United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

UN Report: Iran Shares Limited Information

On May 29, the U.N. nuclear watchdog released a new report on Iran’s implementation of Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards and compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran “shared some information in relation to” possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. Iran had agreed in May 2014 to implement two practical measures on the outstanding questions, but has not yet completed either. “The Agency and Iran agreed to continue the dialogue on these practical measures and to meet again in the near future,” according to the report.

The U.N. watchdog also stressed the necessity for Iran to grant inspectors access to all sites, including military ones such as Parchin. Access to military sites has been a controversial issue in recent negotiations between Iran and the world’s six major powers.

The following are some key findings of the report, as outlined by the four experts from the Institute for Science and International Security; David Albright, Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, Andrea Stricker, and Daniel Schnur.
 
1) The average rate of monthly production of low enriched uranium (LEU) went up slightly, as did the average centrifuge performance of the IR-1 centrifuges in the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.
 
2) With regard to the possible military dimensions (PMD) issue, Iran has “shared some information” in relation to one of the measures in the IAEA/Iran Framework for Cooperation. The IAEA and Iran agreed to continue the dialogue and meet again in the near future. However, no major breakthrough was reported. Moreover, Iran did not propose any new practical measures to resolve the PMD issue and has rebuffed requests by the IAEA to speed up the process of resolving outstanding issues.
 
3) Iran has a total inventory of 8,714 kg of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride and another 1,822 kg (uranium mass) 3.5 percent LEU in various chemical forms at the Enriched UO2 powder Plant (EUPP). In total, as of May 2015, Iran also has about 228 kilograms (kg) of near 20 percent LEU (uranium mass). Of this near 20 percent LEU, 61.5 kg are in uranium oxide powder, 44.9 are in TRR fuel assemblies, and 121.2 kg are in scrap and waste, and in-process (all in uranium mass).
 
4) During the last reporting period, Iran did not feed any additional LEU into the Enriched UO2 powder Plant. So far, Iran has fed 2,720 kg of LEUF6 into the EUPP. Thus, Iran has fallen behind in its pledge under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) to feed any newly produced LEU hexafluoride into the EUPP. Its current deficit is 1,106 kg of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride, which will increase by a few hundred kilograms during May and June. Under the JPA, Iran must feed all of this LEU into the EUPP by the end of June.
 
5) After a lengthy delay, the EUPP has finally produced LEU dioxide. As of May 23, 2015, the plant had produced 151 kg of uranium in the form of UO2 enriched up to 5 percent uranium 235. The problem, according to Iranian officials, is that the last section of the plant that produces the LEU dioxide did not work properly. In total, Iran produced the 151 kg of LEU dioxide from 402.6 kg of uranium in the form of ammonium diuranate enriched up to five percent. 6) Most of the near 20 percent LEU fed into the line to make Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) fuel continues to end up as scrap or is in-process rather than in TRR fuel assemblies.
 
Click here for the full ISIS report.
 
Click here for the IAEA report.
 

Economic Trends: Month of May

Cameron Glenn

In May 2015, Iran continued to explore expanding trade ties with the international community, in anticipation of a nuclear deal that could lift international sanctions. On May 25, Tehran Stock Exchange CEO Hassan Qalibaf-Asl met with a group of international investment managers and said “A new global attitude toward the economic and investment environment in Iran is taking shape.” Russia, India, Oman, and Syria all took steps to expand cooperation with Iran in trade, energy, and infrastructure. Iranian officials even called for forming “unofficial connections” with American trade partners that could be expanded in a post-sanctions environment.

Domestically, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been pushing for economic reforms, particularly reducing the monthly cash handouts that all Iranians are eligible to receive. Officials also reduced fuel subsidies and raised the price of gasoline by 40 percent, bringing the cost to 10,000 rials per liter (around $1.28 per gallon). Despite the pressure from international sanctions, Rouhani’s economic reforms have yielded modest progress – by the end of May, inflation had dropped to 14.3 percent.
 
The following is a run-down of the top economic stories with links.
 
Domestic Developments
 
Cash Handouts: Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabii said on May 19 that Iran can no longer afford the cash handouts established by President Hassan Rouhani’s successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2010, Ahmadinejad began phasing out food and energy subsidies and replacing them with monthly cash handouts. All Iranians are eligible to receive them, regardless of income, and only 2.4 million out of 80 million Iranians have opted out. The individual monthly payments are 455,000 rials (around $15). Rabii said the handouts were hindering domestic production and investment.
 
Rouhani’s administration is trying to restrict the handouts to only the poorest Iranians. Around $19.5 billion is required annually to fund the handouts, and Director of the Management and Planning Organization Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said, “we will have to eliminate a great number of people” from the payment list to reduce that cost and work within existing budget constraints.
 
Oil: Deputy Oil Minister Rokneddin Javadi said that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is unlikely to cut production to reduce oil prices, despite Iran’s repeated calls to reduce output. Javadi also estimated that Iran could increase oil exports to pre-sanctions levels of 2.5 million barrels per day within three to six months if sanctions are lifted. The largest buyers of Iranian crude oil – China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey – recently extended their oil purchase contracts with Iran.
 
Iran also plans to increase daily exports of various oil products, not including gasoline, according to Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company Seyed Naser Sajjadi. “It is expected that about 12 million liters of gas oil and 40 million liters of fuel oil from the total surplus of the country’s oil products would be exported per day,” he said.
 
Natural Gas: On May 10, Mohsen Ghamsari, director for international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company, said it was currently not “economically feasible” for Iran to start exporting natural gas to Europe. In April, the Iranian ambassador to Turkey, Alireza Bigdeli, had announced that Tehran was developing a project to export gas to Europe through Turkey. Natural gas prices increased by 15 percent on May 26 for household, commercial, and public sectors, according to National Iranian Gas Company Managing Director Hamidreza Araghi.
 
Gasoline: National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company spokesman Davoud Arab-Ali announced on May 26 that the price for a liter of gasoline would increase from 7,000 rials to 10,000 rials. The price of premium gas was set at 12,000 rials. Officials are also considering eliminating fuel subsidies to unify gas and oil prices.
 
 
 
Domestic Production: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of domestic production in a speech on May 27.
 
Tourism: Iran is the most attractive tourist destination in the world in terms of price competitiveness, one of the 14 indicators in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index. Price competitiveness measures purchasing power parity, the cost of access to transportation and hotel services, and fuel price levels. The index also quantifies each country's enabling environment, travel and tourism policy, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources to measure its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Iran ranks 97th out of 141 countries across all categories.
 
The number of French tourists to Iran is expected to double in 2015 from 150,000 to 300,000, according to a French embassy cultural advisor. The official noted that French tourists are flocking to Iran for its “many tourist and cultural attractions.”
 
Inflation: Iran’s inflation rate has dropped to 14.3 percent for the 12-month period ending May 21, according to Director of the Management and Planning Organization Mohammad Bagher Nobakht.
 
Aircraft production: Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said Iran plans to revamp its air fleet and commercial airlines. “The current situation of the air fleet is not becoming to the Iranian nation and the air fleet needs major investment,” he said on May 10. “We have conducted extensive negotiations with companies supplying planes … so that when sanctions are removed, contracts can be signed immediately.”
 
Iran also plans to purchase 400 new passenger planes in the next 10 years. Ali Reza Jahangirian, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said Western companies have been eyeing Iran’s air industry. “We have gotten very positive signals from Western companies, including Boeing Co. and General Electric Co., about getting new spare parts for our planes,” he said.
 
International Developments
 
United States: On May 24, Head of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Gholamreza Shafei said that “unofficial connections could pave the way for establishment of joint chambers of commerce between Iran and America.” Shafei has not yet officially met with an American business delegation, but noted that American businessmen have expressed interest in expanding trade relations with Iran. “They are especially showing interest as they see most Western countries are sending big trade delegations to Iran,” he said. “Trade ties with America are important for Iran’s exports because our traditional goods have a favorable market in that country.”
 
Separately, a delegation of Iranian traders, entrepreneurs, and artists visited the United States in mid-May. Hamid Hosseini, a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, said the purpose of the visit was to “hold talks with American cultural institutes, universities, and trade sectors, and present Iran’s cultural and economic capacities and potential.”
 
Foreign investment: Tehran Stock Exchange CEO Hassan Qalibaf-Asl met with a group of investment managers from the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates on May 25. “A new global attitude toward the economic and investment environment in Iran is taking shape,” Qalibaf-Asl said.
 
Russia: On May 26, Russian officials announced that they will begin importing goods from six Iranian food companies, including four dairy producers and two poultry producers. Russia has taken steps to expand trade ties with Iran after facing escalating sanctions from Europe over the Ukraine crisis.
 
 
India: On May 6, Tehran and New Delhi signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the strategic Chabahar port in southeast Iran. President Rouhani said, “We welcome the presence of Indian investors in the development of Chabahar port and other southern ports, as well as the construction of roads and railroads.” Plans to develop the port date back to 2003, but were delayed by international sanctions on Iran. Following the April 2 announcement of a blueprint for a nuclear deal, India sent a delegation to Tehran to discuss potential trade, energy, and infrastructure cooperation. The port would allow India to be less dependent on land routes through Pakistan to trade with Afghanistan.

 
South Africa: On May 10, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his South African counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in Tehran. Zarif described Iran’s relationship with South Africa as “friendly and strategic” and noted the potential for economic cooperation in the oil and gas industry. Two days later, at the South Africa-Iran joint commission in Tehran, the South African minister spoke out against the international sanctions imposed on Iran. “Unlike others, South Africa is not waiting for sanctions to be lifted to do business with Iran,” she said, noting that bilateral trade has risen 50 percent over the past year.
 
Oman: On May 14, Iran established a new shipping route from Shahid Rajaee to the Omani port of Sohar, following an April agreement between Tehran and an Omani business delegation. The route will be used to transport agricultural products and other goods, expanding Iran’s access to regional trade.
 
In late May, Omani officials also requested Iran Khodro, a leading Iranian vehicle manufacturer, to produce cars in Oman. After oil and gas, automotive production is the second largest industry in Iran. “If the plan proves to be economically viable and necessary investment is made, Iran Khodro would like to establish a production site in Oman and supply regional markets,” said Iran Khodro’s CEO Hashem Yekke-Zare in a meeting with Hassan Ahmed al Nabhani, CEO of Oman Investment Fund.  
 
Germany: German Ambassador to Tehran Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg described Germany as “the biggest European partner of Iran in the field of the economy” during a meeting with Khorassan Razavi, governor general of Mashhad. Separately, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that Germany would welcome a nuclear agreement between Iran and the world’s six major powers, allowing for greater energy and trade cooperation between Tehran and Berlin.
 
 
Syria: Tehran and Damascus have signed bilateral agreements for cooperation in electricity, industry, oil, and investment, according to Syria’s state news agency. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, also announced during a visit to Damascus that Iran would extend a new credit line to Syria.
 
Israel: The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company has been ordered by a Swiss court to pay Iran $1.1 blllion in compensation over a business venture initiated before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Israeli company had agreed to partner with the National Iranian Oil Company to transport Iranian oil to Europe via Israel. But Tehran canceled the contract after the revolution, and claimed the Israeli company still owed $450 million in crude oil it received from Iran on credit. Israeli officials, however, say they do not plan to pay the debt. “According to the Trading with the Enemy Act it is forbidden to transfer money to the enemy, including the Iranian national oil company,” a Finance Ministry statement said.
 
Iraqi Kurdistan: Iran signed a contract to open a trade center in Erbil, with the purpose of facilitating trade with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq. Head of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran Valiollah Afkhami Rad said the trade center would increase understanding of Iraqi markets and support Iranian industries looking to expand trade in Erbil.
 
 

Cameron Glenn is a senior program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

 

Tags: Economy

Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

On May 27, a new round of nuclear negotiations began in Vienna, Austria between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. The negotiators are aiming to turn the blueprint for a deal announced on April 2 into a final agreement by June 30. But Iranian and French officials have recently acknowledged that they may need more time to hammer out the details. “We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said ahead of the new round of talks.

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who departed for Vienna on May 27, is set to join Secretary of State John Kerry for meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva, Switzerland on May 30. She will then return to Vienna for further talks with Iran and the other powers.
 
The latest sticking point in the talks has been gaining access to Iran’s military sites as part of a deal. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei initially seemed to rule out the possibility of inspections. But later, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran “has agreed to grant managed access to military sites.” And Yukiya Amano, chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that his organization has “the right to request access at all locations, including military ones.” The following are excerpted remarks by officials from the world’s six major powers and the IAEA on the status of the talks.
 
Iran
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“If the other side respects what has been agreed in Lausanne and tries to draft, based on mutual respect, a comprehensive agreement with Iran that is sustainable..., then we can meet any deadline.
 
“If people insist on excessive demands, on renegotiation, then it will be difficult to envisage an agreement even without a deadline.
 
“I am hopeful we will reach a final conclusion within a reasonable period of time. In order to do that people need to be realistic, people need to have their foot in reality, not in illusions.
 
“We can only have agreements in which both sides can claim that they have achieved positive results. You need to either win together, or lose together. Iran, with millennia of history, will not be intimidated.”
—May 28, 2015 to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi
 
“Iran has agreed to grant managed access to military sites.”
“Americans are after interviewing our nuclear scientists. We didn't accept it.”
—May 24, 2015 to the press
“The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 [deadline]. We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands.”
“The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages.”
 
“Some solutions have been proposed and we are working on them. For us, the principle of simultaneity is very important.
 
“The final text of the deal will be about 60 pages including 20 pages of the main text and five attachments.
 
“This question [of timing and phasing] is still under discussion. We need a timetable to start implementing the measures that both sides have undertaken, and that may take some months. First of all, we have to wait for – something about two months – for the American Congress and probably Iranian Majlis to review the agreement and decide, and whenever the U.S. government, the European governments and the Iranian government express their readiness to start the implementation of the agreement, we [will] actually start doing what we are supposed to do. And that may take two months before we do anything because of these initiatives by the Congress and Majlis.
 
“So we have already two months of waiting and then we need a timetable that we are still working on that. We should do something, the other side should do something. We insist on the principal of simultaneity. Everything that both sides are supposed to do should be at the same time and simultaneous. Of course, we have some differences here – how to manage that, how to fix everything in a simultaneous way. We’re working on this timetable and this is one of our differences that we have still kept in brackets and we are trying to resolve that.
“It [the agreement] will still be based on the principal that all economic and financial sanctions should be removed at once.”
—May 27, 2015 to the press via Reuters and Press TV
 
“Removal of sanctions in the economic sector is being discussed so that the other side will remove the sanctions structures in a document and declare that if Iran acts upon its undertakings, they will remove the sanctions.”
—May 24, 2015 in a closed-door session of parliament
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
 
Member of Parliament Ahmad Shoohani
“Managed access will be in a shape where U.N. inspectors will have the possibility of taking environmental samples from the vicinity of military sites.”
—May 24, 2015 to the press
 
France
 
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
“France will not accept [a deal] if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites.”
—May 27, 2015 to lawmakers in Paris
 
Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud
 
“It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even [right] after.”
“Even if we get the best deal ... afterwards, you will have to translate it into the technical annexes, so it may be ... we could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation.”
—May 26, 2015 at an event in Washington, D.C. via Reuters
 
Germany
 
Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig
 
“Iran needs some time to start the implementation of this agreement, so in the best case sanctions relief would not happen before the end of this year.”
—May 26, 2015 at an event in Washington, D.C. via Reuters
 
United Kingdom
 
Ambassador to the United States Peter Westmacott
 
“My sense is that we are probably not far away from the high-water mark of international sanctions against the Iranian economy.”
—May 26, 2015 at an event in Washington, D.C. via Reuters
 
United States
 
State Department Press Office Director Jeff Rathke
 
“We’re not contemplating an extension beyond June 30th. Again, we’re united among the P5+1 that our efforts are to reach a final deal by the end of June.
 
“Well, in Lausanne, of course, we reached a framework understanding, and we’re working on completing the technical details and elements of that understanding now. So we won’t have a deal until those technical details are done, and – but – and we expect the pace of the talks to continue unabated. But we think we can achieve – achieve that goal.
 
“I don’t have new announcements to make about sanctions relief. As we’ve always said, sanctions relief will depend on completion of the key nuclear-related steps, and that’s what we’ve been saying ever since Lausanne, and that remains our position.
—May 27, 2015 in a press briefing
 
Russia
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
 
“There should be nothing automatic in this sphere [sanctions relief].
 
“We should find a formula under which a decision on a hypothetical, possible, potential restoration of sanctions would be made only and solely by the U.N. Security Council through voting, through a resolution.
—May 27, 2015 to Russia-24

 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
 
Director General Yukiya Amano
 
“When we find inconsistency or when we have doubts we can request access to the undeclared location for example, and this could include military sites.
 
“Some consideration is needed because of the sensitiveness of the site, but the IAEA has the right to request access at all locations, including military ones.
 
“Several months will be needed” to investigate the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear research.
 
“It depends very much on the pace and the intensiveness of the cooperation from Iran. We have identified 12 areas to clarify.
 
It could take years “to give the credible assurance that all activities in Iran have a peaceful purpose.”
 
“This will be the most extensive safeguard operation of the IAEA. We need to prepare well, we need to plan well, it is a huge operation.”
—May 26 in an interview with AFP
 

 

Tensions in Iran over Nuclear Talks

Garrett Nada

 

After a closed-door briefing at parliament, on May 24, conservative lawmaker Mehdi Koochakzadeh accused Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of treason and ignoring Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s limits in the nuclear negotiations. Zarif said Koochakzadeh had no right to speak for the supreme leader. In a meeting with lawmakers three days later, Khamenei warned them against insulting ministers.

 

The face-to face-argument on the floor of parliament, however, reflected the wider debate in Iran over the nuclear talks. Some hardliners have repeatedly accused Zarif and his negotiating team of making too many concessions in talks with the world’s six major powers —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Khamenei has periodically stepped in when criticism of Iran’s negotiating team has become particularly caustic. In 2013, he had warned officials not to call the negotiators “compromisers.”
 
Despite Khamenei’s support for Zarif and his team, hardliner lawmakers have repeatedly criticized their conduct. For example, more than 100 lawmakers, students, academics and activists attended a conference in 2014 titled “We’re Worried” — advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak deal.”
 
Earlier in May, Iran’s negotiators were more optimistic about brokering an agreement by the end of June. But just before the latest round of talks began in Vienna on May 27, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the self-imposed deadline might be extended. The following are recent excerpted remarks by Iranian officials on the nuclear talks.
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
 
“There are many solutions to the nuclear issue all of which rely on the domestic capacities and reinforcing [domestic] production.
 
“If we boost production and use domestic potentialities, this will not only solve internal problems, but also facilitate settlement of foreign issues such as the nuclear one.”
—May 27, 2015 in a speech to lawmakers 
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“Time and again, members of the [Iranian] negotiating delegation and I have stressed that [we] will certainly not allow the Western side to make excessive demands in the nuclear negotiations.
 
“Definitely, the negotiating team feels obliged to abide by the [Islamic] establishment’s red lines in all issues in the nuclear talks.”
—May 22, 2015 in an interview
 
“The Americans have adopted a carrot-and-stick policy over the past 30 years. We promise to effectively and properly defend Iran’s nuclear achievements.”
—May 24, 2015 in a closed door session of parliament

“The Iranian negotiating team will definitely abide by the Leader’s views on all issues pertaining to the nuclear negotiations.”
—May 25, 2015 according to Press TV 
 
“The nuclear negotiations can yield results if the other side shows pragmatism.”
—May 26, 2015 in a meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi
 
“The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 [deadline]. We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands.”
 
“The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages.”
 
“Some solutions have been proposed and we are working on them. For us, the principle of simultaneity is very important.
 
“The final text of the deal will be about 60 pages including 20 pages of the main text and five attachments.”
 
“This question [of timing and phasing] is still under discussion. We need a timetable to start implementing the measures that both sides have undertaken, and that may take some months. First of all, we have to wait for – something about two months – for the American Congress and probably Iranian Majlis to review the agreement and decide, and whenever the U.S. government, the European governments and the Iranian government express their readiness to start the implementation of the agreement, we [will] actually start doing what we are supposed to do. And that may take two months before we do anything because of these initiatives by the Congress and Majlis.
 
“So we have already two months of waiting and then we need a timetable that we are still working on that. We should do something, the other side should do something. We insist on the principal of simultaneity. Everything that both sides are supposed to do should be at the same time and simultaneous. Of course, we have some differences here – how to manage that, how to fix everything in a simultaneous way. We’re working on this timetable and this is one of our differences that we have still kept in brackets and we are trying to resolve that.
 
“It [the agreement] will still be based on the principal that all economic and financial sanctions should be removed at once.”
—May 27, 2015 to the press via Reuters and Press TV
 
“Removal of sanctions in the economic sector is being discussed so that the other side will remove the sanctions structures in a document and declare that if Iran acts upon its undertakings, they will remove the sanctions.”
—May 24, 2015 in a closed-door session of parliament
 
Chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi
 
“The Islamic Republic is on one side of the scale, and all the [world’s major] powers are on the other side, and we must pass through this crisis while maintaining our [nuclear] capabilities. We have passed a bill which sets the conditions for inspections; we have to save our shouting for America, not the Foreign Minister of Iran.”
—May 29, 2015 to Fars News
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
“It is the duty of Parliament to support the nuclear [negotiation] team” but the “Additional Protocol [of the International Atomic Energy Agency] has to be approved by Parliament.”
—May 24, 2015 following the argument between Koochakzadeh and Zarif
 
Supreme Leader's Deputy Representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Asoudi
 
“Tehran's strategy is resistance, and we will make the U.S. bow to Iran by using this strategy.
 
“The enemy has always made use of threats in negotiations, and negotiation under the shadow of threat is meaningless.
 
—May 24, 2015 in a speech
 
Member of Parliament Mehdi Koochakzadeh
 
“Mr. Zarif considers himself to be at the center of the world, and yelled that ‘those who compromise our unity call me a traitor.’”
 
 “We were just reminding him about the Supreme Leader's instructions.”
—May 24, 2015 in an interview with Shargh Daily

 

Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP.

 

Jason Rezaian Trial Begins in Tehran

On May 26, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian went on trial in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles national security cases.  The charges against him included espionage, collaborating with “hostile governments,” and “propaganda against the establishment.” During the hearing, the judge read a letter Rezaian had written to President Obama, inlcuding a passage that reportedly stated "In Iran, I'm in contact with simple laborers to influential mullahs." Rezaian denied the charges against him, and said “I carried out all my activities legally and as a journalist.” If convicted, Rezaian could face a 20-year prison sentence. The date of the next trial session has not been announced.

President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials have called on Iran to release the journalist, who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. “The charges against Jason Rezaian are absurd,” Deputy State Department Spokesman Jeff Rathke said on May 26. “They should be dropped; he should be released.”

But Iran’s government does not recognize dual citizenship. Rezaian and his Iranian wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, were detained in late July 2014. Salehi was released on bail during the first week of October.
 
On the margins of nuclear negotiations with Iran, U.S. officials have repeatedly raised Rezaian’s case along with the status of three other Americans also detained or missing in Iran. “We raise it in every round of meetings we have,” State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf told the press on April 21. But Harf, along with other U.S. officials, emphasized that the nuclear negotiations and Rezaian's detainment are "separate issues."
 
The following are excerpted remarks by U.S. officials on the case.
 
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
 
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
 
MR. EARNEST: Let me start by saying that while the United States is not aware of any official announcement yet from any Iranian judicial authorities, we have seen reports that U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage and other security-related charges.  If the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed, and Jason should be freed immediately so he can return home to his family.  So we’re going to wait until we see some more official announcement from Iranian judicial authorities before we comment further on this case. 
 
More generally, let me repeat something that I said before, which is that the ongoing effort to try to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy will not, if it succeeds, resolve the wide range of other concerns we have about Iranian behavior.  I mentioned earlier in response to Nedra’s question our ongoing concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, including shipping arms to the Houthis, for example.  We continue to be concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Iran’s language that currently emanates from their leadership that threatens our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  And we continue to  have concerns about Mr. Rezaian and other Americans who are being unjustly detained in Iran.
 
One thing that we have done, Mike, that you know, in the context of the talks is raised on the sidelines of those talks our concern about the status of these American citizens.  And we’re going to continue to press that case as we move forward here.
 
QUESTION: Josh, on the Jason Rezaian case, why can’t you just say to the Iranians that as a condition of making this deal final, you’ve got to free Jason Rezaian?  I understand you’re going to resolve all of your issues with Iran, like supporting terrorism throughout the region -- all of those issues that are very complicated perhaps; some would argue maybe not.  But here you have one case of an American who’s been held prisoner since July of last year, now brought up on what you just said were absurd charges.  Why not say, look, we’re not going to sign a deal until you let him go?

MR. EARNEST: The reason for that, Jon, simply is that the effort to build the international community’s strong support for a diplomatic resolution, or a diplomatic agreement that would shut down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily complicated.  And so we’re trying to focus on these issues one at a time.  And that’s why you continue to see regular, consistent and pretty forceful statements from the United States that these Americans should be released, while at the same time we are working with our P5+1 partners and other countries around the world to compel Iran to sign on to the dotted line and agree to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, and cooperate with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.
—April 20, 2015 during a press briefing 
 
QUESTION: Josh, coming back to another category of egregious behavior by Iran, we talked about Jason Rezaian yesterday.
… 
I understand -- we’ve been over this many times -- you're not going to make the release of these Americans a condition for having a final deal on the nuclear matter, but is the administration willing to impose some serious consequences on the Iranian government for taking these Americans under what appear to be specious charges?
 
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't want to speculate about any possible future action, but I will say something that's similar to what I said before, which is that we continue to be very concerned about the unjust detention of a number of Americans inside of Iran.  We have made those concerns known in quite public fashion.  We’ve also made those concerns known privately, directly with the Iranian leadership.  As recently as a month or two ago, Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of his nuclear negotiations with his Iranian counterpart raised his concerns about this unjust detention.
So we’ve made very clear to the Iranians that we're concerned about the treatment of Americans inside of Iran, and that this continues to be a high priority for U.S. foreign policy.
—April 21, 2015 during a press briefing 
 
State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
 
QUESTION:  I’m wondering if you have any thoughts/reaction to the charging of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian by Iran. And then I’d like to stay on Iran for a little bit.
 
MS HARF: So we are still not aware of any official announcement yet from Iranian judicial authorities. I understand these reports are coming from his lawyer. We have seen the reports, of course, from his lawyer and others that he has been charged with espionage and other security-related charges. If the reports are true, these charges are, as we’ve said in the past, patently absurd. He should immediately be freed so he can return to his family. The charges should immediately be dismissed. But again, no confirmation officially from Iranian judicial authorities yet.
 
QUESTION: Quick one on this one. Is it possible for him to renounce his Iranian citizenship? Do you know anything about that?
 
MS HARF: I don’t know, Said. But regardless of that specific fact, and I just don’t know the answers there, these charges that he’s allegedly been charged with are just absurd as I said and he should be freed immediately.
 
QUESTION: The other thing having to do with Iran – I realize that these are separate, the issue of the Americans detained – are separate from the nuclear talks. Although, as you and others have said as does come up – this issue does come up on the –
 
MS HARF: We always raise it in every round. That’s correct.
 
QUESTION: So I’m wondering: Does this give you any pause about going full-throttle ahead with the negotiations?
 
MS HARF: They really are separate issues.
 
QUESTION: Well, but they had been brought up on the –
 
MS HARF: On the sidelines. But not related to the nuclear issue, just because we were all in the same place.
 
It doesn’t make us not want to get this resolved diplomatically any less than we already do. We clearly believe this is important.
 
QUESTION: Understood, but is this something that now will be – that you will make the – you, meaning the Administration – will make a point of raising, since you say that these charges are –
 
MS HARF: Not as part of the nuclear talks. These are separate issues. We will continue raising his case and the other two Americans who were detained – and Robert Levinson who’s missing – we’ll continue raising them but they are not – their fate and the outcome of these cases should in no way be tied to the nuclear issue.
—April 21, 2015 during a State Department press briefing

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron 
 
“The shameful acts of injustice continue without end in the treatment of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. Now we learn his trial will be closed to the world. And so it will be closed to the scrutiny it fully deserves.
 
It’s worth recalling what kind of system we’re dealing with. Jason was arrested without charges. He was imprisoned in Iran’s worst prison. He was placed in isolation for many months and denied medical care he needed. His case was assigned to a judge internationally notorious for human rights violations. He could not select the lawyer of his choosing. He was given only an hour and a half to meet with a lawyer approved by the court. No evidence has ever been produced by prosecutors or the court to support these absurd charges. The trial date was only disclosed to Jason’s lawyer last week. And now, unsurprisingly but unforgivably, it turns out the trial will be closed.
 
Jason’s mother, Mary, who has spent the last two weeks in Iran awaiting the trial, will not be permitted to attend. His wife, Yeganeh, who faces related charges, will also be barred; she is to be tried separately. Efforts by The Washington Post to secure a visa that would have allowed a senior editor to travel to Iran have gone unanswered by the authorities in Tehran.
 
There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance. Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”
—May 25, 2015, in a statement

 

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