United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Zarif Op-Ed in Washington Post

On April 20, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif published an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing its Sunni Gulf neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, for spending huge sums of money on arms and allegedly supporting militant extremism. He criticized the West for raising alarms about Iran’s development of military technology while hardly discussing Saudi Arabia’s arms procurement or bombing of Yemen.  
 
Zarif wrote that the Iranian people “want nothing more than peace and cooperation” with their neighbors and the world at large. But he also defended Iran’s development of defensive military technology, recalling Saddam Hussein’s use of missiles and chemical weapons during the devastating 1980-1988 war with Iraq. “We have no other choice, as we continue to face major hurdles in fulfilling our military hardware needs from abroad, even as our neighbors procure such hardware in mind-boggling quantities,” he wrote. Zarif’s op-ed coincides with President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Obama met with Saudi King Salman on April 20 and will meet with leaders from other Gulf states on April 21. The following are excerpts from Zarif’s op-ed.
 
Nearly three years ago, the newly elected Iranian president called for constructive engagement on a momentous undertaking: resolving the nuclear crisis dividing Iran and the West. The fruit of 22 months of unprecedented diplomacy — the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was formally implemented in January. Yet despite this important achievement, the worrying reality is that we now face a far greater challenge. …
 
Some of those who agitated against the JCPOA were blatant in their efforts to drag the region into yet another disastrous war. They did — and continue to do — their utmost to convince their Western allies to return to the broken taboo against engaging with Iran. They have repeatedly resorted publicly to raising the specter of military — even nuclear — attack on my country, in blatant disregard for international law.
 
Others have been less blatant. Amid their backroom efforts to thwart the constructive engagement between Iran and six world powers, they resorted to a rapid build-up of their already excessive military hardware. Alarmingly, some also boosted their support for militant extremism, in the belief that it could serve as a tool to achieve short-term political aims. The disastrous outcome of these efforts are clear for all to see.
 
Having spent a staggering amount of their peoples’ petrodollars on weapons-hoarding, these actors are now seeing their literal, and political, fortunes plummet in step with oil prices. Meanwhile, the extremist lost souls they have empowered are no longer terrorizing only others in the region and the wider world but are also biting the very hands that feed them.
 
Perplexingly, amid these disturbing developments — including the recent tragedies in Paris and Brussels — the West does not appear to be focused on joining hands to eradicate militant extremism. Neither is there much discussion of how a country such as Saudi Arabia has become the world’s third-biggest military spender, overtaking Russia. And rather than focusing on how Yemen was bombed to rubble for 12 relentless months — and thus turned into a tinderbox of famine and poverty and a breeding ground for al-Qaeda — scare-mongering about Iran and its defensive capabilities is back in full swing. …
 
In 1980, in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein launched a war against Iran fully supported financially and militarily by almost all of our Arab neighbors and by the West. Unable to secure a quick victory, Hussein used chemical weapons against our soldiers and civilians. …
 
On top of this, having listened to the outdated U.S. mantra of “all options are on the table” for 37 years, our people understand that we need to be prepared to prevent that illegal and absurd threat from ever becoming a reality. …
 
It is against this backdrop that we develop and test our indigenous defensive capabilities. We have no other choice, as we continue to face major hurdles in fulfilling our military hardware needs from abroad, even as our neighbors procure such hardware in mind-boggling quantities. …
 
Our people want nothing more than peace and cooperation with our neighbors and the world at large. We have not launched a war in more than two centuries and continue to make an unequivocal commitment of never commencing such foolishness. We challenge all our detractors — large and small — to commit likewise. …
 
  

Click here for the full text.

 

Photo credit: Robin Wright

 

Iran Pushes the United States

Iranian officials are pushing Washington to do more to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear deal. U.S. officials must be “much more proactive” in assuring other countries that they can do business with Iran without risking penalties from the United States, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The New York Times on April 20. 
 
On April 19, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry met in New York to discuss implementation of the deal. The two met for more than two and a half hours behind closed doors. Afterwards, Zarif told reporters they focused on how “to make sure that we will draw the benefits that Iran is entitled to.” A reporter asked Kerry if he reached an agreement on the issue. Kerry responded:
 
“We agreed to – we’re both working at making sure that the JCPOA, the Iran agreement – nuclear agreement – is implemented in exactly the way that it was meant to be and that all the parties to that agreement get the benefits that they are supposed to get out of the agreement.  So we worked on a number of key things today, achieved progress on it, and we agreed to meet on Friday.  After the signing of the climate change agreement, we will meet again to sort of solidify what we talked about today.”
 
On the same day, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced legislation to prevent the Obama administration from allowing access to transactions involving the U.S. dollar as long as continues to engage in illicit activities, including developing ballistic missiles and supporting terror. It was the fourth bill targeting dollar transactions introduced in April. 
 
Zarif has said that Iran has not specifically asked for access to the U.S. financial system. But Valiollah Seif, Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, has said that it might be necessary to make the implement the nuclear deal. “Almost nothing” has happened since the nuclear deal was implemented in January, he said at the Council on Foreign Relations on April 15. “Unless serious efforts are made by our partners to make the JCPOA work, in my view they have not honored their obligations… If it means more face to face contacts with the international banks assuring them they do not penalize them working in Iran, if it means making changes to their laws and regulations to give access to the U.S. financial systems, allow U Turn, what ever is needed, they need to do that; otherwise the JCPOA breaks up under its own terms.”
 
Kerry’s meeting with Zarif follows the first bilateral with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Seif, which opened a new channel for U.S.-Iran interaction. Kerry and Zarif forged a close working relationship during 18 months of difficult negotiations that resulted in a final nuclear deal in July 2015. Direct communications between the counterparts has become routine and helped ensure the quick release of U.S. sailors in January 2016.
 

Iran Targets Political Elites

Garrett Nada
 
Over the past four decades, Iran’s revolutionaries have often been targets of their own revolution. Dozens have been pushed aside, discredited, banned from running for office, or isolated. Many have ended up in jail or faced prolonged house arrest. A few have been executed. The rivalries and reprisals among disparate revolutionary factions has been the backdrop of most major political developments, in both domestic and foreign policy, in the Islamic Republic.
 
Among the early victims was Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, a close aide to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini during his exile. He was executed in 1982 after being charged with trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president after the 1979 revolution, was impeached in 1981. He went underground and fled to Paris. In 1987, Mehdi Hashemi, who had headed the Revolutionary Guards liaison with foreign Islamic movements, was executed for sedition. In 1989, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the designated successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was forced to resign after he criticized the execution of political prisoners and fell out of favor with Khomeini. 
 
Since the 2009 presidential election, top officials have been punished or imprisoned for ties to the Green Movement protests. Among those taken to court in mass Stalin-esque trials were former Vice President Mohammad Abtahi and Mohsen Mirdamadi, former chairman of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, a reformist party. Former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Behzad Nabavi and former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh were also tried and convicted. All four were sentenced to jail terms.
 
The most famous current case involves two men who ran for president in 2009: former Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karroubi and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. Both challenged the election results, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term, despite hundreds of formal complaints of voter fraud. Both were leaders of the subsequent Green Movement protests, which raged sporadically until early 2010. Both men were put under house arrest—banished from public view or mention in the press—in 2011.
 
Over the past five years, hardliners have repeatedly charged both men with “sedition.” During the 2013 presidential campaign, Hassan Rouhani pledged to end the politically fraught saga. But he failed to make headway.
 
In a bold challenge to the Islamic regime, Karroubi issued an open letter to President Rouhani in April 2016 pleading to be formally charged and tried. “I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial based on Article 168 of the constitution,” he wrote. “It will show which side continues in the path of the revolution and is honorable.”
 
Many other revolutionaries with prestigious pedigrees have been targeted by Iran’s judiciary or security apparatus. So have their families. Three of Khomeini’s grandsons and one granddaughter have been disqualified from running in elections since 2004. The following is sampling of Iran’s political elite —reformers, centrists and hardliners — who have faced restrictions in recent years.
 
Khomeini Family
 
Ayatollah Khomeini’s name still carries great symbolic weight four decades after he led the 1979 revolution. He was the ultimate authority for a decade, until his death. Yet several of late leader’s grandchildren have been banned from running for office. At least seven of his 15 grandchildren have been active politically since the mid-1990s. They have openly criticized laws, electoral practices or the leadership.
 
Hassan Khomeini, is a mid-ranking cleric and widely considered the late revolutionary leader’s heir apparent. In February 2016, the Guardian Council barred Khomeini from running for a seat in the Assembly of Experts, an 88-man clerical body charged with appointing, supervising and dismissing the supreme leader.
 
In an Instagram post, Khomeini’s 19-year-old son, Ahmad, charged that the Guardian Council ignored testimonies from top clerics that endorsed his father’s qualifications. The reason for the disqualification was “clear for all,” he said, implying that the council’s ruling was political. Khomeini had the backing of both reformist and centrist political elites. He appealed the rejection, but was again rejected, reportedly for not having requisite Islamic knowledge.
 
The Guardian Council barred another Khomeini grandson, Morteza Eshraghi, from running for parliament in February 2016. He is also a mid-ranking cleric.
 
In 2008, the Guardian Council initially barred Khomeini grandson Ali Eshraghi from running for parliament. The council eventually reversed its decision and reinstated Eshraghi, who was part of a reformist coalition, and some 280 other candidates. But he eventually withdrew at the request of the Khomeini family after a smear campaign was waged against him.
 
In 2004, Khomeini granddaughter Zahra Eshraghi and about 2,000 other reformists were barred from running in parliamentary elections. Eshraghi is an outspoken women’s rights activist who is married to prominent reformist Reza Khatami, the younger brother of former President Mohammad Khatami.
 
 
 
Hossein Khomeini has been a rebel since the early days of the Islamic Republic. He was put under virtual house arrest in 1981 after he charged that “the new dictatorship established in religious form is worse than that of the Shah and the Mongols.” In a 2003 BBC interview, he claimed that his grandfather would have opposed Iran’s leaders if he were still alive. Khomeini even supported the idea of U.S. or foreign intervention to force regime change. He was reportedly under surveillance and banned from giving interviews to Iranian media.
 
Rafsanjani Family
 
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Speaker of Parliament and two-term President (1989-1997), helped rebuild Iran after its devastating war with Iraq. He still chairs the Expediency Council. Hardliners opposed Rafsanjani’s pragmatic approach to domestic and foreign affairs, while critics alleged that his family used political connections to amass significant wealth. He was dislodged from the Assembly of Experts chairmanship in 2011. In 2013, the Guardian Council barred him from running for president again.
 
Rafsanjani’s children have also been marginalized politically. Two were charged with acting against the government after the 2009 presidential election. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi, a former Member of Parliament and vice president of Iran’s Olympic committee, was charged with “spreading propaganda.” She spent six months in prison; she was released in March 2013.
 
Rafsanjani’s son, Mehdi Hashemi, left Iran after the disputed 2009 elections for Britain. He was arrested on his return and jailed for three months for corruption and inciting unrest against the regime. He was released in December 2012. In 2015, he was convicted of new charges of embezzlement, bribery and security offenses. He began serving a 10-year jail term in August 2015.
 
In 2016, the Guardian Council disqualified two of Rafsanjani’s children from running for parliament. Fatemeh Hashemi had been outspoken in her criticism of President Ahmadinejad’s economic mismanagement. Mohsen Hashemi, who had served on Tehran’s city council,was also barred from running. Both had reformist views.  
 
The Guardian Council did allow Rafsanjani to run for the Assembly of Experts, however. In February 2016, he led a slate of centrists and moderate conservatives in the Assembly of Experts election. He placed first in the race for 16 available seats in Tehran. Rafsanjani is widely believed to covet the job of supreme leader.

Khatami Family
 
Former President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) pledged political and social reforms while in office, but was largely thwarted by hardliners. Since the 2009 presidential election, he has been sidelined by hardliner critics for supporting opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Since 2010, he has been banned from leaving the country and barred from public events or quotes in the media.
 
For the February 2016 elections, Khatami skirted the ban by using social media. He released a video encouraging Iranians to vote for the “List of Hope” for parliament and the “People’s Experts” for the Assembly of Experts—both slates of reformers and centrists. The “List of Hope” took all 30 seats in parliament for Tehran.
 
The Guardian Council has tried to isolate Khatami’s younger brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, who was deputy speaker of parliament from 2000 to 2004. He was barred from running for parliament in 2004. Khatami is married to Zahra Eshraghi, granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini. Both supported reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 presidential election. Police reportedly detained the couple in 2010 amid protests by the Green Movement. He is also banned from leaving the country.
 
Mousavi Family
 
Mir Hossein Mousavi served as prime minister (1981-1989) during the Iran-Iraq war. From 1989 to 2009, he served as an advisor to Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami. In 2009, he ran for president and contested incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory. His protest of the official results sparked the Green Movement protests. Mousavi and his wife, women’s rights activist Zahra Rahnavard, were placed under house arrest in February 2011 for their role in the opposition.
 
In February 2013, the couple’s daughters Zahra and Narges Mousavi were detained for questioning after publishing a letter demanding release of their parents. Mousavi and his wife not allowed to attend the wedding of their daughter in March 2016.
 
 
Karroubi Family
 
Mehdi Karroubi, former parliamentary speaker (1989-1992, 2000-2004), ran for president in 2009. He too contested the official results and, with Mousavi, led the opposition Green Movement. Karroubi was particularly outspoken about harsh treatment of protestors by security forces. In February 2011, he was placed under house arrest, at the same time as Mousavi and Rhanavard. Neither has been formally charged with any crimes.
 
In 2009, Karroubi’s son, Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, was sentenced to six months in jail for speaking to foreign media about alleged abuses of prisoners. The sentence was suspended on the condition that he not commit a crime for five years. He was reportedly detained on Feb. 11, 2013, the same day as the Mousavi daughters.
 
Ahmadinejad and His Circle
 

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) began to see his status deteriorate even before leaving office. In May 2011, some two dozen individuals close to Ahmadinejad, including his chief of staff and protégé Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, were arrested and charged with being “magicians.” Ahmadinejad and his cohort were labeled “the deviationist current.”
 
In 2013, the Guardian Council barred Mashaei from running for president. Ahmadinejad said the decision was an act of “oppression.” He appealed to the supreme leader to intervene, but to no avail.
 
In February 2015, a former vice president and top aid to Ahmadinejad, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, began serving a five-year prison term for “acquiring wealth through illicit methods.” He was also ordered to pay compensation.
 

Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

 

Photo credits: Abolhassan Bani Sadr by Christoph Braun (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons; Mir Hossein Mousavi by Mardetanha with special thanks to Mr.Salar Nayerhoda for kind helps (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Mehdi Karroubi by Mardetanha [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani via HashemiRafsanjani.ir; Mohammad Khatami by World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org), swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger (World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 by Kremlin.ru [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Europe and Iran to Boost Ties, Cooperation

On April 16, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and seven other high-ranking E.U. officials visited Iran to discuss implementation of the nuclear deal, boost economic ties, and increase cooperation on humanitarian, environmental and social issues. It was the first visit of E.U. officials since the implementation phase of the nuclear deal began and key sanctions were removed. Mogherini and her counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, agreed to begin structured dialogues on solving regional crises, fighting ISIS, stabilizing Afghanistan, and human rights. “Our dialogue will be open, critical at times, because we both know that we clearly have different positions  on certain files,” Mogherini noted. The following is a joint statement and excerpted remarks by the two officials. 
 
 
Joint Statement
 
On 16 April 2016, the EU High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP) Federica Mogherini met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran. European Commission representatives present included EU Commissioners Elzbieta Bienkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), Arias Cañete (Climate Action and Energy), Christos Stylianides (Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management), Violeta Bulc (Transport), Carlos Moedas (Research, Science and Innovation), Karmenu Vella (Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Tibor Navracsics (Education, Culture, Youth and Sport). They met with their Iranian counterparts.
 
The two sides taking stock of their long standing relations, based upon mutual respect and interests, reiterated their intention to develop a broad and comprehensive agenda for bilateral cooperation. 
 
They welcomed the implementation day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 16 January 2016 that contributed to opening a new chapter in EU-Iran relations. The EU and Iran are fully committed to the JCPOA and its implementation in all its aspects. It was reconfirmed that the continued and full implementation of the JCPOA remains of utmost importance. 
 
It was stated that the following shared and overarching objectives are vital for the promotion of EU-Iran relations:
 
• Ensuring and supporting the full implementation of the JCPOA in order to further improve and deepen bilateral cooperation;
• Developing cooperative relations in areas of mutual interest to benefit the economic development, human rights, prosperity and well-being of the people of Iran and the EU; 
• Promoting regional peace, security and stability as well as peaceful settlement of regional conflicts through dialogue and engagement.
To facilitate the programme of cooperation as set out below and with a view to preparing the future opening of an EU Delegation in Tehran, in accordance with rules and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, an EU liaison team will be sent to Tehran. This will contribute to strengthening the relations and implement future cooperation initiatives. 
 
The EU and Iran intend to cooperate in the following areas:
 
Political Consultations
 
The two sides intend to enhance their political dialogue through consultations at the level of the HRVP and the Iranian Foreign Minister, annually. This advances the existing agreement to meet regularly for a High Level Dialogue at Deputy Minister/ Political Director level. Senior officials and experts will meet as required to explore other fields of mutual interest in which bilateral, regional and international cooperation projects could be developed.
 
Human Rights
 
The two sides expressed their determination to enhance and promote human rights. In this context, they intend to engage in a human rights dialogue. To this end, they would welcome the exchange of visits of delegations.
 
Economic Cooperation
 
The two sides encourage the expansion of economic relations between EU and Iran, recognizing the importance of macro-economic issues, trade, finance and investment in achieving sustainable growth and development. They intend to engage in a macro-economic and finance dialogue including on the following initiatives:
 
• Improve and enable financial as well as encouraging banking cooperation between the EU and Iran. The EU can assist if required in addressing Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) issues;
• Explore the prospect of extending  the third country lending mandate of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to Iran, to enhance the availability of finance for investment in Iran and possible blending (of loans with grants);
• Cooperation in a variety of sectors with a focus in particular on encouraging regulatory and industrial policy dialogues and creating mutual opportunities, including textiles, tourism, raw materials, construction and any other areas to be mutually determined; 
• Building on EU expertise in the field of SMEs support to foster business and in particular SMEs favourable environment in Iran and share information on the "Enterprise Europe Network”;
• Exchange of Iran and EU business missions in the second half of the year;
• Consider development cooperation on strengthening the private sector and SMEs in Iran;
• Facilitate and encourage EU-Iran business sector presence in each others’ markets through a variety of measures .
 
Trade and investment Cooperation
 
The two sides strive to strengthen their bilateral cooperation on trade and investment matters. With a view to renewing a  dialogue to strengthen trade and investment relations between Iran and EU, they agreed to exchange visits of expert delegations at an appropriate level in the coming months.  EU will support and assist Iran to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
 
Agriculture
 
The two sides intend to promote cooperation on agriculture and the agri-food industry with a view to exploring production and technological methods and to assisting Iranian products to meet regulatory and phytosanitary standards of the European markets. 
 
Transport
 
The two sides express their commitment to a safe and sustainable development of all modes of transportation in order to support the resumption of trade, investment and citizens´ links. Specifically with respect to the safety of transport, in line with consultations already held, they intend to: 
• Perform technical assessments to remove and review restrictions on the aircraft fleet of Iran Air with regard to the EU Air Safety List, and to issue "Third Country Operator Authorization" to the Iranian air carriers that applied, provided the necessary safety requirements have been met; 
• Embark on technical cooperation in support of aviation safety in Iran;
• Exchange views on the possibility of a horizontal agreement;
• Exchange views and experience on rail safety and interoperability, as well as facilitation of international rail transport, including rail corridors;
• Explore cooperation in other sectors, such as maritime, rail, road and urban transport.
 
Energy and climate change
 
Recognizing the significant potential in establishing a comprehensive cooperation in the field of energy, the two sides intend to:
• Foster improved conditions for investments and technology exchange in the production and generation of energy, and energy efficiency; and exchange information, where needed, on legal and regulatory frameworks ;
• Engage in initiatives which aim at strengthening the security of energy supply and demand in the region and beyond ; 
• Cooperate in multilateral fora with a view to enhancing the transparency and the functioning of the global energy market ;
• Promote investments and encourage technological and technical exchanges to mitigate GHGs emission as well as adaptation measures through promoting energy efficiency in different sectors of the Iranian economy as well as enhancing use of renewable energies;
• Facilitate investments in upstream and downstream projects in the energy sector of Iran. 
 
For this purpose it is intended to launch a dedicated EU-Iran Dialogue on Energy. The objectives and modalities of such cooperation are further detailed in the Joint Statement on Energy. 
 
Civil nuclear cooperation
 
With a view to contributing to the implementation of measures listed in Annex III of the JCPOA, the two sides are launching a first cooperation project in the field of nuclear safety aimed at assisting the Atomic Energy Organisation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority through EU development assistance. In addition, the EU will share with Iran its experience acquired from stress tests carried out within the EU and in third countries. Additional options for co-operation in the civil nuclear field include joint fission and fusion research activities, as well as a possible regional nuclear safety conference and a nuclear business forum. 
 
Environment
 
In recognition of the importance of protecting and conserving the environment and the role of resource efficiency in achieving green growth, and in acknowledgment of Iran's pressing environmental challenges, the two sides intend to:
• Establish bilateral co-operation to address  air, soil and water pollution, water resources management, conservation and sustainable use of nature,  biodiversity, desertification, and waste disposal management issues; 
• Exchange experiences with a view to identifying appropriate policy responses, including projects to tackle cross-border pollution; 
• Strengthen co-operation in international environmental fora including in the framework of multilateral environmental agreements.
 
Civil protection
 
In support of better prevention, detection and response to disasters, including at the regional level, the two sides intend to share experiences and best practices.
 
Science, Research and Innovation
 
The two sides will foster further the science, research and innovation cooperation between the EU and Iran, including through stepping up Iran´s participation in the EU Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020 and its complementary Euratom Programme. They will encourage setting up partnerships with EU counterparts, knowledge-sharing, mobility of researchers, participation in collaborative research activities in various areas. They will share experience in the areas of technology and innovation. For this a separate joint statement on science, technology, research and innovation was agreed between Commissioner Carlos Moedas and his counterpart, Dr. Mohammad Farhadithe Iranian Minister for Science, Research and Technology and Dr. Sorena Sattari the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for Science and Technology.
 
Education
 
Acknowledging the importance of developing the human dimension of EU-Iran relations, the two sides intend to further deepen their cooperation in the field of higher education. To this effect, it is recalled that the EU has earmarked an additional budget of EUR 3 million for Erasmus+ actions, to be used for cooperation with Iran in 2016 and 2017. The two sides will expand the possibilities for Iranian higher education institutions to participate in the Jean Monnet action for European integration studies. They also intend to organize relevant academic events and fairs, in Tehran towards the end of 2016 to foster cooperation between our universities and promote the participation of Iranian students and researchers and academic staff in EU programmes, particularly Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska Curie action. The EU will also explore ways to allow for Iranian students to participate in Erasmus+ "credit mobility" action, which consists of short-term mobility to European and Iranian universities. 
 
Culture
 
Both Iran and the EU have remarkably rich cultures and cultural heritage which makes them significant for global tourism industry. Both sides therefore will promote tourism and ecotourism plans and programs. Moreover, the two sides would share expertise in the area of conservation and restoration of archaeological and historical works of art and monuments in order to contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage and the promotion of cultural tourism. To this effect, the EU can share its expertise in the field, including through developing specific training modules. The two sides also intend to further develop cultural cooperation between EU, its Member States and Iran, including through exchanges of professionals and organisation of events aimed at making their respective cultures better known to the people in the EU and Iran. To this effect the two sides will consider ways to improve Iran-EU cultural and art exchanges in Tehran and the European capitals. In addition, Iran and the EU consider that developing their cooperation in the field of sport constitutes a component of their engagement.
 
Drugs
 
Both sides recognized and agreed to meet the challenges for Iran resulting from opium production in the region, as well as its multiple negative side effects in the areas of drug trafficking, human trafficking, border management, law enforcement and health related aspects. Drug abuse inflicts huge damage on the societies and individuals in Europe and Iran, thus both sides have a common interest in addressing the drugs problem, both on the supply and demand side, as well as transit issues. The two sides intend to engage in consultations, exchange of experience,and expertise, including on effective and proportional criminal justice, as well as explore measures to address root causes of the problem, including poverty alleviation and reconstruction in Afghanistan, support for political stability to foster required environment for sustainable development in that country, both at multilateral and bilateral levels. Both sides share the view on the need for evidence-based, integrated, comprehensive and balanced approach in the fight against drugs.
 
Migration
 
The two sides agreed to launch a comprehensive migration dialogue and acknowledged the need to exchange information on migration management and flows as well as on policy and legislative approaches and priorities in relation to regular and irregular migration, asylum seekers and refugees, both at national and regional levels. 
 
Regional issues
 
The two sides acknowledged the seriousness and urgency of addressing the volatile situation in the region. Terrorism, extremism and violence have endangered regional stability and inflicted loss of human life and resources on an unprecedented scale and have become global issues. In this context, both sides will look at ways to implement the UNGA Resolution on World Against Violence and Extremism (A/RES/128/67). They therefore consider that it is crucial to translate the positive benefits of the JCPOA into improved prospects for regional peace and stability. To this end, the two sides will engage, in a constructive and equitable manner, on regional issues with a view to building channels of dialogue, mutual trust and understanding, and in particular to fostering approaches aimed at resolving regional crises. 
 
The two sides consider that solutions to such crises must be inclusive, peaceful and comprehensive, and above all sustainable. They stress the need for all actors to adopt constructive approaches that reinforce the principles of non-interference and the territorial integrity of states, as well as respecting the primacy of international law, including human rights.
 
Humanitarian Cooperation
 
The two sides share deep concerns on the dire humanitarian situation in the region due to the multiple conflicts. Violence and insecurity have led to the displacement of millions of people and the EU and Iran advocate all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of vulnerable population as well as humanitarian access to the people in need. The two sides intend to enhance humanitarian coordination and humanitarian assistance delivery in respect of International Humanitarian Law in the crises affecting Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. The EU expresses its appreciation to Iran’s decision to include all registered Afghan refugees in the national health insurance scheme on the same basis as its own citizens and to allow all foreign children irrespective of their legal status to be enrolled in the national education system. The EU will continue to provide humanitarian and development assistance in support of health care, shelter, food security and protection for the most vulnerable. In order to meet the needs of a growing number of Afghans in Iran, the EU will make immediately available EUR 6.5 million for additional humanitarian support. Within this amount EUR 1.5 million is allocated to assist with the integration of 10,000 out of school Afghan children into the Iranian education system. Both the EU and Iran recognize the importance of working closely with the Government of Afghanistan on a common and mutually reinforcing strategy towards durable solutions. Cooperation on civil society building and strengthening of the local authorities is continuing and the two sides intend to increase this cooperation in the future.
 
Click here for the joint statement on energy cooperation.
Click here for the joint statement on cooperation in nuclear energy.
Click here for the joint statement on science, technology, research and innovation.  

E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini
 
“The purpose of the trip is on one side to start this cooperation for real. I remember very well, last time I was here in Tehran we were saying together with Minister Zarif that this is a turning point; when we have the implementation day, this will not only be a nuclear-related issue, but this will open the way for cooperation, practical cooperation in many different fields.”
“So, these are the two purposes [of the visit]: to start practical cooperation, which is what we have done today, and also, to reassure and invite the Europeans to come and work here.”
“We are playing a very active role on Syria, on two different issues in particular: the humanitarian support we are giving to people inside Syria and in the region, and also on the political track. This is something I have discussed at length with my interlocutors here, in Tehran today, because we see a role both on the humanitarian and on the political track for Iran, as well.”
—April 16, 2016, in an interview with Tasnim News via Iran Front Page
 
I write after coming back from Teheran, where yesterday I led a delegation of seven fellow Commissioners: it was the first visit of European officials after the implementation of the deal with Iran and the removal of sanctions.
 
This was my second official trip to Iran. But in July last year – just days after the agreement was signed – all my meetings focused on the implementation of the deal. This time – three months after its full implementation – we laid the ground for a structured cooperation between Teheran and the European Union. We have touched on a number of sectors that are strategic for both sides: from energy to the economy, from culture to migration, from research to transports, from foreign policy to education. Such cooperation will benefit our citizens both in Europe and in Iran: I think especially of all the young people who welcomed the deal in the streets of their cities, with enthusiasm and pride. They now expect the results that this new page in our relations offers to the whole of them. Yesterday’s visit has opened the way for this: the opportunities the deal has created can now be translated into concrete projects, in all sectors that matter to our citizens life.
 
It will be a constructive cooperation. Our dialogue will be open, critical at times, because we both know that we clearly have different positions  on certain files. Human rights, for instance, a central issue in our relations. We discussed it at length yesterday, and we have decided to launch a structured dialogue on this, a new pillar in our relationship. Another structured dialogue will be at political level, between Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and myself: we will discuss how to solve too many regional crises tormenting the Middle East, how to best fight the terrorists of Daesh, how to stabilise Afghanistan.
 
We might have differing views and positions, but only the road of dialogue and diplomacy leads to success – as the deal with Iran has shown. It has delivered concrete results, such as the deal’s implementation, and it has opened new possibilities for cooperation. Dialogue and diplomacy, this is the European way to foreign policy.
—April 17, 2016, in a post on her website
 
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“The people of Iran should sense the results of the nuclear agreement as soon as possible, otherwise they will question the usefulness of the deal for Iranians,”
 
“It is necessary for the other side, particularly the US, to honor its commitments in practice, not on paper,”
 
“We are confident that the European Union has political and economic interests in the implementation of the JCPOA. We will cooperate with the EU on the removal of obstacles and full implementation of the JCPOA.”

—April 16, 2016, at a joint press conference with Federica Mogherini from Tasmin News via Iran Front Page 

 

Europe Reaches Out to Iran

Since the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14, 2015, at least a dozen European nations have reached out to Iran with high-profile phone calls and visits. "Expansion of relations with E.U. members is among Tehran's main policies," Rouhani said before his visit to Europe in January 2016. Around half of the 140 economic delegations that visited Iran between March and December 2015 were from European countries. The following is a rundown of European outreach to Iran since the deal.

European Union

On April 16, 2016, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and seven other high ranking E.U. officials visited Iran to discuss implementation of the nuclear deal, boost economic ties, and increase cooperation on humanitarian, environmental and social issues. It was the first visit of E.U. officials since the implementation phase of the nuclear deal began and key sanctions were removed. Mogherini and her counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, agreed to begin structured dialogues on solving regional crises, fighting ISIS, stabilizing Afghanistan, and human rights. “Our dialogue will be open, critical at times, because we both know that we clearly have different positions on certain files,” Mogherini noted. 
 
Previously, on July 28, 2015, E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had traveled Tehran for a one-day visit with senior Iranian officials. She was accompanied by deputy E.U. foreign policy chief Helga Schmid. Mogherini said the nuclear deal “has the capacity to pave the ground for wider cooperation between Iran and the West.”
 
After meeting with Mogherini, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and the European Union had agreed to hold talks “over different issues, including energy cooperation…human rights, confronting terrorism, and regional issues.”
 
 
Mogherini’s visit coincided with her op-ed in The Guardian, in which she argued that cooperation between Iran and the West could help defeat ISIS. The following is an excerpt.
 
“The Vienna deal tells us that we all have much to earn if we choose cooperation over confrontation. Making the most out of this opportunity is entirely up to us. But nothing good will happen if we do not work hard for it. We Europeans have a long tradition of cultural and economic relationship with Iran. Before sanctions began in 2005, cooperation between our parts of the world spanned many areas, from energy to trade. But our shared interests go well beyond the economy.
 
“Last week Europe’s foreign ministers tasked me with exploring “ways in which the EU could actively promote a more cooperative regional framework” in the wake of the Vienna deal. Isis (also known as Da’esh) is spreading its vicious and apocalyptic ideology in the Middle East and beyond. There is nothing more worrisome to Isis than cooperation between “the west” and the Muslim world, for it defies the narrative of a clash of civilisations the group is trying to revive. An alliance of civilisations can be our most powerful weapon in the fight against terror.”
—July 28, 2015, in an op-ed published by The Guardian
 
On November 7, 2015, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz met with officials in Tehran, at the invitation of the Iranian parliament. It was the first time a head of the European Parliament had visited Iran. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is an element of stability in a region full of instability," Schulz said during the visit.
 

 

Italy

An Italian delegation led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi arrived in Tehran on April 12, 2016 for a two-day visit. Renzi met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, and other officials. Italy reportedly extended Iran 5 billion euros in credit lines and guarantees for exports – one of the most significant economic deals since the nuclear deal. Italy, which used to be one of Iran’s major trade partners, has been trying to revive economic ties with Iran.
 
During the visit, Renzi said that “We are in Iran, but not only to sign economic contracts. There are many economic opportunities for both countries which should be taken seriously, but more than anything else, there is a common feeling between the two great civilizations of Persia and Rome.” President Rouhani added that "Today, after the lifting of sanctions, Italy is a forerunner in the development of Iran-EU ties."
 
Renzi’s visit followed Rouhani’s trip to Italy on Jan. 25, 2016, during which he invited Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella to visit Tehran. Iran and Italy reportedly signed around $18.4 billion in deals for cooperation in energy, infrastructure, shipbuilding, and mining. Rouhani said during his visit that Iran was "more eager to have Italians before any other European nations to start a constructive interaction with their Iranian partners in the economic fields." 
 

Previously, on Aug. 4, 2015, Gentiloni and Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi traveled to Iran for a two-day visit, accompanied by Italian businessmen and economic activists. They met with Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and other officials. During the August visit, investment back Mediobanca, Italy’s development ministry, and export credit agency SACE signed a memorandum of understanding “to facilitate future economic and commercial relations between the two countries.”

Austria

President Rouhani was scheduled to travel to Austria to meet with President Heinz Fischer and other officials in late March. But on March 29, President Rouhani abruptly canceled the visit. The trip was postponed due to “security reasons,” according to the president’s website.
 
Austria’s Interior Ministry claimed to have found “no concrete signs of a security threat.” But Fischer issued a statement asserting that “Every nation has to decide for itself about the safety and security of its head of state.” He added that “The quality of the relations with Iran won’t be touched by this delay and the cooperation in the realm of politics, business, culture, and science will be continued in a comprehensive manner.” The Austrian Chamber of Commerce had said that up to $2.3 billion in deals would have been signed during the visit.
 
Austria was among the first nations to reach out to Iran following the nuclear deal. Fischer spoke to Rouhani by phone on July 15, 2015, the day after the deal was signed. Rouhani said the agreement would “lay the groundwork for the expansion of ties between Tehran and Vienna.”
 
Fischer then visited Tehran from Sept. 7 to 9, 2015, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner. Fischer said that he expected bilateral trade between Austria and Iran to reach $335 million in 2015.
 
Fischer met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during his visit. Khamenei praised Austria for not complying with "the United States' hostile policies towards Iran."
 
 
United Kingdom

On February 4, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in London for a conference to raise money for humanitarian aid in Syria. He met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other officials on the sidelines of the conference. It was the first visit to the United Kingdom by an Iranian foreign minister in 12 years.
 
"Iran and Britain have had traditionally good commercial and economic relations and I think those can resume," Zarif said in an address at Chatham House. "We need to work together on moving the political relations forward."
 
The United Kingdom has taken steps to improve ties with Iran since the nuclear deal was signed. "You (President Rouhani) had a very constructive role in striking this final deal," British Prime Minister David Cameron said on July 16, 2015. During the conversation, Rouhani added that “I think there exists the necessary potential to rebuild relations between Iran and Britain.”
 
The British government also relaxed its travel warnings for Iran shortly after the deal was announced. “The risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani's Government,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on July 25.
 
 
On August 23, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Tehran to reopen the British Embassy, which had been closed since 2011. The Iranian embassy in London was reopened the same day. In a joint press conference with Hammond, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and Britain had “entered a new phase of relations based on mutual respect.”
 
Hammond was the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Iran in 12 years. He met with Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and other officials during his visit. Hammond was accompanied by a group of British business leaders hoping to reestablish ties in Iran.
 
 
On Jan. 19, 2016, David Cameron congratulated Rouhani on the implementation of the nuclear deal during a phone call. The two leaders also discussed expanding trade ties, the conflict in Syria, and the four dual British-Iranian nationals held in Iran.
 
France
 
On July 23, French President Francois Hollande and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in a phone conversation. A statement released by Hollande’s office “expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East.” Hollande also emphasized increasing tourism between the two countries, since it "can play a major role in advancement of cooperation between Iran and France."
 
 
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Tehran on July 29, 2015, meeting with Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and other senior officials. It was the first visit to Iran by a French foreign minister in 12 years. He also extended an invitation for President Hassan Rouhani to visit President Hollande in France in November. "Things will, we hope, be able to change," Fabius said during his visit. In late September, a French delegation with representatives from more than 100 companies visited Tehran and opened a trade office.
 
 
Rouhani traveled to France on Jan. 27, 2016 for meetings with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President Francois Hollande, and a group of French business leaders. On January 28, French and Iranian officials signed 20 agreements for economic, political, and cultural cooperation. French automaker Peugeot announced it had reached a deal with Iran Khodro worth $436 million to manufacture 200,000 cars per year in Iran. Energy company Total also reportedly signed a deal to buy up to 200,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil per day. And Airbus finalized a deal to deliver more than 100 commercial jets to Iran.
 
Rouhani was the first Iranian president to visit to France since 1999. Despite taking a tough stance during the nuclear negotiations, France was among the first European countries to seek improved ties with Iran after the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015. Rouhani’s visit, however, prompted protests from French human rights groups against executions in Iran.
 
Belgium
 
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and an economic delegation visited Tehran on November 9, meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The officials discussed expanding economic and political ties. During the visit, Rouhani said that Iran "can become a center for organizing and expanding economic relations between Belgium, the European Union, and the whole region."
 
 

Spain

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo met with Iranian officials in Tehran from September 7 to 9. He was accompanied by Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister Jose Manuel Soria, Public Works and Transport Minister Ana Maria Pastor Julian, and a delegation of business officials.

Following a meeting with Soria, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the two countries discussed the possibility of exporting crude oil and natural gas to Spain. Additionally, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Garcia-Margallo, and said that Iran and Spain "agreed to negotiate about human rights and refugee issues.”

 

Germany
 
On July 20, German vice chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Iran for a three-day visit, hoping to resume “economic contacts with Iran, which were traditionally good.” He was the first high-ranking Western official to visit Iran since the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14.
 
Gabriel also emphasized the need to cooperate with Iran on issues like human rights and its relationship with Israel. "You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don't discuss such issues too and try to move them along,” he said.
 
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Tehran in October 2015 to discuss trade ties and attempt to de-escalate the growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He traveled to Iran again on Feb. 2, 2016 for meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani.

 

 

Switzerland
 
Swiss Deputy Foreign Minister Yves Rossier arrived in Tehran on July 21 for a four-day trip to meet with Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and Rouhani’s chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian. “Iran welcomes the expansion of economic and banking relations with Switzerland,” Nahavandian said.
 
On August 12, Switzerland became the first nation to lift sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal was announced.
 
Serbia
 
Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic arrived in Tehran on August 3 for a three-day visit. Dacic held a series of meetings with senior Iranian officials and explored opportunities for greater economic cooperation with Iran. Zarif welcomed a proposal by Dacic to hold the 14th Iran-Serbia Joint Economic Committee, adding that an Iranian delegation would visit Belgrade in the future.
 
 
Poland
 
On October 10-11, Polish Senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz visited Tehran, where he met with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemni Rafsanjani, and other officials. Iran and Poland "can further contribute to regional and international security through mutual cooperation," Borusewicz said during the visit. And Rouhani said that "Iran sees no obstacles in the way of expanding relations and cooperation with Poland."

The Netherlands

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders met with Rouhani, Zarif, and other officials in Tehran on September 21 and 22. It was the first time in 14 years that a Dutch foreign minister had visited Iran. The officials discussed expanding political and economic ties, and Koenders announced that at least three other Dutch ministers planned to visit Iran in the near future.

This post has been updated.

Connect With Us

Our Partners

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Logo