Iran Primer's Blog
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.
Bahrain - 188
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.
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
We can solve challenges in relation to nuclear issue in a short time because we have nothing to hide.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Thanks to the effort of our #nuclear negotiation team, we're moving closer to breaking sanctions--which we see as violation of human rights.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Our red line is our nation's #rights. Having said this, extent of use of our rights is smth that will be decided by the Establishment.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
#Sanctions were a violation of human rights because it hurt people on ground--because it deprived patients from accessing their medication.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
We see sanctions as great oppression against our nation, and we will remove these measures. In terms of nuclear issue, our approach win-win.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
First steps towards ending sanctions have been taken - today we are witness to how financial sanctions no longer hinder trade in basic goods— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Some [in our country] believe we'll never be able to normalize our relationship with world. I have never adopted this approach. #engagement— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Our goal is friendship, both domestically& internationally. We've seen improved relations w/ our neighbours, region& the world. #RouhaniLive— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Optimism and pessimism don't have much meaning in world of politics. What matters is realism.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Today, the world is witness to how we are engaging with the international community with a voice of reason. #ConstructiveEngagement— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
The world, including global public opinion, has understood that language of threats, sanctions & intimidation is erroneous.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
When I ran in elections, I said my way& style would be of friendship, reconciliation& peace--domestically & internationally. #RouhaniLive— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
We have promised people to bring down inflation to 25% by the end of this year. It was 43% when we took office. #RouhaniLive— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
4 phases of #SouthPars gas project to be completed;oil production& sales have both increased,addressing nation's energy needs & unemployment— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Banks both in Iran and abroad can today set up LCs for trade in basic goods - in the past, had to use middlemen who charged percentages.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Recent visits by the many foreign officials &entrepreneurs signals optimism. First steps have been taken& we shall see material improvements— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Majles (Parliament) asked us to pay cash subsidies to the underprivileged only. Thus, we asked those who are capable to avoid registration— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Main economic goal was to address inflation.Even under difficult circumstances,we didn't approach central bank to avoid increasing liquidity— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Hospitals will provide all that is needed for patients: from A to Z; and all Iranians will be covered by health insurance. #RouhaniCare— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
Only 200 items of medication were covered by insurance in the past. Looking to increase this list to >350 items by end of year #RouhaniLive— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
For first time, wives of diplomats were invited to mark our national women's day. All of us, even critics, should celebrate such victories.— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) April 29, 2014
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
— The Elders (@TheElders) January 27, 2014