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The Iran Primer

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UN: Iran Complying with Interim Nuke Deal

On April 20, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran has continued to meet its commitments under the interim nuclear agreement with the world’s six major powers. The report found that Iran was not enriching uranium above the five percent level or making "any further advances" at its enrichment facilities and heavy water reactor.

But the nuclear watchdog also noted on April 16 that Tehran has not fully addressed outstanding issues on its program related to activities that could be used to create an atomic device, such as alleged experiments on explosives, despite a "constructive exchange."

The following are some of the report’s key findings.

Since January 20, 2014, Iran has:

  • Not enriched uranium above the five percent level at its declared facilities
  • Diluted 108.4kg of its 20 percent enriched uranium down to the five percent level
  • Not made “any further advances” in its activities at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant or Arak reactor
  • Began converting 2720kg of five percent enriched uranium into uranium oxide
  • Continued to provide daily access to enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow
  • Provided regular access to centrifuge assembly workshops and centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities
  • Provided, for purposes of enhanced monitoring, plans for nuclear facilities, descriptions of their operations, and information on uranium mines and mills
 
Click here for the full report
 
 

Iran and Afghanistan Strengthen Ties

On April 19, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit with Iranian officials, his first since taking office in September. He was accompanied by six other Afghan officials, including Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and National Security Advisor Muhammad Hanif Atmar. Ghani met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during his visit, and signed two agreements to increase cooperation in countering terrorism and drug trafficking. The following are excerpted remarks from Afghan and Iranian officials during Ghani’s visit.

Iran
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
“In addition to its rich human and cultural resources, Afghanistan also enjoys abundant natural resources. These potentialities and commonalities should all serve to upgrade cooperation between the two countries.” 
 
 “Of course, the Americans and some countries in the region are unaware of the potentialities of Afghanistan and do not favor rapport and cooperation between the two countries either, but Iran regards the security and progress of its neighbor, Afghanistan, as its own security and progress.”
 
“Issues between the two countries, including ‘immigrants, water, transportation and security’ are all resolvable and everyone should deal with and settle these issues seriously and within the framework of a timeframe.” 
—April 19, 2015, in a meeting with President Ghani
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
 
"We need intelligence sharing and, if necessary, cooperation in operations because the problems that exist are not restricted and gradually spread throughout the region, affecting everyone."
—April 19, 2015, at a press conference with President Ghani
 
“We are very happy to witness unity and fraternity in Afghanistan and such a national integration is necessary for public development and welfare. Mutual confidence of people and government is the highest national asset and its result is stability, security and subsequently development which are both in favor of Afghan people and regional nations.”
 
“Both countries want establishment of peace and stability in the entire region, believing that in regional countries, including Yemen, problems cannot be settled through military means. Using planes and bombardment will not be effective, rather, in any country, people and political groups should remove their own problems through national dialogue and other governments and neighbors should prepare the ground for holding the dialogue.”
—April 19, 2015, in a meeting with Afghan officials
 
Afghanistan
 
President Ashraf Ghani
 
“People die daily, we face barbarism…and without greater cooperation a macabre phenomenon such as Daesh cannot be contained.”
—April 19, 2015, at a press conference with President Rouhani
 
"Relations between Iran and Afghanistan are historical and long-lasting and have various dimensions.”
 
"Today, we are facing the serious threat posed by various forms of terrorism…However, the Afghan nation's determination (to stand up against terrorism) is strong.”
—April 19, 2015, at a press conference with President Rouhani
 
"Our objective is [to see] Afghanistan become a communications hub in the region and regain its former status as the linking intersection in the region."
 
"Our political will is based on expanding bilateral ties and we have to make efforts to boost common and positive points between the two countries."
 
"The issues between the two countries should be resolved based on the political will of both governments and based on a timeframe set during this visit.”
 
"None of our neighbors has been as serious as Iran with regard to the threat of narcotics and no country has fought it like Iran, and we are ready to combat this scourge with the help of Iran.”
 
"Under your [Khamenei’s] wise leadership, Iran has stabilized its historic identity and we hope that under the aegis of this wise leadership, we will witness closer cooperation between the two countries."
—April 20, 2015, in a meeting with Iranian officials

 

Politics of a Nuclear Deal: Former U.S. & Iranian Officials Debate

Iran and the world’s six major powers now face a June 30 deadline for converting a blueprint into a final nuclear deal. Conflicting interpretations of terms in the proposed framework that was announced on April 2 have crystallized in recent weeks. Washington and Tehran seem to have differing views on sanctions relief, inspections of nuclear sites and research and development. With talks resuming this week, negotiators from the seven nations face three months of potentially tough talks to work out their differences.

On April 20, a unique panel of former U.S. and Iranian officials assessed the status of the talks and the political dynamics that will determine the fate of any agreement in Washington and Tehran. The following are the main points of the discussion at USIP led by former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who serves as the chairman of the Institute's board. It was the fourth Iran Forum event hosted by an unprecedented coalition of eight Washington think tanks —USIP, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the RAND Corporation, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, Partnership for a Secure America, and the Ploughshares Fund.
 

 
Ali-Akbar Mousavi
Former member of Iran's parliament (2000-2004)
Visiting Fellow at Virginia Tech & Human Rights Advocate
  • Iran and the world’s six major powers are close to a historic achievement that could solve a major international crisis peacefully.
  • In Iran, the Rouhani administration, Parliament, the Supreme Leader and the vast majority of citizens have reached a consensus that they want a nuclear agreement. Such a consensus, however, does not exist in the U.S.
  • If negotiations are extended for six months or longer, Iranian domestic politics could interfere. Iran has two major elections in February 2016, one for Parliament and one for the Assembly of Experts.
  • For the first time, the Supreme Leader has mentioned that Iran could discuss other issues with the international community if a nuclear deal is successfully implemented. Regional issues related to ISIS, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan would probably be the first topics of talks.
  • The U.S. and Iran could eventually normalize relations if a nuclear deal is brokered. In the future, Washington may even be able to discuss human rights with Tehran.
  • Iran cooperated closely with the U.S. on overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the U.S. lost an opportunity for further engagement when President George W. Bush said Iran was part of an “axis of evil.”
  • Both the U.S. and Iran lack understanding of each other’s politics and culture. More dialogue is needed.
 
Jim Slattery 
Former Congressman (D-KS, 1983-1995), Recently Visited Iran 
Partner, Wiley Rein LLP
  • The U.S. and Iran have reached an historic moment; the great tragedy is that domestic political forces may prevent a breakthrough.
  • During a visit to Tehran in December, many people had the same question: can President Obama implement a deal?
  • The political futures of some Iranian leaders depend on getting a deal with the U.S. Their worst nightmare is that, after going out on a limb, Congress may scuttle any accord.
  • An agreement hinges on verification because neither side trusts the other. The Supreme Leader’s statements about denying inspectors access to military sites are troubling.  Overall, however, the plan for a deal shows that Iran has made significant concessions. 
  • Based on 10 years of interaction with Iranian businesspeople, religious leaders and politicians, it’s clear that Iran wants to reset relations with the U.S., with some limitations.
  • Solving the nuclear dispute could create a platform for the U.S. and Iran to discuss common interests, like defeating the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
  • Iran is a regional superpower in terms of energy and people. Its population of 80 million is nearly three times that of Saudi Arabia or Iraq. It has the world’s fourth-largest amount of proven oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves. Its literacy rate is about 90 percent for those under age 45, 60 percent of its university students are female, and the median age of its citizens is 28. 
  • Washington needs to make sure its allies in the region know a nuclear deal will not diminish U.S. support for them. Tremendous diplomatic efforts will be required to reassure them.
 
Michael Singh 
Former Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council (2005-2008)
Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute 
  • Questions surrounding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program need to be answered upfront. Those answers are critical for designing a sufficient verification regime.
  • The issue of Iran’s missile development should have been included in the talks, because it is linked to the nuclear issue.
  • The U.S. should carefully examine its alternatives if a deal is not reached.
  • Washington should also focus on ensuring that Tehran’s alternatives are worse than making a deal, as an incentive for Iran to accept terms that are better for U.S. interests.
  • Iran cannot afford to negotiate for another six months. But the U.S. has leeway for six months or even a year.
  • The design for the agreement seems to be conceptually flawed in several ways. First, it will likely require future presidents to waive sanctions every six months, and some of the hardest decisions have been left for the future.
  • Second, the deal does not require Iran to dismantle anything. Its nuclear program essentially remains intact. Even if a deal leads to positive changes in Iran’s regional strategy, its neighbors may still view its nuclear program as a threat.
  • Even if sanctions unrelated to the nuclear issue remain in place, lifting other sanctions reduces pressure on Tehran to negotiate on other issues.
  • Sanctions relief means that Iran will have more revenue to pursue regional activities that the U.S. is concerned about.
  • Sanctions are blunt instruments. But without them, the U.S. would have fewer tools for deterring Iran, making direct intervention by the U.S. in regional conflicts more likely.
  • Iranian and U.S. interests diverge on many issues, so a huge breakthrough in relations after a deal is unlikely.
 
Howard Berman 
Former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (D-CA, 1983-2013)
Senior Advisor, Covington & Burling LLP 
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statements in recent days about sanctions relief and not granting inspectors access to military sites suggest he is thinking about an agreement very different from one that the world’s six major powers could sign.
  • Tension exists between elements of the Revolutionary Guards and hardliners, on the one hand, and President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the other. So a lot depends on the Supreme Leader’s position.
  • At first, Congress instinctively opposed a deal with Iran, especially one that would not dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.  The agreement worked out between Senator Bob Corker, Senator Benjamin Cardin and the White House, however, has changed the political equation in Washington.
  • The new legislation, which is awaiting final congressional approval, would forestall any further action related to a nuclear agreement with Iran until a deal  is finalized. In the event Congress votes to prevent implementation, two-thirds of both houses would be needed to override the president’s veto.
  • A key question for Congress will be, is this deal the least-worst option? If one third of the Senate and one third of the House of Representatives think so, then the deal would go into effect.
  • The sanctions effort that brought the international community together was about Iran’s nuclear program. Bringing other issues into these talks could risk losing the support of the international community.
  • A nuclear deal might create concern among U.S. allies, including Israel and the Gulf countries, which believe Iran has hegemonic interests.
 
To assess this period of pivotal diplomacy, the coalition of eight Washington policy organizations has previously hosted three other discussions.
 

 

 

Economic Trends: March and April

Cameron Glenn

The most significant development in March and April was the nuclear framework announced on April 2 by Iran and the world’s six major powers. They now face a June 30 deadline for converting a blueprint into a final nuclear deal. International investors have begun eyeing Iran in anticipation of sanctions relief. Oil executives in Europe and Asia held preliminary discussions with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh to discuss investments in a post-sanctions environment. The announcement even impacted oil prices, which dropped four percent on April 2.
 
Iran witnessed modest economic improvement by the close of the Iranian calendar year on March 20. Annual inflation decreased to 15.6 percent, and youth unemployment is projected to decrease by about one percent by mid-2015. In a new report, the International Monetary Fund predicted slight growth in Iran’s economy in 2016, though its estimates had been revised down from 2014 projections due to low oil prices.
 
The following is a run-down of the top economic stories with links.
 
Domestic Developments
 
Growth: The International Monetary Fund projected that Iran’s economy will grow 0.6 percent in 2015 and 1.3 percent in 2016. The figures are lower than the October 2014 projections, due to the impact of low oil prices. Iran’s economy grew 2.8 percent between the third quarter of the last Iranian fiscal year and the year before, but the growth was too slow to significantly reduce unemployment and mitigate other effects of international sanctions. "If we have a successful conclusion to [the nuclear] negotiations, we would see more of a positive impact in terms of higher growth, lower inflation, and lower unemployment," said Valiollah Seif, governor of the Central Bank of Iran.

 

 

Taxes: Iran’s tax income rose 49 percent in the first 11 months of the Iranian calendar year compared to the same period last year. Iran’s Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia said Tehran intends to reduce its dependence on oil by improving the tax system.
 
Oil: Oil prices fell four percent on April 2, as Iran and the world’s six major powers announced a nuclear framework that could lift sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, though they rebounded slightly the next day. Even before the announcement, Iranian officials began discussing plans to increase oil production. In March, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh claimed that Iran could ramp up its oil production to pre-sanctions levels “within months” of sanctions being lifted, increasing output by one million barrels per day.
 
Some energy analysts, however, are more cautious. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that Iran holds 30 million barrels of crude oil in storage, and could increase crude oil production by 700,000 barrels per day by the end of 2016, if sanctions are lifted. But Iran would require new investments and greater production capacity to significantly increase output beyond that.
 
Zanganeh also called upon the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce oil production by five percent to offset new Iranian oil on the market and prevent a further drop in oil prices. "We expect the members of OPEC to pave the ground for (an) increase of Iran's oil production that will reach global markets when sanctions are lifted," Zanganeh said in a meeting with the Venezuelan oil minister in Tehran.
 

 

Gas: Managing Director of the National Iranian Gas Company Hamid-Reza Araqi said that Iran exported eight percent more natural gas in the last year compared to the year before, an increase of one billion cubic meters. Araqi also announced that Iran will begin exporting natural gas to Iraq in late May, and will explore the possibility of exporting gas to Kuwait in the future. In April, Zanganeh announced that Iran plans to increase gas production to 200 million cubic meters per day by April 2016. “This is what we planned by assuming that the sanctions will remain in place,” he said. “If the sanctions are removed, things will proceed much faster.”

 

 

Inflation: The inflation rate dropped to 15.6 percent by the end of the Iranian year, down from more than 40 percent two years ago, according to the Central Bank of Iran. In response, Iranian banks announced they will cut lending rates by at least two percent. Akbar Komeijani, a deputy governor for the Central Bank of Iran, said “the rates need to be lowered in pace with the drops in the inflation rates so there would be a better balance between developments in the national economy and the return of investments in various markets.”
 
Unemployment: Iran’s youth unemployment rate is expected to drop from 25.7 percent to 24.7 percent in the second quarter of 2015, according to Trading Economics.
 
Banks: Iranian bank lending to businesses increased significantly in the past year. Lending spiked by 35 percent, and businesses borrowed $94.2 billion between March 2014 and March 2015, exceeding projections.
 
Stock market: The Tehran Stock Exchange surged more than eight percent in the five days following the April 2 announcement.
 
Car production: Car production increased 58 percent in the first 11 months of the Iranian fiscal year.
 
International Developments
 
Russia: Russia has taken several steps to solidify economic ties with Iran in the wake of the April 2 announcement. In April, Russia began implementing an oil-for-goods deal with Iran. “In exchange for Iranian crude oil supplies, we are delivering certain products,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. “This is not banned or limited under the current sanctions regime.” Moscow and Tehran had been negotiating the deal since early 2014. Iran and Russia also signed an agreement to create a joint body to regulate financial transactions between the two countries, which will help reduce the effects of international sanctions.
 
On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree lifting a ban on the sale of advanced air defense missile systems to Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the embargo was no longer necessary given progress in nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.
 
 
United States: The U.S. Census Bureau reported that value of goods traded between the United States and Iran amounted to $30 million in January and February, up from $24.2 million during the same period the previous year.
 
With the prospect for a nuclear deal, American companies are also exploring the potential of the Iranian market. On April 16, a delegation of 22 American businessmen and investors made a rare visit to Tehran to discuss post-sanctions business opportunities. U.S. car manufacturers have also reportedly indicated an interest in Iran’s auto industry. “The Americans have expressed willingness for presence and investment in Iran’s market, and they are waiting for the Lausanne statement to become an agreement,” said Mohammad Reza Najafi-Manesh, member of Iran’s Car Manufacturing Policymaking Council.
 
Sanctions: Deputy head of Bank Melli Iran for International and Foreign Affairs Gholam Reza Panahi met with European bank representatives in Tehran in April to discuss resuming financial transactions if sanctions are lifted. “Once sanctions are removed, the ground will be prepared to provide brokerage services as well as international money transfer and other banking services for imports and exports,” he said.
 
China: Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh affirmed China’s role as a key energy partner for Iran. China is the largest buyer of Iranian crude oil, and Iranian oil accounts for 12 percent of China’s annual oil consumption. Officials have indicated that sales of Iranian oil to China would likely increase if sanctions are lifted as part of a nuclear deal, even with more potential buyers on the market.
 
Trade: Iran exported $49.74 billion and imported $52.48 billion in goods over the past 12 months, according to the Iranian customs office. The value of exports increased by nearly 19 percent compared to the previous year. On March 18, President Hassan Rouhani announced that non-oil exports exceeded expectations, despite international sanctions.
 
Switzerland: A Swiss business delegation met with Gholam Hossein Shafei, head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, on April 28. The two sides discussed expanding bilateral trade. "We would like to find out how the Iranian government wants to proceed until negotiations are concluded, and after sanctions are lifted," said former Swiss ambassador to Iran Livia Leu, who accompanied the delegation.
 
Germany: A group of German businessmen met with senior Iranian officials for the second time in several months to explore investment opportunities if sanctions are lifted. Shafei said that Germany could potentially become a reliable trade partner for Iran's saffron, carpet, and dried fruits exports.
 
France: France’s Total indicated that it would be interested in reviving oil and gas investments in Iran, if sanctions are lifted. “Iran has the world’s second largest gas reserves after Russia, and we will consider returning to this country once sanctions are lifted,” said Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne.

 

 

Turkey: On April 7, Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed eight agreements to increase bilateral trade, aiming to increase trade volume to $30 billion by the end of 2015. Iran imported $875 million in commodities from Turkey – including gold, jewelry, produce, and leather goods – in the last quarter of the Iranian year, ending on March 20. But Ankara rejected Tehran’s offer to double Iran’s natural gas exports to Turkey at a discounted price. Turkey imports around 27 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Iran each year, accounting for 95 percent of Iran’s gas exports.
 
Asia: Iran is reportedly in talks with three Asian buyers to increase crude oil sales if sanctions are lifted.  
 

 

Tags: Economy

Iran Charges Rezaian with Espionage

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, arrested nine months ago in Iran, is reportedly being charged with four crimes. A statement from Rezaian’s lawyer provided to The Post by his family said the charges include espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” and “propaganda against the establishment.” One example of communication with a “hostile government” cited in the indictment included writing to President Obama. Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which is responsible for national security cases, has also accused Rezaian of collecting classified information.

President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials have called on Iran to release the journalist, who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. “If the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed, and Jason should be freed immediately so he can return home to his family,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on April 20.
 
But Iran’s government does not recognize dual citizenship. The maximum sentence would be 10 to 20 years in prison for the charges. Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan has only been able to divulge limited information because the trial has not yet begun. She has only met with her client once for 90 minutes since he was detained in July 2014.
 
“Jason is a journalist, and it is in the nature of his profession to gain access to information and publish” it, Ahsan said in a statement about the case. “My client, however, has never had any direct or indirect access to classified information to share with anyone.”
 
Rezaian and his Iranian wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, were detained in late July 2014. But Salehi was released on bail during the first week of October.
 
On the margins of nuclear negotiations with Iran, U.S. officials have repeatedly raised Rezaian’s case along with the status of three other Americans also detained or missing in Iran. “We raise it in every round of meetings we have,” State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf told the press on April 21. Saeed Abedini has been held for two and a half years on charges related to his religious beliefs. Amir Hekmati has been imprisoned on espionage charges for more than three and a half years. And Robert Levinson went missing on Kish Island more than eight years ago.
 
The following are excerpted remarks by U.S. officials and members of Congress on the case.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
 
MR. EARNEST: Let me start by saying that while the United States is not aware of any official announcement yet from any Iranian judicial authorities, we have seen reports that U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage and other security-related charges.  If the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed, and Jason should be freed immediately so he can return home to his family.  So we’re going to wait until we see some more official announcement from Iranian judicial authorities before we comment further on this case. 
 
More generally, let me repeat something that I said before, which is that the ongoing effort to try to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy will not, if it succeeds, resolve the wide range of other concerns we have about Iranian behavior.  I mentioned earlier in response to Nedra’s question our ongoing concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including shipping arms to the Houthis, for example.  We continue to be concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Iran’s language that currently emanates from their leadership that threatens our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  And we continue to  have concerns about Mr. Rezaian and other Americans who are being unjustly detained in Iran.
 
One thing that we have done, Mike, that you know, in the context of the talks is raised on the sidelines of those talks our concern about the status of these American citizens.  And we’re going to continue to press that case as we move forward here.
 
QUESTION: Josh, on the Jason Rezaian case, why can’t you just say to the Iranians that as a condition of making this deal final, you’ve got to free Jason Rezaian?  I understand you’re going to resolve all of your issues with Iran, like supporting terrorism throughout the region -- all of those issues that are very complicated perhaps; some would argue maybe not.  But here you have one case of an American who’s been held prisoner since July of last year, now brought up on what you just said were absurd charges.  Why not say, look, we’re not going to sign a deal until you let him go?

MR. EARNEST: The reason for that, Jon, simply is that the effort to build the international community’s strong support for a diplomatic resolution, or a diplomatic agreement that would shut down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily complicated.  And so we’re trying to focus on these issues one at a time.  And that’s why you continue to see regular, consistent and pretty forceful statements from the United States that these Americans should be released, while at the same time we are working with our P5+1 partners and other countries around the world to compel Iran to sign on to the dotted line and agree to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, and cooperate with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.
—April 20, 2015 during a press briefing 
 
QUESTION: Josh, coming back to another category of egregious behavior by Iran, we talked about Jason Rezaian yesterday.
… 
I understand -- we’ve been over this many times -- you're not going to make the release of these Americans a condition for having a final deal on the nuclear matter, but is the administration willing to impose some serious consequences on the Iranian government for taking these Americans under what appear to be specious charges?
 
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't want to speculate about any possible future action, but I will say something that's similar to what I said before, which is that we continue to be very concerned about the unjust detention of a number of Americans inside of Iran.  We have made those concerns known in quite public fashion.  We’ve also made those concerns known privately, directly with the Iranian leadership.  As recently as a month or two ago, Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of his nuclear negotiations with his Iranian counterpart raised his concerns about this unjust detention.
So we’ve made very clear to the Iranians that we're concerned about the treatment of Americans inside of Iran, and that this continues to be a high priority for U.S. foreign policy.
—April 21, 2015 during a press briefing 
 
State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
 
QUESTION:  I’m wondering if you have any thoughts/reaction to the charging of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian by Iran. And then I’d like to stay on Iran for a little bit.
 
MS HARF: So we are still not aware of any official announcement yet from Iranian judicial authorities. I understand these reports are coming from his lawyer. We have seen the reports, of course, from his lawyer and others that he has been charged with espionage and other security-related charges. If the reports are true, these charges are, as we’ve said in the past, patently absurd. He should immediately be freed so he can return to his family. The charges should immediately be dismissed. But again, no confirmation officially from Iranian judicial authorities yet.
 
QUESTION: Quick one on this one. Is it possible for him to renounce his Iranian citizenship? Do you know anything about that?
 
MS HARF: I don’t know, Said. But regardless of that specific fact, and I just don’t know the answers there, these charges that he’s allegedly been charged with are just absurd as I said and he should be freed immediately.
 
QUESTION: The other thing having to do with Iran – I realize that these are separate, the issue of the Americans detained – are separate from the nuclear talks. Although, as you and others have said as does come up – this issue does come up on the –
 
MS HARF: We always raise it in every round. That’s correct.
 
QUESTION: So I’m wondering: Does this give you any pause about going full-throttle ahead with the negotiations?
 
MS HARF: They really are separate issues.
 
QUESTION: Well, but they had been brought up on the –
 
MS HARF: On the sidelines. But not related to the nuclear issue, just because we were all in the same place.
 
It doesn’t make us not want to get this resolved diplomatically any less than we already do. We clearly believe this is important.
 
QUESTION: Understood, but is this something that now will be – that you will make the – you, meaning the Administration – will make a point of raising, since you say that these charges are –
 
MS HARF: Not as part of the nuclear talks. These are separate issues. We will continue raising his case and the other two Americans who were detained – and Robert Levinson who’s missing – we’ll continue raising them but they are not – their fate and the outcome of these cases should in no way be tied to the nuclear issue.
 
—April 21, 2015 during a State Department press briefing
 
U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) 
 
“It appears that Mr. Rezaian is being persecuted because of his profession as a reporter and his American citizenship. Freedom of press is a right that should be guaranteed to all individuals regardless of their nationality. We urge the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Rezaian.  
 
“This case is just the latest example of the true nature of the Iranian regime. The Obama Administration should demand Mr. Rezaian’s immediate release along with all other Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran prior to concluding a nuclear deal with this brutal regime.”
—April 20, 2015 in a statement
 
Congressman Dan Kildee (R-MI)
 
“Unfortunately, Iran has a long history of imprisoning Americans on false charges. This includes innocent Americans like my constituent, Amir Hekmati, an American citizen and U.S. Marine who continues to be held as a political prisoner after being arrested on espionage charges. Today’s charges against Jason Rezaian, and similar charges previously imposed on Amir, are unequivocally untrue.
 
“Iran has repeatedly said it wants to rejoin the global community. Yet I simply cannot fathom how this is possible if they continue to hold American political prisoners under false pretenses.”
—April 20, 2015 in a statement 
 

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