United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran's Leaders on Iraq Crisis and ISIS

             Iran’s policy on Iraq has evolved as the Islamic State (IS) has taken more territory since June. President Hassan Rouhani and one his advisors initially suggested Tehran could cooperate with Washington on countering IS militants. But senior military, political and religious leaders, including Rouhani, have increasingly criticized Western responses to the crisis and blamed U.S. policies for the emergence of IS. “It is naive to think that simply conducting air strikes will solve the terrorist problem,” Rouhani warned in September, likely referring to U.S. actions against IS.
              Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out cooperation with Washington on IS. He has also blamed the United States, along with Sunni Gulf states, for allowing extremist groups to flourish in the region. “The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence,” Khamenei said on June 22.  The supreme leader has questioned Washington's motives for fighting IS. The following tweet is from a statement released on September 15, the day 20 representatives from Western and Middle Eastern countries met in Paris to form an anti-IS coalition. Iran was not invited.
            Iran remains a stalwart supporter of Iraq’s central government and opposes intervention by outside powers. "The best way of fighting IS and terrorism in the region is to help and strengthen the Iraqi and Syrian governments,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told a visiting French lawmaker in Tehran. Iran has sent advisers to Baghdad and to Iraqi Kurdistan but has denied reports that it has sent troops.
            Tehran’s endorsement of Haidar al Abadi as Iraq’s new prime minister suggests that Iran recognizes that former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government may have been a factor that led to the current crisis.
"As the new prime minister is elected, God willing, problems will be solved and the government will give a good lesson to terrorists who seek sedition in Iraq,” he told Iranian diplomats in August. Abadi hails from al Maliki’s Islamic Da’wa Party and also is a Shiite. But Maliki's government had alienated both Sunnis and Kurds.
            The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian leaders on Abadi’s nomination and U.S. airstrikes with generic comments on the Iraqi crisis since June.
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
      “What has happened in Iraq which broke the backbone of ISIS was not done by Americans but by the Iraqi people and Army. Both ISIS and Americans know this well.
       “We are proud that the US has become disappointed at Iran not having a part in a collective wrongdoing.
      “Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against ISIS. I said no, because they have dirty hands.
      “How can it be possible to cooperate with the United States in such conditions?
           “Secretary of State [John Kerry] personally asked [his Iranian counterpart] Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request.
           “Even the American deputy foreign minister, who is a woman and everyone knows her, had repeated this request in a meeting with Mr. Araghchi again. But Mr. Araghchi also rejected her request.”
           Washington wants a “pretext to do in Iraq and Syria what it already does in Pakistan -- bomb anywhere without authorization.”
           Sept. 15, 2014 in a statement published online and by the press
     
           “We are strongly against the interference of the US and others in Iraq’s internal affairs and do not approve of it, because we believe that the Iraqi government, nation and religious authority are capable of ending this sedition and will end it, God willing.
           “The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without U.S. interference.”
           “What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam’s regime and takfiri [ISIS] extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility.”

           June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials

 

President Hassan Rouhani
 
      The U.S.-led coalition against IS is “ridiculous.”
      “Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?
      “If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.
      “Maybe it is necessary for airstrikes in some conditions and some circumstances. However, air strikes should take place with the permission of the people of that country and the government of that country.
            “They [IS militants] want to kill humanity. And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it's the matter of concern and sorrow for humanity and all the mankind."
             “When we say the red line we mean the red line. It means we will not allow Baghdad to be occupied by the terrorists or the religious sites such as Karbala or Najaf be occupied by the terrorists.”
            Sept. 16, 2014 in an interview with NBC News
 
            “It is naive to think that simply conducting air strikes will solve the terrorist problem. [This strategy] does not address the complexity of the issue. In order to understand the culture of violence that is terrorism, there has to be an understanding of the political and social issues of the region.”
      Sept. 11, 2014 in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin according to the press (translation via Brookings)
     
      “The Islamic Republic will not tolerate violence and terror as foreign-backed takfiri militants wreak havoc in northern Iraq.
            “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the [acts of] violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.
            “We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups. We can think about it [cooperation with the United States] if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.
            “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
            June 14, 2014 during a press conference
 
            “Regarding the holy Shia shines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.
            “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
            June 18, 2014 in a speech to a crowd in Lorestan province
 
            “I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop.
            “Tomorrow you will be targeted... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims.
            “For centuries, Shiites and Sunnis have lived alongside each other in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf and North Africa...in peaceful coexistence.”
            June 22, 2014, according to press
 
            “If the Iraqi government wants help, we will study it; of course no demand has yet been raised until today but we are ready for help within the framework of the international laws and at the request of the Iraqi nation.
            “Of course, we should know that help and assistance is one issue, and interference and entrance [into the battlefield] is another. If the Iraqi government demands us we will help them, but the entrance of the Iranian troops [onto the scene of battles in Iraq] has never been considered.
            “Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press
 

            “Unfortunately, we face two festering tumors in this region and across the Muslim world. One tumor has always caused distress to the Palestinians and Muslims and these days it is secreting and wreaking havoc on the land of olive [trees]. The other festering tumor which is agonizing the Muslims these days is a campaign launched under the name of Islam, religion, caliphate and caliphacy and has undertaken the murder and killing of Muslims in the region. All studies indicate that both tumors have roots at the same point.

            July 28, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian officials and foreign diplomats
 
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
             “It is interesting and it is important for all of us to take that reality in perspective while we address various issues and as Iran, which has been a responsible power in the region. We have looked at the situation around us from that perspective, and that is why we've played a central role in dealing with ISIS. I wouldn't call it Islamic State, because it's neither Islamic, as President Obama rightly pointed out, nor a state. It's a terrorist organization, a sophisticated terrorist organization that has come to being because of a number of reasons. But Iran has taken a leading role in that.
             “And while Iran was not invited to Paris, which I would call a coalition of repenters, because most participants in that meeting in one form or another provided support to ISIS in the course of its creation and upbringing and expansion, actually at the end of the day, creating a Frankenstein that came to haunt its creators.
             “But Iran has been, as even attested to by President Barzani of the Iraqi Kurdish region, the first that came to the aid of the Iraqis in dealing with that problem. We don't hesitate in providing support to our friends, to deal with this menace. We believe that we need to deal with this menace. This is not a threat against a singular community, nor a threat against a singular region. It was not confined to Syria, nor will it be confined to Iraq. It's a global threat.
             “There are thousands of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. And they come from all over the world. And that is why they have very little mercy for the people they occupy and they rule over. It's a very dangerous phenomenon, and we all need to be aware of how to deal with this issue. It will not be eradicated through aerial bombardment, because we need new tools to deal with these new realities.”
             “We do not support foreign military involvement in the region. We believe that foreign forces should -- if they are asked by the governments in the region, then we don't interfere with the decision of sovereign states in the region. But as a principle, we do not believe that injection of foreign forces, either air or ground, solves our problem.”
             “The best thing is to allow the Iraqis to fight this. This is the fight for the Iraqis. They should fight this. They should be provided with the assistance necessary to fight this. The Iraqi Sunnis should be provided with the necessary assistance to fight this. The Iraqi Sunni leadership, the Iraqi Sunni political community, has been uprooted from its places of origin.”
            Sept. 17, 2014 at a Council on Foreign Relations event
 
              “Our interest is to have a region free from extremism and terrorism. If that is how the United States defines its interests, then there may be a commonality. We have not seen that unfortunately, because we continue to see United States hesitation in dealing with this terrorist group when it comes to Syria.
              “We need to live with this threat, or deal with this threat. For the United States, it may see this, in my view, erroneously, as an option. The United States is dealing with this as an option. The option in Iraq. The option in Syria. There are no options here. This is a challenge that you need to deal with it squarely and seriously and not based on double standards.
              Sept. 17, 2014 in an interview with NPR
 
             “We are cooperating and working... with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish government in order to repel this very serious, atrocious group. But we do not believe that they need the presence of Iranian soldiers in order to do this task.”
            IS is “committing acts of horrendous genocide and crimes against humanity” and “needs to be tackled the international community and by every country in the region.”
            Aug. 24, 2014 in a press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
 
Interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
 
AMANPOUR: You have other problems [besides the nuclear dispute]. Right now on your border, and that is the rise of ISIS in Iraq. How big a threat to Iran is ISIS?

ZARIF: I think this problem of extremism and sectarianism is a danger not only to Iraq and Syria

but to the entire region. We've been saying that --

AMANPOUR: But to Iran?

ZARIF: -- to Iran, too. Iran is a part of this region. We don't like instability in our neighborhood. Inside Iran, we are probably best protected from such waves of extremism than any of our neighbors. All our neighbors are more vulnerable to this threat than Iran is internally. 

But for us, our domestic security is inseparable from security of the region. So for us a secure Iraq, a secure Persian Gulf, a secure Afghanistan is as important as our own security.

So from that perspective, it becomes important. But we said it from the very beginning that this problem of extremism, violence and use of sectarian divisions in order to advance a political agenda was dangerous for all countries in the region and that is why we insisted from the very beginning that we need to have a strong unified stance against it.

AMANPOUR: And I presume you want a unified Iraq as well, because right now, it looks like it's fragmenting and it could possibly fragment.

I want to ask you specifically, Nouri al-Maliki is a product of Iran, according to everybody. In other words, Iran backed him in 2010 when he was reelected. Iran backed a lot of the people who he brought into his cabinet. And they are calling him extremely divisive, extremely sectarian and practically the opposite --They're calling him extremely divisive and extremely sectarian. Is al-Maliki the man that Iran wants to see as prime minister, no matter what?

ZARIF: Well, I think you made some assumptions that are not correct. Iran, first of all, wants Iraq territorial integrity and I have spoken to almost every regional foreign minister and all of them want to ensure that Iraq remains a secure with its own boundaries, national unity of Iraq. Disintegration of Iraq is going to be a disaster for the entire region. So that's given.

Iraq has a very lively democratic process. It's very young but very lively. People go and vote and people elect certain people. Our advice to the Iraqis, all of them, who’ve never supported any individual or party, our advice has been that you need to work, based on the democratic model, but at the same time to ensure that the government is inclusive, that the government represents various views.

Now you have a system in Iraq with an overwhelming majority of one group, but you have a system where the president is from one ethnicity; the speaker of the parliament is from another religious sectarian group. The prime minister is from another.

If you find this combination within the constitutional framework that Iraq has established and then allow various political parties to form a workable government that also represents all segments of Iraqi society, this is our desire. We're not in the business of supporting any individual. 

We support the Iraqi people. We support the choices of the Iraqi people, whoever Iraq can choose as its prime minister will have the full backing of Iran, whoever Iraq choose as its prime minister. 

And as its president and as its speaker of parliament, will have the full backing of Iran, because for us the number one issue is that we need to respect the choices of the Iraqi people. And my advice to countries in the West as well as countries in the region is to have respect for people, allow them to make their own choices. And once you allow them to make their own choices, they'll make the best choice.

AMANPOUR: Obviously Iraq has had a very painful history under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Obviously Iran suffered from that as well. But Prime Minister Maliki has at best treated the Sunnis as worse than junior partners, has basically frozen them out.

Do you think that the Shiite prime minister, because that’s what the constitution says it should be, should treat Sunnis as equals or as junior partners?

ZARIF: No, you see, it's a government based on democratic principles people have -- it doesn't matter whether you're Sunni --

AMANPOUR: It should be, but it hasn't happened.

ZARIF: -- no, no. You see, you have a government where political parties -- unfortunately some of them are along sectarian lines -- but political parties go to the polls, receive votes, some have more votes, some have less votes. They're different voting blocs in the Iraqi parliament.

Why do we need to send it into a sectarian issue? These are, in the United Kingdom, for instance, the prime minister is from one party; it has a coalition which works with another party. It's just a fact of life.

Why people need to make -- to insert divisive sectarian issues into this? We need to establish a government in Iraq that represents the views of the people but at the same time maybe if you have something exactly on that line, you will get only one group taking over all segments of Iraqi power structure and that is why you have these divisions and these attempts to bring everybody inside. 

It doesn’t mean that people who got the largest number of votes should be equally represented as people who got two votes in the parliament, that is not the meaning of democracy. Meaning of democracy is you get more votes; you get more seats in the parliament. You get more seats in the government. That's the reality.

But keeping that reality in mind, we insist that all segments of Iraqi society should be included in governing Iraq. That's the only way to ensure stability in Iraq and I'm sure all political parties, be Shia, Kurd, Sunni, all of them and non-sectarian, all of them have that objective in mind.

Now the way to achieve that objective may be different from -- based on one platform to another. But I think that's what we need to achieve. We should not start inserting sectarian divisions into Iraq.

Sectarian considerations are really dangerous for our region and really dangerous for the world. We live in a globalized world and it's very dangerous to fan these flames of sectarian hatred, one where it won't be contained in that area.

AMANPOUR: Is ISIS sufficient a threat for Iran and the United States to combat? Or does Iran not want to see any U.S. involvement in Iraq right now?

ZARIF: I think the international community needs to come together in order to deal with this threat of extremism and violence.

AMANPOUR: Specifically in Iraq.

ZARIF: In Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere. It requires a unified approach, not shortsighted policies, not infringing yourself in positions but really seeing the problem as it is. It is a problem of extremism. It is a problem of demagogues using inherent resentment that have arisen out of decades of injustice in our region.

But these are demagogues using these resentments in order to advance a very dangerous political agenda. And this dangerous political agenda may fit in the designs of some external powers. I don't know. I do not want to espouse conspiracy theories.

But what is important is everybody should come to realize that whatever their short-term interests are, in long term, this is a threat against everybody and everybody needs to have a unified international and regional stance against such acts of extremism and allowing it to take root in Iraq. 

Any political, any shortsighted political gain that some people believe they can derive from this unfortunate situation in Iraq is exactly shortsighted and will come to haunt them in the future.
 
Click here for more of the interview.
           
           “It is in the interest of everybody to stabilize the government of Iraq. If the U.S. has come to realize that these groups pose a threat to the security of the region, and if the U.S. truly wants to fight terrorism and extremism, then it’s a common global cause.”
            June 13, 2014 to Robin Wright for The New Yorker
  
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
      “Westerners are afraid of ISIS exploits in Iraq and Syria. They [Westerners] could not accept that the terrorists of ISIS can someday be a threat against them but now they are fearful.”
       Sept. 9, 2014 in an address at an international conference on the Palestinian issue
 
            “Obama has become concerned about the Kurds while many Christians, Sunni Muslims, Druze and Alawites were killed in Syria, but they [U.S. officials] remained silent.
            “Now, all of a sudden they have become conscious. This shows that they (US officials) have adopted a double standard and tactical approach toward this issue and this is wrong.”
           Aug. 12, 2014 to foreign ministry officials
 
            “The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are our friends [in Iraq].
            “We have always insisted that all ethnic groups must have active and constructive participation in Iraq's power structure".
            “We regard it as unacceptable to deprive any Iraqi ethnic group of their constitutional rights by anyone.”

            June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 

 
Chairman of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi
            “The Americans, who strengthened terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are putting on a show in dealing with the ISIS instead of [taking] serious action.
Washington is just “posturing” to show “it has a role to play in the region.”
            Aug. 11, 2014 according to the press

Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani
 
      “The framework provided by the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the prime minister has been chosen by the majority group in the parliament.
      “We congratulate Haidar al-Abadi on his nomination as prime minister, for him personally and for religious dignitaries, the Iraqi population and its political groups.
Iran calls on “all groups and coalitions in Iraq to protect the national interest”and “deal with external threats.”
            Aug. 12, 2014 according to the press
 
            “The current crisis in Iraq is the result of the meddling and collaboration of the western and regional enemies of the Iraqi nation, who are seeking to prevent the Iraqi people’s will and determination from coming into action.”
           June 16, 2014 in a meeting with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
 
           “Reports in Western media about possible Iran-U.S. cooperation are part of the West’s “psychological warfare” and are “completely unreal.”
            “As we have announced, we will examine the issue of helping (Iraq) within the framework of international regulations in case of an official request by the Iraqi government and this will be completely a bilateral process and has nothing to do with a third country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Fars News Agency

Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
       “It is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that no one should aid countries like Syria and Iraq unless the work is limited counselling and advising. The people and governments of these countries can overcome their problems without the aid of any country.”
       June 24, 2014 at a ceremony for martyrs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq
 
 
 
 
 

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
 
      “The so-called international coalition to fight the ISIL group, which came into existence following a NATO summit in Wales and is [now] taking shape, is shrouded in serious ambiguities, and there are severe misgivings about its determination to sincerely fight the root causes of terrorism.
      “Some of the countries in the coalition are among financial and military supporters of terrorists in Iraq and Syria and some others have reneged on their international duties in the hope of [seeing] their desired political changes in Iraq and Syria.”
“In the negotiations with the U.S., no issue but the issue of [Iran’s] nuclear energy has been discussed, and the U.S. side has merely talked about its positions regarding the ISIL group.”
            Sept. 11, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Iraq enjoys the necessary potential and military preparedness to fight against the terrorist and extremist elements. Any move that complicates the situation in Iraq will not be in the interest of Iraq and the region.
            “We believe that the Baghdad government can fully overcome the ongoing crisis in Iraq and thwart conspiracies through consolidation of national unity and internal solidarity.”
            June 14, 2014 to the press
 
            “Causing insecurity, disrupting democratic trends, overcoming ballot boxes, imposing weapons and terror rather than [promoting] democratic trends, all of these suggest that terrorism is being used today as a tool to overcome people’s votes.
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the ominous phenomenon of terrorism and believes the first method to counter and eradicate it is for the regional nations to remain vigilant and for countries to boost national unity, and for the international community to pay serious and unbiased attention to this scourge facing humanity.”
            June 25, 2014 to the press
 
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
             When the Islamic State “attacked Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish officials requested help from Iran. And the Islamic Republic, in addition to providing advisers, organized their forces."
             “One day they brought news that there is a possibility that Karbala and Najaf would fall [cities holy to Shiites]. At that session, the president said that this is our red line and if something like this happens there will be no limit to our operations.”
             We had a timely presence, and there were days we were worried about the fall of pilgrimage cities.
             Aug. 25, 2014 according to the press (translation via Al-Monitor)
 
            “Supporting the Iraqi government and nation does not mean sending troops to Iraq. It means condemning terrorist acts and closing and safeguarding our joint borders.”
            June 14, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 
Center for Strategic Studies head and Rouhani advisor Hesameddin Ashna
            “If the issue is about confronting extremism and violence, then yes, we’re [the United States and Iran] on the same side, but if it’s about destabilizing the region, then, no we are not.
            Iran would not support a U.S. ground intervention but airstrikes could help the “paralyzed” Iraqi air force.
            June 2014, according to The Washington Post
 
President Rouhani’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs Hamid Aboutalebi
            “The events in Iraq has highlighted a number of hypothesis.
            “First, Iran and America are the only two countries, from a perspective of regional power, that can peacefully end Iraq’s crisis.
            “Second, Iran and America have both ruled out military involvement in Iraq
            “Third, both Iran and America have asked Iraq’s government and Nouri al Maliki to bring the scourge of terrorism and the problems of Iraq to an end.
           “Fourth, the legitimate government of Iraq, in addition to its military capabilities, has potential political solutions worth considering to resolve problems.
            “Fifth, Iran and America have both never disregarded the implicit possibility of cooperation to solve the crisis in Iraq.”
           June 15, 2014 on Twitter according to Al Monitor
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian
            “The brutal attacks of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank and the indifference of self-proclaimed advocacy groups and ISIL proved that they are enforcers of the policies dictated by Tel Aviv and apply their power and arms only against Muslims and the strength of the Islamic states.
           July 13, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Certain countries which are supporting Takfiri terrorists and remnants of [executed Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein] should either correct their attitude or wait for negative consequences of their support.”
         June 30, 2014 in a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov
 
           “If Iran asks [for help], we will send military equipment to Iraq within the framework of international laws and contracts.”
           June 26, 2014 according to the press
 
            “We supply Baghdad with necessary consultations but we have no intervention in the country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
            “We will mightily support Iraq in is confrontation with terrorism. We are sure that the Iraqi armed forces will powerfully and effectively crash the terrorist and takfiri forces.”
            June 11, 2014 via state media
 
Deputy Commander of Army Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heidari
            “Iranian Army’s Ground Forces are not only closely monitoring the developments in Iraq and the region, but also constantly observe the different threats [coming from around the globe].”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi
            “Saudi Arabia made a lot of efforts to upset the situation in Syria, and Qatar has also made a big investment in this regard, and some other countries made grave mistakes in Syria as well.”
           June 12, 2014 according to Iranian media
 
Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
            “We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of countries and we hope we will be a good mediator to extinguish the flames [of the crisis in Iraq].”
            June 22, 2014 in a meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully
 
Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hossein Ali Amiri

            “There is no particular problem along our common border with Iraq; however, the necessary measures have been taken by the Interior Ministry and border police.”
           June 23, 2014, according to press

Basij Militia Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi
            “The terrorist and anti-Islamic ISIL group is the US’s instrument for sowing discord among Muslims in the region.
            “The US and the Israeli regime seek to use fanatics and anti-Islamic groups to damage the Islamic community.”
            June 23, 2014, according to press

Lt. Commander of Khatam al Anbia Air Defense Base Gen. Shahrokh Shahram
            “Today the takfiri and ISIS forces are killing Muslims in the region on behalf of the US the same way over 30 countries helped Saddam [Hussein] during the imposed war to pave the way for the collapse of the Islamic Republic through waging war against Iran.”
            June 30, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 

Tehran’s Provisional Friday Prayer Leader Seyed Ahmad Khatami
           “The US and Israel are supporting the ISIS with the purpose of disintegrating Iraq and create differences among Muslims.”
            June 27, 2014

Parliament's Director General for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslami
            “Are we stupid to join the Americans and their coalition? Except for the Iraqis, they are all the same people who over the past three years have been plotting against Syria in over 20 different conferences.”
            September 2014 according to the
press

            “Supporters of these terrorist groups want to portray Iraq's parliamentary democracy as a failure because they consider this democracy as a factor for their destruction.”
            July 1, 2014 according to the press

Foreign Ministry
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran supports all steps taken toward the completion of the political process in Iraq. It is obvious that the Islamic Republic of Iran as in the past will continue its support for the Iraqi government and nation in fighting terrorism and promoting the country’s stability and security.”
             Aug.12, 2014 in a statement

 

UNITED STATES

Secretary of State John Kerry
            “The fact is there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran, whose foreign minister is here with us here today.  ISIL poses a threat to all of us, and we’re committed to working in close partnership with the new Iraqi Government and countries around the world to defeat it.
            Sept. 19, 2014 at U.N. Headquarters in New York
 
             Just because the Iranians were not invited to the Paris conference “doesn’t mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they will come on board or under what circumstances or whether there is the possibility of a change.”
             Sept. 15, 2014 to reporters
 
              “I think under the circumstances, at this moment in time, it would not be right for any number of reasons. It would not be appropriate, given the many other issues that are on the table with respect to their engagement in Syria and elsewhere.”
              Sept. 12, 2014 to reporters
 
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
             “[T]o be very clear, we are not coordinating with, we do not want to coordinate with, we are not planning to coordinate with Iran in any way on Iraq, period.  So obviously, we’re open to having a discussion with them.  We won’t always outline all of those discussions.  But in terms of the content of what those discussions might look like, we are not coordinating with them.”
             Sept. 16, 2014 at a press briefing
 

IRAQ

Ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Majid al Sheikh
            “These are just the rumors of biased and despiteful media which are seeking to sow discord among the regional states, especially Iran and Iraq.
            “Iraq doesn’t need any country neither for weapons nor for the military forces at all; hence, I emphasize that neither General [Qassem] Soleimani nor any other (Iranian) figure is in Iraq.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press

 

Photo credits: President.ir, Khamenei.ir, Iran's Ministry of Defense, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC-BY-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons,

 

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Tags: Khamenei

UN: Mixed Progress on Iran Nuke Program

            Iran has begun fulfilling additional commitments it made in July to rollback its nuclear program, according to the latest quarterly report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Iran has downblended or converted all of its uranium that was enriched to the 20 percent level, making it even more difficult to use in weapons production. The Islamic Republic has also continued meeting its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, the interim nuclear deal reached in November 2013. Some aspects of its program have been frozen while others have been rolled back.
           
But the International Atomic Energy Agency has made little progress in its investigation into suspected bomb research by Tehran. For example, the agency reported ongoing construction activity at a location at the Parchin military site. The report called on Iran to “provide answers to the Agency’s questions and access to the particular location in question.”
           
The following are excerpts from the Arms Control Association’s analysis of the report by Kelsey Davenport.

 
Top Points:
·         Iran is continuing to implement all of its commitments under the JPOA.
·         Iran is making progress on the new actions it pledged to take as part of the agreement to extend its negotiations with the P5+1.
·         Iran has completed three of five actions it pledged to take as part of its cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation into past military actions.
 
            The incomplete activities are two of the so-called possible military dimensions (PMDs) that the IAEA laid out in its November 2011 quarterly report.
 
            Iran’s delay in providing information on the two PMD actions is serious, and it is essential that Tehran work with the agency to complete these activities in a timely fashion. However, this delay should not disrupt the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 set to resume on Sept. 18. Negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal will result in the kind of monitoring and verification that ensures that any past PMD activities will not take place in the future.
 
New Steps on Track
              When Iran and the P5+1 announced on July 19 that nuclear negotiations would be extended through November 24, Iran committed to convert another 25 kilograms of uranium powder enriched to 20 percent to fuel assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). In total, Iran produced 162 kilograms of the powder (U3O8) using 20 percent enriched gas.
              As of the Sept. 5 report, Iran had converted 65.2 kilograms of uranium powder into 27 fuel assemblies for the TRR and one experimental assembly. Its stockpile of uranium powder enriched to 20 percent is now 97 kilograms. Based on the estimated amounts of U3O8 in each assembly, approximately 22 kilograms more will be fabricated into fuel assemblies before Nov. 24, some of which is currently in the process.
              This is a positive step. Converting the gas to fuel plates makes it more difficult for Iran to further enrich this material to make weapons, should it chose to do so.
              As part of its JPOA commitments, Iran neutralized its entire stockpile of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched to 20 percent by July 20. When implementation of the JPOA began on Jan. 20, Iran had 209 kilograms of 20 percent enriched material in gas form. Half was blended down to less than 5 percent enrichment and the remaining half was converted to a uranium powder.
              According to the special monthly IAEA reports issued by the agency to track implementation of the JPOA, Iran completed these actions by July 20 and the entire stockpile of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched to 20 percent has been converted to solid form or diluted.
 
JPOA Still Being Implemented
              The Sept. 5 report also finds that Iran is continuing to implement all of the agreed-upon actions from the JPOA.
              According to the IAEA, the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to less than 5 percent continues to remain constant at about 10,200 first generation IR-1 machines.
Iran also has not installed any additional centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities. The number of installed centrifuges remains at about 19,000 first generation IR-1 machines and 1,008 IR-2M machines.
              The IAEA continues to have daily access to Natanz and Fordow for monitoring and verification purposes.
              Construction on the Arak heavy-water reactor remains frozen as per the JPOA, and Iran is allowing the IAEA regular monthly access to the site. As part of a separate track of negotiations with the IAEA, Iran and the agency completed a new safeguards approach for the reactor on Aug. 31.
 
Research and Development
              Under the JPOA, Iran is allowed to continue research and development on its advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant.
              According to the Sept. 5 report, Iran is continuing to test other advanced centrifuges, the IR-4, IR-6, and IR-6s machines in single centrifuges and cascades at the facility, although these machines are not producing enriched uranium. There is also a single IR-5 machine that is not being fed with uranium hexafluoride.
 
Slower Progress on IAEA-Iran Track
              Iran is also negotiating separately with the IAEA to resolve the agency’s outstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Iran agreed to provide the IAEA information on five areas of concern by Aug. 25 as part of this negotiation track. Two of the areas were PMD issues, and three related to Iran’s nuclear facilities.
              The two PMD issues are: initiation of high explosives; and modeling and calculations related to neutron transport and their application to compressed materials.
              According to the Sept. 5 report, Iran has provided the IAEA with information and access on three areas related to its nuclear facilities, but has yet to submit information on the PMD issues.
              The IAEA was given access to the centrifuge assembly shops before the Aug. 25 deadline. On August 30, Iran granted agency inspectors access to its centrifuge research and development centre (note: this is different than the research and development area at Natanz where advanced centrifuges are tested. The IAEA has daily access to the Natanz site). The safeguards approach was concluded on Aug. 31.
              These actions will give the agency a clearer picture of Iran’s nuclear program and help ensure that materials are not being siphoned off for covert activities.
              Between November and February, Iran provided the agency with information on seven areas of concern to the IAEA. These actions were largely related to Iran’s nuclear facilities, materials, and past work on laser enrichment. In February, Iran agreed to an additional six actions to be completed by May, including on one of the PMD issues, exploding bridge-wire detonators.
              Iran provided the IAEA with information on these six areas by the May deadline. The information on exploding bridge wire detonators marked the first PMD cooperation since 2008.
 
Click here for the IAEA report.
 
Click here for the full analysis by the Arms Control Association.

 

ICG: Getting to “Yes” on an Iran Nuclear Deal

            Both Iran and the world’s six major powers risk losing the opportunity to solve the nuclear dispute if they do not retreat from maximalist positions, according to a new brief by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Tehran, in particular, “should postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development,” according to the report. ICG offers amendments to its 40-point plan for a nuclear deal released in May, with a new emphasis on uranium enrichment, “which has emerged as the most contentious and complex issue” in negotiations. The following are excerpts.

 
            As in 2005, when now President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were last in charge of the nuclear portfolio, negotiators are bogged down in a worn-out debate over exactly why Iran insists on uranium enrichment; its economic logic or lack thereof; whether Iran should be subject to restrictions beyond those imposed on other members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); and how to calculate the time Iran would need to enrich enough uranium for one weapon –which, assuming other abilities are present, measures its “breakout capacity”.
 
            Neither side’s technical arguments bear scrutiny in this debate because its roots are fundamentally political. Negotiators are both driven and constrained by their respective domestic politics, especially the U.S. and Iran, where powerful constituencies remain sceptical of the negotiations. The struggle over the number of centrifuges is a surrogate for a more basic one: the Iranian revolution was predicated on rejecting outside powers’ dictates after a century of Western intervention in Iranian affairs; for the West, its concerns are founded on Iran’s behaviour as an anti-status quo, revolutionary power.
 
            While this power struggle cannot and will not be resolved within the framework of the nuclear talks, a workable and wise compromise is still possible. It can be achieved, however, neither by a contest of wills over maximalist positions nor by mechanically splitting differences. Instead, the parties should reverse engineer their underlying political concerns and legitimate interests to find common technical ground: for Iran this means a meaningful enrichment program, continued scientific advancement and tangible sanctions relief; and for the P5+1, a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities, ironclad monitoring mechanisms and sufficient time and Iranian cooperation to establish trust in the exclusively peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear program. If they resolve the key issue of enrichment, other pieces of the puzzle stand a better chance of falling into place.
 
Squaring the Circle
            Negotiators first should address the crucial issue of defining Iran’s enrichment capacity. Removing that obstacle would constitute real progress and, in so doing, increase the costs of ultimate failure; further, it could give the negotiators an incentive to compromise on other issues of more recent vintage, such as concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.
 
            The minimum requirements for solving the enrichment conundrum would be:
• for Iran, to demonstrate that the immense investment in its enrichment program has not gone to waste, to ensure respect for what it sees as its rights and to establish a program that could grow and evolve over time to meet its peaceful needs, particularly by guarding against any fuel supply interruption; and
• for the P5+1, to ensure that the enrichment program is geared only toward civilian purposes and that Iran has been deterred from pursuing nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.
 
             These objectives are not incompatible but require both sides to demonstrate flexibility and find creative trade-offs between different components of the agreement. In fact, they agree on the need for an initial ceiling on the number and sophistication of Iran’s centrifuges and that these restrictions would be relaxed after a period of confidence building.
 
             To reconcile remaining differences, the parties should trade off the height of the ceiling against the length of the confidence building. Iran should accept a lower initial ceiling on its enrichment capacity than it desires, given that it has limited needs and that even in the best of circumstances it will not be able to take over fuelling Bushehr as early as 2021;40 in return, the P5+1 should agree to a shorter time frame and gradual increase in the technological sophistication of Iran’s enrichment program.
 
             This could be achieved by balancing three components of the deal:
Research & Development. Iran should accept more quantitative constraints on its centrifuges than it would prefer, in return for the P5+1 countenancing more qualitative advances in the enrichment program through research and development.
 
Practical guarantees. Iran and Russia should amend and renew their binding agreement for Moscow to supply the Bushehr reactor’s fuel for its entire lifespan. To allay Iran’s fuel security concerns, Russia should agree to provide Iran with a five year stockpile of fuel as a backup that could be used in the event of supply disruption. This assurance, coupled with the contingency enrichment program Iran would retain and its ongoing R&D activity, would allow it to dial up its enrichment capacity in case of disruption of the nuclear-fuel supply. The program, however, would be constrained in such a manner that any breakout push could be promptly detected and reacted to decisively. Also, to eliminate any sneak-out risk – that is, breaking out in a clandestine enrichment facility instead of a declared one – Iran should allow the IAEA to monitor all key nodes of centrifuge production and testing.
 
Objective Milestones. The duration of the final agreement as well as each of its component steps, by the end of which Iran’s nuclear program would be normalised, should not be based on selective criteria such Iran’s electoral calendar45 or arbitrary deadlines. As Crisis Group previously recommended:
 
             The final step should be broken down into phases of different durations that would be conducive to the multi-layered nature of both the nuclear program and the sanctions regime; their rollback would need to happen in stages, with significant preparation time followed by a series of measures in rapid success.
 
             The balanced, measured nature of this approach also would serve a political need: it would enable front-loading the agreement to rally support in the relevant capitals by quickly demonstrating tangible achievements while Presidents Obama and Rouhani are in office; signal regular progress throughout the duration of the final step; and postpone some difficult concessions until both sides have become accustomed to a new relationship.
 
Click here for the full text.
 
Tags: Reports

Fall Push on Nuke Talks

             With the deadline for a final nuclear deal looming in 10 weeks, the pace of diplomacy on Iranian nuclear talks is picking up. The United States and Iran held their third round of bilateral talks on September 4 and 5 in Geneva. The last round was on August 7.
             The U.S.-Iran dialogue is in preparation for the next round of full talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers in New York on September 18, on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly. The following press releases are from the U.S. State Department and EU foreign policy spokesperson Michael Mann.
 
U.S. Delegation Travel to Geneva for Talks With Iran on Its Nuclear Program
 
            Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman, and Senior Advisor Jacob J. Sullivan will meet with Iranian officials in Geneva on September 4-5. These bilateral consultations will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations led by EU High Representative Cathy Ashton.
 
U.S. Delegation to the Consultations with Iranian officials in Geneva:
 
The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State
The Honorable Wendy R. Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Mr. Jacob J. Sullivan, Senior Advisor
Ambassador Brooke D. Anderson, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on Iran Negotiations
Mr. James Timbie, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Mr. Paul Irwin, Director for Nonproliferation, National Security Council
Mr. Christopher Backemeyer, Director for Iran, National Security Council
Mr. Eytan Fisch, Assistant Director for Policy, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury
Ms. Julia Jacoby, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Department of State
Mr. Matan Chorev, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State, Department of State
 
Statement by E.U. foreign policy spokesperson Michael Mann
 
             The talks between the E3/EU+3 and Iran, led by High Representative Ashton, will continue in New York as of 18th September.
 
             Following the meeting between High Representative Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif on 1 September, and in the framework of the talks, there will be bilateral meetings between the E3 and Iran and also between the U.S. and Iran at the level of Political Directors.
 
             The E3/Iran bilateral will take place in Vienna on 11 September (at PD level).
 

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