United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Leader: Iran Could Accept Fair Nuclear Deal

On February 8, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared support for a compromise on Iran’s controversial nuclear program that would swiftly lift international sanctions. “This means that one side would not end up getting all it wants,” he said in a speech to air force commanders. But Khamenei also emphasized that “no agreement is better than an agreement which runs contrary to our nation's interests.”

Khamenei’s speech was widely seen as a key signal of support for the nuclear negotiations, which Iranian hardliners have increasingly criticized. He will have the final say on a deal. Khamenei's comments were also the most specific to date on the contours of an agreement. He said that he preferred a single-stage agreement instead of the current procedure, under which Iran and the world’s six major powers —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States —are seeking a political framework by March 24 and a final deal by June 30. The following is the full text of his speech, including tweets from his quasi-official account.
 
I would like to welcome the dear brothers and the officials who have very sensitive occupations in a very important sector of the Armed Forces - that is to say, the Air Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army. I congratulate all of you, all the personnel of the Air Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and your families on this day which is, in fact, the day of the Air Force. Also, I thank the choir for their good performance.
 
The issue of the 19th of Bahman - which is commemorated by you every year - is beyond remembering a sweet memory. Of course, it is an important and sweet memory and it is necessary for one to evoke these memories, but the issue is beyond this. The event of the 19th of Bahman is a meaningful and eternal occasion. The event that took place - during which the youth of the air force of the monarchic system went and pledged their allegiance to Imam (r.a.) in an outspoken and courageous way - has a certain meaning and significance which should be preserved. This is a revolutionary responsibility. I myself was present in that ceremony. Some of these youth held their identification cards up and showed it to everyone.

Now, what the significance of this? It is the fact that the Revolution was a rightful and attractive claim that managed to attract hearts - pure, well-informed and enlightened hearts which had no ulterior motives - in all areas of the country. This attraction even included a place like the air force of the monarchic army which was the favorite of the ruling system of those days and of America. The air force of the army was treated like a favorite. Both the Americans and their agents inside our country - who unfortunately had affairs in their hands - treated the air force like this. However, the same air force was moved - under the influence of the Revolution's truth - so strongly that it carried out such a great task. In front of the eyes of many agents and while they were under different threats, they went and pledged their allegiance with Imam (r.a.) on Iran Street. They sang songs, they stood firm and they held up their identification cards. The significance of that event is this: the astonishing event of the Revolution and the truth behind it attracted hearts to itself. We should identify, know and preserve this.

The same thing happened in the world. Well, this Revolution had the capability to penetrate and show its presence in all corners of the country. The people - not only in cities but also in villages - used to go to different places and shout slogans. They used to shout slogans in favor of Imam (r.a.) and the Revolution and against the tyrannical and dictatorial regime. This was the way all the people rose up. The same thing happened at a global level. Of course, it happened gradually. It happened all over the world including Asia and the depths of Africa. Even in Latin America, the people were impressed the truth that a people have emerged who have the courage and bravery to stand up against America and to reject its bullying in an outspoken way.
 
Many people tried to tune in to Iranian radio programs. I saw some people in Arab countries who had learnt Farsi because they used to listen to Iranian radio programs a lot. This is magnetism. This is the magnetism of the Revolution that managed to attract the hearts of the masses of the people, intellectuals, youth and academic personalities in every place throughout the world that was not under the vast influence of the enemy's propaganda.
 
This happened all over the world. Those peoples who suffered from America's and other western powers' bullying advocated and loved the Revolution because they saw that a people were standing up against bullying and oppression. This love and support existed everywhere in, we shall say, the world of the weak - in Africa, in Asia and in more distant areas in Latin America. We were completely aware of this because many people used to come and go and the influence of the Revolution and the name of Imam (r.a.) was easily visible.
 
Well, who formed the opposite camp? The opposite camp was formed by those powers against whom this great movement had been launched. The government of the United States of America was the head of these powers. They were extremely agitated at the sight of such a great and ongoing movement that was enveloping all nations under their influence. This was why they became wild and reacted very strongly. The first cure that came to their mind was to silence the center. They wanted to silence the center from which all this excitement emerged so that the issue would be resolved naturally. Therefore, they exerted pressure as much as they could.
 
Youth should know that the enmity of America towards the Islamic Republic began from the first day. They did whatever they could. America did not fail to take any course of action that was in its power in order to harm our people and our country in military, economic and security areas and in the area of cultural communications. They have done whatever they could until today. Their enmity was and still is towards our Revolution. Their enmity is towards a people who have accepted and cherished this Revolution. Some people wrongly pretend that the enmity of America and that arrogant regime is towards individuals. They think that the Americans were enemies Imam (r.a.) and today, they are enemies of Ali Khamenei. But this is not the case. Their enmity is towards the essence of this concept and movement. Their enmity is towards the essence of this orientation which is marked by resistance, independence and dignity. Their enmity is towards a people who have cherished and implemented these concepts.
 
This enmity existed in those days, it exists in the present time and it will continue to exist in the future. They bear a grudge against a people who have stood by this claim and who have endured the difficulties. Some American politicians made a mistake by acknowledging this. They gave themselves away and they acknowledged that they are opposed to the people of Iran. In the present time too, any move which is made by the Americans and their allies and cohorts is for the sake of bringing the people of Iran to their knees and humiliating them.
 
Of course, they are making a mistake and their analyses are wrong. It is a fact that the Americans are wrong about their analyses of the events of the region, particularly the events of our dear country. They are making strategic mistakes and it is the same mistakes that are constantly damaging and frustrating them. They are making miscalculations.
 
A few days ago, an American politician stated that the Iranians have gotten stuck and that they participate in nuclear negotiations with hands tied. Well, this is a miscalculation. The Iranians have not gotten stuck. By Allah's favor, you will see what the people of Iran will do on the 22nd of Bahman and how they will show their presence in that rally. Then it will become clear if the Iranian people's hands are tied or not. The hands of the people of Iran are not tied and they have shown and will continue to show this in practice.
 
The same is true of the officials of the country. God willing, the officials of the country too will show with their innovations and courage that the hands of the people of Iran are not tied. He thinks that they have cornered Iran. He says that the Iranians have their backs against the wall. This is not the case and you are making a mistake. It is you who have serious problems. All the realities of our region show that America has failed in its goals inside and outside the region. America was defeated in Syria. It was defeated in Iraq and Lebanon. It was defeated on the issue of Palestine and Gaza. America has been defeated in dominating the affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is hated by the people of these countries. The same is true of the events outside the region. America has been defeated in Ukraine. It is you who have suffered defeats. It is many years now that you have been facing defeats one after another.
 
The Islamic Republic has moved forward. Today, the Islamic Republic is not comparable with 35 years ago. Are our numerous experiences, feats and achievements, our great regional influence and the deep penetration of the Revolution's principles in the hearts of the youth of this country minor achievements? These events exist and they are facts.
 
They are making miscalculations on different matters. By Allah's favor and with the determination of the people and you youth, the same things that the honorable commander in this meeting referred to about the activities of the Air Force are being pursued in different other sectors and in all the organizations of the country. And such things are being done while we are under sanctions. They are being done while the enemies are imposing sanctions on us. We have made progress in different sciences and technologies. We have made progress on different social matters. We have made progress on different international matters. Different experiences will constantly provide an invaluable provision for the Islamic Republic. We are moving forward and making progress despite the enemy. It is they who have failed. They wanted to uproot the Islamic Republic. They are not willing to tolerate the Islamic Republic, but today, they have to do so. On different matters, they deliver as many blows as they can with various political, security, economic and cultural tricks and plots, but it is of no avail. The Islamic Republic is making progress with complete power.

Now, they refer to the nuclear issue as an example and they pretend that the Islamic Republic has become desperate in this regard, but this is not the case.

I want to say that first of all, I consent to an agreement that is workable. Of course, I do not mean a bad agreement. The Americans constantly repeat, "We believe that making no agreement is better than making a bad one". We too have the same opinion. We too believe that making no agreement is better than making an agreement that is to the disadvantage of national interests, one that leads to the humiliation of the great and magnificent people of Iran.
 

Second, everyone should know that our officials, our negotiating team and our administration are doing their best to take away the option of sanctions from the enemy. They are trying to take away the option of sanctions from this deceptive and treacherous enemy. If they can do so, then so much the better, but if they fail, both our enemies and our friends throughout the world should know that there are many solutions inside the country which can slow down the enemy's plot. It is not the case that we think the enemy's plot of imposing sanctions is undoubtedly a practical and effective one. This is not the case. If we show determination and if we pay due attention to our own resources - thankfully, this spirit exists - we can slow down the enemy's plot even if we fail to take it away from his hands.

Third, recently the honorable President raised a good point in a speech which is: negotiation means that the two sides should try to reach a common point. Well, this means that one side should not try to achieve everything that it wants and expects. However, the Americans are like this. They and a few European countries - which follow America like a child and which are making a strategic mistake in doing so - say that everything that they want should be achieved exactly as they want it. Well, this shows their greed and this is wrong. This is not the way to negotiate.

The Iranian side has done whatever it could to reach an agreement. It has done many things: it has stopped developing enrichment machines. Well, it deemed it necessary to stop these machines for a while. It has stopped producing 20-percent uranium which is a very great feat. It was a very great achievement to produce 20-percent uranium. Those who are experts on this matter know that producing 20 percent from 5 percent is much more significant than producing uranium which is higher than 20 percent. However, our youth and our committed scientists did so. In any case, the Iranian side stopped this because negotiations required it. The Iranians have closed the Arak Factory - which was a very great achievement and a very important innovation in the area of technology - for now. They have closed - for now - Fordo which is one of the best innovations made by our domestic forces for the sake of ensuring the security of our centrifuges. They have achieved so many great tasks. Therefore, the Iranian side has acted in a reasonable way. It has acted according to the requirements of negotiation.

On the contrary, the other side is greedy, it behaves in an impolite and impudent way and it wants to blackmail us. Well, if our officials show resistance on such matters, they are right and no one should blame them. They should show and are showing resistance. From the beginning, the Islamic Republic moved with reason on different issues. During the Sacred Defense Era, we made reason and logic our main principle. We acted in a reasonable way in the process of accepting the resolution. We have acted in a reasonable way on different matters after the war and until today. The Islamic Republic has not acted in an irrational way on any matter. On this matter too, it is moving forward with reason. However, the other side does not know anything about reason. They themselves acknowledge their irrationality which is accompanied by reliance on bullying. They say, "We have managed to force Iran into stopping its nuclear machines and different other things. We have made it stop and close such and such a thing".

They are right, the Islamic Republic has carried out these tasks, but it has done so according to the requirements of negotiation. However, they show greed. Well, the people of Iran do not give in to greed and bullying.

We are satisfied with the progress that our governmental officials have begun. They are making efforts. They are really making efforts and they are putting time and energy into it. If they make a good agreement, it is fine by us. I myself agree with that and I am sure that the people of Iran are not opposed to an agreement which preserves their dignity, respect and interests. However, these requirements should undoubtedly be considered. The respect and dignity of the people of Iran and the fundamental issue of the progress of the Iranian nation should be preserved and protected.

The people of Iran are not used to listening to the enemies' bullying. They are not used to surrendering to their oppression and blackmail no matter if the other side is America or others. One day, America and the former Soviet Union joined hands against the Islamic Republic. Despite their differences, they used to bully us together, but the Islamic Republic did not give in to their bullying and it became victorious and successful. The same is true of today. Today too, the people of Iran and the Islamic Republic do not give in to bullying.

We have heard that they say, "Let us agree about general principles for the moment. Later on, we can come to an agreement about details". I do not like this. Our experience about the behavior of the other side gives us the feeling that this will become a tool for them to make constant excuses about details. If they want to make an agreement, they should agree about details and general points in one single session and then they should sign it. If they come to an agreement about general points and then they attend to details on the basis of these general points - which are vague, interpretable and analyzable things - this is not reasonable.
 
 
Everything that is agreed upon between our officials and the other side should be clear and transparent and it should not be open to interpretation. It should not be the case that the other side - which achieves its goals by breaking its promises and by haggling - continues to make excuses on different matters, go back on its promises and make things difficult. Everything that is done is for the sake of taking the weapon and option of sanctions away from the enemy's hands. If they can do so, then it will be good. Of course, sanctions should be taken away from the enemy in the true sense of the word. Sanctions should really be lifted. Our agreement should be like this. However, if they fail to make such an agreement, the people of Iran, officials, the honorable administration and others have many different options. They should definitely take these options so that they can counteract and slow the plot of imposing sanctions.

By Allah's favor, the people of Iran will show on the 22nd of Bahman that those who want to humiliate the people of Iran will face their counterblow. All the people of Iran and sympathetic personalities share the belief that national dignity is very very important for a country. If dignity exists, security will exist as well and if security exists, progress will be possible as well. But if a people are humiliated, everything that they have - including their security and wealth - will be gambled on. Therefore, national dignity should be preserved and officials know this. By Allah's grace, on the 22nd of Bahman, the people of Iran will bring the enemy to his knees with their presence and by displaying their power and firm determination.

Dear God, bestow Your kindness and blessings on all the people of Iran. Bestow Your guidance on all of us. Dear God, associate the dear martyrs of the Sacred Defense Era, martyrs before and after that and all the martyrs of our Armed Forces and Air Force with the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.). Associate our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) - that great man who launched this blessed movement - with the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.).

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.
 

Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States – held a series of nuclear talks in January and February. Negotiators offered few details, but some officials remained optimistic. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two sides had made “substantial progress.” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said a nuclear deal is “still possible if there is a will.” Despite opposition from Iranian hardliners, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared support for a potential nuclear deal on February 8. "I will go along with any agreement that could be made. Of course, if it is not a bad deal," he said.

The two sides held talks in Geneva in January, planning to meet again in February with the aim of agreeing on a framework by late March. Separately, Iranian negotiators met with officials from France, Germany, and Britain in Istanbul in late January. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 23, and later on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 7. Kerry commented after his meeting with Zarif that another extension of the talks would likely be "impossible."
 
The following are quotes from officials on the status of the nuclear talks.
 

Iran

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"I would go along with any agreement that could be made. Of course, if it is not a bad deal. No agreement is better than an agreement which runs contrary to our nation's interests."

"As the president said, negotiations mean reaching a common point. Therefore, the other party ... should not expect its illogical expectations to be materialized. This means that one side would not end up getting all it wants."

"I am for reaching a good settlement and the Iranian nation too will certainly not oppose any deal to uphold its dignity and integrity."

"Our (nuclear) negotiators are trying to take the weapon of sanctions away from the enemy. If they can, so much the better. If they fail, everyone should know there are many ways at our disposal to dull this weapon."
 
"[Any deal] must be concluded in one stage and consist of clear and detailed specifications, and not subject to (various) interpretations."
 
"Given our past experience in dealing with the [West], a final draft must not leave any room for the other side to repeatedly extract concessions."

 – Feb. 8, 2015, according to the press

President Hassan Rouhani

“You [the West] who have built an atom bomb, and have given the criminal occupying Zionist regime the atom bomb, have you been able to create security for yourselves and this regime with these bombs?”
 
“We don’t need an atom bomb. We have a great, devoted and united nation. We have a dear youth that, despite all the pressure and sanctions, launched a satellite into space,” referring to the launch of the Fajr satellite on February 3, Iran's first satellite launch since 2012.
 
“The Iranian nation is not afraid of threats and sanctions and has continued the development of the country and will continue it with power.”
 
"The Iranian people passed all the obstacles and challenges over the past 36 years and the government will pass current problems under the leadership guidance and support.”
 – Feb. 4, 2015, in a speech in Isfahan
Translations via president.ir, The Guardian, and Al-Monitor
 
“Iran’s nuclear program and negotiations was also a subject matter in the meeting; the negotiators have the system’s mandate and are endorsed by it; we have come close to better parts of negotiations and hitting an agreement, where West feels that it should respect Iran’s nuclear rights; however the gaps are still large, we have worked to bring together the two sides.”
– Feb. 3, 2015, according to the press
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
Any agreement should be “acceptable” and recognize the Iranian people’s “rights and dignity.”
 
“What is clear is the fact that Iran has not sought nuclear weapon and has no problem to prove that the country’s nuclear program will not lead to building weapon.”
– Jan. 24, 2015, according to the press
 
“Iran’s nuclear energy is not a security issue but rather the country’s rights to obtaining technology.”
 
“At the moment, both sides have agreed on the two issues of Iran’s right to enrichment and the ending of sanctions; none of our nuclear facilities is going to be shut down, the sanctions are going to be lifted, and IAEA supervision of implementation of the Geneva agreement will continue.”
– Jan. 28, 2015, according to the press
 
"We have an agreement that has the prospect of reaching a comprehensive agreement.”
 
"If someone comes to torpedo (the agreement), I believe (the person or entity) should be isolated by the international community, whether it's the US Congress or anybody else."
 
"Now is the time for the international community to stand firm against (the threat of new sanctions)that will unravel an extremely important achievement."
 
"There are all sorts of possibilities and I don't want to entertain them because I believe there is a possibility, a very good probability of reaching an agreement and we should not waste that opportunity."
– Jan. 23, 2015, according to the press
 
“If they [P5+1] want to reach agreement, they need to be realistic.”
 
“The other side should know that Iranians will never bow to pressure, so if they want to reach an agreement they need to lift the pressures.”
 
“The negotiations have reached a critical level. We are currently talking about the details.”
 
“If we don’t reach an agreement by the deadline, the talks won’t be extended anymore.”
 – Jan. 28, 2015, according to the press
 
"Everybody has taken every necessary measure to make sure we succeed. All Iranians know this. If we fail, and I hope we won't, they (Iranians) will not consider us responsible for that failure. They will consider attempts (to ask) too much from Iran as a reason for failure."
 
"I don't think if we don't have an agreement [by the June 30 deadline] it will be the end of the world."
 – Feb. 8, 2015, according to the press
 
“Reaching an agreement requires the political will of the other side and if such a resolve is shown, we can reach an agreement now, but if the other side does not show to have this resolve, we will not obtain results even if the negotiations continue for 10 years.”
  – Feb. 11, 2015, according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi
 
"The talks were very useful, positive and promising but still we are not in a position to say we made progress.”
 
"While discussing details ... we face more diversity of views.”
 
"We can reach an agreement if all the parties involved show strong political will to end this issue."
– Jan. 29, 2015, in a statement to the press after meeting with British, French, and German officials in Istanbul
 

United States

President Barack Obama

"I have very real differences with Prime Minister Netanyahu over Iran and the need for more sanctions."
 – Feb. 9, 2015, according to the press

Secretary of State John Kerry

"The only chance I can see of an extension at this point in time would be you really have the outlines of the agreement."

"But if we're not able to make the fundamental decision that have to be made over the next weeks, literally, I think it will be impossible to extend."

"I don't think you want to extend at that point. Either you make the decision to prove your program is a peaceful one or, if you're unable to do that, it may tell a story that none of us want to hear."
 – Feb. 8, 2015, in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press

Russia

President Vladimir Putin

"Substantial progress" has been made in the negotiations.

"The crucial point is that nobody should try to derive unilateral benefit from the situation or to bargain out more than what is needed for a balanced and just resolution of this complicated issue."
 – Feb. 9, 2015, according to the press

“Our position is based on a belief that Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear activity including uranium enrichment, naturally under control of the IAEA."

“I can say with no exaggeration that Russia makes a significant contribution to the settlement of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program.”

“It was not an easy task to convince our partners from the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council plus Germany) to agree with this approach. At first, we continuously asked all the parties involved to sit down at the negotiating table and start a serious discussion of the ways to resolve this problem.”
 
“We tried to convince them that there was no alternative to the political and diplomatic settlement. Then, we proposed a conceptual framework to advance along this way – the principles of the stage-by-stage movement and reciprocity. And such an approach was supported by all the participants in the process."
 
“We expect the efforts in this field to be continued. The crucial point is that nobody should try to derive unilateral benefit from the situation or to bargain out more than what is needed for a balanced and just resolution of this complicated issue."
 – Feb. 9, 2015, according to the press
 

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel

"For a fairly long period of time we have had sanctions in place [in Iran]; people don't seem to question them.  And I think they have been fairly successful, if we look at the current state of affairs with the negotiations on the nuclear program.  So I think, in parallel, I think it was a very good thing to put some costs onto the Russians through these sanctions that we agreed on because we see also that Russia seems to be influenced by this.  And this is why I am a hundred percent behind these decisions."
 – Feb. 9, 2015, in a joint press conference with President Obama

China

State Councilor Yang Jiechi

“We face a major opportunity in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. China is ready to enhance communication and cooperation with relevant parties to work for the early conclusion of a just, balanced and comprehensive agreement.”
 – Feb. 6, 2015, according to the press

United Kingdom

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

 

Obama: U.S. Working to Bring Abedini Home

On February 5, President Barack Obama said that the United States is doing everything it can to bring Pastor Saeed Abedini, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen held captive in Iran, home to Idaho. In January 2013, Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison after working with Iranian Christians to set up orphanages. Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship. The following is an excerpt from Obama’s remarks at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast.

Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012.  And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini’s beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we’re doing everything we can to bring him home.  And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini.  And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.
 
And Pastor Abedini wrote, “Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer.”  And he closed his letter by describing himself as “prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world.” 
 
We’re going to keep up this work -- for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith.  
 
Click here for a full transcript of Obama’s remarks.
 

Iran’s Discriminatory Nationality Law

Semira Nikou

Iran is one of 27 countries that still restrict citizenship rights of women. Citizenship in Iran, codified before the 1979 revolution, is a blood right flowing from fathers to children. But Iranian women cannot automatically pass on their citizenship.
 
The exclusive right of men to pass on citizenship has economically disadvantaged Iran’s most vulnerable populations. Even the Iranian government has recognized that the law is a problem and, at various times, tried to remedy its negative effects – most recently with a 2006 amendment that granted naturalization rights to children with Iranian mothers and foreign fathers.
 
In 2015, there may be a new push to amend the law. In October 2014, the Office of Women’s and Children’s Affairs, a department in the executive branch, prepared a report on creating a task force to amend the law. In January 2015, the vice president for women’s and family affairs, Shanhindokht Molaverdi, said the government was discussing how to solve the citizenship problem of Iranian women married to Afghan men. It is unclear, however, what changes are being discussed.
 
The 2006 Law
 
The last change to Iran’s nationality law occurred in 2006.  The Iranian Parliament (Majles) held extensive debates about amending aspects of the law, including which categories of people could become naturalized citizens. The law currently recognizes seven categories of people as Iranian citizens:
 

1)      Anyone residing in Iran, except those whose foreign nationality is established;

2)      Those whose fathers are Iranian;

3)      Children with unknown parentage;

4)      Children born in Iran to foreign parents, one of whom was born in Iran;

5)      Children born in Iran whose fathers are foreigners and who reside in Iran at least one   year immediately after they turn eighteen years old;

6)      Women of foreign nationality who marry Iranian men; and

7)      Foreign nationals who obtain Iranian citizenship.

Legislators proposed various amendments, including that the fourth category of citizenship be eliminated. But they made only one change, passing a single-clause bill known as the 2006 Law. It clarified that children born in Iran, with Iranian mothers married to foreign national fathers, have a right to naturalization once they turn 18 years old.
 
The right does not extend to children born to Iranian mothers outside Iran. Ironically, this also means that Iranian women still cannot pass on their citizenship automatically, since the fourth category of citizenship was never eliminated. But a foreign woman born in Iran, and married to a foreigner, does pass on that right.
 
Individuals who fall outside the seven citizenship categories and the 2006 Law may still become naturalized citizens through a stringent process subject to the government’s discretion.
 
Complications
 
Parents must have an official marriage certificate for the 2006 Law to benefit their children. It can only be attained through the Ministry of Foreign affairs, but not all couples, particularly the poor, register their marriage. Some refrain from registering due to a lack of understanding of the law, or fear of deportation if the men are illegal immigrants. A government census estimated that there were 32,000 unofficial marriages between Iranian women and Afghans in 2010.
 
The 2006 Law also does not address the status of children born to Iranian women and foreigners before they become citizens—a period of limbo when they are denied social benefits. The lack of benefits hits the poor particularly hard.
 
 Since 2011 there have been more than 30,700 registered marriages between Iranian women and Afghan men in Iran,  according to the Organization for Civil Registration. Most  were in Iran’s border provinces. The law could affect all of these families.
 
Thus, in 2012, the conservative eighth Majles took up the citizenship mantle again. Its concern was not equal rights for women, but how to support a particular category of soon-to-be Iranian citizens during the first 18 years of their lives. The Majles ratified an amendment to the 2006 Law that would allow children of Iranian women and foreign nationals born in Iran access to free health services, education, welfare handouts , and permanent residency rights until they qualified for naturalization.
 
But the amendment was never enacted. The Guardian Council, a 12-member body that vets laws ratified by Majles, rejected the amendment because parliament had failed to identify funding .. According the Guardian Council, the amendment would cost the government more than $150 million, which the parliament had not covered in its annual budget.
 
New Push for Change
 
The 2006 Law still stands. But there are signs that the executive branch might push for new change– and it has compelling reasons to do so. The law presents domestic complications, but it also violates Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits discrimination against women and children. The law also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which explicitly obligates states to ensure that children born within their jurisdiction are not discriminated against based on their parents’ national origin.
 
Human rights proponents in Iran and the international community are pressuring Iran over its human rights record. Amending the nationality law, which Iranian officials across the political spectrum agree must happen, would be a relatively easy step in enabling Iran to meet its international human rights obligations.
 
Click here for a more detailed analysis of the law and its social implications by Semira N. Nikou, a Senior Research Associate at the Public International Law and Policy Group and a J.D. candidate at American University Washington College of Law. She previously worked at the United States Institute of Peace as a contributing author to The Iran Primer book and website.
 

Iran & Region IV: Lebanon's Hezbollah

Nicholas Blanford

Lebanon’s main Islamist party has undergone a profound transformation over the past three decades. Once associated with suicide bombings and hostage-taking, Hezbollah has steadily evolved from an underground movement in 1982 to the dominant political player in Lebanon in 2015. Yet even though Hezbollah was stronger militarily and politically by 2015, it also faced greater challenges than ever before. They ranged from the party’s massive expansion since 2006 to the rising domestic discontent over its refusal to abandon its weapons, which altered the geostrategic balance in the Middle East.

Hezbollah’s role in the region has been particularly controversial. The most powerful regional militia, Hezbollah used its vast arsenal to fight Israel for thirty-four days in 2006. The conflict was Israel’s longest Middle East war and left no clear winner, although Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah emerged afterwards at the top of popularity polls across the region. But its armed intervention in Syria, beginning in 2013, on behalf of President Bashar al Assad deeply tarnished its image among Sunnis across the region as a champion of anti-Israel resistance. By 2015, the party’s has expansion in manpower, military capabilities and funding also produced looser internal controls and made it more susceptible to corruption and penetration by Israel.
 
The movement, created under Iran’s auspices and aid after Israel’s 1982 invasion, reflects the dynamic Shiite dimension of Islamist politics in the Arab world. Hezbollah was inspired by the teachings of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It subscribes to a doctrine known as the velayat-e faqih—or, in Arabic, the wali al-faqih—Khomeini’s theory of Islamic governance, which bestows guardianship of government on a senior religious scholar. Iran remains Hezbollah’s chief ideological, financial, and military supporter. Syria is also a close ally.
 
Hezbollah’s core ideological goals are resisting Israel, establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon, and offering obedience to Iran’s supreme leader. But Hezbollah has developed a keen sense of realpolitik that helped shape its political agenda and allowed it to sidestep challenges to its armed status. It long ago accepted, for example, that an Islamic state is not appropriate for Lebanon, and it has considered alternative systems of government.
                                 
Over three decades, Hezbollah's deepening political engagement has transformed it into the main representative of Lebanon’s Shiites, the largest of the country’s seventeen recognized sects. In turn, the movement now needs continued support of the community to ensure its own survival. Yet the interests of its constituents do not always correspond to the agenda of Iran’s leaders, to whom Hezbollah is ideologically beholden. Balancing these rival obligations is a paradox that Hezbollah is finding ever more difficult to reconcile.
 
The Beginning
 
Hezbollah emerged in the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, but its genesis lay in the Shiite religious seminaries of Najaf in southern Iraq. In the 1960s and 1970s, Lebanese clerical students were influenced by leading Shiite ideologues such as Mohammed Baqr al Sadr and Ruhollah Khomeini. Sadr, a founder of the Party of the Islamic Call, or Hizb al Dawa al Islamiyya, promoted Islamic values as a counterweight to secularism and the leftist ideologies then attracting Arab youth. Khomeini achieved prominence with his doctrine of velayat-e faqih.
 
Lebanese students and teachers in Iraqi seminaries were forced to return home after President Saddam Hussein cracked down on the Shiite clerics in the late 1970s. Some then began to preach the ideas of Khomeini and Sadr to a domestic audience.
 
By the end of the 1970s, three developments helped create fertile ground for the eventual emergence of Hezbollah. One factor was the creation of Amal, the first strong Shiite movement. Amal’s founder was Musa Sadr, a charismatic Iranian-born cleric who tapped into rising anger among Shiites over their repression by other Lebanese sects, particularly Christians and Sunni Muslims. But in 1978, Sadr vanished during a trip to Libya. After his disappearance, Amal drifted in a more secular direction under new leadership, to the dismay of the movement’s Islamists.
 
The second event was Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon in 1978 in a bid to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Israel installed a security cordon along the border inside Lebanon, which was controlled by an Israeli-backed militia. It was the first time many southern Lebanese lived under occupation.
 
The third crucial event was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the first modern theocracy replaced the dynastic rule that had prevailed in Iran for more than 2,500 years. The revolution had an electrifying effect on Lebanese Shiites in general and on the clerical followers of Khomeini in particular. Iranian leaders and Lebanese clerics held lengthy discussions about importing the revolution to Lebanon and building an armed anti-Israel movement. Among the Lebanese clerics were Sheikh Sobhi Tufayli, who later became Hezbollah’s first secretary general, and Abbas Musawi, a preacher from the Bekaa Valley village of Nabi Sheet. The idea was delayed by an Iranian power struggle and the beginning of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq in 1980.
 
Then Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982 to drive the PLO out of Lebanon. Iran immediately offered assistance, dispatching 5,000 Revolutionary Guards to Syria for deployment in Lebanon. But the main fighting soon ended, and most of the Iranians returned home. Aided by Syria, a smaller contingent of Iranians moved into the northern Bekaa Valley to begin mobilizing and recruiting Shiites into a new anti-Israel force that was the basis of what became Hezbollah.
 
By 1983, the nascent Hezbollah’s influence was seeping from the Bekaa Valley into Beirut’s Shiite suburbs and from there further south toward the front line of the Israeli occupation. By 1985, Israel, exhausted by the intensifying resistance campaign, withdrew to a security belt along the Lebanon-Israel border. Hezbollah—along with Amal and secular local resistance groups, which played smaller roles—had more success in pressuring Israel in two years than had the PLO in a decade. Hezbollah won additional support by providing social welfare services to lower-class Shiites.
 
In 1985, Hezbollah formally declared its existence in its “Open Letter,” a manifesto outlining its identity and agenda. The goals included driving Israeli forces from south Lebanon as a precursor to the destruction of the Jewish state and the liberation of Jerusalem. Hezbollah confirmed that it abided by the orders of “a single wise and just command” represented by Ayatollah Khomeini, the “rightly guided imam.”
 
Hezbollah also rejected Lebanon’s sectarian political system and instead advocated creation of an Islamic state. At the same time, the party was careful to emphasize that it did not wish to impose Islam as a religion on anyone and that other Lebanese should be free to pick their preferred system of governance.
 
In formally declaring its existence and goals, Hezbollah emerged from the shadows and demonstrated that it was not a fleeting aberration of the civil war but a force determined to endure.
 
First Phase: Underground
 
Hezbollah’s evolution falls into five distinct phases. The first was from 1982 to 1990 and coincided with the chaotic 1975–90 civil war, during which the Lebanese state had little control. Lebanon was instead carved into competing fiefdoms dominated by militias and occupying armies. These were Hezbollah’s wild days, when it could do as it pleased under Iran’s guidance and Syria’s watchful eye.
 
The movement became synonymous with extremist attacks, including two on U.S. embassies in 1983 and 1984. Its deadliest attacks were the simultaneous truck bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and the nearby French Paratroop headquarters, which killed 241 American servicemen and sixty-eight French soldiers. From 1984, more than 100 foreigners in Lebanon were kidnapped. Hezbollah denied responsibility, although some of its members were later linked with the attacks.
 
After 1986, Hezbollah dominated the resistance against Israel’s occupation in south Lebanon. But the party’s growing influence in the south also brought it into conflict with the rival Amal movement. In 1988, the two factions fought the first in a series of bloody internecine battles that over the next two years resulted in thousands of dead and generated an animosity that lingered a quarter-century later.
 
Second Phase: Running for Parliament
 
The second phase was from 1991 to 2000, following the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990. The restoration of state control sparked a debate within Hezbollah over its future course of action. Hardliners, represented by Sheikh Tufayli, argued that Hezbollah should not compromise its ideological agenda regardless of the nation’s changed circumstances. Others countered that Hezbollah had to adapt to the new situation to protect its “resistance priority”—the right to confront Israel’s continued occupation of the south.
 
The debate played out over whether Hezbollah should run in the 1992 parliamentary election, the first in twenty years. Joining parliament would strengthen Hezbollah’s standing in Lebanon, but it would also flout its 1985 manifesto that rejected a sectarian political system. Pragmatists won after receiving the blessing of Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran’s supreme leader, to participate in the elections. Hezbollah won eight parliamentary seats.
 
Hezbollah also went through a leadership change. A few months before the 1992 election, Hezbollah secretary general Sayyed Abbas Musawi was assassinated in an Israeli helicopter ambush. He was replaced by his protégé, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a 32-year-old cleric.
 
Under Nasrallah, Hezbollah reorganized, adding new bodies to handle its military, political, and social work. It expanded its social welfare activities nationwide to sustain its popular support within the Shiite community. It also launched a television station, Al Manar, as the flagship of its propaganda arm, and opened a media relations office. Hezbollah even began a dialogue with other factions and religious representatives, including Christians.
 
Hezbollah’s newfound pragmatism did not represent an ideological softening or a decision to exchange Islamic militancy for a share of Lebanon’s political space. Hezbollah was instead adapting to postwar circumstances to safeguard the resistance. Shortly after the 1992 election, Nasrallah explained, “Our participation in the elections and entry into [parliament] do not alter the fact that we are a resistance party.”
 
Hezbollah’s resistance efforts actually intensified after 1992. Its hit-and-run guerrilla tactics claimed ever-higher Israeli casualties. In 1993 and 1996, Israel responded with air and artillery blitzes against Lebanon in failed attempts to dent Hezbollah’s campaign.
 
The late 1990s were Hezbollah’s “golden years.” Hezbollah’s military exploits won it admirers across the Arab and Islamic worlds and earned the respect of all Lebanese, even those inclined to view the Shiite party with suspicion. Under growing pressure from Hezbollah, Israel finally ended its occupation in May 2000, the first time that the Jewish state had ceded occupied territory through force of Arab arms.
 
Third Phase: Confrontation
 
The third phase was from 2000 to 2005. With Israel’s withdrawal, Hezbollah’s reputation had never been higher. But its victory was Pyrrhic. A growing number of Lebanese began questioning why Hezbollah needed to keep arms. Hezbollah countered by citing minor territorial disputes and the number of Lebanese still detained in Israeli prisons. It claimed its weapons were a vital part of Lebanon’s defense. Hezbollah had to make sure that the Israelis did not come back. Many Lebanese accused Hezbollah of serving an Iranian—rather than Lebanese—agenda. But Hezbollah still enjoyed the political cover afforded by Syria, which continued to endorse the party’s armed status.
 
In February 2005, Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in a truck bomb explosion. Many Lebanese blamed Damascus, and roughly one-quarter of the country’s population took to the streets in protest. Three months later, Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon, ending three decades of military occupation.
 
The sudden loss of Syrian cover compelled Hezbollah to take another step deeper into Lebanese politics to defend its “resistance priority.” It agreed to an alliance with its longtime Amal rival and with the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party led by former General Michel Aoun.
 
After the 2005 parliamentary election, Hezbollah joined the government for the first time. Yet its participation did not defuse the core issue. Over the following months, Lebanese politics grew increasingly rancorous over Hezbollah’s arms. It was the single most divisive national issue.
 
Fourth Phase: War and Rebuilding
 
The fourth phase ran from 2006 to 2012  and included Hezbollah’s biggest military gamble. On July 12, 2006, its militia abducted two Israeli soldiers along the border. The audacious act triggered a devastating month-long war with Israel. Hezbollah fought the Israeli army to a standstill in south Lebanon and declared a “divine victory”—but at a high cost.
 
More than 1,100 Lebanese died in the war, which also caused billions of dollars of damage. In the face of intense domestic criticism, Hezbollah walked out of the Lebanese cabinet in November 2006. A month later, Hezbollah tried to force the government to resign by organizing a mass protest in central Beirut. The government stood its ground, but political paralysis gripped Lebanon.
 
Tensions between Hezbollah and the central government continued. In 2008, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora—son of the slain leader—announced it intended to shut down Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network. Hezbollah reacted by staging a brief takeover of west Beirut, triggering a week of clashes that left more than 100 people dead and brought the country to the edge of civil war. The crisis ended with the formation of a new government and the long-delayed election of a president, Michel Suleiman.
 
In 2009, Lebanon faced a new crisis when a United Nations investigation obtained evidence implicating Hezbollah in the assassination of Rafik Hariri four years earlier. Hezbollah denied the allegations and claimed that the Dutch-based tribunal investigating the case was serving the political interests of the United States and Israel.
 
The Hariri government refused to abandon its support for the tribunal. In January 2011, as the tribunal was preparing to issue its first set of indictments, Hezbollah and its political allies forced a vote of no confidence in the government. The new government was composed of Hezbollah and its allies; it was led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman and political moderate.
 
Fifth Phase: The Syria Intervention
 
The fifth phase began in response to turmoil in Syria. In March 2011, a popular uprising was launched against the Assad regime as the Arab Spring rippled across the Middle East. Hezbollah initially expected it to blow over quickly. But by the end of 2011, the uprising had morphed into a civil war. Within months, Hezbollah began covertly dispatching fighters to assist the Syrian army against nascent rebel groups.
 
In May 2013, Nasrallah admitted that Hezbollah was fully engaged in the Syria war. He argued that the Syrian opposition was composed of radical Sunni groups would take their war to Lebanon after defeating Assad. Many Lebanese were dismayed at the unprecedented military intervention; it breached the Baabda Declaration of 2012, when Lebanese leaders agreed to immunize Lebanon from the conflict tearing apart its larger neighbor.
 
Syria’s conflict spilled over into Lebanon too, deepening political tensions. It contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government in March 2013. Tammam Salam, scion of a notable Beirut family, was appointed prime minister in April 2013, but it took a tortuous ten months for him to form a cabinet. Lebanon faced another political stalemate when its parliament repeatedly failed to elect a new president after Suleiman’s term ended in May 2014. In November 2014, parliament then voted to extend its term for a second time, putting off elections for two years, seven months.
 
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria enraged Sunnis across the region—and produced a backlash. In 2013 and 2014, Sunni radical groups carried out more than a dozen car bombings, most of them suicide attacks, in Shiite areas of Lebanon. Almost 100 people were killed, some 900 were wounded. The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other brutal Sunni militias dampened some of the criticism directed at Hezbollah. Shiites and some other Lebanese minorities viewed the party as a protector against Sunni extremists. 
 
Still, by 2015 the rate of Hezbollah casualties was the highest in the party’s history--with no end to the Syrian war in sight. The looming question was how long Hezbollah could afford to remain so heavily engaged in Syria.

Chief Allies
 
Iran was Hezbollah’s main financial, military, and logistical supplier, and Iran’s supreme leader was the party’s ultimate source of authority. Under the late President Hafez al Assad, Syria was Hezbollah’s protector and supervisor. Since Assad’s son Bashar al Assad took over in 2000, Syria became an even closer strategic ally. Syria was the vital geostrategic linchpin connecting Iran to Hezbollah. It provided strategic depth and a conduit for the transfer of arms, which explained the heavy effort by Iran and Hezbollah to preserve Assad’s regime.
 
The Palestinian Hamas movement and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been allies of Hezbollah since the early 1990s. Both groups benefited from Iranian financial and material patronage. But Hamas, a Sunni movement, did not share the Shiite ideology of Iran and Hezbollah, making Hamas and Hezbollah uncomfortable bedfellows beyond a shared hostility toward Israel.
 
Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement, both secular Lebanese political entities, have been allied with Hezbollah since 2005 and 2006, respectively. Hezbollah also maintained alliances with smaller pro-Syrian factions and individuals, Islamist groups, and Palestinian groups.
 
The Future
 
As of early 2015, Hezbollah was arguably the most formidable non-state military actor in the world. It was also the most powerful political force in Lebanon through the force majeure of its armed wing. It had two seats in Salam’s government.
 
Yet down the road, Hezbollah also faces grave challenges that derive from its sometimes conflicting roles as Iran’s surrogate and, at the same time, the chief representative of Lebanon’s Shiites. Iran has helped transform Hezbollah into a robust and unique military force that serves as a component of Iranian deterrence. Hezbollah is also, however, answerable to the needs and interests of its domestic constituency. The paradox is increasingly hard to reconcile, as shown by Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syria war.
 
By 2015, Hezbollah’s public standing had also declined somewhat since the heady days of the 1990s. Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm was at the heart of Lebanon’s festering political divide. Over the years, Hezbollah has been sucked ever deeper into the political mire. It considered its shift into the fractious world of Lebanese politics an unfortunate necessity to better defend its “resistance priority.”
 
The Arab Spring presented another set of difficulties for Hezbollah. It supported uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but it was caught off guard by the nationwide Syrian protests. Its belated intervention in Syria to aid the Assad regime eroded the party’s popularity among Sunnis, who make up the bulk of the Syrian opposition, and in the Arab world as the regional tensions increased between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
 
Internally, Hezbollah is grappling with the new – and insidious – threat of corruption. Hezbollah has grown extensively since 2006, militarily, financially and politically, which has resulted in a sprawling bureaucracy with looser internal control mechanisms and a reduced sense of personal security among the cadres compared to two decades ago. That has opened the door not only to embezzlement and theft within the party but also made it vulnerable to penetration by Israeli intelligence agencies. Hezbollah has amassed armaments, communications technology and combat capabilities that pose a genuine challenge to Israel in the event of a future war. But the emergence of corrupt practices and the evident difficulty the party’s leadership has in curbing the phenomenon represents the single gravest danger to Hezbollah in the long-term.
 
For now, however, Hezbollah will remain a powerful political player on the Lebanese scene for the foreseeable future regardless of developments in Syria. But the challenge for Hezbollah of balancing its ideological and logistical obligations to Iran and its political and social duties to Lebanon’s Shiite community is a paradox that will only grow more difficult in the years ahead.
 
Nicholas Blanford is the Beirut correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and a defense and security analyst for IHS-Jane’s. He is the author of Killing Mr. Lebanon: The Assassination of Rafik Hariri and Its Impact on the Middle East (2006) and Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle against Israel (2011).
 
This article is an excerpt from "The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are." Click here for the full article.
 
Photo credits: Nasrallah via leader.ir; Khamenei and Khoemeini via Khamenei.ir; Hezbollah logo via Wikimedia Commons

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