United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Adoption Day: State Department Briefing

On October 17, senior State Department officials answered questions about implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran. The following are excerpts from the background briefing, which was held one day before Adoption Day, the point at which the agreement came into effect.
 
MODERATOR:  The reason for the call is that tomorrow [October 18] is 90 days from the day the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was adopted on July 20th, which puts Adoption Day for the JCPOA tomorrow, on Sunday.  Most of you know this, but the significance of Adoption Day is it’s the point at which the JCPOA comes into effect.  All of the participants to it formally begin making arrangements and preparations for the implementation of their JCPOA commitments.  You all know that the specific steps to be taken on Adoption Day are laid out in the text, but in summary, starting tomorrow, Iran will begin taking all of its necessary nuclear-related steps to restrain its program, including the significant changes to the Arak reactor, the reductions to its uranium enrichment capacity, its stockpile, the increased access to and monitoring of its declared nuclear facilities.  Upon completion of these steps, when verified by the IAEA, we will then give sanctions relief under the JCPOA to Iran.  That comes obviously on implementation day.
 
So in terms of what else needed to be done to get to Adoption Day, Iran will notify the IAEA that as of – they will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol and fully implement Modified Code 3.1.  For the U.S. side, the President will issue a presidential memorandum to direct that appropriate measures be taken to prepare for implementation of our commitments and that the Secretary of State, acting under authorities delegated by the President, will be taking action with respect to waivers of statutory nuclear-related sanctions, again, which takes place after we reach or on implementation day.  We expect the first Joint Commission meeting to be held shortly after Adoption Day on Monday.  All of the participants to the JCPOA will attend – obviously, the EU, the P5+1, and Iran.  On our side, Ambassador Mull will attend, as will Ambassador Tom Shannon, who, as you know, has been nominated to replace Wendy Sherman, and a group of nuclear and sanctions experts from relevant agencies on the U.S. side.  This first meeting will probably include a fair amount of organizational work to establish the Joint Commission, prepare work as folks move forward toward implementation day, and we will let all of you know if there’s more of a readout coming from that meeting.
 
So in conclusion, tomorrow we hit the next milestone, Adoption Day.  Implementation day will take place only after the IAEA has verified Iran has completed all of the nuclear steps, which, again, start tomorrow.
 
QUESTION:  First of all, can you elaborate a little bit more on the Joint Commission meeting that will take place on Monday?  Where will that meeting be?  You mentioned that this one is organizational, but can you talk a little bit more about the overall goals going forward of the Joint Commission?
 
And secondly, the ballistic missile test that Iran conducted about a week ago – it does not break the letter of the JCPOA, but is there concern that it breaks the spirit of the agreement?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  The Joint Commission will be meeting in Vienna.  We think our first meeting will be for about three hours, with, as [Moderator] said, all of the signatories of the JCPOA.  Among other things we’re going to be setting up, there are a couple of subgroups of the Joint Commission that the JCPOA specifies – for example, how to manage Iran’s ongoing procurements for the legal – for the permitted nuclear activities under the JCPOA, how that will be processed working through the Joint Commission and the Security Council.  So we’ll be addressing initial steps to set up that process as well as lay out expectations for subgroups meeting on technical issues, on sanctions issues to the extent that they ever come up as a matter of concern. 
 
And then more specifically, one of the early deliverables that we’ll have with Adoption Day effective tomorrow is the release of a statement of intent of China, Iran, and the United States on our intention to work together to modernize the Arak heavy water reactor so that it does not produce plutonium anymore.  So those statements of intent will be released tomorrow, and then at the Joint Commission on Monday I expect we’ll be reviewing in more detail about next steps in that process, because that’s one of the most important nuclear components of the deal and we’re actually moving forward pretty quickly.  And so we want to keep that momentum going as we meet in the Joint Commission.
 
MODERATOR:  Look, there’s a reason we were – have been clear all along that this was an agreement about the nuclear program, and it is not – the test was not a violation of the Iran deal, period.  That doesn’t mean, obviously, we didn’t express great concern about it and have a number of other tools to counter Iran’s ballistic missile activity. 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  No, sure, I think you hit it on the head.  The first point is it’s not a violation of the JCPOA, but it does appear to be a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, all of which continue to remain in effect.  All of the existing resolutions don’t change at all until implementation day, and even after implementation day, we continue to have prohibitions on transfers of ballistic missile-related technologies and a call for Iran not to engage in any ballistic missile activities for a period of eight years after this – after – eight years going forward.  So we have every intention of raising this at the Security Council and asking the Security Council to do exactly what it has in the past when these things have taken place, which is investigate them and encourage them to take certain steps in response.
 
QUESTION:  Do you have concerns that Iranian officials are repeatedly saying they think their steps will be done by the end of the year?  Is there any risk from the U.S. perspective in Iran ripping out centrifuges too quickly or trying to move hastily given the U.S. had estimated it might take six months or so to do those steps?
 
And secondly, [Senior Administration Official One], what division of labor do you anticipate since Ambassador Mull may be the main point of contact over the next year with the Iranians in terms of if they change their mind about engaging with the U.S. on issues beyond JCPOA implementation?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: As we’ve said before, we would be delighted if Iran were able to actually complete all of its nuclear steps in a few months.  We hope that they are able to complete everything that they’re required to do.  Simply stated, implementation day will not happen until Iran is able to complete all of the nuclear steps that are necessary under the JCPOA.  That includes the steps at Natanz, at Fordow; taking the calandria out at Arak; and also, importantly, implementing additional transparency measures as provided for in the JCPOA.  We do envision that taking a little bit of time.  Obviously, the Iranians have an interest in trying to complete those steps as soon as possible.  We do envision conversations with the Iranians as this goes forward to monitor their progress, to make sure that their understandings comport to our understandings of the obligations they have under the JCPOA. 
 
But all I can say is that their obligations are very clear and we expect them to live up to all of their obligations prior to any sanctions relief.  That’s the way that we constructed the deal and that’s what we expect to happen.  Whether that takes two months, three months, four months, or beyond is really up to the Iranians, so we also are going to be in a bit of wait and see mode.  For us it’s important that it’s done right, not that it’s done quickly.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  The day after Ambassador Mull’s appointment was announced back in mid-September, the Iranian Government announced that they would be appointing Deputy Foreign Minister for International and Legal Affairs Said Abbas Araghchi as its chief of Iran’s implementation efforts.  And so Ambassador Mull has been in regular contact with him and expect to be in contact with him.  He’ll be at the Joint Commission on Tuesday, and I’m sure there will be some bilateral interactions – again, just on the nuclear agreement implementation.  Now, as deputy foreign minister, of course, he has a portfolio much broader than that and is active on other issues.  Ambassador Mull’s engagement with him, though, is just going to be on the implementation of the JCPOA. 
Secretary Kerry, of course, most recently in New York had a couple of meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.  We do have other channels of communication with the Iranians as appropriate issues come up for handling, so that really hasn’t been an issue.
 
QUESTION:  I wanted to follow up on the question about the timing for implementation day.  I mean, I know you say that it’s up to Iran, but there has been, as has been said on this call, quite a bit of communication with the Iranians.  You’re obviously looking at what they’re doing.  Are you able to gauge the progress on their end in a way that gives you a better sense of how quickly they’ll be in position to be ready for implementation day at the earliest?
 
And then, going back to follow up on the missile question, it’s clear it’s not a violation of the JCPOA.  But a lot of people, particularly in New York, where I’m following this issue, are saying that this is a major slap in the face by the Iranians to the U.S. and other members of the P5+1 and that they’re sending a signal about how they don’t intend to follow all of the restrictions that have been laid out for them, particularly those that aren’t specifically nuclear restrictions.  And I wondered if you could respond to that.  Thanks.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Sure.  So I think to answer the first question is it really depends on how quickly the Iranians work.  I think the fairest way to answer the question is to suggest that you speak with the Iranians directly about what their plans are.  They have not told us explicitly their timetables.  We have negotiated what they have to do.  We have not negotiated (inaudible) time frame in which they have to do it.  We have been very clear to them that each and every one of the nuclear-related steps, to include transfer of material – nuclear material – or pulling out infrastructure or centrifuges and also installing all the additional transparency measures, which can be time intensive, all need to happen before sanctions relief comes.
 
It is our estimate that that will be at least months.  Whether Iran can work very quickly and try to get that done in the month and a half or two months that we’ve heard them talk about publicly will remain to be seen.  Again, we’d be delighted if it happened that quickly, but our focus remains on it being done correctly more than it being done quickly, and we will not provide sanctions relief until each and every one of those nuclear steps is satisfied and has been verified to be completed by the IAEA.  So I know that may not be an entirely satisfactory information, but – or satisfactory answer, but I really can’t do a better job predicting how long it’s going to take, how long to do these steps, because it really depends on their will and on, frankly, the technical side of how long it takes to uninstall thousands of centrifuges or export or dilute 10,000 or 12,000 kilograms of uranium.  So there are certain things that are just unknown from this process, but we cannot imagine it taking less than two months, and it probably will take longer.
 
MODERATOR:  I’ll jump in on ballistic missiles…This is not, unfortunately, something new.  The Iranians have been testing ballistic missiles for a long time.  I would hesitate to draw any conclusion from their recent ballistic missile test and link it to their willingness to comply with the JCPOA and the commitments that are contained in that given this is a long pattern of Iran ignoring UN Security Council resolutions on ballistic missiles.  So obviously that’s something we feel very strongly about and have ways to counter and to take action against, as [Senior Administration Official Three] mentioned before, but [Senior Administration Official Three], I don’t know if you have anything else you want to add to that.
 
QUESTION:  I know U.S. sanctions are not going to be lifted with the reaching of Adoption Day, but does Adoption Day have any impact on what non-U.S. companies can or cannot do in Iran in terms of investment or business? 
 
And the second question is once we get to implementation day, can you explain a little bit more clearly what is it exactly that non-U.S. companies will be able to do that they cannot do now and that U.S. companies will still not be able to do?  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Sure.  Well, your first question, will anything on change on Adoption Day, the answer is quite clear:  No.  There is no difference between – there’s no actual sanctions lifting that’s taking place tomorrow. What we’re going to be doing tomorrow is a couple of steps that will demonstrate our commitment and our preparation to take sanctions-lifting steps moving forward.  And the same thing with respect to the EU, and the same thing with respect to any sanctions that apply to non-U.S. or non-EU companies.
 
So here in the U.S. we’ll be issuing some waivers that will be contingent on reaching implementation day, when Iran completes all of its steps and is verified by the IAEA.  So those waivers will be out and issued so people will know what will be getting waived, but it won’t actually take effect until Iran completes its steps.
 
We’ll also be releasing a – or the President will be releasing a memorandum that essentially will instruct agencies to begin their preparations to take all the other additional measures that are going to be necessary to carry out our commitments.  But just like there won’t be any change in breakout timeline immediately when this agreement starts tomorrow, there’s not going to be any change in sanctions tomorrow either.
 
To your second question about what happens on implementation day:  Implementation day is when these waivers will essentially take effect and the – at least from the U.S. perspective, the sanctions that we have that restrict or in some cases sanction non-U.S. companies for engaging in various economic activities, those will be waived and those companies will be able to engage in those activities without fear of being sanctioned in the United States.  So that will include buying Iranian oil; that’ll include engaging with most Iranian banks or many Iranian banks that will be removed from our sanctions list on that day; it includes the removal of sanctions with respect to the transportation sector and various other economic sectors.
 
So as of that day, once we get to the point where the breakout timeline is over a year, where the centrifuges – where two-thirds of the centrifuges are gone, where the 98 percent of the stockpile is out, then there will be some – then there will be the opening up with respect to the sanctions.  As you rightly noted, that’s primarily with respect to non-U.S. companies.  For U.S. companies there’s only some fairly narrow categories where the sanctions on those companies change.  That includes with respect to the export of commercial passenger – or civilian passenger aircraft, with respect to the import of certain (inaudible) and handicrafts from Iran, and with respect to some of the activities that subsidiaries of U.S. companies can take – or can conduct overseas.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR:  No, I would just say in general the standard, which is – with respect to the foreign subsidiaries, it’s just activities that are consistent with the JCPOA, as [Senior State Department Official Three] noted, but that also U.S. parent companies will continue to be liable for any violations of those U.S. – sorry, of those U.S.-owned foreign subsidiaries.
 
QUESTION:  The Iranians during the UN General Assembly repeatedly made the point that there was a difference between a minimalist approach to implementation and honoring the spirit of engagement, and they were particularly concerned about U.S. pressure on European banks and companies not to do business with Iran, and they said there had been overtures to some European companies already to try to discourage them.  Can you talk about what – about this Iranian issue, and if you have indeed reached out to any foreign companies, foreign banks or others, to discourage them from doing business with Iran?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  I heard that question from a lot of people as well.   Let me just say first and foremost, we are intent on carrying out our commitments fully and faithfully, and we’ve made absolutely no effort to try to discourage companies from engaging in business once those sanctions are relieved on implementation day.  At the same time, as a transparency matter, we have to be clear with these companies the fact that there is no change in the sanctions today.  And so we have – just as we always do, are clear about our laws.  For now the sanctions are in place, and after implementation day they will be – those sanctions as specified in the JCPOA will be lifted.  And so we’re making no effort to try to undermine the relief.  It’s not to our advantage in any way for Iran not to get the relief that it seeks out of this deal because it is part of what gets us the very important things that we get on the nuclear side.
 
So I know that there was a lot of spin going on in New York, and I think that’s exactly what it was, and – but I can tell you categorically that that’s not something that we’re engaged in.
QUESTION:  I’m wondering if somebody could explain to us the relationship between what the IAEA has to conclude by December 15th and the implementation of – or implement – the arrival of implementation day.  They were supposed to have received materials by last Thursday from Iran, and by December 15th they’re supposed to come out with a conclusion.  Does implementation have to do with the question of whether they got enough (inaudible) to reach some definitive conclusions?  Or do they simply have to turn out their report and implementation is not related to the nature or completeness of the conclusions?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Sure.  So thank you for the question.  I think you – well, (inaudible) a question that I think was slightly garbled and the answer is in between.  They – the Iranians have provided to the IAEA sufficient information for the IAEA to produce its independent report, which it is going to try to issue by December 15th.  We know that because the IAEA made such a statement on October 15th.  The October 15th provision – or by October 15th the provision of all of the information and access to the IAEA by the Iranians per the roadmap, which is not part of the JCPOA but was signed independently between Iran and the IAEA, is also about commitment.  So Iran has now provided, according to the IAEA, all of the information and access necessary for the IAEA to complete its final assessment on the PMD issue.  That final assessment, which the IAEA is aiming to complete by December 15th, is not a prerequisite for implementation day.  The implementation day prerequisite was all of the steps that had to be – the Iranian steps that had to be completed in the roadmap.  And so we do expect the IAEA to issue its independent report on PMD by December 15th, the conclusions of which are entirely up to the IAEA.  But what was important was that the Iranians provided sufficient information and sufficient access such that the IAEA was in a position to complete that report, and the IAEA has said that has been provided already by October 15th.  That is one of the reasons that we can now proceed with Adoption Day and subsequently with implementation day, because Iran has met that commitment.
 
QUESTION:  So that’s all done, basically?  The quality of the data is not related to implementation day, it’s just if they’ve provided what the IAEA (inaudible). 
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Right.  We are not in a position to evaluate the quality, as you say, of the data.  That is between Iran and the IAEA.  What we were consistently doing in the negotiations was helping the IAEA to get the access that it needed to complete its investigation on PMD.  How Iran and the IAEA were able to complete that investigation was the resolution of the roadmap, which was the independent document.  It is now up to the IAEA to put forth its final assessment about the PMD case and that we expect to happen by December 15th.
 
MODERATOR:  And as you all have known for a long time, the U.S. Government has already made its assessment on Iran’s past programs. 
 
QUESTION:  Are you guys worried, though, about the overall sentiment?  I mean, since July and the agreement, Iran basically has jointly invaded Syria with the Russians; convicted a U.S. citizen of something we don’t even know about; have – Saudis stopped a large arms shipment going into Yemen that they said was coming from Iran; and they launched a ballistic missile.  Is this really the sentiment you were hoping for to start this agreement?
 
MODERATOR:  I’m happy to take that one, and we’ve talked about this before, and the President has been very clear – he’s been repeatedly asked about this, that we made a decision to in this deal just deal with the nuclear program, and that Iran has been doing things we don’t like in the region for a long time.  That continues.  But all of those things would be made worse if that was backed up by an Iranian nuclear weapon.  So we have separate ways of countering that activity.  We’re going to be doing more of that, working with the Gulf states and others.  But it’s not – this isn’t about sentiments, right?  This is about whether or not Iran lives up to its commitments, to the letter of them that is in the JCPOA very clearly.  And quite frankly, we have all these other tools that we’ll continue to use to counter Iranian activity in the region, but this deal is focused on the nuclear issue, period, and that’s what we’re focused on heading into Adoption Day tomorrow.
 
QUESTION:  Did the Iranians give you any heads-up in Vienna or elsewhere that they were planning to go into Syria with – in sort of a joint operation with the Russians?  Or did they keep that to themselves?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  I can assure you I only discussed the nuclear deal with them.  That would be out of my – out of my purview. 
 
QUESTION:  Can you tell us a little bit more about this agreement – three-way agreement with China and Iran?  What – how is that separate from the broader implementation of the JCPOA?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  This is the statement of intent, and [Senior Administration Official One], please feel free to jump in here as well.  But the statement of intent essentially is our making clear what it is that we plan to do as part of the P5+1 to help Iran to modernize the Arak reactor.  So as you noted, there are very clear sentiments inside the JCPOA about both Iranians’ – the Iranians’ obligations as well as P5+1 as to what to do with the Arak reactor.  The statement of intent that will be issued on Adoption Day simply confirms that we all intend to live up to what we said that we would do under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that being that the Iranians intend to take out the calandria, the center of the reactor, and that we, the P5+1, will help to make that a modernized reactor – one that does not produce weapons-grade plutonium.  The significance of the statement of intent being published by China and Iran and the U.S. tomorrow is that China will be taking a lead role in the redesign, the reconstruction of the reactor, and the United States also will take a prominent role in making sure that the design is consistent with our nonproliferation objectives.  And Iran, of course, is taking the primary role because it’s an Iranian reactor, so they will be ultimately responsible for it. 
 
But the statement of intent is a way of our demonstrating in real terms at the very beginning of this process that we all plan to actually get the reactor up and running eventually, after the original design has been modified and the calandria has been taken out – our nonproliferation objective being met.
 
QUESTION:  I wanted to follow up also on the Arak reactor because the Iranians were saying to us in September that they wouldn’t – I guess they were feeling nervous about even touching the reactor until a lot of details and commitments were made on the redesign and reconstruction of the reactor, and what is being issued tomorrow doesn’t sound like a detailed takeout on that.  And so if you can speak to that a little bit more – what actually – what they want before they take the calandria out, that would be great. 
 
Also, any details on the removal of the fuel stockpile?  As we understood it, most of it would be going to Russia, if not all, and maybe waiting there until the fuel bank was up and running, but not clear on that either.  So if you could give us any hints on that, we’d appreciate it.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Sure, I’ll start that again and invite [Senior Administration Official One] to jump in.  But the answer to the first question is if you look at some of the details on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we made a commitment in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to, starting on Adoption Day – which is tomorrow – work with the Iranians on an official document that carries forward the strong commitments of all the parties of the JCPOA to assign to ourselves the obligations to actually convert this reactor.  And that official document is supposed to be completed by implementation day.  That helps to clarify for the Iranians precisely who is doing what to redesign the reactor, to work on safety protocols, to actually pour the concrete, to redesign the fuel elements – all of those things.
 
What the statement of intent does tomorrow is it provides a preliminary, almost a preview, as to what it is that we’re going to be doing.  That said, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and one of the attachments that goes with it is in extraordinary detail, frankly, in terms of what the design of the reactor is going to be.  So the design of the reactor was extensively negotiated so that we would know that the reactor design that was agreed to did satisfy our nonproliferation objectives, that it wouldn’t produce weapons-grade plutonium in normal operation.  And so there is a lot already that is known about what the reactor is.
 
We have been in touch with the Iranians on a number of occasions since the completion of the JCPOA in July to talk to them explicitly about this, to talk to them about not just the documents but exactly who is going to be doing what.  We’ve had a number of meetings with the Iranians as well as with the Chinese, who, as I said, are going to be taking a leadership role with us as dictated by the JCPOA.  And we’re very confident that the Iranians will feel comfortable in moving forward with the – all of their nuclear steps, to include removing the calandria.  Because as [Senior Administration Official Three] said earlier, we have every intention of abiding by all of our obligations, one of which is to help to – in the redesign of the reactor and the (inaudible) P5+1 commitments, which is to not just redesign but actually rebuild the reactor, although Iran maintains its position as the primary owner.
 
In regards to the second question, there again, this is really a question that Iran has to answer.  Iran has choices in some of what it can do here, and this is with regard to the stockpile question.  Iran can choose to either export all the 300 kilograms of its up to 5 percent enriched uranium, or dilute that material to natural levels.  It remains to be seen whether Iran will choose to ship out that material in exchange for natural uranium in response – in return, or whether it will choose to dilute it.  We expect to see more clearly what Iran’s choices are in the next few weeks, but at the moment that remains to be an Iranian choice.
 

  

US Report: Iran's Religious Freedom Abuses

Iran’s government reportedly continued to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on religious beliefs in 2014, according to an annual report by the U.S. State Department. It also notes that non-Muslims faced “substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support.”

At the October 14 rollout for the comprehensive report, Secretary of State John Kerry said that religious minorities should have the same rights as religious majorities. “Sadly, the pages of this report that is being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others,” he said. The following is the executive summary of the Iran section of the report and updated demographic information with a link to the full text.


Executive Summary

The constitution states that Ja’afari Shia Islam is the official state religion and that all laws and regulations must be based on “Islamic criteria” and official interpretation of sharia. It also stipulates that the five major Sunni schools be “accorded full respect,” enjoy official status in matters of religious education and certain personal affairs, and that, in regions where followers of one of the five Sunni schools constitute the majority, local regulations conform with that school within certain bounds. The constitution states, “within the limits of the law,” Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognized religious minorities with protected ability to worship freely and to form religious societies, although proselytizing is prohibited. The government executed and jailed members of religious minority groups on charges of moharebeh (enmity against God) and anti-Islamic propaganda. The government discriminated against all religious minority groups in employment, education, and housing. Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Bahais. Government-controlled broadcast and print media continued negative campaigns against religious minorities.

Non-Muslims faced substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support. Some media outlets continued their campaign against non-Muslim religious minorities, and political and religious leaders made defamatory statements against them. There were reported problems for Bahais at different levels of society throughout the country. Non-Bahais were often pressured to refuse employment to Bahais and to dismiss Bahais from their private sector jobs. There were reports of Shia clerics and prayer leaders denouncing Sufism and the activities of Sufis in the country in both sermons and public statements.

On July 28, the Secretary of State redesignated Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) and renewed the existing restrictions on certain imports from and exports to the country. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the country. The Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor addressed abuses and restrictions against Bahai, Christian, Jewish, and other religious minority communities in the country. Senior U.S. government officials publicly called for the release of prisoners held on religious grounds. The U.S. government supported religious minority groups in the country through its actions in the UN, including through votes to extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran and for resolutions expressing concern over the country’s human rights practices, including the continued persecution of religious minorities.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 80.8 million (July 2014 estimate). Muslims constitute 99 percent of the population; 90 percent are Shia and 9 percent Sunni (mostly Turkmen, Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds living in the northeast, southwest, southeast, and northwest, respectively). There are no official statistics available on the size of the Sufi Muslim population; however, some reports estimate that several million Iranians practice Sufism.

Groups constituting the remaining 1 percent of the population include Bahais, Christians, Jews, Sabean-Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Yarsanis. The three largest non-Muslim minorities are Bahais, Christians, and Yarsanis. Bahais number approximately 300,000 and are heavily concentrated in Tehran and Semnan. According to UN data, 300,000 Christians live in the country, although some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) estimate there may be as many as 370,000. The Statistical Center of Iran reports there are 117,700. The majority of Christians are ethnic Armenians concentrated in Tehran and Isfahan. Unofficial estimates of the Assyrian Christian population range between 10,000 and 20,000. There are also Protestant denominations, including evangelical groups. Christian groups outside the country estimate the size of the Protestant community to be less than 10,000, although many Protestants reportedly practice in secret. Yarsanis, mainly located in Luristan and Gurani-speaking areas of southern Kurdistan, have often been classified by the government as Shia Muslims practicing Sufism. Yarsanis, however, identify Yarsan as a distinct faith (known in Iraq as Kaka’i). There is no official count of Yarsanis, but one NGO and some leaders in the Yarsani faith estimate there are up to one million. There are from 5,000 to 10,000 Sabean-Mandaeans. The Statistical Center of Iran estimated in 2011 that there were approximately 25,300 Zoroastrians, who are primarily ethnic Persians; however, Zoroastrian groups report 60,000 members. Similarly, Iranian census statistics in 2012 reported there were fewer than 9,000 Jews, while media estimate there are as many as 25,000.

Click here for the full text.

 

Rouhani on Economy, Parliament Vote

In a live television interview, President Hassan Rouhani applauded parliament's approval of the nuclear deal. On October 13, the parliament passed a bill to support implementing the deal, with a vote of 161-59. Rouhani discussed the agreement and its implications for Iran's economy in the interview, warning that it may take time to feel the benefits of sanctions relief. Rouhani had emphasized revitalizing the economy in his 2013 presidential campaign.

The following are excerpted remarks and tweets from Rouhani's television appearance.

“One of the important points in the nuclear negotiations [that led to the agreement] was economic issues. The economy and sanctions were the enemy’s trick to put pressure on the Iranian people.”

"The administration's measures carried the message that the sanctions would no longer be effective. Why were the sanctions lifted? Because they saw that the sanctions were no longer effective.”
 

“Iran’s non-oil exports to the neighboring countries is growing; we hope to enjoy good relations with all neighbors in the not too distant future.” 

“We will have a much better [economic] condition next year. That is why the world is rushing towards Iran.”
 

“We will give them [i.e., foreign investors] a part of our domestic market in return for [our] having a part of the regional and international market.” 

“Enemies imposed sanctions on our oil and banking processes; Iran’s revenue from oil sales was 119 billion dollars in 2011 and fell to 72 billion dollar in 2014.” 

 

Translations via Mehr News, World Bulletin

Parliament Approves Nuclear Deal

Iran’s parliament voted to approve a resolution permitting the government to implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On October 11, 139 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill’s general provisions, with 100 lawmakers against and 12 abstaining. And on October 13, Parliament approved the details of the bill, with 161 lawmakers in favor and 59 against. Another 13 members of parliament abstained, 17 did not cast a vote, and 40 were not in attendance. The bill was ratified on October 14 by Iran’s Guardian Council, which is tasked with making sure legislation does not contradict religious laws or Iran's constitution.
 
The vote came after a heated debate that included death threats. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, deputy foreign ministers Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi defended the JCPOA during a parliamentary session on October 11. They faced shouting, threats, and harsh criticism from hardliners. One lawmaker, identified as Ruhollah Hoesseinian, reportedly threatened to cover Salehi with cement in the Arak reactor.
 
 
The debate wrapped up a multifaceted process by parliamentary committees to review the JCPOA. On October 4, the Iranian parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the nuclear deal presented its preliminary report to the Parliament. It highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the JCPOA but emphasized the harmful effects some provisions could have on Iranian security. The committee is working on final report, some 1,000 pages long, that will be sent to top officials in all government branches in two months. 
 
Strengths: 
 
  • Six U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iran would be lifted 
  • Iran would reserve the right to keep its heavy water reactor in Arak as well as the enrichment facility in Fordow 
  • Iran could continue to develop its missile program without restrictions 
  • Economic sanctions on Iran would be lifted 
 
Weaknesses: 

  • The JCPOA would require Iran to do more than other countries who are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty 
  • Iran would not be able to quickly resume its nuclear program due to required technical changes, such as limiting the number of centrifuges 
  • Inspection of military sites would create security risks 
  • The deal may would leave Iran more vulnerable to foreign intelligence  
  • Certain sanctions would not be terminated until eight years after implementation of the deal
 
The report proposed introducing and voting on a resolution, within the week, that would give the government permission to implement the JCPOA under certain conditions. The key issue regarding next steps was timing. Lawmakers voted against fast-tracking the bill to the extent recommended by the report. So 75 lawmakers instead introduced a bill that would allow for 20 days of review. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani preferred voting sooner rather than later. “The more it is delayed, it harms us,” he said. Larijani referred the motion to the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission for review, which quickly approved it. 
 
The resolution, known as the Iranian Government’s Reciprocal and Proportional Action Bill, specifies that the administration should stop its voluntary activities and “adopt reciprocal measures” if the other countries party to the agreement violate its terms. Iran should engage in these measures to “restore the rights of the Iranian nation,” particularly if sanctions are not removed. The motion stresses the importance of Iran’s security and the need to protect classified information during inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

 

The following are quotes from officials on the Iranian parliament’s vote to implement the JCPOA.
 
Iran
 
 
Government Spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht
 
"Members of parliament made a well-considered decision today showing they have a good understanding of the country's situation. We hope to see acceleration in progress and development of the country from now on."
—Oct. 13, 2015, according to the press
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
"The decision to approve the bill was the Islamic Consultative Assembly's decision alone…All those who voted for or against the bill view Ayatollah Khamenei as their leader."
—Oct. 13, 2015, according to the press
 
Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi 
 
I consider it an Islamic and humanitarian obligation for myself to appreciate the sincere efforts made by all relevant officials in achieving this blessed status."
October 13, 2015, according to IRNA
 
 
Member of Parliament Ruhollah Hosseinian
 
“After the release of the Lausanne statement, when Mr. Zarif attended a parliamentary committee session, I criticized him and told him that he had given psychological ammunition to the enemy.”
 
“I told him that the Zionist regime of Israel would threaten us with nuclear bombs on a daily basis after Iran was stripped of such a tool. In fact, a few days later, the former Israeli defense minister threated to bomb Iran with nukes.”
 
“Once again, I reminded Mr. Zarif that if the Zionist regime attacked Iran or if the US launched a strike against Iran because of JCPOA, people would arrest you and put you on trial. I also told Mr. Salehi that [at that time] if I were in charge, I would make him dig out cement from the core of the Arak Reactor, throw him inside and encircle him with cement. I did not say that I would pour cement on him, I said I would encircle him with it.”
 
“I told Zarif and Salehi that I hope my prediction about JCPOA won’t come true, but if it does happen, I will treat them the very same way I told them I would.”
—Oct. 13, 2015, via Iran Front Page
 
Member of Parliament Abbas Ghaedrahmat
 
“The bill comes with a number of necessities, among them: protection of the Iranian nation’s nuclear rights and achievements; observing religious and legal aspects defined by the Supreme Leader on talks with P5+1; and preventing infiltration and unilateral measures of the other side.”
 
“This bill allows the government to voluntarily implement JCPOA if it can abide by what has been envisioned in nine articles and two notes for the implementation process, including the Supreme Leader’s fatwa on the atomic weapons, WMDs and nuclear disarmament, and the need for Iran to clarify its stances.”
 
“Through this bill, the Iranian parliament will shed light on its stances: we need to remove all nuclear weapons in the world.”
 
“The rights of the Iranian nation should be respected and any pressure and threat [by the other side] will trigger a rethink of cooperation [with P5+1]. The government should carefully monitor failure by the other side to terminate sanctions or its imposition of [new] sanctions. If so, the Cabinet is expected to act in kind to reclaim the rights of the Iranian nation. Voluntary cooperation should be brought to a halt in case of the other side’s lack of cooperation.”
 
“The nuclear negotiating team managed to win some concessions in the talks. I call on fellow MPs to vote for the bill so that the fate of JCPOA can be fixed soon.”
—Oct. 11, 2015, during the parliamentary debate on the bill, via Iran Front Page
 
Member of Parliament Alireza Zakani
 
“This team failed to get the rights of the Iranian people from the American wolves.”
—Oct. 11, 2015, according to the press
 
Member of Parliament Hamid Rasai 
 
“This is not the voice of the Supreme Leader, Majlis has become a place for the decision making of Larijani and Shamkhani."
October 13, 2015 via Nasim Online 
 
European Union
 
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
 
 

 

Iran Convicts Jason Rezaian

Tehran's Revolutionary Court has convicted Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been held in Iran for 14 months on charges including espionage. 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.
 
A few weeks earlier, President Hassan Rouhani had 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."
 
Three Iranian-Americans – Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini – are detained in Iran. A fourth American, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, has been missing since 2007, when he was last sighted on an Iranian island. The following are quotes on Jason Rezaian’s conviction, followed by a rundown of the American prisoners held in Iran and past statements from U.S. officials. 
 
United States
 
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron
 
"The guilty verdict announced by Iran in the trial of The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian represents an outrageous injustice.
 
"Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing. For now, no sentence has been announced.
 
"We are working with Jason’s family and Iranian counsel to pursue an immediate appeal, and we expect Jason’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, also to petition for Jason to be released on bail pending a final resolution of the case.
 
"The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong. Jason is a victim — arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis. He has spent nearly 15 months locked up in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, more than three times as long than any other Western journalists.
 
"The only thing that has ever been clear about this case is Jason’s innocence. Any fair and just review would quickly overturn this unfounded verdict. Jason should be exonerated and released; he and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who has been out on bail, should both be granted, without delay, the full freedom that is their right."
—Oct. 12, 2015, in a statement
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
"Not a meeting went by – literally, not a meeting – where we did not raise the issue of our citizens who are being held in Iran. And clearly, we are tracking extremely closely the news coming out of Iran regarding the trial and the fact of a conviction. We still don’t know and we haven’t seen any official confirmation on that verdict whatsoever, and we are continuing a dialogue with the Iranians regarding our citizens, and we will until they come home. 
 
"So I’m not going to go backwards except to say that the families themselves of these hostages knew exactly what our strategy was and why it was important not to hold a nuclear agreement hostage to hostages. And in our judgment, it was the right thing to do because it could have complicated both significantly and perhaps have resulted in nothing happening on either. So I think we did – it was the right strategy to pursue. We are continuing, as I say, that dialogue, and we call on the Government of Iran – whether they’ve had a conviction with a sentence or no sentence, whatever the status is, we call on the Government of Iran to release these individuals, to drop all the charges, and to see them reunited with their families here in the United States. And I can assure you when they do return and people gain full knowledge on the efforts that have been made, nobody will see anything except an extraordinary, continued, highly focused, intensive effort to secure their release. 
—Oct. 13, 2015, in a press briefing
 
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby
 
"We still have not seen any official confirmation of a verdict on specific charges or any further information. Unfortunately, this is not surprising given that this process has been opaque and incomprehensible from the start. Regardless of whether there has been a conviction or not, we continue to call for the government of Iran to drop all charges against Jason and release him immediately."
—Oct. 12, 2015, according to the press
 
Iran
 
Judiciary Spokesperson Gholamhoseyn Mohseni-Ezhei
 
"He [Jason Rezaian] has been convicted, but I don't have the verdict's details."
 
"The time for an appeal is not yet over. So the court waits and if it doesn't receive an appeal... the verdict becomes final."
 
—Oct. 11, 2015, according to the press
 
“I really do not know if Mr. Rezaian or his official lawyer have received the verdict."
—Oct. 11, 2015, according to the press
 
Bios & Timelines of Americans Held in Iran
 
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. If convicted, Rezaian could face up to 20 years in prison.
 
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.
 
Congress
 
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.
 
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
 
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring),
 
SECTION 1. STATEMENT OF POLICY ON RELEASE OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS IN IRAN.
 
(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
 
Photo credits: Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Robert Levinson via Facebook

 

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