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Iran Press Review: 31 March

Analysis by FDD

  • Behnam Ben Taleblu, Iran Research Analyst, wrote in The Long War Journal: “Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who for roughly six-months have been ascendant and on the offensive, were met with airstrikes from a coalition of 10 countries on Wednesday evening. Designed to “defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen,” the airstrikes prominently feature Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) planes, with 100 of them reportedly from the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). Despite being a local force indigenous to Yemen and of the Fiver-Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam (Iran is of the Twelver variety), the Houthis have reaped significant dividends from their new and evolving relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, a December 2014 Reuters report confirmed “Iranian military and financial support to the Houthis before and after their takeover of Sanaa on Sept. 21” based on divergent sourcing. It is exactly this kind of involvement that Operation Decisive Storm aims to break.”
  • David Andrew Weinberg, Senior Fellow, wrote in The National Interest: “Imagine the imposition of financial sanctions on the central bank of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—the only Arab member of the G20 group of major economies. To this, add biting multinational trade sanctions to stop the the majority of Saudi Arabia’s oil production from being sold on international markets. If these measures seem preposterous, it is because they are. Yet American counter-proliferation policy in the Middle East may be premised on implementing this bizarre, nightmarish scenario. During recent testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that “the best way” to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is through “the model that’s being set” via the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. Blinken elaborated, saying that “I doubt any country would want to follow” the model set by Iran of “a decade or more of isolation and sanctions.” In short, the “answer” for how to prevent a Middle Eastern nuclear cascade “is exactly what we’ve been doing.””
  • Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellows, wrote in The Washington Post: “We don’t know all that has transpired in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program being conducted in Switzerland, but we do know that the White House has shied away from a potentially paralyzing issue: the “possible military dimensions” — the PMDs — of the regime’s program. As Olli Heinonen, a former No. 2 at the International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned, outsiders really can have no idea where and how fast the mullahs could build a nuclear weapon unless they know what Iranian engineers have done in the past. Without “go anywhere, anytime” access for IAEA inspectors and a thorough accounting of Tehran’s weaponization research, we will be blind to the clerics’ nuclear capabilities. And one of the most important issues — probable North Korean nuclear cooperation with the Islamic Republic — deserves special scrutiny. This disturbing partnership casts serious doubt on the Obama administration’s hope that President Hassan Rouhani and his team have any intention of limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”
  • Benjamin Weinthal, Research Fellow, wrote in FoxNews.com: “If past is prologue, Iran’s signature to an agreement -- or a fuzzy understanding -- to roll back development on its illicit nuclear weapons program will be followed by serious violations on its part. Deception has been the signature tactic of the so-called moderate regime of President Hassan Rouhani since he assumed office almost two years ago. To paraphrase former French President Charles de Gaulle’s view of international agreements: For Iran’s mullahs, treaties are like roses and their time quickly passes. Rouhani’s record of duplicity speaks for itself.”
  • Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow, wrote in The Long War Journal: “The US military continues to launch airstrikes in Tikrit against the Islamic State despite the presence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias. Claims, including those from US military commanders, that the militias have withdrawn are incorrect, and have even been rebutted by a Pentagon spokesman. On the first day of airstrikes, which began on March 25, the US-led coalition launched 17 strikes, according to US Central Command. Between the morning of March 26 and the morning of March 27, the US and allied nations launched three additional airstrikes in Tikrit.”
  • Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow, and Saeed Ghasseminejad, Associate Fellow, wrote in an FDD Policy Brief: “The Obama administration insists that the November 2013 interim nuclear deal with Iran provides only “limited” financial relief to the Islamic Republic. A comprehensive assessment of the value of sanctions relief, however, needs to look at the totality of the relief - both direct and indirect - to measure the impact of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) and the de-escalation of sanctions pressure on Iran's overall economy. Iran went from a severe recession in 2013, where it was four to six months away from a crippling balance of payments crisis, to a modest, albeit fragile, recovery in 2014/2015 as result of the Obama administration's decision to block new sanctions and to provide relief as part of the JPOA. New figures from the Iranian Customs Administration, indicate a sharp rise in foreign trade since the deal, confirming recent assessments that Iran’s economic benefits from the JPOA are broader than anticipated.”
  • Annie Fixler, Policy Analyst, wrote in a World Affairs Journal blog: “On March 25th, the New York Times reported that Iranian negotiators are resisting putting onto paper the yet-to-be-finalized political framework for a comprehensive agreement on its nuclear program. Anyone who’s ever waited four months for a landlord to fix a leaky faucet he “promised” to fix “tomorrow,” knows the importance of the age-old adage, “Get It in Writing,” or as the seasoned diplomat and scholar Dennis Ross explains more eloquently, “As important as it is to forge conceptual understandings, they must still be translated into concrete agreements that get expressed in writing.” Technical experts have outlined detailed variables by which the durability of a comprehensive agreement may be judged. Beyond the complex algorithm of the number and type of centrifuges, the stocks of enriched uranium, the configuration of facilities, and the monitoring, verification, and inspection regime, adhering to a few basic principles of negotiations can enhance the likelihood of a good deal.”
  • Laura Grossman, Deputy Director for Research, and David Andrew Weinberg, Senior Fellow, wrote in an FDD Policy Brief: “Sudanese President and internationally wanted man Omar al-Bashir landed in Riyadh on Wednesday to kick off his first official visit with Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman. To underscore the significance of his visit, Salman personally greeted Bashir at the airport. Hours later, a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states began carrying out airstrikes in Yemen against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. Sudan contributed three fighter jets to the operation. Sudan’s participation in Operation Storm of Resolve is surprising given Khartoum’s strategic relationship with Iran, which goes back to Bashir’s early days in power. Tehran has long provided Sudan with military support and training, in addition to development projects. Sudan is also suspected of supporting the very rebels that the Sunni coalition is now targeting. According to what are believed to be leaked minutes of a meeting between Sudan’s highest military officials on August 31, the chief of Sudan’s Joint General Staff said his country had a “problem” with Saudi Arabia because Riyadh had learned of weapons his government had transported to Yemeni rebels through the Red Sea.”
  • Behnam Ben Taleblu, Iran Research Analyst, wrote in an FDD Policy Brief: “Tragedy struck Iran’s Arab-majority province of Khuzestan on Sunday as a fruit vendor died after self-immolating outside the local municipality building. Like Mohamed Bouazizi – the Tunisian fruit seller whose death sparked the Arab Spring – Younes Asakereh’s suicide was an act of defiance in response to authorities who denied him his livelihood. In contrast to Tunisia, however, Asakereh’s suicide sparked no national revolution. Instead, his death will likely be yet another example of regime neglect over a strategic but forgotten province. Tehran has long undervalued Khuzestan’s geopolitical, economic, and symbolic worth. Khuzestan is rich in oil, and occupies the strategic Persian Gulf location where Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait meet. On a symbolic level, Khurramshahr – the site of Asakereh’s suicide – was the city whose liberation turned the tide of the Iran-Iraq War. Today, any Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) member or war veteran worth his revolutionary salt knows the lyrics and tune to “Mamad Naboodi Bebini,” a ballad composed to commemorate that event.”

Politics

  • Defa Press notes that Saeed Alamian, a writer, reported that the publication of the second volume of Mohsen Rafiqdoost’s memoirs is being published by Soureh Mehr in Iran.
  • Ayatollah Emami-Kashani is slated to lead Tehran’s Friday Prayers this week.
  • In a lengthy interview with Tasnim News Agency, noted reformist and former Iranian Ambassador to France, Sadegh Kharrazi, comments on his personal life, politics, and other issues:
    • On the issues in 1388 (referring to the Green Movement and its aftermath in 2009): “In relation to the events in the years of 1388, I was in contact with many friends. I had consultations with Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani and Dr. Rouhani, and [other] well-known faces. For solving the issues, even Mr. Hajj Qassem Soleimani and Dr. Baqer-Qalibaf tried to control the events so that things would not spin out of control. Even separately, or occasionally Soleimani and Qalibaf went together and occasionally separately see and consult with the [political] elders to exit the crisis. On the day of the protests, we walked around the town and returned to the municipality, it was not possible to estimate the number of people.”
    • On relations with Soleimani during the Iran-Iraq War: “Qassem Soleimani was a self-made provincial born man from Kerman who started at the lowest-levels of the Basij and Guards (IRGC) and today has reached the highest section of military leadership. He had no companion nor helper, and no rentier and no sponsor. Qassem Solemani showed himself in the war and in the epic of the Holy Defense (the name in Iran for the Iran-Iraq War). He was injured several times. Even today, part of his hand has a problem, and he is a veteran."        

Foreign Policy

  • Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, comments on the situation in Yemen:
    • “The problems of Yemen have a purely political solution, and any kind of military action against Yemen must be ceased.”
  • Islamic Republic News Agency reports that the Iraqi and popular forces which participated in the liberation of Tikrit celebrated their victory in the center of the city and in the city of Samarra.
  • AFP reported: “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday insisted he was still planning to visit Iran next week, despite a war-of-words with the Islamic republic triggered by the Yemen crisis and his accusations Tehran was seeking domination of the region. Majority Sunni Muslim Turkey has said it supports the Saudi-led operation against Iran-allied Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen to restore order in the country.”
  • Hojjat al-Eslam Panahian writes a note about the recent developments in Yemen called “Call for a Cry for Supplication.” Tasnim News Agency publishes the full-text of the letter.

Military & Security

  • A terrorist attack on a tour-bus of Iranian pilgrims kills one and wounds nine. The pilgrims were reportedly on their way to the city of Kazemain.
  • Mohammd-Reza Naqdi, the Commander of Iran’s Basij Commander, states in a declaration in honor of the anniversary commemorating the Islamic Republic:
    • On Yemen and the war therein: “Imposing a war on the people of Yemen will God-willing [Inshallah] have no outcome other than that of the fate of Saddam for the invaders, and America, which is the direct cause of this atrocity, by losing its…puppet, the al-Saud, will forever be ostracized from the region.”
    • On Israel: “The elimination of Israel is a non-negotiable issue; the liberation of dear Palestine is our final goal, and thankfully the world becomes more prepared for the realization of this goal.”
  • Earlier, the Deputy Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, proclaimed:
  • “All should know that we will not allow the inspection of the country’s military and defense industries.”

Nuclear Issue

  • Mohsen Rezaie, a former Commander of Iran’s IRGC and currently the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, states:
    • “In the closed back-room of the negotiations two groups are completely active; one is the countries of the region and the other is the mass media. In the end, our government officials must be aware of these behind the curtain consultations, and think of a way to nullify them.”
    • “In this area, Israel by way of France, and [Saudi] Arabia by way of the U.K. are in a state of review and applying pressure on the talks.”
    • “In relation to negotiations, there is no conflict in the Iranian camp and all officials and political parties are in agreement the 5+1 talks must be successful and support it, but existing conflicts in the opposing side, some of which are under the auspices of the obstructionism of Israel and [Saudi] Arabia has delayed a conclusion until today.”
  • Behrouz Kamalvandi, the Spokesperson of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), comments on Iran’s nuclear diplomacy with the P5+1:
  • “As far as I know, technical works are progressing, although it is a bit slow but it is progressing. Issues have largely progressed.”
  • “It is natural that, due to the complexity of the issues and that final reviews are taking place, the process is a bit blunted. The subjects which are being examined are being decided-on for a long period of time, and from this perspective, both sides have their sensitivities.”
  • “Negotiations are seriously continuing, and those very same issues which still do not have final solutions are at the center of everyone’s attention. However, solutions have been discussed as of yesterday and these solutions were given to the two sides and the two sides engage in their efforts.”
  • “We will reach an agreement at a time when all issues are solved, and until this moment unsolved issues exist. We have focused on finding the best solutions which are acceptable to all. Our efforts will continue until the time when those solution are found.”
  • “The issue of sanctions have been solved not today or yesterday, we had long discussions about this. Yet at the same time some of the other issues related to sanctions is in the hands of the negotiations.”
  • “The 5+1 countries need a common position in the final stage.”
  • “They have tried all other paths and were not satisfied.”
  • Commenting on the nuclear negotiations, Hamid Baeidnejad, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Director General for International Affairs, states
  • Commenting on nuclear negotiations, Iran’s former Foreign Minister and current International Affairs Advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei claimed in an interview that the Americans need negotiations, noting:
  • Tasnim News Agency reports that the Chinese Foreign Minister left Switzerland and headed back to Beijing, China.
  • AP reports: “Wrapping up six days of marathon nuclear talks with mixed results, Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to continue talks in a new phase aimed at reaching a final agreement by the end of June to control Iran's nuclear ambitions, officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Officials had set a deadline of March 31 for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.”
  • The New York Times reports: “With a deadline just hours away, negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other nations appeared on Tuesday to move closer to a preliminary political accord to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. There were signs, however, that several of the most difficult issues would be deferred for a final agreement in three months. In Moscow, Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said that there was a strong chance of an accord and that he was flying to back to Switzerland on Tuesday, after leaving the day before, to rejoin the talks.”

Economy & Trade

  • According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s Central Bank reports that: “With the transfer of the fifth installment from the third round of the release of blocked Iranian assets, a total of 2 billion and 450 million dollars from the third stage of the agreement was placed in the possession of the Central Bank.”
  • Reuters reports: “Brent crude oil dropped towards $55 a barrel on Tuesday as Iran and six world powers entered a final day of talks over a nuclear deal that could see the energy-rich country increase oil exports to world markets. With a self-imposed deadline set for the end of the day, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China ramped up the pace of negotiations with Iran in Switzerland over an outline deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.”
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani previously weighed in on Iran’s economy, noting:
    • “Today, the economy of the country has exited the cycle of depression and needs time to reach optimal growth, and in this path, greater mobility and acceleration must be created.”
    • “Economic growth requires capital and technology and it is not plausible without it. Conditions must be created that investors and procures trust in the costs they undergo in relation to profit, and free zones enjoy a better capacity for creating these conditions.”
    • “We must create the necessary infrastructure for producers and create the necessary confidence for them, and [we] must not allow this trust to suffer blows or damages.”

Daily Picture(s)

  • Mehr News Agency displays photos of Norooz travelers on Tehran’s nature bridge.