Brief on Iran

Brief on Iran (BOI – 317)

Brief on Iran
Written by OIAC

Keeping the World Safe From Iran’s Nuclear Program
PRESS STATEMENT
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE

State.gov, May 27 2020

Today, I am announcing the end of the sanctions waiver covering all remaining JCPOA-originating nuclear projects in Iran – the Arak reactor conversion, the provision of enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor, and the export of Iran’s spent and scrap research reactor fuel. The sanctions waiver covering these activities will end following a final, 60-day wind-down period allowing companies and entities involved in these activities to cease their operations.

I am also announcing the designation of Majid Agha’i and Amjad Sazgar pursuant to E.O. 13382 for engaging or attempting to engage in activities that have materially contributed to, or pose a risk of materially contributing to, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Sazgar is the Managing Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran entity responsible for the industrial-scale production of uranium enrichment gas centrifuge machines. In 2019, Sazgar managed and supervised the installation of centrifuges at Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment plant. Through these activities, Sazgar has contributed to Iran’s continued provocative and destabilizing expansion of its nuclear capabilities. Agha’i has also been centrally involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuge operations, and is a manager in the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran subsidiary responsible for research and development of advanced centrifuges.

The Iranian regime has continued its nuclear brinkmanship by expanding proliferation sensitive activities. These escalatory actions are unacceptable and I cannot justify renewing the waiver for these JCPOA-related activities as a result. The regime’s nuclear extortion will lead to increased pressure on Iran and further isolate the regime from the international community. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear personnel need to make a choice – work for Iranian proliferation organizations and risk being sanctioned or put their skills to work for the Iranian people in pursuits outside of the proliferation realm.
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US disrupts Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela, official says
Fox News, May 28, 2020

The Trump administration halted scheduled Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela Wednesday by threatening sanctions on the ships carrying the cargo, according to U.S. officials.
Iran and Venezuela attempted to outmaneuver American sanctions by establishing a new oil partnership.

Two Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ships that “were en route to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel, scrapped their deliveries after the U.S. threatened sanctions,” a senior U.S. official told Fox News.
First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the ships were expected to arrive in Venezuela as the final delivery in a previously planned five-oil-tanker shipment, an effort that the Venezuelan regime has said is a partnership to thwart the American sanctions.

“The Iranian oil tankers arriving in Venezuela are nothing but a distraction from the real problems facing Maduro,” a spokesperson from the State Department told Fox News. “These shipments will do nothing to help Venezuelans, they will only help prop up the former Maduro regime for a little while longer.”

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised address: “We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism.” But the Greek-owned ships would have been unable to access international banking and maritime insurance had they carried out the shipment.

U.S. officials have been in direct communication with the ships, which are no longer heading to Venezuala but heading south off the coast of Senegal near Liberia, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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Iran’s rapid rise in Covid-19 cases stokes fears of second wave
Health ministry reports 3,000 new cases in 24 hours after lockdown was eased in April
The Guardian, June 1, 2020

Fears that Iran is in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus have been reinforced, with the health ministry saying 3,000 new cases were recorded in 24 hours – the highest figure for two months.
The Islamic Republic, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East, started easing its lockdown in April after a drop in deaths.

Its leaders have been reluctant to acknowledge that they may have lifted restrictions prematurely. They have argued that a recent rise in new infections was confined to certain provinces and that the number of deaths was relatively low. At the weekend the president, Hassan Rouhani, said most restrictions had now been lifted, pointing to the opening of 40,000 mosques, as well as shops and offices. Despite a clear reversal of fortunes in the past fortnight, few newspapers appeared willing to acknowledge that the virus had not been conquered.

But health ministry officials on Monday sent out a dire warning about complacency, saying the battle was far from over. The health minister, Saeed Namaki, said he was witnessing sad scenes across the country. “Unfortunately,” he said, “corona is going to score a goal in the 90th minute if some officials and the people believe that corona is over. If we neglect the situation we will go backwards. People, have mercy on us, let’s have mercy on ourselves, government officials are getting tired.”

The latest figures showed 2,979 new infections in the previous 24 hours, taking the total of infections in Iran to 154,445. The daily figure is the highest since 1 April. The comparative figure for 1 May was 802 new infections.

The number of deaths is also starting to rise again, with 81 dead in the previous 24 hours, the highest figure since 27 April. A total of 8,778 have died since Iran’s outbreak began.
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Hard-line former Tehran mayor named Iran parliament speaker
The Washington Post, May 28, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s parliament elected a former mayor of Tehran tied to the Revolutionary Guard as its next speaker Thursday, solidifying hard-line control of the body as tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic remain high over its collapsed nuclear deal.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf’s assumption of power comes after a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city, in which he built onto Tehran’s subway and supported the construction of modern high-rises.

Many, however, remember Qalibaf for his support as a Revolutionary Guard general for a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire be used against Iranian students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.

“It is time to thank all representatives, all workers at the parliament complex, experts, managers, security forces and services,” Qalibaf said, promising to give a speech Sunday.

Qalibaf’s candidacy received 230 votes from the 264 lawmakers present in the parliament in the first round of voting, state television reported. Parliament has 290 seats. Qalibaf, 58, replaces Ali Larijani, who served as the parliament’s speaker from 2008 until this May. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Larijani as an adviser and a member of the country’s Expediency Council on Thursday, state TV reported.

As speaker, Qalibaf leads a body that can debate Iran’s annual budget and push for the impeachment of government ministers. However, laws passed by the parliament must be approved by a 12-member Guardian Council and Khamenei holds final say on all matters of state.

The position also puts Qalibaf onto Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the country’s highest level body that handles defense and nuclear issues. That takes on new importance as the U.S. withdrew waivers from Iran’s nuclear program late Wednesday and as tensions between the two nations remain high.
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Iran Protests & more

Iran Minister Downplays November Protest Death Toll In First Official Acknowledgement
Radio Farda, May 31, 2020

Nearly seven months after Iran’s security forces killed several hundreds protesters in November 2019, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said implicitly for the first time on Saturday May 30 that the number of those killed was around 200.

While Iran has been hiding the actual number of those killed in the violent crackdown that followed the nationwide protests in November, independent news agencies and human rights watchers put the number at up to 1,500. A short while after the crackdown, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook said that Iranian security forces had killed around 1,000 protesters in November.

Rahmani who was taking advantage of the ongoing protests in the United States to portray violence as something normal that can happen anywhere in the world, did not even give precise figures about the death toll. Some Iranian Twitter users have pointed out the way Iran has been taking advantage of foreign developments to justify its violence.

The minister appeared on a TV program Saturday night to say “around 40 to 45 people, that is about 20 percent of the death toll were killed with weapons not issued by the government,” but about 80 percent were killed by government forces. This means he is still insisting on the government propaganda that some protesters killed other protesters with guns that did not belong to government forces; something officials tried to argue during the crisis in November.

As verified by international human rights watchdogs, Iranian forces even used tanks and machine guns against protesters and shot many in the head at point blank range. Human rights organizations even characterized the outcome of the crackdown at places such as Mahshahr in Khuzestan Province and Shahryar near Tehran as “massacre.”
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Appeals Court Upholds Sentence for Iran Protester Without a Hearing
Iran-HRM.com, May 30, 2020

A Tehran Appeals Court upheld without a hearing the verdict for an Iran protester.

Ali Nanvaei, a Tehran University student, was arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents on November 18, 2019 as he was leaving school and taken to an undisclosed location. The preliminary court examined Mr. Nanvaei’s case on February 4, 2020 on the charge of “disruption of public order” and sentenced him to a six-month prison term suspended for two years, 74 lashes, and handwriting of the texts of three books designated by the court.

The preliminary court ruling was upheld by the Appeals Court without any hearing, citing the permission obtained by Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi from the mullahs’ Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
Massive protests erupted across Iran on Friday, November 15, 2019 after the Iranian regime’s abrupt announcement that it had tripled the price of fuel. Mohammad Javad Kol ivand, a member of parliament from Karaj, said protests broke out in 719 locations across the country, on Friday, November 15.

Also on November 25, 2019, Seyed Hossein Naghavi, spokesman for the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, revealed that 7,000 people had been arrested during the protests in November 2019.
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Commentary:Why are US taxpayers funding a ‘Voice of the Mullahs’ in Iran?
New York Post, May 27, 2020 by Brian Hook

As the US special representative for Iran, I receive complaints regularly about Voice of America’s Persian service. Iranian viewers say its American taxpayer-funded programming often sounds more like the “Voice of the mullahs” than the “Voice of America.”

VOA Persian needs to do a better job of countering Iranian disinformation and propaganda. This is a priority for the Trump administration, because supporting the Iranian people includes giving them access to independent and truthful reporting.

Voice of America was founded n 1942 to communicate US policies to a global audience. VOA’s congressionally funded Persian News Network received more than $17 million in taxpayer funds last year. But VOA is failing to represent America to Iran with fact-based content that is reliable and authoritative.

And it isn’t just the Persian service. This month, President Trump highlighted serious concerns with VOA’s coverage of COVID-19, because it became an echo chamber for Chinese propaganda and disinformation.

The president is only the latest person to voice frustrations with VOA programming. The nonpartisan American Foreign Policy Council in 2017 conducted an independent assessment of VOA’s Persian programming. It found bias in its reporting, noting that VOA’s Persian coverage of Iran’s foreign policy “perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting.” A follow-up analysis by the AFPC in 2019 found that many of the recommendations it made in 2017 were not implemented.

In 2014, a group of congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle called for an investigation into VOA Persian after allegations that it deliberately papered over the regime’s brutal human rights record.

I hear regularly about popular shows being suddenly canceled and replaced with lower quality programming that is less engaging and relevant. I was also disturbed to see that during the historic anti-regime protests last November, which left up to 1,500 Iranians dead, VOA Persian aired nature documentaries. VOA has certainly failed to present incisive and independent coverage of the Iranian regime itself.
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OIAC 2020 Virtual Conference, May 21, 2020
A mother, daughter, and granddaughter, represented three generations of supporters of the Iranian Resistance. Ms. Joanne McIntosh spoke of her life in Iran during the 1979 Revolution. “I became acquainted with the MEK during those early years, and 4 decades later, the resilience and integrity of their Resistance movement still gives me hope for the future of Iran.” Joanne’s daughter, Ms. Hannane Amanpour, spoke of her late father, slain by the Iranian regime in 1988. “I honor his memory and his sacrifice for freedom and democracy in Iran,” she said.
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