On March 19, President Donald Trump issued a statement ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. He used the occasion to condemn Iran’s leaders and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is Iran’s most powerful security and military organization. It is also the most powerful economic actor in the country. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also issued a Nowruz statement. He expressed support for Iranians who protested economic grievances and corruption. Their statements are below.
The U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran has observed a “worrying” trend since her last report in August 2017. “Despite assurances from the Government, improvements are either not forthcoming or are being implemented very slowly and in piecemeal,” according to an advance copy of Asma Jahangir’s report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Jahangir passed away in February 2018, shortly after sharing the report with Iran’s government, so she did not have the opportunity to consider its response.
On March 12, the BBC said its journalists will appeal directly to the United Nations over alleged “persecution and harassment” by Iran of its Persian Service staff. The BBC has said that staff in London and/or their families in Iran have been targets of threats, arrests and travel bans. More than 20 staff or family members have received death threats. The appeal will be made at a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
On March 12, President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, renewed the national emergency with respect to Iran. The following is the full text of the White House press release and Trump’s letter to Congress.
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN
On March 9, four followers of Grand Ayatollah Sadegh Hossein Shirazi, an outspoken critic of Iran’s clerical leadership, climbed onto the first-floor balcony of Iran’s embassy in London and took down the flag. They waived blue-and-white flags of a U.K.-based Shiite group called Khodam al Mahdi, which reportedly supports Shirazi.
On February 19, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif renewed his call for a new framework for security in the Persian Gulf region. For years, he has proposed a dialogue forum that would include the primarily Sunni Gulf states, Iraq and Shiite Iran to reduce tensions. He recently outlined his vision at the Munich Security Conference and at a Valdai Discussion Club conference in Moscow.
Iran’s ballistic missile program is a key point of contention between Western powers and Tehran. The United States and other countries have argued that Iran’s missile testing is contrary to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
On February 18, former Secretary of State John Kerry pushed back against critics of the Iran nuclear deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu warned that Iran would be on its way to having a nuclear arsenal in 10 years.
From February 11-16, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with officials in Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey during a tour of the Middle East. Iran's rising influence in the region, the nuclear agreement, and the latest incident between Israel and Iran in Syria, were topics of discussion throughout the trip.
On February 15, the State Department issued a statement on the seven-year anniversary of the house arrest of three Iranian opposition leaders. “The United States calls on Iran to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals in Iran consistent with its international obligations,” said Spokesperson Heather Nauert.