Former Iranian FM: Some Dismissed Threat of Oil Sanctions

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Ali Akbar Salehi, who served as Iran’s foreign minister from 2011 to 2013 under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, spoke with Iranian media about the perception of some within the government toward the tightening of sanctions against Iran, the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011 and communications with the US.

In an interview with an administration-affiliated news agency, Salehi claims that he had warned administration officials about the possibility of new sanctions from Western countries in a letter, but that his warnings were not taken seriously.

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

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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

Iran: New Sanctions Won’t Solve Nuclear Issue

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Yesterday, the US House of Representatives approved legislation to impose the toughest sanctions yet on Iran with a vote of 400-to-20. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Araghchi, spoke to reporters today about the move.

The bill, which will be sent to the Senate after the summer recess, will drastically reduce Iran’s already shrinking oil exports if enacted. It also increases sanctions on Iran’s automotive, mining, construction and engineering industries. Perhaps most controversially, it also removes provisions or loopholes that would give President Barrack Obama the option to waive certain sanctions if negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are successful.

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Iran Judge Behind Three Deaths Fined $60

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Saeed Mortazavi, the judge long accused in the deaths of three individuals involved in the 2009 post-election protests, has been sentenced.

Mortazavi, who was prosecutor-general of Tehran in 2009, was charged along with two other deputies in February with “filing a false report” and “unlawful arrest” in connection to the transfer of street protesters to Kahrizak prison.

According to various reports, Mortazavi and two others were suspended for life from judicial duties and banned for five years from government work. Mortazavi received a 200,000 toman fine ($60 based on today’s open market rate). His lawyer said that they will appeal the verdict. The light sentence has shocked many Iranians on social media.

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Potential Presidential Candidate Says Holocaust Denial Was Damaging

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Potential presidential candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf sat down with Tasnim News Agency to present his positions on foreign policy and economics. Ghalibaf, who is part of the 2+1 Coalition along with foreign-policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati and Gholam Ali Hadded Adel, shared his ideas on the Western sanctions against Iran, the nuclear program and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial remarks on the Holocaust.

Ghalibaf said the “nuclear issue is our most important foreign-policy topic.” He added that “the nuclear case is a national and macro case that all the administrations will pursue within the framework of the system.” The decisions on the nuclear program are made through Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. Ghalibaf, however, added that “one must discern between strategy and tactics on the nuclear issue.” While the “strategy for the system is clear,” he differentiated his positions on the issue of “tactics.”

The mayor of Tehran believes that tactics can take the form of diplomacy, which he believes he would perform better than Ahmadinejad. He said “steps were taken and words were said that not only did not help us push our programs forward, but it also gave our opponents the opportunity to gather others against us. Controversial but useless remarks and slogans and presentations struck a blow against us and weakened our rightful position.” As president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made controversial comments about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homosexuals in Iran and the Holocaust, among other topics which received international attention and condemnation.

“Our legal position can only be realized through an intelligent and rational diplomacy,” Ghalibaf said. “There was a time when they used to say the sanctions are torn pieces of paper. Now they are saying that they are crippling, and they are the cause of all the problems. … A rational view says that the sanctions are neither torn pieces of paper, nor will removing them fix all of the problems.” Ahmadinejad had made defiant statements against the sanctions, and had even dared the West to pass more at one point. However, domestically, the issue of how much sanctions have affected the economy is a source of contention. Often, statements regarding to what extent sanctions have affected the economy are made with political rather than economic intentions and insights.

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On Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding the Holocaust, Ghalibaf asked, “for instance, where did the case of the Holocaust take us?” He continued, “We were never against Judaism; it’s a religion. What we opposed was Zionism. We’ve been the major supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but with the intelligence of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, no one could accuse us of being anti-Semitic. But suddenly without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did his benefit the revolution or the Palestinians?”

Ghalibaf added that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians. Defending the goals of the Palestinians is part of the principles of our foreign policy. Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy.” He added that “we have seen a lot of damages in the area of foreign policy” due to this type of politics.

On the potential of Iran-US negotiations, Ghalibaf said that “negotiations are neither taboo, nor will they solve all of the problems. Negotiations are a tool. When it’s necessary at points, we will certainly negotiate with America. Negotiating with America has never been a red line for us.” Iran’s foreign policy is ultimately decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and if there are to ever be direct negotiations between the two countries, they would be need to be approved by him first.

Khamenei Rep: US-Iran War Due to ‘Conflict of Beliefs’

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The Supreme Leader’s representative to Sepah [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] said, “A soft war comes from the conflict of beliefs, and our war today with America also comes from this conflict of beliefs, and in this war all of Islam stands against all of the unbelievers.”

Hojat al-Islam Ali Saeedi, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to Sepah, warned that “when the enemy cannot move forward with a soft war, they will start a hard war.” He made these statements in the eastern city of Mashhad yesterday.

The term “soft war” is often referred to as a cultural war that many Iranian officials believe the US and the West are waging against Iran to change the identity and tastes of its public, so that it becomes more friendly to the West and, in their eyes, less Islamic.

Saeedi framed Iran’s standing in the Islamic world this way: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is holding the banner of Islam and it is standing against two imperfect forms of Islam.” The first Islam he described as one “that has taken the shape of al-Qaeda, which has been promoted from the Salafi-Wahabi Arab countries [in the Persian Gulf].” The second “imperfect Islam” that Saeedi believes Iran stands against is from the Western, “secularized Islam, such as one that is present in Turkey.” Continue reading

Rafsanjani, Khatami Asked to ‘Save’ Iran

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Conservative website Baztab Emrooz has published an op-ed by Foad Sadeghi asking Iran’s two previous presidents, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, to help Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “save” Iran by participating in the upcoming elections.

The article shares that based on the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei, “the fundamental issue of the elites of the country, in the 40 days remaining until the process of the elections officially starts, is to present solutions to pass through the critical conditions and unprecedented threats” facing Iran.

The article listed eight issues that Iran is facing, with the first one being “the American and Israeli position against Iran’s nuclear program, which has turned into an international issue that has been taken up the Security Council.” Other issues were the “acceptance” of the  “events of the 2009 elections” and addressing “the undeniable, tangible effects of the economic sanctions.” Continue reading

Iran Media Skeptical About Obama’s Nowruz Message

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In a video to the Iranian people and leaders on Monday, President Barrack Obama released his fifth Nowruz message. The Nowruz New Year holiday is one of the most important and oldest holidays in Iran and is celebrated in many other countries in the Middle East and the Caucuses as well.

In the nearly four-minute speech, President Obama addressed the “decades of mistrust” between Iran and the US and reiterated his preference to resolve questions about Iran’s nuclear program “peacefully and diplomatically.” He reminded the Iranian leaders that “now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue.” He added that if a solution is reached, “the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States.”

Hardline website Raja News wrote that “Obama showed with this message that he has tried to attract the confidence of the people of Iran with words and show.” The article added that “even though in the beginning of his message he focused on the need to solve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program through negotiations, at the end of his message he contradicted himself by speaking with a threatening tone about the continuation of pressure on the people!”

The Raja article asked that since “the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency has not shown that Iran has deviated into a nuclear-weapons program, so for what reason is America worried, and why are the Iranian people witnessing this pressure and sanctions from the European Union and the West?”

The articled embedded a video of Obama’s message but oddly omitted his greeting. Perhaps because Obama used the Persianized “doroud” rather than the Arabized “salaam” for his greeting. Although both can be used, “salaam” is most commonly used in Iran, while “dorood” has become somewhat more pervasive in the Iranian Diaspora in recent years.

Toward the end of his speech, President Obama quoted a verse from a poem by Hafez: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.” The 14th Century poet Hafez was born in Shiraz, Iran and his tomb in Shiraz is a popular site for tourists.

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Conservative website Enthekhab surmised that the president “apparently used his Shirazi advisor, Valerie Jarrett, while acknowledging the Iranian nation’s long history and civilization, made a reference to a poem by the famous Iranian poet Hafez.” Jarrett was born in Shiraz to American parents and is currently a senior adviser to the president.

Entekhab said that “analysts” believe that “this message is like the previous [Nowruz] messages and only with a change of expressions and the use of Iranian advisers […] sought to take advantage of the nation’s feelings with references to the national and Islamic identity of Iranians.” The president did not make a reference to Islam in his speech.

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Hardline website Mashreg wrote that the president’s message was “more than an address to the Iranian people; it was a negative answer to the Zionist regime’s demands that Washington intensify their hostilities against Tehran.” The article also found it noteworthy that the president used the word “Spring” and “Nowruz” in the same way that “some [Ahmadinejad] did domestically.” President Ahmadinejad has been using traditional Iranian festivals as a sort of a campaign rally to promote his ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashei as a possible candidate in the next presidential elections.

Mashreg suggested that “one should wait and see what Obama and his administration do this upcoming year, and do they act as Hafez recommends and uproot from its roots the sapling of enmities against the Iranian people, which has turned into a tree, or does he apply more pressure.”

“Mr. Obama: We Have Our Options on the Table, Too”

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General Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri, Deputy General of the Armed Forces, told Sepah News yesterday that “Iranian commanders had been given the authority to immediately respond to any hostile action from the enemy.” According to Sepah, this was in response to “threats made from some of the Zionist [Israeli] leaders.”

Jazayeri said that “the era of childish games of threats and intimidation with carrots and sticks is over, such that if greedy countries do not have a correct understanding of the world’s and region’s situation today, they will encounter many and unforeseeable problems.” He added that “the the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are popular” and that “our enemies are operating under their own illusions, with thousands of lies against Sepah and Basij to distort society’s view of us.”

After the contested 2009 elections, Sepah, also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), actively sided with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sepah also controls Khatam Al-Anbia, one of Iran’s largest contracting firms. Their dominance in politics and business has angered many in Iran.

Jazayeri concluded with a warning to President Barrack Obama. “Mr. Obama,” he said, “Do not be mistaken; our options are on our table, too. Before you get more entangled in a quagmire in this region, go back home.” In an interview last Thursday with Israeli TV, President Obama said that he told Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu that if negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program are not resolved, the United States continues “to keep all options on the table.”

Iranian Hospitals May Soon Face Shortage of Anesthetics

The head of pharmacy at Tehran University Medical Sciences School of Pharmacy has warned about the lack of anesthetics in Iran.

Kheirollah Gholami told Iranian Labor News Agency that “Tehran University Medical Sciences hospitals presently don’t have a shortage of anesthetics,” but that “anesthetics such as atracurium, sevoflurane, and isoflurane either do not exist in the markets or are very low.” Gholami warned that “if this continues, we really don’t know what we’ll do.”

When asked by reporters what sort of measures have been devised to face this crisis, Gholami responded that “we have to pray, because if we can’t acquire the anesthetics we’ll have to close our operating rooms,” adding that “it’s up to the minister of health to address this situation.”

Gholami blamed sanctions and the lack of funding for the shortage.

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Earlier last week, Fatemeh Nikpour conducted an extensive Q&A with Dr. Akbar Abdullahi, the president of Abidi Pharmaceutical Company, to discuss the medicine crisis in Iran. Abdullahi said that “the primary reason for the medicine shortage in Iran is domestic politics and challenges as opposed to international sanctions.”

Abdollahi listed a number of management issues which have contributed to Iran’s medicine crisis, such as decisions made “without considering all the sides,” “interference from political and oversight organizations” and “a lack of cooperation.” Abdollahi added that “many American companies have a license from the State Department to export medicine to us because medicine is not sanctioned, but we have a problem with securing and transferring money.”

Abdollahi recounted a tale in which he said that “the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration was consulting and trying to free up Iranian money that had been blocked by a European source, and he was succeeding, but with the removal of the health minister, these efforts were suspended. In the time it took the new health minister to investigate this, many opportunities were lost.”

The previous health minister, Dr. Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi, was fired in December 2012 after publicly complaining that the administration had not allocated the proper funds for the purchase of medicine.