Mousavi Denounces Killing of Protestors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Former President Khatami Comments on Protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hardline Kayhan Attacks Mousavi, Khatami & Karoubi

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

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

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Registration Period Starts for Upcoming Parliamentary Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Claims Some Protests Organized by Outside Powers

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

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

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Khamenei Says Some Killed in Protests are “Martyrs”

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

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

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Iran Gripped by Protests and Internet Shutdown

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

Protests Met with Crackdown, Internet Shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Domestic Political Feuding Over Gas Price Hike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Addresses Protests

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

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

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

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Khamenei Says U.S. Sanctions Will Remain for Years

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

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

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

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

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Environmentalists Handed Prison Sentences

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

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Discusses Israel and Antisemitism

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

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

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

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Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

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

Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Spars with Judiciary Over Anti-Corruption Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gasoline to be Rationed, New Revenue Redistributed

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

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

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

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Officials Discuss Efforts at Negotiations with the UAE, Saudis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweden Arrests Iranian Implicated in 1988 Executions

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

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

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Outlet Analyzes Iran’s Options on JCPOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Pardons Prisoners

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

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Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment

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

Iran Further Reduces JCPOA Compliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5.9 Richter Earthquake Strikes Northwest Iran

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

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Khamenei Elaborates on Reasons for Opposing US Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UN Human Rights Council Reviews Iran’s Human Rights Record

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

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

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

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

 

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Iranian Army Shoots Down “Unidentified” Drone

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

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

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

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