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Gallup: Iranians Hopeful for Nuclear Deal

Iranians are more optimistic that the ongoing nuclear talks will produce an agreement than they were in May 2013, according to a new Gallup poll. Around 70 percent of Iranians are at least "somewhat hopeful" a deal will be reached, compared to 58 percent in 2013. More than 1,000 Iranian adults were surveyed. The following are key findings from the poll.

As the Iranian negotiators meet next week with their international counterparts for another round of talks ahead of the June 2015 deadline for a final deal, residents of Iran remain cautiously optimistic about the eventual outcome and solidly support their country's national nuclear program. The Iranian leadership under President Hassan Rouhani has promised to improve average Iranians' economic lot. Achieving a nuclear deal with the Western powers will not be a panacea for Iran's economic woes, but the country is under pressure to try to strike a balance between attaining an international agreement on the one hand and maintaining Iranians' national pride in pursuing the nuclear program and securing economic prosperity on the other.

Although Iranians were only asked about the talks between the EU and Iran, there are also bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran and talks between what is known as the P5+1 group: the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France and Germany. Because of the overlap of these conversations, Iranians might have been thinking of any combination of these groups when answering the question about "current talks."

Iranians' support for developing the country's nuclear program has continued to increase. Seventy-five percent of Iranians believe Iran should continue to develop its nuclear power capabilities, up from 68% in the previous survey.

Iranians, however, remain divided on the ultimate intention of the country's nuclear program. More than half of Iranians (56%) approve of Iran developing its own nuclear capabilities for non-military use. Support for developing such capabilities for military use is somewhat lower, with 42% of Iranians approving. Iranians' approval on each of these issues has not changed much since Gallup started asking these questions in 2011.

Click here for the full report
 

Tags: Reports

U.S. Media on Iran Deal

U.S. media outlets, experts, and former officials have voiced strong opinions on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. The following is a rundown of op/eds on the nuclear talks by former U.S. officials and editorial boards from major U.S. newspapers.

Editorial Boards
 
The New York Times 
 
"Saving the Nuclear Deal With Iran"
 
“[T]he power to permanently lift most sanctions lies with Congress, where many members deeply mistrust Tehran, and Republican leaders have said that new and stronger sanctions are near the top of their to-do list in the new Congress. Such a move might be justified down the road if negotiations collapse, or if Iran cheats on its commitments. But at this stage it could easily undermine the talks, split the major powers and propel Iran to speed its nuclear development.”
   — Jan. 10, 2015, in the New York Times
 

"An Emerging Nuclear Deal With Iran"

“The nuclear threat has dominated Iran’s relations with the United States for more than a decade. If this can be resolved, the two countries may be able to tackle other differences, including Iran’s missile program and its growing involvement in regional conflicts. It won’t be easy, but it could open up space for cooperation.”
 
“The agreement must be judged on the complete package, not on any single provision. Even if the deal is not perfect, the greater risk could well be walking away and allowing Iran to continue its nuclear activities unfettered.
   — Feb. 25, 2015, in the New York Times
 
The Washington Post
 
"The emerging Iran nuclear deal raises major concerns"
 
“As the Obama administration pushes to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, numerous members of Congress, former secretaries of state and officials of allied governments are expressing concern about the contours of the emerging deal. Though we have long supported negotiations with Iran as well as the interim agreement the United States and its allies struck with Tehran, we share several of those concerns and believe they deserve more debate now — before negotiators present the world with a fait accompli.
 
The problems raised by authorities ranging from Henry Kissinger, the country’s most senior former secretary of state, to Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, Virginia’s junior senator, can be summed up in three points:

First, a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability. 

Second, in the course of the negotiations, the Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran to extend its influence across the Middle East and seems ready to concede Tehran a place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies. 
 
Finally, the Obama administration is signaling that it will seek to implement any deal it strikes with Iran — including the suspension of sanctions that were originally imposed by Congress — without a vote by either chamber. Instead, an accord that would have far-reaching implications for nuclear proliferation and U.S. national security would be imposed unilaterally by a president with less than two years left in his term.
   — Feb. 5, 2015, in the Washington Post
 
The Los Angeles Times
 
"New Iran Sanctions? Not Now"
 
“Negotiating with Iran on a permanent agreement to ensure that it doesn't develop nuclear weapons is challenging enough. But the Obama administration simultaneously must deal with members of Congress who are determined to impose new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic that could jeopardize not only the final agreement but also the interim deal reached in Geneva last month, in which Iran agreed to suspend progress on its nuclear program.”
   — Dec. 13, 2014, in the Los Angeles Times
 
Chicago Sun-Times
 
"Poke in the president’s eye is bad foreign policy"
 
“For Congress to threaten new sanctions during talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers profoundly handicaps the negotiators and gives Iran an excuse to walk away. The collapse of negotiations could easily lead to an armed conflict.
 
Meddling now in the negotiations — at the moment when a credible deal is possible — can’t amount to any good. And, most important, there is plenty of time to impose stiffer sanctions on Iran if negotiations fall apart.”
   — Jan. 22, 2015, in the Chicago Sun-Times
 
The Boston Globe
 
"Congress shouldn’t scuttle Iran nuclear talks with new sanctions"
 
“There’s no downside to letting these negotiations continue unhindered by new sanctions. In fact, one condition of the agreement is that no further sanctions be imposed. Meanwhile, the agreement does allow for new sanctions if Iran is found to be in breach. Add to this the distressed state of the Iranian economy and falling price of oil, and the United States is clearly bargaining from a position of strength. The US should not breach the 2013 agreement by imposing sanctions… with only two years left in the Obama presidency, a sanctions vote could send the wrong signals to Tehran, and put an agreement in jeopardy. If Iran backs out of talks now, the United States would be in a worse place than before negotiations began: Iran could resume its nuclear program, and the United States would be alienated from its allies.”
   — Jan. 22, 2015, in the Boston Globe
 
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member Bret Stephens
 
"The Obama administration likes to make much of the notion that Iran, starved by sanctions, is like a beggar at a banquet. If so, this beggar doesn’t settle for scraps. If Iran says no to a deal, Mr. Kerry will soon be back with a better offer. If it says yes, it will take what it’s given and, in good time, take some more.
 
Al Qaeda on a “path to defeat.” America “out of Iraq.” It won’t be long before a nuclear deal with Iran will join the list of Mr. Obama’s hollow Mideast achievements."

   — Nov. 10, 2014, in the Wall Street Journal

Experts and Former U.S. Officials

 

William J. Perry, Sean O’Keefe, Adm. James Stavradis, and Joe R. Reeder

"Let’s Make a Deal with Iran"
 
“We are at a crucial moment. Unless our leaders set aside their domestic political differences and pull together to keep the Iranian nuclear negotiations on track, America may lose an important opportunity to enhance its security and influence world history for the better. 
 
“Let’s pull together and seek a diplomatic solution. If an agreement is reached, fully studied and deemed inadequate, there will be more than enough support for stronger measures. But none of those options will be as desirable or effective as an acceptable negotiated settlement. At that stage it will be near impossible to restart negotiations. If we’re ever likely to see an acceptable agreement, this is it. Let’s not let this perishable opportunity get away.”
  — Feb. 24, 2015, in Politico
 
William J. Perry is a former secretary of defense. Sean O'Keefe is a former secretary of the Navy and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Adm. James Stavridis (ret.) served as NATO's supreme commander. Joe R. Reeder is a former undersecretary of the Army.
 
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John H. Johns (ret.) and Angela Canterbury
 
"Avoid new sanctions now and keep Iran’s nuclear program in check"
 
“The bottom line is that Iran is significantly further away from a nuclear weapon today than it was one year ago. What’s more, these results reflect a surprising turnabout from the preceding decade in which Iran’s capabilities grew steadily while the major powers were divided on how to respond.”
 
“We must prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The best chance at doing so is to support the president’s challenging, but necessary, diplomatic talks that continue to make steady progress and yield verifiable results.”
  — Jan. 22, 2015, in The Hill
 
Johns serves on the Council for a Livable World Advisory Board and is a former deputy assistant defense secretary. Canterbury is the executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. The views expressed are their own.
 
Paul R. Pillar
 
"Get over it: There’s no better deal coming on Iran’s nuclear program"
 
“Members of Congress who seem primed to oppose whatever agreement emerges from the negotiations usually base their opposition on the idea that rejecting the agreement would clear the way for a ‘better deal.’ That belief is a fantasy. 
 
“Members of Congress who oppose an agreement would, in effect, be casting a vote in favor of allowing Iran to run as many centrifuges as it wants; to accumulate unlimited stockpiles of enriched uranium, and to resume enrichment at the higher levels it has previously abandoned. It also would be a vote to remove additional international inspectors placed in Iran under the preliminary accords. 
 
Anyone who casts a vote with these effects will have a lot of explaining to do to constituents.
  — Feb. 25, 2015, in Reuters
 
Paul Pillar is a 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency

Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman, and Ray Takeyh
 
"Time to Take It to Iran"
 
"It is time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home. And the pattern of concessions at the negotiating table must stop if there is to be an acceptable agreement. Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations."

The United States and Iran are destined to remain adversaries. It may be possible for enemies to negotiate an arms control compacts, but the path to such an accord will not come from additional concessions by the 5+1; if we want an acceptable deal at this stage, Iran’s leaders need to see they have more to lose than gain by not concluding one."
   — Jan. 23, 2015, in Politico
 
Dennis Ross is a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and served as a special assistant to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. Eric Edelman is a distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and served as undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
 
Nancy Soderberg and John Bradshaw
 
“Give Strategic Patience a Chance” 
 
“As negotiators jockey in Geneva to reach a framework agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by the deadline, which comes at the end of March, hardliners in both Washington and Iran threaten to scuttle the deal. Calls for an arbitrary increase in tough sanctions from Washington and charges of bad faith from Iran indicate many want to squash almost any deal. It is important to recognize how these negotiations are in our deep national interests.”
 
“Certainly, all Americans want to see a final deal and an end to Iran’s shenanigans. What opponents of these negotiations fail to understand is that leadership sometimes requires the more complicated – and at times – frustrating path. History shows that strategic patience is often the wiser course. Ronald Reagan, for instance, spent his entire presidency negotiating with the evil empire ofthe Soviet Union. And America was safer for it. These negotiations with Iran do not indicate acceptance of Iran’s history of supporting terrorism, killing Americans and supporting enemies of Israel. But they do represent our best chance of ending Iran’s dangerous nuclear program and opposing those in Iran who continue to support it.”
  Feb. 26, 2015 in U.S. News and World Report
 
Ambassador Nancy Soderberg represented the U.S. at the U.N. and served as deputy national security advisor. John Bradshaw is the executive director of the National Security Network.
 
 

 

 

Rouhani Appeals to Qom's Clergy

On February 25, President Hassan Rouhani addressed crowds of people in Qom, a holy city whose clergy are influential in Iranian politics. Rouhani referred to Qom’s clergy as the “backbone” of Iran. His remarks focused on the issue of sanctions in the nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Hardliners in Qom are critical of the negotiations and strongly oppose sanctions. Attempting to address these concerns, Rouhani said in his speech that "Iran will not accept any humiliation, obligation or continuation of sanctions in nuclear talks." The following are excerpts from Rouhani’s remarks.

The government motto was to save the economy, revive ethics and establish constructive interaction with the world. We will continue our way relying on the supports given to us by the Supreme Leader and people.”
 
“The talks should lead to lifting of all unfair and illegal sanctions against Iran.”
 
“Our motto is the economic revival and constructive interaction with the world.”
 
“We have participated in nuclear talks powerfully and we continue it based on logic away from all marginal issues.”
 
“Sanctions are unfair and development is absolute right of people. The other side in negotiation should know that Iran will never give up with its scientific development.” 
 
“The final agreement must include removal of all unfair, illegal sanctions. Iran will not accept any humiliation, obligation or continuation of sanctions in nuclear talks.”
 
"We have taken important steps in area of foreign policy in relations with the regional states and other world countries, have continued the path of problem settlement, especially with regard to the nuclear case, mightily and without heeding the marginal moves and will continue this path to the end."
 
"We are not isolated in the world, rather these are the others who are isolated. We continue our path and in the negotiations we don’t accept to undergo the will of others, humiliation and continued sanctions."
 
"Like all of the days of the history of this revolution, the government desires the support of the people and especially the support of the people of Qom, the seminary and the senior clerics."
 
"We will always respect critics and we tell them, just like supporters, that they have received government protection and will continue to do so...But subversion has no place in this country."
 
"For the government and the people of Iran, Qom is not a city, but the symbol of religious life.”
 
"I want to make clear that the government needs Qom" with its clergy forming the "backbone" of Iran. The seminary's independence would "never be compromised under the banner of a policy, a party or faction."
 
 

Economic Trends

Garrett Nada

January and February

The most important developments in early 2015 were Iran’s reactions to low oil prices. The price of crude oil was still hovering around $60 a barrel in February, down from $115 in June 2014. In January, Iran’s government readjusted the new budget to assume an oil price of $40 a barrel, down from the $72 price included in the initial draft presented by President Hassan Rouhani to parliament in December. The previous year’s budget was based on the price of $100 per barrel. Also in February, lawmakers voted cut expected oil revenues in the draft budget by 25 percent to $18.5 billion to compensate for low prices.

But newly released statistics suggest that 2014 was still a relatively productive year for Iran. Oil and gas exports were up 39 and 41 percent, respectively, during the period from March 2014 to January 2015 compared to the same period last year. Inflation is down to less than 17 percent from 39 percent in January 2014. The auto industry, one of Iran’s most important economic sectors, saw a 60 percent rise in production. 
 
The following is a run-down of the top economic stories with links.
 
Domestic Developments
 
Growth: In a speech marking the 36th anniversary of Iran’s revolution, President Rouhani outlined the country’s economic progress. “Last year, I promised you that the economy will step out of recession. Today, I announce that the economy grew by 4 percent in the first six months of the current year,” he said on February 11. “The Industry, mine and trade sectors grew by 6.5 percent, 10.5 percent and 5.4 percent respectively in the first six months of the current year,” Rouhani added. He also noted that crude oil production increased from 2.7 to 2.9 million barrels a day.
 
Oil: Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia said that the government is revising its draft budget to assume an oil price of $40 a barrel. The initial budget that President Rouhani presented to parliament was based on $72 a barrel, down from $100 in the 2014 budget.
 
In February, lawmakers voted to cut the amount of expected oil revenues in the draft budget by 25 percent to $18.5 billion to compensate for low oil prices. But they also earmarked an additional $5 billion to restructure the budget if prices rise again.
 
Exports fell 60 percent to 1 million barrels per day in early January, according to Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh. But he did not specify the period. Zanganeh said that predicting the market’s behavior was impossible because “political motives and interventions” were creating fluctuations. Zanganeh declared that the fall of oil prices will not force Iran to change its positions or policies. “If the oil prices drop to $25 a barrel, there will yet again be no threat posed to Iran’s oil industry,” he later claimed.
 
Iran’s petrochemical exports totaled some $12.8 billion from March 2014 to January 2015, a 39 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to government spokesperson Mohammad Baqer Nobakht.
 
Iran launched the world’s largest floating oil export terminal on February 8. The unit, which can store some 2.2 million barrels, is more than 1,100 feet long and nearly 200 feet wide.
 
Gas: Gas production has hit its highest point since 1970, according to the National Iranian Gas Company’s planning manager. Production capacity, which usually increases between five to 10 billion cubic meters a year, is expected to increase by 22 billion cubic meters by March 21.
 
The export of gas condensates from March 2014 to January 2015 totaled some $12.1 billion, a 41 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
 
Inflation: The Central Bank of Iran announced that the annual inflation rate was at 16.3 percent based on price changes since March 2014. The bank, however, noted sharp price increases in the health, entertainment and transportation sectors.
 
Auto industry: Production of automobiles has increased by more than 60 percent between March 2014 and January 2015 compared to the same period last year. Iranian companies reportedly produced more than 930,000 vehicles. The auto industry has historically been Iran’s largest sector unrelated to petrochemicals. 
 
Stock market: The Tehran Stock Exchange’s Index hit 65,055 points in late January, down 15 percent since October 2014. In a panic over another fall in the index, sellers attempted to sell their shares en-masse. Some traders protested by smashing glass on the trading floor and demanding the resignation of the head of Tehran’s Securities and Exchange Organization.
 
Taxes: President Rouhani called on Revolutionary Guards-controlled companies and religious foundations to give up their tax-exempt status. “We are trying to tax everyone across the board, but as soon as we touch this or that institution, they make such a stink about it,” he said in a speech.
 
Diversification: President Rouhani warned that Iran needs more than oil revenues to run the country. “We should have a variety of revenue sources, we cannot depend on a single source of income, we should get united with our neighbors and [oil] producers to solve our problems,” he said while touring Bushehr Province.
 
Banks: Lawmakers passed a bill to raise the capital of state-owned banks by 100 trillion rials, or $2.85 billion during the next 10 years. The goal is to increase lending to the private sector.
 
Corruption: The Supreme Court sentenced Mohammad Reza Rahimi, a vice president who served under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to five years and three months in prison for corruption. Rahimi was ordered to pay a 10-billion-rial (about $369,000) fine.
 
Energy: Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian warned that electricity shortfalls are hindering economic growth. The sector “has consistently been weakened over the past five years, and investment has dramatically decreased,” he noted. Energy demands are reportedly growing at about six percent a year while growth is less than a third of that. The power network needs at least $4 billion dollars in investment, according to the energy ministry.
 
The first national conference on “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development” was held at the University of Zabol in Sistan-Balochistan Province.
 
Steel: Iran was the largest producer of steel in the Middle East in 2014 and 14th largest in the world, according to the World Steel Association. Iran produced some 16.3 million tons of steel in 2014, a 5.9 percent rise from 2013.
 
Sanctions: On February 18, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians to “resist sanctions” and not allow Western countries to place conditions on the country's nuclear program. In a public speech, Khamenei warned that Iran can impose sanctions on the West if necessary.
 
Industry, Mines and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh criticized officials for downplaying the impact of international sanctions. “Why should we say war has no effect or sanctions have no effect?” Nematzadeh said at a conference. "Our educated youths can tell if you're lying… Let's put some cotton in their ears, scotch tape on their mouth. Why do you lie? It does have an effect. The country has become backward. There's inflation, recession,” he said. The comments were unusually candid for a public forum.
 
Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia estimated that Iran’s economy could grow more than eight percent if international sanctions are lifted. In an interview with website of the supreme leader, Tayebnia said that Iran has been relatively successful in coping with sanctions. He argued that “one of the reasons why the West came to the negotiating table and recognized Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology was the relatively successful management of economy and sanctions.”
 
Economic problems: At a conference on Iran’s economy, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani argued that Iran’s issues predate sanctions on its nuclear program. “Sanctions might have opened the wound of our ailing economy, but our economic problems are old… Before sanctions, unemployment was high; today 44 percent of our graduates are jobless. We must try to tackle these issues. State employment is the worst solution. Responsibilities should be delegated to the private sector so that the economy is run by the public,” he said, according to Iran Front Page’s translation of a state news report.
 
International Developments
 
Non-oil Exports: Iran’s non-oil exports exceeded $46 billion between March 2014 and February 2015, the first eleven months of the Iranian calendar year. The head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization Valiollah Afkhami Rad said the Islamic Republic exported 22 percent more than the previous year. Some 92 percent of the trade was conducted with Asia.
 
European Union: The European Union’s second highest court annulled sanctions on an Iranian bank and 40 shipping companies. E.U. governments had failed to prove that Bank Tejarat had supported Iran’s nuclear program or was involved in skirting sanctions. The shipping companies had been linked to the sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, but the court also found insufficient evidence linking it the company to nuclear proliferation.
 
The court has granted E.U. governments time to appeal the ruling or re-impose sanctions on different legal grounds. In the meantime, the entities will remain under sanctions.
 
The Iranian chambers of commerce of France, Germany and the United Kingdom formed an alliance to facilitate business between E.U. countries and the Islamic Republic. The business bodies are concerned that European companies will face multiple complicated national export approval processes, which could give U.S. companies an advantage if sanctions are lifted.
 
United Kingdom: The London High Court rejected an application for an injunction from Iran’s main oil tanker firm, NITC. The firm sought the injunction because the European Union is due to put it back on the sanctions blacklist. It had been removed from the list in July 2014 after a European court ruled there were no grounds for the designation. The decision was setback to Iranian efforts to lift trade restrictions.
 
Germany: German exports to Iran in 2014 were 30 percent higher compared to the previous year. The Federal Statistics Office reported that Germany, one of Iran’s biggest European trade partners, exported some 2.4 billion euros worth of goods in 2014.
 
China: China imported some 27.5 million tons of Iranian crude oil and condensate in 2014, a 28.3 increase compared to 2013, according to the country’s customs administration.
 
Industry, Mines and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh announced plans for Iran and China to jointly set up an industrial town in Jask port. The four acre area will be devoted to the petrochemical, aluminum and steel industries.
 
Russia: Ali Akbar Velayati, a top advisor to the supreme leader, visited Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin. The two agreed to coordinate efforts to upgrade Iran’s observer status within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Velayati also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
 
Levan Jagarian, ambassador to Iran, said that construction on a second nuclear power station at Bushehr is scheduled for fall 2015.
 
Iran and Russia plan to establish a joint account for payments in rubles and rials, according to Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei. Tehran also plans to sign a memorandum of understanding in 2015 with the Eurasian Economic Union to boost exports to Russia.
 
India: India imported 2.7 million barrels of crude per day from Iran in 2014, nearly a 42 increase compared to 2013.
 
India’s Exim (Development) Bank allocated Iran a $150 million credit that it will use to buy railway facilities.
 
Iraq: Iran plans to increase bilateral trade with Iraq from $12 billion a year to $20 billion, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Tayebnia said on February 16. “Iran is ready to cooperate and provide technical and engineering services to Iraq, particularly in the fields of construction of roads, power plants and dams.” He also noted the opportunity to bolster religious tourism, which accounted for some $222 million of Iraq’s GDP in 2013. Iraq is home to many sites holy to Iran’s Shiites.
 
More than 250 Iranian companies showcased their products at an exhibition in Baghdad in February.
 
Turkey: Iran’s trade balance with Turkey dropped from $93 million to negative $1.497 billion during the period from March 2014 to January 2015 compared to the previous year, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
 
France: Iran’s largest car maker, Iran Khodro, signed an agreement with France’s Renault to import two models of cars in early or mid-2015.
 
Italy: Iran has exported some $800 million in goods and imported some $400 million from Italy, making it the “only European partner with which Iran has recorded a positive trade balance,” according to the chairman of the Iran-Italy Joint Chamber of Commerce, Ahmad Pourfallah.
 
Pakistan: Tehran denied rumors that it has decided not to fine Islamabad for falling behind schedule in constructing a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline. The managing director of the national gas company noted in a press conference that Pakistan “had to deliver its commitments by starting import of Iran's gas supplies in December 2014, but it seems unlikely for Pakistan to take any measure before the end of 2015.”
 
Kuwait: Iran and Kuwait signed an agreement encouraging investment. Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Tayebnia said that Iran’s National Development Fund is prepared to supporting foreign investors interested in the Islamic Republic.
 
United Arab Emirates: Transportation officials from Iran and the UAE signed a memorandum of understanding to increase the number of flights between the two countries and establish a system for cooperation on aviation safety.
 
Algeria: Iran and Algeria signed two cooperation pacts on building infrastructure that will be carried out by the Islamic Republic.
 
Air industry: Iran has signed three agreements with Boeing since the interim nuclear deal was negotiated in late 2013. Two were extensions of existing agreements and one was a new one between Iran Air and the U.S. company. So far, Boeing has repaired seven of Iran Air’s plane engines, according to Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh.
 
Germania, a German budget airline, announced plans to offer direct flights to Tehran and Mashhad starting in February. The one-way airfare is set to range from 220 to 250 euros depending on the German airport of origin.
 
Ebrahim Shoushtari, deputy head of Iran’s Aviation Operations Services, announced that flights over Iran increased more than 70 percent since August 2014, mainly due to ongoing conflicts that make flying over parts of Iraq, Syria and Ukraine unsafe. He noted a 20 to 25 percent increase in the number of international flights.
 

Sina Azodi, a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, contributed to this round-up.

 

Tags: Economy

Geneva Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

On Feb. 23, 2015, Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States - concluded another round of talks on Iran's controversial nuclear program in GenevaAtomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined the talks for the first time to provide technical expertise, but Secretary of State John Kerry noted that their presence was "no indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the two sides held "good discussions" but that "there is a long way to reach a final agreement." The following are quotes from officials on the status of the nuclear talks.

Iran

President Hassan Rouhani 
 
Allegations that Iran is pursuing a secret nuclear program are a "big lie." 
 
“We first turned to Europeans to get the [uranium enrichment] technology; If we wanted to conceal [our activities] we wouldn’t raise these issues with a Western country." 
  — Feb. 23, 2015, according to the press 
 
“A polling has shown an overwhelming majority of the public supporting the nuclear talks with the 5+1; this is important that a path where the government moves is supported by the public. 
  — Feb. 23, 2015, at an economic conference in Tehran 
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif 
 
The inclusion of Moniz and Salehi reflected a need "for higher level people with all-embracing command over all issues." 
  — Feb. 22, 2015, according to the press 
 
Tehran will not accept a "incomplete and vague" nuclear accord, but rather a "complete agreement." 
 
“No other deal will be made before a complete agreement is clinched." 
 
“The deputies had good discussions, but no particular agreement has been made on the issues (at hand).” 
  — Feb. 23, 2015, according to the press 
 
"We had serious talks with the P5+1 representatives and especially with the Americans in the past three days ... But still there is a long way to reach a final agreement." 
  — Feb. 23, 2015, according to the press 
 
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham 
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that we will accept an agreement in a single phase and all its details should be clear and it should contain no ambiguities.” 
 
We believe only when all the dimensions of the agreement are clarified the time will be ripe for announcing the agreement.” 
  — Feb. 18, 2015 in a press conference 
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi 
 
"We will continue the negotiations as long as there is a language of respect…, but we will surely leave the table if this (bullying) approach is extended to the negotiating table." 
 
"Kerry's statements about the nuclear talks were repetition of (US President Barack) Obama's last week statements and these remarks have always been repeated and we believe that they do not influence the negotiations." 
 
"Both the US and other G5+1 members have experienced that political and media pressures will never make the Islamic Republic of Iran change its methods, demands and stances in the negotiations." 
 
"Summing up the discussions, we cannot claim that progress has been made in the talks, we still have differences, but the negotiating sides are seriously and resolutely following up the negotiations to reach a solution although they have not achieved comprehensive solutions over key issues." 
  — Feb. 23, 2015, according to the press 
 
United States

Secretary of State John Kerry 
 
The presence of Iranian Atomic Energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is no "indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided...There are still significant gaps." 
 
The president "is fully prepared to stop these talks if he feels that they're not being met with the kind of productive decision-making necessary to prove that a program is in fact peaceful." 
  — Feb. 21, 2015, according to the press
 
"The P5+1 remains united on the subject of Iran. There is absolutely no divergence whatsoever in what we believe is necessary for Iran to prove that its nuclear program is going to be peaceful into the future."
  — Feb. 21, 2015, in a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
 
“President Obama has made it clear that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon. Since late 2013, we have been testing whether that goal can be achieved through determined multilateral diplomacy. The so-called P5+1 talks have made considerable progress but have not yet reached a satisfactory consensus on all critical questions. During our deliberations, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of Tehran’s nuclear program and even rolled it back in key respects. We will know soon whether we will be able to reach a verifiable and comprehensive plan to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is wholly peaceful. We will continue to consult closely with you as our efforts progress. Although I cannot predict the outcome, I do believe that an agreement of the type we seek would advance America’s interests and that of our allies in the Middle East, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and serve the cause of international stability and peace.”
 
“On Iran, sure it’s controversial. But we are daring to believe that diplomacy will provide a better alternative to ridding Iran of nuclear weapons than a war, or going first to the threats that lead to confrontation.”
  — Feb. 24, 2015, in a testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
 
"In the Iran negotiations, we are not complete; I don’t know if we’ll get there.  But I know that trying is the essence of United States leadership, to find out whether or not there is a way with diplomacy to succeed in preventing a country from getting a nuclear weapon.  And that we owe it to our citizens and the world to prove our willingness to try to do it peacefully before we have to make other choices, if we did."
  — Feb. 25, 2015, in remarks to the House Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations
 
Russia
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
 
"We are satisfied to see every new meeting achieve further progress."
 
"There is a growing confidence that an agreement will be reached by the assigned deadline - in other words, June 30."
  — Feb. 24, 2015, according to the press
 

Photo credit: John Kerry via State Dept Flickr (US Government work)

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