United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran Denies Visas to Republican Lawmakers

Iran has denied visas to three Republican lawmakers who wanted to observe Iran’s parliamentary elections, meet Iranian leaders, inspect nuclear sites, and meet with Americans held in Iran. In February 2016, Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) filed applications with the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. They also sent an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad Ali Jafari requesting them to facilitate the application process. The three lawmakers opposed the nuclear deal that was reached in July 2015 by the world’s six major powers and Iran.
On June 7, the Iranian Foreign Ministry released the text of its reply to the media. “In sum, we consider your visa request to have been a publicity stunt and not an appropriate request to visit a sovereign country; and it has, and will continue to be, treated in that spirit,” said the letter, which came from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s office.
In a statement, Zeldin said that he was not surprised by the “shameful” response. He said that the letter, like the nuclear deal, “spits in the face of the freedom loving world.” LoBiondo and Pompeo also criticized the response. The following is the full text of the foreign ministry’s letter with responses by the lawmakers obtained by The Weekly Standard.

The Foreign Minister has been informed of your letter of April 12, 2016, concerning your purported visa request. In this regard, we draw your attention to the following:

- Despite what you seem to presume, members of the U.S Congress do not get to dictate the policies of other countries. This clearly applies to Iranian visa policies. Bear in mind that as members of the US Congress you are not a global authority.

- The nuclear agreement known as JCPOA has clearly specified that the sole body competent for monitoring the implementation of its nuclear provisions is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). No JCPOA participant, including the United States, and certainly no citizen or official of these countries, can arrogate any such right to monitor the implementation of JCPOA to itself, nor are they authorized by the JCPOA or other provisions of international law to encroach upon Iranian sovereignty by claiming such monitoring authority.

- In the modern era, visits to sites or parliamentary or other delegations to monitor elections are made upon invitations and through bilateral agreements between sovereign states or based on reciprocal arrangements, and not upon unilateral demands by self-arrogating individuals or parliamentarians. It bears reminding that Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, and as such, there are no reciprocal monitoring arrangements between the two countries.

- The US Congress has recently enacted legislation that bars people—ordinarily subject to visa waiver rules— who travel to Iran to enter the United States without obtaining a visa. And, when Secretary Kerry, in fulfilling US obligations emanating from the JCPOA, promised to waive restrictions on the visa waiver program for individuals who have traveled to Iran, some of you are on record as saying that "waiving restrictions for persons who have traveled to Iran or who hold Iranian citizenship would put U.S. citizens at risk". Surely it is ironic that you believe that going to Iran would "radicalize" and turn citizens of all other countries into "potential security risks" for the United States; but you still seek to visit Iran and believe that such a visit will have no such radicalizing effect on you.

- In spite of your claim, since 1980 -- when the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran—Iranian government officials are generally barred from entering the US. We are only permitted -- on a case-by-case basis and after a very lengthy and unusually difficult and highly selective process -- to enter the US to attend meetings of international organizations located on U.S soil; this while the U.S is legally required to grant free and unrestricted access as per its international obligations under relevant multilateral agreements. This obligation has never been consistently and faithfully observed. And despite what you seem to believe, Iranian diplomats and nationals who work at the United Nations or come to New York to attend UN meetings, are all restricted to a 25 mile radius of Columbus Circle in Manhattan. That is the extent of the hospitality that you boast about in your letter.

- From the time when the manufactured "nuclear crisis" has been settled through the JCPOA, tens of thousands of tourists, academics, investors, students and businesspeople from around the world - including many Americans - have obtained visas and travelled to Iran without any delay or complication. But they have been able to do so by making requests consistent with the relevant regulations of the host country and in the appropriate respectful manner and not in the completely inappropriate way you have demanded to visit Iran and interfere in what is of no relevance to your official functions. We doubt that any self-respecting country would grant a visa under such circumstances.

- In sum, we consider your visa request to have been a publicity stunt and not an appropriate request to visit a sovereign country; and it has, and will continue to be, treated in that spirit.
Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
“It is deeply disappointing, though not surprising, Iran would respond to our legitimate request with insults and deflections. As predicted, in denying our visa request Iran reaffirms that President Obama's 'new era of openness and cooperation,' as sold to the American people and the world, is a farce. Our resolve to ask critical questions and conduct the vigorous oversight required in dealing with Iran will continue despite this decision.”
—June 7, 2016, in a statement via The Weekly Standard
Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
“This absurd letter from the Iranian Foreign Ministry is unsigned, months overdue, and refers to our request for visas to travel to Iran as a 'publicity stunt.' It is not responsive to our request, and is an attempt to distract from some of the Ayatollah's far more dramatic 'publicity stunts' such as writing 'Israel must be wiped out' on ballistic missiles, plotting to blow up a restaurant in Washington, D.C., and kidnapping American sailors on the day of the State of the Union. Our request was never a publicity stunt. It was, and remains, a serious attempt to accomplish important tasks for the American people. I ask the government of Iran yet again, grant our request for a visa.”
—June 7, 2016, in a statement via The Weekly Standard
Lee Zeldin (R-NY)
Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

“While not surprised at this reaction from a Ministry-level entity within the Iranian government, like the JCPOA, this letter is an unsigned document that spits in the face of the freedom loving world. This shameful response dodges almost all the inquiries of our letter, because they fear the consequences of honesty. The Iranians may have President Obama and Secretary Kerry wrapped around their fingers and toes, but January 2017 will be here soon enough. Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism and this letter from [Iranian foreign minister Javad] Zarif's office is a glaring reminder that they should be treated as such. It's really too bad that they go so far out of their way to prevent a democracy from flourishing in their own country, because they know well that they would finally be replaced by leaders who want to empower their people rather than themselves and want to lead Iran to better days ahead instead of violently downhill. Inside of Iran are millions of great people who understand that while Obama and Kerry prop up the wrong regime, one opportunity after another is being missed to replace these Iranian thugs with true leaders and peaceful actors.” 

—June 7, 2016, in a statement via The Weekly Standard

US Report: Iran’s Support for Terror

In 2015, Iran “increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, including Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), which is a U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, as part of an effort to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and bolster the Asad regime in Syria,” according to the newly released State Department annual report on terrorism. Iran also supported Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
Iran, however, rejected the State Department’s findings. “While the US allies in the region are supporting Daesh [ISIS] and other terrorist groups through different methods, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the frontline of fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said on June 4. The following are remarks by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell with an excerpt from the report as well as a statement from Iran's foreign ministry.

Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell
“The United States continues to work to disrupt Iran’s support for terrorism. Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism globally. As explained in the report, Iran continues to provide support to Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities and its support for terrorism was a key element of our expanded dialogue with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, following the leaders summit at Camp David in May of last year. We’ve also expanded our cooperation with partners in Europe, South America, and West Africa to develop and implement strategies to counter the activities of Iranian-allied and sponsored groups, such as Hizballah.”
—June 2, 2016, during a press briefing
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2015, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In 2015, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, including Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), which is a U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, as part of an effort to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and bolster the Asad regime in Syria. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
Iran views the Asad regime in Syria as a crucial ally, a pillar in its “resistance” front together with sub-national groups aligned with Iran, and a key link to Hizballah, Iran’s primary beneficiary and terrorist partner. In addition to its ongoing support for Hizballah in Syria, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of primarily Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia fighters to support the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 people in Syria. Iran more openly acknowledged the deaths of Iranian personnel in Syria in 2015, including several senior commanders, and increased Iranian troop levels, while continuing to claim publicly that Iranian forces had only deployed in an advisory role.
In Iraq, Iranian combat forces employed rockets, artillery, and drones against ISIL. Iran also increased its arming and funding of Iraqi Shia terrorist groups in an effort to reverse ISIL gains in Iraq. Many of these groups, such as KH, have exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq and have committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq, as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of advanced weaponry. Similar to Hizballah fighters, many of these trained Shia militants have used these skills to fight for the Asad regime in Syria or against ISIL in Iraq.
Iran has also provided weapons, funding, and training to Shia militants in Bahrain. In 2015, the Government of Bahrain raided, interdicted, and rounded up numerous Iran-sponsored weapons caches, arms transfers, and militants. This includes the Bahraini government’s discovery of a bomb-making facility with 1.5 tons of high-grade explosives in September.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deaths from attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank. Although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war, both sides took steps in 2015 to repair relations. Iran continued to declare its vocal support for Palestinian terrorist groups and its hostility to Israel in 2015. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Admiral Ali Shamkhani sought to frame a series of individual Palestinian attacks on Israeli security forces in the West Bank as a new “Intifada” in a speech on November 25.
Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict in 2006, Iran has also assisted in rearming Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters have used these skills in direct support of the Asad regime in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in support of operations against ISIL in Iraq. They have also carried out isolated attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and refused to publicly identify the members in its custody. Iran previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.

Click here for more information on the report.


Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari
1-Under the conditions that most of the people of the world and some American and western politicians regard the biggest supporters of terrorism if not the US government, but at least its close allies, the US department of state’s new report on terrorism has ridiculed blatant realities and has turned into the best document for lack of credibility of the US Department of State by justifying the false accusations of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s support for terrorism.
2-The legitimate and legal fights of the nations which are under the occupation to achieve independence, freedom and relief from occupation are not instances of terrorism and some part of the accusation of the report against Iran which is based on this is rejected and it reflects that will of the Zionist regime as the biggest symbol of occupation, state terrorism, violation of human rights and implementation of the policies based on massacre, suppression and denial of the existence of the Palestinian nation.
3-The US as the biggest supporter of the state terrorism, by unconditional support for the Zionist regime has imposed decades of deprivation from the basic rights and living in permanent horror to the under-occupation civilians of Palestine and now by practical support for the growth of extremism and terrorism as well as ignoring the large-scale financial and political support by Saudi Arabia and its other allies from the spread of this heinous phenomena throughout the world, has inflicted millions of Muslim nations from Yemen to Libya with suffering, horror, homelessness and the miserable life experience and has resulted in loss of life of a considerable number of the citizens of other countries in the terrorist operation as a result of the destructive consequences of such diplomacy.
4-the dual-track, hypocritical and propagation-like approach towards terrorism is one of main factors for the spread of terrorism in the region and the world. Instrumental use by the US from terrorism and shameful ignorance of the crimes committed by terrorism groups against Iranian civilians has resulted in spread of terrorism and the difficulty of confronting throughout the world.
5-Without the military interferences and destructive supports of the US for the terrorist groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, the international community today would not have sustained heavy costs for international threats posed by these terrorist groups. Under such conditions the US cannot accuse other nations and governments of supporting terrorism by shrugging shoulders from its responsibilities.
6- The policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in rejecting terrorism and extremism and all-out confrontation with them in a clear and blatant way. It is itself one of the biggest victims of terrorism and it has lost 17,000 of its nationals as result of that. Iran’s diplomatic cultural venues abroad and the Iranian diplomats have also been targeted by the terrorist groups affiliated to the countries supported by the US.
7- In order to prove its practicality in confronting terrorism, the US should resort to serious and all-out confrontation with the real instances of supporting and spread of terrorism in the region and world by putting an end to political and selective encounter with the issue of terrorism instead of releasing fictitious reports of this sort which only shows covering up reality and distorting the blatant realities.

8- The Islamic Republic of Iran has proven in practice that it is the most serious and effective force in confronting terrorism and while the US allies in the region are supporting Daesh (the ISIS) and other terrorist groups through different methods, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the frontline of fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria. Accordingly, the Islamic Republic of Iran within the framework of its principled policy like in the past emphasized on its preparedness to interact and cooperate with other governments and nations as well as international organization in the path of real and all-out confrontation with terrorism.  


Tags: Reports

Khamenei: Iran Will Not Cooperate with US

On June 3, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran will not cooperate on regional issues with its enemies, the United States and Britain. “America has continued its enmity toward Iran since [the 1979] revolution ... It is a huge mistake to trust evil Britain and the Great Satan [the United States],” he said in a speech marking the 27th anniversary of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khamenei also accused Washington of not fulfilling its commitments under the nuclear deal that was reached in July 2015. The following are translated excerpts from his speech tweeted by his official account.  

IAEA Report on Iran’s Compliance

On May 27, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has been living up to its commitments as part of the nuclear deal, specifically as codified in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. In its second report on Tehran’s compliance, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said that Iran accepted additional inspectors and provided complementary access to sites and facilities under the Additional Protocol. The report, however, was short on specifics, according to David Albright, Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Andrea Stricker from the Institute for Science and International Security. For example, the IAEA did not specify how much low enriched uranium Iran has or in what form. It also does not provide specifics on centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant or at the Fordo research center. The following are excerpts from the IAEA report.
Verification and Monitoring Activities

Activities Related to Heavy Water and Reprocessing
6. Iran has not pursued the construction of the existing Arak heavy water research reactor (IR-40 Reactor) based on its original design. Iran has not produced or tested natural uranium pellets, fuel pins or fuel assemblies specifically designed for the support of the IR-40 Reactor as originally designed, and all existing natural uranium pellets and fuel assemblies have remained in storage under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 3 and 10).
7. Iran has continued to inform the Agency about the inventory of heavy water in Iran and the production of heavy water at the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) and allowed the Agency to monitor the quantities of Iran’s heavy water stocks and the amount of heavy water produced at the HWPP (para. 15). On 21 April 2016, the Agency verified the quantity of heavy water shipped out of Iran on 24 February 2016. On 9 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran’s stock of heavy water had reached 116.7 metric tonnes. Throughout the reporting period, Iran had no more than 130 metric tonnes of heavy water (para. 14).
8. Iran has not carried out activities related to reprocessing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility or at any of the other declared facilities (para. 18).

Activities Related to Enrichment and Fuel
9. At the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz, 5060 IR-1 centrifuges have remained installed in 30 cascades in their configurations in the operating units at the time the JCPOA was agreed (para. 27). Iran has not withdrawn any IR-1 centrifuges from those held in storage (see para. 15 below) for the replacement of damaged or failed IR-1 centrifuges installed at FEP (para. 29.1).
10. Iran has continued the enrichment of UF6 at FEP. Throughout the reporting period, Iran has not enriched uranium above 3.67% U–235 (para. 28).
11. Iran has recovered, under Agency monitoring, some of the enriched uranium that it had stated as recoverable from the process lines at the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP) at Esfahan. On 23 and 24 April 2016, the Agency verified that the recovered quantity of uranium enriched up to 3.67% U-235 was 35.7 kg. Between 5 March and 8 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran downblended 6.1 kg of uranium in the form of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 to the level of natural uranium and, between 16 and 24 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran downblended 5.9 kg of uranium contained in liquid and solid scrap enriched up to 3.67% U-235 to the level of natural uranium.
13. Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile did not exceed 300 kg of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms) (para. 56).
14. At the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), 1044 IR-1 centrifuges have been maintained in six cascades in one wing of the facility (para. 46); Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development (R&D) activities; and there has not been any nuclear material at the plant (para. 45).
15. All centrifuges and associated infrastructure in storage have remained under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 29, 47, 48 and 70).13 The Agency has continued to have regular access to relevant buildings at Natanz, including all of FEP and the Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant (PFEP), and performed daily access upon Agency request (para. 71).
16. Iran has conducted its enrichment activities in line with its long term enrichment and R&D enrichment plan, as provided to the Agency on 16 January 2016 (para. 52).
17. Iran has not operated any of its declared facilities for the purpose of re-converting fuel plates or scrap into UF6, nor has it informed the Agency that it has built any new facilities for such a purpose (para. 58).
Centrifuge Research & Development, Manufacturing and Inventory
18. No enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges within the limits defined in the JCPOA (paras 32–42).
19. Iran has provided declarations to the Agency, subsequent to those reported in the Director General’s previous report, of Iran’s production and inventory of centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows and permitted the Agency to verify the items in the inventory (para. 80.1). The Agency has conducted continuous monitoring, including through the use of containment and surveillance measures, and verified that the declared equipment has been used for the production of rotor tubes and bellows to manufacture centrifuges only for the activities specified in the JCPOA (para. 80.2). Iran has not produced any IR-1 centrifuges to replace those that have been damaged or failed (para. 62). All declared rotor tubes, bellows and rotor assemblies have been under continuous monitoring by the Agency, including those rotor tubes and bellows manufactured since Implementation Day (para. 70).
On 7 March 2016, the Agency verified Iran’s declaration that it had ceased manufacturing rotor tubes. In a letter dated 2 May 2016, Iran informed the Agency of its intention to resume the manufacture of rotor tubes. As of 22 May 2016, the Agency had verified that such manufacturing had not resumed. Verification by the Agency in relation to the manufacturing of rotors and bellows will take place at its next visit. Related technical discussions between the Agency and Iran have taken place.
D. Transparency Measures
20. Iran has continued to permit the Agency to use on-line enrichment monitors and electronic seals which communicate their status within nuclear sites to Agency inspectors, and to facilitate the automated collection of Agency measurement recordings registered by installed measurement devices (para. 67.1). Iran has issued long-term visas to Agency inspectors designated for Iran as requested by the Agency and provided proper working space for the Agency at nuclear sites and facilitated the use of working space at locations near nuclear sites in Iran (para. 67.2). Iran has accepted additional Agency inspectors designated for Iran (para. 67.3).
21. Iran has continued to permit the Agency to monitor - through measures agreed with Iran, including containment and surveillance measures - all uranium ore concentrate (UOC) produced in Iran or obtained from any other source, and reported by Iran to the Agency. Iran also provided the Agency with all information necessary to enable the Agency to verify the production of UOC and the inventory of UOC produced in Iran or obtained from any other source (para. 69).

Click here for the full report.  


Khamenei Comments on US, New Parliament

The tweets from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei covered a wide range of subjects in May 2016, from opposition to U.S. policies to the new Parliament’s priorities. He urged lawmakers to build up Iran’s “resistance economy” (self-sufficiency) and “strengthen Islamic culture.” Khamenei’s tweets also highlighted his meeting with the family of a top Hezbollah commander killed in Syria. The following is a collection of his monthly tweets.
The United States and the West
Nuclear Program
Parliamentary Election
Killing of Mustafa Badreddine
Mustafa Badeddine, a top military commander in Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia and political party, was killed in an explosion in Damascus. Hezbollah, a key ally of Iran’s which has fought to defend the Assad regime, said Sunni Islamist rebels were responsible for the artillery fire that killed the veteran operative, an active member since the early 1980s. He was accused of helping to plan the 1983 truck bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut. 

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