United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Rouhani Fails on Human Rights Reforms

Lisa Canak

Since taking office in August 2013, President Hassan Rouhani has failed to deliver on promises to open up Iran politically, ease rigid social restrictions and address human rights abuses. Execution rates have steadily increased over the past decade. Political dissidents and journalists are often denied due process or imprisoned for vaguely-defined criminal charges, including “enmity towards God,” “corruption on earth,” and acts undermining state security. Minorities face discrimination in education, employment and property ownership. Laws are often ignored to quash opposition. Even juveniles are vulnerable to abuses.
In a 2016 report, U.N. Special Rapporteur for Iran Ahmed Shaheed said that many provisions of Tehran’s Islamic penal code “facilitate serious abuses” and criminalize the peaceful exercise of fundamental rights. Iran had at least 821 political prisoners or prisoners of conscience in March 2016, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.
Rouhani’s authority to enact large scale social or cultural change has been limited. Hardliners dominate the judiciary, intelligence agencies and security services. The president also does not appoint judges. But Rouhani does have the power to investigate state institutions that violate constitutional rights, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Mohammad Khatami faced similar obstacles during his presidency between 1997 and 2005. He also had an ambitious agenda to open up Iranian society. Yet in 1999, he was largelypassive when security forces cracked down on student protests at Tehran University. Hardliners repeatedly undermined Khatami, despite strong support for his policies among reformers who dominated Parliament from 2000 to 2004. He was unable to stop the arrest of activists and intellectuals or prevent the closure of reformist publications. Compared to Khatami, Rouhani is at a deeper disadvantage because his supporters have never been a decisive faction in the legislature.
With a presidential election due in mid-2017, Rouhani’s shortcomings on human rights may face greater public scrutiny. Iran’s record also jeopardizes Rouhani’s attempts to improve relations with the international community. The Islamic Republic is still sanctioned by the United States for human rights abuses.
Death Penalty
In 2016, the U.N. reported that capital punishment in the Islamic Republic “continues to surge at a staggering rage.” It increased under both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Rouhani. In 2015, Iran carried out an average of four executions per day between April and June. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center reported 195 executions in the first five months of 2016.
The death penalty is most often invoked for drug-related crimes and other ill-defined violations, such as Moharebeh, or, “enmity against God.” The U.N. reported that 65 percent of executions in 2015 were drug-related, although Iran claimed 80 percent of the country’s total executions were linked to narcotics. In May 2016, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, claimed that Iran was reconsidering the death penalty for narcotics convictions. “We need to have a [better] method to fight against drugs,” he said.
The State Department has faulted Iran for executing juveniles and due process violations in capital punishment cases. Iranian law permits the execution of girls as young as nine and boys age 13—the age of puberty—if the accused understands the consequences of his or her crime. In 2015, authorities reportedly executed four people who were charged with crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.
Iran has overturned a few death sentences. In February 2016, for example, Iran’s Supreme Court reversed Mohammad Ali Taheri’s death sentence. Taheri, founder of the spiritual practice “Interuniversalism,” has been in solitary confinement for five years on charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities.”

Political Dissent

During his 2013 campaign, Rouhani Tweeted:

As of mid-2016, however, the government still heavily restricted the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. Authorities frequently arrested students, journalists, lawyers, political activists, women’s activists, artists, and religious minorities. The government also “arrested, convicted, and executed persons on criminal charges, such as drug trafficking, when their actual offenses were political,” according to the State Department.

According to Amnesty International’s 2015 report, “Scores of prisoners of conscience continued to be detained or were serving prison sentences for peacefully exercising their human rights.” Monitoring groups noted an uptick in arrests of journalists, artists, and activists in the run-up to the 2016 Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.  The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran described the arrests in late 2015 and preceding months as a “visible expression of the crackdown.”
On May 19, 2016, prominent human rights activist Narges Mohammadi received a 16-year prison sentence for campaigning against the death penalty, “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” She was already serving a six-yearsentence for similar charges as well membership in Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Centre.
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein condemned Mohammadi’s treatment as “illustrative of an increasingly low tolerance for human rights advocacy in Iran.” Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, cited her imprisonment as an example of “the Islamic Republic’s refusal to tolerate any peaceful dissent.
In 2015, prison conditions were “often harsh and life-threatening,” according to the State Department. “Some prison facilities...were notorious for the use of cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government,” it reported in 2015. Quarters were severely overcrowded, and reports cited incidences of prisoner suicide. Political prisoners were vulnerable to attacks by other inmates.
Prisoners are also often denied critical medical treatment. In 2011, authorities arrested postdoctoral student Omid Kokabee on charges of illegal earnings and “communicating with a hostile government.” Kokabee showed signs of severe kidney illness in Evin prison, but he did not receive prompt treatment. Diagnosed with cancer, his right kidney was surgically removed in April 2016.
Amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) came into effect in June 2015, according to the U.N. special rapporteur. The code affords those suspected of crimes greater protection. However, the law still has some problems that need to be resolved, according to the National Union of Bar Associations of Iran.
“In the future cabinet, in all social areas, discrimination among men and women will be eliminated,” Rouhani pledged in mid-2013. He promised to uphold women’s rights and sponsor legislation addressing gender discrimination. As of mid-2016, however, Iran’s laws significantly favored men as much as before Rouhani’s election.
In the early months of his presidency, Rouhani secured the release of seven women activists and human rights lawyer Nasrine Sotoudeh from prison, according to Haleh Esfandiari, director emerita of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The president also appointed four women vice presidents and three governors. He instructed his cabinet members to appoint women as deputy ministers. He did not, however, assign women to his cabinet or revive the Ministry for Women’s Affairs as he had promised.
Women’s political participation increased in 2016 during the parliamentary election. A record number of women, 1,434, registered to run. And a record 17 women won seats, although after the election, the Guardian Council disqualified Minoo Khaleghi. For the first time, women outnumber clerics in the Majles (Parliament).
But women still face serious discrimination, especially in matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody. In 2012, the government initiated efforts to reverse Iran’s population decline. Minister of Health and Medical Education Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi announcedcut back on funding for the family planning program.
Women are obligated to wear appropriate hijab--including head covering and modest Islamic dress— although it lacks a clear legal definition. Females can receive floggings or steep fines for violations, according to the State Department. Opponents of the dress code have used social media to criticize and flaunt the laws, but no changes have been made.
The morality police, who answer to the supreme leader, monitor the streets of Iran for violations of the Islamic dress code. In April 2016, Iran’s morality police added thousands of undercover plainclothes police to track women with poor hijab. Rouhani criticized the practice. “Our first duty is to respect people’s dignity and personality. God has bestowed dignity on all human beings and this dignity precedes religion,” he said.
Women’s rights are also curtailed in marriage. The law considers intercourse within marriage consensual, allowing for spousal rape. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. A wife, however, is limited to specific justifications in order to divorce her husband. Women may not transmit citizenship to their children or to non-Muslim spouses, according to the State Department’s 2015 report.
In early June 2016, professor of social anthropology Homa Hoodfar was arrested and taken to Evin Prison for allegedly “co-operating with a foreign state against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Hoodfar, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal and a dual citizen of Iran and Canada, was “conducting historical and ethnographic research on women’s public role,” according to her family. The 65-year-old scholar traveled to Iran in February 2016 primarily for personal reasons, but also to conduct academic research. She was imprisoned following nearly three months of questioning by Iran’s intelligence service, her sister told The Guardian
Religious Minorities
“All Iranian people should feel there is justice. Justice means equal opportunity. All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice,” Rouhani said during his 2013 presidential campaign.
Shiite Muslims constitute some 90 percent of Iran’s population, with Sunni Muslims being the next largest group at about nine percent, according to U.S. government estimates. The Islamic Republic’s constitution recognizes Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as minorities and allocates a total of five seats for them in Parliament, proportionate to their populations. But minorities risk charges of Moharebeh, “anti-Islamic propaganda,” or threatening national security. They also face religious discrimination in property ownership, education, and employment.
In 2012, Rev. Saeed Abedini was arrested for organizing Christian churches in Iranian homes. He was charged with attempting to undermine the Iranian government and reportedly endured torture and beatings during his imprisonment. Iran released Abedini, in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.
The Baha’i, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, are not protected under the law and cannot practice their faith openly. The government views Baha’is as “heretics.” As of February 2016, at least 80 Baha’is were imprisoned for their religious beliefs.
In May 2016, the State Department condemned Iran for continuing to imprison seven Baha’i community leaders eight years after their arrest. Spokesperson John Kirby called on Iranian authorities to “uphold their own laws and meet their international obligations that guarantee freedom of expression, religion, opinion, and assembly for all citizens.”
The Iranian government maintains that it allows Baha’is to obtain higher education, but Baha’i students find it difficult to in practice, according to a 2016 report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2015 and 2016, Baha’i youth with high standardized test scores were denied entry to or expelled from schools after their religious identities were discovered.
In November 2015, agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence arrested at least 15 Baha’is. The reason for the arrests was unknown. In April and May of 2016, authoritiesclosed 35 Baha’i-owned shops to allegedly prevent Baha’i holy day observances.
Ethnic Minorities
Persians make up the majority of the population, but Iran is also home to several ethnic minorities. The largest groups are the Azeris, Kurds, Lors, Arabs, and Baluchis, who face significant cultural and political restrictions.
Iran’s eight million Kurds still face discrimination. Several were persecuted and arrested after the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) campaigned for regional autonomy in 2015. Others have been arrested for working in Kurdish non-government organizations. Kurds were long banned from registering Kurdish names for their children or teaching the Kurdish language in most schools. In July 2015, however, the University of Kurdistan announced its opening of a Kurdish language and literature program, according to a Human Rights Watch report. And in September 2015, Rouhani appointed a Sunni Kurd, Dr. Saleh Adibi, to be ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia. Dr. Adibi is widely thought to be the first Iranian Sunni to be appointed as a senior envoy since the 1979 revolution.
Azeris are the largest ethnic minority and account for about 16 percent of the population – around 13 million people. They are well-integrated into Iranian society. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is reportedly half Azeri, although his official bio does not mention an Azeri heritage. In 2015, however, the State Department reported that the government harassed Azeri activists, prohibited the Azeri language in schools, and changed Azeri town names.
Arabs account for about two percent of Iran’s population, more than 1.5 million people, according to U.S. estimates. Rouhani appointed Ali Shamkhani — an Arab and a former defense minister — as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council in 2013. But the U.N. special rapporteur reported in August 2015 that authorities arrested approximately 1,000 demonstrators in March 2015 for protesting on behalf of Younes Asakere, an Arab who set himself on fire after harassment by local authorities. In 2016, security forces singled out Ahwazi Arabs — Arabs from Ahwaz, Khuzestan province — as well as Azeris and Kurds, according to Amnesty International. In April 2016, security forces detained scores of Ahwazi Arabs, including several children.
Iran’s Baluchis number more than 1.5 million people and live in areas that have historically been underdeveloped. Baluchis, who are Sunni, also live in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Iran, Baluchis had limited access to education, healthcare, shelter, and work in 2015 according to a report by the State Department. Baluchis have also been underrepresented in government positions. 
In April 2014, President Rouhani Tweeted:
Artists and filmmakers faced censorship before Rouhani’s election in 2013, and little has changed since then.
More bands have been permitted to perform concerts since Rouhani took office, but local authorities — who are often ultra-conservative — still consider music, singing, and dancing  haram, or sinful. For example, in May 2016, local authorities in the city of Nishapur cancelled at least three performances by famous Iranian musicians.
Two poets, Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi, received sentences of 11 and nine years in prison, in addition to 99 lashes for “insulting sanctities,” according to the Freedom House’s 2016 report. In January 2016, both poets escaped Iran.
Filmmaker Kayvan Karimi was charged with “insulting the sanctities” for a documentary film on political graffiti. Filmmaker Mostafa Azizi was arrested in June 2015 on charges including “acting against national security in cyberspace,” and songwriter Yaghma Golrouee was detained in December 2015 for his work that touched on love and social issues.
Since his 2013 campaign, Rouhani has repeatedly called for more press freedom. “We also need a clear law for press and media, thus, as far as the law is clear and unambiguous, no one can stick to a part of it and play with or misuse people's rights of freedom of press in the society,” he said in November 2015. Freedom House reported in 2016 that “some journalists and citizens say the situation improved slightly after Rouhani took office.” During his campaign, Rouhani promised to reinstate the Association of Iranian Journalists but has not done so, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Hardliners have continued to crack down on journalists, artists, and activists in waves of arrests, according to Amnesty International. Iran ranked 169th out of 180 countries in the World Press 2016 freedom index. Journalists’ families also experience harassment, and some imprisoned journalists were kept in solitary confinement.
In April 2016, an Iranian revolutionary court imposed prison sentences on four pro-Rouhani journalists. All of them worked for reformist newspapers and were charged with assisting the United States in “infiltrating” Iran. Human Rights Watch described their charges as “overly broad” and “inconsistent with human rights law.”
Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American and correspondent for The Washington Post, was one of the most prominent cases during Rouhani’s presidency. He was detained on charges that included espionage. He was sentenced to a prison term of unspecified length after a closed-door trial, according to Freedom House. Rezaian was released in January 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran.

In June 2016, artist and activist Atena Farghadani was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for a political cartoon that depicted Iran’s members of parliament as animals. She stated that authorities forced her to take a virginity test after shaking hands with her male lawyer, according to the State Department.

Citizens’ Rights Charter 

During his 2013 campaign, Rouhani promised a new “civil rights charter.” His administration published a draft in November 2013, but progress has been stalled. In theory, it would guarantee all Iranians citizenship rights regardless of gender, ethnicity, wealth, social class, and race. It would define citizenship rights, the government’s obligations, and penalties for violations.
Thedraft divided “The Most Important Citizenship Rights” into 21 sections including “Life, Health, and Decent Living,” “Freedom of Opinion, Expression, and Press,” and “Administrative Health, Proper Governance, and Rule of Law.” It also contained a vague “Minorities and Ethnic Groups” section; another entitled “Combating Narcotics” described the government’s responsibility to create a drug-free environment.
According to Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the draft identifies rights violators, recognizes the security environment’s degrading effect on rights, and gives the Iranian media a discussion platform. But “the draft Charter suffers from serious shortcomings, both in terms of its unclear legal status within the Iranian legal system and in the actual content of the Charter itself,” he wrote. Lawyer and human rights activist Mehrangiz Kar compared the draft to a “slogan” that lacked realistic enforcement power and planning.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in April 2016 that Rouhani may want to put aspects of the draft to a vote in Parliament. “The Citizens’ Bill of Rights does not require parliamentary approval,” he told The New Yorker. But the president may want to “put in place certain procedures and guarantees and mechanisms,” which may require parliamentary approval.
Lisa Canak is a cadet at West Point who completed her Academic Individual Advanced Development training at the U.S. Institute of Peace.




US Treasury Guidance on Sanctions Relief

On June 8, the U.S. Treasury released additional guidance on what transactions U.S. and foreign entities can have with Iranian entities following the lifting of sanctions as part of the nuclear deal. “U.S. financial institutions can transact with, including by opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions that maintain correspondent banking relationships or otherwise transact with Iranian financial institutions that are not on the SDN (Specially Designated Nationals) List,” according to the Action Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The updated frequently asked questions document appears to be part of a U.S. effort to reassure foreign banks that they are free to do business with Iranian entities that are not sanctioned. In May, Secretary of State John Kerry met with nine executives from leading European banks. “I think it’s important to have clarity, and the clarity is that European banks, as long as it’s not a designated entity, are absolutely free to open accounts for Iran, trade, exchange money, facilitate a legitimate business agreement, bankroll it, lend money,” he told reporters.
The following are excerpts from “Frequently Asked Questions Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan” published by OFAC.
Broadly, what U.S. sanctions against Iran remain in place after Implementation Day? What activities involving Iran trigger sanctions after Implementation Day?
A number of U.S. sanctions authorities with respect to Iran remain in place after Implementation Day, including those set out below.
i. Primary U.S. Sanctions. The U.S. domestic trade embargo on Iran remains in place. Even after Implementation Day, with limited exceptions, U.S. persons including U.S. companies – continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with Iran or its government. In addition, the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions remain persons whose property and interests in property are blocked under Executive Order 13599 and section 560.211 of the ITSR, and U.S. persons continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, with the exception of transactions that are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC. Unless an exemption or express OFAC authorization applies, U.S. persons continue to have an obligation to block the property and interests in property of all individuals and entities that meet the definition of the Government of Iran or an Iranian financial institution, regardless of whether or not the individual or entity has been identified by OFAC on the E.O. 13599 List (see FAQ I.2). In addition, non-U.S. persons continue to be prohibited from knowingly5 engaging in conduct that seeks to evade U.S. restrictions on transactions or dealings with Iran or that causes the export of goods or services from the United States to Iran.
ii. Designation authorities. In addition, after Implementation Day, the United States retains a number of authorities to counter Iran’s other activities, including the following authorities which are also listed in section VII.B of the Guidance Document:
·         Support for terrorism: Executive Order 13224 (blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism);
·         Iran’s human rights abuses:
o   Executive Orders 13553 and 13628 (implementing sections 105,105A, and 105B of CISADA (related to persons who are responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses committed against the citizens of Iran; transfers of goods or technologies to Iran that are likely to be used to commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran; and persons who engage in censorship or similar activities with respect to Iran)); and
o   Executive Order 13606 (relating to the provision of information technology used to further serious human rights abuses);
·         Proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery, including ballistic missiles: Executive Orders 12938 and 13382;
·         Support for persons involved in human rights abuses in Syria or for the Government of Syria: Executive Orders 13572 and 13582; and
·         Support for persons threatening the peace, security, or stability of Yemen: Executive Order 13611.
These authorities generally provide the ability to impose blocking sanctions on individuals and entities that meet specified criteria, including for providing material support to persons engaged in the activities targeted by the authority.
iii. Secondary Sanctions targeting dealings by non-U.S. persons with Iran-related persons remaining on the SDN List after Implementation Day or involving trade in certain materials involving Iran. After Implementation Day, secondary sanctions continue to attach to significant6 transactions with: (1) Iranian persons that are on the SDN List; (2) the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its designated agents or affiliates; and (3) any other person on the SDN List designated under Executive Order 13224 or Executive Order 13382 in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or their means of delivery or Iran’s support for international terrorism (see FAQ A.6). In addition, sanctions targeting certain activities related to trade in materials described in section 1245(d) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) that are outside the scope of the JCPOA and related waivers remain in place.
See section VII of the Guidance Document for additional information regarding U.S. legal authorities directed toward, or that have been used to address, U.S. concerns with respect to Iran, which are outside the scope of the JCPOA and remain in place following Implementation Day. [01-16-2016]
C. 2. What sanctions on the CBI were lifted? What sanctions on the CBI remain?
As a general matter, non-U.S. persons, including foreign financial institutions, can engage in financial and banking transactions with the CBI beginning on Implementation Day without exposure to sanctions. U.S. persons, however, continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, including the CBI, with the exception of transactions that are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC. In addition, unless an exemption or express OFAC authorization applies, U.S. persons must, pursuant to Executive Order 13599 and the ITSR, continue to block the property and interests in property of these persons. [01-16-2016]
C. 7. After Implementation Day, are foreign financial institutions allowed to clear U.S. dollar transactions involving Iranian persons?
After Implementation Day, foreign financial institutions need to continue to ensure they do not clear U.S. dollar-denominated transactions involving Iran through U.S. financial institutions, given that U.S. persons continue to be prohibited from exporting goods, services, or technology directly or indirectly to Iran, including financial services, with the exception of transactions that are exempt or authorized by a general or specific license issued pursuant to the ITSR. U.S. persons continue to be prohibited from engaging in any transactions involving Iran, including in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, with the exception of transactions that are exempt or authorized by OFAC. [01-16-2016]
C. 15. Can U.S. financial institutions transact with, including by opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions that maintain correspondent banking relationships with Iranian financial institutions that are not on the SDN List?
Yes. U.S. financial institutions can transact with, including by opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions that maintain correspondent banking relationships or otherwise transact with Iranian financial institutions that are not on the SDN List. It remains prohibited, however, for non-U.S. financial institutions to route Iran-related transactions through U.S. financial institutions or involve U.S. persons in such transactions, unless the transactions are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC. Non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions should have appropriate systems and controls to ensure that they do not route Iran-related transactions through U.S. financial institutions, unless the transactions are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC. [06-08-2016]
C. 16. Can a non-U.S., non-Iranian entity (including a non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institution) engage in transactions with Iranian persons not on the SDN List even though one or more U.S. persons serve on that entity’s Board of Directors or as senior managers (e.g., Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Compliance Officer)? Must these U.S. persons be recused or “walled off” from the entity’s Iran-related business?
The presence of one or more U.S. persons on the Board of Directors or serving as a senior manager of a non-U.S., non-Iranian entity does not necessarily preclude that entity from transacting with Iranian persons that are not on the SDN List. Unless authorized by OFAC, however, U.S. persons must be walled off or “ring-fenced” from Iran-related business because, with limited exceptions, U.S. persons continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in or facilitating transactions or dealings with Iran or its government. The prohibitions on the exportation or reexportation of services to Iran and facilitation have been in place for decades, and are consistent with prohibitions applied across a range of U.S. sanctions programs administered by OFAC. Non-U.S., non-Iranian entities establishing policies regarding how to wall off the U.S. persons from the institution’s Iran-related business should consider instituting a blanket recusal policy (as opposed to case-by-case abstentions, which, depending on the facts and circumstances, could be considered a prohibited facilitation and/or export of services under the ITSR) for U.S. person directors, senior managers, and other employees with respect to Iran-related matters. The institution of a blanket recusal policy requiring that all U.S. person employees of a non-U.S., non-Iranian entity not be involved in Iran related activities would not be considered prohibited activity under the ITSR. In instances where national laws prohibit the recusal of a U.S. person executive from the decision-making processes of his or her non-U.S. employer, including those involving Iran-related business, the executive or employer should consult with their counsel and/or approach OFAC for additional guidance. [06-08-2016]

Click here for the full FAQ. 


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.  

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