United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Obama on Nowruz: New U.S.-Iran Relationship Possible

            On March 18, President Obama said there could be a “new relationship” with Iran if it meets international obligations on its controversial nuclear program. But he noted that “overcoming decades of mistrust” would be difficult in a videotaped statement for Nowruz. The Persian New Year marks the beginning of spring and begins on March 20.

            Obama reiterated the U.S. preference to solve the nuclear issue peacefully and diplomatically. He warned that Iran’s isolation is not good for its people or the world. “Every day that you are cut off from us is a day we’re not working together, building together, innovating together—and building a future of peace and prosperity that is at the heart of this holiday,” he said. The following is the taped statement, including a full transcript.

 

            Dorood.  As you and your families come together to celebrate Nowruz, I want to extend my best wishes on this new spring and new year.  Around the world, and here in the United States, you are gathering at the Nowruz table—to give thanks for loved ones, reflect on your blessings and welcome all the possibilities of a new season.
 
            As I have every year as President, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran.  Since taking office, I have offered the Iranian government an opportunity—if it meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries, and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations.
 
            I have had no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust.  It will take a serious and sustained effort to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States.   This includes the world’s serious and growing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, which threatens peace and security in the region and beyond.

            Iran’s leaders say that their nuclear program is for medical research and electricity.  To date, however, they have been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes.  That’s why the world is united in its resolve to address this issue and why Iran is now so isolated.  The people of Iran have paid a high and unnecessary price because of your leaders’ unwillingness to address this issue.
 
            As I’ve said all along, the United States prefers to resolve this matter peacefully, diplomatically.  Indeed, if—as Iran’s leaders say—their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, then there is a basis for a practical solution.  It’s a solution that would give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy while resolving once and for all the serious questions that the world has about the true nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
 
            The United States, alongside the rest of the international community, is ready to reach such a solution.  Now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue.
 
            Finding a solution will be no easy task.  But if we can, the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States.  Whereas if the Iranian government continues down its current path, it will only further isolate Iran.  This is the choice now before Iran’s leaders.
 
            I hope they choose a better path—for the sake of the Iranian people and for the sake of the world.  Because there’s no good reason for Iranians to be denied the opportunities enjoyed by people in other countries, just as Iranians deserve the same freedoms and rights as people everywhere.
 
            Iran’s isolation isn’t good for the world either.  Just as your forbearers enriched the arts and sciences throughout history, all nations would benefit from the talents and creativity of the Iranian people, especially your young people.  Every day that you are cut off from us is a day we’re not working together, building together, innovating together—and building a future of peace and prosperity that is at the heart of this holiday. 
 
            As you gather with family and friends this Nowruz, many of you will turn to the poet Hafez who wrote: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.”
 
            As a new spring begins, I remain hopeful that our two countries can move beyond tension.  And I will continue to work toward a new day between our nations that bears the fruit of friendship and peace.
 
            Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma  Mobarak.
 

Infographic: Internet Censorship

            The following infographic by the University of Pennsylvania’s Iran Media Program maps the diverse bodies involved in censoring the Internet. About 20 to 30 percent of Iranian users rely on illegal tools to bypass the national filter, according to government estimates. Click here to read about Iran's recent move to block virtual private networks, used by millions to access banned websites such as Facebook.

Click here for a pdf version.

 

Obama: Iran Over A Year Away From Nuke

            On March 13, President Obama said “it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon,” in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television. “But obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.” Obama noted that the United States “obviously has significant capabilities,” while emphasizing his preference for a diplomatic solution. Obama said Iran now recognizes the “severe cost” to continue on its current path. But it has yet to make “a fundamental decision to get right with the international community.” The following is a video of the interview broadcast on March 14, with excerpts below. The interview will start shortly after the commercial.

            “Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don't want to cut it too close…”
 
            “So when I'm consulting with Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] as I have over the last several years on this issue, my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically that is a more lasting solution. But if not I continue to keep all options on the table.”
 
            “What I have also said is that there is a window, not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically and it is in all of our interests…”
 
            “They (Iran) are not yet at the point, I think, where they have made a fundamental decision to get right with the international community ... I do think they are recognizing that there is a severe cost to continue on the path they are on and that there is another door open...”
 
            “A nuclear Iran would be “dangerous for the world. It would be dangerous for U.S. national security interests...”
 
            “When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table...”
 
            “The United States obviously has significant capabilities but our goal here is to make sure that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel or could trigger an arms race in the region…”

 

Larijani: West Should Sell Uranium to Iran

            On March 12, Iran’s Human Rights Council Secretary Mohammad Javad Larijani said that there is no need to produce enriched uranium if the West sells it to Iran. Larijani, a key advisor to the supreme leader, suggested that Iran “think about new models” for approaching the United States. “Hostility” between the two countries needs management, he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

            Larijani also commented on the February talks in Kazakhstan between Iran and the world’s six major powers — the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. Larijani said he is “a bit more cautious” than Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was optimistic about prospects for progress.
 
            Amanpour asked Larijani about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent corruption allegations against his family. “This is part of our democratic structure…we have political rivalry,” he answered. “[U]nfortunately it’s common in the democratic world…this is not alarming.” There are five Larijani brothers, and two head the legislative and judicial branches of Iran’s government. The following are excerpts from CNN’s interview with Larijani.
 
Nuclear Program and Negotiations
            “They [Western countries] should sell it to us. If we can buy it like 15 years ago, we bought it some Argentina, then there is no need to produce it…”
            “…[W]e can upgrade our generators and upgrade our centrifuge devices and other techniques, this is an honest-to- God right. It could be done; it is done under NPT provisions.”
            “…[W]hat level of enrichment that we are entitled to do, this is another issue that also covered by NPT. So if the Western community wants Iran to stop development of this capability, this is -- this is very bad request…”
            “… But if they [Western countries] are concerned about moving in the direction of producing nuclear armament, this is a fantastic concern we are questioning with them. We are ready to accept all mechanisms under [the] NPT to supervise this direction of our development.”
            “I would like to share the [optimistic] view of Minister Salehi, but I'm a bit more cautious… They [the world’s six major powers] always asking the utmost
 
U.S.-Iran Relations
            “Dialogue is one of the part and parcels of this modality of interaction. Perhaps in my view, United States wants Iran to accept this leadership in the -- in the [world] affair[s] or regional affair[s]. But I think this is a very bad request”
            “But any initiative, leading any initiative is fantastic. So the basic is not that we are refraining or shying away from talking with the United States. The issue is that how we can restructure this relation after 35 years of hostility and, right now, unfortunately, it's at the peak of that.”
            “Well, my recommendation -- let me put it this way -- first will be toward the United States government that let us design in the new models of relation with Iran, acknowledging Iran what it is. We do not want to be more than what we are. And the line of hostility was a grand failure, not only for United States' interests in Iran, also in the region.”
            “For the Iranian side, my recommendation to the diplomatic machinery is that -- I mean, the -- also we should think about new models approach, even if United States considered an active hostile state, hostility needs also management.”
 
Political Infighting
            “… I mean, this is part of our democratic structure. Yes, we have political rivalry. And the use of this kind of technique, while I don't think it is ethical, but unfortunately it's common in the democratic world.”
            “Yes, there is competition; as you mentioned, we are a famous family in Iran and you can -- you can have similar to this kind of phenomenon in the United States and France and other places. I do not stipulate and do not accept this way of conduct anywhere with any adversary. But I think this is not alarming…”
 
Click here for the full transcript.
 

U.S. Sanctions Secret Iranian Oil Network

            On March 14, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned a Greek businessman and 14 companies for helping Iran evade international oil sanctions. Dr. Dimitris Cambis used front companies and Iranian funds to purchase oil tankers and disguise the Iranian origin of crude oil. The vessels involved were capable of transporting about $200 million worth of oil per shipment. “Today we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.

            The U.S. State Department concurrently imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies for providing insurance or reinsurance to the National Iranian Tanker Company. “These sanctions make clear the risks involved in working on behalf of certain Iranian entities, and will further hamper Iran’s ability to circumvent sanctions,” according to a statement by Spokesperson Victoria Nuland. The State Department took action based on the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012.
 
            Iranian oil exports actually increased in February, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. They rose to 1.28 million barrels a day from 1.13 million barrels a day in January. New U.S. sanctions imposed on February 6 may not have had an immediate impact. The following are excerpts from statements by the Treasury and the State Department.
 
            The U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed sanctions on a Greek businessman, Dr. Dimitris Cambis, who helped Iran evade international oil sanctions. Through several of his front companies, Cambis used Iranian funds to purchase oil tankers and disguised the Iranian origin of oil transported on these vessels. Cambis, and all of the companies listed today, have been identified as acting on behalf of the Government of Iran and are subject to sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13599, which blocks the property of the Government of Iran. The Department of State is taking concurrent action today against Cambis under the Iran Sanctions Act as amended by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA).
 
            “Today we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We will continue to expose deceptive Iranian practices, and to sanction those individuals and entities who participate in these schemes.”
 
Click here for the full text.
 
Statement by U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Victoria Nuland
 
            Today, the United States imposed sanctions on Greek national Dr. Dimitris Cambis and Impire Shipping for disguising the Iranian origin of crude oil by concealing the control of a vessel by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).  The United States also imposed sanctions on Kish Protection and Indemnity Club (Kish P&I), and Bimeh Markazi-Central Insurance of Iran (CII) for providing insurance or reinsurance to NITC.  The Department of State is acting under the Iran Sanctions Act, as amended by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA), and the TRA. The United States imposed a visa ban on the corporate officers of Impire Shipping, Kish P&I, and CII identified as:
 
Impire Shipping:
·         Dimitris Cambis -President
 
Kish P & I:
·         Mohammad Reza Mohammadi Banaei – Managing Director
 
CII:
·         Seyed Mohammad Karimi – President
·         Rahim Mosaddegh – Vice President
·         Mina Sadigh Noohi – Vice President
·         Esmaeil Mahdavi Nia – Vice President
·         Seyed Morteza Hasani Aghda – Superintendent
 
            These sanctions make clear the risks involved in working on behalf of certain Iranian entities, and will further hamper Iran’s ability to circumvent sanctions. Iran is failing to meet its international nuclear obligations, and as a result there has been an unprecedented international sanctions effort aimed at convincing Iran to change its behavior.  The sanctions announced today represent an important step toward that goal.
 
            Today’s sanctions action sends a clear message:  the United States will act resolutely against attempts to circumvent U.S. sanctions.  Moreover, any business that continues to support Iran’s energy sector, enable the movement of its oil tankers or facilitate Iran’s efforts to evade U.S. sanctions could face serious consequences.

Click here for the full text.
 

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