United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Congressional Actions on Iran

The following is a roundup of Congressional legislation, letters, and other actions relating to the ongoing negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Legislation
 
Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015
 
On Jan. 27, 2015, Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would automatically impose sanctions on Iran if talks with the world’s six major powers fail to yield a deal by June 30. The following are excerpts from the press release on the bill.
 
  • Sanctions will be implemented only after the June 30th negotiations deadline, but only if the negotiations fail to produce a deal.
  • The Kirk-Menendez legislation increases the current congressional oversight of the negotiations and requires the Administration to formally submit any new nuclear agreement text or extension to Congress within five days.
  • Congress is allotted 30 days to review any nuclear agreement before the President can waive, defer or suspend sanctions.
  • Subject to a report and certification, the President can only waive sanctions if it is in the vital national security interest of the United States and/or a waiver would make a long-term comprehensive solution with Iran more likely.
  • If there is no final agreement by July 6, 2015, Kirk-Menendez would re-impose sanctions that have been waived while the negotiations have been ongoing, which would begin in August and run through December.
  • New sanctions would close loopholes in existing petroleum sanctions, enhance sanctions on Iran’s oil trade and financial transactions, and impose further sanctions on Iran’s senior government officials, family members and other individuals for weapons of mass destruction proliferation, terrorism sponsorship and other illicit activities, and on Iran’s shipbuilding, automotive, construction, engineering and mining sectors.
 
Click here for the full text of the bill
 
Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015
 
On Feb. 27, 2015, Senator Bob Corker introduced legislation that would require Congressional review of a nuclear deal, and prevent the Obama administration from lifting congressional sanctions for 60 days. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill on April 14. The following are the key provisions of the legislation, from a Senate press release.
 
  • Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
  • No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for 60 days. During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of approval, or no action, within the 60-day period would allow the President to move forward with congressional sanctions relief. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (overriding a presidential veto) within the 60-day period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
  • Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to assess Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement.

Click here for the full text

 
Congressional Oversight of Iranian Compliance Act
 
On March 4, 2015, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with six other Senators, introduced legislation that would allow Congressional oversight of a nuclear deal with Iran. The Senators issued a press release summarizing the legislation.
 
“The Iran Congressional Oversight Act:
 
  • Requires the President to report to Congress at least once every 90 days on Iranian compliance with the Joint Plan of Action or any successor deal, and that the report be accompanied by an unclassified certification by the President, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, of whether Iran has complied with or violated such deal;
  • Sets up an expedited process for Congress to vote on legislation to reinstate waived or suspended sanctions and prohibit transfers of assets to Iran if the President certifies to Congress that Iran has violated a deal. The expedited process would not be subject to a filibuster;
  • Sets up a process to expedite consideration of legislation that is determined to be necessary by the Majority Leader, after consultation with the Minority Leader, to further respond to a violation by Iran of a nuclear deal during the 30-day period after which the President certifies to Congress that Iran has violated a deal. Under this process, a motion to proceed to consider additional action against Iran would not be debatable.
  • Reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress in repealing congressionally mandated sanctions if, in the context of a final deal, the U.S. commits to lifting such sanctions.”
 
Click here for the full text of the bill
 
Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act
 
On March 19, Cruz (R-TX) introduced new sanctions legislation, a repeat of his July 2014 legislation that had no co-sponsors and was never passed. Cruz issued a press release highlighting the key provisions of the bill.
 
“The Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act:
 
  • Re-imposes all previous sanctions that the Obama Administration relaxed.
  • Expands sanctions related to the petrochemical and automotive sector.
  • Prohibits funding for negotiations and implementation of any nuclear agreement with Iran unless congressional approval is reached.
  • Gives Iran a clear path towards their removal: dismantling their nuclear program in its entirety; removing all centrifuges, relinquishing enriched uranium, and ceasing all research and development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program.
  • Requires Iran to renounce its state-sponsorship of terrorism.”
 
Click here for more information on the bill

Kirk-Brown-Boxer-Menendez Amendment
 
On March 26, the Senate voted 100-0 in favor of a budget amendment introduced by Mark Kirk (R-IL) that would impose new sanctions on Iran if it violates the terms of a nuclear deal.
 
“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to Iran, which may include efforts to immediately reimpose waived sanctions and impose new sanctions against the Government of Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.”
 
Click here for more information

Stabenow Amendment
 
On March 26, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) filed a budget amendment in response to Tom Cotton’s letter to Iranian leaders and proposals to cut funding for the nuclear talks. Stabenow’s jab at Cotton is unlikely to be brought up for a vote.
 
“Purpose: To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting the purchase of stationary [sic] or electronic devices for the purpose of members of Congress or congressional staff communicating with foreign governments and undermining the role of the President as Head of State in international nuclear negotiations on behalf of the United States."
 
Click here to view the amendment
 
Letters

Tom Cotton’s Open Letter to Iran’s Leaders
 
On March 10, 2015, Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted an open letter to Iran’s leadership, signed by 46 other Republican Senators.
 
“We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
 
Click here for the full text
 
House Democrats’ Response to Tom Cotton’s Letter
 
On March 16, 2015, Democratic Representatives Waters (D-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Conyers (D-MI), Lee (D-CA), and Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
 
“Senator Tom Cotton’s effort to undermine the credibility of our ongoing negotiations with Iran and United States allies not only disrespects the office of the President, but it diminishes confidence among our global allies in the United States’ capacity to enter into binding commitments with other nations and promote international peace and stability.”
 
Click here for the full text
 
Bob Corker’s Letter to Demand Congressional Veto of Iran Deal
 
On March 12, 2015, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) sent a letter to President Obama to push for Congressional approval of a potential nuclear deal.
 
“There are now reports that your administration is contemplating taking an agreement, or aspects of it, to the United Nations Security Council for a vote. Enabling the United Nations to consider an agreement or portions of it, while simultaneously threatening to veto legislation that would enable Congress to do the same, is a direct affront to the American people and seeks to undermine Congress’s appropriate role.”
 
Click here for the full text
 
House Republicans’ Letter on Suspending Funds for Iran Negotiations
 
On March 19, 2015, Representatives Roskam (R-IL) and Zeldin (R-NY) circulated a letter addressed to the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Lowey (D-NY) seeking to suspend funds for the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.
 
“Over the past year, negotiations with the Iranian regime have failed to bring us closer to a final agreement that would sufficiently prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Endless negotiations will only further enable Iran to advance its nuclear technology while reaping the benefit of billions of dollars in desperately needed sanctions relief. Moreover, the deal reportedly under consideration would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure virtually intact and expire in ten years, at which point the mullahs could freely pursue a nuclear weapon.” 
 
Click here for the full text
 
House Members’ Letter on Congressional Role in Sanctions
 
On March 19, Representatives Royce (R-IN) and Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to President Obama, signed by 367 House members.
 
“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.”
 
Click here for the full text
 

 

Iran on Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen

On March 26, Saudi Arabia began conducting airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen, which drew strong condemnation from Iranian officials. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif demanded an “immediate halt” to Saudi military actions. Iran is widely seen as the main backer of the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004. The Houthis have controlled the capital city Sanaa since September 2014.

Saudi Arabia carried out the strikes with a coalition of nine other nations. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan contributed jets to the operation, while Pakistan and Egypt provided naval support. The United States did not contribute warplanes, but provided intelligence and logistical support, according to a senior State Department official.

The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian officials on the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.

President Hassan Rouhani
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
"We want an immediate halt to Saudi Arabia's military operations in Yemen.”
 
"We will make all our efforts to control the crisis in Yemen."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"The Saudi-led airstrikes should stop immediately and it is against Yemen's sovereignty."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian

"We condemn foreign interference with the situation in Yemen by any country, be it Iran, Saudi Arabia, or the United States.”
 
"Carrying out airstrikes and starting a war is easy. Putting an end to a war and quitting a war is hard." 
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham
 
"Iran wants an immediate halt to all military aggressions and air strikes against Yemen and its people."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
"Resorting to military acts against Yemen which is entangled in an internal crisis and fighting terrorism will further complicate the situation, spread the range of crisis and destroy opportunities to settle the internal differences in Yemen peacefully.”
 
"This aggression will merely result in the spread of terrorism and extremism and will spread insecurity to the entire region."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
“These operations are a dangerous step and completely contrary to international obligations in respecting the national sovereignty of other countries.”
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Head of Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaedin Boroujerdi
 
“The fact that Saudi Arabia has fanned the flames of a new war in the region shows its carelessness."
 
“The smoke of this fire will go into the eyes of Saudi Arabia as war is never limited to one place only. We hope this military operation will be halted immediately and the Yemen problem solved through political means.”
 
“America, which leads the fire mongering in the region, has supported this act and no doubt Saudi Arabia and some countries in the Arab cooperation council would not get involved without America's permission."
 
“Having imposed long years of crisis in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, America has in practice started another crisis and massacre on the Islamic world and this act is strongly condemned."
—March 26, 2015, according to the press
 
Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed al Jubeir made the following statement about the airstrikes on March 26.
 
“The Kingdom Saudi Arabia has launched military operations in Yemen, as part of a coalition of over ten countries in response to a direct request from the legitimate government of Yemen. The operation will be limited in nature, and designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis and a Houthi violent and extremist militia. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government. In spite of repeated efforts by the GCC, Group of 10 countries and the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to seek a peaceful way to implement the GCC initiatives and the outcomes of the national dialogue that define the political transition in Yemen, the Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means. They captured the capital city of Sanaa, they placed the legitimate president, prime minister and cabinet members under house arrest, they seized the security services and they continue to expand their occupation of the country.
 
President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen made a request to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to convene a conference under the auspices of the GCC to which all Yemeni political factions seeking to preserve security and stability in Yemen would be invited. The Houthis rejected this invitation and continued their violent onslaught in Yemen to the point where they were threatening to occupy the city of Aden, which had become the temporary capital for the legitimate government of President Hadi after he was able to escape from Sanaa. In a letter, dated March 24, 2015, President Hadi made, based on the principle of self-defense, enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, as well as in the Arab League charter’s collective defense mechanism, a request for immediate support - by all means necessary - including military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the continued Houthi aggression and to support it in fighting al Qaeda and ISIS.â€‌
 
Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom’s responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government.”
 
“We will do whatever is necessary to protect the legitimate government in Yemen, prevent it from falling and to encounter the dangers of the militia. The situation in Yemen is dangerous and has never happened in history that a militia was able to control air forces or ballistic missiles and heavy weapons and this is a very dangerous situation and we will do everything we can to protect the Yemeni people and the legitimate government in Yemen.”
—March 26, 2015, in a press conference
 
Photo credit: Zarif by Robin Wright; Afkham via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

Nuke Talks: Latest from Iran, P5+1

On March 26, a new round of nuclear negotiations began in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Officials noted that the negotiations were intensifying, with only a few days remaining before the deadline for a political framework. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held bilaterial discussions, and negotiators from Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany joined the talks over the weekend. The following are excerpted remarks from officials involved in the talks.
 
United States
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
"Now, what happens if, as our critics propose, we just walk away from a plan that the rest of the world were to deem to be reasonable? And that could happen. Well, the talks would collapse. Iran would have the ability to go right back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want, if they want, if that’s what they choose. And the sanctions will not hold, because those other people who deem the plan to be reasonable will walk away and say, “You do your thing, we’ll do ours. You’re not willing to be reasonable, we’re going to do what we think is reasonable.” And then you have no sanctions regime at all.
 
So then there would be no visible, agreed-upon checks on Iran’s nuclear program. I thought that was the whole purpose of putting the sanctions in place, was to get agreed-upon checks on the program. Now, obviously, you have to know that they are agreed; you have to know that you can enforce them; you have to know you have the insight. And that’s our job – to provide an agreement that is as good as we’ve said it will be, that will get the job done, that shuts off the four pathways to a nuclear weapon: the pathway at Fordow, the pathway at Natanz, the pathway at Arak, and finally, the covert pathway, which is the hardest of all but which I can assure you we are deeply focused on.
 
So this is not a choice, as some think it is, between the Iran of long ago and the Iran of today. It’s not a choice between this moment and getting them to give up their entire nuclear program, as some think. It’s not going to happen. It’s a choice between a regime that has already developed its ability to master the nuclear cycle, that has already proven its ability to enrich, that has gone from 164 centrifuges in 2003 to over 19,000 today – but is only spinning 9,400 of them, but which would have the ability to free, if we don’t have an agreement, just to expand its program full speed ahead, and you know we can’t accept that. So where does that take you?
 
Anybody standing up in opposition to this has an obligation to stand up and put a viable, realistic alternative on the table, and I have yet to see anybody do that. So we’ll see where we go."
—March 25, 2015, in a speech to the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference
 
“We are working very hard to work those through...We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow. We are working with a view to get something done. There is a little more light there today, but there are still some tricky issues. Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow.”
—March 30, 2015, according to the press
 
Senior State Department Official
 
“In terms of setting expectations, as you all know and have heard us say many times, we are focused on getting a political framework that addresses all of the major elements of a comprehensive deal done by the end of March. That is the date we are focused on. We made – I think we would say we made more progress in the last round than we had made in the previous rounds, which often happens once you’re getting closer to a deadline, I would say. And we can see a path forward here to get to an agreement. We can see what that path might look like. That doesn’t mean we’ll get there. And I think if you asked many people in the delegation, we truly do not know if we will be able to do this. But I do think it’s important that we see a path forward. We’ve discussed all of the substantive issues at the political and expert level that will need to be part of this.”
 
We do not know what form this will take if we can get there at the end of March. I know that’s a big question people have. But regardless, we have always said it needs to have specifics. We will need to communicate as many specifics as possible to the public in some form or fashion. What that will look like we truly just do not know at this point yet. Obviously, we’ll be communicating that to Congress as well. But I think what folks are focused on right now is the substance of what we are trying to work towards in a political framework, and as we get closer here, I think to conversations about form for some sort of public announcement will be a part of the discussion, but we truly do not know at this point.
 
But I do want to underscore that we believe and know that we will have to share as many specific details publicly as we can, with the caveat that the work of doing annexes if we can get to a political framework is very tough work. It involves a lot of details that are very important to the implementation of this deal, so noting that as well.”
 
“If we get to March 31st and don’t have a political understanding, we will have to evaluate where we are, we will have to look at what we think the path forward is, and we will make decisions based on that going forward. But unlike the previous two extensions, the day after the deadline it does not automatically expire.”
 
“We very much believe we can get this done by the 31st. We see a path to do that. I don’t think we would have said that even before the last round probably. So to set expectation – not to set them too high, because I think there is a good chance that we cannot get this done. But yeah, we plan for all outcomes.”
—March 25, 2015, in a press briefing
 

Iran

President Hassan Rouhani

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Zarif gave the following statement to the press on March 31, 2015.

 

"This (removal of sanctions) is a viewpoint that the government has insisted on since the very beginning."

The negotiations are "good" and "We are making every effort to continue on this path."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

"We have made progress in reaching acceptable solutions, but we still have to work on some important issues; the key to striking an agreement lies in this strategic choice that the other side should make: pressure and sanctions or interaction and agreement by the other side.”

"I think we now have a better understanding of issues; I think we can move towards a solution through a common understanding.”
 
 "I think our German and French friends are willing to play a very direct role in both the settlement (of the nuclear issue) and in future relations; we discussed very good points on how to proceed and resolve the problems."
 
"We have always said that achieving a solution is possible with political will; from my meetings with German and French foreign ministers I realized that the other side has also entered the talks with the same interest.”
 
"We discussed all issues which need to be resolved and I think we made progress and we are moving ahead; I think we can have the needed progress."
March 29, 2015, according to the press
 
"We are not close to a deal as reaching a comprehensive agreement needs political will and choosing between pressure and agreement.”
 
"We are proceeding, we still have work to do and we are trying hard.”
 
“The reason why I emphasize the other side’s political will is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has the political will at the highest levels.”
March 27, 2015, according to the press

 

Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-e Ravanchi

"The talks have reached a point where serious decisions need to be made."

He expressed hope that the "other side will be able to make this tough decision."

"One or two fundamental issues remain which we hope will be settled as well."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi
 
“We hope to wrap up the talks by Wednesday night ... We insist on lifting of financial, oil and banking sanctions immediately ... for other sanctions we need to find a framework. We insist on keeping research and development with advanced centrifuges.”
—April 1, 2015 to the press
 
"All differences are serious and we are trying to reduce these differences.”
 
"We are still hopeful and optimistic, but it is still soon to state if we will be able to obtain a solution on all issues or not.”
 
"Bilateral and multilateral meetings at the level of experts, deputy FMs, and FMs will be held today and we hope these meetings lead to progress in the negotiations."
March 27, 2015, according to the press
 

Foreign Ministry Director General for Political and International Affairs Hamid Baeedinejad

"The remaining issues are not only the sanctions, but include a whole raft of issues and we are currently in the final stages of [settling] them."

"All these issues are interrelated. Sanctions, [uranium] enrichment and research development are issues which should be resolved together and in single package."
—March 25, 2015, according to the press

Russia
 
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
 
One more very important day of the ministerial negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme is over. We can say with a large degree of confidence that framework agreements have been reached on all the key aspects of this issue at the ministerial level, and we hope that these agreements will be put on paper in the next few hours or a day at the most. A corresponding instruction has been issued to the experts. The agreement stipulates a comprehensive approach to settling this issue, including IAEA verification of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and detailed provisions on lifting the sanctions.
 
I’d like to say that the concept underlying this work is based on the initiative that President Vladimir Putin advanced several years ago, when he called for resolving Iran’s nuclear issue by recognising Iran’s unquestionable right to peaceful nuclear research, including uranium enrichment, provided its programme was reliably monitored by the IAEA and the anti-Iranian sanctions were lifted. Russia contributed to international efforts at the earlier stages by proposing the principle of superposition and reciprocity for the settlement of various aspects of this issue, which is one of the most difficult international issues.
 
These agreements must be now put on paper. I hope that when this happens, they will be made public without delay by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif.
 
Our work is not finished yet, but the completion of this stage will mean that we have honoured the commitments we assumed in November to elaborate a political framework for addressing all the key aspects of this issue. As we agreed last November, the experts will be working on the technical details until the end of June, which will take a lot of effort because the devil is in the details, as you know. A complex issue like nuclear research calls for the utmost attention and accuracy. I believe that the result, which we hope to reach soon, looks attainable and will create the basis for resolving all the other issues pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme.
— March 31, 2015 in a statement
 
United Kingdom
 
Foreign Minister Philip Hammond
Germany
 
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
 
“The endgame of the long negotiations has begun…And here, with a view of the Swiss mountains, I'm reminded that as one sees the cross on the summit, the final meters are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
 
“That's what has to be done here in the coming hours and days. I can only hope that in view of what has been achieved over the last 12 months that the attempt for a final agreement here will not be abandoned."
 
Reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran "could perhaps bring a bit more calm to the region.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
 
France
 
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
 
“I came to advance a robust agreement…It's been a long and difficult negotiation. We have had advances in some areas, not enough in others.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
 
China
 
Top Negotiator Wang Qun
 
“China has been very forthcoming by coming up with a series of proposals to help to bridge the gaps even at this last stage.”
 
“And this is the purpose of my minister’s coming here.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
 
European Union
 
Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
 
“We have never been so close to a deal, but critical points still remain.”
“I am optimistic, otherwise we would not be here.”
 
Negotiators have made some progress the past week, but “we still need to find some solutions.”
March 28, 2015, according to the press
 

U.S. Officials: Iran's Role in Iraq

In March, U.S. officials acknowledged that Iran’s involvement in Iraq could help defeat ISIS, but cautioned that it could also fuel sectarian conflict. Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias launched an offensive to drive ISIS out of Tikrit in February. Both the United States and Iran have repeatedly denied any direct collaboration with each other to defeat ISIS, instead coordinating through the Iraqi government. The following are excerpted remarks from U.S. officials on Iran’s involvement in Iraq.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey
 
“This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support, in the form of artillery and other things.”
The involvement of Iranian-backed Shiites in Tikrit could be “a positive thing” but “it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism.”
March 3, before the Senate Armed Services Committee
 
"Iran and its proxies have been inside Iraq since 2004.”
 
"This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support in the form of artillery and other things. Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism."
 
"We're watching carefully. If this becomes an excuse to ethnic cleanse, then our campaign has a problem.”
 
"There's no doubt that the combination of the Popular Mobilisation forces and the Iraqi security forces, they’re going to run ISIL out of Tikrit.”
March 11, according to the press
 
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
 
"You asked about the battle for Tikrit and the presence of Iranian advisers on the ground. That is something we're watching very closely. It is something that is concerning to us, in particular because the sectarian danger in Iraq is the principal thing that can unravel the campaign against ISIS.
 
That's why it's so important that the -- that none of these battles -- and you named one, which is Tikrit -- there're actually several important battles going on, in some of which, the Iranians play no role at all.
 
But wherever they are, it's important that sectarianism not rear its ugly head as ISIL is pushed back outside of Iraq. So we're watching that very -- very closely, very carefully, and it's a return to sectarianism that would concern us very much in Iraq."
—March 11, 2015, in a press briefing
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
"With respect to Iraq, we absolutely have known of Iran’s engagement in the northeastern parts of Iraq and, indeed, we’ve had conversations with Prime Minister Abadi about it.  He doesn’t hide it, and we’re not blind to it.  We know that Iran has been engaged.  We know that General Soleimani has been on the ground.  We know that they have an interest.  We understand that.  And we fully understand some of their engagement with some of the militia.  At the same time, they are deeply opposed to Daesh [ISIS].  And while we are not coordinating with Iran – we do not have conversations with Iran about this – we work through the Iraqi Government.  We do so with the knowledge that they are also opposed to Daesh and are working for Daesh’s defeat.  
 
Now going forward, I would also note that part of this operation in Tikrit also involves significant participation by Sunni tribes and Sunni participants from the region.  And the governor in Salah al-Din province was well aware of what is happening and of this whole-of-government initiative, whole-of-coalition effort, to continue to press the fight against Daesh.  And even while the fighting in Tikrit is taking place, there are several other fights taking place nearby which involve significant Sunni participation, U.S. support, and others.
 
So what we made clear some months ago when we first announced the coalition, lots of countries will make lots of different kinds of contributions, and every country can make some kind of contribution, and all of us are committed to the defeat of Daesh.  And the sooner that can happen, the better.  
 
Now the real measure of the Tikrit operation will not be just in the clearing; it will be in how people are treated afterwards.  It will be in whether or not there is a inclusivity or whether there is, in fact, a breakdown into a kind of sectarian division.  So we’ll watch that carefully.  We will work with the Government of Iraq very carefully to do our best to minimize or avoid that.  But we are not surprised at all by the participation such as it has been with respect to the Tikrit operation itself."
March 14, according to the press

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki
 
"We continue to emphasize that it's important that [Iran’s] actions don't raise ... sectarian tensions.”
—March 18, 2015, according to the press
 
QUESTION: Local media has reported in numerous articles that the Iranian Government is intervening – helping the Iraqi Government retake Tikrit. There are reports that Qasem Soleimani is there. So I just want to know whether you agree with any of these local reports that Iran plays a role in retaking Tikrit.
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken to this before. We’ve said previously we are aware Iran has sent some operatives into Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition and aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces.
 
QUESTION: But you’re not opposed to the Iranians being there fighting ISIS, are you?
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve addressed this many times, Said. We’ve been clear that Iran – Iraq can best counter the threat from ISIL with a government and security forces that are inclusive, and if the interests of all groups are respected. With respect to the activities of any country in Iraq, including Iran, we believe strongly that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus on strengthening its internal political and security situation – institutions in an inclusive way. Clearly, that’s what our focus is on. We’re not coordinating with the Iranians; nothing has changed in that regard.
—March 9, 2015, in a press briefing
 

Khamenei on Nowruz: Nuke Deal Must Lift Sanctions

On March 20, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a statement on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, encouraging “close cooperation between the people and the administration.”  The next day he delivered a speech in Mashhad, criticizing President Obama’s Nowruz message for including “dishonest assertions.” He also focused on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, emphasizing that “Iran has managed to neutralize the so-called crippling sanctions,” but that sanctions relief must be part of any nuclear agreement.

The following is Khamenei’s Nowruz statement and excerpts from his speech in Mashhad.
 


Khamenei's Nowruz Statement, March 20

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful;O Conqueror of hearts and sight, O Planner of night and day, O Transformer of power and circumstances, Change our condition to the best of conditions. Greetings be upon Fatima, her father, her husband and her children.
The beginning of this year is concurrent with the days of the martyrdom anniversary of Hazrat Zahra (God's greetings be upon her). Our people's love and respect for the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and honorable daughter requires that certain considerations be taken into account by everyone. Of course, everyone will undoubtedly do so. We hope that these days and the new year will be imbued with Fatemi blessings. I hope that the auspicious name and memory of this great personality will exert its deep and permanent influence on the lives of our people in the year 1394. And I hope that the arrival of the spring - which is coincident with the beginning of the solar Hijri year - will be blessed for the people of Iran and for all those peoples who commemorate Norouz.
 
I would like to send my sincere greetings to the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and I use this opportunity to commemorate the memory of our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) and our martyrs. I hope that in the new year we will benefit from the blessings and prayers of those pure and dear personalities.
 
Let us take a brief look at the year 1393 and the new year which begins at this hour. The year 1393 was an eventful year for our country both in domestic, and in foreign and international arenas. We had certain challenges and achievements. It was because of these challenges that we named the year 1393 "The Year of National Determination and Jihadi Management". By taking a look at the year 1393, we can see that national determination thankfully showed itself. Our people showed their firm determination in enduring some the difficulties that they experienced as well as in the 22nd of Bahman, Quds Day and the magnificent Arbaeen rallies they showed their determination and displayed their effort . Thankfully, jihadi management was clear and visible in some areas. Whenever jihadi management showed itself in any area, it was followed by achievements. Of course, national determination and jihadi management were not particular to the year 1393. They are necessary for both this year and the coming years.
 
In the year 1394, we have great wishes for our dear people, all of which are attainable. Our great wishes for the people in this year are economic progress, regional and international power and dignity, scientific leaps in the real sense of the word, judiciary and economic justice, and faith and spirituality which is more important than other wishes and which prepares the ground for all of them to be attained. In my opinion, all these dreams and wishes are attainable. None of these wishes are things which are beyond the capacity of the people of Iran and the policies of the Islamic Republic. Our capacities are enormous. There are many things to be said in this regard. Insh'Allah, I will refer to the most important issues in this regard in the afternoon speech.
 
Now, what I like to say to our dear people is that this great and important potential can be realized, but there are certain conditions. One of the most important conditions is close cooperation between the people and the administration. If this close cooperation is shown bilaterally, all of our wishes will undoubtedly be attained and our people will witness its result. The administration is the people's employee and the people are its employer. The more cooperation and unity exists between the people and the administration, the better tasks will be carried out. They should trust each other. The administration should believe in the people in the true sense of the word. It should firmly believe in the value, significance and capabilities of the people. As for the people, they should trust the administration - which is their employee - in the real sense of the word.
 
I have certain pieces of advice in this regard which I will offer in the Saturday speech. This is why I believe that this year should be named the year of full cooperation between the administration and the people. I have chosen this name for the new year: "The Year of the Administration and the People, Harmony and Unanimity". I hope that this slogan will be implemented and that our dear, great, determined, courageous, insightful and wise people and our diligent administration implement both parts of this slogan so that they can witness its results in the future.
 
I ask Allah the Exalted to help our country make progress in all its great tasks. I ask Him to make us successful in rendering services to the people.
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.
 
Translation via Khamenei.ir
 
Khamenei's Nowruz Speech in Mashhad, March 21
 
“Obama’s Nowrouz message included dishonest assertions and his claim of friendship for Iranian people was not sincere.”
 
“They [the Americans] say [to Iranian negotiators] ‘you come here and listen to what we say and implement them word for word’. But our nation will resist against it and will never accept this.”
 
“Iran and the US have opposite views on regional issues. We want security and calm in the region, but the arrogant powers led by the America pursue the policy of sowing insecurity in the region, which is quite the opposite of our goals.”
 
“America says ‘we sign the agreement and monitor [Iran's] behavior and then remove the sanctions’. This is erroneous and unacceptable and Iran will never accept this. This is the Americans’ ploy. Removal of sanctions should be part of any agreement.”
 
 
"Removal of sanctions is a part of the negotiations and not their result; therefore, as the honorable president (Rouhani) has clearly stated, the sanctions should be removed immediately after the agreement.”
 
"We will not negotiate with the US on domestic, regional and arms issues at all since the US policy in the region is based on stirring insecurity and confrontation with the regional states and Islamic Awakening which runs counter to the pivotal policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
 
 
Referring to remarks from U.S. lawmakers that an agreement could be reversible, "Such words are also unacceptable because if they believe that they will be entitled to re-impose the sanctions under some other pretext after the deal, then there is no reason for us to accept irreversible moves and undertakings."
 
"Now that Iran has entered negotiations with them they are surprised to see that Iran has managed to neutralize the so-called crippling sanctions."
 
"They thought that by the crippling sanctions the people will stage protest against the government, so they engineered the sanctions to divide the people and the government."
 
“If this friendly cooperation [between the government and the people] takes place on both sides, our wishes will certainly come true and our dear people will see the effects.”
 
“The government is meant to serve the nation and the nation demands services from the government. The more cordial the nation-government ties, the more cooperation and solidarity between them, the better jobs will go ahead.”
 
“The government should recognize the nation in the proper sense of the word and acknowledge the value, significance and capabilities of the nation. Reciprocally, the nation should trust the government… in the proper sense of the word.”
 
“We hope that… the blessed name of this great figure and her memory will leave a profound and lasting impression on the lives of our people.”
 
The Leader also expressed hope that Iran will experience “economic development, regional and international might and dignity, scientific breakthroughs in the real sense of the word, judicial and economic justice as well as faith and spirituality.”
 

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