Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader.Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.
Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.
Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.
Nuclear Talks and Syria
After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18.
A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran’s ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran’s domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year’s General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process.
As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran’s ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning.
A New Supreme Leader
On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei’s health have shifted Iran’s priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei’s hospitalization to show that all is well — while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change — coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities.
Before Khamenei was elected supreme leader in 1989, the idea of a collective clerical body was in vogue among many clerics. The country’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on several occasions has proposed a „jurisprudential council“ consisting of several top clerics as an alternative to the supreme leader’s post. His proposal has not gained much traction, but with succession imminent, it might seem more attractive as a compromise should the competing factions prove unable to reach a consensus.
Constitutionally, an interim leadership council takes over should the incumbent supreme leader no longer be able to carry out his duties until the Assembly of Experts elects a successor. Considering the factionalized nature of the Iranian political elite, it is only normal to assume that the process to replace Khamenei will be marred by a major struggle between the various camps that make up the conservative establishment. After all, this is an extremely rare opportunity for those seeking change and for those seeking continuity to shape the future of the republic.
For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially.
The country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession.
Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president’s pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.
Ayatollah Khamenei, Assad spoke of reforms
Hossein Sheikholeslam, Iran’s former ambassador to Syria and the current foreign policy adviser to the speaker of parliament, spoke toRamze Obour magazine about Iran’s relationship with Syria and the mistakes of the Syrian government, revealing some previously unknown information.
Though Sheikholeslam’s comments were recently picked up by Shargh Newspaper, the original interview took place in April before the Syrian elections. Some of his points in the interview are noteworthy in that they concede mistakes by the Syrian government. The interviewer was unafraid to challenge the official on a topic rarely covered from a nuanced angle in Iran, and the discussion also addressed a letter from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to President Bashar al-Assad.
Sheikholeslam said that the best way out of Syria’s civil war, which has left over 170,000 dead and much of country destroyed, is through elections, as experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan show that people would not support extremists in elections. When asked, “Isn’t it too late for that now in Syria?” he said, “Yes, everything is too late. We should have done it earlier.”
He said, “From day one, the supreme leader took a position that Syria needs to undergo reforms.” He said that Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps‘ Quds Force, took a message to Assad written by Ayatollah Khamenei in the first days of the protests. The message said, “The killings should not take place and reforms have to be accepted.”
Sheikholeslam said, “Assad accepted [that] reforms [were needed], but he didn’t have the proper mechanisms. Assad didn’t even have police. Whatever they had, it was the army. If it had a problem with anyone, they would shoot at the crowd with automatic weapons.”
He said many of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commanders have been in the region and “know what Bashar’s problem is. As soon as four people would gather, instead of using police, the army would use automatic weapons. … They wanted to solve it with force.”
He added that Iran had helped in this matter and also helped form groups to negotiate with the opposition. It has been well documented by now that Iran has sent fighters into Syria to support and advise Syrian troops.
When asked, „From this democracy that you suggest and that Soleimani recommended for Syria, would Bashar Assad’s name come out of the ballot box again?” Sheikholeslam said that Iran hadn’t interfered in the domestic affairs of Syria, an assertion the interviewer rejected. Sheikholeslam blamed Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel for trying to make Syria’s government collapse.
The interview began by discussing modern history, most of it well known, including former President Hafez Assad’s support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, assistance Sheikholeslam believes prevented it from being an “Arab-Iranian” war. Syria was the only country to support Iran, while most Arab countries supported Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Sheikholeslam also said that with Assad’s support, Iran could not have helped form Hezbollah in Lebanon. When asked whether Iran’s support for the Syrian government is because of Syria’s support for Hezbollah, Sheikholeslam said, “No, the entire Islamic resistance, not just Hezbollah.”
This prompted a question about Hamas, which sided with Syrian rebels against Assad’s regime. “They sacrificed their relationship with Iran and Syria for a domestic Muslim Brotherhood issue,” Sheikholeslam said, calling Hamas‘ move a “vital mistake.” However, he said that Iran and Hamas “strategically have no choice but unity.” When asked if Hamas‘ relationship with Qatar could change this relationship, Sheikholeslam said, “Qatar will not give Hamas even one bullet.”
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, everyone, for joining. For those of you in Vienna, I know it’s a late night here, and welcome to everyone from Washington. Tonight’s conference call is on background. We have three people who will be speaking; all will be Senior Administration Officials. There will be no embargo to this call. So you know who’s speaking, the first Senior Administration Official will be [Senior Administration Official One]. The second will be [Senior Administration Official Two]. And the third will be [Senior Administration Official Three].
So each of them will give a few brief opening remarks and then we will open it up for questions. Again, this is all on background to Senior Administration Officials. So with that, I will turn it over to [Senior Administration Official One] to get us started.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, [Moderator]. I’ll just make a few comments and turn it over to my colleague. First of all, you all have been following these negotiations closely over the last six months, so I’ll just give a brief overview of how we got to where we are today. First of all, as we’ve indicated, we are very pleased with the successful implementation of the Joint Plan of Action over the course of the last six months. Iran has met all of its commitments with respect to its nuclear program: neutralizing the 20 percent stockpile; capping their 5 percent stockpile; not installing new components or testing new components at the Arak facility; not installing new advanced centrifuges; and enabling much more robust inspections of their nuclear facilities. So we believe the Joint Plan of Action has been a success in halting the progress of the Iranian program and rolling it back in exchange for a relatively modest relief that has been provided over the six months.
Of course, the purpose of the Joint Plan of Action was also to create space for the negotiation of a comprehensive solution, and that’s what we’ve been pursuing these last six months. There have been difficult negotiations. Frankly, as we entered this latest round at the beginning of July, had we not made progress it was not by any means a forgone conclusion that we would pursue an extension, because our view was the Joint Plan of Action is not a new status quo, but rather a means of getting us the space to reach an agreement. So we wanted to see if there could be sufficient progress in these latest negotiations to, again, in our minds justify a continued dedication of time and effort. And that was very much the President’s direction to the team as they headed out to Vienna at the beginning of the month.
And as my colleague can discuss, we did see good progress in a range of areas over the last several weeks, even as there continue to be gaps, particularly as we discuss various proposals for issues related to the Arak facility, related to the future of the Fordow facility, related to Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and then related to the type of monitoring and inspections regime that would accompany part of a long-term agreement, issues that get at fundamental pathways to a nuclear weapon that we want to deal with in the course of a comprehensive agreement.
So that doesn’t mean we’ve resolved all of those issues completely, but it does mean that we saw openings and progress and creative proposals that began to see a potential assurance that elements of the Iranian program could be assured as peaceful to our satisfaction.
At the same time, there continue to be important gaps, however, between the parties. We, for instance, have highlighted the issue of domestic enrichment and the number of centrifuges that Iran would be operating as a part of the agreement as one very important remaining gap that has to be worked through.
So you had, again, Wendy Sherman working this constantly the last several weeks with a significant team of technical experts who have done extraordinary work in Vienna. You had Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns assisting in those negotiations, and you had Secretary Kerry traveling to the region to engage in two days of intensive discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif and Cathy Ashton and the other P5+1 ministers who were there earlier this week.
After that trip, Secretary Kerry came back to Washington. He briefed President Obama about the status of the negotiations on Wednesday. It was President Obama’s determination out of that meeting that it was worth pursuing an extension, given the progress that had been made, and given the potential prospect for comprehensive resolution. That’s no means assured, but we believe that the progress justified the continued investment of time and effort. And that is what, over the last several days, our negotiators have been developing with the Iranians in Vienna.
And so today, we have the agreement to extend the discussions until November 24th. As a part of that agreement, again, we wanted to continue to hold in place the progress that is in the Joint Plan of Action. We also wanted to see if there were additional elements that could be negotiated with Iran as more of a down payment on the negotiation.
With that, I’ll hand it over to my colleague, who can discuss the conduct of the broader negotiations as well as the specific terms of the extension where we aim to get at some of our additional proliferation concerns.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks very much, [Senior Administration Official One], and thank you all for joining. Some of you have been holed up here in Vienna. It’s a beautiful city if one gets to get out in it, but for now from the 1st of July until – what day is this today, the 18th?
QUESTION: The 18th.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: The 18th of July. A staggering number of people have been at the Coburg Hotel or at the Marriott Hotel or staying in their embassies, and literally working day and night in all kinds of formats, in bilaterals, trilaterals, in plenary sessions, with the Iranians, coordinating with each other, calling back home, getting instructions, trying to move this effort forward, working when ministers came in to try – working with our extraordinary team of experts not only here in Vienna but in the U.S. Government. The team here is backed up literally by hundreds of people, including people in our labs, people in the Department of Energy, people in Treasury, and really in the White House, of course, throughout the government. So it’s really quite a massive effort, and I’m quite proud to be part of this team.
We have worked very hard to try to move the Comprehensive Plan of Action forward. And [Senior Administration Official One] has outlined some of the areas in which we have made some progress. As you all know, because you’ve heard me many times before, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So you have to put these elements on the table. You have to work them through. You have to see how they work with each other and change the nature of the Rubik’s cube, as I’ve said, that you’re trying to put together.
We made some progress. [Senior Administration Official One] has outlined some of those areas, Secretary Kerry did in his statement today, on Arak, on Fordow, on the low enrichment, on the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, on enhanced monitoring and verification mechanisms, on some other key issues, R&D, PMD, and of course, enrichment capacity. We still have a considerable way to go, but even in those areas, ideas have been put on the table that have enough stature that they’re worth considering.
So what we are doing now is, having seen that we weren’t going to get to that comprehensive agreement – and this is a very complex technical negotiation with – really, it will end up being quite a long set of annexes that detail the political commitments – we began to discuss whether an extension made sense. Secretary Kerry came here and, as [Senior Administration Official One] said, assessed what was going on, took back his thoughts and ideas to the President, met with the President, gave us instructions here on behalf of the President to see if we could not move forward on an extension.
So for the past days, we have been negotiating that extension. We reached agreement tonight. For those of you who don’t know, it’s 2:00 in the morning here. And about an hour, hour-and-a-half ago, Cathy Ashton and Javad Zarif held a press conference where they put out statements. This extension of the Joint Plan of Action continues all of the commitments that are on the Joint Plan of Action and is meant to be simply an extension of that plan a year from when it was first executed to November 24th, 2014. But in addition, Iran has agreed that it will move forward in a more expeditious manner to complete the fabrication of all 20 percent oxide in Iran into fuel in a timely manner, and will indeed during this four-month period fabricate 25 kilograms of its 20 percent oxide into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. In addition, Iran will dilute all of its up to two percent stockpile. That is at least three metric tons. And although it doesn’t hold much SWU, separate work units – that’s the measure of energy, so to speak – at the moment, in a breakout scenario it’s quite significant and quite important. So we think this is a big step forward.
In addition, Iran has taken some undertakings to clarify two critical issues in the Joint Plan of Action. One is confirming that rotors for advanced centrifuges at the Natanz pilot plant will only be produced at facilities to which the IAEA has monthly access, and they have confirmed that production of advanced centrifuges will only be to replace damaged machines. For those of you who follow all of this, you know that these are meaningful steps forward, in fact, on the road to the kinds of things we need to do in a comprehensive plan of action.
What we were really trying to do with this extension, and what is quite critical is to create the space to try to see if we cannot achieve a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action. It wasn’t for an end in itself, but rather to create the time and space in the same manner that the Joint Plan of Action did to see if we can, in fact, get to that Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action to ensure that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful.
I think everyone here feels that we achieved a balanced way forward for these four months. And now, quite frankly, the excruciating and quite difficult hard work begins. And we will do this in a whole variety of ways, in a whole variety of formats. There is no question that the UN General Assembly will become a focal point or a fulcrum for these negotiations. And as you’ve heard the President and the Secretary say many times, no deal is better than a bad deal. But I would also add that what we are aiming for is the right deal, one that will meet the objectives that the President has set out and that he has shown leadership to the world to create a much more secure path for all of us.
I’m going to stop there – be happy to take your questions – and turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Three]. And I thank – some Treasury colleagues have been here, and they have just been fantastic, and very grateful for Treasury’s extraordinary role in this process.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Great. Thank you. Thanks, [Senior Administration Official Two], and I’ll be brief. Just want to touch a little bit on the sanctions side and the relief side of the agreement.
When we entered into the Joint Plan of Action last November, we explained that in return for important limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, we were committing to limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief that would leave Iran still deep in an economic hole. That same approach is what is reflected in the extension agreement, that for a limited and reversible relief that does not come close to fixing Iran’s economy, we are still obtaining significant limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.
So to be more specific, the – in the JPOA extension that has been agreed to, for the next four months we will continue the suspension of the sanctions on automotive imports into Iran, petrochemical exports, and trade in gold. I will note that during the Joint Plan of Action period – the first six months – Iran derived very little value from those sanctions’ suspension. We estimated the total value of the relief in the Joint Plan of Action would be in the neighborhood of $6 to 7 billion, and I think it has actually come in less than that. Critically, the overwhelming majority of our sanctions, including the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions, all remain in place. And we will continue to vigorously enforce those sanctions throughout the extension period.
And as part of the JPOA extension, Iran will be allowed access in tranches over the next four months to $2.8 billion from its restricted overseas assets. Those assets, which are unavailable to Iran, largely unavailable to Iran, are more than $100 billion. Those assets have actually increased over the course of the Joint Plan of Action as the oil revenues that Iran has been earning have been poured into these restricted accounts. So they will get access to $2.8 billion from these restricted accounts, which is the pro-rated amount of the relief that was provided in the JPOA period, which had been $4.2 billion.
Now, throughout this short-term extension of the JPOA in the next four months, we will continue to emphasize to businesses around the world that Iran is not open for business. That has not changed. As President Obama indicated, we’ll continue to come down like a ton of bricks on those who evade or otherwise facilitate the circumvention of our sanctions. And we’ll make clear to the world, as we have all along, that Iran continues to be cut off from the international financial system, with its most significant banks subject to sanction, including its central bank; that any foreign bank that transacts with any designated Iranian bank can lose its access to the U.S. financial system; that investment and support to Iran’s oil and petrochemical sectors is still subject to sanctions; that Iran’s currency, the rial, is still subject to sanctions, as is Iran’s ability to obtain the U.S. dollar; and that all U.S., EU, and UN designations of illicit actors, which number more than 600 at this place – at this point, all remain in place; and that the broad restrictions on U.S. trade with Iran also remain in place.
So as [Senior Administration Official Two] mentioned, this four-month extension will provide additional time for the negotiations to proceed. It will not change the basic fact that drove Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and that’s the unprecedented and severe pressure on Iran’s economy from the international sanctions regime. That also has not changed.
With that, I – why don’t I conclude and turn it over for questions? Go for it, [Moderator].
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. And if the operator could remind people how to ask a question, please.
OPERATOR: Sure. Again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. And if you are using the speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Again, * 1 to queue up to ask a question.
And our first question comes from Anne Gearan from The Washington Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, and thanks to all for doing the call at what I know is a ridiculously late or early hour for you. Could you please address the question of whether the extension is going to be a hard sell for President Obama and his team with Congress, and also with Israel? I mean, there – this doesn’t seem to fundamentally change what’s on the table right now, but what’s on the table right now, as you well know, is less than acceptable to a lot of people in Congress, and Israel has never liked it from the beginning. So what do you do now that you’re sort of pushing the ball down the court a bit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. Thanks, Anne, for the question. I’d say a few things. First of all, just to reiterate a point that was made in the opening, the extension to November 24th has a clear logic in that the agreement that was reached on November 24th of last year specifically indicated a goal of one year to achieve a comprehensive resolution. So it was not an arbitrary date; it was one that was embedded in the initial agreement. The point there being that we are not simply re-upping a six-month agreement of the Joint Plan of Action as a new normal, a new status quo. We are, rather, extending, within a natural deadline, the benefits of the Joint Plan of Action so as to give the negotiations time to conclude.
The next point I’d make is that we have been in regular – you mentioned Israel – look, candidly, before the Joint Plan of Action was reached, I think there were public disagreements with Israel. Some of that flowed from the fact that elements of the Joint Plan of Action, or elements that were in support of the Joint Plan of Action, were discussed in a sensitive bilateral channel, so there was not a full transparency at every juncture with Israel and some of our partners. We endeavored, over the course of the last six months, to be much more transparent and to consult on a very regular basis with Israel and our other partners. And we – you saw Susan Rice lead a delegation to Israel; Wendy Sherman was regularly able to discuss the ongoing negotiations with some of her counterparts; other members of the U.S. Government, such that I think there’s a good understanding on our part of what Israel’s various positions and concerns are related to the negotiation, and we are able to give them a sense of understanding about how the negotiations are, moving forward.
I think it’s also fair to say that the Joint Plan of Action has over-performed in many respects. Iran has kept its commitments. The additional transparency and monitoring has gone forward, and the sanctions regime has held in place. And one of the concerns that was voiced by some in November and December is that the limited relief that we were providing would essentially snowball into many tens of billions of dollars in relief. That hasn’t taken place because of our continued enforcement of the sanctions regime. So, in other words, I think the Joint Plan of Action has over-performed in a way that provides a greater degree of comfort, although not complete comfort. I don’t want to overstate that there are not still, in Israel and other places, concerns about the prospect of what may be contained in a potential agreement. So in the sense of transparency and consultation, and in the sense of the success of the JPOA, we believe that we’ve made good progress.
Now with respect to the extension itself, we have been consulting with Congress very actively the last couple of weeks, so we have briefed regularly members in both the House and the Senate. There’s obviously a diversity of views in Congress about the negotiations and about what should be involved in a comprehensive resolution, even as I do think there’s an appreciation for some of the good progress that was made in the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action. I think what we are able to say to Congress today is there are very specific areas where we have made concrete progress. When we talk about how we are going to approach the future of the Arak facility and some of the proposals that have been made there; the future of the Fordow facility, which has been of particular concern because of the covert way in which it was developed and how deep underground it is; when you talk about the management of the stockpile and some of the transparency and monitoring proposals, you begin to see elements that would be contained in a comprehensive agreement that could assure an Iranian program that’s peaceful, that cut off key pathways to a weapon, be it a pathway through the Iraq reactor or the Fordow reactor. And yes, while there are gaps, and while there are gaps on particularly important issues like centrifuges and domestic enrichment inside of Iran, that there is significant progress that this is a serious negotiation, that we’re not just in talks for talks’ sake, we’re not just re-upping this for the sake of re-upping it; that we can show the ball has moved down the field. And we believe, with some more time, there is a prospect – not a guarantee, but a very real prospect – of potentially coming to an agreement that can assure us that the Iranian program is peaceful.
And then secondly, I think what we will be able to say to Congress is that not only will we maintain the progress that is embedded in the JPOA for the same prorated rate of modest relief that we’ve provided in the first six months, but there are additional steps that Iran is taking over the course of the four months that do have value in terms of converting that oxide from the 20 percent stockpile into fuel, in terms of dealing with that stockpile of up to 2 percent, and in terms of some of the additional R&D issues that my colleague spoke to, so that there is added value in what is being done over the course of the next four months as it relates to our proliferation concerns. All of that adds up to, we believe, a very strong and clear case for four more months to pursue a comprehensive resolution and to maintain the progress in the JPOA, and to add the additional elements that Iran has agreed to, all for very modest relief.
Were we to not take this step, not only would we be denying ourselves the opportunity to reach an agreement, but we would also be putting at risk the international unity that has gotten us to this point, given the fact that our partners feel like there’s the same progress that we see. So again, all – I think all of that adds up to the case we will continue to make to Congress. And as I said, we’ll continue to consult with our Israeli partners and other partners around the world.
Next question, [Moderator]?
OPERATOR: Thank you, and our next question comes from Jo Biddle from AFP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, good evening, good morning, thank you very much. A couple of logistics questions and a couple of clarifications, please.
When do you think you’ll be back to – are your teams now leaving – are the teams now leaving Vienna today or over the weekend, and when will you resume the talks heading into this next extension of four months?
On the clarifications side, when Secretary Kerry mentions in his statement that 25 kilograms of the 20 percent fuel, which has been converted – is going to be converted into – which has been diluted, is going to be converted into fuel, is – how much of this is actually – how much of the 20 percent stocks actually remains, and how much of this is going to be converted? How much of the 20 percent stocks is going to be converted into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor?
And just a question for [Senior Administration Official Three], if possible. You mentioned that there was now more than $100 billion in assets, given the oil revenues which have continued to flow into these frozen accounts. Are you able to give us a more accurate figure of how much is actually still in these accounts? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: So let me take a couple of those questions. Yes, everyone is leaving Vienna. We’ve had quite enough of the Coburg buffets, wonderful as they were. We’ve all been eating and sleeping here.
What we believe very strongly is that everyone needs to take the time to go back to capitals and think about what’s gone on here, think about the way ahead, do some of the intellectual work that is necessary, do some of the technical work that is necessary to follow up on the myriad of ideas that have been put on the table here. There is quite a book of ideas, concepts, possible solutions. And, quite frankly, when you’re here in the middle of a negotiations is not the best time to do the technical work, to think through whether they are solutions or not. So everybody needs to take some time to do that kind of work in a reflective way.
We expect that there will be in some format some discussions yet during the month of August, whether that’s with Baroness Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif, whether that’s among political directors, whether that’s a preliminary discussion either bilaterally, trilaterally, or in the P5+1 with Iran that’s not clear. As I said, the UN General Assembly will be a fulcrum both ahead of it, during it, and after it, because we have a lot of players there and an easy way to really get some business done.
So that’s on the sort of how we’re going to resume and where we’re going to go. I expect it to be extremely intensive, as it always is.
On the 25 kilograms, in all there are about a hundred – probably slightly less but about a hundred kilograms, so 25 percent, a quarter of the 20 percent enriched uranium oxide will be converted into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. And for those of you who haven’t had to learn all of this yet, welcome to learning all of this. I haven’t learned it all yet, but I am surrounded by brilliant people who do.
Once oxide – once enriched uranium is converted oxide into fuel plates, then Iran would find it quite difficult and time-consuming to use this 20 percent enriched material for further enrichment in a breakout scenario. So you want to turn this into metal plates because it makes it much more difficult, if not nearly impossible – not entirely impossible, but nearly impossible – to use it to further enrich the highly enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.
So even putting in this language that this will – all of it will happen in a timely manner, Iran has said in the past that it wanted to convert all of its oxide of 20 percent enriched uranium into metal plates, but they’ve been doing it at incredibly slow rates, at about 1.5 kilograms a month. And so this will accelerate that process, and they have now reaffirmed in this document their commitment to do this with all of the 20 percent fuel. And that’s quite important.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: And just briefly on the – on your last question, I cannot give you a precise figure on it. I can tell you though that during the course of the JPOA the first – the six months of the JPOA, Iran sold oil worth about $25 billion. The vast majority of that revenue has gone into restricted accounts. Some of it has been released as part of the agreement in the JPOA, and some of it can be used for bilateral trade or for humanitarian trade, but we think that the amounts that are building up in these accounts is – I can’t give you a precise figure on it, but the amounts are continuing to build up beyond the $100 billion that they had at the beginning of the JPOA period.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next question.
OPERATOR: And that comes from Laurence Norman from The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: All right, thanks. A couple of questions. First of all, one of the officials mentioned the – on the enrichment, and I think it was PMD issues, the ideas are put on the table that — I think the phrase was “have enough stature” that they were worth pursuing. Now, what we had all sensed in Vienna was that the enrichment issue hadn’t moved very much, so I’d just be intrigued to see if that really was a significant movement that in any way could narrow the gap.
And then secondly – and I apologize for this but it is 2:00 in the morning in Vienna – could someone just run us very quickly through again what we’ve agreed on the 2 percent and on the R&D?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Sure. Let me take the last first, Laurence and glad you’ve been here with us in Vienna. So what Iran committed is to combine its entire inventory of up to two percent uranium, which we estimate to be at least three metric tons, with depleted uranium to form natural uranium. So that’s a form of dilution back to natural uranium, which means that there are many steps to go for it to become enriched material that would ultimately become highly enriched material, which, of course, Iran does not yet do. It enriches up to 20 percent. So 25 – of up to 5 percent – sorry – they’ve stopped doing any of the 20 percent enriching as part of the JPOA. They now only enrich up to 5 percent, but once did, and that caused great concern because it’s not far from 20 percent, once you’ve mastered that, to get to highly enriched uranium.
So that’s what they’ve done on the two percent. And what was your other question? Sorry, I’m a little —
QUESTION: It was also on the R&D and then to go back to the comment that I think you made about ideas put on the table about enrichment and PMD that were worth pursuing from this round.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: So what they did on the two issues that were of concern to us that we got included in this extension paper, non-paper, is that they have confirmed that rotors for advanced centrifuges at the Natanz pilot plant will only be produced at facilities to which the IAEA has monthly access. That’s obviously important because then we know what’s going on, as opposed to covert production of rotors which could be used for advanced centrifuges.
And then secondly, Iran has confirmed that production of advanced centrifuges will only be to replace damaged machines. So that means you’re not producing advanced centrifuges to use on their own, but rather simply to replace (inaudible). And that’s an important step forward on R&D.
And then there was one last point on PMD.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: PMD and R&D. These are very – two very difficult subjects. And PMD, obviously the IAEA takes the lead. We have been very conscious – everyone here has had meetings with the director general and with his team at the IAEA. We want to make sure whatever we do not only in the Joint Plan of Action but in a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action reinforces the independence and role of the IAEA which verifies all the nuclear-related commitments in the JPOA and would in the JCPA as well.
That said, we have discussed a way forward on PMD, how we can help leverage these negotiations to get the kind of cooperation necessary to meet what the IAEA has set out. As you know, the IAEA will also monitor all the transparency and verification mechanisms, and most importantly, among others, the Additional Protocol, which I believe Iran is ready to agree to in a Comprehensive Plan of Action, and ultimately to be able to assess that there are no undeclared facilities in Iran, which would be quite crucial.
On R&D also a very tough topic because Iran, as you’ve heard I’m sure, Laurence, does not want to stop their scientists from thinking, learning, and one can’t take away the capability they have. They know how to do the nuclear fuel cycle. One can’t remove that from the country. So we want to make sure that R&D is for exclusively peaceful purposes, but it’s going to be one of the very contentious subjects in a Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next question.
OPERATOR: And that comes from the line of David Sanger from The New York Times. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Thanks, all, for doing this at this late hour. I wanted to ask you a little bit about Minister Zarif’s proposal that he made public on Monday about trying to do a freeze that would basically continue the temporary agreement forward into the future. And of course, that would not involve any build-down or destruction of current equipment and centrifuges, which is something that’s been a central American and your partners’ demand.
Were you able in the days – in the last days of these negotiations to close that down any? And we’ve heard discussion of something that might extend for closer to 20 years that involve a larger number of centrifuges. Can you just update us on where that – where you sort of left that at the end of this session?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFFICIAL TWO: David, you probably know as well if not better than everyone – than anyone that I’m not going to get in a discussion of specific proposals or specific elements of the negotiation. What I will say is what the Secretary has said, what we have said, what the President has alluded to in his statements, that we expect there to be a significant reduction in Iran’s enrichment program. We believe that that is necessary, because remember we’re doing this because of more than a decade of violations of Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the passage of multiple Security Council sanctions and resolutions, including all the members of the Security Council. So that’s what we are about here, which is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would allow them to project more power into the neighborhood, already quite a volatile and difficult and complex region, and obviously would be a threat to their neighbors and would probably set off a race for nuclear weapons throughout the region and the world, which wouldn’t make any of us more secure. So we can’t forget what we’re trying to do here and what this is about.
We also believe very strongly that there needs to be a long duration to this agreement so that the international community has confidence that the program is exclusively peaceful. We have said that has to be double digits, but we’re not going to get into a number on this call. We’re still in these negotiations.
MODERATOR: Great. I think we have a few more questions. Go ahead, Operator.
OPERATOR: And our next question comes from Josh Lederman from the AP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks, guys. Following up on Anne’s question, there’s those in Congress who want to move ahead with a delayed sanctions bill that would basically kick in if the negotiations failed. For the first official, if Congress sends that bill to the President, will he veto it? And also, are there any plans for the President to speak again with President Rouhani?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, Josh. This issue came up in January, and the President made clear that he did not think that – well, first of all, the President made clear that any new sanctions bill along those lines would likely derail the negotiations and divide the P5+1 and unravel the existing sanctions regime. And in that context he said he would veto any such bill. Congress then essentially did not move forward with that legislation.
It continues to be our belief that there should not be any new sanctions legislation passed during the duration of these negotiations. So our position on that issue has not changed. We have four months with this extension. We are continuing to see benefits from the JPOA. We are continuing to pursue an agreement that we are closer to today than we were six months ago. So we would continue to oppose new sanctions legislation during the life of the negotiations.
Moreover, our original concerns have not changed. If anything, our P5+1 partners are more invested in this process because of the progress that’s been made. So, were the United States to impose additional sanctions unilaterally during the course of the negotiations, we would be concerned that that could put at risk the P5+1 unity that is essential to reaching a good agreement, and could also provoke responses from the Iranians that would not be constructive in reaching a comprehensive resolution.
All of that said, we understand the desire for those in Congress to hold Iran’s feet to the fire. We believe that Congress helped get us where we are today because the sanctions helped create the conditions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. We believe that Iran needs to be aware that there is the leverage of additional sanctions because Congress is ready to act at the drop of a hat. And if we are not in agreement in four months, and if we are not able to point to progress that justifies continued discussions, we would support additional sanctions at that type of juncture.
And so, this is something we’ll be continuing to discuss with Congress in the next days and weeks. Right now we have an agreement on an extension. I think Congress can hear us out on the progress that’s been made. Congress can look at the terms of the extension and the additional elements that Iran has put on the table as a part of that extension. And it will continue to be our position that new sanctions are not necessary during the duration of the negotiations because they could put those negotiations at risk, as well as the unity of the United States and our partners.
The next question?
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that comes from Lou Charbonneau from Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. I had a question about the ballistic missile program of Iran. I wondered if there’s been any progress made in dealing with that, because so far the Iranians have been quite adamant about not wanting to discuss it, though we have heard that all issues raised in Security Council resolutions must be dealt with during the process.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks, Lou. As you all know, we have said and the Joint Plan of Action literally says that UN Security Council resolutions must be addressed for successful implementation. So – of any agreement in a comprehensive fashion. So Iran may indeed not like to talk about these subjects, but long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons are referred to in the Security Council resolutions, and so we will have to address it in some way. How we will resolve that issue, how appropriate it will be, I think remains to be seen. I don’t think the aim is to go after the military’s conventional program, though obviously we are all concerned about Iran’s activities in Syria, in Gaza, in Iraq, in other parts of the world that can be destabilizing. But what we are focused here on in this agreement are nuclear warheads that can find a delivery mechanism that endangers the safety and security of the world.
MODERATOR: Great. Let’s do the next question, please. I think we have time for two more.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that first one is from Michael Wilner of The Jerusalem Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi there. Thanks for doing this so late over here. Yeah, I just wanted to follow up on David’s question and on his interview. I know Senior Administration – I think it’s Senior Administration Official Two and the Secretary say you won’t comment on press reports, and I understand that. But I’m not sure that’s entirely sufficient here because if it’s obviously the party across from him, Foreign Minister Zarif, who chose to discuss the proposal in public, and the proposal suggests there is a flaw in the justification for this extension, and that’s to say that progress has been made.
So, I think it’s important to answer that question, and that is: Is the position characterized in David’s piece on the table, or is it just playing politics through The New York Times? And if the position he represented is accurate, how can you say progress has been made when what he proposed was effectively to make permanent the interim JPOA that you just extended?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll take a quick cut at that and then my colleague may want to jump in. We would not agree to the proposal on the table there. We have made an assessment that there’s enough progress made in a number of areas which we specified that gives us confidence that we’re moving in the right direction, and that there’s been creativity and movement in these negotiations that allows us to see the potential for an agreement that we could hold up as the right agreement and a good agreement. So we are confident that we wouldn’t be pursuing this additional time if we did not think we could get a good deal, and a good deal would be one that is better than the proposal that you’re referencing.
We understand that there are ideas that are discussed publicly, privately. We’re focused on what is an agreement that can assure that the Iranian program is peaceful. We see a pathway to that agreement. It’s by no means assured. There are still gaps, particularly in the important area of enrichment. But again, we see movement in important areas that reflect pathways to a weapon that have been of major concern to us and our partners at Arak, at Fordow, with respect to stockpile, and we also see the potential to have ongoing discussions and proposals around the issue of enrichment. And frankly, it’s necessary for there to be additional time to get the additional space for that negotiation to take place because to make tough political decisions on all sides, to make hard choices, everybody has to go back to capitals and take stock of where things stand. And so that’s a necessary element of this extra time as well. We wouldn’t simply want to keep our negotiators in Vienna not just because they’ve been there for so long, but also because it’s important, again, for folks to be able to take ideas back and to see what additional room can be achieved through discussions in respective capitals.
But I don’t know, [Senior Administration Official Two], if you have anything to add to that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, I think that’s well said. And I — as some senior official said in David’s piece that you’re referring to, some of the ideas have been discussed, some of them we’ve never heard of before, and some of them had more flexibility to them. So I think that Minister Zarif is a very skilled communicator and he makes quite good use of all of you on the telephone.
MODERATOR: Last question at 2:43 a.m. in Vienna.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And that comes from Kasra Naji from the BBC. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Amir Paivar. Kasra is with me from BBC Persian. My question is to [Senior Administration Official Three.] In the past six months when funds were unfrozen, we understand, although they would end up in accounts of Iranian Central Bank, say in Switzerland – and correct me if I’m wrong – there were difficulties to transfer them actually into Iran. Are there any provisions seen this time in this next four months that these funds do actually get into Tehran? I do understand that the Treasury probably – I mean, you’ve been speaking about Iran getting less than what it was supposed to. The problem with that is it makes it difficult for President Rouhani to sell the deal back in Iran. Have you made any facilities this time for them to get the money in Tehran?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Sure, I can take a shot at that. The agreements that we reached in – initially last November in the Joint Plan of Action we’re carrying through here gives Iran access to its restricted assets in specific tranches. And we have made a very serious effort from the outset to ensure that Iran is able to access the funds from restricted accounts that it has overseas and to move those funds to the destinations that Iran chooses. There have been reports of some difficulties that Iran had at the outset in getting access to these funds. I can say that we have done everything in our power to ensure that the banks that are involved understand that they can move the funds that are made available and to have the funds ultimately end at the destination that the Iranians have specified. I don’t anticipate there being any difficulties going forward in this extended JPOA period with the $2.8 billion that’s going to be released in tranches.
MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining. For those of you who joined late, this was all on background, all of this attributable to Senior Administration Officials. Thanks for hanging with us for these last 20 days, and I’m sure we will be talking about this much more over the coming four months. So with that, everyone have a great weekend and we will see you all back in Washington. Thanks, guys.
Citing unconfirmed reports, Fars News Agency reported that if an extension is agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1, it will most likely “be a four month extension.”
Mehr News Agency reported that during an extensive television interview, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, revealed that when President Hassan Rouhani was secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council during the presidency of Mohammed Khatami, “Rouhani barred Mohsen Mirdamadi, the chairman of the national security and foreign policy commission (of the sixth Parliament) from National Security Council meetings because his participation politicized the meetings.”
In an interview with Tasnim News Agency, MP Ali Iranpour said, “We support the nuclear negotiations and don’t think negotiating with the P5+1 is a bad idea. As long as our negotiating team defends the rights of the Islamic system and doesn’t operate outside the framework of the negotiations, we will support them.”
ISNA reported that “seven out of the eight installments of frozen Iranian oil assets have been paid and total $3.65 billion dollars,” and that “even though there was a 22-day delay in the payment of the seventh installment, the final eighth installment (to be deposited on July 20) will be disbursed soon.”
Mehr News Agency reported that Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran’s Parliament held separate telephone conversations with Ramadan Abdullah, the political leader of Islamic Jihad, as well as Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas.
Fars News Agency reported that Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council traveled to Iraq and met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Shemkhani discussed the ongoing developments with ISIS with both men.
Mehr News Agency quoted Hamid Habibi, deputy director of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization as saying, “Iran is prepared to allow transit flights to alter their flight plans and use Iranian airspace if necessary due to the unsuitable conditions of flight paths over Ukraine.” Habibi’s comment was made In reference to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down by a missile over Ukraine.
ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Ali Husseini, member of Iran’s National Saffron Council was quoted by ISNA as saying, “Last year, 126 tons of saffron was exported to 45 countries around the world, 50 percent of which was re-exported to Spain and the UAE.” Husseini added, “The current export value of saffron is $500 million dollars but with the support of the government, we can raise that export value to one billion dollars by 2016.”
Pedram Soltani, vice-chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce wrote an editorial in Khabar Online and argued that the most important prerequisite to entice Iranian expatriates living abroad to invest inside Iran is “reaching a deal in the nuclear negotiations and the lifting of sanctions.” Economic policy reforms such as liberalization and privatization are also necessary according to Soltani.
Fars News Agency reported that according to a Pakistani official, “Islamabad has decided to export basmati rice and wheat to Iran in order to settle a debt of over $ 100 million dollars for importing Iranian electricity.”
Mehr News Agency reported that “1.4 million people in Iran are infected with hepatitis B,” and that health measures adopted in recent years have decreased infections from three percent to less than two percent overall.”
Meetings and negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 were held at the Coburg Hotel in Vienna, Austria.
The working class residents of a small village on the outskirts of Eslamshahr (Tehran Province) go about their day.
Friday prayers were held in Tehran’s Mosalla Mosque.
- Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
Source: Iran at Saban.
ISNA reported that before leaving the Austrian capital of Vienna today, United States Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the United States took the fatwa against nuclear weapons issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “very seriously,” and that “both sides have agreed on key issues, but significant gaps still remain.”
Khabar Online quoted Iran’s Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani as saying, “In order to reach a final nuclear agreement, it would be helpful if the West drops its excessive demands for a more realistic approach towards the negotiations.”
According to Mehr News Agency, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told reporters, “Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful and we are ready and willing to resolve their concerns of the P5+1.” Zarif added, “We have reached a point in the drafting of the text where a solution is possible…the text of the nuclear agreement will be finalized in a few days.”
Fars News Agency reported that Hussein Fereydoon, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani has left Vienna to return to Tehran today. Fereydoon, a special adviser to President Rouhani, traveled to Vienna “to be informed on the latest developments in the nuclear negotiations and to prepare a detailed report for President Rouhani.”
Citing sources, Alef News wrote that Hussein Fereydoon, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani was in Vienna because “he was carrying a message that contained instructions on how to resolve (the remaining) issues in the nuclear talks.”
An editorial in hard line Javon Online wrote, “Iran’s negotiators need to maintain the stance that if the demands of the West continue to be excessive, it will be the West that will be blamed for failing to reach an agreement,” and that “if the negotiations fail, Iran should be ready to accelerate its nuclear program.”
Mehr News Agency reported that the spokesperson for Iran’s Judiciary announced that Iran’s oil ministry has agreed to accept property as a form of payment regarding the massive debt that billionaire sanctions buster Babak Zanjani owes the oil ministry.
According to Khabar Online, President Hassan Rouhani met with senior Iranian military officials and said, “The administration will do everything it can in order to strengthen its solidarity with Iran’s armed forces, and given the current circumstances, our armed forces, hand in hand with the administration, want to help solve the problems of the people.”
ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Entekhab News reported that Iran’s Statistical Center announced, “Iran’s population has reached 78 million.”
In an interview with ISNA, Head of Iran’s Aviation Organization Alireza Jahangiri said, “Spare airplane parts (purchased under the Geneva interim agreement) have entered the country, and additional parts will be arriving soon; this trend will continue.”
According to Donya-e Eghtesad, Mohsen Ghamsari, the National Iranian Oil Company’s (NIOC) director of international affairs has denied that Iran’s oil exports have decreased in the month of June, as was reported in a recent report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). “If anything, technical issues might have reduced output at a refinery but overall we have met our monthly average,” said Ghamsari. The article also claimed, “Iran’s oil and natural gas exports seem be around 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd).”
According to Mehr News Agency, “Despite China’s Central Bank being thoroughly prepared, citing vague and unspecified reasons,Iran’s Central Bank has suspended an investment deal worth $66 billion dollars in which Chinese companies would finance projects inside Iran.”
Hard line students protest in front of the United Nations sub-office in Mashaad in support of Hizballah and Palestinians in Gaza.
President Hassan Rouhani meets with senior military commanders of Iran’s Armed Forces.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization participates in an environmental awareness ceremony.
- Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
Source: Iran at Saban.
- What has driven Iran to the negotiating table?
- Is the Iranian government serious about negotiating an agreement?
- Is Iran a rational actor?
. . .
What has driven Iran to the negotiating table?
- To reverse biting sanctions, particularly on Iran’s oil and financial sectors.
- Richard Haass (10/17/12): “The many financial and oil-related sanctions that have been implemented in recent months and years are starting to bite. They were designed not to impede Iran’s nuclear program directly, but rather to increase the price that Iran’s leaders must pay for pursuing their nuclear ambitions. The thinking (or, more accurately, the hope) was that Iran’s leadership, if forced to choose between regime survival and nuclear weapons, would choose the former.”
- Benjamin Netanyahu (10/1/13): “Tough sanctions have taken a big bite off the Iranian economy. Oil revenues have fallen. The currency has plummeted. Banks are hard-pressed to transfer money. So as a result, the regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions relieved or removed.”
- Nicholas Burns (10/24/13): “The only reason Iran is at the negotiating table, after all, is the devastating impact that sanctions have had on its economy and currency. As a result, Iran is weakened, isolated, and on the defensive — further evidence that US leverage has worked.”
- To offer just enough concessions to facilitate the collapse of the sanctions regime.
- Gary Samore (11/14/13): “Optimists believe that the pressure of economic sanctions—which brought about the election of President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s willingness to negotiate in the first place—may have already produced such a strategic shift. It’s more likely, however, that Iran is only offering tactical adjustments to slow or limit some elements of its nuclear program in hope of removing the sanctions without fundamentally sacrificing its long-term goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.”
- To undo the economic strain and international isolation of the previous administration.
- Gary Sick (9/30/13): “During his presidency, Ahmadinejad not only inflamed international sentiment against Iran with his belligerent rhetoric, associating himself with ugly conspiratorial thinking that doubted the Holocaust and speculated that the United States itself was responsible for 9/11, but he also surrounded himself with ideologues whose nativist convictions far exceeded their experience in both domestic and international affairs, leading to his country’s acute isolation and a stifling regime of economic sanctions.”
- Meir Javedanfar (8/3/13): “I think President Ahmadinejad’s distractive policies plus the isolation that they produced, plus the massive economic damage that Ahmadinejad’s mismanagement and sanctions produced put all together created such an economic problem for the Supreme Leader that he needed to allow Mr Rouhani to be elected.“
- Payam Mohseni (11/20/13): “Sanctions contributed to a transformation of the balance of power within the Iranian political system that had been already underway since 2009 – prior to the enactment of the current sanctions regime. Sanctions helped pave the way for a Rouhani victory in the 2013 presidential elections by perpetuating the divide within the conservative forces of the Iranian establishment over the economy. . . .The election – and not sanctions – was therefore the key to Iran’s shift on foreign policy and nuclear negotiations that we so strikingly see today.“
- Hossein Mousavian (11/19/13): “The idea that it is sanctions that have brought Tehran to the table is wrong. The real cause is the desire of new President Hassan Rouhani to reach a rapprochement with the US, the EU, its neighbors and other world powers, alongside the fact that the US red line has changed from ‘no enrichment of uranium’ to ‘no nuclear bomb.’”
- To quell growing concerns that Iranians see the Islamic regime in Tehran as illegitimate.
- Gary Sick (9/30/13): “In the thirty-four years since the Iranian revolution, the Islamic government has lost much of the legitimacy it once enjoyed among large swathes of the population. In recent years—and particularly since the large-scale street protests of 2009—Iran’s leadership has instead relied on repression to preserve its strength. The government’s poor economic management, in turn, has amplified the perception among many Iranians that the system is no longer working.”
- Meir Javedanfar (June 2013): “The regime lost much legitimacy and support among the masses after the uprisings of 2009. By allowing Rowhani to win, Ayatollah Khamenei is trying to repair that damage. The recent uprisings in the Arab world, especially Syria, are bound to have made regime officials worried.”
- To buy time while continuing to expand its nuclear program.
- William Tobey (11/12/13): “Over the next few weeks the argument will play out over whether or not Iran has been pushed farther from a nuclear weapons capability, and whether sanctions relief would then be justified. This highly transactional approach would offer scant evidence of a strategic decision by Tehran to forego a nuclear weapons program in favor of a better relationship with the international community. It would, however, be consistent with a pattern of deals Tehran has sought to buy breathing space, while continuing to expand its nuclear program.”
- Shaul Chorev, head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (9/18/13): Accuses Iran of “deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency…with a view to buy more time in Iran’s daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program.”
- John Bolton (9/29/13): “President Rouhani knows what his Western audience wants to hear. As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-05, he followed the same playbook, and it worked. By offering what appeared to be concessions, Iran acquired precious time and legitimacy to overcome scientific and technical glitches in its nuclear-weapons program, particularly at Isfahan’s uranium-conversion facility. In articles and speeches, Mr. Rouhani boasted of his successes. In 2006, he taunted the West, saying ‘by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work on Isfahan.’”
Is the Iranian government serious about negotiating an agreement?
Analysis that would lead one to say YES
- Rouhani has risked his presidency on reaching a deal that provides sanctions relief.
- Kenneth Pollack (10/13/13): Rouhani’s decision to negotiate “is a gamble of monumental proportions.” It “gives credence to Rouhani’s own warning that he needs this deal soon, or else his presidency could be crippled by its failure.” If Rouhani “cannot demonstrate quickly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his hard-line rivals that he can secure meaningful compromises from the West, they will use his failure to curtail his room for further maneuver.”
- Stephen Walt (9/20/13): “Iran has taken a wide range of actions that were not cost-free. First, Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been granted enhanced authority to negotiate a deal, and Rouhani has appointed officials who favor negotiations and are familiar to their American interlocutors. Any time you pick one set of officials over another, there are political costs involved. . . . The supreme leader has also endorsed Rouhani’s position that the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) stay out of political matters such as this one. . . . Paradoxically, the fact that they have to override hard-liners at home is evidence of their sincerity: Pushing the IRGC to the sidelines is a ‘costly signal’ that they are serious.”
- Rouhani has selected a negotiating team that is talented, serious, and clear-eyed.
- Pierre Goldschmidt (11/2/13): “I find encouraging that President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Head of the AEOI Ali Akbar Salehi, all understand full well the mentalities of their negotiating counterparts and know what they can possibly agree on as well as what is impossible to expect from them.”
- Through a series of goodwill gestures, Rouhani’s government has actively attempted to create space for an agreement.
- Stephen Walt (9/20/13): “Iran has also taken some more symbolic gestures, such as the release of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, Rouhani’s public greeting to world Jewry on Rosh Hashanah, the implicit repudiation of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s questioning of the Holocaust, and the condemnation of chemical weapons use in Syria. . . . Skeptics might deride all these developments as ‘cheap talk,’ but in the context of Iranian domestic politics, they are not without consequences. Among other things, these various gestures have made Rouhani & Co. more vulnerable to a hard-line backlash in the event that their more conciliatory approach leads nowhere.”
- Khamenei has publicly endorsed Rouhani and Zarif’s diplomatic efforts, making it harder to reverse course.
- Ayatollah Khamenei (11/3/13): “No one should consider our negotiators as compromisers. They have a difficult mission and no one must weaken an official who is busy with work.”
- Stephen Walt (9/20/13): “Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly stated that Iran should show ‘heroic flexibility,’ thereby lending his own authority to this effort. And this has all been done in public view, making it harder for Iran’s leaders to reverse course on a whim.”
- Even Iran’s hardliners appear more open to negotiations.
- Ray Takeyh (10/14/13): Iran’s new Supreme National Security Council recognizes “the importance of offering confidence-building measures to an incredulous international community. . . . They are more open to dialogue than the Ahmadinejad government was.”
- Patrick Clawson and Mehdi Khalaji (11/12/13): “Many Iranian hard-liners are ready to accept a nuclear deal on the grounds that the West — especially Barack Obama — places so much importance on reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction that Iran’s human rights abuse and democracy deficit would be ignored in return for a deal.”
Analysis that would lead one to say NO
- Ayatollah Khamenei, a fierce critic of the United States and defender of the Islamic regime, remains the ultimate “decider-in-chief.”
- Sharif Husseini, member of Iran’s Parliament (6/15/13): “Nothing would change” in Iran’s nuclear policies. “All these policies have been decided by the Supreme Leader.”
- Akbar Ganji (9/24/13): “Khamenei genuinely suspects that the United States and its allies want to hinder Iran’s independent scientific development. There are some things that Khamenei thinks an ‘Islamic civilization’ simply cannot compromise on, including the pursuit of independent technological progress, the division of gender roles in social life, and a commitment to public piety as a means of national solidarity.”
- The Supreme Leader has walked back claims of “heroic flexibility” to quell criticism from hardliners.
- Ayatollah Khamenei (11/22/13): “We used heroic flexibility. Some interpreted it as quitting ideals and targets of the Islamic system. Also, some of the enemies made it a means to accuse the Islamic system of withdrawing its principles. These were not right. . . . Heroic flexibility means artistic maneuver to achieve the goal. It means that in any way and any case, in any kind of devotion, one who has devoted his life to God, in any kind of move and behavior toward various Islamic ideals, must use various methods to get to the aim.”
- Rouhani has deceived the United States in the past.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister (10/1/13): “Rohani was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric. . . . Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and I quote: ‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’”
- A failed deal would add evidence to Khamenei’s assessment that the Americans cannot be trusted.
- Patrick Clawson and Mehdi Khalaji (11/12/13): “In high-profile speeches, Khamenei has been laying the groundwork to walk away from any deal by warning that the West is untrustworthy and will not deliver on its promises — the same reasons he gave for walking away from the earlier nuclear deals.”
Is Iran a rational actor?
Analysis that would lead one to say YES
- Iran’s concern about its security environment is understandable.
- Fareed Zakaria (3/8/12): “An Iranian official once said to me, ‘But if we were to pursue a nuclear weapons program, would it be so irrational? Look at our neighborhood. Russia has nukes. India has nukes. Pakistan has nukes. China has nukes. And Israel has nukes. Then on one side of our border the United States has 100,000 troops in Iraq. . . . If you were in our position, wouldn’t that make you nervous and wouldn’t you want to buy some kind of insurance?’ That doesn’t sound like the talk of a mad, messianic regime official, but rather of one that’s looking at costs and benefits and calculating them.”
- Alireza Nader (5/28/13): “Iran has a lot to be insecure about: It is a Shia and Persian-majority theocracy surrounded by hostile Sunni Arabs, which has recently watched the United States overrun unfriendly regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq with relative ease. . . . As dangerous as it is, Iran’s possible pursuit of nuclear weapons makes logical sense.”
- Iran has proceeded slowly and cautiously with its nuclear program to avoid triggering an Israeli or American military strike.
- National Intelligence Estimate (November 2007): “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.”
- James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (1/31/12): “We judge Iran’s nuclear decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran.”
- Amos Yadlin and Yoel Guzansky (April 2012): “Iran conducts an ongoing strategic assessment on whether and at what pace to advance its nuclear program. . . . Iran is not advancing toward the bomb at as rapid a pace as it could. It appears to realize that such progress would bring with it negative strategic repercussions.”
- Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief (3/11/12): “The regime in Iran is a very rational regime. . . . No doubt that the Iranian regime is maybe not exactly rational based on what I call Western thinking, but no doubt they are considering all the implications of their actions. . . . And I think the Iranians at this point in time are going very careful in the project; they are not running in it.”
Analysis that would lead one to say NO
- Iran’s leadership is guided by fanaticism.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister (9/15/12): “They put their zealotry above their survival. They have suicide bombers all over the place. I wouldn’t rely on their rationality. . . . Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism. It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today.”
- If a perceived benefit accrues to individuals or factions inside Iran, this can undermine collective rationality.
- Michael Singh (2/23/12): “Individuals in the regime face their own incentives—for example personal wealth generated in the black markets that sanctions give rise to—as well as disincentives—for example the possibility of ending up imprisoned or worse for too vocally bucking the regime’s line.”
- Alan Kuperman (4/1/12): “One possibility is that the regime itself is rational but lacks full control, so that extremist factions act autonomously on occasion. Another is that domestic politics drive the regime to appease extremist factions from time to time. Or it’s possible that the regime’s own radical Islamist ideology sometimes overwhelms its rationality.”
- An insular regime in Tehran is unlikely to make fully rational decisions.
- Michael Singh (2/23/12): “Decisions in Iran are made by one man—Ali Khamenei. By all accounts, he has not traveled outside Iran since becoming Supreme Leader in 1989, is likely insulated by his aides from bad news or criticism, and depends on an increasingly narrow and homogenous power base which may not expose him to alternative opinions. One is unlikely to make a good decision if ill-informed or unaware of all the options.”
A related assessment
- Is Israel rational?
- Uzi Arad, PM Netanyahu former National Security Adviser (5/7/12): “Some people ask if the Iranians are rational or not. But the question is if Israel is rational.”
- Shaul Mofaz, former Israeli Defense Minister (11/1/12): “Netanyahu is leading us on a Messianic path, toward a collision, in an irresponsible and irrational way. We mustn’t let Netanyahu carry out this obsession.”
Das Urteil für Graffiti Künstler in Iran fällt meist sehr hart aus, denn sie werde bezichtigt, westliche Propaganda und Satanisten Logos zu verbreiten. Dabei sind die Themen der meisten jungen Künstler friedvoll.
Diese kleine Doku zeigt einen historischen Rückblick auf das verbreiten von politischen Slogans. Angefangen von der Revolution 1978/79 bis hin zu den Unruhen 2009.
Es ist kein Wunder, dass die Regierung das Anbringen von Bildern an öffentlichen Wänden nicht als eine eigene Kunstform anerkennt, denn diese Form des Ausdrucks ist politischer und ideologischer Propaganda vorbehalten. Dass es hier eine Entwicklung in der Subkultur gegeben hat, bekommen die wenigsten mit. Zu stark ist noch die Konnotation mit einer politisch, ideologischen Absicht, hier außerhalb eines politischen Kontexts zu agieren ist fast unmöglich.
Die Generation im Krieg geborener Kinder bringt sich immer mehr im öffentlichen Raum mit ihrer friedvollen Message ein. Ein weiterer Prozess der zum Neudenken einer liberaleren Gesellschaft anregen soll. Angefangen auf der Straße.
Iranian Student Protests of July, 1999 (Also known as 18th of Tir and Kuye Daneshgah Disaster (Persian: فاجعه کوی دانشگاه) in Iran) (7–13 July) were, before the 2009 Iranian election protests, the most widespread and violent public protests to occur inIran since the early years of the Iranian Revolution.
The protests began on 8 July with peaceful demonstrations in Tehran against the closure of the reformist newspaper, Salam. Following the demonstrations, a student dormitory was raided by riot police that night during which a student was killed. The raid sparked six days of demonstrations and rioting throughout the country, during which at least three other people were killed and more than 200 injured.
In the aftermath of these incidents, more than seventy students disappeared. In addition to an estimated 1,200–1,400 detainees, the „whereabouts and condition“ of five students named by Human Rights Watch who are believed to be detained by Islamic authorities remain unknown.
The evening of the protests „about 400 plainclothes paramilitaries descended on a university dormitory, whispering into short-wave radios and wielding green sticks.“ The paramilitaries, thought to be Ansar-e-Hezbollah and possibly Basij began attacking students, kicking down doors and smashing through halls, grabbing female students by the hair and setting fire to rooms. Several students were thrown off of third story balconies „onto pavement below, their bones crushed,“ and one student paralyzed. According to students‘ accounts, uniformed police stood by and did nothing. „Witnesses reported that at least one student was killed, 300 wounded, and thousands detained in the days that followed.“The protests began on the eve of 9 July 1999 after a peaceful demonstration by a group of students of Tehran University against the closure of the reformist newspaper, Salam, by the press court. Salam newspaper (Persian: روزنامه سلام) was operated by the Association of Combatant Clerics, the reformist political party to which the then President,Mohammad Khatami belonged. The student groups, which at the time were considered one of the major supporters of Khatami and his reform programs, were protesting in support of Khatami against the closure of the newspaper by the judiciary, which was controlled by the hardline opponents of President Khatami.
The next day unrest began in earnest, spreading through Tehran and to other cities and continuing for almost a week, with unemployed youths joining the students. Basijis are reported to have disguised themselves as students (wearing jeans, T-shirts, and shaving their faces) and thrown bricks into shop windows to discredit the student demonstrators. The five days of rioting „turned Tehran into a battlefield,“ and was „inarguably the worst mass disturbance“ the Islamic Republican system had seen in its 20-years of existence. Running street battles left downtown Tehran „gutted,“ with burned-out buses, and smashed storefronts.
There were many arrests and injuries, and at least one confirmed fatal shooting, namely that of Ezzat Ebrahim-Nejad. The death of Ebrahim-Nejad was the only one acknowledged by the state-controlled Iranian television, however, major student groups and the foreign media have claimed more than 17 dead during the week of violent protests. Another student Saeed Zeinali has been disappeared after his arrest by security forces.
Major Iranian cities such as Tabriz, Mashhad, Shiraz and Esfahan were scenes of violent and widespread demonstrations as well. The protests continued at Tabriz University on 11 July 1999 (20th of Tir) and police and hardliners responded similarly in Tabriz universities and schools, entering the universities and brutally attacked students. Four students died in the unrest and many were beaten while in custody.
According to the Economist magazine, the demonstrations „took a more violent turn on 13 July, when some of the students, deeply dissatisfied with the official response, tried to storm the Ministry of the Interior, the perceived seat of their troubles.“ On July 13 President Khatami issued a statement „disowning“ the demonstrators, stating that continued defiance of the ban on demonstrations was „an attack on the foundations of the régime.“
The next day, 14 July, „Tens of thousands of supporters“ of Supreme Leader Khamenei rallied in Tehran in a demonstration called by the Organization for Islamic Propagation (Keesing’s July 1999). „Reports characterize the demonstration as the régime’s counterattack, claiming that the demonstrators include tens of thousands government employees who have been brought to Tehran by bus.“
Student Protest: July 1999
The Iranian student protest that took place on July 1999, demonstrate the struggle for basic freedoms during Iran’s path toward democratization. The underlying cause of the protest was the desire to possess freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association with society.
Election of 1997
The presidential election of Mohammad Khatami on 23 May 1997 is symbolic of Iran’s desire for reform. The elections resulted in higher voter turnout as a result of Khatami’s liberalist views that attracted large number of youth and women specifically. In fact, “Iran’s youth…reportedly made up a large part of the 20 million who gave Khatami his victory. They were joined by large numbers of women.” The election of Khatami brought hope of economic, political and societal reform to Iranian citizens. One of the ways that Khatami appealed to woman what by stating his belief that, “women should be active in all social, political and economic activities, and said he would welcome qualified women in his cabinet if he should win the presidency. Efforts should be made to do away with male supremacy”. By holding such liberal ideas, Khatami sets himself up for battle against conservative ideology within the judicial sector of the government. In addition, “the Islamic Republic in 1997 was still an oligarchy, controlled by a network of Shi’ite clerics who were disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini” and loyal followers of Islam. Therefore, the liberalistic views of Khatami did not coincide with those of the clerics. Still, it seems as if Khatami strategically attracts votes from youth and women through his liberalistic views. In fact he “distanced himself from the faltering and unpopular campaign to ‚Islamize‘ the universities, a goal of the conservative faction”. This quote indicates that Khatami noticed the dissatisfaction with the conservative’s agenda and consequently used this to his advantage. As a result the election of Khatami publicizes the Iranian citizens need for reform, especially in regards to freedoms of the press.
Government and the Press
The control of the press that the Iranian government had was a result of the “dysfunctional dualism of political and ideological institutions”. The struggle between conservative and moderate reform administration resulted in restriction the press. During this time period, Iran experienced an apparent struggle of power between reformist president Muhammad Khatami and the conservative leader of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In efforts to decrease support for the president’s liberalization agenda, the judiciary closed down newspapers that expressed reformative views. The judiciary justified the closure of several publications on the basis of “factional issues …The hardline judiciary close[d] reformist publications, while hardline ones that commit[ed] similar violations [were] rarely punished”. The judiciary used press policies as a tool to promote conservative views. The judiciary was able to do this because press policies were vague and used to their benefit. Consequently, on 7 July 1999 the Salam daily was closed. The basis of the closure was because of a report revealing plans by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security to restrict the press. The editor of the newspaper faced “charges of spreading fabrications, disturbing public opinion, and publishing classified documents”. The judicial sector of the Iranian government had clear objectives to eradicate the spread of reformative views by closing down publications that spread truth to the public however the judiciary distorted the information to enable their control of the press. The press in Iran, within the boundaries of the established order which consist of the president and the clerics has reflected throughout history intergovernmental debates. These debates are dictated by the structure of governance in the Islamic Republic and who holds power. The press under the Islamic Republic in Iran has never been free. The basis of the Islamic Republic ipso facto was established upon the forceful closure of nearly all the existing free press, in the mid-summer of 1980. The only period that the press was free was from February through July 1980. In addition, since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the many publications have been connected ideologically to the political sectors that exist in the regime. Still publications that are considered to be pro-reform have been endured consequences of closure. Although liberal publications face opposition by law, “they have remained resilient beneath the political undercurrents of the society, as the advocates of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, etc”. Nevertheless liberal independent publications were under the risk of extinction due to the marginalization inflicted by the Islamic Republic in Iran.
Press and the July 1999 Protest
In Iran, there has been a history of ideological and governmental conflicts that are revealed in the sphere of politics. Since the election of Khatami this issue where belief and government come into contact has become more and more apparent. The internal struggle and basic factional disputes within the state is reflected by the management of the press in general and the control of those publications that spoke on behalf of the controlled sects within the government.
The student protest of July 1999 occurred as a result of these restrictions of freedom of the press. Prior to the protest, the publisher of the Daily Saleem was “arrested, put on trial, and convicted for printing” false information. In the Daily Saleem, communication between Saeed Emami, former Deputy Minister of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic to his boss, Intelligence Ministry Chief Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi was revealed to the public. The Daily Saleem published information about governmental plans to further restrict and control freedom of the press.
In response to the closure of the newspaper, hundreds of students from Tehran University participated in a demonstration on 8 July. This demonstration has been deemed to be peaceful. The day following the demonstration, security force this included police and the Ansar-e-Hezbollah invaded student dormitories and resulted in injuries, arrest and extensive damages to the student dormitories. Following the invasion of student dormitories, intense pro-democracy demonstrations took place on 12 and 13 July. In response to the pro-democratic protest, Ali Khamenei and his conservative supporters organized a counter-demonstration rally which occurred on 14 July. Consequently, it is estimated that over 1500 student protesters were arrested. Some scholars recognize the regimes “overreaction to both its own reform counterparts and the opposition forces reveal[s], how weak and insecure the ruling conservatives are”. The reasoning behind this idea is that if the government was confident in it laws and policies, it would not demonstrate fear. In the Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis, Cyrus Bina indicates that fear is demonstrated when: “two dozen high-ranking Pasdar commanders President Khatarni an official letter of ultimatum, telling him that they have no choice except to seize power if he fails to crush the student rebellion soon…commanders, who are under direct authority of Khamenei, threatened the President that their patience is running thin and that they can no longer stand on the sideline”. The fact that the clerics and judicial sector felt the urgency to immediately stop the student’s protests is an indication of the fear they had and the amount of influence the protestors could have on Iranian society if their voices were not silenced. Therefore, it is clear that the initial student protest was prompted by the closure of the daily Saleem which occurred on 7 July. The protesters expressed strong objection to the restriction of freedom of the press by the judicial sector. The protest reflects the collective resentment of the public against the suppression of the press and restriction of basic freedoms and universal rights.
Student demands during protest
The end results that the students were expecting from the protest are reflected in the slogans that they chanted during the protest. After researching the popular slogans used during the protest, it is evident that the student had multitude of demands as a result of the six-day demonstrations in Tehran. Still, it is important that the slogans are analyzed in relation the objective of the overall protest. From all the slogans used throughout the protest there is one common theme that ties all of them together, opposition to Ali Khamenei, the „Supreme Leader“ as referenced in the slogans, his Ansar-e Hezbollah, and the state-supported terrorism. In nearly one-third of the slogans used during the protest in 1999, students demonstrated opposition to Khamenei directly. For example the slogan „Khamenei! Shame on You, Leadership Is Not for You“ is one a very daring statement and is considered one of the “boldest yet to be found in any demonstration in the last decade in Iran”. These straight forward criticisms toward Khamenei, combined with slogans against the cleric rule and the „20-year“ repression under the Islamic order, reflect the failed velayat-e faghih as a model of government in Iran.
In addition students involved in the protest revealed resentment toward the Ansar-e Hezbollah. This resentment deriving from violent intervention, disruption of political meetings, peaceful demonstrations and university lectures in support of the cleric and the supreme leader. According to Cyrus Bina, these type of „pressure groups are kept on the government’s payroll and that their violence is often coordinated with the uniformed law enforcement forces against the public”. Consequently it is evident that during this time period conservatives constantly made efforts against liberals even through infliction of violence. The Iranian student demonstrations of July 1999 reveal the desperate need for reform. From research it is evident that the protest against the closure of the Daily Saleem resulted in a 6 day protest. That was motivated by a limited group. The demonstrations of July 1999 engaged students in politics, protesting against government corruption, political repression, the clerical rule and Khamenei. In the bigger picture, the students were protesting against the system of the Islamic Republic in Iran. In the end the protest was an act upon their needs for reform that was fueled during the election on May 23, 1997 in Iran.
A crackdown on reformists and reform policies followed the riots.
- A “long-negotiated compromise” that would have weakened the Council of Guardians to screening candidates for parliament and president was vetoed, giving the guardians “absolute vetting power”.
- A “thought crime” law was passed prohibiting “any violent or peaceful act by a person or group against the regime” including speech, and punishing such criticism with stiff sentences.
- Another law prohibited “any contact or exchange of information, interviews or collusion with foreign embassies, organization, parties or media at whatever level which could be judged harmful to Iran’s independence, national unity or the interests of the Islamic republic.”
As of 31 July 2006, several students involved in the demonstration such as Manouchehr Mohammadi, Ahmad Batebi, Farokh Shafiei, Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir, were still in jail. Of those students, Akbar Mohammadi died during a hunger strike while protesting against his prison sentence; Human Rights Watch called his death „suspicious“ and demanded an investigation. Heshmat Tabarzadi, viewed by the Iranian government as one of the leaders of the protests, was arrested and spent nine years in Evin Prison, including two in solitary confinement.
2009 anniversary protests
On 9 July 2009, „18 Tir“ anniversary protests were scheduled for many cities in Iran and other cities worldwide. Time reported that thousands marched through the central districts of Tehran to commemorate the July 1999 student protests, and to protest the June 2009 presidential election.
Early on during the protest, Amnesty International reported: „At least 200 demonstrators are reported to have gathered along Enghlab Avenue, around the gates of Tehran University, only to be confronted by a large presence of anti-riot police and plain-clothed security officials, possibly including members of the notorious Basij militia, who used baton charges and tear gas to disperse them.“
After dark clashes continued, and rubbish was set ablaze.
„The demonstrators made a moral point. They told the government in no uncertain terms they are still there and not going away,“ said an Iranian analyst who witnessed the mayhem.
The Australian reported: „The millions of Iranians who no longer dare to demonstrate have not gone away either. They are channelling their anger into a campaign of civil disobedience. Apart from shouting ‚God is great‘ from their rooftops every night, they have started writing Mr Mousavi’s name on banknotes,boycotting government banks and goods advertised on state television and turning on all their electrical appliances at the same time to try to overload the electricity grid.“
References and notes
- Six days that shook Iran BBC News 11 July 2000
- Ebadi, Shirin, Iran Awakening, by Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Random House New York, 2006, p. 149
- „New Arrests and „Disappearances“ of Iranian Students“. Human Rights Watch. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- The armed forces, (including the police force), in Iran, is not controlled by the president or his cabinet, but by the hardline faction of the Iranian political establishment, (SeePolitics of Iran).
- Ebadi, Iran Awakening, (2006), p. 149
- Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, Norton, 2005, p. 202
- Ebadi, Iran Awakening, (2006), p. 149
- Molavi, The Soul of Iran, (2005), p. 203
- quoting the Economist 17 July 1999
- quoting Keesings July 1999 and AFP 13 July 1999)
- quoting The Iran Brief 8 September 1999; JIRA November 1999
- Wright, Robin, The Last Great Revolution, c2000, pp. 268–72
- Robert Tait (1 August 2006). „Outcry after dissident dies in Iranian jail“. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2009.
- „Iran: Imprisoned Dissident Dies in Custody; Investigate Mohammadi’s Suspicious Death“ Human Rights Watch 3 August 2006
- „Dissident Iran Rises“. The Wall Street Journal. 30 December 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2009.
- Iran Protest Schedule (Worldwide). YekIran.com. Below the map pick July 2009, and then click on the arrows and/or scroll within the agenda tab to get to July 9, 2009 to see the full list of cities holding events that day.
- Jason Rezian (5 July 2009). „The significance of 18 Tir“. Tehran Bureau. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- David S. Morgan (8 July 2009). „Widespread Protests Anticipated in Iran“. CBS News. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- „On Scene: Tehran’s Protests Surge — and the Basij Respond“. Time. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- „Amnesty International Charges That Iran Used Tear Gas Against Demonstrators Marking 18 Tir Anniversary.“ (Press release). Amnesty International. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- „Britain offers N-deal as Tehran burns“. The Australian. 11 July 2009.
Die Schauspielertruppe um Regisseur Hamed hat sich mittlerweile von Teheran auf den Weg gemacht Richtung Westiran. Unter freiem Himmel strömen die Kinder zusammen, um das Märchen vom bösen König Ejdehak zu erleben. Der Sage nach unterdrückte er im alten Persien grausam sein Volk, bis die tapfere Faranak die Menschen befreite.
© teamworx/Mathias Prause
Das junge Publikum ist gebannt und begeistert – denn vier junge Schauspieler aus Teheran zeigen ihnen ein fantasievolles Märchenstück.
Die Schauspielertruppe um Regisseur Hamed hat sich mittlerweile von Teheran auf den Weg Richtung Westiran gemacht. In den abgelegenen Ortschaften werden sie mit ihrem bunt bemalten Lastwagen von den Schulklassen begeistert empfangen. Unter freiem Himmel strömen die Kinder zusammen, um das Märchen vom bösen König Ejdehak zu erleben. Der Sage nach unterdrückte er im alten Persien grausam sein Volk, bis die tapfere Faranak und ihr Sohn Fereydoun die Menschen vom Despoten befreiten.
Mit ihren bunten Masken, der Musik und den Kostümen sind die fremden Besucher auf jedem Dorfplatz eine Attraktion. Mitra, Hamed, Sina und Shirin wissen aber auch, dass sie während der gesamten Reise unter staatlicher Beobachtung stehen. Denn für Theateraufführungen im Iran gelten strenge Regeln. Und die Schauspieler können nur vermuten, wer der Spitzel ist. Doch das ist nicht die einzige Schwierigkeit, der sie sich stellen müssen.
Diese Folgen der Freispielen im Iran sind derzeit verfügbar, sie können sie auch direkt im Webbrowser öffnen:
Freispielen im Iran
Die Atomverhandlungen mit der Teheraner Führung, die derzeit im Rahmen eines Übergangsabkommens zwischen den P5+1 und dem iranischen Regime geführt werden, sind ein Dauerbrenner. Nicht erst seit dem vor fünf Monaten ausgehandeltem Deal zwischen den westlichen Großmächten und dem Iran sitzt man an den Verhandlungstischen. Die schier endlos scheinende Bedrohung der Welt durch einen Staat islamistischer Extremisten mit Atombomben geht nun schon seit über einem Jahrzehnt und seit der Zeit des iranischen Präsidenten Chatami. Der damalige Chefunterhändler des Iran ist heute mittlerweile iranischer Präsident. Hassan Rohani leitete bereits 2003 eine Verhandlungsrunde zwischen Frankreich, Großbritannien und Deutschland mit dem Iran, die damals schon als großer Durchbruch im Westen gefeiert wurde.
Kerry warnt Iran vor der unnachgiebigen Haltung (EPA)
Seitdem gibt es nur zwei wirkliche Ergebnisse zu vermelden. Das erste Ergebnis ist, dass der Iran heute näher am Bau von Kernwaffen denn je ist, dass er mit Rußland und China, Pakistan und Nordkorea potente Lieferanten von Kernwaffentechnologie gefunden hat und dass alle Länder kaum noch auf Linie des Westens zu bringen sind, wie die letzte Sanktionsrunde gegen den Iran zeigte, die überhaupt nur mit Mühe auf die Beine gestellt und nun kaum noch zu halten ist.
Das zweite Ergebnis ist, dass das Leiden des iranischen Volkes um weitere 10 Jahre verlängert wurde. Die dauerhafte Legitimierung der Mullahs, das Abducken vor seinen Drohgebährden und vor allem äußerst fragwürdige Deals haben nicht nur den Iran an seinem Weg in die Freiheit gehindert. Zu den schmutzigen Deals gehörten unter anderem die Terrorlistung der gut organisierten iranischen oppositionellen Volksmodjahedin (MEK), und ein verordnetes Schweigen, dass immer größer wurde, je näher die Konflikte in den Dunstkreis der Mullahs rückten. Dies sah man mehr als deutlich bei den iranischen Volksaufständen 2009, wo sich zwar die Welt empörte, aber unisono westliche Regierungen entweder schwiegen oder lapidare Worte für eine der größten Aufstände des Mittleren Ostens und eines unbändigen Mutes abließen und es endete mit dem Schweigen gegenüber den Menschenrechtsverletzungen, die danach stattfanden und die bis heute an vielen Stellen noch anhalten. Unter Hassan Rohani wurden mindestens 800 Menschen hingerichtet, so viele Menschen hingerichtet, wie seit 20 Jahren nicht mehr, aber der Westen schweigt, weil es die Atomverhandlungen – wie immer – nicht gefährden will.