Iran Primer's Blog
On May 9, the State Department imposed new sanctions on four Iranian companies and one individual for providing “goods, technology, and services that increase Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and/or construct a heavy water” research reactor. U.N. Security Council Resolutions prohibit supporting Iran’s efforts on those fronts. “Iranian private sector firms should heed the risks incurred by conducting business with those who support Iran’s proscribed nuclear activities,” warned Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.
On the same day, the Treasury sanctioned a front company for trying to evade sanctions on Iranian oil sales. It also designated the Iranian Venezuelan Bi-National Bank for engaging in financial transactions on behalf of the previously sanctioned Export Development Bank of Iran. “As Iran becomes increasingly isolated from the international financial system and energy markets, it is turning increasingly to convoluted schemes and shady actors to maintain its access to the global financial system,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. The Treasury also added eight more vessels to its list of blocked property, bringing the total to 64. The following are excerpts from State Department and Treasury press statements.
Iran continues to engage in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused,” according to an annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Religious freedom conditions have particularly regressed since the disputed 2009 presidential elections. “Killings, arrests, and physical abuse of detainees have increased, including for religious minorities and Muslims who dissent or express views perceived as threatening the legitimacy of the government,” according to the report.
The State Department first designated Iran as a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom in 1999. The United States has imposed restrictions on imports and exports to Iran under the International Religious Freedom Act since 2011. The following are excerpts from the report, followed by a link to the full text.
Iran’s crackdown on the press, including detention of 24 journalists, was highlighted by two reports to mark International Press Freedom Day on May 3. Iran ranks among the world’s worst-rated countries on press freedom, according to a new index by Freedom House. The organization assigns countries a numerical rating from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free). Iran and Cuba are tied with 92 points.
Freedom House claims that in the worst-rated countries, “independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression.” The following infographic maps the relative freedom ratings of countries.
On at least one issue—and at least rhetorically—Iran and the United States agree. Both Tehran and Washington are now on the record in calling the use of chemical weapons “a red line.” Iran’s toughening position may reflect its own experience when Saddam Hussein repeatedly used several types of chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980-1988 war launched by Iraq. The United Nations verified at least seven uses of mustard or nerve gasses in specific operations.
On April 30, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria is Iran’s “red line.” The United States recently called for a U.N. investigation based on new evidence of sarin gas use in Syria’s civil war. But Salehi reportedly suggested that the rebels might be responsible. Iran accuses Western and Arab countries of fueling the conflict and supporting foreign fighters against President Bashar Assad. The following are excerpted remarks by top leaders on Syria.
The West has committed an “unforgivable sin” against women by defining them as merely objects of pleasure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Iran’s National Women’s Day. The supreme leader claimed that Islam grants women equal rights and honor, while Western lifestyle degrades them. He also warned that irreparable damage to family values will lead to the West’s collapse, according to Fars News Agency.
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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