Posted tagged ‘Rouhani’

The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election

May 19, 2017

The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election, Long War Journal, May 19, 2017

Iranians head to the polls today to choose between “bad and worse” in yet another unfair-and-unfree presidential election. The primary challenger, Ebrahim Raisi – who is considered a frontrunner to succeed Khamenei – has received the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the protector of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution who have long cast a dark shadow over the country.

The Guard’s political interference has at times been so blatant that incumbent President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday publicly called on it not to meddle. During the final debate last week, Rouhani criticized the Guards for mobilizing support for Raisi.

Some in the West point to this as proof that Rouhani is the “lesser of two evils,” yet the political effect of this difference is minimal:  Rouhani cannot overcome the Guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on matters of foreign and security policy—to the extent that he even has differences with them. Rouhani’s feud with the corps goes back to the Iran-Iraq War and is less politically convulsive than can sometimes appear to outside observers.

Since 1989, the Revolutionary Guards’ intervention in Iranian politics and commerce has expanded dramatically under the watch of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has relied on the corps to consolidate his power.

While Rouhani has installed more intelligence ministry than Guard veterans in his cabinet, the corps overshadows all other security and military institutions.

Khamenei and the Guards exercise formal and informal means to check the elected branches. The corps’ decision-making hierarchy is dominated by a tightly-knit network of Iran-Iraq War (1980 – 1988) veterans loyal to the supreme leader. During the reform era (1997 – 2005), Khamenei and the Guards curtailed the agenda of former President Mohammad Khatami and purged reformists from the parliament.

As a partly conscript military organization, however, the 150,000-strong Guard Corps somewhat mirrors society, though more so the pro-regime base since Iranians who don’t support the regime often prefer to enlist in the regular army.  The Revolutionary Guards purged their ranks after the massive demonstrations following the 2009 presidential election: many officers and the rank-and-file refused to attack protesters.  Senior commanders have become more careful about vetting officers.  Khamenei-picked clerical commissars enforce ideological conformity and the corps’ Counter Intelligence Organization, souped up after 2009, roots out dissent.

Factionalism among the Guards, however, remains. For instance, former senior commander and parliamentarian, Mansour Haghighatpour, told a pro-reform newspaper the Guards foiled his re-election bid in the northwestern district of Ardebil last year because he voted for the 2015 nuclear accord.

The Revolutionary Guard has promoted Raisi before he announced his presidential run. Raisi, who owes his power to the supreme leader, has long been close to Iran’s security services. After Khamenei last year appointed Raisi the trustee of Iran’s wealthiest endowment, the Reza Holy Precinct, top Guard commanders visited him in Mashhad.  Media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard then began promoting Raisi with the senior title of “Ayatollah.” That indicated Raisi was being groomed for the higher office of supreme leader, which nominally requires the senior clerical rank (the media has now returned to calling Raisi a mid-ranking cleric).

Even before the withdrawal of Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and a former senior Guard commander, from the presidential campaign, Raisi generated the most buzz in hardline circles. Prominent Guard theoretician Hassan Abbasi even claims there’s a “strange” aura to Raisi’s campaign rallies. Photos of guardsmen in Syria declaring their support for Raisi are now commonplace in Iranian social media.  The corps’ weekly Sobh-e Sadegh’s latest edition all but endorses Raisi without naming him directly.

Some in Khamenei’s close circle successfully pushed Raisi to run for president even though he’d initially refused. Cleric Ali Panahian, head of the pro-Khamenei think tank Ammar Base, told a militant seminary audience in Qom this month that Raisi consented to run with reservations.  Panahian viewed Raisi as “one of the sources of support” for the Islamic Republic regardless of “the result of the election.”  Panahian has dubbed Raisi the “seyyed of the dispossessed” (“seyyed” is an honorific given to descendants of the Prophet Muhammad).

The Guard Corps has also directly mobilized supporters for Raisi’s campaign rallies.  A reporter who attended Raisi’s Tehran campaign rally this week said the vast majority of attendees were members of the Basij – an all-volunteer, paramilitary organization that falls under the corps’ command. Eyewitnesses outside the campaign rally videotaped men on motorcycles and more than a dozen buses – hallmarks of the Guard’s mobilization.

The Revolutionary Guards might try to tip the results in Raisi’s favor. Polls by their media seem to predict a Raisi victory. The Guard Corps has attempted to station forces at Tehran’s ballot stations on election day, drawing a protest of a senior official from the interior ministry, which counts the votes and is under the control of Rouhani.  Iranian parliamentarian Mahmoud Sadeghi this week warned about the spread of undercover security agents in Tehran, some of whom vowed to crush the “green sedition,” referring to the 2009 Green Movement. The Guard may want to rig the results by a few points to avoid the mistake of declaring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner by a large margin, which instantly led to widespread suspicions of fraud and massive demonstrations.

Rouhani’s supporters may well accuse the corps and the supreme leader of fraud if Raisi wins. Rouhani has been leading the polls and the public expects high turnout of the reformist base, which could only benefit Rouhani. The president has loudly and repeatedly warned against the Guards’ meddling in this election.

For his part, Khamenei has not overtly expressed his preference for president but has criticized Rouhani throughout the campaign, and has vowed to “slap in the face” anyone who “wishes to disrupt security.” He obviously fears a repetition of 2009 that rocked the regime to its core.

Whatever the result of the election, the Guard Corps will remain the most powerful network in the country.   A Raisi presidency would be beholden.  A Rouhani victory, however, cannot roll back the Guards’ influence.  The Islamic Republic’s history leaves no doubt that republican institutions are incapable of overcoming the unelected powers of the supreme leader and his praetorians, who perceive reform as an existential threat.  The prospect for gradual, peaceful reform within the Islamic Republic is bleak.

Tehran Relies on Propaganda to Make up For Misallocation of Funds to Foreign Conflicts

March 10, 2017

Tehran Relies on Propaganda to Make up For Misallocation of Funds to Foreign Conflicts, Iran News Update, March 10, 2017

(Please see also, Time to Call Iran’s Revolutionary Guards What They Are: Terrorists. — DM)

[R]ecently released intelligence strongly suggests that the supreme leader and hardline authorities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bear a great deal of responsibility for the economic struggles of Iranian citizens, as a result of the systematic misappropriation both of budgetary funds and financial resources earned through Iran’s private sector. On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a panel discussion coinciding with the release of an e-book titled, The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards’ Financial Empire.

In both the discussion and the document, the leading Iranian opposition group explained that a recent push toward widespread privatization of the Iranian economy has actually resulted in the private acquisition of more than half of the country’s gross domestic product by front companies and other affiliates of the IRGC and the supreme leader himself.

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On Friday, Reuters picked up on reporting in Iranian state media which noted that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had once again voiced criticism of President Hassan Rouhani’s handling of the nation’s economy following the nuclear agreement that went into effect at the beginning of last year. The supreme leader’s remarks appeared to specifically highlight the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people, who are experiencing poverty at a rate of at least nine percent and likely much higher.

“Of course the government has taken remarkable steps but if the resistance economy had been implemented fully and widely, we could witness a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. In previous months, he had already called for the renewal of his own “resistance economy” plan, which involves domestic development aimed at making the nation more capable of weather the storm of international economic sanctions, as distinguished from Rouhani’s plan of reaching out to Western powers in order to alleviate those sanctions.

Khamenei’s recommendations thus serve a dual purpose. In the first place, they further undermine the prospects for further rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the West. And secondly, they defray blame for economic woes away from the supreme leader’s office and its hardline affiliates, putting it instead onto the Rouhani administration, which faces a contentious reelection bid in May.

But recently released intelligence strongly suggests that the supreme leader and hardline authorities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bear a great deal of responsibility for the economic struggles of Iranian citizens, as a result of the systematic misappropriation both of budgetary funds and financial resources earned through Iran’s private sector. On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a panel discussion coinciding with the release of an e-book titled, The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards’ Financial Empire.

In both the discussion and the document, the leading Iranian opposition group explained that a recent push toward widespread privatization of the Iranian economy has actually resulted in the private acquisition of more than half of the country’s gross domestic product by front companies and other affiliates of the IRGC and the supreme leader himself.

The Washington Times reported upon some of the findings presented in that document, emphasizing the fact that the regime is using these privately acquired assets to channel billions of dollars into regional terrorism, paramilitary activities, and weapons development. The article notes that the intelligence gathered by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran found that approximately 100 billion dollars was being spent annually just on salaries for militant fighters in the Syrian Civil War.

The Washington Times credits the NCRI with presenting a clear warning to Western businesses and policymakers. And the document itself says, “Foreign investors cannot in practical terms avoid entanglement by affiliation in the Iranian regime’s behavior, including its support for terrorism, continued aggressive policies towards regional countries, manufacture and testing of ballistic missiles, and systematic egregious human rights violations inside Iran.”

To critics of Iran’s clerical regime, this entanglement is worrying in its own right because of Tehran’s traditional behavior. And it is made more worrying by the fact that the above-mentioned ballistic missile program is being used alongside other types of weapons as a tool of explicit anti-Western propaganda.

This fact was highlighted once again on Friday when the Associated Press reported that General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division, had boasted of the successful testing of another ballistic missile. The launch was aimed at naval targets and took place amidst three days of large-scale training exercises by the Iranian Navy, which is separate from the naval forces of the IRGC.

The IRGC conducted its own naval operations the previous week, and both demonstrations were accompanied by boastful rhetoric about readiness for war with proclaimed enemies including the United States. In a separate example of the same propaganda trends, Iran also premiered an animated film depicting a military officer modeled after IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani leading a small number of Iranian vessels in destroying a much larger American fleet.

In January, the IRGC conducted the test launch of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile barely a week after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. Such tests take place in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to refrain from work on weapons that could carry a nuclear warhead, but a half dozen other such launches had been carried out before Trump was inaugurated but after the conclusion of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

The January incident was apparently the immediate impetus for a statement by the Trump administration putting Iran on notice over its provocative behavior. But various observers including US Navy officers have declared that that behavior remains unchanged, and that the IRGC continues to act unprofessionally and confrontationally in the region. Last weekend, for instance, several fast-attack vessels belonging to the IRGC positioned themselves about 600 yards away from a US Navy surveillance ship and three British vessels, compelling them to change course.

The AP reported on Friday that Iranian officials had since made exactly the opposite claim about the incident: that the American and British vessels had changed course specifically to approach the Iranian boats. But considering that this is at odds with the accounts of various other Iranian-initiated close-encounters, it seems to suggest an effort on Tehran’s part to justify its missile tests and defiant rhetoric, by suggesting that the US is the more aggressive party.

Assuming that this particular Iranian claim is indeed a deceptive one, it is certainly not the only one of its kind. The ongoing propaganda campaign also appears to involve an effort to present Iran as being much better positioned than it is for global conflict. This is suggested by the aforementioned film and the statements accompanying military demonstrations and missile tests. But the tendency is perhaps much more clearly on display in allegedly false Iranian claims of advanced weapons development.

The National Interest recently pointed to this phenomenon as it concerns the Qaher F-313 fighter jet, which is supposedly equivalent to an American F-35 stealth fighter, and which Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan claimed was ready for operational testing. In fact, independent analyses of photographs of the craft are broadly in agreement that it is merely a non-functional mockup, and a poorly structured one, at that.

Similar claims have been made about other Iranian weapons and equipment, including drones supposedly cloned from captured American technology. Other military hardware unveiled by the Iranian Army and the Revolutionary Guards has been shown to be little more than outmoded technology affixed with purely cosmetic upgrades. But to the extent that the regime is able to use its tightly controlled state media to present these so-called developments to a domestic audience, it may evoke a more war-ready image of Iran than is defensible in reality.

What’s more, this messaging dovetails with Supreme Leader Khamenei’s statements on the Iranian economy, insofar as it suggests Iran is capable of greater-than-expected domestic military development, while also concealing the fact that much of the country’s military allotment is being spent in foreign territory like Syria and Yemen instead of on advanced domestic development, whether military or civilian.

 

Nothing New in Rouhani’s “Charter of Citizens Rights.” Just a Re-Hash of Past Election Statements

December 23, 2016

Nothing New in Rouhani’s “Charter of Citizens Rights.” Just a Re-Hash of Past Election Statements, Iran Focus, December 23, 2016

charter-of-citizens-rights-750

London, 23 Dec – On the very day that the UN General Assembly condemned violations of human rights in Iran, its president, Hassan Rouhani, published a statement, “Charter of Citizens Rights”, which merely repeats the Constitution and laws of the clerical regime, albeit rearranged. It’s shocking that this occurred in the midst of the justice seeking movement for the 1988 Massacre has gained strength both inside and outside Iran.

During 2013 election, Rouhani announced the same statements, and now he’s reusing them for next year’s election. What’s interesting is that he announced the initial report on implementation will be due after the election.

The Charter consists of 120 articles, none of which challenge the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader, or the complete denial of popular sovereignty, the violation of fundamental rights of women is not addressed, nor are other inhumane laws that have been institutionalized in the clerical regime.

The first article states, “The right to life cannot be denied from citizens except in accordance with law”. According to an article published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on Wednesday, December 21, “This is nothing but confirmation of 120,000 political executions and mass executions that are happening every day. All these crimes are carried out based on the “law” of Velayat-e-Faqih. Rouhani has previously described all these executions as implementing law and divine command.”

Women’s rights are discussed within the framework of the law — the same law that denies all economic, social and political rights to women. The same law considers women’s rights as being half of men’s, and denies them many careers.

Here is what is said about freedom: “These freedoms are only limited based on necessity and according to the law.” He fails to mention various police organs established according to the law to quell all freedoms, whose wages are paid for by Rouhani’s cabinet and are under the command of his Interior Minister. Mercenaries titled as ‘Hijab (veiling) Police’, ‘Cyber Police’, ‘Mountain Police’, ‘Invisible Police’ and …

Ownership rights are referred to in Article 75, which reads that expropriation is banned, ‘unless it is according to the law’. “Rouhani, fails to explain the fate of the hundreds of billions of dollars stolen by the mullahs’ regime and senior regime officials from the Iranian people over the 38 years of the mullahs’ rule, and what happened to the $95 billion wealth in the ‘The Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive,’ practically becoming Khamenei’s personal wealth, all stolen from the Iranian people,” declares the NCRI.

The last part of the Charter speaks to the export of terrorism, calling the killings in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries “foreign policy using various wise measures” for “combating violence, extremism and in defense of innocent people’s rights,” emphasizing “allocating adequate resources to equip and strengthen the armed forces” and “allocating enough supplies to strengthen the defense capability.” This is the same policy Khamenei and his inner circle, including Rouhani, have been imposing on the people of Iran and the rest of the region.

Spending The Iranian people are angry of the use of their assets on the wars like those in Syria and Iraq. “Undoubtedly, Rouhani deserves the medal of obscenity. When introducing this document he said, “These citizenship rights tell the world that Islamic Republic of Iran has this capacity; Islamic Revolution has this capacity to make the best use of all new legal characteristics of today’s world in the context of Iranian Islamic culture,” concludes the NCRI.

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages

October 19, 2016

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages, Washington Free Beacon, , October 19, 2016

(Again. — DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015. Rouhani said a final nuclear deal is "within reach" as Iran and world powers face a June 30 deadline for an agreement. Rouhani said Iran will allow inspections of its nuclear facilities but vowed that the Islamic republic won't allow its state "secrets" to be jeopardized under the cover of international inspections. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

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Iran is seeking “many billions of dollars” in payments from the United States in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran’s state-controlled press that are reigniting debate over the Obama administration’s decision earlier this year to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash.

Senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.

Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused.

Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “many billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”

“We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer … many billions of dollars to release” American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who was abducted by Iran after the United States paid Iran the $1.7 billion, according to the country’s Mashregh News outlet, which has close ties to the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus.

The Persian language news report was independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

Six hostages have been sentenced to 10 years in prison by Iran in the past months, including the Namazis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in late September that his government is in talks with the United States to secure future payouts, a disclosure that may have played a role in the White House’s recent decision to veto legislation to block future ransom payments to Iran.

“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran,” Rouhani was quoted as saying. “Perhaps these dialogues can be still conducted simultaneously on parallel tracks while we’re conducting those same conversations in order to free the sums of money that are still owed to us.”

One senior congressional adviser familiar with the issue told the Free Beacon that Iranian officials have been pressing for another $2 billion from the United States for months.

“Iranian officials including Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif have been bragging for months that they’re going to force the U.S. to pay them several billion dollars more,” the source said. “Now officials across the spectrum in Iran—from IRGC hardliners to the ostensibly moderate President Rouhani—are talking about those billions, and maybe several more, alongside chatter about the U.S. hostages.”

“Even some family members of the hostages talk that way, which is completely understandable given what they’re going through, but it doesn’t change the fact that the administration is gearing up to give Iran another ransom in the hundreds of millions and maybe again billions,” the source added.

Rumors of future ransom payments to Iran come as Congress continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the $1.7 billion cash payment, a portion of which was delivered by plane to Iran just hours before it released several U.S. prisoners.

The Free Beacon recently disclosed that details of this payment and other details bound up in the hostage release are being stored in a highly secure location on Capitol Hill, preventing many from accessing the documents, which are not classified but are being treated as such.

The three documents show that the cash payment was directly tied to the prisoner release, adding fuel to claims of a ransom payment, according to sources who have viewed them.

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

“Paying $1.7 billion to Iran to release the U.S. prisoners has encouraged Iran to arrest more Americans,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran senses weakness in the U.S. leadership as it constantly tests the administration through a chain of provocative actions. To put an end to Iran’s abduction program, the administration should make it clear, by action and not words, that it does not reward Iran for its bad behavior.”

Conceding to Iran’s demands will only bolster the hardline regime, Ghasseminejad said.

“The administration must show strength in response to Iran’s other provocative actions in the region,” he said. “The administration also should warn American citizens and green card holders that Iran is a very dangerous place for them to travel or do business. However, such warning contradicts the administration’s continuous efforts to encourage investors and big banks to do business with Iran. The administration also should impose sanction on the entities and individuals involved in this abduction program.”

In NBC Interview, Hassan Rouhani Can’t Stop Lying

October 2, 2016

In NBC Interview, Hassan Rouhani Can’t Stop Lying, The TowerDavid Gerstman, October 2, 2016

(Rouhani and Hillary would make a good team for Iran. DM)

rouhanilies

The portrait that emerges from Rouhani’s interview is of a man who lies and distorts to defend Iran’s illicit behavior— with its domestic nuclear program and in Syria. Simply put, Rouhani is not a “moderate,” as he is so often described, but an apologist for Iran’s revolutionary regime that operates in defiance of international law and norms.

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In an interview two weeks ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani consistently lied and evaded questions put to him by NBC News’s Chuck Todd.

Todd first asked why Iran was claiming that the United States was not living up to the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rouhani responded that the deal states “that all nations involved in this agreement must free the path, pave the way for resumption of normal activities with the Islamic Republic of Iran, such as banking transactions, insurance transactions, and the likes.” Not only is that not correct, it fits a pattern described earlier this week by analysts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in which Iran hopes to gain additional concessions by threatening to walk away from the deal unless the West provides every economic concession that it believes it is owed.

The United States was only required to suspend its nuclear-related sanctions, not sanctions placed on Iran due to its history of terror financing and money laundering. (The United States has seen to it that the global watchdog against money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force, relaxed some restriction on Iran despite Iran’s continued presence at the top of the list of money launderers.)

When asked by Todd whether that was a misinterpretation of the deal’s sanctions-related clauses, Rouhani evaded the question, instead accusing the United States of blocking access to large financial institutions. Then he added that “the other breach of the agreement on the side of the United States, it has been brought into the JCPOA that airplanes intended for civil aviation only must be freely sold to Iran.”

But the airplanes that Iran wants are likely not “intended for civil aviation only.” As Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has shown, Iran Air, Iran’s national airline, which is seeking to purchase planes from Boeing and Airbus, is using planes to transport arms and troops to Syria to support the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Transporting soldiers and materiel is not “civil aviation.”

Todd later asked Rouhani if the world should be concerned about Iran’s intentions once most nuclear restrictions on Iran are lifted. Rouhani responded that Iran has adopted additional anti-weaponization safeguards as per the JCPOA, and even if these measures weren’t in place, “within the doctrine or within the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran to include the fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran…the building or pursuing or obtaining and using any type of weapons of mass destruction are strictly and unequivocally forbidden by Islamic law.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute has searched for a record of Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa and found no such fatwa. Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), wrote in a 2011 study (.pdf) “no written texts exist for the Supreme Leader’s fatwas.” But as WINEP research director Patrick Clawson observed in the preface to Khalaji’s analysis, even if Khamanei had issued such a fatwa, “past proclamations about the matter, like all fatwas issued by Shiite clerics, can be revised under new circumstances.”

Furthermore, Rouhani himself said in a 2005 speech (.pdf) that “having [nuclear] fuel cycle capability almost means that the country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons, should that country have the political will to do so,” suggesting that he believes the decision to develop nuclear weapons to be a political, not religious, decision.

Todd followed up by asking Rouhani why Iran has deployed a missile defense system at the Fordow nuclear site if its purpose is strictly civilian. Rouhani cited the need for Iranians to “defend ourselves,” but didn’t fully address the question. When Todd persisted, Rouhani stated that “Iran has always maintained her commitment to any agreement it has become a signatory of. You will not find any instances during the past 38 years of the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran in which a bilateral agreement or an international agreement has been signed and Iran has broken its commitment.”

This is blatantly false. Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty refused to end its uranium enrichment program despite the threat of being sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. The JCPOA allowed Iran to maintain a portion of its enrichment capacity, which it had maintained despite being repeatedly sanctioned. Being forgiven for the breach of an agreement is not the same thing as having abided by it.

Then Rouhani added, “What we were accused of for years, called ‘possible military dimensions,’ the International Atomic Energy Agency eventually reached the conclusion that that file must be closed for good and announced that the activities of Iran were solely for peaceful purposes.”

This is also false. The IAEA report (.pdf) last December did not find that Iran’s nuclear activities “were solely for peaceful purposes.” Rather, it found that Iran had a military nuclear program until at least 2009, though it found “no credible indications” that its military nuclear program continued after this point. It’s true that the IAEA closed down its investigation of Iran’s past nuclear work, but as the Institute for Science and International Security assessed, “the IAEA’s report can be viewed, at best, as a document that closes the process set forth by terms of the Roadmap” to the nuclear deal, but not as a clean bill of health.

Rouhani’s protestations of abiding by the deal also must be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism based on his own record as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator more than a decade ago. In 2006, after he left the position, Rouhani boasted in a meeting with Islamic clergy and scholars that he had duped the West. Rouhani claimed that Iran had continued installing equipment for converting yellowcake, one of the ingredients necessary for creating nuclear fuel, even as he told his European counterparts that there was no nuclear work being performed at that time.

“When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site,” Rouhani told his audience. “There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.”

Similarly, when he was running for president in 2013, Rouhani said in an interview that he used the earlier negotiations to advance Iran’s clandestine, illicit nuclear work, boasting, “We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”

Todd then asked Rouhani about Iran’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, starting with a question about the recent Russian bombing of a humanitarian convoy, which killed 20 aid workers and which one United Nations official called a war crime. Instead of condemning the attack, Rouhani pointed to a mistaken American airstrike on a Syrian army position—as if an accidental bombing somehow excuses a deliberate one. Rouhani also claimed that since the Syrian soldiers were fighting ISIS (also known as Daesh), the United States was involved in “a direct defense of the Daesh terrorist group.” The charge is outrageous. Even though Syrian troops have been targeting civilians, the United States said that it was an accident and apologized.

Rouhani went on to state that Israel had also attacked some Syrian positions, though he neglected to mention that it was in response to shells being fired into Israel. He allowed that a ceasefire would be beneficial because “food stuff and medicines can get to those who are in need and have been waiting for those supplies for months.” But he didn’t mention that the party engaging in the sieges is Assad, with Iran’s backing.

In response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent call for a halt to all flying above Syria, Rouhani stated that “any proposal can be coordinated in order to avoid the targeting of humanitarian convoys.” But a general from his own country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boasted last month that Iran provides intelligence on the ground to guide Russia’s bombing campaigns. Given this, and the ensuing possibility that Iranian troops were complicit in the bombing in question, Rouhani’s assurances that convoys can be protected are glib and meaningless.

The portrait that emerges from Rouhani’s interview is of a man who lies and distorts to defend Iran’s illicit behavior— with its domestic nuclear program and in Syria. Simply put, Rouhani is not a “moderate,” as he is so often described, but an apologist for Iran’s revolutionary regime that operates in defiance of international law and norms.

Obama Turns Blind Eye to Iranian Offenses in UN Speech

September 27, 2016

Obama Turns Blind Eye to Iranian Offenses in UN Speech, Clarion Project, Jennifer Breedon, September 27, 2016

obama-un-address-2016-hpU.S. President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20, 2016. (Photo: video screenshot)

The Iranian leader rightfully fears a future administration that may not be willing to tolerate a total disregard for international law or human rights, given that even President Obama’s positive nod to Iran at the UN was met with the label of “continued animosity.” 

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In 2015, President Obama stated that Iran’s “support for terrorism” and “its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East” was problematic, despite the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the nuclear deal) that had been reached by that time that allowed Iran access to millions of previously frozen funds.

Yet, bafflingly, just five minutes after mentioning terror proxies in his 2016 UN address last week, President Obama seemed to turn a blind eye to Iran’s ongoing offenses by saying, “When Iran agrees to accept constraints on its nuclear program, that enhances global security and enhances Iran’s ability to work with other nations.”

Today, Iran is poised to move funds to its global terror proxies more easily due to the infusion of cash created by the unfreezing of their assets.  Even John Kerry admitted in 2015 that some of the money going back to Iran through sanctions relief would undoubtedly go to fund terrorism.

So, we all know it is happening and yet nothing is being done to stop them or to even state this obvious fact aloud before the very body that is designed to protect against such international violations.

The UN Convention that prohibits terrorism financing explicitly outlines the illegality of any government that commits such an offense when it

“directly or indirectly, unlawfully and willfully, provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out . . . act(s) intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act” (Article 2(1)).  

Iran is guilty in spades of all of this.

Additionally, the Iranian government remains the U.S. State Department’s top proxy war and terror sponsor. Previous reports from the U.S. State Department note that Iran remains “unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qaeda (AQ) members [and has] previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran.”

The State Department has also highlighted Iran’s provision of “hundreds of millions of dollars in support of H[e]zballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters . . . in direct support of the Assad regime in Syria” as well as terrorist groups in Palestine (Hamas), Yemen (Houthis) and “throughout the Middle East.”

President Obama’s appeals to the oppressive government of Iran have clearly fallen on deaf ears.  In a one-on-one with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd merely 24 hours after Obama’s UN speech, Iranian President Rouhani stated, “If the future administration of the United States wishes to continue animosity, it will receive the appropriate response.”

The Iranian leader rightfully fears a future administration that may not be willing to tolerate a total disregard for international law or human rights, given that even President Obama’s positive nod to Iran at the UN was met with the label of “continued animosity.”

No amount of vocal, material or financial appeasement can ease relations with the State Department’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.  Despite repeated efforts by President Obama, it will not get better until the Iranian regime abandons its practice of funding terrorism, inciting proxy wars throughout the Middle East, and oppressing their own people by using their resources to build and test weapons before providing the infrastructure needed to create a stable economy and free society for their people.

While Iranian civilians and citizens were in dire economic straits with very little government reprieve or resource allocation to ease their conditions prior to the Nuclear Deal sanctions relief, the Iranian regime was spending over $6 billion per year to support the Assad regime in Syria in its efforts to ensure a Shiite majority in the region.

The Iranian regime must be held accountable for its non-adherence to international law and its desire to finance terror globally in places like Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

It must be held responsible for using funds to bankroll violence and oppression instead of providing basic necessities and freedoms for its own people.  As Obama said at the UN this year, Iran must “listen to voices of young people everywhere who call out for freedom, and dignity, and the opportunity to control their own lives.”

Rouhani made it clear that, despite all of the steps we’ve taken, including acknowledging them positively at the UN General Assembly, nothing the U.S. has done has thawed our relationship with Iran or helped to improve the security of people living in the areas ruled by Iran or its terror proxies.

Our leaders must continue to speak out against Iran’s human rights violations and the financing of terror if we ever hope to see change and remain a positive beacon of democracy and freedom.

 

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA

September 24, 2016

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA, MEMRI,  Y. Carmon and A. Savyon* September 23, 2016

Introduction

In his September 22, 2016 speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rohani accused that the U.S. is not meeting its obligations towards Iran under the JCPOA. He said: “The lack of compliance with the deal on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith… Any failure on the part of the United States in implementing it (the deal) would constitute an international wrongful act and would be objected to by the international community.”[1] 

30061Rohani at the UNGA (Image: Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016)

Rohani’s statements, which are part of an Iranian attempt in recent weeks to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran, are in stark contradiction to statements made by senior members of the Iranian negotiation team who explicitly admitted that the U.S. has in fact met its obligations under the JCPOA (see below).

This Iranian measure is a response to the refusal of Western banks to conduct transactions with Iran in dollars, despite the lifting of the nuclear sanctions in January 2016, because the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism are still in force. As will be recalled, Iran refuses to negotiate with the West on issues of terrorism, on the grounds that these issues are internal sovereign matters.

Below is a MEMRI report on this issue published on August 15, 2016.

As the first year of the JCPOA is marked, and in light of Western banks’ rejection of Iranian transactions in dollars, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters in the West have launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. to lift the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism. Their aim is to have these sanctions lifted without negotiations and without giving anything in return.

As will be recalled, Iran from the outset restricted the framework of the negotiations to the nuclear issue, and refused to allow them to include other issues such as human rights, terrorism, or missiles, which it considers internal sovereign matters. Therefore, the initial American sanctions concerning these areas remain in force.

A demand for lifting of all the sanctions, including the initial ones, was made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the months after the JCPOA was achieved in July 2015.[2] Perhaps Tehran thought that with the lifting of the nuclear sanctions, the entire sanctions regime would collapse, including those concerning human rights, terrorism, and missiles. But this did not happen. The U.S. Treasury Department is following the letter and the spirit of U.S. law, and is warning banks worldwide that the initial sanctions remain in force.[3]

In light of this situation, Iran and the supporters of its regime in the West are now working to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran. They claim that, in order to fulfill its commitments towards Iran in the JCPOA, the U.S. is obligated to revoke or circumvent the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress, which currently prevent banks from dealing freely with Iran.  For example, Tyler Cullis, member of the Iranian lobby in the U.S., the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), stated in a recent policy paper that “the United States is committed to ensuring that neither U.S. law nor policy is standing in the way of non-U.S. banks resuming correspondent banking relations with their Iranian counterparts… If U.S. laws or policies are interfering with Iran realizing the full benefit of the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial institutions, then the U.S. is required to take steps to ensure that those laws or policies no longer are running such interference. To do so could require additional changes to U.S. laws or policies governing the issue.”[4]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Majid Takhtravanchi also demanded that the U.S. take explicit steps to remove any obstacles currently preventing banks from dealing with Iran. He said on June 27, 2016,: “Two [contradictory] messages are coming out of Washington: The State Department says that there is no problem carrying out banking and financial transactions with Iran, while the OFAC says the opposite… We want the OFAC… to guarantee that there is no problem for the banks that are cooperating with Iran…”[5]

It should be mentioned that the Iranian implication that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran stands in contradiction to explicit statements made recently by Iranian officials, mainly negotiation team members from Iran’s pragmatic camp, who confirmed that the U.S. had upheld its part of the JCPOA. Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiating team member ‘Abbas Araghchi said on a television special marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Both sides have met their obligations under the JCPOA… In order to benefit from the JCPOA… we must carry out several steps because there are restrictions that are not connected to the JCPOA… The other side has implemented its obligations, and if it had not, that would have been a violation of the JCPOA, and we would have handled it in the Joint Committee…

“The JCPOA was meant to remove the obstacles of the sanctions from Iran’s economic path. [Indeed], these obstacles have been removed, but there are other obstacles, such as the initial sanctions by America, FATF [Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering], and laws connected to money-laundering, which require time [to take care of].

“From the outset, [the other side] was not meant to lift the sanctions that are not connected to the nuclear issue; that is written even in the [2013] Geneva Joint Plan of Action [about the lifting of] ‘sanctions related to the nuclear [issue], because we were negotiating about the nuclear issue [alone]…

“The sanctions on the dollar and the use of the financial apparatus of America belong to the initial sanctions imposed long ago because of issues that are not nuclear-related… We raised the matter in the negotiations, but the Americans did not agree to lift these sanctions… and demanded additional concessions [from us] in matters that were part of our red lines…

“The Americans are serious about maintaining their initial sanctions; this is the essence of America. Iran is Iran and America is America, and as long as we do not negotiate on bilateral relations [with the U.S.], these sanctions will remain in force. The American Treasury Department tells [the banks worldwide] that these sanctions are in force, and has warned them not to get in trouble because of them. These sanctions are not related to the JCPOA.”[6]

Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Hamid Ba’idinejad said at a press conference marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Up to this very moment, the members of the [Iranian] negotiating team believe that the JCPOA has not been violated [by the U.S.], and still believe that it is possible to solve the problems [concerning transactions in dollars] with discussions, recommendations, and talks… From the outset, the task set out [for the Iranian negotiating team] was to resolve the nuclear issue [alone]. So far, the Islamic Republic has made no decision to negotiate with America on [the other] issues in dispute…

“Our regime never expected us to achieve the lifting of the sanctions for human rights [in the framework] of the nuclear talks.”[7]

Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said: “America is telling [the banks worldwide] that it has not lifted the [initial] sanctions because this problem is related to human rights, terrorism, Palestine, and Lebanon. These [issues] too we could have solved.”[8]

However, after Khamenei warned, on August 1, 2016, that the U.S. had violated its commitments, the negotiating team heads fell into line with him, and began to state that the U.S. had indeed violated its obligations and to demand further changes in U.S. policies and laws.

A U.S. capitulation to these Iranian demands would be a blow to the authority of Congress, which imposed the initial sanctions, and to the separation of powers in the U.S. Moreover, it would constitute U.S. support for Iran’s ideological camp – Khamenei, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the ayatollahs connected to them – and not to the pragmatic camp, and would also stand in contradiction to President Obama’s commitment that the JCPOA deals only with the nuclear issue.

 

* Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is the director of MEMRI’s Iran Media Project

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6151, Khamenei Declares That He Will Not Honor The Agreement If Sanctions Are Merely Suspended And Not Lifted, September 4, 2015.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1249, Post-JCPOA, The IRGC Is The Factor Stopping Iran From Integration Into The Western Economy, May 20, 2016.

[4] Niacouncil.org, August 2016.

[5] Tabnak (Iran), July 27, 2016.

[6] Fars (Iran), July 11, 2016.

[7] Fars (Iran), July 13, 2016.

[8] Fars (Iran), August 10, 2016.