United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Kerry Calls on Iran to Release Jason Rezaian

             On December 7, Secretary of State John Kerry called for the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who has been detained in Iran since late July. Earlier in the day, Rezaian was formally charged in a 10-hour court session but was not told what he was being charged with. Rezaian’s Iranian wife, Yaganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, was initially detained as well but was released in October. Rezaian is reportedly under physical and psychological stress from some 137 days in solitary confinement.
Rezaian’s family also released a statement in reaction to the unknown charges, calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to order the “immediate and unconditional release” of Jason. “In its ongoing disregard of Iran’s own laws, the Iranian judiciary has continued to deny Jason access to legal representation, denied his request for bail, and prevented access to review of his case file,” the statement read.
            Rezaian’s detention has sparked an international outcry from governments, human rights groups and others. In October, 135 Iranian journalists sent an open letter to Rouhani holding him accountable for not creating a more secure working environment for the media. The following is Kerry’s full statement on Rezaian, in which he also called on Tehran to release two other U.S. citizens and help find one that went missing on Iranian soil. 

Charges in Iran Against U.S. Citizen Jason Rezaian
            The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by reports that the Iranian judiciary has charged Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian with unspecified charges, and that the judge denied his request to be released on bail.  We are also distressed by reports that Jason was not allowed access to an attorney, which is a clear violation of Iran’s own laws and international norms.  I am personally dismayed and disturbed at these reports as I have repeatedly raised Jason's case, and the other cases of detained or missing U.S. citizens, directly with Iranian officials.

            We share the concerns of Mr. Rezaian’s family regarding reports that he is under physical and psychological distress, and is not receiving proper medical care.  The Iranian government continues to deny our repeated requests for Consular Access to Jason by our Protecting Power, the Swiss, so we are unable to check on his condition or ensure adequate legal representation. 

            Jason poses no threat to the Iranian government or to Iran’s national security.  We call on the Iranian government to drop any and all charges against Jason and release him immediately so that he can be reunited with his family. 

            Likewise, we again call for the release of U.S. citizens Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini, and ask for the Iranian government's cooperation in locating Robert Levinson, so that all may be returned to their families.

Khamenei: ISIS Product of Western Schemes

             In a recent address to Muslim scholars, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that The Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS or ISIL, is the product of the U.S., U.K. and Israeli intelligence services. ISIS is the latest takfiri (referring to Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy) movement, not unlike others that have risen up in previous centuries, according to Khamenei. He argued that ISIS is only Islamic on the surface, and that its operations actually align with U.S., European and Israeli goals in the region. Khamenei also warned that sectarian conflicts are mistakenly distracting Muslims from the fight for Palestine and damaging the reputation of Islam worldwide.
            The following are video clips and excerpts of his address to the World Congress on Extremist and Takfiri Movements, which gathered more than 600 Muslim scholars from some 80 countries held in Tehran in late November.

             First, the purpose of this congress is attending to the issue of takfirism which is a harmful and dangerous orientation in the world of Islam. Although this takfiri orientation is not new and although it has a historical background, it is a few years now that it has been revived and strengthened with the plots of arrogance, with the money of some regional governments and with the schemes of the intelligence services of colonialist countries such as America, England and the Zionist regime.

             The purpose of your meeting, your congress and your movement is to confront this orientation in a comprehensive way. The purpose is not to confront what is known today as ISIS. The orientation which is known as ISIS today is only one of the branches of the malevolent tree of takfirism, not the whole of it. The corruption - this act of destroying people and shedding the blood of innocent individuals - that this group of people is involved in is only part of the crimes of takfirism in the world of Islam. We should adopt this outlook towards the issue.

             I am sorry from the bottom of my heart that today, we have to focus our attention on the problems that arrogance has created in the world of Islam. This is while we should focus all our energy on confronting the plots of the Zionist regime and the move that they made against Holy Quds and al-Aqsa Mosque. This should move and stimulate the entire world of Islam. However, there is no other option. In fact, attending to the issue of takfirism is something that has been imposed on the ulama, activists and scholars of the world of Islam. The enemy has brought this to the world of Islam as a custom-made product and problem. Therefore, we have to attend to it. However, the main issue is the issue of the Zionist regime. The main issue is the issue of Quds. The main issue is the issue of the first qiblah for Muslims which is al-Aqsa Mosque. These are the main issues.

            There is an undeniable point which is the fact that the takfiri orientation and the governments which support and advocate it move completely in the direction of the goals of arrogance and Zionism. Their work is in line with the goals of America, the colonialist governments in Europe and the government of the usurping Zionist regime.

             Certain signs confirm this claim. The takfiri orientation is Islamic on the face of it, but in practice, it is at the service of the great colonialist, arrogant and political orientations that are working against the world of Islam. There are clear signs which cannot be ignored. I would like to mention a few of these signs: one is that the takfiri orientation managed to make the movement of Islamic Awakening deviate from its path. The movement of Islamic Awakening was an anti-American and anti-arrogance movement which was against the elements that America had installed in the region.

             Another sign is that those who support the takfiri orientation compromise with the Zionist regime so that it fights against Muslims. They do not even frown at the Zionist regime, but they deliver all sorts of blows to Islamic countries and nations and they hatch all sorts of plots against them.

             Another sign is that the seditious movement which the takfiri orientation launched in Islamic countries - including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and other countries - has led to the destruction of the valuable infrastructures of these countries. Notice how many roads, refineries, mines, airports, streets, cities and houses have been destroyed in these countries. Notice how long it takes and how much money is necessary for these countries to go back to their prior conditions. This has happened as a result of domestic wars and fratricide. These are the losses and the blows that the takfiri orientation has delivered to the world of Islam since a few years ago until today.

             Another sign is that the takfiri orientation damaged the reputation of Islam in the world and it painted an ugly picture of it. Everyone in the world saw on TV that someone is made to sit on the ground and they behead them with a sword without charging him with any crime: "Allah forbids you not - with regard to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes - from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. Allah only forbids you - with regard to those who fight you for your faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support others in driving you out - from turning to them for friendship and protection. And whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust" [The Holy Quran, 60: 8-9].

             These people did the exact opposite of this. They killed Muslims and innocent non-Muslims and the pictures were broadcast all over the world. The whole world saw this. These acts were done in the name of Islam. 


Report: Little Progress on Internet Freedom

             On December 4, Freedom House released its fifth annual "Freedom on the Net" report, a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 65 countries. The following are key developments surrounding Iran's internet freedom between May 2013 and May 2014.

            Iran ranked 156 out of 192 countries for internet speed and has the lowest average peak connection speed in the world. The new government promised to increase the average speed two-fold by the next year, and eight-fold by the end of President Rouhani’s first term.

            Although the new administration has embraced social media, major platforms like Twitter and Facebook remain blocked and inaccessible to Iranian citizens.
            While the election of Rouhani has resulted in enthusiasm, including a mild decrease in self-censorship online, significant constraints on speech and access to information remain present. Censorship was particularly heavy in the lead-up to the June 2013 presidential election, and Sunni-linked sites have come under target as regional sectarian tensions continue to enflame.
            Six Iranians were arrested for producing and appearing in a YouTube video entitled “Happy in Tehran,” featuring men and women dancing together, without headscarves, in a similar fashion to hundreds of homemade videos from around the world that mimic the “Happy” music video by popular American musician Pharrell Williams.
            Although there were no documented cases of deaths this year, Iranians continue to be receive lengthy prison terms for their online activities. Tech bloggers in Kerman, contributors to a Sufi website, and Facebook page administrators were jailed for up to 20 years.

Click here for the full report

US, UN Condemn Attack on Iranian Ambassador in Yemen

             On December 3, a car bomb exploded near the home of Iran’s ambassador to Yemen in the capital Sanaa. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack, which reportedly killed a Yemeni civilian and two soldiers and wounded 17 others. Iran’s ambassador, Hassan Sayed Nam, was not at in the house when the attack occurred. In Yemen, Iran is widely seen as the main backer of the Houthi movement, which took over took over Sanaa in September. Al Qaeda was also responsible for a suicide attack on a Houthi checkpoint on October 9, which killed 47.
            The following are statements by the
U.S. State Department and the U.N. Security Council condemning the most recent attack.
December 3, 2014
Bombing at the Iranian Ambassador’s Residence in Sanaa
            The United States condemns the bombing at the Iranian Ambassador’s residence in Sanaa earlier this morning and expresses its condolences to the families of the victims.
            Attacks on diplomatic facilities and against diplomats contravene all international norms and can never be justified or excused.  We urge the Yemeni authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

           On December 4, the following U.N. Security Council press statement was issued by Council President Mahamat Zene Cherif from Chad.
            The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the 3 December bomb attack at the residence of the Iranian Ambassador to Yemen, which caused a number of deaths and casualties.
            The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured by these heinous acts.
            The members of the Security Council condemned all acts of violence against diplomatic premises, which endanger innocent lives and seriously impede the normal work of diplomatic representatives and officials.
            The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever committed.
            The members of the Security Council reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.
            The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Yemeni authorities in this regard.
            The members of the Security Council reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
            The members of the Security Council recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises, and the obligations on host Governments, including under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to take all appropriate steps to protect diplomatic and consular premises against any intrusion or damage, and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of these missions or impairment of their dignity, and to prevent any attack on diplomatic agents and consular officers.

Iran Bombing ISIS Targets in Iraq

            In late November, Iran reportedly bombed Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, targets in Diyala, Iraq. Tehran used American-made F4 Phantom jets, likely sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution, according to analysis of video by Jane's Defense Weekly. Since ISIS began seizing swaths of Iraqi territory in June, Iran has supported Kurdish and Shiite militias trying to push back the extremists on the ground. Meanwhile, a U.S.-led coalition began conducting airstrikes on ISIS targets in August.
             But both U.S. and Iranian officials have emphasized that their countries are not coordinating their military activities in Iraq, instead deferring to Baghdad to control the airspace. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the Iranian strikes did not constitute a change in the “fundamental policy of not coordinating our military activity or other activities” with Iran, though the “net effect is positive.”

            Iranian officials initially refused to confirm or deny the bombings when questioned by the press, but Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour confirmed on December 5 that Iran had conducted airstrikes at the request of the Iraqi government. "We will not allow conditions in Iraq to descend to the level of Syria," he said. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri denied cooperation with Washington and blamed it for the “unrest and problems in Iraq and the terrorist activities of IS.” Iranian officials have been skeptical about U.S. intentions, casting doubt on both the motives behind U.S. air strikes against ISIS and the effectiveness of this strategy.
            The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian, U.S., and Iraqi officials on Iran’s involvement in fighting ISIS.


President Hassan Rouhani
            "If countries in the region agree, they could eliminate anti-Islamic groups like Daesh and liberate thousands of men, women and children who have lost their homes."
            "In this case, there would be no need for the presence of foreigners." 
            Rouhani called for countries to "stop direct and indirect financial aid to terrorist groups" 
            He also called for a change in teaching at religious learning centres to prevent young people being radicalized and for the international community to fight "the use of the Internet and social networks by terrorists."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to the press
Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour
            "[the purpose of the strikes was] the defense of the interests of our friends in Iraq."
            "In this matter, we did not have any coordination with the Americans. We have only coordinated with the Iraqi government."
            "In general, every military operation to help the Iraqi government is according to their requests."
            "We will not allow conditions in Iraq to descend to the level of Syria, which has been created by foreign players. And certainly our assistance [to Iraq] is stronger than our assistance to Syria, because they are nearer to us."
            "We are taking our security actions at the request of the Iraqi government. On the other hand, we are assisting the Kurds in the north, our friends over there, and although there is some differentiation between the Kurdish perspective and the Iraqi government, we can make an arrangement according to both their interests."
            "This is only an advisory presence [in Iraq]. There is no need to send Iranian troops to Iraq. There are sufficient Iraqi and Kurdish troops there."
            Dec. 5, according to the press
Deputy Chief of Staff of Armed Forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri

            Dec. 4, 2014 via Press TV
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran knows America to be the cause of unrest and problems in Iraq and the terrorist activities of IS and believes that if it were not for the plans and support of America and reactionaries in the region, today, the world would not witness the destruction of cities and villages and the slaughtering of people by terrorists in Iraq and Syria.”
            “America will have no place in the future of this country [Iraq].”
            Dec. 2, 2014 in an interview with Fars News (translation via Al Monitor)
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afhkham
            “I stress that there has been no change in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policies with respect to fighting Takfiri groups, helping the Iraqi government and providing consultations [to Baghdad] in the fight against terrorist and Takfiri groups.”
            “Reports about Iran’s cooperation with military groups of other countries in combating ISIL are not accurate and not right.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press
Member of Parliament Hamid Reza Taraghi
            “We do not tolerate any threats within the buffer zone, and these targets were in the vicinity of the buffer zone.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press
            "Iran bombed [the Islamic State] independently, without coordination with the coalition led by the Americans."
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press


Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran realized the danger of violence and extremism in Iraq since the very first day and stood by the Iraqi nation, and we will stand by the Iraqi people including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs until the end of [their] fight against extremism and terror.
            “Today, the world has understood the reality that the first country to rush to the help of the Iraqi people in the battle against extremism and terror was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which countered these common threats.”
             Dec. 7, 2014 in a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari

            "We believe [the aggression] raised the morale of the takfiri groups after the defeats which ISIS had in the past weeks by being confronted by the people of Syria and Iraq and to assist these groups with whom the Zionist entity is coordinating."
            "Our friends in the region must realize the reality that the spread of these groups is caused by the financial support they receive, and that there’s no solution other than drying up the sources of terrorism, that the threat of these terrorist groups will backfire on their backers before anyone else."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Syrian state press
            “From the beginning, Iran, Syria and Iraq have shared views about fighting against terrorism and extremism; they showed resistance.
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Tasnim News

            "It is still not clear what we have to do in Iraq and what they have to do in return,"
            "And that's exactly the difficult part."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Al-Arabiya
United States
Secretary of State John Kerry
            QUESTION: The Pentagon said that it believes that Iran carried out several airstrikes in Iraq’s Diyala province in the past couple of days. Are you aware of these strikes? Do you welcome such Iranian air missions in Iraq? Do you think they’re helpful to the fight against ISIL or do you think that it’d be better if Iran avoids these actions?
            SECRETARY KERRY: First of all, I’m not going to make any announcements or confirm or deny the reported military action of another country in Iraq. It’s up to them or up to the Iraqis to do that, if it indeed took place. We are obviously flying our missions over Iraq and we coordinate those missions with the Iraqi Government. And we rely on the Iraqi Government to deconflict whatever control of their airspace may in fact need that deconfliction.
            So nothing has changed in our fundamental policy of not coordinating our military activity or other activities at this moment with Iranians. We’re not doing that. And we are not – not only not coordinating militarily right now, but there are no plans at this time to coordinate militarily. I think it’s self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it’s confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact, it’s going to be – the net effect is positive. But that’s not something that we’re coordinating. The Iraqis have the overall responsibility for their own ground and air operations, and what they choose to do is up to them.
            Dec. 3, 2014 in a statement to the press
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby

            QUESTION: Also on ISIS, are the Iranians striking ISIS targets inside Iraq, to your knowledge?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: I've seen the reports. We have no indication that the reports are not true, that Iranian aircraft have conducted airstrikes in the last several days against ISIL targets in eastern Iraq.
            QUESTION: How do you deconflict that air space?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's the Iraqi air space and Iraqi’s to deconflict. We are not coordinating with nor are we deconflicting with Iranian military.
            QUESTION: (off mic) number one, is it -- is the Iraqi government taking the lead for the air traffic deconfliction and control? Or is it -- or are Americans involved there?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's Iraqi -- it is sovereign Iraqi air space. It's a sovereign country. They deconflict the air space requirements over their country. We are flying missions over Iraq. We coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those. It's up to the Iraqi government to deconflict that air space. We are -- nothing has changed about our policy of not coordinating military activity with the Iranians.
            QUESTION: And the second part of that question was, what is the Pentagon perspective on the fact of Iranian airstrikes within Iraq at this moment, if they are occurring? Is there -- you know, does that -- is that helpful? Or is that problematic?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our message to Iran is the same today as it was when it started. And as it is to any neighbor in the region that is involved in the anti-ISIL activities, and that's that we want nothing to be done that further inflames sectarian tensions in the country.
            Dec. 2, 2014 in a press briefing
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones
            "Let's face it...Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we're talking to the Iraqi security forces...we're relying on them to do the deconfliction."
            Dec. 5, 2014 according to the press
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi
            “When Baghdad was threatened, the Iranians did not hesitate to help us, and did not hesitate to help the Kurds when Erbil was threatened.”
the Iranians were “unlike the Americans, who hesitated to help us when Baghdad was in danger, and hesitated to help our security forces.”
            “And the reason Iran did not hesitate to help us,” Mr. Abadi added, “was because they consider ISIS as a threat to them, not only to us.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press

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