Sanctions pressure brought Ahmadinejad’s ministers to tears

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According to an Iranian member of parliament, the pressure of not being able to sell Iranian oil due to economic sanctions brought former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ministers to tears.

Mohammad Nabavian, a conservative parliament member representing Tehran, said of the former president’s difficulties in selling Iranian oil, “Toward the end of Ahmadinejad’s administration, some of the ministers in closed meetings would shed tears and say to members of parliament, ‘You know our situation; why do you speak like this in open sessions?’” Continue reading

Rouhani adviser denies Foreign Ministry rejected parliamentary supervisors

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President Hassan Rouhani’s adviser has denied earlier reports that Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which is in charge of nuclear negotiations, has rejected the addition of two conservative supervisors sent on behalf of parliament to their negotiation team.

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IRGC: Iran will do whatever’s necessary to ‘save Syria’

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In a recent speech, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaffari talked about Iran’s involvement in Syria in more blunt terms than many other Iranian officials have used. He also said that Iran only received a minimum of concessions in the nuclear deal and must not give up any more, and criticized the foreign minister for saying that the United States could “wipe out Iran’s entire defense system with just one bomb.”

In his speech at Imam Sadegh University, where many IRGC students graduate, Jaffari said, “We will do whatever is necessary to save the Syrian government.” He continued, “We have also stated this before, that we have special forces transferring experience and training who are doing advisory work, and this is open,” adding that this was at “the request of the official government.”

In September, video surfaced of an Iranian commander who had given an interview to an Iranian filmmaker about Iran’s involvement in Syria, mostly under the direction of the IRGC’s Quds Force division. The commander, Haj Ismail Haydari, talked about his experience training fighters from regional countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. While Iranian deaths are usually officially attributed to defending the Shrine of Zeynab in Damascus, the video revealed that those commanders are also at the front lines in Aleppo.

Jaffari also said that despite the efforts of other countries, President Bashar al-Assad’s position is strengthening in Syria, in part due to the efforts of Iran. “Now the enemy acknowledges that the only reason that they were not successful in Syria is the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran of the Syrian government,” he said. “The situation in Syria is becoming better day by day. Of course, parts of Syria are occupied by the fighters opposed to the Syrian government, but the process is such that there is no place for worry about this, and the process is going forward in favor of the Syrian government.”

The IRGC reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and since President Hassan Rouhani came into office, some have speculated that the IRGC has become more vocal about Syria, a realm it considers its responsibility, in order to pre-empt any attempts by the president to express a different or more moderate course of action. It was immediately after the elections that for the first time, a hard-line Iranian newspaper published pictures of IRGC soldiers that had been killed.

Rouhani’s administration has attempted to de-escalate tensions with both Western and regional countries. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been visiting Arab countries in the Persian Gulf that support Syria’s opposition, and has even made conciliatory remarks about resolving misunderstandings over three disputed islands with the United Arab Emirates. Though the islands are a sensitive issue for most Iranians, Zarif was attacked by hard-line media over an issue they considered a non-negotiable red line, and even suggested that negotiations over the islands will lead to negotiations over all of Iran’s territory.

Jaffari also criticized the foreign minister for saying that the United States has such a superior military capacity to Iran’s that it could take down Iran’s defense systems with one bomb. While Zarif attempted to stress that Iran’s strength comes from its people and not its military capacity, he was criticized by hard-liners in parliament as well. When asked about the comments, Jaffari said, “In no way is it like this. He has no experience and specialty in this field. Of course, we know him to be an expert diplomat, but if the enemy attacks us with thousands of missiles, maybe they can take out 20% of Iran’s military capabilities.”

Jaffari also said that in the nuclear deal, the concessions that Iran gave were the “maximum” and the concessions that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) gave were the “minimum.” While he acknowledged that Iran’s negotiators did not cross the red lines, he warned that if the P5+1 wants more concessions, “Iran must return to its previous status.”

Iran ready to discuss island dispute with UAE

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At a press conference in Kuwait, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran is ready to discuss its dispute with the United Arab Emirates over Abu Musa island in the Persian Gulf.

Abu Musa, along with the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, are part of a four-decade dispute between Iran and the UAE. According to Fars News and Asr-e Iran, a website with ties to the administration, Zarif made this comment in response to a reporter’s question. The statement prompted strong reactions both from hard-line media and Iranian social-media users.

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Iran: We expect ‘components’ of enrichment to be respected

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Days before another round of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of  UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that “components” of Iran’s right to enrichment should be respected but that a complete suspension is their red line. He also said that the specifics of enrichment are being negotiated.

While Zarif struck an optimistic tone in the ISNA interview, some Iranian media are predicting this upcoming round of negotiations will not achieve a deal, despite appearing to be close in the previous round.

Zarif said: “Iran’s right to enrichment does not need to be officially recognized because it is a right that according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty is an inseparable right. What we expect is respect for components of these rights. In the previous years, Iran has applied this right, but unfortunately it was not respected.” Rather, he added, it led to sanctions.

“We have reached an extremely sensitive point of the negotiations and I don’t want to discuss the specifics,” Zarif said. “We have officially stated that enrichment certainly has to exist in any framework of an agreement; but how, what methods and where is an issue we are currently negotiating.”

Zarif continued: “Not only do we see the right to enrichment as nonnegotiable, we do not see any necessity for it to be identified as a right, because this right is inseparable, and all of the countries should respect this.”

“In the negotiations with P5+1 we didn’t hear anyone want us to suspend enrichment,” Zarif said. “This issue in the first round (for an interim deal) in general was not the demand of any side. Some of the issues are related to enrichment that it’s possible it is the views of some of the delegations. In the previous negotiations this issue was also discussed but a general suspension is certainly our red line and we are not entering [negotiations] on this red line.”

On how long the specifics of the deal would remain confidential, Zarif said: “We have to reach a result on the various issues. … The negotiations are serious. If we wanted to use negotiations for propaganda purposes as was done in the past, we could have discussed the details in the media, but we want to reach a result and agreement and test every possibility for an agreement while protecting the rights of the Iranian nation.”

While Zarif appeared optimistic about the Nov 20 negotiations, some Iranian media are beginning to think a final deal is out of reach.

Hard-line website Yarasalat wrote that even if an interim deal is agreed to, the United States’ ultimate objective is to have Iran completely suspend their entire nuclear program. Mashregh news called the concessions that the United States put on the table for the interim “low value.” There are various reports that the P5+1 is offering about $10 billion in sanctions relief should they reach an interim deal with Iran. Raja News also balked at the figure, claiming it was close to $6 billion or $7 billion.

Tabnak website wrote: “In all of this optimism, one cannot have certain trust that in a successful nuclear negotiations in Geneva.” Citing various examples, it concluded that the history of negotiations between Iran and the West in the last 10 years has caused a “distrust towards the West.”

Foreign Minister Connects With Iran Youth on Facebook

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The active presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Facebook and Twitter has been a great tool and venue for Iran’s public diplomacy with Western journalists. It has also served as an unfiltered source of direct interaction between Zarif and the Iranian Internet-savvy youth.

Three recent comments by young Iranians on the foreign minister’s Facebook page has caught the attention of Iranians on social media, and even Iranian domestic media.

On Oct. 9 David Keyes of The Daily Beast published what he called an “exchange” between himself and Iran’s foreign minister in which he quoted the foreign minister denying that he knew who imprisoned student activist Majid Tavakoli was. The Daily Beast article was shared widely by Iranians, who were shocked that the foreign minister did not recognize the name of one of Iran’s most high profile political prisoners. Continue reading

Misquote by Hard-line Newspaper Hospitalizes Iran’s Foreign Minister

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After being misquoted by a newspaper close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about his perception of the phone call between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif checked into a hospital due to stress.

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Iran’s Hard-liners Oppose US-Iran Negotiations, Handshake

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As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani landed in New York yesterday for the UN General Assembly with the apparent blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to solve Iran’s nuclear crisis, Iranian media has begun to speculate over whether Rouhani and US President Barack Obama would meet, or at least run into one another and shake hands.

Many Iranian Reformist publications have favorably covered the meeting between foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and appear to be eagerly anticipating the meeting on Thursday between Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry at a P5+1 ministerial meeting. Reformist newspaper Arman even published a picture of Zarif and Kerry shaking hands (above).

Iran’s hard-liners, however, have attempted to counter this enthusiasm.

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Encourages US to Pursue ‘Win-Win’ Strategy

untitled Iran’s new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sat down with Iranian television in a one-on–one interview yesterday, where he discussed his views on the United States’ foreign policy, the new US sanctions against Iran and Iran’s nuclear program,. On US foreign policy Zarif said, “There is a serious need” to “understand this reality, and we have to encourage others to understand this reality, that in the field of foreign policy a positive-sum game and a win-win game” is “in everyone’s interests.” In the article from the Iranian Students News Agency which transcribed the interview, the title was “Foreign Minister: America Should Pursue Win-Win Game.” Continue reading

Rouhani’s Foreign, Education Minister Nominees Under Attack

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The debate in Iran’s parliament over President Hassan Rouhani’s 18-member cabinet nominations began earlier this week with conservative MPs accusing Rouhani of inviting “seditionists” into his cabinet who had a role in the 2009 election protests. The word “sedition” was used so often that Iranian social media users began tallying the number of times the word was used.

Since the beginning of the hearings, however, the atmosphere in parliament has calmed down considerably, and the word “sedition” was used far less frequently. There has still been strong objections to various nominations, however, both on the parliament floor and in Iranian media.

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