Iran Press Review: 04 August

Analysis by FDD

  • Ali Alfoneh, Senior Fellow, writes in The Washington Institute: “During a televised address on July 26, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad admitted for the first time that his regime is suffering from ‘a lack of human resources’ in the ongoing civil war, implicitly acknowledging the casualties inflicted on the various Iranian-sponsored forces assisting his troops. Since first mentioning Lebanese Hezbollah's activities in Syria in early 2013, he has rarely credited the Iranian proxy for its ‘important’ and ‘effective’ role in the war, instead maintaining the claim that Tehran's participation is limited to the provision of ‘military experts.’ In this, he has echoed Iranian officials, who typically declare that Iranian nationals killed in Syria are not military operatives deployed there by the government, but volunteer ‘martyred guardians of the shrine’ (shohada-ye modafe-e haram), a reference to Shiite pilgrimage sites in Damascus.”

  • Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow, and Saeed Ghasseminjead, Associate Fellow, write in The Weekly Standard: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, signed this month by the six world powers with Iran lifts a UN arms embargo by 2020, sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program by 2023, most nuclear restrictions by 2025, and a cap on low-enriched uranium stockpile by 2030. Most sanctions will be lifted immediately, with some residual measures left until 2023. The Obama administration often suggests that the deal may transform the Iranian regime from a revolutionary theocracy to a more moderate government that adheres to international norms. If that is the aim, why did the Obama administration agree to lift U.S. sanctions against the very hardliners the deal is supposed to marginalize? A case in point is the Headquarters for the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order – also known as EIKO or Setad. In June 2013 the U.S. Treasury designated EIKO – which functions as the personal business empire of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei – and 37 of its subsidiaries, noting that its purpose is ‘to generate and control massive, off-the-books investments, shielded from the view of the Iranian people and international regulators.’”

  • Amir Toumaj, Iran Research Analyst, writes in FDD Policy Brief: “In the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed last month, Iran’s concessions on its nuclear activities have sunset clauses that begin expiring in year 10. Beyond year 15, Tehran will be permitted to expand its industrial-sized program without limits and with no obligations to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to most of its nuclear facilities.  Only one document remains critical to ensure the Islamic Republic does not maximize this ambiguity to the fullest: the Additional Protocol (AP). The AP grants the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and sites, and is key to verifying the absence of undeclared activities and facilities. Under the JCPOA, however, Iran is required to notify the IAEA of its provisional application of the AP and then only to ‘proceed with’ and ‘seek’ – rather than actually obtain – ratification of the AP in its parliament, or Majles, by the end of year eight. This step not only happens late in the process, it also appears to be aspirational and non-binding.”

  • Merve Tahiroglu, Research Associate, writes in Hurriyet Daily News: “The nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran signed earlier this month presents a predicament for Turkey. On one hand, the Islamic Republic is a neighbor that offers vast economic and energy opportunities. On the other, it is a menace that threatens Turkey’s regional interests. The international sanctions on Iran allowed Ankara to enjoy the best of both worlds – for a time. Turkey not only benefitted from Iran’s restricted military capability, it exploited Tehran’s economic isolation by purchasing its oil on the cheap. At the same time, by publicly opposing the sanctions, Turkey enjoyed relatively warm ties with Iran. Those ties are now likely to be significantly less friendly.”

Foreign Policy

  • Iranian government officials hosted senior Italian officials to discuss trade expansion and both pledged to double trade from $1.5 billion to $3 billion.

  • Foreign Minister Zarif is hosting his Russian and Syrian counterparts in Tehran tonight. Deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said:

    • ​“Fortunately, a strategic change has occurred in the outlook of regional actors regarding Syria. If in the past four years many foreign actors considered reliance on war as the strategy in Syria, today some of them consider concentration on political solution as the most appropriate method in resolving the Syrian crisis.”

  • ​President Hassan Rouhani met with senior Azerbaijani officials and said:

  • “The Islamic Republic of Iran prioritizes relations with neighboring countries including the Republic of Azerbaijan and welcomes strengthening bilateral relations in all field.”

  • “Neighbors have priority for investment in Iran.”

  • ​“Iran today is the strongest country in the region.”

  • “It is interesting that some countries that have not experienced the smallest indicators of democracy are saying with regards to Syria and some Islamic countries that the president is not democratically elected. And for those excuses they have been fighting with the people and government of Syria for four years. They have come within 200-300 meters of Bashar Assad’s office, and he has preserved. He is certainly stronger than those days.”

  • “The enemies will be unable to eliminate the Axis of Resistance in the region. Their divisive conspiracies and ominous dreams will not materialize in Yemen, Iraqi, Lebanon, and other countries."

  • Ali Akbar Velayati, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader, addressed a gathering of senior Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) officials and boasted the Islamic Republic’s strength:

  • ​The Ministry of Interior Security and Enforcement Directorate approved a resolution to pursue the formation a “joint Iran-Afghan committee in the security arena.” 

Military & Security

  • Major General Qassem Soleimani, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander, reportedly travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan and met with high-ranking Kurdish officials in Irbil and Suleymanie to “announce Tehran’s policies regarding this region.”

    • ​Unnamed sources said that Soleimani emphasized in these meetings that a crisis in the Kurdish areas is not presently appropriate and priority must be fighting the Islamic State (IS).

  • Brigadier General Ali Fadavi, IRGC Navy Commander,announced the establishment of the IRGC Navy Imam Khamenei Naval University in Ziba Kenar area, Gilan province, by the end of the Persian year [mid-March].  The university campus will include all major colleges including IRGC Navy Missile College, currently in Shiraz, and Floating College, currently in Challous, Mazandaran province: 

  • “Imam Khamenei Naval University will be operationalized based on the new theories. The entire world talks about IRGC Navy as a powerful force that has challenged regular definitions of naval power.”

  • “All IRGC Navy colleges will be organized based on this new theory in the Imam Khamenei Naval College in the Ziba Kenar area in Gilan province and the university will continue its activities based on this definition.” 

Nuclear Issue

  • Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Foreign Relations Strategic Council session. He touched upon the difficulty of re-imposing sanctions versus Iran’s ability to revert its nuclear program and reiterated that Iran has never sought to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction. Zarif also denied that Iran was involved in the 2002 Karin A incident, when Israel intercepted a shipment of missiles bound for Palestinian territories:

    •  “The goal from the beginning has been to preserve and guard the country’s greatness and knowledge. Analyses on disruptors of the country’s security can be different based upon actors or realities of the moment at hand. There is a time when the imagination of a security-disrupting military attack is considered, and there is a time when anti-Iranian environment disrupts national security. This [nuclear] file must have been managed in different situations with different intellectual assumptions. It was not a file that could have a normal situation. They needed to manage situations that had been created.”

    • “Section nine of [United Nations Security Council] resolution 1929 says that all measures must be taken to prevent Iran’s access to missile capability. A security environment on Iran was created. Meaning Iran was introduced as a threat to peace and international security, for which there was a need to eliminate this threat.”

    •  “You remember that the friends of the United States such as France, Italian giant Total and others told America that they would file a complaint at the World Trade Organization if [U.S.] wanted to punish them [for violating unilateral U.S. sanctions]. The Americans were forced to give waiver. We saw that European companies were present in our oil and gas plans in the Persian Gulf.”

    • “But when America gradually piled on UNSC resolution, it said no one can sell gasoline to Iran. I remember when the Venezuelan Oil Minister announced that Iran no longer needed their oil. What does it mean? It means that our ally government announced that it would no longer sell gasoline to Iran.”

    •  “Reversal of sanctions will take much longer than the reversal of our nuclear program. One of the criticisms [against the deal] is this reversion. These sanctions took 10 years to work. When they wanted to impose European Union oil sanctions against Iran, they did not do it all at once. They say they would allow six months for them to prepare, then implement the sanctions. This is after years of planning.”

    •  “The time it takes to re-impose sanctions is repeatedly longer than our limited number of centrifuges, on which we are continuing our research and development. We must look to the future to figure out what to do.”

    •  “We tried to bring their considerations closer to ours and they tried to bring our considerations closer to theirs. Agreement takes shape like this. It means that you must try to make the counterpart feel that it has an achievement.”

    • “The counterpart must feel it has an achievement and we must feel that we have an achievement, and there is an agreement. It is important that you stood against six apparently large global powers and negotiated. No one in the world can say that Iran has lost in these negotiations. I have not heard of this.”

    • “Friends can compare all provisions regarding armaments. We issued an official announcement and said that we would follow [our] military and missile capabilities. Our missiles have not been designed [for weapons of mass destruction] and has nothing to do with the resolution.”

    • “If you rejected JCPOA, it is basis for return. If you reject the resolution, it is not grounds for return because it is not part of the JCPOA.”

    • “Based on our missile experts, none of our missiles have and will ever be designed to carry weapons of mass destruction. We announced in our statement that provision three is not related to Iran. Not that we will not implement it, rather it does not fall under [the resolution].”

    • “I believe that this creates a unique opportunity for the Islamic Republic, but there is also danger. I will never forget the Karin A ship story. It happened when we were going to Bonn. When the Afghanistan government was established and all thought that a fundamental transformation had occurred. Two weeks before the speech of Mr. Bush in which he added Iran to the Axis of Evil, the Zionist regime stopped a ship in the Mediterranean called Karin A and said that this ship carries weapon for Arafat.”

    • “This is while Arafat did not have good relations with us. If you remember, I sat with the late Arafat at the gathering of the Islamic heads of state conference. He begged me and said that ‘you take everyone to the supreme leader but will not take me.’ This was our relation with Arafat. A ship takes weapons from Iran for Mr. Arafat? Even when he had that a lot of weaponry?”

    •  “This achievement is the result of resistance, result of the blood of martyrs, result of the people’s efforts.”

    •  “I have repeatedly said and believe that the people’s presence at the ballots made the West hopeless in sanctions.”

    • “Let us allow the people to preserve this sense of pride. Let us allow the people to use this breathing air, so God willing we can advance in the right path.”

​Human Rights 

  •  Mahmoud Vaezi, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, announced cooperation with an unnamed “foreign company” in launching phase two of “targeted filtering,” designed “towards [censoring] websites and networks that have social harm.” He said this project will be operationalized by the end of the Persian year in mid-March 2016. 

Economy & Trade

  •  Abdolnasser Hemmati, Bank Melli Managing Director,criticized the Iranian government’s monetary and fiscal policies and said:

    • ​“These policies have seriously damaged the banking system…This year is the most difficult financial year. In other words, it is a financial drought.” 

Photo(s) of the Day

  • Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nemat Zadeh and Italian Minister of Economic Development Federica Guidi hold a press conference in Tehran.