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UN: Iran Executions Hit Two-Decade High

Iran executed nearly 1,000 prisoners in 2015, according to a new report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed. Some 65 percent of the executions were for drug-related offenses. The New York Times reported that Iran has reportedly not executed so many people in one year since 1989, when more than 1,500 were executed, according to Amnesty International reports. “A large percentage of those executions are for drug offences and under Iran's current drug laws, possession of 30 grams of heroine or cocaine would qualify for the death penalty. So there's a number of draconian laws,” Shaheed told reporters on March 10.
At least four of the people executed last year were under 18 years of age, and at least 160 other juveniles are on currently on death row. Hundreds of journalists, activists and bloggers were also imprisoned.
Shaheed noted that Iran has recently amended problematic elements of the Islamic Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. But he also emphasized that aspects of other laws and practices “continue to undermine or violate Iran’s national and international human rights obligations.” But Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, said that the report’s contents were biased and politically motivated. The following are excerpts from the report. 
The Islamic Penal Code
A revised version of the penal code was implemented in early 2013 for an experimental period of 5 years. If properly implemented, the amended provisions will remedy some of the problems raised with the Iranian government by the human rights mechanisms including concerns raised by member states during the Government’s 2010 and 2014 UPRs. The Special Rapporteur notes, however, that many other provisions violate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s international obligations and the code continues to facilitate serious abuses perpetrated by Iranian officials. …
The Special Rapporteur also notes that vague and broadly defined hudud provisions in the penal code, loosely defined as “crimes against God,” often criminalise acts that are either not recognised as crimes under international laws and standards or not considered serious enough to warrant capital punishment. These include crimes such as insulting or cursing the Prophet (sabb al-nabi), consensual heterosexual or same-sex relations between adults, corruption on earth (efsad-e-fel-arz) and apostasy.” Individuals convicted of some of these crimes are not generally allowed to seek a pardon or have their sentences commuted, in contravention of international law.
Hudud punishments include amputations, as well as flogging and stoning.16 Rights groups have documented at least three amputations in 2015. …
The Criminal Procedure Code
Parliament adopted a number of amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which came into effect on 22 June 2015.30 The amended code was much celebrated and praised by government officials for the level of protection it affords to those suspected of crimes. …
Despite these improvements, concern remains over CPC provisions that exempt individuals accused of national security crimes from these protections. This includes COC revisions by the Guardian Council, which now require individuals accused of national security, capital, political or press crimes, and those accused of offences that incur life sentences, to select their counsel from an official pool of lawyers chosen by the Head of the Judiciary during the investigative phase of the trial. …
The Anti-Narcotics Law
Iran's anti-narcotics law, adopted by the Expedience Council in 1997 and amended in 2010, mandates the death penalty for a range of drug crimes including nonviolent drug related offences that do not amount to “most serious” crimes under international law. The law lists drug crimes punishable by death. The minimum threshold for capital punishment sentencing is the possession, in any form, of 30 grams or more of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemically derived substances. The death penalty can also be applied for a range of other crimes such as, armed drug smuggling, smuggling in prisons or government run facilities, or hiring individuals with the intent of violating the anti-narcotics laws. These policies have resulted in over 500 executions in 2015 alone, accounting for 65 percent of the total amount of individuals executed in the country. The Government alleges that it has not received any communications from international bodies “concerning nonobservance of norms of law in relation to drug-related offences” that resulted in the death penalty. The Government also asserts that “severe punishments meted out to large[-scale] drug traffickers have brought about considerable reduction in the harm resulting from the flow of drugs to Iran and beyond.” …
In December 2015, 70 members of Parliament presented a bill that, if approved by the legislature and the Guardian Council, would reduce the punishment for non-violent drug related crimes from death to life imprisonment. On 11 January 2016, the bill was introduced on the main floor of the parliament for review.46 While reserving judgement on the particulars of the bill, the Special Rapporteur welcomes attempts to reduce the staggering number of executions in the country and appreciates the government’s willingness to reevaluate existing law with consideration for human rights obligations.
Civil and Political Rights
The right to life
Human rights organisations tracking executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran estimate that between 966-1,054 executions have taken place in 2015, the highest rate in over 10 years. Execution rates reached especially alarming rates from April 2015-June 2015, resulting in an average of 4 executions per day during that time period.
As in previous years, the majority of the executions in 2015 - approximately 65 percent - were for drug-related offences. Twenty-two percent of the remaining executions carried out in 2015 were for qesas related crimes (homicide), 6% were for rape, 3% were for murder, and 4% were for other crimes including financial corruption. In its response, the Government asserts that an “excessive concentration on the claims concerning [an] increase in executions… reduces the credibility of the report, and noted that drug-related executions account for 80 percent of all executions in the country.
Freedom of expression, opinion, and access to information
The Islamic Republic of Iran received 11 UPR recommendations related to freedom of expression in 2014 of which Iran accepted two and partially accepted 4 recommendations, including to “take the necessary steps to ensure and that it citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms awarded to by the Iranian constitution with special emphasis on the right to freedom of expression, the right to political activity and their right to assemble” and to “strengthen and promote freedom of expression, particularly that of the press.” …
On 19 January 2016, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who had been unlawfully detained by security and intelligence forces since July 2014, and encourages authorities to “pave the way for the release of all remaining detainees unlawfully held in the country’s prisons.” As of January 2016 at least 47 journalists and Internet users were reportedly imprisoned in the country. At least six prominent artists, writers and musicians have been arbitrarily detained or prosecuted since October 2015. Iran ranks among the seventh most censored country in the world. Iran also ranked 173rd out of 180 countries on the World Press freedom index. …
The Special Rapporteur regrets what appears to be a widening crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion during the reporting period, punctuated by a series of arrests carried out by the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards and harsh sentences against journalists, cyberactivists and artists. President Rouhani has reportedly criticised the string of arrests against individuals likened to an “infiltration network,” and noted the apparent connection between allegations made in ultra-conservative news outlets, and arrests that follow. …
Freedom of Association and the right to free and fair elections
On 15 February 2016, the Guardian Council approved 52 percent of the 12,123 candidates that registered to run for the parliamentary election. Previous to that, on 20 January 2016, the Supervisory Board of the Guardian Council qualified 49 percent of the 12,123 candidates that registered to run for the parliamentary election. According to reports only 30, or 1 percent, of some 3000 “reformists” candidates that registered for the election were approved by the body during the 20 January decision. Some of those rejected appealed to the Guardian Council and were approved on 15 February 2016. In its response, the Government notes that the Guardian Council’s supervision of the elections “is not beyond the law,” and that its activities are “in full compliance” of international law.
The Guardian Council invited 540 of the candidates, including the 6 female hopefuls, to sit for an examination to determine whether they were qualified to run for the Assembly of Experts. On 26 January 2016, the Guardian Council disqualified 640 of the 801 candidates registered for the Assembly of Experts, including 6 women that registered for the election. To date no woman has ever been approved by the Guardian Council to serve on the Assembly of Experts. …
The Special Rapporteur expresses serious concern that former presidential candidates and reformists, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard, will have spent five full years under house arrest in the absence of charges or a trail as of 14 February 2016. …
Women’s Rights
According to Article 18 of Iran’s passport law, married women require their husband’s, or in an emergency situation, the local prosecutor’s, permission to apply for a passport. On 22 September 2015, local media reported that Ms. Niloufar Ardalan, captain of the Iranian national women’s soccer team, was prohibited from traveling abroad to compete in the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship held in Malaysia, allegedly as a result of her husband’s refusal to provide her with his consent to leave the country. …
Ethnic and Religious Minority Rights
The Special Rapporteur expresses serious concern at the continuing systematic discrimination, harassment, and targeting that adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face in the country. In January 2016, a revolutionary court in Golestan province reportedly sentenced 24 Baha'is to a total of 193 years in prison in connection with the peaceful exercise of their faith. …
The Special Rapporteur also expresses his concern at the treatment of Iranian Christians from Muslim backgrounds, who continue to face arbitrary arrest, harassment and detention despite the fact that article 12 of the Iranian constitution recognises and protects adherents of the Christian faith. …

Click here for the full report.  


UPDATE: On March 17, 34 human rights and other organizations called on member countries of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to renew the mandate of its special rapporteur on Iran. The vote on the resolution for the extension is scheduled for March 23, 2016. 


Tags: Reports

Khamenei: Iran Yet to See Benefits from Foreign Delegations

On March 10, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the recently elected Assembly of Experts that Iran has not yet benefited from receiving Western delegations. Dozens of trade delegations from European countries have visited Tehran since the nuclear deal was announced in July 2015. “Unless results are in in action, agreement on paper is of no use,” Khamenei said. He, however, clarified that he does not favor cutting ties with the West. Iran “must have relations with the whole world” except for the United States and Israel.  

The Assembly of Experts is a body of 88 clerics and scholars charged with overseeing and appointing the supreme leader. In the February 26 elections for the assembly, hardliners lost ground to candidates aligned with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and current President Hassan Rouhani, who have urged reforms in the past. During the March 10 meeting, Khamenei told the new assembly to remain “revolutionary” assembly to “only consider God and the country’s needs” in choosing his successor. Khamenei is 76 years old, and the current assembly will sit for eight years before the next election. The following are excerpted remarks by Khamenei.

Foreign Affairs

Assembly of Experts and Succession

US Renews State of Emergency with Iran

The following is the full text of the White House press release and President Obama’s letter to Congress on the renewal of the national emergency with respect to Iran.
ObamaOn March 15, 1995, by Executive Order 12957, the President declared a national emergency with respect to Iran, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706), to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Iran. On May 6, 1995, the President issued Executive Order 12959, imposing comprehensive sanctions on Iran to further respond to this threat. On August 19, 1997, the President issued Executive Order 13059, consolidating and clarifying the previous orders. I took additional steps pursuant to this national emergency in Executive Order 13553 of September 28, 2010, Executive Order 13574 of May 23, 2011, Executive Order 13590 of November 20, 2011, Executive Order 13599 of February 5, 2012, Executive Order 13606 of April 22, 2012, Executive Order 13608 of May 1, 2012, Executive Order 13622 of July 30, 2012, Executive Order 13628 of October 9, 2012, and Executive Order 13645 of June 3, 2013.
On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. January 16, 2016, marked Implementation Day under the JCPOA, when the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report verifying that Iran had completed key nuclear-related steps as specified in the JCPOA, and the Secretary of State confirmed the report's findings. As a result, the United States lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran consistent with its commitments under the JCPOA, including the termination of a number of Executive Orders that were issued pursuant to this national emergency. Though the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions constitutes a significant change in our sanctions posture, non-nuclear related sanctions remain in place.
Despite the historic deal to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, certain actions and policies of the Government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 15, 1995, must continue in effect beyond March 15, 2016. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Iran declared in Executive Order 12957. The emergency declared in Executive Order 12957 constitutes an emergency separate from that declared on November 14, 1979, by Executive Order 12170. This renewal, therefore, is distinct from the emergency renewal of November 2015.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
March 9, 2016.
# # #
March 9, 2016
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared on March 15, 1995, is to continue in effect beyond March 15, 2016.
On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. January 16, 2016, marked Implementation Day under the JCPOA, when the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report verifying that Iran had completed key nuclear-related steps as specified in the JCPOA, and the Secretary of State confirmed the report's findings. As a result, the United States lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran consistent with its commitments under the JCPOA, including the termination of a number of Executive Orders that were issued pursuant to this national emergency. Though such lifting of nuclear-related sanctions constitutes a significant change in our sanctions posture, non-nuclear related sanctions remain in place.
Nevertheless, certain actions and policies of the Government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to Iran and to maintain in force certain sanctions against Iran to respond to this threat.
# # #

Iran Launches Ballistic Missiles, US Reacts

On March 8 and 9, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched several ballistic missiles as part of a military exercise. The variations of Ghadr, Qiam and Shahab missiles reportedly had ranges between 185 miles and 1250 miles. The launches, publicized widely by Iranian media outlets, were intended to display Iran’s “deterrence power” and “full readiness to confront all kinds of threats against the Revolution, establishment and territorial integrity,” according to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The launches were not violations of the nuclear deal, which does not include restrictions on Iran’s missile program. But the launches appear to be inconsistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which bans Iran from testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Iranian state media reported that the two missiles fired on March 9 had the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written in Hebrew on them. But the inscription could not be seen in photographs of the weapons other than those released by Fars NewsThe test firing coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said that Washington would seek an appropriate response at the U.N. Security Council if the launches are confirmed. “We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran’s missile program,” he told the press on March 8. U.S. lawmakers called for tougher sanctions in response to the launches.

On March 10, Secretary of State John Kerry raised his concerns about the launches with his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi-Ansari, said that the test-firing of missiles did not contradict its nuclear commitments. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called upon Iran to “act with moderation, caution and the good sense not to increase tensions through any hasty actions.”

On March 11, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that the United States will raise the launches at U.S. Security Council consultations scheduled for March 14. “These launches underscore the need to work with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran’s missile program,” she said. 
On March 13, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned the tests and said additional sanctions will be enacted, if necessary. The following day, however, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Iran should not face new sanctions. Russia has the power to veto U.N. Security Council decisions. After a Security Council meeting, Ambassador Power said that Russia was looking “for reasons not to act rather than stepping up and being prepared to shoulder our collective responsibility.” 

In January 2016, the United States imposed new sanctions on 11 entities and individuals linked to Iran’s missile program. The move was a response to an October 2015 test launch of a medium-range Emad ballistic missile that was reportedly capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Foreign Minister Zarif has previously claimed that such missiles are for self-defense and are not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. For years, it has had missiles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the region. The following are remarks by U.S., Iranian, Israeli, French, and U.N. officials on the latest launches.
  U.S. Officials

Ambassador Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
“We called for consultations today to discuss Iran’s recent ballistic missile launches, which the United States condemns as dangerous, destabilizing and provocative. Given the multiple interrelated conflicts in the Middle East today, such launches accompanied by strident militaristic rhetoric undermine prospects for peace. The United States was particularly troubled by reports that Iranian military leaders have claimed these missiles are designed to be a direct threat to Israel. We condemn such threats against one of our closest allies and another U.N. member state.
“Beyond just destabilizing the region, these launches were also in defiance of provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. The resolution that came into effect on January 16th, on Implementation Day of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). In that resolution, as you all know, Iran was called upon ‘not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.’ Iran, however, continues to act as if this council has not spoken on the matter.”
“These [missiles] were designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. This merits a council response. The council needs to take its responsibility… Russia seems to be lawyering its way to look for reasons not to act rather than stepping up and being prepared to shoulder our collective responsibility. We will continue to push in the Security Council in the 2231 format, bring forward the technical information that Iran itself has made public showing that the technology they used is inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and thus inherently defying resolution 2231. So we’re not going to give up at the Security Council, no matter the quibbling that we heard today about this and that. And we also can consider, of course, our own appropriate national response.”
—March 14, 2016, to the press after a U.N. Security Council meeting   
The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s recent ballistic missile launches, which are provocative and destabilizing. Moreover, Iranian military leaders have reportedly claimed these missiles are designed to be a direct threat to Israel. We condemn such threats against another UN Member State and one of our closest allies.
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 calls upon Iran not to undertake any launches of ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. We will raise these dangerous launches directly at Council consultations, which we have called for, on Monday. These launches underscore the need to work with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran’s missile program. We will therefore continue to insist on full implementation of Resolution 2231, which expressly prohibits third-party support to Iran's ballistic missile program, as we also consider our appropriate national response.
—March 11, 2016, in a statement
Secretary of State John Kerry
Well, the missiles are a violation of the United Nations Security Council – the missile tests – because they are longer than the distance that is allowed for legitimate testing. And because of that they represent a potential threat to countries in the region as well as elsewhere beyond because of the potential distance and testing that goes along with it.
So we have made it very clear that the missile concerns remain part of sanctionable activities with respect to Iran. And if Iran chooses to violate that, they will invite those additional sanctions, as we put them in place just a month ago as a result of the prior tests.
—March 13, 2016, in remarks in Paris, France 
Vice President Joe Biden
“I want to reiterate, as I know people still doubt, if in fact they break the [nuclear] deal, we will act.”
“All their conventional activity outside the deal, which is still beyond the deal, we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it.”
—March 9, 2016, during a visit to Israel after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

State Department Spokesperson John Kirby
“I do want to make it clear that such tests, if they are true, are not a violation of the JCPOA. If it’s confirmed that this is what they, in fact, did, then we’ll have every intention of raising the matter to the UN Security Council. We’re also going to encourage a serious review of the incident or incidents and press for an appropriate response.
“The only other thing else I would add is that – again, if true – this development would underscore why we continue to work closely with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran’s missile program. And it’s worth noting that the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 has prohibitions that continue to be used to disrupt Iran’s missile-related proliferation and procurement activities.
“We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran’s missile program, and these tools are in no way impacted by the JCPOA or any phase of its implementation. The Department of the Treasury recently designated entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program, and again, we always have those tools available to us.”
“Well, historically we’ve seen them be in flagrant violation of multilateral and unilateral demands for them not to develop ballistic missile technology. It’s not – I’m not saying we’re pleased by it at by any stretch, but it’s not new that they have proven willing to flagrantly violate those kinds of resolutions against ballistic missile technology.”
“They don’t have the right, according to the international community and the UN, to develop ballistic missile technology. They do not. Now, does a nation-state have the right to have a military and to be able to provide for its own self-defense? Of course. And virtually – not every, but virtually every nation-state has such capabilities. But there are limits with respect to Iran about the kinds of capabilities that they’re allowed to pursue. Ballistic missile technology is not one of them.”
—March 8, 2016, during a daily press briefing
Well, we have seen these reports of additional missile launches today, and just as with the earlier ones, we’re going to take a look at it and we’ll take whatever appropriate response is necessary, either at the UN or unilaterally. And obviously, without being able to confirm these – the graffiti on them about Israel – I can’t confirm that independently, but obviously we condemn all threats to Israel, and we stand – will stand with Israel to help it defend itself against all kinds of threats.
And I would add, under the President’s leadership, the United States has invested above and beyond our FMF assistance – over $3 billion… [in the] Iron Dome system and other missile defense programs and systems for Israel. I would also add that the Secretary did raise his concerns today with Foreign Minister Zarif about these reports.
—March 9, 2016, during a daily press briefing

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
“Well, it certainly is possible that Iran could face some consequences for carrying out this action.  And we have demonstrated no reluctance to impose sanctions against Iran for conducting ballistic missile tests that are outside of their international obligations.  But at this point, it’s too early to determine whether or not that’s exactly what’s taken place here.  So we’ll take a look at the situation and if we determine that a response is warranted, then we’ll pursue it.”
“The other element that’s important here is the United States is going to continue to deepen our coordination with our other allies and partners in the region to try to counter Iran’s ballistic missile program.  The truth is, there already are other sanctions and prohibitions that are in place that are intended to mitigate or even limit Iran’s ballistic missile program.  And we’ve acknowledged that there’s more that we can do, working closely with our partners and allies, to more effectively enforce those kinds of sanctions and prohibitions.  And that work continues, as well.”
—March 8, 2016, in a press briefing
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner
“There are strong indications [this] test is inconsistent with U.N. Security Council 2231.”
“If confirmed, we intend to raise the matter in the U.N. Security Council. We will also encourage a serious review of the incident and press for an appropriate response.”
“We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran's missile program.”
—March 8, 2016, to the media
U.S. Central Command General Lloyd Austin
“What I would say is that what we and the people in the region are concerned about is that they already have overmatch with the numbers of ballistic missiles.”
—March 8, 2016, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
  U.S. Lawmakers
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee Chairman
“Iran's complete disregard for the ballistic missile restrictions that remain in place must be met with swift and immediate consequences from the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council. The administration's hesitancy and the council's refusal to act after multiple violations last fall must not be repeated now that Iran appears ready to test the will of the international community with the nuclear agreement in place.
“A failure to hold them accountable now, including suppliers and enablers of their ballistic missile program, would undermine our efforts to contain Iran's destabilizing behavior and raise serious questions about the ability to enforce violations of the nuclear deal itself.”
—March 8, 2016, in a statement
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), ranking Democratic on the Foreign Relations Committee
“The Administration should act swiftly to raise these concerns at the United Nations and take action to hold all parties involved responsible for their actions, including, if necessary, through unilateral action.”
“I am deeply concerned by Iran’s repetitive disregard of and indifference to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran to cease any ballistic missile activities.”
—March 8, 2016, in a statement

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
“The administration’s response to Iran’s new salvo of threatening missile tests in violation of international law cannot once again be, it’s ‘not supposed to be doing that. Now is the time for new crippling sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ministry of Defense, Aerospace Industries Organization, and other related entities driving the Iranian ballistic missile program.”
—March 8, 2016, in a statement

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Foreign Relations Committee member
“I think this calls for sustained active global engagement. I think the Security Council should act against this recent ballistic missile launch. I continue to urge the administration to be engaged and strenuous in enforcing our existing sanctions against their ballistic missile program, their ongoing human rights violations, as well as their support for terrorism in the region.”
—March 10, 2016, according to VOA News
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Armed Services Committee member
“I would argue that clearly the sanctions the administration did put in place, which I've said from the beginning are pathetic and weak, are having absolutely no impact.”
“Given that they're now continuing to test ballistic missiles and I would hope that we would up our game and impose real tough sanctions on Iran, on their ballistic missile program.”
—March 8, 2016, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Foreign Relations Committee member
Today, Iran test-fired ballistic missiles in violation of international sanctions. This launch demonstrates the regime’s continued disregard for international sanctions and the grave consequences of this Administration blindly trusting the Iranian regime to uphold its commitments. Instead of making concessions to the Iranian regime and freeing up more than $100 billion dollars in sanctions relief, the Obama Administration should change course and increase pressure on Iran by imposing additional unilateral sanctions to stop their belligerent behavior once and for all.
—March 8, 2016, in a statement
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
“Today we once again witnessed the consequences of President Obama's continued deference to dictators and rogue regimes. From Iran to North Korea, it's clear our enemies no longer fear the United States. Conducting ballistic missile tests is akin to throwing dirt in the face of the entire free world. And it reveals Iran has little intention of abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal it agreed to just months ago. President Obama should recognize this truth and take immediate steps to confront our enemies in Iran, North Korea and around the world.”
—March 8, 2016, in a statement
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
“Iran is making a mockery of President Obama’s vow to confront Iran’s dangerous and illicit acts.  For a second day in a row, the Iranian regime has launched ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. sanctions.  These latest missiles were reportedly designed to strike our ally Israel, and stamped with the words ‘Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.’ 
“Meanwhile, the Obama administration is tripping over technicalities.  Instead of forcefully condemning Iran’s dangerous missile tests, the White House is twisting itself into pretzels to explain how they don’t violate the president’s deeply flawed nuclear deal.
“Here’s the reality: if Iran sees it can violate U.N. missile sanctions with no consequence, it will violate this nuclear deal too.  President Obama must lead and aggressively enforce all sanctions against Iran’s missile programs, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses.  No more looking the other way.”
—March 9, 2016, in a statement
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Lawmakers will press for new sanctions “until the [Iranian] regime ends its violent, provocative behavior against the U.S. and our allies.”
—March 8, 2016, to the press
House Democratic Whip Steney H. Hoyer (D-MD)
“This week's tests were the second and third time since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Iran has violated ballistic missile restrictions. It ought to be a warning to the world that Iran is trying to have it both ways: it wants to integrate fully into the international community while continuing to flout international law, particularly U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, and threaten its neighbors. The world should not be fooled.  Iranian reports that messages were written on the sides of the missiles calling for Israel's destruction leave no doubt as to the nefarious intentions of Iran's leaders.
“As I said following Iran's previous ballistic missile test, our response to their violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions sends a signal about our resolve in enforcing the JCPOA and ensuring there are consequences for violations. We must make it clear that we will never allow any flexibility in Iran meeting its obligations under that agreement or any U.N. Security Council resolution. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make clear, potentially through legislation, America's resolve to meet the threat from Iran's ballistic missile program and to make certain that U.N. resolutions are enforced while protecting the safety of our allies and our assets in the region.”
—March 9, 2016, in a statement
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
“Far from pushing Iran to a more moderate engagement with its neighbors, this nuclear deal is enabling Iran’s aggression and terrorist activities. Sanctions relief is fueling Iran’s proxies from Yemen to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon. Meanwhile, Khamenei and the Iranian regime are acting with impunity because they know President Obama will not hold them accountable and risk the public destruction of his nuclear deal, the cornerstone of the president’s foreign policy legacy.”
—March 8, 2016, in a statement
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
“The latest missiles launches are further evidence of Iran's aggression and of how its leaders intend to use the money it is receiving under the Obama nuclear deal.  It is foolish to reduce missile defense funding as the President's budget proposes.”
—March 10, 2016, in a statement
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)
  Iranian Officials

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“It [U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231] doesn’t call upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles, or ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads ... it calls upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles that were ‘designed’ to be capable. That word [“designed”] took me about seven months to negotiate, so everybody knew what it meant.”
—March 15, 2016, in a speech at the Australian National University 
IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari 
“Any one bearing greater enmity towards Islamic Iran will naturally be more fearful of such capabilities and preparednesses.”  
“[F]iring of these missiles clearly indicates the active status of IRGC missile centers across the country; the drill made this message across to the enemies that defensive strength and national security are inviolate redlines for us which under no circumstances would these redlines be traded.” 
“IRGC’s aerospace force has established formidable force in the region; despite sanctions in the past, our productions are totally indigenous; sanctions brought a boom where our defensive industry burgeoned; still a third redline is our missile capabilities all the defensive arrangements and bodies have a unanimity about this issue.” 
“Iran’s security is security of our neighbors in the region; the enemies of the Revolution should now be intimidated by IRGC’s missiles’ thunders and roaring.” 
“[O]ur enemies would naturally fear our defensive capabilities, since our missile range is far beyond the Zionist regime cities in the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories.” 
“Iran’s security is the security of regional countries and our efforts are in line with establishing security in the region.” 
—March 8, 2016 to reporters via Mehr News and Press TV
U.N. Mission
Pursuant to a campaign of disinformation that followed the recent missile test-launches by the Iranian military forces, the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations would like to provide the following clarifications:
1- Iran, as a country living in the most unstable and volatile region of the world, is fully entitled to build a credible conventional capability to deter and defend against any aggression. Iran’s recent ballistic missile test launches were part of ongoing efforts of its armed forces to strengthen its legitimate defense capabilities and to demonstrate the effectiveness and readiness of missile systems against security threats. It is demagoguery for those who are at the supplying and receiving ends of around $100bn of the state-of-the-art weaponry just to the lower Persian Gulf region in 2015 (while Iran’s entire defense budget was around ten times less in the same year) to hype this much Iran’s conventional missile-test launches. The disparity between Iran’s defense spending and that of other regional states is colossal, and has been acknowledged even by the US officials at the highest levels.
2- Brazen threats against Iran’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, multiplied in the past several years, have made it all the more imperative for Iran to build a legitimate deterrent capability. As an example of these threats, Moshe Yaalon, Defense Minister of the Israeli regime, in a speech on May 5 2015 in the Shurat Hadin Law of War Conference in Jerusalem threatened to use nuclear bomb against Iran (For detail, see Iran’s letter to the Security Council dated May 19 2015).  The same regime remains the only obstacle in the way towards establishing a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East and the only one in our region in unlawful possession of nuclear weapons.
3- The statements made by the Iranian military commanders reflected only the concern over such threats. The commander of the Aerospace Force of the Guards Corps, whose statements are wildly distorted by vested-interest parties, reiterated in his interview following the tests that “we won’t start any war, we aim, however, to defend ourselves … we don’t intend to attack any country, but if we come under attack, we should be able to retaliate.”
4- Security Council resolution 2231 does not prohibit legitimate and conventional military activities, nor does international law disallow them. Iran has never sought to acquire nuclear weapon and never will in the future, as it fully honors its commitment under the NPT and the JCPOA. Consequently, Iran's missiles are not and could not be designed for delivery of unconventional weapons. We reject arbitrary interpretation of the provisions of Security Council resolution 2231 and its annexes, and call upon all parties to act in good-faith and refrain from provocations.
5- We, likewise, reject the raising of this issue in a meeting of the Security Council and consider it to be contrary to the prevailing positive environment, and detrimental to the good-faith implementation of the JCPOA.
—March 14, 2016, in a statement
IRGC Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh 
“The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance.”
“Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war. It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.”
“The more sanctions and pressure our enemies apply... the more we will develop our missile program.”
“Our main enemies, the Americans, who mutter about plans, have activated new missile sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and are seeking to weaken the country’s missile capability.”  
“The Guards and other armed forces are defenders of the revolution and the country will not pay a toll to anyone … and will stand against their excessive demands.”
“We will not be the ones who start a war, but we will not be taken by surprise, so we put our facilities somewhere that our enemies cannot destroy them so that we could continue in a long war.”
—March 8, 2016 according to ISNA and on state television via ReutersAP, and Foreign Policy 

The missiles are “Iran-made and belong to the Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi nations, as well as all the oppressed people of the world.”
—March 9, 2016, according to Fars News via The Jerusalem Post
IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami
“The Zionist regime will collapse in the near future. When Hezbollah has stockpiled over 100,000 missiles, it means Iran has tens of times more than that. Iran is in possession of different classes of missiles, and this power is unstoppable.”
“We have huge reserves of various range ballistic missiles that are ready to target enemies and their aims, at any time, from different points of the country.”
“The missiles fired today are the results of sanctions. The sanctions helped Iran develop its missile program.”
—March 9, 2016, according to Fars News via The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post and the BBC/Fox News
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi-Ansari
Iran's missile program and its test-firing of missiles in the past days during a military drill are not against its nuclear commitments and the nuclear deal reached with the six powers.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not compromise over its security and defensive power” and will “continue its completely defensive and legitimate missile program.”
—March 10, 2016, according to state television via Reuters and ISNA via The Washington Post
Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri
“Sanctions and resolutions will not create any obstacle to the strengthening of Iran’s defense might and missile capability.”
Iran’s missile development program is “non-negotiable” and a “red line” for the Islamic Republic.
Taking “hasty, emotional, deceitful positions” and spreading propaganda against the “show of force” by the Iranian Armed Forces are not justified.
The United States and other Western countries want to impose new missile sanctions on Iran through “unjust and groundless” interpretations of the JCPOA in a “sly bid” to “undermine and dismantle surface-to-surface ballistic missiles” of Iran.
—March 11, 2016, according to Press TV 
U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
“The clear and short answer is no [to new sanctions on Iran].”
—March 14, 2016, to the media
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
“We condemn ballistic missile tests and, if necessary, sanctions will be enacted.”


—March 13, 2016, in remarks after meeting with other Western foreign ministers 
  Israeli Officials
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon
“To my regret there are some in the West who are misled by the honeyed words of part of the Iranian leadership while the other part continues to procure equipment and weaponry, to arm terrorist groups.”

—March 9, 2016, to Israel Radio via Reuters 


“We have certain worries regarding the future, mainly because of the Iranian [nuclear] deal. We believe Iran of today is more confident, more free to act in the region, with more money because of the sanctions relief, violating many UN resolutions regarding the proliferation of arms and terror. … So this regime is still a rogue one. They haven’t changed their nature. They chant death to America. They consider America as the Great Satan, we are lucky to be considered the minor Satan. Very provocative regarding the ballistic missiles, which is a violation of the UN resolution as well, just provocative tests last week, on one of the missiles it was written in Hebrew that Israel should be wiped off the map of the earth.”


Foreign Ministry
Israel condemns the recent Iranian ballistic missile test launches. The range of these missiles includes all of Israel and large parts of the Middle East, a region currently engaged in a bloody conflict resulting in waves of refugees fleeing to countries in the region and in Europe. The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stated to the media that most of Iran's missile arsenal covers Israeli territory.

The test firing of ballistic missiles constitutes a gross violation of UNSC Resolution 2231, which confirmed the nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers. The resolution restricts Iran from launching missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead - the same missiles that Iran test-fired this week. The development of ground-to-ground missiles with nuclear warhead capability calls into question Iran’s’ intentions to comply in full with the nuclear agreement.

Iran continues to dismiss the international community's demands and to develop its aggressive capabilities. It seems the Zarif-Rouhani "smile campaign" is nothing more than a smoke screen to disguise the real intentions of the ayatollah regime. 

Israel calls on the international community to react firmly and decisively against further Iranian missile launches and Iran's continuing development of ground-to-ground missiles - a violation of the Security Council resolution. Iran’s ballistic missile program must stop.

—March 10, 2016, in an announcement  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, instructed the Foreign Ministry to contact the P5+1 countries and demand that immediate punitive measures be taken in the wake of Iran's repeated and gross violations on the missiles issue.
This is an important step in and of itself and is also a test of the major powers in enforcing the nuclear agreement.
—March 12, 2016, in a statement


U.N. Officials
Spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
With the achievement of Implementation Day pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), Security Council sanctions previously imposed on Iran have been terminated.
In that resolution, the Secretary-General notes, the Council called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
The Secretary-General also notes that it is for the Security Council to examine information regarding resolution 2231 (2015).
At the same time, the Secretary-General urges all concerned to act with restraint.  In the current political atmosphere in the Middle East region, and so soon after the positive news of the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the Secretary-General calls on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to act with moderation, caution and the good sense not to increase tensions through any hasty actions.

—March 10, 2016, in a press release 


Photo credits: Foreign Minister Zarif by Robin Wright 


US on Anniversary of Robert Levinson's Disappearance

Robert LevinsonMarch 9 marked nine years since Robert Levinson went missing in Iran. Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared on March 9, 2007, during a visit to Kish Island. Initial reports indicated that he was researching a cigarette smuggling case as a private investigator. In late 2013, his family acknowledged that his visit to Kish Island was partly related to his contract work for the CIA. He was not included in the prisoner swap on January 16 that released four Americans held in Iran, and Tehran has denied knowing his status or location. The following are statements from U.S. officials and agencies on the anniversary of Levinson’s disappearance.

Secretary of State John Kerry
John KerryOn the anniversary today of Robert Levinson’s disappearance from Kish Island, Iran, nine years ago, I want to underscore our commitment to locate Bob and bring him home.
For almost a decade, a beloved husband, brother, father, and grandfather has been kept from celebrating family milestones most take for granted.  No one should have to endure what Mr. Levinson and his family have endured for so long.
As the President has said, and as I have told the Levinson family when I have met with them, we will never forget Bob, and we will not rest until the Levinson family is whole again.
The U.S. government in its entirety will continue all efforts to locate Bob and bring him home.  The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed to cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Mr. Levinson, and we are holding Iran to its promise.
White House Press Secretary Statement
Today marks the ninth year since retired FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared during a trip to Kish Island, Iran. We continue to call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide assistance in his case, as agreed to as part of the prisoner exchange finalized earlier this year, so that we can bring Mr. Levinson home.
Finding Mr. Levinson remains a top priority for the United States, and we continue to spare no effort to bring him home. Today the United States renews its unrelenting commitment to securing Mr. Levinson's return. Our hearts remain with the Levinson family. They have endured the pain and suffering of his disappearance for far too long.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Statement
Nine years ago, on March 9, 2007, Robert A. “Bob” Levinson went missing on Kish Island, Iran. Bob, who will turn 68 tomorrow, served his country for 28 years, including 22 years as a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is the longest-held hostage in American history.
The FBI continues to work closely with our intelligence community and international partners to locate Bob and bring him home safely. We are encouraged by recent cooperation between the government of Iran and the United States and believe that our ability to locate Bob and reunite him with his family requires a shared commitment by the Iranian government.
“Bob’s wife, children, and grandchildren have waited nine long years for the release of their loved one. Nine years is an incomprehensible amount of time for him to be missing without any word of his whereabouts,” said FBI Director James B. Comey. “The FBI family feels personally connected to ensuring Bob’s safe return and we are doing everything in our power to investigate all leads.”
Click here to read more on Robert Levinson
Photo credit: FBI.gov and Levinson family 

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