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Iran Press Review: 23 March

Analysis by FDD

  • Thomas Joscelyn, Senior Fellow, wrote in The Weekly Standard: “In his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama said he believes that Iran and the U.S. “should be able” to resolve the dispute over the mullahs’ nuclear program “peacefully, with diplomacy.” With his very next words, Obama said the following: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.””
  • Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow, wrote in The Long War Journal: “In the wake of an offensive to liberate the central Iraqi town of Amerli from the Islamic State last summer, Shiite militias raided 30 villages in the surrounding area in reprisal attacks against Sunnis. The militias looted, burned thousands of buildings, and abducted at least 11 people, according to Human Rights Watch. The US military provided air support to Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shiite militas during the initial fighting against the Islamic State in Amerli. “After US air strikes and Iraqi fighters broke the siege [of Amerli], pro-government militias began to raid Sunni and mixed Sunni villages in the areas surrounding Amerli,” HRW stated in a report, titled After Liberation Came Destruction, which was released today.”

Politics

  • Funerary ceremonies will be held in the Holy city of Qom in Iran today for the deceased sister of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Khamenei’s sister, Seyedeh Fatemeh Hosseini Khamenei, died at the age of 89 and will have her funeral rites performed by her brother in Tehran after the evening and night prayers.
  • Ali-Asghar Ahmadi, the Iranian Vice-President for Coordination and Administrative Affairs, states:
    • “A trip to the province of Gilan will be the first provincial travel of the President in the year 1394 [2015/2016].”
  • Islamic Republic News Agency carries the video of President Rouhani’s Norooz address.  
  • Commenting on Norooz, Iran’s Supreme Leader said:
    • “Ancient Norooz and imperial Norooz was an opportunity for Sultans and despotic rulers to rub their external greatness in the face of nations, however Muslim Iranians cunningly changed this system and format in their favor… In Iranian Norooz, the truth of Norooz is a popular truth. On the occasion of Norooz, people treat each other with joy and affection. The Norooz that we have today is not the Norooz of old, but rather it is an Iranian Norooz and a Norooz of a Muslim nation which could produce capital for itself from the framework of an old tradition and move toward its goals.”
    • He additionally noted: “Every government has critics. This government, too, has critics. Previous governments had them as well. Until now, there has been no problem; they are people who do not believe in this approach, rhetoric and policy, they are critics and they criticize. However the criticisms must be within a logical framework.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reported: “Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 powers led by the U.S. are racing against a March 31 deadline to conclude a nuclear deal in Lausanne, Switzerland. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Saturday that negotiators had made “genuine progress” but that “important gaps remain.” Yet what happens if the Iranian leadership that the U.S. and others are dealing with now is not in place to implement any agreement? Two recent developments suggest that the Islamic Republic may be heading toward one of its cyclical spasms of intense factional competition. The outcome could derail any deal, or leave the West committed to an agreement that is even less verifiable or useful than it might be today. There is scant evidence that the Obama administration is taking this into account.”

Foreign Policy

  • Tasnim News Agency runs an article comparing Iran’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and the former Muslim Brotherhood President of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi in their relations with the United States. The article, written as a report for Tasnim by Samin Hashemi, links the two Middle Eastern leaders together despite their divergent political ideologies and notes: “The future of Morsi and Mossadegh as two national leaders of two Islamic countries with a time difference of 100 years is a great lesson for the world of Islamic and revolutionary countries which shows that you must take America’s expressions about trust seriously: You cannot trust somebody who [even] once takes advantage of your trust, and it might be better for you to first verify then trust.”
  • Numerous foreign leaders continued to offer their condolences to Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, over the recent passing of his mother. Fars News Agency reported that Khaled Meshal, Head of Hamas’s Politburo, also sent his condolences.
  • Mansour Haghighatpour, a member of the Iranian Parliament [Majlis] representing Ardebil, critiques the UNSC attitude and behavior towards the developments in Yemen:
    • “A report of the Representative of the Security Council of the United Nations of the recent events in Yemen is completely one-sided, and it would be better if the Security Council and United Nations did not lose face any further than the disgrace regarding Syria which occurred for this international organ should not be repeated another time in Yemen.”
  • Further commenting on Yemen and the situation there, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Deputy for Arab and African Affairs states:
    • “Terrorism does not know [the difference between] Ansar-Allah and Mansour Hadi; they have targeted the destruction of Yemen and the killing and eradication of all groups and countries in the region and the world. “
    • “We support Yemen in the path of combatting terrorism, creating a political process, and realizing a lasting regional security.”
  • Marziyeh Afkham, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, rejects the recent commentary of the Canadian Prime Minister with respect to Iran, and notes:
    • “Such unrealistic and propagandist comments have become so repetitive and tedious that they are not worth responding to.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reported: “Did Hugo Chávez act as a bagman for Iran in its effort to get nuclear technology from Argentina? That’s the claim made by three former members of the Venezuelan dictatorship’s inner circle cited anonymously in a March 14 story in the Brazilian magazine Veja.The magazine says it didn’t name the defectors, interviewed in Washington, to protect their family members back in Venezuela. But it reported that they were questioned separately and each said there was a deal in January 2007 between Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Caracas. Venezuela would deliver Iranian money to Argentine officials in exchange for two favors for Tehran.”
  • Eli Lake wrote in Bloomberg: “Like almost all dictators, Iran's supreme leader has a legitimacy problem. Most Iranians today are too fearful to take to the streets and demand a government that represents them. (They tried in 2009 and 1999, and paid in blood.) But deep down, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must suspect that millions of his own people quietly loathe him. So Khamenei demands the legitimacy he lacks at home from the outside. It's a classic ploy. Soviet diplomats used to tell Western reporters about how political prisoners were sentenced by independent courts. Saddam Hussein would hold faux-elections. Toothless oppositions were allowed in Mubarak and Sadat's Egypt. In Iran, there is even a special Jewish representative in parliament.”

Military & Security

  • Iran’s Sepah News runs a statement from the Public Relations office of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), noting that the recent commentary allegedly attributed to Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the IRGC Quds-Force (IRGC-QF), is false and denied that the Commander ever made such comments about the transformations in region.  

Nuclear Issue

  • Addressing crowds in the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran’s Supreme Leader touted:
    •  “In Iran, nobody is against a diplomatic solution, but from the opposite side the nation of Iran and [its] officials and the negotiating delegation will not fall before America’s impositions and bullying, and with steadfastness will be successful in this great test.”
    •  “Today the efforts of those who wish ill upon Iran is increasing with a second look, and due to this, the President of America in his Norooz address to the people of Iran said that if you do accept our demands in nuclear negotiations, labor and capital and economic prosperity will occur.”
    • “In his Norooz message the American President that there are people in Iran which are against the resolution of the nuclear issue, when in reality this statement is a lie, since in Iran there is not a [single] person who is against resolving the nuclear issue through negotiations.”
    •  “Not the [government] official and not the negotiating delegation and neither the nation of Iran will utterly accept the bullying of America.”
    •  “We will not negotiate with America under any circumstances about domestic and regional issues and the issue of armaments, since the policy of America in the region is the creation of instability and to combatting the nation of the region and Islamic Awakening, which are the counterpoint to the central policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”  
    • “Iran’s nuclear industry is an indigenous and popular industry which must progress, and progress is part of the identity of any industry and technology.”
    •  “The behavior of America for the set of intellectuals inside the country are a source of edification until they learn whom we are facing in negotiations and how America acts.”
  • Seyyed Abbas Eraqchi, a Senior Member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating delegation and Deputy Foreign Minister, proclaims:
    • “That which is certain is that no side is slated to give points (a metaphor for a concession) to the other side, especially from our side, which is not slated to give any points; except that we will strive will create an atmosphere of trust in our nuclear program, and those opposing us must afford [us] respect and recognize our peaceful nuclear program and to remove the sanctions which they have unjustly imposed. This is the goal of the negotiations.”
    • “Naturally, the programs which Iran accepts will be verified by the [International Atomic Energy] Agency. And the promises which the opposing side undertakes for the removal of sanctions must be proven and shown in action.”
  • The Islamic Republic News Agency reports on the latest developments in Iran’s nuclear diplomacy:
    • “The Foreign Ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia spoke and consulted with each other about the last trend of nuclear negotiations over the phone today (Monday).”
    • “The next round of nuclear negotiations with the 5+1 will be resumed in Lausanne, Switzerland at the end of this week.” 
  • The Wall Street Journal reported: “France is again adopting the toughest line against Iran in negotiations aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, potentially placing Paris at odds with the Obama administration as a diplomatic deadline to forge an agreement approaches at month-end. President Barack Obama called French President François Hollande on Friday to discuss the Iran diplomacy and try to unify their positions. The presidents “reaffirmed their commitment” to a deal “while noting that Iran must take steps to resolve several remaining issues,” the White House said.”

Economy & Trade

  • Fars News Agency reports: “Iran hit a new record by producing 2.775 tons of steel products in the first two months of 2015. The World Steel Association (WSA) said in a report that Iran’s steel production in January and February stood at 2.775 million tons, a 15 percent increase compared to the corresponding period in 2014.”
  •  Fars News Agency reports: “Iranian Economy Minister Ali Tayyebnia predicted better economy for the country in the Persian new year which started on March 21. “We predict a better situation in economy for the upcoming year, and predict to reap what we cultivated in the current financial year,” Tayyebnia said.”
  • Fars News Agency reports: “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a message on the occasion of the Persian New Year on Saturday, underscored that economic growth, including increased non-oil exports and creation of new jobs, will be high on the agenda of the government this year. In a nationwide address on the state-run TV, President Rouhani congratulated the nation on the advent of the spring season and Nowrouz (marking the start of the Iranian new year).”

Daily Picture(s)

  • Hojjat al-Eslam Ahle-Hashem, the Head of Iran’s Ideological-Political Bureau of the Artesh (National Army) visits the Iran-Iraq War battle front which has been recreated in Southern Iran.
  • Tasnim News Agency provides pictures of the Soltanieh Dome, in Zanjan. It is reportedly the largest brick-based dome in the world.