Iranian Officials Deny Losing Drone

Week of July 15, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Political Prisoner Narges Mohammadi Censures Prison Conditions

Narges Mohammadi, a political prisoner and lawyer, has written a letter to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi criticizing the poor conditions that imprisoned environmentalist activists are facing. Mohammadi said their conditions were “illegal and reflected torture” and called for ending “these inhumane practices.” Mohammad herself is serving a ten-year prison sentence.

The eight environmentalist activists have now been imprisoned for over 500 days. Read more about their cases in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist at France’s Sciences Po University, was arrested by IRGC intelligence while visiting Tehran. A spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary confirmed the arrest, but the Iranian foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of it.

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President Rouhani Talks to French President, Welcomes “Ceasefire” Idea

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Rouhani said Iran was “determined to keep open all paths to preserve the JCPOA.” However, Rouhani stated that the “passage of time and missed opportunities will force Iran to take a third step [in reducing its compliance with the JCPOA].”

Rouhani also said Europe should strive for a “ceasefire in the U.S. economic war.”  He stated: “Europe must expedite its efforts to meet Iran’s legitimate interests and establish a ceasefire in the American economic war.”

During a visit to Tehran last week, Macron’s top diplomatic advisor had said that France seeks a “ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran.” Other outlets have described this potential mutual freeze agreement as entailing Iran returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and ceasing recent acts of regional escalation in return for the U.S. reissuing sanctions waivers to eight importers of Iranian oil and refraining from imposing new sanctions.

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Rouhani-Aligned Analyst Calls for Enriching at 20-Percent

Nasser Hadian, a professor of political science at Tehran University and an advisor to the Rouhani administration during the nuclear negotiations, gave a far-reaching interview on U.S.-Iran tensions. Hadian is viewed as a centrist and West-leaning foreign policy analyst. He has also served as a senior researcher for Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council.

Hadian said Iran should begin enriching at the 20-percent level and then “immediately announce that we are ready for dialogue.” Hadian said he believes that Trump has reached the “conclusion that it is better not to make the situation worse [with Iran].”

Hadian said he further believes that the recent trip to Tehran of a senior diplomatic advisor to French President Macron was coordinated with Washington. He opined: “Trump has reached the conclusion that the Iranian government will not collapse as a result of maximum pressure and that another path must be pursued. France is trying to pave this new path, meaning a path out of the current situation.”

Hadian further stated that Europe and America both seek a mutual “freeze” deal with Iran. The French emissary last week said in Tehran that France seeks a “ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran.” Other outlets have described this potential mutual freeze agreement as entailing Iran returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and ceasing recent acts of regional escalation in return for the U.S. reissuing sanctions waivers to eight importers of Iranian oil and refraining from imposing new sanctions.

However, Hadian said such a “freeze” offer was “not to Iran’s benefit” and thus called on Iran to increase its level of uranium enrichment to 20 percent. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Hadian said that recent escalations in the Persian Gulf and in the region had changed President Trump’s calculations on his Iran policy. He stated: “The thesis of Bolton and Pompeo was that if we increase pressure on Iran it will submit. Trump accepted their view. However, Trump began doubting this when incidents started occurring in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz two months ago.”

Hadian added in this regard that Europe might be able to convince Trump to distance himself from his hawkish advisors and take a more realistic assessment of the situation. He stated: “He can listen to the Europeans and return to the JCPOA in a way that is gradual and unspecified. This will strengthen the mediation role of Europe between the U.S. and Iran and Iran will stop its gradual exit from the JCPOA.”

Hadian further stated that President Rouhani did not believe that Europe would be as incapable as it has been in resisting U.S. secondary sanctions. He stated: “We all knew that the position and capabilities of America are much higher than Europe … but all of us, including President Rouhani, did not think that Europe would be this incapable in facing America.”

Hadian explained why he believes that Europe will bear the brunt of the cost for any conflict with Iran: “Because most refugees and terrorists in the Middle East will head towards Europe. Political and social instability in this region and an increase in the price of oil will have far greater consequences for Europe than America.”

He then suggested Iran might build nuclear weapons if it comes under attack: “Additionally, Europe has security concerns that according to them include Iran developing atomic weapons or advanced missiles. They believe that if a war occurs, Iran will develop stronger weapons to defend itself.”

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Former Reformist President Khatami Calls for Unity Against Threat of War

Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami has declared that war is the “main danger” facing Iran and called for broad public unity against this threat. Khatami also emphasized that upcoming elections should not be boycotted by reformists. The next elections in Iran are for parliament on February 21, 2020.

Khatami stated that “reformists and discontented people must make a sacrifice and selfless act and go to the ballot boxes for the sake of Iran.” However, he added that reformists cannot “enter elections at any cost.” He stated that “God willing the atmosphere will be opened and the qualifications will be accepted [of reformist candidates running for office by the Guardian Council].”

Khatami also said that the current parliament and the Rouhani administration should be held to account over the campaign promises they made but failed to achieve.

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Officials Deny Losing a Drone

After President Trump said that the USS Boxer had shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian officials denied having lost any drone. Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesperson for Iran’s Armed Forces, stated in this regard: “Contrary to the claims that reflect Trump’s delusions, all of the drones belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one discussed by America’s president, have safely returned to their bases after conducting their surveillance and planned control operations.”

Shekarchi added that President Trump’s comments create “insecurity” in the Persian Gulf and the “strategic waterway of the Strait of Hormuz.” He added: “The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran view the control and preserving the security of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz as their legal responsibility.”

Hours later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards released footage of what they said was surveillance of the USS Boxer by an Iranian drone. The video alleges to show the drone surveilling the ship after the time Trump said an Iranian drone had been shot down.

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IRGC Chief Says Iran Might Shift to “Aggressive” Posture

IRGC chief Hossein Salami proclaimed that if there is a “strategic mistake by the enemy,” Iran’s “strategic military doctrine will shift from a defensive strategy to an aggressive one.” Salami stated: “We act in a defensive way. This means we will not be the initiator of any war … however, if necessary, all of our capabilities will become aggressive.” Salami was speaking during a visit to the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the greater and lesser Tombs, which the UAE contests.

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Officials Dismiss Oil Tanker Accusations

Iranian officials dismissed reports in some Western outlets that Iranian authorities had commandeered oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. According to some reports, one Emirati tanker’s radar went offline after entering Iranian waters and another oil-carrying vessel was captured by the IRGC.

Iranian officials stated that the commandeered vessel was a “foreign” ship that was carrying “one million liters” of “smuggled” Iranian oil. According to Abbas Mousavi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, the other vessel was an oil tanker that had broken down and appealed to Iran for assistance, which Iran provided in accordance to international law.

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Iran Further Reduces Compliance with JCPOA

Week of July 8, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Iran Further Reduces Compliance with JCPOA

On July 7th, Iran announced that it would halt compliance with the JCPOA’s limit on its level of uranium enrichment. Iranian officials declared that if Europe does not meet its JCPOA requirements, Iran will take a “third step” in reducing compliance with the deal starting on September 7th. 

Iranian officials had previously announced that Iran will gradually reduce—in 60-day intervals—its implementation of the JCPOA unless other parties to the accord meet their obligations under the deal. During the first 60-day period, announced in early May, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. During the second period that has now been announced, Iran will start enriching uranium at the 4.5-percent level, beyond the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent limit.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said that increasing enrichment to the 20-percent level and “higher options” has been discussed in the Supreme National Security Council. However, Kamalvandi said that currently “there is no need for this.” He added that there are no “obstacles or problems” for Iran to produce 20-percent enriched fuel.

Kamalvandi further emphasized that Iran would take actions in line with its practical needs for nuclear fuel: “When the needs of the country are something else, we’re not going to take actions just to scare the other side with increased enrichment.”

Previously, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the spokesperson for President Rouhani, said that Iran would begin enriching at 20 percent and at higher levels if it left the JCPOA. AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi has also previously said that Iran could start 20-percent enrichment at Fordow in four days if the decision were made to do so.

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Top French Diplomat Visits Tehran

Emmanuel Bonne, the top diplomatic advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron, travelled to Tehran with the express aim of reducing U.S.-Iran tensions. However, Bonne said he did not “come as a mediator to Tehran” and had “no message from America for Iran.” Bonne was previously in Iran roughly one month ago after the sabotage of two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Bonne’s trip came after President Rouhani and Macron had a one-hour phone conversation on July 7th. It also occurred after Iran announced it would cease compliance with the JCPOA’s limit on its level of uranium enrichment and begin enriching at 4.5 percent. Previously, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s 300 kg limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

Bonne met with Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani. Bonne told Shamkhani regarding France’s aim: “Emmanuel Macron seeks joint initiatives for a ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran. He believes such an action will reduce increasing tensions in the region.”

Before he met with Bonne, Zarif provided the criteria for the conditions under which Iran would negotiate about the JCPOA. He stated: “Negotiations are never conceivable under pressure. The pressures and economic war and terrorism against the people of Iran must be stopped then we can talk about implementing the JCPOA.”

Shamkhani told Bonne that Iran gradually reducing its JCPOA obligations was an “unchangeable strategy.” He stated: “Given that for one year Europe did not use the opportunity of Iran implementing its JCPOA commitments in a one-sided way, the definitive decision of our country is to implement our commitments in a way commensurate to the other sides’ actions. The time of taking one-sided actions is over.”

Shamkhani further said: “This path is in the framework of articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA and will continue until Iran’s gets all of its rights.”

Shamkhani also said that America was “taking European independence hostage.” He added: “The European Union countries must stand against American unilateralism to defend their identity and independence.”

Bonne also said to Shamkhani about France cooperation with Iran in the region: “Given Iran’s role and undeniable impact in the region, France is eager to continue dialogue and cooperation with Iran to manage the current crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.”

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Iranian Officials React to British Seizure of Tanker

After British sailors seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar, Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami described the action as “a type of piracy.” He further declared: “For sure this type of piracy will not go without a response from us.”

President Rouhani also strongly condemned the British action as “very wrong.” He added: “The British are creating insecurity in the seas. We hope they don’t continue this because if this is repeated, it will result in insecurity in the world which will harm everyone.”

Rouhani further proclaimed: “I remind the British that you have initiated insecurity and you will understand the consequences later. However, the British may have acted based off an order from America … but this would still have been a wrong action.

During the same press conference, Rouhani also said Iran was not “in a hurry” to leave the JCPOA. He declared: “We are not in a hurry to take an emotional action against an agreement which is on the basis of logic and the strength of Iran’s diplomacy and the capabilities of our negotiators in the face of global powers, which removed all UN Security Council resolutions against us … and that has now isolated the United States.”

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IRGC Launches Military Strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards released a statement saying it targeted Kurdish positions in Iraqi Kurdistan using missiles, artillery, and drones. The statement said the strikes were in response to militant attacks in Iran that killed three soldiers.

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Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist

Washington, DC
Full Time, Exempt

The Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist (“Digital Specialist”) is responsible for leading and managing NIAC’s digital communications and marketing presence, including its website, social media, videos, graphics, and other online and printed materials. The Digital Specialist ensures that all digital content is created and executed in line with the organizations’ brand and that it is then evaluated for effectiveness. S/he works with the Communications Director and senior leadership to devise and implement NIAC’s overarching communications, marketing, and brand strategy. The Digital Specialist reports to the Communications Director. Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Visibility and Brand

  1. Work with the Communications Director to strengthen NIAC’s brand, boost visibility, advance its mission, and build its digital base.
  2. Manage NIAC’s web and social media presence, including the website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Medium accounts, with the aim of boosting engagement.
  3. Design NIAC’s updated visual brand and ensure it is implemented across all marketing collateral (e.g. event flyers, email design, event invitations).
  4. Ensure that all digital materials adhere to NIAC’s brand and image and fits into the organization’s overarching communications and brand strategy.

Digital Content

  1. Design, create, and send out NIAC’s weekly newsletter and Iran Unfiltered digest.
  2. Design NIAC’s digital and printed marketing content, including graphics, videos, layouts for marketing materials, standalone landing pages, and more.
  3. Design and coordinate emails in consultation with appropriate department using EveryAction.
  4. Publish and disseminate NIAC’s content on the website and social media accounts, utilizing best practices to maximize distribution, reach, and engagement.
  5. Manage, or assist the Communications Director in managing, all major communications projects, such as landing pages and videos.

Digital Marketing

  1. Work with outside consultants to create and manage NIAC’s Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube digital advertising campaigns, including by drafting ad copy and graphics and targeting appropriate audience segments.
  2. Track, analyze, and report on the effectiveness of NIAC’s online engagement campaigns, with the aim of boosting engagement and conversions, assisting in digital fundraising campaigns, and optimizing lead generation.
  3. Devise and execute digital and social media strategies for campaigns and organizational events, including fundraisers, advocacy efforts, social events, and conferences.
  4. Support Communications Director in monitoring communications challenges and opportunities, taking the initiative and working with the relevant departments to address these as needed.

General Support

  1. Oversee communications interns.
  2. Provide media relations assistance to the Communications Director as needed, including by assisting in routing reporters and press inquiries.

Desired Experience:

  • Four plus years of digital communications and marketing experience.
  • Undergraduate degree. Marketing, communications, English, journalism, political science, international relations, or a related field preferred.
  • Experience with HTML, Google Analytics, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, WordPress, and Mailchimp
  • Familiarity with CRM platforms like EveryAction preferred.
  • Familiarity with Digital Advertising platforms, such as Google AdWords and Facebook
  • Experience with graphic design and multimedia production, including video, strongly preferred.
  • Experience with digital advocacy campaigns preferred
  • Familiarity with NIAC’s mission, the political landscape, and the Iranian-American community preferred
  • Persian language knowledge a plus

Qualities that will thrive in this position:

  • Strong self-starter, entrepreneurial, creative; eager to present new, bold ideas and solutions
  • Willing to do what it takes to get a high quality, polished project done; low ego, high focus on quality, open to honest feedback and collaboration
  • Hard worker, can do flexible hours and manage his/her time independently; understands that changing the nature of U.S-Iran relations and strengthening Iranian Americans’ voice doesn’t always happen between 9 and 5
  • Strong attention to detail, while being able to think strategically and understand the larger vision
  • Works effectively independently and in a team environment
  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic, and creative
  • Ability to manage multiple daily deadlines and multiple assignments
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Ability to lead, influence, and work across departments

To Apply: Interested candidates should send a cover letter with salary requirements and resume to Nicole Ataei at nataei@niacouncil.org with the subject line “Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist.”

Salary & Benefits
Salary is commensurate with experience. Fortune 100-style benefits include:

  • Generous health, dental, vision, long-term disability, and life insurance plans
  • 15 days of annual paid leave and 12 paid holidays
  • 401k with 2% company match
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

About NIAC
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people. We accomplish our mission through expert research and analysis, civic and policy education, and community building.

We are the 501(c)3 sister organization of NIAC Action, the grassroots, civic action organization committed to building political power for the Iranian-American community to advance peace and diplomacy with Iran, secure equitable immigration policies, and protect the civil rights of all Americans.

We Iranian-Americans Know the Price of War. We Can’t Let it Happen Again.

Americans of Iranian descent know the price of war only too well.

Many of us lived through the gruesome Iran-Iraq war, when Saddam Hussein’s U.S.-made missiles rained down on cities in Iran. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives in a drawn-out conflict that eventually ended in a stalemate.

And as if the war was not enough, the revolutionary Iranian state exploited the external threat to crack down internally, targeting political opponents and executing thousands to solidify its hold on power.

Fellow Americans who did not live through the Iran-Iraq war have now experienced their own drawn out and devastating war in Iraq. Setting out to quash the illusory and misleading threats of Iraqi WMDs, Americans have lost thousands of young servicemen and squandered trillions of dollars in a war that has had no winners, but many victims.

And while the destruction of the two wars dominated events in the Middle East, another conflict loomed on the horizon. A U.S. military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.

Read the full story in Newsweek.

Professors Call for Freedom of Detained Environmentalists

Week of June 24, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

101 University Professors Call on Judiciary Chief to Free Detained Environmentalists

101 prominent Iranian university professors have written a letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary calling for the release of eight environmentalist activists arrested last year. Read more about the case of the imprisoned environmentalists in past issues of Iran Unfiltered. 

The signatories of the letter say it has been “more than 500 days” that some of the most “renowned Iranian environmental specialists and activists” have been imprisoned on espionage charges. The letter highlighted the disagreement between the Revolutionary Guards charging the environmentalists with espionage and the Intelligence Ministry dismissing these charges.

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Outrage and Controversy Over Video of Police Beating Woman

A video went viral of two police officers physically confronting and forcefully arresting a woman in a Tehran park. The video was released by the “White Wednesdays” project and spurred controversy across social media and among politicians.

After the incident, Tehran’s police chief stated that the two officers “had been fired” because of their “improper conduct.” According to the police chief, three men and two women were arrested at the park for “resisting the instructions of police, breaking norms, confronting police, and improper hijab.”

Hours later, the police chief said that the action against the officers was “being halted.” A police statement said that “the implementation or suspension of charges against the officers will occur after an investigation.” The police chief said the reversal happened because of “new reports” regarding “events” at the park.

Parvaneh Salahshouri, a member of parliament, said that parliamentarians wished to question the interior minister over the “violent conduct of the police.” Salahshouri said that 30 members of parliament had written a complaint to the interior minister asking for an explanation regarding the incident.

Rouhani administration spokesperson Ali Rabiee also said that the police’s conduct was “unacceptable” and that Rouhani would speak to the interior minister about the incident. He further noted that the incident required a judicial response and added: “The reaction of law enforcement to the crime—if we assume a crime occurred—was totally unacceptable. We are certain the head of the council for the country’s security will give the necessary admonitions on this.”

Rabiee went on: “Our officers must know that in their hard work, they cannot use illegal and anti-Sharia (religious) methods. Such methods are opposed by the political system, the administration, and their own commanders.”

President Rouhani also stated in a speech that government interference in the private lives of people was “unhealthy.”

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Rouhani Strongly Blasts White House, Defends Khamenei Over Sanctions

After the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office, President Rouhani issued a strong defense of Khamenei. Rouhani stated: “The Leader of Iran is not like other world leaders to have millions of dollars in foreign banks, for them to want to take or block these funds.”

Rouhani said the new sanctions were a “ridiculous and hideous” action, adding: “No country that has even a little bit of wisdom and prudence would sanction the highest official of a country. And not just a political official, but a religious, social, and spiritual figure who is not just the leader of Iran, but the leader of the lovers of the Iran and the Islamic revolution and of Shias in the Islamic world and across the world.”

Rouhani further said that U.S. sanctions were “against human rights” and amounted to “sanctioning the Iranian people.” He stated: “The actions that America takes today reflect the definite failure of America. I have no doubt about this because why would anyone wise engage in such actions?”

Rouhani went on to say that the White House was afflicted by “confusion” and “mental disability.” He said: “Among American rulers and the White House there is a bizarre frustration and a great confusion.” He added: “The White House is stricken with a mental disability and they don’t know what to do.”

Rouhani also proclaimed that Iran will not give permission for U.S. officials to enter Iran and that Trump is lying about wanting negotiations with Iran. Regarding comments by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin that the U.S. would sanction Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Rouhani stated: “The Americans lie when they say they are ready for negotiations.”

The Iranian foreign ministry also said that sanctions “against Iran’s leader and the commander of the country’s diplomacy [Javad Zarif] mean the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy with the desperate U.S. government.” A senior foreign ministry official also said that if Zarif is sanctioned, “he won’t receive visas [for travel]” and that his property would be “confiscated.” The source added: “However our foreign minister has no property or even a bank account in America or anywhere else in the world.”

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Khamenei Says U.S. Negotiations Offer a “Deception”

In a speech following the imposition of new U.S. sanctions, Ayatollah Khamenei once again voiced opposition to new negotiations and censured the United States. As in other recent speeches, Khamenei reiterated that the U.S. seeks to disarm Iran through negotiations, stating: “The Americans are terrified of the source of the Iranian nation’s power and are afraid to move forward (aggressively). As such, they want to take the source of Iran’s power away through negotiations to commit whatever blunder they want against the nation.”

Khamenei added that Trump’s offer of negotiations was a “deception.” He further said that U.S. sanctions were “oppressive” and that “the Iranian people won’t be affected by U.S. insults, nor will they retreat.”

Khamenei also stated that U.S. pressure had no effect on the Iranian people because they participate in elections and demonstrations. He said of Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election in February 2020: “There is an election at the end of this year [the Iranian year 1398]. I know that despite the doubts that some are trying to create, the nation will be present in the election with enthusiasm.”

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Rouhani Tells French President JCPOA Breaches “Reversible”

In a phone call with French President Emanuel Macron, President Rouhani stated that Iran will not negotiate again on a nuclear agreement. Rouhani also said that Iran has “no interest in increasing tensions in the region and has never been after war with any country, including with the United States.”

Rouhani emphasized to Macron that Iran’s plans to breach certain JCPOA limitations are “reversible.” He stated that Iran wants the other parties to implement their commitments under the deal, especially in the areas of resolving Iranian issues with banking and selling oil.

Rouhani also said that any violation of Iran’s territorial integrity was a redline for a military response. He told Macron: “If the Americans again violate Iran’s waters or airspace, Iran’s armed forces will oppose them and give a decisive response.”

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Rouhani Praises Iran’s Armed Forces for Downing U.S. Drone

President Rouhani highlighted the difficulty of identifying and shooting down the U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone and praised Iran’s armed forces. He stated in a speech: “Discovering a drone, especially at such immense heights, is not easy. In the first minutes that it violated our skies, and after giving multiple warnings, with Iranian radar systems and missiles we shot it down. I kiss the hands of all the experts in the defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards who developed our missile capabilities.”

Rouhani added that Iran is “not afraid of America, but is exercising strategic patience.” He further said: “They [the U.S.] didn’t think that Iran could shoot down their drone because discovering such a drone from a military angle is very difficult.”

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Former Tehran Mayor Aid Charged with Espionage

Isa Sharifi, the longtime deputy of former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, has been arrested and charged with “espionage.” Sharifi is reportedly a former IRGC commander and served alongside Ghalibaf for most of his 12-year tenure as Tehran’s mayor.

Initial reports that Sharifi had been executed have been denied, with judicial sources telling media outlets that Sharifi’s indictment will soon be announced. Sharifi was also involved in several corruption scandals and served in the Tehran city council for a short time until reformists took it over after elections in 2017. Sharifi was arrested several months later in August 2017.

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How to Deescalate the Dangerous Iran Standoff

The “maximum pressure” campaign, initiated by the Trump Administration under the stewardship of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, has brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war. While President Trump apparently reversed course on his decision to launch strikes following Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, the danger of the U.S. and Iran triggering an all out regional war remains imminent.

President Trump asserts he wishes to avoid a military confrontation with Iran. Yet his approach of piling on economic sanctions regardless of Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA lacks coherence or clarity and is highly unlikely to achieve its stated goal of Iranian surrender. Instead, it has led to an increasingly provocative Iranian response. 

If the Trump Administration stays the course on maximum pressure, war is all but inevitable. With both sides now engaging in dangerous brinkmanship, the U.S. must take concrete steps immediately to avert another catastrophic American military intervention in the Middle East.   

Abandon “Maximum Pressure” in Favor of Diplomatic Compromise

A new U.S. strategy on Iran that includes credible economic incentives must be pursued in order to convince Iran of the merits of negotiations. The U.S. should credibly signal that it will suspend sanctions imposed after May 2018 to provide space for de-escalation and credible incentive for negotiation. 

  • The Trump administration instigated a new escalation of tensions with Iran and isolation from its allies in May 2018 when it decided to abandon Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and began its “maximum pressure” sanctions policy in violation of the multilateral accord.
  • After a year of upholding its nuclear commitments in spite of the U.S. withdrawal and “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran is now taking limited, reversible steps to halt compliance with aspects of the JCPOA. This includes a decision to surpass the JCPOA’s limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile on June 27th.
  • Iranian leaders have stressed that they won’t negotiate under pressure and, as recent actions show, have begun increasing their own leverage. Meanwhile, President Trump has exhausted all U.S. pressure tools short of war.
  • Trump must signal to the Iranians that he is prepared to exchange pressure relief in return for pressure relief if he truly wants to get a deal and avoid a disastrous war. To jumpstart negotiations, the U.S. should signal that it will suspend sanctions imposed in violation of the JCPOA. Once both sides have returned to their obligations under the JCPOA, negotiations can begin on building on the deal. 

Reestablish Communication Channels with Iran

The U.S. and Iran must reestablish the permanent communication channel that existed under the previous administration. Doing so is important to guard against a spiraling tit for tat and enable a dedicated channel for deconfliction and deescalation.  

  • The Trump administration eliminated the bilateral communication channels that were established during the negotiation of the JCPOA. These channels, which existed at the level of secretary of state, helped contain tense episodes under the Obama administration—including securing the speedy release of U.S. sailors that had strayed into Iranian waters.
  • The U.S. should appoint a senior special envoy for engaging Iran to focus on confidence-building and decreasing mutual distrust and animosity. The envoy should have a proven track record of successful diplomatic engagement, a deep understanding of Iran, and the confidence of the parties that negotiated the JCPOA.
  • A direct U.S.-Iran channel for dialogue will reduce tensions in the overall relationship, enable a mutual understanding regarding each side’s intentions, and allow both sides to talk quickly should an incident occur–such as dispute over violating territorial boundaries or threats to Persian Gulf stability.
  • Additionally, establishing a permanent emergency deconfliction channel between the U.S. and Iranian militaries will also help prevent misunderstandings and avoid dangerous escalation of accidents.

 

UN Investigation into Drone Downing & Other Recent Incidents

The global and U.S. public skepticism to the administration’s claims regarding the drone downing and sabotage of oil tankers reflect the erosion of American credibility. Any response to an alleged violation of international law and norms should be rooted in those established rules rather than perpetuate lawlessness. 

  • Iran’s shooting down of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came one week after the sabotage of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which the Trump administration blamed on Iran. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton also blamed Iran for an attack on four commercial ships in the same area one month ago.
  • The bar for the evidence for the allegations should be extraordinarily high. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Bolton both have track records of manipulating intelligence. 
  • Much of the international community, including U.S. allies in Europe, have viewed with suspicion U.S. claims that Iran was behind the oil tanker sabotage.
  • Rather than further isolate itself internationally, the Trump administration should allow for an impartial international investigation spearheaded by the UN into the tanker and drone incidents.

 

Congress Must Act Now to Prevent War

Congress must uphold its responsibility as a coequal branch of government and the only party with the authority to declare war by sending a clear message that Trump and Bolton cannot make an end-run around Congress to start a war with Iran.

 

  • Congress should pass legislation to block funds for the Trump administration to launch a war on Iran without Congressional approval. The Senate can do so by voting on and passing the Udall-Kaine amendment to the annual defense authorization bill. Stand alone legislation in each chamber, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act (S. 1039/H.R. 2354) – introduced by Sens. Udall, Paul and Durbin and Reps. Eshoo and Thompson – also exists to bar such funding.

Congress should pass legislation to repeal the 2001 AUMF that some in the Trump administration claim provides authorization to wage war on Iran. The Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force bill (H.R. 1274) from Rep. Barbara Lee would repeal the 2001 AUMF from using it as legal justification to attack Iran 17 years after it was introduced. The AUMF Clarification Act (H.R. 2829) from Reps. Massie and Levin would clarify that neither the 2001 AUMF nor the 2002 AUMF can be twisted to greenlight a war with Iran.

Iran Downs U.S. Drone, Will Breach Nuclear Deal’s Limits

Week of June 17, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone, Alleges It Violated Iranian Airspace

On June 20th, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said in a statement that it had shot down a U.S. drone that allegedly violated Iranian airspace. The IRGC statement identified the unmanned aerial vehicle as a “Global Hawk” drone. It said the drone took off “from an American base in the south of the Persian Gulf” at 00:14 local time. While in “stealth” mode, the drone flew past the Strait of Hormuz towards the southeastern Iranian port city of Chabahar, as per the IRGC statement.

According to the IRGC statement, at 04:05 local time, the drone was targeted and destroyed by an air defense unit of the IRGC’s aerospace division “when it entered the airspace of the country.” The statement says the drone was shot down near the Kuh Mobarak region in Iran’s southern Hormozgan province. It added that the drone was engaged in “intelligence gathering and spying.”

Later that morning, the IRGC’s top commander Hossein Salami gave a speech in Iran’s Kurdistan province, where he mentioned the drone downing and discussed broader foreign policy issues. Salami said regarding the drone downing: “Early this morning, the IRGC’s aerospace division downed a spy aircraft of the enemy that had entered our borders and was violating our national security.”

Salami stated that Iran didn’t seek war but its redline was any violation of its borders. He declared: “The downing of the Americans’ spy aircraft had one obvious, clear, decisive, explicit, and precise message, which is that the defenders of our Islamic homeland of Iran will in the face of any violation of our territory by any foreigner show a reaction that is decisive, conclusive, and definitive.”

Salami added: “We declare that we have no intention of going to war with any country. However, we are fully prepared for war, and today’s incident gets this across very clearly.”

Salami also said that the U.S. seeks to disarm Iran through negotiations: “The enemy through negotiations wants to strip the Iranian people of their defensive weapons. A nation that is disarmed can easily be attacked. However, the enemy doesn’t dare transgress against a nation that remains steadfast.”

Salami further said of negotiations with the United States: “They [the U.S.] wanted to portray the path to resolving Iran’s economic problems as being through negotiations. However, we have our experiences and the lessons of recent history. We know we cannot trust the untrustworthy American government. To this day, we have grown through resistance and have been raised by the logic of resistance.”

Salami also said U.S. policies had failed in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere in the region: “In Lebanon, they were defeated by Hezbollah and their aggressive plans for that country were forever ended. The Palestinians have put aside their rocks and taken up missiles … They [the U.S.] wanted to collapse the Syrian state but have now been forced to run away from that country. With 150,000 troops they wanted to conquer Iraq. But today, Iraq is not under the control of American policies.”

He added: “In Yemen, they wanted to build a new political-geographic bridge but the Americans, Saudis, and their allies are in a quagmire and the situation has changed in favor of the Yemenis.”

Regarding the downed U.S. drone, a local IRGC official in Hormozgan province added the wreckage of the aircraft was in Iranian waters in the Raaz al-Shir area. The official said the decision to shoot down the aircraft was made after U.S. drones had “repeatedly violated Iranian airspace” in the Persian Gulf.

He added: “In recent days, American surveillance and spying flights in the Persian Gulf had increased and this was coupled with violating our airspace.”

After President Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake” in shooting down the drone, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said Iran doesn’t take Trump’s words seriously. Shamkani added: “Iran will not attack anyone, but if we are attacked, the aggressor will regret it.”

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IRGC Displays Wreckage, Says Warnings Were Given Prior to Downing Drone

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’S aerospace division, spoke at a ceremony displaying alleged parts of the downed U.S. drone. Hajizadeh stated: “Some of the wreckage of the American drone are spread out in the waters near Kuh Mobarak and some of the heavy parts have sunk.”

Hajizadeh said that Iran had issued multiple warnings before downing the drone: “Our last warning to the American spy drone was at 03:00 and came from a drone belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s army. After these warnings were disregarded, the drone was downed at 04:00.”

Hajizadeh said Iran also could have shot down a “P-8 U.S. espionage aircraft” that had a crew of 30 people. Hajizadeh said the P-8 aircraft was flying near the drone. He stated: “We could have shot it down, but we didn’t.”

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Iran & Russia Ink Agreements in Isfahan Economic Summit

Iran hosted the 15th “commission for economic and commercial cooperation” between Iran and Russia in Isfahan. Iran’s energy minister Reza Ardakanian said that Iran and Russia originally planned to sign seven agreements during the conference, but that because of the “interest that was shown,” 12 agreements were reached. They were mainly in the sectors of energy and transportation infrastructure.

Railways companies from Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan also held meetings. Among the projects discussed were to develop electrical and railway infrastructure between the countries.

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Zangeneh and Russian oil minister Alexander Novak also met in Isfahan. They discussed an agreement to export Iranian oil to Russia among other issues.

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Iranian Security Chief Travels to Moscow, Discusses Afghanistan and Syria

On June 19th, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani travelled to Moscow to participate in a meeting of security officials from across the globe.  Shamkhani met with his Russia counterpart Nikolai Patrushev to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, among other issues.

In his meeting with Patrushev, Shamkhani praised the efforts of Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors to create “a process for national unity” in that country. Shamkhani said a meeting to be held in Tehran later this year of senior security officials from Afghanistan’s neighbors would be an “appropriate opportunity to accelerate the process of establishing sustainable stability in Afghanistan.”

Patrushev also discussed with Shamkhani an upcoming trilateral meeting between Russia, Israel, and the U.S. about Syria. Patrushev said about the meeting, which is to take place in Israel: “We will inform the Islamic Republic of Iran, our strategic partner in the region, of the results of this meeting.”

Patrushev added: “Russia will definitely not support any actions that will exacerbate the crisis in Syria.”

Shamkhani also stated in Russia that “contrary to the propaganda by some against Iran, no war will occur because there is no reason for war to occur.”  He added that the U.S. was engaged in an “economic war” to bring the Iranian people “to their knees,” but that the “Iranian people are standing against them [the U.S.].”

Shamkhani further stated that in the face of the U.S.’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran will “gradually decrease its commitments” under the deal.

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Brother of Former President Tried for 2009 Election Fraud Claims

The trial Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and a former deputy parliamentary speaker, has concluded. Khatami was tried over remarks he made during a TV interview last year about Iran’s contested 2009 presidential election. Khatami had said in the interview that “around 7 to 8 million” votes were manipulated by the Interior Ministry.

After his trial, Khatami told the media that he had highlighted several cases of “fraud, interference, or [election] engineering, whatever you want to call it.” He said that his defense in court rested on three pillars, which were based on “statistics and documents from the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council.” This included a Guardian Council investigation after the election, which stated that 2 million votes were missing in the official count.

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Iran to Breach JCPOA Limit

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Iran will begin the next stage of ceasing compliance with aspects of the JCPOA on July 7th. On May 8th, Iran had given Europe 60 days to meet its obligations under the JCPOA, or Iran would gradually leave limitations set out by the deal. (Read more about Iran’s earlier announcement in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered.)

According to the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), in this period starting on July 7th, Iran will breach the JCPOA’s limitation on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU). The JCPOA limits Iran to 300 kg of LEU enriched to the 3.67 percent level. Iran has also said it may restart enrichment at higher levels.

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NIAC Urges That U.S. and Iran Practice Restraint as Tensions Escalate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 20, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington DC – Following Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone, the Trump Administration, flanked by National Security Council Advisor John Bolton, are reportedly exploring retaliatory measures the U.S. could take, including military options.

In response to the latest escalations between the two countries, NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

“At every fork in the road with Iran, Trump has allowed warmongers like John Bolton to direct his Iran policy. This has brought the United States to the precipice of a war that Trump claims he wanted to avoid. This administration needs to take a step back and dramatically rethink it’s Iran policy, and the officials guiding that policy, before it is too late. Moreover, Congress needs to step in and make clear that Trump does not have authorization to start a new war

“There is still time for Trump to defuse tensions with Iran and put to rest this manufactured crisis. Rather than opt for the military options that Bolton will undoubtedly propose, Trump should seek out third party mediators who can help de-escalate and bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiating table. Moreover, the UN Security Council should convene in order to ascertain the facts behind the crisis, including the allegations surrounding the recent tanker attacks and the downed U.S. drones, and chart out exit ramps for both the U.S. and Iran.

“Both Trump and his inner circle and Iran’s leadership should recognize that the U.S. and Iran have entered an escalation spiral. Adding fuel to the fire risks stoking this crisis to the point of no return. For the United States, any military retaliation is likely to be matched in kind by Iran. For Iran, any provocations risk further isolating the country and giving fodder to warhawks who won’t stop at a few retaliatory strikes.

“The night is always darkest before the dawn. We urge all leaders to put their countries’ best interests in mind and firmly step away from the path to war.”

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Al Jazeera: Jamal Abdi discusses Trump’s failed Iran policies

NIAC Statement in Response to Reports of Downed U.S. Drone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 20, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON DC – Today, Iranian forces reportedly shot down a U.S. military drone after it had allegedly entered into Iranian territory. U.S. officials maintain that the incident occurred in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.

In response, Sina Toossi, Research Associate at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said:

“Reports that Iran has shot down a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf are alarming and serve as yet another potential tripmine to all-out war erupting. As U.S.-Iran tensions have soared in recent weeks, the need for deconfliction channels between the two countries is more pronounced than ever. These vital channels of communication existed in the past, allowing both sides to delineate boundaries and avoid collisions between their respective militaries in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Syria and in other theaters. However, the Trump administration, in pursuit of a counterproductive and destabilizing so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, has eliminated all levels of communication between the two sides.

“If it is proven that Iran shot down the U.S. drone over international waters, it is provocative act that must be condemned by the international community. Regardless, there is a vital need for immediate U.S.-Iran deescalation. There are no military solutions to the U.S. disputes with Iran—only diplomatic ones. However, rather than pursue sincere diplomacy, President Trump has elected to pile on pressure with no strategic foresight at the behest of uber-hawkish advisors like John Bolton. If Trump wants to avoid a disastrous conflict at this critical juncture, he needs new advisors that would reopen channels of dialogue and enact policies that would bring Trump closer to a deal with Tehran, not war.”

Toossi continued:

“The fact is that the Trump White House’s policies have set the U.S. on a path to conflict with Iran. Actions such as designating as a foreign terrorist organization Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a state-run military force which operates in the Persian Gulf in close proximity to U.S. forces, were bound to lead to the dangerous scenarios unfolding today. Indeed, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies long warned against designating the IRGC for precisely this risk of escalation. They have since also held that Iran’s recent, more threatening activity is due to the Trump’s administration aggressive actions, including the IRGC designation and terminating sanction waivers for importers of Iranian oil.”

Are We in the Middle of an All-Out Campaign for War with Iran?

Skepticism surrounding the Trump administration’s approach towards Iran has been on full display following recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to publicly draw the conclusion that Iran was responsible, and the US Navy released grainy footage as proof, the reception from the public and even America’s closest allies has been circumspection. A question that many in Washington have been asking in private has increasingly become public: are we witnessing a ham-fisted, Trumpian rerun of America’s past misadventures towards war, this time with Iran? Many are already bracing themselves for Pompeo’s version of Colin Powell’s vial of anthrax at the UN. And even before the tanker attacks, talk of the Gulf of Tonkin and “remember the Maine” were being thrown around by typically sober-minded analysts.

While the truth behind the tanker episode may reveal itself to be exactly what Pompeo has claimed — or exposed as something more nefarious — the machinations behind a separate campaign to shore up the humanitarian case for war with Iran have already begun to unravel. And the fingerprints of key players in the Trump administration and its allies are all over it.

In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration propped up an Iraqi exile, Ahmad Chalabi, as the voice of the Iraqi people. Thanks to Chalabi, Americans were led to believe Iraqis wanted their country to be invaded and, in the words of the administration, the US “would be greeted as liberators.” Nearly two decades later, in the age of social media, the proponents of war with Iran have not just propped up a single Iranian validator in support of intervention, but an entire cyber network of Iranian Chalabis. And while in many cases these accounts may indeed belong to organic supporters of regime change, recent revelations have cast a long shadow.

Read the full article on Inkstick.

Iran’s Path to Negotiations With Trump’s America

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei told Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran that his country “will not negotiate under pressure.” His meeting with Abe was followed by new acts of sabotage against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, raising concerns of a full-blown conflict erupting. While the perpetrator is unknown, the United States and Iran are increasingly locked in a stalemate that neither can afford to live with. The potential still exists for negotiations, provided President Donald Trump makes a course correction and offers credible incentives for a deal.

A year after reneging on the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran has crash-landed. Not only is the regime in Tehran still standing despite the expectations of senior Trump advisors, but Iranian leaders remain defiant in the face of Trump’s calls for talks. This was reinforced by Khamenei during his meeting with Abe, with him saying that he does not trust the United States or believe that it seeks “genuine negotiations.”

Iranian officials have made clear they will not negotiate while bearing the brunt of the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. In fact, Iran’s modus operandi in response to pressure has long been to increase its own pressure. To not do so, Iranian leaders have conveyed, is to signal weakness and invite even more egregious demands and pressure. Iran followed this strategy to get the July 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Recent Iranian rhetoric and actions suggest it is following a similar playbook this time around.

Read the full piece on The National Interest.