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Iran Press Review: 23 Jan.

Analysis by FDD

  • Clifford May, President, wrote in The Washington Times: “Experienced negotiators know this: The side most willing to walk away from the table generally wins. The side that seems desperate for a deal loses. Yet President Obama is telling the entire world that he needs an agreement with Iran’s rulers more than they need an agreement with him. Actually, it’s worse than that. Mr. Obama doesn’t want Congress to tee up new sanctions that would be imposed only if the Iranians refuse to offer serious compromises in the already twice-extended nuclear talks by June 30 — a deadline to which Iran, the United States and its negotiating partners have agreed. In response to such deadline-triggered sanctions, designed solely to enhance U.S. leverage, Mr. Obama contends, the Iranians will walk away from the table. And that, he warns, could lead to a war, which “Congress will have to own.””
  • Ali Alfoneh, Senior Fellow, wrote in an FDD Policy Brief: “Iran’s regime is at odds with itself over the costs and benefits of its controversial nuclear program. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the back and forth between President Hassan Rouhani, on the one hand, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on the other. Addressing the “Iran’s Economy” conference on January 4, Rouhani discussed the causal relationship between the nuclear negotiations and sanctions relief, and the government’s ability to improve the living standards of the Iranian public. Controversially, Rouhani emphasized: “our ideals are not dependent on the [number of] centrifuges,” signaling his readiness to give the P5+1 concessions in return for sanctions relief. Rouhani even threatened to “discuss the issue with the people” and organize a referendum should his nuclear diplomacy face domestic opposition, in order “to solve important affairs of the state.””

Politics

  • The first Vice-President of Iran under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, was sentenced to 5 years and 91 days of imprisonment. Rahimi was also mandated to pay 28.5 billion Rials.
  • Mohammad-Baqer Nowbakht, a spokesperson for the Rouhani administration, defended the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif in his meetings with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State in Geneva, in the aftermath of their photo-op where both representative were pictured walking together.Kayhan ran a headline quoting Nowbakht defending the Rouhani administration, stating: “Critiquing the strolling in Geneva is very weak!”
  • Ayatollah Mohammad Mo’men, a member of Iran’s Guardian Council, appeared on the noted Iranian television show,Shenasnameh.

Foreign Policy

  • President Hassan Rouhani offers his “condolences to the government, nation, and family of Saud” in the aftermath of the passing of King Abdullah, the late King of Saudi Arabia.
  • Former President and current Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, additionally offered a similar statement:
    • “I offer my condolences to the people and officials of the country of Saudi Arabia, [our] friend, on the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.”
  • Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Marziyeh Afkham, notes that Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif will attend the funeral of the deceased Saudi monarch.
    • Fars News Agency covers several Friday Prayer sermons across the country, and reports:
    • Ayatollah Ahmad Alam al-Hoda: “Today, France is a combatant infidel [kafar-e harbi] but the authorities, rather than countering insults against the prophet... take a stroll with the head of the United States Foreign Ministry in the streets of Geneva!”
    • Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari demands expulsion of the French ambassador to Tehran and not allow him to return before the French government apologizes to the Muslims.
    • Hojjat al-Eslam Mohsen Mahmoudi, Varamin temporary Friday prayer leader, condemns “the promenade in Geneva.”
    • As do Ayatollah Hashem Hosseini Bushehri, Qom Friday prayer leader, Ayatollah Ghorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi, Arak Friday prayer preacher, and other Friday prayer leaders across Iran.
  • Prior to Friday Prayers in Tehran, Hojjat al-Eslam Seyyed Hamid Rouhani reportedly stated:
    • “The nation of Iran seeks expulsion of France’s Ambassador from Tehran.”
  • The New York Times reported: “Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994. The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack. Mr. Nisman was found dead in his luxury apartment on Sunday, the night before he was to present his findings to Congress.”

Military & Security

  • Hossein Salami, the Deputy Commander of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), states in his responses to questions at the National Defense University, comments on Iran’s Shahab missiles:
    • “And in reality, our Shahab missiles have the capability to be fired towards Israel and reach those points, and from near the borders of the Zionist regime, the mortars of Palestine and Hezbollah can do the work of our Shahab’s.”
    • On troops: “We have no operational military forces in any place outside of the country, but they are advisors which spread our revolutionary ideals in the world and our investment is in the same revolutionary values. Therefore, the awareness of Muslim nations and their beliefs returns to their resistance and faith.”
  • Tasnim News Agency reported on the commentary of John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. during the Bush administration, noting his quote per its headline: “Iran has no fear of Obama’s threats.”
  • Hojjat al-Eslam Kazem Sediqi, Tehran’s temporary Tehran Friday prayer leader, accuses the French government of having perpetrated the assassination of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial board in order to tarnish the image of Islam.
  • Charles Krauthammer wrote in The Washington Post: “While Iran’s march toward a nuclear bomb has provoked a major clash between the White House and Congress, Iran’s march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked. In Washington, that is. The Arabs have noticed. And the pro-American ones, the Gulf Arabs in particular, are deeply worried. This week, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized control of the Yemeni government, heretofore pro-American. In September, they overran Sanaa, the capital. On Tuesday, they seized the presidential palace. On Thursday, they forced the president to resign.”

Nuclear Issue

  • Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, weighs-in on nuclear diplomacy and deal-making during his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:
    • “We are certainly [in nuclear negotiations] ready to reach an agreement. We are hopeful not to face a confrontation, confront will not help anyone.”
    • “I do not believe that 10 years of confrontation will have had any benefits for anyone. 10 years of sanctions has yielded 19 thousand and 800 centrifuges, exactly that which the sanctions wanted to halt. They have also brought about economic hardships for the people of Iran, this is a classic example of lose-lose game.”
    • “We have set two goals: First, that Iran possess a peaceful nuclear program, which is Iran’s right… [and] the second was that program was exclusively peaceful and all the sanctions and restrictions against Iran will be removed. We have prepared and discussed many paths and options.”
    • “Sanctions were planned for a goal. At present, this goal is attainable.”
  • Mohammad-Hassan Asfari, a member of Iran’s Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, states:
    • “We will not accept a humiliating agreement.”
  • Tasnim News Agency reported comments by Yukiya Amano, the Secretary of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noting:
    • “2015 will be an important year for Iran’s nuclear issue. To a large extent, the future is linked to result of negotiations with Iran and the E3+3 group – France, Germany, Britain, America, Russia, and China.”
  • Fars News Agency reports that a new round of nuclear negotiations is taking place in Zurich.
  • Hojjat al-Eslam Kazem Sediqi, the interim Tehran Friday Prayer leader, comments on nuclear diplomacy and negotiations:
    • “Our statesmen should know the enemy, should know with whom they are dealing and negotiating with... You are speaking with wild beasts which do not show mercy to [anyone, be it] young or old, and who insult the Prophet, the most sacred of sacred... Your deed should be a sign of your revolutionary dignity and your strength. When they insult your prophet, and in its wake, the child killer and home demolishing prime minister of the fake Israeli regime joins the rally of this group of deceptive evil doers... what was the meaning of visiting France under such circumstances?”
    • “Point by point, they defend the Zionists, and we take a promenade with them in the eyes of the public...? This is beneath the diplomacy of the regime of the Islamic Republic... The nation does not like such a thing.”
  • Laurent Fabius, Philip Hammond, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Federica Mogherini of the EU wrote an op-ed in favor of continued diplomacy in The Washington Postwriting: “I n November 2013, after many months of negotiations, the E3+3 (France, Germany and Britain, together with the United States, Russia and China, a partnership also referred to sometimes as the P5+1) and Iran reached an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement has had three main benefits. First, it has stopped the progress of the most sensitive elements of Iran’s nuclear program. Under the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the six partners in the talks, which are being coordinated by the European Union, Iran has ceased production of its most highly enriched uranium, limited its production of new centrifuges for enriching uranium and refrained from installing additional centrifuges. Iran has also agreed to cease progress toward bringing on line the nuclear reactor at Arak. As a result, Iran today is further away from obtaining enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon than before the negotiations.”

Economy & Trade

  • Islamic Republic News Agency reported in a headline: “750 thousand barrels of gas condensate of phases 15 and 16 will be exported.”
  • Islamic Republic News Agency additionally reported in another headline that: “The transfer of the Tourism Development Company to the private sector was nullified.”
  • According to a report in Resalat-News, Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, a member of Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, critiqued the mentality of some “managers” in Iran, likening their mindset to that of the “Qajar” dynasty (1795-1925).
  • Fars News Agency reports: “A top European Union court lifted EU's sanctions against Iran’s Bank Tejarat, the banks' vice-president announced. "The EU General Court struck down the illegal sanctions that the 28 members of the European bloc had imposed against Bank Tejarat," Bank Tejarat Deputy Managing Director Ali Hosnani said on Friday.”
    • The Wall Street Journal previously reported on the removal on sanctions on Bank Tejarat by the European Union.
  • Fars News Agency reports: “Iran's oil exports to China increased considerably in 2014 compared with the previous year. China imported 27.5 million tons of Iranian crude and condensate last year showing an increase of 28.3 percent over 2013, China's Customs Administration said.”

Human Rights

  • The Guardian reports: “It was the unity of the Iranian fans, more than anything else, that shocked Talieh Akbari. Sitting in Stadium Australia in Sydney with her mother for Iran’s second group match against Qatar – their first time together at a football stadium – she was struck by the sheer outpouring of emotion. “In Iran, happiness is forbidden,” she says. “Iranian people inside Iran are not happy people, but watching the people’s happiness, that is unity.””

Daily Picture(s)

  • Fars News Agency displays photos of 6,000 satellite dishes collected and “eliminated by the Fajr-unit of the IRGC in the region (Fars/Shiraz).