United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Anti-Americanism Grows in Iran — Again

Garrett Nada

The nuclear deal, announced in July, has not changed the anti-American rhetoric in Iran. Indeed, the pace of vitriol has noticeably increased. “US officials seek negotiation with #Iran; negotiation is means of infiltration and imposition of their wills,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in September, captured in a string of tweets on his English-language account 

Hardliners in Parliament have also taken a tough stand. On November 2, 192 out of 290 lawmakers signed a letter vowing not to abandon the slogan “Death to America (also translated as “Down with the USA”),” first popularized after the United States took in the ailing shah, in 1979. The U.S. decision led students to seize the American embassy and more than 50 hostages. On the 36th anniversary of the takeover, in 2015, the hardliners declared, “The honorable nation of Iran will under no circumstances be willing to put aside the ‘Death to America’ slogan because of the agreement on the nuclear issue; a slogan that has become a symbol of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the entirety of struggling nations have held Islamic Iran as a model for their own fight.” 

The former U.S. Embassy in Tehran is a focal point of anti-U.S. demonstrations. Iran also still holds mass rallies on the November 4 anniversary of the takeover. It even has a committee – complete with logo – charged with choreographing the events in front of the old embassy compound and televised nationally. 
In September, a branch of Revolutionary Guards, which controls the embassy, unveiled an enormous plaque quoting 100 anti-U.S. epithets by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He called the United States an “infidel,” “oppressor,” “colonizer,” “criminal,” and “bully.” It was widely noted by Iranians on social media.
The conflicting signals out of Tehran reflect a wider debate over the nature of Iran’s relationship with the United States. Hardliners have been particularly aggressive against their own government officials for contact with the United States since the nuclear deal. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s brief handshake with President Obama at the United Nations in September caused a firestorm. In an Instagram post, lawmaker Hamid Rasaee likened the encounter to embracing Satan (see below). The text reads, “Mr. Zarif! Did you sign the nuclear deal with the same hand?”
As the final arbitrator on all issues, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s comments have been particularly striking.
In a July 18 sermon, Khamenei chastised a string of U.S. presidents. “From the beginning of the Revolution until today, five other U.S. presidents died or were lost in history dreaming that they would force the Islamic Republic to surrender. You too will enjoy the same fate,” he said, apparently referring to President Obama. “You too will never achieve the dream.”
In November, the supreme leader’s office released the following video clip, “Satan’s Confessions,” which was based on the sermon.   
The supreme leader also has counseled against further diplomacy with the United States. Despite the end of sanctions, he warned in November for Iranians to “seriously avoid importing consumer goods from the United States." He also cautioned against getting sucked into the U.S. agenda in the Middle East. “U.S. goals in the region are diametrically opposed to Iran’s goals. Negotiation with the U.S. on the region is pointless,” he said in a speech, on November 1. On November 3, Khamenei said that the “Down with the USA” slogan still has strong support in Iran and does not mean death to the American nation, but rather “death to American policies” and “death to Arrogance.” He also warned that Washington has attempted to “beautify” its image and “pretend” that it is no longer hostile to Iran. The United States “will not hesitate” to destroy Iran if given the chance, he said.   

President Rouhani has taken a softer line. In an interview with CBS, he said the “Death to America” chant “is not a slogan against the American people.” He said it was a reaction to longstanding U.S. support for the shah as well as Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. “People will not forget these things. We cannot forget the past, but at the same time our gaze must be towards the future,” Rouhani said. He acknowledged the potential for future talks. “Many areas exist where in those areas it's possible that common goals, or common interests, may exist,” he told CBS. Hardliners have been concerned that the Islamic revolution will be compromised by Rouhani’s willingness to engage with the United States again. 


Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP.


Click here to see pictures of the November 4 rallies.  


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Photo credit: Hassan Rouhani by Robin Wright 



US Eases Medical Sanctions on Iran

On November 2, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) expanded its list of medical supplies approved for export or re-export to Iran. Under a general license issued in 2012, export of basic medical supplies to Iran has been permitted even while Washington tightened economic and financial sanctions to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program.
The United States wanted to avoid impeding Iran’s imports of humanitarian goods. “[F]oreign financial institutions may process transactions for the purchase of humanitarian goods including, food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices, using funds in Central Bank of Iran accounts without being subject to U.S. sanctions,” according to OFAC. Hundreds of items were added to the list in mid-2013 as well. The following is an excerpt from a Treasury FAQ on the general license with a link to the updated list of approved medical supplies.
General Licenses (GL) for Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations
318. Does the GL for basic medical supplies authorize the export of all medical devices?
No. The GL for basic medical supplies appearing at section 560.530(a)(3)(i) of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”) authorizes the export or reexport to Iran of items defined in section 560.530(a)(3)(ii) of the ITSR and included on the List of Basic Medical Supplies (the “List”), which is maintained on OFAC’s Web site. Any changes to the List will be published in the Federal Register. Over 200 categories of medical supplies are included on the List. Basic medical supplies, as defined in 31 CFR 560.530(a)(3)(ii), also include EAR99-classified components, accessories and optional equipment that are designed for and are for use with an EAR99-classified medical device included on the list, but does not include replacements parts for such devices. [01-20-14]

319. Does the GL for basic medical supplies authorize the export of these items to all entities in Iran?
No. While the GL under section 560.530(a)(3)(i) of the ITSR authorizes exports or reexports to most entities in Iran, it does not authorize exports or reexports to military or law enforcement entities, nor does it authorize exports or reexports to persons whose property and interests in property are blocked under counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, or other authorities administered by OFAC, including such persons identified on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. When engaging in activities pursuant to this GL, exporters and reexporters are expected to undertake due diligence regarding all parties to the transactions, just as they would when acting pursuant to a specific license issued by OFAC. [01-20-14]

361. What items and persons are excluded from the agricultural commodities general license in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations?
The specified items excluded from the scope of the agricultural commodities general license are: castor beans, castor bean seeds, certified pathogen-free eggs (unfertilized or fertilized), dried egg albumin, live animals (excluding live cattle), embryos (excluding cattle embryos), Rosary/Jequirity peas, non-food-grade gelatin powder, peptones and their derivatives, super absorbent polymers, western red cedar, and all fertilizers.
The persons excluded from the scope of the agricultural commodities general license are Iranian military or law enforcement purchasers or importers. In addition, the agricultural commodities general license does not authorize any transaction or dealing with any person whose property and interests in property are blocked, or who is designated or otherwise subject to any sanction, under the terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or narcotics trafficking programs administered by OFAC, among others.
Exports or reexports involving the specified items or excluded persons discussed above continue to require the level of review afforded by specific licensing and therefore are not authorized by the agricultural commodities general license. [4-7-2014]

362. Is the export or reexport of non-U.S.-origin agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Iran authorized?
Yes. The definitions of the terms “agricultural commodities,” “medicine,” and “medical device” used in the relevant general licenses in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations include, in the case of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), items that are designated as EAR99 and, in the case of items not subject to the EAR, items that would be designated as EAR99 if they were located in the United States. For example, under the agricultural commodities general license, a company located in the United States would be authorized to arrange for the export from a third country to Iran of agricultural commodities produced in the third country if those commodities would be designated as EAR99 if they were located in the United States, provided that all conditions of the general license are otherwise satisfied. [4-7-2014]

363. Is the export or reexport by non-U.S. persons of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Iran authorized?
Yes. A non-U.S. person may export or reexport agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Iran under the relevant general licenses in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, provided that the items are subject to the EAR and all conditions of the relevant general license are otherwise satisfied. For example, a non-U.S. person would be authorized under the medicine and medical supplies general license to arrange for the export or reexport to Iran of EAR99 medicines located in the United States or a third country.
In addition, an entity owned or controlled by a U.S. person and established or maintained outside the United States (a “U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entity”) may export or reexport agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran under the relevant general licenses in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (including both items subject to the EAR and items not subject to the EAR), provided that all conditions of the relevant general license are otherwise satisfied. For example, a U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entity would be authorized under the medicine and medical supplies general license to arrange for the reexport to Iran of EAR99 medicines, as well as the export to Iran of medicines not subject to the EAR (e.g., medicines produced outside the U.S. by a non-U.S. person with no controlled U.S. content) that would be designated as EAR99 if they were located in the United States. [4-7-2014]

364. Who can apply for a specific license if an export or reexport to Iran is not authorized by general license?
If an export or reexport is not authorized by general license, any U.S. person, wherever located, or U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entity may apply for a specific license. For example, a U.S.-owned or controlled foreign entity may apply for a specific license for the export or reexport to Iran of agricultural commodities excluded from the scope of the agricultural commodities general license, such as live animals. [4-7-2014]

365. What is authorized with respect to brokerage services related to exports or reexports of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Iran?
U.S. persons continue to be authorized to provide brokerage services on behalf of U.S. persons for the sale and exportation or reexportation by U.S. persons of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran, provided that the sale and exportation or reexportation itself is authorized by either general or specific license. [4-7-2014]
Click here for the full FAQ.
Click here for the updated list of medical supplies. 

Final Communique on Syria Talks

On October 30, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and a delegation of Iranians participated in the Syria peace talks in Vienna. Representatives from 17 countries, the United Nations, and the European Union joined the talks. The decision to include Iran, backed by the United States, marks a major change after two earlier failed peace initiatives in 2012 and 2014.

The following is the text of the final communique agreed by the parties during the talks, released by the German Foreign Ministry with excerpted remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.Talks are set to resume within two weeks.
Final communiqué on the results of Syria talks in Vienna
Meeting in Vienna, on October 30, 2015, China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States [“the participants”] came together to discuss the grave situation in Syria and how to bring about an end to the violence as soon as possible.

The participants had a frank and constructive discussion, covering major issues. While substantial differences remain among the participants, they reached a mutual understanding on the following:
1) Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental.
2) State institutions will remain intact.
3) The rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination, must be protected.
4) It is imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war.
5) Humanitarian access will be ensured throughout the territory of Syria, and the participants will increase support for internally displaced persons, refugees, and their host countries. 
6) Da'esh, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the U.N. Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.  
7) Pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communique and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118, the participants invited the U.N. to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.  These elections must be administered under U.N. supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, free and fair, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.  
8) This political process will be Syrian led and Syrian owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria.  
9) The participants together with the United Nations will explore modalities for, and implementation of, a nationwide ceasefire to be initiated on a date certain and in parallel with this renewed political process.

The participants will spend the coming days working to narrow remaining areas of disagreement, and build on areas of agreement.  Ministers will reconvene within two weeks to continue these discussions. 
Joint Press Availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura
Grand Hotel Vienna, Austria
Oct. 30, 2015
SECRETARY KERRY: Four and a half years of war in Syria we all believe has been far too long, and the consequences of that war for so many people, innocent people, is beyond description – devastation in refugee camps, migration effects all over. The result has been a lot of suffering and far too much damage to the economic and social and political fabric of the region. And so we came here – the foreign ministers who came here today – with the conviction that the fighting and the killing absolutely has to end. And it’s up to us to try to find a way to do that.
Our shared task is to find a way to use the tools of diplomacy in order to make that happen. This is a relatively large diplomatic group that met today because there are a lot of people who are stakeholders because there are a lot of neighbors, and there are a lot of people who are supporting, one way or the other, one side or another. And so it will take pressure from many different directions to reverse the escalation of conflict and to lay a credible groundwork for peace.
Daesh and other terrorist organizations, we all believe, can never be allowed to unite or govern Syria. The United States position regarding Syria, I emphasize, has not changed. Sergey Lavrov and Prime Minister Zarif and I and others agree to disagree. The United States position is there is no way that President Assad can unite and govern Syria. And we believe that Syrians deserve a different choice, and our goal is to work with Syrians from many factions to develop that choice.
But we can’t allow that difference to get in the way of the possibility of diplomacy to end the killing and to find the solution. And that is a significance of the decision that was really made here today was that even though we acknowledge the difference, we know it is urgent to get to the table and to begin the process of real negotiations. So we’re employing a two-pronged approach. Speaking for the United States, we are intensifying our counter-Daesh campaign and we are intensifying our diplomatic efforts in order to end the conflict. And we believe these steps are mutually reinforcing. And that is why today President Obama made an announcement about stepping up the fight against Daesh. He authorized a small complement of U.S. Special Operations Forces to deploy to northern Syria where they will help to coordinate local ground forces and coalition efforts in order to counter Daesh.
But at the end of the day, the United States and our coalition partners believe that there is absolutely nothing that would do more to fight Daesh than to achieve a political transition that strengthens the governance capacity of Syria, sidelines the person that we believe attracts so many foreign fighters and so much terror, and unite the country against extremism. Make no mistake, the answer to the Syrian civil war is not found in a military alliance with Assad, from our point of view. But I am convinced that it can be found through a broadly supported diplomatic initiative aimed at a negotiated political transition, consistent with the Geneva communique.
And I want to thank Sergey Lavrov for his efforts to try to find that diplomatic solution and for the commitment of Russia even as it is engaged in supporting Assad, which is not a secret, in believing that we need to move towards a political solution. There is nothing inevitable in our judgment about the war in Syria. The war came about because of choices that people made. And what people have the power to choose, they have the power to change.
To change the pattern of violence in Syria, we have to change some of the patterns of thinking, so that the choice is not between a dictator and Daesh, but between war and peace, between destroying and building, between catering to the violent extremes and empowering the political center.
We’re not going to succeed in that by focusing on how we got to where we are. And frankly, we spent a fair amount of time today making sure that the discussion didn’t get bogged down in the past. And I appreciate the discipline and the effort that all of the participants made to look to the future and to try to find the ways to move there. We have to be creative and we have to be determined in deciding how we go from here and where we go from here. And that was the subject of today’s discussions.
I want to make it clear also, none of us expected today to walk in and have one side or other say to the other, “Hey, Assad’s not an issue anymore,” or, “Assad’s going to do this or that.” That was not ever in anybody’s contemplation. This is the beginning of a new diplomatic process, not the final chapter. But I can tell you that all of us were convinced of the importance of finding a way to get back to the negotiating in a way that’s real. And what makes it real this time, unlike any other previous meeting, every stakeholder was represented there in terms of all of the countries who are supporting one side or another in this conflict.
So I will leave for the rest of my overseas trip with a fresh sense of the possibility of encouragement. I’m a realist. I know it’s difficult and I saw today in some of the conversation just how complicated and difficult it is indeed. But I believe the diplomatic situation is today more promising than it has been in some time because all of the stakeholders came to this table. There were tough conversations today. They were honest, frank. But there is more willingness and commitment by all the parties there today to continue to talk about practical steps, and there is more clarity about intentions. I’m not going to make any great claims here. I’m not going to blow anything up beyond the difficult path that it is. But I can report that we did make progress on the following.
The participants agreed today that Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental. We agreed that Syria’s state institutions will remain intact. We agreed that the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination, must be protected. We agreed that it is imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war. We agreed that humanitarian access must be assured throughout the territory of Syria, and the participants will increase support for internally displaced persons, refugees, and their host countries.
We agreed that Daesh and other terrorist groups as designated by the UN Security Council and as agreed by the participants must be defeated. Pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communique and UN Security Council Resolution 2118, we invited the UN to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to a credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance followed by a new constitution and elections. We agreed that these elections must be administered under UN supervision to the satisfaction of the government and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, free and fair, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.
We agreed that this political process will be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned and that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria. And we agreed together with the United Nations to explore modalities for and implementation of a nationwide ceasefire to be initiated on a date certain and in parallel with this renewed political process.
We will spend the coming days working to narrow remaining areas of disagreement and to build on the areas of agreement, and we will reconvene within two weeks to continue these discussions.
So in closing, let me just reiterate that we all have a sense of urgency. We all know what it is stake. And personally, I have met with refugees, the survivors of barrel bombing, the unspeakable torture that has taken place. I’ve talked to women who struggle to hold their families together despite constant danger, bitter cold, and shortages of shelter and medicine and food. And I’ve heard the blood-chilling stories of doctors and relief workers who are dealing with the humanitarian trauma that this war is creating on a daily basis.
I am aware, as you are, of atrocities that have been committed and are being committed by the extremes on both sides. As I said a couple of days ago, the challenge is nothing less than to chart a course out of hell. And that’s not going to happen overnight, but I am convinced that the steps that we worked on today, if followed up on, if worked on in good faith, can begin to move us in the right direction. And it’s our job to accelerate the momentum so that we’re not back here next year or even the year after facing a Middle East with even more refugees, with even greater numbers of dead and displaced, and with even more suffering and more eroding hope. The time has come to stop the building – stop the bleeding and start the building, and that is exactly what we have set out to do. And I thank Staffan and I thank Sergey for the efforts to at least try to open a new chapter.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, today we held a meeting of a group that can be called, as suggested by Mr. de Mistura, a contact group or a Syria support group. As John has already said – and John made a decisive contribution today to our work – all stakeholders have gathered today here at the table.
From the very beginning of the crisis we have pushed for the principle of inclusiveness in – both in all Syrian political process and in the process supported by the external players for the Syria. And I believe that today’s meeting has enshrined a common understanding that it should be that way.
John has talked a lot today about the suffering endured by the Syrian people, about the terrible bloodshed, about displaced people who lost their homes. We want to stop that situation and not to let the terrorists gain power in that country. The terrorist topic was vocal in all the speeches by the participants, and we reached some agreement.
We had agreed upon today and it is stated also in the joint statement that we want to committedly and firmly fight ISIS organizations and all the other terrorist organizations listed by the UN Security Council, as well as to hold additional consultations on how to list other terrorist organizations not yet listed by the UN Security Council.
Russia is committed to fighting terrorism based on the solid basis of international law, whether we’re talking about the military interventions from air or the ground operations. These need to be conducted in agreement with the government or with the UN Security Council.
That is – we are talking about the decision just made by the U.S. President, and John Kerry just said about it. Our position in that regard has not changed, and we want to continuously fight terrorism on the – with the agreement and with the common understanding.
I would also like to highlight some modalities of the joint statement. We have agreed to continue with Syria as a unit, and so that Syria keeps its territorial integrity, so it would be a united country with secular government and to retain the institutions. The rights of all Syrians, despite their religious beliefs or ethnic group, should be protected and observed. Humanitarian access should be provided and the momentum should be accelerated to help refugees and internally displaced people.
And one of the most important agreements of today’s meeting is that this group is asking the UN to invite stakeholders, the Syrian Government and the opposition, to begin the political process. This inclusive political group should create the basis for an inclusive administration, so this administration can create the new constitution and new institutions. We have also agreed so that the new elections would be conducted under the active participation of the UN, and so that all Syrian people, despite of where they are – whether they are refugees or in the neighboring countries – should be able to take part in those elections.
We have also discussed the issue of a ceasefire parallel to the political process, and there was a consensus that the ceasefire should be held in the consultations with the UN with the understanding that if the ceasefire is declared, no terrorist organizations should be subject to that.
As John has said, we have no agreement on the destiny of Assad. Russia believes that it is up to Syrian people to decide within the framework of the political process. It is said in the joint statement that the political process should be done by the Syrian people and belong to the Syrian people, and the Syrian people should decide the future of their country.
Some colleagues leaving the conference were saying that – mentioning that there could be an impression among the observers and the journalists that we are trying to obscure some problem and some issues. That is not so. We are honestly talking to you about these disagreements. The principles that we have created here today in the joint statement lay the basis for serious work, which will be hard, I have no doubt; it will be not a fast process. But this work would make it possible to create trust, especially among the countries of the region. They have some serious issues, but today they sat down at the negotiating table and they held talks. With that kind of trust, we can make sure that Syrian people have the chance to decide their future.
We have tried to create a compromise, and there will be further discussions and consultations. I think the next talks are scheduled to be held no later than in two weeks’ time. …
MR DE MISTURA: Well, I have very little to add. You saw it, you have heard it. Would you have imagined a few weeks ago that we would have been able to have what Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been asking for months, that the Russia and United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and many other countries are involved in this conflict in one form or the other, sitting on the same table, and today having both of you sitting here, having come with a meeting of seven hours. No one left the room. No one disagreed fundamentally on the major issues. There is, obviously, areas which have been not covered by an agreement. But look at the outcome – proof. They are going to meet again in this type of contact group, which we can call a special contact group for the peace in Syria – again, within 14 days.
Think about the fact that they have come to quite a convergence on the issue of concrete deliveries. Look at the fact that there will be a push with their support – the UN cannot do it alone – with their support for actual ceasefires and humanitarian aid. The Syrian people need to hear that. They need to see that this is not another conference; this is serious. Seven hours of discussions, constructive discussion.
And then the issue about the political process. And look at the political process between all sides about an inclusive, all-inclusive Syrian governance leading to a new – I repeat, a new constitution, and leading to new elections under UN supervision according to the strictest international criteria, and agreement that at the end of the day, terrorism is the priority but can only be won and defeated if there is a parallel political process. And that’s what we’ll be talking about.
Of course, the work starts now. And it’s going to be a heavy work. But look how much has been already achieved and what type of message we are trying to say together to the international community, but also to the Syrian people: We are serious, they are serious, and everyone is serious about ending this conflict. …
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you all for coming here and seeing – and talking with us. Can you tell us, Secretary Kerry, how the decision to deploy the special forces bolsters this diplomacy, how you believe that additional special forces’ work out there will in fact encourage Mr. Assad to participate in either the ceasefire or the rewriting of the constitution and subsequent elections?
And Mr. Lavrov, could you tell us whether or not you believe that the President’s decision would accelerate what some have viewed as something of a proxy war in which the United States seems to be backing the rebels and in which Russia has said, as you said just a few moments ago, that you do not necessarily believe that Mr. Assad needs to go? And of course, we believe Russian forces have been attacking some of those rebel groups the U.S. has supported.
SECRETARY KERRY: David, it’s very simple. I think I just said it. First of all, there are too many people who have been made to believe that the choice they have for life in Syria is between Assad or terrorism. And it drives people to Assad, or it drives them out of the country. So to the degree that we can join together with everybody who is united in an effort to end this reign of tyranny that has attempted – it’s not a reign, but this tyranny that is perpetrated by Daesh – to whatever degree that is diminished and people see there is a better alternative, which is this political process, versus what they currently had – that’s a better choice, in our judgment. And we think that will help the process.
Secondly, to whatever degree we show our bona fides in putting our effort into counter Daesh, I think it earns credibility with all of the stakeholders that are involved in this. And that can help us to build the good faith necessary to have a solution.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I did not say that Assad has to go or that Assad has to stay. I said that Assad’s destiny should be decided by the Syrian people, as well as all other aspects of further development of the Syrian state.
As for certain concerns about the fact that Russian air forces are striking some groups supported by the U.S., terrorist and non-terrorist – from the very beginning, I would like to say and highlight here that we are conducting this operation under request of the Syrian Government. And we asked the U.S. to arrange our cooperation in that sphere. Right now we are at the point where our U.S. colleagues agreed only to create a mechanism of de-confliction, but we’re sure that more can be done and we can more effectively fight terrorism. And I believe – I hope that the agreement that we have today to create a list of terrorist organizations would also help that.
I have already talked about our evaluation of President Obama’s decision to unilaterally introduce some broad contingency, so to speak, to fight ISIS. I believe that neither the U.S. nor Russia want to go back to the so-called proxy war, but the fact that this situation makes the cooperation between the militaries ever more important is very apparent to me. We have a common enemy and we need to make sure that this enemy does not come to power in Syria or in any other country.
SECRETARY KERRY: I just – hello, I just want to add one thing quickly because I think it’s important to the fabric of this. We have succeeded in doing sort of a minimal and most important level of preventing conflict in the operations between our militaries, and Minister Lavrov is correct that there’s been a request to try to do more. And we clearly want to be responsible about the effort with respect to ISIL – Daesh – and so we discussed today how it might be possible to be able to do more. And one of those ingredients is this cooperation with respect to the political track, which can open up the horizon, perhaps.
But we have some ideas which we discussed today that I’m taking back to Washington. They would need the President’s approval, and so I will keep them to myself until I pass them on to the President. But I’m confident the President wants to make certain that we are maximizing our effort against the terrorists as well as maximizing our effort to bring peace through a political track.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) I would like to go back to the discussion of the contingency introduced to Syria. This information came just at the time when the Vienna reconciliation talks were taking place. Is this an attempt to influence the negotiations or the lack of concerted actions between the military and the political authorities in the U.S.? Or if you can give me any other reason, I would be happy to listen to that. Also, I would like to ask you about the timeline and conditions for the ceasefire in Syria.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, I was happily not listening because they were talking – (laughter). Can you give me the question, please?
INTERPRETER: I would like to go back to the introduction of the contingencies to Syria. The information about the --
SECRETARY KERRY: What would you mean by “contingencies”?
INTERPRETER: Contingents.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, the new people.
INTERPRETER: The special operations forces.
INTERPRETER: This information came just at the time when the Vienna talks were taking place. Is this an attempt to influence the negotiations, to show the power? Or this is the lack of concerted actions between the military and the political authorities in the U.S.? Or if there is any other reason, could you please explain it?
SECRETARY KERRY: None of the above.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: John, we did not plant this question. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: No. This has been a process that I’ve been engaged in – and all of us have on the President’s security team – for many months now. And it happens that it really coincided; it’s coincidence more than anything. The President has been determined to try to make certain that we were going to increase our efforts against Daesh because, to everybody’s obvious perception, more needs to be done.
We’re actually very proud of what we have done over the course of the year. We’ve had over 7,300 strikes in Iraq and in Syria. We believe that those strikes help to keep Daesh from moving further towards Baghdad and gaining more territory. Tikrit has been liberated; 100,000 Sunni have been able to return to their homes in Tikrit. Baiji has been liberated. Ramadi is currently a fight that is ongoing, but we’re going to be doing more to help there.
And in addition to that, Kobani, which many people gave up originally in the media, was saved. Other communities in Syria have been liberated. Eighty-five percent of the northern border of Syria has been liberated of Daesh. There’s still a component there where we intend to do some work together with the Turks in order to make sure Daesh is no longer present there.
So it’s been a serious effort. And we’ve said from the very beginning that if Russia is there, indeed, to fight against Daesh, there are ways for us to be able to be cooperative and find a way to do more. So it’s really a coincidence that it came out today. I had no idea as we were – we began the day, I had heard about it, but it wasn’t until this morning that I knew that the decision had been made.
QUESTION: The second part.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) So the second part of the question was about the timeline, the conditions of the ceasefire. It was discussed in the Joint Plan of Action and the decision was made to continue the discussions with our UN colleagues. There were no conditions to that, apart from the fact that no terrorist groups would be subject to the ceasefire.
MR DE MISTURA: The UN will do its work on that, of course, supported by the international players and partners, and we will be engaging both the Syrian authorities and the opposition in order to make sure that there are areas where we can do the ceasefires and humanitarian assistance. In any case, you will see that whenever there will be a message that there is a political process, the ceasefires will be, by far, easier to be achieved. That’s why the two things need to work in parallel.
SECRETARY KERRY: And the theory of the ceasefire is very simple: Certain parties control or influence people with guns and the ability to fight. And if we do reach an agreement with respect to some of the road forward, there would be a responsibility for those with influence and those with – those who have direct control over certain parties, they would control them. Obviously, with respect to Daesh and al-Nusrah, there is no ceasefire, there would be none, and those are the early parameters. But much more needs to be discussed between militaries, the politics. There’s work yet to be done, but there is a fundamental concept in mind that could bring even greater capacity to do the humanitarian aid to even restore people’s ability to come out of being a refugee back to a home. There are all kinds of possibilities, but they remain to be explored.
QUESTION: A question to Mr. de Mistura: When, how, and where do you want to bring representatives of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian authorities to the negotiating table?
And a question to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov: Today, you have negotiated about Syria without Syrians. Does the contact group has any intention to invite Syrian delegates to their sessions?
MR DE MISTURA: Let me start by addressing even the second question, because it was raised yesterday – why the Syrian representatives or the Syrian Government is not present yet. Well, I’ve been – as you know, that’s one of the privileges of the UN; we meet everyone. So I’ve been meeting a lot of Syrians, especially during July and during the so-called Geneva consultations – 230 different entities, groups, and the government. And they all told me the same thing: We are unable to come to any type of common conclusion unless the international community, the regional partners, players, and the broader international community and the P5 come to some common understanding. Then, we will have enough critical mass to actually come and meet.
Well, what happened today is in that direction; what will happen in 14 days will be in that direction. And I think that will help, especially if those who have an influence – and they were all around the table, believe me – those who have an influence on both the government and the opposition will tell them, time to sit now. That will be soon, I hope, especially if the message comes across from everyone who was attending this meeting today.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, just to say that the United Nations is the entity that is responsible for and that we have asked to invite the Syrians. The Syrian opposition wasn’t invited today, Assad wasn’t invited today. Because first, a lot of stakeholders who have had very strong positions had to come together and see if they could find a common ground that would make it possible for the United Nations to then engage. And we are both, all of us – I mean Minister Lavrov, myself, all of the ministers who are here today are supportive of trying to get the political process going, understanding that there are still some differences of opinion about how it works. But that’s our job, is to work at that.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I agree with John. Today, we wanted to reach an agreement on – at least on some aspects and to encourage further political process. Right now, we do not see a unified delegation from the opposition. This was discussed today, and Staffan de Mistura with his team will be doing work in that direction. We have thanked each other already for the great work, and in the end, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Austrian Government, to the hospitable city of Vienna, and to all Austrians for this great conference and their hospitability.
We will be back. (Laughter.) 
Tags: Syria

American Businessman Detained in Iran

Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi was reportedly arrested on or around October 15, according to Iranian and U.S. media reports. The Dubai-based consultant, who is in his early 40s, is at least the fourth Iranian-American to be detained by Iranian authorities in recent years. His arrest is the first since the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers was announced in July. Namazi, who was reportedly visiting relatives in Tehran, was detained just days after the conviction of jailed Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, another Iranian-American.
The State Department has not confirmed Namazi’s arrest. “We're aware of recent reports of the possible arrest in Iran of a U.S. citizen. We're looking into these reports and don't have anything further to provide at this time," Michael Tran, a State Department spokesman, said late Thursday, according to the Associated Press. The State Department’s travel warning for Iran, updated in August, warns that Iran’s “government does not recognize dual citizenship and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals.”

President Hassan Rouhani indicated that Tehran might free the Americans held in Iran if Washington releases Iranians held in the United States. "If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well," Rouhani told CNN on September 27, when he was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Iranian officials deny it would be swap, labeling the exchange a humanitarian gesture by both countries. “I don’t particularly like the word exchange, but from a humanitarian perspective, if we can take a step, we must do it,” Rouhani told CBS’s "60 Minutes."
On October 29, Secretary of State John Kerry raised the cases of detained and missing U.S. citizens in Iran during a bilateral with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The two were in Vienna to attend peace talks on Syria and were meeting to discuss implementation of the nuclear deal.  
In addition to Namazi, three other Iranian-Americans – Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini – are detained in Iran. A fifth American, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, has been missing since 2007, when he was last sighted on an Iranian island. The following is a rundown of the American prisoners, followed by quotes from U.S. officials on their release.
Siamak Namazi
Dubai-based businessman Siamak Namazi was reportedly arrested around October 15. The detainment of Crescent Petroleum’s head of strategic planning has not been officially confirmed, nor have any details regarding any charges brought against him. He was arrested just days before the October 18 Adoption Day of the Iran nuclear deal. 
Namazi is the son of a former governor of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in western Iran, according to The Washington Post. His family came to the United States in 1983 when he was a boy. He became a U.S. citizen in 1993. After graduating from college, Namazi returned to Iran for military service, which is compulsory there. From 1994 to 1996, he worked as a duty officer with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning in Tehran.
In 1998, Namazi founded Future Alliance International, a Washington D.C.-based consulting company focused on the risk of doing business in Iran. He came to see Iranian-Americans as a potential asset to his home country. “The new generation must be made to feel that no matter how much time elapses they will be welcomed and treated with respect in the land of their parents,” he wrote in 1998 for The Iranian. He suggested that Iran’s recognition of dual citizenship would be a good first step. “Iranian-Americans are a formidable force in helping mend the bridge between Iran and the United States,” he stated in a 1999 co-authored paper.
Namazi later worked as Managing Director at a family consulting founded in Tehran that later moved to Dubai, the Atieh Group. In 2005, he was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He also did a stint at the National Endowment for Democracy in 2006. He then worked for a few different energy consulting groups in Dubai. In 2013, Namazi warned that sanctions unintentionally created shortages of life-saving medical supplies and drugs in Iran. He was General Manager of Access Consulting Group, a Dubai-based consultancy focused on energy, before moving on to his most recent position at Crescent Petroleum. Namazi holds degrees from the London Business School and from Rutgers and Tufts Universities.  
Jason Rezaian
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was detained on July 22, 2014. On October 7, he reached 444 days in detention – the same amount of time U.S. hostages were held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran from 1979 to 1981. Charges against him include espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” and “propaganda against the establishment.” The indictment specifically cited writing to President Obama. According to Iranian press reports, Rezaian allegedly applied for a job with the administration. He reportedly wrote to Obama, “In Iran, I’m in contact with simple laborers to influential mullahs.”
On May 26, 2014, Rezaian went on trial in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles national security cases. He denied the charges against him “I carried out all my activities legally and as a journalist,” he said. In a press conference on October 11, Judiciary spokesman Mohseni Ejei confirmed that Rezaian had been found guilty but did not provide details on his sentence or the spefic charges on which he was convicted. Rezaian’s family and colleagues strongly condemned the conviction. The Post's Executive Editor Martin Baron said that “Any fair and just review would quickly overturn this unfounded verdict.” Rezaian has 20 days to appeal the conviction.
Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. His father moved to the United States from Iran in 1959, and his mother was from Chicago. Jason was born in California in 1976. He moved to Iran to work as a journalist in 2008, and became The Post’s Tehran correspondent in 2012. Rezaian’s Iranian wife, Yaganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, was also detained in 2014. She was released 10 weeks later, but the case has not formally been dismissed.
The following website and social media accounts are dedicated to Rezaian’s release.
Twitter account: @FreeJasonYegi
Amir Hekmati
Amir Hekmati was arrested in August 2011 while visiting his grandmother in Iran. He was charged with espionage, waging war against God, and corrupting the earth. In January 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to death. He was the first American to receive the death sentence in Iran since the revolution. But in March 2012, a retrial overturned the espionage conviction and instead charged him with “cooperating with hostile governments.” He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  
Hekmati is a former U.S. Marine and a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. His parents were born in Iran. Hekmati was born in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1983 and grew up in Nebraska and Michigan. He served in the Marines from 2001 to 2005, including a six-month deployment to Iraq. He later worked as a government contractor doing linguistic and translation work.
The following website and social media accounts are dedicated to Hekmati’s release.
Saeed Abedini
Rev. Saeed Abedini was detained on Dec. 20, 2012 for “undermining national security.” He had been in Iran to visit family and construct orphanages in partnership with Iranian Christians. His closed trial was held on Jan. 22, 2013. He was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Abedini was born in Iran in 1980 and later converted to Christianity. In 2002, he met his future wife Naghmeh, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent who was visiting Iran. The couple played a prominent role in establishing 100 underground churches in Iran for 2,000 Christian converts. Iranian Muslims who convert to Christianity are not allowed to worship in established churches, although Christianity is legal in Iran and the constitution stipulates proportionate representation in parliament for various Christian minorities. Under pressure from the regime, the couple moved to the United States in 2005.
Abedini was ordained as a minister in 2008. During a trip to Iran in 2009, authorities reportedly threatened him with death for his conversion to Christianity and told him he could only return to Iran if he ceased his underground church activities. He became a American citizen in 2010. His family in Tehran has periodically been allowed to visit him in prison, but he has not been permitted to contact his wife and two children in the United States.
The following websites and social media accounts are dedicated to Abedini’s release.
Twitter: @SaveSaeed

Robert Levinson
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing on March 9, 2007, during a visit to Kish Island. Initial reports indicated that he was researching a cigarette smuggling case as a private investigator. "He's a private citizen involved in private business in Iran," the State Department said in 2007. In 2013, the Associated Press reported that he had been working on a private contract for U.S. intelligence.
Iran has denied knowing his status or location. In December 2011, Levinson’s family released statement he had taped a year earlier. In January 2013, his family released recent photos of him, and they acknowledged in late 2013 that his visit to Kish Island was partly related to his contract work for the CIA.
Levinson is an American citizen who was born in Flushing, New York in 1948. He served in the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for 28 years, where he focused on investigating organized crime in Russia. He retired from the FBI in 1998 and began working as a private investigator. He has seven children.
Statements from U.S. officials
President Barack Obama
On March 20, 2015, President Barack Obama issued the following statement on U.S. citizens detained or missing in Iran for the occasion of Nowruz, Persian New Year.
The spirit of family is deeply woven into all of the rich cultural traditions of the Nowruz holiday.  It is a time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year.  Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran.
Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs.  He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.
Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over three and a half years.  His family, including his father who is gravely ill, has borne the pain of Amir's absence for far too long.
Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California, an Iranian government credentialed reporter for the Washington Post, has been unjustly held in Iran for nearly eight months on vague charges.  It is especially painful that on a holiday centered on ridding one’s self of the difficulties of the past year, Jason’s mother and family will continue to carry the heavy burden of concern regarding Jason’s health and well-being into the new year.
And finally, we recently marked yet another anniversary since Robert Levinson went missing on Kish Island.   His family has now endured the hardship of his disappearance for over eight years.
At this time of renewal, compassion, and understanding, I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home and call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian and to work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson so that they all can be safely reunited with their families as soon as possible.  
In honor of the familial spirit so strongly enshrined within this holiday and for the Abedini, Hekmati, Rezaian, and Levinson families, I hope this new spring is filled with joyous moments for us all with all of our loved ones by our sides.

Secretary of State John Kerry
On August 28, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement marking the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention in Iran. 
This Saturday marks the four-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention on false espionage charges while visiting his relatives in Iran.
We repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Amir on humanitarian grounds. The Hekmati family needs Amir - their brother, their son, their uncle - to be home where he belongs. 
This is a milestone no family wants to mark, and the Hekmati family has shown inspiring perseverance in the face of this injustice. And as befits a former Marine, Amir has shown tremendous courage in the face of this unjust detention.    
As President Obama said recently in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we are not going to relent until we bring Amir home. I join the President in his steadfast commitment to reunite Amir with his family.   
We also call on the government ‎of Iran to release Saeed Abedini and Jason Rezaian, and to work cooperatively with us to locate Robert Levinson, so that all can be returned to their families.
On August 29, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry called on Tehran to release three U.S. citizens detained in Iran and one that went missing on Iranian soil.
The Unites States respectfully calls on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian to their families and work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson and bring him home.
Today marks the three-year anniversary of U.S. citizen Amir Hekmati’s detention on false espionage charges while visiting his family in Iran.  Mr. Hekmati is the eldest son; he has long been separated from his family and they need him home.
Mr. Levinson went missing in March 2007 on Kish Island.  His family has endured years of painful separation and worry.  We are immensely concerned about his well-being and whereabouts.
On September 26, Mr. Abedini will have been detained for two years in Iran, on charges related to his religious beliefs.  Mrs. Abedini has spoken eloquently about the difficulties her family has faced during this challenging time.
Mr. Rezaian, a reporter for the Washington Post, is being detained in an unknown location.  His love of Iran is seen in his reporting – portraits of the generosity and kindness of the Iranian people.
The United States remains committed to returning all of them to their families, friends, and loved ones.  We ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian and respectfully request the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran work cooperatively with us to find Mr. Levinson and bring him home.
On May 11, 2015, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran to immediately release the detained and missing Americans. Concurrent Resolution 16 passed 90-0. On June 15, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar resolution, introduced by Dan Kildee (D-MI), who represents the Hekmati family in Congress.
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring),
(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Saeed Abedini of Idaho is a Christian pastor unjustly detained in Iran since 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs.
(2) Amir Hekmati of Michigan is a former United States Marine unjustly detained in 2011 while visiting his Iranian relatives and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
(3) Jason Rezaian of California is a Washington Post journalist credentialed by the Government of Iran. He was unjustly detained in 2014 and has been held without a trial.
(4) Robert Levinson of Florida is a former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) official who disappeared in 2007 in Iran. He is the longest held United States citizen in United States history.
(b) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that--
(1) the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran should immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the United States Government to locate and return Robert Levinson; and
(2) the United States Government should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their immediate release.
Deputy State Department Spokesman Jeff Rathke
“We’re aware of reports that U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian’s trial has begun in Iran. We continue to monitor this as closely as possible, and we continue to call for all of the absurd charges to be dropped and for Jason Rezaian to be released immediately.”
“You asked about the closed nature of the trial….It certainly adds to our concerns and it fits, unfortunately, into a pattern of a complete lack of transparency and the lack of due process that we’ve seen since Jason Rezaian was first detained. So while we call for his trial to be open, we also maintain that he should never have been detained or put on trial in the first place.
Now, you asked about contacts as well. We always raise the cases of detained and missing U.S. citizens with Iranian officials on the sidelines of the P5+1 talks and the other interactions that happen in that context, and we will continue to do that until all of them are home.”
“We call on the Iranian authorities to release Jason Rezaian immediately. This is independent of the nuclear negotiations. We also call for the release of Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, as well as for Iran to cooperate in locating Robert Levinson, so that they can all be returned to their families.”
“The charges against Jason Rezaian are absurd. They should be dropped; he should be released.”
—May 26, 2015, according to the press

Statement by Congressman Dan Kildee on Veterans Day, Amir Hekmati Continued Imprisonment in Iran
“Today we thank and honor those who have worn the uniform to protect and defend the United States. I hope that today we also do not forget one veteran in particular, Amir Hekmati, who continues to be unjustly held in Iran for his service to our country.
“For Amir, Veterans Day is once again marked behind bars of a prison cell on the other side of the world. He has been separated from his family for over four years and has had to endure unimaginable conditions. Yet despite being the longest held political prisoner in Iran, Amir continues to show incredible resolve in the face of prolonged injustice. He is innocent and has suffered enough. It is time for him to come home to Michigan.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Amir Hekmati and his service to our country.
“If Iran wants to taken seriously in the global community, it cannot hold political prisoners like Amir Hekmati. Congress and the world are watching Iran’s actions. It must release Amir and the other innocent Americans it is holding.”
Nov. 10, 2015 in a statement
Photo credits: Hassan Rouhani by Robin Wright, Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson via Facebook


UN Human Rights Report: Execution Rate Up

Iran’s human rights situation remains “deeply concerning, and in some cases, quite alarming,” according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on Iran. In his annual report, Shaheed noted that Iran executed at least 694 people between January 1 and September 15, 2015, likely putting the execution rate for the first half of this year at its highest in some 25 years. Iran reportedly executes more individuals per capita than any other country in the world.
The right of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly was also violated in many instances. At least 46 journalists and social media activists were arrested for peaceful activities as of April 2015. A small number have since been released. Shaheed said that the imprisonment of Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist, “is illegal under international law and Iran’s own laws.” The rights of women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities and others were also violated. And access to information was curtailed.
Shaheed, however, said his latest report is “marginally more optimistic than my previous reports.” In remarks to the press, he also cited more “meaningful” engagement between Iran and the United Nations on human rights. “Given the close interrelationship between peace, development and human rights, the agreement and subsequent lifting of economic sanctions can potentially have a beneficial multiplier effect on the human rights situation in the country, especially on the enjoyment of economic and social rights,” he wrote.
But Tehran dismissed the report’s findings. “Ahmed Shaheed’s reports are collection of baseless accusations, which have been gathered from a group of terrorism-related references,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, on October 28.
The following are excerpts from Shaheed's statement and the U.N. report. 

"On the ground, we see signals of the Rouhani administration’s ambitions to advance gender equality and to improve certain rights for ethnic minorities. But these efforts have not yet translated into the changes necessary to assuage the concern communicated by this body and the Human Rights Council since 2011.
Indeed, the right to life, perhaps the most fundamental human right, is under unprecedented assault in Iran today. Of particular alarm is the surge in executions this past year, despite repeated calls on the Government by the United Nations and the international community to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and re-examine its use.
Iran continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014 at a shocking 753 executions. This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year. Human rights organizations report that well over 800 executions have taken place this year, putting Iran on track to exceed 1,000 executions by the end of the year. The majority of these executions are for non-violent drug crimes which clearly do not constitute “most serious crimes” under international law and are, there-fore, not capital offenses. The international community also bore witness to two juvenile executions this month, and there are dozens more awaiting a similar fate on death row, notwithstanding the prohibition on the execution of child offenders under international law.
The troubling state of human rights in Iran today is due, in large part, to a deeply flawed justice system that systematically obstructs the rights of defendants to fair trials and is in serious need of reform. I continue to receive frequent and alarming reports about the use of prolonged solitary and incommunicado confinement, torture and ill-treatment, lack of access to lawyers, and the use of confessions solicited un-der torture as evidence in trials." 
From the Report
The Special Rapporteur re-examined the 291 recommendations offered by Member States to the Islamic Republic of Iran during the second cycle of its universal periodic review in October 2014, along with the 130 recommendations accepted by the Government at the outcome of that review in March 2015 (see table). Individual recommendations frequently touched on multiple civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights, and either encouraged the Government to strengthen protections for these rights and/or to cease practices that violate them. The issue of women’s full and equal enjoyment of these rights was raised in 57 recommendations forwarded by delegations from five regional groups and constituted the most frequently raised issue of concern during the review.
Overview of issues raised and recommendations, by human rights issue
Number of times issues were raised in 291 recommendations
Percentage of
issues raised in
291 recommendations
Number of
Percentage of
Civil and political rights
Women/gender equality (including to ratify CEDAW)
Social, cultural and economic rights
Promote human rights nationally
Ratify conventions (not including
Religious minorities
Rights of the child
Rights of the disabled
Ethnic minority rights
Rights of the elderly
Civil and political rights
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues, however, to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions. This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year. At least 694 individuals were reportedly executed by hanging as at 15 September 2015, including at least 10 women and one juvenile. At least 33 executions reportedly took place in public. 5 As shown in figure II, at least 694 executions took place from 1 January to 15 September 2015, likely putting the execution rate during the first half of 2015 at its highest in some 25 years.
Right of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly
Several laws and practices continue to undermine the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Individuals continue to relay reports detailing arbitrary detention for the legitimate exercise for these rights. At least 46 journalists and social media activists were reportedly either in detention or sentenced for their peaceful activities as at April 2015. A small number of these journalists have since been released.
Journalists, writers, social media activists and human rights defenders continued to be interrogated and arrested by government agencies — including by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and cyber-policing units — during the first half of 2015. The judiciary also reportedly continues to impose heavy prison sentences on individuals that peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression for crimes such as “propaganda against the State”, “insulting” political or religious figures, and harming “national security”.
Women’s Rights
The Islamic Republic of Iran fully or partially accepted 37 of the 57 recommendations related to women’s rights at the outcome of its 2014 universal periodic review. The recommendations that urged the Government to reconsider the provisions in the Islamic Penal Code that discriminate against women, and to criminalize domestic violence, including marital rape, were rejected.
Gender-based discrimination in matters of civil, political, social and economic rights continue to overshadow the remarkable advances the Islamic Republic of Iran has achieved in women’s education and health. The country also remains in the bottom fifth percentile of 142 countries in overall equality for women.
Ethnic minorities
In its review of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2013 (E/C.12/IRN/CO/2), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about severe restrictions on education in the mother tongue languages of ethnic minorities. The Committee also expressed concern that ethnic minorities “do not fully enjoy their right to take part in cultural life, including as a consequence of closures of publications and newspapers in minority languages” (ibid., para. 30). In its comments on the present report, the Government maintained “there are no restrictions or obstacles” allowing ethnic minorities to teach in their mother language.
In March 2015, more than 1,800 ethnic Azerbaijani students reportedly signed a petition calling upon President Rouhani to enforce constitutional articles that promulgate guarantees against discrimination. Security officers allegedly arrested Atabak Sepehri, a member of the campaign, for collecting the signatures, and university officials reportedly confiscated the petitions. The signatories of the letter called for cooperation among various branches of government and relevant organizations to develop initiatives for the realization of ethnic rights. In its comments on the present report, the Government maintained that the authorities had arrested Mr. Sepehri because he “committed propaganda to incite extremist hatred”, but that he was later released and the charges were dropped.
Religious Minorities
The Iranian Constitution officially recognizes Islamic schools of jurisprudence other than Shi’ism, and recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity as minority religions. Under the law, adherents of these religions are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, to conduct personal affairs and address religious education, in accordance with the tenets of their faith. However, reports indicate that members of these faiths, including Christian minorities from Muslim backgrounds in particular, continue to face severe restrictions. Adherents of unrecognized religions, such as the Baha’i faith, face severe restrictions and discrimination and are reportedly prosecuted for peacefully manifesting their religious beliefs.
Click here for the full report. 

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