NIAC Statement on Iranian Missile Attacks on U.S. Bases in Iraq

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 7, 2020 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington DC – In response to reports that Iran had launched missiles targeting U.S. military bases in Iraq, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement:

“NIAC is deeply concerned by reports of Iranian missile attacks against U.S. military bases inside Iraq. We condemn all military escalations by both the Iranian and U.S. governments that have led us to this tragic and avoidable point. It is not too late to pull back from a full-blown war. However, that window is closing rapidly. Congress must act immediately to halt hostilities and prevent Trump’s threats of massive retaliation, including bombing of Iranian cultural sites.

“Donald Trump owns this 100%. He inherited a working nuclear deal and a tense but stable situation with Iran. He has deeply wounded the first major diplomatic initiative between the U.S. and Iranian government in decades, and listened to ideologues who convinced him to assassinate an Iranian general. At every step of the way, he has been warned he risked moving back on the path to war. Now that day may be here.

“Our thoughts are with all the people who will be harmed by this senseless and needless conflict. It is ordinary Iranians, Iraqis, and people across the region who will bear a profound cost that can’t be justified. So too will American soldiers, and their families here at home, who will bear the consequences of yet another war that was thrust upon them by callous leaders.

“We call on the international community and the United Nations to do everything in its power to find a diplomatic resolution to these hostilities before the entire region erupts in war.

“We also remain deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s detainment of Iranian Americans at the border on the basis of national heritage and additional discriminatory actions against our community. We will remain vigilant amid the looming specter of war and safeguard our community’s rights.”

Rouhani Goes to Japan & Discusses Potential Deal

Week of December 16th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Rouhani Travels to Japan, Says Iran Welcomes Potential Deal

President Rouhani travelled to Malaysia and then to Japan for a state visit from December 20-21st. In Malaysia, he participated in a summit of leaders from Muslim-majority countries alongside leaders from Turkey, Qatar, and Indonesia. Notably, Saudi King Salman turned down the invitation of Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad to attend.

In a speech in Kuala Lumpur, Rouhani said that the U.S. has “no choice” but to reverse its approach to Iran. He stated: “The Americans have no choice but to reverse this path that they have taken with the resistance and steadfastness of the people in the face of sanctions and the maximum economic pressure of the enemies. Our political, societal, cultural, and defensive resilience in the face of foreign pressure is far greater than in the past.”

In Japan, Rouhani met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed bilateral relations and efforts to secure the Persian Gulf and preserve the JCPOA. During his meeting with Abe, Rouhani said that he had sent a letter to the Persian Gulf countries emphasizing Iran’s desire for stability and inviting them to join Iran’s proposed “Hormuz Peace Endeavor” security structure.

Rouhani told Abe that Iran welcomes proposals to boost economic trade. He said: “We welcome any proposals that could result in increasing economic trade, particularly in the energy sector and increasing exports of oil.”

Rouhani also said Iran welcomes any deals to preserve the JCPOA and improve Persian Gulf security. He stated: “Naturally and within the framework of our interests, we will not avoid any negotiations or agreements in this area.”

Rouhani added that U.S. sanctions were a “lose-lose” for everyone. He proclaimed: “The illegal approach of America with its unlawful withdrawal from the JCPOA showed that this step was a blow to an international agreement and peace and security and had no benefit for America or any of the JCPOA parties. It proved that sanctions have no destiny other than being a ‘lose-lose’ for everyone.”

During the meeting, Abe said that Japan wished to improve societal ties between the two countries. He said: “Japan is eager to quickly implement the agreement of the two countries on tourism so that relations between the two nations can further develop.”

Abe also welcomed Iran’s “Hormuz Peace Endeavor,” stating: “Ensuring security for the region is important for all countries who make passage in this area and we appreciate Iran’s constructive role in providing security and stability and peace in the region.”

Abe also said that Japan was working with the UK, France, and Germany to preserve the JCPOA.

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Iran and US United Nations Ambassadors Talk in First for Trump Era

On the sidelines of a meeting of the UN Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft approached and talked with her Iranian counterpart Majid Takht-Ravanchi. According to BBC Persian, it is the first high-level public dialogue between a senior U.S. and Iranian official of the Trump presidency.

U.S. officials told BBC Persian that Craft offered her condolences to Ravanchi over the death of an Iranian child. During his speech to the UN Security Council, Ravanchi had discussed the case of an Iranian child, Ava, who had died due to a lack of medication blocked by U.S. sanctions.

During her address to the UN Security Council, Craft also said that the U.S. was prepared to make a deal with Iran that would improve global peace and security.

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MP Says “Many Killed” in Southwestern Town of Mahshahr

An Iranian parliamentarian has said that “many people” died in the southwestern city of Mahshahr in the recent protests. He did not say how many, but contended that “armed rioters” were present in the city. BBC Persian has said about the killings: “Eyewitnesses says that from November 15th, protestors closed down many of the roads leading to the petrochemical Imam Khomeini port, including the Shahrak Chamran road in the Mahshahr special economic district.”

The BBC Persian report adds: “BBC Persian viewers have said that during the unrest in Mahshahr, security forces ‘fired widely’ at the protestors and many were killed or wounded.”

It further stated: “These viewers say that protestors were confronted with tanks and gunfire, but officials say they confronted armed rioters who sought to attack the petrochemical industry.”

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Banking Reform Bills Take Step Towards Passage

The Iranian outlet ILNA has reported that two remaining bills to reform Iran’s banking sector have passed a key hurdle. The bills are aimed at bringing Iran into compliance by global standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)–a Paris-based body. 

The Rouhani administration introduced four bills to accomplish this. While two were approved by parliament and the Guardian Council, the other two were rejected by the Guardian Council and went to the Expediency Council–a body constitutionally mandated to resolve disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council.

Now, ILNA has cited a member of the Expediency Council as saying the Council’s Joint Commission has approved the two remaining FATF bills. This approval comes before a February deadline by FATF for Iran to comply with its measures or else it would reimpose countermeasures. However, the outlet states that the bills still need to be approved by a vote of all the council’s members. 

Passage of these bills is widely believed to be necessary for Iran to develop the proper banking relations needed to benefit from sanctions relief.

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77 Reformists Call for Prosecutions Regarding Protest Deaths

A group of 77 leading reformist activists released a statement calling for the prosecution of security forces that fired on protestors.  The statement stressed the necessity of the government accepting the right of people to protest peacefully and the need for people to avoid violence.

The statement stated in part: “The firing of guns, which were provided by public funds to defend the people, at ordinary and unarmed citizens who came to the streets to express their grievances and rage, is completely and in any case unacceptable and a crime, and the law and judiciary must not hesitate for a second to pursue the perpetrators.”

The statement added: “We ask the dear people and protestors that by displaying their commitments, avoid any violence or damage to public and private property and not leave the path of peaceful protests. Additionally, we should be careful of any likely efforts to take advantage by foreigners, or groups that are violent or opposed to the country’s territorial integrity and national government.”

Several of the statement’s authors were reportedly summoned by judicial authorities or arrested.

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Reformist MP Makes Fiery Speech Critical of Status Quo

Reformist MP Parvaneh Salahshouri delivered a speech sharply criticizing the political status quo and stating she would not seek reelection in February’s parliamentary election.  She declared: “Unfortunately, the republican aspects of the political system have headed in the direction of concentration of power. Uncontrollable total authoritarianism in every area, the exercise of power by parallel institutions in all of the country’s administrative issues.”

Salahshouri added: “In our structures, we have dual organs or even multiple organs, which all make decisions. How many governments? How many intelligence agencies? How many parallel institutions? And at the end, you have a dual government which escapes responsibility and plays the game of, ‘it wasn’t me’ when it comes to managing the country.”

While giving her speech in parliament, Salahshouri was met with vocal pushback from several hardline MPs.

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Mousavi Denounces Killing of Protestors

Week of December 2nd, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

“Green Movement” Leader Mousavi Denounces Gas Price Hike & Killing of Protestors

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the “Green Movement” leader and 2009 presidential candidate, denounced the gas price hike and killing of protestors. He declared: “The violent and bloody confrontation with angry and destitute people who’ve reached their limits, who came to the streets in protest at an irrational and profit-aiming decision that goes against the interests of the poor … is similar to merciless killing of the people on the bloody September 8th of 1978.”

He added regarding the massacre committed that year by the Shah’s regime: “The killers of 1978 were representatives of an irreligious regime. The authorities and shooters of November 2019 are the representatives of a religious government. At that time, the Shah was the commander in chief. Today, it is the vali-faqi (Supreme Leader) with absolute authority.”

Mousavi then called for the prosecution of those who “ordered and carried out” the crackdown. He ended his statement by saying the Iranian political system should pay heed to the “consequences” of the “Jaleh Square massacre” (September 8, 1978).

Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest since February 2011. Mousavi ran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential election and contested the results of the election, which is widely believed to have been rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad. The subsequent “Green Movement” protests were led by Mousavi and another 2009 presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi.

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Former President Khatami Comments on Protests

Former reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami offered his condolences to those who “suffered” in recent protests. Khatami stated: “For the deprived segment of Iranian society, the issue is not reformists or principlists (conservatives), or even the form of government. This segment wants a life that is minimally secure and if this cannot be arranged it will obviously protest.”

Khatami warned that no amount of security forces could stop protests if the middle and lower classes protested together. He stated: “In the recent events, the middle class and above did not join. But they were observers who sympathized with the protesters.”

Khatami added about the consequences of Iran’s “deprived class” and “middle class” protesting together: “Military, security, and police power will not be able to do anything and the whole of society will be positioned against the government.”

Khatami expressed sympathy for all those affected by the protests: “A very bitter event took place. Many people lost their lives which, beyond the people, forces responsible for security and stability also lost their lives. And widespread damage was done to public property and facilities. You cannot not sympathize with the people who have been harmed or be indifferent to the destruction that has taken place.”

Khatami said outside forces sought to take advantage of the protests. He proclaimed: “Basically all of the political and propaganda forces outside of the country pretended that the people rose up against the Islamic Republic and are trying to overthrow it … those who don’t want the system or Iran, are trying to promote pessimism.”

He added: “If there are problems in the Islamic Republic, they have to be expressed and solutions found without damaging the core of the Islamic Republic, Iran, the country’s territorial integrity, security, and holding on to principles.”

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Hardline Kayhan Attacks Mousavi, Khatami & Karoubi

The hardline outlet Kayhan vociferously attacked Mousavi, Khatami, and Karoubi for their statements on the protests. It stated: “Khatami, Mousavi, and Karoubi in their recent remarks sought to exonerate and justify the crimes and wickedness carried out by an organized network of anti-revolutionaries and armed thugs. Without criticizing the [Rouhani] administration for being the designer and implementer of the gas rationing and price hike, they tried to make the political system the target of accusations.”

Kayhan further said about Mousavi’s statement: “Mousavi concealed the crimes of the thugs and terrorists who have killed people, burnt gas stations, banks, and public and private property, attacked mosques and burnt the Quran, and attacked the innocent. He compared the recent events to the Shah’s killings at Jaleh Square and this became the headline of outlets connected to MI6 and the CIA, which have been instruments of coups and repression in Iran.”   

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Registration Period Starts for Upcoming Parliamentary Election

The registration period has begun for candidates seeking to run in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election. The registration window lasts for one week, December 1st – 7th. The election is on February 21st, 2020.

On the fifth day of registration, an election official said that 8703 men and 1053 women had registered to run so far. The Guardian Council will vet the candidates that register and determine the final list of approved candidates.

Former Parliamentary Speaker and Green Movement leader Mehdi Karoubi sparked controversy over a statement he made on the upcoming election. At a time when some political forces are calling for a boycott of the election, Karoubi called on members of his “Etemad” party to participate in the election.

However, Karoubi’s son later said he was only urging known political figures to register to run and to not be afraid of being disqualified by the Guardian Council. He said he was not specifically calling for the public to participate.

Some conservative political forces have announced a coalition for the upcoming parliamentary election. In announcing its creation, the group (dubbed “The Council of Coalition of Islamic Revolution Forces”) discussed the recent protests and expressed sympathy for affected people.

This conservative coalition is reportedly led by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, a former mayor of Tehran and presidential candidate. According to a report by the reformist Fararu, Ghalibaf is leading an effort to reframe the image of conservatives and have younger people lead their movement. If Ghalibaf himself runs for parliament, he reportedly has a high chance to become the next parliamentary speaker.

Incumbent Speaker Ali Larijani has said he won’t seek another term in parliament. This has fueled speculation he will run for president in 2021.    

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Rouhani Claims Some Protests Organized by Outside Powers

President Rouhani said that some protesters were “organized” in accordance with “plans” started over two years ago by foreign powers. He stated: “They planned for over two years for this. Last year at one point they wanted to do something and it wasn’t the right time for them. This year they were thinking of another time and were planning to do something at the end of January and February around the time of the [parliamentary] election. When this issue was announced [the gas price hike] they got orders from their masters from abroad that the time had arrived and for them to execute their plan.”

Rouhani said protestors connected to foreign powers should be prosecuted, but that there should be “mercy” for others. He stated: “If someone committed a crime and was dependent on an outside power or an infiltrator, they should be prosecuted. But for those who committed no crime in this way or committed minor violations, they should be treated with mercy and should be freed.”

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Khamenei Says Some Killed in Protests are “Martyrs”

Ayatollah Khamenei has supported a report put out by the Supreme National Security Council evaluating the recent protests and the government’s reaction to them. The report was prepared by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the national security council.

Khamenei said that “ordinary citizens” killed in the protests who were not involved in “riots” will be designated as “martyrs.” Their families will then be eligible for support from the Martyrs Foundation. He also said that the families of anyone killed in the protests can seek “diyeh” (a form of legal restitution).

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Iran Gripped by Protests and Internet Shutdown

Week of November 18th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Protests Met with Crackdown, Internet Shutdown

On Thursday, November 14th, the Iranian government abruptly announced that the price of gasoline would be increased. As detailed in last week’s issue of Iran Unfiltered, the price of heavily subsidized gasoline was increased by 50 percent (to 1500 tomans per liter). This price holds for a consumption of 60 liters per month. Beyond that, a higher rate of 3,000 tomans per liter applies (an increase of three times from the previous rate).

Protests over the gas rate hike started on Friday and gained force on Saturday. These were reported to be in Tabriz, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Shiraz, and Sanandaj initially and soon spread to tens of other cities.

While the trigger was broad opposition to the gas price hike, many of the protests quickly expressed broader political and anti-government grievances. On November 17th, BBC Persian reported that the protests had reached “100 cities,” while the semi official Fars News said that roughly 1,000 people had been arrested.

The protests were marked by violent confrontations between security forces and protestors. Footage posted on social media showed live ammunition being fired directly at protestors, riot police beating people, and many Iranians shot and/or killed. 

On Saturday, November 16th, the Iranian government shutdown the country’s access to the internet. The severity and length of the shutdown is unprecedented, having shuttered most internet connections and only beginning to be slowly lifted as of the time of this writing (November 21st).

Many human rights activists and groups say the shutdown is aimed at further repressing protestors and preventing them from communicating with each other and the outside world. As per BBC Persian, government officials claimed the shutdown was aimed at preventing “rioters” from “taking advantage until calm is restored.”

On November 19, Amnesty International stated “at least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports.” On November 21st, BBC Persian reported that “tens of activists had been arrested in different cities.” Fars News had earlier reported that over 1,000 had been arrested in the first few days of the protests.

According to a student group’s Telegram channel, “40-50” student activists were arrested at Tehran University and its surrounding area. Reportedly, plainclothes security forces entered the campus using ambulances.

BBC Persian also reported on the widespread destruction of public and private property in the protests. Infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged included: 63 banks in Isfahan, 44 banks in Khoramabad, 300 banks in Tehran, 180 gas stations, 32 ambulances, 5 emergency centers, and 150 billion tomans in damages to shops.

Iranian officials also refrained from commenting specifically on when the internet shutdown would end. Most simply stated the internet would return gradually in areas where “calm” had returned. َAli Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, stated in this regard: “When there is confidence that no one will take advantage, the internet of the provinces will be restored.” 

In parliament, conservative and moderate MPs had different takes on the internet shutdown. Conservative MP Hossein Norouzi, the spokesperson for parliament’s legal commission, said the opportunity had arisen to switch to the “domestic internet.” 

Norouzi stated: “Disconnecting the internet is partial and temporary, but if it is not resolved, this is the best opportunity to switch to the domestic internet … the communications minister must strive to activate the domestic internet and the [Rouhani] administration must more quickly connect the domestic internet and its servers.” 

However, another conservative MP Ali Motahari threatened impeaching the interior minister if the internet shutdown didn’t end. He added: “The responsibility for this is with the Interior Minister given his role as the head of the Council for the country’s security. If the Interior Minister insists that the internet shutdown should continue, the parliament will react … and we might impeach the interior minister.” 

Telecommunications Minister Azari Jahromi also pushed back on the idea that a domestic internet would replace access to the global internet. He stated: “For some to believe that activating national information networks is the same [and aimed at replacing] as ending connection to global networks, this is wrong. It goes against the decisions of the Supreme Cyber Council and rational principles.”

Jahromi added: “No one thinks that we should deny ourselves the available information on global internet networks.” 

Jahromi also said regarding when internet access would be restored: I don’t have a timeline, but the hope exists that as quickly as possible problems are resolved and in my opinion one hundred percent the internet will be connected soon.”

On November 22nd, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Azari Jahromi for “an alleged role in internet censorship in the wake of antiregime protests in the country,” as per the Wall Street Journal

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Domestic Political Feuding Over Gas Price Hike

The decision to increase the price of gas was made by the “Supreme Economic Coordination Council.” This body includes the heads of the three branches of the Iranian government (President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Hassan Rouhani, and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi) as well as other senior officials from each branch and the head of the central bank.

Initially, the gas price hike was ardently opposed by many politicians, especially Rouhani’s conservative rivals. Many reformist and moderate figures and politicians also criticized the price hike.

After the price hike was announced, both reformist and conservative members of parliament said they would introduce bills to rescind the decision. Many parliamentarians strongly denounced the fact that they weren’t consulted on the price hike decision. This included reformist MP Parvaneh Salahshouri, who lamented that parliament was powerless and no longer emblematic of a democracy.

However, on November 17th, Ayatollah Khamenei publicly supported the gas price hike decision. Khamenei said that he supported decisions made by the Supreme Economic Coordination Council, derided the “vandalism” of the protests, and said the protestors weren’t ordinary people but “thugs.” 

After Khamenei’s support, parliamentarians withdrew their bills to rescind the gas price hike. Two parliamentarians, including prominent Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, subsequently submitted resignation letters to the parliament’s governing board. 

However, many hardline MPs and political figures continued to scapegoat Rouhani for the gas price hike decision. In parliament, hardline MP Mojtaba Zonnour, who holds the influential position of chair of the parliament’s foreign policy and national security commission, introduced impeachment bills against Rouhani and centrist parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.

The impeachment bill reportedly received over 60 signatures in parliament, mostly from members of the far-right Jebhe Paydari faction. The reasons they cited for impeaching Rouhani included his alleged, “divisive rhetoric,” and “not implementing the policy of a resistance economy.”

Zonnour himself has compared Rouhani to Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president after the 1979 revolution who was later ousted as a “traitor.” Zonnour has added: “My duty is to bring down the president who has hurt the people so much economically.”

Despite Khamenei’s support of the gas price hike, conservative Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi also said the decision was a “suggestion” of Rouhani administration. He added that it was approved “based on legal assignments and to create coordination among the economic coordination council.”

Former MP Ahmad Tavakoli also said Khamenei did not support how the price hike decision was executed by President Rouhani. Khamenei reportedly believed that the cash transfers should have simultaneously been deposited into the accounts of Iranians with the announcement of the price hike, not weeks later.

The influential cleric Ayatollah Jannati, who is the chair of the Assembly of Experts and secretary of the Guardian Council, also criticized the Rouhani administration. He proclaimed: “For such an important surgery, officials should have prepared the public opinion from long ago. They should have talked about depositing support package (cash transfers) to the people which is to their benefit. And of the harms of cheap gas like widespread smuggling.”

Jannati added: “All those who protested and came to the streets were not rioters and the concerns of the people must be understood. Right now, there is a high cost of living and if this plan is going to impose new pressure on the lower income cases, it is not wise.”

Some hardline MPs, such as Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh from Mashhad, accused the Rouhani administration of acting outside the law with the gas price hike. He stated: “The legal formalities of increasing the price of gasoline were not within the framework of the Supreme Economic Coordination Council, and the administration took this action based on its only legal authorities.” 

An outspoken former hardline MP Hamid Rasai also directly accused Rouhani of causing “the riots.” Another hardliner who often appears in Iranian media, Mohammad Sadegh Koshki, who teaches at the University of Tehran, said in a tweet that “Rouhani’s aim in making gasoline more expensive is to invite people to riot!”

Notably, when the price hike was first announced, social media channels affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards promoted people abandoning their cars in traffic, which later happened in some cities. This led some to speculate that hardline forces sought to trigger and use protests to weaken their moderate and reformist rivals.

Former IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, an avowed critic of Rouhani, also accused him of “playing into the enemy’s hands” with his actions. He added: “The administration with its imprudent and wrong approach made people protest and gives rioters an opportunity to take advantage.” 

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Rouhani Addresses Protests

On November 20th, President Rouhani declared Iran “passed another historic test.” He said: “Despite economic problems and grievances about the management of the country, the people didn’t let water go into the enemy’s mills (an Iranian expression, i.e. “not playing into the enemy’s hands”).”

Rouhani said the “rioters” were “organized and coordinated.” He stated: “It was clear what people came to the streets and rioters were only a small number of them. However, they were organized, coordinated, and armed, which was totally pre-planned by the reactionary regional countries, Israel, and the Americans.”

Rouhani went on to say that “we must always listen to the people’s criticisms and opinions.” He added: “Today the Iranian people put a test of them successfully in the past … now is the turn of officials from the government and ministries to serve and make greater efforts to support the people and reduce the problems in their lives.”

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Khamenei Says U.S. Sanctions Will Remain for Years

Ayatollah Khamenei declared to a group of businesspeople and economic actors that it was wrong to think U.S. sanctions would end in “one or two years.” He stated: “Given what we know of the frontline against arrogance, the sanctions will be around for now. So, to save the country’s economy we shouldn’t wait for sanctions to end or the presence or lack of presence of some person or the action of some country.” 

In the speech, Khamenei called for dependency on oil exports to be eliminated from Iran’s budget and for domestic industrial production to increase. He also criticized Iranian officials who “are waiting for the path to open to take the direction of the country’s economy to the outside world.” 

He said this view was “mistaken” and added: “The policies of depending on domestic capabilities must be so strong and durable so that even if sanctions are removed, these policies aren’t hurt.”

Khamenei also said regarding the gas price hike protests: “The Iranian people have pushed the enemy back in the military, political, and security war. By God’s will, in the economic war the enemy will also be decisively pushed back.”

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Environmentalists Handed Prison Sentences

Six environmentalist activists arrested in January 2018 and accused of espionage have been sentenced to prison. Niloufar Bayani and Morad Tahbaz were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, Taher Ghadirian and Houman Jokar to eight years imprisonment, and Amirhossein Khalegi and Sepideh Kashani to six years imprisonment.

The sentences of Sam Rajabi and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh as still unknown as of the time of this writing. As detailed in past issues of Iran Unfiltered, the eight environmentalists were working for the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation (PHWF) and arrested together with PHWF’s chairman, Kavous Seyed-Emami, in January 2018.

Two weeks after their arrest, authorities announced Seyed-Emami committed suicide while in custody. However, the family of Seyed-Emami rejected that suspicious narrative, with Seyed-Emami’s son stating: “There are so many inaccuracies in the official story, from the day that he died to how he died, that these contradictions just added more to our suspicions about what actually went down.” 

Judiciary Spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili said the verdicts were issued by Revolutionary Court Branch 15 and could be appealed. Previously, Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, and Houman Jokar were accused of “sowing corruption on earth,” a capital offense in Iran. This charge was later dropped.

The case of the imprisoned environmentalists has been controversial even among different government agencies. Rouhani administration officials and the Intelligence Ministry have dismissed the espionage charges, while the IRGC’s Intelligence Agency has maintained them. 

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Khamenei Discusses Israel and Antisemitism

Ayatollah Khamenei declared that “we are not anti-Semitic.” He stated: “We support Palestine and the independence and liberation of it. Eliminating Israel doesn’t mean eliminating Jewish people. We have nothing against Jewish people, and in our country, there is a community of Jews that live in total security.”

Khamenei added: “The elimination of Israel means the destruction of the Imposed Zionist regime.”

Khamenei was speaking at an “Islamic Unity” conference in Tehran to an audience of delegates from other countries. He further said that the reason for the “regretful” condition of Palestine was the “weakness of unity” among Islamic countries. He added that the situation of Palestine was the “biggest disaster facing the Islamic world.”

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NIAC Statement on Protests across Iran over Gas Price Hike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, November 16, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org 

WASHINGTON DC – Yesterday, protests erupted across Iran as the government announced an unexpected increase in and rationing of gasoline. Reports suggest that authorities have violently cracked down on the protests. 

In response to these developments, NIAC Senior Research Analyst Sina Toossi issued the following statement:

“NIAC is closely tracking reports of protests in many Iranian cities after the government announced an increase in the price of gasoline. NIAC condemns the Iranian government’s use of force used to disperse protestors, as seen in videos showing the deployment of riot police and tear gas in parts of Iran, as well as efforts to stifle communication by limiting internet access. The Iranian people have an inalienable right to peacefully demonstrate and express their economic and political grievances. The Iranian government denies them this right at its own peril.

“Ordinary Iranians have borne immense economic hardship due to government mismanagement and U.S. sanctions. Importantly, the Iranian political system is not monolithic and there are signs that more hardline elements seek to capitalize on public grievances to advance their own narrow aims. Rather than empower the Iranian people, the Trump administration’s fixation on ‘maximum pressure’ has served to embolden such forces. 

“The international community must push the Iranian government to abide by its human rights obligations, allow the Iranian people to peaceful demonstrate and air their grievances, and hold repressive forces to account for abuses. The protests are also occurring in the broader context of protests across the world and in the Middle East, as a consequence of government mismanagement and objections to price hikes on everyday commodities that hurt ordinary people. Under no circumstances should any government stifle the will of its people, and Iran arguably has a greater chasm of mistrust than most.

“NIAC also reiterates its call on the U.S. to end its policy of collectively punishing sanctions, which serve to impoverish ordinary Iranians and undermine hopes for democratic change. Starving the Iranian population only creates a destructive situation that eliminates avenues for the vital diplomacy necessary to secure a brighter future for the Iranian people.”

Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

Week of November 11th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

President Rouhani has said that during the UN General Assembly in September, “good proposals were given to break America’s sanctions.” Rouhani said Iran did not accept these proposals.

Rouhani said a deal could potentially have been reached if another U.S. president was in power: “We could have decided to break the sanctions. The situation was such that we had to trust the U.S. president which was a very difficult thing. Potentially if there was a different U.S. president, this could have been accomplished by September 23rd.”

In the leadup to the UN General Assembly in September, there were efforts from multiple sides to facilitate a new U.S.-Iran deal. This included an Iranian offer that it would return to full compliance with the JCPOA and agree to indefinitely to abide by the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement—allowing for permanent intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities—in return for the complete lifting of U.S. sanctions.

At the time, there were also reports of the U.S. considering a French proposal for a credit line to Iran for oil purchases. As detailed in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered, after returning to Tehran from the UNGA, Rouhani said the U.S. had messaged its willingness to remove sanctions, but that the main hindering obstacle was on the sequencing of potential sanctions removal.

Rouhani further said in his speech this week that the country was not in a “normal condition and is in a difficult and complex situation.” He added: “When the country has problems selling oil, how are we supposed to govern the country? From the beginning of the revolution until now, we have not had such issues to sell oil and move an oil tanker.”

Rouhani also defended Iran staying in the JCPOA, both for security reasons and to benefit from the removal of a UN arms embargo next year. He stated: “We can exit the nuclear deal but the UN security council resolutions against Iran will return. Our interests are to stay in the JCPOA. We will preserve the JCPOA but at the same time gradually reduce our compliance.”

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Rouhani Spars with Judiciary Over Anti-Corruption Drive

President Rouhani and officials in his administration have criticized the judiciary for its approach to cracking down on corruption. Rouhani refenced the case of Babak Zanjani, who allegedly embezzled billions of dollars during the tenure of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani said regarding the case of the imprisoned Zanjani: “It is still not clear to us how someone stole 2.7 billion dollars and was sentenced to death, where this money has gone.”

Rouhani also accused the anti-corruption drive of not targeting the “big fish.” He further said to judiciary officials: “Our honorable prosecutors and judges should not be scared and should not focus on this faction or that faction. They should confront these cases with transparency.”

Rouhani added: “The people won’t be fooled by taking some people to court based on fighting corruption. The people need to know what happened to the enormous amounts of money taken from public funds.”

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, also censured the “propaganda” generated out of the judiciary’s anti-corruption crackdown. He said this media coverage was not in a way that showed the crackdown as “all-encompassing” [i.e. targeting people from all political factions].

In response, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi stated his institution won’t be distracted, stating: “We won’t be distracted by marginal disputes and will more resolutely than before continue our work confronting corruption.”

Raisi added: “Unity in our opinion is strategic and any division or disunity is the wish of the enemy.”

Since Raisi assumed the position of judiciary chief in March, his self-avowed primary aim has been to combat corruption. His critics say that he has partisan aims. Iran has an upcoming parliamentary election in February 2020, and candidates will begin to register for that election on December 1st.

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Gasoline to be Rationed, New Revenue Redistributed

The National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company announced that gasoline would begin to be rationed and the price set at different rates. The price of heavily subsidized gasoline will be increased by 50 percent (to 1500 tomans per liter). This price would hold for a consumption of 60 liters per month. Beyond that, a new “free rate” will be set at 3,000 tomans per liter (an increase of three times from the previous rate).

President Rouhani said that the proceeds from this gasoline price hike would go to help the poorer segments of society. Rouhani stated: “The main aim was, on one hand, for there not to be a lot of increased hardship for the people, and on the other, for people who have a normal daily consumption of gasoline for the price not to get expensive. For this reason, 60 liters is for one rate and the free rate is different.”

Rouhani said he would give a further explanation on how the increased revenue would help “approximately 75 percent” of society, or 60 million people. He said this segment of the population would receive the revenue from this gasoline price hike. He added: “We are making efforts to deposit this money monthly into the accounts of families. The first withdrawal can be made on November 22nd (the first of the month of Azar on the Iranian calendar.” 

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Officials Discuss Efforts at Negotiations with the UAE, Saudis

Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said “political negotiations” are the only path to resolving regional problems. He said Iran would use “all of its capabilities” to create an environment for such negotiations.

Mousavi’s comments came in response to remarks by Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs. Gargash said that continued escalation in the region was to no country’s benefit and that the UAE believed space for “successful collective diplomacy” existed. He called for negotiations between Iran and regional and global powers on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to its regional policies.

Mousavi echoed the call for “dialogue and political negotiations” and reiterated several Iranian proposals. He called for a “forum for regional dialogue” and “non-aggression pacts.” He also cited the “Hormuz Peace Endeavor,” unveiled by President Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in September, as a sign of Iran’s “seriousness” in this regard.

In an interview on the sidelines of high-profile nonproliferation summit in Moscow, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi discussed regional developments. Araghchi said that Iran’s call for a “regional dialogue forum” had not been strongly welcomed by other regional states.

Araghchi said that “hidden hands” sought to increase divisions between Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. He said these actors wanted to take “things in a direction that the people do not want.”

Araghchi said that the Saudi King did not give a “positive response” to a recent letter from President Rouhani. He added that the only dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia now was on the Haj pilgrimage.

However, Araghchi acknowledged that there have been meetings between Iranian and Emirati officials. He stated: “The reactions of the Emiratis to the Hormuz Peace Endeavor was better [than the Saudis]. At the political level, reciprocal trips took place and in our belief, a greater understanding exists between Iran and the Emirates. We hope that a calmer atmosphere is created between Iran and the Emirates and this results in more calmness in the region.”

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Sweden Arrests Iranian Implicated in 1988 Executions

A court in Sweden ordered the arrest of an Iranian national implicated in mass executions in Iran in 1988. The accused, Hamid Nouri, reportedly used the alias “Hamid Abbasi.” The court has given complainants one month to provide their evidence against Nouri while he is in prison. 

Nouri’s arrest marks the first time an Iranian national has been arrested abroad in connection to the 1988 executions. Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, tweeted, “Important first step towards justice for the 1988 massacre #Iran: This would be the very first time that someone is charged in relation to the events that took place in 1988 in Iran, during which thousands of detainees were killed.”

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Outlet Analyzes Iran’s Options on JCPOA

Iranian reformist outlet Fararu analyzed the European response to Iran’s latest JCPOA reduction. Fararu also discussed three potential scenarios for Iran going forward.

After renewed Iranian enrichment at the Fordow facility was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the E3 (Germany, France, and the UK) issued a statement. The E3 warned Iran that they would consider triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism, which would start a process that could lead to the reimposition of UN Security Council resolutions against Iran.

Fararu notes this marks the first time the E3 has “officially and openly” threatened Iran with triggering the dispute resolution mechanism. Fararu surmised that the Europeans no longer seek to preserve the JCPOA through attempts to provide Iran with economic benefits. Instead, they seek to prevent Iran from further decreasing compliance with the accord through “diplomatic pressure and warnings.”

Fararu then cited a recent interview of Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who said that if UN sanctions are reimposed, Iran would change its “nuclear doctrine.” Araghchi stated: “If the reward for Iran after all these negotiations and cooperation with the IAEA is that it again will be put under Chapter VII of the UN charter, this means that our ‘nuclear doctrine’ was wrong and that we have to review our nuclear doctrine.”

Fararu said there were three potential scenarios and options for Iran going forward: 1) continue its incremental steps to reduce compliance with the JCPOA and risk the dispute resolution mechanism being triggered; 2) Iran convinces Europe to secure its economic interests through nuclear and diplomatic leverage; 3) Iran remains in the JCPOA despite not receiving its economic benefits.

Fararu stated that the Rouhani administration supported the third option. According to the outlet, President Rouhani believes staying in the JCPOA still has security benefits. Fararu asserts that the first option risks Iran falling under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, opening the door for a potential military attack. The second option, it states, is also untenable due to U.S. sanctions.

Fararu then referred to comments by Rouhani saying that if Iran remained in the JCPOA, it would benefit from a UN arms embargo expiring next year. Rouhani said during a recent provincial trip in this regard: “With the expiration of arms sanctions on Iran, Iran will be able to buy and sell conventional weapons. The Americans have on multiple occasions expressed their worry about this and for this reason, are trying to destroy the JCPOA as soon as possible.”

Fararu ended on a skeptical note, stating that even if the arms embargo was lifted, Iran would be hard pressed to find partners to buy and sell weapons. It stated: “When out of the fear of [US] sanctions, countries stop buying Iranian oil, which is not a weapon, we can guess how much they will refrain from buying weapons from Iran.”

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Khamenei Pardons Prisoners

Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly pardoned to 3552 prisoners, including 32 people held on “national security” charges, which includes journalists and students. The pardoning has come on a holiday marking the Islamic Prophet’s birthday and reportedly came at the request of judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

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Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment

Week of November 4th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iran Further Reduces JCPOA Compliance

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced that Iran would begin to feed uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at the Fordow facility. The AEOI stated: “Feeding gas into centrifuges and stockpiling the enriched uranium has begun at Fordow.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the AEOI’s spokesperson, stated that enrichment at Fordow would be conducted up to the 4.5 percent level. The Fordow announcement marks Iran’s “fourth step” in reducing its compliance with the JCPOA. Iranian officials have announced the steps in 60-day increments since last May and have said they would be reversed if Europe returns to compliance with the JCPOA.

President Rouhani emphasized that the step was reversible and IAEA inspectors still had full access to Iran’s nuclear program. IAEA inspectors reportedly oversaw the transfer of nuclear material from the Natanz enrichment facility to Fordow.

Under the JCPOA, Fordow was converted from an enrichment facility to a “research” center. The deal permitted Iran to maintain 1,044 centrifuges at the facility for non-enrichment purposes.

Earlier, AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi had stated Iran had activated more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility. Salehi said this included a chain of 30 “IR-6” centrifuges, which had boosted Iran’s enriched uranium production to 5 kg a day.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s Ambassador to the UK, stated in a press conference that Iran’s continued membership in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was at stake. Baeidinejad said that some in Iran’s government believe that staying in the NPT “has no benefits.”

Baeidinejad stated that the Rouhani administration “is striving to convince these people that leaving the NPT is not to Iran’s benefit.”

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5.9 Richter Earthquake Strikes Northwest Iran

An earthquake struck northwestern Iran, killing at least 7 and injuring at least 720 more. The epicenter of the 5.9 Richter earthquake was near the city of Mianeh in East Azerbaijan province. According to official outlets, government teams have been sent to assess the damage and deliver aid.

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Khamenei Elaborates on Reasons for Opposing US Negotiations

Ayatollah Khamenei has once again strongly spoken against new negotiations with the United States. Speaking on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 hostage crisis, Khamenei said that Iranian officials who believe that negotiations with the U.S. would solve the country’s problems were “100 hundred percent wrong.”

Khamenei asserted that the U.S. seeks negotiations with Iran to validate its “maximum pressure” policy. He stated: “[The U.S.] wants to tell the international community that maximum pressure and sanctions finally had a result and the Iranians came to their knees.”

Khamenei said that the validating the U.S. pressure track would invite more pressure. He proclaimed: “If the Islamic Republic’s officials became simple and negotiated, none of the pressures or sanctions would be reduced. Instead, the path would be opened for official American plans for new demands and impositions.”

He further stated in this regard: “They say for now that we shouldn’t be active in the region, we shouldn’t help the resistance axis, we shouldn’t have a presence in some countries, and we should halt our defense capabilities and our production of missiles. After these demands, they will tell us to drop religious laws and will emphasize the hijab issue. As such, the demands of America will never end.”

Khamenei said that Iran’s missiles now have a range of 2,000 km, but the U.S. wanted to reduce this to 150 km. He stated: “Today, we have precise missiles with a range of 2,000 km that can hit a target within one meter.”

He added: “If we entered negotiations, the Americans would want to stop our missiles. For example, they would say that the range of Iranian missiles should be a maximum of 150 km. If our officials accepted this, the country would have been ruined. If they hadn’t, they would have repeated this same thing (maximum pressure).”

Khamenei also said that the experience of North Korea was instructive for Iran. He stated: “The American and North Korean officials talked about how much they loved each other but at the end, based on their norm in negotiations, the Americans have not reduced sanctions one bit and have given no concessions.”

Khamenei then dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to mediate between the U.S. and Iran: “The French president says one meeting with the U.S. president will resolve all of Iran’s problems. We have to say, this person is either very simple or an accomplice of the Americans.”

Khamenei also discussed the 1979 hostage crisis and said it was not the origin of U.S.-Iran disputes. He said the source of U.S.-Iran tensions stretched largely back to the 1953 U.S./UK coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh but before then as well.

He stated of the 1953 coup: “With that coup d’etat, they didn’t have mercy on the Mossadegh government which trusted them [the U.S.]. With collapsing that national government, they put in power a dependent, corrupt, and dictatorial government, and in this way committed the greatest form of enmity against the rights of the Iranian people.”

Khamenei then said that America had not changed since that era: “The same wickedness, the same ruthlessness, the same strive for global dictatorship and hegemony, today exists in America. Except it is more savage and obscener [today].”

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UN Human Rights Council Reviews Iran’s Human Rights Record

The United Nations Human Rights Council met for a periodic review of Iran’s human rights record. The meeting, which took place in Geneva, reviewed the human rights situation in Iran over the past five years.

The Iranian delegation at the meeting was led by Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of the “human rights commission” of the Iranian judiciary. In attendance were also Iranian parliamentarians and representatives from each branch of the Iranian government.

Three reports were unveiled at the meeting on the human rights situation in Iran. One from the Iranian government, one from independent human rights experts and groups, and one from “other stakeholders including national human rights institutions.”

A panel of 33 member states reviewed Iran’s human rights situation, and called on Iran to improve women’s and minority rights and cease capital punishment. The Iranian representatives engaged in a back and forth with the member states on Iran’s human rights record and what they said was progress made on human rights in Iran.

 

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Iranian Army Shoots Down “Unidentified” Drone

Alireza Sabahifard, the commander of the air defense force of the Iranian Army, announced that Iran had shot down a drone close to the city of Mahshahr. Sabahifard said the “unidentified” drone was shot down before in entered “sensitive” areas.

Mahshahr is a port city on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf and a major center for Iran’s petrochemical industry. According to Sabahifard, the drone was shot down by Mersad air defense system, an indigenous Iranian version of the I-hawk American missile system.

Gholam-Reza Shariati, the governor of Khuzestan province, said the drone “definitely” belonged to another country. He said Iran had recovered the wreckage of the drone and was investigating its origin.

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NIAC Statement on Iran’s Fourth Reduction in Nuclear Deal Compliance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 5, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | (202) 386-6325 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement regarding Iran’s announcement that it will reduce compliance with its nuclear deal commitments for a fourth time after the U.S. violation of the deal in pursuit of maximum pressure:

“The announcement that Iran will soon feed gas into centrifuges at Fordow is unwelcome news to all those who have sought to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically. This is yet another completely predictable result of the failed ‘maximum pressure’ policy adopted by Donald Trump.

“International concerns regarding the Fordow facility stem from the fact that its construction was covert and, as it is deeply buried, would be less susceptible to military strikes against Iran. However, so long as the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to have access to the facility in order to verify Iranian activities, which appears to be the case, Iran’s move will be provocative but reversible and not a near-term proliferation risk. Iran continues to provide Trump with a way out of his self-inflicted crisis should he summon the wherewithal to bypass his hawkish advisors as well as his own ego and animus towards his predecessor to return to the nuclear agreement.

“This latest escalation underscores the urgency of returning to and restoring compliance with the nuclear deal in full – starting with the U.S. easing sanctions that it reimposed in violation of the accord a full year before Iran started reducing its own compliance with the deal. Failure to do so risks a more complete unraveling of the accord and a steady march toward military confrontation. Only by stepping away from maximum pressure can Donald Trump move off the path to war and reopen diplomatic channels that have been closed by his own strategy.”

NIAC Statement on the 40th Anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, November 4, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement marking 40 years since the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran:

“The seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran 40 years ago by Iranian students has left a lasting scar for Americans and continues to affect American views of Iran. Breaking with international law and diplomatic decorum, the hostage crisis forced the United States to break diplomatic ties with Iran and the ensuing 444-day crisis fueled a discriminatory backlash against Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans alike. Unfortunately, U.S.-Iran relations continue to be defined by the Hostage Crisis and other historical grievances – including the 1953 Coup – and not by many of the shared interests that could unite the American and Iranian people.

“The act of taking hostages, especially on diplomatic soil, must always be condemned. Moreover, Iran has shamefully continued to target civilians with ties to Western nations and imprisoned them on trumped up charges.

“Dismissing the valid historical grievances on both sides of the U.S.-Iran dispute will ensure that history continues to repeat itself. We must acknowledge and understand the past while pursuing real resolutions and not holding the future hostage to it. For its part, the U.S. overthrew Iran’s popularly elected government in 1953 and reinstalled the Shah. Granting the Shah asylum amid the Revolution fed popular fears that the U.S. would once again reinstall the unpopular authoritarian from the U.S. embassy, as it had 26 years earlier. Understanding that history will not erase old wounds and the people involved cannot evade responsibility, but it can help to bring clarity and to acknowledge mutual grievances in order to move forward.

“U.S.-Iran relations need not be perpetually crisis ridden, but this requires leaders on both sides to look beyond the grievances of the past and build trust, not entrench old enmities. As Americans, we must do our part by holding our leaders accountable. The Trump administration’s decision to abrogate the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions one year ago have put us on yet another collision course with Iran. Instead of moving forward on the path of cooperation the deal engendered, the policies of this administration have brought aggressive rhetoric and tense escalation that are only too familiar and utterly avoidable.”

Political Prisoners Released

Week of October 28, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Political Prisoners Released

A number of Iranian labor activists and journalists have been released from prison. This includes: Sepideh Gholian, Atefeh Rangriz, Marzieh Amiri, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amir-Goli, and Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Far.

These activists were a mix of labor protestors, journalists, and women’s rights activists. They were previously given heavy sentences and have now been released on large bails.

Earlier, a number of parliamentarians wrote a letter to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi appealing for the release of some of these prisoners and others. They mentioned Rangriz, who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison and 74 lashes, and Amiri, who had been sentenced to ten-and-a-half years in prison and 148 lashes, among other political prisoners.

Rangriz and Amiri were arrested after being present during May Day labor protests in front of parliament this year. Amiri is a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper and Rangriz is a women’s rights activist. (Read more about the May Day protests in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.)

The MPs stated Rangriz and Amiri had a constitutional “right” to join the demonstration and a duty to “report” on it. The signatories included MPs Ali Motahari, Elias Hazrati, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Mostafa Kavakebian, Parvaneh Salahshouri, Tayebeh Siavoshi, Fatemeh Saeedi, and Hamid Zarabadi. 

Days after these activists were released, labor activist Esmail Bakshi was also released on a heavy bail. Read more about the cases of Bakhshi and Gholian in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Many of these now-released labor activists were handed heavy sentences in September. At the time, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi said the sentences would be revised after widespread outcry.

Raisi has attempted to portray himself as a supporter of worker rights, stating recently: “The grievances of laborers in the country are not small and we are in the process of addressing them. Hearing the grievances of those who have problems is our duty. The concerns of workers are understandable, and the responsible institutions must resolve the problems.”

He added: “However, sometimes some people under the cover of labor issues, have other aims they are seeking. We must not blame their actions on workers.”

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Iranian Outlet Predicts Next JCPOA Reductions

The Iranian outlet Mehr News has written a report on its predictions for Iran’s “fourth step” in reducing its JCPOA compliance, which is expected on November 7th. Starting in May, Iranian officials announced that the country would gradually reduce its JCPOA compliance in 60-day increments, until Europe returns to its commitments under the deal in terms of sanctions relief.

Mehr surmised that the next JCPOA-reduction step would include: unveiling a chain of 30 IR-1 centrifuges, increasing uranium enrichment capacity, activating the “secondary part of the Arak reactor and its refueling machine,” and unveiling a new generation of IR-7, IR-8, and IR-9 centrifuges.

Mehr based part of this on remarks made two months ago by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). In these remarks, Salehi said a chain of 30 IR-6 centrifuges would be unveiled. He also stated that within one month, 3,500 separative work units (SWUs, a unit measuring uranium enrichment capacity) would be added to Iran’s current 5,600 SWU capacity.

Salehi had also said at the time: “Iran before the JCPOA had 2,300 kg of enriched uranium. Now this is 1,700 or 1,800 kg. We are close to reaching the pre-JCPOA amount.”

Mehr said that “some specialists” believe that because Iran has yet to take these actions, these actions will be apart of its fourth JCPOA-reduction step. Mehr also pointed to other previous comments by officials on the Arak reactor for its claim that advancements on the Arak reactor will be part of the next step.

Mehr also relied on comments made by President Rouhani on October 14th for its claim that Iran would unveil new centrifuge models. Rouhani had said then: “Very soon we will unveil and activate IR-7, IR-8, and IR-9 centrifuges.”

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Khamenei Comments on Protests in Iraq & Lebanon

Ayatollah Khamenei has stated that the U.S. and its allies seek to create instability in Iraq and Lebanon, which are in the midst of anti-government protests. He declared in a speech: “America and Western intelligence agencies, with financial support from the reactionary regional countries, are creating turmoil. This is the worst form of enmity and hatred towards a nation.”

Khamenei accused these countries of seeking to create insecurity, stating: “The worst damage that the enemies can do to a country is to take away its security. This is what they have started in some regional countries today. They are taking security away from the people.”

Khamenei then addressed the situation in Iraq and Lebanon directly, stating: “To those who care about Iraq and Lebanon, I suggest that you make remedying insecurity your priority.”

Khamenei added that the people of these countries had justified grievances. He proclaimed: “The people [of these countries] have demands, which are justified, but they must know that these demands are attainable within the framework of the laws in their countries. When the legal framework of a country is disrupted, no action can be taken. When a vacuum is created in a country, no positive actions can be carried out.”

Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s chief of staff, also said that other countries seek to take advantage of the protests in Iraq and Lebanon. Vaezi stated: “A situation has been created, and America, Saudi Arabia, some other countries, and the Zionist regime [Israel] seek to coopt the people’s demands and they control social media. They give the lines [instructions] and financial support, and it seems this will be to the detriment of the people of Lebanon and Iraq.” 

Vaezi said that the demands of the people in these countries must be addressed by their governments. However, he added that the “demands shouldn’t be expressed in such a way that it results in chaos.” He also said that “foreign forces” seek to “weaken the incumbent governments.”

Vaezi further stated that “great efforts” were being made to create “distance” between the Islamic Republic and Iraq. He said both Iraq and Iran had to be “vigilant to not allow foreigners to reach this aim.”

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Debate Over Financial Transparency Bills Comes to a Head

The domestic fight over Iran passing laws to align its banking sector with global standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has come to a head after a review period has expired. Since 2016, FATF has suspended countermeasures against Iran, conditioned on Iran implementing an action plan to bring the country into compliance with the standards. Recently, FATF extended the deadline for Iran to meet the standards to next February, but has said it will reimpose countermeasures if Iran fails to do so by then.

Of the four bills introduced by the Rouhani administration to meet the FATF standards, two have been approved by the parliament and the Guardian Council, while the other two are still in limbo. The bill on reforming Iran’s laws on anti-money laundering (AML) and confronting terrorism financing have been passed. However, while parliament accepted the other two bills on Iran acceding to the terrorist financing (TF) convention and Palermo conventions, both bills were not approved by the Guardian Council.

The TF and Palermo convention bills have been under debate in the Expediency Discernment Council—a body constitutionally mandated with resolving disputes between the Guardian Council and parliament.

The one-year period for the Expediency Council to review the bills has now expired. The Rouhani administration now states that because the council did not reach a decision, the bills are de facto approved. However, opponents of the bill say the opposite and contend the bills have been defeated.

Rouhani first Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has also spurred controversy by saying that Ayatollah Khamenei had approved the bills. The opponents of the bills have pushed back on his characterization of Khamenei’s position.

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Iran Joins Syria Constitution Talks in Geneva

In Geneva, representatives of the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society, along with the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey met and released a joint statement. The meeting occurred on the eve of Syrian “constitutional committee” talks.

In the joint statement, the parties emphasized “preserving the territorial integrity, government, independence and unity of Syria.” They also said that the Syrian crisis has no military solutions.

The Syrian constitutional committee held its first meeting in Geneva. The UN Secretary General’s special representative for Syria is also participating.

Two years ago, the Syrian government and part of the opposition agreed to form the 150-member constitutional committee. One-third of its members are representatives of the government, another third representatives of the opposition, and the last third representatives of “Syrian civil society.”

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Foreign Ministry Calls on Iranians to Postpone Iraq Trips

The Iranian foreign ministry has called on Iranian citizens to postpone trips to Iraq given unrest in the country. A foreign ministry statement said: “Given reports of an outbreak of disorder in Iraq we asked our dear compatriots and pilgrims to postpone visits to Iraq until further notice.”

The announcement comes as the Arbaeen Shia pilgrimage just ended. According to Alireza Rashidian, the president of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, 3,057,957 Iranians traveled to Iraq this year for Arbaeen.

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Iran Condemns U.S. Troop Presence in Syria Oilfields

The Iranian and Russian foreign ministers condemned the U.S. announcement that it would keep troops in Syria to control oil fields. Speaking from Geneva, Foreign Minister Zarif stated: “Apparently the Americans are staying to take care of oil … at least President Trump is sincere about American aims.” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated: “Any form of illegal exploitation of the natural resources of an independent country without the permission of that country’s government, is illegal.”

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یک پیروزی برای زنان ایران و الگویی برای تغییر

مبارزه برای گرفتن حق حضور زنان ایرانی در استادیوم‌های فوتبال سالهاست که توسط مدافعان حقوق زنان و فعالان مدنی داخل کشور در جریان بوده است. همانگونه که در فیلم آفساید، محصول سال ۲۰۰۶ به کارگردانی جعفر پناهی به تصویر کشیده شد، مسئله تنها به برابری حقوق جنسیتی محدود نبوده و حس عمیق غرور ملی و عشق به ورزش و کشور را هم در بر می‌گیرد. در فیلم پناهی که بسیار هم مورد تجلیل قرار گرفت، گروهی از زنان هنگامی که سعی داشتند برای تماشای یک بازی مقدماتی جام جهانی، با گریم مردانه یواشکی وارد استادیوم شوند، گیر میافتند. در حالی که فیلم بر دیالوگ بین این زنان با ماموران محافظ استادیوم متمرکز است، پایان فیلم چالش‌هایی که کماکان زنان ایرانی با آن درگیرند را برجسته می کند. در پایانی تلخ و شیرین، تصاویری واقعی از جشن پیروزی ایرانی‌ها پخش می شود. در حالی که این زنان از ورودشان به استادیوم جلوگیری شده، در اتوبوسی که دارد از استادیوم آنها را می برد به خبر پیروزی تیم ملی کشورشان گوش می کنند.

اما بالاخره خبر خوبی از راه رسید. در هجدهم مهرماه، مقامات ایرانی نهایتا ً کوتاه آمدند و به زنان اجازه دادند تا برای نخستین بار بعد از روزهای اول انقلاب، برای تماشای یک بازی مهم فوتبال به استادیوم بیایند. برای تکمیل این پیروزی، تیم ملی ایران با نتیجه باورنکردنی ۱۴ گل در برابر تیم حریف به پیروزی رسید ــ شاید بواسطه انرژی مثبتی که از تصاویر زنانی که در استادیوم به جشن و تشویق مشغولند قابل لمس است ــ این قطعا ً روز خوبی برای ایرانیان بود.

مبارزه برای حقوق بشر در داخل ایران مسیری سخت و طولانی را طی کرده است. در بین ایرانیان خارج از کشور، تلاش‌های واقعی برای حمایت از این آرمان، به جای آنکه بر پیشرفت معنادار سیاسی و ارتباط سازنده متمرکز باشد، در بسیاری از موارد به شاخصی برای ارزش‌گذاری و آزمونی برای سنجش ائیدولوژیک تقلیل یافته است. پیروزی ــ هر چند کوچک ــ که در تضمین حق ورود زنان به استادیوم‌های فوتبال به دست آمد، فرصتی است برای ارزیابی اتفاقات درستی که به این پیروزی انجامید و اینکه چگونه می توان از این تحولات کوچک برای تحقق تحولات بعدی الگو برداری کرد.

نسبت به سایر جنبش‌های اجتماعی که برای تغییر رفتار حکومت ایران تلاش می کنند، این جنبش از آغاز بر پایه‌ای بهتر برای موفقیت استوار شد، به این دلیل که پیشبرد آن توسط ایرانیان داخل کشور و برای آنها انجام شد. نیل به این هدف هزینه عظیمی در برداشت؛ علاوه بر تمام زنان هوادار فوتبال که در تلاش خود برای به دست آوردن حقوق برابر جرأت کردند که از دستورات مقامهای حکومت سرپیچی کنند و به این خاطر زندانی هم شدند، حد نهایت آن، قربانی شدن سحر خدایاری، معروف به دختر آبی بود. تلاشهای آنها توسط سازمان‌های حقوق بشری و رسانه‌های برون مرزی که مبارزه این زنان برای حقوق برابر را بازتاب دادند تقویت شد. مجموع این تلاشها به اهرمی برای اعمال فشار افکار عمومی بر فیفا تبدیل شد. فیفا نیز به نوبه خود از وزن فدراسیون جهانی برای اعمال فشار بر مقامات ایران استفاده کرد تا این تغییر ایجاد شود.

البته فشار فیفا تنها به این خاطر موثر بود که ایران در این بازی یک سهمی داشت، یعنی به معنای واقعی کلمه امکان حضورش در بازی‌های بین‌المللی در گرو حل این مسئله بود. فرض کنید مثل بسیاری از تشکلها، شرکتها و حتی دولت‌هایی که هیچ ارتباطی با ایران ندارند و در نتیجه هیچ مشوقی هم برای مجاب کردن مقامات ایران به نرمش ندارند، رابطه فیفا هم بواسطه تحریمها با ایران قطع شده بود. در مورد ایران، طبق گفته مشهور جرج دبلیو بوش، آمریکا با اعمال تحریم، خود را از تاثیرگذاری بر داخل ایران محروم کرده است. و حالا، به بواسطه نظام تحریم‌های یک جانبه‌ای که توسط دولت ترامپ علیه ایران اعمال شده، آمریکا تضمین کرده که بخش اعظم سایر کشورهای جهان هم از تاثیرگذاری بر داخل ایران محروم شوند. در نتیجه، به جای آنکه بتوانند از موفقیت فیفا در تاثیرگذاری بر سیاستهای حکومت ایران الگو برداری کنند، مجموعه‌هایی که مایلند تغییری در رفتار حکومت ایران ایجاد کنند تنها می توانند همان کاری را بکنند که دولت آمریکا می کند: یعنی صدور اولتیماتوم و طرح درخواست‌های تخیلی، بدون ارائه مشوقی جز تهدید به اعمال مجازات‌های حتی شدیدتر، تهدیداتی که حکومت ایران تصمیم گرفته با آنها سر کند.
حالا تصور کنید که ایالات متحده به توافق هسته‌ای با ایران پایبند مانده بود، شرکت‌های آمریکایی حضوری تجاری در ایران داشتند، موسسات آموزشی دو کشور برای تسهیل ارتباطات آکادمیک می کوشیدند و دولتهای ایران و آمریکا در عرصه‌های علمی و پروژه‌های زیست محیطی با یکدیگر همکاری داشتند. اگر احتمالی بود که آن شرکتها، موسسات آموزشی و سایر نهادهای مشترک، همانند فیفا تهدید به قطع ارتباط کنند، در آن صورت ایران چیزی برای از دست دادن داشت. در عوض سیاست آمریکا در منزوی کردن ایران شرایطی ایجاد کرده که دولت ایران چیزی برای از دست دادن ندارد.

البته پیش از راهیابی زنان به استادیوم‌ها، پیروزی‌های دیگری در حوزه حقوق بشر به دست آمد. سازمان نایاک از تعیین یک گزارشگر حقوق بشر در سال ۲۰۱۱ برای ایران حمایت کرد. این تلاش یک تفاوت فرخنده با انواع فعالیتهای حقوق بشری معمول که ما در ایالات متحده شاهد آن هستیم دارد، فعالیتهایی که بعضا ً در حد صدور بیانیه‌های محکومیت، ژستهای سمبولیک یا شعارهای تحریک آمیز محدود می شود، اقداماتی که بعید است در رهبری هیچ کشوری انگیزه‌ای برای تغییر رفتار ایجاد کند. با تعیین گزارشکر ویژه حقوق بشر، سازمان ملل متحد یک مجرای ارتباطی مورد نیاز ایجاد کرد که مقامات ایرانی، بعد از سالها مقاومت، در نهایت آنرا پذیرفتند. هر چند به ندرت به آن اشاره می شود، اما تلاش‌های گزارشگر حقوق بشر سازمان ملل به پایان دادن به مجازات اعدام برای جرائم مواد مخدر کمک کرده و چون از این اتهام برای تسویه حساب‌های سیاسی و سرکوب مخالفان هم استفاده می‌شد، عملا ً جان هزاران نفر را نجات داده است. اینها پیروزی‌های کوچکی هستند که برای ایجاد تغییر به آنها نیاز است. تاثیر این اقدامات به مراتب بیشتر از بیانیه‌های ایدئولوژیک و محکومیت‌های از راه دور احساس می شوند.

بهترین کاری که ما می توانیم به عنوان ایرانی ساکن خارج از کشور و مدافع توسعه اجتماعی در ایران انجام دهیم، تشویق و ترغیب برقراری گفتمان چند جانبه، دو جانبه، غیر رسمی و هر نوع دیالوگ ممکن با ایران است، تا فضاهایی واقعی برای گفتگو درباره حقوق بشر ایجاد شود همراه با نتایج واقعی، ورای ژست‌های تو خالی. پایان دادن به انزوای اقتصادی ایران و ارتباط با این کشور موجب می‌شود که حکومت ایران در قبال عدم پاسداشت استانداردهای حقوق بشری، چیزی برای از دست دادن داشته باشد. این تحول اگر با اطلاع رسانی نسبت به موارد نقض حقوق بشر همراه باشد می تواند تلاش‌های فعالانی که در درون کشور برای ارتقای حقوق بشر تلاش می کنند را تقویت کند. آنچه که ما نمی‌توانیم انجام دهیم، مگر آنکه بخواهیم به جامعه مدنی ایران بیشتر لطمه بزنیم، مصادره به مطلوب تلاش‌ها و جنبش‌های مردم ایران است، و یا اینکه اجازه بدهیم دیگران برای مقاصد پنهان خود از این تلاشها سوء استفاده کنند.

به عنوان آمریکایی‌های ایرانی‌تباری که مشتاق کمک به تسریع پیشرفت مدنی در ایران هستیم، ما باید اینجا در ایالات متحده از دولت آمریکا به خاطر اقداماتش حسابرسی کنیم. هرچند عدم وجود روابط دیپلماتیک رسمی بین ایالات متحده و ایران، تاثیر ما را از ده‌ها هزار کیلومتر فاصله محدود می کند، اما ما می توانیم از دولت ایالات متحده بخواهیم تا با اقدامات سنجیده این امکان را برای ما فراهم کند که بتوانیم بخشی از تلاش‌های مشروع برای متعهد کردن دولت‌ها، از جمله دولت ایران، به استانداردهای جهانی باشیم.

برای آنکه ایرانیان بتوانند به حقوق بشری که حقشان است برسند، کارهای زیادی هست که باید انجام شود. به عنوان یک تشکل خارج از کشور، ما باید نسبت به آنهایی که داخل کشور کار واقعی را انجام می دهند، رویکردی راهبردی و توأم با شکیبایی اتخاذ کنیم. این دستاورد مهم زنان ایرانی به ما نشان داد که نه تنها در ایران راه پیشرفت وجود دارد، بلکه فداکاری صبورانه مردم ایران، همراه با حمایت متواضعانه خارج از کشور ــ در قبال طرح مطالبات حداکثری ــ می‌تواند تدریجا به شیرین‌ترین پیروزی‌ها منجر شود.

NIAC Statement on Increased U.S. Restrictions on Humanitarian Trade with Iran

NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement on the Treasury Department’s adding new burdens to humanitarian trade with Iran:

“The Trump administration has sounded the death knell for humanitarian trade with Iran. Through its action today, the administration has made clear that the Iranian people are in the cross-hairs of their ongoing economic war against Iran and that the deliberate targeting of food and medicine to the Iranian people is fair game. This is a shameful development—one that makes the United States the equivalent of human rights violators that similarly target humanitarian goods in order to achieve their political objectives. 

“By designating Iran a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Trump administration has severed what limited remaining ties Iran has to the global financial system. The consequences have long been clear. Foreign banks have warned the U.S. Treasury Department that Iran’s designation under Section 311 will force them to stop processing humanitarian-related transactions in the future. Yet, the Trump administration has accepted, if not deliberately encouraged, those consequences.  

“The Trump administration seeks to save public face for its devastating action by feigning the creation of a ‘humanitarian channel’ by which foreign banks can process transactions. But this humanitarian channel functions more like a sanctions wall, erecting stringent conditions on foreign bank participation in humanitarian trade with Iran. Let’s be clear: There is unlikely to be a single banker in the world that will accept these conditions and participate in the trade. The Trump administration is surely aware of this fact, and its humanitarian channel should be viewed as nothing more than farce. 

“The Trump administration has consistently undertaken action to choke off humanitarian trade with Iran, including by reimposing nuclear sanctions against Iran and designating financial entities vital to humanitarian trade – like Bank Parsian and the Central Bank of Iran – under terrorism authorities. Today’s announcement does nothing to alleviate the real challenges sanctions pose to humanitarian trade, and in fact add new burdens apparently intended to end the provision of life-saving medicine to Iran. Congress and the public need to step up to reverse this brazen and outrageous action.”