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Zarif Condemns Attacks in Letter to U.N.

           On March 26, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemning attacks on Iranians in 2013 and 2014. Zarif sent the letter one day after Ban Ki-Moon decried the killing of one of the five Iranian border guards abducted in February.  A Sunni militant group, Jaish al Adl, reportedly claimed responsibility. The following is the full text of Zarif’s letter and Ban’s statement.


March 26, 2014
I have the unpleasant duty to draw your attention to the shocking news about the possible murder of one of the five Iranian border guards abducted on February 7, 2014 by an extremist terrorist group, in the border area between Iran and Pakistan. This is the latest in a series of similar terrorist atrocities against Iranian citizens, including diplomats and other officials and innocent civilians of Iranian and other nationalities, which include:
- Repeated explosions and terrorist attacks in our Eastern border in recent months, which have resulted in the murder of at least 12 soldiers;
- Two car-bomb attacks on the Iranian diplomatic and cultural premises in Beirut on 19
November 2013 and 19 February 2014, killing one diplomat and a dozen security guards and many Lebanese civilian bystanders;
- Abduction and murder of Iranian diplomatic personnel in Sana’a, including kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat, Mr. Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, on July 21, 2013, and brutal assassination of another, Mr. Abolghassem Assadi, on January 18, 2014; and
- Suicide attack on the Iranian Consulate-General in Peshawar, on February 25, 2014, killing two security guards and injuring many innocent Pakistani bystanders.
It is extremely regrettable that all available evidence indicate that these cowardly acts of terror targeting the Islamic Republic of Iran and its citizens have been perpetrated by State-sponsored extremist groups, with similar patterns of funding, coordination, support and direction. The entire international community should be alarmed by the regional and extra-regional ramifications of sectarian tension and extremist violence, which are being systematically organized, sponsored and orchestrated in various parts of our region. In fact, learning from recent history, a sober assessment of the medium and long-term implications of this dangerous trend will show that the very sponsors of such hatred, who for ill-conceived interests have hastily resorted to such shortsighted tactics to remedy their strategic miscalculations and failures, stand to lose the most from the sectarian and extremist violence that they are spreading.
Moreover, there is very little doubt concerning the inherent and reinforcing interrelationship in our region between perpetual war economy, extremist violence and terrorism on the one side, and drug trafficking and transnational organized crime on the other. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the forefront of the global campaign against drug trafficking, with narcotic seizures by Iran amounting to over three quarters of the entire confiscations throughout the world. Being in the first line of defense against this global menace has cost Iran dearly in blood and treasure, without any meaningful international cooperation to share the cost, provide technological assistance, or at least take a resolute stance against those who have exacted a heavy toll on Iran, its innocent civilians and brave soldiers. While our sacrifices help protect the entire humanity from the scourge of narcotics, the international community is simply not doing enough to help Iran in this never-ending struggle. Mere condemnation of acts of terrorism does not suffice.
In the last few days, all Iranians celebrated Nowruz -- recognized by the General Assembly as an international day of peace, neighborliness and solidarity -- sharing the sense of grief and desperate anticipation of the families and loved ones of these national heroes. While noting the efforts of the Governments of Pakistan, Lebanon, and Yemen, our hostages remain in captivity and the perpetrators of previous crimes have yet to face justice. The Iranian people have every right to demand more resolute global action, yielding practical results in bringing their hostages back home and in bringing to justice those responsible for the murder of their compatriots. A manifestation of this legitimate demand can be seen in the grass root one-million signature campaign organized by the Iranian youth, from all walks of life, calling upon you and other national and international authorities to take stronger measures to secure the early and safe return of their hostages. Through this letter, I join them in their dignified appeal to the global community.
I will be grateful, if you have this letter circulated as a document of the General Assembly,Security Council and the Human Rights Council.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
M. Javad Zarif
Minister for Foreign Affairs
New York, 25 March 2014 - Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the killing of an Iranian border guard
The Secretary-General condemns the killing of one of the five Iranian border guards who were abducted on 6 February in the country's southeast border region by a militant group. He expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of Iran, who are confronted with this appalling act amid the annual Nowruz celebrations held to commemorate in peace the start of a new year. The Secretary-General sends his condolences to the family of the slain guard. He calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. He hopes for the success of the ongoing efforts by the Government of Iran to achieve the release of those who remain captive.


VIDEO: Change or More of the Same for Iran?

            On March 26, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars convened a panel of four experts to discuss prospects for Iran’s next five years. The speakers included:

Shaul Bakhash (moderator)
Clarence J. Robin Professor of History, George Mason University

Bernard Hourcade
Global Fellow, Wilson Center; and Senior Research Fellow Emeritus, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France

Bijan Khajehpour
Managing Partner, Atieh International
Roberto Toscano
Former Public Policy Scholar, Wilson Center; President, Intercultura Foundation; Former Italian Ambassador to India, 2008-2010; Former Italian Ambassador to Iran, 2003-2008
Robin Wright
Wilson Center-USIP Distinguished Scholar

The following is a video of the event.


Pix: Zarif and Ashton The Ups and Downs

             Iran’s tenuous relationship with the West has been illustrated by the ups and downs in the relationship between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The two have been the lead negotiators in the new diplomacy to find a peaceful resolution to Iran’s controversial nuclear program. But ending longstanding tension has proved difficult as illustrated in the following pictures and tweets.

            Zarif and Ashton participated in nuclear negotiations on March 18-19 and February 19-20 in Vienna (see last picture). Ashton also made a pivotal visit to Tehran on March 8 – the first by a senior E.U. official since 2008 – to explore stronger relations between Europe and Iran on non-nuclear issues (see third picture).

            But the visit wasn’t without controversy. Within two days hardliners had posted pictures of Ashton accusing her of hypocrisy for meeting with human rights activists in Iran, while Europe ignored Saddam Hussein’s gross human rights violations against Iranians and Iraqis, including the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s (see second picture).
            Zarif reportedly canceled dinner with Ashton on the eve of the March nuclear talks, which has been past custom before other rounds of diplomacy, because of the domestic backlash to her visit. Nevertheless, the talks proved both “useful and substantive” and Ashton tweeted Nowruz greetings (see first picture).
Ashton Sends Nowruz Greetings to Zarif and Iranians
Hardliners Put Up Billboards Criticizing Ashton
Ashton Visits Tehran on March 8
Ashton and Zarif Lead Negotiations in Vienna on March 18-19
Photo credits: Robin Wright, European External Action Service via Flickr


Khamenei on Nowruz: Questions Holocaust

            On March 21, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei questioned the Holocaust in a controversial address at the Imam Reza shrine marking Nowruz, Persian New Year. The “Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it's uncertain how it has happened,” he said. Khamenei lauded Iran for progress in science and technology despite tightened economic sanctions. He also  argued that the United States had failed to achieve its goals in the Middle East, especially in Syria. The following are translated excerpts from Khamenei's semi-official Twitter account.

Rouhani on Nowruz: Nuke Agreement Possible

           On March 20, President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism for reaching a final nuclear agreement in a televised statement marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The following video is subtitled in English.


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