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The Iran Primer

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Khamenei’s Red Lines on Nuclear Talks

            In October and September, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office released three infographics outlining his support for nuclear talks, Iran’s red lines and principles of Iranian diplomacy. The main points closely matched his speech in April marking National Nuclear Technology Day, which is included below.

            On April 9, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outlined six red lines on nuclear talks in an address to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The semi-official government website NuclearEnergy.ir pulled out his six points and distributed the graphic below. The following are excerpts from his speech marking National Nuclear Technology Day.  

 
 
Address to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
 
             The purpose of agreeing with these negotiations was to change the atmosphere of hostility that the camp of arrogance [the West] has created against Iran. These negotiations should continue, but everyone should know that despite this, the activities of the Islamic Republic in the area of nuclear research and development will not stop in any way. None of the nuclear achievements of the country can be given up. Besides, the relations of the International Atomic Energy Agency with Iran should be normal and ordinary relations.
 
       Another plot that global arrogance [the West] has tried very hard to implement against the Islamic Revolution is to influence the major policies of Iran and to shatter the willpower of the political management of the country. But the camp of arrogance has failed to do this until today and by Allah's favor, it will continue to fail in the future.
 
       The nuclear issue is an example of this, through which they tried to create an environment against the Islamic Republic and to spread lies. Their goal is to preserve the international environment against Iran with this excuse. This was why there was an agreement with the new plan of the administration for the nuclear issue. The purpose of this agreement was to remove the international environment against Iran, to seize the initiative from the other side and to reveal the truth for public opinion in the world. Of course, these negotiations do not mean that the Islamic Republic will compromise its scientific-nuclear movement.
 
             The nuclear achievements that have been made so far are, in fact, a message to the people of Iran that they can take the paths which lead to the lofty peaks of science and technology. Therefore, this scientific-nuclear movement should not be stopped in any way or slowed down.
 
             None of the nuclear achievements of the country can be given up. No one has the right to trade these achievements and no one will do this.
 
             At that time [a few years ago], a formula was devised for producing fuel. But the Americans created obstacles in the way of this process. This was contrary to what they had said to their friends in the regions and to a South American country - and these people believed what the Americans said. The Americans foolishly thought that they had put Iran in dire straits.
 
             At that time, I said that America does not want to solve this issue. Later on, everyone saw that when a nuclear agreement was in its final stages, the Americans did not allow it to be finalized.At that time, westerners began to ridicule our experts who had announced that they have the capability to produce fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor. But our youth accomplished this feat in less than the arranged time and as a result, the enemies were astonished.
 
             If some people think that the price of nuclear achievements has been sanctions and pressures, we should remind them that even before the nuclear excuse, sanctions and pressures existed against Iran.
 
             During the time when there was no nuclear excuse, a western court put Iran on a trial in absentia. Of course, in the present time, they do not have the courage to do this because of the national power of the country. Sanctions and pressures do not exist because of the nuclear issue. Rather, they are opposed to the independent identity - which originates from Islamic faith and belief - and the future prospects of the people of Iran and the Islamic Republic and to their refusal to be bullied by anyone.
 
             Therefore, if it is said that sanctions and pressures are the price that we have paid for our nuclear achievements, this is not true because even if sanctions did not exist, they would make another excuse, as the Americans bring up the issue of human rights in today's negotiations.
 
             Even if the issue of human rights is resolved, they will find another excuse. Therefore, the only way is to continue our path of progress with complete power and to stand up against their bullying.
 
             The negotiators of the country should not give in to any bullying of the other side. Besides, the relations of the International Atomic Energy Agency with Iran should be normal and ordinary relations.

Students Call on Soleimani to Defend Kobane

            On October 9, the Basij Student Organization called on Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani to defend the Syrian town of Kobane from Islamic State militants. The Basij is a volunteer paramilitary organization divided into various branches across Iran. Its student branch warned in a letter to Soleimani that inaction by Iran would result in the slaughter of Kobane’s inhabitants. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was also copied.
             The Islamic State has been trying to take the Kurdish town for three weeks. U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish fighters on the ground have slowed the Islamic State’s advance, but its fighters reportedly penetrated part of the town as of October 6. The following is a translation of the student organization’s letter published by Fars News Agency.  

Dear Commander of the Qods Force,

Greetings and respect;

As you are aware, the long-oppressed people of Kobane are surrounded by Daesh [Islamic State] forces. The latest news is that half of the Kurdish city has been captured by these barbarians and criminals. If the diplomatic apparatus and Iranian military are silent and inactive on this issue, the complete capture of the city and the killing of its people are possible. Please take advantage of and use all the capabilities of the foreign ministry and the Qods Force to prevent this crime. We ask God for enduring success in serving the world’s oppressed people.

 

Report: Iran's Media on Syria Conflict

            Iranian media coverage of the Syria conflict propagates official state policy and emphasizes the legitimacy of the Syrian state, according to a study by the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization. The subjective nature of this media content, however, “serves to undermine the legitimacy of such coverage, and thus begs the question of its reception among the reading public in Iran.” The report analyzes 219 news articles from October 2013 to March 2014, using quantitative and qualitative methods to identify patterns and themes in how the conflict is portrayed in Iranian news media.

Mainstream Iranian Press Coverage of the Syrian Conflict

Supreme Leader on Chemical Weapons

            Iran’s supreme leader has taken to social media to condemn chemical weapons used against Iran nearly three decades ago. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office released an infographic on the 27th anniversary of Iraq’s use of mustard gas and nerve agents near the village of Sumar, Iran. The infographic on Khamenei's Facebook page states:

•Iraq launched more than 570 chemical attacks on Iran from 1983 to 1988.
•Some 1 million people exposed to chemical fumes.
•Some 100,000 Iranians still suffer from acute complications as a result of exposure.
•Western companies provided Saddam Hussein with the material to produce the weapons.


           
War is tough and unfavorable but even war has its own rules.
 #Islam orders us to observe human values during wars.
            In 1980-88 war, #Iran was bombarded with Saddam’s chemical weapons for about 6 years and the UN was only a bystander to this crime.
           
Which countries provided Saddam’s arsenals with chemical weapons which he used against the Iranians for several years? 
             The arrogants knew Saddam would use chemical weapons on Iranian women and kids but they armed him with illegal weapons.
             Ayatollah Khamenei, 7/23/1997             

             The following is a list of instances of chemical weapon use by Iraq from the U.S. government*:
 
Use in Iran-Iraq war, 1983-1988 
 
  • August 1983 Haij Umran
 
Mustard , fewer than 100 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • October-November 1983 Panjwin
 
Mustard, 3,000 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • February-March 1984 Majnoon Island
 
Mustard, 2,500 Iranian casualties
  • March 1984 al-Basrah
 
Tabun, 50-100 Iranian casualties
  • March 1985 Hawizah Marsh
 
Mustard & Tabun, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • February 1986 al-Faw
 
Mustard & Tabun, 8,000 to 10,000 Iranian casualties
  • December 1986 Um ar-Rasas
 
Mustard, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • April 1987 al-Basrah
 
Mustard & Tabun, 5,000 Iranian casualties
  • October 1987 Sumar/Mehran
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • March 1988 Halabjah& Kurdish area
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Kurdish/Iranian casualties
  • April 1988 al-Faw
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • May 1988 Fish Lake
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • June 1988 Majnoon Islands
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • July 1988 South-central border
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
*Numerous other smaller scale chemical weapons attacks occurred.
 

 

Report: Iran’s Evolving Rockets & Missiles

             Iran is developing more advanced rockets and missiles to compensate for shortcomings in its conventional forces, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Most of Tehran’s current arsenal suffers from poor accuracy and reliability. But Iran is improving its guidance systems. Future development of booster systems “might give Iran the ability to strike at targets throughout Europe and even in the US,” warns Anthony Cordesman. The following are excerpts from the report.

             Iran’s rocket and missile forces serve a wide range of Iranian strategic objectives. Iran’s forces range from relatively short-range artillery rockets that support its ground forces and limit the need for close air support to long-range missiles that can reach any target in the region and the development of booster systems that might give Iran the ability to strike at targets throughout Europe and even in the US.
 
             They are steadily evolving. While the lethality of most current systems is limited by a reliance on conventional warheads, poor accuracy, and uncertain reliability; Iran is developing steadily improved guidance systems, attempting to improve the lethality of its conventional warheads, and has at least studied arming its missiles with nuclear warheads.
 
The Broader Strategic Value of Iran’s Short Range Rockets and Missiles
             Iran has shown that even short-range artillery rockets can have a strategic impact and be used in irregular warfare and as an indirect form of power projection. Iran has played a major role in helping Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad create a major pool of steadily improving rockets that it can conceal, disperse and fire against Israel, and that Israel cannot easily seek out and destroy even in a land invasion.
 
The Near-Term Impact of the Iranian Missile Threat
             Iran’s existing missile forces give it the capability to attack targets in the Gulf and near its border with conventionally armed long-range missiles and rockets, and Iran can attack targets in Israel, throughout the region, and beyond with its longest-range ballistic missiles. However, the shortterm risks posed by Iran’s current conventionally armed rockets and missiles should not be exaggerated.
 
Shaping the Future Threat: Nuclear Warheads vs. Precision Conventional Warheads
             The Iranian missile threat may become far more serious in the future. Left to its own devices, Iran would probably deploy both nuclear-armed missile and highly accurate missiles with conventional warheads. Iran has powerful military incentives to deploy nuclear weapons, and Iran’s missile forces give it the potential ability to develop a major nuclear strike force.
 
Missiles, Political and Psychological Warfighting, and Wars of Intimidation
             At a minimum, Iran’s growing missile forces increase its deterrent and defensive ability to deter attack on Iran and compensate for its weaknesses in airpower. More broadly, Iran can use its missiles politically and strategically, and not simply to damage targets. Selective firings and “volleys” of conventionally armed, unguided long-range missiles and rockets can be used as political symbols or terror weapons.
 
Putting Iran’s Missile and Nuclear Programs in Perspective
             It is difficult to predict how aggressive Iran would become in exploiting its nuclear capability if Iran did acquire nuclear-armed missiles. Iran has so far been cautious in initiating any use of force that might threaten the survival regime. Its best strategy would be to limit its use of nuclear missile forces to pressure, deter, and intimidate.
             Iran is, however, clearly involved in an active competition with the US and with its Arab neighbors in an effort to win strategic influence and leverage. Iran faces US and Arab competition for influence and control over Iraq, the emerging threat of the Islamic State, and growing uncertainty over the future of its alliance with the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also still seems to see American influence behind all of these steadily growing pressures.
 
The Mid and Longer Term Risk of an Iranian Nuclear Weapon and a Nuclear-Armed Missile Threat
             It must be stressed that Iran cannot deploy either nuclear-armed missiles or precision strike missiles in a military vacuum where its neighbors and the US do not respond. If Iran does go nuclear, this decision will impact on a region that is already involved in a nuclear arms race. The prospect of combined Iranian missile and nuclear threat has already posed risks that have affected every aspect of US, Arab, Israeli and other military competition with Iran for at least the last decade. This competition has increasingly focused them on responding with on options like preventive strikes, proliferation, and extended deterrence as Iran has made enough progress towards a nuclear weapons capability so that there is a real prospect that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons and arm its missiles and aircraft with nuclear weapons within the next three to five years.
 
Click here for the full text.
 
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 
Click here to read his chapter on Iran’s conventional military.
 

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