Rouhani Goes to Japan & Discusses Potential Deal

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

Rouhani Travels to Japan, Says Iran Welcomes Potential Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MP Says “Many Killed” in Southwestern Town of Mahshahr

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

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

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

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Banking Reform Bills Take Step Towards Passage

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

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

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

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

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77 Reformists Call for Prosecutions Regarding Protest Deaths

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

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

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

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

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Reformist MP Makes Fiery Speech Critical of Status Quo

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

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

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

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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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