United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

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...
 
Summary
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
 
 

Iran Opposes U.N. Resolution on Syria

            On May 15, the U.N. General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution calling for a political transition in Syria. The Qatari-drafted measure passed with 107 countries voting in favor and 59 abstaining. Iran and 11 other countries voted against it, including China and Russia. The resolution condemned the government’s use of heavy weapons against civilians and urged serious dialogue with the opposition to produce a democratic and pluralistic political system. Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, called the measure a “deviation” from other international efforts to bring peace to Syria. He also criticized it for not condemning the alleged Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory. The following is the full text of Khazaee’s prepared statement to the general assembly and excerpts from the resolution.

            The current crisis in Syria is gaining new dimensions, following further intensification of sectarian violence as well as growth of extremism and illegal acts by terrorist and extremist groups in this country; we have witnessed a new rounds of air strikes by the Israeli regime violating the territorial integrity of Syria. There is a growing concern that the operations of armed groups and spillover of such acts into other areas in the region will pose further threat and danger to the regional security and stability. This brings more than ever into picture our responsibilities for supporting a Syrian-led political dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and ending the violence inside Syria. 
            In the view of my delegation, the draft resolution is a deviation of all the efforts that are currently pursued at the international level for a peaceful solution. The draft, in its terms and spirit is also a deviation of the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the international law. We cannot and do not agree with this draft for the following reasons:

1. It is ironic that in the draft there is no reflection of recent Israeli regime attacks against Syria. The Israeli air strikes on 3rd and 5th May 2013 and other previous attacks were all blatant acts of aggression and a clear and serious violation of the norms and principles of the United Nations Charter including its Article 2 (4) on the prohibition of the use of force against any Member State. Nothing can justify the use of force and act of aggression against a sovereign state and the aggressor must be held accountable for any consequences stemming from these condemnable and illegitimate acts which endanger regional and international peace and security. I would like, here, to recall that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in a statement issued on 7 May 2013 strongly condemned Israel’s recent acts of aggression against Syria, calling it a “grave violation of the international law as it infringes upon Syrian sovereignty and constitutes a blatant violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” We believe that such criminal and irresponsible act should be urgently and appropriately addressed by all relevant United Nations organs, including this august body.

2. We believe that the United Nations has an important role to play in search for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. In view of my delegation, the Draft Resolution, demonstratesa rather confrontational approach vis-à-vis Syria and in no way helps to bring the parties to a platform of dialogue, with a view of finding a peaceful way to resolve the crisis in a manner that would benefit the Syrian people as a whole.We need to help and facilitate engagement of the Syrian political groups with Syrian Government for a Syrian-lead political process. 

3. Despite some changes,the main elements in the final draft still supports the decisions taken outside the United Nations and include frameworks and mechanisms that do not correspond to the peaceful initiatives that the UN shouldpursue under agreed processes, includingthe framework oftheGeneva Action Group for Syria and the regional framework that we pursue with some countries in the region aimed at achieving the prescribed peaceful goals.The Draft contains a language that contradicts a comprehensive political process with the support of regional and international initiatives and the mandate of the Special Envoy. This is also interpreted as being in line with certain attempts to alter or to impose illegitimate demands on the mandate of the Special Envoy. This would only undermine the Special Representative and other major international and regional efforts in seeking a complete cessation of the violence in Syria at the very first place. We sincerely hope that Mr. Ebrahimi would stay resolute in his arduous mission. 

4. The “acknowledgment” referred to in the draft intrudes on the provisions of the Charter regarding the respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Member States. It also represents a dangerous precedent that violates the most elementary principles of the international law. My delegation is not in a position to welcome or endorse the decisions where their letters and sprits go against the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.The United Nations should remain an Organization of principles governed by rules of law and not influenced by decisions taken elsewhere. 

5. On the issue of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran as a main victim of the present-day use of chemical weapons, with a heartfelt sense, condemns the use of such weapons. It now becoming more clear that certain elements of the Syrian armed opposition groups used chemical weapons resulted in the death and the injury of a number of innocent civilians in that country as testified by the UN Human Rights Council appointee Mrs. Carla Del Ponte. 

6. The draft is not explicit in recognizing the responsibilities of the armed groups in their recourse to atrocious act and violence. We believe, it is important that the decisions by the UN General Assembly to be objective and balanced. 

7. The Draft violates the authorities and jurisdiction of the General Assembly where particularly it makes implicitly references to Rome procedures on the International Criminal Court. 

8. Finally, it is important that any proposal before this Assembly should be based on the broad consultations and consent of the wider membership. It seems that the drafters did not heed the substantive proposals and amendments presented by the representatives of others regional groupings.
 
Mr. President,
 
In conclusion I would like to point out that at this stage, what is important is to prevent any slowdown in the international efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria through peaceful means. The U.N. member states should, with the greatest sense of responsibility, work hand in hand to find balanced formula for the resolution of the conflict. After all, our organization is about and should remain dedicated in achieving diplomatic resolutions to political crisis including the prevailing situation in Syria.
 
U.N. General Assembly resolution on the situation in Syria
            Recalling further all resolutions of the League of Arab States relating to the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular resolution 7595 of 6 March 2013, in which the League reviewed the very serious situation in the Syrian Arab Republic due to the escalating violence and killings in most of the Syrian territory, and the continuation of grave violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities using heavy weapons, warplanes and Scud missiles to bomb neighbourhoods and populated areas, which has seriously increased the number of victims, caused human displacement inside the Syrian Arab Republic and an influx of thousands of Syrians to the neighbouring countries fleeing violence, which targets children and women who have been subjected to frightful massacres, threatening thus to lead to the collapse of the Syrian State, and endangers the security, peace and stability of the region…
            Stressing that rapid progress on a political transition represents the best opportunity to resolve the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic peacefully, reaffirming its support for the engagement of the Secretary-General, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States and all diplomatic efforts aimed at reaching a political solution to the crisis, reaffirming also the role of regional and subregional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security as set out in Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, and welcoming the relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States to address the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic...
 
 

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