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Kerry & Zarif: Rivaling Op-eds on Nuke Talks

            Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry have published rival op-eds in the run-up to another round of nuclear talks scheduled for July 2 to 20. Zarif highlighted the “unique opportunity” to strike a deal with the world’s six major powers. But he also warned against maximalist demands by the opposite side that could jeopardize the talks. “I appeal for these illusions not to derail a process that could put an end to a pointless crisis,” Zarif wrote in French daily Le Monde. In a YouTube video message, Zarif also warned against “pursuing a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last minute concessions.” The two sides must reach an agreement before July 20 or agree to extend the negotiating period for six months.

      Secretary Kerry framed the talks in terms of two choices for Iran’s leaders. “They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon," he wrote in The Washington Post. Or “they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran's economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.”
      On July 2, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also warned that the world’s six major powers “will not accept a deal at any price” in a statement. The following are excerpts from Zarif and Kerry’s op-eds with a transcript of Zarif’s video message and transcript Hague’s statement.

 
 
Transcript of video message "We Can Make History"
 
            In the next three weeks, we have a unique opportunity to make history: To forge a comprehensive agreement over Iran's nuclear energy program; and to end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of past few weeks in Iraq.
 
            We could have resolved the nuclear issue in 2005. But then, people didn't believe me when I said that Iranians are allergic to pressure.
 
            The Bush administration torpedoed the deal by demanding that we abandon enrichment, altogether. They then opted for pressure and sanctions. For 8 years.
 
            The sanctions were crippling -- even deadly; literally.
 
            Iranian cancer patients could not buy medicine with their own money, because banks around the world had been bullied by the US Treasury to avoid transferring Iranian funds.
 
            But sanctions did not cripple our nuclear program.
 
            Neither did the murder of our nuclear scientists, the sabotage of our nuclear facilities - with potentially disastrous environmental ramifications - or the repeated military threats.
In fact, they achieved exactly the opposite:
 
            Insisting on no enrichment resulted in a 100-fold increase in our centrifuges: from less than 200 to almost 20,000;
 
            Refusing to sell fuel for our American-built research reactor, forced us to produce our own fuel by increasing enrichment levels: from 3.5% to 20%.
 
            Depriving Iranian cancer patients from medical radio-isotopes, compelled us to build a heavy water reactor, going from an idea then to a full-fledged plant, to be commissioned soon; and
 
            Threats to bomb our nuclear facilities out of existence, obliged us to build Fordow, which is protected by our mountains.
 
            Western governments cried foul, ignoring that they had brought this upon themselves.
 
            As we approach July 20th, I feel compelled to warn again that pursuing a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last minute concessions cannot achieve anything better than what it achieved in 2005.
 
            To those who continue to believe that sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, I can only say that pressure has been tried for the past 8 years, in fact for the past 35 years.
 
            It didn't bring the Iranian people to kneel in submission. And it will not now nor in the future. We still have time to exit this spiral of escalation.Try mutual respect. It works. We are trying to reach a deal. Not a good deal or a bad deal, but a doable and lasting deal. And any deal, by definition, is the outcome of mutual understanding—not imposition by one side or the other.
 
            We are willing to take concrete measures to guarantee that our nuclear program will always remain peaceful.
 
            We still have time to put an end to the myth that Iran is seeking to build a bomb. And we're backed by over 250 years of non-aggression to substantiate our assertion.
 
            My government remains committed to ending this unnecessary crisis by July 20th. I hope my counterparts are, too.
 
Excerpts from Foreign Miniser Zarif’s Op-ed in Le Monde
 
            Today we have got a unique opportunity for talks with the P5+1. But it is to regret that there are still some on the opposite side who would not stop dreaming.
 
            There is this political will to reach a comprehensive, long-term solution that is respected by both sides. But the negotiations can only become successful when the entire parties dedicate themselves to finding acceptable procedures which would be in agreement with the interim deal, that is, to guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful as well as to remove the entire Security Council sanctions and the multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.
 
            We are willing to guarantee that our nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. But we will not compromise our technical advancement or our scientists.
 
            No one can go back in time. There has been sacrifice made. Today abilities have changed greatly than the past. There is know-how and expertise come by none of which could be forgotten. Pressure and sanctions have also proved ineffective.
 
            I appeal for these illusions not to derail a process that could put an end to a pointless crisis.
 
(Translation via the Young Journalists Club and AFP)
 
Excerpts from Secretary of State Kerry’s Op-ed in The Washington Post
 
            All along, these negotiations have been about a choice for Iran’s leaders. They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon, or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.
 
            Diplomacy and leadership are marked by tough calls. This shouldn’t be one of them.
 
            Iranian officials have stated repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon and that their nuclear activities are designed solely to fulfill civilian needs. Assuming that’s true, it’s not a hard proposition to prove.
 
            The United States and our partners have demonstrated to Iran how serious we are. During the negotiations to reach the Joint Plan of Action, we extended our hand to the Iranians and met with them directly to understand what Iran wanted from its nuclear program. Along with our international partners, we helped chart a path that would allow Iran to have a domestic program for exclusively peaceful purposes. We proved that we were flexible in offering financial relief.
 
            Throughout these talks, Iran’s negotiators have been serious. Iran has also defied the expectations of some by meeting its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, which has allowed time and space for the comprehensive negotiations to proceed. Specifically, Iran has been eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, limited its enrichment capability by not installing or starting up additional centrifuges, refrained from making further advances at its enrichment facilities and heavy-water reactor, and allowed new and more frequent inspections. In exchange, the European Union and the P5+1 have provided limited financial relief to Iran, even as the architecture of international sanctions and the vast majority of sanctions themselves remained firmly in place.
 
            Now Iran must choose. During the comprehensive negotiations, the world has sought nothing more than for Iran to back up its words with concrete and verifiable actions. We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is limited to peaceful purposes. In return, Iran would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.
 
            What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran’s negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We also know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors.
 
            These gaps aren’t caused by excessive demands on our part. On the contrary, the E.U. and P5+1 negotiators have listened closely to Iran’s questions and concerns and showed flexibility to the extent possible consistent with our fundamental goals for this negotiation. We have worked closely with Iran to design a pathway for a program that meets all of the requirements for peaceful, civilian purposes.
 
            There remains a discrepancy, however, between Iran’s professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date. The divide between what Iran says and what it has done underscores why these negotiations are necessary and why the international community united to impose sanctions in the first place.
 
            Iran’s claim that the world should simply trust its words ignores the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported since 2002 on dozens of violations by Iran of its international nonproliferation obligations, starting in the early 1980s. The U.N. Security Council responded by adopting four resolutions under Chapter VII, requiring Iran to take steps to address these violations. These issues cannot be dismissed; they must be addressed by the Iranians if a comprehensive solution is to be reached. These are not just the expectations of any one country, but of the community of nations.
 
            To gain relief from sanctions, the world is simply asking Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are what it claims them to be.
            If Iran is able to make these choices, there will be positive outcomes for the Iranian people and for their economy. Iran will be able to use its significant scientific know-how for international civil nuclear cooperation. Businesses could return to Iran, bringing much needed investment, jobs and many additional goods and services. Iran could have greater access to the international financial system. The result would be an Iranian economy that begins to grow at a significant and sustainable pace, boosting the standard of living among the Iranian population. If Iran is not ready to do so, international sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen.
 
Click here for the full text.
 

British Foreign Secretary Hague's July 2 statement

            “This is a crucial moment in international efforts to resolve one of the most challenging foreign policy issues of our day. The UK is fully committed to reaching an agreement which ensures Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful. To achieve this, Iran will need to be realistic about the steps required to resolve the international community’s serious concerns about its nuclear programme. We will not accept a deal at any price. A deal that does not provide sufficient assurances that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon is not in the interests of the UK, the region or the international community.
 
            “Achieving an agreement is far from certain. Significant differences remain between the E3+3 and Iran which are yet to be bridged. But I am convinced that the current negotiations are the best opportunity we have had in years to resolve this issue. Over the next three weeks, an intensive effort will be required by all sides. We will continue to work closely with our E3+3 partners to test to the full the scope for achieving the deal the international community requires. The benefits of a comprehensive deal for Iran are clear: if Iran is willing to take the steps needed, significant economic benefits will follow. Ultimately, this would lead to the lifting of all nuclear related sanctions and Iran being treated like any other non-nuclear weapons state.”
 

 

Iran's Leaders on Iraq Crisis and ISIS

            Iran’s leaders are unified in their support for the Iraqi government against The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken significant territory in recent weeks. But Iranian officials are also sending mixed messages on the possibility of U.S. intervention or cooperating with Washington to help Baghdad quell the uprising.  
            President Hassan Rouhnai said his country could consider cooperating with the United States “if it starts confronting terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.” Hesameddin Ashna, a Rouhani advisor and head of the state-run Center for Strategic Studies, even suggested that U.S. airstrikes could help the Iraqi air force.
            But Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani has dismissed speculative reports about U.S.-Iran coordination. And Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned against U.S. intervention. He has blamed the United States, along with Sunni Gulf states, for allowing extremist groups to flourish in the region. “The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence,” Khamenei said on June 22. The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian leaders on the Iraq crisis.
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
      “The Islamic Republic will not tolerate violence and terror as foreign-backed takfiri militants wreak havoc in northern Iraq.
      “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the [acts of] violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.
      “We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups. We can think about it [cooperation with the United States] if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.
      “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
            June 14, 2014 during a press conference
 
            “Regarding the holy Shia shines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.
            “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
            June 18, 2014 in a speech to a crowd in Lorestan province
 
            “I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop.
            “Tomorrow you will be targeted... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims.
            “For centuries, Shiites and Sunnis have lived alongside each other in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf and North Africa...in peaceful coexistence.”
            June 22, 2014, according to press
 
            “If the Iraqi government wants help, we will study it; of course no demand has yet been raised until today but we are ready for help within the framework of the international laws and at the request of the Iraqi nation.
            “Of course, we should know that help and assistance is one issue, and interference and entrance [into the battlefield] is another. If the Iraqi government demands us we will help them, but the entrance of the Iranian troops [onto the scene of battles in Iraq] has never been considered.
            “Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press

            “Unfortunately, we face two festering tumors in this region and across the Muslim world. One tumor has always caused distress to the Palestinians and Muslims and these days it is secreting and wreaking havoc on the land of olive [trees]. The other festering tumor which is agonizing the Muslims these days is a campaign launched under the name of Islam, religion, caliphate and caliphacy and has undertaken the murder and killing of Muslims in the region. All studies indicate that both tumors have roots at the same point.

            July 28, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian officials and foreign diplomats
 
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
      “We are strongly against the interference of the US and others in Iraq’s internal affairs and do not approve of it, because we believe that the Iraqi government, nation and religious authority are capable of ending this sedition and will end it, God willing.
      “The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without U.S. interference.”
     
       “What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam’s regime and takfiri [ISIS] extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility.”

      June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials

  

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
Interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
 
AMANPOUR: You have other problems [besides the nuclear dispute]. Right now on your border, and that is the rise of ISIS in Iraq. How big a threat to Iran is ISIS?

ZARIF: I think this problem of extremism and sectarianism is a danger not only to Iraq and Syria

but to the entire region. We've been saying that --

AMANPOUR: But to Iran?

ZARIF: -- to Iran, too. Iran is a part of this region. We don't like instability in our neighborhood. Inside Iran, we are probably best protected from such waves of extremism than any of our neighbors. All our neighbors are more vulnerable to this threat than Iran is internally. 

But for us, our domestic security is inseparable from security of the region. So for us a secure Iraq, a secure Persian Gulf, a secure Afghanistan is as important as our own security.

So from that perspective, it becomes important. But we said it from the very beginning that this problem of extremism, violence and use of sectarian divisions in order to advance a political agenda was dangerous for all countries in the region and that is why we insisted from the very beginning that we need to have a strong unified stance against it.

AMANPOUR: And I presume you want a unified Iraq as well, because right now, it looks like it's fragmenting and it could possibly fragment.

I want to ask you specifically, Nouri al-Maliki is a product of Iran, according to everybody. In other words, Iran backed him in 2010 when he was reelected. Iran backed a lot of the people who he brought into his cabinet. And they are calling him extremely divisive, extremely sectarian and practically the opposite --They're calling him extremely divisive and extremely sectarian.
Is al-Maliki the man that Iran wants to see as prime minister, no matter what?

ZARIF: Well, I think you made some assumptions that are not correct. Iran, first of all, wants Iraq territorial integrity and I have spoken to almost every regional foreign minister and all of them want to ensure that Iraq remains a secure with its own boundaries, national unity of Iraq. Disintegration of Iraq is going to be a disaster for the entire region. So that's given.

Iraq has a very lively democratic process. It's very young but very lively. People go and vote and people elect certain people. Our advice to the Iraqis, all of them, who’ve never supported any individual or party, our advice has been that you need to work, based on the democratic model, but at the same time to ensure that the government is inclusive, that the government represents various views.

Now you have a system in Iraq with an overwhelming majority of one group, but you have a system where the president is from one ethnicity; the speaker of the parliament is from another religious sectarian group. The prime minister is from another.

If you find this combination within the constitutional framework that Iraq has established and then allow various political parties to form a workable government that also represents all segments of Iraqi society, this is our desire. We're not in the business of supporting any individual. 

We support the Iraqi people. We support the choices of the Iraqi people, whoever Iraq can choose as its prime minister will have the full backing of Iran, whoever Iraq choose as its prime minister. 

And as its president and as its speaker of parliament, will have the full backing of Iran, because for us the number one issue is that we need to respect the choices of the Iraqi people. And my advice to countries in the West as well as countries in the region is to have respect for people, allow them to make their own choices. And once you allow them to make their own choices, they'll make the best choice.

AMANPOUR: Obviously Iraq has had a very painful history under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Obviously Iran suffered from that as well. But Prime Minister Maliki has at best treated the Sunnis as worse than junior partners, has basically frozen them out.

Do you think that the Shiite prime minister, because that’s what the constitution says it should be, should treat Sunnis as equals or as junior partners?

ZARIF: No, you see, it's a government based on democratic principles people have -- it doesn't matter whether you're Sunni --

AMANPOUR: It should be, but it hasn't happened.

ZARIF: -- no, no. You see, you have a government where political parties -- unfortunately some of them are along sectarian lines -- but political parties go to the polls, receive votes, some have more votes, some have less votes. They're different voting blocs in the Iraqi parliament.

Why do we need to send it into a sectarian issue? These are, in the United Kingdom, for instance, the prime minister is from one party; it has a coalition which works with another party. It's just a fact of life.

Why people need to make -- to insert divisive sectarian issues into this? We need to establish a government in Iraq that represents the views of the people but at the same time maybe if you have something exactly on that line, you will get only one group taking over all segments of Iraqi power structure and that is why you have these divisions and these attempts to bring everybody inside. 

It doesn’t mean that people who got the largest number of votes should be equally represented as people who got two votes in the parliament, that is not the meaning of democracy. Meaning of democracy is you get more votes; you get more seats in the parliament. You get more seats in the government. That's the reality.

But keeping that reality in mind, we insist that all segments of Iraqi society should be included in governing Iraq. That's the only way to ensure stability in Iraq and I'm sure all political parties, be Shia, Kurd, Sunni, all of them and non-sectarian, all of them have that objective in mind.

Now the way to achieve that objective may be different from -- based on one platform to another. But I think that's what we need to achieve. We should not start inserting sectarian divisions into Iraq.

Sectarian considerations are really dangerous for our region and really dangerous for the world. We live in a globalized world and it's very dangerous to fan these flames of sectarian hatred, one where it won't be contained in that area.

AMANPOUR: Is ISIS sufficient a threat for Iran and the United States to combat? Or does Iran not want to see any U.S. involvement in Iraq right now?

ZARIF: I think the international community needs to come together in order to deal with this threat of extremism and violence.

AMANPOUR: Specifically in Iraq.

ZARIF: In Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere. It requires a unified approach, not shortsighted policies, not infringing yourself in positions but really seeing the problem as it is. It is a problem of extremism. It is a problem of demagogues using inherent resentment that have arisen out of decades of injustice in our region.

But these are demagogues using these resentments in order to advance a very dangerous political agenda. And this dangerous political agenda may fit in the designs of some external powers. I don't know. I do not want to espouse conspiracy theories.

But what is important is everybody should come to realize that whatever their short-term interests are, in long term, this is a threat against everybody and everybody needs to have a unified international and regional stance against such acts of extremism and allowing it to take root in Iraq. 

Any political, any shortsighted political gain that some people believe they can derive from this unfortunate situation in Iraq is exactly shortsighted and will come to haunt them in the future.
 
Click here for more of the interview.
           
“It is in the interest of everybody to stabilize the government of Iraq. If the U.S. has come to realize that these groups pose a threat to the security of the region, and if the U.S. truly wants to fight terrorism and extremism, then it’s a common global cause.”
            June 13, 2014 to Robin Wright for The New Yorker
 
 

 

Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani
 
      “The current crisis in Iraq is the result of the meddling and collaboration of the western and regional enemies of the Iraqi nation, who are seeking to prevent the Iraqi people’s will and determination from coming into action.”
      June 16, 2014 in a meeting with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
 
           “Reports in Western media about possible Iran-U.S. cooperation are part of the West’s “psychological warfare” and are “completely unreal.”
            “As we have announced, we will examine the issue of helping (Iraq) within the framework of international regulations in case of an official request by the Iraqi government and this will be completely a bilateral process and has nothing to do with a third country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Fars News Agency

Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
       “It is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that no one should aid countries like Syria and Iraq unless the work is limited counselling and advising. The people and governments of these countries can overcome their problems without the aid of any country.”
       June 24, 2014 at a ceremony for martyrs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq
 
 
 
 
 

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
 
      “Iraq enjoys the necessary potential and military preparedness to fight against the terrorist and extremist elements. Any move that complicates the situation in Iraq will not be in the interest of Iraq and the region.
       “We believe that the Baghdad government can fully overcome the ongoing crisis in Iraq and thwart conspiracies through consolidation of national unity and internal solidarity.”
            June 14, 2014 to the press
 
      “Causing insecurity, disrupting democratic trends, overcoming ballot boxes, imposing weapons and terror rather than [promoting] democratic trends, all of these suggest that terrorism is being used today as a tool to overcome people’s votes.
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the ominous phenomenon of terrorism and believes the first method to counter and eradicate it is for the regional nations to remain vigilant and for countries to boost national unity, and for the international community to pay serious and unbiased attention to this scourge facing humanity.”
            June 25, 2014 to the press
 
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
            “Supporting the Iraqi government and nation does not mean sending troops to Iraq. It means condemning terrorist acts and closing and safeguarding our joint borders.”
            June 14, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 
Center for Strategic Studies head and Rouhani advisor Hesameddin Ashna
            “If the issue is about confronting extremism and violence, then yes, we’re [the United States and Iran] on the same side, but if it’s about destabilizing the region, then, no we are not.
            Iran would not support a U.S. ground intervention but airstrikes could help the “paralyzed” Iraqi air force.
            June 2014, according to The Washington Post
 
President Rouhani’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs Hamid Aboutalebi
            “The events in Iraq has highlighted a number of hypothesis.
            “First, Iran and America are the only two countries, from a perspective of regional power, that can peacefully end Iraq’s crisis.
            “Second, Iran and America have both ruled out military involvement in Iraq
            “Third, both Iran and America have asked Iraq’s government and Nouri al Maliki to bring the scourge of terrorism and the problems of Iraq to an end.
           “Fourth, the legitimate government of Iraq, in addition to its military capabilities, has potential political solutions worth considering to resolve problems.
            “Fifth, Iran and America have both never disregarded the implicit possibility of cooperation to solve the crisis in Iraq.”
           June 15, 2014 on Twitter according to Al Monitor
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian
            “The brutal attacks of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank and the indifference of self-proclaimed advocacy groups and ISIL proved that they are enforcers of the policies dictated by Tel Aviv and apply their power and arms only against Muslims and the strength of the Islamic states.
           July 13, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Certain countries which are supporting Takfiri terrorists and remnants of [executed Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein] should either correct their attitude or wait for negative consequences of their support.”
         June 30, 2014 in a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov
 
           “If Iran asks [for help], we will send military equipment to Iraq within the framework of international laws and contracts.”
           June 26, 2014 according to the press
 
            “We supply Baghdad with necessary consultations but we have no intervention in the country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
            “We will mightily support Iraq in is confrontation with terrorism. We are sure that the Iraqi armed forces will powerfully and effectively crash the terrorist and takfiri forces.”
            June 11, 2014 via state media
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
      “The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are our friends [in Iraq].
      “We have always insisted that all ethnic groups must have active and constructive participation in Iraq's power structure".
      “We regard it as unacceptable to deprive any Iraqi ethnic group of their constitutional rights by anyone.”

       June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 

 
 
 
 
 
Deputy Commander of Army Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heidari
            “Iranian Army’s Ground Forces are not only closely monitoring the developments in Iraq and the region, but also constantly observe the different threats [coming from around the globe].”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi
            “Saudi Arabia made a lot of efforts to upset the situation in Syria, and Qatar has also made a big investment in this regard, and some other countries made grave mistakes in Syria as well.”
           June 12, 2014 according to Iranian media
 
Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
            “We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of countries and we hope we will be a good mediator to extinguish the flames [of the crisis in Iraq].”
            June 22, 2014 in a meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully
 
Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hossein Ali Amiri

            “There is no particular problem along our common border with Iraq; however, the necessary measures have been taken by the Interior Ministry and border police.”
           June 23, 2014, according to press

Basij Militia Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi
            “The terrorist and anti-Islamic ISIL group is the US’s instrument for sowing discord among Muslims in the region.
            “The US and the Israeli regime seek to use fanatics and anti-Islamic groups to damage the Islamic community.”
            June 23, 2014, according to press

Lt. Commander of Khatam al Anbia Air Defense Base Gen. Shahrokh Shahram
            “Today the takfiri and ISIS forces are killing Muslims in the region on behalf of the US the same way over 30 countries helped Saddam [Hussein] during the imposed war to pave the way for the collapse of the Islamic Republic through waging war against Iran.”
            June 30, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 

Tehran’s Provisional Friday Prayer Leader Seyed Ahmad Khatami
           “The US and Israel are supporting the ISIS with the purpose of disintegrating Iraq and create differences among Muslims.”
            June 27, 2014

Parliament's Director General for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam
           “Supporters of these terrorist groups want to portray Iraq's parliamentary democracy as a failure because they consider this democracy as a factor for their destruction.”
            July 1, 2014 according to the press

 

IRAQ

Ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Majid al Sheikh
            “These are just the rumors of biased and despiteful media which are seeking to sow discord among the regional states, especially Iran and Iraq.
            “Iraq doesn’t need any country neither for weapons nor for the military forces at all; hence, I emphasize that neither General [Qassem] Soleimani nor any other (Iranian) figure is in Iraq.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press

 

Photo credits: President.ir, Khamenei.ir, Iran's Ministry of Defense, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC-BY-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons,

 

Twiplomacy Report on Iran’s Leaders

            President Hassan Rouhani’s Twitter account saw the most impressive growth in followers last year among accounts of other world leaders, according to the 2014 Twiplomacy Study by Burso-Martsteller. @HassanRouhani’s number of followers has multiplied by 19 since the last study was published in July 2013. The latest report surveyed 643 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions in 161 countries.

             In 2013, the U.S. State Department connected with 22 foreign offices in addition to @HassanRouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s account, @JZarif. Neither Rouhani nor Zarif, however, had enough followers to make the list of the top 50 most followed world leaders. U.S. President Barack Obama topped the list with 43.7 million followers. Pope Francis came in second place with 14.1 million followers.
 
            @HassanRouhani had 223,478 followers and @JZarif had 164,504 followers as of June 26. Zarif’s account has been much less active than Rouhani’s. But unlike the president, Foreign Minister Zarif pens his on tweets.
 
 
            Iran kicked off its Twitter diplomacy in September 2013, when both Rouhani and Zarif tweeted happy new year greetings to the world’s Jews. “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah,” tweeted Rouhani. Iran is home to some 25,000 Jews—the second largest population in the Middle East outside of Israel. “Happy Rosh Hashanah,” wrote Zarif. In ensuing Twitter conversations about the messages, both the president and foreign minister seemed to distance themselves from former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.
 

 

            Zarif’s Rosh Hashanah message was only his second tweet on his account, opened on September 2. The tweet sparked a revealing exchange with Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. She tweeted that the new year would be “even sweeter” if Zarif would “end Iran’s Holocaust denial.” Zarif, known for a dry sense of humor, tweeted back, “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.” Zarif later confirmed to The Iran Primer that he knew that he was communicating with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s daughter. President Rouhani’s account retweeted Zarif’s reply to Pelosi.
 
 
      The Twiplomacy report also noted a rise in the use of pictures by diplomats and foreign ministries. “Many world leaders have understood the power of pictures in their Twitter feeds which increases engagement by 62% according to a recent study of government accounts by Twitter,” according to Burso-Martsteller. The study highlighted Swedish Foreign Minister @CarldBildt’s joint press conference with @JZarif in Tehran in February 2014. Bildt “surprised his Iranian counterpart @JZarif when he took a picture of the audience,” but he did not share it on the social network.
 
Click here for the full study.
 

Report: Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle

            The most difficult issues in the Iran nuclear talks “will not likely be settled until the 11th hour, but the two sides have a number of realistic, effective, and verifiable options available that would address the core concerns of both sides,” according to Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball. The organization’s new report outlines options for limiting the most sensitive parts of Iran’s nuclear program that would prevent it from making a quick dash to build a weapon. The authors also warn that without a comprehensive diplomatic solution Iran would likely deploy more advanced centrifuges and that its stockpile of enriched uranium would likely grow -- which would shorten the time needed to produce fuel for a bomb.
            The following are excerpts from the executive summary followed by a link to the full report.

 
Toward a Realistic and Effective Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement
Kelsey Davenport, Daryl Kimball and Greg Thielmann
 
            Negotiators from the United States and its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and their Iranian counterparts aim to negotiate a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful” and to settle the long-running international dispute over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and compliance with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards obligations not to pursue nuclear weapons.
 
            For the United States and its negotiating partners, an effective agreement should
 
•establish verifiable limits on Iran’s program that, taken together, increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the NPT and build nuclear weapons,
•increase the ability of the international community to promptly detect and effectively disrupt any breakout attempt, and
•decrease Iran’s incentives to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.
 
            The framework and timetable for reaching a comprehensive deal was spelled out in their interim accord known as the Joint Plan of Action, which was concluded by the two sides in November 2013 and went into effect January 20, 2014.
 
            This six-month-long agreement essentially freezes the growth of Iran’s nuclear capacity and increases international oversight of Iran’s nuclear activities, which has helped provide the time and trust necessary for negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.
 
Elements of a Comprehensive Deal
 
            The two sides agreed in November that a comprehensive agreement would include several key elements.
 
•Agreed limits on the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program commensurate with its “practical needs” for a civil nuclear program.
•Steps to reduce the proliferation potential of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor project.
•More-extensive international monitoring and verification mechanisms, particularly at undeclared nuclear sites, to improve detection and deterrence of possible nuclear weapons-related activity in the future.
•A resolution of the multiyear investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of past Iranian experiments with possible military dimensions.
•Additional steps to address other issues cited in past UN Security Council resolutions relating to Iran’s nuclear program, which include Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
•Civilian nuclear energy assistance and cooperation for Iran.
•The removal of sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, the United States, and the European Union relating to its nuclear program.
 
            Like the interim agreement, a comprehensive agreement would likely require that each side undertake reciprocal, step-for-step measures in stages. Whereas the interim agreement calls for actions to be taken within six to 12 months, the implementation steps for a comprehensive agreement would be measured in years.
 
Defining Iran’s Uranium-Enrichment Capacity
 
            The most challenging issue appears to be how to negotiate a “mutually defined enrichment programme” with “agreed limits on the scope and level of enrichment, activities, capacity…and stocks of uranium” that are “consistent with practical needs.”
 
            Since 2005, Iran increased its centrifuge capacity from 300 first-generation IR-1 machines at one site to about 19,000 installed, first-generation IR-1 machines at two sites. Today, about 10,200 are operating. About 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges are installed at the Natanz enrichment plant, but are not operational.

 

            One critical goal for the P5+1 is to increase the time it would take to produce enough fissile material for an arsenal and enhance inspections and monitoring to ensure that any such effort could be detected and disrupted.
 
            An agreement that significantly reduces Iran’s present-day enrichment capacity and its enriched uranium stocks would increase that time even further and still would provide Iran with more than sufficient capacity for its nuclear fuel needs, which are very limited for the next decade or more.
 
            Yet, Iranian officials insist that Iran’s nuclear fuel needs will increase over the course of the next 10 to 15 years or more and say they cannot depend on foreign suppliers, given the unreliability of foreign suppliers in the past. It is estimated that Iran would need about 100,000 operational IR-1 centrifuges by 2021 to provide fuel for its Bushehr reactor if the current fuel supply contract with Russia is not renewed. Iran says it has plans for other power and research reactors.
 
            To reach a comprehensive agreement, the two sides must find a formula that limits Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity at the Natanz site in a way that precludes an Iranian dash to produce enough HEU for weapons without being detected and disrupted but allows for Iran’s practical civilian needs, which are very minimal for the next several years but could increase over time.
 
            Iran and the P5+1 should be able to agree to several straightforward steps, such as
 
•limiting uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5 percent;
•keeping Iran’s LEU stockpile to a minimum (less than 1,000 kilograms or so); and
•halting production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to a research-only facility.
 
            Some independent analysts and some Israeli officials argue that Iran should mothball the underground Fordow plant, which is less vulnerable to an airstrike. Iran strongly opposes such an outcome.
 
            Negotiators have other options available that could help square the circle on uranium-enrichment capacity and address the concerns of each side.
 
•A comprehensive agreement could allow for appropriate increases in Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity in the later stages of the deal. Such adjustments could be conditioned on Iran providing sufficient information to the IAEA to show that any past experiments with possible military dimensions have been discontinued and demonstrating that it cannot obtain foreign nuclear fuel supplies for the new nuclear power reactors that it builds.
•Iran could agree to phase out, remove, and store under IAEA seal its less efficient, first-generation centrifuges and, over a period of years, replace them with a smaller number of more-efficient centrifuges. During the transition period, the total operating enrichment capacity would be held below agreed limits, ideally less than Iran’s current capacity. Iran could agree not to assemble the more efficient centrifuges until there is a demonstrable need for commercial-scale enrichment. This would increase the time it would take Iran to operate the machines, providing added insurance against rapid breakout scenarios.
•To reduce Iran’s rationale for greater enrichment capacity to fuel future reactors, a comprehensive agreement could commit the P5+1 to provide fuel supply guarantees to Iran for any such needs.

Reducing the Proliferation Potential of the Arak Reactor
 
            Another major issue that the two sides must resolve through a comprehensive agreement is the reduction of the proliferation risks posed by Iran’s effort to build a 40-megawatt thermal (MWt) heavy-water reactor at Arak. The reactor, as currently envisioned, is ideally suited to produce enough plutonium in its spent fuel for as many as two nuclear weapons annually.
 
            The Arak reactor is a longer-term proliferation threat. The reactor, which is more than a year away from completion, would have to operate for approximately one year before spent fuel could be removed. The spent fuel would have to cool for several months, and then the plutonium would have to be chemically separated using a facility that Iran is not believed to have.
 
            It appears that the two sides can probably come to terms on reducing the Arak reactor’s plutonium-production potential. According to statements made by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran is open to technical modifications of the reactor that would reduce its plutonium output. Members of the P5+1 indicate they would support this approach in principle. These design modifications include decreasing the power of the reactor from 40 MWt to 10 MWt and using low-enriched (3.5 percent) reactor fuel instead of natural uranium fuel.
 
            These modifications would reduce the Arak facility’s annual output of unseparated plutonium-239 from about eight kilograms to less than one kilogram. The two sides would have to agree on how to ensure that the modifications are difficult to reverse.
 
            The two sides should be able to agree, as they did in the November interim agreement, that Iran would not build a reprocessing facility to extract the weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel.
 
            As an additional safeguard, Iran and the P5+1 could agree to ship the spent fuel produced by the Arak facility out of Iran to prevent any covert reprocessing. Russia would be a likely destination because it is taking the spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor.
 
Resolving Concerns About Possible Weapons-Related Experiments
 
            Another issue that must be addressed in order to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program involves activities having possible military dimensions that Iran is believed to have conducted prior to 2004 and perhaps afterward.
 
            Until this year, Tehran has not cooperated with IAEA efforts over the past several years to comprehensively verify Iran’s claims about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, adding to suspicions about the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program.
 
            Iran and the IAEA reached a framework agreement in November 2013 for moving forward to resolve the outstanding concerns. Although some initial progress has been achieved, the IAEA investigation will continue beyond July 20 and probably into 2015.
 
            A comprehensive deal can play a role in facilitating Iranian cooperation and a prompt conclusion to the agency’s investigation. A comprehensive deal could,
 
•clarify that the information that Iran provides to the IAEA will be used only for the IAEA’s determination of whether Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful;
•be conditioned on the IAEA determination that questions surrounding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have been addressed to the extent possible; and
•clarify that international sanctions may be reimposed if Tehran fails to complete the IAEA’s requested actions in a timely manner.
 
            These measures should provide sufficient incentives for Iran to follow through on closing its file with the IAEA.
 
Securing More-Extensive International Inspection Authority
 
            If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons development in the future, it would most likely try to do so by means of a secret program carried out at undisclosed facilities rather than its declared facilities under international monitoring.
 
            The two sides agree that a comprehensive agreement should include requirements for more-timely notification of Iranian nuclear activities to the IAEA under Iran’s current comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA and more-extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of an additional protocol.
 
            An additional protocol would allow the IAEA to conduct inspections of nondeclared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work. In the first phase of a comprehensive agreement, Iran will likely be required to implement an additional protocol. At a later point, Iran would commit to ratify it. Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the duration of the additional protocol would be indefinite.
 
            In addition, the P5+1 will seek more inspection measures for an extended period of time to provide still more confidence to the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is being used for entirely peaceful purposes, including ongoing monitoring of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing facilities and support infrastructure.
 
Assessing the Outcome of the Negotiations
 
            An agreement between the P5+1 and Iran should not be evaluated on the basis of any single feature. Instead, it must be assessed on the basis of its overall impact, especially the extent to which it limits Iran’s nuclear weapons-related capabilities, improves transparency about the program, and enhances the ability of the international community to promptly detect and disrupt any dash toward nuclear weapons.
 
            Neither side can expect that they will achieve everything they seek. Inevitably, there will be critics of any agreement that emerges from the talks who will argue that the deal falls short of their expectations of what they consider to the requirements of any agreement.
 
            In the final analysis, serious policymakers in Washington, Tehran, and other capitals who have responsibility for approving actions necessary to implement an agreement must consider whether their country is better served by an agreement than without one. They must consider that, without a comprehensive diplomatic solution,
 
•there would be no verifiable limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and Iran would likely deploy additional and increasingly efficient centrifuges;
Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles would grow, not shrink;
•the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for nuclear weapons would decrease rather than increase;
•IAEA inspections of Iranian facilities would likely continue but not be expanded to cover undeclared sites and activities, which is the most likely pathway to build nuclear weapons if Iran chose to do so; and
•sanctions would remain in effect and some might be strengthened but sanctions alone cannot halt Iran’s nuclear progress and, over time, the willingness of international allies to help implement those sanctions could erode.
 
            Although Iran would still have to overcome significant hurdles if it were to try to build nuclear weapons, this unpleasant scenario would likely increase the possibility of a military confrontation over time.
 
            Yet, any use of military force against Iran’s nuclear sites by Israel or the United States and a coalition of the willing would only delay Iran’s nuclear program a few years at best and, at worst, would lead to a wider conflict and could very likely prompt Iran’s leadership to openly pursue nuclear weapons in order to deter any further attacks.
 
Click here for the full report in PDF format.

 

Tags: Reports

UN: Iran's Execution of Juveniles Must Stop

            On June 26, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern about the large number of executions carried out in Iran so far in 2014. Pillay highlighted the case of Razieh Ebrahimi, who now faces hanging after she was convicted of killing her husband when she was 17 years old. “The imminent execution of Razieh Ebrahimi has once again brought into stark focus the unacceptable use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran,” Pillay said. Ebrahimi claimed to be subjected to domestic violence. She married her husband at age 14 and had a child the following year.

            The following is the full text of the U.N. press statement.
 
            UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern Thursday about the large number of executions in Iran since the beginning of this year, calling on the authorities to halt, in particular, the imminent execution of a juvenile offender.
 
            “The imminent execution of Razieh Ebrahimi has once again brought into stark focus the unacceptable use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran,” Pillay said. Ebrahimi was convicted of killing her husband when she was 17 years old. She was married to him at the age of 14, gave birth to a child when she was 15, and says she was subjected to domestic violence.
 
            “Regardless of the circumstances of the crime, the execution of juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law,” Pillay added. “Judgements imposing the death penalty on people under the age of 18 and the implementation of such judgments are manifestly incompatible with Iran’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
 
            “I urge the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of Razieh and all other juvenile offenders,” Pillay said.
 
            Another juvenile offender, 17-year-old Jannat Mir, an Afghan boy, was hanged in April in Isfahan prison, in central Iran, for drug-related offences. He reportedly had no access to a lawyer or consular services, raising concerns about whether fair trial standards were observed in his case and those of five other Afghans executed along with him for similar offences.
 
            Pillay expressed alarm at the large number of juvenile offenders who reportedly remain on death row in Iran.
 
            According to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office from reliable sources, some 160 people are reportedly on death row for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18.
 
            The High Commissioner also condemned the execution of a number of political prisoners – at least six since the beginning of this year. Four others -- Hamed Ahmadi, Kamal Malaee, Jahangir Dehghani and Jamshed Dehghani -- all members of the Kurdish community, are at imminent risk of execution. They were convicted in 2010 on charges of Moharebeh (enmity against God) and Mofsid fil Arz, (corruption on earth) after trials that fell short of the international fair trial standards.
 
            More than 250 people are believed to have been executed in Iran so far this year, with some sources suggesting a considerably higher figure. Most of the executions were carried out for drug-related offences, which do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty may be applied in international law. At least 500 people are known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public.
 
            Pillay urged Iran to immediately impose a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
 
 

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