United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Key Quotes from Earlier U.N. Speeches

           The following are excerpts from speeches by top Iranian leaders from the U.N. General Assembly opening going back to 1987.

1987: President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
            “Today after some seven years of war it is quite clear to all that the invasion of Iran by the Iraqi army on Sept. 22, 1980, 19 months after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, was in fact aimed at defeating the revolution and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic… If an aggressor is once punished for its aggression by the international family of nations, the aggressor instinct will be suppressed for many years to come... Why should we discard the experience of Nuremberg?
            “The foundations of the security supported by such a Security Council is nothing but a nice-looking house of cards.
            “Yesterday, United States battleships attacked Iran-Ajr, an Iranian merchant ship. They murdered four and wounded three people. The ship has been seized and its crew have been detained. American television stations announced yesterday that the United States battleships fired at this ship while it was laying mines in the waters, and thereby they, as usual, taught a pack of lies to the American people.
            “A big chapter of our history, a very bitter, bloody and evil chapter, is saturated with American enmities and grudging hostilities toward our nation.
            “The system of world domination makes decisions for the whole world ... yesterday it was Hiroshima and today the president of the United States is proud of the horrendous behavior of his predecessors and even argues that if they did not kill those several thousand, more people would have been killed throughout the world.”
1989: Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati
(President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani never spoke at the U.N. General Assembly)
            “The world-domineering powers use cultural domination - a prelude to other forms of domination - to gain political influence and to alienate the nations of the third world from their social and cultural values. Unfortunately, nations that desire to return to their own cultural identity are subjected to severe attacks by the domineering Powers.
            “Eight years of global indifference to the use of chemical weapons against the Islamic Republic of Iran has encouraged some countries such as Iraq to build the largest arsenals of chemical and biological weapons and to improve them qualitatively and quantitatively.
            “The people of Palestine continue to resist valiantly and resolutely in the face of the aggressive and criminal practices of the Qods [Jerusalem]-occupier regime, which seeks brutally to suppress the uprising… If the international community seeks to find a solution to this crisis and to bring about peace and security in the Middle East, it should realize that the only viable remedy lies in the full restoration of the rights of Palestinians, or, in other words, the liberation of the occupied territories and the establishment of an independent state in the territory of Palestine.”
1992: Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati
            “It is highly desirable that the next millennium be nuclear-free, but the achievement of that objective depends upon the following: an undertaking by all nuclear-weapon states to destroy all nuclear weapons in their territory or under their jurisdiction or control; a new pledge by all states not to acquire or proliferate nuclear weapons and not to add to their existing stocks; and a genuine commitment to enhanced cooperation in technology for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
            “My country, as the initiator of the proposal for the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, is fully prepared to participate actively in any constructive and comprehensive initiative in this field.”
1993: Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati
            “The failure of the Security Council squarely to face the Palestinian crisis and the constant aggressions against the Palestinian people, Lebanon and Syria, not to mention its intentional failure to enforce its own resolutions, are a sad illustration of the prevailing preference of political interests over peace, security, international law and equity.”
1996: Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati
            “The misguided propaganda waged to distort the image of Islam, and the unprecedented intolerance exhibited against the tide of Islamic resurgence among Islamic nations and States indicate a futile campaign to suppress this great divine religion of justice and tolerance, and of defiance against oppression, tyranny and domination. The claimants of world leadership have yet to realize that a people’s religious devotion is intertwined with its very existence, and will only draw more strength and resilience in the face of campaigns of external pressure and negative propaganda. The progressive march of the Islamic world, which benefits from the rich heritage of Islamic culture, history and civilization, cannot be halted. Thus this significant and important segment of humanity will certainly occupy an increasingly prominent role in the shaping of the future world order.
            “The irreconcilability of totalitarianism with the rule of law has had dangerous manifestations on the international scene. The passing and signing of legislation to allocate money for subversive and terrorist activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran is the most dangerous manifestation of this lawlessness, which is no longer confined to the secrecy of intelligence services but has been recklessly made into law by the United States Congress. This law and similar unlawful behavior, including the infamous decision of the United States Supreme Court approving kidnapping by the United States Government, represent a very dangerous trend. They illustrate a growing tendency to institutionalize and even legalize illegality and disregard for international obligations.
            “A similar pattern of behavior that has been manifested in the past several years by the United States Government is the self-arrogation of the right to legislate for the international community by attempting to apply its domestic legislation beyond its borders. Recent unilateral sanctions enacted by the United States against the trading partners of a number of countries not only constitute a grave breach of various norms and principles of international law and many resolutions of this Assembly and other international forums as well as blatant interference in the internal and external affairs of other states, but, indeed, point to a very dangerous trend, which undermines the very foundations of contemporary inter-state relations.”
1998: President Mohammad Khatami
            “The fantasy of a unipolar world ruled by a single super-power is but an illusion, indicating the failure of its holders to keep pace with history.  And, I am confident, that powerful nations, such as the American people, will not accept that their good name, potentials and national prestige be exploited for the advancement of the dream of a uni-polar world by the politicians, motivated by the short-sighted material and factional  interests of a few.  The evolution of public opinion in the West in support of peaceful relations on the basis of mutual respect testifies to this assertion.
            “Allow me to speak here as a man from the East, the origin of brilliant civilizations and the birth place of Divine Prophets - - Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them all). I come from the noble land of Iran, representing a great and renowned nation, famous for its age old civilization as well as its distinguished contribution to the founding and expansion of the Islamic civilization; a nation that has survived the strong winds of despotism, reactionism and submission, relying on its cultural and human wealth; a nation which pioneered in the East the establishment of civil society and constitutional government in the course of its contemporary history, even though as a result of foreign interference and domestic deficiencies, at times it may have faltered in its course; a nation which has been at the forefront of the struggle for independence and against colonialism, though its national movement was subverted by a foreign- orchestrated coup.  And, a nation which carries the torch of its popular revolution, not won by force of arms or a coup, but by dethroning of the regime of coup d'etat through the power of "word" and "enlightenment".  In the course of its new experience, our nation has endured eight years of an imposed war, pressure, sanctions and various allegations.  It has also fallen victim to terrorism, this ominous and sinister phenomenon of the twentieth century.
            “I would like to propose, in the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that the United Nations, as a first step, designate the year 2001 as the "Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations," with the earnest hope that through such a dialogue, the realization of universal justice and liberty may be initiated.
            “Among the worthiest achievements of this century is the acceptance of the necessity and significance of dialogue and rejection of force, promotion of understanding in cultural, economic and political fields, and strengthening of the foundations of liberty, justice and human rights.  Establishment and enhancement of civility, whether at national or international level, is contingent upon dialogue among societies and civilizations representing various views, inclinations and approaches.  If humanity at the threshold of the new century and millennium devotes all efforts to institutionalize dialogue, replacing hostility and confrontation with discourse and understanding, it would leave an invaluable legacy for the benefit of the future generations.”
2000: Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
            “The menace of drug abuse and trafficking continues to take a heavy social, economic and political toll. It particularly afflicts the youth, who form the future. Combating drug trafficking is a costly exercise, and requires international political will and serious burden sharing. Provision of meaningful financial resources and modern equipment by target countries can enable transit countries, such as ours, to combat the problem at a fraction of the cost.
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran has done more than its share in preventing transit, seizing more than 70% of narcotics seized globally. The costs in terms of financial burden and more importantly human sacrifice are unbearable. More than 2,900 Iranian drug enforcement personnel have been martyred in the fight against drug traffickers. We appreciate the cooperation and support extended to Iran by UNDCP in this regard, although its limited resources cannot cover the programs it wants and needs to implement. It is important to underline that in the absence of meaningful bi-lateral and multi-lateral assistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran will have to allocate most resources to combating domestic consumption and will not be able to sustain its fight against drug trafficking with the same vigor and energy.”
2005: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “If some, relying on their superior military and economic might, attempt to expand their rights and privileges, they will be performing a great disservice to the cause of peace and in fact will fuel the arms race and spread insecurity, fear and deception. If global trends continue to serve the interests of small influential groups, even the interests of the citizens of powerful countries will be jeopardized — as was seen in the recent crises and the even natural disaster such as the recent tragic hurricane.
            “After September 11, a particular radical group was accused of terrorist activities -- although it was never explained how such huge intelligence gathering and security organizations failed to prevent such an extensive and well planned operation. Why powers that, not so long ago, were supporting the activities of such groups in Afghanistan — and thus portraying themselves as supporters of human rights and the Afghan people — have over night turned into their most fierce critic?
           “How can one talk about human rights and at the same time blatantly deny many the inalienable right to have access to science and technology with applications in medicine, industry and energy and through force and intimidation hinder their progress and development? Can nations be deprived of scientific and technological progress through the threat of use of force and based on mere allegations of possibility of military diversion? We believe that all countries and nations are entitled to technological and scientific advancement in all fields, particularly the peaceful technology to produce nuclear fuel. Such access can not be restricted to a few, depriving most nations and by establishing economic monopolies, use them as an instrument to expand their domination.”
2006: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “Occupation of countries, including Iraq, has continued for the last three years. Not a day goes by without hundreds of people getting killed in cold blood. The occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq. Despite the establishment of the lawful Government and National Assembly of Iraq, there are covert and overt efforts to heighten insecurity, magnify and aggravate differences within Iraqi society, and instigate civil strife.
            “There is no indication that the occupiers have the necessary political will to eliminate the sources of instability. Numerous terrorists were apprehended by the Government of Iraq, only to be let loose under various pretexts by the occupiers.
            “When the power behind the hostilities is itself a permanent member of the Security Council, how then can this Council fulfill its responsibilities?
            “All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors. Why then are there objections to our legally recognized rights? Which governments object to these rights? Governments that themselves benefit from nuclear energy and the fuel cycle. Some of them have abused nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends including the production of nuclear bombs, and some even have a bleak record of using them against humanity.”
2007: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “The precious existence of women as the manifestation of divine beauty and as the peak of kindness, affection, and purity has been the target of heavy exploitation in recent decades by the holders of power and the owners of media and wealth.”
            “The victors of the [second world] war drew the roadmap for global domination and formulated their policies not on the basis of justice but for ensuring the interests of the victors over the vanquished nations. Therefore mechanisms arising from this approach and related policies have not been capable of finding just solutions for global problems since 60 years ago.
            “Some big powers still behave like the victors of the World War and regard other states and nations, even those that had nothing to do with the war, as the vanquished, and humiliate other nations and demand extortion from a condescending position similar to that of the master/servant relationship of the medieval ages.
            “They believe that they should have more rights than others and also are not accountable to any international organization.
            “The presence of some monopolistic powers has prevented the Security Council from performing its main duty which is the maintenance of international peace and security based on justice. The credibility of the Council has been tarnished and its efficacy in defending the rights of UN member states has been undermined. Many nations have lost their confidence in the Council.
            “Some other mechanisms, such as the monetary and banking mechanisms, are in the same undesirable situation and have been turned into tools for the imposition of the wishes of some powers on other nations. It is evident that these mechanisms are not capable of responding to current needs and solving challenges and establishing fair and sustainable relations.”
2008: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists. They have forged a regime through collecting people from various parts of the world and bringing them to other people’s land by displacing, detaining, and killing the true owners of that land. With advance notice, they invade, assassinate, and maintain food and medicine blockades, while some hegemonic and bullying powers support them. The Security Council cannot do anything and sometimes, under pressure from a few bullying powers, even paves the way for supporting these Zionist murderers. It is natural that some U.N. resolutions that have addressed the plight of the Palestinian people have been relegated to the archives unnoticed.
            “With regard to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, despite the inalienable right of all nations including the Iranian nation, in producing nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, and despite such facts as the transparency of all Iranian activities and our country’s full cooperation with the inspectors of the IAEA and the Agency’s repeated confirmation of the fact that Iran’s activities are peaceful, a few bullying powers have sought to put hurdles in the way of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranian nation by exerting political and economic pressures against Iran, and also through threatening and pressuring the IAEA. These are the same powers that produce new generations of lethal nuclear arms and possess stockpiles of nuclear weapons that no international organization is monitoring; and, the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were perpetrated by one of them.
            “Today, the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse, and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters.... [The] American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders. Today, the thought of hegemony quickly becomes a demerit.”
2009: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “It is not acceptable that the United Nations and the Security Council, whose decisions should represent all nations and governments by the application of the most democratic methods in their decision making processes, popular methods of decision making, be dominated by a few governments and serve their interests. In a world where cultures, thoughts and public opinions should be the determining factors, the continuation of the present situation is impossible, and fundamental changes seem to be unavoidable. We seek to establish a new system a New World System.
            “The engine of unbridled capitalism with its unfair system of thought has reached the end of [the] road and is unable to move. The era of capitalist thinking and imposition of one's thoughts on the international community, intended to dominate the world in the name of globalization and the age of setting up empires, is over." 
2010: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “Some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the [9/11] attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.
           “Nuclear energy is clean and cheap and a heavenly gift which is amongst the most suitable alternatives to cut the pollution emanating from fossil fuels… The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon and which must totally be eliminated… not only has nuclear disarmament not been realized but also nuclear bombs have been proliferated in some regions, including by the occupying and intimidating Zionist regime.
           “In all these cases the United Nations has been unable to take any effective course of action. Unfortunately, in the decade proclaimed as the “International Decade for the Culture of Peace” hundreds of thousands were killed and injured as a result of war, aggression and occupation, and hostilities and antagonism increased.
           “The cause of the United Nation’s ineptitude is in its unjust structure. Major power is monopolized in the Security Council due to the veto privilege, and the main pillar of the organization, namely the General Assembly, is marginalized.
           “The veto privilege should be revoked and the General Assembly should be the highest body and the Secretary-General should be the most independent official and all his positions and activities should be taken with the approval of the General Assembly and should be directed towards promoting justice and eliminating discrimination.”
2011: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
           “It is as lucid as daylight that the same slave masters and colonial power that once instigated the two world wars have caused widespread misery and disorder with far-reaching effects across the globe since then.
            “Do these arrogant powers really have the competence and ability to run or govern the world? Can the flower of democracy blossom from NATO's missiles, bombs and guns?
            “If some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades, as the excuse to pay fine or ransom to the Zionists, should it not be an obligation upon the slave masters or colonial powers to pay reparations to the affected nations?
            “They [arrogant powers] proclaim themselves as the indisputable custodians of all governments and nations through intimidation, recourse to threat and force, and abuse the international mechanisms. They simply break all the internationally recognized regulations.
            “They insist on imposing their lifestyle and beliefs on others. They officially support racism. They weaken countries through military intervention, and destroy their infrastructures, in order to plunder their resources by making them all the more dependent.
            “They sow the seeds of hate and hostility among nations and people of different pursuits, in order to prevent them from fulfilling their goals of development and progress.
            “Last year, when the need to form a fact-finding team to undertake a thorough investigation concerning the hidden elements involved in September 11 incident was brought up; an idea also endorsed by all independent governments and nations as well as by the majority in the United States, my country and myself came under pressure and threat by the government of the United States. Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator [Osama bin Ladin] and threw his body into the sea.
            “A future that will be built when humanity initiates to trend the path of the divine prophets and the righteous under the leadership of Imam al Mahdi, the Ultimate Savior of mankind and the inheritor to all divine messengers and leaders and to the pure generation of our great Prophet.
            “He will come alongside with Jesus Christ to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice freedom and love across the world. He will present to every single individual all the beauties of the world and all good things which bring happiness for humankind.”
2012: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
            “The current abysmal situation of the world and bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the Devil.”
            “Policies of the world's main centers of power are based on the principles of domination and the conquering of others. These centers only seek supremacy, and are not in favor of peace and definitely not at the service of their nations.
            “Are we to believe that those who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on election campaigns have the interests of the people of the world at their hearts?
            “Despite what big political parties claim in the capitalistic countries, the money that goes into election campaigns is usually nothing but an investment.
            “The will and the views of the masses have the least impact and influence on the big decisions especially those made about the major domestic and foreign policies. Their voices are not heard even if they constitute 99% of their societies.
            “Fortunately, we are now at a historic juncture. On one hand, Marxism is no longer around and is practically eliminated from the management systems, and on the other, capitalism is bogged down in a self-made quagmire. It has indeed reached a deadlock and does not seem to be able to come up with any noteworthy solution to the various economic, political, security and cultural problems of the world.”

Rouhani’s First US Television Interview

      In his first American television interview, President Hassan Rouhani signaled an interest in improving relations with the United States. Less than a week earlier, President Barack Obama revealed that he had privately communicated with Iran’s new president. Rouhani described the tone of Obama’s letter as “positive and constructive” in his interview with NBC.
      On Iran’s controversial nuclear program, President Rouhani seemed to indicate that his government had Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s approval to cut a deal. “We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem,” the president said. Khamenei recently acknowledged that “heroic flexibility” is sometimes necessary in diplomacy. Rouhani also pledged that Tehran would never seek nuclear weapons.
            On domestic issues, Rouhani reiterated his support for freedom expression and opposition to extensive censorship. "People must have full access to all information worldwide," he said. Rouhani's interview came less than week before his debut at the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled for September 24. The following are excerpts with a link to the full transcript at the end.

U.S.-Iran Relations
            “From my point of view, the tone of the letter [from President Barack Obama] was positive and constructive. It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future. I believe the leaders in all countries could think in their national interest and they should not be under the influence of pressure groups. I hope to witness such an atmosphere in the future.
            “Anything is possible in the world of politics. It depends on having the necessary conditions. If in the first steps we see goodwill and good intention, mutual confidence and trust, and if we see that the Americans are talking from respectful positions, a lot of things could be put in the agenda. But the issue of nuclear talks is the most important test in this regard. If we see goodwill from both sides and good intention from both sides and reach a mutual agreement, the way would be paved for further talks regarding various issues.”
Nuclear Program
            “We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so. We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever... We solely are looking for peaceful nuclear technology.
            “In its nuclear program, this government enters with full power and has complete authority. We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.”
            “If they [world powers] want to resolve and settle down the nuclear issues of the Islamic Republic of Iran we should say that when Iran accepted the NPT [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty] and all its activities are under the supervision of the IAEA and in all enrichment facilities there are the cameras of the IAEA and there are constant inspection of the IAEA inspectors, so what kind of concerns are there? Point is that could there be any concern at all?
             “All of those who are having enrichments are doing the same thing.  They are under the supervision of the IAEA. Of course there are some countries, you know them well, that are not under the supervision of the IAEA. They are not member states of the NPT.  But there is no concern regarding their activities. But there are concerns regarding a country which accepted all the rules and regulations. Therefore from our point of view, this is absolutely meaningless.”
            “We are very worried about war in our region.  We have the experience of a number of destructive wars in this region. The day we feel a new war is about to happen in our region, we consider its destructive consequences.  In the past few weeks, my government made many efforts to ensure that the region does not witness a new war. In this context, the cooperation between Russia and Iran has been notable.           
            “We are not the government of Syria. We are one of the countries of this region which is asking for peace and stability and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.”
            “We consider war a weakness. Any government that decides on war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace, we look on it with respect for peace.”
Domestic Freedoms and Rights
            “We want the people in their private life to be completely free. In today's world, having access to information and the right of free dialogue and the right to think freely is the right of all people, including the people of Iran.”
             “The viewpoint of the government is that people must have full access to all information worldwide. Our opinion on this should be based on the protection of our national identity and on our morals.”
The Middle East
            “What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice.”’
            “What we wish for in this region is rule by the will of the people,” he said. “We believe in the ballot box. We do not seek war with any country. We seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region.”
Chemical Weapons
            “We are ourselves the victims of chemical weapons. Therefore, we are very sensitive about this weapon. We are wishing for the removal of all chemical weapons around the world and especially in the sensitive region of the Middle East. In this regard, we will not stop doing whatever we could possibly do.”
            Israel is an “occupier” nation that “does injustice to the people of the region and has brought instability to the region with its war-mongering policies… [Israel] shouldn't allow itself to give speeches about a democratically and freely elected government.”


Iran Frees Top Human Rights Activist, Others

Garrett Nada

            In the first big move on human rights since President Hassan Rouhani took office, Iran released noted activist Nasrin Sotoudeh on September 18. The government did not make a formal announcement, but Rouhani’s office retweeted reports claiming that seven other female prisoners and four male prisoners were also freed. The move comes on the eve of Rouhani’s debut speech at the U.N. General Assembly, scheduled for September 24.
            President Rouhani had pledged to ease restrictions and political expression during his campaign.
            Mohsen Aminzadeh, a former deputy foreign minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, was among the male prisoners who were released. He was jailed in 2010 for organizing protests and spreading propaganda against the regime. Iran has some 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, according to an investigation by The Guardian.
      The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran talked to Sotoudeh shortly after she was freed. “When I was released, I did not sign for furlough. They told me, ‘You are free,’” Sotoudeh told the Campaign. “Other prisoners and lawyers should be released, too. They are there for political reasons belonging to a period that is over,” she added.
      Sotoudeh has been a political activist since the early 1990s and and defended some of Iran’s most prominent human rights activists, political dissidents and journalists. She played a prominent role after the disputed 2009 presidential election sparked the largest protests since the 1979 revolution. In one noted case, she worked with families who had members killed in the government crackdown after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection. Sotoudeh had also long been a champion of women’s demands for greater rights.

            Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of acting against state security and spreading propaganda. In 2011, a court sentenced her to 11 years in prison and barred her from practicing law or leaving Iran for 20 years. An appeals court later reduced the sentence to six years. She was placed in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. She twice went on long hunger strikes.
            Even from prison, Sotoudeh remained outspoken. She reportedly wrote a public letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary thanking him for imprisoning her, as she would have been horrified to be free when her clients were imprisoned.
            Human rights lawyers have been at the forefront of activism in Iran for more than a decade. Shirin Ebadi, who defended leading dissidents, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Sotoudeh was part of Ebadi’s Center for the Defense of Human Rights. Her arrest generated international attention. Last year, she was co-winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Union. She shared it with Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was under house arrest. As secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Iran to release her.
            President Barack Obama mentioned Sotoudeh in his 2011 message marking Nowruz, Persian New Year.
            "For nearly two years, there has been a campaign of intimidation and abuse. Young and old; men and women; rich and poor – the Iranian people have been persecuted. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience are in jail. The innocent have gone missing. Journalists have been silenced. Women tortured. Children sentenced to death.
            "The world has watched these unjust actions with alarm. We have seen Nasrin Sotoudeh jailed for defending human rights; Jaffar Panahi imprisoned and unable to make his films; Abdolreza Tajik thrown in jail for being a journalist. The Bahai community and Sufi Muslims punished for their faith; Mohammad Valian a young student, sentenced to death for throwing three stones.
            "These choices do not demonstrate strength, they show fear. For it is telling when a government is so afraid of its own citizens that it won’t even allow them the freedom to access information or to communicate with each other. But the future of Iran will not be shaped by fear. The future of Iran belongs to the young people – the youth who will determine their own destiny."
            In response to the release of prisoners, the U.S. State Department issued the following statement on September 18.
            "We welcome today’s reports that the Iranian Government has released several prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.  President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians, and called for expanded political and social freedoms, including freedom of expression.  In the months ahead, we hope he will continue to keep his promises to the Iranian people. 
            The United States will continue to urge the Iranian Government to take steps to improve the country’s human rights situation.  Accordingly, we renew our call today for Iran to release all prisoners of conscience in its custody." 
            Iranian news websites reported that seven other female political prisoners were released within the last day, including journalist Mahsa Amrabadi. Three other men in addition to Mohsen Aminzadeh were released, including reformist politician Feizollah Arabsorkhi.
            But Iran also still has many political prisoners either in prison or under house arrest—most notably former presidential candidates Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. In the past, Iran has released prisoners before appearances by senior officials abroad, but this is the most significant release. It is the latest in a series of significant moves by Tehran. Since Rouhani took office, Iran has reopened its House of Cinema and economic planning office.
            The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran recently published a report outlining 74 specific recommendations for Rouhani’s government to end systematic human rights abuses. It emphasizes the restrictions on freedoms of expression and association, and details recommendations to ameliorate the human rights situation in the country, including cooperating with U.N. human rights mechanisms and removing Internet censorship to allow free expression.
            “At a time when bloggers, journalists, and activists are being persecuted for expressing their opinions, Iran’s foreign minister has an official presence on social media websites that are blocked for ordinary Iranians,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Rouhani is in a position to ensure that all Iranians have freedom of expression. To assure the international community that he is serious, Rouhani should continue to take the necessary steps to stop the egregious human rights violations in Iran.”

Khamenei on Diplomacy : “Heroic Flexibility”

      On September 17, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Revolutionary Guards commanders that he is not opposed to more flexible engagement with the outside world. “I am not against proper political moves in diplomacy. I believe in what was named many years ago as ‘heroic flexibility,’” Khamenei said. Flexibility “in certain circumstances is positive and necessary.” The supreme leader did not specify if he was referring to negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. But Khamenei’s comments may have signaled support for President Hassan Rouhani or Iranian diplomats to meet Western leaders during the U.N. General Assembly opening next week.
            Khamenei, however, also stressed the need to understand the goals of opposing powers. “A wrestler sometimes shows flexibility for technical reasons. But he should forget who his opponent and enemy is,” he said, according to Iranian news agencies. The supreme leader’s office tweeted a translation of his remarks.

            Khamenei advised Iranians to evaluate the controversy over Tehran’s nuclear program in the context of challenges from “tyrannical governments” and “predatory international networks.” Khamenei referred to the United States and the West as “alarmist” elsewhere in his comments.
            The supreme leader also echoed President Rouhani’s warning to the Guards, just one day earlier, not to interfere in politics. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “should know what it will guard. It is not necessary for it to act as a guard in the political scene, but it should know the political scene,” Khamenei said.  
Photo credit: Khamenei.ir via Facebook

Qods Force leader : A political funeral?

            Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani hosted what was almost certainly the most high-profile funeral held this year in Tehran. The funeral for Soleimani’s mother was an unusually public acknowledgment of his increasingly powerful role in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s political and military elite showed up to pay respects to Soleimani, who heads the Revolutionary Guards elite unit.

      The Qods Force runs the Islamic Republic’s foreign operations, including in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gulf and beyond. The unit is reportedly small, numbering about 12,000. Little reliable information on the force is available. And Soleimani (center) is also one of the most secretive Revolutionary Guards commanders.
      But in early 2008, Soleimani reportedly sent a message reflecting his power to General David Petraus, who was then commander of Multi-National Forces in Iraq. “You should know that I... control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Qods Force member,” he wrote, according to The Guardian.  Soleimani is also widely believed to be one of Iran’s most important foreign policy strategists, with major influence on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
     The funeral received unusually wide coverage in Iran’s media, which released dozens of pictures of top politicos paying their respects to Soleimani. The attendees were a who’s who of Iran, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right), Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and former Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili. Others included current and former cabinet ministers, top clerics, and senior Revolutionary Guards commanders. President Hassan Rouhani, however, did not attend.
     Among the photographs released by both the Fars News Agency and the Islamic Students News Agency was one showing Jihad Mughniyeh (right), the son of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the military commander of Lebanon’s Hezbollah before his assassination in a 2008 car bombing. Mughniyeh, who was trained by the Revolutionary Guards and maintained close ties, reportedly had an Iranian wife and spent a significant amount of time in Iran. His son is twice pictured standing close to Soleimani.

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