United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran's Dinner Diplomacy

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

           Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, did not shake hands with Barack Obama at the United Nations this week, a year after their celebrated cell-phone chat. The two men didn’t even pass each other in the hallway. But Rouhani did give a quiet dinner at his hotel on Tuesday for twenty former American officials—including a secretary of state, three national-security advisers, and a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—from all six Administrations since the 1979 revolution.

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Journalists Criticize Rouhani in Letter

            In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, 135 journalists held his administration accountable for not fulfilling his campaign promise to create a more secure working environment for the media. The signers wrote that “it is unethical, unprofessional and insulting to deny the fact that, today, many journalists remain in prison in Iran for doing their jobs.”
            The group wrote the letter in reaction to Rouhani’s response to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who inquired about the detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian in a recent interview. “I do not believe that an individual would be detained or put in prison for being a journalist,” the president told Amanpour. Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and his Iranian wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, were detained in late July. Salehi was released on bail during the first week of October but Rezaian remains in prison. The following is a translation of the letter by Iran Wire’s Maziar Bahari.

 
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran
 
Your Excellency, When you came to power in June 2013, you promised that you would create a more secure working environment for journalists and the media in our country.
 
Once again, in February 2014, you reminded the citizens of Iran of your election promises, stating that journalists should be entitled to greater security while doing their jobs. You said that shutting down a newspaper is not the right way to warn those who may have infringed on the law. 
 
We, the undersigned, expected you to take serious and practical measures to fulfill your promises.
 
Yet more than a year after resuming office, the demands and expectations of journalists have not been realized. In fact, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, you denied that there was anyone in jail in Iran for their work as a journalist.
 
You were once critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration and its habit of concealing and denying the truth. Your recent denial that a problem even exists echoes this sentiment, and remind us of its impact.
 
We, the undersigned journalists, believe that it is unethical, unprofessional and insulting to deny the fact that, today, many journalists remain in prison in Iran for doing their jobs. In fact, a number of journalists have been imprisoned during your presidency.
 
In our country, security agents regularly imprison journalists, denying them their basic rights simply for carrying out their duty: to inform the public. As the head of the executive branch, and as the second highest official of the land, whose responsibility includes supervising the execution of the constitution by different branches of the government, it is your duty to improve the situation of Iranian journalists.
 
At the very least, we expect you to correct your false statement concerning imprisoned journalists in Iran. But we hope for more, and we ask you to fulfill your promises to create a more secure environment for journalists in our country.
 
Signatories:
- Aida Ghajar
-  Ahmad Rafat
- Alieh Motalebzadeh
- Ali Asghar Ramezanpour
- Ali Shirazi
- Ali Mazrouei
- Alireza Latifian
- Amirhossein Mossala
- Arash Bahmani
- Arash Ashourinia
- Arash Azizi
- Behdad Bordbar
- Behrouz Samadbeygi
- Bijan Farhoudi
- Darioush Memar
- Delbar Tavakoli
- Ehsan Mehrabi
- Elnaz Mohammadi
- Ershad Alijani
- Fatemeh Jamalpour
- Farshad Ghorbanpour
- Fereshte Ghazi
- Farshid Faryabi
- Farahmand Alipour
- Fariborz Soroush
- Farid Haeinejad
- Farideh Ghaeb
- Firouzeh Ramezanzadeh
- Hamid Eslami
- Hamidreza Ebrahimzadeh
- Hanif Mazrouei
- Homayoun Kheiri
- Hossein Alavi
- Javad Heidarian
- Isa Saharkhiz
- Kamyar Behrang
- Kaveh Ghoreishi
- Khatereh Vatankhah
- Ladan Salami
- Lida Ayaz
- Lida Hosseininejad
- Leila Sa'adati
- Leili Nikounazar
- Maziar Bahari
- Maziar Khosravi
- Mana Neyestani
- Mani Tehrani
- Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpour
- Mojtaba Najafi
- Majid Saeedi
- Mohammad Aghazadeh
- Mohammad Tangestani
- Mohammad Hossein Nejati
- Mohammad Rahbar
- Mohammad Ghadamali
- Mohammad Kassaeizadeh
- Mohammadreza Nassababdollahi
- Mahmoud Farjami
- Morteza Kazemian
- Marjan Tabatabaei
- Maryam Amiri
- Maryam Jafari
- Maryam Shahsamandi
- Maryam Majd
- Mazdak Alinazari
- Masoud Behnoud
- Masoud Safiri
- Masoud Kazemi
- Masoud Lavasani
- Mostafa Khalaji
- Maliheh Mohammadi
- Mansoureh Farahani
- Mahdi Tajik
- Mehdi Jami
- Mehdi Ghadimi
- Mehdi Mahmoudian
- Mehdi Vazirbani
- Mehdi Mohseni
- Mehran Faraji
- Mehraveh Kharazmi
- Mehrad Abolghassemi
- Mehrdad Hojati
- Mehrdad Mashayekhi
- Mitra Khalatbari
- Meisam Youssefi
- Milad Beheshti
- Minou Momeni
- Nazanin Kazemi
- Nazanin Matin'nia
- Nasrin Zahiri
- Naeimeh Doustdar
- Negin Behkam
- Noushabeh Amiri
- Noushin Pirouz
- Nikahang Kowsar
- Nima Dehghani
- Niousha Saremi
- Omid Montazeri
- Parvaneh Vahidmanesh
- Panah Farhadbahman
- Pourya Souri
- Reza Ansarirad
- Reza Haghighatnejad
- Reza Rafiei
- Reza Shokrollahi
- Rouzbeh Mirebrahimi
- Roya Maleki
- Reihaneh Mazaheri
- Sara Damavandan
- Saghi Laghaei
- Sam Mahmoudi Sarabi
- Sanaz Ghazizadeh
- Sepideh Behkam
- Sahar Bayati
- Soroush Farhadian
- Saeid Shams
- Saeideh Amin
- Soulmaz Eikder
- Siamak Ghaderi
- Seyyed Mojtaba Vahedi
- Sina Shahbaba
- Shabnam Shabani
- Shahram Rafizadeh
- Shahrzad Hemati
- Shohreh Asemi
- Shirzad Abdollahi
- Shirin Famili
- Shima Shahrabi
- Saba Sherdoust
- Sadra Mohaghegh
- Tahereh Rahimi
- Tara Bonyad
- Taraneh Baniyaghoub
- Touka Neyestani
- Youssef Azizi Banitorof
 
Click here for the letter in Farsi. 
 

Carter on Hostage Crisis 34 Years Later

            On October 1, former President Jimmy Carter told NBC that he could have been re-elected if he had taken military action against Iran or been able to rescue the American hostages in 1980. "I think I made the right decision in retrospect [to not attack Iran], but it was not easy at the time," he said.
           
In October 1979, Carter reluctantly allowed Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, then ill with lymphoma, to seek medical treatment in the United States. Mobs of students angry with Washington took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran November 4 and took the 52 American occupants hostage.
          
On the night of April 24-25, the United States mounted a complex rescue mission that ended in failure. A massive dust cloud caused mechanical problems in the helicopters involved and the mission was aborted. But on the way back, one helicopter clipped the wing of a transport aircraft and the both aircraft burst into flames, killing eight servicemen. Carter announced the failure in the morning on the radio, which was a blow to his administration.
           
The hostages were only freed 444 days after the embassy takeover, just as Ronald Reagan was sworn into office in January 1981. The revolutionary regime did not want to return the American hostages to the same president who gave sanctuary to the shah.
           
The following are excerpts from Carter’s recent interview with CNBC on the hostage crisis.

 
            I think I would have been re-elected easily if I had been able to rescue our hostages from the Iranians. And everybody asks me what would do more, I would say I would send one more helicopter because if I had one more helicopter we could have brought out not only the 52 hostages, but also brought out the rescue team, and when that failed, then I think that was the main factor that brought about my failure to be re-elected. So that's one thing I would change.
 
            Um, well I could've been re-elected if I'd taken military action against Iran, shown that I was strong and resolute and, um, manly and so forth. But, er, I think if I, I could have wiped Iran off the map with the weapons that we had, but in the process a lot of innocent people would have been killed, probably including the hostages and so I stood up against all that, er, all that advice, and then eventually my prayers were answered and every hostage came home safe and free. And so I think I made the right decision in retrospect, but it was not easy at the time (laughs).
 

Congress Warns Kerry on Nuclear Program

            On October 1, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, along with 352 other House Members—including Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer—sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing serious concerns about Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The following is the full text of the letter.

 
Dear Mr. Secretary:
 
As the United States prepares for the resumption of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran to achieve a comprehensive nuclear agreement, we remain deeply concerned with Iran’s refusal to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  As you know, the IAEA has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, in particular information about Iran’s extensive research and development of a nuclear explosive device. 
 
For several years, the IAEA has attempted to work with Iran to resolve this central issue, but Tehran has refused.  Last November, the IAEA and Iran concluded a “Framework for Cooperation” in which Iran agreed to work with the IAEA, including by providing satisfactory information in response to IAEA inquiries within mutually agreed deadlines.  Nevertheless, in its September 5, 2014 report, the IAEA stated that Iran had failed to meet its latest deadline, even as it continued to demolish structures and construct others at the Parchin military base, where clandestine nuclear-related activities have reportedly taken place.
 
We believe that Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement.  As you wrote in the Washington Post earlier this summer, if Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, “it’s not a hard proposition to prove.” The only reasonable conclusion for its stonewalling of international investigators is that Tehran does indeed have much to hide.
 
We are concerned that an agreement that accepts Iran’s lack of transparency on this key issue would set the dangerous precedent that certain facilities and aspects of Iran’s nuclear program can be declared off limits by Tehran, resulting in additional wide-ranging restrictions on IAEA inspectors, and making effective verification virtually impossible.
 
A resolution of this issue is also essential to establishing a baseline regarding the status of the Iranian nuclear program.  Accurate predictions of the period of time needed by Iran to assemble a weapon and assessments of Iran’s compliance cannot be made without highly reliable information obtained from an unrestricted inspection and verification regime.  Such a baseline is also critical to developing more precise estimates on the time it would take Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability without detection. 
 
We would like to achieve a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.  As negotiations resume, we urge you to carefully monitor Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s inquiry.  As you have written, there is a “discrepancy…between Iran’s professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date.”  We agree with your assessment that “these issues cannot be dismissed; they must be addressed by the Iranians if a comprehensive solution is to be reached.”  An agreement that effectively prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability demands transparency on the extensive research and development work that Iran has undertaken in the past.
 
 
Click here for a signed copy of the letter.  
 
Tags: Congress

Khamenei's Tweets on Ferguson

            Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned the treatment of African Americans by police offers in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teen was fatally shot by a white officer in August. More than a dozen postings, including two YouTube clips, on Khamenei’s official social media accounts have decried slavery and historic discrimination against African Americans in the United States. Some of the remarks have compared the violent clashes between protestors and police to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The following are tweets from the supreme leader’s English-language account.

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