United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Secret Nuclear Facility: Claim and Denial

            An exiled opposition group claimed that Iran has been hiding an underground nuclear site since 2006. “The People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) has discovered credible evidence of a secret new nuclear site, gathered over a year by 50 sources in various parts of the regime," according to a July 11 National Council of Resistance of Iran statement. The Paris-based MEK said the site is located underneath a mountain about 44 miles northeast of Tehran, near the town of Damavand. The group also claimed that President-elect Hassan Rouhani played a “key role” in the program.
But Tehran has denied the allegations as mere lies by a “desperate” group of exiles. “The terrorist MEK has been so discredited that the publication of such stories by them is not worth a response,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on July 12. The United States had previously regarded the leftist MEK as a foreign terrorist organization for killing six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and attempting an attack against Iran’s U.N. mission in 1992. But the group renounced violence in 2001. And the State Department revoked the MEK’s terrorist designation in September 2012. The following are excerpted remarks by Araqchi and the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

National Council of Resistance of Iran
            “The organization of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) has discovered credible evidence of a secret new nuclear site, gathered over a year by 50 sources in various parts of the regime… The codename of the project is 'Ma'adane-e Charq' (literally 'the mine of the east') or 'Project Kossar'. This site is hidden in a series of tunnels under a mountain near the town of Damavand.”
            Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior Revolutionary Guards official, is overseeing the project’s “nuclear, biological and chemical programs.”
Abbas Araqchi, Foreign Ministry spokesman

            “This report is by no means true and is denied… The terrorist MEK has been so discredited that the publication of such stories by them is not worth a response.”



Iran on Egypt: Range of Reactions

      Many top Iranian officials have condemned the military coup against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on July 3. “The interference of military forces in the political scene is unacceptable,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on July 8. He charged that Western powers were meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs. But Iranian diplomats, clerics and a lawmaker have also candidly criticized the former Muslim Brotherhood official for his poor performance and warned that deepening divisions could trigger civil strife. Iranian leaders have claimed that the coup was not a setback for the “Islamic Awakening,” Tehran’s term for the Arab uprisings. The following are reactions by Iranian leaders to the Egyptian crisis.
Abbas Araqchi, Foreign Ministry spokesman
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran stresses the fulfillment of the legitimate public demands in Egypt, but we believe… that governments elected by popular vote should be respected and the people’s demands must be pursued through the channels stipulated by law.
            “We witnessed the inefficiency of the government of Mr. Morsi, which had its own consequences and we had seen them in the country’s foreign policy… Islamists and revolutionaries should not be frustrated… The recent developments in Egypt cannot be construed as a failure of the Islamic Awakening or Islamic tendencies; from the outset, we had known and said that the Egyptian revolution would have tough years ahead on its way to stability.” July 7 in a statement
            “The interference of military forces in the political scene is unacceptable and concerning… Driving Egyptian society towards disagreement and division, and polarizing society are [all] dangerous [issues].
            “Definitely there are foreign hands at work, and this issue cannot be denied…. Without a doubt a strong Egypt will not be desired by Westerners and the Zionist regime [of Israel]. Therefore, it is natural to consider their meddling in Egypt a possibility.” July 8 in a statement
Ali Akbar Salehi, foreign minister
            “In the end the Egyptian people have determined their own fate, and it is these people who will define the fate of Egypt in whatever direction it goes…. The Egyptian army has been and is a popular army and has always protected and defended the populace and the integrity of Egyptian soil, but in regards to these events in which a number of innocent people were killed, we must strongly condemn these killings…” July 10 to reporters (translation by AEI)
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs
            “Undoubtedly, the perceptive and insightful people of Egypt will thwart the Zionist regime [of Israel] and enemies’ opportunism as well as bids to stop the growing trend of democracy which is the fruit of the Egyptian revolution.” July 5 in remarks to the press
            “We have already voiced our concern about any conflict that pushes Egypt toward violence. The continuation of the massacre of the Egyptian people by any group is unacceptable.” July 9 in remarks to the press
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee
            “The first mistake by the ... [Muslim] Brotherhood was that they thought they would be able to conclude the revolution only by toppling Hosni Mubarak.” July 4 in remarks to the press
            The arrest of Muslim Brotherhood members “will be a provoking act for their supporters to enter the scene, but [the Brotherhood] should accept early elections. It’s a difficult thing, but it’s the only path toward an understanding, because a continuation of the existing situation is dangerous for Egypt and the region. Iran will certainly not interfere in the internal crisis of Egypt. But we are ready to use our capacity to create calm in Egypt.
            “Certainly, the American and Zionist regimes are happy about this crisis. Therefore, Egypt’s national interests must take priority. After one year of ruling, [the Brotherhood] was entangled with many problems, the army interfered and the people became divided. Therefore, if the leaders of the two sides fuel the conflict, it’s possible that Egypt will move toward an internal crisis or even toward violence… They must not give permission to provide the ground for extremist and well- known elements, or Egypt will move toward unfortunate events like [those in] Syria and Iraq.” July 8 in remarks to the press (translation by Al Monitor)
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Tehran Friday prayer leader
            “The people of Egypt are Muslim and they love Islam, and many times in the last year they went to the ballot box and they voted for Muslims. But the people who came to sit on the seat of power through the Islamic Awakening performed so poorly that they themselves prepared the ground for a coup.
            “Instead of inviting the Islamic world to unite, [Morsi's government] supported the murdering infidels. On the political front, they dealt with the Zionist regime in a way that was against their previous principles. They confirmed the Camp David Accords and spread fear of Iran and Shiite Islam.” July 5 in a sermon
Hojatoleslam Hassan Ameli, Ardebil Friday prayer leader
            “Some believe that the developments in Egypt are a second revolution and a tendency toward secularization, but we must not forget that these events are the results of Muslim Brotherhood's imprudence and Morsi's lack of understanding, which encouraged the people to change their leadership.
            “In the past year, Morsi did not even once frown at the U.S. and the Zionist regime, while in the early days of their revolution the Egyptians not only set the embassy of the Zionist regime on fire, but they also confronted the excessive demands of foreign governments.” July 5 in a sermon (translation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Hassan Firouzabadi, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
            Egyptians should “stand by revolutionary and elected President Morsi.” June 30 in remarks to the press

Photo credit: Iran Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Iran's Car Chaos

      Iran is the world's fourth most dangerous country for driving in terms of road traffic death rate, according to a recent World Health Organization report. More than 27,000 people die each year in traffic accidents, equivalent to about 34.1 deaths per 100,000 people. The Dominican Republic, the most dangerous country for driving, has a death rate of 41.7 per 100,000 people.
      Iran’s soaring oil wealth led to a tenfold increase in cars during the 1970s, some 75 percent of which were in Tehran alone. By the 1979 revolution, a million cars were buzzing around the capital. In the mid-1990s, a major Iranian paper reported that Tehran residents wasted an accumulative 1.2 billion hours annually in traffic jams. Traffic has gotten worse since then as the number of cars has increased to some 4 million.
      The Lonely Planet travel guide recommends forgetting "everything you’ve ever learned about road rules” before driving in Tehran because “none of it applies.” The guide warns of the “lawless aggression” of local drivers.
            In recent years, the government has taken steps to improve road safety. It launched a comprehensive road safety program in 2005 including three enforcement-based interventions —a seatbelt law, a motorcycle helmet law and increased general traffic law enforcement. Fatalities per 100,000 people decreased from 38.2 per year in 2004 to 31.8 in 2007, according to the World Health Organization.
            In 2008, Iran established the National Road Information and Traffic Management Center. The government installed additional traffic cameras and made more of an effort to enforce traffic laws. But enforcement is still a key problem. The World Health Organization gave Iran a rating of 6 out of 10 for enforcement of national speed limits and a 5 for enforcing the seat-belt law. The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Photo Credit: By Hamed Saber from Tehran, Iran (Tehran Traffic Jam) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Iran Missile Program Expanding

      Iran could develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015, according to a new report by U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Tehran’s extensive missile development program has benefited from Chinese, North Korean and Russian support over the last several years. Iran's Shahab 3 missile now reportedly has an extended range of some 1,200 miles, which may be capable of hitting U.S. bases in the region and Israel. The following are excerpts from the report with a link to the full text at the end.  

            Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality, and accuracy of its ballistic missile force. Iranian ballistic missile forces continue to train extensively in highly publicized exercises. These exercises enable Iranian ballistic missile forces to hone wartime operational skills and evolve new tactics. Iran is fielding increased numbers of theater ballistic missiles, improving its existing inventory, and is developing the technical capability to produce an ICBM.
Short-Range Ballistic Missiles
           In August 2010, Iranian officials hailed the successful test firing of the liquid-fuel Qiam-1 surface-to-surface missile. Around the same time, the Iranian Minister of Defense told reporters that the third-generation of the Fateh-110 missile (above) had been successfully test fired and that the system was officially delivered to the missile force in September 2010. In 2012, Iran claimed to have also successfully flight tested a fourth-generation Fateh-110. Iran has also flight tested an ASBM variant of its Fateh-110 missile. A seeker has likely been added to the missile to improve the system’s accuracy against sea-based targets.
Medium-Range and Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles
           Iran has an extensive missile development program, and has received support from entities in Russia, China, and North Korea. The Iranian Shahab 3 MRBM is based on the North Korean No Dong missile. Iran has modified the Shahab 3 to extend its range and effectiveness, with the longest range variant reportedly being able to reach targets at a distance of about 2,000 km. Iran also claims to have mass-produced Shahab 3 missiles. Iranian solid-propellant rocket and missile programs are also progressing. Iran has conducted multiple launches of the Sejjil, a solid-propellant MRBM with a claimed range of 2,000 km. In addition, Iran has conducted multiple launches of the Safir, a multi-stage SLV that can serve as a test bed for long-range ballistic missile technologies.
Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
           Since 2008, Iran has conducted multiple successful launches of the two-stage Safir SLV. In early 2010, Iran unveiled the larger Simorgh SLV. Iran will likely continue to pursue longer range ballistic missiles and more capable SLVs, which could lead to the development of an ICBM system. Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.
Land-Attack Cruise Missiles
           Iran recently announced the development of the 2,000-km range Meshkat cruise missile, with plans to deploy the system on air-, land-, and sea-based platforms.
Photo credit: Fateh 110 By M-ATF, from military.ir and iranmilitaryforum.net [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Iran: The Week in Review

Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
            The Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars offers the latest news on Iran, based on a selection of Iranian news sources. It is a weekly summary of up-to-date information with links to news in both English and Farsi.

  • July 5: Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced an increase in maternity leave for Iranian mothers. The law was approved late last year by the Guardian Council and finally approved in June of this year. An amendment to previous family planning and population control legislation now gives mothers nine months of maternity leave, while their spouses are allowed two weeks of leave to be with their families. The new amendment also assists Iranian mothers who have already given birth to children in the past year. According to the new change, mothers of children who have not yet reached the age of nine months will be allowed to take maternity leave up until the child reaches nine months of age.  
  • July 5: In a meeting with other reformists figures, former president Mohammed Khatami said, “We should not overlook the non-partisan discourse, role, and the approach the Supreme Leader took in the recent presidential election victory of Hassan Rouhani.” Khatami spoke about his own potential candidacy in the presidential election by saying, “Had I run (for president) and was disqualified, I would have accepted the decision.” As a conciliatory gesture, Khatmai also mentioned, “We accept Mr. Rouhani’s political positions and dialogue, but if a conservative (candidate) held these same positions we would have supported him as well.”  
  • July 6: Outspoken MP Ali Motahari said he believes that it is no longer necessary to continue incarcerating political prisoners who were arrested and jailed following the 2009 presidential election protests. “I have stated this a few times before, arrest without due process or a fair trial should not occur. If Mr. (Mir Hussein) Mousavi and Mr. (Mehdi) Karroubi were tried, they would have defended themselves and said what they had to say, and the facts would have been clear to the people. Instead they were punished without trial and their rights as citizens as well as the rule of law were rejected.” Motahari further explained that security concerns regarding their release are currently baseless as national reconciliation has already begun with the victory of Hassan Rouhani in the presidential election. 
  • July 6: Prominent political analyst and University of Tehran political science professor Sadegh Zibakalam said, “I have no doubt that if Ayatollah Rafsanjani returned to the podium at Friday Prayers more than one million people would attend prayers in Tehran. Even congregants who have stopped attending prayers over the past few years will once again return.” Zibakalam believes that public interest is growing daily about Rafsanjani and his take on domestic matters and that Rafsanjani cannot be destroyed as one of the pillars of the political system.
  • July 7: Mehr News posted photos of a symposium honoring outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting International Conference Center.
  • July 7: Iran’s Chief of Police Ismail Ahmadi-Moghadam met with president-elect Hassan Rouhani today as Rouhani emphasized civil rights as they discussed the rights of citizens, privacy, and security issues as well as police authority during their meeting. Afterward the police chief said, “With the valuable experiences and broad personal perspectives that Dr. Rouhani has, we are optimistic that with the help of the Eleventh Government we will be able to better serve the people through a broader outlook and provide the people with peace of mind.”
  • July 8: In an interview with ILNA, prominent political analyst and University of Tehran political science professor Sadegh Zibakalam said, “The main characteristics of an inclusive democratic political group are loyalty and freedom, and it seems in Iran there is no such party currently in the political arena…I personally believe that someone like (former reformist presidential candidate) Mohammed Aref, as well as other democracy seekers, can successfully form such a group.”  With regard to cabinet appointments for president-elect Hassan Rouhani, Zibakalam said, “It would be best that the extremist minority not create problems in (cabinet) procedures for the people and the country since it is they, the majority, who have voted Rouhani into power.” 
  • July 8: While speaking at the University of Tehran, former presidential candidate Mohammed Aref said that the government of Mr. Rouhani should prioritize the academic demands and needs of students. “Unfortunately over the past few years the university environment was governed as a closed environment and the students’ optimistic moods turned into detachment,” he said.
  • July 9: Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his personal website to “strongly deny” that he was seeking the position of Head of the Iranian Soccer Federation. An official statement from the president’s public relations department read, “Certain news websites published a claim that was apparently made by a former official of Iran’s soccer federation, and these so-called revelations are completely false and baseless.” The memo went on to ask that Iranian media should uphold Islamic morality and piety and that the publication of false news damages the prestige and credibility of the media.     
  • July 9: ISNA posted photos of Vice President Mohammad Reza-Rahimi as he attended a large commencement ceremony in Kerman celebrating the completion of over one million housing units that have been built in villages across Iran.
  • July 9: Mehr News also published a series of photos of a parade that traveled through the main thoroughfares of Tehran marking the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.  
  • July 9: Ahmed Nategh Nouri, the brother of Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, the former Speaker of Parliament, current member of Iran’s Expediency Council, and advisor to the Supreme Leader, said, “In the run-up to the presidential election, Mr. Rafsanjani, Mr. Khatami, and Mr. Nouri (his brother) all helped Mr. Rouhani win the presidency, and currently they are all advising him.” He further stated that his brother’s role in the Rouhani government is “strictly an advisory role so that Rouhani will be able to form a nonpartisan cabinet.”
  • July 10: Former reformist MP and current member of the Central Council of the Islamic Labor Party, Soheila Jelodarzadeh said, “The (governmental) programs that are being presented by president-elect Hassan Rouhani are pretty much reformist programs, so what else could we (reformists) possibly want? We couldn’t even fathom such an idea in our sleep!” She continued, “Every Rouhani administration program and goal that I read about are the same programs that reformists want. It would make no difference if these ideas and goals were offered by Mr. (Mohammed) Qalibaf or Mr. (Saeed) Jalili. The fact of the matter is, the programs of the Rouhani administration are the same programs that reformists have been wishing for.”
  • July 10: Fars News published a series of photos of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sharing an Iftar banquet (the breaking of the daily fast) with orphan children. ILNA posted photos of Hashemi Rafsanjani visiting the home of the Javad Sepehri family and paying his respects to the four martyrs of the family who were killed during the Iran-Iraq war.
  • July 10: Addressing a group of students at the University of Tehran, former presidential candidate Mohammed Aref spoke about the 14th anniversary of the 1999 July student uprising (18th of Tir incident) and said, “Students have always been at the forefront of the revolution.” He emphasized, “If the student dormitory incident was dealt with in a wise manner, with peace and justice, there would have never been the sensationalized rhetoric of the students confronting the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran… The 18th of Tir incident was very painful and sent the academic community into mourning.” He continued, “Rehabilitating, strengthening, and supporting student movements in our universities is very important. The university atmosphere has changed, the new environment should allow students to be more active, but we shouldn’t have expectations that are too high. It’s better to be realistic and patient while the newly elected government ties to improve the country.”

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