United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

UN: Iran Complying with Interim Nuke Deal

             On August 20, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran has continued to meet its commitments under the interim deal that was implemented in January and extended through November. Iran has halted its most sensitive activities and rolled back its program in other key areas. The following are excerpts from the latest monthly report.

 
            The Agency confirms that since 20 January 2014, Iran has
 
• not enriched uranium above 5 % U-235 at any of its declared facilities
 
• not operated cascades [of centrifuges] in an interconnected configuration at any of its declared facilities
 
• completed the dilution – down to an enrichment level of no more than 5% U-235 – of half of the nuclear material that had been in the form of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 on 20 January 2014.
 
• fed 100 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 into the conversion process at the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) for conversion into uranium oxide
 
• had no process line to reconvert uranium oxide back into UF6 at FPFP
 
• had not made “any further advances” to its activities at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) or the Arak reactor (IR-40 Reactor), including the manufacture and testing of fuel for the IR-40 Reactor;
 
• fed 1505 kg of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 into the conversion process at the Enriched UO2 Powder Plant (EUPP) for conversion into uranium oxide;
 
• continued to provide daily access to the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow;
 
• provided regular managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor
production workshops and storage facilities, and provided information thereon; and
 
provided, in relation to enhanced monitoring, the following:
 
• plans for nuclear facilities and a description of each building on each nuclear site;
• descriptions of the scale of operations being conducted for each location engaged in
specified nuclear activities; and
• information on uranium mines and mills, and on source material.
 
Click here for the full report.
 

Human Rights Watch: Locked Up in Karaj

            More than 60 prisoners in Karaj, near Tehran, are serving terms for exercising their fundamental rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The organization also suspects that due process violations may have tainted the judicial process that led to 35 prisoners being placed on death row.
             “The election of a new, avowedly moderate president a year ago raised hopes that many of Iran’s political prisoners would soon walk free, but many remain behind bars,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The lion’s share of responsibility for releasing these prisoners rests with the judiciary, but President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet should be doing more to press for their release.”
            Iran’s judiciary has not responded to the Human Rights Watch inquiry about 175 prisoners in three facilities in Karaj, most of whom are profiled in the report. The following are excerpts.
 
Journalists, Bloggers and Social Media Activists
             Human Rights Watch has identified nine journalists and bloggers held in Karaj who qualify as political prisoners. All of them are in Rajai Shahr prison except for one.
             According to Reporters Without Borders there are at least 62 journalists and bloggers in Iran’s prisons, making Iran one of the largest jailers of journalists in the world. The Iranian judiciary imposes harsh sentences on journalists and bloggers based on vague and ill-defined press and security laws such as “acting against the national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “publishing lies,” and insulting the prophets or government officials such as the president, or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
             Bahman Ahmadi-Amoui, a journalist who had written articles critical of the government on his website and in official newspapers, is serving a four-year sentence in Rajai Shahr after his arrest on June 20, 2009. Officials arrested him following the disputed elections and prosecuted him on charges of “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the president,” and “acting against the national security.” A revolutionary court sentenced him to seven years and four months in prison and 34 lashes, which was reduced on appeal to four years.
             The authorities are also holding a 53-year-old blogger, Mohammad-Reza Pourshajari, in Karaj’s Central Prison, a separate facility that normally houses detainees convicted in Karaj courts. In 2010 the authorities tried and convicted Pourshajari, who is also known by his pen name, Siamak Mehr, on charges of “acting against the national security,” “insulting Ayatollah Khomeini,” and “insulting [religious] sanctities” for writings he posted on his personal blog, his daughter told Human Rights Watch. Pourshajari suffers from serious heart ailments and authorities have consistently denied him proper medical care, his daughter said. In a June 10, 2013 audio recording obtained by Human Rights Watch, a voice identified as Pourshajari’s says that authorities beat and tortured him  and threatened to hang him after forcing him to stand on a four-legged stool during his initial detention following his arrest on September 12, 2010. He also says that authorities held him in solitary confinement for eight consecutive months and that interrogators repeatedly threatened to send him to the gallows.
 
Lawyers and Other Rights Defenders
             Human Rights Watch’s investigation has identified seven rights defenders and one lawyer who are imprisoned in Karaj. All are detained in Rajai Shahr prison.
             Authorities are holding lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh, who is 67 years old, in Rajai Shahr prison. He is a former colleague of Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who cofounded the Defenders of Human Rights Center with Ebadi and several other lawyers. In October 2010, a revolutionary court convicted Seifzadeh of charges including “acting against national security through establishing the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. An appeals court later reduced his nine-year sentence to two years, but in March 2013, Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Seifzadeh to another six years in prison for “assembly and collusion against the national security” for writing critical letters to former President Khatami and signing several group statements while in prison, Ebadi told Human Rights Watch.
             The authorities are also holding several student and labor rights activists at Rajai Shahr prison. On Student Day in December 2009, students demonstrated on university campuses throughout Iran, to protest the results of the disputed June 2009 presidential election. Authorities arrested student protesters, including Majid Tavakoli, a 23-year-old student at Amirkabir University and member of the school’s Islamic Student Association, who gave a speech criticizing the government. In 2009 a revolutionary court sentenced Tavakoli to eight-and-a-half years in prison on various national security charges related to his speech, including “conspiring against the national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader” and president. Authorities later transferred Tavakoli from Evin prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr, according to rights groups. He is currently being held in Ward 4, Room 12, said a former prisoner.
 
Religious Minority Activists and Community Leaders
             Human Rights Watch’s investigation identified 38 peaceful religious activists and community leaders, the majority of them are members of Iran’s Baha’i minority, whom the Iranian authorities are holding at both Rajai Shahr prison and the Central Prison in Karaj. At least 136 Baha’is are detained in Iranian prisons for their peaceful activities.
             Baha’i leaders Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeed Rezaei, Behrouz Azizi Tavakoli, and Vahid Tizfahm are each serving 20-year prison sentences in Rajai Shahr. Security forces arrested these men, along with two female leaders now in detention at another facility, between May 8 and May 14, 2008. After holding the seven in Evin prison in Tehran for 20 months without charge, officials on January 12, 2010 brought charges that included spying, “insulting religious sanctities,” and “spreading corruption on earth.” All the charges were related to their peaceful activities as leaders of the Baha’i community. Authorities have often leveled the charge of spying against Baha’is because of the faith’s supposed links to Israel (the tomb of the faith’s founder, Baha’u’llah, is near Acre in what is now Israel).
             The authorities are also holding two Christian pastors and two Christian converts in prisons in Karaj. The family of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, has said that he is detained in Ward 4 Room 12 of Rajai Shahr prison. A revolutionary court convicted him of “intent to endanger the national security” by establishing and running home churches, and sentenced him to eight years in prison.
             Authorities are also holding Christian pastor Behanam Irani, Hossein Saketi Aramsari (also known as “Stephen”) and Reza Rabbani (also known as “Silas”) at the Central Prison in Karaj, a source familiar with the cases told Human Rights Watch. Armed security and intelligence forces entered pastor Irani’s home in April 2010 and arrested him for performing ceremonies in a private home with a small group of other Iranian Christians. A revolutionary court had previously convicted Irani in 2008 of acting “against national security” and “propaganda against the system” for proselytizing, and issued a suspended five-year sentence against him. After the 2010 arrest, however, a revolutionary court revived the initial sentence, the source said. The court relied on Irani’s admission that he was a Christian convert and pastor, and on testimony from witnesses who accused him of tricking them into adopting the Christian faith. Saketi Aramsari is currently serving a one-year prison term on the charge of “propaganda against the system,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the source familiar with these two cases.
 
Political Activists
             Human Rights Watch’s investigation has identified eight prisoners in Karaj who have been imprisoned solely because of their peaceful political activism. All are detained in Rajai Shahr prison.
             Throughout Iran members of reformist parties and other government opponents are serving sentences stemming from the government crackdown after the disputed 2009 election. Many had unfair trials before revolutionary courts, whose judges fail to ensure basic due process standards. Revolutionary courts sentenced some after mass show trials during which they were indicted on patently political charges such as “actions against the national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” “membership in illegal groups,” and “disturbing public order.” Some defendants were made to confess before television cameras, in violation of the right under international law to not be compelled to testify against oneself.
 
Click here for the full report. 
 
 

From Baby Boom to Baby Shortage

Garrett Nada

            Iran has a numbers problem. Over the past 35 years, Tehran’s family planning policy has gyrated so radically—from encouraging too many babies to producing too few—that the Islamic Republic faces existential economic dangers.
 
      The origin of the problem dates to the 1979 revolution. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on women to produce a new Islamic generation for both cultural and security reasons. Khomeini wanted to create a paramilitary force of 20 million religious volunteers to protect Iran from foreign influence. Over the next decade, a baby boom almost doubled the population from 34 to 62 million.
 
      But the theocracy, drained by the costs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, gradually realized that it could not feed, cloth, house, educate and eventually employ the growing numbers. So with the supreme leader’s approval, Tehran enacted one of the world’s most progressive family planning programs to slow population growth.
 
            The program broke many taboos in a culture that favored large families. Clerics gave sermons on reducing family size, while female volunteers were sent door-to-door to encourage women to have fewer children. New billboards declared, “Fewer Children, Better Life.” Before marriage, couples had to take family planning classes. Health centers dispensed free birth control pills and condoms.
 
            Ironically, the world’s only modern theocracy was home to the only state-supported condom factory in the Middle East, which reportedly produced 45 million condoms a year in 30 different shapes, colors and flavors by 2006. The United Nations and population organizations cited Iran’s program as a model for the Islamic world and developing nations. The United Nations bestowed awards on Iranian practitioners three times from 1999 to 2011.
 
           The program worked. The fertility rate plummeted—from 5.5 births per woman in 1988 to about 2.22 births in 2000.
 
      But the initiative was almost too successful. By 2006, the birthrate dropped to 1.9 births per woman—below replacement rate. As a result, Iran’s population is aging. The average age is now 28.3 years. It is expected to increase to 37 years by 2030, according to a U.N. projection. An increasingly elderly and dependent population would heavily tax public infrastructure and social services.
 
      Last year, the government began debating steps to prevent the kind of population crisis facing Japan, where sales of adult diapers are expected to exceed baby diapers this year. So far, however, the executive and legislative branches have not agreed on how to raise the birthrate. Some lawmakers want to criminalize permanent forms of birth control, while health officials and experts favor creating government incentives for couples to have more children.
 
            The trend towards having small families may be difficult to reverse, especially without improvement in Iran’s struggling economy. The costs of getting married, let alone having children, are prohibitive for many youth, almost one quarter of whom are unemployed.
 
            In 2010, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to reverse the trend with new financial rewards. Every newborn was to receive a $950 award deposited into a government bank account, with another $95 added annually until the age of 18. The idea was that children could withdraw funds at age 20 for education, marriage, health and housing expenses. But the initiative was halted during its first year of implementation due to lack of funds and coordination across government institutions.
 
Khamenei’s Call to Action
            The government introduced more substantive changes in 2012, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the family planning program had been “wrong” and “one of the mistakes” of the 1990s. “Government officials were wrong on this matter, and I, too, had a part. May God and history forgive us,” he said. “If we move forward like this, we will be a country of elderly people in a not-too-distant future,” he warned.
 
            Khamenei urged the government to introduce measures to boost the population—now almost 80 million — to 150 million or more. The Ministry of Health then pulled funding from the family planning program and ended free vasectomies to encourage larger families. It eventually replaced birth control classes with ones that urged having more children.
 
            In late 2013, billboards depicting happy-looking families with four children were plastered across Tehran. Single fathers with one son were shown lagging behind larger families propelling canoes or bicycles. In 2013 and 2014, Khamenei’s office turned to social media to promoted idyllic visions of marriage and life in large families.
 
            In the spring of 2014, Khamenei began pushing even harder for an increase in Iran’s fertility rate. “A country without a young population is tantamount to a country without creativity, progress, excitement and enthusiasm,” he warned on May 5, which is International Midwives’ Day. Two weeks later, he issued a 14-point decree in letters to the heads of the legislative, judicial and executive branches as well as the Assembly of Experts. Key points included:
      · Removing barriers to marriage,
      · Encouraging marrying at an earlier age,
      · Dedicating new facilities for pregnant and breastfeeding women,
      · Providing insurance coverage for childbirth,
      · Treatment for male and female infertility
           
Government Response
            Since Khamenei’s decree, the government has reportedly added new incentives, which include lengthening maternity leave, ensuring female job security after childbirth, and subsidizing hospital care. In June, parliament debated controversial legislation aimed at criminalizing male and female sterilization. The bill, approved by 143 out of 231 members of parliament in August, must be reviewed by the Guardian Council to determine its compatibility with Islam.
 
            But the bill has produced a backlash from health officials and women’s groups. Mohammad Esmail Motlagh, a senior health official, argued that the legislation would violate citizens’ rights. He instead called on lawmakers to use voluntary incentives to encourage couples to have more children.
 
            Reformists particularly fear major changes to the family program could negatively impact women’s status, especially in the workplace, where they are already underrepresented. Some 60 percent of university students are female, but only about 12 percent of the workforce, according to the Statistical Center of Iran. Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, noted that no other country has ever used punitive measures to increase fertility rates. She also warned that outlawing surgical procedures could push contraceptive services underground.
 
             The new policies may also be a hard sell, given changes in society over the past two decades—partly due to the smaller average family size, urbanization and spread of higher education, especially among women. In 2014, the government heralded Qassem Ali-Loui on state television as a national hero for having the country’s largest family—19 children. But nearly 70 percent of Iran’s population is urban and therefore unlikely to see the family’s pastoral lifestyle in Western Azerbaijan province as relevant or inspiring.
 
 
 
Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP
 

 

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Iran's Leaders on Iraq Crisis and ISIS

           Iran’s policy on Iraq has evolved as the Islamic State has taken more territory since June. Tehran has welcomed the nomination of Haidar al Abadi to replace Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. The Islamic Republic has backed Maliki, a Shiite, since he took office in 2006. But the endorsement of Abadi, announced by Supreme National Security Council chief Ali Shamkhani and later by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suggests Tehran has moved on. Maliki's government has alienated both Sunnis and Kurds. Abadi hails from al Maliki’s Islamic Da’wa Party and also is  a Shiite.The following tweet contains a remark by Khamenei to Iranian diplomats.
 
           Iran’s leaders are unified in their support for the central Iraqi government against The Islamic State. But officials have sent mixed messages on U.S. intervention or possible cooperating with Washington to help Baghdad quell the uprising. 
            In June, President Hassan Rouhani initially said his country could consider cooperating with the United States “if it starts confronting terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.” Hesameddin Ashna, a Rouhani advisor and head of the state-run Center for Strategic Studies, even suggested that U.S. airstrikes could help the Iraqi air force.
            But Shamkhani dismissed speculative reports about U.S.-Iran coordination. And Supreme Leader Khamenei warned against U.S. intervention. He has blamed the United States, along with Sunni Gulf states, for allowing extremist groups to flourish in the region. “The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence,” Khamenei said on June 22.
            In August, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, dismissed U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State fighters. “The Americans, who strengthened terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are putting on a show in dealing with ISIS instead of [taking] serious action,” he said.
            The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian leaders on Abadi’s nomination and U.S. airstrikes with generic comments on the Iraqi crisis since June.

 

Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani
      “The framework provided by the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the prime minister has been chosen by the majority group in the parliament.
      “We congratulate Haidar al-Abadi on his nomination as prime minister, for him personally and for religious dignitaries, the Iraqi population and its political groups.
Iran calls on “all groups and coalitions in Iraq to protect the national interest”and “deal with external threats.”
            Aug. 12, 2014 according to the press
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
            “Obama has become concerned about the Kurds while many Christians, Sunni Muslims, Druze and Alawites were killed in Syria, but they [U.S. officials] remained silent.
            “Now, all of a sudden they have become conscious. This shows that they (US officials) have adopted a double standard and tactical approach toward this issue and this is wrong.”
           Aug. 12, 2014 to foreign ministry officials
 
Chairman of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi
            “The Americans, who strengthened terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are putting on a show in dealing with the ISIS instead of [taking] serious action.
Washington is just “posturing” to show “it has a role to play in the region.”
            Aug. 11, 2014 according to the press
 
Foreign Ministry
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran supports all steps taken toward the completion of the political process in Iraq. It is obvious that the Islamic Republic of Iran as in the past will continue its support for the Iraqi government and nation in fighting terrorism and promoting the country’s stability and security.”
             Aug.12, 2014 in a statement
 
            The following are generic comments on the Iraq crisis.
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
      “The Islamic Republic will not tolerate violence and terror as foreign-backed takfiri militants wreak havoc in northern Iraq.
      “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the [acts of] violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.
      “We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups. We can think about it [cooperation with the United States] if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.
      “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
            June 14, 2014 during a press conference
 
            “Regarding the holy Shia shines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.
            “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
            June 18, 2014 in a speech to a crowd in Lorestan province
 
            “I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop.
            “Tomorrow you will be targeted... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims.
            “For centuries, Shiites and Sunnis have lived alongside each other in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf and North Africa...in peaceful coexistence.”
            June 22, 2014, according to press
 
            “If the Iraqi government wants help, we will study it; of course no demand has yet been raised until today but we are ready for help within the framework of the international laws and at the request of the Iraqi nation.
            “Of course, we should know that help and assistance is one issue, and interference and entrance [into the battlefield] is another. If the Iraqi government demands us we will help them, but the entrance of the Iranian troops [onto the scene of battles in Iraq] has never been considered.
            “Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press
 

            “Unfortunately, we face two festering tumors in this region and across the Muslim world. One tumor has always caused distress to the Palestinians and Muslims and these days it is secreting and wreaking havoc on the land of olive [trees]. The other festering tumor which is agonizing the Muslims these days is a campaign launched under the name of Islam, religion, caliphate and caliphacy and has undertaken the murder and killing of Muslims in the region. All studies indicate that both tumors have roots at the same point.

            July 28, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian officials and foreign diplomats
 
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
      “We are strongly against the interference of the US and others in Iraq’s internal affairs and do not approve of it, because we believe that the Iraqi government, nation and religious authority are capable of ending this sedition and will end it, God willing.
      “The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without U.S. interference.”
     
       “What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam’s regime and takfiri [ISIS] extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility.”

      June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials

  

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
Interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour
 
AMANPOUR: You have other problems [besides the nuclear dispute]. Right now on your border, and that is the rise of ISIS in Iraq. How big a threat to Iran is ISIS?

ZARIF: I think this problem of extremism and sectarianism is a danger not only to Iraq and Syria

but to the entire region. We've been saying that --

AMANPOUR: But to Iran?

ZARIF: -- to Iran, too. Iran is a part of this region. We don't like instability in our neighborhood. Inside Iran, we are probably best protected from such waves of extremism than any of our neighbors. All our neighbors are more vulnerable to this threat than Iran is internally. 

But for us, our domestic security is inseparable from security of the region. So for us a secure Iraq, a secure Persian Gulf, a secure Afghanistan is as important as our own security.

So from that perspective, it becomes important. But we said it from the very beginning that this problem of extremism, violence and use of sectarian divisions in order to advance a political agenda was dangerous for all countries in the region and that is why we insisted from the very beginning that we need to have a strong unified stance against it.

AMANPOUR: And I presume you want a unified Iraq as well, because right now, it looks like it's fragmenting and it could possibly fragment.

I want to ask you specifically, Nouri al-Maliki is a product of Iran, according to everybody. In other words, Iran backed him in 2010 when he was reelected. Iran backed a lot of the people who he brought into his cabinet. And they are calling him extremely divisive, extremely sectarian and practically the opposite --They're calling him extremely divisive and extremely sectarian. Is al-Maliki the man that Iran wants to see as prime minister, no matter what?

ZARIF: Well, I think you made some assumptions that are not correct. Iran, first of all, wants Iraq territorial integrity and I have spoken to almost every regional foreign minister and all of them want to ensure that Iraq remains a secure with its own boundaries, national unity of Iraq. Disintegration of Iraq is going to be a disaster for the entire region. So that's given.

Iraq has a very lively democratic process. It's very young but very lively. People go and vote and people elect certain people. Our advice to the Iraqis, all of them, who’ve never supported any individual or party, our advice has been that you need to work, based on the democratic model, but at the same time to ensure that the government is inclusive, that the government represents various views.

Now you have a system in Iraq with an overwhelming majority of one group, but you have a system where the president is from one ethnicity; the speaker of the parliament is from another religious sectarian group. The prime minister is from another.

If you find this combination within the constitutional framework that Iraq has established and then allow various political parties to form a workable government that also represents all segments of Iraqi society, this is our desire. We're not in the business of supporting any individual. 

We support the Iraqi people. We support the choices of the Iraqi people, whoever Iraq can choose as its prime minister will have the full backing of Iran, whoever Iraq choose as its prime minister. 

And as its president and as its speaker of parliament, will have the full backing of Iran, because for us the number one issue is that we need to respect the choices of the Iraqi people. And my advice to countries in the West as well as countries in the region is to have respect for people, allow them to make their own choices. And once you allow them to make their own choices, they'll make the best choice.

AMANPOUR: Obviously Iraq has had a very painful history under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Obviously Iran suffered from that as well. But Prime Minister Maliki has at best treated the Sunnis as worse than junior partners, has basically frozen them out.

Do you think that the Shiite prime minister, because that’s what the constitution says it should be, should treat Sunnis as equals or as junior partners?

ZARIF: No, you see, it's a government based on democratic principles people have -- it doesn't matter whether you're Sunni --

AMANPOUR: It should be, but it hasn't happened.

ZARIF: -- no, no. You see, you have a government where political parties -- unfortunately some of them are along sectarian lines -- but political parties go to the polls, receive votes, some have more votes, some have less votes. They're different voting blocs in the Iraqi parliament.

Why do we need to send it into a sectarian issue? These are, in the United Kingdom, for instance, the prime minister is from one party; it has a coalition which works with another party. It's just a fact of life.

Why people need to make -- to insert divisive sectarian issues into this? We need to establish a government in Iraq that represents the views of the people but at the same time maybe if you have something exactly on that line, you will get only one group taking over all segments of Iraqi power structure and that is why you have these divisions and these attempts to bring everybody inside. 

It doesn’t mean that people who got the largest number of votes should be equally represented as people who got two votes in the parliament, that is not the meaning of democracy. Meaning of democracy is you get more votes; you get more seats in the parliament. You get more seats in the government. That's the reality.

But keeping that reality in mind, we insist that all segments of Iraqi society should be included in governing Iraq. That's the only way to ensure stability in Iraq and I'm sure all political parties, be Shia, Kurd, Sunni, all of them and non-sectarian, all of them have that objective in mind.

Now the way to achieve that objective may be different from -- based on one platform to another. But I think that's what we need to achieve. We should not start inserting sectarian divisions into Iraq.

Sectarian considerations are really dangerous for our region and really dangerous for the world. We live in a globalized world and it's very dangerous to fan these flames of sectarian hatred, one where it won't be contained in that area.

AMANPOUR: Is ISIS sufficient a threat for Iran and the United States to combat? Or does Iran not want to see any U.S. involvement in Iraq right now?

ZARIF: I think the international community needs to come together in order to deal with this threat of extremism and violence.

AMANPOUR: Specifically in Iraq.

ZARIF: In Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere. It requires a unified approach, not shortsighted policies, not infringing yourself in positions but really seeing the problem as it is. It is a problem of extremism. It is a problem of demagogues using inherent resentment that have arisen out of decades of injustice in our region.

But these are demagogues using these resentments in order to advance a very dangerous political agenda. And this dangerous political agenda may fit in the designs of some external powers. I don't know. I do not want to espouse conspiracy theories.

But what is important is everybody should come to realize that whatever their short-term interests are, in long term, this is a threat against everybody and everybody needs to have a unified international and regional stance against such acts of extremism and allowing it to take root in Iraq. 

Any political, any shortsighted political gain that some people believe they can derive from this unfortunate situation in Iraq is exactly shortsighted and will come to haunt them in the future.
 
Click here for more of the interview.
           
           “It is in the interest of everybody to stabilize the government of Iraq. If the U.S. has come to realize that these groups pose a threat to the security of the region, and if the U.S. truly wants to fight terrorism and extremism, then it’s a common global cause.”
            June 13, 2014 to Robin Wright for The New Yorker
 

 

Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani
 
      “The current crisis in Iraq is the result of the meddling and collaboration of the western and regional enemies of the Iraqi nation, who are seeking to prevent the Iraqi people’s will and determination from coming into action.”
      June 16, 2014 in a meeting with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
 
           “Reports in Western media about possible Iran-U.S. cooperation are part of the West’s “psychological warfare” and are “completely unreal.”
            “As we have announced, we will examine the issue of helping (Iraq) within the framework of international regulations in case of an official request by the Iraqi government and this will be completely a bilateral process and has nothing to do with a third country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Fars News Agency

Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
 
       “It is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that no one should aid countries like Syria and Iraq unless the work is limited counselling and advising. The people and governments of these countries can overcome their problems without the aid of any country.”
       June 24, 2014 at a ceremony for martyrs of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq
 
 
 
 
 

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
 
      “Iraq enjoys the necessary potential and military preparedness to fight against the terrorist and extremist elements. Any move that complicates the situation in Iraq will not be in the interest of Iraq and the region.
       “We believe that the Baghdad government can fully overcome the ongoing crisis in Iraq and thwart conspiracies through consolidation of national unity and internal solidarity.”
            June 14, 2014 to the press
 
      “Causing insecurity, disrupting democratic trends, overcoming ballot boxes, imposing weapons and terror rather than [promoting] democratic trends, all of these suggest that terrorism is being used today as a tool to overcome people’s votes.
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the ominous phenomenon of terrorism and believes the first method to counter and eradicate it is for the regional nations to remain vigilant and for countries to boost national unity, and for the international community to pay serious and unbiased attention to this scourge facing humanity.”
            June 25, 2014 to the press
 
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
            “Supporting the Iraqi government and nation does not mean sending troops to Iraq. It means condemning terrorist acts and closing and safeguarding our joint borders.”
            June 14, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 
Center for Strategic Studies head and Rouhani advisor Hesameddin Ashna
            “If the issue is about confronting extremism and violence, then yes, we’re [the United States and Iran] on the same side, but if it’s about destabilizing the region, then, no we are not.
            Iran would not support a U.S. ground intervention but airstrikes could help the “paralyzed” Iraqi air force.
            June 2014, according to The Washington Post
 
President Rouhani’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs Hamid Aboutalebi
            “The events in Iraq has highlighted a number of hypothesis.
            “First, Iran and America are the only two countries, from a perspective of regional power, that can peacefully end Iraq’s crisis.
            “Second, Iran and America have both ruled out military involvement in Iraq
            “Third, both Iran and America have asked Iraq’s government and Nouri al Maliki to bring the scourge of terrorism and the problems of Iraq to an end.
           “Fourth, the legitimate government of Iraq, in addition to its military capabilities, has potential political solutions worth considering to resolve problems.
            “Fifth, Iran and America have both never disregarded the implicit possibility of cooperation to solve the crisis in Iraq.”
           June 15, 2014 on Twitter according to Al Monitor
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian
            “The brutal attacks of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank and the indifference of self-proclaimed advocacy groups and ISIL proved that they are enforcers of the policies dictated by Tel Aviv and apply their power and arms only against Muslims and the strength of the Islamic states.
           July 13, 2014 according to the press
 
            “Certain countries which are supporting Takfiri terrorists and remnants of [executed Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein] should either correct their attitude or wait for negative consequences of their support.”
         June 30, 2014 in a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov
 
           “If Iran asks [for help], we will send military equipment to Iraq within the framework of international laws and contracts.”
           June 26, 2014 according to the press
 
            “We supply Baghdad with necessary consultations but we have no intervention in the country.”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
            “We will mightily support Iraq in is confrontation with terrorism. We are sure that the Iraqi armed forces will powerfully and effectively crash the terrorist and takfiri forces.”
            June 11, 2014 via state media
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
      “The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are our friends [in Iraq].
      “We have always insisted that all ethnic groups must have active and constructive participation in Iraq's power structure".
      “We regard it as unacceptable to deprive any Iraqi ethnic group of their constitutional rights by anyone.”

       June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 

 
 
 
 
 
Deputy Commander of Army Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heidari
            “Iranian Army’s Ground Forces are not only closely monitoring the developments in Iraq and the region, but also constantly observe the different threats [coming from around the globe].”
            June 16, 2014 according to Tasnim news agency
 
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards Hojjatoleslam Ali Saeedi
            “Saudi Arabia made a lot of efforts to upset the situation in Syria, and Qatar has also made a big investment in this regard, and some other countries made grave mistakes in Syria as well.”
           June 12, 2014 according to Iranian media
 
Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
            “We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of countries and we hope we will be a good mediator to extinguish the flames [of the crisis in Iraq].”
            June 22, 2014 in a meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully
 
Interior Ministry Spokesperson Hossein Ali Amiri

            “There is no particular problem along our common border with Iraq; however, the necessary measures have been taken by the Interior Ministry and border police.”
           June 23, 2014, according to press

Basij Militia Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi
            “The terrorist and anti-Islamic ISIL group is the US’s instrument for sowing discord among Muslims in the region.
            “The US and the Israeli regime seek to use fanatics and anti-Islamic groups to damage the Islamic community.”
            June 23, 2014, according to press

Lt. Commander of Khatam al Anbia Air Defense Base Gen. Shahrokh Shahram
            “Today the takfiri and ISIS forces are killing Muslims in the region on behalf of the US the same way over 30 countries helped Saddam [Hussein] during the imposed war to pave the way for the collapse of the Islamic Republic through waging war against Iran.”
            June 30, 2014 according to Fars News Agency
 

Tehran’s Provisional Friday Prayer Leader Seyed Ahmad Khatami
           “The US and Israel are supporting the ISIS with the purpose of disintegrating Iraq and create differences among Muslims.”
            June 27, 2014

Parliament's Director General for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam
           “Supporters of these terrorist groups want to portray Iraq's parliamentary democracy as a failure because they consider this democracy as a factor for their destruction.”
            July 1, 2014 according to the press

 

IRAQ

Ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Majid al Sheikh
            “These are just the rumors of biased and despiteful media which are seeking to sow discord among the regional states, especially Iran and Iraq.
            “Iraq doesn’t need any country neither for weapons nor for the military forces at all; hence, I emphasize that neither General [Qassem] Soleimani nor any other (Iranian) figure is in Iraq.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press

 

Photo credits: President.ir, Khamenei.ir, Iran's Ministry of Defense, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Larijani by Harald Dettenborn [CC-BY-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons,

 

Rouhani: To Hell with Critics of Diplomacy

           In an annual address to Iranian ambassadors, President Hassan Rouhani called critics of his approach to nuclear talks cowards. “As soon as there is talk of negotiations they say 'we are trembling,'” said Rouhani in comments broadcast live on state television. “Well, to hell! Go and find a warm place for yourselves,” he added.

      Rouhani has faced resistance from hardliners on the nuclear issue, even though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly expressed confidence in his administration and negotiating team. In May, more than 100 lawmakers, students, academics held a conference entitled “We’re Worried” – advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak [interim nuclear] deal.” Iran and the world’s six major powers failed to meet the July 20 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. But they have extended talks until November 24.

            The following are excerpted remarks from Rouhani’s address to Iranian diplomats translated by various news agencies.
 
            “The Iranian administration is resolved to have constructive interaction with the world.
            “Some people deliver slogans but they are political cowards and as soon as there is talk of negotiations they say 'we are trembling.’ Well, to hell! Go and find a warm place for yourselves. What should we do? God has made you fearful and trembling.
            “It is wrong to fear from interaction, negotiation and mutual understanding. Even it is wrong to fear from the heroic flexibility initiated by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
            “The administration has done something big. One of these examples is the Geneva [interim nuclear] agreement and if some are not thankful for these efforts, sooner or later they will be and history will have its own judgment.
            The nuclear dispute is an “artificial crisis,” and Iran is “not in a hurry in the nuclear discussions, but we do not see a delay as advisable.”
            “The foundations of sanctions have broken and I have no doubt in this and we should know that the previous situation will not return. In the negotiations with the P5+1, we are in the process of breaking the sanctions, and they know how we break the sanctions.
            “We know the sanctions to be oppressive and inhumane and we told them that your sanctions were wrong and inhumane. You sanctioned our medicine, and this will remain in history.
            “Whether the [U.N. atomic energy] agency is there or not, the Islamic Republic has not, is not and will not be after weapons of mass [destruction].
            “Ententephobia is a mistake. We want closer relations with the world but we will defend our rights and our national interests.
            “The world has to accept the present reality and know that we have a serious intention to resolve this issue and we will not retreat from our rights.
            “This administration is not an administration that will retreat from the rights of the people. It is an administration that has the highest and best support of the people and in the best situation, in unity with the leaders of other branches.
            “The other branches of government are also with us and all of us are next to the guidance of the supreme leader and we are a single unit in the country and we will not give permission for anyone to create differences between the branches of the government and, God forbid — God be praised this doesn’t exist — that there would be an insult to the supreme leader.”
 

 

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