United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Latest on Nuke Talks: What Iran, P5+1 Say

            Leaders from Iran and the six major powers have indicated that significant gaps remain between the two sides in the run-up to the July 20 deadline for a nuclear deal. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has insisted that Iran would need to expand its uranium enrichment program to satisfy its long-term energy needs. Enrichment is one of the most divisive issues in the negotiations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has also reported a difference in Russia’s approach compared to Britain, China, France, Germany and the United States’ positions. The following are excerpted remarks by officials on the Vienna nuclear talks, which began on July 3.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
            “As for nuclear issue, the other side is pressuring Iran to be content with the least. In negotiations, the country’s future needs should be considered. We trust the nuclear negotiating team; they will not allow encroaching on the nation’s rights.
            “On the issue of enrichment capacity, their [the West's] aim is make Iran accept 10,000 SWU (separative work units). Our officials say we need 190,000 SWU. We might not need this [capacity] this year or in the next two or five years but this is our absolute need and we need to meet this need."
             July 7, 2014 in a meeting with government officials
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
           “We haven’t resolved any problem, but we have made some important headway in probably removing some of the misconceptions and moving forward with making more serious decisions.”
            July 13, 2014 to the press            
            “Of course, we are not ready to achieve a solution at any cost. We insist on our rights and at the same time try to achieve an acceptable, dignified, logical, long-term and lasting solution.”
            July 9, 2014 according to Press TV

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
           “We have a win-win strategy but if the enemy raises excessive demands, the world will know that the side which has raised excessive demands should merely be blamed for the possible failure of the negotiations.”
           July 7, 2014 in a meeting with Supreme Leader Khamenei

Chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi
            “Our needs for an agreed time frame, for the next eight years, to secure annual fuel for Bushehr nuclear power plant, is approximately 190,000 SWU, so that after the end of the contract with Russia, fuel for this power plant, the Tehran research center and the Arak reactor is secure.
            “We don’t define the enrichment needs on the basis of the number of centrifuge machines, but based on their units, meaning we define it by its SWU. It is based on the type of centrifuge machine to see how much centrifuge machines equals 190,000 SWU.
“If the capacity of each centrifuge is three SWU, approximately 60,000 centrifuges are needed. If the ability of each centrifuge is 10 SWU, we need 19,000 centrifuges. If the machines of the centrifuge from our latest generation have the ability of 24 SWU, we need less than 10,000 centrifuges.”
            July 8, 2014 to Iranian news agencies (translation via Al Monitor)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
            “We had some profound discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue but we still don't have an agreement. We will continue talking but I think these discussions were useful.”
          July 13, 2014 to the press
            “Until now the P5+1 (six powers) were homogenous, but over the last few days my representatives in the negotiations have seen a certain number of different approaches - and I hope they won't remain - between some of the P5+1 and our Russian partners.
            “We want to preserve the unity among the P5+1 because that is how we reached a deal before.”
            July 8, 2014 to parliament
British Foreign Minister William Hague
            “Achieving an agreement is far from certain. Significant differences remain ... which are yet to be bridged. But I am convinced that the current negotiations are the best opportunity we have had in years to resolve this issue.”
            June 10, 2014 in an interview with Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung
E.U. spokesperson Michael Mann
            The group of six major powers “has been united and is still united. We are working very hard, we are working on drafting the text. But there are still obvious, serious gaps to close and we are determined to work hard to try and close those gaps.”
            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is “thinking about when to engage the ministers as we move the process forward. It would be an opportunity to take stock of where we are in the process.”
            June 9, 2014 to reporters
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson
            “The discussions are extremely difficult but on the face of it there is some progress. We hope to work out a final text of the agreement - despite all the difficulties - by the July 20 deadline.”
            July 10, 2014 in a news conference

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong
“We urge all the parties to show their flexibility and a political will to reach an agreement as soon as possible and also we have hope… that we can achieve that...of course we have some difficulties, some hurdles so that is why we have to work together and in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.”
            July 13, 2014 to the press


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
            “We discussed all proposals today once again. The main thing is for everyone on the part of the P5+1 who conducts talks to work out a single position and reach out with it to Iran. It happened today.
           “It is time when an agreement could be struck for the decade of talks.”
           July 14, 2014 according to press

Congress Asks Obama for Consultation on Iran

            On July 10, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chief Ed Royce (R-CA) and the Committee’s Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), along with 342 other House Members, sent a letter to President Obama emphasizing that any permanent sanctions relief for Iran would require congressional approval. The letter called for closer consultation as the July 20 deadline for a nuclear deal approaches. The following is the full text of the letter with a link to the list of signers.

Dear Mr. President:
Iran’s nuclear program poses a grave threat to the national security of the United States and our allies. As the July 20th deadline for a “comprehensive solution” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon approaches, we urge greater consultation with Congress on a potential sanctions relief package that may be part of a final agreement.
Our two branches of government have long been partners in working to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. However, as these hugely consequential national security decisions are made, greater cooperation between Congress and the Executive Branch is essential, given that any permanent sanctions relief demands congressional approval.
When asked if your Administration would come to Congress to secure legislative relief of sanctions in a final agreement with Iran, in a recent Congressional hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry responded: “(w)ell, of course. We would be obligated to under the law.” He added that “what we do will have to pass muster with Congress.” We strongly agree with the Secretary’s assessment, and believe the final agreement must verifiably ensure that Iran is denied an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability.
Your Administration has committed to comprehensively lifting “nuclear-related” sanctions as part of a final P5+1 agreement with Tehran. Yet the concept of an exclusively defined “nuclear-related” sanction on Iran does not exist in U.S. law. Almost all sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program are also related to Tehran’s advancing ballistic missile program, intensifying support for international terrorism, and other unconventional weapons programs. Similarly, many of these sanctions are aimed at preventing Iranian banks involved in proliferation, terrorism, money laundering and other activities from utilizing the U.S. and global financial systems to advance these destructive policies.
Iran's permanent and verifiable termination of all of these activities - not just some - is a prerequisite for permanently lifting most congressionally-mandated sanctions. This often unnoted reality necessitates extensive engagement with Congress before offers of relief are made to Iran, and requires Congressional action if sanctions are to be permanently lifted. With the July 20 negotiating deadline on the near horizon, we hope that your Administration will now engage in substantive consultations with Congress on the scope of acceptable sanctions relief.
It would be wise for Congress and the Executive Branch to work closely together to end the threat that Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability pose to U.S. national security. We look forward to working constructively with your Administration on a solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.
Click here for a list of signers.

Sanctions Factsheet: What the US Cedes

Sanctions have been the policy tool of choice used by six presidents to deal with Iran. Since the 1979 revolution, the White House has issued at least 16 executive orders, and Congress has passed ten statutes imposing punitive sanctions on Iran in four waves, according to Ali Vaez, of the International Crisis Group, in The Iran Primer.

  • The first wave of U.S. sanctions, from 1979 to 1995, was a response to the U.S. embassy hostage crisis and Tehran’s support for extremist groups in the region.
  • The second wave of sanctions, from 1995 to 2006, sought to weaken the Islamic Republic by targeting its oil and gas industry and denying it access to nuclear and missile technology. U.S. sanctions also targeted any company in a third country that invested in Iran’s energy sector, a move to compel allies to adopt a unified stance against Iran.
  • The third wave, from 2006 to 2010, was imposed chiefly due to concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but also included punitive measures for Iran’s human rights violations.
  • The latest wave of sanctions, since 2010 includes, some of the toughest restrictions the United States has ever imposed on any country. They target Iran’s Central Bank and its ability to repatriate oil revenues as well as many transportation, insurance, manufacturing and financial sectors.
The first two waves of sanctions were unilaterally imposed by Washington. But the last two included similar measures imposed by U.S. allies and the United Nations, generating almost a global sanctions regime against Iran. Many U.S. sanctions are tied to Iran’s non-nuclear policies, such as human rights abuses and support for terrorism. 
Quick Factoids: Sanctions Impact
  • U.S. and E.U. sanctions have cost Iran over $100 billion in lost sales since 2011. Treasury Undersecretary David S. Cohen April 2014
  • Iran’s economy contracted by about six percent in 2013 and is expected to perform badly in 2014 as well. Treasury Undersecretary David S. Cohen April 2014
  • Sanctions have cut oil export earnings by more than 60 percent since 2011. State Department Undersecretary Wendy Sherman February 2014
  • Oil revenues plummeted from $100 billion in 2011 to $35 billion in 2013.  Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service   May 2014
  • Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost about 60 percent of its value since 2011. State Department briefing November 2013
Congressional Sanctions
  • The Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992: Sanctions foreign countries that transfer goods or technology that knowingly contribute to Iran acquiring chemical, biological, nuclear or advanced conventional weapons.
  • Iran Sanctions Act of 1996: Sanctions investment in Iran’s energy sector. (Amended and expanded since then.)
  • Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000: Sanctions foreign individuals and entities helping Iran with developing weapons of mass of destruction.
  • Iran Freedom Support Act of 2006: Sanctions entities that contribute to Iran’s ability to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. 
  • Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010: Sanctions sale of gasoline and gasoline production equipment to Iran, sanctions banks that transact with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and blacklists individuals involved with human rights abuses related to the crackdown on protestors following the June 2009 presidential election.
  • Iran-Syria-North Korea Nonproliferation Act of 2011: Sanctions entities and individuals supporting weapons of mass destruction or cruise or ballistic missile programs.
  • Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act: Identifies Iran as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern and prohibits the opening or maintaining of correspondent accounts by any domestic financial institution or agency for or on behalf of a foreign banking institution, if the account involves Iran.
  • National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012: Sanctions foreign banks that transact with Iran’s Central Bank. Exemptions can be issued to banks whose parent countries have substantially curtailed purchases of Iranian oil.
  • Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012: Expands sanctions on foreign banks dealing in Iran’s energy sector and on entities involved with human rights abuses in Syria
  • National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013: Expands sanctions on energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors for ties to proliferation activities.
White House Executive Orders
Executive Order 12170 (November 1979): Declares a national emergency related to the events of 1979 and blocks Iranian government property subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Executive Order 12957 (March 1995): Prohibits persons under U.S. jurisdiction from entering into certain transactions with respect to Iranian petroleum resources.
Executive Order 12959 (May 1995): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957 and prohibits entering into new investment with Iran. Food and medical products are exempt.
Executive Order 13059 (August 1997): Prohibits most imports from Iran, exports to Iran, new investment, transactions relating to Iran-origin goods regardless of their location.
Executive Order 13224 (September 2001): Declares a national emergency in aftermath of September 11, and blocks property and prohibits transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism.
Executive Order 13382 (June 2005): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12938; blocks property of WMD proliferators and their supporters.
Executive Order 13553 (September 2010): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; blocks property of certain persons with respect to human rights abuses by the government of Iran. Generates a list of designated individuals for whom property under U.S. jurisdiction is blocked. Imposes sanctions on those who enter into transactions with designated individuals.
Executive Order 13572 (April 2011): Blocks property of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for human rights abuses in Syria.
Executive Order 13574 (May 2011): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; implements new sanctions added to ISA. Prohibits U.S. financial institutions from making loans or credits, or engaging in foreign exchange transactions. Prohibits imports from, and blocks property of, sanctioned persons.
Executive Order 13590 (November 2011): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; blocks property of those who trade in goods, services, technology, or support for Iran’s energy and petrochemical sectors. Prohibits Ex-Im Bank from entering into transactions with sanctioned persons. Requires Federal Reserve to deny goods and services. Prohibits U.S. financial institutions from making most loans or credits.
Executive Order 13599 (February 2012): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; blocks property of the government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, including the Central Bank of Iran.
Executive Order 13606 (April 2012): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; blocks property and suspends entry into the U.S of Iranian and Syrian officials engaged in human rights abuses.
Executive Order 13608 (May 2012): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; prohibits transactions with and suspends entry into the U.S. foreign sanctions evaders.
Executive Order 13622 (July 2012): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957; authorizes sanctions on foreign financial institutions that finance activities with National Iranian Oil Company. Prohibits Ex-Im Bank financing, designation as a primary dealer of U.S. debt instruments, access to U.S. financial institutions. Blocks property, denies imports and exports.
Executive Order 13628 (October 2012): Expands national emergency set forth in E.O. 12957. Further prohibits U.S. financial institutions from making loans or credits, foreign exchange transactions, and transfers or credits between financial institutions. Blocks property of those who deal in equity or debt instruments of a sanctioned person. Prohibits imports, exports. Extends sanctions to other officers of sanctioned entities. Blocks property affiliated with human rights abusers. Denies access to certain financing tools, property, and imports, if one engaged in expansion of Iran’s refined petroleum sector. Blocks entry into the U.S. of those engaged in human rights abuses.

Executive Order 13645 (June 2013): Expands national emergency in E.O. 12957; imposes restrictions on foreign financial institutions engaged in transactions relating to, or maintaining accounts dominated by, Iran’s currency. Prohibits opening or maintaining U.S.-based payable-through correspondent accounts. Blocks property under U.S. jurisdiction. Imposes restrictions on those, including foreign financial institutions, found to be materially assisting in any way an Iran-related specially designated natinoal. Imposes restrictions on those found to engage in transactions related to Iran’s petroleum or related products. Requires the Secretary of State to impose restrictions on financing (Federal Reserve, Ex-Im Bank, commercial banks) on those found to engage in significant transactions related to Iran’s automotive sector. Blocks property of those found to have engaged in diversion of goods and services intended for Iran’s people.
4 United Nations resolutions
UNSC Resolution 1737 (December 2006)
UNSC Council Resolution 1747 (March 2007)
UNSC Council Resolution 1803 (March 2008)
UNSC Council Resolution 1929 (June 2010)
The four Security Council resolutions include the following sanctions:
  • Imposing asset freezes on individuals and companies for involvement in ballistic missile programs and nuclear programs.
  • Imposing asset freezes on individuals, companies and banks affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
  • Requires states to prohibit procurement of arms and related material from Iran and require states to restrict supply of specified arms and combat equipment to Iran.
  • Calls on states to exercise vigilance in entering new public financial support commitments with Iran.
  • Calls on states to exercise vigilance over Iranian bank transactions in their territories.
Tags: Sanctions

Kerry & Zarif: Rivaling Op-eds on Nuke Talks

            Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry have published rival op-eds in the run-up to another round of nuclear talks scheduled for July 2 to 20. Zarif highlighted the “unique opportunity” to strike a deal with the world’s six major powers. But he also warned against maximalist demands by the opposite side that could jeopardize the talks. “I appeal for these illusions not to derail a process that could put an end to a pointless crisis,” Zarif wrote in French daily Le Monde. In a YouTube video message, Zarif also warned against “pursuing a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last minute concessions.” The two sides must reach an agreement before July 20 or agree to extend the negotiating period for six months.

      Secretary Kerry framed the talks in terms of two choices for Iran’s leaders. “They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon," he wrote in The Washington Post. Or “they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran's economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.”
      On July 2, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also warned that the world’s six major powers “will not accept a deal at any price” in a statement. The following are excerpts from Zarif and Kerry’s op-eds with a transcript of Zarif’s video message and transcript Hague’s statement.

Transcript of video message "We Can Make History"
            In the next three weeks, we have a unique opportunity to make history: To forge a comprehensive agreement over Iran's nuclear energy program; and to end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of past few weeks in Iraq.
            We could have resolved the nuclear issue in 2005. But then, people didn't believe me when I said that Iranians are allergic to pressure.
            The Bush administration torpedoed the deal by demanding that we abandon enrichment, altogether. They then opted for pressure and sanctions. For 8 years.
            The sanctions were crippling -- even deadly; literally.
            Iranian cancer patients could not buy medicine with their own money, because banks around the world had been bullied by the US Treasury to avoid transferring Iranian funds.
            But sanctions did not cripple our nuclear program.
            Neither did the murder of our nuclear scientists, the sabotage of our nuclear facilities - with potentially disastrous environmental ramifications - or the repeated military threats.
In fact, they achieved exactly the opposite:
            Insisting on no enrichment resulted in a 100-fold increase in our centrifuges: from less than 200 to almost 20,000;
            Refusing to sell fuel for our American-built research reactor, forced us to produce our own fuel by increasing enrichment levels: from 3.5% to 20%.
            Depriving Iranian cancer patients from medical radio-isotopes, compelled us to build a heavy water reactor, going from an idea then to a full-fledged plant, to be commissioned soon; and
            Threats to bomb our nuclear facilities out of existence, obliged us to build Fordow, which is protected by our mountains.
            Western governments cried foul, ignoring that they had brought this upon themselves.
            As we approach July 20th, I feel compelled to warn again that pursuing a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last minute concessions cannot achieve anything better than what it achieved in 2005.
            To those who continue to believe that sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, I can only say that pressure has been tried for the past 8 years, in fact for the past 35 years.
            It didn't bring the Iranian people to kneel in submission. And it will not now nor in the future. We still have time to exit this spiral of escalation.Try mutual respect. It works. We are trying to reach a deal. Not a good deal or a bad deal, but a doable and lasting deal. And any deal, by definition, is the outcome of mutual understanding—not imposition by one side or the other.
            We are willing to take concrete measures to guarantee that our nuclear program will always remain peaceful.
            We still have time to put an end to the myth that Iran is seeking to build a bomb. And we're backed by over 250 years of non-aggression to substantiate our assertion.
            My government remains committed to ending this unnecessary crisis by July 20th. I hope my counterparts are, too.
Excerpts from Foreign Miniser Zarif’s Op-ed in Le Monde
            Today we have got a unique opportunity for talks with the P5+1. But it is to regret that there are still some on the opposite side who would not stop dreaming.
            There is this political will to reach a comprehensive, long-term solution that is respected by both sides. But the negotiations can only become successful when the entire parties dedicate themselves to finding acceptable procedures which would be in agreement with the interim deal, that is, to guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful as well as to remove the entire Security Council sanctions and the multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.
            We are willing to guarantee that our nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. But we will not compromise our technical advancement or our scientists.
            No one can go back in time. There has been sacrifice made. Today abilities have changed greatly than the past. There is know-how and expertise come by none of which could be forgotten. Pressure and sanctions have also proved ineffective.
            I appeal for these illusions not to derail a process that could put an end to a pointless crisis.
(Translation via the Young Journalists Club and AFP)
Excerpts from Secretary of State Kerry’s Op-ed in The Washington Post
            All along, these negotiations have been about a choice for Iran’s leaders. They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon, or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.
            Diplomacy and leadership are marked by tough calls. This shouldn’t be one of them.
            Iranian officials have stated repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon and that their nuclear activities are designed solely to fulfill civilian needs. Assuming that’s true, it’s not a hard proposition to prove.
            The United States and our partners have demonstrated to Iran how serious we are. During the negotiations to reach the Joint Plan of Action, we extended our hand to the Iranians and met with them directly to understand what Iran wanted from its nuclear program. Along with our international partners, we helped chart a path that would allow Iran to have a domestic program for exclusively peaceful purposes. We proved that we were flexible in offering financial relief.
            Throughout these talks, Iran’s negotiators have been serious. Iran has also defied the expectations of some by meeting its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, which has allowed time and space for the comprehensive negotiations to proceed. Specifically, Iran has been eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, limited its enrichment capability by not installing or starting up additional centrifuges, refrained from making further advances at its enrichment facilities and heavy-water reactor, and allowed new and more frequent inspections. In exchange, the European Union and the P5+1 have provided limited financial relief to Iran, even as the architecture of international sanctions and the vast majority of sanctions themselves remained firmly in place.
            Now Iran must choose. During the comprehensive negotiations, the world has sought nothing more than for Iran to back up its words with concrete and verifiable actions. We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is limited to peaceful purposes. In return, Iran would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.
            What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran’s negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We also know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors.
            These gaps aren’t caused by excessive demands on our part. On the contrary, the E.U. and P5+1 negotiators have listened closely to Iran’s questions and concerns and showed flexibility to the extent possible consistent with our fundamental goals for this negotiation. We have worked closely with Iran to design a pathway for a program that meets all of the requirements for peaceful, civilian purposes.
            There remains a discrepancy, however, between Iran’s professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date. The divide between what Iran says and what it has done underscores why these negotiations are necessary and why the international community united to impose sanctions in the first place.
            Iran’s claim that the world should simply trust its words ignores the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported since 2002 on dozens of violations by Iran of its international nonproliferation obligations, starting in the early 1980s. The U.N. Security Council responded by adopting four resolutions under Chapter VII, requiring Iran to take steps to address these violations. These issues cannot be dismissed; they must be addressed by the Iranians if a comprehensive solution is to be reached. These are not just the expectations of any one country, but of the community of nations.
            To gain relief from sanctions, the world is simply asking Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are what it claims them to be.
            If Iran is able to make these choices, there will be positive outcomes for the Iranian people and for their economy. Iran will be able to use its significant scientific know-how for international civil nuclear cooperation. Businesses could return to Iran, bringing much needed investment, jobs and many additional goods and services. Iran could have greater access to the international financial system. The result would be an Iranian economy that begins to grow at a significant and sustainable pace, boosting the standard of living among the Iranian population. If Iran is not ready to do so, international sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen.
Click here for the full text.

British Foreign Secretary Hague's July 2 statement

            “This is a crucial moment in international efforts to resolve one of the most challenging foreign policy issues of our day. The UK is fully committed to reaching an agreement which ensures Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful. To achieve this, Iran will need to be realistic about the steps required to resolve the international community’s serious concerns about its nuclear programme. We will not accept a deal at any price. A deal that does not provide sufficient assurances that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon is not in the interests of the UK, the region or the international community.
            “Achieving an agreement is far from certain. Significant differences remain between the E3+3 and Iran which are yet to be bridged. But I am convinced that the current negotiations are the best opportunity we have had in years to resolve this issue. Over the next three weeks, an intensive effort will be required by all sides. We will continue to work closely with our E3+3 partners to test to the full the scope for achieving the deal the international community requires. The benefits of a comprehensive deal for Iran are clear: if Iran is willing to take the steps needed, significant economic benefits will follow. Ultimately, this would lead to the lifting of all nuclear related sanctions and Iran being treated like any other non-nuclear weapons state.”


Iran's Leaders on Iraq Crisis and ISIS

            Iran’s leaders are unified in their support for the Iraqi government against The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken significant territory in recent weeks. But Iranian officials are also sending mixed messages on the possibility of U.S. intervention or cooperating with Washington to help Baghdad quell the uprising.  
            President Hassan Rouhnai said his country could consider cooperating with the United States “if it starts confronting terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.” Hesameddin Ashna, a Rouhani advisor and head of the state-run Center for Strategic Studies, even suggested that U.S. airstrikes could help the Iraqi air force.
            But Supreme National Security Council Chief Ali Shamkhani has dismissed speculative reports about U.S.-Iran coordination. And Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned against U.S. intervention. He has blamed the United States, along with Sunni Gulf states, for allowing extremist groups to flourish in the region. “The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence,” Khamenei said on June 22. The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian leaders on the Iraq crisis.
President Hassan Rouhani
      “The Islamic Republic will not tolerate violence and terror as foreign-backed takfiri militants wreak havoc in northern Iraq.
      “As the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will not tolerate the [acts of] violence and terror and we fight violence and terrorism in the region and in the world.
      “We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups. We can think about it [cooperation with the United States] if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.
      “Iran has never dispatched any forces to Iraq and it is very unlikely it will ever happen.”
            June 14, 2014 during a press conference
            “Regarding the holy Shia shines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.
            “These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.”
            June 18, 2014 in a speech to a crowd in Lorestan province
            “I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop.
            “Tomorrow you will be targeted... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims.
            “For centuries, Shiites and Sunnis have lived alongside each other in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf and North Africa...in peaceful coexistence.”
            June 22, 2014, according to press
            “If the Iraqi government wants help, we will study it; of course no demand has yet been raised until today but we are ready for help within the framework of the international laws and at the request of the Iraqi nation.
            “Of course, we should know that help and assistance is one issue, and interference and entrance [into the battlefield] is another. If the Iraqi government demands us we will help them, but the entrance of the Iranian troops [onto the scene of battles in Iraq] has never been considered.
            “Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.”
            June 24, 2014, according to press

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

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

      June 22, 2014 at a meeting with judiciary officials


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

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

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

AMANPOUR: But to Iran?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMANPOUR: Specifically in Iraq.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

       June 21, 2014 according to Parliament’s website 

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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