United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Poll: Iran Unpopular in Arab and Muslim Eyes

            Iran is now viewed unfavorably in 14 out of 20 Arab and Muslim countries, according to a new poll by Zogby Research Services. The survey results show a growing antipathy towards Tehran. Majorities in all but four countries agree that Iran is contributing to sectarian division in the Arab world. Only majorities in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen think “Iran is working to promote peace and stability in the region.”
            Zogby Research Services asked participants if they identified with the Green Movement demonstrators or Iran’s government after the 2009 presidential election. Majorities in all countries except Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen identified with the Green Movement.
            Tehran’s unfavorable ratings “appear to be driven by its policies in Iraq, Syria, the Arab Gulf region, in general, and by its nuclear program,” according to the report.
            In 2006, Zogby Research Services surveyed opinion on Iran’s nuclear intentions. Majorities in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates thought Iran’s program was for peaceful purposes.
            But public opinion has flipped. Majorities in those same countries now say Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon. Majorities in 14 countries support economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. But no majority in any surveyed country supports a military strike on Iran’s program. The following are excerpts from the survey report, with a link to the full text at the end.

The Bottom Line
1. There is a growing antipathy toward Iran across the Arab World and among Iran’s non-Arab neighbors.
2. Iran’s unfavorable ratings appear to be driven by its policies in Iraq, Syria, the Arab Gulf region, in general, and by its nuclear program.
3. Most Arab Muslims, of all sects, see their Arab culture as superior to the culture of Iran. They see themselves as more generous and knowledgeable, less violent, and as having made a more significant contribution to Islamic civilization.
4. Iran has made serious inroads into the region’s Shia population, especially in Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
5. There is near consensus that the region should be a “nuclear free zone” and deep concern with Iran’s nuclear program. There is strong support in most countries for internationally imposed sanctions to deter Iran’s program. While majorities everywhere but Turkey oppose any military strikes against Iran should they continue to develop a nuclear capacity, the percentage of those who would support military strikes has increased since 2006, with a deep division among Sunni and Shia communities on this question. A majority of Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan would support the military option.
Click here for the full text.

World Powers Seek Early Results from Nuke Talks

            On March 5, the six world powers called for “tangible” and early results from their negotiations with Iran. The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom had a joint statement read to the U.N. nuclear watchdog board of governors.
            The world powers noted that the February talks in Kazakhstan were constructive. The diplomatic process will continue based on “reciprocity and a step-by-step approach,” the statement said. The six nations also called on Iran to immediately take substantive steps toward “resolving outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions” to its nuclear program. The following is the full text of the statement.

Ambassador Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, United Kingdom
            I have the honor to make this statement on behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
            We welcome the Director General’s introductory statement and his February 21 report (GOV/2013/6) entitled “Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement and relevant provisions of the United Nations Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
            We reaffirm our continuing support for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
            In this regard, we take note of the useful meetings that took place on February 26-27 in Almaty to carry on a constructive diplomatic process, which will be pursued actively in the months ahead on the basis of reciprocity and a step-by-step approach, and restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program  consistent with the NPT. We seek tangible results in this diplomatic process at an early stage.
            We commend the Secretariat for its intensive efforts over many months, including nine meetings with Iran over the last year, to clarify unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear program and encourage the Agency to continue doing so.  We reaffirm our support for the resolutions adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors addressing the Agency’s efforts to implement its responsibilities under Iran’s Safeguards Agreement, most recently GOV/2011/69 and GOV/2012/50.  Although Iran’s declared nuclear activities including enrichment remain under IAEA comprehensive safeguards we are deeply concerned  that Iran continues to undertake certain nuclear activities contrary to  multiple UNSC Resolutions, including  recent  steps to install more advanced centrifuges,  continued installation of additional centrifuges at Fordow and Natanz,  production of  enriched uranium, and  construction of the IR-40 reactor at Arak.

            We also reaffirm that the IAEA must play an essential role in establishing international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.  We urge once again Iran to comply fully and without delay with all of its obligations under the relevant UNSC Resolutions, and to meet the requirements of the Board of Governors, including by immediately taking substantive steps as requested by the Agency toward resolving outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, applying the modified Code 3.1, and implementation and prompt entry into force of the Additional Protocol.
            We look forward to timely reporting from the Director General on his continued efforts to implement Iran’s safeguards obligations.
            Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

Three Already Running for President

Garrett Nada

            Three individuals have already declared their candidacy for president. On March 4, the Secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei, added his name to the list of candidates. Elections are scheduled for mid-June. Candidates must be vetted by the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 religious jurists.

            Mohsen Rezaie — former chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps— is a conservative who unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 1999, and for the presidency in 2005 and 2009.  He finished third in 2009 with 1.7 percent of the vote, far behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.

            Former Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki announced his candidacy on February 26. He served as foreign minister for five years, until President Ahmadinejad dismissed him in December 2010. Mottaki, also a conservative, is an ally of Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larjiani —Ahmadinejad’s rival and another potential presidential candidate.

            But hard-line conservatives may rally around one strong candidate to not split the vote. On March 3, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's principal foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, reportedly announced a "principlist" (fundamentalist) coalition to contest the presidential election. The other two members are parliament member Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel and mayor of Tehran Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf. One of the three will likely run with the support of the other two.

            Ali Fallahian, a member of the Assembly of Experts and a former intelligence minister, has also announced his candidacy. He ran unsuccessfully in 2001. In his February 19 announcement, Fallahian seemed to suggest that he would stop Iran’s uranium-enrichment program if elected. “Enough of nuclear. We don't want nuclear enrichment, we have already mastered its knowledge,” he claimed. Both Fallahian and Rezaei are on Interpol’s wanted list for suspected connections to the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing. The following are excerpts from remarks by the three candidates on the upcoming election.

Mohsen Rezaei
            “…I will participate in the forthcoming presidential election. I announce it in this city [Divandarreh] in order to explain my approach for resolving the country’s problems, above all unemployment and inflation…”
            “In the coming years, we will not only get rid of [international] sanctions [against Iran], but we will also bring prosperity to the Iranian economy and that is quite possible…”
            “Currently, the main problem facing people is the economic issue and economic development should be accomplished as well as political development… Today income is the people's basis of life, and we must implement plans to reduce the cost of living and raise their income levels.” March 4, in an announcement in Kurdistan Province
Manoucher Mottaki
            “I will propose a plan in line with the Supreme Leader's beliefs and the people's demands so that in a government with the name of the Islamic Republic, the president would be more than a sympathizer for the people, and give something more than a future promise...” February 26, in remarks posted on his website
Ali Fallahian
            “Actually, I didn’t intend to become a candidate for the next election. But I have received many requests from Iranians regarding this. Keeping the inflation and unemployment rates low are among my top priorities. Also the number of Iranian students has been increased dramatically, but most educated people are still unemployed. I will introduce new solutions to eradicate such problems in the country…”
            “Enough of nuclear. We don't want nuclear enrichment, we have already mastered its knowledge…”
            “Most residents of the Middle East region believe that U.S. military bases must be removed from this area because they carry insecurities to societies. So we will work with the U.S. government to eliminate such bases… Given the many offers made by the Americans at different occasions, and the U.S. need for Iran’s support to create stability in the region — including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, and Egypt — I see a bright horizon for the ties between Iran and the United States” February 19, to reporters in Khorasan province

Kerry: Nuke talks cannot go on forever

            On March 4, Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal warned that the window for diplomacy cannot remain open indefinitely for Iran. Talks on the controversial nuclear program “cannot become an instrument for delay that in the end make the situation more dangerous,” Kerry told members of the press in Riyadh. “We can’t be like philosophers who keep talking about how many angels a pinhead can hold.  We have to talk seriously…” al Faisal echoed.

            Kerry argued that “you cannot have a more peaceful world when a country that exports terror and is involved in the internal affairs of other countries and breaking its own agreements with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…” He stressed that U.S. efforts to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are part of a larger mission to stop nuclear proliferation.They are not “anti-Iranian,” Kerry said.

            Iran also came up in remarks on Syria. Al Faisal said that Saudi Arabia has a moral duty to protect Syrians from slaughter, and that it will “do everything within its capabilities” to provide aid and security. Kerry seemed to caution against arming rebels, noting that weapons could eventually fall into the wrong hands. But “bad actors, regrettably, have no shortage of their ability to get weapons from Iran, from Hezbollah, from Russia,” Kerry said. The following are excerpts from remarks by Foreign Minister al Faisal and Secretary Kerry, followed by a link to the full transcript.

SECRETARY KERRY:  ... The Foreign Minister and I also discussed our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  And we both prefer – and this is important for Iranians to hear and to understand – we both prefer diplomacy as the first choice, as the preferred choice.  But the window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot, by definition, remain open indefinitely.  There is time to resolve this issue, providing that Iranians are prepared to engage seriously on the P-5+1’s most recent proposal.
We also discussed the urgent need to bring an end to the bloody civil war in Syria and to promote peaceful, inclusive transition, and provide the Syrian people with the safety, security, justice, and freedom that they deserve.  The Foreign Minister could not have been more clear about the importance of this issue, the importance of this opportunity, and I make clear today that the United States will continue to work with our friends as we did in Rome to empower the Syrian opposition to be able to hopefully bring about a peaceful resolution, but if not, to continue to put pressure on Bashar Assad…
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD:  As to providing enough aid and security for the Syrians, Saudi Arabia will do everything within its capabilities to help in this.  We do believe that what is happening in Syria is a slaughter, a slaughter of innocent people, and we just can’t bring ourselves to remain quiet in front of this carnage.  Morally, we have a duty to protect them…
SECRETARY KERRY: I think His Royal Highness has spoken very eloquently about the situation in Syria.  And I would simply add there is no guarantee that one weapon or another might not at some point in time fall into the wrong hands.  But I will tell you this, that there is a very clear ability now in the Syrian opposition to make certain that what goes to the moderate, legitimate opposition is, in fact, getting to them, and the indication is that they are increasing their pressure as a result of that.  Believe me, the bad actors, regrettably, have no shortage of their ability to get weapons from Iran, from Hezbollah, from Russia, unfortunately, and that’s happening.  So I think His Royal Highness has made the status of this challenge absolutely crystal clear.  Bashar Assad is destroying his country and his people in the process to hold onto power that is not his anymore.  The people have made it clear he’s lost his legitimacy.
QUESTION:  Your Highness, our guests, welcome to Riyadh.  (Inaudible) newspaper.  My question will be about the negotiations between the group of 5+1 and Iran.  Are the negotiations are limited, or are you planning to negotiate another phase?  As you mentioned a few minutes before that there is al-Qaida in Iraq, also (inaudible).  Iran is involved with the issue in Syria and also in Bahrain.  So are you going to negotiate another issues plus the Iranian (inaudible) – excuse me – nuclear file?
SECRETARY KERRY:  No.  The focus for the moment, the first focus, is the most urgent focus, which remains the challenge of the nuclear program.  That is a threat that extends all throughout the region, and in fact globally because of the issue of nonproliferation.  So the initial focus is on that issue, and the answer to your first part of the question is it is absolutely not unlimited.  Talks will not go on for the sake of talks, and talks cannot become an instrument for delay that in the end make the situation more dangerous.  So there is a finite amount of time.  Thank you.
QUESTION:  Thank you.  Mr. Foreign Minister, the P-5+1 talks in Almaty were mentioned, and they concluded with a promise of more talks.  Are you concerned that the international community and the Americans are simply being strung along and the Iranians are playing for more time?
And Mr. Secretary, what’s your argument to those in this region for why they shouldn’t be developing their own nuclear capabilities to counter this threat growing in their backyard?  And also, you’re meeting with Palestinian President Abbas.  What’s on your agenda for that meeting?  Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD:  Basically, any negotiation should have a time limit.  We can’t be like philosophers who keep talking about how many angels a pinhead can hold.  We have to talk seriously, we have to talk honestly, and we have to put our commitment clearly on the table.  That’s what negotiation is.  Negotiation is not to get somebody that negotiates to trick you into a position along with the negotiation because it still is not told.  A negotiation must be serious.  It must – the negotiation must show intent.  A negotiation must show his motive is really settlement. 
They have not proved to anybody that they are sincere in their negotiation. They have continued to these negotiation to ask for to add to more negotiation in the future.  They reach common understanding only on issues that require further negotiation, and so this is what (inaudible).  They continue to negotiate and all it comes down to building an atomic weapon continues unabated in an area where it is already dangerous with the availability of atomic weapons. So we have to insist on Iran showing the motivation and a clear understanding that they are there to negotiate for a period of time and then come to terms with the conditions of IAEA and NPT. 
SECRETARY KERRY:  Catherine, there are really five principal reasons, I think, for why people in this region should not develop their own nuclear capacity, and I think you asked the question, “What would I say to people why you shouldn’t do it?”  Reason number one:  Because President Obama has made it clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, and therefore there is no need to develop that security.
Reason number two:  It’s very difficult to imagine circumstances under which a country would actually use it without, in fact, making the world far more dangerous. 
Reason number three:  There is a huge danger of proliferation.  And the reason we are pushing so hard against in Iran is not anti-Iranian; it’s because we are moving towards a world to have less nuclear weapons, not more, and because every time a country engages in the enrichment process and manufacture of nuclear weapons, you run the risk with respect to security that someone else will get a hold of that enriched material – an extremist – and potentially use it.  So the threat is not just the threat of a nuclear bomb.  The threat is also the threat of a dirty bomb or of nuclear material being used by terrorists.
The fourth reason is that it makes the entire region less stable.  If one nation does it, another nation does it, another nation does it; you haven’t increased the stability or the peaceful prospects of a nation, and what you’ve done is you’ve diverted your resources from the young people who need jobs, from the investments you need into business, into something that we learned with the Soviet Union and the United States leads to a place where you ultimately want to figure out how do you get rid of them.  Remember President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev meeting to say we’re going to go from 50,000 nuclear warheads and reduce down.  Now we have moving towards 1,500, and President Obama wants to move to less.  So we do not want a movement – the road to a world with less nuclear weapons does not pass through a nuclear Tehran, and that’s another reason why we don’t want to do it.
And yet another reason why we don’t want to do it is that important people who have been part of global affairs for a long time – Secretary Henry Kissinger, Secretary Bill Perry, Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger, every former Secretary of State of the United States with one exception – have all said, people like Secretary George Schultz, Secretary Colin Powel, have all said we should move to a world hopefully, ultimately without nuclear weapons when we learn how to resolve our problems and deal with conflict differently. 
Again, you cannot have a more peaceful Middle East, you cannot have a more peaceful world when a country that exports terror and is involved in the internal affairs of other countries and breaking its own agreements with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and not living up to the standards of the IAEA is moving in the direction it has been.  We are asking nothing more of Iran than its full compliance with the nuclear – with the Nonproliferation Treaty, the NPT, and full compliance with the IAEA.  And to have any other country begin to move in another direction would undermine our ability to be able to achieve that and have a more stable and peaceful and prosperous region. 
Those are the powerful reasons that I think it is so important that other countries not move.  It is also the powerful reasons for why we want Iran to comply with the rest of the world.  Countries can have peaceful nuclear power.  Nobody says no to that.  But you have to live by a certain standard, and it is the international community – not Saudi Arabia, not the United States – that has set that standard.  It’s the international community, and that’s what we’re asking for compliance with, the international community’s standards. 
Click here for the full transcript.


Iran and Syria Condemn U.S. Aid to Rebels

            On March 2, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Mouallem, condemned the recent U.S. move to provide non-lethal aid to rebels for the first time. “Double standards were being applied by certain countries that serve to prolong and deepen the Syrian crisis,” Salehi claimed at a joint press conference in Tehran. “I do not understand how the United States can give support to groups that kill the Syrian people,” al Mouallem said.
            The comments by the two ministers were the first official reactions to Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement. He pledged $60 million in food and medical supplies to the Free Syrian Army on February 28. The following are excerpts from remarks by Salehi and Mouallem.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
            “Mercenaries and non-Syrian armed forces are deepening the Syrian crisis and unfortunately certain countries are supporting them… If other countries stop supporting mercenaries, the situation in Syria will swiftly progress towards stability...”
            “Double standards were being applied by certain countries that serve to prolong and deepen the Syrian crisis…”
            “If you really feel sorry about the ongoing situation in Syria you should force the opposition to sit at the negotiation table with the Syrian government and put an end to bloodshed… Why do you encourage the opposition to continue these acts of violence?...”
            “Assad is Syria's legal president until the next elections. Individuals have the freedom to run as candidates. Until that time, Assad is Syria's president…”
Syrian Foreign Minsiter Walid Mouallem
            “I do not understand how the United States can give support to groups that kill the Syrian people… This is nothing but a double-standard policy ... One who seeks a political solution does not punish the Syrian people…”
            “No one is allowed to infringe on Syrian national sovereignty… We refuse to be a piece of chess in the hands of the international community…”
            “If they truly wanted a political settlement they wouldn't punish the Syrian people and finance (opposition) groups with so-called non-lethal aid… Who are they kidding?...”

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