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Iran Condemns Paris Shooting

On January 9, President Hassan Rouhani condemned violence perpetrated in Islam’s name. “Those who kill and carry out violent and extremist acts unjustly in the name of jihad, religion or Islam provoke Islamophobia whether they wish it or not,” he warned in a meeting with International Islamic Unity Conference delegates in Tehran. Rouhani did not directly reference the recent attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris. But his comments came two days after gunmen killed 12 people at the headquarters of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The attackers reportedly said they aimed to avenge the Prophet Mohammed, who the magazine had depicted in political cartoons along with other religious figures. Two suspects, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, were killed in a raid on a printing plant on January 9 by French security forces.

The following are excerpted remarks by Rouhani and other Iranian leaders.
President Hassan Rouhani
“Those who kill and carry out violent and extremist acts unjustly in the name of jihad, religion or Islam provoke Islamophobia whether they wish it or not.”
“We are very happy that Muslim people in the region from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to Pakistan and Afghanistan resist extremism, violence and terrorism and achieve new victories on a daily basis.”
—Jan. 9, 2015 in remarks to the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
“All acts of terrorism against innocent people are alien to the doctrine and teachings of Islam.”
—Jan. 7, 2015 in remarks to the press
“Taking advantage of freedom of expression and ideological extremism, and character assassination of respectful figures of religions and nations, as well as insulting divine faiths and their values and symbols, which are respected by those religions, are not acceptable and are condemned.”
“These acts are a continuation of the wave of extremism and unprecedented physical and ideological violence prevailing worldwide during the past decade.”
“Inappropriate and double standard policies in dealing with violence and extremism have led to the spread of those acts and behaviors.”
—Jan. 8, 2015 in remarks to the press
Former President Mohammad Khatami
I condemn in the strongest terms these attacks which are an example of the ominous and inhumane consequences of terrorism and extremism in the East and West. But the U.N., international organizations, governments, civic institutions, and the elite are expected to do more than mere condemnation.
Terrorism and violence are not a war between religion and freedom; they are not a conflict between the East and West; nor are they part of confrontation between religions, ethnicities and nations. They are a grave new threat that has multiple roots. They should be uprooted and the world should be pulled back from the brink of "extremism."
In September 2001 New York’s Twin Towers were brought down as a result of an appalling terrorist act. Subsequently the threat of “terrorism” which already existed came to surface. The Islamic Republic of Iran condemned those attacks hours after they were carried out. Iran also put forward the concepts of “Dialogue among Civilizations” and “World Coalition for Peace” as a solution.
However on the other side of the world, some thought they could eliminate the ominous phenomenon – whose flag was believed to be borne by groups like Alqaeda – through forming a coalition to wage “war on terror”.
If that method worked, why is that today we are witnessing the spread of terrorism around the world; [why is that] the waves of terrorism have struck Paris and have created havoc everywhere, from the easternmost to the westernmost corners of the world, in Iraq and Syria, in Palestine and Lebanon, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nigeria and Myanmar and elsewhere in the world. Violence, bloodletting and terror have tightened the screws on people – from Shiites, Sunnis, Izadis, Christians and Jews to religious scholars, intellectuals, politicians, children, the old and the youth.
Furthermore, the use of force and violence against these groups – as the experience has proved – will do nothing but deepen deviant tendencies and help them grow. Also it will help depict them as the oppressed [victims] and help them bring on board more suppressed people.
—Jan. 18, 2015 in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (translation via Iran Front Page)
Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami
“We strongly condemn the terrorist attack in France and believe that Islam does not allow the killing of innocent people, be it in Paris, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
“U.S. dollars, U.K. pounds and the European Union’s euros are to blame for these killings.”
—Jan. 9, 2015 in a sermon


Tags: Terrorism

Iran on Islamic State

On December 29, 2014, Iran held a funeral for Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander who was killed in the Iraqi town of Samarra, home to a Shiite shrine. The Revolutionary Guards did not detail the scope of Taqavi's role in Iraq. But he was reportedly the highest-ranking Iranian military officer to be killed in Iraq since the 1980s.

The general's death highlights Iran’s expanding role in Iraq since ISIS - also known as ISIL, Daesh, or the Islamic State - seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in June 2014. Iran is a firm ally of Iraq’s central government. After ISIS's advance, Iran sent military advisers to Baghdad and ramped up support for Shiite and Kurdish militias trying to push back extremists on the ground. Iranian officials denied sending combat troops to Iraq, and they have been critical of foreign intervention in the Iraq crisis. On June 14, President Hassan Rouhani said “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.” But he noted that the fall of Shiite holy sites in Karbala and Najaf to extremists would constitute a red line.  Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in August that “if something like this happens, there will be no limit to our operations.”
In late 2014, evidence of Iran’s evolving strategy in Iraq mounted. In September, photos began to surface of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Guards' elite Quds force, on the ground in Iraq. In late November, Iran bombed ISIS targets in Diyala, Iraq using American-made F4 Phantom jets, likely sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution. Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour confirmed on December 5 that the strikes had taken place, but denied any cooperation with the United States. “We will not allow Iraq to descend to the level of Syria,” he said. Since June, Iran has sent elite units, more than 1,000 military advisers, and one billion dollars in military aid to Iraq, according to a senior cleric quoted by the Washington Post.
The following are the most important quotes by Iranian and Iraqi officials on ISIS in 2014. 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“We are strongly against the interference of the US and others in Iraq’s internal affairs and do not approve of it.”
June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials
"We believe that the Iraqi nation and government, particularly the country's youths, are capable of overcoming terrorists and establishing security and there is no need for the presence of foreigners."
 Oct. 22, 2014, according to Iranian Student News Agency
President Hassan Rouhani
“Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
— June 14, 2014 during a press conference
“When we say the red line we mean the red line. It means we will not allow Baghdad to be occupied by the terrorists or the religious sites such as Karbala or Najaf be occupied by the terrorists.”
“We are cooperating and working... with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish government in order to repel this very serious, atrocious group. But we do not believe that they need the presence of Iranian soldiers in order to do this task.”
— Aug. 24, 2014 in a press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
“Americans are very aware that the country that prevented the [Baghdad] government from falling was Iran. Iran’s role has been undeniable.”
— Sept. 23, 2014 at a breakfast meeting with journalists (via Lobe LogAPReuters,Bloomberg, and Al-Monitor)
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been supporting the Iraqi nation and army in fighting terrorists since the beginning, and will continue this approach and will not withhold any support from the Iraqi nation.”
— Oct. 21, 2014, according to Iranian Student News Agency
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“The Islamic Republic of Iran realized the danger of violence and extremism in Iraq since the very first day and stood by the Iraqi nation, and we will stand by the Iraqi people including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs until the end of [their] fight against extremism and terror.
“Today, the world has understood the reality that the first country to rush to the help of the Iraqi people in the battle against extremism and terror was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which countered these common threats.”
— Dec. 7, 2014 in a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari
Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour
"We will not allow conditions in Iraq to descend to the level of Syria, which has been created by foreign players.”
“We are taking our security actions at the request of the Iraqi government. On the other hand, we are assisting the Kurds in the north, our friends over there, and although there is some differentiation between the Kurdish perspective and the Iraqi government, we can make an arrangement according to both their interests."
"This is only an advisory presence [in Iraq]. There is no need to send Iranian troops to Iraq. There are sufficient Iraqi and Kurdish troops there."
— Dec. 5, according to the press
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are our friends [in Iraq]. We have always insisted that all ethnic groups must have active and constructive participation in Iraq's power structure".
— June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 
Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan
“We are hopeful that the trend of liberation of occupied parts of Iraq from the stain of the terrorists will continue with the same current strength and seriousness,"
— Dec. 29, 2014, in a meeting with Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al Obeidi
Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
“It is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that no one should aid countries like Syria and Iraq unless the work is limited counselling and advising. The people and governments of these countries can overcome their problems without the aid of any country.”
— June 24, 2014 at a ceremony for martyrs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
“One day they brought news that there is a possibility that Karbala and Najaf would fall [cities holy to Shiites]. At that session, the president said that this is our red line and if something like this happens there will be no limit to our operations.”
— Aug. 25, 2014 according to the press (translation via Al-Monitor)
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian
“We supply Baghdad with necessary consultations but we have no intervention in the country.”
— June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi
“When Baghdad was threatened, the Iranians did not hesitate to help us, and did not hesitate to help the Kurds when Erbil was threatened.”
"[The Iranians were] unlike the Americans, who hesitated to help us when Baghdad was in danger, and hesitated to help our security forces.”
— Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press
“Choosing Iran as my first destination after taking office indicates the depth of ties [between Iraq and Iran.”
“Terrorism is a threat to all regional countries, and we are sure Iran will stand by us.”
— Oct. 21, 2014 according to the press
Interior Minister Mohamed Salem al Ghabban
“Iran is not only a neighboring country, but also a friendly country and strategic ally for Iraq.”
— Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
Ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Majid al Sheikh
“Iraq doesn’t need any country neither for weapons nor for the military forces at all; hence, I emphasize that neither General [Qassem] Soleimani nor any other (Iranian) figure is in Iraq.”
— June 24, 2014, according to press
Photo credit: Khamenei.ir via FacebookAli Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC-BY-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons; Leader.ir

Parliament Debates Nuclear Deal

On January 6, Iran’s parliament called a snap vote over Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s handling of nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers. Conservative lawmakers had accused the minister of making too many concessions in the most recent round of diplomacy in December.

But Zarif hit back, arguing that “no one today dares to question Iran’s nuclear program, demanding its suspension. The disagreement is merely on the level of [uranium] enrichment. This is our achievement.” The minister also emphasized that progress in negotiations has helped change the perception that Iran was “threatening and dangerous for world security.” The Islamic Republic is now better positioned to play “an influential and serious role on the regional and international stage,” Zarif added.

After answering seven questions posed by 40 lawmakers, Zarif won the support of a little more than half of the 229 present. Some 125 backed him, 86 voted against him, eight did not express a preference and 10 abstained. No repercussions were attached to the vote, but a loss would have damaged the credibility of Zarif and, by extension, President Hassan Rouhani.



Rouhani Prepares Ground for Compromise

On January 4, President Hassan Rouhani began preparing the public for a compromise on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The country's ideals “are not linked to centrifuges but to our heart and determination,” he said in remarks to a conference of 1,500 economists in Tehran. He emphasized the importance of a deal for Iran’s economy, which has been cut off from world markets by layers of sanctions by the United States, European Union, United Nations and others. “Our political life has shown we can't have sustainable growth while we are isolated.” Iran’s negotiators are scheduled to resume talks on January 15 with the world’s six major powers in Geneva.

At the conference, Rouhani also suggested occasionally putting important economic, social and cultural issues to a direct referendum instead of to a vote in parliament. He stopped short of referring to a vote on a potential nuclear deal. But a public referendum could help his administration bypass hardline lawmakers who oppose a compromise. If, however, Rouhani was referring to Article 59 of the constitution, two-thirds of parliament would need to first approve the vote in the first place. The following are excerpts from Rouhani’s speech.
Nuclear Deal and Economy 
“Our ideals are not linked to centrifuges but to our heart and determination. If we show more transparency and say, halt some of the enrichment operation we don’t need, does it mean we have let go of our ideals?”
“Negotiations are about bridging interests."
“Our political life has shown we can't have sustainable growth while we are isolated.”
“It’s been the economy that pays for the politics. It would be good for once to act in reverse and have internal politics and foreign policy pay for the economy.”
“We want a sustainable, comprehensive and continued development. It is not possible to say we want economic development but want to be politically restrictive.”
Opening up the outside world “doesn’t mean letting go of the nation’s ideals and principles.”
“The time is past when it used to be said that if a foreign investor comes to Iran, our independence will be in danger.”
“The economy won’t prosper with monopolies, if something is exclusively in the hands of a specific group this will lead to corruption. All government entities must bring transparency to their economic activities.”
“It [the economy] must be freed of insider speculation, be transparent, all people must be aware of the statistics. If we can bring transparency to our economy, we can fight corruption.”

“On a crucial matter that affects all of us and our livelihoods, let's ask people's opinion directly, just for once.”
“It will be good to, after 36 years, even for once, or even every 10 years if we implement this principle of the Constitution, and put important economic, social and cultural issues to a direct referendum instead of to the Parliament.”
Rouhani seemed to indicate support for a resolution passed by parliament in December to tax organizations overseen by the supreme leader and the armed forces.
“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.”
“Of course this government will do what it deems in people's interest. Just be aware that in some cases, the domestic political lobby is very strong, very strong, more than you think.”
*Remarks as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Fars News, Bloomberg, Iranian Students News Agency, the BBC, VOA, AP and AFP
Tags: Rouhani

Obama on Iran in 2015

On Dec. 18, 2014, President Barack Obama discussed U.S. engagement with Iran in an interview with NPR News. He said that Iran has “a chance to get right with the world” by reaching a nuclear deal. Iran and the world's six major powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany - have extended the deadline for a nuclear deal to June 2015 after missing the November 2014 deadline.The following are the President’s remarks on Iran, excerpted from the full NPR interview.
NPR News: Let me ask a few questions, Mr. President, about America's place in the world and how you see it and how you'd like to move it if you can in the last couple of years that you have. We're speaking at a moment after you've announced that you're restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. You want to reopen an embassy there. Is there any scenario under which you can envision, in your final two years, opening a U.S. embassy in Tehran?
President Obama: I never say never, but I think these things have to go in steps. You know, Cuba is a circumstance in which for 50 years, we have done the same thing over and over again and there hadn't been any change. And the question was, should we try something different with a relatively tiny country that doesn't pose any significant threat to us or our allies?
Tehran is a large, sophisticated country that has a track record of state-sponsored terrorism, that we know was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon — or at least the component parts that would be required to develop a nuclear weapon — that has engaged in disruptions to our allies, whose rhetoric is not only explicitly anti-American but also has been incendiary when it comes to its attitude towards the state of Israel.
So, there's a lot of history there that's different from the history between us and Cuba. And the strategic importance of Tehran is — or Iran — is different from what we face with Cuba.
Having said that, if we can get a deal on making sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon — and that deal is possible; we know the terms of what that would look like. If Iran recognizes that it is in its own interests, having already said that they're actually not interested in developing a nuclear weapon, to go ahead and prove that to the world, so that over time as it's verified, sanctions are removed, their economy begins to grow, they're reintegrated into the international community — if we can take that big first step, then my hope would be that that would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time.
You know, I was asked very early in my presidential race back in 2007, would I meet with these various rogue regimes? And what I said then remains true: If I thought it advances American interests, yes; I believe in diplomacy, I believe in dialogue, I believe in engagement.
But in order for us to, I think, open that aperture with respect to Iran, we have to get this nuclear issue resolved — and there's a chance to do it, and the question's going to be whether or not Iran is willing to seize it. I think there are elements inside of Iran that recognize the opportunity and want to take it; I think there's some hardliners inside of Iran that are threatened by a resolution of this because they are so invested politically and emotionally in being anti-American or anti-Western that it's frightening for them to open themselves up to the world in this way.
NPR News: That raises a word that I want to bring up that former Secretary of State Clinton used in a speech the other day. She was criticized for having empathy or understanding for even enemies around the world. There are, though, military people who use empathy for the enemy, by which they mean not sympathy but understanding the enemy so you can outwit them. Do you feel that you have sufficient empathy for the Iranians, meaning do you feel you understand what it is they need to get a deal done and is it possible?
President Obama: I think we do, because if you look at the negotiations as they've proceeded, what we've said to the Iranians is that we are willing to recognize your ability to develop a modest nuclear power program for your energy needs — that there's a way of doing that that nevertheless gives the world assurances that you don't have breakout capacity.
And, you know, Iran suffered from a terrible war with Iraq in which millions of their countrymen were lost. They have legitimate defense concerns, but those have to be separated out from the adventurism, the support of organizations like Hezbollah, the threats they've directed towards Israel.
And so on the one hand, you need to understand what their legitimate needs and concerns are. On the other end, you don't need to tolerate or make excuses for positions that they've taken that violate international law, are contrary to U.S. interests, are contrary to the interests of our allies. They've got a chance to get right with the world. This is not just about us.
I mean, there's a reason why we've been able to get this far in the negotiations. We mobilized the international community at the start of my presidency — a classic example of American leadership. The sanctions worked because we didn't just get our usual allies' support of this; we got China in support of it; we have Russia that still is supportive of the position that the P5+1 has taken in negotiations.
So, when I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was in the driver's seat. Now the world's united because of the actions we've taken, and Iran's the one that's isolated.
They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of — inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody. That would be good for the United States, that would be good for the region, and most of all, it would be good for the Iranian people.
Click here for the full interview

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