Khamenei Distances Himself from the JCPOA

Week of May 20, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Khamenei Scapegoats Blame for the JCPOA, Says Political System Needs Change

In a speech to university students, Ayatollah Khamenei sought to further distance himself from the JCPOA and shift blame for the deal on President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. He stated: “They [some people] link the approval of the JCPOA to the leader. Well, you have eyes and ears and have seen everything. You can see the letter that was written about the JCPOA and the conditions that were mentioned for its implementation.”

Khamenei was referencing an October 2015 letter he wrote to President Rouhani outlining nine conditions for Iran implementing the JCPOA. He added in his speech: “If these conditions were not implemented, it is not the responsibility of the leader to interfere.”

Khamenei stated in his speech that he had notified Rouhani and Zarif of his complaints with the deal on many occasions. He declared: “I did not strongly believe  in the way that the JCPOA was implemented. I have said this on many occasions to the president and foreign minister and we gave them notice in many instances.”

He added on why he didn’t prevent the deal: “My position is that the Leader shouldn’t interfere in executive actions unless in areas where the entire the revolutionary movement is being harmed.”

This isn’t the first time that Khamenei has expressed his displeasure with the way the JCPOA was implemented. In March 2016, shortly after the deal was implemented, he cited Javad Zarif as saying that Iranian diplomats were unable to meet some of Iran’s redlines.

In his speech this week, Khamenei also said that the structure of the Islamic Republic must be changed. He stated: “The legal foundations [of the Islamic Republic] are good. But its foundations can become complete and its defects can be resolved. For example, we once didn’t have an Expediency Discernment Council and now we do. It is like this in all political systems. Consequently, while the foundation doesn’t have problems, there must be additions and subtractions [to the political system].”

He dismissed the idea that Iran would switch to a parliamentary system, which he dangled as a possibility in a speech several years ago. He stated: “There have been discussions about a parliamentary system. We extensively discussed this matter in a conference reviewing the constitution. The conclusion was that the problems with a parliamentary system are greater than those of a presidential system.

In a 2011 speech, Khamenei had said Iran might switch to a parliamentary system, stating: “If one day, likely in the distant future, it is decided that a parliamentary system is better to elect executive officials, there is no problem with this.”

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Several Journalists Arrested

Journalist Masoud Kazemi, the editor of a monthly magazine and former reporter for the reformist Shargh, has been imprisoned. Kazemi was first arrested last October but freed after several days. His charges now include “propagandizing against the system” and “insulting the Leader.”

In recent weeks, Keivan Samimi of the reformist Iran Farda and Marzieh Amiri of the reformist Shargh newspaper were arrested.

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Rouhani Says He Needs More Authority

President Rouhani gave a speech to senior clergy where he stated that the office of the presidency should be given greater authority because of the crises facing Iran.  Rouhani stated: “During the Imposed War [the Iran-Iraq War] when we reached the point where we were facing problems, the Council for Supporting the War was created. This council had all the authority. Even the parliament and the judiciary could not interfere in this council’s decision making. Today, we are now facing an economic war.”

Rouhani emphasized that executive authority should be concentrated similar to how it was during the Iran-Iraq War. He said: “Just as during the 8-year war authority was delegated by Imam Khomeini. We were able to manage the war and even created many opportunities. Today we require the same level of authorities.”

Rouhani’s comments echo a speech he gave last week where he said that his administration’s authorities in various fields were limited. He had stated: “When the administration is questioned or when demands are made, there needs to be a look at the other side and at whether on these questions the administration has the relevant authorities.”

Rouhani specified in that speech that his administration lacked authority in the fields of foreign policy, cultural issues, and social media. He stated: “We have to see how much authority the administration has in these fields. The demands of the administration should be in the areas where it has enough authority to meet them.”

Mohammad Reza Khabaz, a former governor appointed by Rouhani, stated that Rouhani needed to set up a council to address Iran’s current challenges. Khabaz said Iran’s situation today was more difficult in some ways than the Iran-Iraq War, stating: “The sanctions today are not comparable to the time of the war. During the war, we only couldn’t buy weapons, but no one was preventing us from selling our oil. Today, we are in a situation that they are preventing us from selling oil in order to impose pressure on the people. The situation is worse than during the war.”

He added: “The current situation is sensitive and it’s necessary to form a ‘Council to Support the Economic War.'”

Rouhani’s comments also spurred criticism, particularly from conservative officials and institutions, arguing that Rouhani is failing to use the authority he has effectively. Abbas Kadkhodaie, the Guardian Council’s spokesperson, stated in this regard: “Presidents have extensive authority under the constitution. During this period, even greater authority has been given commiserate with the conditions faced by the country. Has this extensive authority been used to resolve problems?”

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Senior Officials Says Iran Won’t Enter Direct or Proxy War with the US

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, has said that the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf seek to draw the U.S. into a war against Iran. Falahatpisheh said that accusations that Iran was behind the sabotage of oil tankers in the UAE’s Fujairah port were driven by people “whose aim is dragging the Americans into the region and starting a war.”

Falahatpisheh also said that Iran would not enter a direct or proxy war with the United States. He stated: “Not starting a war is the policy of the Islamic Republic. No group can claim that is entering a proxy war on Iran’s behalf.”

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Prominent Reformist Says the U.S. Can’t Invade Iran

Prominent reformist figure Sadegh Zibakalam has said that Iran cannot be invaded the same way as Iraq because the ruling system has a greater degree of legitimacy. He stated: “The Islamic Republic, unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, has support from enough people who would take up arms to defend it against a foreign aggressor. Iran has 80 million people. Even if 10 percent were willing to take up arms to fight off an American attack, that would be 8 million people. This would make any such endeavor impossible for Washington.”

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Iranian Officials Discount Possibility of War

Week of May 13, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Tehran University Students Protest Compulsory Hijab

On May 13th, students at Tehran University staged a demonstration against “hijab and chastity plans.” In a statement, the students said they were protesting “the presence and deployment of ‘women’s protection forces’ that have joined the previous guards.” They said these new security forces amounted to a “clear offense to students’ private lives and directly violated their human rights and were a naked injustice against female students.”

Videos of the demonstration showed clashes between the protesting students and students belonging to the state-backed Basij force.

The statement of the protesting students said that defending the “freedom of clothing” was an “obvious right.” The statement also said that the “minimal freedom on clothing that exists at Tehran University” was due to “resistance and pressure” from students. The protesting students shouted slogans against mandatory hijab and their placards called for the freedom of three activists arrested during May Day protests on campus: Marzieh Amiri, Atefeh Rangriz, and Neda Naji.

Majid Sarsangi, Tehran University’s vice president for cultural affairs, stated that no “morality police” had been deployed to Tehran University. He stated: “Some are ignorantly and deliberately creating tensions in the students’ environment.”

However, Sarsangi stated that more strict social rules were indeed being implemented due to the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan. He said: “The only thing that has happened is that—just like every year for Ramadan—to preserve the sanctity of this month there should be no visible signs of not observing fasting or wearing attire that doesn’t respect the sanctity of this month.”

He added: “To this end, security forces are at Tehran University to give warnings to people who don’t respect the sanctity of fasting.”

Sarsangi also stated that Tehran University must implement the law, but that it doesn’t have a say in whether the law is “good or bad.” He also stated that it was “unfortunate” that there were clashes between students who have “different beliefs and ideas.” He added: “We tried to calm down the students who were angry … we hope that we never have to see such behavior at the university.”

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New IRGC Chief Briefs Parliament, Discounts Possibility of War

On May 12th, new IRGC commander Hossein Salami debriefed the Iranian parliament on tensions with the United States. According to parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, the meeting was already planned and was primarily meant to introduce Salami to parliamentarians.

According to Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy and national security committee, Salami discounted the possibility of a U.S.-Iran war. Falahatpisheh said the “most important” part of Salami’s remarks was that Iran was ready for war, but that the “strategic analysis” was that war will not occur.

Falahatpisheh added that war would not occur because “the behavior of the Americans and their movements in the field shows that they’re not after war and are just creating the psychological atmosphere of war.”

Among Iranian officials during the Trump era, Falahatpisheh has consistently been more dovish and has continued to dangle prospect of U.S.-Iran negotiations. Last October, Falahatpisheh stated that there was a “diplomatic atmosphere for de-escalation with America.”

After the parliament’s meeting with Salami this week, Falahatpisheh said that Trump will have to convey a “more serious” desire for negotiations rather than just asking for a phone call. He added that if Trump conveys this more serious desire for negotiations, he will see that “Iran is different than any country, even North Korea.”

He further stated: “With their initial positions right now, the Americans have shown that their policy for now is not negotiations. If Americans want to create conditions for negotiations they must backtrack from some of their policies.”

Falahatpisheh also said that Iran has unused leverage, stating: “The Americans have played their hand, while Iran has yet to reveal its hand. America’s hand was just its old sanctions. Iran hasn’t played its hand yet because it doesn’t want to escalate tensions. I believe the Americans will change their stance in the future.”

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Officials Dismiss Trump Phone Call Request, Call for Practical Steps to Save JCPOA

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif travelled to Russia, India, Japan, and China this week to discuss prospects to preserve the JCPOA, among other issues. In Beijing, Zarif stated: “Saving the nuclear deal is possible through practical steps, not just releasing statements in support of the agreement.”

Zarif said regarding what he meant by practical steps to save the JCPOA: “If the international community feels that this agreement is a valuable achievement, it must, like Iran, take practical steps to preserve it. The meaning of practical steps is clear: Iran’s trade relations must become normalized.”

Last week, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Iranian oil exports must be facilitated and banking limitations on the country lifted. If not, Iran would gradually cease abiding by JCPOA restrictions on its nuclear program. (Read last week’s issue of Iran Unfiltered for more details on Iran’s announcement that it would cease compliance with aspects of the JCPOA.)

Kamal Kharazi, a senior advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei on diplomatic affairs, stated that Iran would “definitely” not call U.S. President Donald Trump. In response to Trump’s request that Iran call him, Kharazi stated: “We definitely don’t want to call. He wants to talk to everyone and take pictures just for propaganda purposes for himself.

Kharazi added: “America cannot be trusted. We can’t forget that America left the nuclear deal and has violated international laws.”

Kharazi, who was speaking while in France, also denied accusations that Iran was behind the sabotage of oil tankers in the Emirati port of Fujairah. He said a “third party” was likely behind the sabotage with the aim of taking advantage of the current tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

He further stated: “There was definitely no Iranian interference in this issue. There needs to be an investigation to identify who was responsible for this action.”

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Iran Starts Process to Halt Full JCPOA Compliance

On May 15th, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced that it was starting the process of halting compliance on the JCPOA’s limitations on Iran’s heavy water and low-enriched uranium (LEO) stockpiles. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated last week that Iran would no longer export surplus quantities of heavy water and LEU. (Read last week’s issue of Iran Unfiltered for more information of Iran’s decision to halt compliance with these JCPOA limitations.)

To meet the JCPOA’s limitations, Iran was exporting its surplus LEU stockpile to Russia and heavy water to Oman. However, Iran’s decision to cease these exports was preempted by the Trump administration threatening new sanctions against buyers of Iranian heavy water and LEU. Iran’s ability to meet these JCPOA requirements was thus already obstructed by the United States.

The AEOI also announced that media outlets would soon be invited to view the nuclear work that Iran is restarting. AEOI stated: “In the coming days, in order to inform the public of the steps that have been taken, there are plans to have media outlets visit the facilities at Natanz and Arak.”

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Khamenei Rules Out War or Negotiations with Trump

On May 15th, in a meeting with senior officials, Ayatollah Khamenei declared that there won’t be a U.S.-Iran war nor will Iran negotiate with the United States. He stated: “These confrontations aren’t of a military nature. Because there is not going to be a war. Neither us nor them [the U.S.] is after a war. They know that a war won’t be to their benefit.”

However, Khamenei added that “Iran will resist” and that “in this confrontation, America will have no choice but to retreat.”

Khamenei also said that negotiations with the Trump administration would be “poison.” He said about the prospects for negotiations: “Some domestically ask what is wrong with negotiations? Such negotiations are poison as long as America is what it is right now. Negotiations with the current administration are a poison.”

Khamenei ruled out any negotiations over the range of Iran’s missiles and Iran’s “strategic depth” in the region. He stated: “Negotiations portend a transaction and giving and getting something. However, what America seeks is our sources of strength.”

He added: “They want to negotiate over our defensive weapons. They ask, why do you develop missiles with such a range? Lower this range so that if we attack you, you can’t strike our bases and retaliate. Or they say, let’s talk about your strategic depth in the region. They want to take this from us.”

President Rouhani also stated at the same meeting that Iran was undergoing a “divine test” and that “without a doubt, with steadfastness and resistance, Iran will surmount this stage.”

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IRGC Deputy Attacks “Western-Oriented” Politicians

On May 16th, Mohammad Saleh Jokar, the IRGC’s deputy for parliamentary affairs, criticized “Western-oriented movements” in Iran that warn of a U.S.-Iran war. Jokar stated that “Western-oriented movements” in the country “were playing a part in the enemy’s puzzle” by presenting “a binary of either war or negotiations.”

Jokar stated that such domestic forces were after “imposing another JCPOA on the country.” He further said that these movements have been able to “gather votes by creating false perceptions and politicking.” He added that the “interests of some capitalists and Western-oriented movements was to rumormonger about war and starvation.”

Jokar said the possibility of a war was “null” and that American society cannot “bear the costs of a new war.

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Regional Countries Attempting to Mediate U.S.-Iran Tensions

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said after a cabinet meeting this week that neither the U.S. nor Iran sought war with each other. Abdul-Mahdi’s comments came on the heels of an unannounced trip last week to Iraq by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  

Abdul-Mahdi also stated that he has received signals from both Iran and the United States that indicate that “everything will be resolved in a positive manner.”

Qatar’s foreign minister also travelled to Tehran this week to find a path to resolve the “growing crisis between the U.S. and Iran and its consequences for the region.” According to Al Jazeera, Washington was made aware of the trip and the Qatari foreign minister had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.

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NIAC Statement on Bolton’s Latest Military Plans for Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, May 13, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. – Today, reports broke that John Bolton ordered updates to a military plan that detailed sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack U.S. forces or escalate its nuclear activities.

In response, President of the National Iranian American Council, Jamal Abdi, issued the following statement:

“John Bolton is methodically setting the stage for war with Iranforcing Iran into a corner and then readying war plans for when Iran takes the bait. There are two ways Bolton can be stopped: either Trump can fire him or Congress can pass legislation to block a war before it starts. It’s time for our leaders to stop sleepwalking and the public to speak out as an unrestrained Iraq war architect repeats the playbook from that generational catastrophe with Iran.”

Iran Halts Compliance with Aspects of the JCPOA

Week of May 6, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Iran Halts Compliance with Aspects of the JCPOA

On May 8th, President Rouhani stated in a letter to the remaining parties to the JCPOA—Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and China—that Iran will halt compliance with aspects of the accord. Rouhani stated in the letter that Iran would cease selling its surplus stockpiles of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and heavy water. The JCPOA limits Iran to 300 kg of uranium enriched to the 3.67 percent level and 130 metric tons of heavy water.

Importantly, these two JCPOA limitations were recently targeted by U.S. sanctions. Last week, the Trump administration revoked sanction waivers allowing international entities to buy Iran’s excess heavy water and enriched uranium as per the JCPOA, obstructing Iran’s ability to meet these limitations.

During a subsequent cabinet meeting, Rouhani stated that Iran’s decision on the JCPOA did not amount to a withdrawal from the deal. He stated Iran’s actions were permitted by the agreement, particularly its clause that Iran will treat the reintroduction or reimposition of sanctions “as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.” Rouhani stated: “Today we don’t want to exit the JCPOA. All our people and the world should know that today is not the day of the JCPOA’s end.”

A statement from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)—the country’s top decision-making body on national security matters—detailed the steps Iran would take in regard to the JCPOA. The SNSC called on “the remaining participants” in the JCPOA to meet their commitments under the deal, especially in the areas of “banking and oil.”

The SNSC added: “If our requests are met, we will re-engage our commitments, but if not, the Islamic Republic of Iran will gradually cease its other commitments under the accord.”

The SNSC statement gave the remaining parties to the accord 60 days to meet Iran’s expectations regarding sanctions relief. If this does not occur, the SNSC stated that Iran would cease compliance on JCPOA limits on the level of uranium enrichment and cease renovation work to remove the proliferation risk of its Arak Heavy Water reactor.

The SNSC statement reads: “The window that is now open for diplomacy will not be open for long and the responsibility for the JCPOA’s failure and any possible consequences will be fully on America and the remaining participants in the JCPOA.”

During a visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister Zarif also stressed that Iran’s actions did not mean that Iran was “withdrawing from the JCPOA.” Zarif stated: “We showed that we are a patient country that engages in resistance to attain its rights. Now it is the turn of the rest of the world to abide by its commitments.”

Zarif stated that Iran had not made a permanent decision regarding its compliance with the JCPOA. He declared: “Unfortunately, the EU and other members of the international community did not have the capability to stand against U.S. pressure and as such the Islamic Republic of Iran has found it expedient to not implement, for now, some of the commitments that it voluntary agreed to under the JCPOA.”

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, stated that Iran had peaceful intentions with its JCPOA decision. He stated: “Iran’s actions with respect to the JCPOA send a peaceful message. We could have taken worse actions, such as ending access for all IAEA inspectors and restarting our entire program. But we have tried with a peaceful message to respond to America’s actions and the JCPOA participants to give them an opportunity [for diplomatic resolution].”

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Prominent Hardline Cleric Lambasts Rouhani, Calls for Accelerating Nuclear Program & War Posture

On May 10th, Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday prayer leader of Iran’s second-largest city Mashhad, strongly criticized President Rouhani and called for Iran to start 20-percent level enrichment. Alamolhoda called on the Rouhani administration official to assume a “war posture” in line with a recent speech by Ayatollah Khamenei. He said: “If you aren’t the commanders for this war posture, step aside and let someone who is fit to come.”

He further said to Rouhani: “You knew our nation is against America and has been fighting its arrogance for 40 years, so why did you accept to take responsibility [as president]? Now that you have done this, you must proceed as a commander.”

Alamolhoda also attacked Rouhani for negotiating the JCPOA, stating: “From the beginning the Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] said that America and the West cannot be trusted and will not remain faithful to their commitments. Some did not accept this and despite the Leader expressing this danger, he left the path open so this would become an experience [for why Iran shouldn’t trust the U.S.].”

He added: “Now with this experience great harm has been inflicted on our country and nuclear program. This experience has shown, as the Leader said, that America must be fought and Europe is traitorous. In light of this, you [Rouhani] must assume a war posture.”

Almolhoda then called on Rouhani to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program and start 20-percent enrichment. He stated: “Restart 20-percent enrichment, bring back our centrifuges, and go with strength into the arena. The people will be with you. Our people have shown for 40 years that they don’t want to reconcile with America. For 40 years, our elderly, our young, our women and men have showed that they will not stop being anti-arrogance.”

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Rouhani Warns That European Security Will Deteriorate

In his letter to the remaining parties to the JCPOA, Rouhani also warned that Iran’s inability to derive its JCPOA benefits would affect European security. Rouhani stated that by not receiving the sanctions relief it was due under the deal, Iran could not pay the cost for confronting drug smuggling, accepting refugees, and confronting terrorism.

He said to European countries: “We don’t want you to act for what’s expedient for Iran, but to take actions for your own interests and future.”

Rouhani stated that Iran had stopped the “flood of immigrants to Europe” by accepting refugees and has been the biggest “roadblock against drug smuggling” into Europe. He said that thousands of Iranian security forces had been killed over the years confronting drug cartels and traffickers, which has stifled the flow of drugs into Europe.

Rouhani also stated that Iran has played a decisive role in providing for the Persian Gulf’s security and combating terrorism. He said that if not for Iran, “terrorists would today be parading in European capitals.”

Rouhani added: “Doing all of these actions costs billions of dollars and with the situation that America has created, we can’t pay this cost. It can’t be that there is a JCPOA and we only pay the costs for it.”

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Deputy Foreign Minister Says Iran will Gradually Leave JCPOA, but Diplomacy Still an Option

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi stated that Iran would take a “step by step” approach with respect to exiting from the JCPOA. However, he stated that Iran’s actions “at this stage” are aimed “at preserving and continuing the JCPOA and not destroying it.”

Araghchi added: “An option in our agenda is exiting the JCPOA, but on a step by step basis. But if our requests are met, we are ready to return [to our commitments] on a step by step basis.”

Araghchi said Iran’s approach was centered on “diplomacy” and giving the other side “opportunities” to “make up for shortcomings.” Araghchi stated that “no country” could accuse Iran of leaving or violating the JCPOA because “Iran’s actions today were within the framework of the JCPOA.”

Araghchi also said regarding how much Iran would increase its stockpile of enriched uranium and heavy water: “How much Iran’s stockpiles will increase will be our decision. It will be based on our capabilities, needs, and the negotiations that can occur.”

Araghchi added that without the JCPOA, the Middle East will “definitely not become more secure” and this will “directly impact European security.” He proclaimed: “This is not a threat but a reality. Over these past many years, the only issue in our region that was resolved diplomatically and in a win-win manner was the Iranian nuclear issue. And now Trump wants to destroy this achievement. This will have negative consequences for the region and Europe.”

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Nuclear Chief Says Iran can Restart 20-Percent Enrichment in Days

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), has said the JCPOA experience proved Iran’s credibility and reliability. He stated: “America previously claimed that Iran was against negotiations. With the JCPOA this claim became baseless. They then claimed that Iran would not abide by its commitments. We now have 14 reports from the IAEA confirming that Iran has abided by its commitments [under the JCPOA].”

Salehi added: “Iran has been able to show international public opinion that it is the oppressed party and the U.S. is the oppressor.”

Salehi also stated that Iran can return to enriching uranium at the 20 percent level within four days. He stated: “If tomorrow they [senior decision makers] say that we should return to enriching at the 20 percent level, as I have previously said we have the capability to start 20-percent enrichment within four days at an acceptable level.”

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UN Ambassador Says Diplomatic Window Open

On May 9th, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi said that the “window for diplomacy was not closed.” He stated: “We have to see what occurs in the next 60 days. The window for diplomacy is not closed. We believe that Iran will negotiate with the remaining parties in the nuclear deal and we will have to see the results of these negotiations.”

Takht-Ravanchi also cast doubt on prospects for negotiations between Iran and the Trump administration, stating: “Negotiating with someone who carelessly ripped up an international agreement has no benefits. This agreement was not just between Iran and the U.S., but the European countries were also part of this deal … how can you trust a person who acts so carelessly and inconsiderately?”

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Conservative Website Analyzes John Bolton’s Threatening Statement

Following U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s threat of “unrelenting force” against Iran in response to an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East, a commander in Iraq’s “Popular Mobilization Forces” (PMU) stated that the force would support Iran in any war. Jabar al-Mamouri, who is also the head of the “Union of Islamic Clergy” in Iraq’s Diyala province, stated: “Iraqi society has not forgotten the Islamic Republic of Iran’s stance during the war against ISIS. When other countries had abandoned us, Iran supported us with weapons and advisory forces.”

Al-Mamouri added: “If Tehran is transgressed by any party, the Union of Islamic Clergy will announce a war to the public. We will send our children to defend Iran.”

Al-Mamouri’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Iraq and met with the Iraqi president and prime minister. According to a statement from the Iraqi president’s office, Pompeo asked the Iraqi officials to protect U.S. interests and forces in Iraq. The statement also said that the U.S. will renew sanction waivers for Iraqi trade with Iran.

An analysis in the conservative Alef said regarding U.S. military forces in the Middle East in response to Bolton’s statement: “America has roughly 12 declared bases in Iraq, in which there are roughly 3,000 U.S. military forces. Without a doubt, the presence of America in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the hatred of regional people for them is the main cause of their hyperbolic fears and delusions.”

The analysis also said regarding Iran potentially targeting U.S. forces in the region: “Today, all of the heroes of the resistance front in Iran are waiting for the enemy to make the smallest strike against our mujahid (holy warrior) people. In this event, all of the enemy’s military bases and assets not just in the region but across the world can come under danger and attack.”

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NIAC Deeply Concerned by Continued Deterioration of the Iran Nuclear Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 7, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. – Today, reports broke that Iran will halt compliance with two limits in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, a year following Trump’s violation of U.S. sanctions lifting commitments.

In response, Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement:

“Iran’s announcement that it will halt compliance with certain limits under the Iran nuclear deal if parties to the agreement do not uphold their promises on sanctions relief carries substantial risk. It is precisely what John Bolton and other Iran hawks have sought via their efforts to ratchet up tensions in recent weeks: a deteriorating nuclear deal that they will exploit to justify actions that move the U.S. toward war. Via their sabotage, Bolton and the Trump administration own the consequences as the agreement moves closer to collapse.

“If Iran continues to adhere to significant elements of the accord, it will still be possible for all parties to return to compliance with this vital agreement. Yet, barring political will in Europe and the United States to stand up to Donald Trump as he lets John Bolton shatter yet another vital nonproliferation agreement, the JCPOA has moved closer to outright collapse – and the U.S. and Iran closer to war.

“Remaining parties to the deal should take steps to ensure Iran receives some benefit if it adheres to the accord, while Congress and presidential contenders should state clearly that they would shore up Iranian compliance by returning the U.S. to its commitments. The time is running short, and the risks of war are growing longer. Failure to act risks foreclosing the exit ramps to conflict permanently.”

Abdi continued:

“The Trump administration’s incoherent and self-defeating Iran policy is now entering a new stage of costs for the U.S. and security in the Middle East with the resumption of the Iranian nuclear crisis. Meanwhile, the Iranian people continue to be the biggest victims of the escalation ladder, as they become further impoverished in the face of a growing the threat of war.

“It is important to keep Iran’s announcement in context. The text of the JCPOA makes clear that Iran reserves the right to cease compliance with the JCPOA – in whole or in part – in response to the reimposition of sanctions. That is precisely what Iran has begun via its decision to cease observing two thresholds outlined in the deal that were targeted by Trump administration sanctions. One, a soft cap on Iran’s ability to produce heavy water, is not directly relevant to Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon. The second, a 300 kg limit on Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile that is supposed to last through 2030, delivers substantial nonproliferation benefits. Yet, given that Iran reduced its enriched uranium stockpile by 97% as part of the JCPOA, the near term risks of the decision are limited.

“However, while Iranian President Rouhani has stressed that the door to diplomacy is still open and that Iran is ready to fully return to its commitments under the deal if others deliver on sanctions relief, he also issued a conditional threat to cease compliance with all enrichment limits and to resume work at the Arak reactor in 60 days, which would pose substantial risks and further strain the accord.”

NIAC Statement on Bolton Seeking War with Iran

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement on reports that John Bolton asked the Pentagon for options to attack Iran in September, rattling officials:

“John Bolton and fellow Iran hawks believe they have two years left to collapse the Iran nuclear deal and trigger a disastrous war that the American people want no part of. We know that Bolton and other administration officials preferred an Iran war to negotiations prior to serving Trump. Now there is confirmation that they are still seeking out opportunities to fulfill their war agenda.

“This administration takes an expansive view of war authorities and is leaning into confrontation with Iran at a time when there are numerous tripwires for conflict across the region. It is imperative that this Congress investigate Bolton’s request for war options and pass legislation placing additional legal and political constraints on the administration’s ability to start a new war of choice with Iran that could haunt America and the region for generations.”

NIAC Condemns John Bolton’s Saber Rattling

The National Iranian American Council condemned National Security Advisor John Bolton’s saber rattling speech outside the UN in which he ominously threatened that ‘there will be hell to pay’ for Iran:

“Bolton has called for the U.S. to bomb Iran for over a decade and is now in the driver’s seat of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy. His threats are aimed at inflaming tensions, preventing any possibility that his boss might negotiate with Iran, and goading Iran into to doing something that could justify a U.S. attack. The Trump Administration has also callously adopted the language of human rights, even as it threatens war, levels sanctions that will destroy Iranian lives, and undermines efforts by Iranians to organize indigenously to claim their political freedoms from a repressive government.

“Bolton’s past rhetoric raises serious questions about this Administration’s activities when it comes to Iran. Before entering the White House, Bolton publicly urged Trump to back separtist groups and terrorist organizations that could work to destabilize Iran. This past weekend, a terrorist attack inside Iran killed 27 people in the city of Ahvaz, and separatists and terrorist organizations claimed credit. The Trump Administration issued a condemnation of the attack but the fact that the National Security Advisor has endorsed such heinous efforts significantly undermines the credibility or morality of such condemnations.

“No serious person believes that Bolton and this Administration is working towards a diplomatic end with Iran. He earned his credentials in the Bush White House as an Iraq war architect, he made his intentions for war with Iran well known as a private citizen, and he is now putting that plan into action. Whether Bolton’s ultimate plan is for the U.S. to attack Iran or to attempt to destabilize Iran and turn it into the next Syria, he must be reigned in now. When the President’s National Security Advisor steps out of the shadows to publicly threaten war on behalf of the United States, it must be taken as a wake up call as to where we are headed. Congress must take steps now to ensure this Administration does not start a new military adventure with Iran, including by passing legislation to block the likes of Bolton from starting another war and conducting stringent oversight over all elements of the Administration’s Iran strategy.”

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In Europe, fears loom that the U.S. is seeking regime collapse in Iran

European analysts and diplomats alike are increasingly concerned that the Trump administration might be pursuing a policy of destabilizing Iran. The administration’s abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal, new economic sanctions and explicit encouragement of continued protests in Iran have contributed to the ongoing unrest there, which has begun to seem a goal in itself.

President Trump, flanked by National Security Advisor John Bolton, at the NATO Summit on July 12, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Sean Gallup via Getty Images

The big picture: The combination of Secretary of State Pompeo’s demands and the massive sanctions have left Iran with no ability to negotiate. And since Trump likely isn’t seeking military confrontation with Iran (despite his bombastic rhetoric) or Iraq-style regime change, many in Europe are worried that Washington’s policy might be geared toward a third scenario: regime collapse.

Several factors may be driving the Trump administration in this direction. On the one hand, U.S. regional allies — Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — have consistently pushed the U.S. to recommit its military resources to the region in order to curb Iran’s regional rise. On the other, Trump seems intent on avoiding the costs that would attend a major war or the nation-building efforts entailed in regime change.

To its proponents in the administration, chiefly John Bolton, regime collapse would achieve the same end result as war or regime change, but without the costs: Rather than bear responsibility for “the day after” in Iran, the U.S. could simply let the country deteriorate. In turn, the collapse would preclude Iran from projecting power in the region, shifting the balance in favor of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Of course, instability in Iran would likely result in displaced people across the region, but this is of little concern to the Trump administration. Nor would it appear to be much of a concern to Israel, Saudi Arabia or the UAE, which seem to believe that they would be largely insulated from refugee flows from Iran, much as they have been from those from Syria.

The bottom line: For Europe, however, and for the rest of the Middle East, Iranian instability would be a major security threat. As long as Trump’s Iran policy continues along this trajectory, Europeans will continue sounding the alarm.

This post originally appeared on Axios.

FDD Scholar: War with Iran ‘Is On’

“The war is on”, declared Michael Ledeen, a “Freedom Scholar” with the anti-Iran deal Foundation for Defense of Democracies, at an event to discuss Iran policy following President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton and nomination of Mike Pompeo. “We’re in the war now. So all these people who keep on saying, ‘well if we sign, or if we don’t re-sign, or if we renew or we don’t renew (the Iran nuclear deal) then war,’ that’s all crazy. The war — we are in the war.”

Speaking on a panel at the Hudson Institute last week, Ledeen asserted his belief that the Iranian people had asked the U.S. for help in toppling the regime. His assertion was challenged by an Iranian American supporter of NIAC in the audience who asked Ledeen why he felt Iranians would want the United States’ help. “All they have to do is look at the neighboring countries and see that every country the United States has tried to change the leadership there, it has created a stateless country,” she said. “It’s like asking me to go to a doctor who all of his patients have died in the hospital, and asking ‘could you please operate on me?’ Why would they want the United States to aid them for any sort of help in the regime change?”

Ledeen’s response was to insult and bully rather than to engage in serious debate. Ledeen stated, “the question from this woman right here is not a question, but a provocation. So I am sorry that you’ve wasted your time coming here today to voice the line of your friends in Tehran…The reason why the Iranian people look to us for help, support, guidance in carrying out a revolution against the regime is because they hate the regime.” Ledeen then rudely told her to “sit there quietly” as the moderator moved on to the next question. The tense exchange showed both the stakes of the Iran debate in the months ahead – that Trump’s supporters think “war is on” with Iran – and that so-called “freedom scholars” will go out of their way to stifle debate on the road to confrontation.

Hawkishness and dismissiveness of alternative views was not limited to Ledeen. Richard Goldberg, another FDD adviser who served as a staffer for the hawkish former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), predicted that Trump would kill the deal. Goldberg indicated that with negotiations between Trump and the Europeans stalled and Bolton and Pompeo poised to enter the administration, “we have set the stage now for the likely exit of the U.S. from the nuclear deal and the potential for re-imposition of sanctions – at least on the Central Bank on May 12th, and perhaps much more.” Goldberg went on to argue that the reimposition of such sanctions, which he helped to initially pass as a staffer in Congress, would help topple the Iranian regime but avoid harming the Iranian people.

I asked Goldberg how the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran could be designed to be in favor of the Iranian people and avoid causing mass devastation. “With respect to our sanctions policy, the Iranian people are our greatest asset and we do not target the Iranian people, we do not target them, we have no quarrel with them,” Goldberg said. “And so our policy, when it targets the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), when it targets government banks, when it targets the Supreme Leader’s empire, this is about the lifeblood that keeps the Islamic Republic in business of oppressing its people.”

Goldberg’s answer might sound persuasive, yet the reality is that ordinary Iranians themselves are intricately connected to the Iranian economy and banking system – not just the regime. There is absolutely no way a country’s entire banking system can be sanctioned without its people suffering the consequences of the sanctions. We saw this at the height of nuclear sanctions, where the Iranian people suffered from mass unemployment and sanctions while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) expanded its business empire.

Michael Pregent, a fellow with the Hudson Institute, stated that president Trump “has his Iran team in place,” with John Bolton in as National Security Advisor and Mike Pompeo hoping to be confirmed as Secretary of State. If Pompeo and Bolton share the Hudson panelists’ proclivities, it appears that war could be very difficult to avoid.

“Peace is not the opposite of war,” Ledeen ominously concluded. “Peace is the result of war. Peace happens when a war is fought and one side beats the other.”