On July 31, the State Department reported that Iran is the world’s “leading” state sponsor of terrorism. According to the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, Tehran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force to support additional terrorist activities and “implement foreign policy goals.”
On July 31, President Obama issued the following statement on new sanctions on Iranian oil and foreign financial institutions that facilitate transactions for Iranian banks.
Today, the United States is announcing two significant steps that strengthen our efforts to pressure and isolate the Iranian government for its continued failure to meet its international obligations.
First, I have approved a new Executive Order that imposes new sanctions against the Iranian energy and petrochemical sectors. This action is designed to deter Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent existing sanctions, and utilizes the existing structure of our sanctions law, including exceptions for significant reductions in the purchase of Iranian oil. Additionally, existing sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry are expanded by making sanctionable the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products. Sanctions are also authorized for those who may seek to avoid the impact of these sanctions, including against individuals and entities that provide material support to the National Iranian Oil Company, Naftiran Intertrade Company, or the Central Bank of Iran, or for the purchase or acquisition of U.S. bank notes or precious metals by the Government of Iran.
Second, we have also taken a significant step to hold responsible institutions that knowingly enable financial transactions for designated Iranian banks. The Department of the Treasury today imposed sanctions on Bank of Kunlun in China and Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA). Bank of Kunlun and Elaf Islamic Bank have facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran’s illicit proliferation activities. By cutting off these financial institutions from the United States, today’s action makes it clear that we will expose any financial institution, no matter where they are located, that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system.
Since taking office, we have presented the Iranian government with a clear choice: come in line with your international obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or face growing consequences. With these actions, we are once again reaffirming our commitment to hold the Iranian government accountable for its actions. The United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution, but the onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations. If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences.
Iran has consistently supported President Bashar Assad since the uprising erupted in March 2011. Yet Iran’s tone on the Syrian crisis has noticeably evolved. Tehran initially subscribed to the official Syrian narrative; it described the protests as insignificant and orchestrated by foreign powers, including the United States. The first shift was visible in August 2011, as escalating dissent spread nationwide. High-ranking Iranian officials began referring to the “legitimate” demands of the Syrian people and the need for political reform.
In a second shift, Iranian officials started calling for a negotiated solution in early 2012. Tehran then formally backed the six-point U.N. plan on March 28, 2012.
But the top political, religious and military leaders have taken widely diverse positions. Some have stressed the need for the regime, Tehran’s longtime ally, to engage in dialogue with the opposition. Others have encouraged solidarity with Assad against “the dirt” of Syria’s enemies.
Still others have called for a combination of the two positions. On July 27, U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee warned against supporting opposition groups in Syria with arms or funds but also pledged support for the six-point U.N. plan. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi hosted his Syrian counterpart, Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem, on July 29 in Tehran. Salehi acknowledged the Syrian people’s desire for change, but he also accused Israel and other countries of hatching a “plot” against Damascus.
The following quotes track the evolution in Iranian comments, dating from the crisis onset in spring 2011 through the joint press conference by the Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers.
Ramin Mehmanparast, Foreign Ministry spokesman, April 12, 2011
Ramin Mehmanparast, Foreign Ministry spokesman, May 28, 2012
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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