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Iran’s Discriminatory Nationality Law

Semira Nikou

Iran is one of 27 countries that still restrict citizenship rights of women. Citizenship in Iran, codified before the 1979 revolution, is a blood right flowing from fathers to children. But Iranian women cannot automatically pass on their citizenship.
The exclusive right of men to pass on citizenship has economically disadvantaged Iran’s most vulnerable populations. Even the Iranian government has recognized that the law is a problem and, at various times, tried to remedy its negative effects – most recently with a 2006 amendment that granted naturalization rights to children with Iranian mothers and foreign fathers.
In 2015, there may be a new push to amend the law. In October 2014, the Office of Women’s and Children’s Affairs, a department in the executive branch, prepared a report on creating a task force to amend the law. In January 2015, the vice president for women’s and family affairs, Shanhindokht Molaverdi, said the government was discussing how to solve the citizenship problem of Iranian women married to Afghan men. It is unclear, however, what changes are being discussed.
The 2006 Law
The last change to Iran’s nationality law occurred in 2006.  The Iranian Parliament (Majles) held extensive debates about amending aspects of the law, including which categories of people could become naturalized citizens. The law currently recognizes seven categories of people as Iranian citizens:

1)      Anyone residing in Iran, except those whose foreign nationality is established;

2)      Those whose fathers are Iranian;

3)      Children with unknown parentage;

4)      Children born in Iran to foreign parents, one of whom was born in Iran;

5)      Children born in Iran whose fathers are foreigners and who reside in Iran at least one   year immediately after they turn eighteen years old;

6)      Women of foreign nationality who marry Iranian men; and

7)      Foreign nationals who obtain Iranian citizenship.

Legislators proposed various amendments, including that the fourth category of citizenship be eliminated. But they made only one change, passing a single-clause bill known as the 2006 Law. It clarified that children born in Iran, with Iranian mothers married to foreign national fathers, have a right to naturalization once they turn 18 years old.
The right does not extend to children born to Iranian mothers outside Iran. Ironically, this also means that Iranian women still cannot pass on their citizenship automatically, since the fourth category of citizenship was never eliminated. But a foreign woman born in Iran, and married to a foreigner, does pass on that right.
Individuals who fall outside the seven citizenship categories and the 2006 Law may still become naturalized citizens through a stringent process subject to the government’s discretion.
Parents must have an official marriage certificate for the 2006 Law to benefit their children. It can only be attained through the Ministry of Foreign affairs, but not all couples, particularly the poor, register their marriage. Some refrain from registering due to a lack of understanding of the law, or fear of deportation if the men are illegal immigrants. A government census estimated that there were 32,000 unofficial marriages between Iranian women and Afghans in 2010.
The 2006 Law also does not address the status of children born to Iranian women and foreigners before they become citizens—a period of limbo when they are denied social benefits. The lack of benefits hits the poor particularly hard.
 Since 2011 there have been more than 30,700 registered marriages between Iranian women and Afghan men in Iran,  according to the Organization for Civil Registration. Most  were in Iran’s border provinces. The law could affect all of these families.
Thus, in 2012, the conservative eighth Majles took up the citizenship mantle again. Its concern was not equal rights for women, but how to support a particular category of soon-to-be Iranian citizens during the first 18 years of their lives. The Majles ratified an amendment to the 2006 Law that would allow children of Iranian women and foreign nationals born in Iran access to free health services, education, welfare handouts , and permanent residency rights until they qualified for naturalization.
But the amendment was never enacted. The Guardian Council, a 12-member body that vets laws ratified by Majles, rejected the amendment because parliament had failed to identify funding .. According the Guardian Council, the amendment would cost the government more than $150 million, which the parliament had not covered in its annual budget.
New Push for Change
The 2006 Law still stands. But there are signs that the executive branch might push for new change– and it has compelling reasons to do so. The law presents domestic complications, but it also violates Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits discrimination against women and children. The law also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which explicitly obligates states to ensure that children born within their jurisdiction are not discriminated against based on their parents’ national origin.
Human rights proponents in Iran and the international community are pressuring Iran over its human rights record. Amending the nationality law, which Iranian officials across the political spectrum agree must happen, would be a relatively easy step in enabling Iran to meet its international human rights obligations.
Click here for a more detailed analysis of the law and its social implications by Semira N. Nikou, a Senior Research Associate at the Public International Law and Policy Group and a J.D. candidate at American University Washington College of Law. She previously worked at the United States Institute of Peace as a contributing author to The Iran Primer book and website.

Iran & Region IV: Lebanon's Hezbollah

Nicholas Blanford

Lebanon’s main Islamist party has undergone a profound transformation over the past three decades. Once associated with suicide bombings and hostage-taking, Hezbollah has steadily evolved from an underground movement in 1982 to the dominant political player in Lebanon in 2015. Yet even though Hezbollah was stronger militarily and politically by 2015, it also faced greater challenges than ever before. They ranged from the party’s massive expansion since 2006 to the rising domestic discontent over its refusal to abandon its weapons, which altered the geostrategic balance in the Middle East.

Hezbollah’s role in the region has been particularly controversial. The most powerful regional militia, Hezbollah used its vast arsenal to fight Israel for thirty-four days in 2006. The conflict was Israel’s longest Middle East war and left no clear winner, although Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah emerged afterwards at the top of popularity polls across the region. But its armed intervention in Syria, beginning in 2013, on behalf of President Bashar al Assad deeply tarnished its image among Sunnis across the region as a champion of anti-Israel resistance. By 2015, the party’s has expansion in manpower, military capabilities and funding also produced looser internal controls and made it more susceptible to corruption and penetration by Israel.
The movement, created under Iran’s auspices and aid after Israel’s 1982 invasion, reflects the dynamic Shiite dimension of Islamist politics in the Arab world. Hezbollah was inspired by the teachings of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It subscribes to a doctrine known as the velayat-e faqih—or, in Arabic, the wali al-faqih—Khomeini’s theory of Islamic governance, which bestows guardianship of government on a senior religious scholar. Iran remains Hezbollah’s chief ideological, financial, and military supporter. Syria is also a close ally.
Hezbollah’s core ideological goals are resisting Israel, establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon, and offering obedience to Iran’s supreme leader. But Hezbollah has developed a keen sense of realpolitik that helped shape its political agenda and allowed it to sidestep challenges to its armed status. It long ago accepted, for example, that an Islamic state is not appropriate for Lebanon, and it has considered alternative systems of government.
Over three decades, Hezbollah's deepening political engagement has transformed it into the main representative of Lebanon’s Shiites, the largest of the country’s seventeen recognized sects. In turn, the movement now needs continued support of the community to ensure its own survival. Yet the interests of its constituents do not always correspond to the agenda of Iran’s leaders, to whom Hezbollah is ideologically beholden. Balancing these rival obligations is a paradox that Hezbollah is finding ever more difficult to reconcile.
The Beginning
Hezbollah emerged in the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, but its genesis lay in the Shiite religious seminaries of Najaf in southern Iraq. In the 1960s and 1970s, Lebanese clerical students were influenced by leading Shiite ideologues such as Mohammed Baqr al Sadr and Ruhollah Khomeini. Sadr, a founder of the Party of the Islamic Call, or Hizb al Dawa al Islamiyya, promoted Islamic values as a counterweight to secularism and the leftist ideologies then attracting Arab youth. Khomeini achieved prominence with his doctrine of velayat-e faqih.
Lebanese students and teachers in Iraqi seminaries were forced to return home after President Saddam Hussein cracked down on the Shiite clerics in the late 1970s. Some then began to preach the ideas of Khomeini and Sadr to a domestic audience.
By the end of the 1970s, three developments helped create fertile ground for the eventual emergence of Hezbollah. One factor was the creation of Amal, the first strong Shiite movement. Amal’s founder was Musa Sadr, a charismatic Iranian-born cleric who tapped into rising anger among Shiites over their repression by other Lebanese sects, particularly Christians and Sunni Muslims. But in 1978, Sadr vanished during a trip to Libya. After his disappearance, Amal drifted in a more secular direction under new leadership, to the dismay of the movement’s Islamists.
The second event was Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon in 1978 in a bid to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Israel installed a security cordon along the border inside Lebanon, which was controlled by an Israeli-backed militia. It was the first time many southern Lebanese lived under occupation.
The third crucial event was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the first modern theocracy replaced the dynastic rule that had prevailed in Iran for more than 2,500 years. The revolution had an electrifying effect on Lebanese Shiites in general and on the clerical followers of Khomeini in particular. Iranian leaders and Lebanese clerics held lengthy discussions about importing the revolution to Lebanon and building an armed anti-Israel movement. Among the Lebanese clerics were Sheikh Sobhi Tufayli, who later became Hezbollah’s first secretary general, and Abbas Musawi, a preacher from the Bekaa Valley village of Nabi Sheet. The idea was delayed by an Iranian power struggle and the beginning of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq in 1980.
Then Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982 to drive the PLO out of Lebanon. Iran immediately offered assistance, dispatching 5,000 Revolutionary Guards to Syria for deployment in Lebanon. But the main fighting soon ended, and most of the Iranians returned home. Aided by Syria, a smaller contingent of Iranians moved into the northern Bekaa Valley to begin mobilizing and recruiting Shiites into a new anti-Israel force that was the basis of what became Hezbollah.
By 1983, the nascent Hezbollah’s influence was seeping from the Bekaa Valley into Beirut’s Shiite suburbs and from there further south toward the front line of the Israeli occupation. By 1985, Israel, exhausted by the intensifying resistance campaign, withdrew to a security belt along the Lebanon-Israel border. Hezbollah—along with Amal and secular local resistance groups, which played smaller roles—had more success in pressuring Israel in two years than had the PLO in a decade. Hezbollah won additional support by providing social welfare services to lower-class Shiites.
In 1985, Hezbollah formally declared its existence in its “Open Letter,” a manifesto outlining its identity and agenda. The goals included driving Israeli forces from south Lebanon as a precursor to the destruction of the Jewish state and the liberation of Jerusalem. Hezbollah confirmed that it abided by the orders of “a single wise and just command” represented by Ayatollah Khomeini, the “rightly guided imam.”
Hezbollah also rejected Lebanon’s sectarian political system and instead advocated creation of an Islamic state. At the same time, the party was careful to emphasize that it did not wish to impose Islam as a religion on anyone and that other Lebanese should be free to pick their preferred system of governance.
In formally declaring its existence and goals, Hezbollah emerged from the shadows and demonstrated that it was not a fleeting aberration of the civil war but a force determined to endure.
First Phase: Underground
Hezbollah’s evolution falls into five distinct phases. The first was from 1982 to 1990 and coincided with the chaotic 1975–90 civil war, during which the Lebanese state had little control. Lebanon was instead carved into competing fiefdoms dominated by militias and occupying armies. These were Hezbollah’s wild days, when it could do as it pleased under Iran’s guidance and Syria’s watchful eye.
The movement became synonymous with extremist attacks, including two on U.S. embassies in 1983 and 1984. Its deadliest attacks were the simultaneous truck bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and the nearby French Paratroop headquarters, which killed 241 American servicemen and sixty-eight French soldiers. From 1984, more than 100 foreigners in Lebanon were kidnapped. Hezbollah denied responsibility, although some of its members were later linked with the attacks.
After 1986, Hezbollah dominated the resistance against Israel’s occupation in south Lebanon. But the party’s growing influence in the south also brought it into conflict with the rival Amal movement. In 1988, the two factions fought the first in a series of bloody internecine battles that over the next two years resulted in thousands of dead and generated an animosity that lingered a quarter-century later.
Second Phase: Running for Parliament
The second phase was from 1991 to 2000, following the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990. The restoration of state control sparked a debate within Hezbollah over its future course of action. Hardliners, represented by Sheikh Tufayli, argued that Hezbollah should not compromise its ideological agenda regardless of the nation’s changed circumstances. Others countered that Hezbollah had to adapt to the new situation to protect its “resistance priority”—the right to confront Israel’s continued occupation of the south.
The debate played out over whether Hezbollah should run in the 1992 parliamentary election, the first in twenty years. Joining parliament would strengthen Hezbollah’s standing in Lebanon, but it would also flout its 1985 manifesto that rejected a sectarian political system. Pragmatists won after receiving the blessing of Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran’s supreme leader, to participate in the elections. Hezbollah won eight parliamentary seats.
Hezbollah also went through a leadership change. A few months before the 1992 election, Hezbollah secretary general Sayyed Abbas Musawi was assassinated in an Israeli helicopter ambush. He was replaced by his protégé, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a 32-year-old cleric.
Under Nasrallah, Hezbollah reorganized, adding new bodies to handle its military, political, and social work. It expanded its social welfare activities nationwide to sustain its popular support within the Shiite community. It also launched a television station, Al Manar, as the flagship of its propaganda arm, and opened a media relations office. Hezbollah even began a dialogue with other factions and religious representatives, including Christians.
Hezbollah’s newfound pragmatism did not represent an ideological softening or a decision to exchange Islamic militancy for a share of Lebanon’s political space. Hezbollah was instead adapting to postwar circumstances to safeguard the resistance. Shortly after the 1992 election, Nasrallah explained, “Our participation in the elections and entry into [parliament] do not alter the fact that we are a resistance party.”
Hezbollah’s resistance efforts actually intensified after 1992. Its hit-and-run guerrilla tactics claimed ever-higher Israeli casualties. In 1993 and 1996, Israel responded with air and artillery blitzes against Lebanon in failed attempts to dent Hezbollah’s campaign.
The late 1990s were Hezbollah’s “golden years.” Hezbollah’s military exploits won it admirers across the Arab and Islamic worlds and earned the respect of all Lebanese, even those inclined to view the Shiite party with suspicion. Under growing pressure from Hezbollah, Israel finally ended its occupation in May 2000, the first time that the Jewish state had ceded occupied territory through force of Arab arms.
Third Phase: Confrontation
The third phase was from 2000 to 2005. With Israel’s withdrawal, Hezbollah’s reputation had never been higher. But its victory was Pyrrhic. A growing number of Lebanese began questioning why Hezbollah needed to keep arms. Hezbollah countered by citing minor territorial disputes and the number of Lebanese still detained in Israeli prisons. It claimed its weapons were a vital part of Lebanon’s defense. Hezbollah had to make sure that the Israelis did not come back. Many Lebanese accused Hezbollah of serving an Iranian—rather than Lebanese—agenda. But Hezbollah still enjoyed the political cover afforded by Syria, which continued to endorse the party’s armed status.
In February 2005, Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in a truck bomb explosion. Many Lebanese blamed Damascus, and roughly one-quarter of the country’s population took to the streets in protest. Three months later, Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon, ending three decades of military occupation.
The sudden loss of Syrian cover compelled Hezbollah to take another step deeper into Lebanese politics to defend its “resistance priority.” It agreed to an alliance with its longtime Amal rival and with the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party led by former General Michel Aoun.
After the 2005 parliamentary election, Hezbollah joined the government for the first time. Yet its participation did not defuse the core issue. Over the following months, Lebanese politics grew increasingly rancorous over Hezbollah’s arms. It was the single most divisive national issue.
Fourth Phase: War and Rebuilding
The fourth phase ran from 2006 to 2012  and included Hezbollah’s biggest military gamble. On July 12, 2006, its militia abducted two Israeli soldiers along the border. The audacious act triggered a devastating month-long war with Israel. Hezbollah fought the Israeli army to a standstill in south Lebanon and declared a “divine victory”—but at a high cost.
More than 1,100 Lebanese died in the war, which also caused billions of dollars of damage. In the face of intense domestic criticism, Hezbollah walked out of the Lebanese cabinet in November 2006. A month later, Hezbollah tried to force the government to resign by organizing a mass protest in central Beirut. The government stood its ground, but political paralysis gripped Lebanon.
Tensions between Hezbollah and the central government continued. In 2008, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora—son of the slain leader—announced it intended to shut down Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network. Hezbollah reacted by staging a brief takeover of west Beirut, triggering a week of clashes that left more than 100 people dead and brought the country to the edge of civil war. The crisis ended with the formation of a new government and the long-delayed election of a president, Michel Suleiman.
In 2009, Lebanon faced a new crisis when a United Nations investigation obtained evidence implicating Hezbollah in the assassination of Rafik Hariri four years earlier. Hezbollah denied the allegations and claimed that the Dutch-based tribunal investigating the case was serving the political interests of the United States and Israel.
The Hariri government refused to abandon its support for the tribunal. In January 2011, as the tribunal was preparing to issue its first set of indictments, Hezbollah and its political allies forced a vote of no confidence in the government. The new government was composed of Hezbollah and its allies; it was led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman and political moderate.
Fifth Phase: The Syria Intervention
The fifth phase began in response to turmoil in Syria. In March 2011, a popular uprising was launched against the Assad regime as the Arab Spring rippled across the Middle East. Hezbollah initially expected it to blow over quickly. But by the end of 2011, the uprising had morphed into a civil war. Within months, Hezbollah began covertly dispatching fighters to assist the Syrian army against nascent rebel groups.
In May 2013, Nasrallah admitted that Hezbollah was fully engaged in the Syria war. He argued that the Syrian opposition was composed of radical Sunni groups would take their war to Lebanon after defeating Assad. Many Lebanese were dismayed at the unprecedented military intervention; it breached the Baabda Declaration of 2012, when Lebanese leaders agreed to immunize Lebanon from the conflict tearing apart its larger neighbor.
Syria’s conflict spilled over into Lebanon too, deepening political tensions. It contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government in March 2013. Tammam Salam, scion of a notable Beirut family, was appointed prime minister in April 2013, but it took a tortuous ten months for him to form a cabinet. Lebanon faced another political stalemate when its parliament repeatedly failed to elect a new president after Suleiman’s term ended in May 2014. In November 2014, parliament then voted to extend its term for a second time, putting off elections for two years, seven months.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria enraged Sunnis across the region—and produced a backlash. In 2013 and 2014, Sunni radical groups carried out more than a dozen car bombings, most of them suicide attacks, in Shiite areas of Lebanon. Almost 100 people were killed, some 900 were wounded. The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other brutal Sunni militias dampened some of the criticism directed at Hezbollah. Shiites and some other Lebanese minorities viewed the party as a protector against Sunni extremists. 
Still, by 2015 the rate of Hezbollah casualties was the highest in the party’s history--with no end to the Syrian war in sight. The looming question was how long Hezbollah could afford to remain so heavily engaged in Syria.

Chief Allies
Iran was Hezbollah’s main financial, military, and logistical supplier, and Iran’s supreme leader was the party’s ultimate source of authority. Under the late President Hafez al Assad, Syria was Hezbollah’s protector and supervisor. Since Assad’s son Bashar al Assad took over in 2000, Syria became an even closer strategic ally. Syria was the vital geostrategic linchpin connecting Iran to Hezbollah. It provided strategic depth and a conduit for the transfer of arms, which explained the heavy effort by Iran and Hezbollah to preserve Assad’s regime.
The Palestinian Hamas movement and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been allies of Hezbollah since the early 1990s. Both groups benefited from Iranian financial and material patronage. But Hamas, a Sunni movement, did not share the Shiite ideology of Iran and Hezbollah, making Hamas and Hezbollah uncomfortable bedfellows beyond a shared hostility toward Israel.
Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement, both secular Lebanese political entities, have been allied with Hezbollah since 2005 and 2006, respectively. Hezbollah also maintained alliances with smaller pro-Syrian factions and individuals, Islamist groups, and Palestinian groups.
The Future
As of early 2015, Hezbollah was arguably the most formidable non-state military actor in the world. It was also the most powerful political force in Lebanon through the force majeure of its armed wing. It had two seats in Salam’s government.
Yet down the road, Hezbollah also faces grave challenges that derive from its sometimes conflicting roles as Iran’s surrogate and, at the same time, the chief representative of Lebanon’s Shiites. Iran has helped transform Hezbollah into a robust and unique military force that serves as a component of Iranian deterrence. Hezbollah is also, however, answerable to the needs and interests of its domestic constituency. The paradox is increasingly hard to reconcile, as shown by Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syria war.
By 2015, Hezbollah’s public standing had also declined somewhat since the heady days of the 1990s. Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm was at the heart of Lebanon’s festering political divide. Over the years, Hezbollah has been sucked ever deeper into the political mire. It considered its shift into the fractious world of Lebanese politics an unfortunate necessity to better defend its “resistance priority.”
The Arab Spring presented another set of difficulties for Hezbollah. It supported uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but it was caught off guard by the nationwide Syrian protests. Its belated intervention in Syria to aid the Assad regime eroded the party’s popularity among Sunnis, who make up the bulk of the Syrian opposition, and in the Arab world as the regional tensions increased between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
Internally, Hezbollah is grappling with the new – and insidious – threat of corruption. Hezbollah has grown extensively since 2006, militarily, financially and politically, which has resulted in a sprawling bureaucracy with looser internal control mechanisms and a reduced sense of personal security among the cadres compared to two decades ago. That has opened the door not only to embezzlement and theft within the party but also made it vulnerable to penetration by Israeli intelligence agencies. Hezbollah has amassed armaments, communications technology and combat capabilities that pose a genuine challenge to Israel in the event of a future war. But the emergence of corrupt practices and the evident difficulty the party’s leadership has in curbing the phenomenon represents the single gravest danger to Hezbollah in the long-term.
For now, however, Hezbollah will remain a powerful political player on the Lebanese scene for the foreseeable future regardless of developments in Syria. But the challenge for Hezbollah of balancing its ideological and logistical obligations to Iran and its political and social duties to Lebanon’s Shiite community is a paradox that will only grow more difficult in the years ahead.
Nicholas Blanford is the Beirut correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and a defense and security analyst for IHS-Jane’s. He is the author of Killing Mr. Lebanon: The Assassination of Rafik Hariri and Its Impact on the Middle East (2006) and Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle against Israel (2011).
This article is an excerpt from "The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are." Click here for the full article.
Photo credits: Nasrallah via leader.ir; Khamenei and Khoemeini via Khamenei.ir; Hezbollah logo via Wikimedia Commons

After Flap, Iran Appoints New U.N. Envoy

Iran has nominated career diplomatic Gholamali Khoshroo as its U.N. envoy, according to state media. The appointment comes ten months after the United States rejected Iran’s first candidate, Hamid Aboutalebi, for his alleged involvement in the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and 444-day hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981. Aboutalebi, however, claimed that he only acted as a translator. Khoshroo reportedly accompanied Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where they met with Secretary of State John Kerry, and to Saudi Arabia this month.

Khoshroo is currently Iran’s ambassador to Switzerland. He previously served as a deputy foreign minister from 2002 to 2005 under reformist President Mohammad Khatami. He was also a special adviser to Khatami on his “Dialogue Among Civilizations” initiative. During his seven years as senior editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam, Khoshroo wrote about issues such as Boko Haram's brutality and "profound ignorance of Islam." Born in 1955, Khoshroo was trained as a sociologist before entering the Foreign Ministry. He studied at Tehran University and at the New School for Social Research in New York City.  
Khoshroo discusses the importance of dialogue in the World Public Forum video below, which is followed by his official curriculum vitae from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. An additional interview in English is at the bottom.
Gholamali Khoshroo
Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Swiss Confederation
Born January 16, 1955
Diplomat by vocation, Sociologist by education,
1981-1989 Dean of the School for International Relations (affiliated to Foreign Ministry),
1989-1995 Ambassador and Deputy of the Permanent Mission of I.R of Iran, U.N, New York
1995-1997 Dean of the School for International Relations,
1995-2014 Board member of the Encyclopedia of the World of Islam,
1997-1999 Deputy Foreign Minister for Research and Training,
1999-2002   Ambassador to Australia,
2002-2005   Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs,
2005- 2014 Assistant Secretary General of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly,
2007- 2014 Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam ,
2010-​ 2014 Member of Policy Making Council of “Iran Diplomacy”.
In recent years, he has extensively worked on current developments of contemporary political Islam and its implication for western societies. He has also contributed to various forums and seminars on how to promote dialogue and moderation among nations and how to contain extremism and sectarian violence. As a sociologist he studied at Tehran University and New School for Social Research, New York, U.S.A. He has published several articles and book on political and cultural affairs.


Kirk, Menendez Introduce New Sanctions Bill

On January 27, Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, legislation that would automatically impose sanctions on Iran if talks with the world’s six major powers fail to yield a deal by June 30. President Barack Obama, however, has repeatedly threatened to veto such a bill, arguing that new sanctions legislation could derail talks. If all 54 Senate Republicans vote for the bill, Kirk and Menendez would still need the support of at least 13 Democrats to override a veto.

On the same day, Menendez and nine other Democrats sent a letter to Obama saying they would delay support for sanctions legislation until March 24 if Republicans brought the bill to the floor for a vote. The world’s six major powers and Iran are due to reach a political agreement by the end of March, so the move gives the administration more time for negotiating while postposing a clash between the Senate and the president.
The following are excerpts from the press release on the bill.
Summary of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015: 
  • Sanctions will be implemented only after the June 30th negotiations deadline, but only if the negotiations fail to produce a deal.
  • The Kirk-Menendez legislation increases the current congressional oversight of the negotiations and requires the Administration to formally submit any new nuclear agreement text or extension to Congress within five days.
  • Congress is allotted 30 days to review any nuclear agreement before the President can waive, defer or suspend sanctions.
  • Subject to a report and certification, the President can only waive sanctions if it is in the vital national security interest of the United States and/or a waiver would make a long-term comprehensive solution with Iran more likely. 
  • If there is no final agreement by July 6, 2015, Kirk-Menendez would re-impose sanctions that have been waived while the negotiations have been ongoing, which would begin in August and run through December. 
  • New sanctions would close loopholes in existing petroleum sanctions, enhance sanctions on Iran’s oil trade and financial transactions, and impose further sanctions on Iran’s senior government officials, family members and other individuals for weapons of mass destruction proliferation, terrorism sponsorship and other illicit activities, and on Iran’s shipbuilding, automotive, construction, engineering and mining sectors. 
You can see a copy of the legislative text here.
A total of 16 Senators will co-sponsor the Kirk-Menendez legislation, including: Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Additional co-sponsors will be added this week.
Click here for the full press release.

Democrats: Dueling Moves on Iran Sanctions

On January 26, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a resolution in support of ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers. It also “affirms that support for the prompt reimposition of suspended sanctions as well as the imposition of additional sanctions against Iran would be strong and widespread in the Senate” if talks fail or Tehran does not fulfill its commitments. The resolution, cosponsored by nine other Democrats, is intended to “provide an option in support of diplomacy” and contrasts with another bill under consideration, according to Feinstein.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, co-sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), would automatically impose sanctions if a deal is not reached by the June 30 deadline. On January 27, Menendez and nine other Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama in support of the bill, introduced the same day. They also expressed skepticism that Iran is “committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement.” 
Senator Feinstein and her colleagues, along with the Obama administration, have repeatedly warned that passage of such a bill could jeopardize diplomacy and compromise the international consensus on the Iran nuclear issue. The following are statements by Feinstein and Murphy on their resolution followed by the letter from Menendez and his colleagues to the president.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
“Enacting new sanctions before the end of the negotiating period would gravely undermine our efforts to reach an agreement with Iran. For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy. The resolution states that if negotiations fail or if Iran violates any agreement, then it is appropriate for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions.
“Whether or not Iran is willing to make the compromises necessary to rejoin the community of nations remains to be seen. But we have an obligation to give our negotiators the time and space needed to test that possibility. We must see this diplomatic opening through.
“This is not just a matter for the United States, it’s the major world powers that have come together in negotiation with Iran. With the international community united and a temporary accord in place, this is the best chance we have to resolve this matter peacefully. The opportunity is there. To torpedo it would be reckless and dangerous.” 
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
“There should be no doubt that the United States Congress stands ready and willing to pass new sanctions if Iran fails to live up to its end of the bargain in these negotiations. Senator Feinstein and I introduced this resolution because we strongly believe that a comprehensive diplomatic agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and that passing new sanctions legislation at this time would be counterproductive.
“But this resolution makes clear that if Iran walks away from the table, or if talks fall through because they’re no longer negotiating in good faith, the United States will not hesitate to respond with debilitating new sanctions.”
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Murphy, the resolution is cosponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Tester (D-MT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Dear Mr. President:
We remain hopeful that diplomacy will succeed in reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability, in accordance with the timeline that the P5+1 and Iran negotiating teams have set for themselves: March 24, 2015 for a political framework agreement and June 30, 2015 to conclude negotiations on the technical annexes of the comprehensive deal. 
Congress has always been a partner in the shared goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon capability.  We remain appreciative of your leadership in seeking to protect the United States, and our allies and partners, from the threat of a nuclear Iran.  For more than two decades, the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government have worked together in a bipartisan way to implement sanctions legislation that successfully ratcheted up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program.  This pressure proved to be decisive in compelling Iranian leadership to enter the latest round of nuclear negotiations in September 2013. 
We remain deeply skeptical that Iran is committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement.  Considering Iran’s history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table.
We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline.  This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility.  We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability. 
In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24.  After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.  This deadline is the critical test of Iranian intentions.  We expect that your Administration will consult closely with Members of Congress in the coming months, and look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.

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