United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Europe Reaches Out to Iran

After the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14, European officials began reaching out to Iran with several high-profile phone calls and visits. The following is a rundown of European outreach since the deal.

United Kingdom
 
On August 23, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Tehran to reopen the British Embassy, which had been closed since 2011. The Iranian embassy in London was reopened the same day. In a joint press conference with Hammond, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and Britain had “entered a new phase of relations based on mutual respect.”
 
Hammond was the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Iran in 12 years. He met with Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and other officials during his visit. Hammond was accompanied by a group of British business leaders hoping to reestablish ties in Iran.
 
 
British Prime Minister David Cameron had called Rouhani to congratulate him on the nuclear deal on July 16. "You (President Rouhani) had a very constructive role in striking this final deal," he said. During the conversation, Rouhani added that “I think there exists the necessary potential to rebuild relations between Iran and Britain.”
 
The British government also relaxed its travel warnings for Iran shortly after the deal was announced. “The risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani's Government,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on July 25.
 
European Union
 
On July 28, E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrived in Tehran for a one-day visit with senior Iranian officials. She was accompanied by deputy E.U. foreign policy chief Helga Schmid. Mogherini said the nuclear deal “has the capacity to pave the ground for wider cooperation between Iran and the West.”
 
After meeting with Mogherini, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and the European Union had agreed to hold talks “over different issues, including energy cooperation…human rights, confronting terrorism, and regional issues.”
 
 
Mogherini’s visit coincided with her op-ed in The Guardian, in which she argued that cooperation between Iran and the West could help defeat ISIS. The following is an excerpt.
 
“The Vienna deal tells us that we all have much to earn if we choose cooperation over confrontation. Making the most out of this opportunity is entirely up to us. But nothing good will happen if we do not work hard for it. We Europeans have a long tradition of cultural and economic relationship with Iran. Before sanctions began in 2005, cooperation between our parts of the world spanned many areas, from energy to trade. But our shared interests go well beyond the economy.
 
“Last week Europe’s foreign ministers tasked me with exploring “ways in which the EU could actively promote a more cooperative regional framework” in the wake of the Vienna deal. Isis (also known as Da’esh) is spreading its vicious and apocalyptic ideology in the Middle East and beyond. There is nothing more worrisome to Isis than cooperation between “the west” and the Muslim world, for it defies the narrative of a clash of civilisations the group is trying to revive. An alliance of civilisations can be our most powerful weapon in the fight against terror.”
—July 28, 2015, in an op-ed published by The Guardian
 
France
 
On July 23, French President Francois Hollande and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in a phone conversation. A statement released by Hollande’s office “expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East.” Hollande also emphasized increasing tourism between the two countries, since it "can play a major role in advancement of cooperation between Iran and France."
 
 
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Tehran on July 29, meeting with Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and other senior officials. He also extended an invitation for President Hassan Rouhani to visit President Hollande in France in November. "Things will, we hope, be able to change," Fabius said during his visit.
 
 
Germany
 
On July 20, German vice chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Iran for a three-day visit, hoping to resume “economic contacts with Iran, which were traditionally good.” He was the first high-ranking Western official to visit Iran since the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14.
 
Gabriel also emphasized the need to cooperate with Iran on issues like human rights and its relationship with Israel. "You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don't discuss such issues too and try to move them along,” he said.
 
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced on August 24 that he planned to visit Iran in October.

 

 

Austria
 
Austrian President Heinz Fischer spoke to Rouhani by phone on July 15, following the announcement of the final nuclear deal. Rouhani said the deal “will lay the groundwork for the expansion of ties btween Tehran and Vienna.” Fischer, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner  plan to visit Tehran from September 7 to 9. Fischer will be the first European head of state to visit Iran since the final nuclear deal was announced.
 
 
Italy
 
On August 4, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi arrived in Iran for a two-day visit, accompanied by Italian businessmen and economic activists. They met with Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and other officials. Italy, which used to be one of Iran’s major trade partners, has been trying to revive economic ties with Iran. During the visit, investment back Mediobanca, Italy’s development ministry, and export credit agency SACE signed a memorandum of understanding “to facilitate future economic and commercial relations between the two countries.”
 
 
Switzerland
 
Swiss Deputy Foreign Minister Yves Rossier arrived in Tehran on July 21 for a four-day trip to meet with Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and Rouhani’s chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian. “Iran welcomes the expansion of economic and banking relations with Switzerland,” Nahavandian said.
 
On August 12, Switzerland became the first nation to lift sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal was announced.
 
Serbia
 
Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic arrived in Tehran on August 3 for a three-day visit. Dacic held a series of meetings with senior Iranian officials and explored opportunities for greater economic cooperation with Iran. Zarif welcomed a proposal by Dacic to hold the 14th Iran-Serbia Joint Economic Committee, adding that an Iranian delegation would visit Belgrade in the future.
 
 
 

Iranian Lawmakers on Nuclear Deal

On August 19, Iran’s parliament selected 15 members for a panel that will review the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Two dozen law makers volunteered to serve on the panel; 15 were then elected by the full parliament. The group includes 13 conservatives.
 
 
In an interview with Alef news, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the nuclear deal is not a treaty, and therefore does not require Parliament’s ratification. “As a person who has taught law for quite some time, I have to tell you that the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is, in fact, under the management and supervision of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions, which has nullified the previous resolutions,” he said in the interview, which was published on August 21.
 
Another senior member of the negotiating team, Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi, also does not see a need for  ratification. “The JCPOA’s nature is not like a protocol or an international treaty. The other parties [to the deal], namely the six countries that negotiated with Iran, are not going to ratify it. Thus, there is no need for its ratification by the parliament,” he said on August 26.
 
On August 16, a petition signed by 201 out of 290 members of parliament called on the government to formally submit the deal for review. The following is a translation of the petition, as published by Entekhab News and translated by Iran Front Page, along with key remarks by the 15 lawmakers on the review panel.
 
Petition Signed by 201 Lawmakers
 
In line with our legal obligations, we, the deputies of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, who have signed this petition announce that:
 
1. We thank the nuclear negotiating team for its tireless efforts in the course of the talks.
 
2. Under Articles 77 and 125 of the Constitution, the review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action falls under the purview of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and requires cooperation from all relevant institutions.
 
3. The executive branch should immediately present the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the form of a bill.
 
4. Any voluntary measures and implementation of the deal – be it temporary, permanent or conditional – would be illegal before the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and subsequent confirmation of the Guardian Council.
 
Members of the 15-member panel to review the deal
 
Alaeddin Boroujerdi (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman
 
“We are still distrustful of the United States because of the country’s arrogant nature and its support for the Zionist regime [Israel] in the massacre of the oppressed people of Palestine and its move to back Saudi Arabia’s killing of the Yemeni people. In this climate of mistrust, there are concerns and if they renege [on the nuclear agreement], we will do the same.”
—Aug. 9, 2015 to al Alam TV via Tasnim News Agency
 
Ibrahim Karkhaneh (Hamedan) 
“The limitations [imposed on Iran] go beyond the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
—Aug. 1, 2015 according to Fars New Agency
 
Ismail Kowsari (Tehran), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
“The JCPOA [the final nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is an international treaty. Therefore, Parliament must ratify it.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 in remarks via the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency  
 
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini (Varamin), National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member
 
“Ever since news about a confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA was made public, US lawmakers have been seeking to learn about its content.”
 
“What is surprising is that Amano, who is the director general of an independent international agency, and not a US government secretary, is summoned to the US Senate and he accepts to show up.”
—Aug. 2, 2015 according to Fars News Agency via Iran Front Page
 
Hossein Nejabat (Tehran) 
“We will not allow any intrusion to our defense and military installations.” 
 
“There are points of contention in the agreement.”
—July 26, 2015 via Tasnim News
 
Alireza Zakani (Tehran), Chairman of the JCPOA Committee
“The Administration’s only option is to send the JCPOA as a bill.”
—Aug. 19, 2015 in an interview with Tasnim News Agency
 
Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard (Tehran), First Vice-Speaker
 
Vahid Ahmadi (Kangavar) 
 
Mansour Arani (Aran and Bigdel) 
 
Mehrdad Bazrpash (Tehran) 
 
Mansour Haghighatpour (Ardebil) 
 
Seyyed Mahmoud Nabavian (Tehran) 
 
Masoud Pezeshkian (Tabriz) 
 
Gholamreza Tajgardoun (Gachsaran) 
 
Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi (Kerman) 
 
Other lawmakers
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
“We should understand that the current situation is a new era; the negotiations should not be scaled down to merely facile verbal give and take and without difficulty; this has been one of the most difficult negotiations in the history of Revolution; talks had been in constant frequenting between negotiation venue and Tehran to be discussed by authorities and get rechanneled into another module, and it was a two-way street.”
 
“What appears on paper reflects only one side of the difficulties inherent in the negotiations. The deal is the end of a period; however, it is the onset of an eventful era; it should not be assumed that the path after the deal will be without its own difficulties; current propaganda raised about Parchin is quite superficial, aiming at wielding impact on international decision-making, and a solution to domestic concerns inside the United States.”
 
“We should be aware that the post-deal era is a new untrodden path with new challenges; we should understand well the JCPOA document, and act out of honesty and good faith in explaining its provisions.”
 
“This is definitely a trade-off, and no one would claim a maximal gain for Iran in the JCPOA; however, the major issues of concern for Iran had been well-balanced vis-à-vis the Western demands, which is first to retain the enrichment right and second removal of sanctions, which will not be without its own consequences.”
—Aug. 8, 2015 in an address to Parliament’s Joint Budget Commission as reported by Khorosan
 
The nuclear deal is a “national achievement” that should lead to growth in production and prosperity in the cultural, defense and science fields.
—July 23, 2015 according to IRIB News
 

 

Photo credit: JCPOA committee members via Islamic Parliament of Iran website, Ali Larijani via ICANA and Islamic Parliament of Iran website,

Iranian Officials: Deal Won’t Lead to US Influence

As the United States deliberated the nuclear deal, senior officials in the Islamic Republic insisted that the agreement would not increase Washington’s influence in Iran. On August 20, Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Jafari asserted that “we will not allow the hegemonic powers to exercise influence on our country in any area.” The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials and clerics.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
"Washington imagined that it could use this agreement whose fate is not clear yet - as its final approval is not yet a definite fact neither in Iran nor in the US - to find a way to wield influence in Iran; and this was their intention."
 
"We will not allow the US to influence (our) economy, or politics or culture. We will stand against such penetration with all our power - that is, thanks God, at a high level today.”
 
"They seek to disintegrate the regional states and create small and subordinate countries but God willing, this will not happen.”
 
"Disintegration of Iraq and, if they can, Syria is the clear policy of the Americans, but the territorial integrity of the regional states, Iraq and Syria is highly important to us.”
—Aug. 17, 2015, in a speech

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
"The IRGC is strongly standing beside the brave and faithful people of Islamic Iran and thanks to this resistance, sympathy and unity of words and with God's help and assistance, we will not allow the hegemonic powers to exercise influence on our country in any area.”
—Aug. 20, 2015, in a speech
 
 
 
 
 
 
Senior Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati
 
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is the first power in the region and it plays an important role in supporting the resistance line against the US hegemony and Zionists' expansionism and it will not allow the US to influence the region for different reasons.”
 
"First the US influence in allied and friendly countries is not acceptable to Iran, and Tehran doesn’t allow Washington to spread its clout in those states again; second, if the Americans influence the regional states, the way will be pave for their penetration in other countries."
—Aug. 20, 2015, according to the press
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
"We have seen how the United States adopted different schemes to extend its influence in the country, we have experienced its actions against the will of our nation."

"You noticed how they (the Americans) managed to maintain networks of influence in the armed forces, among our politicians and academics and businessmen."

"So the warning by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution should be deemed as a realistic and accurate one and people should be sensitive about it."
—Aug. 19, 2015, during a session of parliament
 
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani
 
“Americans know that if they want to renew their political hegemony, they will have to opt for the cultural hegemony and are, thus, thinking of carrying out such an absurd idea."
 
“They will remain our enemy as long as Islam prevails, because the US feels hostility towards Islam.”
 
“The US and its allies should know that we will not stop supporting the (anti-Israeli) resistance and Palestine.”
—Aug. 20, 2015, in a sermon at Friday prayers

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s Deputy Representative to the Revolutionary Guards Abdullah Haji Sadeqi
 
“We might have agreed on the nuclear issue, but this does not mean end of fight or reconciliation with the global arrogance [the United States].”
—Aug. 26, 2015 in a speech
 
Photo credits: Ali Jafari via President.ir; Velayati by http://en.kremlin.ru/ via Wikimedia Commons; Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Khamenei Comments: Deal Won’t Open Iran to U.S. Influence

On August 17, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran will continue to oppose U.S. policies in the region and resist U.S. influence. “They [Americans] thought this [nuclear] deal - and it is not clear if it will be passed in Iran or in America - will open up Iran to their influence,” he told members of the Ahl ul Bayt World Assembly, a non-governmental organization that promotes unity among Muslims, and the Islamic Radios and Televisions Union (IRTVU). “We won't allow American political, economic or cultural influence in Iran,” Khamenei vowed. The following are excerpts from his speech posted on his official Twitter account and website.

The United States and the West
 
“The United States is seeking [long-term] infiltration in the region for tens of years in order to regain its lost credit.”
 
“The hegemonic system’s plan for the region is based on the two pillars of division and infiltration, which should be fought against vigilantly and incessantly through correct aggressive and defensive plans.”
 
“Struggling on the path of God is not limited to military war, but it also includes cultural, economic and political struggle.”
 
“Although the arrogant powers’ plots in the Islamic region have a long record, pressures and conspiracies intensified in the wake of the [1979] Islamic Revolution in Iran so that this experience would not be repeated in other countries.”
 
“Since 35 years ago, the Islamic Republic’s Establishment has always been targeted by threats, sanctions, security pressures and a variety of political conspiracies and the Iranian nation is accustomed to these pressures.”
 
“Of course, the enemies’ conspiracies in West Asia region have been intensified due to the enemy’s panic in the aftermath of the Islamic Awakening movement which started in North Africa a few years ago.”
 
“They believe that they have managed to quell the Islamic Awakening movement, but this movement is not suppressible and is racing ahead and it will show its reality sooner or later.”
“The US is fully devoid of human ethics and embarks on wickedness and crime with no bridle and under the guise of attractive words and smiles.”
 
“Creating killer, insolent and tyrant Takfiri groups, which Americans have admitted to their role in creating them, is the most important tool for stoking seemingly religious divisions among nations, which unfortunately, some naïve Muslims have been fooled by this conspiracy and plot due to their lack of insight and they have been embroiled in the enemy’s plot.”
 
Syria, Yemen and the Region
 
“When the despotic regimes were toppled in Tunisia and Egypt by Islamic slogans, the Americans and Zionists decided to use this formula to devastate resistant countries and that is why they turned to Syria.”
 
“After the beginning of the issue of Syria, a group of Muslims who lacked insight were dragged into the aforesaid plot and by completing the enemy’s puzzle, drove Syria into its present conditions.”
 
“What is happening today in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other regions, and efforts are underway to describe it as sectarian war, does by no means constitute a sectarian war, but is a political war. Today, the most important task is to make efforts to do away with these differences.”
“We have said clearly and openly that the Islamic Republic of Iran extends its hand of friendship toward all Muslim governments in the region and has no problem with Muslim governments.”
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran maintains friendly relations with most of its neighbors. Of course, some countries are at loggerheads with us and show obstinacy and wickedness. However, Iran has set its base on good relations with neighbors and Islamic governments and particularly regional nations.”
 
“In our support of the oppressed, we do not look at [their] religious denomination and we have offered the same support that we provided to our Shia brethren in Lebanon to our Sunni brethren in Gaza, and we consider the issue of Palestine as the top issue of the Muslim world.”
 
“Intensification of differences is banned in the Muslim world and we oppose any behavior and move, even by some Shia groups, which could cause division, and we condemn insults to the Sunnis’ sanctities.”
 
“Some people were surprised at those remarks, but today, Americans are openly talking about the disintegration of Iraq.”
 
“Disintegration of Iraq, and if they could, Syria, is the clear goal of Americans, but territorial integrity of the regional countries and Iraq and Syria is very important to us.”
 
“We do not recognize a Shiism whose base and center of propaganda is in London and is paving the way for the [global] arrogance basically as Shiism.”
 
Western Media
 
“The oppressors’ media empire’, while claiming neutrality, is serving the goals of global bullies through distortion and lie and all kinds of complicated methods.”
 
 
Israel

Report: Parsing the Iran Deal

The final nuclear deal “provides well-defined limits on Iran’s nuclear program,” according to George Perkovich, Mark Hibbs, James Action, and Toby Dalton in a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But it also carries several risks, including the possibility that Iran will ramp up its nuclear activities once the restrictions end. The following is an excerpt of the report, which assesses the pros and cons of the deal.

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) concluded a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning the future of Iran’s nuclear program. The deal, which is the outcome of more than two years of negotiations, includes limits on Iran’s nuclear program as well as provisions for verification, implementation, procurement, sanctions relief, and peaceful nuclear cooperation. It singles out specific nuclear sites in Iran for particular scrutiny and restrictions, including the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow and the heavy-water reactor, with its supporting facilities, at Arak. Unsurprisingly, the deal is complex—the text and its five annexes stretch to over 100 pages.
 
Our aim here is to analyze the deal as impartially and objectively as possible solely from a nonproliferation perspective. It is not to offer a final conclusion about whether the deal is a good or bad one, but instead to help readers make up their own minds.
 
As in many complex negotiations, parties to the JCPOA traded compromises between seemingly unrelated areas. Accordingly, we look at the benefits and risks of the agreement as a whole, as well as the pros and cons of individual provisions. Throughout we identify key questions and issues that will need to be addressed in the months and years ahead if the deal is to be implemented successfully.

Overall Assessment
 
Potential Benefits
 
The agreement provides well-defined limits on Iran’s nuclear program lasting between ten and fifteen years. If implemented, these restrictions would measurably enhance confidence during the term of the agreement that Tehran will not seek nuclear weapons. This will help avoid much-worse alternatives, including Iran’s resumption of threatening nuclear activities and war.
 
The JCPOA provides the basis for transparency of procurement and for verification of nuclear activities to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to determine that Iran’s nuclear program is wholly understood and is dedicated exclusively to peaceful uses.
 
The agreement demonstrates the viability of the rules-based nonproliferation regime created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and including especially the IAEA safeguards system, notwithstanding the lacunae and imperfections of this regime. Indeed, the JCPOA buttresses the NPT. Whereas states may withdraw from the NPT and, in principle, then seek nuclear weapons, in the JCPOA Iran has committed not to ever seek nuclear weapons under any circumstances. And whereas the NPT does not include specific restrictions on activities that could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device, the JCPOA does.
 
The preface of the JCPOA establishes expectations that Iran’s peaceful nuclear program should evolve at a “reasonable pace,” “consistent with international non-proliferation norms. . . . [and] practical needs”—benchmarks that the Iranian program previously did not meet. It establishes a channel for open diplomatic engagement between the United States and Iran after thirty-seven years.
 
Potential Risks
 
Other states could be encouraged to follow the Iranian example of acquiring uranium enrichment and other dual-use capabilities that would significantly shorten the time required to produce a nuclear weapon.
 
One or more parties to the agreement may not implement provisions as required or perform to the satisfaction of other parties. Failures to perform may result in disputes that the parties will not resolve peacefully.
 
After the restrictions on its nuclear program end, Iran, like any party to the NPT, but endowed with capabilities advanced during the period the JCPOA was in force, may exercise its right to resume nuclear behavior that the international community finds provocative. This could potentially give it the capability to break its commitments and manufacture a small number of nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time.

Click here for the full report
 
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