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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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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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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Iran Reacts to Bolton’s Ouster & the Blue Girl’s Death

Week of September 9th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Passing of “Blue Girl” Following Self-Immolation Spurs Outrage

The death by self-immolation of Sahar Khodayari, a young woman who tried to enter a soccer match in Tehran, has sparked an outcry in Iran. Her suicide was widely mourned on Persian social media and used as a rallying cry against Iran’s soccer stadium ban against women. Parliamentarians, Rouhani administration officials, and prominent Iranian soccer players and leagues also commented on her death.

Citing an interview with Sahar’s sister, BBC Persian explained the background to Sahar’s suicide. She was first arrested in March of this year while trying to enter Tehran’s Azadi stadium to watch a match between the Iranian club Team Esteghlal and the Emirati team al-Ain.

According to her sister, Sahar was disguised as a man in order to enter the stadium but after seeing guards doing body checks, she announced that she was a woman. She was then arrested and her bail was set at 50 million tomans (roughly five thousand dollars). She was held for two days until her family was able to come up with the money.

According to her sister, last week Sahar went to a court in Tehran regarding her case, but the court date was cancelled due to an emergency for the judge. Sahar then went to retrieve her cell phone from the court authorities. It was at this point that she heard that she could be sentenced to six months in prison if she was charged.

Sahar’s sister stated: “She went to the courthouse to get her cell phone. It seems that over there she heard from someone that she would be imprisoned for six months.”

According to Sahar’s sister, she then set herself on fire with gasoline outside of the court building. She received third degree burns on 90 percent of her body and was taken to a hospital. She passed away one week later. Sahar’s father has denied rumors that the family was not given her body for burial. It is unclear if the family has come under pressure from authorities. 

According to her sister, Sahar suffered from bipolar disorder and had attempted suicide once before, for which she was hospitalized. Sahar’s sister stated before her passing: “My sister has bipolar disorder. Since two years ago she has been under the supervision of a doctor and we have all the documents which we gave to the court. But after her altercation with the police, they treated her like a healthy individual in the judicial review and sent her to Varamin prison.”

Mizan News, an outlet connected to the judiciary, said she was arrested in March for “improper clothing and getting into an altercation with the police and insulting them.” The editor of Mizan also said that reports that Sahar had been sentenced to six months in prison were a “total lie.”

He stated: “With deep sorrow over the passing of the woman who recently self-immolated, reports of a verdict of six months against her are a total lie. Last week, she came to a court on charges of getting into altercations and insulting the police in March. The judge was not there due to the death of a relative. No judicial action was taken and no indictment was made.”

Reformist parliamentarian Parvaneh Salahshouri said about Sahar, who has been described as the “blue girl” due to her support for blue-jersey-wearing Esteghlal: “She was not just the blue girl. She was a daughter of Iran. In a place where men assign the tasks of women and strip them of their most basic rights. And where women join men in this outright oppression of women. We are all responsible for the imprisonment and burning of the Sahars of this country.”

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Rouhani’s vice-president for the affairs of women, also released a statement outlining her efforts on Sahar’s case. Ebtekar said she sent her assistant for citizens’ rights to visit Sahar and her family in the hospital. Ebtekar then prepared a report based off her assistant’s account and sent it to judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi. Ebtekar says she also discussed the actions taken on Sahar’s case during President Rouhani’s cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Sahar’s death spurred renewed debate in Iran about the soccer stadium ban for women. Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, said the infrastructure has been prepared for women to enter stadiums to watch soccer matches, such as a separate seating area and separate bathrooms.

Rabiee also said that the administration has made plans for women to attend matches of the national soccer team, but not yet for club games.

Laya Joneydi, President Rouhani’s vice president for legal affairs, has also said there is no law against women attending soccer matches. She stated: “There is no legal obstacle to women entering stadiums (to watch soccer games). Depriving of rights has no meaning and the administration is of this position and believes we should support this.”

Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar announced that the proper environment has been established for women to attend soccer matches by Iran’s national team. Women will reportedly be able to attend the next match of the national team against Cambodia at Azadi stadium on October 10th.

Many senior Ayatollahs in Iran support the stadium ban, but some support lifting it. For example, Ayatollahs Alavi Gorghani and Makarem Shirazi have spoken against permitting women to watch soccer matches at stadiums. On the other hand, Ayatollah Kazem Mousavi-Bojnourdi and conservative Ayatollah Mohsen Gharavian are in support of lifting the ban.

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Officials Say Bolton’s Ouster Not Enough for Negotiations

Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Majid Takht-Ravanchi said John Bolton’s ouster was not sufficient for Iran to negotiate with the United States. He stated: “We have announced many times and the Iranian president has also explicitly said that as long as these oppressive sanctions and economic terrorism of the U.S. government against the Iranian people continues, there is no room for talk and negotiations.”

Takht-Ravanchi said that U.S. policies towards Iran must change: “Our policy towards the U.S. has no bearing on changes [of personnel] within the Trump administration. If the policy of economic terrorism of America is not ended, there is no room for dialogue.”

Takht-Ravanchi also said that new sanctions announced after Bolton’s ouster were an indication of the continuation of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. These new sanctions targeted several Iranian individuals connected to the Revolutionary Guards.

After Bolton’s ouster, President Rouhani stated that “the warmongers must leave and America’s maximum pressure must be removed.”

Separately, in a phone call with French President Macron after Bolton’s ouster, Rouhani also discussed the possibility for U.S.-Iran negotiations. He stated: “From the perspective of the government, parliament, and people of Iran, in the condition that sanctions remain, negotiations with America have no meaning.”

Rouhani stated that if an agreement was finalized with Europe, Iran would return to full compliance with its JCPOA commitments. He also raised the possibility of renewed multilateral talks with the U.S. within the framework of the P5+1 countries, stating: “For new dialogue among the P5+1, first America’s sanctions must be removed.”

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Deputy FM Welcomes French Proposal, Discusses Potential Negotiations

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi reiterated that Iran would return to full JCPOA compliance if it can sell its oil. He stated: “The Islamic Republic of Iran as has been announced many times will only return to full compliance with the JCPOA if it can sell its oil and get access to the revenue in a way that is totally usable and without any restrictions.” 

Araghchi stated that the French proposal for a $15 billion credit line achieved this Iranian condition. He stated: “The amount from this credit line is for $15 billion for a period of four months, meaning until the end of this year [2019]. So if there is an agreement, in the next four months Iran will either sell its oil or get a credit line in the form of a pre-purchase for 100 percent of the equivalent amount of oil. 

Araghchi said that Iran would be willing to enter negotiations on how to better implement the JCPOA after receiving the $15 billion. He declared: “From the perspective of the Islamic Republic, there will be no renewed negotiations regarding the JCPOA. But the topic of negotiations can be on the desirable implementation of the JCPOA, given that the other side has had serious shortcoming in this regard.” 

Araghchi also said that securing regional waterways can be another topic for potential negotiations. He stated: “Also, security in all the international waterways can be a topic for talks. The Islamic Republic, on the condition of all of its ships being provided with security in all waterways, is ready to engage in dialogue on the security and freedom of passage for ships in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.”

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New JCPOA Compliance Reductions Detailed

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesperson for Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), detailed Iran’s “third step” in reducing its JCPOA compliance. Iran has been reducing its JCPOA compliance gradually in 60-day increments and has said it would return to full compliance if Europe restarts Iranian oil imports and payment for them. In the first two steps, Iran exceeded the JCPOA’s limits on its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and level of uranium enrichment.

President Rouhani said last week that Iran would cease compliance on all “research and development” limitations in the JCPOA with its third step. Kamalvandi explained that this would include installing and feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into more advanced centrifuges, which can enrich uranium faster.

Kamalvandi said that “chains” of 20 IR4 and 20 IR6 centrifuges have already been started. He said that in roughly two months, Iran would begin feeding gas into a “chain” of 10 IR-5s centrifuges. In the JCPOA, Iran agreed to limit itself to 5060 operating IR-1 centrifuges for 10 years.

Kamalvandi stressed that it will get more difficult to save the JCPOA as time passes. He stated: “The European side should know that time is running out. If they are going to take any action, they must take it sooner.”

Kamalvandi also identified eight limitations in the JCPOA which Iran will gradually lower compliance with. These include limitations related to Iran’s heavy water reactor, heavy water production facility, reprocessing spent fuel, the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, research and development, the Fordow facility, stockpiles of enriched uranium, and the IAEA’s level of access and oversight.  

The reformist outlet Fararu cited an Iranian analyst as saying Iran’s “third step” might facilitate a four-month interim deal with Europe. This deal would be over a French proposal for a $15 billion credit line to Iran for oil imports.

The analyst Rahman Ghahramanpour stated: “The success of this agreement would depend on whether Europe, the US, and Iran have successful negotiations at the UN General Assembly.”

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Official Denies Hidden Nuclear Activities

Iranian officials have denied recent accusations of concealing nuclear activities from the IAEA. This comes after reports that the IAEA has found traces of uranium at a compound near Tehran.

Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, dismissed “any allegations about hidden nuclear activities by Iran.” Gharibabadi stated: “Any efforts to create disturbance or diversions with respect to the constructive and active cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, and imposing improper pressure on the agency, is destructive and will be met with appropriate actions from Iran.”

Cornel Feruta, the acting head of the IAEA, travelled to Iran and met with AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister Zarif, and other Iranian officials. Feruta emphasized the IAEA’s desire to continue cooperation with Iran and stressed the importance of the IAEA’s “independence” and “impartiality.”

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Labor Protestors Handed Heavy Sentences

Revolutionary Court Branch 28 handed out heavy sentences to workers of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Factory and Ahvaz Steel Company, who were engaged in protests last year. Read more on the labor protests by workers of the Ahvaz Steel Company and Haft Tapeh Sugercane Factory in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Labor activists Sepideh Gholian and Esmail Bakhshi were sentenced to seven years in prison each. Both were rearrested earlier this after they said they were tortured during their original time in custody last year. Read more about their cases in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Nine other labor activists as well as several editors of the pro-labor Gam magazine were also given lengthy prison sentences. As detailed in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered, the editors were arrested in January.

After the sentences were announced to widespread outcry, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi said in a letter they would be revised. Raisi said he had given a “special” order for the “revision” of the sentences and “fair treatment” in relation to the “sentences of some recent cases” at a branch of the Revolutionary Court.

Mohammad Shariatmadari, the minister of Labor in the Rouhani administration, thanked Raisi and announced his willingness to create a joint committee with the judiciary on labor issues. In his letter to Raisi, Shariatmadari said the sentences against the labor protesters was “shocking.”

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Impounded British Tanker May Be Released Soon

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said that the Stena Impero, the British tanker Iran seized in July, could be released soon. He stated: “This ship is currently in the last stages of judicial and legal proceedings and we hope that in the near future it will be released.” 

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Hardline Cleric Says Negotiations with U.S. Not Forbidden

Ahmad Khatami, a prominent hardline cleric and member of the Assembly of Experts, has said that negotiations with the U.S. are not forbidden. He stated: “They [the U.S.] are seeking to dictate their demands to Iran and to get the Iranian nation to surrender to these demands.” He added: “Anyone who has religious honor will be pessimistic about the enemy and will never be optimistic about America.”

However, he added regarding negotiations with the U.S.: “We don’t forbid negotiations with America or Europe. But such a negotiation is poison. They are after this negotiation for their own survival.”

He further added: “The nation will not forget anyone who negotiates with the enemy at this point.”

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Iranian Officials Stress They Won’t Negotiate with Trump

Week of August 26th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Rouhani Walks Back Comments Suggesting He Would Meet Trump

After Foreign Minister Zarif and French President Macron met at the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, President Rouhani signalled a willingness to meet President Trump.  Rouhani said after the Zarif-Macron meeting: “I believe that every tool should be used to achieve the country’s interests. If I know that I go a meeting and see someone and in the end the country can get prosperous and the people’s problems solved, I won’t hesitate. This is our main national interest.”

Macron said after meeting Zarif that he was optimistic that Trump and Rouhani would meet. He said “a roadmap has sort of been set” for diplomacy. He disclosed that “in the next few weeks,” he hopes a meeting will take place between the two leaders that he predicts “is going to lead to bringing an end to escalation and reaching a suitable solution to this [standoff].” Macron also said that Rouhani had told him he would be willing to meeting Trump.

However, a day later Rouhani walked back his seeming remarks that he would be open to meeting Trump. Rouhani emphasized he was not seeking a photo-op with Trump: “We are not after taking pictures for someone to take a picture with Hassan Rouhani. This is not acceptable. Even it being photoshopped is not acceptable.”

Rouhani then reiterated a longstanding position that U.S. sanctions must first be removed before any meeting: “To record a real picture is not possible unless the Americans give up on all their oppressive sanctions and respect the rights of the Iranian people. At that time, there will be a new situation and it would be possible to think and take an action that is based on our national interests.”

Zarif’s trip to France and meeting with Macron spurred negative reactions from conservative factions in Iran. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the conservative Kayhan newspaper, said to Rouhani: “The clearest result of your negotiations with America was the JCPOA. No one, and I emphasize no one, can have any doubt about how disastrous that was.”

 Kayhan also said Zarif’s trip to France was “improper.” It said the French proposal was aimed at “extending the nuclear deal to the areas of missiles and the region” and was in practice, “a repeat of America’s 12 crude conditions [for negotiations].”

Tasnim, an outlet close to the Revolutionary Guards, said that Zarif’s trip to France was “not necessary.” Tasnim called for Iran to take a “third step” to reduce compliance with the JCPOA in order to make the other side’s “proposals more realistic and appealing.”

The reformist outlet Fararu highlighted that after the G7 developments, the U.S. imposed new sanctions, Trump officials revealed the U.S. had launched a cyberattack, and John Bolton ruled out removing any sanctions before reaching a deal.

Fararu analyzed thusly: “The possibility exists that elements in the Trump administration are trying to exacerbate distrust and doubt between the U.S. and Iran. These elements are worried about a potential meeting between Rouhani and Trump.”

Fararu also said that no Rouhani-Trump meeting would take place until Iran had increased its bargaining position. It stated: “A meeting with Trump or negotiations with America in general have requirements. Experience shows that Iran enters negotiations with America when it has enough leverage to pressure the other side.”

Fararu mentioned that this pressure may include Iran returning to enriching uranium at the 20-percent level.

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Deputy FM says Iran Only Seeks Negotiations with Europe

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi stressed that Iran was only pursuing negotiation with Europe, not America. He stated in an interview after the G7 developments: “Our negotiations are with Europe for our demands to be met. We don’t have any negotiations with America. No country will accept negotiations while under maximum pressure because if it does, it is negotiations for surrender.”

Araghchi said that Europe must either buy Iranian oil directly or give Iran credit for future purchases. He stated: “We have told the Europeans either to buy our oil or if they cannot to give credit for the equivalent purchases of Iranian oil and in this way, pre-purchase Iranian oil.”

Araghchi said that if Europe makes this commitment on Iranian oil purchases, Iran will remain in the JCPOA. If not, Araghchi said, Iran will in 10 days (on September 7th) takes it third step to reduce compliance with the deal.

Araghchi also said of Iran’s conditions for negotiations with the U.S.: “America must remove the sanctions and return to the JCPOA. In this way, within the framework of the P5+1, negotiations can occur. No negotiations or meeting will occur if sanctions are not removed.”

Separately, President Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi said an Iranian delegation was traveling to France next week. According to Vaezi, the team will be comprised of Iranian economic experts. 

Vaezi stated that progress has been made in negotiations with Europe: “Since last week the progress in negotiations [with Europe] has not been bad. It has been good. A delegation will travel to France next week and engage in detailed discussions on the issues. When that delegation returns to Iran, then we can better comment on implementing the third step [of Iran reducing its compliance with the JCPOA].”

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Senior Cleric Calls for Major Reforms

Hashem Hashemzadeh Herisi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, has criticized conditions in Iran and called for a change in government policies. The Assembly of Experts is an elected body constitutionally mandated with choosing and supervising the Supreme Leader.

Herisi said Iran’s leaders had to change “everything.” He said that with the continuation of the status quo “the livelihood and fate of the people is in danger.” He added: “We have to change not only our words but everything about us.”

Herisi called for top-down change in Iran: “Solving these problems through bottom-up change is very costly. It would destroy Islam, the revolution, the clergy, and Iran. But if we engage in top-down reform and start with changing our words, actions, and political management style, the people will support us.”

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Two Senior Clerics Meet after Public Feud

Two senior clerics, Sadegh Larijani and Mohammad Yazdi, have met publicly after recently getting in a vitriolic public feud. Both are conservative figures and former heads of Iran’s judiciary. Larijani is the current head of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and Yazdi is a member of the Guardian Council.

In pictures released by Abbas Kadkhodaei, the Guardian Council’s spokesman, Larijani and Yazdi are seen talking to each other and smiling. Earlier, Yazdi had publicly criticized Larijani. Larijani responded with a letter to Yazdi that was also released publicly 

Larijani had said in his letter to Yazdi: “In the Guardian Council, the imprecise, unjustified, and even irrelevant remarks by you is something that is clear to the members.”

In his initial remarks, Yazdi suggested Larijani had illicit sources of wealth: “This person says that if you take this action, I’ll go to Najaf [in Iraq]. So go! You think that with you leaving Qom will fall apart? You being in Qom has barely had a consequence. Much less you leaving to Najaf … You created a mansion under the guise of a seminary school [in Qom]. Is this from your father’s inheritance? Where did you get this [money]?”

In recent weeks, there have been numerous reports in the Iranian press against Larijani amid a self-proclaimed crackdown against corruption by current judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi succeeded Larijani as judiciary head in March.

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Rouhani Says Economic Conditions Have Stabilized

President Rouhani said that Iran’s economic conditions are better than last year when the U.S. left the nuclear deal. He stated that “all domestic indicators” indicate that the country’s economic situation had improved and is “more stable.”

President Rouhani also said that last year a European leader told him that Trump believed that if Europe joined U.S. sanctions, Iran’s government would collapse in months. Rouhani said in this regard: “This person who claimed this will himself leave and his political party will leave power. But the Islamic Republic of Iran will remain for hundreds of years more fortified than today.”

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IRGC Official Sheds New Light on U.S. Drone Downing

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC’s aerospace force, has shed new light on Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone in June. Hajizadeh said Iran didn’t believe a war would break out: “They launched a major psychological operation to indicate that they would start a war against us. Even the intelligence agencies of our friends said that we would be attacked. But we knew that nothing would occur.

Hajizadeh contended the downing of the drone has removed the risk of war: “This [psychological operation] was a hoax to bring us to negotiating table. The shadow of war was removed with the downing of the U.S. drone.”

Hajizadeh said Iran was ready to target U.S. bases across the region: “We were confident that if the first U.S. missile or bomb hit our land, we would have hit their bases in the region and ships in the Gulf of Oman that were already in our targets.”

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Russia & China Offer to Sell Iran Military Aircraft, Official Says

Abdolkarim Banitarafi, the head of the Iranian Armed Forces’ Aviation Industries, attended the MAKS weapons exhibition in Moscow.  Also attending the show were Chinese representatives and Turkish President Reccip Tayeb Erdogan, who expressed interest in buying Russian fighter jets.

Banitarafi said that Russia and China had made proposals to sell fighter aircraft to Iran. If the JCPOA survives, UN sanctions on Iran purchasing armaments will expire next year. Banitarafi said that until these sanctions are removed, Iran will only be engaged in “negotiations and talk” about buying the military aircraft.

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Rouhani & IRGC Differ on Negotiations

Week of August 12, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Rouhani Stresses Support for Negotiations

President Rouhani rejected the presence of foreign military forces in the Persian Gulf and called for the “coastal countries of this historic Gulf” to provide for its security. He further said that the U.S. call to form a military coalition in the Persian Gulf had not come to fruition: “All the slogans about creating a new coalition in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea are for show and are not able to be implemented.”

However, he added in this regard: “With a doubt, if any of these slogans are put into practice, it will not help the security of this region [the Persian Gulf].”

The Trump administration has called for a global coalition to police the waters of the Persian Gulf. According to the State Department, Washington invited 60 countries to join the would-be coalition. Germany, Japan, and Spain openly rejected the invitation. The UK said it would join, while Australia said it will review the matter. Israel said it is prepared to participate in the coalition.

Rouhani said that that Israel participating in such a coalition was an “absurd” suggestion. He stated that Israel was the “primary source for terrorism, war and killings in the region.”

Rouhani also defended negotiations in principle with other countries. He stated: “We will continue our path until the final victory sometimes with negotiations and sometimes with steadfastness and resistance.”

He again defended the JCPOA, saying the agreement removes arms sanctions against Iran next year and mandates the removal of all sanctions in three years. He said: “To make the obligations balanced, we have begun to reduce our compliance with the agreement while continuing negotiations. We are and always have been of the belief that we should never run away from [diplomatic] engagement and negotiations.”

Rouhani emphasized he supports negotiations if the environment is “conducive”, stating: “The environment should be conducive [for negotiations]. The other side should believe in negotiations and resolving the issues. In this case in which all the conditions are appropriate, we are always willing to engage with the world and negotiate with the other side to meet aims.”

Rouhani also stressed that he still advocates for diplomatic engagement, stating: “We are and have always been seeking engagement. This is the reason we have not left the JCPOA and are reducing our compliance in a planned, gradual way.”

Rouhani also stated that Iran was ready to further reduce its JCPOA compliance: “If at the end of the second 60-day period we don’t reach a result, we will definitely start the third stage. After this, we will give another 60 days for us to reach a logical, correct, and balanced path and to adhere to commitments in exchange for commitments.”

Last week, Rouhani suggested Iran would negotiate with the U.S. in exchange for sanctions relief: “We support negotiations. If America really wants to negotiate, it needs to remove all sanctions and cease its crimes and economic terrorism. The path for America is sincere repentance.”

Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s chief of staff, has said that negotiations with Europe to preserve the JCPOA are going well. He stated: “The negotiations with Europe have gotten more serious. Alongside these negotiations, there have been talks for us to reach a framework. We are hopeful that we will reach a position of getting the JCPOA’s benefits.”

However, Vaezi also said that if Europe and Iran do not reach a “conclusion,” there is “no doubt” Iran would take its third step to reduce its JCPOA compliance. Iranian officials had previously announced that Iran will gradually reduce—in 60-day intervals—its implementation of the JCPOA unless other parties to the accord meet their obligations under the deal. During the first 60-day period, announced in early May, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. During the second period, Iran began to enrich uranium at the 4.5-percent level, beyond the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent limit.

The third period will begin in early September, but Iranian officials have not specifically stated what action they will take with respect to reducing compliance with the JCPOA.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi stated Iran would not negotiate while under pressure. He proclaimed: “For a long time they [the U.S.] had this expectation from the Islamic Republic [that it would negotiate]. However, this expectation is in vain because Iran will never participate in negotiations that do not abide by international law and regulations.”

He added: “No wise person would negotiate when they are under pressure and a weapon is pointed at them.”

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IRGC Chief Describes Negotiations as “Destroyed Logic”

IRGC chief Hossein Salami has said that negotiations are a “destroyed logic” and a “deception” aimed at “defeating” the Islamic Republic. Salami declared: “Everyone knows that the enemy will not create the conditions for overcoming our difficulties. Whatever the enemy says is a prescription for our defeat. Negotiations were a deception and aren’t even a solution. Through negotiations, the enemy has increased its pressures and demands. They want our surrender, not honor.”

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Iran to Shutter “Nature Schools”

Isa Kalantari, the head Iran’s Environmental Department, has said that “nature schools” are now illegal and will be shut down. Kalantari said that religious clerics say the schools are “against Sharia law” and that the Intelligence Ministry says its founders belong to the communist Tudeh Party.

The Tudeh Party was founded in 1941 and was outlawed by the Islamic Republic in 1983. Many of its members were imprisoned, tortured, and killed both before and after the 1979 revolution.

The first of the “nature schools” was opened 2013 and they received a license to operate from Iran’s Environmental Department. Their stated goal is to teach children “life skills.”

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Dual British-Iranian Academic Arrested

Kameel Ahmady, a British-Iranian academic, was arrested on August 11th in Tehran, according to his family. The charges against him have not been announced and it is unclear which institution arrested him. Last year, Ahmady won the World Peace Foundation’s Literature and Humanities Award at George Washington University.

Ahmady’s wife, Shafagh Ahmady, has said that security forces raided their house: “Security forces came with Mr. Ahmady to our house. They totally messed up the place and took documents like birth certificates.”

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Members of the Baha’i Faith Arrested

At least ten members of the Baha’i faith have been arrested throughout Iran in recent days. On August 10th, three Baha’i Iranians were arrested in Tehran and sent to Evin prison. Another was arrested in Shiraz and has been imprisoned. Other Baha’i Iranians have been arrested in Birjand and Tehran recently.

According to reports, security forces searched the homes of all these individuals and confiscated their personal belongings, including cell phones, identification documents, and computers. Security forces also interrogated and searched the home of Jamaloldin Khanjani, the leader of the Baha’i Society of Iran. Khanjani was imprisoned from 2008 to 2017.

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Khamenei Meets Houthi Representatives

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei met with a delegation from Yemen’s Houthi movement, including its spokesperson Mohammad Abdolsalam. Abdolsalam delivered a letter to Khamenei from the leader of Houthi movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi. The details of the letter have not been disclosed. Ayatollah Khamanei’s senior advisor on foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, was present during the meeting.

Khamenei stated that Saudi Arabia and the UAE seek to partition Yemen and called for Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue to preserve a unified Yemen. He proclaimed: “They are seeking to disintegrate Yemen. This plot must be resisted strongly and a united Yemen with its full territorial integrity must be supported.”

Khamenei added:  “Preserving a unified Yemen, given the different religious beliefs and ethnic groups in this country, requires Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue.”

Khamenei condemned what he said was the West’s “indifference” to the Yemen war.  He stated: “What is happening in Yemen shows the realities of today’s world and those who claim to support human rights.”

He then defended the Islamic Republic’s stance against the United States: “This position is not based on prejudice, but on reality and the actions of American and Western officials. They portray themselves as humanitarian, civil, and moral, but commit the worst crimes while always talking about human rights.”

Khamenei also said that the Yemeni people will go on to form a “strong government.” He stated: “With their deep civilization and history and their spirit of striving for God and being steadfast that they have shown in the past five years, the Yemeni people have a good future ahead of them. They will form a strong government and within the framework of that government, will progress.”

Houthi spokesperson Abdolsalam said the group will fight for a unified Yemen “until total victory”. He stated: “The Yemeni people are facing extremely difficult conditions and are standing against aggressors from seventeen countries empty handed but with faith and perseverance. We promise you that the Yemeni nation will be united and one and will continue to be steadfast against the oppressor’s aggression until total victory.” 

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Iran Warns Against U.S.-Led Persian Gulf Coalition

Week of August 5, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Former Reformist President Criticizes Rouhani & Parliament

Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami has criticized the performance of the Rouhani administration and the current parliament. He censured what he said were “shortcomings” and failing to follow through on “promises.” Khatami’s support proved critical to Rouhani winning his presidential elections and the coming to power of the reformist “Hope” coalition in parliament in 2016.

Khatami further criticized what he said was “silence” and a failure to “give warnings” about violations of law from the Rouhani administration and parliament.  He stated: “I wonder why an administration that came to power to attain the people’s rights and a parliament that claims to defend the nation and its fundamental rights, at least the reformists who went to parliament, does not shout or take actions.”

Khatami also stated in recent months that without tangible reforms, people will no longer listen to his call to turnout to vote. However, in another recent speech, he underscored the risk of war and said that people should “go to the ballot boxes for the sake of Iran.”

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Iran Warns Against US-Led Persian Gulf Coalition

Defense Minister Amir Hatami held talks with his Omani, Kuwaiti, and Qatari counterparts and strongly rebuked the creation of a U.S.-led military coalition in the Persian Gulf. Hatami said such a force would cause “instability” in the Persian Gulf and that local countries should instead provide for the region’s security. Britain has said it would join the force, while Germany and Japan have explicitly said they will not.

Hatami also denounced the potential that Israel would join the coalition as “provocative” and auguring “catastrophic consequences.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi also said that an Israeli presence in the U.S. coalition would be a “flagrant threat against Iran’s national security.”

Mousavi added that Iran would respond to this threat “within the framework of the country’s defense policies” and that the U.S. and Israel would be responsible “for the consequences of this dangerous action.”

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Intelligence Minister Says Trump has Killed Chances for Diplomacy

Mahmoud Alavi, the Rouhani administration’s intelligence minister, has declared that President Trump has killed chances for diplomacy. He proclaimed regarding Trump’s abrogation of the JCPOA: “Trump by violating this commitment, has delivered the finishing bullet to his chances for negotiating with Iran. He’ll take his wish for negotiations with Iran to the grave.”

Alavi also stated that national unity in Iran had increased as a result of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. He stated: “During this period, the nation’s cohesion, unity, and solidarity has increased. The U.S. President who thought he could bring Iran to its knees in six months has been disappointed.”

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Qods Force Commander Soleimani Meets with Zarif

Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani visited Foreign Minister Zarif after Zarif was sanctioned last week by the Trump administration. In their meeting in the foreign ministry building, Soleimani said the U.S. sanctions were “a sign of the definite defeat of the White House.”

Soleimani further proclaimed: “This action by America proves that you, as someone responsible for the country’s foreign policy, have a deep impact on public opinion, especially on the American people, regarding the ignorance of that country’s leader.”

Alireza Rahimi, a reformist member of parliament, said regarding the Soleimani-Zarif meeting:  “The valuable presence of commander Soleimani in the office of Dr. Zarif after his sanctioning reflects the practical and complete support of commander Soleimani for the country’s diplomacy. Such encouragement and sympathy represents the full unity of the field [i.e. on the ground efforts] and diplomatic presence [of the country] in confronting America at this difficult juncture.”

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Rouhani Defends Phone Call with Obama Six Years Ago

In a speech at Iran’s foreign ministry, President Rouhani defended his phone call with former U.S. President Barack Obama six years ago. Rouhani’s landmark phone conversation with Obama during the September 2013 UN General Assembly was the first between an Iranian and U.S. head of state since before Iran’s 1979 revolution. 

Rouhani said that if the call had not taken place, reaching the November 2013 interim nuclear deal (Joint Plan of Action, or JPOA) would have been fraught with “difficulty and delay.”

At the time, Rouhani was beset by domestic criticism from hardliners and Ayatollah Khamenei for taking the phone call from Obama. After his return from the 2013 UN General Assembly, he was greeted at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport by supporters and opponents, one of the latter of which threw a shoe at his car. Then-IRGC commander Mohammad Jafari also said the call was a “tactical mistake.” Ayatollah Khamanei indirectly criticized it by saying that “some of what occurred in New York was in my belief not right.”

It is unclear if Rouhani mentioned the 2013 call to simply rehash history or to highlight his belief in the importance of direct talks with the U.S. president to reduce tensions. Some Iranian analysts have viewed his comments as indicating the latter, given Tehran is debating but mostly rejecting the potential for negotiations with the Trump administration.

In the same speech, Rouhani also emphasized the value of peace and the cost of war for the United States. He stated: “As I said last year, making peace with Iran is the mother of all peace making. War with Iran would be the mother of all wars. If you want security and your soldiers in the region want security, this security will come for security [in return]. You cannot damage security and then expect security for yourself.”

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Official Says Iran Ready to Take Next Step on JCPOA

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), has said that Iran is ready to take a “third step” to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. He stated: “With the continuation of a lack of action from the Europeans to meet their JCPOA commitments, according to our declared plan, Iran will in about one month take its third step.”

Iranian officials had previously announced that Iran will gradually reduce—in 60-day intervals—its implementation of the JCPOA unless other parties to the accord meet their obligations under the deal. During the first 60-day period, announced in early May, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. During the second period, Iran began to enrich uranium at the 4.5-percent level, beyond the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent limit.

The third period will begin in early September, but Iranian officials have not specifically stated what action they will take with respect to reducing compliance with the JCPOA. Kamalvandi has said about what decision Iran will make: “We are holding meetings regarding this issue and the final decision will be taken by the high-ranking officials of the country depending on the situation which will then be implemented.” 

After a recent meeting of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal in Vienna, Russia announced that all the sides asked Iran to not take any further steps to reduce compliance with the accord.

Foreign Minister Zarif recently stated that Iran’s “third step” will not mean “the last step or an exit from the JCPOA.” However, Kamalvandi has said that “as we move forward, commitments have waned and in practical terms there will be no JCPOA left.”

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Phd Student Freed After Six years Imprisonment

Hamid Babaei, a Phd student who was arrested in August 2013, has been released from prison after six years. Babaei was studying in Belgium and was arrested after returning to Iran in 2013.  According to his relatives, he was arrested for refusing to cooperate with Iran’s intelligence services.

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Hardline Newspaper Attacks Zarif’s Defense of the JCPOA

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, wrote a piece sharply criticizing Foreign Minister Zarif. Shariatmadari was rebuking a response Zarif had given to a Kayhan journalist. 

The journalist had asked Zarif during a press conference: “Mr. Zarif, on February 1st, 2019, you wrote on Twitter that an agreement with America is not worth the ink it is written on. But a few weeks earlier you had said that if you could return to four years ago, you would again sign the JCPOA. My question is why should an agreement that isn’t worth the ink it’s signed on be signed again?”

Shariatmadari censured Zarif for what he said was his “long winded” answer to the question which raised “more baseless claims.” Zarif said in his answer that the JCPOA was not only an agreement with the United States, but with other world powers, and that its over 150 pages were testament to the carefulness of Iran’s diplomats.

Shariatmadari said he had a “short and logical” view, which he put thusly: “Rouhani and Zarif must be held accountable for throwing away the capabilities and opportunities the system gave them in the process of the nuclear negotiations.”

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Zarif Says Iran has No Problems with Saudi Arabia

Foreign Minister Zarif stated that Iran “has no problems with Saudi Arabia.” He added that “the end of the Yemen war would be a milestone for regional countries.” However, he also stated that “Saudi Arabia seeks victory in military conflicts, which cannot be realized.”  

Zarif further said that the Yemen war has no military solution. He stated: “From the beginning we stressed that the Yemen issue has no military solution. Right now, they [Saudi Arabia] must end the Yemen war. This is a war in which they have dismissed all political solutions to end and they believed they could win in several weeks.”

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IRGC Chief Says Iran’s Allies Deter War 

Hossein Salami, the head of the IRGC, has said that Iran’s network of regional allies is a “reason” that war has been deterred. He added: “The enemy cannot focus on Iran because in the sense of war, the geography will be vast. Everywhere there will be an outbreak of war and fire and danger for the enemy.”

He said any war would threaten Israel’s existence: “In Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, a power has taken form. The enemy knows that in any war the Zionist regime [Israel] will be exposed to an all-out threat and irreversible collapse.”

Salami also stated that Iran was “not worried” about a war breaking out. He stated: “We are not worried about a military war because we have power and readiness and the enemy is incapable of having a will to attack or engage in a military war.” 

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Iran-Azerbaijan Increase Cooperation on North-South Corridor Trade Route

Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the head of the management and budgeting organization, said that Iran was increasing cooperation with Azerbaijan on the North-South Corridor. The North-South Corridor is a trade route that seeks to boost economic interconnectivity between India and Russia and the countries in between. It is seen by some as India’s rival to China’s One Belt, One Road project.

Bagher stated that Azerbaijan is cooperating with Iran to construct a new railway connecting the two countries as part of the North-South Corridor. Bagher stated it would be used for commercial purposes as well as by passengers.

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Iranian Officials Say Tanker Crisis Can Be Diplomatically Resolved

Week of July 22, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Officials Defend British Tanker Seizure, Call for Diplomatic Resolutions

 

President Rouhani declared that Iran and its neighbors are “primarily responsible for the security of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.” Rouhani was speaking after the British government said it would seek an increased military presence in the Persian Gulf after Iran seized a British oil tanker.

Rouhani stated that European countries must refrain from actions such as the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar by British forces weeks ago. Rouhani stated that if European countries “don’t stop their wrong actions such as what occurred in Gibraltar, they will receive an appropriate response from Iran.” 

However, Ali Rabiee, the spokesperson for the Rouhani Administration, stated the seizure of the British tanker was not an act of retaliation by Iran. He asserted it was a “correct legal action.”

Rabiee contended that the two tanker seizures were not comparable. He stated that the British tanker had violated the “laws and regulations of seafaring” by “turning off its transponder” and instead of “going in the direction of the entrance to the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, took a southern route and failed to listen to warnings from our forces.”

Rabiee said the British tanker was “stopped” in Iranian waters, while, according to Rabiee, “even Spanish officials say our tanker was stopped in Spanish waters.” Rabiee then stressed that the tanker crisis can be resolved through diplomacy.

On the other hand, Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani stated that the seizure of the British tanker was a “response” to the capture of Iran’s tanker.

Mohammad Golpayegani, the head of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s office, said that the British had sent “intermediaries” to Iran to get the ship released. He proclaimed: “The country that once used to decide on who government ministers in Iran would be now has reached a place where it has to send intermediaries to ask for its ship to be freed.”

President Rouhani also proclaimed that “the entire world must thank the Revolutionary Guards for the Persian Gulf’s security.” He added: “We will not allow anyone to create disorder in the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz. At the same time, we are not after increasing tensions or a military confrontation.”

President Rouhani also emphasized that Iran was open to negotiations based on respect and not surrender. He stated: “As long as I have the responsibility for the country’s executive branch, we will always be ready for a negotiation that is just, legal, and has respect for the Iranian people and their rights.”

He added: “But we aren’t ready that under the name of negotiations, to sit at the table of surrender. We understand what negotiations are and what surrender is. We consider surrender unacceptable, our people and constitution will not accept it.”

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Imprisoned Political Prisoner Starts Hunger Strike

 

Imprisoned activist Sepideh Gholian has started a hunger strike. As detailed in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered, Gholian has been imprisoned since January 20th. She was first detained in November 2018 in connection to the labor protests led by workers from two companies in southwestern Iran. She was released after one month. 

After her release in December, Gholian said she was subject to torture. Labor leader Esmail Bakhshi, who was held during the same period, also stated that he was tortured. Their claims spurred outrage and calls for investigations. Reformist MPs also invited Bakhshi to Parliament.

However, government officials denied their claims of torture after the Intelligence Ministry reportedly investigated the case.  Afterwards, Gholian and Bakhshi were rearrested based on a compliant from the Intelligence Ministry and on “security charges.” They will be tried in August.

The spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary said that a verdict was reached against the assailants that murdered an Iranian political prisoner months ago. The victim, 21-year-old Alireza Shir Mohammad Ali, was killed by fellow inmates.

Mohammad Ali was arrested in August 2018 on charges of “insulting sanctities,” “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic,” “insulting the Leader,” and “propagandizing against the system.” He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

According to the judiciary spokesperson, the main assailant responsible for Mohammad Ali’s murder will be punished in accordance to qisas, or an “eye for an eye” punishment in Islamic law. The second assailant was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Both also must pay financial compensation to the Mohammad Ali’s family.

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Deputy FM Travels to France with Proposal on Reducing U.S.-Iran Tensions

 

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi travelled to France to deliver a response to a French proposal on reducing U.S.-Iran tensions. According to foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi, Araghchi went to Paris as President Rouhani’s special representative. 

According to Iranian news outlet Alef citing knowledgeable sources, Araghchi was carrying President Rouhani’s counteroffer to a proposal that a French emissary recently delivered to Tehran. Read more about the French diplomat’s trip to Iran and President Macron’s effort to reduce U.S.-Iran tensions in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Macron’s proposal was widely reported as a “freeze for freeze” deal or “ceasefire” between the U.S. and Iran. According to some outlets, this would involve Iran ceasing from further reductions in its compliance with the JCPOA and the U.S. ceasing from imposing new sanctions and reissuing sanctions waivers for some importers of Iranian oil.

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Khamenei Advisor Warns Against Increasing Western Military Footprint in Persian Gulf

 

Hossein Dehghan, a former defense minister and now military advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, has warned against moves to bolster Western military forces in the Persian Gulf. Amid reports that Britain is seeking a coalition to increase military patrols in the Persian Gulf, Dehghan declared: “Any change in the situation in the Strait of Hormuz will result in a dangerous confrontation.”

Dehghan also stated that Iran will “under no circumstances negotiate with the United States.” He added that Iran will speak to “no one” about its missile program.

Dehghan proclaimed that in the event of a war, “all U.S. bases in the region will come under attack by Iran’s armed forces.” He also repeated a line heard from many Iranian officials, that either “all countries can export their oil through the Strait of Hormuz, or no one can.”

Dehghan further stated that some Arab Persian Gulf countries had sent representatives to Tehran for peace negotiations.  He did not specify which countries, but added that the UAE had allowed itself to be turned into an “American military base to harm Iran’s national interests.”

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IRGC Initially Believed that U.S. Downed Iranian Drone

 

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace force, has repeated that President Trump’s claim that the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone over the Persian Gulf was a “lie.” Dehghan said that the lie was “so big that we ourselves at first believed it.” Iran responded to Trump’s claim by denying it had lost any drone and releasing a video of an Iranian drone surveilling the U.S. vessel that Trump said shot the drone down.

Hajizadeh said “we couldn’t believe that he [Trump] would make such a big lie directly to the media.” He added: “For this reason, we delayed for a few hours before denying it. We saw that our unmanned drone surveilled the U.S. vessel from before its entrance into the Strait of Hormuz until after it passed through the strait.”

Hajizadeh then asserted that the “Americans themselves have now blamed John Bolton for this issue.”

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Intelligence Ministry Alleges Arrest of 17 U.S. Spies

 

The head of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’s counterintelligence department announced the arrest of “17 spies trained by America’s intelligence agency.” The official said: “On June 18th of this year, the intelligence ministry was successful in destroying a spy network linked to America’s intelligence agency.” 

According to the official, indictments have been brought forward against the alleged spies and some will be executed. He added that they were employed in “sensitive and vital centers” and in “private sector jobs affiliated with these centers.” These included areas related to Iran’s economic, nuclear, military, and cyber sectors.

The official said that each of the alleged spies was handled by a “CIA officer.” He added that they were each an individual cell and that “none of them were in contact with each other.”

The official further said that the CIA had given the alleged spies guarantees regarding their safety, stating: “The CIA could not fulfill any of its guarantees. All of these spies are now engulfed in trouble for betraying the country.”

The official added, those who “engaged the intelligence ministry with total sincerity and whose remorse is proven, will be used against the Americans.”

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Next JCPOA Joint Commission Meeting Approaches

 

On July 28th, the JCPOA’s Joint Commission—comprised of the remaining parties to the accord—will meet in Vienna at the deputy foreign minister-level. The meeting was called for by the European members of the deal to discuss the “new situation” regarding the deal, referring to Iran reducing its compliance with the accord. 

The meeting will reportedly also be aimed at preparing the groundwork for another upcoming meeting between the foreign ministers of the remaining JCPOA-signatory countries. Abbas Mousavi, the Iranian foreign ministry’s spokesperson, has reiterated that if the remaining JCPOA parties fail to meet their commitments under the deal, Iran will take “another step” in reducing its compliance with the deal in roughly 60 days. 

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Iranian Officials Deny Losing Drone

Week of July 15, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Political Prisoner Narges Mohammadi Censures Prison Conditions

Narges Mohammadi, a political prisoner and lawyer, has written a letter to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi criticizing the poor conditions that imprisoned environmentalist activists are facing. Mohammadi said their conditions were “illegal and reflected torture” and called for ending “these inhumane practices.” Mohammad herself is serving a ten-year prison sentence.

The eight environmentalist activists have now been imprisoned for over 500 days. Read more about their cases in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist at France’s Sciences Po University, was arrested by IRGC intelligence while visiting Tehran. A spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary confirmed the arrest, but the Iranian foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of it.

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President Rouhani Talks to French President, Welcomes “Ceasefire” Idea

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Rouhani said Iran was “determined to keep open all paths to preserve the JCPOA.” However, Rouhani stated that the “passage of time and missed opportunities will force Iran to take a third step [in reducing its compliance with the JCPOA].”

Rouhani also said Europe should strive for a “ceasefire in the U.S. economic war.”  He stated: “Europe must expedite its efforts to meet Iran’s legitimate interests and establish a ceasefire in the American economic war.”

During a visit to Tehran last week, Macron’s top diplomatic advisor had said that France seeks a “ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran.” Other outlets have described this potential mutual freeze agreement as entailing Iran returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and ceasing recent acts of regional escalation in return for the U.S. reissuing sanctions waivers to eight importers of Iranian oil and refraining from imposing new sanctions.

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Rouhani-Aligned Analyst Calls for Enriching at 20-Percent

Nasser Hadian, a professor of political science at Tehran University and an advisor to the Rouhani administration during the nuclear negotiations, gave a far-reaching interview on U.S.-Iran tensions. Hadian is viewed as a centrist and West-leaning foreign policy analyst. He has also served as a senior researcher for Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council.

Hadian said Iran should begin enriching at the 20-percent level and then “immediately announce that we are ready for dialogue.” Hadian said he believes that Trump has reached the “conclusion that it is better not to make the situation worse [with Iran].”

Hadian said he further believes that the recent trip to Tehran of a senior diplomatic advisor to French President Macron was coordinated with Washington. He opined: “Trump has reached the conclusion that the Iranian government will not collapse as a result of maximum pressure and that another path must be pursued. France is trying to pave this new path, meaning a path out of the current situation.”

Hadian further stated that Europe and America both seek a mutual “freeze” deal with Iran. The French emissary last week said in Tehran that France seeks a “ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran.” Other outlets have described this potential mutual freeze agreement as entailing Iran returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and ceasing recent acts of regional escalation in return for the U.S. reissuing sanctions waivers to eight importers of Iranian oil and refraining from imposing new sanctions.

However, Hadian said such a “freeze” offer was “not to Iran’s benefit” and thus called on Iran to increase its level of uranium enrichment to 20 percent. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Hadian said that recent escalations in the Persian Gulf and in the region had changed President Trump’s calculations on his Iran policy. He stated: “The thesis of Bolton and Pompeo was that if we increase pressure on Iran it will submit. Trump accepted their view. However, Trump began doubting this when incidents started occurring in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz two months ago.”

Hadian added in this regard that Europe might be able to convince Trump to distance himself from his hawkish advisors and take a more realistic assessment of the situation. He stated: “He can listen to the Europeans and return to the JCPOA in a way that is gradual and unspecified. This will strengthen the mediation role of Europe between the U.S. and Iran and Iran will stop its gradual exit from the JCPOA.”

Hadian further stated that President Rouhani did not believe that Europe would be as incapable as it has been in resisting U.S. secondary sanctions. He stated: “We all knew that the position and capabilities of America are much higher than Europe … but all of us, including President Rouhani, did not think that Europe would be this incapable in facing America.”

Hadian explained why he believes that Europe will bear the brunt of the cost for any conflict with Iran: “Because most refugees and terrorists in the Middle East will head towards Europe. Political and social instability in this region and an increase in the price of oil will have far greater consequences for Europe than America.”

He then suggested Iran might build nuclear weapons if it comes under attack: “Additionally, Europe has security concerns that according to them include Iran developing atomic weapons or advanced missiles. They believe that if a war occurs, Iran will develop stronger weapons to defend itself.”

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Former Reformist President Khatami Calls for Unity Against Threat of War

Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami has declared that war is the “main danger” facing Iran and called for broad public unity against this threat. Khatami also emphasized that upcoming elections should not be boycotted by reformists. The next elections in Iran are for parliament on February 21, 2020.

Khatami stated that “reformists and discontented people must make a sacrifice and selfless act and go to the ballot boxes for the sake of Iran.” However, he added that reformists cannot “enter elections at any cost.” He stated that “God willing the atmosphere will be opened and the qualifications will be accepted [of reformist candidates running for office by the Guardian Council].”

Khatami also said that the current parliament and the Rouhani administration should be held to account over the campaign promises they made but failed to achieve.

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Officials Deny Losing a Drone

After President Trump said that the USS Boxer had shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian officials denied having lost any drone. Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesperson for Iran’s Armed Forces, stated in this regard: “Contrary to the claims that reflect Trump’s delusions, all of the drones belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one discussed by America’s president, have safely returned to their bases after conducting their surveillance and planned control operations.”

Shekarchi added that President Trump’s comments create “insecurity” in the Persian Gulf and the “strategic waterway of the Strait of Hormuz.” He added: “The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran view the control and preserving the security of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz as their legal responsibility.”

Hours later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards released footage of what they said was surveillance of the USS Boxer by an Iranian drone. The video alleges to show the drone surveilling the ship after the time Trump said an Iranian drone had been shot down.

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IRGC Chief Says Iran Might Shift to “Aggressive” Posture

IRGC chief Hossein Salami proclaimed that if there is a “strategic mistake by the enemy,” Iran’s “strategic military doctrine will shift from a defensive strategy to an aggressive one.” Salami stated: “We act in a defensive way. This means we will not be the initiator of any war … however, if necessary, all of our capabilities will become aggressive.” Salami was speaking during a visit to the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the greater and lesser Tombs, which the UAE contests.

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Officials Dismiss Oil Tanker Accusations

Iranian officials dismissed reports in some Western outlets that Iranian authorities had commandeered oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. According to some reports, one Emirati tanker’s radar went offline after entering Iranian waters and another oil-carrying vessel was captured by the IRGC.

Iranian officials stated that the commandeered vessel was a “foreign” ship that was carrying “one million liters” of “smuggled” Iranian oil. According to Abbas Mousavi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, the other vessel was an oil tanker that had broken down and appealed to Iran for assistance, which Iran provided in accordance to international law.

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Iran Further Reduces Compliance with JCPOA

Week of July 8, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Iran Further Reduces Compliance with JCPOA

On July 7th, Iran announced that it would halt compliance with the JCPOA’s limit on its level of uranium enrichment. Iranian officials declared that if Europe does not meet its JCPOA requirements, Iran will take a “third step” in reducing compliance with the deal starting on September 7th. 

Iranian officials had previously announced that Iran will gradually reduce—in 60-day intervals—its implementation of the JCPOA unless other parties to the accord meet their obligations under the deal. During the first 60-day period, announced in early May, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. During the second period that has now been announced, Iran will start enriching uranium at the 4.5-percent level, beyond the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent limit.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said that increasing enrichment to the 20-percent level and “higher options” has been discussed in the Supreme National Security Council. However, Kamalvandi said that currently “there is no need for this.” He added that there are no “obstacles or problems” for Iran to produce 20-percent enriched fuel.

Kamalvandi further emphasized that Iran would take actions in line with its practical needs for nuclear fuel: “When the needs of the country are something else, we’re not going to take actions just to scare the other side with increased enrichment.”

Previously, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the spokesperson for President Rouhani, said that Iran would begin enriching at 20 percent and at higher levels if it left the JCPOA. AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi has also previously said that Iran could start 20-percent enrichment at Fordow in four days if the decision were made to do so.

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Top French Diplomat Visits Tehran

Emmanuel Bonne, the top diplomatic advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron, travelled to Tehran with the express aim of reducing U.S.-Iran tensions. However, Bonne said he did not “come as a mediator to Tehran” and had “no message from America for Iran.” Bonne was previously in Iran roughly one month ago after the sabotage of two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Bonne’s trip came after President Rouhani and Macron had a one-hour phone conversation on July 7th. It also occurred after Iran announced it would cease compliance with the JCPOA’s limit on its level of uranium enrichment and begin enriching at 4.5 percent. Previously, Iran surpassed the JCPOA’s 300 kg limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

Bonne met with Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani. Bonne told Shamkhani regarding France’s aim: “Emmanuel Macron seeks joint initiatives for a ceasefire in America’s economic war against Iran. He believes such an action will reduce increasing tensions in the region.”

Before he met with Bonne, Zarif provided the criteria for the conditions under which Iran would negotiate about the JCPOA. He stated: “Negotiations are never conceivable under pressure. The pressures and economic war and terrorism against the people of Iran must be stopped then we can talk about implementing the JCPOA.”

Shamkhani told Bonne that Iran gradually reducing its JCPOA obligations was an “unchangeable strategy.” He stated: “Given that for one year Europe did not use the opportunity of Iran implementing its JCPOA commitments in a one-sided way, the definitive decision of our country is to implement our commitments in a way commensurate to the other sides’ actions. The time of taking one-sided actions is over.”

Shamkhani further said: “This path is in the framework of articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA and will continue until Iran’s gets all of its rights.”

Shamkhani also said that America was “taking European independence hostage.” He added: “The European Union countries must stand against American unilateralism to defend their identity and independence.”

Bonne also said to Shamkhani about France cooperation with Iran in the region: “Given Iran’s role and undeniable impact in the region, France is eager to continue dialogue and cooperation with Iran to manage the current crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.”

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Iranian Officials React to British Seizure of Tanker

After British sailors seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar, Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami described the action as “a type of piracy.” He further declared: “For sure this type of piracy will not go without a response from us.”

President Rouhani also strongly condemned the British action as “very wrong.” He added: “The British are creating insecurity in the seas. We hope they don’t continue this because if this is repeated, it will result in insecurity in the world which will harm everyone.”

Rouhani further proclaimed: “I remind the British that you have initiated insecurity and you will understand the consequences later. However, the British may have acted based off an order from America … but this would still have been a wrong action.

During the same press conference, Rouhani also said Iran was not “in a hurry” to leave the JCPOA. He declared: “We are not in a hurry to take an emotional action against an agreement which is on the basis of logic and the strength of Iran’s diplomacy and the capabilities of our negotiators in the face of global powers, which removed all UN Security Council resolutions against us … and that has now isolated the United States.”

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IRGC Launches Military Strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards released a statement saying it targeted Kurdish positions in Iraqi Kurdistan using missiles, artillery, and drones. The statement said the strikes were in response to militant attacks in Iran that killed three soldiers.

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