United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Khamenei: Iran Will Not Cooperate with US

On June 3, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran will not cooperate on regional issues with its enemies, the United States and Britain. “America has continued its enmity toward Iran since [the 1979] revolution ... It is a huge mistake to trust evil Britain and the Great Satan [the United States],” he said in a speech marking the 27th anniversary of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khamenei also accused Washington of not fulfilling its commitments under the nuclear deal that was reached in July 2015. The following are translated excerpts from his speech tweeted by his official account.  

IAEA Report on Iran’s Compliance

On May 27, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has been living up to its commitments as part of the nuclear deal, specifically as codified in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. In its second report on Tehran’s compliance, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said that Iran accepted additional inspectors and provided complementary access to sites and facilities under the Additional Protocol. The report, however, was short on specifics, according to David Albright, Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Andrea Stricker from the Institute for Science and International Security. For example, the IAEA did not specify how much low enriched uranium Iran has or in what form. It also does not provide specifics on centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant or at the Fordo research center. The following are excerpts from the IAEA report.
Verification and Monitoring Activities

Activities Related to Heavy Water and Reprocessing
6. Iran has not pursued the construction of the existing Arak heavy water research reactor (IR-40 Reactor) based on its original design. Iran has not produced or tested natural uranium pellets, fuel pins or fuel assemblies specifically designed for the support of the IR-40 Reactor as originally designed, and all existing natural uranium pellets and fuel assemblies have remained in storage under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 3 and 10).
7. Iran has continued to inform the Agency about the inventory of heavy water in Iran and the production of heavy water at the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) and allowed the Agency to monitor the quantities of Iran’s heavy water stocks and the amount of heavy water produced at the HWPP (para. 15). On 21 April 2016, the Agency verified the quantity of heavy water shipped out of Iran on 24 February 2016. On 9 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran’s stock of heavy water had reached 116.7 metric tonnes. Throughout the reporting period, Iran had no more than 130 metric tonnes of heavy water (para. 14).
8. Iran has not carried out activities related to reprocessing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility or at any of the other declared facilities (para. 18).

Activities Related to Enrichment and Fuel
9. At the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz, 5060 IR-1 centrifuges have remained installed in 30 cascades in their configurations in the operating units at the time the JCPOA was agreed (para. 27). Iran has not withdrawn any IR-1 centrifuges from those held in storage (see para. 15 below) for the replacement of damaged or failed IR-1 centrifuges installed at FEP (para. 29.1).
10. Iran has continued the enrichment of UF6 at FEP. Throughout the reporting period, Iran has not enriched uranium above 3.67% U–235 (para. 28).
11. Iran has recovered, under Agency monitoring, some of the enriched uranium that it had stated as recoverable from the process lines at the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP) at Esfahan. On 23 and 24 April 2016, the Agency verified that the recovered quantity of uranium enriched up to 3.67% U-235 was 35.7 kg. Between 5 March and 8 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran downblended 6.1 kg of uranium in the form of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 to the level of natural uranium and, between 16 and 24 May 2016, the Agency verified that Iran downblended 5.9 kg of uranium contained in liquid and solid scrap enriched up to 3.67% U-235 to the level of natural uranium.
13. Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile did not exceed 300 kg of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms) (para. 56).
14. At the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), 1044 IR-1 centrifuges have been maintained in six cascades in one wing of the facility (para. 46); Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development (R&D) activities; and there has not been any nuclear material at the plant (para. 45).
15. All centrifuges and associated infrastructure in storage have remained under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 29, 47, 48 and 70).13 The Agency has continued to have regular access to relevant buildings at Natanz, including all of FEP and the Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant (PFEP), and performed daily access upon Agency request (para. 71).
16. Iran has conducted its enrichment activities in line with its long term enrichment and R&D enrichment plan, as provided to the Agency on 16 January 2016 (para. 52).
17. Iran has not operated any of its declared facilities for the purpose of re-converting fuel plates or scrap into UF6, nor has it informed the Agency that it has built any new facilities for such a purpose (para. 58).
Centrifuge Research & Development, Manufacturing and Inventory
18. No enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges within the limits defined in the JCPOA (paras 32–42).
19. Iran has provided declarations to the Agency, subsequent to those reported in the Director General’s previous report, of Iran’s production and inventory of centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows and permitted the Agency to verify the items in the inventory (para. 80.1). The Agency has conducted continuous monitoring, including through the use of containment and surveillance measures, and verified that the declared equipment has been used for the production of rotor tubes and bellows to manufacture centrifuges only for the activities specified in the JCPOA (para. 80.2). Iran has not produced any IR-1 centrifuges to replace those that have been damaged or failed (para. 62). All declared rotor tubes, bellows and rotor assemblies have been under continuous monitoring by the Agency, including those rotor tubes and bellows manufactured since Implementation Day (para. 70).
On 7 March 2016, the Agency verified Iran’s declaration that it had ceased manufacturing rotor tubes. In a letter dated 2 May 2016, Iran informed the Agency of its intention to resume the manufacture of rotor tubes. As of 22 May 2016, the Agency had verified that such manufacturing had not resumed. Verification by the Agency in relation to the manufacturing of rotors and bellows will take place at its next visit. Related technical discussions between the Agency and Iran have taken place.
D. Transparency Measures
20. Iran has continued to permit the Agency to use on-line enrichment monitors and electronic seals which communicate their status within nuclear sites to Agency inspectors, and to facilitate the automated collection of Agency measurement recordings registered by installed measurement devices (para. 67.1). Iran has issued long-term visas to Agency inspectors designated for Iran as requested by the Agency and provided proper working space for the Agency at nuclear sites and facilitated the use of working space at locations near nuclear sites in Iran (para. 67.2). Iran has accepted additional Agency inspectors designated for Iran (para. 67.3).
21. Iran has continued to permit the Agency to monitor - through measures agreed with Iran, including containment and surveillance measures - all uranium ore concentrate (UOC) produced in Iran or obtained from any other source, and reported by Iran to the Agency. Iran also provided the Agency with all information necessary to enable the Agency to verify the production of UOC and the inventory of UOC produced in Iran or obtained from any other source (para. 69).

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Khamenei Comments on US, New Parliament

The tweets from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei covered a wide range of subjects in May 2016, from opposition to U.S. policies to the new Parliament’s priorities. He urged lawmakers to build up Iran’s “resistance economy” (self-sufficiency) and “strengthen Islamic culture.” Khamenei’s tweets also highlighted his meeting with the family of a top Hezbollah commander killed in Syria. The following is a collection of his monthly tweets.
The United States and the West
Nuclear Program
Parliamentary Election
Killing of Mustafa Badreddine
Mustafa Badeddine, a top military commander in Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia and political party, was killed in an explosion in Damascus. Hezbollah, a key ally of Iran’s which has fought to defend the Assad regime, said Sunni Islamist rebels were responsible for the artillery fire that killed the veteran operative, an active member since the early 1980s. He was accused of helping to plan the 1983 truck bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut. 

Report: Iran Deal’s Impact on Proliferation

The nuclear deal with Iran is unlikely to trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, according to new analysis by Robert Einhorn, who served as the secretary of state’s special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, and Richard Nephew, who served as the principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the U.S. State Department and director for Iran at the National Security Council. The following are excerpts from the executive summary. 
The global nuclear nonproliferation regime has been remarkably resilient, with no new entrants to the nuclear club in the last 25 years. But observers believe that could change and that we may be heading toward a “cascade of proliferation,” especially in the Middle East. The presumed trigger for a possible Middle East nuclear weapons competition is Iran, which has violated nonproliferation obligations, conducted activities relevant to the development of nuclear weapons, and pursued sensitive dual-use nuclear technologies without a persuasive peaceful justification. Tehran’s nuclear program—combined with provocative behavior widely believed to support a goal of establishing regional hegemony—has raised acute concerns among Iran’s neighbors and could prompt some of them to respond by seeking nuclear weapons capabilities of their own.
Will regional states seek to acquire nuclear weapons?
U.S. supporters of the JCPOA argue that the removal of the near-term risk of a nuclear-armed Iran will sharply reduce the incentive for regional states to acquire their own fissile material production capabilities or nuclear weapons. Opponents claim that, by legitimizing Iran’s enrichment program, permitting Iran to ramp up its nuclear infrastructure after 10-15 years, and facilitating an economic recovery that will enable Iran to greatly boost the resources devoted to its nuclear program, the JCPOA itself will be the catalyst for proliferation in the region.
Whether states in the region eventually opt for nuclear weapons will depend on a range of factors, some related to the JCPOA and some not. Among the key factors will be their perceptions of Iran’s future nuclear capabilities and intentions, their assessment of Iran’s regional behavior, their view of the evolving conventional military balance with Iran, their confidence in the United States as a security partner, their evaluation of how the United States and other countries would react to their pursuit of nuclear weapons or a latent nuclear weapons capability, and, not least, the feasibility—in terms of their technical expertise, physical infrastructure, and financial resources—of succeeding in the effort to acquire fuel cycle facilities or nuclear weapons.
In assessing the probability of proliferation in the Middle East, it is necessary to focus on how these various factors may affect nuclear decision-making in individual countries, especially in the countries often cited as the most likely to go for a latent or actual nuclear weapons capability: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia is widely considered to be the most likely regional state to pursue the nuclear option, an impression reinforced by occasional remarks by prominent Saudis that the Kingdom will match whatever nuclear capability Iran attains. The Saudis regard Iran as an implacable foe, not just an external threat determined to achieve regional hegemony but also an existential threat intent on undermining the Saudi monarchy. Moreover, while their concerns about Iran have grown, their confidence in the U.S. commitment to the security of its regional partners has been shaken. They cite what they regard as evidence of Washington’s unreliability, such as not preventing former Egyptian President Mubarak’s ouster, failing to enforce the red line against Syria’s use of chemical weapons, giving lukewarm support to Syrian rebels, and accepting a greater Iranian regional role.
Animated by what they see as a waning U.S. commitment to Gulf security, the Saudis have beefed up their conventional defense capabilities, explored cooperation with Russia and other potential partners, and adopted a more assertive, independent role in regional conflicts, most dramatically in waging their aggressive military campaign in Yemen. Still, senior Saudis maintain that they have no choice but to rely heavily on the United States for their security.
While confident that they can handle the current conventional military threat from Iran, the Saudis worry about the military implications of a post-sanctions Iranian economic recovery, and they regard a future Iranian nuclear weapons capability as a game-changer. These concerns, together with their uncertainty about the future U.S. role, may motivate the Saudis to consider their own nuclear options.
But while the Saudis appear to be motivated to acquire nuclear weapons, their ability to do so is very much in doubt, at least for the foreseeable future. While they clearly have the necessary financial resources, the Saudis lack the human and physical infrastructure and have had to postpone their ambitious nuclear power plans for eight years while they train the required personnel. Although Riyadh is not willing to formally renounce the acquisition of an enrichment capability, Saudi nuclear energy officials state they have no plans for enrichment and do not anticipate pursuing an enrichment program for at least 25 years.
Given the Kingdom’s difficulty in developing an indigenous nuclear weapons capability, speculation has turned to the possibility of the Kingdom receiving support from a foreign power, usually Pakistan, which received generous financial support from Saudi Arabia in acquiring its own nuclear arsenal. But while rumors abound about a Pakistani commitment to help Saudi obtain nuclear weapons, the truth is hard to pin down. Senior Saudis and Pakistanis deny such an understanding exists. If it does exist, it was probably a vague, unwritten assurance long ago between a Pakistani leader and Saudi king, without operational details or the circumstances in which it would be activated. In any event, the Saudis would find it hard to rely on such an assurance now, especially in the wake of Islamabad’s rejection of the Saudi request to take part in the Yemen campaign. Pakistan is highly unlikely to become the Saudis’ nuclear accomplice.
So Saudi Arabia may be motivated to make a run at nuclear weapons, but its prospects for success are very limited.

Like the Saudis, the Emiratis believe Iran poses a severe threat to regional security, has increased its aggressiveness since the completion of the JCPOA, is still trying to export revolution, and will resume its quest for nuclear weapons when JCPOA restrictions expire. Also like Riyadh, Abu Dhabi has lost considerable confidence in the reliability of the United States as a security partner, has explored defense cooperation with other outside powers, and has played an increasingly assertive, independent military role in the region, especially in the Yemen campaign. But like Saudi Arabia, it knows it has no real choice but to rely heavily on the United States for its security.
Moreover, perhaps because of traditionally strong economic ties between the UAE and Iran, the Emiratis take a more pragmatic approach to Tehran than do the Saudis. While the Saudis tend to see the struggle with Iran as irreconcilable, the Emiratis tend to believe that if Iran’s regional designs can be countered and a regional balance established, a modus vivendi with Iran can eventually be achieved.
The ambitious UAE nuclear energy program—including a project well underway by a South Korea-led consortium to build four power reactors—is the best indication that Abu Dhabi has no current intention to pursue an independent nuclear path. In negotiations on a U.S.-UAE civil nuclear agreement required for the project, the Emiratis accepted a legally binding renunciation of enrichment and reprocessing ( the so-called “gold standard”), effectively precluding the pursuit of nuclear weapons. …

Although Egypt flirted with nuclear weapons development in the 1950s and 1960s and failed to report to the IAEA on some sensitive nuclear experiments it carried out between 1990 and 2003, Cairo today appears to lack both the inclination and the wherewithal to make a push for nuclear weapons.
Although Tehran and Cairo have occasionally sparred on regional issues and Iran is actively supporting causes that undermine the interests of Egypt’s main Arab allies and benefactors, Egypt does not see Iran as a direct military threat. Its principal security concern is the turbulent regional security environment—extremist ideology, the fragmentation of Syria and Iraq, and instability in Libya—and its adverse impact on internal security. Unlike the Gulf Arabs, the Egyptians are supportive of the JCPOA and believe a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement could have a positive effect on regional stability. …

Because of its emergence in the last decade as a rising power, its large and growing scientific and industrial base, and its ambition to be an influential regional player, Turkey is usually included on a short list of countries that may decide, in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, to pursue a latent or actual nuclear weapons capability. But its pursuit of nuclear weapons is highly improbable.
Turkey has maintained reasonably good relations with Iran, and it resisted efforts to restrict its engagement with Tehran even at the height of the global sanctions campaign. Although Turkey and Iran have taken opposing sides in the Syrian war, most Turks do not see Iran as a direct military threat. Instead, Ankara sees instability and terrorism emanating from that conflict and from within Turkey’s borders as their principal security threats, concerns that cannot be addressed by the possession of nuclear weapons. …

Although Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Turkey are most often mentioned as potential aspirants to the nuclear club, three other regional countries merit observation, given their past interest in nuclear weapons: Iraq, Syria, and Libya. But none of them are likely to revive their nuclear weapons ambitions in the foreseeable future.
Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure was decimated by two wars and a decade of sanctions, and it is severely constrained by its conflict with ISIS, its internal political and religious differences, and an economy struggling to grow in the face of low oil prices. Israeli’s destruction of Syria’s al-Kibar reactor in 2007 effectively ended Damascus’s nuclear weapons program. Moreover, consumed by civil war and its survival as a unitary state very much in question, Syria lacks the basic attributes needed to pursue a successful nuclear weapons program, including human and physical infrastructure, financial resources, and a disciplined leadership. With most of the sensitive equipment acquired through Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan’s black market network shipped out of the country in 2004, the absence of sufficient indigenous technical expertise, and the country in a state of disarray, the likelihood of Libya embarking on a renewed nuclear weapons effort in the foreseeable future is remote. …
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Tags: Reports

Larijani Re-elected Speaker of Parliament

On May 31, lawmakers re-elected conservative Ali Larijani as Speaker of Parliament. He has held the position since 2008. Larijani received 237 votes out of 273. A reformist lawmaker, Mostafa Kavakebian came in at a distant second with 11 votes. Larijani’s main competitor for the speakership, Mohammad Reza Aref, did not end up running. In the 2016 parliamentary election, Aref, a former vice president under Mohammad Khatami, headed the “List of Hope,” a coalition that included reformists and centrists who support Rouhani. On May 29, Aref lost the vote for the temporary speakership, receiving 103 votes compared to Larijani’s 173 votes. He withdrew his candidacy for the permanent speakership the following day.
Aref’s allies, however, did win the elections to become deputy speakers of the Majles (Parliament). Masoud Pezeskhian, a reformist lawmaker from Tabriz, received 158 votes to become the First Vice Speaker of the Majles. Ali Motahari, a moderate conservative who also ran on the List of Hope, received 133 votes to become the Second Vice Speaker.
Overall, a significant shift in domestic politics is unlikely to occur given Larijani’s victory along with the recent election of hardliner cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as chairman of the Assembly of Experts. That body will eventually choose Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s successor, the next supreme leader. The following are profiles of Larijani and Motahari.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani
Ali Larijani, a conservative who ran as an independent, won his seat from the holy city of Qom. He served as Speaker of Parliament between 2008 and 2016. Many of his allies did not win reelection. As election results were announced in February, Larijani praised the rotation of political power from one group to another as an auspicious development. Larijani is considered a principlist, but more pragmatic than other hardliners. He opted not to join the main list of hardliners for the election. In Tehran, the Grand Coalition of Principlists failed to win any seats while the “List of Hope” won all 30. “I feel our friends in the [conservative coalition] have not provided the necessary mechanisms for the creation of unity,” he said. “Therefore we seek to act independently.” Yet he won the backing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, who cited Larijani’s long support of “revolutionary movements.”
Born in 1957, Larijani is the son of Ayatollah Mirza Hashem Amoli and son-in-law of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari. His father was a prominent religious authority.  Larijani studied mathematics and computer science at Sharif University of Technology. He earned advanced degrees in philosophy from Tehran University. After serving as a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, he held a variety of positions in the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Telecommunications. From 1991 to 1993, he served as Minister of Guidance and Islamic Culture. From 1994 to 2004, he was President of IRIB.
In 2004, Larijani became an advisor to Khamenei. In 2005, he made an unsuccessful run for president. Later that year, Khamenei appointed him Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, replacing Rouhani. In that capacity, Larijani acted as lead negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. But he resigned in 2007, reportedly over tactical disagreements with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the nuclear talks. In 2008, Larijani ran for Parliament and won a seat representing Qom. He went on to become Speaker of Parliament and held the position for two sessions. Larijani is also a member of the Expediency Council.
Larijani has been attacked by hardliners for cooperating with Rouhani’s government in recent years. He supported the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers, referring to it as a “national achievement” even though Iran did not get everything it wanted. In May 2016, he lauded the Rouhani administration for acting more lawfully and more cooperatively with Parliament than the Ahmadinejad administration. Larijani favors consensus in politics and could act as a broker between hardliners and the other factions.
Second Vice Speaker of Parliament Ali Motahari
Ali Motahari is a moderate conservative who fielded his own independent list called “Voice of the Nation.” His name was also included on the “List of Hope.” He could become a kingmaker in the next Parliament because he straddles reformists and hardliners. In an interview before the elections, he said that hardliners do not place enough emphasis on freedoms while reformists do not pay enough attention to cultural issues. He has criticized the government for putting the two Green Movement leaders and former presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest in 2011. Although he has taken a conservative stance on cultural issues, like the dress code for women, Motahari has largely been supportive of President Rouhani. In March 2015, he was physically attacked by alleged hardliner critics. 
Born in 1958, Motahari is the son of the late Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, a leading theologian and political activist who was close to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is also the brother-in-law of Ali Larijani. Motahari studied mathematics and mechanical engineering at the University of Tabriz. He worked at IRIB and studied philosophy at the graduate level before going on to publish books and academic articles and eventually teach at various universities. In 2008, he ran for Parliament and won a seat representing Tehran. Motahari was a fierce critic of Ahmadinejad.

Motahari is known for being outspoken. After the post-election disqualification of Minoo Khaleghi, a female reformist candidate from Isfahan, he called for her reinstatement. The Guardian Council did not give an official reason for her disqualification, although some have speculated that a photo of her shaking hands with a man and not wearing a hijab might have triggered the decision. Critics of the disqualification argued that the Guardian Council does not have the power to disqualify someone after an election. Motahari said that the Interior Ministry must allow Khaleghi to take her seat or else Parliament will impeach the interior minister. He wrote an open letter to the Guardian Council head, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, insisting on her reinstatement. 

Click here for more information on other key players in the new Majles.



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