United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

U.S. Poll: 83 Percent See Iran as Top Threat

            About 83 percent of Americans ranked Iranian and North Korean nuclear ambitions as the greatest threats to U.S. interests, according to a new poll by Gallup. The development of nuclear weapons by the two nations tied for the top spot on a list of nine potential threats.
            Democrats and Republicans largely shared their concern about  North Korea. But 12 percent more Republicans than Democrats viewed Iran’s development of nuclear weapons as a critical threat. The most significant partisan split was on Islamic fundamentalism. About 70 percent of Republicans viewed it as a critical threat, while only 46 of Democrats did. The following are excerpts from the survey, with a link to the full report at the end.  

This year's poll marked the first time Gallup asked about North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons specifically. In 2010 Gallup asked about the two countries' "military power," and found 61% rating each as a critical threat to the United States, second only to international terrorism. In 2004, the "spread of weapons of mass destruction to unfriendly powers" ranked second only to terrorism. Thus, Americans have previously seen North Korea and Iran, and nuclear weapons in general, as serious threats to the U.S….
Americans' assessments of North Korean nuclear ambitions as a critical threat to the United States vary little by subgroup, including by party identification. However, that is not the case for most of the other international matters, including Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say most of the matters are critical threats. The greatest party differences are in regard to Islamic fundamentalism, viewed as a threat by 70% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats...

Khamenei: Iran Not Seeking Nuclear Weapons

            On February 16, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed Iran has no intention to build nuclear weapons. But he warned that if Tehran decided to build them, the United States could not stop it.
            The Supreme Leader called Washington hypocritical on nuclear proliferation, human rights and democracy promotion. Diplomatic pressure and sanctions contradict U.S. overtures for direct negotiations, he told thousands at a rally in Tabriz.
            But Khamenei suggested that the two sides could negotiate if the United States acts and speaks “reasonably” on the nuclear issue. He stipulated that Iran will not relinquish its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear energy.
            In his speech, the Supreme Leader condemned recent infighting between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the heads of Iran’s legislative and judiciary branches. Ahmadinejad raised allegations of corruption against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani. Khamenei called the accusation an “immoral act” that went against Islamic law. He also noted that Ali Larijani’s responses were “excessive.”
            Khamenei told government officials to focus on the “common enemy” and solving economic republics instead of arguing with each other. The following are excerpts from the Supreme Leader’s speech.

The United States
            "The Americans expect the others to give in to their unreasonable demands and their bullying, as a number of people have given in to their demands. But the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic do not give in because they have the ability to reason, and they have power and authority…"
            "They [Americans] claim that they are committed to human rights and they have raised the flag of human rights in the world. But, in practice, they inflict the most serious harm to human rights and they hurl the biggest insult at human rights by creating disasters such as the ones in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the slaughter of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan…"
            "Based on this claim [to combat nuclear proliferation], the Americans attacked Iraq 11 years ago. But it became clear that this claim was false in essence… Despite this claim, American politicians support the evil Zionist regime which is equipped with dangerous nuclear weapons…"
            "On the one hand, they make this claim [to support democracy] and on the other hand, they constantly confront Iran which has the most genuine democracy in the region… The Americans claim to support democracy while they support countries in the region which do not know the first thing about democracy, and in which the people have not seen ballot boxes even once..."
            "This claim [to be prepared to negotiate] is made while the Americans say inappropriate and false things about Iran and they resort to sanctions and pressures in order to confront the Iranian nation…"
            "Efforts to violate the rights of the Iranian nation are a clear example of the irrationality of the Americans. Therefore, one cannot use logic when he speaks to the irrational and thuggish side..."
            "During the past 34 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has clearly understood - through its involvement in different global issues - who its opposing side is, how he behaves and how it should be confronted..."
            "The global media network either does not reflect our statements or it reflects them in an incomplete or distorted way…"
            "They [Americans] want to show Muslim nations - which have just gained strength in the region - that the Islamic Republic of Iran came to the negotiating table despite its intense determination and resistance. Therefore, these nations have no options except for surrendering…"
            "During the past 15 years, the Americans requested Iran to negotiate with them two or three times, stressing that negotiations are very necessary, urgent and vital. One or two executive officials went and negotiated with them. But as soon as they had no response to Iran's reasonable statements, they broke off negotiations. And by using their global media networks, they pretended that Iran had broken off the negotiations…"
            "Contrary to American politicians, the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran are reasonable. Therefore, if they see that the other side speaks reasonably, they will respond appropriately…"
            "If such a thing happens and if the Americans show, in words and actions, that they are not irrational, then they will see that the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran are well-wishing, reasonable and cooperative..."
            "The only way to establish relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is this and if such a thing happens, the American government will receive an appropriate response."
Sanctions and the Economy
            "Since a few months ago, they have imposed sanctions which were claimed to be crippling and they even imposed a new round of sanctions just a few days before the 22nd of Bahman. They did these in order to break the will of the people, but the Iranian nation responded by participating in the rallies on the 22nd of Bahman more enthusiastically than previous years…"
            "They [Americans] naively imagine that our people are exhausted by the sanctions, and when they hear about this promise, they become eager to negotiate with America and they pressure the officials of the country…"
            "In fact, this promise is one of the same deceptive statements of the Americans and it shows that they are not after genuine and fair negotiations. Rather, that they are pursuing the goal of making the Iranian nation surrender. If the Iranian people had wanted to surrender to the Americans, they would not have carried out a revolution…"
            "The aim of the sanctions is, as they have repeatedly said, to exhaust the Iranian nation and to make it separate from the Islamic Republic. Therefore, even if negotiations are conducted but our people stay present on the scene and stand up for their rights, sanctions will continue…"
            "The Americans believe that the Islamic Republic relies on the people and if they separate the people from the Islamic Republic with sanctions, the power to resist will be taken away from the Islamic Republic. The first part of this statement, that the Islamic Republic is dependent on the masses of the people, is accurate. But the second part, that pressures and sanctions will bring the people to their knees and will separate them from the Islamic Republic, is completely false and it is based on misapprehension…"
            "Of course, the Iranian nation is looking for blossoming [economic growth], progress and complete prosperity. But, it does not want to achieve this goal by being humiliated. Rather, it wants to pursue this goal with wisdom, determination and courage. It wants to achieve this goal by relying on its own resources, particularly by relying on the talented youth of Iran…"
            "Sanctions bother people. But there are two ways to approach sanctions: either people should surrender and show repentance before global bullies like weak nations. Or, like the brave people of Iran, they should increase their capabilities, rely on their own capacities and pass through the danger zone with dignity and strength…"
            "Undoubtedly, the people of Iran have chosen the second way and they will pursue it. By Allah's favor, they will turn sanctions into an opportunity for growth and blossoming…"
            "The people, particularly the underprivileged classes, truly feel the hardships. But they do not separate themselves from the Islamic Republic because they know that the Islamic Republic and the dear Islam are the powerful hands which can solve the problems."
Nuclear Program
            "If Iran had decided to build nuclear weapons, America would not have been able to stop the Iranian nation in any way..."
            "The Islamic Republic of Iran has not decided to build nuclear weapons and this decision is not because of America's concern. Rather, this decision is based on the belief that building nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity. Besides stressing that they should not be produced, it demands that the existing nuclear weapons be wiped out…"
            "The American's claim that Iran is building nuclear weapons is deceptive talk..."
            "On the nuclear issue of Iran, the argument is not about nuclear weapons. Rather, they want to deny Iran its natural and absolute right to enrich uranium and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Of course, they will not succeed in preventing the Iranian nation and our nation will fulfill its objective which is based on its absolute right…"
            "Of course, since many years ago, those who sought domination have tried to drag Iran to the negotiating table and make it deal with them in order to make Muslim nations hopeless. Now, they are pursuing the same goal by publicizing the idea of non-political negotiations. But the Islamic Republic of Iran understands what their goals are by keeping its eyes open and it responds according to these goals…"
            "By adopting the same irrational viewpoint, they say in their propaganda that they should directly negotiate with Iran in order to make it stop producing nuclear energy and satisfy it with enriched uranium. But, if they had wanted to start genuine and reasonable negotiations, they should have said, let us negotiate so that Iran can give its own reasons and so that issues will be examined in a fair way..."
            "This kind of negotiation does not serve any purpose. It will not reach any results. Even if Iran accepts to negotiate and even if the officials sit and negotiate with the Americans, what kind of negotiation is this when their goal is this [making Iran surrender and making Muslim nations hopeless]?"
Domestic Infighting
            "This bad and inappropriate event upset me for two reasons. The first is the fact that the event itself happened and the second is the fact that the people are unhappy about this issue…"
            "Unfortunately, in this event the head of a certain branch made an accusation against the other two branches - that is to say, the Parliament and the judiciary branch - on the basis of an unproven allegation which had not even been considered by the court. This course of action was bad, wrong and inappropriate. It was against Sharia and the law and it was an immoral act..."
            "This behavior violated the political rights of the people because living in peace and in psychological and moral security is one of the basic rights of the people…"
            "For the time being, I offer a piece of advice. This behavior is not appropriate for the Islamic Republic…"
            "Questioning should serve a certain purpose. What is the purpose of questioning a minister - a few months before the end of this administration's term - over an issue which is not related to the minister?"
            "Inside the Parliament, a number of people said inappropriate things. This course of action was also wrong..."
            "The things which the honorable Speaker of the Parliament said in his own defense were excessive. It was not necessary to do that… Neither that accusation, that behavior nor that questioning was appropriate..."
            "We are all brothers. When there is a common enemy ahead of us and when we see plots, what should we do?"
            "I will help them. But this kind of behavior is not in line with the oaths they take and with the promises they make. The officials should see the greatness of the people and they should behave in a way which the people deserve..."
            "The executive officials and the Parliament should focus all their efforts on solving the economic problems of the people and the country because as I said a few years ago, the enemy has focused his plots and plans on economic issues…"
            "A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the heads of the three branches of government about combating economic corruption. They repeatedly speak about economic corruption. But this problem is not solved by speaking about it. Rather, it requires combating in practice. What was done in practice? What did you do in practice? These issues make one distressed…"
            "Piety, piety, piety! We expect the officials to focus all their efforts on solving the problems of the people by exercising patience and by suppressing unrestrained emotions and by taking the issues of the country into consideration. Now that the enemies have increased their hostility, the officials should increase their friendships…"
            "By Allah's favor, this benevolent piece of advice will draw the attention of the officials, particularly high-ranking officials and they will act on it…"
            "My complaints against a number of officials should not make some people shout slogans against such and such people. I am against this course of action..."
            "A group of people called another group of people anti-wilayat and anti-wisdom and they shout slogans against them such as the event which recently happened in Qom. This is a wrong and I am completely against such moves. Before this, an event similar to this one happened at Imam Khomeini's holy shrine and I asked the officials to prevent these things…"
            "Those who shout such slogans - if they are really religious - should know that these moves harm the country and they are against Sharia. If they do not pay any attention to these statements, then they should be treated in a different way…"
            "By Allah's favor, the future of the wise people of Iran will be very bright. There are bright prospects for us. We should take care of ourselves."

Democrats Propose Posting U.S. Diplomat in Iran

            On February 15, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would reestablish a new diplomatic envoy to Iran. The high level envoy would be responsible for pursuing direct, sustained, bilateral and multilateral negotiations with Tehran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) said the United States must revise its no contact policy and “use all diplomatic tools available.” The following is a press release from her office.

            Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the “Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act,” which would create a high level Special Envoy to Iran. The act pushes diplomacy as a vital route to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy to pursue direct, sustained, bilateral and multilateral negotiations with the Government of Iran in order to prevent war, and support human rights. 
            “The darkening clouds surrounding Iran’s nuclear program are troubling. We must use all diplomatic tools available, including engaging in direct bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.  To do that, we must lift the ‘no contact policy and begin negotiations,” Congresswoman Lee said.
            The bill calls for eliminating the State Department’s ‘no contact’ policy that prevents State Department officers and employees from making any direct contact with Iranian counterparts. The bill outlines measures to pursue opportunities to build mutual trust and to foster sustained negotiations in good faith with Iran.
            Original cosponsors include Representatives Earl Blumenauer, John Conyers, John Dingell, Keith Ellison, Rush Holt, Hank Johnson, James McGovern, Jim Moran, Betty McCollum, and Bobby Rush.

U.S. Condemns Imprisonment of Opposition

            On February 14, the United States condemned Iran's continued imprisonment of former presidential candidates and opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and his wife, women’s rights activist Zahra Rahnavard. They have been under house arrest for two years without being formally charged for any crimes. The United States also called on Iranian officials to hold fair and transparent presidential elections in June. The following is a statement by State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

Two Year Anniversary of the House Arrests of Iranian Opposition Leaders
            Two years ago today, the Iranian regime put former presidential candidates and opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and his wife, women’s rights activist Zahra Rahnavard, under house arrest without being formally charged for any crimes, and their situation remains unchanged.  We join the international community in condemning their continued imprisonment and the harassment of their family members, and in calling for their immediate release.  We further call on Iranian officials to conduct fair and transparent presidential elections in June that conform to internationally accepted standards and uphold the rights guaranteed under Iran’s own laws and constitution.
            The United States remains deeply troubled by the Iranian regime’s latest campaign of fear and intimidation to extinguish dissent, eliminate freedom of expression and deny the Iranian people their freedoms at the same time that it fails to hold the worst human rights abusers responsible for their actions.  We are equally concerned by the ongoing bans on political parties and the imprisonment of political leaders in the lead up to Iran’s presidential elections in June.  Officials have tried to limit open political debate with the detention of more than a dozen journalists and the regime has also tried to silence numerous activists and human rights defenders through arrests and intimidation. We repeat our appeal for the immediate release of these individuals and of all prisoners who are being held for their religious or political beliefs.

Iran Responds to U.N. on Nuclear Program

            Tehran is serious about upcoming talks with the six world powers, and expects them to be forthcoming, according to a statement from the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. Iran is scheduled to discuss its controversial nuclear program with China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States on February 26 in Kazakhstan. Tehran’s statement warned that “exerting pressure on Iran will definitely derail” diplomatic efforts. It came in response to European Union High Representative Lady Catherine Ashton’s remarks at a U.N. Security Council meeting. “We hope that Iran will come to this negotiation with flexibility and that we can make substantial progress,” she told the council. The following is an excerpt from Ashton’s remarks, followed by the full text of the Iranian statement.

European Union High Representative Lady Catherine Ashton

            “We hope that Iran will come to this negotiation with flexibility and that we can make substantial progress... We remain determined to work towards a solution to the Iran nuclear issue based on the dual-track approach..."
            "There is no doubt that the pressure of sanctions has been instrumental in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table but sanctions cannot be an end in themselves... The key is for Iran to comply fully with its international obligations." Feb. 13, 2013 in remarks to the U.N. Security Council
Statement of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations

            In the Security Council meeting held on 13 February 2013 to hear the statement by H.E. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the “cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organization in maintaining international peace and security: European Union” references were made on Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities by some members of the Security Council. In this regard the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations would like to present the following points:
• As it has been stated time and again, the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully committed to the NPT and is determined to continue its cooperation with the IAEA in accordance with its Safeguards Agreement and is firmly determined to continue to defend its legitimate rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as stipulated in the NPT.
• It is obvious that the legitimate rights of Iran to fuel cycle, including enrichment of uranium should be fully recognized by the Group 5+1 according to NPT.
• The Islamic Republic of Iran has always expressed its readiness to continue the dialogue, on the basis of common understanding and mutual respect.
• The officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have reiterated in several occasions that dual track approach currently pursued by a number of countries is a futile exercise in the sense that the track at exerting pressure on Iran will definitely derail the efforts on the diplomatic track. So any negotiations to be successful must be conducted in a cooperative, constructive and positive spirit.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is serious about those talks and expects the other side to be serious and forthcoming so that the next round of negotiations to be held on 26 February 2013 in Kazakhstan would lead to positive and fruitful results.

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