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Latest on Nuke Talks: What Iran, P5+1 Say

           Less than 30 days remain until the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and the world's six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Leaders on both sides have noted that there has been progress on key issues and remain hopeful that a deal can be reached before the deadline. Iranian officials have repeatedly emphasized sanctions relief and the right to a peaceful nuclear program. Both sides have claimed that the other will be at fault if a deal is not reached in time. The following are excerpted remarks by officials on the status of the nuclear talks.

United States
 
President Barack Obama
 
             “Our number one priority with respect to Iran is making sure they don't get nuclear weapon. And because of the unprecedented sanctions that this administration put forward and mobilized the world to abide by, they got squeezed, their economy tanked, and they came to the table in a serious way for the first time in a very, very long time. We've now had significant negotiations. They have abided by freezing their program and, in fact, reducing their stockpile of nuclear-grade material or-- or weapons-grade nuclear material. And the question now is are we going to be able to close this final gap so that they can reenter the international community, sanctions can be slowly reduced, and we have verifiable, lock-tight assurances that they can't develop a nuclear weapon. There's still a big gap. We may-- may not be able to get there.”
              Nov. 9, 2014 in an interview with CBS News
 
             “Whether we can actually get a deal done, we’re going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks. We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs. And if, in fact, what their leadership says, that they don’t want to develop a nuclear a weapon -- if that is, in fact, true, then they’ve got an avenue here to provide that assurance to the world community, and in a progressive, step-by-step, verifiable way, allow them to get out from under sanctions so that they can reenter as full-fledged members of the international community.
            “But they have their own politics, and there’s a long tradition of mistrust between the two countries. And there’s a sizeable portion of the political elite that cut its teeth on anti-Americanism and still finds it convenient to blame America for every ill that there is. And whether they can manage to say yes to what clearly would be better for Iran, better for the region, and better for the world, is an open question. We’ll find out over the next several weeks.”
            Nov. 5, 2014 in a press conference
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
            “On the issue of the Iran nuclear talks, we are gearing up and targeting November 24th. We’re not talking about or thinking about going beyond that date. That’s a critical date. And we believe it is imperative for a lot of different reasons to get this done. Most people don’t understand why, if you’re simply trying to show that a program is peaceful, it would take so long. People want to know that the transparency and accountability necessary to get this done is on the table, and we ought to be able to reach agreement. So our press is to try to get this done. And I think that it gets more complicated if you can’t. It’s not impossible if you’re not able to, but I think let’s see what happens when we bear down as we are.
            “An enormous amount of work has gone into this. For months upon months, we’ve had expert teams sitting down, working through details, looking at all of the technical information that is necessary to be able to make a judgment about what the impact of a particular decision is. Some of it’s very complicated, and we’ve tried to reduce it to as simple and understandable a format as possible. And it’s been very constructive. The Iranian team has worked hard and seriously. The conversations have been civil and expert.
            “And my hope is that now is the moment for really political decisions to be made that make a judgment that we can show the world that countries with differing views, differing systems, but with a mutual interest of trying to prove a peaceful program can in fact do that and get the job done. So we’re very hopeful about that, and I have every intent of making myself available and doing everything necessary to try to do that. And I’m confident that Foreign Minister Zarif will likewise make himself available and continue to push forward.”
            Nov. 5, 2014 in a press briefing after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
SECRETARY KERRY : Well, we’re closer [to a deal] than we were a week ago or 10 weeks ago, but we’re still with big gaps…
 
AL HUNT: In these next three and a half weeks, do you have any plans to meet with high-level Iranians on this issue?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: I am meeting on the 9th of November. I will be meeting with the foreign minister directly. We’ll have two days. We will be beginning a slog of going into the last two weeks. Our expert team will be on the ground with a constant process. We’ll be in Vienna for the final days with the P5+1, all of us together trying to come to some kind of an agreement.
 
AL HUNT: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that the Iranians believe – they’ve indicated to some people that their leverage has been enhanced in these negotiations because of their role in fighting ISIS. Is that a correct reading?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me use this program to deliver a very clear message to the Iranians, which is: This is not a political decision for us. This is a substantive decision based on the proof of a peaceful program. It’s not hard to prove your program is peaceful if that’s what you want to do. So outside leverage, Syria, ISIL, whatever, is not relevant to this. It’s not affecting us one way or the other. We have one set of criteria within our mind.
 
There are four pathways to a nuclear weapon. One is the secret underground facility known as Fordow, one is the Natanz enrichment facility that is known to everybody, a sort of well-identified building. The third is the Arak, as it is called, plutonium heavy water reactor. And the fourth is the covert, whatever you aren’t sure of because it’s not clear to you, and therefore you need sufficient verification and sufficient transparency to be able to determine that there isn’t that path being pursued. That’s things like, for instance, knowing you have an eye on the production of uranium and how much uranium and where it’s going and how many centrifuges and these kinds of things.
 
So those four pathways need to be closed off. We’re looking to the Iranians to be as responsible as they have said they will be and as forthcoming as they have promised, which is to be transparent and allow the proof of this peaceful program.
             Oct. 31, 2014 in an interview with Al Hunt of Bloomberg News on the Charlie Rose Show
 
            “I’m not going to give it odds [successfully brokering a nuclear deal].  As I said to the President recently, I’m not going to express optimism; I’m going to express hope and I think achieving it is critical.  But I will say this to everybody:  We’ve set a very clear standard.  There are four present pathways to a bomb for Iran – the hidden so-called secret facility in a mountain called Fordow, the open Natanz enrichment facility, the plutonium heavy-water reactor called Arak, and then, of course, covert activities.  We’ve pledged that our goal is to shut off each pathway sufficient that we know we have a breakout time of a minimum of a year that gives us the opportunity to respond if they were to try to do that.
            “We believe there are ways to achieve that.  Whether Iran can make the tough decisions that it needs to make will be determined in the next weeks, but I have said consistently that no deal is better than a bad deal.  And we’re going to be very careful, very much based on expert advice, fact, science as to the choices we make.  This must not be a common ideological or a political decision.  And if we can do what we’ve said, what the President set out in his policy – the President said they will not get a bomb.  If we could take this moment of history and change this dynamic, the world would be a lot safer and we’d avoid a huge arms race in the region where Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, others may decide that if they’re moving towards a bomb, they got to move there too, and obviously it’s a much more dangerous world.  And that is not a part of the world where you want massive uninspected, unverified, nontransparent nuclear activities.  So that’s what we’re trying to do.” 
            Oct. 30, 2014 at the Washington Idea Forums hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic
 
            “We hope we can get there but we can’t make any predictions.”
            “It’s imperative obviously, that Iran work with us in all possible effort to prove to the world the [nuclear] program is peaceful.”
            Nov. 18, 2014 according to the press
 
Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman
 
            “Our bottom line is unambiguous, crystal clear, and, quite frankly, written in stone: Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.”
            “If [a deal] does not happen, the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran.”
            “Such a plan, if fully implemented, would give confidence that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and would enable the Iranian people to look forward to a much brighter future.”
            “We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.”
            Oct. 23, 2014 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
 
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
 
            “We’re still very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline in all of our meetings. There’s still time to do so. This was an opportunity to have follow-on discussions with Secretary Kerry, EU High Representative Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif. They had two lengthy meetings yesterday; two today as well. The discussions have been tough, direct, and serious. And as you know, the political directors will continue to stay in Oman for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. They’ll be reconvening, of course, for the already-announced round of meetings that are next week in Europe.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 in a daily press briefing
 
U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken
 
            "Right now, I think it's going to be difficult to get to where we want to go. It's not impossible."
            "It depends entirely on whether Iran is willing to take the steps it must take to convince us, to convince our partners, that its program would be for entirely peaceful purposes...As we speak, we're not there."
            Nov. 19, 2014 in a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
 
Iran
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
            "Tehran has taken highly positive steps in the nuclear talks with the P5+1 and if the negotiating sides also [prove to] have the necessary political will in this regard, reaching a comprehensive agreement will be possible within the next month."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
            "Iran has made its utmost efforts...and made the necessary adjustments to its demands and we hope that all the P5+1 countries, particularly the US, which occasionally seeks excessive demands in the nuclear talks, will understand the circumstances."
            "If the P5+1  and certain countries pursue a goal to impede Iran's development and are looking for a pretext, this issue is impossible and our nation will never give up the path of development and its rights."
            "This issue is not legal and rational and all the P5+1 members should heed the long-term interests of countries and the region."
            Nov. 12, 2014, according to the press
 
            "If the other side negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran has the political will for an agreement and does not make excessive demands, the situation is ripe for achieving a deal."
            Nov. 20, 2014 according to the press

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
             “If the Western side can trust that our aim is peaceful and they don’t have political motives, now is a good time to set the framework of the agreement.”
            Nov. 8, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always had a peaceful nuclear program and in line with the religious decree issued by the Leader banning use and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, WMD has no place in our defense doctrine.”
            “If Western countries are ensured that our nuclear program seeks peaceful ends and if they abandon political adventurism, this is a propitious time to hammer out a deal.”
            “There are some strong solutions, and what prevented an agreement were political reservations by the P5+1 negotiators; we still hope to reach a solution with all these technicalities.”
            Nov. 9, 2014 according to the press
 
            “It is important for the West to understand that sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue, sanctions are not a part of a solution, sanctions are the most important part of the problem, they're illegal in nature, they must be removed, they have not produced any positive result.
            “The only thing that sanctions have produced for the West are about 19,000 centrifuges.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “The issue of sanctions and its margins will fail to overshadow the will of the Iranian nation to preserve their rights in using peaceful nuclear energy.”
            Nov. 11, 2014, in a meeting with Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmoud
 
            "If, because of excessive demands ... we don't get a result, then the world will understand that the Islamic Republic sought a solution, a compromise and a constructive agreement and that it will not renounce its rights and the greatness of the nation.”
            Nov. 18, 2014 according to the press
 
            “As we have said since the very first day, if the other side shows political will for reaching a solution, numerous proposals exist and have been raised to make sure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.”
            “We had good talks and decided on how to continue negotiations in the coming days and the rest depends on the political will to achieve results.”
            Nov. 20, 2014 according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi
 
            "All nuclear capabilities of Iran will be preserved and no facility will be shut down or even suspended, and no device or equipment will be dismantled."
            “We will not retreat one iota from the country’s nuclear rights, but we are fully ready for transparency and confidence-building.”
            “All sanctions should be lifted and the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept even a single instance of sanctions to remain in place under a [final] comprehensive nuclear deal.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Neither of the negotiating parties is interested in extending [the deadline of] the talks. All sides are determined to achieve an agreement prior to the deadline. Therefore, extension is not on the agenda of any of the parties.”
            Oct. 26, 2014 according to the press
 
            “It is not clear if negotiations will reach a conclusion within the specified time frame” unless the other side gives up its “illogical excessive demands.”
            “Undoubtedly, trying to launch negotiations through media instead of [from behind] the negotiating table will not only make matters more difficult for progress in talks and reaching a comprehensive agreement, but it will also make it more difficult to continue on the current path particularly when it is accompanied by illogical excessive demands.”
            “We also believe that both sides have a real opportunity which may not be available again. We are sure that if the other side is genuine and committed to its claim to make sure Iran’s nuclear energy program is peaceful, then reaching this goal is not very difficult. ”
            “There will be no damage to the country’s research and development and, more importantly, industrial enrichment will continue with force and within the framework of the country’s needs. At the same time, all sanctions must be lifted and eliminated; and the Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any sanctions within the framework of a comprehensive nuclear deal – not even one.”
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has entered negotiations based on a fundamental premise against all weapons of mass destructions including nuclear weapons. This is based on the Fatwa of the Supreme Leader and (Iran) will continue with goodwill until a final conclusion is reached.”
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to Iran’s Nuclear Energy page
 
            "Iran's negotiations with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) is progressing on a hard path with ups and downs and there is no bright perspective envisaged for its ending by the deadlines."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
“After hours of discussions, we are not still in a position to say whether we have made progress, nor are we in the position to say there has been a setback.”
            “Every subject being mooted, entails lateral issues and complications like the technical, legal and political issues.”
            “We will keep making our efforts and the positive point is that all sides are serious and the demand to reach the deal is serious for all parties.”
            Nov. 10, 2014, according to the press
 
            “Negotiations and discussions during the past two days were very useful. But we are not still in a position to say that we have made progress. It’s yet to be done in the coming days. We would be available as much as needed here in Oman or in any other places before the deadline of November 24. We are still hopeful.”
            A deal will require “lots of goodwill by all parties and of course readiness to make difficult decisions.”
            “It’s a fact that based on a possible comprehensive solution all the sanctions should be lifted. Iran would certainly continue its enrichment, but the question is the capacity of this enrichment which should be determined based on our practical needs and that would be something we are very hopeful to come to at the end of these negotiations.”
            Nov. 10, 2014 to Press TV
 
            “All parties are serious about the talks and we intend to hold as many meetings as needed by the deadline.”
            Nov. 12, 2014, according to Mehr News
 
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani
 
            “Unfortunately, the West’s double-standard approach to disarmament has not helped [efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation].”
            Oct. 29, 2014 In a meeting with Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson
 
            “As regards the nuclear issue, Iran believes in continued negotiations with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within the framework of the restoration of all its rights and respect for the existing laws.”
            Oct. 29, 2014 In a meeting with Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson
 
            “Lifting all cruel sanctions and [Iran’s] entitlement to full legal rights within the framework of the NPT must be included in any agreement [on Tehran’s nuclear energy program].”
            “Internal divisions within [other] countries and [their] excessive demands will have no impact on the will of the Iranian negotiating team”
            “If the opposite side has a rational and apolitical approach based on realities, it will be possible to reach an agreement in the nuclear talks.”
            Nov. 16, 2014, in a meeting with a member of the central committee of China’s communist party
 
Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
            “We will not give up an iota of our rights and the Islamic Revolution values in the nuclear negotiations.”
            “If, God willing, the talks reach a conclusion, everyone will see that we have not given up [our nuclear rights].”
            “We want all sanctions to be lifted.”
            Nov 18, 2014 according to the press
 
Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s Majlis Alaeddin Boroujerdi
 
            “If this [final] agreement is not signed, it is as clear as day that the excessive demands of Americans have been the factor behind the failure of the negotiations.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
            “The fact that recent negotiations, including Muscat talks, failed to bear any results is due to extra demands of the US and unfair sanctions they insist not to be removed all at once.”
            “All sanctions should be removed at once, as they are on the pretext of a nuclear issue”
            Nov. 15, 2014, according to the press
 
Senior advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati
 
            “We are confident that in the end, even if Iran-P5+1 negotiations last for a long time, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be the winner.”
            “Iran's stance is that it plans to benefit from peaceful nuclear energy within the framework of international regulations and supervision.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press  
 
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian
 
            “Negotiations are moving in a difficult path with many ups and downs.”
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to NuclearEnergy.ir
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not agree to the sanctions being removed one by one.”
            “The West must remove the sanctions against Iran all at once.”
            Oct. 28, 2014 according to the press
 
            “If the westerners are really after settling Iran's nuclear issue, they shouldn’t seek excuses and should try to cope with Iran's realities.”
            “We are not thinking about extending the negotiations as we are trying to reach the desirable results in the specified period of time (left to the deadline).”
            Oct. 28, 2014 according to the press
           
            "We definitely are at a critical stage. There is not very much time left before Nov. 24 and the issues remain more or less the same."
            "If we cannot come to a conclusion by Nov. 24, I am sure that those who are performing an objective analysis of the situation definitely will not blame Iran for the possible lack of progress, because Iran has shown its determination to finish the job."
            "Enrichment is one [of the main points of contention], of course, and the sanctions, but we also talk about [the] Arak [research reactor] and a number of other things about which we have to come to an agreement. In our judgment the Americans do not want to appreciate what's happening on the ground in Iran as far as the nuclear capabilities and capacities are concerned. We have about 20,000 centrifuges, almost half of which are producing nuclear material, the other half are only spinning. We can't just turn back the clock and say, "now we are in 2005" and are offering what we have offered then."
            "You have to keep the status quo! But we are ready to accept some limits to our activities for a specific period of time. And after that specific time we need to be treated like any other member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
            Nov. 10, 2014 in an interview with
Spiegel Online
 
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi
 
            Recent agreement between Iran and Russia for construction of two power plants and the protocol to produce nuclear fuel in Iran “will make our stances stronger in talks with Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany.”
            Nov. 20, 2014 according to The Iran Project
 
Member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Avaz Heidarpour
 
            "The US is looking for troubling the talks, but Iran is committed to negotiations to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West."
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to the press
 
Member of the Presiding Board of Iran’s Majlis Hossein Sobhani-Nia
 
            “The Islamic Republic has never accepted the issue of suspension, but the removal of sanctions has been the key issue for us.”
            Oct. 25, 2014 according to the press
 
Russia
 
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
 
            “The foreign policy chiefs noted that talks on the settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program have real chances to lead to concrete agreements, but additional efforts must be applied.”
            Oct. 24, 2014 according to The Iran Project
 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
 
            “The organizational meeting of international mediators in Vienna on November 7 has helped us to move forward in this direction.”
            “All participants [of the meeting] voiced additional proposals. We are determined to put it all together in such a way that key compromises could be reached before the deadline [on November 24].”
            Nov. 7, 2014 after a meeting with negotiators from the P5+1 countries

United Kingdom
 
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
            "I'm not optimistic that we can get everything done by Monday [November 24]."
            "But I think if we make some significant movement we may be able to find a way of extending the deadline to allow us to get to the final deal if we're making a good progress in the right direction."
            "We do very much want to see a deal done with Iran, but we don't want to do a bad deal. Better then no deal than a bad deal."
            "The right deal with Iran has to be one which gives us the assurance we need that Iran's program is exclusively targeted at civil nuclear use, has no military dimension at all and where Iran's enrichment capacity is limited to a level which does not present any military threat."
            Nov. 19, 2014 according to the press
 
France
 
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
            "We want a deal, but important points of difference remain."
            "We hope that we can reduce those in the coming days, but that will depend on the attitude of the Iranians."
            Nov. 20, 2014 in a joint statement with John Kerry at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Paris

 

Video: Iranians Candid About Their Fears

            Iranian graphic artist Ali Molavi asked 50 people in Tehran: “What do you fear?” At first timid, they answered candidly, reflecting insecurity about the poor economic situation and ongoing nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers. Iranians of all ages were concerned about the future. Other fears ranged from God and death to poverty. One man even admitted fearing his wife. A young woman said she was afraid of cockroaches. Several people said they feared war or the possibility of being alone. One woman said she feared the repercussions of simply “telling the truth,” and another said she feared that “women in Iran have no value.” If English subtitles are not displayed, click on the CC button near the bottom of the window after clicking play.

 

Tags: Art, Offbeat

Iran Hangs Woman for Killing Alleged Rapist

            On October 25, Iranian authorities executed 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari, a woman convicted of killing a man she said tried to sexually abuse her. Jabbari was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. She reportedly admitted to stabbing Sarbandi, but claimed another man who was present actually killed Sarbandi. Her explanation did not appear to be thoroughly investigated, according to human rights groups. Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 by a criminal court in Tehran. The prosecutor’s office claimed she “repeatedly confessed to premediated murder, then tried to divert the case from its course by inventing the rape charge.”
            The United Nations and human rights groups, including Amnesty International,
called for a re-trial. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued calls to stay the execution officially. “Evidence in the case, including the medical examiner’s report highlighting the presence of a tranquilizer in a glass of juice found at the crime scene, possibly intended use in the immobilization and sexual assault the defendant, raises serious questions as to whether or not factors eminently relevant to the case were considered in the court’s judgment and sentencing of this young woman,” the Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed said in April.
            Activists also launched a Facebook page with a petition that was signed more than 241,000 times. Jabbari's execution was deferred a number of times. But she was eventually hanged on October 25, prompting further international outcry.
            On October 31, Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, defended his country's human rights record at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council. “We were not successful to solicit forgiveness from the hearts of victims. So the execution went on. Though we are very sorry that two nationals lost lives, but capital punishment or 'qisas' is a unique particularity of our system. I think it worth Western countries to look into it," said Larijani. Larijani said that the son of the killed man had intended to forgive Jabbari, but decided not to because of the rape accusation.
             The following are statements from the U.S. and U.K. governments.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
October 25
 
            We condemn this morning’s execution in Iran of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault.  There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress.  Iranian authorities proceeded with this execution despite pleas from Iranian human rights activists and an international outcry over this case.  We join our voice with those who call on Iran to respect the fair trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran’s own laws and its international obligations.
 
U.K. Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood
October 25
 
            The UK strongly opposes the use of the death penalty. I am very concerned and saddened that it has been used in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari where there have been questions around due process.
 
            The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, noted that her conviction was allegedly based on confessions made while under threat, and the court failed to take into account all evidence into its judgement. Actions like these do not help Iran build confidence or trust with the international community. I urge Iran to put a moratorium on all executions.
 

UN Report: Human Rights Undermined

            On October 23, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran released a new report detailing violations in the Islamic Republic. The report’s introduction stated:

             Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law. Some draft laws also appear to further undermine the rights to freedom of expression and association and markedly compound discrimination against women by further eroding their protection from forced marriage and rights to education, work and equal wages.

             But Iran rejected the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions, referring to them as “unjust” and “false.” The government released a 37-page response to a draft version of the report claiming it has “taken numerous steps to promote and improve situation of human rights at national and international levels.” The following are excerpts from the latest U.N. report.
 
Civil and Political Rights
 
            Between July 2013 and June 2014, at least 852 individuals were reportedly executed, representing an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years. The Government also continues to execute juvenile offenders. In 2014 alone, eight individuals believed to be under 18 years of age at the time of their alleged crimes were reportedly executed.
 
            The new Islamic Penal Code that entered into force in 2013 now omits references to apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, but continues to allow for juvenile executions and retains the death penalty for activities that do not constitute “most serious crimes” in line with the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty (see Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50). They include adultery, recidivist alcohol use, drug possession and trafficking and some crimes resulting in convictions for moharebeh (commonly translated as “enmity against God”, but translated by the Government as a crime in which “a person brandishes or points a weapon at members of the public to kill, frighten and coerce them”) or mofsed fel-arz (corruption on Earth).
 
            The execution of individuals for exercising their protected rights, including of freedom of expression and association, is deeply troubling. Members of ethnic minority groups, in particular those espousing ethnocultural, linguistic or minority religious rights, appear to be disproportionately charged with moharebeh and mofsed
fel-arz, sometimes seemingly for exercising their rights to peaceful expression and  association.
 
Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
 
            Continuing reports regarding the use of psychological and physical torture to solicit confessions indicate the widespread and systematic use of such practices. Of the 24 Iranian refugees in Turkey who provided testimony for the present report, 20 reported torture and ill-treatment and 16 psychological abuse, such as prolonged solitary confinement, mock executions and the threat of rape, along with physical abuse, including severe beatings, use of suspension and pressure positions, electroshock and burnings. Reports of amputation and corporal punishment (e.g. flogging), which are considered incompatible with article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, were also received.
 
Domestic Violence
 
            Some 66 per cent of Iranian women have reportedly experienced domestic violence. The legislative framework remains insufficient to combat such violence. In addition, inadequate social service provisions challenge the State’s ability to provide safety and redress for victims.
 
            For example, laws continue to explicitly allow for non-consensual sexual relations in marriage.
 
Freedom of expression and the right to information
 
            At least 35 journalists are currently in detention in the country. Reports continue to allege harassment, interrogations and surveillance of many others.
 
            Between June and August 2014 alone, several journalists, including Saba Azarpeik, Mehdi Khalazi, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested and three others, Reyhaneh Tabatabaei, Mahnaz Mohammadi and Marzieh Rasoulis, were summoned to begin serving prison sentences. Several others, including Seraj Miramadi, Farideh Shahgholi and Hossein Nourani Nejad, received new prison sentences during the period.
 
            Recent cases regarding several other Internet users underscore a pattern of continuing general repression of freedom of expression and, in some cases, freedom of movement. In May 2014, eight Facebook commenters were sentenced to a combined 123 years in prison for blasphemy, insulting the Supreme Leader and spreading propaganda against the system, among other charges, for criticizing government policies, supporting political protests and participating in social satire and other alleged activities on Facebook.
 
            Severe content restrictions, intimidation and prosecution of Internet users and limitations on Internet access through throttling and filtering persist, however. Some
5 million websites remain blocked. The top 500 blocked websites include many dedicated to the arts, social issues, news and those ranked in the top tiers of popularity nationally.
 
Early and forced marriage
 
            The legal age of marriage for girls in the country is 13 years, but girls as young as 9 years of age may be married with permission from a court. In 2002, the Guardian Council rejected legislative attempts to increase the minimum age to 15 years.
 
At least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached15 years of age. Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older.
 
Freedom of religion
 
            The Government accepted nine recommendations regarding religious rights during the consideration of the country by the Working Group on the Universal
Periodic Review, including commitments to upholding freedom of belief and religion, extending protection to all religious groups, combating incitement to religious hatred and amending all legislation that discriminates against minority groups (see A/HRC/14/12). No progress in this regard has been observed, however.
 
            As at June 2014, at least 300 minority religious practitioners were reportedly imprisoned, including three active members of the Yarsan faith, in addition to members of newer spiritual movements.
 
Click here for the full text of the U.N. report.
 
Click here for Iran's response.
 

Top US Negotiator on Iran Nuke Talks

            On October 23, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman called on Iran’s leaders to “make the right choice” in nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers  – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. “This is the time to finish the job,” the lead U.S. negotiator said at a symposium hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sherman warned that Tehran would widely be seen as responsible if the two sides do not reach a comprehensive agreement that curbs Iran's controversial nuclear program. The following are excerpts from her address.

 
      I don’t and won’t want to say anything today that would jeopardize our chance to bring those deliberations to a successful close. As Madeleine Albright once observed – a wonderful Secretary of State, a dear friend, and a business partner to boot at one point in my life – negotiations are like mushrooms, and often they do best in the dark. There are, however, many aspects of the topic that can be usefully explored and are fully in keeping with the focus of our gathering, which is blessed with an outstanding array of experts on relations between Iran and particularly the West.
 
             To begin, I’d like to simply emphasize how important the P5+1 negotiations are. An Iran equipped with nuclear arms would add an unacceptable element of instability and danger to a part of the globe that already has a surplus of both. If Tehran had such a weapon, other countries in the region might well pursue the same goal, generating a potentially catastrophic arms race, intensifying the sectarian divide that is a major source of Middle East tension, and undermining the global nonproliferation regime that President Obama has consistently sought to reinforce.
 
            That is why the President has pledged to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. Our preference is to achieve this goal by diplomatic means. But make no mistake. Our bottom line is unambiguous, crystal clear, and, quite frankly, written in stone: Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.
 
            A major step in the right direction of that pursuit was taken last January when we began implementing a negotiating framework called the Joint Plan of Action. In return for limited sanctions relief, Iran committed – while talks are underway – to freeze and even roll back key components of its nuclear activities. Specifically, Iran has halted the expansion of its overall enrichment capacity; put a cap on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride; stopped the production of uranium enriched to 20 percent; agreed not to make further advances at the Arak heavy water reactor; and opened the door to unprecedented daily access for international inspectors to the facilities at Natanz and Fordow.
 
            At the time the Joint Plan was announced, many observers expressed profound doubt that Iran would abide by its commitments. But according to the IAEA – the International Atomic Energy Agency – Iran has done what it promised to do. The result is a nuclear program that is more constrained and transparent than it has been in many years. In turn, the P5+1 has fulfilled its commitment to provide limited sanctions relief. More extensive relief will come when – and only when – we are able to arrive at a comprehensive deal that addresses the concerns of the world community. Such a plan, if fully implemented, would give confidence that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and would enable the Iranian people to look forward to a much brighter future.
 
            We are aware, of course, that this negotiating process is, shall we say, controversial. Some worry that it will fail. Others seem to fear that it will succeed. Many have questions and doubts. As our discussions have gone forward, the Obama Administration has consulted regularly with members of Congress and with our many overseas partners, including Israel and the Gulf states.
 
            We have heard a variety of concerns and done our best to answer hard questions regarding the possible nature and implications of a potential deal, while reaffirming our enduring commitment to the security of the region. These conversations have been and continue to be quite valuable, and taken together, have reinforced our conviction that, although every alternative has risks, the decision to fully explore a diplomatic solution is the right one.

            There does, however, remain much hard work to be done. As we approach the November 24th deadline, the valuable safeguards included in the Joint Plan of Action are still in place. Our goal now is to develop a durable and comprehensive arrangement that will effectively block all of Iran’s potential paths to fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Such an arrangement would bar Iran from producing fuel for a weapon with either uranium or plutonium. Through inspections and monitoring, it would also offer the best method to prevent the covert processing of these materials and make any effort by Tehran to turn away from its obligations so visible and so time-consuming that the attempt would not succeed.
Given the stakes, it should be no surprise that our talks have moved forward at a deliberative pace, which is diplo-speak for “not so fast.” Last week, my P5+1 colleagues and I were in Vienna yet again, or to be more precise, confined to a hotel that happens to be located in Vienna while subsisting on endless cups of coffee and a hotel buffet that specializes in turkey schnitzel.
 
            The Iranian delegation is headed by Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, while the chief negotiator for the P5+1 is the very capable High Representative of the European Union, Cathy Ashton. Both sides are assisted by teams of technical experts who help us understand the full range of our options. From the beginning, our talks have been serious and businesslike; they have also occurred in a variety of venues and formats. To date, we have met in Geneva and New York, as well as Vienna; we have had bilaterals, trilaterals, hexalaterals and plenaries; and we have devoted some sessions to broad principles and others to the very laborious task of defining specific technical parameters. We have also met at various levels: the specialist, the delegation heads, and sometimes – as in Europe this past week – Secretary Kerry takes the American chair.
 
            It’s no secret that among the P5+1 governments there exist some major differences on prominent issues in the world. But with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, solidarity has been our watchword. We are all working towards the same goal. To that end, our group has proposed to Iran a number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran’s expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country’s scientific knowhow and economic needs.
 
            Iran’s Supreme Leader has repeatedly said that his government has neither the aspiration nor the intention of building a nuclear weapon; indeed, he has said that such a project would be forbidden under Islam. So our proposals are consistent with Iran’s own publicly-stated position. If Iran truly wants to resolve its differences with the international community and facilitate the lifting of economic sanctions, it will have no better chance than between now and November 24th. This is the time to finish the job.
 
            Will that happen? I don’t know. I can tell you that all the components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table. We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.
Because of this, it would be a mistake to focus inordinate attention on any one issue at the expense of all others. Every piece is critical whether it involves infrastructure, or stockpiles, or research, or types of equipment, or questions of timing or sequencing. But one area that has drawn much comment – in part because of Iran’s own public statements – concerns the size and scope of the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment capacity.
 
            Iran’s leaders would very much hope that the world would conclude that the status quo – at least on this pivotal subject – should be acceptable, but obviously, it is not. If it were, we would never have needed to begin this painstaking and difficult negotiation. The Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran for a reason, and that is because the government violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, engaged in secret nuclear-weapons-related activities, and was less than transparent in reporting to international agencies. That past has created a thick cloud of doubt that cannot be dissipated by Tehran’s words and promises alone. The world will decide to suspend and then lift nuclear-related sanctions only if and when Iran takes convincing and verifiable steps to show that its nuclear program is and will remain entirely peaceful. That is a reasonable standard that Iran can readily meet. It is the standard that Iran must meet. And it is the key to ending Iran’s international isolation.
 
            The Obama Administration recognizes that in diplomacy, it is sometimes a good idea to widen the agenda so that a tradeoff on one issue can be balanced by flexibility on another. Given the turbulence roiling in the Middle East today, the temptation to link the nuclear question to other topics is understandable. However, all parties have agreed that this should be a single-track negotiation, with its own defined set of participants, its own logic, and a clear bottom line. We are concentrating on one job and one job only, and that is ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
 
            I should note, however, in separate and dedicated meetings on the margins of each of our talks, I and members of my team raise our concerns regarding the status of U.S. citizens missing or detained in Iran. Nothing matters more to me as Under Secretary of State than ensuring the fair treatment of American citizens. Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian should be allowed to return without delay to their families, and we must do all we can to find answers regarding the whereabouts and well-being of Robert Levinson and bring him home too.
 
            Whether or not a nuclear deal is reached, the United States will continue to voice its longstanding concerns about Iranian policies that undermine regional stability or that are inconsistent with global norms and values. We will continue to hold Iran’s Government accountable for all aspects of its human rights record and for actions that exacerbate sectarian divisions. As is the case with any country, engagement on one issue does not require and will not lead to silence on others.
 
            In his Inaugural Address more than 50 years ago, President John Kennedy asked in the Cold War context whether a beachhead of cooperation might one day push back the jungle of suspicion separating East from West. Today, there are those in the United States who disbelieve almost everything Iranian leaders say, and there are many in Iran who question whether America will live up to whatever commitments we make. Clearly, there exists, if not a jungle, then at least a forest of distrust on both sides. Given what has happened in past decades, how could there not be? But I can affirm to you this afternoon that the United States will not accept any arrangement we can’t verify, and that we won’t make any promises we can’t keep. Just as we will demand good faith, so will we demonstrate good faith.
 
            Last fall, the President of the United States and the leaders of Iran decided to test the possibilities of direct negotiations on the nuclear issue. Both faced resistance and criticism for taking this bold step. And yet, both still chose to accept the risks of diplomacy over the even greater uncertainties of other options. We do not yet know what the full consequences of this decision will be. But the world is clearly better off now than it would have been if the leaders on both sides had ignored this opening. With all that is going on in the Middle East today, an Iranian nuclear program that was not frozen but instead rushing full speed ahead toward larger stockpiles, more uranium enrichment capacity, the production of weapons-grade plutonium, and less transparency would hardly have been a stabilizing factor. Although our negotiating progress to date hasn’t fulfilled our highest hopes, it has still exceeded the expectation of many observers.
 
            Make no mistake. Developing a consensus on a comprehensive plan will require some extraordinarily difficult decisions and we should all appreciate that. This negotiation is the very opposite of easy. But the potential benefits are quite extraordinary. And it is vital that we understand that, as well. Because the acceptance and implementation of a comprehensive plan will improve prospects for people everywhere. It will reduce anxiety and enhance security throughout the Middle East. It will make possible an era of greater prosperity without any loss of dignity for the people of Iran. It will protect our allies and partners from a new and dangerous threat. It will lessen the incentive for a regional nuclear arms race and thereby strengthen the international nuclear proliferation regime. It will make our own citizens safer. And it will demonstrate yet again the potential for clear-eyed diplomacy to arrive at win-win solutions achievable in no other way. In sum, compared to any alternatives, diplomacy can provide a more sustained and durable resolution to the issues generated by Iran’s nuclear activities.
 
            Almost 800 years ago, the Persian poet Saadi advised listeners to “Have patience; all things are difficult before they become easy.”
Despite the intense efforts of negotiators from seven countries and the European Union, we are still in that “difficult” stage. We must use the remaining time wisely and with a sense of urgency and purpose.
 
            In closing, let me affirm that the United States and its partners are prepared to take advantage of this historic opportunity to resolve our concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. We hope the leaders in Tehran will agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that this program will be exclusively peaceful and thereby end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve further the lives of their people. If that does not happen, the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran.
 
            We encourage Iran to make the right choice. Meanwhile, we remain steadfast in our determination to take the steps necessary to protect America’s security and to improve the prospects for stability and peace across the globe. We hope Iran will make the right choice. We are ready to do so.
 
Click here for a full transcript.

 

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