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  • 3 May 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy

Dysfunctional Congress Threatens Iran Talks

As the United States and Iran look for an exit ramp off the road to war, they may find a surprising new obstacle: the very sanctions legislation that many credit for bringing Iran back to the negotiating table. As a result of that sanctions bill, Congress now has the de-facto power to block any diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. And the scary reality is that the same dysfunctional institution that almost drove the nation into default last summer can exercise this veto power over diplomacy by doing what it does best: nothing at all.

Congress created this dilemma when it passed draconian sanctions on Iran’s financial system and oil exports, but failed to give the President the power to repeal those sanctions under any conditions, regardless of whether Iran makes major concessions. Unlike all previous Iran sanctions, Congress did not make these new sanctions conditional on Iran’s behavior. If Iran agrees to certain criteria at the negotiating table, the President does not have the power to lift the sanctions. Now, only Congress can lift the most severe sanctions ever imposed on Iran.

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By Sahar Fahimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, Sanctions, UN

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look” (Part 2 of 2)

On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,”The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look,” on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC’s Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji’s original pen, Persian, to English.  This is the second half of the article; the first half is here.

The worst possible situation

Ayatollah Khamenei will never accept to retreat in Iran nuclear project. His policy in the Middle East and North Africa to support the extremist activities and calling the ongoing changes across the region “Islamic Revolution” soured the anti-Iran atmosphere, and put Persian Gulf countries in an confrontational position with Iran.

In this situation, what option remains for the Western countries other than increasing political and economic sanctions?

Let us assume that the western countries succeed in sanctioning all Iranian banks. Let us assume that this sanction also includes Iran’s fuel, and Iran is put in a situation similar to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s era. In this case, the unemployment rate in Iran will increase by millions, poverty will be expanded all over the country and the middle class will merge into the lower class. Tens of thousands of children and the elderly will lose their lives.

Would this situation lead to protests or cause a revolution? Thousands of different issues could lead to the collapse of the totalitarian religious regime, however, no one can predict that increasing unemployment and poverty will cause protests or spark a revolution. Consider Iraq, the toughest economic sanctions in ten years destroyed the Iraqi society, but did not hurt Saddam’s regime and at the end he stepped down only by military attack and invasion.

In the same situation, as long as the regime has power and intention to systemically crackdown any protests and critique, it will continue to survive. Decline in any of these two factors is a prerequisite for regime change.

A regime that can and yearns to remain in power by a broad crackdown, will sustain until these factors have changed.

Ahmadinejad Accuses Opposition of Supporting Sanctions

Earlier this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the latest round of international sanctions by lashing out at his political arch nemeses, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a televised conference with the heads of Iran’s propaganda machine, the IRIB.  Ahmadinejad didn’t call them out by name, instead referring to them as those “who were responsible for forcing the Imam [Khomeini] to drink the poisonous chalice” — referring to UN Security Council resolution that brought an end of the Iran-Iraq War.  These individuals – Rafsanjani and Mousavi — “were complicit with the West” in imposing sanctions against Tehran and trying to “put an end to our government,” Ahmadinejad claimed.

Of course the leaders of the Green Movement have repeatedly spoken out against international sanctions.  Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad pretended as if the opposite were true – not unlike much of official Washington – in order to attack the Green Movement as treasonous.

This being Ahmadinejad, he went even further. He declared “we wanted this from God –we were waiting for them [the Green Movement] to come,” alluding to the brutal crackdown on protests that ensued after his disputed re-election.

Despite Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric, his standing is not nearly as firm as he would have the world believe.

Ahmainejad’s allegations come a week after the head of the IRGC, Ali Jafari, admitted for the first time in public that some IRGC officials are supportive of the Green Movement.  According to Rahe Sabz, top officials, such as the Supreme Leader and top IRGC officers decided to forcibly retire 250 members of the Guards who had sided with Mousavi after last year’s disputed presidential election.

These two events together show the depths of the rifts that continue to grow by the day within the Iranian government.  Ahmadinejad’s striking accusations are surprising, even for someone as strident as Ahmadinejad. He is, after all, accusing the head of one of the most powerful institutions in the Islamic establishment of colluding with the U.S against his government.  Moreover, while there was always some speculation that certain members of the IRGC were at odds with the government’s brutal reaction to the demonstrations, Jafari’s announcement further demonstrates that the IRGC is not a monolithic institution with unwavering allegiance is to the Supreme Leader.

Although the green movement may seem to be on hiatus, people in the U.S should not make the mistake of believing that the movement has been crushed by the government. While protestors have grown weary of taking to the streets to be beaten, the political schisms in Iran show no signs of healing, and only time can tell what will happen next.


Leverage Through Sanctions Not a Long-Term Strategy

Last week, the U.S took a page out of its well-worn foreign policy playbook and imposed new sanctions on North Korea. The similarities between the U.S approach to North Korea and Iran are striking, centering on a strategy of sanctions, isolation, and containment.

It can be argued that the U.S has had more success isolating North Korea — though a lot of the responsibility for that also lies with Kim Jong Il (something the hardliners in Tehran should be aware of).  But there is one crucial difference in trying to apply this same model of containment and isolation to Iran, and that is Tehran’s indispensable geostrategic importance.

The Persian Gulf is and will continue to be perhaps the most vital region in the world. Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer, thereby providing the government substantial oil revenue, and giving them a key opportunity to ensure that sanctions never fully seal off the country’s economy, as there will also be a buyer for Iranian oil.

For that and other reasons, a policy that depends on isolation and  containment as the sole approach for dealing with Iran is doomed to fail.

By looking into the history of sanctions imposed on Iran, and by spending time in Iran, it’s not difficult to realize that sanctions are not as persuasive as many in Washington might like to believe. Under nearly three decades of sanctions, Iran went from having no enrichment capacity, to creating an indigenous reactor and installing more than 8000 centrifuges. Three rounds of international sanctions did not stymie their efforts to build the planned enrichment facility in Qom. Sanctions did not impede the IRGC’s ballistic missile program that is continually evolving.

Washington’s motto: “Leverage through Sanctions” clearly isn’t working — and it’s not because we haven’t made sanctions “crippling” enough.  It’s because Iran refuses to be bludgeoned into submission.  If a country like Iran faces a choice between economic hardship and absolute humiliation, it’s likely to choose hardship every time.  But if given a chance to save face, it’s very likely that Iran will play ball.  Diplomatic engagement offers a better way forward than sanctions ever will, precisely because diplomacy offers a chance to convey privately all of the ways Iran stands to gain by acceding to the demands of the international community.  It will be a give and take, with concessions on both sides, but it offers a much greater chance of success than sanctions, pressure, and bullying.

What’s more, a diplomatic solution offers a long-term strategy, while sanctions — even if successful — only offer a short-term change of behavior.  Think about it: if the US can make sanctions so painful that Iran gives up its nuclear program, isn’t it likely that future generations will resent that outside pressure being forced upon their country?  Throughout history, this pattern of behavior has given rise to nationalist movements that produce greater degrees of instability in the long run than the original conflict ever would have.

Alternatively, negotiated settlements offer the chance of a win-win, with no loss of national prestige and possibly even a net benefit for the country overall.

  • 25 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Vl
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Persian Gulf

Iran’s Hardliners Continue Splitting

Tensions are boiling in Iran’s parliament over the government’s demand to take control over the assets of Azad University, which amounts to over $200 billion. This feud between the parliament and Ahmadinejad’s administration reflects the ongoing battles between the camps of Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. (Azad University was one of the most successful pet projects and legacies of the Rafsanjani era.)

Recently, the hardliners organized a mob of Basijis to demonstrate against the parliament in order to make the MPs succumb to the government’s demands for changing the Azad University’s Board of Directors that are part of the Rafsanjani coterie. The mob chanted offensive slogans, like “Death to the hypocrites” and “Shame on this disgraceful assembly.”

But this intimidation actually backfired. In response, many conservative MP’s lashed out at the government of Ahmadinejad for instigating “such insolence.” This response is reflective of an emerging third conservative faction that has become disillusioned with the hard-liners like Ahmadinejad and is increasingly distancing themselves from their hostile policies. Prominent conservative elements of the Majlis, like Motahari and Larijani, are also fed up with the political tactics of intimidation employed by Ahmadinejad supporters.

Obviously, this rift in the establishment is the product of last year’s presidential elections. The post-election turmoil sparked an internal power struggle that is continuously fluctuating in its intensity. Without this constant struggle, it is unlikely that such a sensitive matter that would have so embroiled the different chambers of the Iranian government, and then have surfaced for the entire Iranian nation to see as well.

  • 14 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran

IRI’s Helping Hand

Hardline backers attacked and vandalized Grand Ayatollah Saanei's office on Sunday.

While some Iranians came out to protest on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections this weekend, others came out to attack Mehdi Karroubi and the offices of Grand Ayatollah Saanei and late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Karroubi, who traveled to Qom on Sunday for a mourning ceremony, planned on visiting Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, and the family of late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Shortly after arriving at the house of Saanei, a group of pro-regime backers encircled Saanei’s house, chanting slogans against Karroubi and Saanei. They also attacked Karroubi’s car, which despite being bulletproof, was still heavily damaged due to the severity of the attacks.

While these attacks were not particularly surprising — just another statistic added to the many other attacks this past year — what was surprising was the IRGC’s aid to Karroubi. The IRGC not only urged the violent crowds to disperse, but Karroubi also took refuge in a building owned by the Revolutionary Guards per their request until 4 in the morning on Monday when he finally left for Tehran. He escaped through a corridor made by the anti-riot police to ensure safe passing of Karroubi’s car.

As any Iranian who first points to an underlying conspiracy as the reason for an unnatural event taking place, I assumed it was the regime that set up the entire thing. Photos of Saanei’s office greatly resembled photos of university dormitories attacked by the Basij following the elections last year. Plain clothed thugs were hired by the regime, I thought, and then the IRGC came to the ‘rescue,’ showing the regime’s kindhearted nature, even to the opposition. It would serve for a brilliant propaganda campaign. But after fruitlessly searching on Press TV for any news of this event, I realized I was slightly off.

But only slightly. The place to look was Raja News, not Press TV. The state media was broadcasting the event, and of Karroubi’s flee from the people on domestic news sites, not international ones. The state-run media seemed to mock Karroubi for escaping a violent crowd — though I couldn’t imagine anyone in their right mind doing differently.

And all the while, the police did nothing. Shortly after Karroubi escaped, police and security forces stood by, watching while the mob attacked Saanei’s house and office and vandalized the late Montazeri’s office.  Said opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s son Hossein:

From the sudden gathering and the behavior of this group, it is obvious that they did not act by themselves and have orders.

This elaborate, and very organized plan, served the regime quite well. First of all, it allowed them to score some cheap points through the fear of violence.  Also, the IRGC very deliberately prevented the mob from going too far — because the last thing they want to do is create another martyr for the opposition movement.

Iran was shaken up after the death of Neda, and again, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri last year.  Another martyr would serve as the very flame needed to ignite the relatively smaller protests on the anniversary this year and turn them into something bigger, resembling the protests that followed the previous deaths. And so the IRGC prevented that from happening.

To be clear, this could have been a very major event — and it appears the senior leadership in the IRGC knew it.

For me, it wasn’t the violence that was surprising — thankfully, no one was hurt — it was its target: two grand ayatollahs, Montazeri and Saanei.  I was looking through the pictures of Saanei’s attacked office and saw a broken mohr.  A Mohr is a small clay tablet that Shi’a Muslims use to pray.

There’s no better illustration than this of what Montazeri meant when he said Iran is no longer Islamic nor a republic.

  • 1 February 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file

Tehran dismisses another US sanction

Last Thursday the US senate passed a broad, indiscriminate sanctions bill that would restrict Iran’s importation of petroleum; predictably this move was promptly dismissed by authorities in Tehran. It is reported, (via www.presstv.com) that Ramin Mehman-Parast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the US will not persuade Iran to give up any “legal rights” to its nuclear program, as Iran has adamantly claimed that the nuclear program is in line with Iran’s commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

We have repeatedly said that the US sanctions imposed against our nation during the past 31 years … have resulted in nothing but our nations’ stronger determination to assert independence and achieve self-reliance,” [Mehman-Parast] said.

The Senate bill will require President Obama to punish foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran.

Additionally, Press TV also reports that senior Iranian lawmaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel gave a speech on Monday, stating that Tehran will stand firmly by its cause regardless if the US is trying to gain universal consensus for sanctions against Iran, conveying that Iran’s national response to the world powers is “Independence, freedom and the Islamic Republic.”

The Iranian nation conveys this message to arrogant and bullying powers that it will firmly support its independence, freedom and ideals,” said Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on Monday in a speech on the occasion of the start of ceremonies marking the 31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
“We will not bow to pressure [of bullying powers] concerning our legal right to peaceful nuclear technology”.

Some in Congress Get Smart on Iran

Cross-posted from the HuffingtonPost:

For more than two decades now, US policy on Iran has depended almost entirely on sanctions. Even now, Congress is set to pass the latest in a long line of “crippling” pressures: a gasoline embargo that both Republicans and Democrats believe is unlikely to alter Iran’s behavior in the slightest, but which some hope will cause enough pain for the Iranian people that they will protest a little harder than they already are.

But the yardstick for an effective Iran policy is not how much pain and suffering it will cause among innocent Iranians. Rather, changing the policies and behavior of Tehran’s repressive government should be our ultimate goal. This means that when it comes to sanctions, bigger is not always better. If Washington wants to do something on Iran, it should first stop helping the Ahmadinejad government repress its people.

Luckily, there is a chance that things are about to change. Just as most of Congress is stuck in the narrow mindset of draconian sanctions, two new bills have been introduced that offer a new way forward on Iran. The Stand with the Iranian People Act (SWIPA), led by Rep. Keith Ellison, and the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA), led by Rep. Jim Moran, both seek to redefine how Congress approaches the Iran issue, in favor of a smarter, more holistic strategy.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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