Brief On Iran – Newsletter
March 30th, 2015
Iran- Human Rights (Women, Minorities, Ethnics)
The Iranian authorities must prove that their participation at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is more than a mere PR exercise , by halting any plans to execute an alleged juvenile offender and ordering a judicial review of his case, said Amnesty International.
The execution of Saman Naseem, a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, following a grossly unfair trial that relied on ‘confessions’ extracted under torture, was scheduled to take place one month before the UN Human Rights Council session on 19 March. The execution was not carried out then and the authorities have refused to officially disclose his fate and whereabouts since.
We fear the Iranian authorities may have postponed Saman Naseem’s execution merely to avoid criticism and condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council session, leaving him at even graver risk of execution once the review ends.
Earlier this month, Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, led an official delegation to the United Nations in New York to attend the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. In her March 11 speech to the commission, Molaverdi said that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has always had the empowerment of women and improving their status…on its agenda.”
Molaverdi described the significant progress Iranian women have made in education and science, citing unilateral economic sanctions and violence against women as factors that have impeded the full realization of women’s rights. There was little in her speech to suggest that domestic factors — including Iran’s laws and policies — play a significant role in depriving Iranian women of real gender equality and empowerment.
For the fourth year in a row, the ailing prominent human rights defender Mohammad Seifzadeh was not granted furlough for the Iranian New Year (March 20-April 1). Furlough, typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
Seifzadeh’s wife, Fatemeh Golzar, said in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “Since his arrest in April 2011, he has never requested furlough, and he asked us [the family] not to request furlough for him. If everything goes according to law, a prisoner must be granted furlough, but during the years he has been in prison, he has not been granted any furlough.”
Golzar told the Campaign that Seifzadeh suffers from kidney disease. “In February, he was transferred to a hospital for kidney treatment for ten days. He suffers from kidney stones and he was in a lot of pain, but after examinations and tests, the doctors said there is no need for surgery,” she said. Medical care is routinely denied to political prisoners in Iran.
March 27, 2015-The United Nations Human Rights Council voted today to renew the mandate of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, signaling the international community’s continued concern over the state of human rights in Iran. The resolution to renew the mandate received 20 votes in favor, 11 against, and 16 abstentions.
“The vote’s message is loud and clear: four years after the establishment of the mandate, Dr. Shaheed’s work is not done,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The most basic rights and freedoms continue to be routinely violated in Iran.”
A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.
Amir Hossein Motaghi, who managed public relations for Mr Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, was said by Iranian news agencies to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA).
He then appeared on an opposition television channel based in London to say he no longer saw any “sense” in his profession as a journalist as he could only write what he was told.
“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.
Iran- Terrorism Activities (Middle East)
The United States is taking part in joint military operations with Iran, admitting it is providing aerial surveillance over the current battle for Tikrit.
The assault on Isil-held Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town in Iraq, has stalled in recent days after initial success.
Troops loyal to the Baghdad government, along with Iran-backed Shia militia and some Sunni tribesmen, have surrounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Saddam’s old palace complex and one other part of the city, but have been unable to make further progress.
The attack has been openly master-minded by an Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, head of the internationally-focused Al Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard, who has been photographed on the front lines.
An official from the US-led coalition operating air strikes against Isil in Iraq and Syria confirmed to the Reuters news agency that it was now providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from the air to support the attack.
The war on ISIS is getting weird in Iraq
The US has started providing “air strikes, airborne intelligence, and Advise & Assist support to Iraqi security forces headquarters” as Baghdad struggles to drive ISIS militants out of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
The Iraqi assault has heretofore been spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and most of the Iraqi forces are members of Shiite militias beholden to Tehran.
The British magazine The Week features Suleimani in bed with Uncle Sam, which is quite striking given that Suleimani directed “a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.
The notion of the US working on the same side Suleimani is confounding to those who consider him a formidable adversary.
The New York Times
David D. Kirkpatrickmarch
CAIRO – The Arab states said on Sunday that they had agreed to form a combined military force to counter both Iranian influence and Islamist extremism, a gesture many analysts attributed in large part to their drive for more independence from Washington.
The agreement came as American and other Western diplomats in Lausanne, Switzerland, were racing to beat a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday to reach a deal with Iran that would restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions. In response, Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the region have made clear that they are seeking to bolster independent regional security measures because they see the proposed accord as a betrayal of Washington’s commitment to their security.
Regardless of Iran’s nuclear program, they complain, the deal would do nothing to stop Iran from seeking to extend its influence around the region by backing favored factions, as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.
Matthew J. Belvedere
Iran is trying to expand its empire much like Hitler’s Germany before World War II, former CIA Director James Woolsey said Monday
, citing Tehran’s moves to exert its influence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
“They are doing it on a highly ideological basis. They never cease chanting ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to the United States,'” Woolsey said in a CNBC “Squawk Box” interview. “They are an imperial power and trying to become more of an imperial power.”
Woolsey called for a halt in the six-nation nuclear talks with Iran, which include the U.S. “Given Iran’s aggressiveness and the fanaticism of its leaders, I don’t think we can do a reasonable deal with them. They’ll cheat.”
Regardless of whether an agreement can be reached to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions with verification measures, the rogue nation could have nuclear weapons capabilities in a “year or so,” Woolsey said. “If we stop the talks, clamp further sanctions, introduce far more competition than exists today into the oil business … we could slow them down.”
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) – The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites, officials have told The Associated Press.
The trade-off would allow Iran to run several hundred of the devices at its Fordo facility, although the Iranians would not be allowed to do work that could lead to an atomic bomb and the site would be subject to international inspections, according to Western officials familiar with details of negotiations now underway. In return, Iran would be required to scale back the number of centrifuges it runs at its Natanz facility and accept other restrictions on nuclear-related work.
Instead of uranium, which can be enriched to be the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, any centrifuges permitted at Fordo would be fed elements such as zinc, xenon or germanium for separating out isotopes used in medicine, industry or science, the officials said. The number of centrifuges would not be enough to produce the amount of uranium needed to produce a weapon within a year – the minimum time-frame that Washington and its negotiating partners demand.
Hamza Hendawi and Ahmed Al-haj
Yemen’s embattled president on Saturday called Shiite rebels who forced him to flee the country “puppets of Iran,” directly blaming the Islamic Republic for the chaos there and demanding airstrikes against rebel positions continue until they surrender.
Egypt’s president supported the creation a regional Arab military force and a Gulf diplomat warned that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen could go on for months, raising the specter of a regional conflict pitting Sunni Arab nations against Shiite power Iran.
The comments by Arab leaders including Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled his country only days earlier, came at an Arab summit largely focusing on the chaos there caused by the advance of the rebels, known as Houthis.
Leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait obliquely referenced Iran earlier at the summit held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They blamed the Persian country for meddling in the affairs of Arab nations, with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi saying, without mentioning Iran by name, that it was “spreading its ailment in the body.”
The Wall Street Journal
American negotiators and their cohorts are trying to close a deal that would let Iran keep its nuclear program, subject to intricate conditions of monitoring and enforcement. Yet how is a deal like that supposed to be verified? The Obama administration can’t even keep up with the Iran-linked oil tankers on the U.S. blacklist.
Currently, there are at least 55 of these tankers the Treasury Department says are under U.S. sanctions. These are large ships, major links in the oil chain that sustains the Tehran regime.
Parisa Hafezi, Louis Charbonneau and John Irish
(Reuters) – The United States said on Tuesday that world powers and Iran would keep negotiating over an outline accord on Tehran’s nuclear programme beyond a midnight deadline, while warning that it was ready to abandon the talks altogether.
As Iran affirmed its “nuclear rights”, the talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne appeared to be bogged down, while officials cautioned that any agreement would probably be fragile and incomplete.
Two Western diplomatic sources said the Iranians had been told by the powers that they must make up their minds on whether to accept a political agreement before dawn on Wednesday.
“We have told them that this has to be decided now,” a source said. “It can’t carry on for six more days.”
The U.S. State Department said the efforts for a deal would go on past the self-imposed deadline of March 31. “We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday,” acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “There are several difficult issues still remaining.”not be terminated for years to come so that we continue to retain important leverage years into a deal.”
Tehran (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday ruled out any cooperation with the United States in the troubled Middle East, saying talks with Washington are confined to nuclear issues.
In a closely watched speech marking the Persian new year festival of Nowruz, Khamenei took steps to quell speculation that any nuclear deal with the West could lead to a wider rapprochement.
“No way,” he told a raucous crowd in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, on the chances of an agreement on Iran’s atomic programme having other policy implications.
“Negotiations with the United States are on the nuclear issue and nothing else,” he said.
“US objectives on regional matters are the opposite to our objectives,” Khamenei said, accusing Washington of creating instability in Syria, Libya and Egypt.
His remarks were greeted by chants of “Death to America” from the tightly packed thousands who gathered to hear him speak.
Khamenei’s comments appeared to be a blunt rejection of overtures made by US President Barack Obama that a nuclear deal could lead to cooperation in the Middle East, chiefly against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
Joseph Bahout, Benjamin Haddad,
The French don’t trust Iran’s nuclear promises, but they don’t trust Washington much, either.
As a March 31 deadline looms in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and France, two strong allies, have found themselves increasingly at odds, at times quite publicly.
While the White House has been pushing hard for consensus on the framework for a deal ahead of the deadline, Paris has been pushing back. “Repeating that an agreement has to be reached by the end of March is a bad tactic. Pressure on ourselves to conclude at any price,” Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador in Washington, tweeted on March 20. On Tuesday, Francois Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, said that Iran’s progress was “insufficient.”
The word from Paris has been equally unsupportive of the U.S. push for a deal. “France wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared on March 21.
What gives? Is France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande actually a neoconservative? Has Paris suddenly turned into a hawk among nations?
Diplomatic talks to secure a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers looked set to run past their official deadline as negotiators raced to try and salvage the terms of an accord from a tense day of discussions.
US, Russian and European officials said late on Tuesday evening that with just hours to go to a midnightdeadline there was still no final deal agreed but, that if necessary, they would work into Wednesday to secure one.
Against the backdrop of a Saudi-Iranian proxy war engulfing Yemen, military gains by Sunni jihadis in Syria and a deepening security crisis in North Africa, the prospect of at least a partial rapprochement between world powers and Tehran, had provided a rare glimmer of diplomatic hope for the Middle East. It could even pave the way for a more permanent recasting of the region’s geopolitical dynamics.
Official leaks suggest the U.S. is making ever more concessions.Secretary of State John Kerry
told Congress this week that no one should pre-judge a nuclear deal with Iran because only the negotiators know what’s in it. But the truth is that the framework of an accord has been emerging thanks to Administration leaks to friendly journalists. The leaks suggest the U.S. has already given away so much that any deal on current terms will put Iran on the cusp of nuclear-power status.
The latest startling detail is Monday’s leak that the U.S. has conceded to Iran’s demand that an agreement would last as little as a decade, perhaps with an additional five-year phase-out. After that Iran would be allowed to build its uranium enrichment capabilities to whatever size it wants. In theory it would be forbidden from building nuclear weapons, but by then all sanctions would have long ago been lifted and Iran would have the capability to enrich on an industrial scale.