United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Latest on the Race: Rafsanjani on the Issues

      Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been a pivotal player in Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic revolution. His views have often adapted to the times, issue or public sentiment. But he has often argued that “moderation” and national unity could help Iran overcome domestic challenges as well as repair its relations with the outside world. The following are excerpts from various interviews, public remarks and campaign materials.

Iran’s Theocratic System
            “We should live based on Islamic laws and not based on radical individuals' interpretations which sometimes make people's lives difficult.” May 2005 to journalists
            “According to the constitution, everything in the country is determined by people's vote. People elect the members of the Assembly of Expert and then they elect leader, so the leader is [indirectly] elected by people's vote. Presidents, MPs, members of the councils are elected by direct votes of people. Other officials are also appointed [indirectly] through people's vote. Everything depends on people. This is the religious system. The title of Islamic Republic is not used as a formality. It includes both the republican and Islamic nature… This is a reality passed on to us on the basis of Koran, as well as the religious sayings of the [Shiite] Imams and prophet… Rest assured, if one of those two aspects are damaged we will lose our revolution.” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
His political career
            “I entered the 2013 race to perform my religious and national duty given the country's situation … and its problems at home and abroad… Certain people and movements have resorted to lying and falsification and slurs to discredit others. These people, intentionally or unintentionally, are harming the Islamic revolution.” May 16, 2013 to Tehran University students
            I have “been with the revolution second-by-second from the very beginning of the struggle, which was begun by our leader Imam [Khomeini]. We are talking about 60 years ago. I know what the Imam wanted.” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
Factional Politics and the 2009 Election
            “I have never wanted to abuse this platform in favor of a particular faction, and my remarks have always concerned issues beyond factionalism… I am not interested in any factions. In my view, we should all think and find a way that will unite us to take our country forward and save ourselves from these dangerous effects and the emerging grudges…” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
            “The income resulting from restructuring subsidies was supposed to be reinvested in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, but these sectors have not received adequate support… Rising economic problems threaten the future of the country like an awesome avalanche.” January 2012 in a meeting with the Agricultural Council, according to ISNA
            Subsidy reform (under President Ahmadinejad) led to an “insignificant amount of cash distributed to the population in exchange for alarming inflation… People are feeling the multiplication of prices and the drop of the currency’s value with their flesh and blood… Yet some are content with their imaginary statistics.” February 20, 2013 according to Donya-e-Eqtesad
United States and the West
            “Several times when I was the president I mentioned that if the United States showed goodwill we would enter a dialogue with it. And I gave this directive to the Americans, that freeing our assets in the United States would be a sign of goodwill…They admitted the shah (for medical treatment after he fled Iran). They started it…”February 6, 2005 in an interview with USA Today
            “There is no doubt that America is a superpower of the world, and we cannot ignore it…Americans should gradually begin to adopt positive behavior rather than doing evil. [But] they should not expect an immediate reaction in return for their positive measures. It will take time. ” May 2005 to journalists, according to Reuters
            “I believe the main solution is to gain the trust of Europe and America and to remove their concerns over the peaceful nature of our nuclear industry and to assure them that there will never be a diversion" to military use.  May 2005 to journalists
            “Americans are using sanctions and pressure. In the negotiations, they also have the upper hand… Now, if we sit down with them to negotiate, they say, ‘You do this, and then we stop some sanctions.’ But this is not negotiations.” May 2012 in an interview with Jomhouri Eslami translated by PBS
            “Our country should be united against all the dangers that threaten us. They [Western countries] have now upped their ransom demands and are coming forward to take away our achievements in the fields of hi-tech and particularly nuclear technology. Of course, God will not give them the opportunity to do so, but they are greedy…” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
Nuclear Energy Program
            Nuclear energy “is our nation’s legitimate right ... especially when it is in accordance with international laws and regulations.” May 18, 2005 to journalists
            “If one day the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world…” December 14, 2001 in a speech on Jerusalem Day according to the BBC
Israel and Palestinian Issue
            “We are not at war with Israel. If the Arab countries are at war with them, we’ll help them.” April 2013 to reporters according to Mehr News
            We want all the Palestinians back in their homeland, and then there can be a fair referendum for people to choose the form of state they want... Whoever gets the majority can rule.” October 29, 2005 at a Jerusalem Day rally according to The Washington Post
            “The Palestinian issue, and the formation of the state of Israel, are among the worst periods of our contemporary history. I don't know of any similar tragedy. In the 50 years since this pseudo-state was formed, and in the several decades before it when fighting was going on, hundreds of thousands of holy people shed their blood… Tragedies resulting from these events constitute the greatest encyclopedia of crime committed by the World Arrogance [United States].” December 14, 2001 in a speech on Jerusalem Day according to the BBC
Media Freedom
            “We should not limit our media, which has legal permission for their activities. They should be able to work within the framework of the laws…The media should not expect to engage in activities beyond the legal framework, nor should the establishment expect them to ignore their legal rights…Our officials, law enforcement, military and security forces should help to create that atmosphere.” In a July 17, 2009 sermon according to BBC Monitoring
            “We see that a Facebook page costing nothing can outstrip several television and radio outlets, and can influence millions of people… This, in my opinion, is a blessing… We see that if social media did not exist, movements against tyranny and oppression would be endangered.” May 29, 2013 according to ISNA via AFP

Iran Denies Military Presence in Syria

            “Iranian forces have never been, and are not present in Syria,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on May 23. “The real enemies of Syria make such claims.” His statement came one day after foreign ministers from the United States, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates urged for the "immediate withdrawal" of Iranian fighters from Syria. The so-called Friends of Syria met in Amman to discuss recent developments and receive updates from the Syrian opposition. 
            Tehran announced that it will host its own international conference on May 29 to find a “practical solution” to the Syrian conflict. “We believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that a national dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition will lead to a rational solution,” Araqchi said on May 22. Iran held similar conferences in August and November 2012 that were attended by China, Russia and dozens of other countries. The November conference reportedly brought together nearly 200 Syrians, including government officials and opposition representatives. The following is the full text of Iran’s press release on the conference. 

            Pursuant to the two previous meetings on the developments in Syria, held in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the third meeting is scheduled to be held in Tehran on 29 May 2013. We are confident that this Conference could enhance consultations and coordination among the countries that are real friends of Syria with a view to assisting this country in surmounting the crisis. We are hopeful about the achievements that this Conference would have and, especially, the practical solution for the crisis that it could come up with. The fact that a great number of countries and international organizations will take part in this Conference is indicative of the increasing determination of world public opinion towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis and also the growing role that the Islamic Republic of Iran is playing in dealing with it.

          With regard to this International Conference on Syria, the following are also noteworthy:
- The Islamic Republic of Iran plays an important role in peacefully resolving the crisis in Syria. Iran is a major country in the region and has put forward an important plan for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. It has so far organized two major conferences on the topic and is one of the members of the Group of 4 major regional countries (Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) tasked with tackling the Syrian crisis.
- On the same understanding, Iran has always criticized the actions by those countries that, while interfering in the Syrian domestic affairs and supporting the extremists and armed and illegal opposition groups, deliver arms to these groups. These countries are, undoubtedly, responsible before the Syrian and world public opinion. Instead of shipping arms and munitions, they should take part in rebuilding Syria.
- The Islamic Republic of Iran has always endeavored towards constructing and developing Syria. During the crisis, instead of shipping arms into that country to bring about destruction and stoke conflicts, Iran has provided the Syrians with food, medicine, fuel and the like on a constant basis to enhance the livelihood of the Syrian people.
- Since the onset of the crisis, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always maintained a consistent and balanced position, stressing the need for fulfilling the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and encouraging  reforms in Syria. Unfortunately, following the foreign intervention, the crisis turned into a proxy war, blocking the way of reforms by the Government towards improving the livelihood of the people.
-  Iran has always been part of the solution in Syria, spared no effort in this direction and supported the good-intentioned plans aimed at justly resolving the crisis in a Syrian-led framework and dialogue between the Government and the opposition.


U.N. Report: Iran Expanding Nuclear Program

            Iran has increased its capacity to enrich uranium by installing hundreds of new centrifuges, according to a new report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed the installation of almost 700 IR-2 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility since early 2013. Once functional, the advanced models can enrich uranium two or three times faster than the old centrifuges. But Iran has slowed the growth of its controversial 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile. Tehran now as 182 kilograms, still short of the minimum 240 kilograms needed for one bomb. It would have to further enrich the uranium to weapons-grade level.
            The report also found that Iran has begun paving over Parchin, a former military site where nuclear-weapons-related experiments may have taken place. Tehran has also continued building a new heavy water research reactor at the Arak facility. Experts have warned that spent fuel from the reactor could be reprocessed into plutonium, which could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran has denied intentions to produce weapons and reportedly does not have the reprocessing plants required to produce plutonium. The IAEA was unable to confirm if Iran conducted experiments related to nuclear weapons development at the Parchin site. The following are excerpts from the U.N. report, with a link to the full text at the end.

Enrichment Related Activities
8. Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities referred to below. All of these activities are under Agency safeguards, and all of the nuclear material, installed cascades and the feed and withdrawal stations at those facilities are subject to Agency containment and surveillance.
9. Iran has stated that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 5% U-235 is the production of fuel for its nuclear facilities and that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 20% U-235 is the manufacture of fuel for research reactors.
10. Since Iran began enriching uranium at its declared facilities, it has produced at those facilities:
• 8960 kg (+689 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to  5% U-235, of which 6357 kg (+383 kg since the Director General’s previous report) remain in the form of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-23512 and the rest has been further processed…
• 324 kg (+44 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to  20% U-235, of which 182 kg (+15 kg since the Director General’s previous report) remain in the form of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-23514 and the rest has been further processed…
Possible Military Dimensions
50. Previous reports by the Director General have identified outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and actions required of Iran to resolve these. Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Iran has dismissed the Agency’s concerns, largely on the grounds that Iran considers them to be based on unfounded allegations...
67. While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.
68. Iran continues not to implement modified Code 3.1 of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, notwithstanding statements it has made in relation to the construction of new research reactors, new uranium enrichment facilities and new power reactors. Moreover, the lack of up to date design information on the IR-40 Reactor is having an increasingly adverse impact on the Agency’s ability to effectively verify the design of the facility and to implement an effective safeguards approach.
69. Contrary to the Board resolutions of November 2011 and September 2012 and despite the intensified dialogue between the Agency and Iran since January 2012 in ten rounds of talks, it has not been possible to reach agreement on the structured approach document. Given the nature and extent of credible information available to the Agency about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, the Agency considers it essential and urgent for Iran to engage with it on the substance of the Agency’s concerns. Unless Iran addresses the Agency’s requirement to conduct effective verification, it will not be possible for the Agency to resolve outstanding issues, including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.
70. The extensive and significant activities which have taken place since February 2012 at the location within the Parchin site to which the Agency has repeatedly requested access have seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to undertake effective verification. The Agency reiterates its request that Iran, without further delay, provide substantive answers to the Agency’s detailed questions regarding Parchin and the foreign expert, and provide access to the aforementioned location.
71. The Director General continues to urge Iran to fully implement its Safeguards Agreement and its other obligations and to engage with the Agency to achieve concrete results on all outstanding substantive issues, as required in the binding resolutions of the Board of Governors and the mandatory Security Council resolutions.

U.S. Report on Iran Religious Freedom Abuses

            Iran’s government reportedly imprisoned, harassed and discriminated against more people for their religious beliefs in 2012 than in the past, according to a new report by the U.S. State Department. It notes an increase in reports of the government charging religious and ethnic minorities with enmity against God, “anti-Islamic propaganda,” or vague national security crimes related to religion. “All religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing,” according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report. The following are excerpts, followed by a link to the full text on Iran.

Government Practices
            There were reports of abuses of religious freedom, including imprisonment and detention. The government severely restricted religious freedom. Reports of government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs continued. Government rhetoric and actions created an increasingly threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Bahais, as well as for Sunni Muslims including Sufis, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups that did not share the government’s religious views. Government-controlled broadcast and print media continued negative campaigns against religious minorities, particularly against Bahais. All non-Shia religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, especially in employment, education, and housing.
            The government continued to increase convictions and executions of dissidents, political reformists, and peaceful protesters on the charge of moharebeh (enmity against God) and anti-Islamic propaganda. The government executed at least ten individuals on charges of moharebeh, according to credible NGO reports. In June authorities executed four ethnic Arabs from the Ahvaz region who had been arrested in April 2011 during a protest in Khuzestan and convicted of moharebeh and fasad-fil arz (“corruption on earth”). The authorities reportedly executed at least six Salafi Kurds on December 27 on charges of “membership in Salafi groups” and “participation in terrorist acts.”
            Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani remained in jail at year’s end, after a series of government actions including a brief release from imprisonment… Officials reportedly pressured Nadarkhani to renounce his Christian faith throughout his ordeal and offered leniency if he would do so…
            Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national, Saeed Abedini, was put under house arrest in July on charges of undermining national security by leading a network of house churches. In September, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials raided his residence and took him to Evin Prison, where he remained in detention at year’s end. Abedini was reportedly subjected to physical and psychological abuse by Iranian authorities. Iranian officials have denied him consular access and necessary medical care…
Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
            There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Although the constitution gave Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians the status of “protected” religious minorities, in practice non-Muslims faced substantial societal discrimination, and government actions continued to support elements of society that created a threatening atmosphere for them. Many reports from human rights organizations and international organizations during the year asserted that societal abuses or actions stemmed from government actions or encouragement.
            The conservative media continued its campaign against non-Muslim religious minorities, begun after President Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005. Political and religious leaders continued to issue a stream of inflammatory statements against non-Muslims. These campaigns contributed to a significantly poorer situation for the non-Muslim community throughout the year…
U.S. Government Policy
            Since 1999 the United States has designated Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. In August 2011 the secretary of state redesignated Iran as a CPC, and redesignated the existing restrictions on certain imports from and exports to the country, in accordance with section 103(b) of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, pursuant to section 402(c)(5) of the act.
            The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and thus did not directly raise concerns with the government over its religious freedom abuses and restrictions. However, the U.S. government made its position clear through public statements and reports, support for relevant UN and NGO efforts, diplomatic initiatives, and sanctions as it pressed for an end to government abuses. On numerous occasions U.S. government officials, including the ambassador at large for international religious freedom, addressed the situations of Bahai, Christian, Jewish, and other communities in the country…
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U.N.-Iran Nuclear Talks Fail

            Talks between Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog failed to produce an agreement on May 15. The two sides met in Vienna, Austria for the 10th round of talks since late 2011. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been trying to reopen an inquiry into possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear energy program.
            On the same day, Iran’s head nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, met separately with E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Istanbul, Turkey. He told reporters that the dinner discussion was fruitful and that Iran will discuss a date for another meeting with the world’s six major powers ―
the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. The sides last met in Almaty Kazakhstan in April 2013. The following are remarks by top officials.

General Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general for safeguards
            “We had intensive discussions today but could not finalize the structured approach document that has been under negotiation for a year and a half now. Our commitment to continue dialogue is unwavering. However, we must recognize that our best efforts have not been successful so far. Therefore, we will continue to try and complete this process. A date for the next meeting has still to be set.” May 15, 2013 in a statement
Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council
            “Last night, as Lady Ashton said, we had long, useful talks… We had the chance to go into details. We decided to continue working and keep on our talks… Our proposals in Almaty [in April 2013] were very good... We hope they will turn our proposal for cooperation into an opportunity… We discussed last night how we can place the process on a framework of reciprocity...
            We are ready to continue our talks with the (six powers) whenever they are ready, before or after the presidential election in Iran... Talks will take place soon.” May 16, 2013 to reporters
Lady Catherine Ashton, E.U. high representative
            The discussion was "useful.” “We talked about the proposals we had put forward, and we will now reflect on how to go on to the next stage of the process… We will be in touch shortly.” May 15, 2013 in a statement

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