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Human Rights in Iran

  • 15 June 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Let's Talk Iran

CA State Senate Stands Up for Iranian Human Rights

Recently, the California State Senate passed SR 29, a Senate Resolution authored by State Senator Sam Blakeslee which recognizes the contributions of the Iranian-American community and calls upon the Iranian government to provide basic human rights and political freedoms to its citizens. The Senator partnered with several Iranian-American organizations, including NIAC and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in order to take the Resolution from concept to reality. Tune in as we discuss this latest achievement with Senator Blakeslee.

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  • 18 April 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Washington and Tehran’s Vicious Spin Cycle

The crux of negotiations between the U.S. and Iran is that, at some point, in order to succeed, each side will have to take a deep breath and shake hands on a deal. But thirty years of mutual demonization and fear mongering, means it takes serious political courage to come to the table, and even more courage—and a major investment of political capital—to actually accept a deal and sell it at home.

One way each side builds such political capital is to spin the talks as favoring the home team. This zero-sum approach—building capital at the expense of the other side—is dangerous and can create a precarious back and forth.

After modest success in Istanbul this past weekend, we’re seeing this back and forth play out as the sides prepare for the next round of talks in five weeks in Baghdad. Tehran has portrayed Washington as having softened its position and backed down from previous demands—particularly on the issue of whether Iran has the right to enrichment.

As Robert Wright speculates in the Atlantic, “If Iran’s leadership thinks it may do a deal with a government it has long framed as the great Satan, it needs to tell the Iranian people that it’s bringing Satan to his knees.” He points out that, as Tehran spins one way to build domestic support and to perhaps insulate the negotiations from political backlash at home, the opposite happens among opportunists in the U.S.

The Washington Times, for instance, takes Fars News at its word that the U.S. is granting Iran concessions, seizing on Tehran’s domestic spin to attack the talks. The very same groups that dismiss positive news like Khamenei’s fatwah against nuclear weapons as religious dissembling are, ironically, the most eager to treat Iran’s anti-U.S. spin as gospel–so long as it can be used to attack the Obama Administration’s diplomacy.

For its part, the U.S. is doing the exact same kind of spinning. In Haaretz yesterday, an unnamed U.S. official pushed back against criticism from Bibi Netanyahu that the Istanbul talks were a “freebie” for Tehran. Such an attack from Netanyahu–delivered with Senator Joe Lieberman at the Prime Minister’s side–is politically damaging for the White House and for the talks. Bibi may not technically be a domestic political opponent of the President, but nobody has bothered telling that to Congress.

  • 22 March 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iranian human rights and democracy defenders on sanctions and war

Below is a compendium of public statements by notable Iranian human rights and democracy defenders regarding the impact that sanctions and threats of war have on Iran:

Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime – Karroubi, The Guardian, August 11, 2010:

  • “These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country,”
  • “Look at Cuba and North Korea,” he said. “Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.”
  • “On the one hand, the government’s mishandling of the economy has resulted in deep recession and rising inflation inside the country, which has crippled the people of Iran and resulted in the closure of numerous factories. On the other hand, we have sanctions which are strengthening the illegitimate government.”
  • In relation to how the current Iranian regime treats its opponents more harshly than the shah, who was sensitive to international criticism, did: “But because Iran is getting more isolated, more and more they [Ahmadinejad's government] are becoming indifferent to what the world is thinking about them,” he said.
  • Mir Hossein Mousavi co-authored a public letter with Karroubi: “Sanctions have targeted the most vulnerable social classes of Iran including workers and farmers,” the letter said.

Iran News Roundup 01/10


Hooman Majd, Vali Nasr, Bret Stephens, and Hillary Mann Leverett discuss the effects of sanctions, the probability of negotiations, and the likelihood of war on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Chinese foreign minister rejects Iran sanctions as Europe and Japan move forward

China’s vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai, responsible for U.S. relations, repudiated the idea of sanctioning Iranian oil. “The normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue,” he stated.  Cui rejected the argument that normal business dealings with the Iranian government financially supports Iran’s nuclear program. “According to this logic, if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?” (Washington Post 01/09).

These comments coincide with U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s trip to Asia seeking support from China and Japan for boosting financial pressure on Iran (WSJ 01/09). Meanwhile, Europe and Japan have moved ahead in planning for cuts in Iranian oil imports. Japan has asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help it make up any shortfall in case it joins the international embargo on Iranian oil (Reuters 01/10).

Iran begins uranium enrichment at Fordow site

On Monday, Iran confirmed the start of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear plant near Qom (Huffington Post 01/09).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, in a daily press briefing, said enrichment at the Fordow nuclear plant constitutes a “further escalation” of Iranian violations of international obligations (Christian Science Monitor 01/09).

Germany and Britain also criticized Iran’s decision. UK foreign secretary William Hague said that “If Iran has nothing to hide, it should seek every opportunity to reassure the international community of its peaceful intentions.” Germany’s foreign ministry described Iran’s decision as a “further escalation.”  (Financial Times 01/09) 

Iran reiterated, however, that all activities at the Fordow site are under the permanent supervision of the IAEA. Fordow “was declared more than two years ago and since then the agency has continuously monitored all the activities,” said Iran’s delegate to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh. “Every step we have taken so far and will take in the future has been and will be under IAEA containment and surveillance” (Business Week 01/10). Soltanieh also said that Western reactions to the news have “political purposes” (Reuters 01/10). 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his tour of Latin America, dismissed allegations that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon (Huffington Post 01/10).

Meanwhile, oil prices have risen to around $113 a barrel as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program increase (Reuters 01/10).

State Department condemns U.S. national’s death sentence

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned Amir Hekmati’s death sentence handed down by Iran’s Revolutionary Court. “Allegations that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA, are simply untrue,” said Nuland said (Think Progress 01/09).

A website has been launched in support of Amir Hekmati by his family.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called on Iran’s Judiciary to reverse Hekmati’s death sentence.

Santorum claims principle motivation of Iran is martyrdom

GOP candidate Rick Santorum made several contested statements about Iran.  In a contention disputed by most experts, he said that Iran’s leadership is inherently irrational and suicidal, which is encouragement for Iran to use a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/09).  Santorum also said that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would not start a war (Thinking Progress 01/10).

Iran News Roundup 01/04

Daylight between Romney and Santorum on war with Iran?

GOP candidate Mitt Romney, responding to Rick Santorum’s rhetoric regarding strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, said that he does not want to threaten any “specific action right now,” in regards to Iran, but endorses military options (Think Progress 01/03).

Santorum has said he would order airstrikes on Iran if the country was going to acquire nuclear weapons, but reasoned to Glen Beck that this was an effort to prevent war (Think Progress 01/04).

Meanwhile, IPS reports that President Obama believes the U.S. could distance itself from Israeli strikes on Iran (IPS 01/03).

And White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the latest threats made by Iran concerning naval operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that “Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” and “is isolated and seeking to divert attention from its domestic problems” (The Hill 01/03).

Nuclear rod will not bring Iran closer to nuclear capability

Experts say that Iran’s recent claim that it has developed and tested it’s first nuclear rod will not bring Iran any closer to having atomic bombs (Reuters 01/04).

Meanwhile, a Russian defense official, responding to a series of tests conducted by Ira near the Strait of Hormuz, said that Iran has no long-range missiles (AFP 01/03).

Iranian political activist’s message leaked

A well-known Iranian political activist, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, has recorded a video from inside Iran’s infamous Rajayishahr prison dismissing Iran’s repressive measures aimed at silencing dissent and predicts they will ultimately fail (Rferl 01/03).

Iran News Roundup 01/03

Iran proposes new nuclear negotiations

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has proposed a new round of talks with the P5+1 nations concerning its nuclear program (Guardian 12/31). Salehi said that Iran is prepared to reenter negotiations based upon the “step by step” plan proposed by Russia in July.

A EU foreign policy spokesman said The European Union is open to talks with Iran provided there are no preconditions (Jerusalem Post 12/31).

This comes as Iran announces it has produced its first domestically-made nuclear fuel rod and inserted it into the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used for medical purposes (NY Times 01/01).

President signs new Iran sanctions into law

On Saturday, president Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), which includes a measure targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector (AFP 01/01).

In the president’s signing statement, he notes that the [Iran sanctions] section “1245 would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments. Like section 1244, should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding.”

Political analysts said that Washington hopes these sanctions will push foreign banks to change their behavior before the U.S. is required to freeze them from the U.S. financial markets (Reuters 01/02).

Reuters provides a detailed list of sanctions on Iran by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations over the last thirty years(Reuters 01/02).

Greece open to Iran sanctions

A Greek official has stated that if the EU decides to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Greece will join and not break ranks with its European Union partners (Reuters 01/03).

Meanwhile, Oil prices jumped to over $101 a barrel amid concerns over crude oil disruptions (Bloomberg 01/03).

Upcoming parliamentary elections a challenge for Iran hardliners

The New York Times reports on how a boycott by reformers and dire economic circumstances may undermine Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, posing a challenge to Iran’s conservative Islamic establishment (NY Times 01/02).

Iran News Roundup 12/30

Iran seeks renewed diplomacy

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran is prepared to renew talks with the P5+1 group of world powers over its nuclear program (Jerusalem Post 12/30).

Mossad chief: nuclear Iran not an existential threat  

Israeli Intelligence chief Tamir Pardo said that Israel will continue to use covert action to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, but if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it would not constitute an existential threat to Israel (Haaretz 12/29).

Shirin Ebadi calls on UN Security Council

Nobel Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi urges the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue of human rights in Iran and calls on it to empower the International Criminal Court to prosecute Iranian human rights abusers.  Additionally, Ebadi calls for mid-level officials to be added to the list of officials sanctioned for human rights abuses (Wall Street Journal 12/30).  

NY Times Editorial urges President to waive oil sanctions

A New York Times editorial strongly supports applying maximum pressure on Iran, but warns “penalizing foreign companies for engaging in otherwise lawful commerce with Iran is not the right way to go about it and could backfire.”  The Times states President Obama should “limit the damage by making full use of a waiver, which allows him to block the penalties if they would threaten national security or cause oil prices to soar.” (NY Times 12/29).  

Paul: sanctions lead to war

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul told voters in Iowa that Western sanctions against Iran are “acts of war,” which are likely to lead to an actual war (ABC 12/30).

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for The National Interest, Paul Piller discusses how the tactics of pressure and sanctions against Iran have made a diplomatic solution impossible:

We seem to have lost sight of what all those sanctions and pressure were supposed to achieve in the first place. They have come to be treated as if they were ends in themselves. That myopia, combined with reactive pigheadedness on the part of the Iranians, has produced a destructive spiral.

This is a tragedy in the making. It is being made largely because too many people in this country have lost sight both of U.S. interests and of the fundamental bargaining principle that if we want to solve a problem that involves someone else with whom we have differences, we should make it easier, not harder, for the other side to say yes.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The website of former Iranian president Rafsanjani has been shut down, reports the Associated Press.

Lawyers representing Iran’s Central Bank are preparing to file a motion in a New York federal court seeking to release nearly $2 billion of frozen assets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • 28 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/28

Tensions increase in the Persian Gulf

Iran’s naval commander claimed today that Iran “has total control over” the Strait of Hormuz and that it would be “very easy” for Iran to close it.  The remarks come just one day after Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza-Rahimi threatened that Iran would close the strait if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet replied that it would not “tolerate” any disruption of in the vital oil choke-point and that it is “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”  (NY Times 12/28)

Oil prices rose 2% yesterday due in part to the escalating rhetoric.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, noted that the situation is more dangerous than it might otherwise be because ‎”We are in a situation where there is essentially no communication between the Iranian government and the U.S. government.” (CNN 12/27)

Opposition leader dismisses upcoming elections

Opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, who is currently under house arrest, dismissed Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election in March, reportedly saying “[Iranian] officials do not believe in the people’s vote and they are preparing themselves for a rubber-stamp election.” (Reuters 12/26)

Human rights watch

Iran’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian American accused of spying.  (Guardian 12/27)Iran is denying requests for consular access to Hekmati. (State Department 12/28)

The Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced Ibrahim Yazdi to eight years jail. The 80 year-old Iranian former foreign minister suffers from cancer and heart ailments. (AP 12/28)

The daughter of Iranian former president Akbar Rafsanjani is standing trial on charges of making anti-regime propaganda. She was previously arrested for taking part in protests after the 2009 presidential elections. (AFP 12/26)

Iran’s censorship of satellite television

The Wall Street Journal reports on Iran’s systematic jamming of satellite signals in order to control news and information. According to some estimates, 45% to 60% of Iranians watch satellite television, surpassing the numbers who have access to the Internet. (Wall Street Journal 12/27)

Romney attacks Paul over Iran

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Ron Paul’s stance on Iran, arguing that “the greatest threat that Israel faces and frankly the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran.” (LA Times 12/28) The intensified attacks come as Paul has taken a lead in Iowa polls before next week’s caucus there. (Fivethirtyeight 12/28)

MEK resettlement to Camp Liberty

The United Nations and the Iraqi government have agreed to relocate Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty. Secretary of Clinton welcomed the agreement and urged the MEK to work with the UN to facilitate the resettlement. The MEK has not indicated whether it will cooperate. (Washington Post 12/26)

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bennett Ramberg expresses concern that an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran could result in both countries targeting the others’ nuclear facilities and releasing huge amounts of radiation.

“Anyone who is thinking of attacking Iran should be prepared for powerful blows and iron fists.” So declared Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Nov. 10, speaking in response to reports that Israel may strike Iran’s nuclear plants. But the risk of tit-for-tat attacks raises a specter few seem to recognize: the first radiological war in history.

General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy commander of Iran’s armed forces, indicated what “blows” and “fists” could mean when he warned last month that Dimona — the center of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program — was “the most accessible target.”

[...]

Were a military attack [by Israel] to strike [Bushehr] at full power after months of operation, the release of radioactivity could be greater than at Chernobyl. Prevailing north, northwest winds would carry radioactive debris along the Gulf across sparsely populated regions. Given the size of the Bushehr plant, the lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima tell us that Iran’s cleanup burden, energy loss and medical and population-relocation costs could approach hundreds of billions of dollars over decades.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The Washington Post reports on the Obama Administration’s rapidly growing drone program, which is blurring long-standing lines between military and intelligence actions. (Washington Post 12/27)

Iran News Roundup 12/22

Iran’s currency troubles

The Financial Times reports that Iran’s currency has dropped almost 10 percent in recent days, a record low against the U.S. dollar.  While sanctions and economic mismanagement are likely culprits, some Iranian media have accused Ahamdinejad’s government of “engineering a deliberate devaluation to boost the rial value of its oil income in the final months of the fiscal year” to attempt to reduce the budget deficit, which some say could be as high as 7% of GDP (Financial Times 12/21).

Do GOP voters prefer diplomacy over war?

In an op-ed, Scott Clement writes that, although Republican voters see Iran as a threat, more than six in 10 pick “economic and diplomatic efforts” as the best Iran policy rather than military options (Washington Post 12/21).

Ambassador Rice discusses Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy 

U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program during a U.N. Security Council briefing, specifically about the possibility of secret underground enrichment facilities in Iran. In her assessment, the Security Council “must redouble its efforts to implement the sanctions already imposed,” barring weapons and nuclear-related business with Iran in order to buy “more time to resolve this crisis through diplomatic means” (Think Progress 12/21).

Rice also noted, “[S]anctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions” (State Department 12/21).

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles

On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).

The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).

DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran

 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).

Camp Ashraf closure delayed

Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).

American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).