United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran Hosts Conference Against Extremism

            From December 9 to 10, Iran's Institute for Political and International Studies hosted a conference on countering violence and extremism in Tehran. The gathering was inspired by President Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 address to the United Nations, in which he proposed the “world against violence and extremism” (WAVE) initiative. In his opening address to the conference, Rouhani outlined ten strategies to counter violent extremist groups. They included calling on nations to cease support to terrorist groups, aiding developing countries, and combating extremism online. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at the conference that the Foreign Ministry will take steps to implement Rouhani’s proposals.
            Officials, parliamentarians, and academics from more than 50 countries participated in closed-door panel discussions during the conference. They issued a closing statement calling on the international community to reduce extremist violence around the world. The following are quotes from Rouhani and Zarif during the conference, along with the full text of the participants’ closing statement.
President Hassan Rouhani
            “Today, no one has any doubt or can deny that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a vanguard in fighting terrorists in the region and in campaigning violence, extremism and terrorism everywhere in its bid to take the compassionate voice of Islam to the entire world.”
            “If countries in the region agree, they could eliminate anti-Islamic groups like Daesh [IS] and liberate thousands of men, women and children who have lost their homes...In this case, there would be no need for the presence of foreigners.”
            “A world free of violence is materialized when the governments cooperate with each other and have coordinated policy-making and if so, the extremist groups will be marginalized.”
            “The roots of violence can be dried up in the region through cooperation among governments.”
            “We all believe in the strength of the United Nations. The organization is already playing a huge role in the field but unfortunately the UN suffers sustainable shortcomings in facing many obstacles along the way. The UN can bring together world leaders and lead the way for a better future.”
            "The countries which facilitated the formation of terrorism with logistic and financial support must openly denounce it and cease their direct and indirect financial support. There must be regional collaboration to change general education and religious schools in order to prevent extremist and violent interpretation from religious doctrine."
            Dec. 9, 2014 in his address at the conference (Translations from WAVE, Al-Monitor, and Aletejah TV)
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “We will pursue Mr. Rouhani’s proposals in different international meetings, including this meeting, and God willing we will follow up (his) viewpoints at the UN and other international bodies in a bid to achieve our common goal that is fighting against extremism and violence as well as campaigning against the anti-Islam and anti-human moves.”
            Dec. 9, 2014 in comments to reporters at the conference
Declaration and Plan of Action of the First International Conference on World Against Violence and Extremism
            The Honorable Foreign Ministers, former high-ranking officials, Members of Parliaments, Scholars, Researchers, and Representatives of Civil Society of more than 50 countries congregated for the first Conference of “A World Against Violence and Extremism” on 9-10 December 2014 in Tehran,
            Guided by the principles and values of the divine religions and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and on the occasion of the first year of the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution A/RES/68/127 of 18 December 2013 entitled “A World Against Violence and Violent Extremism” and with the aim of taking a further step towards the realization of the lofty goals enshrined in that Resolution initiated by the proposal of H.E. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
            Recalling the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and other UN organs on combating violence and violent extremism;
            Alarming by the acts of intolerance, violent extremism, violence, including sectarian violence, and terrorism in various parts of the world, which claim innocent lives, cause destruction and displace people, and rejecting the use of violence, regardless of any motivation,
            Convinced that wars and armed conflicts can lead to radicalization and the spread of violent extremism and disrupt development of human societies and thwart the well-being of humankind;
            Recognizing the importance of national and regional characteristics and diverse, historical, cultural and religious backgrounds of all States;
            Reaffirming that violent extremism constitutes a serious common concern for all Member States, threatening the security and well-being of human societies, and convinced that there is no justification for violent extremism, whatever the motivation;
            Recognizing the need for a comprehensive approach to countering violent extremism and addressing the conditions conducive to its spread;
            Recognizing, the nature, principle, values and objectives of monotheistic divine religions as a collection of guiding instructions in spiritual, social, cultural, economic sphere of human life development, adherence to which will result in human salvation and happiness;
            Recognizing that the nature, principles, values and objectives of the divine religions are inherently against all forms of violence and violent extremism and promote justice, peace, the equality of human beings and non-discrimination;
            Underlining that violent extremism and violence is a global challenge and is not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization, culture, race, and ethnic group and therefore, the countering and elimination of which requires a firm determination and cooperation of all members of the international community;
            Expressing grave concern that extremist and terrorist groups have begun to reach out to youth or deprived minorities by using the Internet and other modern technologies in an attempt to indoctrinate them with radical messages and recruit them.
            Rejecting the tactical and instrumental use of and financing extremist groups for any reason;
            Underlining the importance of promotion of further understanding, awareness and tolerance through genuine dialogue, encouragement of the culture of peace and moderation and harmonization among cultures that can help the common efforts to counter violence and violent extremism;
            Stresses that selective approaches in countering violence and violent extremism jeopardize the unity of international community in combating such horrific phenomenon;
            Have agreed on the following Plan of Action:
            Welcome the proposal made by H.E Hassan Rouhani that the United Nations proclaim the 18th December of each year as the day of “A World against Violence and Extremism”, and request the Secretary General of the United Nations to recommend, in its report to the General Assembly at its seventieth session, a recommendation to that effect.
            Stress on the importance of the public condemnation of all forms of extremism, violent extremism and terrorism by all States, religious leaders, politicians, and scholars.
            Emphasize on the need for taking actions to eradicate poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment, as the main sources of feeding extremism and its recruitment. In this context, assisting the countries that have been victimized by violent extremism is of the vital importance to address the root causes of violence and terrorism.
            Request the countries that their borders are used for transit by radical and extremist groups, to take the steps necessary to enhance control over their borders including through enacting legislation or adopting administrative and law enforcement measures;
            Request the Secretary-General of the United Nations to address, in its report to the General Assembly at its Seventieth Session, the efficient ways by which the United Nations could assist Member States, upon their request, to encounter extremism including through generating public awareness about the dangers of intolerance, as well as in fostering understanding and non-violence.
            Underlines establishing and developing the culture of peace and tolerance through:
            Planning diverse policies and actions with the purpose of creating a better understanding and finding mutual grounds in order to deepen the culture of understanding and peace as the basic condition for countering extremism for future generations;
            Forging relations and institutionalize regular dialogue among leaders of all divine religions;
            Promoting novel educational texts based on the culture of peace and friendship among various societies;
            Forging relations among intellectuals, think tanks and artists to promote peace and friendship among different societies;
            Considering that education at all levels is one of the most effective elements in every sustainable and successful strategy to counter extremism. Therefore, requests all States to plan and execute policies and effective initiatives for the promoting principles of tolerance, respect for others and their ideas and cultural diversity in their educational systems;
            Encouraging the inclusion of research programs on diverse cultures, religions and various civilizations in university curriculum, and also the exchange of knowledge, information, and scholarships among academics, researchers and students as provisions of great capability with the purpose of deepening understanding and tolerance among different societies.
            Underline that media should function as a mechanism for universalizing the idea of tolerance, respect for cultural diversity, the right to cultural development and promotion of human rights and values;
            Underline the enhancement of the role and capacity building of academics, religious scholars, academic institutions as well as research centers in order to promote public awareness of values regarding various cultures and respect for cultural diversity, to enrich intercultural dialogue, and respect human rights and prevent the development of fertile grounds for the growth of extremist, Takfiri and violent ideologies.
            Take note of the need for establishing a research institute to study the global trends and developments on violence and extremism and plan the proper reaction to counter such horrific phenomenon;
            Stress on the effective implementation of this Action Plan and in that line welcomes the follow-up Conference on World against Violence and Extremism to be held in Iran in 2015.

Obama Administration Resists New Sanctions

             Several U.S. lawmakers called for new sanctions on Iran following the decision to extend nuclear talks with the world's six major powers another seven months. But Obama administration officials have warned that new sanctions could derail the talks. A negotiated deal “is the best way to account for and close off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon,” Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum on December 7. The following are excerpted remarks from administrations officials on the extension of nuclear talks and pressure from Congress to impose new sanctions.
Secretary of State John Kerry
      “Ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon has been the heart of President Obama’s foreign policy from the moment that he took office.  It has not changed.  And when he talked to me about the prospect of becoming Secretary of State, I looked at him and I said, “Mr. President, I want to know for certain that what you’re saying about Iran and what the consequences may be if we can’t get where we need to go in a deal are actual – are real.  I mean, are we going to hold them accountable?”  And the President looked at me and he said, “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, and I will do whatever is necessary.”
            “The President has never changed on this.  And that policy will not change.  And while we may disagree on tactics from time to time, when it comes to the core strategic goal – no nuclear weapon – there is not an inch of daylight between the United States and the State of Israel.  And that is why, over the past year, we and our P5+1 partners have been engaged in intense and tough negotiations with the Iranian Government in hopes of finding a comprehensive, durable, and verifiable arrangement that resolves all of the international community’s concerns.
            “Now, I ask you to take a moment.  It is important to take a moment to remember how we got to this point.  We are here not because of the difficult history between the United States and Iran, though difficult it is.  And yesterday’s deeply disturbing charges against an American journalist who was simply doing his job is just the latest reminder of that.  Nor are we here because of the indefensible threats that Iranian leaders have periodically made against Israel, though indefensible they are.  We are not even here because of terrorist acts Iran has sponsored, or its destabilizing activities in the region, though we condemn them whenever and wherever they occur.
            “Rather, we are here for a few simple reasons – because systematically, over many years, Iran did not address the world’s concerns about an illicit nuclear program, and because the entire international community felt that it was imperative that Iran meet its international obligations.  So we spent several years building the broadest, deepest sanctions regime in history, in order to get the answers the world demands.  I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee when we passed those, and I am proud of the impact that they’ve had, as is every member of Congress.  We wouldn’t be at the table without it.
            “But we are also here – excuse me – we’re also here because, ultimately, we believe that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is through a verified, negotiated agreement – thank you, Martin – we are convinced that the best way to create accountability is through a verified negotiated agreement that resolves the international community’s legitimate concerns, proves that Iran’s program is peaceful, as it says it is, and gives the Iranian people, with whom we have no specific quarrel, the chance for a better future.
            “Now, obviously, this process takes time.  The stakes are high, the issues are complicated and technical, and if we are, in fact, to cut off all the pathways through which Iran could obtain enough fissile material for a bomb, every detail matters enormously. But it also takes time because we will not settle for just any agreement.  We want the right agreement.
            “Last year, I spoke here at the forum shortly after we signed the Joint Plan of Action that enabled us to begin formal negotiations.  And I remember distinctly many voices proclaimed we had made a tragic mistake.  We were admonished that Iran would cheat and the sanctions regime that we had painstakingly built over several years would crumble.  We were accused of jeopardizing the safety and security of our nation and our closest partners.  And in response, I shared with you at that time that the United States, our partners, including Israel and the entire world, would, in fact, become safer the day that the Joint Plan of Action was implemented.  And guess what.  That is exactly what happened.
            “One year ago, Iran’s nuclear program was rushing full-speed toward larger stockpiles, greater uranium enrichment capacity, the production of weapons-grade plutonium and ever-shortening breakout time.  Today, Iran has lived up to every commitment it made in the interim agreement.  Progress on its nuclear program has been rolled back for the first time in a decade.  How do we know that?  Because the IAEA and our partners have been able to verify that Iran is indeed honoring the JPOA commitments.
            “Today, IAEA inspectors have daily access – daily access – to Iran’s enrichment facilities, including Fordow, and we have developed a far deeper understanding of Iran’s nuclear program, its centrifuge production, its uranium mines and mills.  Iran’s entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has been diluted or converted – every ounce – and they have suspended all uranium enrichment above 5 percent.  All progress on the Arak plutonium reactor is frozen in place.  No new components have been put in that would allow them to commission it.  
            “And I can assure you, as we work now to reach a comprehensive deal, the United States continues to believe – as we have from day one and as Israel has said it also believes – that no deal is preferable to a bad deal.  And that’s why we had an extension. Now, we know that just like JPOA, any agreement will be subject to the legitimate scrutiny of our citizens, the Congress and our closest partners.
            “We also have no intention of negotiating forever.  And absent measurable progress, who knows how much longer this could go on?  As of now, with significant gaps still remaining, we do not know if we will be able to make it.
            “But we also know for sure that a negotiated settlement, a negotiated outcome, if it meets our standards, is the best way to account for and close off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon.  And in recent weeks, we have seen new ideas surface, flexibility emerge that could – I repeat, could – help resolve some issues that had been intractable.  And that is why, two weeks ago in Vienna, when we reached the most recent deadline that we’d set for the negotiation, we all agreed to extend them for this brief period of time.  By the way, though it said seven months, we’re not looking at seven months.  We are – I think the target is three, four months, and hopefully even sooner if that is possible.
            “Now, why are we doing this?  Because I believe, President Obama believes, the Administration deeply believes that it would be the height of irresponsibility, it would be against our own interests and those of our closest partners, to walk away from a table when and if a peaceful resolution might really be within reach.  If this effort fails, we have been crystal clear that we will do what we have to do.  But if we succeed in reaching an agreement, the entire world – including Israel – will be safer for it.”
            Dec. 7, 2014 at the Brooking Institution’s 2014 Saban Forum
National Security Advisor Susan Rice
            If additional sanctions are placed on Iran, “The P5+1 would fracture, the international community would blame the United States rather than Iran for the collapse of the negotiations, and the Iranians would conclude that there’s little point in pursuing this process at the negotiating table.”
            Dec. 2, 2014 according to the press
Vice President Joe Biden
            Existing sanctions have "frozen [Iran's nuclear] program. It's given us a shot for a peaceful solution...I tell you, I think it's a less than even shot but it's a shot, nonetheless."
            "This is not the time to risk a breakdown [by imposing new sanctions] when we still have a chance at a breakthrough."
            Dec. 6, 2014 at a Middle East forum hosted by the Brookings Institution


Kerry Calls on Iran to Release Jason Rezaian

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

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

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

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

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

Khamenei: ISIS Product of Western Schemes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Report: Little Progress on Internet Freedom

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

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

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

Click here for the full report

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