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Supreme Leader’s Advisor Visits Lebanon, Syria

Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, affirmed Tehran’s support for Damascus and Hezbollah during visits to Syria and Lebanon. On May 18, Velayati met with Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Tammam Salam, and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. He praised Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Shiite political party and militia, for achieving “great progress and excellent victories alongside the brave Syrian army.” The next day, Velayati met with Syrian president Bashar al Assad in Damascus. Assad told Velayati that Iran’s support for Syria “constitutes a key pillar in the battle against terrorism.”

Iran has been Assad’s most powerful regional ally since the 2011 uprising. Velayati was the third Iranian official to visit Damascus in less than a week, following visits by the head of the Syrian-Iranian economic commission and the chairman of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi.
The following are quotes from Iranian and Syrian officials during Velayati’s visit.
Senior Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati
On Syria:
"Strategic relations [between Damascus and Tehran] constitute one of the essential pillars in confronting Western projects... and the illusions... of certain regional countries."
Iran will "continue to support Syria by all means” and "a small world war is being waged against Syria.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
"No doubt these actions [to arm Syrian opposition groups] will backfire on these countries, and their ominous illusions and dreams for controlling the region, creating strife and even disintegrating certain countries will never come true."
"The same way that the Syrian nation has defused all enemies' plots in both areas of politics and war so far, they will not allow the enemies achieve their goals through psychological war in future and they will emerge victorious from this imposed crisis."
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
“Iran is determined to continue to stand by Syria and supporting it with whatever is needed to reinforce the resistance its people are showing in defending the country and fighting terrorism.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
On Lebanon and Hezbollah:
“Takfiri groups and extremists supported by certain regional countries are trying to depict a violent image of Islam and are even planning to disintegrate some Islamic countries.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
“We are filled with pride and appreciation when we see that in recent days, the valiant Lebanese resistance (Hezbollah) has achieved great progress and excellent victories alongside the brave Syrian army.”
“We believe this will strengthen the axis of resistance, not just in Syria and Lebanon, but in the whole region.”
“We hope, with God’s will, to see the day when some regional powers will stop supporting and harboring these evil, unjust forces, whether in Syria or Lebanon, and to stop providing a haven for them –- so that we can return harmony, security and stability to all of Syria and Lebanon.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
"The resistance, which achieved great victories against the Zionist entity, will win in the battlefield like before." (referencing Hezbollah's advancements in Qalamoun)
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
“We are glad to see that the Lebanese have been able to agree on consolidating national unity and moving forward in confronting Israel and extremist forces.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
“Resolving the political problems in Lebanon concerns the Lebanese themselves. We are totally confident that thanks to Lebanon’s deep-rooted democracy, it will eventually find a suitable exit and an appropriate solution to fill the presidential void.”
"The meeting was a chance to hold with the Prime Minister a series of positive and constructive talks. During the meeting, I perceived harmony in viewpoints regarding the good bilateral relations between Lebanon and the Islamic Republic of Iran. These are excellent and strategic ties with major influence on the current political developments in the region.”
"Within this frame, I would like to confirm that during the tenure of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the latter managed to enjoy wisdom in order to solve many problems and issues. We hope that a solution would be son reached to the presidential vacuum ordeal.”
"I told the Prime Minister that Iran relied on the prevailing agreement ambiance and rapprochement to face the Takfiris.”

"For his part, the Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the constructive role assumed by the Islamic Republic of Iran as a friendly country for Lebanon, in terms of the efforts exerted on the Lebanese and Arab levels.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press



Syrian President Bashar al Assad
“The axis of resistance has been formed in the region and no one can break it and we will, no doubt, be the winning side, and the supports extended by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some other countries to the terrorists has, thus far, failed to annihilate the resistance, and God willing, we will witness growing victories and of course, these victories were not possible without the Islamic Republic of Iran's supports.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press
"The support given by Iran to the Syrian people constitutes a key pillar in the battle against terrorism.”
—May 19, 2015, according to the press


Iran Reacts to GCC Summit

Iranian officials have criticized the policies of the United States and its allies in reaction to the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held by the White House. The joint statement and annex, released on May 14 by President Obama and GCC member state representatives, referred to Iran’s “destabilizing” activities in the region. Ahead of the summit, Obama called Iran a “state sponsor of terrorism” in an interview with Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. He also said that countries in the region “are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations.” 

In reaction, Iranian leaders argued that Tehran has actually been fighting terrorism. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the United States and its allies for the destabilization of the region from Libya to Pakistan. He also accused Washington of creating the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS or DAESH.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran’s neighbors have no reason to panic and that Tehran does not seek to dominate the region. And Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Marziyeh Afkham, called the GCC statement “contradictory” given the ongoing bombing of Yemen led by Saudi Arabia. The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian officials in response to the summit.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“Today, the world of Islam really and truly has many problems. Take a look at the condition of Islamic countries in our region ranging from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria to Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Libya. … Behind all these things, there is the problem of arrogant plots hatched by great powers. These powers are headed by America and they enter the arena in the name of safeguarding their interests. They do whatever they want out of lust and rage. They kill innocent people and they support criminal groups.
“Today, the Americans claim that they want to fight against terrorism. This is while they themselves have created the most dangerous terrorist groups which are very large in number. Who created DAESH? They themselves acknowledge that they have played the main role in creating DAESH. Who pitted other small and large groups like DAESH against Iraq, Syria and other areas? Where do the bullets, weapons and dollars that exist in the pockets of these criminal assassins come from? Where does such money come from? Who are the people that support these numerous and dangerous terrorist groups at America's command? Is there any doubt that the hand of arrogance has played the largest part in creating terrorism and in strengthening, helping and supporting terrorists in the region?
“They speak about the Persian Gulf region. Ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf region is to the advantage of all countries surrounding it. We countries surrounding the Persian Gulf have many common interests. We are neighbors. Ensuring the security of this area is to the advantage of all of us. If the Persian Gulf is safe, all of us will benefit from this security and if it is insecure, it will be insecure for all. An insecure Persian Gulf would be insecure for all. There are some people who are the owners of the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf belongs to them and it is their home. What business does America have in the region which gives it the right it to express its opinion about the issues of the Persian Gulf and to gather allies. They are not after security, rather they are after their own interests. If they deem it necessary to create an insecure environment for an area, they do it or they support those who do so.
“We have cooperated with those people who fought against terrorism in our country and in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. We helped them and we will continue to do that. We are opposed to terrorism.
It was you who supported such terrorists. It was you who encouraged them. Your drones destroyed the people's houses in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They turned people's wedding ceremonies into funerals - this was done in Iraq. It is you who are doing such things. Terrorism belongs to you. It is you who are terrorists. This is while you say that Iran supports terrorism. Terrorism is your job. We are opposed to terrorism and we fight against every terrorist.
—May 16, 2015 in a speech to representatives of Islamic countries
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“Unfortunately, there has been a barrage of insulting comments coming from Saudi Arabia to which I have refrained from reacting. And many in the Iranian government have exercised a huge deal of self-restraint in not reacting to those comments and actions -- both public as well as private comments that have come from our neighbors in Saudi Arabia. People have to stop panicking.
“Iran is a powerful country. Iran is a big country with a large population, natural resources, human resources. But we are a country that is content with its size, content with its geography. We have not engaged in any military adventures in the past 250 years. We don't see any of this as Iran trying to dominate this region. We see some people panicking in our region and we believe there is no need to panic. We are prepared to work with all our neighbors to ensure the security and prosperity of our region.”
—May 16, 2015 in an interview with Der Spiegel
President Hassan Rouhani
“The refuge is not in Camp David, but in Camp Prophet Mohammed and the Quran.”
—May 16, 2015 in a meeting with the supreme leader and foreign officials


Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
“Unfortunately, actions such as launching a foreign military attack on Yemen and disregarding its territorial integrity and the U.S. support for this aggression not only contravene international law, but also run counter to some of the contents of the Camp David statement.”
—May 16, 2015 during a press conference


Photo credits: Foreign Minister Zarif by Robin Wright, President Rouhani via President.ir, Spokesperson Afkham via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Congress Acts: Senate, House Pass Corker Bill

On May 14, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would require Congress to approve and then vote on a final nuclear deal with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) welcomed the legislation as “the only way” to “stop a bad deal.” The bill passed with 400 votes in favor and 25 against in the House one week after the nearly unanimous vote in the Senate of 98-1.

The White House initially threatened to veto the bill when it was introduced in February, arguing that curbing the president’s powers could negatively impact negotiations. But President Obama backed off after the review period was shortened and the committee dropped the requirement for the president to certify that Iran has not been supporting or carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States or its citizens. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) played a key role in brokering the compromise between the Obama administration, Democrats and Republicans.

Republican Senators introduced more than 60 amendments to the bill over the past few weeks, but most were not brought to a vote. Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moved to close debate on the bill to prevent votes on amendments introduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) that threatened bipartisan consensus on the legislation, such as requiring that Iran recognize Israel. President Obama stressed that he would reserve the right to veto the bill if it were to be amended before reaching his desk. But the House did not alter the language.
On May 22, Obama signed the bill into law.

The following is a summary of the legislation released by Senator Bob Corker’s office, House Speaker Boehner’s statement welcoming its passage and a floor statement by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD).

Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement and all related materials, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.

No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions During Review Period: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for up to 52 days after submitting the agreement to Congress. Following an initial review period of 30 days, the legislation includes an additional 12 if Congress passes a bill and sends it to the president. If the president vetoes the legislation, Congress would have an additional 10 days to override a veto. If the deal is submitted after July 9, the review period increases to 82 days (60 days plus 12 days for the president to veto and 10 more days for Congress to override a veto). During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (over a presidential veto) within the review period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.

Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to provide an assessment to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement. It also requires the president to make a series of detailed reports to Congress on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missiles work, and its support for terrorism globally, particularly against Americans and our allies. With this information, Congress will be able to determine the appropriate response in the event of Iran sponsoring an act of terrorism against Americans.

Click here for the full text of the bill
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
“Iran cannot be allowed to develop or obtain nuclear weapons. It is committed to the destruction of our ally Israel, continues to hold Americans hostage, and is feverishly working to support the spread of terrorism and promote instability in the region.
“So President Obama’s admission that his current framework would allow Iran to achieve a nuclear breakout time ‘almost down to zero’ is more than extremely troubling – it’s unacceptable.
“This is why Congress must have a role in reviewing any potential deal the president cuts with Iran. The American people are worried – and America’s allies are worried – that the White House will do anything to get one. So my colleagues and I have one goal: stop a bad deal. The bipartisan legislation the House passed today is the only way Congress will have that opportunity.”
—May 14, 2015 in a statement


Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD)
“Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Senator Cardin, the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, for his hard work to reach this compromise with Chairman Corker. This compromise bill allows Congress to look carefully at any final agreement.  It will help ensure that our common goal is achieved: a non-nuclear-armed Iran.
“I believe this bill reflects the consensus among Members of both the House and Senate that Congress – which authored the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table –  has an important role to play in this process. I also want to thank our negotiating team for their tireless efforts to reach a framework agreement. 
“As I have said before, any final agreement must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and include the most intrusive inspections and access regime we’ve ever seen in order to verify Iran’s compliance. It must address potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and bring about Iran’s full cooperation with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“The United States must never permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel in defense of its security. That means ensuring Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, including through robust support for anti-missile systems and anti-tunneling defense programs.  It also means supporting our Gulf partners from Iran’s destabilizing activities. 
“Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is directly in America’s national security interest. A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to us all.
“This bill will ensure that Congress can review any final nuclear agreement with Iran to make certain that it meets the goals we and the president share.  I encourage my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”
—May 14, 2015 in a floor statement

GCC Summit: Obama Reassures Gulf on Iran

On May 13 and 14, representatives from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates – met with President Obama at the White House and Camp David to discuss formalizing security arrangements. The talks focused on crises in Syria and Yemen, but the blueprint for a nuclear deal, announced by Iran and the world’s six major powers on April 2, was a major catalyst for holding the summit. Gulf leaders are concerned that a final deal could threaten their interests by empowering Iran in the region.

Ahead of the summit, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the goal of the meeting was to develop a “game plan” for security cooperation and help Gulf states develop “the capabilities that will better prepare them to deal with the evolving situation in the region.” But Gulf leaders planned to push for a more substantial defense pact. “In the past we have survived with a gentleman's agreement with the United States about security,” said United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Yousef al Otaiba. “I think today we need something in writing, we need something institutionalized.”
King Salman of Saudi Arabia pulled out of the talks on May 10, choosing to send a delegation led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef instead. The move was widely seen as a snub to Obama, but Saudi officials have denied that was the intention. Only Kuwait and Qatar sent their heads of state to the summit, while the other Gulf nations sent other high-ranking officials. The following officials attended the summit.
  • Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Kuwait: Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Sabah
  • Qatar: Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani
  • Bahrain: Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa
  • Oman: Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd Mahmoud al Said
  • United Arab Emirates: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan
The following are excerpts about Iran from the joint statement and annex outlining the results of the summit, released on May 14, followed by remarks from U.S., Gulf, and Iranian officials about the GCC summit.
Joint Statement and Annex by President Obama and Heads of Delegations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states
“Building on the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, the leaders discussed a new U.S.-GCC strategic partnership to enhance their work to improve security cooperation, especially on fast-tracking arms transfers, as well as on counter-terrorism, maritime security, cybersecurity, and ballistic missile defense. They reviewed the status of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, and emphasized that a comprehensive, verifiable deal that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of GCC member states as well as the United States and the international community. The United States and GCC member states oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and stressed the need for Iran to engage the region according to the principles of good neighborliness, strict non-interference in domestic affairs, and respect for territorial integrity, consistent with international law and the United Nations Charter, and for Iran to take concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with neighbors by peaceful means."
Click here for the full statement
"The United States and GCC member states oppose and will cooperate in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and continue consultations on how to enhance the region’s security architecture. As part of this effort, the United States will work in partnership with GCC member states to build their capacity to defend themselves against external aggression, including in terms of air and missile defense, maritime and cybersecurity, as GCC member states take steps to increase the interoperability of their military forces and continue to better integrate their advanced capabilities. At the same time, the United States and GCC member states reaffirmed their willingness to develop normalized relations with Iran should it cease its destabilizing activities and their belief that such relations would contribute to regional security."
Click here for the full annex
GCC Assistant Secretary General Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg
The summit “exceeded the expectations of most of us.”

“The U.S. side made it very clear that they were aware of the issues that troubled us.”
—May 15, 2015 at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
United States
Secretary of State John Kerry
“We also discussed the potential Iran nuclear deal and ways in which the United States and Saudi Arabia can cooperate going forward. And throughout the P5+1 negotiating process, we’ve been constantly consulting with Saudi Arabia, and we will continue to do so.”
“We make clear that we remain concerned about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and it is precisely because of those concerns that we believe it is so important that Iran not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.”
“The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s activities in the region. We are planning to – we’re not planning to, we are enforcing the United Nations arms embargo requirements, et cetera. We’ve been raising the level of effort of the maritime initiative with respect to the Gulf and area, most recently with the Theodore Roosevelt being moved in and other activities that we’ve been engaged in. And one of the topics of our conversation, in the context of Paris tomorrow and Camp David, will be the further steps that we will be taking together with our allies to prevent activities that are in contravention of many United Nations resolutions and also the standards and norms of international behavior between countries. So we are very, very concerned about those activities – in Iraq, with Hizballah, in Yemen, and elsewhere.”
May 7, 2015 in a press availability with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir
“Our effort to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue with respect to Iran does not stem from any lessening of our concerns about all of these other destabilizing events within the region. And it’s obvious to all, I think, that it’s easier to address those events if the potential of a nuclear weapon has been eliminated from the equation with respect to the challenges that we face.”
May 8, in a press availability with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes
“Clearly, there is significant interest in the GCC about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and this will be an opportunity both to review the status of negotiations with respect to Iran’s nuclear program but also to review our efforts to counter those destabilizing actions in different countries across the region.”
“We will be discussing both the ongoing nuclear negotiations, as well as other regional activities that Iran has engaged in.  We have made clear that the issues are separate in the sense that the United States is negotiating very specifically a nuclear deal with Iran.  But at the same time that we are negotiating that deal, our concerns over Iran’s other destabilizing actions in the region will remain constant.”
“Where they are related is in our strong belief that an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon, or the capability to amass enough material for a nuclear weapon would pose a much greater risk to the region than an Iran that is without one.”
“If you imagine what Iran is doing today, and then you consider Iran undertaking those activities with a nuclear umbrella, the situation would be much more unstable and much more threatening to our partners.  That's why we believe that the nuclear deal is profoundly in the interest of not just the United States and our P5+1 partners, but also the region more generally.  Because, again, if you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we believe that will lead to a much more stable region than a situation in which Iran is essentially at the doorstep of having enough material to produce a nuclear weapon.”
May 11, 2015, in an on-the-record conference call

National Security Advisor to the Vice President Colin Kahl
"This administration has worked extraordinarily closely with the Gulf states to make sure that they had access to state-of-the-art armaments.  I mean, just to give you -- you mentioned the F-35, but keep in mind under this administration we moved forward on a package for the Saudis that will provide them the most advanced F-15 aircraft in the region.  The Emiratis fly the most advanced F-16s in the world.  They’re more advanced than the ones our Air Force flies.  Taken as a whole, the GCC last year spent nearly $135 billion on their defense.  The Saudis spent more than $80 billion.  Taken in comparison, the Iranians spent something like $15 billion on their defense."
May 11, 2015, in an on-the-record conference call
National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region Rob Malley
“[With Iran] you have a whole slew of concerns they have about whether once we have a deal, we're going to turn our back on our traditional allies; whether we’ll normalize with Iran; whether the deal is going to empower Iran; whether we are assuming that a deal will lead to moderation, which they think is not the case.  And again, these are points that the President has made time and again, and these points were made again by Secretary Kerry and by Secretary Moniz and by a representative from the Department of the Treasury in Paris.  None of that is the case.
“First of all, again, as Colin said, it’s precisely because we think Iran has engaged in destabilizing behavior that we don't want to see them acquire a nuclear bomb.  And the President’s bet is not a bet on moderation.  It’s a bet that assumes the worst; hopes that maybe Iran will change its behavior.  But this is a deal that’s supposed to be as solid and as good -- if Iran doesn't change as if it does change. 
“And in terms of the sanctions, which is one of their concerns, we obviously make the point the sanctions are not going to be removed all at once.  Not all of them are going to be removed.  A lot of them are going to stay in place.  And we have snapback -- if we get a deal, that is -- on sanctions and of the U.N. sanctions.
“A lot of this I think the foreign ministers hadn’t heard; I don't think the leaders will have heard.  And so they need to better understand what our approach is towards Iran.  I think it’s one the President has been transparent about from day one.  He also believes -- as was mentioned earlier, and as Colin just said -- part of this is to get the GCC States in a position where they could deal with greater confidence and self-confidence and strength with Iran, not in order to perpetuate a never-ending conflict, but to engage Iran to try to resolve the problems of the region, which will only be resolved once the region itself comes together and tries to find security arrangements that will stabilize the situation in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq and elsewhere.
“And so that’s sort of the paradigm under which this is taking place.  The prism through which we look at this is how do we strengthen our cooperation with the GCC, how do we strengthen the GCC’s own capacity so that the strategic balance in the region is such that you could finally get to the point where the GCC, Iran and other countries in the region could actually resolve the problems that are making the region as unstable and as dangerous as it is today.”
May 11, 2015, in an on-the-record conference call
Saudi Arabia
Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir
“With regards to the Iran – we have always maintained that Iran should have no role in Yemen. The last time I checked, Iran didn’t have a border with Yemen. And so the Iranian role in Yemen has been a negative one. They have supported the Houthis financially, ideologically, as well as with weapons, and this is not helpful. They have tried to smuggle weapons into Yemen in the midst of this conflict, and we have been able to stop aircraft from landing in Sana’a airport. And the United States has been able to turn back a flotilla of Iranian ships, which we suspect were loaded with weapons that were intended to go to the Houthis. So no, I do not think that Iran’s role in Yemen is a helpful one. I hope they can prevail on their allies, the Houthis, to abide by the ceasefire, but that’s my view on Iran and its role in Yemen.”
May 7, 2015 in a press availability with Secretary of State John Kerry
“We also spent another hour and a half on Camp David and the objectives of Camp David and the issues that will be discussed at Camp David. Don’t ask me to talk about it because I won’t; I can just tell you in general terms that they have to do with the intensifying and strengthening the security-military relationship between the United States of America and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as well as dealing with new challenges that we face in the region, foremost of which is the Iranian interference in the affairs of the countries of the region.”
May 8, in a press availability with Secretary of State John Kerry

United Arab Emirates

Ambassador to the United States Yousef al Otaiba

“Most GCC countries are more worried about Iran’s behavior than whether it will have 5,000 or 7,000 centrifuges.”
“In the past we have survived with a gentleman's agreement with the United States about security, I think today we need something in writing, we need something institutionalized"
—May 7, 2015, at an event at the Atlantic Council

Click here for Iran's reaction.



Tags: GCC

Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

On May 12, a new round of nuclear negotiations began in Vienna, Austria between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. In the days leading up to the talks, Iranian officials were largely optimistic about brokering an agreement by the end of June. Diplomacy is reportedly further along than the blueprint for an deal announced on April 2 suggested. But one member of Iran’s delegation, Hamid Baeidinejad, said the first day of negotiations was “very difficult.” The leader of Iran's team, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said that technical issues could be overcome with enough political will. The talks concluded on May 15.

The following are recent remarks by officials from Iran and the world’s six major powers on the state of diplomacy.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
President Hassan Rouhani
“We have reached mutual understanding in a host of fields, and if the other side has the necessary determination, the final agreement will be achievable.”
—May 11, 2015 during a call with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazabayev
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“An agreement is very likely -- provided that our negotiation partners mean it seriously.”
“Some people in the region are evidently panicking. We don't want to dominate the region. We are happy with our size and geography.”
—May 15, 2015 in an interview with Der Spiegel via Reuters
“We are not going to get into the United States' internal affairs and we consider the US government responsible to carry out the commitments it would undertake should there be an agreement.”
—May 11, 2015 to the press in reference to recent Congressional legislation
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
“Even if I'm optimistic, that doesn't mean that any deal is acceptable. All parties want a good deal and for Iran it's only a good deal if our legitimate rights are respected and sanctioned are finished.”
“We have thought of all possibilities and, accordingly, are prepared for all scenarios.”
“We believe that solving the technical components won't be difficult if there is veritable political will. If that is the case, the final deal can very likely be reached before the deadline.”
—May 15, 2015 to Austrian news agency APA via Reuters
“Different elements inside and outside of the negotiation chamber can prevent a deal but despite all of this, we will continue the negotiations and we are very hopeful that we can reach a deal before the deadline.
“We have to abide by the solutions and agreements that we reached in Lausanne, and we will only negotiate in that framework.”
— May 12, 2015 to the press in Vienna
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Chief Ali Akbar Salehi
“The negotiations are being pursued within specified frameworks, and nothing is done beyond those frameworks.”
—May 10, 2015 to the press
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“The final agreement is being written in the same framework of the negotiations. The deal would be in the interests of everyone if they act rationally.”
—May 11, 2015 according to the parliamentary news service
United States
Secretary of State John Kerry
“To start with, as Sergey [Lavrov] said, we discussed Iran, where Russia and the United States and our other P5+1 partners are working very hard through the nuclear negotiations with Iran. We are now coming into the last six weeks of those negotiations. And we all understand that unity has been key to bringing us where we are today. It is also going to be the key to completing a good deal and to our being confident that that deal will be able to be well-implemented. The United States and Russia remain closely aligned in this effort, as do the rest of our P5+1 allies and friends, EU partners.”
—May 13, 2015 in a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Chancellor Angela Merkel
“I would like to point out that we have hopeful signals on the Iranian issue. Here the cooperation of states with [U.N. Security Council] veto, with Germany and Iran has led to a result nonetheless. We have hope for signing an agreement.”
—May 11, 2015 in a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Francois Hollande
“France and Saudi Arabia confirmed the necessity to reach a robust, lasting, verifiable, undisputed and binding deal with Iran.
“This agreement must not destabilize the security and stability of the region nor threaten the security and stability of Iran's neighbors.”
—May 5, 2015 in a statement with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud
Photo credits: President.ir, Robin Wright, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs mfa.ir

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