On May 23, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 20 individuals and entities for involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile proliferation networks. They were responsible for moving supplies and providing services to clandestine programs. “As long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, the U.S. will target and disrupt those involved in Iran’s illicit activities,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. The following are excerpts from the press release.
By Robin Wright and Garrett Nada
Among the 680-plus candidates who registered to run for president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stands alone as the most experienced and savviest politico — by far. He has almost done it all.
He was speaker of parliament for nine terms in the 1980s. He was president for two terms from 1989 to 1997. He was chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a panel of more than 80 clerics and scholars who oversee the supreme leader, from 2007 to 2011. And he is currently chief of the Expediency Council, the ultimate arbiter of disputes between parliament and the 12-man Guardian Council.
But more than titles, Rafsanjani was long the behind-the-scene powerbroker in the world’s only modern theocracy. He orchestrated the rewriting of the constitution in 1989 to create an executive president — and then got himself elected to the more powerful post. The same year, he mobilized the inner circle after the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini to support Ali Khamenei as the new supreme leader. The twin steps are still the biggest political overhaul since the 1979 revolution.
For his wiliness, Rafsanjani was nicknamed “the shark,” which is also a play on his smooth beardless chin, a physical attribute inherited from Mongolian ancestors. He was also — somewhat cynically — nicknamed “Akbar Shah,” a dig at the king-like power he once wielded. His Cheshire cat grin was a staple of Iranian politics in the 1980s and 1990s — and a barometer of who and what was in favor.
Yet Rafsanjani has struggled since 2000 to retain his leverage. Subsequent comeback efforts have failed.
His famous family has also increasingly been targeted by both the regime and his political rivals. Two of his children were charged with acting against the regime after the disputed 2009 presidential election. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi ― a former member of parliament and vice president of Iran’s Olympic committee ― spent six months in prison for “spreading propaganda.” She was released in March 2013. His son, Mehdi Hashemi was jailed for more than two months in late 2012 for inciting unrest and still faces formal prosecution.
What is Rafsanjani’s relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei?
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been a pivotal player in Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic revolution. His views have often adapted to the times, issue or public sentiment. But he has often argued that “moderation” and national unity could help Iran overcome domestic challenges as well as repair its relations with the outside world. The following are excerpts from various interviews, public remarks and campaign materials.
“Iranian forces have never been, and are not present in Syria,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on May 23. “The real enemies of Syria make such claims.” His statement came one day after foreign ministers from the United States, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates urged for the "immediate withdrawal" of Iranian fighters from Syria. The so-called Friends of Syria met in Amman to discuss recent developments and receive updates from the Syrian opposition.
Tehran announced that it will host its own international conference on May 29 to find a “practical solution” to the Syrian conflict. “We believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that a national dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition will lead to a rational solution,” Araqchi said on May 22. Iran held similar conferences in August and November 2012 that were attended by China, Russia and dozens of other countries. The November conference reportedly brought together nearly 200 Syrians, including government officials and opposition representatives. The following is the full text of Iran’s press release on the conference.
Pursuant to the two previous meetings on the developments in Syria, held in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the third meeting is scheduled to be held in Tehran on 29 May 2013. We are confident that this Conference could enhance consultations and coordination among the countries that are real friends of Syria with a view to assisting this country in surmounting the crisis. We are hopeful about the achievements that this Conference would have and, especially, the practical solution for the crisis that it could come up with. The fact that a great number of countries and international organizations will take part in this Conference is indicative of the increasing determination of world public opinion towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis and also the growing role that the Islamic Republic of Iran is playing in dealing with it.
Iran has increased its capacity to enrich uranium by installing hundreds of new centrifuges, according to a new report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed the installation of almost 700 IR-2 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility since early 2013. Once functional, the advanced models can enrich uranium two or three times faster than the old centrifuges. But Iran has slowed the growth of its controversial 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile. Tehran now as 182 kilograms, still short of the minimum 240 kilograms needed for one bomb. It would have to further enrich the uranium to weapons-grade level.
The report also found that Iran has begun paving over Parchin, a former military site where nuclear-weapons-related experiments may have taken place. Tehran has also continued building a new heavy water research reactor at the Arak facility. Experts have warned that spent fuel from the reactor could be reprocessed into plutonium, which could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran has denied intentions to produce weapons and reportedly does not have the reprocessing plants required to produce plutonium. The IAEA was unable to confirm if Iran conducted experiments related to nuclear weapons development at the Parchin site. The following are excerpts from the U.N. report, with a link to the full text at the end.
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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