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Report: Improvement in Iran Press Freedom

            Press freedom in Iran has improved for the first time since 1999, according to a new report by Freedom House marking World Press Freedom Day. Despite the marginal progress, Iran still ranked as one of the 10 least-free countries in the world— along with Cuba, North Korea, Syria and others.The organization ranked countries on a 100-point scale with lower numbers signifying greater press freedom. The Islamic Republic’s score fell from 92 to 90 in 2013 “based on a relative improvement in the number of imprisoned journalists and reporters’ increased willingness to push the boundaries on political coverage.” The following are excerpts from the report.

 
            The world’s eight worst-rated countries, with scores of between 90 and 100 points, remain Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression. In 2013, conditions remained largely stable in the majority of these countries, although slight improvements could be seen in some due to the growing ability of citizens to access alternatives to state propaganda, via satellite television, internet-based news platforms, or the circulation of thumb drives and DVDs… [A]fter several years of decline in Iran, the country’s score bounced back from 92 to 90 points in 2013 based on a relative improvement in the number of imprisoned journalists and reporters’ increased willingness to push the boundaries on political coverage, including on the June presidential election.
 
Iran's Press Freedom Score, 1993-2013
The lower the numeric score, the greater the press freedom.
10 Worst-Rated Countries on Press Freedom (out of 197 rankings)

Bahrain - 188
Syria - 189
Equatorial Guinea - 190
Cuba - 190
Iran - 190
Belarus - 193
Eritrea - 194
Turkmenistan - 195
Uzbekistan - 195
North Korea - 197
 
Click here for the full report.
 

US Report on Iran’s Support of Extremism

      Iran used its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force and regional proxies to “implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations and create instability in the Middle East” in 2013, according to a new report by the State Department. Tehran also continued supporting Palestinian militants in Gaza and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah – which has played a key role in defending the Assad regime in Syria. The following is an excerpt from the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s annual report.

 
IRAN
 
            Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and for Hizballah. It has also increased its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle arms to Houthi separatists in Yemen and Shia oppositionists in Bahrain. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its regional proxy groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad. 
 
            Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Hizballah, its primary beneficiary. In 2013, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of Iraqi Shia fighters to the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown, a crackdown that has resulted in the death of more than 100,000 civilians in Syria. Iran has publicly admitted sending members of the IRGC to Syria in an advisory role. There are reports indicating some of these troops are IRGC-QF members and that they have taken part in direct combat operations. In February, senior IRGC-QF commander Brigadier General Hassan Shateri was killed in or near Zabadani, Syria. This was the first publicly announced death of a senior Iranian military official in Syria. In November, IRGC-QF commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh Paghaleh was also killed in Aleppo, Syria. Subsequent Iranian media reports stated that Paghaleh was volunteering in Syria to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque, which is located in Damascus. The location of Paghaleh’s death, over 200 miles away from the mosque he was reported to be protecting, demonstrated Iran’s intent to mask the operations of IRGC-QF forces in Syria. 
 
            Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war. Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters often use these skills in support of the Asad regime in Syria.
 
            Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device technology and other advanced weaponry. Similar to Hizballah fighters, many of these trained Shia militants then use these skills to fight for the Asad regime in Syria, often at the behest of Iran.
 
            On January 23, 2013, Yemeni authorities seized an Iranian dhow, the Jihan, off the coast of Yemen. The dhow was carrying sophisticated Chinese antiaircraft missiles, C-4 explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and a number of other weapons and explosives. The shipment of lethal aid was likely headed to Houthi separatists in Northern Yemen. Iran actively supports members of the Houthi movement, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. 
 
In late April 2013, the Government of Bosnia declared two Iranian diplomats, Jadidi Sohrab and Hamzeh Dolab Ahmad, persona non grata after Israeli intelligence reported they were members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. One of the two men had been spotted in India, Georgia, and Thailand, all of which were sites of a simultaneous bombing campaign in February 2012, according to Israeli intelligence. Both diplomats were subsequently expelled from Bosnia. 
 
            On December 29, 2013, the Bahraini Coast Guard interdicted a speedboat filled with weapons and explosives that was likely bound for Shia oppositionists in Bahrain, specifically the 14 February Youth Coalition (14 FYC). Bahraini authorities accused the IRGC-QF of providing opposition militants with explosives training in order to carry out attacks in Bahrain. The interdiction led to the discovery of two weapons and explosives cache sites in Bahrain, the dismantling of a car bomb, and the arrest of 15 Bahraini nationals.
 
            Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria. Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network. 
 
            Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to violate its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. For further information, see the Report to Congress on Iran-related Multilateral Sanctions Regime Efforts (November 2013), and the Report on the Status of Bilateral and Multilateral Efforts Aimed at Curtailing the Pursuit of Iran of Nuclear Weapons Technology (September 2012). 
 
Click here for the full report.  
 

Rouhani on Freedom, Economy & Nukes

            On April 29, President Hassan Rouhani defended his administration’s foreign and domestic policies in a primetime address on state television. He dismissed hardliners who have opposed his outreach to the West and economic reforms that have recently raised prices. Rouhani said that he is proud of his government for creating an atmosphere in which citizens can criticize policies – “even though sometimes [they] make a mountain out of a molehill.” The president was also upbeat about prospects for nuclear negotiations and the lifting of international sanctions. The following are excerpted remarks from his semi-official Twitter account.

Nuclear Negotiations and Sanctions


Arts 

 

Foreign Affairs

 

Economy

 

Healthcare

 

Women

US Targets Weapons, Oil Sanctions Evaders

      On April 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned two individuals and nine entities for evading oil sanctions and aiding Tehran’s ballistic missile program. Several of the front companies were connected to Karl Lee, who was designated several years ago for procuring missile parts for Iran. “As we have made clear, we will continue vigorously to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a comprehensive deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “These actions are intended to deter future sanctions evasion and prevent Iran from procuring sensitive technologies.” The following is an excerpt from the press release.

 
Iran’s Missile Proliferation Activities
 
Treasury is sanctioning the following entities pursuant to E.O. 13382, which, among other things, targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their support networks.
 
Karl Lee (aka Li Fangwei) Front Companies
 
Treasury designated eight China-based front companies for acting for or on behalf of Karl Lee, a known proliferator for Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Karl Lee (aka Li Fangwei) was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in April 2009, as the commercial manager of LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd.  Additionally, several aliases for LIMMT were also identified in April 2009.  LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd. was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in June 2006 for providing material support to Iran's ballistic missile program. 
 
Following Sino Metallurgy and Minmetals Industry Co. Ltd.’s 2009 designation as an alias for LIMMT, Karl Lee directed companies with which LIMMT had contracts to send funds to other Karl Lee front companies, including Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd. and MTTO Industry and Trade Limited.   
 
Lee has also used Success Move Ltd. and Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd. in his dealings with Iran and to receive funds from Iran for the purchase of goods.
 
Lee manages Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation, which along with another front company, Dalian Zhongchuang Char-White Co., Ltd., has been used by Lee to send at least 23 separate shipments to Iran.  Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation also uses MTTO Industry & Trade Limited and Karat Industry Co. Ltd., as front companies.
 
Dalian Zhenghua Maoyi Youxian Gongsi (aka Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd.) is also a front company Lee uses in his financial dealings with Iran.  Lee entered into a contract with a Chinese manufacturer in which the Chinese manufacturer agreed to provide an aramid fiber production line to Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd.  After the contract between Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd. and the Chinese manufacturer was signed, Lee used a bank account previously associated with Karat Industry Co., Ltd., to transmit the down payment for the Iranian company's aramid fiber production line.
 
Since 2013, Karl Lee has also used and continues to use Tereal Industry & Trade Limited as a front company for his dealings with Iran.
 
Support to Iranian Oil Sanctions Evaders
 
Saeed Al Aqili, Al Aqili Group LLC, and Anwar Kamal Nizami
 
Treasury is designating Saeed Al Aqili, the co-owner, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Al Aqili Group LLC pursuant to E.O. 13645 for providing support in connection with deceptive oil deals for Iran.  Saeed Al Aqili uses his companies to assist Iran in selling oil in evasion of sanctions.  Treasury is also identifying Al Aqili Group LLC for being owned by Saeed Al Aqili.  Activities of Al Aqili Group LLC include arranging oil sales for the IRGC and facilitating the circumvention of oil sanctions by disguising the oil’s origin.  Saeed Al Aqili also regularly does business in Iran and has conducted financial transactions with, or on behalf of, the Central Bank of Iran and Bank Melli Iran.
 
Saeed Al Aqili also assists Seyed Seyyedi’s group of front companies.  Saeed Al Aqili and his representatives, working in conjunction with representatives of Sima General Trading, gave Seyyedi the authority to manage and conduct banking activities on behalf of KASB International LLC.  Seyyedi and a network of his affiliated companies, including KASB International LLC, were identified pursuant to E.O. 13599 in September 2013 for providing support to Government of Iran entities, including NIOC, the Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO) and Sima General Trading.  Sima General Trading was identified in March 2013 pursuant to E.O. 13599 for providing support to Government of Iran entities.  KASB International LLC, also known as First Furat Trading LLC, was one of the Al Aqili Group’s subsidiary companies.
 
Anwar Kamal Nizami is a Dubai-based Pakistani financial facilitator for KASB International LLC and is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13645.  In his role as a financial expert, he manages the banking relationships and overall finances of KASB International LLC, which is not only affiliated with Saeed Al Aqili and Al Aqili Group LLC, but also with Seyyedi and his Iranian oil evasion network.  Nizami also works for Sima General Trading.
 
 
Identifying Information
 
Name: Mohamed Saeed Al Aqili
AKA: Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al Aqili
DOB: 23 July 1955
POB: Dubai, UAE
Passport Number: A2599829
UAE ID Number: 784-1955-8497107-1
Title: Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Al Aqili Group LLC
 
Name: Al Aqili Group LLC
AKA: Al Aqili Group of Companies
Address: Oud Metha Tower, 10th Floor, PO Box 1496, Dubai UAE
Website: www.aqili.com 
E-mail: info@aqili.com 
 
Name: Anwar Kamal Nizami
DOB: 19 April 1980
Nationality: Pakistani
Passport Number: AE9855872
Title: Accounts Manager, First Furat Trading LLC
 
Name: Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd.
Address: No. 190 Changjiang Road, Dalian City, China
 
Name: MTTO Industry and Trade Limited
Address: No. 9 Hongji Street, Xi Gang District, Dalian City, China
 
Name: Success Move Ltd.
Address: No. 1109 Zhongshan Road, Dalian, China
 
Name: Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation
Address: Dalian, China
 
Name: Dalian Zhongchuang Char-White Co., Ltd.
Address: 2501-2508 Yuexiu Mansion, No. 82 Xinkai Road, Dalian, Liaoning Province, 11601
China
 
Name: Karat Industry Co., Ltd.
Address: No. 110 Baiyun Street, Dalian, Liaoning, China
 
Name: Dalian Zhenghua Maoyi Youxian Gongsi
AKA: Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd. 
Address: Dalian, China
 
Name: Tereal Industry and Trade Limited
Address: No. 9 Hongji Street, Xi Gang District, Dalian City, China
 
 

Western Countries Flood Tehran

            More than two dozen delegations of lawmakers, officials and businesspeople have visited Iran since the interim nuclear agreement was brokered in November 2013. Many Western countries and South Korea are particularly hopeful that Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – will find a comprehensive solution to the nuclear dispute. So politicians and investors have traveled to Tehran to begin renewing ties in anticipation of an agreement. In an April 9 interview, President Rouhani said that visits by “hundreds” of entrepreneurs and international companies were a sign of optimism for Iran's economy and relations with other countries. The following is a chronological rundown of delegations that have visited since November 2013.

Nicaragua

      On April 28, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez (left) arrived in Tehran with a high-ranking delegation to strengthen bilateral relations. Lopez met with President Rouhani on the first day of his trip. “Detailed information about proper grounds in Nicaragua for the presence of private sector and Iranian investors must be offered to them,” said Rouhani. On April 29, Santos met with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, who pointed out “numerous opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in economic, industrial and agricultural sectors.”

United Kingdom

            On April 27, senior U.K. diplomat Simon Gass visited Tehran to discuss boosting ties and re-opening diplomatic missions. London withdrew its staff in November 2011 after protestors surrounded the Tehran embassy after Britain tightened sanctions.  Gass, the former ambassador to Tehran and the British representative to the P5+1, is the highest ranking diplomat to visit Tehran since 2011.
            Britain’s Foreign Office described the trip as “the next stage in the step-by-step approach to improving relations.” Gass held separate meetings with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for American and European Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi and with Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi. Araqchi and Gass discussed the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.
 

Austria

            Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz arrived in Tehran on April 26 for a two-day visit. He said that Vienna is ready to enhance economic and cultural cooperation with Tehran in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Kurz also expressed hope for the success of nuclear negotiations in a meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. 

 

France

            On April 22, a French parliamentary delegation led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Philippe Marini arrived in Tehran for a week-long visit. The Iranian parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission chief, Gholamreza Meshabi Moghaddam, had issued the invitation to his counterparts. The objective of the trip was to assess economic opportunities in Iran and improve bilateral ties, according to Marini.

Latvia

      On April 22, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs (left) arrived in Tehran with a business delegation for a two-day visit. Rinkēvičs became the first high-ranking Latvian to visit the Islamic Republic. He met with President Hassan Rouhani (right), Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Senior Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati and Minister of Transportation Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi. Rinkēvičs expressed Riga’s eagerness to expand economic and cultural ties with Tehran to Rouhani. The foreign minister also told the president that he hoped for increased E.U.-Iran cooperation after Latvia takes over the rotating E.U. chairmanship next year.
 
Switzerland
            On April 16, a six-member delegation of Swiss lawmakers arrived in Tehran for a four-day visit. The group included Co-chairman of the Iran-Switzerland Parliamentary Friendship Group Jean-François Rime and Swiss Federal Assembly member Luzi Stamm.  "Iran is a big country that plays an influential and undeniable role in the region's future,"  Stamm said in a meeting with Iranian parliamentarians.
 

Azerbaijan

            On April 9, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met with Iranian President Rouhani to discuss boosting ties between their two countries. Azeri and Iranian ministers signed three memorandums of understanding and one agreement on tourism, cultural exchanges, emergency preparedness and economic development.

 

Belarus

           On March 16, Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. On the first day, Makei met discussed ways to boost bilateral trade with his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Zarif and Iranian business leaders.

            On March 17, Makei met with President Rouhani, who said Iran is ready to export engineering services to Belarus. Makei also met with former President and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani , Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Minister of Industry and Mines Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh.

Tajikistan

      On March 16 and 17, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov met with President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and  Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. Rouhani said the two countries “enjoy great potential to boost the level of political, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries.” Aslov invited Rouhani to Dushanbe later in 2014.

 

            Zarif told Aslov that Iran is ready to help Tajikistan fight terrorism and that extremism is a danger to both countries. Aslov also congratulated Zarif on Iran’s recent “diplomatic victories” on the nuclear dispute.  "The government of Tajikistan is determined to solve the problems with which the Iranian firms are entangled in our country, and favor commissioning the Iranian companies to implement development projects in Tajikistan,” Aslov told Larijani.

Greece

           On March 15, Greek Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. He discussed the nuclear negotiations and bilateral trade with President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. Venizelos also met with former President and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
           Rouhani described relations between Iran and Greece as “deep-rooted” and “historical” while emphasizing the “vast potential to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.” “Greece will always remain Iran’s gateway to Europe,” the Greek foreign minister added. 
 

European Union

            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Tehran on March 8, marking the first visit by an E.U. high representative since 2008. The primary aim of the visit was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict and other pressing issues in her meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Zarif. She also discussed the difficult road ahead to a final nuclear agreement.

            The following are excerpted remarks from Ashton's statement after the visit.

            “The main purpose of the visit was to, as E.U. High Representative, have a chance to talk to Iran about the potential for the relationship that we can have in the future. Many European Union countries’ ministers are coming here. Many have historical links and this was about joining up the whole of the EU in thinking through the issues that we would want to discuss. Not surprisingly there was a big focus on human rights: I met with women activists on International Women’s Day and talked to them about the situation that women find themselves in and some of the work that these women are engaged in, from journalists to those involved with Afghan refugees, people working across the spectrum of civil society and the importance of civil society.
            “And then thinking about some of the issues in the region, for example the real challenges of the drug trade from Afghanistan. Iran faces real difficulties there. There are ways in which we could work together to try and address that. And then looking into the future, the possibilities of all sorts of dialogues and discussions; again an example would be the environment. So that sort of group of different issues, things we may be able to talk about now because they’re important to the European Union to do now, but most importantly things that could be, depending on what happens with the nuclear talks -inevitably that’s been a backdrop to the conversations I’ve had.
            “One of the things that’s been very clear is the support that is given across the political spectrum for the work that is going on currently in Vienna to try and move forward on a comprehensive [nuclear] agreement. That does not mean that we’ll get an agreement; it does not mean that people are committed to any possible outcome at this stage, but I have had a real sense that people are committed to wanting to see the talks happen and that, I think, is encouraging of itself.”
            March 9, 2014 in remarks on her visit

 

Spain
            Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo arrived in Tehran on March 1 for what was supposed to be a four-day visit. But he left after just one day to attend an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers. The ministers will discuss the Ukrainian crisis. “We are concerned about the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Garcia-Margallo said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Spanish official also said that Madrid is keen to expand economic ties with Tehran.
 
Poland
            Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski arrived in Iran with 20 business leaders on February 28. The visit --- the first by a Polish foreign minister in 10 years-- was supposed to last for three days. But he left early due to the standoff in Crimea between the Ukraine and Russia. The following are excerpted remarks by Poland’s ambassador to Tehran, Juliusz Gojlo, on the minister’s visit.
            “The Polish Foreign Minister is especially interested in encouraging both sides, in the year of 540th anniversary of the first diplomatic interactions between Poland and Iran, to develop trade exchange as both nations have done for centuries. To this end, Poland will soon be sending a trade delegation to Iran, headed by our deputy prime minister and comprising of 50 Polish business leaders. The visit will showcase the powerful economic component of Polish-Iranian relations.
            “Mindful of the tradition spanning over 500 years of good relations with Iran, Poland has always tried to serve as a bridge between Iran and the European Union.”
             Feb. 27, 2014 in an interview with the Tehran Times
 
Italy

            On February 22, Chairman of the Italy-Iran Chamber of Commerce Rosario Alessandro arrived in Iran with a business delegation for a four-day visit to explore investment opportunities. The Italian group met with the president of the Iranian Investment Organization and officials at Iran’s Industry, Mines and Trade Ministry.

 
Sweden
            Foreign Minister Carl Bildt traveled to Iran from February 3 to 6, marking the visit by a Swedish foreign minister since 2002. The following are excerpts from Bildt’s blog post written just before he arrived in Tehran.
            “When Hassan Rouhani was elected President of Iran in June last year, however, a new window of opportunity was opened. His election was driven by expectations of change and reform.
            “And the months since then have seen a dramatic and important diplomatic thaw in relations with Iran. Naturally, the most important aspect has been the interim agreement on the nuclear issue, which has now entered into force and also eases some of the sanctions.
“As I travel to Tehran, it is of course in the hope that it will be possible to continue down this path.”
            Feb. 3, 2014 in a blog post

 

France
            On February 3, a 107-member delegation of French businesspeople arrived in Iran to revive economic ties. The group included executives and investors from energy, telecommunications, automobile and engineering companies. They planned to attend an Iranian-French business conference and meetings with senior leaders, including U.S.-educated economist and President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian.
 
The Elders
            On January 27, the independent group of global leaders called The Elders began a three-day visit to Iran to “encourage and advance the new spirit of openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community.” The delegation, led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, stressed the need to “rebuild trust and mutual respect in the region and further afield.”

 

South Korea
      Kang Chang Hee, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, visited Tehran from January 26 to January 28. He discussed opportunities for expanded trade and Korean investment in Iran’s energy sector with President Rouhani on January 27. “South Korea has been successful in economy virtually without any natural resources. Our technology would help Iran’s mines be developed. Iran has taken significant steps toward Geneva deal and it definitely is of importance in bilateral relations with South Korea,” Chang Hee said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart.
 
Mexico
            On January 21, the chair of the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Policy Commission, Gabriela Cuevas, signed a memorandum of understanding with her Iranian counterpart for increased parliamentary communication and cooperation. “Mexico is willing to expand its friendly relations with Iran, esspecially in economic, cultural and scientific fields,” she told Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani.
 
Ireland
            An Irish delegation headed by Pat Breen, the chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, visited Iran from January 10 to 14. They met with Foreign Minister Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, chairman of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi and senior trade officials. Breen told Larijani that President Hassan Rouhani’s election has presented a possibility for Iran to improve relations with the West.
 
Germany
            German parliament member Andreas Schockenhoff from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party visited Iran from January 6 to 10. The deputy head of the Christian Democratic Union met with his counterparts in Tehran. “We not only welcome enhancement of Iran-Germany ties, but we welcome and support [such expansion of relations] with entire Europe; we are not satisfied with the current level of the relations,” he told Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council Mohammad Javad Larijani on January 8. The following are excerpted remarks by Schockenhoff to local media.
 
            “The initial [nuclear] agreement in Geneva is the first important step to find a final solution for the Iran nuclear issues and normalizing the relations with the country, however, much should be done to that stage yet.
            “If Iran and Powers work out a comprehensive plan in the set deadline, hopes would be invested on the détente between Germany and Iran, and I would say that Berlin is highly interested in entente with Tehran.”
            Jan. 6, 2014 to Iranian media

 

Italy
            Senator Pier Ferdinando Casini, chairman of parliament’s Foreign Policy Commission also visited Iran in early January. “We favor to see a historical agreement which will be able to guarantee Iranˈs right to produce peaceful nuclear energy and ensure the West of peaceful nature of Iranˈs nuclear program,” the delegation said in a January 5 statement. Besides Tehran, the delegation also visited the central and southern provinces of Isfahan and Fars.
            Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino previously met with Foreign Minister Zarif and other senior leaders in Tehran from December 21 to 22. Bonino’s visit was the first by an Italian foreign minister in nearly 10 years.
 
United Kingdom
            Former Foreign Minister Jack Straw led a four-man delegation to Tehran from January 6 to January 10. The delegates included members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran. They met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi and others. The visit marked the first visit by U.K. lawmakers in years. The British Embassy in Tehran was closed in late 2011 after hardliner demonstrators stormed the building. The following are excerpts from Jack Straw’s op-ed in The Independent about the trip.
            “For this time, no deal with Iran does not mean Iran will stay isolated, as it did during the Ahmadinejad period. Rather, it will lead to a ragged erosion of sanctions. Russia and China will pull away. Pressure from European exporters will increase – especially from Italy and Germany. (Our Lufthansa flight back from Tehran was full of German business people.) Above all, there would be no guarantees whatsoever about Iran’s future nuclear activities.”

 

European Union
            Eight representatives of the European parliament arrived in Tehran on December 13 for talks with senior Iranian lawmakers and officials. The visit marked the first in six years for the European Union. The following are excerpts from an article on the visit by Tarja Cronberg, chair of parliament’s Iran delegation and a member of its foreign affairs committee.
            “There is no doubt that the people of Iran have very high expectations of the new president and the government, one of the more important observations made by our five member MEP delegation. Even the NGOs state that they can work more freely. There are cracks in the isolation. The momentum has to be seized.
            “It is obvious that President Hassan Rouhani is under great pressure to improve the human rights situation, in accordance with his electoral promises. The conservatives, however, still rule the human rights council and the judiciary. The president has released political prisoners, but executions have increased.”

 

 

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