Iranian Activists Calling for Khamenei’s Resignation Arrested

The General Intelligence Department of Mashhad and Khorasan province has announced the arrest of 12 people who wrote a letter calling for Ayatollah Khamenei’s resignation. The department claimed their arrests had nothing to do with their call for Khamenei’s resignation. It alleged they had connections with foreign forces and sought to topple the Iranian government. 

The letter was released in early June and was signed by civil society activists. The relatives of the arrested signatories of the letter say they were pressured by authorities because of the letter. 

Some of the signatories of the letter were arrested after they staged a protest in Mashhad on August 11th. They were protesting in support of Kamal Jafari, an Iran-Iraq War veteran who was one of the signatories of the letter and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. His charges included “insulting the Supreme Leader.” The protests were forcefully dispersed as authorities and protestors clashed.  

Similar calls for Khamenei’s resignation have come from other Iranian activists, intellectuals and artists. In August, 14 women issued a different letter calling for the Supreme Leader to step down, grabbing the attention of many Iranians on social media. These women demanded not only a change in leadership, but also a fundamental shift in gender equality and women’s rights.

Though criticism of Khamenei in such an open fashion risks arrest and imprisonment, these activists have shown courage and a steadfast attitude toward the state of affairs in Iran. Rightfully believing that dissent is a right and duty of a citizen, these protestors are boldly challenging the status quo and the fixed position of the Supreme Leader. 

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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Professors Call for Freedom of Detained Environmentalists

Week of June 24, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

101 University Professors Call on Judiciary Chief to Free Detained Environmentalists

101 prominent Iranian university professors have written a letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary calling for the release of eight environmentalist activists arrested last year. Read more about the case of the imprisoned environmentalists in past issues of Iran Unfiltered. 

The signatories of the letter say it has been “more than 500 days” that some of the most “renowned Iranian environmental specialists and activists” have been imprisoned on espionage charges. The letter highlighted the disagreement between the Revolutionary Guards charging the environmentalists with espionage and the Intelligence Ministry dismissing these charges.

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Outrage and Controversy Over Video of Police Beating Woman

A video went viral of two police officers physically confronting and forcefully arresting a woman in a Tehran park. The video was released by the “White Wednesdays” project and spurred controversy across social media and among politicians.

After the incident, Tehran’s police chief stated that the two officers “had been fired” because of their “improper conduct.” According to the police chief, three men and two women were arrested at the park for “resisting the instructions of police, breaking norms, confronting police, and improper hijab.”

Hours later, the police chief said that the action against the officers was “being halted.” A police statement said that “the implementation or suspension of charges against the officers will occur after an investigation.” The police chief said the reversal happened because of “new reports” regarding “events” at the park.

Parvaneh Salahshouri, a member of parliament, said that parliamentarians wished to question the interior minister over the “violent conduct of the police.” Salahshouri said that 30 members of parliament had written a complaint to the interior minister asking for an explanation regarding the incident.

Rouhani administration spokesperson Ali Rabiee also said that the police’s conduct was “unacceptable” and that Rouhani would speak to the interior minister about the incident. He further noted that the incident required a judicial response and added: “The reaction of law enforcement to the crime—if we assume a crime occurred—was totally unacceptable. We are certain the head of the council for the country’s security will give the necessary admonitions on this.”

Rabiee went on: “Our officers must know that in their hard work, they cannot use illegal and anti-Sharia (religious) methods. Such methods are opposed by the political system, the administration, and their own commanders.”

President Rouhani also stated in a speech that government interference in the private lives of people was “unhealthy.”

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Rouhani Strongly Blasts White House, Defends Khamenei Over Sanctions

After the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office, President Rouhani issued a strong defense of Khamenei. Rouhani stated: “The Leader of Iran is not like other world leaders to have millions of dollars in foreign banks, for them to want to take or block these funds.”

Rouhani said the new sanctions were a “ridiculous and hideous” action, adding: “No country that has even a little bit of wisdom and prudence would sanction the highest official of a country. And not just a political official, but a religious, social, and spiritual figure who is not just the leader of Iran, but the leader of the lovers of the Iran and the Islamic revolution and of Shias in the Islamic world and across the world.”

Rouhani further said that U.S. sanctions were “against human rights” and amounted to “sanctioning the Iranian people.” He stated: “The actions that America takes today reflect the definite failure of America. I have no doubt about this because why would anyone wise engage in such actions?”

Rouhani went on to say that the White House was afflicted by “confusion” and “mental disability.” He said: “Among American rulers and the White House there is a bizarre frustration and a great confusion.” He added: “The White House is stricken with a mental disability and they don’t know what to do.”

Rouhani also proclaimed that Iran will not give permission for U.S. officials to enter Iran and that Trump is lying about wanting negotiations with Iran. Regarding comments by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin that the U.S. would sanction Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Rouhani stated: “The Americans lie when they say they are ready for negotiations.”

The Iranian foreign ministry also said that sanctions “against Iran’s leader and the commander of the country’s diplomacy [Javad Zarif] mean the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy with the desperate U.S. government.” A senior foreign ministry official also said that if Zarif is sanctioned, “he won’t receive visas [for travel]” and that his property would be “confiscated.” The source added: “However our foreign minister has no property or even a bank account in America or anywhere else in the world.”

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Khamenei Says U.S. Negotiations Offer a “Deception”

In a speech following the imposition of new U.S. sanctions, Ayatollah Khamenei once again voiced opposition to new negotiations and censured the United States. As in other recent speeches, Khamenei reiterated that the U.S. seeks to disarm Iran through negotiations, stating: “The Americans are terrified of the source of the Iranian nation’s power and are afraid to move forward (aggressively). As such, they want to take the source of Iran’s power away through negotiations to commit whatever blunder they want against the nation.”

Khamenei added that Trump’s offer of negotiations was a “deception.” He further said that U.S. sanctions were “oppressive” and that “the Iranian people won’t be affected by U.S. insults, nor will they retreat.”

Khamenei also stated that U.S. pressure had no effect on the Iranian people because they participate in elections and demonstrations. He said of Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election in February 2020: “There is an election at the end of this year [the Iranian year 1398]. I know that despite the doubts that some are trying to create, the nation will be present in the election with enthusiasm.”

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Rouhani Tells French President JCPOA Breaches “Reversible”

In a phone call with French President Emanuel Macron, President Rouhani stated that Iran will not negotiate again on a nuclear agreement. Rouhani also said that Iran has “no interest in increasing tensions in the region and has never been after war with any country, including with the United States.”

Rouhani emphasized to Macron that Iran’s plans to breach certain JCPOA limitations are “reversible.” He stated that Iran wants the other parties to implement their commitments under the deal, especially in the areas of resolving Iranian issues with banking and selling oil.

Rouhani also said that any violation of Iran’s territorial integrity was a redline for a military response. He told Macron: “If the Americans again violate Iran’s waters or airspace, Iran’s armed forces will oppose them and give a decisive response.”

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Rouhani Praises Iran’s Armed Forces for Downing U.S. Drone

President Rouhani highlighted the difficulty of identifying and shooting down the U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone and praised Iran’s armed forces. He stated in a speech: “Discovering a drone, especially at such immense heights, is not easy. In the first minutes that it violated our skies, and after giving multiple warnings, with Iranian radar systems and missiles we shot it down. I kiss the hands of all the experts in the defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards who developed our missile capabilities.”

Rouhani added that Iran is “not afraid of America, but is exercising strategic patience.” He further said: “They [the U.S.] didn’t think that Iran could shoot down their drone because discovering such a drone from a military angle is very difficult.”

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Former Tehran Mayor Aid Charged with Espionage

Isa Sharifi, the longtime deputy of former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, has been arrested and charged with “espionage.” Sharifi is reportedly a former IRGC commander and served alongside Ghalibaf for most of his 12-year tenure as Tehran’s mayor.

Initial reports that Sharifi had been executed have been denied, with judicial sources telling media outlets that Sharifi’s indictment will soon be announced. Sharifi was also involved in several corruption scandals and served in the Tehran city council for a short time until reformists took it over after elections in 2017. Sharifi was arrested several months later in August 2017.

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Iran Downs U.S. Drone, Will Breach Nuclear Deal’s Limits

Week of June 17, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone, Alleges It Violated Iranian Airspace

On June 20th, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said in a statement that it had shot down a U.S. drone that allegedly violated Iranian airspace. The IRGC statement identified the unmanned aerial vehicle as a “Global Hawk” drone. It said the drone took off “from an American base in the south of the Persian Gulf” at 00:14 local time. While in “stealth” mode, the drone flew past the Strait of Hormuz towards the southeastern Iranian port city of Chabahar, as per the IRGC statement.

According to the IRGC statement, at 04:05 local time, the drone was targeted and destroyed by an air defense unit of the IRGC’s aerospace division “when it entered the airspace of the country.” The statement says the drone was shot down near the Kuh Mobarak region in Iran’s southern Hormozgan province. It added that the drone was engaged in “intelligence gathering and spying.”

Later that morning, the IRGC’s top commander Hossein Salami gave a speech in Iran’s Kurdistan province, where he mentioned the drone downing and discussed broader foreign policy issues. Salami said regarding the drone downing: “Early this morning, the IRGC’s aerospace division downed a spy aircraft of the enemy that had entered our borders and was violating our national security.”

Salami stated that Iran didn’t seek war but its redline was any violation of its borders. He declared: “The downing of the Americans’ spy aircraft had one obvious, clear, decisive, explicit, and precise message, which is that the defenders of our Islamic homeland of Iran will in the face of any violation of our territory by any foreigner show a reaction that is decisive, conclusive, and definitive.”

Salami added: “We declare that we have no intention of going to war with any country. However, we are fully prepared for war, and today’s incident gets this across very clearly.”

Salami also said that the U.S. seeks to disarm Iran through negotiations: “The enemy through negotiations wants to strip the Iranian people of their defensive weapons. A nation that is disarmed can easily be attacked. However, the enemy doesn’t dare transgress against a nation that remains steadfast.”

Salami further said of negotiations with the United States: “They [the U.S.] wanted to portray the path to resolving Iran’s economic problems as being through negotiations. However, we have our experiences and the lessons of recent history. We know we cannot trust the untrustworthy American government. To this day, we have grown through resistance and have been raised by the logic of resistance.”

Salami also said U.S. policies had failed in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere in the region: “In Lebanon, they were defeated by Hezbollah and their aggressive plans for that country were forever ended. The Palestinians have put aside their rocks and taken up missiles … They [the U.S.] wanted to collapse the Syrian state but have now been forced to run away from that country. With 150,000 troops they wanted to conquer Iraq. But today, Iraq is not under the control of American policies.”

He added: “In Yemen, they wanted to build a new political-geographic bridge but the Americans, Saudis, and their allies are in a quagmire and the situation has changed in favor of the Yemenis.”

Regarding the downed U.S. drone, a local IRGC official in Hormozgan province added the wreckage of the aircraft was in Iranian waters in the Raaz al-Shir area. The official said the decision to shoot down the aircraft was made after U.S. drones had “repeatedly violated Iranian airspace” in the Persian Gulf.

He added: “In recent days, American surveillance and spying flights in the Persian Gulf had increased and this was coupled with violating our airspace.”

After President Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake” in shooting down the drone, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said Iran doesn’t take Trump’s words seriously. Shamkani added: “Iran will not attack anyone, but if we are attacked, the aggressor will regret it.”

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IRGC Displays Wreckage, Says Warnings Were Given Prior to Downing Drone

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’S aerospace division, spoke at a ceremony displaying alleged parts of the downed U.S. drone. Hajizadeh stated: “Some of the wreckage of the American drone are spread out in the waters near Kuh Mobarak and some of the heavy parts have sunk.”

Hajizadeh said that Iran had issued multiple warnings before downing the drone: “Our last warning to the American spy drone was at 03:00 and came from a drone belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s army. After these warnings were disregarded, the drone was downed at 04:00.”

Hajizadeh said Iran also could have shot down a “P-8 U.S. espionage aircraft” that had a crew of 30 people. Hajizadeh said the P-8 aircraft was flying near the drone. He stated: “We could have shot it down, but we didn’t.”

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Iran & Russia Ink Agreements in Isfahan Economic Summit

Iran hosted the 15th “commission for economic and commercial cooperation” between Iran and Russia in Isfahan. Iran’s energy minister Reza Ardakanian said that Iran and Russia originally planned to sign seven agreements during the conference, but that because of the “interest that was shown,” 12 agreements were reached. They were mainly in the sectors of energy and transportation infrastructure.

Railways companies from Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan also held meetings. Among the projects discussed were to develop electrical and railway infrastructure between the countries.

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Zangeneh and Russian oil minister Alexander Novak also met in Isfahan. They discussed an agreement to export Iranian oil to Russia among other issues.

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Iranian Security Chief Travels to Moscow, Discusses Afghanistan and Syria

On June 19th, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani travelled to Moscow to participate in a meeting of security officials from across the globe.  Shamkhani met with his Russia counterpart Nikolai Patrushev to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, among other issues.

In his meeting with Patrushev, Shamkhani praised the efforts of Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors to create “a process for national unity” in that country. Shamkhani said a meeting to be held in Tehran later this year of senior security officials from Afghanistan’s neighbors would be an “appropriate opportunity to accelerate the process of establishing sustainable stability in Afghanistan.”

Patrushev also discussed with Shamkhani an upcoming trilateral meeting between Russia, Israel, and the U.S. about Syria. Patrushev said about the meeting, which is to take place in Israel: “We will inform the Islamic Republic of Iran, our strategic partner in the region, of the results of this meeting.”

Patrushev added: “Russia will definitely not support any actions that will exacerbate the crisis in Syria.”

Shamkhani also stated in Russia that “contrary to the propaganda by some against Iran, no war will occur because there is no reason for war to occur.”  He added that the U.S. was engaged in an “economic war” to bring the Iranian people “to their knees,” but that the “Iranian people are standing against them [the U.S.].”

Shamkhani further stated that in the face of the U.S.’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran will “gradually decrease its commitments” under the deal.

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Brother of Former President Tried for 2009 Election Fraud Claims

The trial Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and a former deputy parliamentary speaker, has concluded. Khatami was tried over remarks he made during a TV interview last year about Iran’s contested 2009 presidential election. Khatami had said in the interview that “around 7 to 8 million” votes were manipulated by the Interior Ministry.

After his trial, Khatami told the media that he had highlighted several cases of “fraud, interference, or [election] engineering, whatever you want to call it.” He said that his defense in court rested on three pillars, which were based on “statistics and documents from the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council.” This included a Guardian Council investigation after the election, which stated that 2 million votes were missing in the official count.

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Iran to Breach JCPOA Limit

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Iran will begin the next stage of ceasing compliance with aspects of the JCPOA on July 7th. On May 8th, Iran had given Europe 60 days to meet its obligations under the JCPOA, or Iran would gradually leave limitations set out by the deal. (Read more about Iran’s earlier announcement in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered.)

According to the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), in this period starting on July 7th, Iran will breach the JCPOA’s limitation on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU). The JCPOA limits Iran to 300 kg of LEU enriched to the 3.67 percent level. Iran has also said it may restart enrichment at higher levels.

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Japanese PM Travels to Tehran Amid Tanker Sabotage

Week of June 10, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Rouhani Tells Shinzo Abe Iran Doesn’t Want a War with the U.S.

On June 12th, President Rouhani met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran. It was the first trip by a Japanese prime minister to Iran since before the 1979 revolution.

Abe said at a press conference after the meeting that Japan wants to play the “maximum role” in preventing conflict in the region. Abe said that “peace and stability in the Middle East is of the utmost importance not just for the region but for the entire world.” Abe said the primary reason for him travelling to Tehran was to reduce regional tensions.

Rouhani told Abe that Iran will not start any wars, “even with the U.S.,” but added that any war against Iran would have a “decisive response.” Rouhani also noted that he had told Abe that the roots of the current tensions with the U.S. stem from “America’s economic war” against Iran. He emphasized that this war must be “stopped.”

Rouhani noted that Abe was optimistic about the future and sees “positive changes” on the way.  Rouhani also stated that Japan was eager to continue to buy Iranian oil.

Rouhani further said that Iran’s future actions with respect to the JCPOA would be within the framework of the deal.

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Khamenei Issues Forceful Response to Trump Via Abe

On June 13th, Ayatollah Khamenei met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran. Prior to his trip, Abe discussed the “situation in Iran” in a phone conversation with President Trump.

At the beginning of the meeting, Abe said that he had a message for Ayatollah Khamenei from Trump. The message has not been detailed in any media reports, but Khamenei’s answers suggest that Trump reiterated that the U.S. does not seek regime change and seeks negotiations for a new nuclear deal.

Khamenei told Abe that “we don’t accept negotiations while under pressure.” He added that Iran’s experience with the JCPOA was “sour” and that “we will under no circumstances repeat such negotiations.”

Khamenei emphasized that he won’t communicate with Trump, stating: “I don’t believe a person like Trump is worthy of exchanging messages with. I do not and will not have any responses for him.

Khamenei dismissed Trump’s claim that he doesn’t seek regime change in Iran, stating: “This is a lie. If America could have done this [regime change], it would have done so. But it cannot.”

Khamenei also dismissed the notion of new nuclear negotiations, pointing to Iran’s experience with the JCPOA: “For five or six years, Iran negotiated on the nuclear issue with America and Europe within the framework of the P5+1. We reached a result. However, America has decisively reneged on this agreement. As such, how would any wise person negotiate again with a country that has reneged on all agreements?”

Khamenei stressed that Iran doesn’t seek nuclear weapons: “We are against nuclear weapons and I have issued a fatwa making the production of nuclear weapons haram [forbidden]. However, this should be known that if we wanted to build nuclear weapons, America can’t do anything. America not giving us permission creates no obstacles for us.”

Khamenei also rejected the idea that Trump seeks “sincere negotiations” with Iran: “We don’t believe this at all. No sincere negotiations can happen with someone like Trump. Sincerity is very rare among U.S. officials.”

Khamenei further stated that the Iranian nation was capable of developing without relying on the United States: “By God’s grace, without negotiations with America and despite sanctions, we will develop and progress.”

A conservative Iranian analyst said of Khamenei’s remarks: “The Leader’s remarks show the Islamic Republic’s strategy against Trump’s America. The foreign ministry should take lessons from Khamenei’s meeting with Abe. They should eliminate all their hope in the West and not wait for the end of Trump’s presidency. The problem of America is innate. There is no difference between Trump and Obama and this enmity has existed from the start of the Islamic revolution.”

On June 14th, Shinzo Abe spoke with President Trump on the phone upon his return to Japan. They discussed Abe’s trip to Tehran. Abe said he and Trump agreed on the need to cooperate to create stability in the Middle East.

Abe also said that Trump “expressed appreciation” for Abe travelling to Iran and trying to lower tensions.

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Political Prisoner Murdered

Alireza Shir Mohammad Ali, a 21-year-old political prisoner, was murdered by fellow cellmates in a prison is southern Tehran. He was arrested last year for his activities on social media and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Amnesty International has condemned the killing as “shocking.” The group has called for an immediate, consequential, and independent investigation.

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Rouhani Travels to Kyrgyzstan for Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit

President Rouhani travelled to Kyrgyzstan for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. On the sidelines of the summit, Rouhani held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rouhani told President Jinping that the U.S. seeks hegemony over all of Asia. He stated: “The pressure that the U.S. government imposes against Iran, China, and other countries is aimed at imposing its hegemony over all of Asia and the world.”

Rouhani said that China and Iran’s resistance to U.S. unilateralism benefited both countries. Rouhani added: “The Iranian people have shown that they don’t tremble before foreign pressure but become more unity and more resistant.”

Rouhani said that Iran wants to cooperate with China more closely, especially on the One Belt One Road project. He stated: “Given Iran’s geographic location, Iran is ready to play an important role in the One Belt One Road project.”

Xi Jinping told Rouhani that America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was the “main reason for the increase of regional tensions.” Xi also stressed that China wants to “improve relations” with Iran regardless of “current international conditions and the tension-ridden situation in the Persian Gulf.”

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Zarif Says Tanker Sabotage “Suspicious”

Foreign Minister Zarif said that the sabotage of two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf was “suspicious.” He attributed them to the so-called “B-team,” a reference to U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the sabotage.

Zarif said reports of the sabotage came as Japanese Foreign Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei. Zarif said the aim of accusing Iran was “to ruin the diplomacy of Shinzo Abe and to cover for economic terrorism against Iran.”

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Iranian Official Claims U.S. Sanctions to be Lifted

Week of June 3, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

 

Iranian Human Rights Lawyers Sentenced to Prison

On June 5th, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that in the past year, three Iranian human rights lawyers have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. They are: Amir-Salar Davoudi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Mohammad Najafi.

The latest to be indicted is Amir-Salar Davoudi. According to his wife, he has been indicted by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court Branch 15 due to his social media postings. The charges against him include “cooperating with a hostile government through an interview” and “propagandizing against the state.”

Masoud Kazemi, a journalist and editor-in-chief of the Sedaye Parsi newspaper, has also been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. According to his lawyer, his charges include “insulting the Leader” and “publishing falsehoods.” His lawyer added that once his charges are “confirmed,” he will serve two years in prison.

Parvaneh Salahshouri, a reformist member of parliament, called for the release of all political prisoners on occasion of the Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan. She requested that judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi use the holiday, on which some prisoners are usually released, to grant “amnesty to all the men and women who have been imprisoned for expressing their beliefs.” Salahshouri said such an action would be a step towards “forming national unity.”

The Iranian government regularly imprisons individuals for their political beliefs, including human rights activists, workers, artists, poets, and members and supporters of religious minorities. One imprisoned human rights activist, Narges Mohammadi, is currently in critical condition after surgery. Authorities have reportedly not provided her with proper treatment and medicine.

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Rouhani Says Negotiations Require Practical Actions, Not Words from Trump

President Rouhani has said that there “might be circumstances for resolving problems” with the U.S., but this would only occur if the U.S. “accepted responsibility” and made up for “damages.” He said that a change in the “tone and words” of U.S. officials was not enough.

Rouhani, who was speaking before Ayatollah Khamenei at a ceremony marking the end of Ramadan, also praised what he said was Iran’s “patience” against the United States. He stated: “In its plans against the Iranian people, the enemy failed to account for two forms of patience. One of the political system and government officials and the second from the Iranian people. Therefore, the enemy has continuously made miscalculations.”

Rouhani asserted that the Trump administration wished to bait Iran into leaving the JCPOA but failed to do so. He explained: “They left an international agreement to end our patience and for us to leave the deal. America would then have been able to impose international sanctions against us without suffering any cost.

He added: “But the strategic patience of the political system and the people resulted in their ominous plans in leaving the JCPOA failing. They had no choice but to bear the weight of the responsibility for their violation, and Iran was victorious in international political and public opinion.”

Rouhani said that Iran cannot now be blamed for halting compliance with some of its JCPOA commitments. He stated: “Today, after one year of strategic patience, if we lower our commitment to the JCPOA, no one can blame us. But we must use the opportunities presented by this deal against those who’ve violated it.”

Last week, President Rouhani also stated that Iran needed to see “practical action” and “not words” from the Trump administration for negotiations to occur. He proclaimed: “Our criteria is not words but action. When they stop their oppression against the Iranian people and end their repressive sanctions and uphold their commitments and return to the negotiation table that they left. The path for them is not closed.”

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Parliamentary Official Says U.S. Sanctions to be Lifted

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s foreign policy and national security commission, tweeted that the “period of US sanctions being removed is nearing.” He added: “Iran and the US have managed tensions in such a way that extremists have been pushed to the periphery. There is no reason for the continued presence of U.S. naval ships [in the Persian Gulf].” Falahatpisheh gave no further explanation for why sanctions would soon be lifted.

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

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Khamenei Blasts “Deal of the Century” on Israel-Palestine, Calls for Referendum

In his speech marking the Islamic holiday of Eid-e Fitr, Ayatollah Khamenei declared that the “plan known as the deal of the century will never be realized.” Khamenei was referring to the Trump administration’s yet-to-be-revealed plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Khamenei stated that the plan was “the number one issue for the Islamic world.”

Khamenei censured Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for laying the groundwork deal of the century plan. He said of Bahrain, which is hosting an economic conference on Palestine as part of the so-called deal of the century: “This conference belongs to the Americans, but the Bahraini rulers are hosting it and laying the groundwork for it due to their weakness, incapability, and anti-public and anti-Islamic spirits. The rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia should know what a swamp they’ve stepped in.”

In a separate speech, Khamenei proclaimed that Iran was seeking a referendum regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. He stated: “Contrary to the views of some old Arab leaders who believed that the Jews should be thrown in the sea, the Islamic Republic doesn’t believe this. We believe that the Palestinians should continue their struggle in every facet, militarily, politically, and culturally, until the usurpers submit to their vote.”

Khamenei explained that this vote would be a referendum among the “Muslim, Christian, and Jewish occupants of Palestine as well as Palestinian refugees regarding the framework for the political system of this country.”

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Responding to Trump, Khamenei Says Iran Won’t Get Close to America

In a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran’s development and progress rested on not being close to America. Khamenei was indirectly responding to President Trump’s remarks in Tokyo recently stating that Iran “has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership” and that he wasn’t seeking regime change.

Khamenei said that Iranian officials and people shouldn’t fall for “Trump’s sly political games.” He added: “We can’t get close to the Americans. Wherever the Americans have put their feet, there has either been war or internal discord.”

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Students Protest Repression & Sanctions

Week of May 27, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

 

Students Protest Government Repression & Sanctions

On May 26th, students at Tehran’s Allameh Tabataba’i University protested “foreign sanctions” and “domestic repression.” The students expressed support for imprisoned teachers, workers, environmental activists, and Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

In a statement, the students declared their opposition to “war, sanctions, and authoritarianism.” They said they represented a people “stuck between domestic and foreign bullies” and vowed to not “bow to either.”

The students also declared to the Iranian government: “We warn domestic rulers that they don’t have a right to gamble with the everyday livelihoods of the people. They don’t have the right to sacrifice the material wealth of the public on risky policies.”

The students also criticized the Iranian government for contributing to insecurity with its repression. They stated: “How can one talk about insecurity when everyday we witness arrests and the imprisoning of critics of the status quo. Over the past decades, the government’s actions and accepting only one voice has created a situation where the university is like a military base and the smallest actions are suppressed.”

The students also criticized outside Iranian opposition groups that encourage foreign sanctions and war: “As long as this opposition is indifferent to the suffering and hardship of people and hopes it can achieve their liberty through their poverty and misery, they have no meaningful difference with the groups governing the country and they themselves are part of the current deterioration of status quo.

The statement went on: “They should realize that the aversion of the people towards current situation does not justify the inhumane policy they have adopted in the political realm.”

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IRGC Commander Says U.S Aircraft Carrier Hasn’t Moved to the Persian Gulf

Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander of the IRGC, has dismissed reports that the U.S. has increased its military presence in the Middle East. Fadavi stated: “Currently, the U.S. has the weakest presence it has ever had in the Persian Gulf and the lowest amount of vessels it has ever had in the Persian Gulf.”

Fadavi rejected reports that the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier has moved to the Persian Gulf. He proclaimed: “Even the aircraft carrier that was moving towards the region as part of a previous plan has been halted in the Indian Ocean because of their fear. It has not entered the Persian Gulf.”

Fadavi also dismissed the need for Iran to engage in diplomacy with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. He stated: “We shouldn’t talk about these small and weak entities like Saudi Arabia. When America is on the other side and the subject of the quarrel, we shouldn’t talk about those who aren’t consequential.”

Fadavi’s comments come as Foreign Minister Zarif travelled to Baghdad, where he said Iran sought “balanced” and “the best” relations with all the Persian Gulf countries. Zarif also reiterated a previous call he had made for a “non-aggression pact” between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.

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Ex-Tehran Mayor Murders Wife, Spurring Major Controversy

On May 28th, the head of Tehran’s criminal prosecutor’s office announced that Mitra Ostad, the wife of former Tehran major Mohammad-Ali Najafi, had been killed. Hours later, Najafi turned himself in to the police and confessed to murdering his wife.

Najafi’s confession was aired on state TV during an interview at the Tehran criminal prosecutor’s office. Najafi is a member of the reformist faction and, in addition to a months-long stint as Tehran’s mayor, served in the cabinet of President Rouhani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

According to Najafi’s lawyer, he has been charged with “premeditated murder” and “possessing an illegal firearm.” Najafi’s license for his firearm reportedly expired four years ago.

Najafi’s case has spurred immense controversy in Iran, particularly over state television’s coverage of his confession. In the video, Najafi calmly explains his side of the story while drinking tea. Hesamodin Ashna, a senior advisor to President Rouhani, said this issue will be pursued by the “oversight council of state television.”

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Khamenei Says Iran will meet Pressure with Pressure, Doesn’t want Nuclear Weapons

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated in a speech that negotiations with the U.S. have “no benefits” and cause “harm.” He stated: “We don’t negotiate on core issues related to the revolution’s honor. We don’t negotiate about our military capabilities. The meaning of negotiations in this area [for the U.S.] is a transaction. Meaning that we give up our defensive capabilities.”

Khamenei said that the U.S. uses negotiations as mean of increasing pressure. He asserted: “Pressure is the strategy the Americans use to get something they want from a country. Negotiations are a tactic of this pressure. They bring pressure so the other side gets tired and then they say let’s negotiate … but their strategic aim is not negotiations, it’s pressure.”

Khamenei declared that Iran had to meet pressure with pressure. He stated: “The way to confront this is for the other side to use pressure in order to decrease pressure on itself. But if it is fooled into negotiations and thinks there is no need to use its means of imposing pressure, then this is a definite defeat [for the side facing the U.S.].”

Khamenei suggested that Iran would leave further JCPOA limits to increase pressure on the U.S. He stated: “The only path for us is to confront U.S. pressure by using our means of imposing pressure. Contrary to the propaganda that is out there, our pressure tools aren’t only of a military nature, though if needed we will use military means.

He added: “But what the Supreme National Security Council did in saying that we will not implement our commitments in certain areas and will leave our commitments [with the JCPOA], this was the right thing.” Khamenei was referencing Iran’s recent decision to cease compliance with aspects of the JCPOA, detailed in a recent issue of Iran Unfiltered.

Khamenei further said that if Iran “doesn’t use its pressure tools,” the “other side will feel comfortable to increase pressure.”

Khamenei also proclaimed that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons. He stated: “We are not after nuclear weapons. Not because of U.S. sanctions, but because we view them as forbidden on religious grounds.”

He further emphasized the point: “Some say that we should produce nuclear weapons but not use them. This is also a mistake. Because we will produce them at great cost but won’t use them and the other side knows we won’t use them, so it has no use for us.”

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Rouhani Addresses Attendees of Anti-Iran Summit in Mecca

President Rouhani released a letter directed to the representatives of the Arab countries gathered for a summit in Mecca by Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Salman described the gathering as an “emergency summit” to counter Iran. Rouhani criticized Saudi Arabia for not inviting Iran to what he dubbed as a gathering of Islamic countries.

Rouhani said Iran was “fully ready” to “cooperate” with the “family of the Islamic world.” He also rebuked U.S. support for Israel, citing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel. He said these actions reflected “total enmity not just against Palestine, but the entire Islamic world.”

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Khamenei Distances Himself from the JCPOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Several Journalists Arrested

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

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

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Rouhani Says He Needs More Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iranian Officials Discount Possibility of War

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

Tehran University Students Protest Compulsory Hijab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New IRGC Chief Briefs Parliament, Discounts Possibility of War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran Starts Process to Halt Full JCPOA Compliance

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

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

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

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Khamenei Rules Out War or Negotiations with Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IRGC Deputy Attacks “Western-Oriented” Politicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran Halts Compliance with Aspects of the JCPOA

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

 

Iran Halts Compliance with Aspects of the JCPOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Warns That European Security Will Deteriorate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UN Ambassador Says Diplomatic Window Open

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

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

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Conservative Website Analyzes John Bolton’s Threatening Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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