- Zarif Rejects U.S. Move to Reimpose UN Sanctions
- Advisor Says Rouhani “Changed” After Protests
- New Missiles Unveiled by Defense Ministry
- Iran Denies Giving Arms to the Taliban
Zarif Rejects U.S. Move to Reimpose UN Sanctions
Foreign Minister Zarif said the U.S. effort to reimpose past UN sanctions on Iran lacked any “credibility or legitimacy.” Zarif’s comments came in a letter to the current head of the UN Security Council, which is held by Indonesia. His letter was in response to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo initiating a process to try to reimpose past UN sanctions against Iran. (Read more about the U.S. effort to “snapback” UN sanctions in this piece by NIAC Policy Director Ryan Costello.)
Zarif’s letter said the U.S. has “no right” to “implement provisions from suspended UN security council resolutions.” Zarif said that on May 11, 2018, the U.S. formally said in a letter to the other JCPOA parties it was ending “participation” in the nuclear deal and that thus, it could not trigger the reimposition of sanctions based on the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear deal.
The conservative Kayhan newspaper blasted the Rouhani administration for reportedly choosing to not respond to the U.S. action. Kayhan cited a recent Reuters report that Rouhani officials have allegedly decided to remain committed to the nuclear deal until the U.S. election, despite the U.S. attempt to reimpose UN sanctions.
The Kayhan piece says that based on the Rouhani administration’s “policies and positions,” the Reuters report was not unlikely. The piece then said it makes no difference for Iran to wait until the U.S. election before deciding to abandon the nuclear deal.
The Kayhan article stated: “When will some stop being naïve and deceived and understand that even if the Democrat Biden wins, there will be no difference. Biden just like Trump is after threatening Iran’s missile program and our country’s regional influence.”
The article then strongly criticized the JCPOA and said it was a weak deal for Iran. It reviewed the process for how UN sanctions can be reimposed on Iran under the deal and said the JCPOA was structurally “weak and full of ambiguities.”
The piece added that in the “best case,” the JCPOA was written with “wishful thinking” from the Iranian side. It added: “So many concessions were given that Iran’s diplomatic team and the Rouhani administration never thought that the other side would want to withdraw.”
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Advisor Says Rouhani “Changed” After Protests
Hesamodin Ashna, a senior advisor to President Rouhani, said Rouhani was “no longer the same person” after protests that swept parts of the country in late 2017 and early 2018. Speaking to Andishe Pouya magazine, Ashna stated: “Rouhani had just started his second term in August 2017 when he faced the events of Dey month [the protests occurred in the Iranian month of Dey, in late December 2017 and early January 2018]. He had just come out of the mud-slinging of the election when he was faced with a circumstance that was unique in the history of the Islamic Republic and unparalleled in its impact.”
Ashna added: “In my opinion the events of Dey month had a large impact in making Rouhani more conservative and concerned about the whole political system. After these protests he was no longer the same person. On top of this, in May of 2018 he was faced with Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and sanctions. This was the second hard blow against him. For Rouhani, it was unbelievable that some in the country, rather than blame Trump, blamed him for negotiating a deal that Trump could violate.”
The late 2017 and early 2018 protests occurred largely in smaller towns across the country. BBC Persian describes the protests thusly: “Rising inflation, currency depreciation, and the gradual increase in prices led to the protests. The protests were inflamed by financial institutions that were unable to pay large profits that were promised to investors and went bankrupt.”
Ashna also discussed why the government took so long to report the number of deaths during protests that swept the country last November. Those protests led to the deaths of at least 304 people according to Amnesty International. Ashna said that at the time, Rouhani was getting different death figures from different institutions, such as the police, the interior ministry, and the health ministry.
Rouhani had reportedly asked that the national coroner release the death figures. However, the national coroner is a part of the judiciary, headed by Rouhani’s rival Ebrahim Raisi. Ashna says that Rouhani’s instructions were for the national coroner to give the death figures, and that the judiciary should be held to account on this issue.
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New Missiles Unveiled by Defense Ministry
Defense Minister Amir Hatami unveiled a new ballistic missile and cruise missile. The ballistic missile is named “martyr Qassem Soleimani” and has a range of 1,400 km. The cruise missile is named “martyr Abu Mahdi” and has a range of 1,000 km. The missiles are named after the Iranian and Iraqi military commanders killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad in early January.
Hatami said that these missiles are unable to be tracked by radar systems. Previously, Iranian officials have said they have currently limited the range of Iran’s missiles to 2,000 km, but claim they have the capability to develop missiles that go beyond this range.
President Rouhani said at the ceremony unveiling the missiles that they are for “defensive and deterrence” purposes. He stated: “We don’t want to attack anywhere and capture it. This military equipment is not a danger to our neighbors or region. Our strategy is a defensive deterrence strategy and is aimed at securing our borders and country.”
Rouhani added that Iran’s “defensive power” will be used to “help its friends.” He said it would “never be used against our friends.”
Rouhani also said he has urged the defense ministry to focus on cruise missiles over ballistic missiles. He stated: “For several years I have told [Defense Minister] Amir Hatami that in the production of missiles, all our effort should be put into cruise missiles. They can hit targets more precisely, be better cloaked, and perform better.”
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Iran Denies Giving Arms to the Taliban
New foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh denied that Iran was sending arms to the Taliban. Khatibzadeh was responding to claims by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran was sending arms and putting bounties on U.S. troops, which he said were “baseless accusations.”
Afghanistan’s former national security advisor has also claimed that Iran and Russia have begun supporting the Taliban based on the “excuse that the Taliban fights ISIS.” The head of Afghanistan’s armed forces has also said that Iran has given arms to the Taliban in western Afghanistan.
Taliban delegations have gone to Tehran for negotiations in recent months. A senior Iranian foreign ministry official also met with Taliban representatives in Doha. Iran says these efforts are aimed at supporting the Afghan peace process and inter-Afghan peace.
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