Brief on Iran

Brief On Iran(BoI), Newsletter March 23rd, 2015

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Brief On Iran – Newsletter
March 23rd, 2015
  Iran- Human Rights (Women, Minorities, Ethnics)

 The Guardian

Ahmed Shaheed highlighted the fact that Iran has the highest execution rate in the world and is increasingly imprisoning journalists.

The human rights situation in Iran is worsening, a UN expert has said, pointing to a surge in executions and noting concern that ongoing negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear programme could overshadow abuses.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on Iran hailed “some limited improvements” on the ground in Iran since the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhanias president, but warned “the overall situation has worsened.”

Speaking to reporters on Monday before presenting his latest report on the human rights situation in Iran to the UN Human Rights Council, Shaheed pointed to soaring numbers of executions and the jailing of journalists and activists in the Islamic republic.

 Amnesty International

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.

Guradian

 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime criticised for planning new five-year aid deal with Tehran, which continues to use death penalty for narcotics offences.

The UN anti-drug agency is finalising a multimillion-dollar funding package, including European money, for Iran’s counter-narcotics trafficking programmes, despite the country’s high execution rate of drug offenders.

Iranian authorities have hanged at least two people a day this year for drug offences, according to the human rights group Reprieve, which works for the abolition of death penalty.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, also warned this week that the Islamic republic continues to execute more people per capita than any country. At least 753 people were hanged last year in Iran, of whom more than half were drug offenders.

Reprieve and a number of other organisations have repeatedly urged the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to stop funding Iran’s anti-narcotics campaign until Tehran ends its use of capital punishment for drug-related offences.

  Iran- Terrorism Activities (Middle East)

Iran’s interference in Iraq

Iran’s interference in Iraq poses a major obstacle for national

reconciliation.

At a conference in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 18th March, Iraq experts and cross party panellists from both Houses of Parliament discussed the current crisis in Iraq and the essential components for a successful policy to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.

The conference’s keynote speaker Struan Stevenson, who chaired the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), presented his comprehensive report on Iraq which concludes that Iran’s strategy for regional supremacy has facilitated the rise of extremist groups like ISIS.

“The Iranian regime has manipulated the current crisis to spread their theocratic domain across large swathes of Iraq, under the pretext that they are protecting sacred Shiia shrines and fighting a war against terrorists…Yet, ironically, the inspiration for all of these jihadist groups is the theocratic regime in Iran”, said Struan Stevenson.

Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top officer responsible for foreign operations, provides assistance in Iraq “whenever we need him,” Hadi al-Ameri, the commander of the Badr militia, said on Sunday.

“He was giving very good advice. The battle ended now, and he returned to his operations headquarters,” Ameri told journalists close to the Al-Alam area north of Baghdad.

He was apparently referring to the battle to retake the nearby city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which began earlier this month and has since become a siege.

“Qassem Soleimani is here whenever we need him,” said Ameri, whose Badr militia is a powerful Iranian-backed force in the fight against IS.

Ameri’s remarks are a sign of the important role Soleimani plays in military operations against IS in Iraq and the influence Tehran wields here, both much to Washington’s chagrin.

Armin Rosen

 Qassem Suleimani is less camera-shy than just about any covert operative on earth.As head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Suleimani is responsible for coordinating the activities of Iran’s various proxy militias around the Middle East. This is a particularly important job nowadays, thanks in no small part to Suleimani himself.

Iranian-allied Shi’ite militant groups are dominant in four Arab countries. Hezbollah is Lebanon’s strongest military and political actor. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t be in power without Iranian-backed militias. Shi’ite rebels just overthrew the government of Yemen. And the Iraqi state has more or less owes its continued existence to a constellation of Tehran-backed armed groups.

 WASHINGTON – In the spring of 2010, Afghan officials struck a deal to free an Afghan diplomat held hostage by Al Qaeda. But the price was steep – $5 million – and senior security officials were scrambling to come up with the money.

They first turned to a secret fund that the Central Intelligence Agencybankrolled with monthly cash deliveries to the presidential palace in Kabul, according to several Afghan officials involved in the episode. The Afghan government, they said, had already squirreled away about $1 million from that fund.

Within weeks, that money and $4 million more provided from other countries was handed over to Al Qaeda, replenishing its coffers after a relentless C.I.A. campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan had decimated the militant network’s upper ranks.

The Christian Science Monitor
Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub

In Tikrit, Iraqi commander Hadi al-Amiri criticized those in Iraq who “kiss the hands of the Americans and get nothing in return.” He praised Iran’s “unconditional” support.

TIKRIT, IRAQ- The U.S. has failed to live up to its promises to help Iraq fight Islamic State extremists, unlike the “unconditional” assistance being given by Iran, the commander of Iraq’s powerful Shiite militias alleged Friday.

In a battlefield interview near Tikrit, where Iraqi forces are fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown from the militants of the so-called Islamic State, commander Hadi al-Amiri criticized those who “kiss the hands of the Americans and get nothing in return.”

Iraqi forces entered Tikrit for the first time Wednesday from the north and south. On Friday, they waged fierce battles to secure the northern neighborhood of Qadisiyya and lobbed mortar shells and rockets into the city center, still in the hands of IS militants. Iraqi military officials have said they expect to reach central Tikrit in two to three days.

The Guardian
Arabs believe Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a are in effect under Iranian control – and power may shift further if US sanctions are eased.

The commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been working overtime recently, flaunting their achievements across the Middle East and flexing muscles as international negotiations over the country’s nuclear programme enter their critical and perhaps final phase.

On Wednesday it was the turn of Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the IRGC’s most senior officer. “The Islamic revolution is advancing with good speed, its example being the ever-increasing export of the revolution,” he declared. “Not only Palestine and Lebanon acknowledge the influential role of the Islamic Republic but so do the people of Iraq and Syria. They appreciate the nation of Iran.”

Last month a similarly boastful message was delivered by General Qassem Suleimani, who leads the IRGC’s elite Quds force – and who is regularly photographed leading the fightback of Iraqi Shia miltias against the Sunni jihadis of the Islamic State (Isis) as well as against western and Arab-backed rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad in southern Syria. “Imperialists and Zionists have admitted defeat at the hands of the Islamic Republic and the resistance movement,” Suleimani said.

 Iran- Nuclear Activities

AP
Deb Riechmann

WASHINGTON (AP) – Obama administration officials told a House committee on Thursday that if a nuclear deal is struck with Iran, lawmakers should leave congressionally imposed sanctions in place for years.House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce said that sounded like part of a White House strategy to keep Congress out of the process for years. Lawmakers wary of Iran are pushing to weigh in on any prospective deal and impose new penalties on Tehran.

The administration argues that congressional action now would scuttle delicate international negotiations underway in Switzerland to reach an agreement that would prevent Iran from being able to develop nuclear weapons.

“If we are able to secure a comprehensive understanding, we will structure the nuclear-related sanctions relief in a way that is phased, proportionate and reversible,” said Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. “We will need to see verified steps on Iran’s part before sanctions are lifted and we believe that powerful U.S. legislative sanctions should not be terminated for years to come so that we continue to retain important leverage years into a deal.”

AFP
Yahoo News

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. 

Bloomberg
Kambiz Foroohar

(Bloomberg) — Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, presents a puzzle. To some, his flawless English and soft manner offer the picture of a pragmatist eager to bring his country back into the world community, trying to drag along a reluctant leadership at home. To others, his Western credentials are a mask and he is indistinguishable from hardliners he needs to keep satisfied.

“Zarif is the most effective diplomat Iran has had since the 1979 revolution,” said Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.”That said, Zarif offers an unrealistic portrait of the Iranian government because if the men who controlled power in Tehran all thought like Zarif, there would have been a U.S.-Iran rapprochement decades ago.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former C.I.A. officer, sees it differently.

Rueters
Arshad Mohammed
(Reuters) – Simply demanding Iran’s capitulation is no way to get a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday as he wrapped up three days of talks with a veiled dig at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kerry said he and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Jawad Zarif made some progress in their negotiations in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux and would resume them on March 15. Kerry aides said many obstacles remained before a late March deadline for an outline accord between Iran and six world powers.”There are still significant gaps and important choices that need to be made,” Kerry told reporters after more than 10 hours of talks all told with Zarif.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said in a speech in the U.S. Congress that Washington was negotiating a bad deal with Iran that could spark a “nuclear nightmare,” drawing a rebuke from President Barack Obama and exposing a deepening U.S.-Israeli rift.
  Iran on the Nuclear Edge
The Wall Street Journal

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.

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