Week of August 5, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here
- Former Reformist President Criticizes Rouhani & Parliament
- Iran Warns Against US-Led Persian Gulf Coalition
- Intelligence Minister Says Trump has Killed Chances for Diplomacy
- Qods Force Commander Soleimani Meets with Zarif
- Rouhani Defends Phone Call with Obama Six Years Ago
- Official Says Iran Ready to Take Next Step on JCPOA
- Phd Student Freed After Six years Imprisonment
- Hardline Newspaper Attacks Zarif’s Defense of the JCPOA
- Zarif Says Iran has No Problems with Saudi Arabia
- IRGC Chief Says Iran’s Allies Deter War
- Iran-Azerbaijan Increase Cooperation on North-South Corridor Trade Route
Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami has criticized the performance of the Rouhani administration and the current parliament. He censured what he said were “shortcomings” and failing to follow through on “promises.” Khatami’s support proved critical to Rouhani winning his presidential elections and the coming to power of the reformist “Hope” coalition in parliament in 2016.
Khatami further criticized what he said was “silence” and a failure to “give warnings” about violations of law from the Rouhani administration and parliament. He stated: “I wonder why an administration that came to power to attain the people’s rights and a parliament that claims to defend the nation and its fundamental rights, at least the reformists who went to parliament, does not shout or take actions.”
Khatami also stated in recent months that without tangible reforms, people will no longer listen to his call to turnout to vote. However, in another recent speech, he underscored the risk of war and said that people should “go to the ballot boxes for the sake of Iran.”
Defense Minister Amir Hatami held talks with his Omani, Kuwaiti, and Qatari counterparts and strongly rebuked the creation of a U.S.-led military coalition in the Persian Gulf. Hatami said such a force would cause “instability” in the Persian Gulf and that local countries should instead provide for the region’s security. Britain has said it would join the force, while Germany and Japan have explicitly said they will not.
Hatami also denounced the potential that Israel would join the coalition as “provocative” and auguring “catastrophic consequences.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi also said that an Israeli presence in the U.S. coalition would be a “flagrant threat against Iran’s national security.”
Mousavi added that Iran would respond to this threat “within the framework of the country’s defense policies” and that the U.S. and Israel would be responsible “for the consequences of this dangerous action.”
Mahmoud Alavi, the Rouhani administration’s intelligence minister, has declared that President Trump has killed chances for diplomacy. He proclaimed regarding Trump’s abrogation of the JCPOA: “Trump by violating this commitment, has delivered the finishing bullet to his chances for negotiating with Iran. He’ll take his wish for negotiations with Iran to the grave.”
Alavi also stated that national unity in Iran had increased as a result of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. He stated: “During this period, the nation’s cohesion, unity, and solidarity has increased. The U.S. President who thought he could bring Iran to its knees in six months has been disappointed.”
Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani visited Foreign Minister Zarif after Zarif was sanctioned last week by the Trump administration. In their meeting in the foreign ministry building, Soleimani said the U.S. sanctions were “a sign of the definite defeat of the White House.”
Soleimani further proclaimed: “This action by America proves that you, as someone responsible for the country’s foreign policy, have a deep impact on public opinion, especially on the American people, regarding the ignorance of that country’s leader.”
Alireza Rahimi, a reformist member of parliament, said regarding the Soleimani-Zarif meeting: “The valuable presence of commander Soleimani in the office of Dr. Zarif after his sanctioning reflects the practical and complete support of commander Soleimani for the country’s diplomacy. Such encouragement and sympathy represents the full unity of the field [i.e. on the ground efforts] and diplomatic presence [of the country] in confronting America at this difficult juncture.”
In a speech at Iran’s foreign ministry, President Rouhani defended his phone call with former U.S. President Barack Obama six years ago. Rouhani’s landmark phone conversation with Obama during the September 2013 UN General Assembly was the first between an Iranian and U.S. head of state since before Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Rouhani said that if the call had not taken place, reaching the November 2013 interim nuclear deal (Joint Plan of Action, or JPOA) would have been fraught with “difficulty and delay.”
At the time, Rouhani was beset by domestic criticism from hardliners and Ayatollah Khamenei for taking the phone call from Obama. After his return from the 2013 UN General Assembly, he was greeted at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport by supporters and opponents, one of the latter of which threw a shoe at his car. Then-IRGC commander Mohammad Jafari also said the call was a “tactical mistake.” Ayatollah Khamanei indirectly criticized it by saying that “some of what occurred in New York was in my belief not right.”
It is unclear if Rouhani mentioned the 2013 call to simply rehash history or to highlight his belief in the importance of direct talks with the U.S. president to reduce tensions. Some Iranian analysts have viewed his comments as indicating the latter, given Tehran is debating but mostly rejecting the potential for negotiations with the Trump administration.
In the same speech, Rouhani also emphasized the value of peace and the cost of war for the United States. He stated: “As I said last year, making peace with Iran is the mother of all peace making. War with Iran would be the mother of all wars. If you want security and your soldiers in the region want security, this security will come for security [in return]. You cannot damage security and then expect security for yourself.”
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), has said that Iran is ready to take a “third step” to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. He stated: “With the continuation of a lack of action from the Europeans to meet their JCPOA commitments, according to our declared plan, Iran will in about one month take its third step.”
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, Iran began to enrich uranium at the 4.5-percent level, beyond the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent limit.
The third period will begin in early September, but Iranian officials have not specifically stated what action they will take with respect to reducing compliance with the JCPOA. Kamalvandi has said about what decision Iran will make: “We are holding meetings regarding this issue and the final decision will be taken by the high-ranking officials of the country depending on the situation which will then be implemented.”
After a recent meeting of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal in Vienna, Russia announced that all the sides asked Iran to not take any further steps to reduce compliance with the accord.
Foreign Minister Zarif recently stated that Iran’s “third step” will not mean “the last step or an exit from the JCPOA.” However, Kamalvandi has said that “as we move forward, commitments have waned and in practical terms there will be no JCPOA left.”
Hamid Babaei, a Phd student who was arrested in August 2013, has been released from prison after six years. Babaei was studying in Belgium and was arrested after returning to Iran in 2013. According to his relatives, he was arrested for refusing to cooperate with Iran’s intelligence services.
Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, wrote a piece sharply criticizing Foreign Minister Zarif. Shariatmadari was rebuking a response Zarif had given to a Kayhan journalist.
The journalist had asked Zarif during a press conference: “Mr. Zarif, on February 1st, 2019, you wrote on Twitter that an agreement with America is not worth the ink it is written on. But a few weeks earlier you had said that if you could return to four years ago, you would again sign the JCPOA. My question is why should an agreement that isn’t worth the ink it’s signed on be signed again?”
Shariatmadari censured Zarif for what he said was his “long winded” answer to the question which raised “more baseless claims.” Zarif said in his answer that the JCPOA was not only an agreement with the United States, but with other world powers, and that its over 150 pages were testament to the carefulness of Iran’s diplomats.
Shariatmadari said he had a “short and logical” view, which he put thusly: “Rouhani and Zarif must be held accountable for throwing away the capabilities and opportunities the system gave them in the process of the nuclear negotiations.”
Foreign Minister Zarif stated that Iran “has no problems with Saudi Arabia.” He added that “the end of the Yemen war would be a milestone for regional countries.” However, he also stated that “Saudi Arabia seeks victory in military conflicts, which cannot be realized.”
Zarif further said that the Yemen war has no military solution. He stated: “From the beginning we stressed that the Yemen issue has no military solution. Right now, they [Saudi Arabia] must end the Yemen war. This is a war in which they have dismissed all political solutions to end and they believed they could win in several weeks.”
Hossein Salami, the head of the IRGC, has said that Iran’s network of regional allies is a “reason” that war has been deterred. He added: “The enemy cannot focus on Iran because in the sense of war, the geography will be vast. Everywhere there will be an outbreak of war and fire and danger for the enemy.”
He said any war would threaten Israel’s existence: “In Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, a power has taken form. The enemy knows that in any war the Zionist regime [Israel] will be exposed to an all-out threat and irreversible collapse.”
Salami also stated that Iran was “not worried” about a war breaking out. He stated: “We are not worried about a military war because we have power and readiness and the enemy is incapable of having a will to attack or engage in a military war.”
Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the head of the management and budgeting organization, said that Iran was increasing cooperation with Azerbaijan on the North-South Corridor. The North-South Corridor is a trade route that seeks to boost economic interconnectivity between India and Russia and the countries in between. It is seen by some as India’s rival to China’s One Belt, One Road project.
Bagher stated that Azerbaijan is cooperating with Iran to construct a new railway connecting the two countries as part of the North-South Corridor. Bagher stated it would be used for commercial purposes as well as by passengers.