Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

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

Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

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

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

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

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

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Protests Shake Western Iranian City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Feuds with Guardian Council Over Parliamentary Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iranian Oil Tanker Attacked in Red Sea

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

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Iran Opposes Turkish Incursion in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Reiterates Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

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

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

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Zarif Welcomes Diplomacy with Saudi Arabia

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

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

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

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Iranian Women Buy Tickets for Soccer Match

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

Iranian Women Buy Tickets for Soccer Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Law Expands Citizenship for Children with Foreign Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Calls for Further Reductions in JCPOA Compliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran’s Nuclear Agency Hints at Next Action

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

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

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IRGC Chief Issues Threatening Rhetoric on Israel

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

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

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Rouhani’s Brother Sentenced to Prison

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

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

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

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Official Confirms Overtures from Saudi Arabia

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

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

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

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Rouhani Says US Open to Sanctions Removal

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

UN General Assembly Ends Without US-Iran Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rouhani Says U.S. Open to Sanctions Removal

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

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

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

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

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Protesting Workers Attacked & Detained

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

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

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

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Rouhani Confirms Saudi Diplomatic Overture

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Blasts Europe

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

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

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

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

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Officials Deny Saudi Attack, Say Houthi Capabilities Increasing

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

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

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

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

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Khamenei Says Iran Must Disprove Efficacy of “Maximum Pressure”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NIAC Statement on Rouhani’s Speech at the UN General Assembly

Washington DC – Today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In his remarks, Rouhani emphasized the rising tensions across the Middle East and underscored that negotiations with the United States could not move forward until sanctions are lifted.

In response, NIAC’s Senior Research Analyst Sina Toossi issued the following statement:

“Both President Trump and Iranian President Rouhani engaged in ritualistic grandstanding and rhetoric against each other’s countries at the UN. However, both also kept the window for diplomacy open, even as they couched their overtures in bombast. Trump proclaimed yesterday that he is ready to “embrace friendship” with those who seek peace, and both leaders have made clear they don’t have an appetite for war. 


“While Trump seeks a photo-op with Rouhani, confidence and trust must first be built to restore lost U.S. credibility with the parties to the nuclear deal. Rouhani gave Trump a face-saving way to abide by the accord’s framework, without formally returning to the deal. The path to negotiations and durable U.S.-Iran peace exists, but requires each side to leave the escalation cycle and for the U.S. to ease sanctions to jumpstart dialogue.”

 

NIAC Statement on Trump’s Address at the UN General Assembly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 24, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington DC – Today, President Donald Trump delivered his third address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) since taking the presidency. As tensions between the U.S. and Iran hit an all time high, Trump aggressively targeted Iran in his speech, calling the country one of the “greatest security threats” and insisting that sanctions on Iran would not be lifted, but only further “tightened.”

In response, NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

“President Trump doubled down on the insults and invectives against Iran that only raises the domestic political cost for Rouhani to engage with the U.S. By resorting to simplistic rhetoric that demonizes Iran and blames it for all regional ills, Trump risks dooming what may be his last best chance to pivot towards diplomacy and away from a pressure policy that has brought the Middle East to the brink. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine how any Iranian official will now be able to have a sit down with Trump and be able to survive the backlash back home. 

“Trump had been presented an opportunity to alter course on Iran, both by an innovative French proposal for sanctions relief and a recent overture from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif for permanent nuclear inspections. He chose to not discuss any substantive diplomatic initiative or indicate any willingness to ease the reckless “maximum pressure” campaign. By vowing to instead “tighten sanctions,” Trump is entrenching himself on a collision course with Tehran that will inevitably expand the endless war that he claims to want to end. 

“The incoherence of President Trump’s Iran policy was also on full display. His welcome remarks that the U.S. does not seek “permanent enemies” were dovetailed with the blatant falsehood that Iran has a “fanatical quest” for nuclear weapons. Notably, Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates last acknowledged concluded last year that Iran was not “undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” Such distortions by the President echo the Bush administration’s stream of misinformation that led to the disastrous Iraq War that Trump claimed to oppose but risks repeating.”

NIAC Details Concerns with New Congressional Letter

Washington, DC – Last Thursday, a group of ten organizations including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) led an organizational sign-on letter detailing concerns with a new Congressional letter being circulated for signature in the House by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY). 

The Royce-Engel letter outlines concerns with the recent missed deadline for the IAEA’s investigation into prior, possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program. In the organizational response to that letter, groups conveyed that they shared concerns regarding Iran’s failure to meet two out of five benchmarks for the investigation, but also warned that language in the Royce-Engel letter appears to “suggest that the IAEA’s PMD investigation must be fully resolved before the P5+1 and Iran can cement a final nuclear agreement.” The organizations cautioned that that the IAEA investigation was never intended to be resolved in such time and that Congress must not make the investigation “a prerequisite for an agreement, rather than an element of a final deal” because doing so “could ensure that neither goal is achieved.”

Below, you can find a copy of the organizational letter sent to Reps. Royce and Engel, which was signed by representatives of ten organizations:
 

September 18, 2014

The Honorable Ed Royce Chairman
House Foreign Affairs Committee

The Honorable Elliot Engel Ranking Member
House Foreign Affairs Committee

Dear Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel,

We are writing to convey our concerns about a letter you are circulating concerning the IAEA investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program.

We share your concern about Iran’s failure, thus far, to fully address two out of the five issues that are part of the IAEA’s investigation. However, we believe that some of the language in your letter is inaccurate and, if translated into policy, would be harmful – not only to the IAEA investigation itself, but also to the entirely separate, but related, efforts by the United States and P5+1 to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Specifically, your letter appears to suggest that the IAEA’s PMD investigation must be fully resolved before the P5+1 and Iran can cement a final nuclear agreement1. This assertion is both inaccurate and problematic. This is not a minor issue: making resolution of the PMD issue a prerequisite for an agreement, rather than an element of a final deal, could ensure that neither goal is achieved.

As you know, these negotiations have proceeded on the understanding that the effort to achieve a comprehensive nuclear deal is independent of a resolution of the IAEA’s investigation. There is thus no basis for the assertion that the achievement of a nuclear deal is predicated on first resolving all past PMD issues. Indeed, an effective monitoring and verification regime that would detect and prevent potential nuclear weapons activities can be established prior to completion of the IAEA investigation23. Furthermore, under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the implementation of a final nuclear deal will require Iran to fulfill its NPT obligations, including resolution of the PMD issues.

We also believe your letter’s characterization of Iran missing this deadline on two out of five elements of the PMD investigation as a “refusal to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency” is an overstatement that is as unhelpful as it is misleading. In fact, the IAEA itself reports4 that the agency remains in discussion with Iran about resolving the two remaining issues and that Iran has fully implemented its obligations under the Joint Plan Of Action (JPOA). While Iran’s failure to meet the IAEA’s requirements on the two remaining issues is indeed a serious issue, it makes no sense to ignore the fact that Iran met the previous two deadlines for the IAEA’s investigation and provided information and access to resolve 13 areas of concern, including a PMD issue. Yes, Iran should fully address all remaining issues in the IAEA investigation, as it committed to in an agreement with the agency last November. But equating a missed deadline with a “refusal to cooperate” is inaccurate and misleading, given the status of the overall investigation and the ongoing contacts to resolve the issues.

In addition, we are concerned that the letter mischaracterizes the IAEA’s investigation as an “unrestricted inspection and verification regime.” The IAEA effort is a targeted and time-limited investigation into past issues, not an inspections and verification regime to monitor future activities. The latter is, in fact, what is under discussion in the P5+1 talks. This is important because, while the IAEA investigation can provide insights into past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 negotiations are aimed at preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon in the future. Your letter unfortunately conflates these two tracks and their respective timelines, and in so doing risks undermining them both.

Finally, we are very concerned this letter can be read to suggest a Congressional demand that any final agreement include unfettered access to all Iranian military facilities by international inspectors5. Such a requirement is a nonstarter for a negotiated solution – indeed, it is difficult to fathom how any country could consent to such terms – and is manifestly not a necessary component of a strong inspections and verification regime. Instead, a final deal will require Iran to implement the Additional Protocol6, which is specifically designed to guard against illicit nuclear programs. The Additional Protocol gives the IAEA the authority to visit any facility where nuclear material may have been introduced to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in Iran’s nuclear activities to ensure that the program is entirely peaceful.

We recognize that Congress has an important oversight role to play with respect to the Obama Administration’s efforts to resolve the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program. We believe it is absolutely right for you, as leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to ask questions and raise concerns. At the same time, we want to emphasize to you how critical it is that Congress supports both the IAEA investigation and the P5+1 negotiations. Together, they provide a critical opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, in all its aspects, diplomatically.

Regrettably, some of the language in your letter could undermine, rather than support, these diplomatic opportunities. We urge you to revise the letter to ensure this is not the case.

Sincerely,

Jamal Abdi
Policy Director
National Iranian American Council

Kelsey Davenport
Director for Nonproliferation Policy
Arms Control Association

Lara Friedman
Director of Policy and Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now

Kate Gould
Legislative Associate, Middle East Policy
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Sara Haghdoosti
CEO & Co-Founder
Berim.org

Laicie Heeley
Director of Middle East and Defense Policy
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Paul Kawika Martin
Policy Director
Peace Action

Stephen Miles
Advocacy Director
Win Without War

Jon Rainwater
Executive Director
Peace Action West

Susan Shaer
Executive Director
Women’s Action for New Directions

Please direct correspondence to: 1411 K St NW #250, Washington, DC 20005

“A resolution of this issue is also essential to establishing a baseline regarding the status of the 

http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2014_09/Features/Nuclear-­‐Verification-­‐in-­‐Iran

http://iranmatters.belfercenter.org/blog/verification-­‐measures-­‐final-­‐deal

http://isis-­‐online.org/uploads/isis-­‐reports/documents/gov-­‐2014-­‐43.pdf

“We are concerned that an agreement that accepts Iran’s lack of transparency on this key issue would set the dangerous precedent that certain facilities and aspects of Iran’s nuclear program can be declared off limits by Tehran, resulting in additional wide-­‐ranging restrictions on IAEA inspectors, and making effective verification virtually impossible.”

http://www.armscontrol.org/files/files/ACA_Iran_Briefing_Book_Update_June_2014.pdf 

Photo Courtesy of AP