Posts Tagged ‘Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’

Israel calls for ‘military coalition’ if Iran boosts enrichment

June 5, 2018

Israel’s intelligence minister called Tuesday for a military coalition against Iran if the Islamic Republic were to defy world powers by enriching military-grade uranium.

Yisrael Katz’s remarks came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began visiting European leaders to discuss Iran’s regional involvement and nuclear programme, both seen by the Jewish state as grave threats.

© AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a press conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on June 4, 2018

European powers have been scrambling to preserve a landmark deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme since US President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal from the treaty in May.

Katz addressed Tehran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment at an “industrial level” if the 2015 pact falls apart.

“If the Iranians don’t surrender now, and try to return” to unsupervised uranium enrichment, “there should be a clear statement by the President of the United States and all of the Western coalition,” he said.

“The Arabs and Israel surely would be there too.”

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and outdoor

The message should be that “if the Iranians return” to enriching uranium that could enable them to build a nuclear bomb, “a military coalition will be formed against them,” Katz told Israeli public radio station Kan.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday warned European leaders to drop their “dream” of Tehran continuing to curb its nuclear programme despite renewed economic sanctions.

He also called Israel a “malignant cancerous tumour” that should be removed.

The Iran deal paved the way for the partial lifting of international sanctions against the country, in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme for several years.

Israel argues the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and with proxy groups.

Image may contain: outdoor

Houthi rebels launch an Iranian ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia

It also says the time limits on the accord do not guarantee Iran will not eventually obtain nuclear weapons, while it also wants to see restrictions on Iranian missile development.

Iran denies the pursuit of an atomic programme for military purposes.

In his Monday meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu warned that Iran was “seeking nuclear weapons to carry out its genocidal designs.”

“It’s important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We commit, and I commit again, that we will not let that happen,” he said.

Netanyahu will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.



No talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles — Iran lists tough conditions for Europe to save nuclear deal — Must condemn US

May 24, 2018

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given tough terms to Britain, France and Germany if they want to save the 2015 nuclear deal. Pledging not to seek new talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles is one of them.

Iran Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (Mehr News)

Iranian leader Khamenei on Wednesday published conditions the three European signatories of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — Germany, Britain and France — must accept to guarantee Iran stays in the agreement.
The move came as the three countries scramble to salvage the accord in the wake of the US’s withdrawal.

What the three European countries must accept:

  • They will pledge to avoid opening negotiations over Iran’s ballistic missile program or actions in the Middle East.
  • European banks should “safeguard trade” with Tehran.
  • They should continue buying Iranian oil and should, if necessary, also buy Iranian oil the US decides not to buy.
  • They should “stand up against US sanctions” on Iran.
  • They should condemn US for reportedly breaking a United Nations resolution that supports the nuclear deal.

Read more: US plan for Iran means economic strife, break with EU

‘We don’t trust them’

Khamenei said, “We do not want to start a fight with these three countries [France, Germany and Britain] but we don’t trust them either.” He also warned that Iran would continue its enrichment of uranium if the terms are not met.

Scramble for Iran: All three European countries have sharply criticized US President Donald Trump’s May 12 decision to withdraw Washington from the deal and have vowed to discuss how to save it with Iran and the other signatories — China and Russia.

Read more: Could America’s hardline policies towards Iran be a dilemma for Arab countries?

Sticking points: Khamenei’s terms put the three European powers in a bind. They have tried to reassure Washington that it would be possible to renegotiate the current deal to curtail Iran’s ballistic missile program and its aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s vision: On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded all signatories negotiate a fresh treaty that would encompass not only Iran’s nuclear program, but its defense and foreign policies as well. He warned Iran would face “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not agree to make changes.

Read more: US strategy on Iran entails regime change

amp, dj/rc (Reuters, dpa)

Trump doesn’t have ‘mental capacity’ to deal with issues, says Iran Parliament speaker

May 9, 2018

US President Donald Trump is not fit for his job, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament said on Wednesday, in Teheran’s most personal criticism since Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear pact between Teheran and six world powers.

Mr Trump pulled the United States out of the deal on Tuesday, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.

“Trump does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues,” Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told the assembly, broadcast live on state TV.

Image may contain: 1 person

Iran’s ballistic missiles: bone of contention with West

May 8, 2018

Iran’s ballistic missile programme has poisoned relations between Tehran and Western powers for years but for the Islamic republic the issue is staunchly non-negotiable.

© AFP/File / by Marc JOURDIER | An Iranian military truck carries surface-to-air missiles past a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade in Tehran on April 18, 2018


A recent report by London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says Iran is developing a dozen ballistic missiles that can fly up to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) and deliver a 450-1,200 kilo (990-2,640 pounds) payload.

Since 2006, the UN Security Council has adopted several coercive resolutions aimed at preventing any bid by Iran to develop a missile programme that could deliver nuclear weapons, although this goal has always been denied by Tehran.

The sanctions were suspended in July 2015 when the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2231 to endorse the hard-won nuclear deal struck days earlier between Iran and six world powers.

President Donald Trump is due to announce Tuesday whether the United States will remain in the deal that lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Trump insists the deal, also signed by France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia, was “very badly negotiated” by the previous administration of Barack Obama and fails to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional interventions.

European leaders have pleaded with Trump not to withdraw from the deal, with France proposing new negotiations with Iran, although Tehran has refused to make any modifications to the agreement.

– Missiles and defence –

Iran considers missiles central to its defence against regional foes, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel, said IISS researcher Clement Therme.

It says they were never part of the nuclear deal and considers the issue to be non-negotiable.

Its critics say the missiles are offensive and could one day carry nuclear warheads.

They also accuse Tehran of arming Yemeni rebels who have fired missiles into Saudi territory.

Israel, which is in range of Iranian missiles, said the ballistic programme threatens its very existence.

– Historical factors –

Iran’s determination to build a missile programme can be traced back to the brutal and destructive 1980-1988 war with neighbouring Iraq, said Therme.

“Tehran’s ballistic missile programme forms part of its deterrence policy, particularly against possible military strikes on its nuclear installations,” as has been threatened in the past by Israeli and US officials, said Therme.

With that in mind, Iran obtained an advanced Russian S-300 air defence system after the 2015 deal.

Iran’s determination to develop ballistic technology is also linked to its ambition to master nuclear and military technologies and therefore be self-sufficient, or “khod-kafai” in Farsi, and less dependent on the outside world, Therme added.

– Are negotiations possible? –

Iran sees its military capabilities as central to its regional influence and revolutionary ideology, said Therme.

The Islamic republic is the key regional backer of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s seven-year war against rebels who have been trying to unseat him.

It is also a staunch opponent of Israel.

“Although moderate President Hassan Rouhani could be in favour of shedding revolutionary ideology on these (foreign policy) issues, he is not effectively in charge,” said Therme.

In Iran power over international issues rests ultimately with the powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and increasingly with the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards who are conducting interventions abroad.

However, Khamenei did approve the nuclear deal in 2015 and said he was willing to see it as the basis for further negotiations if the US reciprocated, showing that he is willing to take pragmatic diplomatic steps.

“If Iran were to adopt a regional policy that was less hostile to Western interests, it would be possible to reach a compromise on its ballistic missile programme,” said Therme.


Trump: Iran and North Korea Messed With Obama — Now, “A Remarkable Turn of Events” — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Talks of “Humiliation for Muslims”

April 27, 2018

As the top North Koran leader steps into South Korea for the first time since the Korean War, Iran’s top leader ries to encourage all Muslim nations against the U.S. But he will not likely find too many ready for more hate, bloodshed and pain….

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and text

Meanwhile, a top advisor to Iran’s supreme leader announced Thursday that the Islamic Republic will not accept any change to the nuclear deal unless it benefits Iran.

 APRIL 26, 2018 15:33


Obama Trump

Obama and Trump. (photo credit: REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump boasted that his administration has kept Iran in check where former president Barack Obama had failed to do so in a special interview with Fox & Friends Thursday

“They used to scream ‘death to America,'” Trump said. “They don’t scream it anymore. They screamed it with him [Obama], but not with me.”

Image result for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, photos, missiles

Earlier Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader called on Muslim nations to unite against the United States, saying Tehran would never yield to “bullying.”

“The Iranian nation has successfully resisted bullying attempts by America and other arrogant powers and we will continue to resist… All Muslim nations should stand united against America and other enemies,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

Iran’s top authority criticized Trump for saying on Tuesday some countries in the Middle East “wouldn’t last a week” without US protection.

“Such remarks are a humiliation for Muslims… Unfortunately, there is war in our region between Muslim countries. The backward governments of some Muslim countries are fighting with other countries,” Khamenei said.

Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have long been locked in a proxy war, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen.

President Trump’s Fox & Friends appearance piled on more to the saber-rattling between Middle Eastern powers in recent weeks. Earlier this month, senior Iranian cleric Ali Shirazi threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa if Israel takes any “stupid measures,” and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman shot back on Thursday.


Image result for Ali Shirazi, Iran, photos

Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi

“If Iran strikes Tel Aviv, Israel will hit Tehran and destroy any Iranian military site in Syria that threatens Israel,” Liberman told London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a top advisor to Khameni announced Thursday that the Islamic Republic will not accept any change to the Iran nuclear deal, as Western signatories of the accord prepare a package that seeks to persuade Trump to save the agreement.

“Any change or amendment to the current deal will not be accepted by Iran… If Trump exits the deal, Iran will surely pull out of it. Iran will not accept a nuclear deal with no benefits for us,” Ali Akbar Velayati said.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Middle East Edging Closer To War With Many Blaming Iran — Analysis

April 25, 2018

Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other rivals are in an escalatory spiral of proxy fights that is destroying the region

© AFP / by Eric Randolph with Anuj Chopra in Riyadh and Jonah Mandel in Jerusalem | An Iranian military truck carries missiles past a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade in Tehran on April 18, 2018

TEHRAN (AFP) – Analysts fear a wider Middle Eastern war is brewing between Iran and its rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia, warning that their failure to understand each other’s intentions threatens to tear the region apart.”We will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria, no matter the price to pay,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared this month.

His comments followed air strikes on Syria’s T-4 airbase, which killed seven Iranian personnel.

Israel did not claim responsibility, but the raid was widely seen as its first direct attack on Iranian assets and a worrying sign of how Syria’s seven-year conflict could escalate into a wider regional war.

The Middle East is mired in what the International Crisis Group calls a dangerous “gap in perceptions that has locked Iran and its rivals in an escalatory spiral of proxy fights that is destroying the region”.

With Iranian-backed militias entrenched in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Iran’s rivals worry it is seeking to dominate the region and gather forces for an attack on Israel.

Image may contain: 1 person

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami: “The United States has been defeated in Syria because the Americans did not have a clear strategy and policy.”

But the ICG said Iran sees quite the opposite, “a region dominated by powers with superior military capabilities”, and only supported the Syrian government because it feared losing one of its few allies and being encircled by jihadist forces.

Many Iranians find the idea they are the destabilising force in the region hard to stomach, given recent actions by Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not Iran who imprisons foreign prime ministers like Saudi Arabia does,” University of Tehran professor Mohammad Marandi told AFP, referring to Lebanese premier Saad Hariri who announced his resignation from Riyadh last year, followed by a lengthy stay in the Saudi capital.

“And in Yemen, despite three years of imposing starvation and war with Western help, the Saudis have failed to gain any significant victory,” Marandi added.

“They engage in war, they kidnap prime ministers and they spread Wahhabi extremism… and somehow Iran is the one portrayed as pursuing some sort of expansionist policy.”

Image may contain: fire and cloud

Yemen’s Houtis launch an Iranian made ballistic missile toward Saudi Arabia. This still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television.

– Contradictions –

The Saudi position on Iran can appear contradictory.

Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman told CBS News last month that Iran’s army and economy were greatly inferior to those of the Sunni kingdom, but he also presents Shiite-dominated Iran as seeking control of the whole region.

“Critics may downplay Saudi concerns about Iranian expansionism, accusing Riyadh of ‘seeing an Iranian behind every tree’,” said Ali Shihabi, director of the pro-Saudi, Washington-based think tank, Arabia Foundation.

“But… one by one the Saudis watched as (Iran’s) proxy forces captured their neighbours: Lebanon, Iraq, Syria,” he told AFP.

Iran’s position has its own contradictions.

Screen capture from video showing Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, left, during the opening of a production line to produce Iran’s Mohajer 6 drone, in Tehran, February 5, 2018. (YouTube)

It says it will never initiate conflict with Israel, but its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned the “Zionist regime” will not exist in 25 years.

Marandi, at the University of Tehran, says this is not a threat of military action.


Image may contain: 1 person
Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiated the Iran nuclear deal

“Iran has never, despite all the Western media misinformation, threatened to initiate conflict with the Israeli regime, despite the fact it sees it as illegitimate in the same way as apartheid South Africa,” said Marandi.

“The threat to Israel has nothing to do with Iranian military might. It has to do with increasingly being seen as illegitimate by many of its international friends.”

That was rejected by Dore Gold, Israel’s former United Nations ambassador, who said Iran’s leaders amounted to a “really aggressive ideological movement” with a “very difficult attitude when it comes to Jews”.

Iran has “been building bases in Syria for ground troops,” he said. Combined with Tehran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah, that represents “a permanent direct threat to Israel”.

– Military balance –

Adding to uncertainty over each player’s intentions are their vastly different military capabilities.

Saudi Arabia has the latest Western hardware and spent five times more than Iran on defence in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Israel also has the ultimate deterrent: nuclear weapons.

That has forced Iran to use proxy forces in the hope that they can attack its opponents without triggering a direct conflict. But this has only added to the perception that it is quietly destabilising its neighbours from within.

Finding a way to rebuild trust looks near-impossible when the key players lack any forum for discussions or even basic diplomatic relations.

On a trip to Washington this week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for a “regional dialogue forum… so we can talk to each other, not about each other”.

But Iran’s opponents dismiss him as the friendly face of a regime that is complicit in mass slaughter in Syria and is masking its true intentions.

Nonetheless, many feel that continuing to exclude Iran from regional decision-making is unsustainable.

“Iran should recognise that the more its military doctrine promotes expeditionary warfighting, the more it will prompt aggressive pushback by its adversaries,” the ICG report said.

But “Iran is an integral part of the region and cannot be excised from it.

“Iran will need to be more systematically engaged by its neighbours (and by the US) on regional issues such as the future of Yemen, Syria or Iraq.”


by Eric Randolph with Anuj Chopra in Riyadh and Jonah Mandel in Jerusalem

© 2018 AFP

The Pyongyang-Tehran Axis

March 15, 2018

Fixing or scrapping the Iran nuclear deal is the best thing Trump can do to denuclearize North Korea.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES; BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Defying precedent and conventional wisdom, President Trump says he’ll meet in May with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Mr. Trump wants a sustainable deal that leads to North Korean denuclearization. The president’s critics scoff, and even his supporters are rightly skeptical. But Mr. Trump has conditions: His policy of maximum sanctions pressure will remain in place, Pyongyang must commit to the goal of denuclearization upfront, and it must refrain from missile or nuclear tests during talks. That may give him some leverage.

But if there’s one thing that would help Mr. Trump to succeed, it’s fixing the fatally flawed nuclear deal with Iran. The Iran-North Korea axis dates back more than 30 years. The two regimes have exchanged nuclear expertise, cooperated widely on missile technologies, and run similar playbooks against Western negotiators. The fear: Tehran is using Pyongyang for work no longer permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal while perfecting North Korean-derived missile delivery systems back home.

Iran and North Korea both began their pursuit by acquiring designs and materials from Pakistan’s infamous A.Q. Khan proliferation network. Reports of more extensive cooperation haven’t been confirmed: Iran reportedly sent its nuclear chief, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, to a North Korean nuclear test in 2013. Last summer North Korea’s second-highest-ranking official reportedly visited Iran for 10 days. In early 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Pyongyang and Tehran could be cooperating to develop a nuclear weapon.

Missile cooperation is extensive. Iran’s Shahab-3 nuclear-capable ballistic missile, whose 800-mile range means it can hit Israel, is based on North Korea’s Nodong missile. The 1,200-mile-range Khorramshahr missile, which Iran showed off last year, was derived from North Korea’s BM-25

For years Iran watched Pyongyang play the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations to advance its nuclear and missile programs. The Kim regime demonstrated how a relatively weak country could persuade the U.S. to yield on major concessions along a patient pathway to nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Islamic Republic followed North Korea’s lead when it negotiated the enrichment of uranium and potential reprocessing of plutonium on its own soil, crossing what for years had been an international red line. In exchange for short-lived restrictions on its nuclear program, missiles and conventional arms, Tehran will soon have industrial-size capabilities to enrich uranium and possibly reprocess plutonium for atomic weapons, nuclear-capable missiles, and hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Mr. Trump appears determined to regain American leverage. On Jan. 12, he declared that he would reinstate the most powerful economic sanctions against Iran by May 12 unless Europe agrees to join the U.S. in fixing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. His demands: Eliminate the deal’s sunset provisions, constrain Iran’s nuclear-capable missile program, and demand intrusive inspections of Iranian military sites. All of these conditions would be tied to a snap-back of powerful U.S. and European Union sanctions if Iran was found in breach.

To date the Europeans have refused to budge, especially on the sunset provisions, perhaps not believing Mr. Trump will leave the deal. They are adamant that nothing must be done to jeopardize the JCPOA, which they see as an important foreign-policy accomplishment—not to mention a lucrative one, with billions of dollars of potential Iranian business for their companies.

If Mr. Trump caves in to European pressure on the sunset provisions, the agreement will grant Iran a legitimate nuclear program with weapons capability within a decade. In that case, the president will be hard-pressed to get North Korea to agree to permanent denuclearization. If he agrees to let Iran keep testing nuclear-capable missiles that threaten Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Israel, North Korea will expect the right to test nuclear-capable missiles to hit South Korea, Japan and Guam. If he buckles on an Iranian nuclear breakout time of less than one year or on the development of advanced centrifuges that enable an easier clandestine nuclear sneak out, he will signal to Pyongyang that it, too, can withstand American pressure. Then Pyongyang can resume its march to nuclear-tipped missiles that hold America and its allies hostage.

Former Obama-administration officials warn that if Mr. Trump abandons their Iran nuclear deal, North Korea will view the U.S. as an untrustworthy partner. The opposite is true. The North Korean dictator wants to talk because the Trump administration’s campaign of maximum economic sanctions pressure is working.

But if the president agrees to a fictional fix to the JCPOA, or if he responds to a stalemate by backing down from the threat to reimpose maximum economic sanctions, North Korea will see Mr. Trump as a paper tiger. Conversely, if North Korea sees that Iran is held to tough nuclear and missile standards, backed by the credible threat of crippling sanctions, Mr. Trump will be better positioned to make it clear to Pyongyang that he means business.

The path to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula thus runs through Tehran. If Mr. Trump fixes the fatal flaws of the Iran deal, or even if he scraps it because the Europeans balk, his high-stakes North Korean gamble may yet succeed. Even if it doesn’t, he’ll have stopped Iran from following North Korea’s path to nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Mr. Goldberg is a senior adviser and Mr. Dubowitz chief executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Appeared in the March 15, 2018, print edition.



Iran in decisive shift in favor of relations with China and Russia — “Preferring East to West.”

February 26, 2018

From L: Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave after posing for photos ahead of their trilateral meeting in Tehran, in this November 1, 2017 file photo. (AFP)
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader has signalled a decisive shift in favor of relations with China and Russia, indicating that patience is running out with efforts to improve ties with the West.
One of the most popular slogans during the 1979 revolution was “Neither East nor West,” a defiant vow that Iran would no longer favor either of the world’s major forces at the time — American-style capitalism or Soviet Communism.
It was therefore striking to hear its current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declare on February 19 that: “In foreign policy, the top priorities for us today include preferring East to West.”
Analysts say this does not change the basic idea that Iran refuses to fall under the sway of outside powers.
But it does suggest that the latest attempt at detente with the United States — represented by the 2015 nuclear deal in which it agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions — is running out of steam.
“Khamenei has repeatedly outlined that the 2015 nuclear deal was a test to see if negotiations with the West could yield positive results for Iran,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“The leadership perceives the US as acting in bad faith on the deal. Khamenei’s statement signals a green light for the Iranian system to focus greater diplomatic effort on deepening ties with China and Russia,” she said.
Khamenei’s comments come at a critical moment, with US President Donald Trump threatening to tear up the deal and reimpose sanctions unless Iran agrees to rein in its missile program and “destabilising activities” in the Middle East.
Even before Trump, Iran felt Washington was violating its side of the bargain as it became clear that remaining US sanctions would still hamper banking ties and foreign investments, even blocking Iranian tech start-ups from sharing their products on app stores.
Tehran argues this violates a clause stating the US must “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”
“From day one, the US, the Obama administration, started violating both the letter and the spirit of the agreement,” said Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran.
He said Khamenei’s latest statement recognized the simple fact that relations with eastern countries were much stronger, particularly since Iran and Russia allied over the Syrian war.
“It’s a very different world now. Iran’s relationship with Russia and China and an increasing number of Asian countries is much better than with the West because they treat us much better,” he said.
“We are partners with Russia in Syria. We are not subordinate.”
Anger over foreign interference was a key driver of the 1979 revolution after more than a century of intrigues, coups and resource exploitation by the United States, Britain and Russia.
But despite being depicted by critics as dogmatic and uncompromising, the Islamic republic that emerged after the revolution has been surprisingly flexible in its foreign policy.
“At certain moments since 1979, Iran has taken a pragmatic approach to dealings with the United States when necessary or in its interest,” said Geranmayeh.
She highlighted the infamous Iran-Contra arms deal in the 1980s and cooperation in Afghanistan in 2001, as well as the nuclear deal.
Yet many hard-liners in Washington refuse to accept that Iran has ever been serious about rapprochement.
The American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, this month released a series of articles calling for “a more confrontational policy toward Iran,” including the threat of regime change.
Its main justification was that “the men who run Iran’s foreign policy have no interest in a better relationship.”
But speaking in April 2015, three months before the nuclear deal was finalized, Khamenei explicitly said it could lead to a broader improvement in ties.
“If the other side stops its usual obstinacy, this will be an experience for us and we will find out that we can negotiate with it over other matters as well,” he said in a speech.
Iran’s oil sales have rebounded since the deal, and it has seen an uptick in trade with Europe.
But the threat of US penalties has helped deter many foreign investors and major banks from re-engaging with Iran.
European firms and governments remain far more vulnerable to pressure from Washington than their Chinese and Russian counterparts.
“If the Europeans don’t have the courage to stand up to the US then they shouldn’t expect to be partners with us,” said Marandi.
“If some doors are closed and some doors are open, we are not going to wait outside the closed doors forever.”

Torture, Suicide In Iran’s Prisons — “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

February 22, 2018

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Above:  President Hassan Rouhani


The New York Times
FEB. 22, 2018

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in “The House of the Dead,” his semi-autobiographical novel about inmates in a Siberian prison camp. Iran continues to fail the Dostoyevsky test.

The Evin Prison in Tehran, where a long list of leaders, intellectuals and journalists have been detained over the years, added to its infamy this month with the so-called suicide of Kavous Seyed Emami, a leading environmentalist and academic.

Dr. Seyed Emami, 63, who came from an old clerical family, was a dual Iranian and Canadian citizen. He had received his doctorate from the University of Oregon and returned to Iran in the early 1990s to teach sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran, where Iran’s future elite is educated.

He helped found the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s most important environmental organization, with the encouragement of the United Nations and the Islamic Republic, especially Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

On Jan. 24, Dr. Seyed Emami, Mr. Madani and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American businessman, were arrested. Dr. Seyed Emami was accused of spying for the United States and Mossad. Two weeks after his arrest, prison authorities informed his family about his death. “This person was one of the accused, and given he knew there is a torrent of confessions against him and he confessed himself, unfortunately he committed suicide in prison,” Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, a prosecutor in Tehran, told an Iranian news agency.

Dr. Seyed Emami’s relatives raised doubts about the claim that he committed suicide, but the regime forced them to bury him without an independent autopsy.

Dr. Seyed Emami became a victim of the political struggle between President Hassan Rouhani and moderate reformers who have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues, especially dams, and die-hard conservatives among the Revolutionary Guards who are reluctant to slow down such rural projects.

When Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces and a military adviser to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was asked by the Iranian press about the arrests of the environmentalists, he spoke about Western spies using lizards and chameleons that could “attract atomic waves” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program.

The increasingly common “suicides” by prisoners stem from Iran’s inordinate reliance on “confessions” in convicting defendants.

Iranian judges treat “confessions” as the “proof of proofs,” the “mother of proofs” and the “best evidence of guilt.” The use of forced confessions began in the last years of the shah’s rule, in the 1970s, but drastically increased after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini regarded them as the highest proof of guilt.

I analyzed numerous legal cases and around 300 prison memoirs for a book about forced confessions. To obtain such “confessions,” interrogators in Iran rely heavily on psychological and physical pressures. They — like fellow interrogators elsewhere — scrupulously avoid the word torture (“shekanjeh” in Persian). In fact, the Iranian Constitution explicitly outlaws shekanjeh. Instead, interrogators describe what they do as “ta’zir” (punishment). Innumerable prison memoirs detail this process. It can be described as Iran’s version of “enhanced interrogation.”

Prisoners are asked a question, and if their answer is unsatisfactory, they are sentenced to a specific number of lashings on the ground that they had lied. These whippings can continue until the desired answer is given — and committed to paper. According to a letter circulated by some 40 members of Parliament, hallucinatory drugs now supplement these traditional methods.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, detainees were routinely shown on television reading their confessions, but the broadcasts were mostly stopped after most Iranians concluded that they were staged. The confessions continue to be used in court, however.

Detainees have a limited number of options in the face of interrogation. They can submit, even before the instruments of enhanced interrogation are displayed. They can undergo prolonged agony, which may lead to death, if inadvertently — interrogators want a confession, not a badly damaged corpse, which can cause political embarrassment. The detainees can accept a plea bargain and “admit” to a lesser transgression in return for release or a lighter sentence.

After the disputed presidential elections in 2009 in which the right-wing populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prevailed over reformist opponents, many — including visitors from abroad — gave “exclusive” interviews to the regime press confessing to sundry transgressions, especially helping foreign powers conspiring to bring about “regime change.”

Detainees have also agreed to public confessions and tried to insert phrases that undermined the whole ritual. A prisoner — later executed — declared in 1983 that he had been recruited into the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence agency upon his arrival in Russia in 1951. He would have been aware that anyone versed in the topic would know the K.G.B. was created three years later, in 1954.

A former Khomeini follower said in his public confession in 1987 that he had resorted to black magic and the occult to spread cancerous cells among clerical leaders he opposed.

In 1984, leaders of the Communist Tudeh Party who had been arrested after criticizing Iran’s war with Iraq, vociferously thanked their “benevolent guards” for “opening their eyes,” providing them with books that debunked their previous ideology, and transforming prisons into “universities” and “educational institutions.” One stressed that the prison wardens had given them “shalaqha-e haqayeq,” or lashes of truth.

They confessed to “high treason” for adopting alien ideologies and failing to study properly the history of their country. They also held themselves “personally responsible” for “treasonable mistakes” made by the left in the distant past, such as during the constitutional revolution of 1906, which took place long before they were born.

Earlier reformers, led by President Mohammad Khatami, tried between 1997 and 2005 to pass legislation to prevent the use of torture in prison. But such attempts were swept away with the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005. President Rouhani, now embarrassed by the arrest of his environmentalist allies, is eager to channel the concerns of reformers about the use of torture. He has supported the 40 deputies who have protested prison “suicides” and has set up a committee to investigate the death of Dr. Seyed Emami. Time will show whether this committee has any teeth.

Irrespective of the findings of Mr. Rouhani’s committee, what Iran needs is a radical reform of its legal procedures to ensure that its courts will stop the use of “confessions” and instead rely on verifiable independent and collaborative evidence.

Ervand Abrahamian, an emeritus professor of history at City University of New York, is the author of “Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section


Image may contain: text

Khamenei Says Iran Foiled Insurgency to Overthrow the Islamic Republic

January 9, 2018

By Babak Dehghanpisheh


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran has foiled attempts by its foreign enemies to turn legitimate protests into an insurgency to overthrow the Islamic Republic, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday.

Comments on his Twitter feed and in Iranian media underscored the establishment’s confidence that it has extinguished the unrest that spread to more than 80 cities in which at least 22 people died since late December.

“Once again, the nation tells the US, Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that ‘you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too.’” Khamenei tweeted.

A handout photo provided by the office of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on January 2, 2018, shows him delivering a statement in the capital Tehran.
Image copyright AFP

The Revolutionary Guards, the military force loyal to Khamenei, said on Sunday security forces had put an end to the unrest that it said had been whipped up by foreign enemies.

At least 1,000 people have been arrested in the biggest anti-government protests for nearly a decade, with the judiciary saying ringleaders could face the death penalty.

Khamenei said U.S. President Donald Trump was grandstanding when he tweeted support for protesters he said were trying “to take back their corrupt government” and promising “great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

The Iranian leader tweeted: “… this man who sits at the head of the White House – although, he seems to be a very unstable man – he must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes won’t be left without a response.”

As well as Washington and London, Khamenei blamed the violence on Israel, exiled dissident group Mojahedin-e-Khalq and “a wealthy government” in the Gulf, a reference to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Khamenei has called the protests – which were initially about the economy but soon turned political – “playing with fireworks”, but he said citizens had a right to air legitimate concerns, a rare concession by a leader who usually voices clear support for security crackdowns.

“These concerns must be addressed. We must listen, we must hear. We must provide answers within our means,” Khamenei was quoted as saying, hinting that not only the government of President Hassan Rouhani, but his own clerical leadership must also respond.

“I‘m not saying that they must follow up. I am also responsible. All of us must follow up,” Khamenei said.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy