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.”

Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

Week of October 7th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

On October 10th, for the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were allowed inside Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a soccer match. Roughly 4,000 women attended the game, which was a World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia.

Even though the number of tickets allotted for women was limited, the number of women attendees outnumbered men. Four seating sections in the stadium were reserved for women, and a fifth was opened as the match began.

During the game, some female spectators chanted slogans in support of the “Blue Girl,” or Sahar Khodayari. Read more about her self-immolation and the outrage it spurred in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered.

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, said the administration supported women going to soccer stadiums. He stated: “We must try to increase our experiences in this regard that result in societal changes.”

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Protests Shake Western Iranian City

On October 1st, residents of the Chenar-e Mahmudi village in Western Iran protested outside of their county’s governorate building. The protesters said that a local physician used syringes infected with HIV to conduct blood-sugar tests and spread HIV in the village.

The next day, judicial authorities in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province took into custody a physician from Chenar-e Mahmudi and opened a judicial case. However, government authorities subsequently strongly denied that infected syringes had spread HIV in the village.

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesman, denied the claim that infected syringes were used in the village, stating: “I totally deny that any infected syringes were used by a Health Ministry physician. This claim is not correct in any way.”

Rabiee added that the arrested physician, whose name has not been made public, was being kept in custody for his own safety. However, he claimed the physician’s original arrest contributed to the ensuing unrest. He asserted that the source of the eventual unrest was that a physician in the village had ordered tests to diagnose why a patient had a weak immune system.

Rabiee said: “Events went astray when one of our good health workers, without any questions asked of him, was arrested by the judicial authority in the province.”

Rabiee claimed that “incorrect news” started from this point and that the physician was now being held for safety reasons. After the physician’s arrest, Health Minister Saeed Namaki wrote a letter to the Justice Minister and said the cause of HIV infections in the village was not infected syringes, but “addicts that inject and people with undesirable relations.”

Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, a member of the parliament’s health and treatment grouping, said that the Chenar-e Mahmudi village had a population of roughly 1,800, with 26 diagnosed with HIV. Eqbal Abbasi, the governor of the province also said that less than five percent of the village’s population were afflicted with HIV.

Many residents in the village were not convinced and called for the resignation of the health minister. In protests, they chanted that they were “insulted” by the government response.

In response, provincial governor Abbasi stated: “We are seeking to resolve the issue and asked the people to trust officials and health teams and be certain that this issue will be resolved.”

He added: “Strong and standardized drugs have been prepared and will be supplied … no one intended to insult the people of this region. If insults have occurred, I apologize to the people.”

Abbasi further blamed “social media” campaigns for stirring unrest, stating: “Scientific experiment show that the statistics that are being spread on social media are not correct. They highlight these things to make people hopeless and to incite them into protesting. People should not pay attention to these statistics.”

However, protests continued and on October 5th, protesters gathered outside governorate building in the city of Lordegan, close to the village. They clashed with security forces, damaged the governorate building, and set fire to the office of the city’s Friday Prayer leader. According to official outlets, several of the protestors were arrested.

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Rouhani Feuds with Guardian Council Over Parliamentary Election

President Rouhani has said that Iran’s first post-revolutionary parliament was the “best parliament” and its election was the “best election.” This parliament was elected in March 1980 and was comprised of a wide-range of political groups, including the National Front, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, and other groups that were eventually excised by the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani said of the first post-1979 parliament: “Everyone from different factions came and registered. Even the munafiqeen (the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK) registered in that election. So did other groups like the Freedom Movement and the National Front. The best election and the best parliament were the result of this.”

Rouhani mentioned that the Guardian Council—which vets candidates running for office—did not exist at that time. He stated: “[At that time] supervision did not exist like this [today]. Even the Guardian Council or all these supervisory offices did not exist and everyone from different factions participated.”

Rouhani said that for Iran’s upcoming February 2020 parliamentary elections, all political factions should be allowed to participate. He said: “We have to allow all factions to feel victorious. We have to allow everyone the opportunity to participate in this assembly.”

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, strongly censured Rouhani for his remarks. He said that Rouhani was “ignoring the constitution” and was making a “call to not abide by the law.”

Under the current Iranian constitution, the Guardian Council vets candidates seeking political officials, approves the results of elections, and approves the date of elections. The exception is elections for city councils.

In past elections, the Guardian Council has disqualified many candidates, especially reformists and those critical of the ruling political system. During the 2016 parliamentary election, widespread disqualifications forced reformists to run lesser known and independent candidates.

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Iranian Oil Tanker Attacked in Red Sea

The National Iranian Tanker Company has reported that one of its tankers in the Red Sea has been attacked. In a statement, the company said the tanker was likely hit by two missiles. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Iran is investigating the attacks on its ships in the Red Sea and the “factors” that are involved.

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Iran Opposes Turkish Incursion in Syria

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has released a statement opposing any form of Turkish military incursion in Syria. The statement read: “If such an action happens, not only will it not resolve Turkish security concerns, but it will also cause widespread human and material costs and for this reason, the Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any potential military operation.”

The statement also said the presence of U.S. troops in Syria was “illegitimate” and U.S. forces should have been withdrawn from Syria “far sooner.” It added that Iran was “closely” following the “worrying news” of a potential Turkish military incursion into Syrian territory.

The statement also called for “immediate contact between Turkish and Syrian officials.” Before the statement was released, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke on the night of October 7th.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Cavusoglu-Zarif call covered the “most recent developments in northeast Syria.” The Iranian foreign ministry said the 1998 “Adana Agreement” was an “appropriate” basis for renewed Syria-Turkey talks.

The “Adana Agreement” was reached between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. Iran and Egypt mediated the negotiations at the time.

Based on the Adana Agreement, Turkey and Syria agreed to prevent “terrorist groups” from entering each other’s territory. Under the Adana Agreement, Turkey also has the right to enter within five kilometers inside Syrian territory to confront terrorist groups.

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Khamenei Reiterates Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated his opposition to Iran building nuclear weapons. He declared in a speech: “Even though we could have taken steps in this path, based on the rules of our dear Islam, we have declared the use of this weapon to be definitely forbidden according to Sharia (Islamic law). As such, there is no need to pay costs for producing or maintaining weapons that are categorically forbidden to be used.”

Khamenei added: “The courageous and absolute position of the Iranian government is not pay costs for building nuclear weapons.” Khamenei made a similar remark in May.

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Zarif Welcomes Diplomacy with Saudi Arabia

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed openness for negotiations with Saudi Arabia but stressed the Saudis must stop “killing people.” He stated: “In the current situation where the Saudis are interested in negotiations with Iran, if they put regional issues on the negotiating table rather than killing people, they will definitely have the Islamic Republic along with them.”

Zarif added: “The Foreign Ministry has always been ready for cooperation with our neighbors for regional security, and has official announced this.”

Recently, the Houthis in Yemen stated that if Saudi Arabia ceases its attacks in Yemen, they will also end their missile and drone attacks inside Saudi territory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that he viewed this proposal positively.

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Iranian Women Buy Tickets for Soccer Match

Week of September 30rd, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iranian Women Buy Tickets for Soccer Match

Iranian women have been allowed to purchase tickets to watch an upcoming soccer match between the national teams of Iran and Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi stadium. As of October 4th, 3,500 seats in the stadium were allotted for women, which sold out immediately. This comes roughly one month after the self-immolation of Sahar Khodayari, a young woman who tried to enter a soccer match in Tehran.

On Persian social media, the hashtag “Come to the Stadium with Me” began trending. The government outlet ISNA stated: “Given the reception by women, more seats must be made available for women.”

The move to allow women to watch the Cambodia game comes after pressure from Fifa. After Khodayari’s death, Fifa said Iranian women were engaged in a “legitimate struggle to be allowed to watch soccer games in stadiums and called on the Iranian government to give Iranian women “freedom and security” to attend matches.

Youri Djorkaeff, Fifa’s executive officer, will be leading a Fifa delegation to Tehran to oversee the Cambodia game and the attendance of women at the match. Previously, a Fifa official had said that Iranian authorities had given a guarantee that women would be able to attend the match.

Despite there being no law forbidding women from watching soccer matches in stadiums, women have largely been prevented from doing so since the 1979 revolution. In recent years, there have been a few cases of women being allowed to enter Azadi stadium to watch soccer games. For years, Iranian women’s rights activists have campaigned to lift the ban, and have met pushback from Islamic Republic authorities and some clerics.

An official from Iran’s Football Federation has said no decisions have been made on allowing women to attend matches of Iranian domestic leagues.

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New Law Expands Citizenship for Children with Foreign Fathers

The Guardian Council has approved a bill for children of Iranian mothers and foreign fathers to apply for Iranian citizenship, making it law. The Guardian Council first conditionally approved the parliament’s bill on this issue in June.

However, at the time, the Guardian Council faulted the parliamentary bill for what it said was not properly vetting the candidates for citizenship for security problems. The bill then returned to the parliament to be amended.

In the new version of the bill that was passed by the Guardian Council, both the Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC’s intelligence agency must certify the candidates for Iranian citizenship. The previous version of the bill that the Guardian Council rejected made no mention of the IRGC’s intelligence agency and only referenced the Intelligence Ministry.

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Rouhani Welcomes French Proposal, Discusses Potential for P5+1 Talks

President Rouhani blamed the Trump administration for the failure of diplomatic efforts for them to meet during the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Rouhani stated: “America in private messages to the Europeans said it was ready, but then in an interview [the Trump White House] said it will increase sanctions.”

Rouhani thanked French President Macron for his efforts to mediate U.S.-Iran tensions: “We cooperated and the person that prevented a result was the White House. Iran, Paris, Tokyo or the other countries were not to blame.”

Rouhani emphasized that the diplomatic “path was not over.” He stated: “Whenever the rights of the Iranian nation are respected and attention is paid to the dignity of the Iranian nation and they are ready to pay attention to the honor of this nation, the path is not closed. Again the path is open.”

Rouhani said the sides were close to a “final solution” at the UNGA. He said: “We were close to diplomacy and a final solution. But the U.S. government prevented this. The U.S. government is directly responsible for dialogue in New York not materializing.”

Rouhani said all sides were endeavoring to recreate the P5+1 format—comprised of the U.S., China, Russia, the UK, France, and Germany—for talks with Iran. He stated: “An important issue occurred in this regard. The P5+1 that from the view of the anti-Iranians was dead and Israel, the reactionary regional countries, and the White House were saying that the P5+1 is dead, [but] everyone gathered for the P5+1 [at the UNGA].”

Rouhani also said that a four-point French proposal to relaunch U.S.-Iran negotiations was “acceptable.” Rouhani said of the proposal: “It returns to Iran not pursuing nuclear weapons, which we have always said [that we won’t], for Iran to help regional peace and peace in regional waterways, which we have always helped with. [And] America puts aside all sanctions and the selling of our oil is immediately started and we receive the money from our oil [exports].”

Rouhani said these principles of the French proposal were first “mentioned to the Americans” then to Iran. He added: “We accept roughly the general framework Europe was seeking and insisted on, with changes in passages.”

Rouhani went on: “We have always sought security in the region and have never been after nuclear weapons and they should remove sanctions and let Iran freely engage in trade activities.”

Rouhani then walked back his earlier comment by saying a solution was far off at the UNGA. He stated: “What happened in New York, on the surface it is possible that some might think that a solution had been reached, but there was some distance to a resolution of the problem. A very important matter cannot be completed in a matter of hours and during a short period without taking into consideration all aspects and its results and how they wanted to take advantage at that juncture.”

Rouhani rebuked Trump for reportedly giving a private message to the Europeans saying he was ready for negotiations while simultaneously increasing sanctions. He said: “Our Iranian vigilance and cleverness demands of us that we not fall for the trick of private messages.”

However, Rouhani emphasized that Iran would continue seeking diplomacy and that there was “no dead-end.” He proclaimed: “In my view the path is open and the whole world has concluded that America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was a mistake and America didn’t reach any result.”

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Khamenei Calls for Further Reductions in JCPOA Compliance

Ayatollah Khamenei declared that Iran would continue to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. He was speaking at a gathering of senior IRGC commanders.

Khamenei said Iran must continue to reduce compliance with the JCPOA until it reaches a “desirable result”. He stated: “On the nuclear issue, we will continue reducing our compliance and we have to continue with full seriousness. The responsibility is with the Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran]. These reductions in compliance which the [Rouhani] administration has announced must be precisely, fully, and comprehensively completed and continued until we reach a desirable result.”

Khamenei then proclaimed that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy had failed. He said: “The Americans have failed in the maximum pressure policy. They dreamed that if they concentrated maximum pressure on Iran, the Islamic Republic would be forced to capitulate.”

Khamenei also rebuked the Trump administration’s efforts to meet with Iranian officials at the UNGA: “Recently, in order to create the symbolic conditions for Iran’s surrender and force our president to a meeting they pleaded and made their European friends their mediators. At the end, they weren’t successful and this policy will fail until the end.”

Khamenei also warned the IRGC commanders of a “great event” and called on them to be prepared. He stated: “Preserve your readiness to confront a great event. This is one of the qualities of the Revolutionary Guards. From when it was first created, the Guards have been on the frontlines of facing great events.”

Khamenei went on to call on the IRGC commanders to have a “wide geographic perspective.” He stated: “It shouldn’t be that we select a parameter and then we don’t consider it our work to see who is behind this wall and what threats exist.”

Khamenei stressed the importance of what he called Iran’s “strategic depth,” stating: “This wide view beyond borders, this extending of strategic depth, sometimes is more important than the most vital things for the country.”

Khamenei told the IRGC commanders to “not fear the enemy” but to have “realistic assessments.” He stated: “Never fear the enemy but be completely vigilant and have realistic and correct assessments of the enemy.”

Khamenei then said the Islamic Republic must continue a “revolutionary path,” stating: “From its inception, the Islamic Republic has challenged the dominant system [the U.S.] and from now on too it will never surrender to the bullies of the world and it will definitely continue its revolutionary path and confronting the dominance-seekers.”

Khamenei also asserted that Iran’s economic situation has stabilized despite continued U.S. maximum pressure: “Today, the country’s authorities report that we have had relative economic growth in the first six months of this year.”

Khamenei said that sanctions on Iran’s oil exports were a “temporary” problem and benefited Iran strategically. He proclaimed: “If the right actions are taken, we can create a long-term advantage out of this short-term problem, meaning freeing the country’s budget from oil.”

Khamenei added: “The pressure of sanctions is tactical, but strategically it has benefited us.”

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Iran’s Nuclear Agency Hints at Next Action

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) stated that Iran will continue to reduce its compliance with the JCPOA. An AEOI statement asserted that Iran’s JCPOA breaches were legally allowed by the agreement and aimed at creating a “balance in the commitments of the countries on the other side.” It added that Iran would return to full JCPOA compliance “if the other sides respect the deal and practically implement their commitments.”

The statement added that the AEOI’s next step to reduce Iran’s JCPOA compliance will “stun” outside observers. It stated: “We are sure that just as most international officials and specialists were stunned over the achievements of the AEOI such as it producing 20-percent fuel [in 2011], in the near future they will be astonished by the achievements of Iranian specialists in the field of peaceful nuclear technology.”

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IRGC Chief Issues Threatening Rhetoric on Israel

Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s chief commander, said at the opening of an IRGC conference that Israel would be “eliminated from the world’s geography.” He stated: “In the first step of the Islamic Revolution [the first 40 years up until February 2019], we prepared the capability for the destruction of the fake Zionist regime. But in the second step, this sinister regime must be eliminated from the world’s geography. This is no longer an ideal or dream and is a goal that is achievable.”

However, in another speech a few days later, Salami emphasized what he said was Iran’s deterrence capabilities: He stated: “Today, friends and enemies have discovered, the deterrence capabilities of the Islamic Revolution have neared a peak. Not only has the credibility of America’s threats and power strongly decreased, but the Zionist regime is no longer a threat. Meaning not only does it not have the size of a credible threat, but it knows that if it makes the smallest mistake, it would be its last mistake. Because any new war will result in the disappearance of this regime from the political geography of the world.”

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Rouhani’s Brother Sentenced to Prison

President Rouhani’s brother Hossein Fereydoon was sentenced to five years in prison. Judiciary Spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili said it was for “taking a bribe.”

Fereydoon was a close confidant of Rouhani during the nuclear negotiations. He joined some of the negotiations and was described as Rouhain’s “eyes and ears” in the talks.

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, said the ruling showed the judiciary’s independence but also criticized the judiciary’s handling of the case. He stated: “This sentence for Mr. Fereydoon is a decision taken by the judiciary and we hope it is a just decision. Every citizen has a right to appeal their sentence and so does Mr. Fereydoon.” He added: “The question arises how did the details of this cases reach some websites and some wrong signals were given? I believe some have to be accountable for this.”

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Official Confirms Overtures from Saudi Arabia

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, confirmed a diplomatic overture from Saudi Arabia. He stated: “President Rouhani was given messages by some world leaders from the Saudis. But Iran needs to see signs of this. If the Saudis really are trying to change their behavior, Iran would welcome this.”

He added: “Messages from Saudi Arabia have reached us but we have to know the public message and one message of this can be ending attacks on Yemen.”

He further stated: “A part of the Hormuz Peace Endeavor is working with neighbors like Saudi Arabia, so Iran welcome this process.”

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Rouhani Says US Open to Sanctions Removal

Week of September 23rd, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

UN General Assembly Ends Without US-Iran Meeting

The JCPOA’s Joint Commission met at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The meeting including the foreign ministers of Iran and the remaining parties to the nuclear deal and EU Foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini.

Mogherini said the meeting was focused on “preserving the nuclear deal and overcoming the current problems.” She called on Iran to return to full compliance with the deal and said Iran’s breaches so far were “reversible.”

During the UN General Assembly (UNGA), President Rouhani met simultaneously with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. All three European leaders also met with Trump as part of efforts to mediate between the U.S. and Iran and facilitate a Trump-Rouhani meeting.

On September 24th, after meeting Rouhani, Macron called for broader negotiations with Iran, stating: “We need to return to the negotiation table for frank and tough talks on Iran’s nuclear activities, regional actions, and ballistic missile program and at the same time have a more open approach on the nature of sanctions … I am hopeful that in the next hours we will make some progress.”

Macron added: “I believe the conditions have been created for a quick return to negotiations. There is mutual interest in progress and creating the conditions for reducing tensions and reaching a long-term agreement. But this depends on the will of both sides.”

Rouhani said the same day that if sanctions were removed, he would be ready to discuss “small changes” in the JCPOA. Rouhani clarified this would be in the direction of a proposal announced by Foreign Minister Zarif, involving Iran ratifying the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreements—allowing for permanent intrusive nuclear inspections—in exchange for the U.S. Congress ratifying the JCPOA and the removal of U.S. sanctions.

During his UNGA speech, Rouhani declared that Iran’s answer to negotiations while under sanctions was no. Rouhani stressed that Iran will “never negotiate with an enemy that wants to force it to surrender with weapons of poverty, pressure and sanctions.”

Rouhani called on the U.S. to “halt sanctions so that the path to dialogue can be opened.” Rouhani said that the U.S. could abide by the deal’s framework without formally returning to it, stating: “If you are sensitive to the name of the JCPOA, well, then you can return to its framework and abide by the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.”

Rouhani also warned that Iran’s “patience” had its limits, stating: “Iran’s patience has limits. When America doesn’t respect a UN Security Council resolution, when Europe puts on display its incapability, the only path is to rely on our own national honor, pride, and power.”

Rouhani also said the Middle East was on the “edge of a cliff” and “one mistake can create a massive fire.” Rouhani announced an effort to create a coalition to provide for “security, peace, stability, and development in the Persian Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz.” He dubbed it the “Hormuz Peace Endeavor,” or HOPE.

At a press conference shortly before he left New York, Rouhani called on the U.S. to rebuild trust. He stated: “What is important now is that America rebuilds the trust it has damaged.”

Rouhani said that U.S. sanctions had made America more unpopular in Iran. He said that the “aim” of U.S. sanctions was “imposing pressure on the Iranian people and separating the Iranian people from the [Iranian] government, but the only result has been increasing the distance between the Iranian people and the U.S. government.”

Rouhani also discussed the issue of U.S. citizens held in Iran and said the “ball was in America’s court.” Rouhani said that “twice” Iran has had “discussions” with the Trump administration about the prisoners, but that “America didn’t abide by its commitments.”

Rouhani said Iran’s recent release of the Lebanese national Nizar Zakka was a “greenlight’ to the U.S. government. He added: “The ball is in America’s court.”

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Rouhani Says U.S. Open to Sanctions Removal

At a press conference in Tehran after returning from New York, President Rouhani said the U.S. had messaged its willingness to remove all sanctions. Rouhani stated: “The Americans messaged practically all European and non-European leaders that we are ready for negotiations [with Iran]. The American request previously was for bilateral negotiations, meaning the two presidents negotiate together, and we rejected this multiple times.”

Rouhani cited European leaders as telling him that after Iran sought multilateral talks within the P5+1 framework, the U.S. said it was willing to remove “all sanctions.” Rouhani stated: “The German chancellor, British prime minister, and French president were all at New York and all insisted that this meeting take place and that America says it will remove sanctions.”

Rouhani said one of the issues was which sanctions would be removed in which order. He said, continuing his citation of European officials, that U.S. officials “explicitly said that we will remove all sanctions.”

However, Rouhani said, the “way this would be done was not acceptable.” He then rejected again negotiations “under the conditions” of sanctions and maximum pressure.

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Protesting Workers Attacked & Detained

Detained workers of the HEPCO company in the city of Arak have been released. 29 workers had staged a protest on September 25th over unpaid wages and were forcibly dispersed and arrested. Six of the workers have been released after paying bail. Many were injured after being attacked by security forces. 

The workers had announced that starting on September 15th, they would stage 10 days of protests. According to BBC Persian, they blocked the “north-south railway” in Iran during their protest. After the protest, the Ministry of Labor announced that within one week, the workers’ “pensions” would be paid. 

HEPCO was privatized in 2007 and its workers are the most recent disaffected employees of recently-privatized firms to protest.  Last year, workers at the Haft Tapeh company and the Ahvaz Steel company also protested unpaid wages and poor conditions after the companies underwent botched privatizations.

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Rouhani Confirms Saudi Diplomatic Overture

Hassan Rouhani confirmed at a New York press conference that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is attempting to mediate Iran-Saudi tensions. Before arriving in New York for the UN General Assembly, Khan met with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) in Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani affirmed that Khan carried a message from MBS for him. Rouhani said his conversation with Khan dealt with the war in Yemen and armed groups that have launched terrorist attacks inside Iran. 

Rouhani was answering a Lebanese reporter’s question, who asked: “Recently Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, delivered a message to you from Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Donald Trump. Is Saudi Arabia prepared to negotiate to end its support for separatists and terrorists in Iran? Is it possible that Iran and Saudi Arabia will negotiate about Yemen?”

Rouhani said in response, “All your remarks are correct.” Rouhani added about potential Iran-Saudi negotiations over Yemen: “The major problem of Iran with Saudi Arabia has been the issue of the Yemen war. If a ceasefire pervades, the problems between the two countries will diminish quicker.”

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Khamenei Blasts Europe

Ayatollah Khamenei said that the words of European governments were “empty.” He stated: “The objectives behind the enmity of the Europeans with the Islamic Republic is not fundamentally different from America’s enmity. Europeans on the surface appear as mediators and say a lot of words but they are all empty.”

Khamenei said Iranian diplomats can continue to engage Europe. However, he said that because European countries had “failed” to take “practical actions” to negate U.S. sanctions, “there should absolutely be no hope or trust in them.”

Khamenei’s remarks come after a joint statement by three European countries blaming Iran for the strikes on Saudi oil facilities and calling for broader negotiations. The statement by the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany called for a new deal with Iran that dealt with its nuclear, regional, and missile activities.

Defense Minister Amir Hatami forcefully dismissed the potential for negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missile program. He stated that “increasing Iran’s missile capabilities” was supported by national consensus.

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Officials Deny Saudi Attack, Say Houthi Capabilities Increasing

President Rouhani denied Iranian involvement in the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries and said Yemen had a right to defend itself. Rouhani discussed the “killing of the innocent people  of Yemen and the bombing of hospitals and schools,” and stated: “The enemies of the region do not want a nation to respond to the fires they have lit and this is as the Yemen nation is great, alert, and awake.”

Rouhani condemned U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and said they exposed a double standard. He stated: “When the American president confesses that Saudi Arabia last year spent $400 billion in the United States, no one can say anything. But when the Yemeni people, in response to all this aggression, respond once and hit a place, it creates this much anger.”

Rouhani said Iran seeks good relations with all its Persian Gulf neighbors: “The Islamic Republic of Iran, just as it has friendly relations with all its neighbors to its north, east, and west, seeks friendly relations with its southern neighbors.”

Mohammad Bagheri, the Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, has said that Houthi forces in Yemen have the weapons to shoot down “strategic enemy aircraft.” He stated: “Today the Yemenis have reached a place that they have weapons that shoot down strategic enemy aircraft. This has made the enemy conclude that it has no choice but to run away from the Yemen quagmire.”

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Khamenei Says Iran Must Disprove Efficacy of “Maximum Pressure”

Ayatollah Khamenei stated that the U.S. aim with negotiations was to impose its demands and prove the efficacy of its “maximum pressure” policy. Khamenei said that the Iranian people “didn’t give a damn” about “maximum pressure” and that the Islamic Republic’s officials were united in not conducting negotiations at any level with the United States.

Khamenei said that Iran shouldn’t place its hopes in foreign states, but stressed he supported dialogue with the world. He stated: “This doesn’t mean that we don’t have relationships with the governments of the world. We support relations, dialogue, and having meetings but we shouldn’t make the affairs of the country dependent on meetings with others.”

He added: “Use the opportunities of the world as much as possible, but the cures are inside the country and solving problems is in the hands of the people.” 

Khamenei said that the U.S. was trying to deceive Iran with its call for negotiations. He stated: “Sometimes they say negotiations without preconditions and other times they say negotiations with 12 conditions. Such statements reflect either their incoherent policies or are a trick to confuse the other side. However, the Islamic Republic will not become confused because our path is clear and we know what we’re doing.”

Khamenei said the U.S. aim with negotiations was not to find “just solutions,” but to impose its “insulting demands.” Khamenei said that U.S. regional allies could be talked to in such a way, but not the Islamic Republic. He stated: “For these types of negotiations, they should go after those same people who act like their cows to be milked.”

He added: “The Islamic Republic is a republic of the faithful, a republic of the Muslims of God, a republic of honor.”

Khamenei said the goal of “maximum pressure” was to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees and to force it to be subservient. He said the Trump administration’s goal was to prove that maximum pressure was a success and that Iranian officials were forced to come to a negotiation table despite saying they would not.

He said the Trump administration wanted to entrench “maximum pressure” as the Western policy towards Iran, stating: “The U.S. regime is to make maximum pressure the definitive policy and only approach with Iran and entrench this among its domestic rivals and for the Europeans.”

Khamenei explained why he believes Iran cannot validate the maximum pressure policy: “If the enemy is able to prove that maximum pressure is effective on Iran, Iran and the Iranian people will never know comfort. Because behind all of America’s arrogant policies will be this policy [of maximum pressure]. From then on, whatever they demand of the Islamic Republic in a bullying way … if we say no they will again start maximum pressure.”

Khamenei then said that Iran must disprove the efficacy of “maximum pressure.” He stated: “We have to prove that the maximum pressure policy against the Iranian people has no value.”

Khamenei summarized his remarks on negotiations with the U.S. in two points. The first is that “negotiations with America mean the imposition of their demands on the Islamic Republic.” The second that “negotiations mean the success of America’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy.”

He added: “It is for these reasons that the country’s officials from the president to the foreign minister and others have with one voice announced that we won’t negotiations with America not on a bilateral or multilateral basis.”

Khamenei then laid out the conditions for U.S.-Iran negotiations, saying it required a U.S. return to the JCPOA. He declared: “When America takes back its words and repents and returns to the nuclear agreement it violated, then with the group of countries that are part of the agreement and talk with Iran, America can also participate. But without this, no negotiations at any level will occur between U.S. and Iranian officials whether in New York or anywhere else.” 

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