United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US and Israel Discuss New Iran Diplomacy

            President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran and the new U.S.-Iran diplomacy at the White House on September 30. The following are the relevant excerpts of their remarks on Iran.

President Barack Obama
             We had an opportunity, obviously, to discuss Iran.  Both the Prime Minister and I agree, since I came into office, that it is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon.  That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it’s important for world security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.  And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past -- the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel -- it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.
            What I also shared with the Prime Minister is that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate.  We have to test diplomacy.  We have to see if, in fact, they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions.  And we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically.
            But we enter into these negotiations very clear-eyed.  They will not be easy.  And anything that we do will require the highest standards of verification in order for us to provide the sort of sanctions relief that I think they are looking for.
            So we will be in close consultation with Israel and our other friends and allies in the region during this process, and our hope is that we can resolve this diplomatically.  But as President of the United States, I've said before and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America.
            In all of this, our unshakeable bond with the Israeli people is stronger than ever.  Our commitment to Israel's security is stronger than ever.  And we are very much looking forward to continuing to work with our friends in Israel to make sure that the U.S. security interests are met, Israel's security interests are met, but hopefully that we can also bring about greater peace and greater stability in a region that has been racked with violence and tensions for far too long. 
            And I appreciate the Prime Minister's views.  He is always candid, and we’re always able to have not only a good working relationship at the prime ministerial level, but also because of the outstanding work that our staffs do.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            I welcome the opportunity that we're having to discuss how we work closely together to address the enormous challenges that face both of us.  And I think of those, the most important challenge is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
            I appreciate deeply the fact that you have made clear that you remain committed to this goal.  I also appreciate the statement you made that Iran's conciliatory words have to be matched by real actions -- transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions. 
            Iran is committed to Israel's destruction.  So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program.  We have a saying in Hebrew, we call it mivchan hatotza’a -- you would say it in English, what's the bottom line?  And the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program. 
            In this regard, I want to express my appreciation to you for the enormous work that’s been done to have a sanctions regime in place to thwart Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.  I believe that it's the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table.
            I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place.  And I think that they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success.  And, in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.  It’s the combination, I believe, that has guided your policy and our policy so far, that is good credible military threat and strong sanctions I think is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.

Obama’s Historic Call with Rouhani

            On September 27, President Barack Obama revealed that he had a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama said at a White House briefing. The exchange was the first direct communication between an American and Iranian president since the 1979 revolution.

      Resolving the dispute over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program could “serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Obama said. The two presidents spoke while Rouhani was in a car on his way to the airport. Obama communicated his deep respect for the Iranian people and emphasized the “unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran.” He also apologized for the horrendous New York traffic and wished Rouhani a safe journey home.
      President Rouhani told his counterpart that they can “rapidly solve” the nuclear dispute with sufficient political will. “We’re hopeful about what we will see from the P5+1 [six major world powers] and your government, particularly in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “Have a good day Mr. President,” Rouhani said. Obama wished him well in Farsi.
            Rouhani’s office immediately tweeted excerpts from the conversation and posted a summary on the president’s website. The following are tweets from @HassanRouhani followed by Obama’s remarks and Iran’s summary of the conversation.

President Barack Obama
            Just now, I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.  I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York -- while there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.
            I’ve directed Secretary Kerry to continue pursuing this diplomatic effort with the Iranian government.  We had constructive discussions yesterday in New York with our partners -- the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China -- together with the Iranian Foreign Minister.  Going forward, President Rouhani and I have directed our teams to continue working expeditiously, in cooperation with the P5-plus-1, to pursue an agreement.  And throughout this process, we’ll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel.
            We’re mindful of all the challenges ahead.  The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and Iranian President since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.
            I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution.  Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.  President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.  I have made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations.  So the test will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.
            Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran -- one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.  It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region -- one that would help the Iranian people fulfill their extraordinary potential, but also help us to address other concerns that could bring greater peace and stability to the Middle East.
            A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult, and at this point, both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome.  But I believe we’ve got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy, and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran.  I also communicated to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people.
            As I said before, this comes on the same day that we can accomplish a major diplomatic breakthrough on Syria, as the United Nations Security Council will vote on a resolution that would require the Assad regime to put its chemical weapons under international control so they can ultimately be destroyed.  This binding resolution will ensure that the Assad regime must keep its commitments, or face consequences.  We’ll have to be vigilant about following through, but this could be a significant victory for the international community, and demonstrate how strong diplomacy can allow us to secure our country and pursue a better world. 
President Hassan Rouhani’s Official Website

Zarif Diary on US-Iran Breakthrough

      In an all-time first for Iranian diplomacy, new Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has been chronicling his visit to New York on his Facebook page for Iranians back home. On September 26, Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif held their first meeting on the sideline of talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Zarif later wrote about the encounter and the rest of his day.

The following is a translation by USIP's Maral Noori.

September 27

Hello Friends,
            It is 5:14 a.m. on Friday. Have you heard yesterday’s news? It was a busy and productive day for the president and me. But I want to begin my report with the sweetest parts of the yesterday’s program. The president met with over a thousand Iranians who had come from all corners of America. I must ask for forgiveness from all of the friends who came but could not enter due to lack of space. Of course, I only heard about this at the end of the session.
             Professor Mahdavi Damghani gave a speech that was so full of grace. Children sang songs. The president gave a great, epic speech that highlighted the leading role of the Iranian people, both inside and outside the country, [in building a] better Iran today and tomorrow. [The speech also marked] the memorial week for the brave soldiers of the holy defense [the 1980-1988 war with Iraq]. The speech came together so beautifully.
            The president wanted from the people, as Hafiz [ a famous 14th-century poet] said, to “be faithful, endure the blame, and rejoice. Because on our path, to despair is sacrilege.”
            People applauded dozens of times. And the entire room stood and applauded several times. Their eyes were full of tears. The people were so magnanimous that instead of eating dinner, I spent two hours among the guests on behalf of the president. My fatigue from all of yesterday’s work went away. I do not know if this program was broadcast live on television or not, but I hope it was aired so that you can share in all the joy that my staff and I had.

      Other programs from yesterday included the president’s speech to American intellectuals and political elites. I only attended the end of the session due to the P5+1 negotiations [with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States]. But apparently it was broadcast live on the news. The meeting was very good and constructive. Like previous days, the president and I had numerous bilateral talks.

            Before the P5 +1 negotiations, I convened a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Palestine committee as chairman. Due to the P5+1 talks, I only stayed for half an hour of the session. I gave my permission to Iran’s permanent representative to continue the meeting.
            The P5 +1 meeting was a good start. Now we must patiently [walk] the steep and difficult path to the outcome of the next discussions. One day, I hope to report everything I said during these sessions to you all so you see that there is no need to depart from the direct course [Iran’s principles] to have good negotiations. I spoke with explicit emphasis and without compliments on the illegality of Iran’s nuclear case [being sent] to the U.N. Security Council, and the resulting unlawful and useless unilateral sanctions. Then I had to show flexibility and talk more about the future and the way towards a solution without abandoning these positions. Later, I explained Iran’s strategic perspective, its goal to prove its nuclear program is peaceful and why they [world powers] should aim to ensure that Iran’s [uranium] enrichment program is for peaceful purposes and accept IAEA [U.N. watchdog] monitoring. In the end, the solution was raised. All the ministers welcomed your humble servant’s speech and committed to achieving the same goal. Intensive negotiations have been planned for the end of October.
            We had separate bilateral meetings with all of the P5+1 ministers in previous days, except for Mr. [John] Kerry. At the end of the session, we all shook hands and said goodbye. I then spoke to Mr. Kerry for about thirty minutes on the sidelines. He emphasized the U.S. president’s commitment to reach a negotiated solution based on mutual respect. His words during the P5+1 session and in an interview afterwards were positive. Other ministers were also positive and hopeful for the future.
            However, my dear friends, the work has just begun. We have a long road ahead of us. We must embark on it with hard work and effort. We must focus on solutions based on peoples’ rights, interests and welfare and avoid wasteful advertising. [The negotiations] will be as short as possible, but let us not forget, however, to have patience and prudence.
            I know that I have your blessings and always need them.
            Today I must administer the annual meeting of Non-Aligned Movement foreign ministers. The president will give a speech as the movement’s chairman at the beginning of this session and then head to dear Islamic Iran. I cannot send him off because I must run the session until the evening.
            I hope to meet again — God bless you all and dear Iran.



First US-Iran Step On Nuclear Talks

            In the hint of a possible breakthrough, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held their first meeting on the sideline of talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers. They even shook hands—two days after their heads of state did not have a much-anticipated encounter at the United Nations. Both the U.S. and Iranian envoys signaled encouraging movement, including an effort to fast-track negotiations with the same of ending the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program within one year. Formal talks will resume on October 15 and 16. that will be
      After the September 26 talks in New York, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was surprised by the speed of agreement on the way forward.
      “We agreed to jump-start the process so that we could move forward with a view to agree, first, on the parameters of the end game, how we want to proceed Iran's nuclear program in a year's time, and also to think about steps, starting with a first step, that should be implemented in order to address the immediate concerns of two sides, and move towards finalizing it hopefully within a year's time,” Zarif told a gathering organized by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society for President Hassan Rouhani.
            Responding to Zarif’s announcement, President Rouhani said, “Well, you asked for the first step. They took it.”  Zarif’s comments followed the event for Rouhani. The transcript of the president’s remarks is below with statements by Zarif and Kerry.
Secretary of State John Kerry
            “We had a constructive meeting, and I think all of us were pleased that Foreign Minister Zarif came and made a presentation to us, which was very different in tone and very different in the vision that he held out with respect to possibilities of the future.
             “I have just met with him now on a side meeting, which we took a moment to explore a little further the possibilities of how to proceed based on what President Obama laid out in his speech to the General Assembly earlier this week. And so we’ve agreed to try to continue a process that we’ll try to make concrete, to find a way to answer the questions that people have about Iran’s nuclear program.
            “Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn’t answer those questions yet, and there’s a lot of work to be done. So we will engage in that work, obviously, and we hope very, very much – all of us – that we can get concrete results that will answer the outstanding questions regarding the program. But I think all of us were pleased that the Foreign Minister came today, that he did put some possibilities on the table. Now it’s up to people to do the hard work of trying to fill out what those possibilities could do.”
            Sept. 26, 2013 in remarks to the press
            “The United States is not going to lift the sanctions until it is clear that a very verifiable, accountable, transparent process is in place, whereby we know exactly what Iran is going be doing with its program… Sure, it's possible [to cut a deal within three to six months]… It's possible to have a deal sooner than that depending on how forthcoming and clear Iran is prepared to be.”
            Sept. 26, 2013 in an interview with CBS
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif
            “Good evening, Mr. President. I had a good meeting with P3-plus-three, or as it's known here, 5-plus-one, very good and substantive meeting. We agreed to jump-start the process so that we could move forward with a view to agree, first, on the parameters of the end game, how we want to proceed Iran's nuclear program in a year's time, and also to think about steps, starting with a first step, that should be implemented in order to address the immediate concerns of two sides, and move towards finalizing it hopefully within a year's time.
            “I thought I was too ambitious bordering naiveté, but I saw that some of my colleagues were even more ambitious and wanted to do it faster, so we could go ahead.
Second thing, Kerry was very positive in that meeting, repeating the views of President Obama on the need to move forward, and he committed to leading the process himself on the American side.
            “And then we had a short bilateral meeting on the sides, which is not abnormal in -- in these international settings. We always take people aside and have a chat. We had more than a chat. That continued the same logic that Secretary Kerry pointed to me, his readiness to lead the discussions to a mutually agreeable solution, and I stated President Rouhani's commitment to move the process forward.
            “We also touched upon a couple other issues, but very briefly. But that was the gist of our discussion. I'm optimistic. Now we have to match our words with action. And that's, I hope, not a challenge. I hope that would be an opportunity for us to build confidence and move forward, turning challenges into possibilities for a better understanding and movement forward.”
President Hassan Rouhani
Nuclear Program
            “Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to conclude by briefly touching upon the Iranian peaceful nuclear energy program, which has been subject to enormous hype over the past several decades. You know that -- how many predictions regarding how close Iran was to acquire a nuclear bomb proved to be baseless? We can trace these predictions back to the early 1990s. Throughout this periods, alarmists kept trying to paint the face of Iran as a threatening one to its region and the whole world, a claim that has always turned out to be utterly false.
            “And we all know also who the chief agitator is and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the size of the international pressure to stop the settlement activity and end the occupation of Palestinian lands.
            “These false alarming bells are oblivious, among other things, to the fact that the U.S. national intelligence estimates maintained that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear bomb.
            “We are committed not to work towards developing and producing nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by the leader of the Islamic revolution, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to the Islamic norms. I also should reiterate that we never contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapons. We believe that such weapons could undermine our national security interests. And as such, they have no place in Iran's security doctrine, and even the perception that Iran may pursue a nuclear weapons program is detrimental to our security and overall interests.
            “During my presidential campaign, I committed myself to do whatever in my power to fast-track a solution for the standoff over the nuclear energy program. To fulfill this commitment and benefit from the window of opportunity that the recent election opened up, my government is prepared to leave no stone unturned in seeking for a mutually acceptable solution. To this end, we are ready to work with 5-plus-one, its members, and others with a view to ensuring full transparency under international law surrounding our nuclear program.
            “The peaceful nuclear capability that we have achieved is bound to be exercised within a transparent internationally recognized framework, accessible to the IAEA under its safeguards mechanisms and international monitoring, as has been the case in the past several years. We believe that it is in this appropriate and lawful way that the international community can ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
            “In such a framework, we are also ready to work towards removing any ambiguity and answer any reasonable question about Iran's peaceful nuclear program.
            “Having done so, let me reiterate that we will never forgo our inherent right to benefit from peaceful nuclear technology, including nuclear enrichment, under any circumstances. The continuation of pressure, arms-twisting, intimidation, and extraterritorially imposed measures directed against the Iranian people and innocent civilians trying to prevent them from having access to a whole range of necessities, from technology to medicine, from science to foodstuff, could only poison the atmosphere and undermine the conditions necessary for making progress and weaken our resolve.”
Foreign Policy
            “We will seek effective and constructive understanding and interaction with the outside world, focus on mutual confidence-building with our neighbors and other regional and international actors, and try to orient our foreign policy towards economic development of our country.
To this end, we will work on easing and removing tensions in our foreign relations and strengthening our relationship with our traditional and new partners in all the regions.
            “While we will avoid confrontation and antagonism, at the same time, we will actively pursue our larger interests as we are living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. We believe that challenges could only be addressed through interaction and active cooperation among states. Global challenges require collective responses. No country by itself and in an isolated manner would ever be able to effectively address the challenges it faces. Big powers are no exception to this rule, as they increasingly find it difficult to address unilaterally the specific challenges that they face, as well.”
U.S.-Iran Relations
            “Ladies and gentlemen, we are also considering the aspects of rebuilding and improving our bilateral and multilateral relations with the countries of Europe and North America, on the basis of mutual respect and equal footing. That would include working on easing off any tension, removing hurdles in the way, and comprehensively developing relations, including economic ties.
            “We can begin by avoiding any new tension in Iran-U.S. relationship and, at the same time, endeavor towards removing tensions that we inherited from the past, tensions that continue to mar the relations between our two countries. While we may not be able to forget the major source of mistrust and suspicion that haunted the minds of the Iranian people in their thinking about the U.S. government in the past 60 years, we need, however, to focus, rather, on the current situation and look forward to the future, trying to turn the turbulent past into a beacon lighting for the path ahead.
            “As leaders, we need to rise above petty politics and lead, rather than follow, the various interests and pressure groups in our respective countries. In our view, building on and cooperating about issues of interest and concern to both sides could also be another starting point, as it would be in the interest of easing off the ongoing tensions in our region, as well. In so doing, we need to counter those interest groups here in the U.S. and there in the region whose objective is to keep Iran as an issue that is a boiling one.
            “Perhaps to bring Iran and the United States closer, the initial steps may likely have to be taken by the people. They have to start it, very likely. If an environment is created where the -- you know, the exchanges are done easily, more easily Iranians can come here more easily and people from here can go to Iran more easily, then this will be actually create a public diplomacy venue that will also expand the overall diplomatic activities and the extra steps that we need to take.”
Women’s Rights
            “You know that one of my motives during the election campaign was to emphasize the need for citizenship rights and to build equal opportunities for men and women. And you know that, in Iran, women are quite remarkably advanced and have achieved such advancements in recent years, perhaps unprecedented compared to any other country that surrounds us and in our region, given the fast level of advancement in the recent number of years that occurred. Today more than half our university population constitutes women. They are present actively in our scientific and industrial levels, in our medical field, in our hospitals, in our offices, in the administrative sector, in the various industrial sectors, and the service sector. You'll see women active everywhere.
            “The goal of this government is to create social opportunities for men and women that are completely equal. Therefore, I have actually said to my cabinet members that at the level of deputy ministers, as well as director generals and senior managerial positions, or -- wherever there are qualified women, those qualified women should be used in order to make up for the gap from the past, because after all, we still need to build an inherent and expanding environment, to build that equal -- equality and equilibrium for women in the workforce.
            “So when it comes to the issue of the status of women, the government will remain committed to the vows it made and the pledges it made. I'd like to add that we don't like to have anyone or see anyone in prison. We like to have empty prisons. In the past several weeks, some good, positive measures were taken in this regard, and I hope they will continue.”
            “In the economic field, we have actually drafted plans, a series of plans. One is a short-term plan which is called 100-day plan. It's been sort of labeled as such. And the government has actually been able to pass 25 mini-plans (ph) within this category, entrusting various bodies of the government to take every step to basically operationalize the plan. In terms, it is a plan that basically aims to -- well, there is also -- you know, plans for providing more facilities in the customs area, in banking system, because some of our economic problems result from the interaction between the various sectors in the country.
            “So we're trying to smooth that and facilitate those interactions. We also have another plan that is underway, being planned currently for next year, based on a budget that will be presented to the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and then we have a long-term four-year plan, which our economic group is also working on currently.
            “One of our plans in principle is to build an environment that is more friendly to the private sector, that it basically triggers business, that eliminated the extra, whether it is the extras that are in the way that prevent the smooth facilitation (ph) of business, whether in forms of protocols or laws or whatnot, or administrative hurdles. And the effort is really to delegate what can be delegated to the private sector from the public sector, so that -- and also to create a function for the government to be -- assist the private sector.
            “One of the problems we currently have is the debt that the government has to the private sector, so we're trying to plan how the government can pay that debt to the private sector, especially to contractors who -- who have carried out their duties, but have not received funds from the government, that face many serious hurdles as a result.
            “So to sum up my response, I think that when it comes -- we're taking every step we can for revitalizing the economy and for generating employment for the youth. And we have two specific plans for these that we have been declared and we're in the process of operationalizing them, and then there will be a longer-term plan that we will announce in the next couple of months.”
Domestic Freedoms
            “Among the programs that the government has considered seriously is to ensure that people must have sufficient access to information, and that in the access to information, they will -- can benefit from the various ideas around globally, get a sense of what it is globally, and, of course, just as I also said in an interview, any country, when it comes to the virtual world, has some moral and ethical frame of reference that it tries to keep up and preserve. And in the same token, the Islamic Republic of Iran expects that its ethical framework, the frame of reference for approaching the virtual world, is preserved.”
            “I am profoundly disturbed over the spawning humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the enormous suffering that the Syrian people have incurred over the past two years and half. Representing a people who experienced the horror of chemical weapons, my government strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing conflict in Syria. I am also concerned about the breeding grounds created in parts of Syrian territory for extremist ideologies and rallying point for terrorists, which is reminiscent of the situation in another region adjacent to our eastern borders in the 1990s.
            “This is an issue of concern, not only to us, but also to many other countries, which requires cooperation and joint efforts aimed at finding a durable intra-Syrian political solution.
            “At the same time, we are pleased that diplomacy finally could have its way with regard to at least one aspect of -- of Syrian crisis and sober judgment prevailed over saber rattling. We need to build on the partial headway that was made and try to reach an understanding on the fact that Syria is now a place in dire need of coordinated regional and international efforts.
            “We are ready to contribute to peace and stability in Syria in the course of any serious negotiations among regional and extra-regional parties. Here, too, as in everywhere else, we need to avoid embroiling in a zero-sum game.”
Chemical Weapons
            “We completely condemn the use of chemical weapons by whoever. Whoever has used it is condemnable. It is an inhumane act. It is unacceptable, and it is extremely dangerous for our region, because, after all, you know that we have been victims of chemical weapons ourselves. We know more than -- we know how dangerous these weapons are.
            “After years since our own war in the '80s, we have people who are suffering from their chem injuries as a result of the use of chemical weapons and the course of the war to this day in our hospitals. So we know how inhumane it is. And therefore, we believe that the Middle East region should be free of weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological, or nuclear, completely eradicated these weapons should be from our region, therefore, that we must have a Middle East region free of nuclear weapons.
            “As you know, it has been a proposal of Iran from years back, and in fact today in the conference on disarmament at the General Assembly, a special convening on the discussion of the disarmament aspects of this issue, I did emphasize that the Middle East region should become a part -- a region that is one zone free of nuclear weapons.”
The Holocaust
            “I think that I have responded in one or two interviews and in which I was asked about it, and I explained that we condemn the crimes by Nazis in the World War II, and regrettably those crimes were committed against many groups, many people. Many people were killed, including a group of Jewish people.
            “And we condemn their crimes in general. We condemn the murder and killing of innocent people always. It makes no difference to us, when that person is innocent and is killed, whether he or she was Jewish or Christian or Muslim. There's just no difference in our eyes. We condemn crimes as such.
            “But the argument here is that if the Nazis committed a crime, this does not mean that the price paid for it should be done by other people elsewhere. This is no and should not be -- serve as any justification to push out from their homes a group of people because of what Nazis did. Although that crime by the Nazis is definitely condemnable, oppressing people in another part is also condemnable, because people should be allowed to return to their homes and to their lands.”
            “Afghanistan, for next year, is something that we are concerned about in terms of its peace and stability for various reasons. One reason being the one you just referred to, that the international forces aim to leave Afghanistan, and another reason being that, unfortunately, American -- the U.S. forces intend to say in some basis in Afghanistan. And this could become an excuse for Taliban and other extremist groups to continue resorting to, you know, acts that -- actively insecurity (ph) of that country, because one aspect here that contributes to the activity of these groups is the presence of foreign forces in the region.
            “And at the same time, in principle, we also cannot find (inaudible) foreign forces in the region. We don't find them useful. We find them detrimental to regional security and peace. And then there's another issue of the negotiations -- the peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban. There's yet another issue, the elections that will happen in Afghanistan next year. We're concerned about this and in general concerned about the potential for instability in Afghanistan, based on the information we receive and about the movement of the -- some, you know, groups there that are against the government.
            “And one of the first steps that we've taken is to negotiate with the government of Afghanistan and with the governments of surrounding countries and in order to prevent, you know, the potential destabilization as far as we can.”
            “The principle of the illicit drugs that flow from Afghanistan is that it poses a serious threat to the entire region, we and the world. And we have been always cooperating with international organizations and regional organizations and the group of countries on this issue to curtail the -- to curtail it.
            “If a government wants to help, truly there are different ways of helping in this process. The first help comes from inside Afghanistan itself. The governments that can, must inside Afghanistan halt the production of illicit drugs. And therefore, there is no clearer program in this area.
“But at the same time, we are, you know -- are in a continual cooperative relationship with the different countries on this issue. And, you know, it's also an internal issue for us. Annually, a group of our border guards has always lose their lives and become martyrs, killed as a result of fighting the phenomenon of the transfer of illicit drugs.”
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
            “On the question of Palestine, whatever the people of Palestine accept, we shall accept, as well. The decision-makers about Palestine are the people of Palestine, the Palestinians, and if they accept something, we will also support the demands of the people.”
Photo credit:  UNGA Ashton Security Council by European External Action Service via Flickr


Rouhani Calls for Nuke-Free World

      On September 26, President Hassan Rouhani called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons in his address to a U.N. disarmament conference. “Instead of nuclear weapons, let us invest in development and in eradicating poverty, ignorance, and diseases,” he suggested. Rouhani specifically called for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and urged Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
      President Rouhani gave the speech as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), an organization of some 120 developing countries created in 1961. Rouhani announced that NAM will present a resolution to the General Assembly regarding roadmap to worldwide nuclear disarmament. Iran took over as chair from Egypt in 2012 and will lead the group until 2015. The following is a transcript of Rouhani’s speech.
            It is a special privilege to address this historic gathering. The participation of many world leaders in this first ever meeting of the Assembly on nuclear disarmament is indeed a clear manifestation of the wide support for this important subject. On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that initiated this meeting, I thank you all for your support. 
            I am also very grateful to you Mr. President, for your efforts and those of your predecessor in organizing this meeting. I also thank you, Mr. Secretary General, for your remarks.
            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            A peaceful and secure world remains a shared ideal for us all. 
            The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki deepened our resolve to prevent the recurrence of such unspeakable death and destruction. 
            To that end, the very first resolution of this Assembly rightfully called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. We have now an architecture of treaties, norms, and forums that aims to achieve this agreed goal. Yet, thousands of these weapons continue to pose the greatest threat to peace. Steps for de-targeting, de-alerting or reducing the number of nuclear weapons are not a substitute for their total elimination. 
            Any use of nuclear weapons is a violation of the UN Charter and a crime against humanity. Doctrines justifying such use are unacceptable. Likewise, threatening non-nuclear-weapon States with nuclear weapons should be ended. Modernization of these weapons also undercuts efforts for their total abolition. These should therefore be stopped. 
            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            I wish to recognize the important contribution of some non-nuclear-weapon States to nuclear disarmament by voluntarily renouncing or dismantling nuclear weapons.
            I also recognize the valuable contribution of nuclear-weapon-free zones to nuclear disarmament and international peace and security. I commend the seminal role of non-nuclear-weapon States, particularly NAM States, which make up the bulk of these zones. 
            The Movement calls upon all Nuclear-Weapon States to ratify related protocols to all treaties establishing such zones, withdraw any reservations or interpretative declarations incompatible with their object and purpose, and respect the de-nuclearization status of these zones.
            NAM urges the early signing and ratification by the Nuclear-Weapon States of the Protocol to the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and its related documents without reservations.

            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Almost four decades of international efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East have regrettably failed. Urgent practical steps towards the establishment of such a zone are necessary. Israel, the only non-party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in this region, should join thereto without any further delay. Accordingly, all nuclear activities in the region should be subject to the IAEA comprehensive safeguards.
            The international community has to re-double its efforts in support of the establishment of this zone. This would constitute a contribution to the objective of nuclear disarmament. In this regard, I reaffirm that the NAM State Parties to the NPT urge the convening of the Conference on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, without any further delay, with the participation of all countries in the region to avoid unwanted consequences. 

            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            The World has waited too long for nuclear disarmament. The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated nor can their complete elimination be further delayed. Nuclear-weapon States have the primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament. I strongly urge them to comply with this long overdue legal obligation.
            Fulfillment of nuclear disarmament obligations must not be delayed any further or held hostage to progress on non-proliferation or the perceived notions of strategic stability.
Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing. They should be pursued simultaneously, not one at the cost of the other. Non-proliferation derives its legitimacy from the larger objective of nuclear disarmament. It should be implemented in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner.
            As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use, threat of use and proliferation persist. The only absolute guarantee is their total elimination. Pending that day, nuclear-weapon States should refrain from any threat or use of nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State under any circumstances. The current declarations on negative security assurances are inadequate. They must be codified into a universal legal instrument.
            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Nuclear disarmament remains our highest priority. To take forward the nuclear disarmament agenda, the Movement proposes the following roadmap:
            First, early commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for the prohibition of their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and for their destruction.
            Second, designation of 26 September every year as an international day to renew our resolve to completely eliminate nuclear weapons. We invite all governments and civil society, academia, and media to join hands in making this vision a reality.
Third, convening a High-level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in five years to review progress in this regard.
            The Movement will present a resolution to this Assembly regarding this roadmap. I trust that it will enjoy your support.
            Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            No nation should possess nuclear weapons; since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons, as you, Mr. Secretary General have rightly put it.
            NAM is determined to make every effort to realize the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world without further delay. Instead of nuclear weapons, let us invest in development and in eradicating poverty, ignorance, and diseases.
            Let us bestow upon future generations a nuclear-weapon-free world. This is their right and our responsibility. Let us prove that we are the United Nations: nations united for peace.
            I thank you Mr. President.


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