Brief on Iran

Brief On Iran (BOI), Newsletter, June 29th, 2015

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Brief On Iran – Newsletter
June 29th, 2015
  Iran- Human Rights (Women, Minorities, Ethnics)

  The Washington Times
 Guy Taylor
 

Grisly executions rival only populous China.

Many in Iran‘s political hierarchy are hoping that a nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers will pave the way for the Islamic republic’s full return to the international community, ending years of political isolation and economic sanctions.

But at least on one big issue Iran remains an outlier. After ChinaIran is the world’s biggest practitioner of capital punishment, executing hundreds of prisoners annually through an opaque legal system that human rights groups say also puts scores of political prisoners behind bars.

Most rights groups agree that Iran is on pace to hang more than 1,000 people this year, many of them from construction cranes in public squares. When coupled with the heavily criticized nature of the nation’s judiciary, the executions present fodder for critics of the Obama administration‘s drive to strike a deal with Tehran and transform Iran into a more “normal” nation.

  Iran Human Rights

Iran Human Rights, June 12, 2015: It was January 27, 2015, Naghmeh Shahi Savandi, a citizen journalist from Kerman, arrived home from a day of shopping to be confronted by security agents. With her mom, aunt and children present, the agents violently raided her home and confiscated her computer, hard drives and CDs; they also confiscated her husband’s personal belongings. They had an arrest warrant for Naghmeh, she was handcuffed and blindfolded and led out to a vehicle. In the car they instructed her to keep her head down as she was driven to a detention center where they held her for one night. The following day Naghmeh was taken to a court for her charges to be issued. The judge accused her of attempting to infiltrate the Islamic Republic, then she was transferred to a prison. Naghmeh was tied to a bed and sexually harassed by the authorities.

Next she was transferred to Evin in Tehran where she endured 75 days in solitary confinement. The authorities held her in ward 2A, an area of the prison that doesn’t fall under prison jurisdiction and is completely run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Naghmeh describes her cell as being so small that when she lay in it there was only about 20cm between her toes and the wall. She was warned by prison guards to not speak,  scream, cry, or raise her voice in any way. Naghmeh says she was psychologically tortured by her interrogators.

  Electronic Frontier Foundation

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and a number of members of his cabinet, including foreign minister Javad Zarif and oil minister Bijan Zanganeh, are well-known for using popular social media networks-like Facebook-despite bans on their use in Iran. The moderate positions of many members of Rouhani’s administration have led to speculation over the past few years that the ban on many social media platforms may eventually be lifted.

Yet as Hassan Rouhani approaches the second anniversary of his election to the presidency on August 4, the promise of future reform remains unfulfilled.

Iran’s recent treatment of average citizens who use social media suggests an alternative vision. In February, twelve Iranian Facebook users were arrested on charges of “spreading corruption, and [carrying out a] mission to change family lifestyles.” Eight more Facebook users werearrested last year on a variety of charges, including blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, and insulting the country’s supreme leader, and given sentences of between seven and 20 years in prison.

Council on Foreign Relations
 

 The slaughter in Syria and the awful human rights violations in Iran cannot be denied by the Obama administration, but they sure can be downplayed and ignored.

On the Iran point, consider the release yesterday, four months late, of the State Department’s annual human rights reports. The reports were presented by Secretary of State Kerry and Assistant Secretary for human rights Tom Malinowski.  The Iran report is tough. Here’s an excerpt:The most significant human rights problems were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, and press; limitations on the citizens’ ability to change the government peacefully through free and fair elections; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.

CNN
 

 Washington (CNN)The U.S. harshly criticized the human rights records of Iran and Cuba Thursday, even as Washington tries to create new understandings with both countries.

The State Department also made clear that even if some sanctions are lifted on Iran as part of a nuclear deal, those related to human rights abuses would stay in place.

The State Department’s annual human rights report rapped Iran for “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” of its citizens on the eve of a final round of talks aimed a reaching an agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

The report cited U.N. and human rights groups’ findings that the government was responsible for unlawful and arbitrary killings and 721 executions, the second-highest rate in the world. In addition, the report pointed to around 900 political prisoners being held in Iran, including at least 30 journalists.

The report did not specifically mention Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held in Iran for more than 11 months and is on trial for espionage. Rezaian is jailed in Iran’s Evin Prison, which was singled out as being “notorious for cruel and prolonged torture for political opponents of the government,” including extreme sensory deprivation and isolation.

  Iran- Terrorism Activities (Middle East)

 The Iranian regime uses terror to accomplish its political and ideological objectives and is fomenting instability and conflict throughout the Middle East, US General George Casey, a former commander of the Coalition forces in Iraq, has said.

Speaking in a major gathering of the Iranian Resistance on June 13 in Paris, Gen. Casey highlighted the Iranian regime’s destabilizing role in the region.

Speaking from personal experience from his time as the top US commander in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, Casey said: “We said it is by now beyond dispute that the regime in Tehran is fomenting instability and conflict throughout the region, most notably in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.”

“For me, by the middle of 2006 it was clear that the Iranian regime was providing military training and lethal equipment to the Shia militias. This was the major factor in inflaming and sustaining the sectarian violence that wrecked Iraq in 2006 and 2007 and continues to this day. This support was provided by the Quds Force, the regime’s destabilizing arm, and it is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Coalition forces and thousands of Iraqis. I know the Quds Force was involved because we caught them red-handed. We captured six of them in a safe-house in Baghdad with maps showing sectarian population movements and records of weapons shipments in and out of Iraq. There can be no doubt that the Quds Force is doing the same type of thing across the region today.”

So far some 400 fighters (56 of them were Iranians, the rest Afghani) which have been killed by Syrian opposition groups including Islamic State (IS) have been buried in Iran, the country’s official IRNA news agency reported.

On June 25, five fighters from Fatemiyoun military division who had been recently killed in Syria were buried in the country’s eastern holy city of Mashhad, according to the report.

The Fatemiyoun division is a Shia military unit, whose members mostly have Afghan nationality , meanwhile the aforementioned fighters allegedly were Iranians.

In recent months, Iranian media have reported the killing of several Iranians including high-ranking IRGC members in the Syrian conflict. According to the reports, some of the slain Iranian fighters had gone to Syria to defend a holy Shiite shrine in the suburbs of Damascus.

Iran is a close ally of the Syrian government and has always shown its support for the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The Islamic Republic views the Syrian regime as its main strategic ally in the region and as part of an “axis of resistance” against Israel.

Syrian opposition claim that Iranian military forces are fighting against them, while Iran dismisses the claims, saying that Iran only has advisors in Syria, to transfer its military experience to the Syrian army.

Beirut (AFP) – Thousands of Iranian and Iraqi fighters have been deployed in Syria in past weeks to bolster the defences of Damascus and its surroundings, a Syrian security source told AFP on Wednesday.

 

“Around 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters have arrived in Syria over the past few weeks and their first priority is the defence of the capital. The larger contingent is Iraqi,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

“The goal is to reach 10,000 men to support the Syrian army and pro-government militias, firstly in Damascus, and then to retake Jisr al-Shughur because it is key to the Mediterranean coast and the Hama region” in central Syria, he added.

Syria’s government lost control of Jisr al-Shughur in northwestern Idlib province on April 25, as a coalition of opposition forces including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front swept through the region.

 Iran- Nuclear Activities
Interim Nuclear Agreement

Iran is backtracking from an interim nuclear agreement with world powers three months ago, Western officials suggested on Sunday, as U.S. and Iranian officials said talks on a final accord would likely run past a June 30 deadline.

Securing an historic agreement would end a more than 12-year nuclear standoff between Iran and the West and open the door to suspending sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy. It could also help ease the diplomatic isolation for an Iran that has become increasingly assertive across the region.

Highlighting how much work remains in the nuclear negotiations, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said on arrival in Vienna that major challenges remained, including on the parameters already agreed in April in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“There are a number of different areas where we still have major differences of interpretation in detailing what was agreed in Lausanne,” Hammond told reporters.

“There is going to have to be some give or take if we are to get this done in the next few days,” he said. “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

 New York Times
 David Sanger

VIENNA – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator was heading back to Tehran on Sunday to consult with his nation’s top leadership, as negotiators remained divided over how to limit and monitor Tehran’s nuclear program and even on how to interpret the preliminary agreement they reached two months ago.

With all sides now acknowledging the talks would need to continue beyond what was once considered the absolute deadline for a final deal, on Tuesday, officials from several nations said some of the politically difficult questions – on everything from inspections to how fast Iran could expand its nuclear infrastructure in the waning years of an accord – are still vexing, just as they were when the 18-month negotiating odyssey began.

For Secretary of State John Kerry, for whom an Iran deal would be the crowning achievement of his time in office, how the talks proceed this week will determine whether he can make a convincing argument to skeptics in Congress that he has negotiated an airtight freeze on the program for at least a decade, and crippled Iran’s capability to race for a bomb for years thereafter.

 The Wall Street Journal
 Laurence Norman
 
VIENNA-The U.S. and its partners are planning to stay in Vienna past the June 30 deadline to try to seal a final nuclear deal with Iran, a senior U.S. official said Sunday, as others warned there were still a few tough issues to resolve.

 

A senior Iranian official said that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was planning to fly back to Tehran Sunday evening for consultations at home and that he will likely return on Tuesday morning.
“I think it’s fair to say the parties are planning to stay past the 30th to keep negotiating as we have always said we may have to,” the U.S. State Department official said.

The person said it is hard to say at this point how much extra time will be needed to try to complete a deal but said there had been progress in the talks over the past few days.
“There are still a number of outstanding issues,” the official said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejoined the talks Saturday for the first time in a month, meeting for several hours with his Iranian counterpart, Mr. Zarif. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his British, German and EU counterparts also joined the talks over the weekend.

 Financial Times
Four days from now, Iran and a group of leading world powers will reach the much-awaited deadline for a deal to contain Tehran’s nuclear programme. All the signs are that, after 12 years of often fraught negotiation, the final hours will be the most challenging.
The US and its allies have long feared Iran’s nuclear programme is designed to build an atomic weapon. At their last meeting in the Swiss city of Lausanne in April, they reached a framework deal with Tehran that would avert this. Iran would sharply restrict its programme for the next 10 years, maintaining a limited uranium enrichment capability and curbing atomic research. In return, the west would begin reducing the energy and financial sanctions that have blighted the Iranian economy.As all sides haggle over the final details ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, an agreement suddenly looks uncertain. Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, appeared to pull back this week, demanding that most international sanctions be lifted before Tehran dismantles parts of its nuclear infrastructure. He has also repeated his refusal to allow international inspections of Iranian military sites. In response, a group of former close security advisers to President Barack Obama has warned him that he must not make further concessions.

At this late stage, both sides need to keep their eyes on the prize. For Mr Obama, a deal would mark his biggest foreign policy success, potentially ending nearly four decades of estranged relations between both nations. For the Iranian people, it would mark the beginning of the end of an international sanctions regime that has scarred their daily lives. But whatever the political upside, a deal needs to be technically robust. It will only deserve to endure if it truly stops Iran moving towards a bomb for at least another decade. There are areas where the US can show flexibility. John Kerry, US secretary of state, is right to suggest, for example, that a final deal need not require Iran to account for all its nuclear weapons research since 2003. The focus of attention should be on what Iran does in the future, not what it did in the past.

  The New York Times
  David Sanger
 

Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal. (see attached for the open letter, which also proposes solutions to the current crises in Syria, Iran and region, echoeing in basic the NCRI’s position that the regime must be ejected from the region)

Several of the senior officials said the letter was prompted by concern that Mr. Obama’s negotiators were headed toward concessions that would weaken international inspection of Iran’s facilities, back away from forcing Tehran to reveal its suspected past work on weapons, and allow Iranian research and development that would put it on a course to resuming intensive production of nuclear fuel as soon as the accord expires.

The public nature of the announcement by some of Mr. Obama’s best-known former advisers, all of whom had central roles in the diplomatic, intelligence and military efforts to counter Iran’s program, adds to the challenge facing Secretary of State John Kerry as the negotiations head toward a deadline of next Tuesday.
 Financial Times
Four days from now, Iran and a group of leading world powers will reach the much-awaited deadline for a deal to contain Tehran’s nuclear programme. All the signs are that, after 12 years of often fraught negotiation, the final hours will be the most challenging.
The US and its allies have long feared Iran’s nuclear programme is designed to build an atomic weapon. At their last meeting in the Swiss city of Lausanne in April, they reached a framework deal with Tehran that would avert this. Iran would sharply restrict its programme for the next 10 years, maintaining a limited uranium enrichment capability and curbing atomic research. In return, the west would begin reducing the energy and financial sanctions that have blighted the Iranian economy.As all sides haggle over the final details ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, an agreement suddenly looks uncertain. Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, appeared to pull back this week, demanding that most international sanctions be lifted before Tehran dismantles parts of its nuclear infrastructure. He has also repeated his refusal to allow international inspections of Iranian military sites. In response, a group of former close security advisers to President Barack Obama has warned him that he must not make further concessions.

At this late stage, both sides need to keep their eyes on the prize. For Mr Obama, a deal would mark his biggest foreign policy success, potentially ending nearly four decades of estranged relations between both nations. For the Iranian people, it would mark the beginning of the end of an international sanctions regime that has scarred their daily lives. But whatever the political upside, a deal needs to be technically robust. It will only deserve to endure if it truly stops Iran moving towards a bomb for at least another decade. There are areas where the US can show flexibility. John Kerry, US secretary of state, is right to suggest, for example, that a final deal need not require Iran to account for all its nuclear weapons research since 2003. The focus of attention should be on what Iran does in the future, not what it did in the past.

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