be without its own difficulties; current propaganda raised about Parchin is quite superficial, aiming at wielding impact on international decision-making, and a solution to domestic concerns inside the United States.”
 
“We should be aware that the post-deal era is a new untrodden path with new challenges; we should understand well the JCPOA document, and act out of honesty and good faith in explaining its provisions.”
 
“This is definitely a trade-off, and no one would claim a maximal gain for Iran in the JCPOA; however, the major issues of concern for Iran had been well-balanced vis-à-vis the Western demands, which is first to retain the enrichment right and second removal of sanctions, which will not be without its own consequences.”
—Aug. 8, 2015 in an address to Parliament’s Joint Budget Commission as reported by Khorosan
 
The nuclear deal is a “national achievement” that should lead to growth in production and prosperity in the cultural, defense and science fields.
—July 23, 2015 according to IRIB News
 

 

Photo credit: JCPOA committee members via Islamic Parliament of Iran website, Ali Larijani via ICANA and Islamic Parliament of Iran website,

Khamenei Website Reaches Out to Youth

Sina Azodi

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s newest website is an attempt to sustain the revolution and its values among Iran’s youth. Nojavan, or “Youth,” was launched in April. More than 60 percent of Iran’s population is under 35. They were born after the 1979 revolution and did not participate in the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, referred to as the “Holy Defense.” This baby boom generation will increasingly – and disproportionately shape the Islamic Republic’s future.
 
Khamenei’s website refers to the young as “Officers of the Soft War.” The title refers to the perceived cultural invasionor tahajom’e farhangi in Farsi – by the West. Khamenei wants Iranian youth to be vigilant against Western influence, especially the United States. His new website counters the so-called soft war that plays out through the Internet, satellite television and social media.
 
The new website’s look, down to the fonts, are aimed at younger Iranians who are particularly media savvy. It is rich with infographic menus suited to mobile phones and tablets. As of mid-2015, some 20 million smartphones were in use in Iran. In April, the deputy minister of telecommunications said that he expects that number to double to 40 million. Internet penetration is more than 50 percent.  
 
The format and content of the website differ markedly from Khamenei’s other social media. As of mid-2015, he had two other websites, along with Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts. One website, www.khamenei.ir, is operated by the Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. It focuses on historical documents, speeches and an archive of photographs. The other website, www.leader.ir, highlights Khamenei’s role as the supreme leader in domestic and foreign affairs, his speeches, and his role as a marja’e taqlid or religious “source of emulation.”
 
In contrast, Nojavan encourages youth to pursue education for the good of Iran’s future. It emphasizes the need for development and national unity. Nojavan invokes less revolutionary or religious ideology, opting to emphasize nationalism in phrases such as keshvar, or “country.” The overall writing style seems simpler for younger readers, including teenagers. It also uses colloquial language. The following is a sampling of the infographics and posters on the Supreme Leader’s youth website.
 
 
“We Are Together”
“Today we are opposed to Daesh [Islamic State] atrocities in Iraq and Syria as much as we are opposed to the oppressive behavior of American police in their own country. We are opposed to the unjust blockade of Gaza, bombing the oppressed people of Yemen, and oppression of people of Bahrain. We are opposed to the drone attacks against people in Afghanistan and Pakistan…Wherever there's oppression, there are two sides: the oppressor and the oppressed. We support the oppressed and are against the oppressors.”
 
 
 
“Explosion of Potential”
“Today, the nuclear industry is an advanced industry in the world. It is an important industry. It reflects an explosion in the capacities and talents of our own experts. Some backward countries now say that if Iran has enrichment, they want enrichment too. Well, you can go and enrich if you know how to do so.”
 
 
“Build the Country”
“My dears, the country belongs to you, the country belongs to the young.” The young men are examining a map of Iran with symbols of technology developments in the fields of space, the military, nuclear energy and aviation.
 
 
“The Clamor of the Virtual World”
“Some of them [outside media outlets] try to make youth turn their backs on religion. Some try to discourage them from supporting the Islamic government. Some try to encourage them to create discord. Some try to use them for their own vicious goals, and some try to drag them into decadence and idleness. This campaign is constantly targeting our youth, and it is conducted by audio-visual media and the Internet. Despite these attempts, you can witness that tens of millions of our youth participate in the 22nd of Bahman rallies to chant slogans and show their feelings and respect for the Imam (r.a.), Islam and the Islamic Republic. This is not a minor thing. Rather, it is a great opportunity.”
 
 
 
“Map of Iran in year 1394 [March 2015 to March 2016] Empathy and Unity”
Top left: “Trump Card: One of our greatest opportunities is the support that our people and our youth show for the Islamic government.”
 
Top right: “People vs. Government: The enemy says we increase the economic pressure to increase domestic dissent and confrontation.” 
 
Bottom right: “People and Government:  Islam requires that we remain united and empathic. The government and people should work together to resolve issues.”
 
The Supreme Leader has long claimed a special relationship with Iran’s youth. “This love between us is mutual. As your old father, my heart is filled with your love,” he said in a speech in 2000. But he also views himself as protector of Iran’s young. “Development and technological advancements create a gap between generations,” he warned in 2009. “In fact, it is possible that values of the preceding generation lose their meaning for the next generation.”
 
With the launch of his new website, Khamenei is taking a more active role in shaping the character of Iran’s teens. Its slogan is “Energy, Hope, Initiative.”
 
Sina Azodi is a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
 

Photo credits: Khamenei via Facebook/Khamenei.ir, Posters via Nojavan.Khamenei.ir

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