United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Report: US Concerns and Responses to Iran

            Hassan Rouhani’s election to the presidency has improved prospects for ending 34 years of U.S.-Iran estrangement, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service’s Kenneth Katzman. But the United States will still have serious concerns about the Islamic Republic even if the world’s six major powers and Iran reach a comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue. Support for extremist groups, human rights abuses, weapons programs and efforts to destabilize the region are key U.S. concerns that predate the nuclear issue. The following are excerpts from the report.

 
Human Rights Practices
 
Iran’s human rights record is scrutinized by the United Nations and multilateral groupings.
Media Freedoms

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has been active in blocking pro-reform websites and blogs and closing newspapers critical of the government, as well as arresting journalists and bloggers. However, some editors say that the government has become more tolerant of critical media since Rouhani took office. The Majles investigated the November 2012 death in custody of blogger, Sattar Beheshti; seven security officers were arrested and the Tehran “Cyber Police” commander was removed for the incident. Iran is setting up a national network that would have a virtual monopoly on Internet service for Iranians.

Labor Restrictions

Independent unions are legal but not allowed in practice. The sole authorized national labor organization is a state-controlled “Workers’ House” umbrella.

Women

Women can vote in all elections and run in parliamentary and municipal elections. They are permitted to drive, and work outside the home, including owning their own businesses, although less than 20% of the workforce is female and women earn nearly 5 times less than men. Nine women are in the Majles, but women cannot serve as judges. There was one woman in the previous cabinet (Minister of Health) but she was fired in December 2012 for criticizing lack of funding for medicines. Masoumah Ebtekar, a prominent woman who has held the position of a vice president in previous governments, was scheduled to be the first woman to deliver the Friday Prayer at Tehran University in January 2014, but her appearance was cancelled. Women are required to be covered in public, generally with a garment called a chador, but enforcement has relaxed since Rouhani took office. Women do not have inheritance or divorce rights equal to that of men, and their court testimony carries half the weight of a male’s. Laws against rape are not enforced effectively.

Religious Freedom Overview

Each year since 1999, the State Department religious freedom report has named Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). No sanctions have been added under IRFA, on the grounds that Iran is already subject to extensive U.S. sanctions. Continued deterioration in religious freedom have been noted in the past few International Religious Freedom reports, stating that government rhetoric and actions creates a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups.

Arrests of Dual

Nationals and
Foreign
Nationals/Robert
Levinson/ the
American Hikers

Iran does not recognize dual nationality. An Iranian American journalist, Roxanna Saberi, was arrested in January 2009 allegedly because her press credentials had expired, and was released in May 12, 2009. Three American hikers (Sara Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal) were arrested in August 2009 after crossing into Iran from a hike in northern Iraq. They were released in 2010 and 2011 on $500,000 bail each—brokered by Oman. Several cases remain pending, which U.S. officials say the raise during at the margins of the nuclear negotiations.

 
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, remains missing after a visit in 2005 to Kish Island to meet an Iranian source (Dawud Salahuddin, allegedly responsible for the 1980 killing in the United
States of an Iranian diplomat who had served the Shah’s government). Iran denies knowing his status or location. In December 2011, Levinson’s family released a one-year old taped statement by him. In January 2013, his family released recent photos of him, and they acknowledged in late 2013 that his visit to Kish Island was partly related to his contract work
for the CIA.
 
A former U.S. Marine, Amir Hekmati, was arrested in 2011 and remains in jail in Iran allegedly for spying for the United States. His family has been permitted to visit him there. On December 20, 2012, a U.S. Christian convert of Iranian origin, Rev. Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned for “undermining national security” for setting up orphanages in Iran in partnership with Iranian Christians. His closed trial was held January 22, 2013, and he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
 
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Qods Force
 
            Through its Qods (Jerusalem) Force (QF), the IRGC has a foreign policy role in exerting influence throughout the region by supporting pro-Iranian movements and leaders. The QF numbers approximately 10,000-15,000 personnel who provide advice, support, and arrange weapons deliveries to pro-Iranian factions or leaders in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Persian Gulf states, Gaza/West Bank, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. IRGC leaders have confirmed the QF is in Syria to assist the regime of Bashar al-Assad against an armed uprising, and it reportedly provided advisers to help the Iraqi government counter an offensive by Sunni Islamist extremists in June 2014. The QF commander, Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani reportedly has a direct and independent channel to Khamene’i. The QF commander during 1988-1995 was Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, who served as Defense minister during 2009-2013. He led the QF when it allegedly assisted two bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires and is wanted by Interpol for a role in the 1994 bombing there. He allegedly recruited Saudi Hezbollah activists later accused of the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing; and assassinated Iranian dissident leaders in Europe in the early 1990s.
 
International Atomic Energy Agency Investigations into Past Nuclear Weapons Research
 
           Allegations that Iran might have researched a nuclear explosive device have caused experts and governments to question Iran’s assertions that it does not intend to construct a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been attempting to investigate information laid out in detail in an IAEA report of November 8, 2011, on Iran’s alleged research efforts on designs for a nuclear explosive device (“possible military dimensions,” PMD). Even though many questions about PMD persist, no IAEA report—or U.S. intelligence testimony or comments—has asserted that Iran has diverted any nuclear material for a nuclear weapons program.
 
           Iran’s cooperation in addressing these issues appears to be improving as an interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community—the “Joint Plan of Action.” (JPA)—is implemented and a comprehensive nuclear agreement is negotiated. And the JPA stipulates that clearing up such questions must be part of a comprehensive nuclear settlement.
 
Chemical and Biological Weapons
 
            Official U.S. reports and testimony state that Iran maintains the capability to produce chemical warfare (CW) agents and “probably” has the capability to produce some biological warfare agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so. This raises questions about Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which Iran signed on January 13, 1993, and ratified on June 8, 1997.
 
Ballistic and Cruise Missiles and Warheads
 
            The Administration’s insistence that missile limitations be part of a comprehensive nuclear settlement is based, at least in part, on the apparent view that Iran’s ballistic missiles and its acquisition of indigenous production of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) provide capabilities for Iran to project power. DNI Clapper testified on March 12, 2013, that the intelligence community assesses that “Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of delivering WMD.” There has been a long-standing U.S. estimate that Iran would likely not be able to fully develop a missile of intercontinental range until 2015, although that time frame is not far away and there have not been any recent reports that Iran is approaching that capability.
 
Support for International Terrorism
 
            Iran’s foreign policy has made use of groups that are named as terrorist organizations by the United States. Iran was placed on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism (“terrorism list”) in January 1984. The State Department report on international terrorism for 2013,36 released April 30, 2014, stated that Iran “continued its terrorist-related activity” in 2013 and that Iran “also increased its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle arms” to oppositionists in Yemen and Bahrain. In 2012, Iran allegedly backed terrorist plots against Israeli diplomats and officials in such countries as India (in which the wife of an Israeli diplomat was wounded in an attack in Delhi in on February 13, 2012), Bulgaria (where a July 19, 2012, bombing killed five Israeli tourists), Thailand, Georgia, and Kenya. Other alleged plots took place in Azerbaijan and Cyprus.
 
            In 2011 and 2012, U.S. officials asserted that Iran might be planning acts of terrorism in the United States itself. The assessment was based largely on an alleged Iranian plot, revealed on October 11, 2011, by the Department of Justice, to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
 
            Some assert that Rouhani seeks to curb Iran’s support for militant movements in the region because their activities could injure his goals of broader international engagement. However, many doubt that Rouhani is able to curb Iranian support for terrorism. Rouhani is perceived as having no ability to remove the head of the Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, who runs Iran’s external operations and reports directly to Khamene’i.
 
Supporting Militant Anti-Israel Groups
 
            Iran has long opposed Israel as a creation of the West and an oppressor of the Palestinian people and other Arabs. Former president Ahmadinejad went well beyond that to statements that Israel should be destroyed. The Supreme Leader has repeatedly called Israel a “cancerous tumor.” Iran has hosted numerous conferences to which anti-peace process terrorist organizations were invited (for example: April 24, 2001, and June 2-3, 2002).
President Rouhani has sought to soften Iran’s image on this issue, in part by publicly issuing greetings to the Jewish community on the occasion of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) in September 2013. Despite that outreach, in March 2014, Khamene’i questioned the Holocaust—an issue that Ahmadinejad had raised during his presidency and for which he had incurred major international criticism.
 
Iran’s support for Palestinian militant groups has long concerned U.S. administrations. The State Department report on terrorism for 2012 repeated previous year’s reports assertions that Iran provides funding, weapons, and training to Hamas, a faction of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). All are named as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) by the State Department for their use of violence against Israel. During the second Palestinian intifada (“uprising”) in January 2002, Israel intercepted a ship (the Karine A) carrying about 50 tons of Iranian-supplied arms bound for the Gaza Strip. The formal position of the Iranian Foreign Ministry is that Iran would not seek to block an Israeli-Palestinian settlement but that the process is too weighted toward Israel to yield a fair result.
 
Syria
 
           Syria’s Bashar Al Assad has been Iran’s closest Arab ally, and Iran would suffer a considerable strategic setback if the Sunni-led rebellion in Syria succeeds in toppling his regime. Syria is the main transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah, and both Iran and Syria have used Hezbollah as leverage against Israel to try to achieve regional and territorial aims. Rouhani has not sought to slow Iranian support to Assad and it is not clear he would be able to change Iran’s overall policy were he to try to do so. However, Iran’s support for the beleaguered Iraqi government as of June 2014 could be draining off Iranian resources that might otherwise go to Assad.
 
            U.S. officials and reports assert that, to try to prevent Assad’s downfall, Iran is providing substantial amounts of material support to the Syrian regime, including funds, weapons, and fighters. The State Department has said repeatedly that Iran has sent Qods Forces (QF) to Syria to advise the regime and fight alongside the Syrian military. Some experts say the Iranian direct intervention goes beyond QF personnel to include an unknown number of IRGC ground forces as well. The Iranian advisers also have helped Syria set up militia forces to ease the burden on the Syrian army. In May 2014, there were press reports that Iran was attempting to recruit Afghan refugees in Iran to fight in Syria.
 
Click here for the full report.
 
Tags: Reports

Iran on Gaza Conflict

            Iran’s leaders have unanimously condemned Israeli air strikes and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip, which began on July 7 and have claimed more than 1,800 Palestinian lives, according to the Gaza health ministry. “Hundreds of innocent men and women and children have been slaughtered… and the United States is not taking action,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC News. He also noted that Israel receives much of its weapons from the United States. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also condemned the West, including the United States and the United Kingdom, for supporting Israel’s policies. He has called for arming Palestinians in the West Bank just as Hamas has been armed.

          Top military leaders and officials have praised the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, that have fired rockets into Israel. “The rockets fired by the Palestinians have created such a strange fear among the Zionists, and they are now after a truce,” said Commander of the Army Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan. Six members of Iran's parliament plan to visit Gaza to show their support at the earliest opportunity. On July 25, thousands of Iranians participated in nation-wide rallies on Qods Day (Jerusalem Day) to show solidarity with Palestinians. Qods Day is held every year on the last Friday of Ramadan.


           Meanwhile, U.S. and Israeli officials criticized Iran for its military and financial support to Hamas. “Iran has a responsibility to cease and desist from continuing to supply weapons of war that are fueling this conflict,” a senior U.S. official told the press in a briefing on the Vienna nuclear talks.  
 
           Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis were ignited in June, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel claimed that two Hamas militants were responsible for the abduction. Rockets were launched from Gaza the night of June 30, when the three bodies were found, and Israel began carrying out air strikes.
 
             The situation escalated after July 2, when a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned to death in an apparent revenge attack. Hamas, which has reportedly received military and financial support from Tehran, and other extremist groups in Gaza have since fired more than 2,430 rockets at Israel. Israel’s advanced Iron Dome defense system has intercepted rockets and mortars headed toward population centers. So far, one Israeli civilian has been killed by mortar fire. Meanwhile, Israel has fired on more than 1,500 “terror targets” in Gaza, including 735 concealed rocket launchers. Two Israeli civilians, one foreign worker and 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed since Operation Protective Edge began.
 
           The following are remarks by Iranian officials and comments by U.S. and Israeli officials on Iranian involvement in Gaza.   
 
Iran
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
           “Since its illegitimate birth since 66 years ago, the Zionist regime has done whatever crime one can imagine against Palestine.
          “There is no way to stop the infanticidal Zionist regime but the elimination of this regime; not via war but via referendum.
          “Iran suggested a referendum among Christian, Muslim and Jewish Palestinians including the refugees and the ensuing government will replace the Zionist regime.
           “In the absence of a referendum, fighting Zionists is realized through resolute and armed resistance of Palestinians which is recognized by international laws.
           “Don’t think if it wasn't about Hamas rockets, the Zionists would have relented. There are no weapons in the West Bank, but Israel commits many crimes against its citizens. Israel demolishes houses and farms, cuts people's water and electricity and humiliates the residents in the West Bank.
           “The fact that they poisoned and killed people like [Yasser] Arafat who had the utmost cooperation with them shows that ‘peace’ is Israel's trick for more bullying.
           “If Palestinian resistance forces stand against Israel, it’s likely that Israel retreats; as they're now doing anything to achieve a truce.
           “I believe West Bank should be armed just like Gaza. Those who love Palestine should arm the people of Palestine in the West Bank.
           “Of course, it’s a duty for people of the world to have political activity against Zionists. As you see Muslims and non-Muslims stage big protests against Israel.”
          July 23, 2014 in a meeting with university students
 
          “The Gaza incidents are utterly disastrous, and the Zionist regime is carrying out the current atrocities by taking advantage of the negligence of the Islamic world.
          “The killing of the people of Gaza by the usurping Zionists should spur Islamic governments and nations to resolve their differences and become united.
          “We will always stand side by side with the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon. Even in Syria, if there’s any group whose objective is liberating the occupied land, we will back them and support them.
          “We know how much our brothers need support. Israel always claims Iran is sending arms to them. What I can say is that Iran wants to see a strong and self-sufficient resistance. Yes, we are sending rockets and military aid, but not the traditional way.”
           July 17, 2014 according to the press
 
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
 
            “The continuation of the cruel siege of Gaza and the dire lack of medical supplies [in the area] are worrying and could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe.
            “Helping the oppressed Palestinian people and preventing the aggressive acts of the Zionist regime are the shared responsibility of all international institutions and the world’s freedom-seeking countries.”
            July 10, 2014 in a message to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
 
           “If today we remain indifferent to the sadness of others, we will face the same situation in the future and we should not expect others to share our grief then.”
           July 22, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Our administration is prepared to provide medical assistance to Gaza, but they [Israelis] do not permit us to dispatch even pharmaceutical facilities and medical teams to there. We are ready to bring all injured Gazans in Iran and cure them.”
            July 23, 2014 according to press
 
           “The Islamic world must in unison declare this day one of anger, hatred, unity and resistance against Israel.
           I condemn “those who stay silent in the face of the Zionist regime's crimes. The world demands an end to the Gaza blockade, opening the Rafah crossing and halting attacks on Gaza so its people can live normally.”
           July 25, 2014 at a demonstration for Qods Day
 
            “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.
           “These incidents [in Gaza] are crimes against humanity and all the international bodies and organizations boasting of [defending] humanity and human rights should provide the grounds for putting the criminals on trial.”
            July 28, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian officials and foreign diplomats
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
           “Unfortunately, over the past week, we have witnessed the irresponsible inaction of the UN Security Council with the silent consent of the self-proclaimed advocates of human rights or even their support for the massacre of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, in the Gaza strip.”
           “I hope the meeting, which has been held to reach a solution to confront the Zionist regime’s aggression against Gaza, will lead us to find practical solutions to end the human tragedy in the Gaza Strip and assist the oppressed people in the region.”
           July 23, 2014 according to press
 
            “Such crimes show that the Palestinian people are resistant, and that the Zionist regime is not committed to the international rules and regulations and the Security Council is ignoring the rights of the Palestinian people.”
           July 23, 2014 in the interview with the state television
 
           “It is extremely regrettable that people are being killed, hundreds of innocent men and women and children have been slaughtered, almost 100 people being killed, over 500 have been wounded in Gaza, and the United States is not taking any action. We know that all the weapons that are used by Israel in order to attack civilians in Gaza have been provided by the United States. And we don't see any move by the United States to condemn that.
           “We do not condemn people who are defending themselves. We believe that actions that are putting civilians in jeopardy in Gaza that have placed restrictions on civilians to get access to medicine. To food. Have tried to starve the civilians in Gaza. They need to be vehemently condemned by the national community. The United States and the rest of the members of the Security Council have a moral and legal responsibility to put an end to this. And address the fact that they haven't taken any action in order to address this.”
           July 13, 2014 in an interview with NBC News
 
Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani
            “Martyrdom for Palestine is the wish of any honorable Muslim.
            “Unity with Palestine will terrorize the enemy—while fighting each other will bring the enemy joy.
            “We will persist with victory until the land, the sky and the sea turn into hell for Zionists. The murderers and the mercenaries must know that we will not stop defending the resistance, not even for a moment.
            “It [the conflict in Gaza] wounds our hearts and fills us with grief, a grief which holds a deep rage. When the time comes, this rage will be poured on the heads of the criminal Zionists.
            “Damn those who have done you injustice and continue to do so. Damn any oppressor who has supported and continues to support this criminal regime, especially America, which leads this tyranny.”
            July 30 in a letter published by Arabic TV station Al Mayadeen and Iranian news outlets
 
Foreign Ministry
             “The savage attacks and aggressions of the Palestine occupying regime on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank continues, while the international bodies in charge and the main players of the international system have so far refrained from any deterrent attempt and this behavior has resulted in further spread of the tragedy of the Zionist regime`s new crimes on the eve of the International Quds Day, and martyrdom of over 170 Palestinians and injury of more than 1,200 others as well as destruction of infrastructures, mosques and homes of the Palestinians in Gaza.”
            July 14, 2014 in a statement
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
           “We insistently call on the Egyptian government to reopen the Rafah border crossing to facilitate the supply of medicines and food aid to meet the immediate needs of the Gazans.            “The massacre of women and children and people in Gaza and the new Gaza siege are nothing but war crimes and a violation of human rights... genocide, massacre, infringement of international rules and principles, and warmongering in the region.
           “The Zionist regime [of Israel] has embarked on this [offensive] in the holy [fasting] month of Ramadan and has been reducing defenseless people of Palestine to dust and blood with unconventional weapons, which indicates the occupying nature and the savage spirit of this blood-sucking regime.”
          July 22, 2014 at a meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation Member States in Tehran
 
            “Today, it is the power of the resistance which is creating a new Middle-East and the US and its affiliates don’t want to recognize this power and they attempt to hit a blow at this stream by accusing them of terrorism. This resistance is like a medal on the chest of the Muslims; reconciliation plans will not produce any result.”
           July 23, 2014 according to press
 
            “The clear need of Palestine is its need for weapons and basic necessities, and Iran plays an important role in meeting the clear needs of the Palestinian people.”
          July 23, 2014 according to press
 
          “Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons.
          “But once upon a time, they needed the arms manufacture know-how and we gave it to them.”
          July 24, 2014 to the Arab language service of state television
 
           “We take it upon ourselves to stand by and help the oppressed Palestinian people wholeheartedly one way or another.”
           July 15, 2014 in a meeting with ambassadors from Muslim countries

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian
          “International and regional efforts are needed to bring to a halt the Zionist regime's crimes against the innocent Palestinian nation.
          “The criminal Zionist regime will be the definite loser in the recent developments.”
          July 22, 2014 in a meeting with his Qatari counterpart Mohammad bin Abdullah al Ramihi
 
Deputy Chief of Staff of Armed Forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri
           “The type of struggle in the West Bank should change so that the world will see serious withdrawal of the occupiers.
           “This capability accompanied by other power elements available to the main owners of the Palestinian territories can return the violated rights of the Palestinians to them.
           “The region would not have definitely been facing so much turmoil and chaos if the treacherous and dependent leaders of the region had not existed.”
            Aug. 5, 2014 according to the press
 
Revolutionary Guards public relations chief Gen. Ramezan Sharif,
           “The defense capacity and capabilities of the Islamic resistance and Hamas forces has left no safe place for the Zionists in the occupied territories.”
           “The quality and trend of action of the Palestinian resistance movement in recent days indicates that the defensive and offensive power of Hamas, Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades, and Quds brigades forces have increased so much that one can dare say that all Zionists are within the range of the resistance’s missiles”.
           July 14, 2014 according to press
 
Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi
           “Given the extensive dimensions of the Zionist regime's inhumane crimes against the Gaza people, it is expected from you and other honorable members of your foreign policy commission to adopt proper positions in support of the helpless Palestinians and condemn the Zionist aggressors.”
           July 14, 2014 in letters to his counterparts in 46 countries according to press
 
           “We announce officially to Egypt our readiness for sending humanitarian and medical supplies to Gaza through Iran Red Crescent Society (IRCS).”
            July 23, 2014 according to the press
 
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
           “The viewpoints of the Palestinian groups and people are important to us and the Islamic Republic supports every plan that is accepted by the Palestinian people and provides for their interests. Our stance is whatever position and viewpoint that Palestinian leaders and resistance have.”
           July 23, 2014 according to the press
 
Commander of the Army Ground Force Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan
           “The Zionist regime will not sit at the negotiating table unless the language of force is exercised on them, and we have witnessed that the rockets fired by the Palestinians have created such a strange fear among the Zionists and they are now after a truce.”
           Aug. 1, 2014 at a Quds Day rally
 
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami
           “We will chase you house by house and will avenge every drop of blood [shed from] our martyrs in Palestine, and this is the starting point of the awakening of Muslim nations for defeating you.
           “Today, the [power of] the Palestinian resistance’s missiles are far beyond the Zionists’ estimate.
           “The Muslim world will finally become a grave for the policies of the United States, the Zionist regime and their regional reactionary allies.
           “The power balance will change in favor of the Muslim world and we warn the Zionists that you are a rootless community having no territory, no race, no history and no composing element of a nation.”
           July 25, 2014, according to the press

Commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
            “We are ready to support the Palestinian resistance in different dimensions. When speaking about defending the Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis are of no difference to us, and our devotion and dedication goes to all the Muslim world and the oppressed.
            “The Gaza war displayed that the power of the Resistance [front] has no end and has been institutionalized.
            “This power is growing; massive launch of missiles, defusing and repelling the enemy's ground offensive and upgrading the Palestinians' threshold of tolerance all testify to this increased power [of the Palestinian resistance groups].

            Aug 4, 2014 to the press

Commander of Basij militia Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi
            “The Iranian nation's aids to the Palestinian people recognizes no boundary and whatever they need, it will be included in our aids.
            “As Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] has stressed, we are fully ready to provide any health and hygiene aid as much as the ground is prepared; the Iranian nation is also ready to supply the Palestinians with food stuff and arms aid.”
            Aug. 5, 2014 according to the press
 
United States
 
Senior administration official in Vienna, Austria
           “On Gaza, the one point I’d like to underscore is that Iran has a longstanding record of supplying weapons, rockets to various terrorist groups in Gaza, including Hamas; that those rockets are being used to fire at civilian areas; and that Iran has a responsibility to cease and desist from continuing to supply weapons of war that are fueling this conflict. And any opportunity that we get to communicate that message to them, we will take.”
           July 12, 2014 to the press
 
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce
           “Who is the enabler for Hamas? Where do they get those rockets? It’s Iran.”
 Use of M-302 rockets “which Iran transferred to Hamas [are] a good reminder in terms of the nature of the regime.”
           July 11, 2014 to the press
 
           “Iran has long provided material support to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including assistance that has enabled these terrorist organizations to produce longer-range rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
           July 14, 2014 according to press and H. Res. 657
 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers

            “Iran is publicly, in their own newspapers, touting the fact that they are helping to militarize Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They’re supporting Hezbollah in the fight in Syria and supplying Hamas in the Gaza Strip with weapons.”
            July 28, 2014 according to press
 
            “That's what's so frustrating with the administration. All of this works together. You can't just pick and choose one particular region; it has to work in concert. So when you free up $2.8 billion for Iran, when they're already cash strapped because of sanctions, that means they can continue to do bad activities in the Gaza Strip, including we believe at least missile components.
            “Think about how obscene that is, the hundreds of millions of dollars they've had over a decade. Twenty percent of the people in Gaza Strip aren't connected to a water source. Ninety percent of all the water there doesn't meet international standards. But they've got, I think the Israelis disclosed, 35 tunnels. So they're diverting legitimate money. And you have Iran that is aligned into this particular interest in a way that's very, very dangerous".
            July 27, 2014 according to press
 
Israel
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
           “Today in Vienna, the foreign ministers of the major powers are discussing the question of dealing with Iran's nuclear program. I would like to remind them Hamas and Islamic Jihad are being financed, armed and trained by Iran. Iran is a major power of terrorism that finances, arms and trains the terrorist organizations we are fighting against. This Iran cannot be allowed the ability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. If this happens, the things we are seeing around us and the things that are happening in the Middle East will be far worse.”
           July 14, 2014 according to press
 
Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner
           “We know that Hamas has been training with Iranian help, and its fighters have been attending Iranian schools. They are well trained, well supplied and disciplined.”
           July 21, 2014 according to press
 
Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer
            “Iran continues to do everything it can to push rockets into Gaza”.
           July 11, 2014 according to press
 
           Palestinian Islamic Jihad is “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran.”
           “We need to ensure that the worst actors don’t get the worst weapons.”
           July 22, 2014 according to press
 
Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor
            “Every single time the international community calls for a ceasefire, we cease and Hamas fires. Make no mistake - Hamas is not working alone. It is funded by Qatar and Iran. Every rocket flying out of Gaza could bear the imprint ‘Courtesy of Tehran’.”
           July 28, 2014 according to the press
 
Click here for more information on Iran and the Palestinians.

 

Reports: Crackdown on Iran’s Journalists

            The crackdown on journalists that began in that aftermath of Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election is continuing today, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Iran has ranked among the world's top three worst jailers of the press every year” since 2009. The Islamic Republic imprisoned at least 35 journalists in prison in 2013.
           
Since late May, authorities have targeted several journalists for charges such as “propaganda against the state” and “disrupting public order through participation in gatherings.” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that prominent journalists Marzieh Rasouli was summoned to Evin Prison to receive 50 lashes and serve two years in prison for those two charges.
           
The following are excerpts from reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

 
Committee to Protect Journalists
 
• On June 28, 2014, Iranian journalist and CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Mashallah Shamsolvaezin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been charged with "propaganda against the state" related to his interviews with media and speeches he gave at two regional and international journalism conferences. He said he was released on bail of 2 billion riyals (approximately US$80,000).
 
• On June 21, 2014, Reihaneh Tabatabei, a journalist who worked for Shargh and Bahar, was summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving a six-month prison sentence for prior charges related to "publishing news about the Green Movement," according to reports.
 
• On June 20, 2014, critical blogger Mehdi Khazali was arrested while on a trip to the north of Iran, according to news reports. Reports said the arrest could be in connection with a critical blog post Khazali wrote that accused Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani of corruption and embezzlement. Kani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body charged with electing the Supreme Leader. It is not clear if Khazali has been charged.
 
• On June 19, 2014, the Kerman province prosecutor announced that 11 staff members of Pat Shargh Govashir, a company that owns the popular Iranian technology news website Narenji and its sister sites, Nardebaan and Negahbaan, had been sentenced to between one and 11 years in prison on charges of receiving training from and producing content for the BBC, according to news reports.
 
• On June 7, 2014, Iranian documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi reported to Evin Prison to begin serving a five-year prison sentence, according to news reports. The government charged Mohammadi with propaganda and collusion against the state, claiming she was cooperating with the BBC, but she denied ever working with the channel, the reports said.
 
• On May 28, 2014, Saba Azarpeik, a reformist journalist with the weekly Tejarat-e Farda and daily Etemad, was arrested at the Tejarat-e Farda offices, according to news reports. Azarpeik, who was arrested previously in 2013, has often written critically of conservative officials and human rights abuses in the country, the reports said.
 
Click here for more information.
 
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
 
The prominent journalist Marzieh Rasouli was summoned to Evin Prison on July 8, 2014, for the implementation of her sentence of 50 lashes and two years’ imprisonment, she announced on Twitter, even though Rasouli has not yet received confirmation of the initial sentence from the appeals court.
 
“They quickly want to implement the sentence,” she added on Twitter.
 
Her case is one of many recently, reflecting a current wave of arrests, prosecution under vague national security grounds, and imprisonment of journalists in Iran.
 
Rasouli was arrested on the eve of January 17, 2012, at her home in Tehran. She was detained for 40 days in Section 2-A of Evin Prison under the supervision of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. She was released on payment of bail set at 300 million tomans (about $100,000) but was found guilty of “propaganda against the state” and “disturbing public order by participating in gatherings,” for which she received the two years and 50 lashes sentence.
 
Rasouli is a veteran journalist who has worked for several reformist publications, including Shargh, Kargozaran, and Etemad newspapers. She writes on culture, music, and literature and has not been involved in any political activities.
 
On April 21, 2014, the journalist Hossein Nouraninejad was arrested by security forces and taken to IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison. He was released nearly two months later on June 16, on 200 million toman bail ($77,600), and is awaiting sentencing on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.”
 
Another prominent journalist and former central council member of the Tahkim Vahdat student organization, Serajeddin Mirdamadi, is in temporary detention at Section 2-A, awaiting trial at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on August 2 on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security.”
 
Click here for more information.
 

Sanctions: What the US Cedes for a Deal

            Since 2006, the United States has imposed more sanctions on Iran than any other country, so it may have to cede the most ground to get a nuclear deal in 2014. Over the years, Republican and Democratic administrations have issued at least 16 executive orders, and Congress has passed 10 statutes imposing punitive sanctions. What does Tehran want? What are the six major powers considering as incentives—and what isn’t on the table? What will the White House and Congress separately have to do to lift them? The following are the main points from an expert panel assembled by eight Washington think tanks held July 8 at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

 
Suzanne Maloney
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
 
·      Sanctions have significantly contracted Iran’s economy and led to product shortages as well as rising inflation and increasing unemployment. Factories have been shut down.
·      Financial measures have constricted Iran’s ability to repatriate oil revenues, to sell oil abroad and deal with the international financial system generally.
·      Sanctions have had an indirect but serious impact on the pocketbooks of ordinary Iranians and on government revenues.
·      The unprecedented impact of sanctions during the past four years may have led to some overly ambitious understandings of what such punitive measures can achieve.
·      Under sanctions, Iran’s trade is largely restricted to bartering, mostly with countries with which it has significant oil revenue deposits because of the difficulty in repatriating revenues. Iran wants access to its revenues in banks worldwide and the ability to use the SWIFT electronic payments system.
·      Iran is unlikely to receive everything it wants on sanctions relief. Relief would be directly linked to concessions on the nuclear issue and fulfillment of commitments.
·      A nuclear deal would not likely alter the embargo on U.S. business with Iran, which mainly dates from the Clinton era. Sanctions have been applied for many reasons other than the nuclear issue and in many cases predate it.
·      So even in the best circumstances, and only gradually over time, the sanctions regime would end up applying very disproportionately to American businesses while international businesses would have more freedom to transact with Iran.
·      Iran knows how to get around sanctions, but it does not know the complex legalities of them as well as the United States. 
·      The length of a deal is a potential sleeper issue. Iran wants sanctions lifted as soon as possible. But the world’s six major powers —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — want to lift sanctions gradually and extend the time period covered by a deal.
 
Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle East Affairs, Congressional Research Service
 
·      Separating nuclear-related sanctions from others tied to Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights violations is incredibly difficult. All U.S. sanctions are closely interrelated.
·      Iran likely wants all sanctions that were aimed at bringing it to the negotiating table lifted or suspended, basically all sanctions imposed since U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929. Sanctions were ratcheted up dramatically after it was passed in June 2010.
·      Iran will almost certainly demand that the ceiling on its oil exports be lifted. The sanctions contained in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act cut Iran’s exports down to one million barrels a day from about 2.5 million barrels a day.
·      Iran needs financial, oil, gas, and shipping sanctions lifted at the same time so that it can sell to foreign countries and repatriate revenues.
·      If the two sides come to an agreement, President Obama would likely suspend sanctions using his waiver authority. Almost all of the sanctions laws, due to the constitutional separation of powers, give the president the ability to suspend them. He must certify that suspension is in the national interest, and many of the laws stipulate other certifications.
·      One question about suspending sanctions is whether the president can preemptively issue a blanket waiver that would apply in case of future violations. Current law allows a presidential waiver once a violation has occurred.
·      A precedent for automatically waiving sanctions does exist. In 1998, European companies Total and Petronas were involved in a project to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field that was determined to be in violation of U.S. sanctions. The European Union threatened to take the United States to the World Trade Organization and file a case. They settled the issue by agreeing that if the European Union cooperates with the United States on opposing Iran’s proliferation activities and support for terrorism, all subsequent similar E.U. projects would be waived.
·      After a year or more of compliance with a deal on Iran’s part, it may ask for permanent relief, which would require Congress to repeal or rewrite sanctions laws.

 
Elizabeth Rosenberg
Senior Fellow and Director of Energy, Environment and Security Program, Center for a New American Security
 
·      Iran is an attractive business investment opportunity with a well-educated and relatively young population of 80 million. Its large middle class is interested in buying foreign consumer goods. And it has the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves.
·      Iran has been courting investors, hosting foreign trade delegations and sending people abroad to discuss new business opportunities. Sanctions relief under a comprehensive nuclear deal could be a game changer for Iran’s economy.
·      International businesses, however, would not likely flood Iran the day after a deal for five key reasons:
1)      Businesses and investors would hesitate unless they are convinced that an agreement will hold and that Iran’s government will enforce it over time.
 
2)      The sanctions regime would not immediately evaporate the day after a deal. Nuclear sanctions would be lifted gradually, and sanctions for terrorism support, human rights violations and attempts at regional destabilization would stay in place. Also, compliance  is complicated for companies because a range of measures apply to various private and government entities in Iran.
 
3)      Violating sanctions is expensive and damaging to reputations of international companies. In June, French bank BNP had to pay $9 billion for sanctions violations and agree to cease U.S. dollar clearing activities for a period of time. HSBC had to pay $1.9 billion in 2012. 

4)      Iran presents a challenging business environment. Corruption is widespread. The government would need to make changes to its investment and regulatory regimes to be hospitable to international investors. Relationships would take time to be rebuilt.
 
5)      Congress could undermine a potential deal by either rejecting an agreement or by imposing new sanctions not related to the nuclear issue. Tehran would likely interpret any new sanctions as ill will aimed at sabotaging a deal.
 
·      The private sector would prefer a coordinated lifting of sanctions by the international community. For example, a company that conducts business in both Europe and the United States could risk losing its U.S. business by investing in Iran if the European Union lifts sanctions before the United States.
·      The so-called P5+1 powers should be careful to overpromise on sanctions relief. Underperformance by the private sector could create a credibility problem for the P5+1 if Iran does not feel the other side is fulfilling its obligations.
 
Robin Wright (Moderator and discussant)
Joint Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
 
·      Sanctions have not had the same impact that they did during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, when the government was faced with huge shortages of gasoline, meat and other basic commodities. 
·      Enormous wealth still exists in some sectors. Porsche dealers in Tehran are selling 911 S Carreras for $300,000, and they cannot keep them in stock.
·      At the same time, Ahmadinejad did major damage to the economy— even though more than half of Iran’s oil revenues since the discovery of oil were earned under his presidency.
·      Mismanagement may have been just as important a factor as sanctions in ruining the economy.
·      The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (recently renamed the Islamic State) may be a dark horse factor in negotiations. A circle of Salafi or Wahhabi militant organizations, including the Taliban, now surrounds Iran. Ironically, Tehran feels less secure after U.S. withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
            To assess this period of pivotal diplomacy, an unprecedented coalition of eight Washington think tanks and organizations is hosting discussions to coincide with the last rounds of talks.
            Click here for a rundown of the first event on the disparate issues to be resolved and the many formulations for potential solutions.
            Click here for a rundown of the second event on U.S.-Iran tensions over timetables and terms.
 
           The coalition includes the U.S. Institute of Peace, RAND, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Arms Control Association, the Center for a New American Security, the Stimson Center, the Partnership for a Secure America, and the Ploughshares Fund.

Latest on Nuke Talks: What Iran, P5+1 Say

            Leaders from Iran and the six major powers have indicated that significant gaps remain between the two sides in the run-up to the July 20 deadline for a nuclear deal. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has insisted that Iran would need to expand its uranium enrichment program to satisfy its long-term energy needs. Enrichment is one of the most divisive issues in the negotiations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has also reported a difference in Russia’s approach compared to Britain, China, France, Germany and the United States’ positions. The following are excerpted remarks by officials on the Vienna nuclear talks, which began on July 3.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
            “As for nuclear issue, the other side is pressuring Iran to be content with the least. In negotiations, the country’s future needs should be considered. We trust the nuclear negotiating team; they will not allow encroaching on the nation’s rights.
            “On the issue of enrichment capacity, their [the West's] aim is make Iran accept 10,000 SWU (separative work units). Our officials say we need 190,000 SWU. We might not need this [capacity] this year or in the next two or five years but this is our absolute need and we need to meet this need."
             July 7, 2014 in a meeting with government officials
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
           “We haven’t resolved any problem, but we have made some important headway in probably removing some of the misconceptions and moving forward with making more serious decisions.”
            July 13, 2014 to the press            
 
            “Of course, we are not ready to achieve a solution at any cost. We insist on our rights and at the same time try to achieve an acceptable, dignified, logical, long-term and lasting solution.”
            July 9, 2014 according to Press TV
 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
           “We have a win-win strategy but if the enemy raises excessive demands, the world will know that the side which has raised excessive demands should merely be blamed for the possible failure of the negotiations.”
           July 7, 2014 in a meeting with Supreme Leader Khamenei

Chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi
            “Our needs for an agreed time frame, for the next eight years, to secure annual fuel for Bushehr nuclear power plant, is approximately 190,000 SWU, so that after the end of the contract with Russia, fuel for this power plant, the Tehran research center and the Arak reactor is secure.
            “We don’t define the enrichment needs on the basis of the number of centrifuge machines, but based on their units, meaning we define it by its SWU. It is based on the type of centrifuge machine to see how much centrifuge machines equals 190,000 SWU.
“If the capacity of each centrifuge is three SWU, approximately 60,000 centrifuges are needed. If the ability of each centrifuge is 10 SWU, we need 19,000 centrifuges. If the machines of the centrifuge from our latest generation have the ability of 24 SWU, we need less than 10,000 centrifuges.”
            July 8, 2014 to Iranian news agencies (translation via Al Monitor)
 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
            “We had some profound discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue but we still don't have an agreement. We will continue talking but I think these discussions were useful.”
          July 13, 2014 to the press
 
            “Until now the P5+1 (six powers) were homogenous, but over the last few days my representatives in the negotiations have seen a certain number of different approaches - and I hope they won't remain - between some of the P5+1 and our Russian partners.
            “We want to preserve the unity among the P5+1 because that is how we reached a deal before.”
            July 8, 2014 to parliament
 
British Foreign Minister William Hague
            “Achieving an agreement is far from certain. Significant differences remain ... which are yet to be bridged. But I am convinced that the current negotiations are the best opportunity we have had in years to resolve this issue.”
            June 10, 2014 in an interview with Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung
 
E.U. spokesperson Michael Mann
            The group of six major powers “has been united and is still united. We are working very hard, we are working on drafting the text. But there are still obvious, serious gaps to close and we are determined to work hard to try and close those gaps.”
            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is “thinking about when to engage the ministers as we move the process forward. It would be an opportunity to take stock of where we are in the process.”
            June 9, 2014 to reporters
 
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson
            “The discussions are extremely difficult but on the face of it there is some progress. We hope to work out a final text of the agreement - despite all the difficulties - by the July 20 deadline.”
            July 10, 2014 in a news conference
 

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong
          
“We urge all the parties to show their flexibility and a political will to reach an agreement as soon as possible and also we have hope… that we can achieve that...of course we have some difficulties, some hurdles so that is why we have to work together and in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.”
            July 13, 2014 to the press

 

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
            “We discussed all proposals today once again. The main thing is for everyone on the part of the P5+1 who conducts talks to work out a single position and reach out with it to Iran. It happened today.
           “It is time when an agreement could be struck for the decade of talks.”
           July 14, 2014 according to press
 

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