Khamenei: West Did Not Offer Any Concessions at P5+1

At a meeting of the Assembly of Experts yesterday, Ayatollah Khamenei said that at the latest negotiations in Almaty, Kazakstan between Iran and P5+1, “the West did not do anything important for it to be interpreted as a concession but rather they confessed to some of the rights of the nation of Iran.” It had been reported by most Western media that the West offered to lift some sanctions if Iran would scale back certain nuclear activities.

Khamenei added that “to measure the honesty of the West at the latest meeting with Iran, we must wait until the next session.” This statement implies that perhaps points of progress or significance were discussed.

Regarding enrichment of uranium at 20%, Khamenei said that “the enemies of the nation of Iran, because of their lack of understanding of Iran and their miscalculations, had recommended odd and strange paths on this issue, that had we gone down these paths the chances of reaching uranium at 20% would be zero.”

Khamenei also accused President Barrack Obama of trying to provoke world public opinion by asking “the heads of Turkey and Brazil to mediate in order for Iran to accept a middle (compromise) solution.” He said that he told political leaders “that there is nothing wrong with pursuing these paths for a solution but that the Americans will never accept it, and that’s what happened.”

On sanctions, Khamenei said that “the excuse of sanctions appears to be about the nuclear program but it is actually a long term plan that the West has been pursuing.” He continued “that the hope of the West was that by putting pressure on the people, they would stand up to the system (government) but what they saw the anniversary of the revolution rallies was against their wants and desires.”

In response to Iran’s economic woes and the effects of sanctions Khamanei said that “some of the problems are related to the sanctions…and some are related to the management of the economy but the important point is that the problems can be fixed.” To what extent the sanctions have caused Iran’s economic problems has been a source of controversy inside Iran with different political figures offering varying analysis.

Khamenei began his speech by stressing the importance of having “long term views” in relation to the “hardships and ups and downs.”

In Other News

Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaei called on the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) states to take action on nuclear disarmament.

At a session in New York he said that Iran “has always announced that nuclear disarmament is one of its most important priorities yet we have always stressed the importance that members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have complete rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Khazaei stated that “future changes of NPT must be in the direction of strengthening the commitment of member states to nuclear disarmament and be accepted without double standards or discrimination.” He continued that “in our (Iran) view, reinterpretations of the obligations and rights under the principles of the treaty have been counterproductive and any review of NPT must be done efficiently and with complete transparency.”

The last NPT Review Conference was held in May of 2010. The Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT was held from April 30 to May 11 of 2012 in Vienna.

Iran is a member of NPT. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency has previously said that if Iran is attacked there is a “possibility” they would leave NPT.

Iran’s FM: Until the Next Elections Assad is the President of Syria

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in a Tehran press conference with Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said Sunday that “Syria, like all other governments, has a legal president that has come [chosen] from the people. And the people of Syria, like all other countries in the world, choose their own president, and until the next elections, the president is Bashar Assad.” Al-Monitor’s Week in Review originally covered this story.

Salehi continued that in the next elections “everyone should be free to present their own candidate.” He stressed that “this is the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He also suggested that Assad like all others can participate in Syria’s next presidential elections in 2014.

Salehi defended Assad’s crackdown, which has left more than 70,000 dead, by saying that “we cannot ask Syria to lay down their arms while rebels do as they want.”

Salehi described Iran-Syria relations as “deep and bright” and said that Iran “will never forget the support of Syria during the imposed war,” in a reference to the eight-year Iran-Iraq that began when Iraq’s troops invaded Iran in 1980. Syria was the only Arab country to support Iran while Arab states in the Persian Gulf and North Africa financially and logistically supported Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war is also known as “The Sacred Defense.”

Interestingly, Salehi described Syria’s current situation also as an “imposed crisis.” However, he added that Iran has always emphasized that Syria’s government “must be answerable to the demands of the nation by realizing the demands of its citizens.”

Iran has invested heavily to support Assad in Syria’s civil war, both financially and military. On Feb. 14 Hassan Shateri, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, was killed. Surprisingly, Salehi’s statements received scant coverage in Iranian media. As the Iranian economy continues to struggle, the Islamic Republic’s support of Assad has become increasingly unpopular at home.

In Other News

A new wave of raids of took place yesterday when security forces entered the offices of three publications. The Director, Mohammad Mehdi Imami Naseri, and Political Editor, Alireza Aghaeirad, from Maghreb newspaper were both arrested.

Upon news of the raids, several websites inside Iran had reported that three publications, the monthly Mehrnameh, the weekly Aseman and Tajrobeh, were shut down. All publications are known to be close to the Reformists. However, the editor of Mehranmeh, Mohammad Ghoochani, said that, “until this moment he had not received any letters from either the Press Supervisory Body or the Prosecutor’s” to shut down operations. However, it has been reported that the editors of the three publications had been “recommended” to shut down operations.

No reasons for the arrests of the Maghreb employees was given. However, editor of Maghreb wrote that the journalist were arrested “one day after publishing a letter by Mohammad Khatami.” Khatami is the former Reformist president of Iran who still has popular support among Reformists. Many believe these waves of arrests of journalists are meant to sideline Reformists before the upcoming presidential elections in Iran.

March 5 to March 12 in Iran is known as “Natural Resource Week.” The first day of this week has been designated “National Tree Planting Day.” Political leaders in Iran from the Supreme Leader to the president to the mayor, accompanied by the press, planted trees and stressed the importance of the environment on Tuesday.

After the tree planting ceremony Ayatollah Khamenei addressed in his speech the concerning level of deforestation in Iran. “The complaint I have with the political leaders,” he said, “at times, hundreds of trees that should not be cut down are cut down.” He also addressed the alarming trend in Iran of confiscation of “green” land on the outskirts of large cities that are converted to “concrete and high-rise towers.”

Due to the high rate of urbanization of Iran’s cities, land on the outskirts have been confiscated, sometimes through back-door dealings, and has made investors with connections to the government quite wealthy.