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Thousands Suffer from Chemical Weapons Quarter Century Later

            The following article first appeared in Time magazine.

Robin Wright

           Hassan Hassani Sa’di has been dying from chemical weapons for almost 30 years. The Iranian still remembers the moment he realized Iraqi warplanes were dropping more than regular bombs. “I knew,” he says, “because of the smell of garlic.” It was the pungent and telltale aroma of mustard gas.
      Death from mustard gas is gruesome; so is survival. It hideously disfigures skin, sears lungs and mucus membranes, and often blinds. Unlike nerve gas, there’s no antidote. Sa’di, then an 18-year-old fighting in the Middle East’s grisliest modern war — the 8-year conflict between Iran and Iraq — survived the Iraqi attack on the strategic Fao Peninsula in 1985. Within hours, his body was badly blistered, and he had gone blind. “The last thing I remember is vomiting green,” he says, during an interview at the Tehran Peace Museum, a facility dedicated to education and the documentation of weapons of mass destruction.
      Iran is today the world’s largest laboratory for the study of the effects of chemical weapons, in part because of the sheer numbers of Iranian victims, but also because of a little-studied phenomenon called low-dose exposure. In 1991, a declassified CIA report estimated that Iran suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq’s repeated use of nerve agents and toxic gases in the 1980s. Mustard gas — in dusty, liquid and vapor forms — was used the most during the war. It was packed into bombs and artillery shells, then fired at frontlines and beyond, including at hospitals.
            Years after the war, however, Iranian doctors noticed that respiratory diseases with unusual side-symptoms — corneal disintegration, rotting teeth and dementia, a combination synonymous with mustard gas — had started killing off veterans who had not always been on the frontlines. Civilians were also dying.
            So in 2000, the government launched a media campaign urging people who had been in certain areas during the war to report for check-ups. The ads didn’t specify why.
The troubling pattern was soon diagnosed as secondary contamination to mustard gas. “We may only have seen the tip of the iceberg. We may not yet have seen the majority of victims,” Dr. Farhad Hashemnezhad told me in 2002. “At least 20 percent of the current patients are civilians who didn’t think they were close enough to be exposed.”
            Numbers have since soared from the lingering, and unanticipated, effects of mustard gas. Dr. Shahriar Khateri, Iran’s leading expert on chemical weapons victims, now says 70,000 are registered, many from low-dose exposure that is now killing them.
            “We now know that the latency period can be 40 years,” says Khateri, who is unsure of his own fate. Khateri volunteered to fight at age 15 after his brother was killed in the war. He was gassed in 1987 during the battle for southern port of Khorramshahr. After the war, he went to medical school and co-founded the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support.
Iranian doctors say the final toll of Iraq’s chemical weapons could ultimately rival the 90,000 who died from toxic gases in World War I.
            In the meantime, Iran has struggled to tend to victims. Sa’di has had 8 surgeries to transplant or repair both corneas, but still has to hold his watch to his face, and sunlight is painful. He takes multiple medications to help breathe, but has a hacking cough. He does not work — the state gives him disability allowance — although he volunteers as an occasional docent at the Tehran Peace Museum to tell his story.
            In Tehran, chemical weapons victims often end up at Sasan Hospital, a grim facility that had been the American Hospital of Tehran before the 1979 revolution. Abolfazl Afazali is one of 22 patients struggling for life at Sasan when I visit in December. “One of my wishes,” he says, “is to be able to take a deep breath.”
            U.S. sanctions have complicated treatment, Iranian doctors say. Humanitarian goods are technically exempt, but international banks have often been unwilling to conduct financial transactions with Iran, even when legal, for fear of repercussions.
            Ahmad Zangiabadi represented Iranian victims at the 2013 conference of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. He is no longer mobile, however. He sleeps sitting upright on the floor of his small apartment because the exertion of lying down and getting up is too much for his lungs. He is kept alive on an Airsep New Life Alert oxygen machine, which pushes oxygen into his lungs and makes a thudding sound with every breath. But he has had increasing trouble getting inhalers made by Spiriva and Glaxo Smith Kline. “Life has become a prison the past four months,” he says.
            The lingering impact of a war that ended in a 1988 truce, at a cost of an estimated 1 million Iranian and Iraqi casualties, still defines Iran’s worldview. It has been as important as economic sanctions in pushing Tehran to the negotiating table with the world’s six major powers on its nuclear program. As a result of the war, Iran suffers from “strategic loneliness,” explained Nasser Hadian, a University of Tehran political scientist.
            The primary lesson learned, he said, was that Iran had no allies even when it was a victim of weapons banned since World War I by international norms.Tehran felt a sense of isolation and betrayal after the United Nations verified Iraq’s repeated use chemical weapons, but the outside world still almost unanimously sided with Saddam Hussein. Iran’s neighbors aided him. Europeans and Russians sold him arms.
            The United States was complicit too. Washington provided Baghdad with intelligence on Iran’s equipment and troops strengths to help Iraq retake the Fao Peninsula in 1988. Iraq made widespread use of chemical weapons to win it back.
            The final tally of the war may still not be known for years, Khateri says. “Most of the men exposed to chemical weapons were not registered casualties at the time,” he says. “So almost every day there are new cases — 30 years after the war.”
 
This article is reposted from Time magazine.
 
Photo credit: Sajed.ir via Wikimedia Commons
 

 

The Elders in Tehran: To Advance Dialogue

            On January 27, the independent group of global leaders called The Elders began a three-day visit to Iran to “encourage and advance the new spirit of openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community.” The delegation, led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, stressed the need to “rebuild trust and mutual respect in the region and further afield.”
            The other members of the delegation included Martti Ahtisaari (former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Laureate), Desmond Tutu (Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate) and Ernesto Zedillo (former President of Mexico). Nelson Mandela brought The Elders together in 2007. The following is the full text of their statement read by Annan.

 

Statement to the press by Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders
 
            This is the first visit of The Elders as a group to Iran. However, several of us have visited Iran before individually and know your wonderful country well.
            We have had very good discussions today, first with Ayatollah Rafsanjani and now with the Foreign Minister, Dr Zarif. These were very useful and in-depth discussions.
            The Elders are a group of independent leaders, brought together by the late Nelson Mandela in 2007.
            Sadly Mr Mandela passed away in December and we are even more determined to carry on the mission and the charge he gave us. He told us to speak truth to power, particularly on behalf of the weak, poor and voiceless.
            Since our founding, we have worked to help heal wounds and bring lasting peace in several parts of the world including Sudan and South Sudan, the Korean Peninsula, Kenya, Israel-Palestine.
            Our purpose in coming here is to meet the senior leadership and hear from a range of opinions about current developments, in particular those affecting this region.
            All of us, including our Iranian hosts, are deeply concerned about the tragic situation in Syria today. We must all do our best to help reduce suffering and put the interest of the people of Syria to the fore. We must do everything we can to end the nightmare that Syrian men, women and children are going through today.
            We are just at the start of our visit – we still have two days in Iran during which we will meet a wide range of leading Iranian personalities.
            We look forward to hearing their suggestions about what The Elders may do to help in the region and internationally regarding the tensions we see today.
            As President Rouhani said to the UN General Assembly in September, that alongside widespread fears in the world today, and I quote:
            “There are new hopes; the hope of universal acceptance by the people and the elite all across the globe of ‘yes to peace and no to war’; and the hope of preference of dialogue over conflict and moderation over extremism.”
            We believe there has been a number of recent positive developments, most importantly the interim nuclear agreement, signed in Geneva last November. These efforts now need to be sustained to achieve final agreement.
            In this regard, we must rebuild trust and mutual respect in the region and further afield. This is not an easy task. It will need patience and perseverance.
            Let me conclude by saying that, all around the world today, people are looking for better governance, looking to have a say in how they are governed. Such strong and democratic, healthy societies are built on three pillars:
            First, peace and stability; second, development; and, third, the rule of law and human rights.
            For there can be no long-term development without peace and stability, and there can be no long term stability without development; both have to be rooted in the rule of law and respect for human rights.
            So we have a lot to do, individually and collectively, to make our world a more peaceful and better place, and try to end all the conflict around us.
 
 

Polls: Americans Support Nuclear Deal

            The majority of Americans support the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, according to two new polls. An AP-GfK survey found that 60 percent of participants approve of the agreement. But 47 percent are not confident that it will lead to a more comprehensive plan to ensure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. And only 42 percent of those polled approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of Iran.
            
A new Economist/YouGov poll found that 58 percent of respondents approve of the deal while only 25 percent do not. But more than half prefer to threaten Iran with sanctions or the use of military force rather than offer it incentives. The following are excerpted results from the two surveys.

 
AP-GfK Poll
Jan. 17-21, 2014
 
Overall, do you approve, disapprove, or neither approve nor disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in Iran?
 
Total Approve: 42 percent
Approve: 25
Lean towards approving: 17 percent
 
Don’t lean either way: 2 percent
Refused/Not Answered: *
 
Total disapprove: 57 percent
Lean towards disapproving: 17 percent
Disapprove: 40 percent
 
Do you approve, disapprove, or neither approve nor disapprove of the interim agreement reached between Iran and six world powers that is designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program?
 
Total approve: 60 percent
Approve: 33
Lean approve: 28
 
Neither – don’t lean: 2 percent
Refused/Not answered: 2 percent
 
Total disapprove: 36 percent
Disapprove: 19 percent
Lean disapprove: 17 percent
 
How likely do you think it is that these initial steps toward curbing Iran’s nuclear program reached between Iran and six world powers will lead to a more comprehensive plan to ensure that Iran does not build its own nuclear weapon?
 
Extremely likely: 2 percent
Very likely: 6 percent
Somewhat likely: 39 percent
Not too likely: 31percent
Not at all likely: 20 percent
Refused/Not answered: 3 percent
 
Click here for the full poll report.
 
Economist/YouGov Poll
Jan. 18-20, 2014
 
How serious a threat do you think Iran poses to the United States?
An immediate and serious threat to the U.S. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20%
A somewhat serious threat to the U.S. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38%
A minor threat to the U.S. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27%
Not a threat to the U.S. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7%
 
What strategy should the US employ to get Iran to limit its nuclear program?
Threaten Iran with of the possible use of military force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
Threaten Iran with harsher economic sanctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35%
Reward Iran with easing of economic sanctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20%
Reward Iran with a guarantee of no use of military force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8%
Reward Iran with resumption of diplomatic relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12%
Something else . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22%

How closely have you been following the news on the current round of negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities?
Very closely . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12%
Somewhat closely . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37%
Not very closely . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32%
Not closely at all . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19%
 
Do you approve or disapprove of an international agreement which requires Iran to temporarily freeze parts of its nuclear program and participate in international negotiations to limit its nuclear program permanently in exchange for a temporary easing of economic sanctions?
Strongly approve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21%
Somewhat approve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37%
Somewhat disapprove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12%
Strongly disapprove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13%
No opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18%
 
How much do you trust the government of Iran to adhere to any agreement which limits Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon?
A great deal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4%
Some . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16%
Not much . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31%
Not at all . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9%
 
Should President Obama personally negotiate with the leaders of Iran to limit their nuclear program?
Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55%
No . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45%
 
Should Congress establish what are acceptable limits for international negotiations before the administration begins to negotiate?
Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53%
No . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23%
 
Do you favor or oppose subjecting all foreign treaties to approval by the US Senate?
Favor strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20%
Favor somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30%
Oppose somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17%
Oppose strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27%
 
When it comes to setting national policy on Iran, do you think the President is motivated more by political considerations or what he thinks is in the best interest of the US?
Political considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48%
Best interests of the US . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17%
 
When it comes to setting national policy on Iran, do you think the members of the US Congress are motivated more by political considerations or what the members think is in the best interest of the US?
Political considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63%
Best interests of the US . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17%
 
Who do you trust more when it comes to negotiating treaties with other countries?
The President . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28%
The US Senate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12%
Both equally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14%
Neither . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12%
 
If negotiations fail, do you approve or disapprove of the use of military force against Iran by the US?
Approve strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15%
Approve somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24%
Disapprove somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21%
Disapprove strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16%
 
If negotiations fail, do you approve or disapprove of the use of military force against Iran by Israel?
Approve strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21%
Approve somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27%
Disapprove somewhat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16%
Disapprove strongly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
 
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling Iran?
Strongly approve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11%
Somewhat approve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27%
Somewhat disapprove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16%
Strongly disapprove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25%
No opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20%
 
Click here for the full report.
 
 

Kerry at Davos: Addresses Iran Issues

            Secretary of State John Kerry spoke extensively about Iran at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The first excerpt below is from his January 24 address to the gathering. The second excerpt is from a January 23 interview with Al Arabiya.


Today, we believe that there are initiatives that, taken together, have the potential to reshape the Middle East and could even help create the foundations of a new order.
 
First, the agreement that we reached with Iran.  As of this week, Iran’s nuclear weapons program is being rolled back in important ways.  On Monday, Iran took a series of steps that the world has long demanded, including reducing its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, disabling the infrastructure for its production, and allowing unprecedented transparency and monitoring to guarantee Iran is complying with the agreement.
 
They will have to reduce their 20 percent to zero, and they do not have and will not have the capacity for reconversion.  They will have to reduce it to forms that are not suitable for making weapons.  Iran must also halt enrichment above 5 percent and it will not be permitted to grow the current stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium.  Iran cannot increase the number of centrifuges that are in operation, and it cannot install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.  And while we negotiate a final agreement over these next months, Iran will not be permitted to take any steps to commission the Arak plutonium reactor. 
 
Now clearly, there are good reasons to ask tough questions of Iran going forward – and believe me, we will – and good reasons to require that the promises Iran made are promises kept.  Remember – we certainly haven’t forgotten – there is a reason that world has placed sanctions on Iran.  There’s a reason why they exist in the first place.  And there’s a reason why the core architecture of those sanctions remains in place.  And that is why this effort is grounded not in trusting, not in words, but in testing.  And that is why now inspectors can be at Fordow every day. 
 
That wasn’t the case before the agreement we struck.  Inspectors can now also be at Natanz every day.  That’s also new, thanks to the agreement we struck.  And inspectors will visit Arak plutonium plant every month, and they are under an obligation to deliver the plans for that plant to us.
 
Taken altogether, these elements will increase the amount of time that it would take for Iran to break out and build a bomb – the breakout time, as we call it – and it will increase our ability to be able to detect it and to prevent it.  And all of this will to an absolute guarantee beyond any reasonable doubt make Israel safer than it was the day before we entered this agreement, make the region safer than it was the day before we entered this agreement, and make the world safer than it was.
 
Now yesterday, President Rouhani stood here and he said that Iran is eager to engage with the world, and hopefully.  But Iran knows what it must do to make that happen.  He told you that Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon.  Well, while the message is welcome, my friends, the words themselves are meaningless unless actions are taken to give them meaning.  Starting now, Iran has the opportunity to prove these words beyond all doubt to the world.
 
Now, let’s be clear:  If you are serious about a peaceful program, it is not hard to prove to the world that your program is peaceful.  For sure, a country with a peaceful nuclear program does not need to build enrichment facilities in the cover of darkness in the depth of a mountain.  It doesn’t need a heavy water reactor designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium, like the one at Arak.  It has no reason to fear intrusive monitoring and verification.  And it should have no problem resolving outstanding issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
 
This is true for every country in the world with an exclusively peaceful nuclear program.  And it is the tough but reasonable standard to which Iran must also be held.
 
So we welcome this week’s historic step.  But now the hard part begins, six months of intensive negotiations with the goal of resolving all the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.  I want to say that the P5+1 has acted in unity, in great cooperation, and we welcome the international community’s efforts that has characterized this initiative. 
 
So Iran must meet this test.  If it does, the Middle East will be a safer place, free from the fear of a nuclear arms race.  And diplomatic engagement, my friends, backed by sanctions and other options, will have proved its worth. 
 
 
Interview with Rima Maktabi of Al Arabiya
 
QUESTION: So there is an alternative to Assad?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely, there is.
 
QUESTION: Is he ready...?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, he’s not ready, no. He’s not ready at this point in time. But I think over time, providing Russia, the Saudi Arabians, the Turks, the Qataris, the Jordanians, the countries in the region, and even perhaps Iran could contribute to a reasonable process by which Syria is protected and the people of Syria are protected…
 
QUESTION: How will you engage Iran? It’s – Iran was not present in Geneva II. President Rouhani’s statement today was all about extremist groups. He totally overlooked the presence of the Revolutionary Guard in Syria, didn’t even come close to mentioning Hezbollah fighting in Syria. How will you engage Iran?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Iran has to be engaged realistically and on a basis of honesty. Iran understands that the Geneva I communique calls for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent. Iran could have come to Geneva, but they refused to embrace that standard. So what Iran needs to do is either show that it’s more than words, that its actions are willing to join the international community, or it will be very difficult to have Iran be part of this.
 
But Iran clearly has an impact. Iran has IRGC personnel on the ground in Syria conducting military affairs. Iran is the principal supporter of its client, the terrorist organization called Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not just in Lebanon; Hezbollah is fighting in Syria. Hezbollah is the principal difference in the fighting that has taken place on the ground in Syria…
 
QUESTION: So you are perceived as a country that for 40 years were against Iran, you had allies in the region that helped you in that, and now you left them in the dark, struck a deal with Iran. The deal is not even clear or very – or made public with its details and specifics.
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Actually, the deal, Rima, could not be more clear, and we have not left anybody in the dark…We are extremely diligent in working with our friends in the region. I have just made, I don’t know, maybe my 14th – 20th trip to the region..Sometimes, I’ve traveled exclusively just to the Emirates or just to Saudi Arabia or to one of the countries in the region. And the reason is because we have been extremely energized in making certain that our friends know exactly what we’re doing…
 
We are talking with Iran about a nuclear program, that’s all. We are trying to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon which would change the balance of power in the region. What we are doing is profoundly in the interests of our friends in the region. I am absolutely certain beyond a reasonable doubt that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey – all of the countries in the region are safer today from the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon than they were before we made the agreement that we made.
 
Now, under the agreement we made, Iran has to undo all of its 20 percent enriched uranium. They have to take it to zero. That makes everybody safer. They have to limit their stock of 3.5 percent uranium. That makes people safer. The stock cannot grow.
 
QUESTION: They will remain a nuclear-capable country.
 
SECRETARY KERRY: But they cannot finish the Arak [heavy water] reactor during the time of this preliminary first step. They have to have inspections…They have to have inspections every day of Fordow. They have to have inspections every day in Natanz. We didn't have that before we made this agreement. Now, yeah, if they broke out – if they decided they’re going to throw this agreement away and go start enrichment again, sure, they can turn around. But guess what? If they do that, then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do. So I don’t think that would last very long. I don’t think that’s a wise choice for Iran. The fact is that the United States – the President of the United States has made it clear: Iran will not have a nuclear weapon…We will not make a bad deal. A bad deal is worse than no deal, and we won’t do that. But we are convinced that we are on the right track because clearly – clearly – the world would rather see us settle this peacefully rather than have to have a military confrontation.
 
QUESTION: Mr. Kerry, for the GCC countries it’s the same Iranian regime, and for the GCC countries they don’t want to see a nuclear Iran. But they also see Iran that meddles in Bahrain affairs, has Hezbollah in Lebanon.
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely.
 
QUESTION: Has Hezbollah in Syria. Destabilizes some of Yemen. All the Iranian ambitions in the region, is this okay with the U.S. as long as Iran is not nuclear?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: No. And we’ve made that clear. Of course it’s not okay.
 
QUESTION: How will you solve it?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is sponsoring Hezbollah. Right now, Hezbollah is engaged in the violence of Syria. We find that very objectionable. And there are other ways in which Iran is engaged in support for terror within the region. We don’t agree with that. No, we don’t. Nor do our friends.
 
But you have to take one step at a time. This is diplomacy, and we are working through the diplomatic process to end a significant threat that, if it isn’t ended, could create a confrontation within the region, will certainly see other states seek nuclear weapons, and you would have a far more dangerous Middle East than you have already today. So one step at a time. We are focused on the first step, which is the nuclear program. We are prepared to engage with Iran on the other issues.
 
QUESTION: Well, then you would ask them to disarm Hezbollah, for example?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. We believe they should stop supporting Hezbollah completely and totally. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they should not support terrorism in the region. End of issue.
 
QUESTION: Okay. If things are positive, the deal works, will you withdraw your naval forces from the Gulf waters? Why do you need them if things are okay with Iran?
 
SECRETARY KERRY: Because there are many issues, unfortunately. We’re fighting al Qaeda, we’re dealing with problems in Yemen, with uncertainties in other parts of the region. The United States will do what is necessary to stand up for the freedom of navigation, for the free movement of oil and products in the region. We will stand up for our friends in the region who are threatened, and we will continue to have a presence in the Middle East for as far as I can see in the foreseeable future. But we will continue to work for peace. That’s why we are also working in the Middle East peace process.
 
 

Rouhani at Davos: Invites Oil Execs, Speech in Tweets

            On January 23, President Hassan Rouhani invited oil companies to invest in Iran in an address to some 30 executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Without international engagement, objectives such as growth, creativity and quality are unattainable,” Rouhani said. “We will make use of active foreign policy to achieve economic development.”
            On prospects for solving the nuclear dispute, Rouhani said, “We are ready” to make a comprehensive deal. “Of course, this is a long and winding and difficult road. However, if we remain serious and keep the will, we can push through.” Interest in Iran’s oil sector has reportedly grown since sanctions on petrochemicals, precious metals and shipping insurance were lifted on January 20 as part of the interim nuclear deal brokered in November 2013. The following is a full-length video clip of Rouhani’s address followed by tweets of his remarks. Rouhani has acknowledged that his tweets are posted by his “friends.”

 

 

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