The US secretary of state has accused Iran of "alarming ongoing provocations" aimed at destabilizing the Middle East and undermining America's interests. "An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and to take the world along with it," Rex Tillerson said. The US has ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal, although it admits Iran is complying with its commitments.Iran's foreign minister dismissed Mr Tillerson's criticism as "worn out". (BBC)
Iran Joins Russia in Denouncing U.S. Strike on Syria, but Stops There
The punitive American missile strike on Syria for the chemical weapons attack a week ago brought Syria’s most important backers, Russia and Iran, publicly closer together — whether the Iranians want to be or not. Far from accepting the Trump administration’s version of the chemical weapons assault, the Iranians joined the Russians in rejecting it and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Nonetheless, Iran and Russia do not see eye to eye on everything in a relationship shaped by mistrust, a legacy of Iranian resentment of Russia’s historical expansionism and Soviet-era attempts at domination. (NY Times)
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has registered as a candidate in Iran's presidential election, despite being told not to by the Supreme Leader. Mr Ahmadinejad, a hardliner who served two terms between 2005 and 2013, filed paperwork for the 19 May poll at the interior ministry in Tehran. Last year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned him that such a move was "not in his interest and that of the country". But Mr Ahmadinejad told reporters on Tuesday that had been "just advice". Associated Press journalists who witnessed Mr Ahmadinejad register on Tuesday said election officials were "stunned" when he submitted the paperwork.
Originally posted on Reuters By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
Ex-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad submitted his name on Wednesday for registration as a candidate in Iran's presidential election in May, state media reported. Although the move by the former hardline president was seen as an attempt to bolster the candidacy of an ally, it was also a challenge to the authority of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had ordered him not to run. Registration for the May 19 election started on Monday and will last five days, after which entrants will be screened for their political and Islamic qualifications by a vetting body, the Guardian Council. President
New U.S. Sanctions Bill Delayed by Concern Over Iran Election
A bill to slap new sanctions on Iran has been delayed in the U.S. Senate due to concerns about Iran's May presidential election, in which conservative hardliners hope to defeat moderate President Hassan Rouhani, U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday. A group of Democratic and Republican senators introduced the bill in March seeking to impose tighter U.S. sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile launches and other non-nuclear activities, echoing a harder line on Tehran espoused by Republican President Donald Trump. But on Tuesday, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said the bill would not move forward for now. (Reuters)
Iran Imposes Sanctions on 15 U.S. Companies Iran imposed sanctions on 15 American companies, saying that they were involved in human rights violations and had cooperated with Israel, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, in a tit-for-tat reaction to a move by Washington The agency quoted Iran’s foreign ministry as saying the companies had “flagrantly violated human rights” and cooperated with Israel in its “terrorism” against Palestinians and in the expansion of Jewish settlements. It was not immediately clear if any of the companies, which included the military technology firm Raytheon, had any dealings with Iran or whether they would be affected by Tehran’s action, which IRNA said would include seizing of their assets and a ban on contacts with them. (The New York Times)
Trump Sends Holiday Greetings to Iranians, Does Not Mention Travel Ban
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to ban travelers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, issued a holiday greeting on Wednesday to Iranians celebrating the New Year holiday known as Nowruz. Trump, who has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers negotiated during President Barack Obama's administration, did not refer to the travel ban in his statement. "Nowruz means 'new day' in Persian. It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. (Reuters)
Trump Travel Ban: Second U.S. Judge Blocks the New Executive Order
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked US President Donald Trump's new travel ban, which was due to begin after midnight on Thursday. The order would have placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. Both judges questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory. President Trump insists the move is to stop terrorists from entering the United States.He complained of "unprecedented judicial overreach". (BBC News)
Iran’s Top Leader Appears to Rebuke President as Election Nears
Iran’s top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits. The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer. “We receive complaints from people,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. “People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now.” (NYTimes)
Iran Uses Oscar Win to Attack Trump, U.S. Response Muted
Tehran has cheered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s second Oscar for best foreign film as an opportunity for more verbal attacks on the Trump administration, which responded with a muted defense of U.S. policy and deletion of a tweet about the movie. A day after Farhadi’s The Salesman received the honor at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles, three senior Iranian officials sent him congratulatory messages that also contained criticisms of President Donald Trump, whom Tehran blames for increased tensions between the two nations since he took office last month. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that he was proud of The Salesman’s cast and crew for taking a stance against what he described as the Trump administration’s ”Muslim ban.” (VOA News)
While the ban has been altered from the prior version in an effort to avoid another legal challenge by the judicial branch, the legality of the new order remains highly questionable. For example, the blanket ban on immigration from six Muslim majority countries may still be an unconstitutional "Muslim" ban due to the administration's numerous prior statements about the order's purpose. It may also be illegal pursuant to a 1965 law that prohibits discrimination in immigration on the basis of nationality.
Beyond these legal concerns, the new ban suffers the same broader issues that we raised in our statement opposing the original executive order. In that statement we maintained that targeting entire countries is unjust and counterproductive to U.S. interests. The American Iranian Council is particularly concerned that the executive order doubles down on the perception that America is at war with Islam.
LONDON: Thousands of people braved London's winter drizzle on Sunday for a screening of the Oscar-nominated movie that has become a rallying point for opponents of U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
Hours ahead of what looked set to be the most politicised Academy Awards for years, London Mayor Sadiq Khan made clear his political motivation in hosting the British premiere of the "The Salesman", whose Iranian director is boycotting the Hollywood ceremony.
"President Trump cannot silence me," Khan said to cheers from the crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square. "We stand in solidarity with Asghar Farhadi, one of the world’s greatest directors."
Iran Army Chief Threatens to Give U.S. 'Slap in the Face' After Donald Trump Puts Tehran 'On Notice'
The US should expect a "strong slap in the face" if it underestimates Iran's defensive capabilities, a commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards has warned. Since taking office, President Donald Trump promised a tougher approach on Iran and warned the Islamic Republic it was playing with fire after its recent ballistic missile test. "The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake," General Mohammad Pakpour said, in quotes reported on the Guards' website. (Independent)
(CNN) - Director Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards.
But Farhadi was not in attendance to claim the Oscar for his film, "The Salesman." He boycotted the awards show in protest of President Donald Trump's executive order that temporarily barred travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the United States. A federal judge has since put the travel ban on hold.
In a prepared speech delivered by Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi explained his decision.
In Escalating Conflict with Trump, Iran's Supreme Leader Says his Country is 'Not Afraid of Threats'
Escalating a war of words with President Trump, Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday that the Islamic Republic was "not afraid of threats" and vowed large anti-American protests beginning Friday. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks were his first since Trump attempted to bar Iranians from entering the United States and said he was putting Iran "on notice" after it tested a ballistic missile. Meeting with military commanders, Khamenei said Trump's attempt to impose a travel ban against Iran and six other predominantly Muslim countries showed “the reality of American human rights.” (The Los Angeles Times)
Defense, Intelligence Officials Caution White House on Terrorist Designation for Iran's Revolutionary Guard Senior defense and intelligence officials have cautioned the White House that a proposal to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and the overall fight against the Islamic State, and would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions. Defense and intelligence concerns have been expressed at the highest levels over the past several days, as the White House was preparing to roll out an executive order dealing with both Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Muslim Brotherhood, according to administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive matter. (The Washington Post)
Trump says "Nothing off the table" on Iran, as Republicans plan action
U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to impose new sanctions on multiple Iranian entities, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Tehran while crafting a broader strategy to counter what he sees as its destabilizing behavior, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. In the first tangible action against Iran since Trump took office on Jan. 20, the administration, on the same day he insisted that "nothing is off the table," prepared to roll out new measures against more than two dozen Iranian targets, the sources said. The announcement is expected as early as Friday, they added. (Reuters)
Originally published on The LobeLog by Nader Entessar, AIC Publications Review Committee Member US-Iranian relations since 1979 have been characterized by long periods of animosity and mutual demonization and only fleeting moments of relaxed tensions. Under President Trump, the United States has ratcheted up the anti-Iran rhetoric and actions, causing some analysts to opine that a military confrontation between the two countries is likely. Despite US-Iran tensions and the lack of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, a variety of people-to-people exchanges are among the very few forms of civil engagement between the two sides. Sporting events and other exchanges have played a leading role in enhancing Iranian-American public diplomacy. These examples of public or citizen diplomacy have challenged the malevolent stereotypes of Iranians that have become an ingrained part of American political discourse.
US Senators Rubio, Young, Cornyn, Introduce Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act In the first session of the new Congress, U.S. Republican Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Todd Young (R-IN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) reintroduced the Iran Non-nuclear Sanctions Act, a legislation that would impose harsh financial and economic sanctions countering Iran’s non-nuclear activities. The hawkish GOP senators, who had introduced the same bill last December, slammed the Obama administration for not adopting adequate measures against Iran. “I look forward to working with the new administration to hold Iran fully accountable for both its nonnuclear and nuclear threats,” Rubio said during the session, his official website reported on Tuesday. (Tehran Times)
Iran to Reserve Judgment on Trump Before He Takes Office
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif vowed to keep an open mind toward Donald Trump, saying it was too early to judge his policies despite the U.S. president-elect’s strongly worded antagonism toward Iran. "We will have to wait and see what President-elect Trump, once inaugurated, will try to pursue as his policy," Mr. Zarif said Wednesday, addressing a panel at the World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (The Wall Street Journal)
A US Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian boats on Sunday near the Strait of Hormuz, US Defense officials said Monday. Five Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan and two other US ships that were entering the strait, according to accounts from four sources. The Strait of Hormuz is situated between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The Mahan, a destroyer, fired warning shots and used radio calls, flares, bells and whistles to signal to the ships to stay away. (CNN)
While campaigning for office, Trump repeatedly maligned the Iran nuclear deal as one of the worst in American history, and variously promised to tear it up immediately after occupying the White House. Since the election, Trump has shifted his public commentary on the subject to emphasize renegotiation, but some media analysis has pointed out how this could effectively undermine the agreement and compel the Iranians to walk away from it. (Iran News Update)
Inside the 37- Year Standoff Over Iran's Frozen U.S. Dollars
When the shah of Iran fell in 1979, the U.S. froze at least $400 million of Iranian money sitting in a Pentagon trust fund. The Islamic Republic of Iran never stopped trying to get it back.
Tehran unsuccessfully sought the money from Jimmy Carter in return for 52 American diplomats held hostage for 444 days. It asked the Reagan administration for the same money during dealings that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. The issue came up yet again during negotiations with George H.W. Bush’s White House.
No administration agreed to surrender all the money, until Jan.17, shortly after four American citizens were released from Iranian jailsin a prisoner exchange. That is when an Iranian government Boeing737 lifted off from Geneva’s Cointrin airport carrying $400 million—stacks of Swiss francs delivered on wooden pallets earlier that day by the U.S. government. (The Wall Street Journal)
President-elect Donald Trump's priorities in foreign policy have yet to be spelled out in any detail. Certainly trade matters to him, and so does going after ISIS; the events in Ankara and Berlin are sure to deepen that impulse. In that connection, he has said more than once that the Russians and the Syrians are fighting the Islamic State, and that we should take advantage of their doing so.
This is a far dicier proposition than it may appear on its face — particularly inasmuch as it may strengthen the hand of Iran throughout the Middle East. (US News)
Originally posted on The LobeLog By Shireen T. Hunter, former AIC Board Member
Last year’s nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), has many detractors in the United States and elsewhere, including U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. They have always maintained that the deal benefits Iran more than the United States and its allies. Many of these detractors have thus argued that the JCPOA should be renegotiated or simply cancelled.
Now, however, many of them are singing a different tune. Following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal or violation of the agreement has become real. Suddenly, many of the agreement’s earlier detractors have become its fans. They are finally admitting that the United States and other countries, which want to forestall the possibility that Iran might build nuclear weapons, actually got a good deal. Despite claims by the Iranian government that it could easily turn the nuclear switch back on, it would be hard for Iran to resume its activities without facing intensified economic sanctions, by the United States and many other countries, not to mention the serious risk of a military confrontation or even open conflict with the U.S. Perhaps because of this fact, after a meeting in Tehran with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukio Amano, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Iran will not be the first to leave JCPOA.
Iran sanctions renewal becomes law without Obama signature
In an unexpected reversal, President Barack Obama declined to sign a renewal of sanctions against Iran but let it become law anyway, in an apparent bid to alleviate Tehran's concerns that the U.S. is backsliding on the nuclear deal.
Although the White House had said that Obama was expected to sign the 10-year-renewal, the midnight deadline came and went Thursday with no approval from the president. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama had decided to let it become law without his signature.
"The administration has, and continues to use, all of the necessary authorities to waive the relevant sanctions" lifted as part of the nuclear deal, Earnest said in a statement. (CNBC)
The fear that's keeping Iranian Americans from visiting their homeland
Sitting inside his empty travel agency in Los Angeles, Farhad Besharati expressed concern about the decline of his business.
The majority of his customers are older Persians who come to him when they want to purchase airline tickets to Iran. But lately, he said, some are canceling their flights, and fewer people are arranging trips.
Besharati blames recent arrests in his homeland of Iranianswho hold dual citizenship, some of whom have received lengthy prison sentences. (LA Times)
Originally posted on Dallas News By Honorary Board Member, Thomas R. Pickering
Our new president will face many tough challenges in devising a strategy to assure America's security. He will be the first since 1979 who will not have to immediately devise a strategy to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
The nuclear agreement with Iran provides strong assurance that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (the so-called P5+1) came together to achieve this objective by negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. Iran without a nuclear weapon is far less threatening to Israel, the region and the U.S.
Mohsen Milani details his Expectations for Future U.S. - Iran Relations in a Trump Administration
Unusual, unpredictable and inescapable in US media coverage, the American presidential election also dominated news outlets across the globe.
For the first time in history, Iran aired U.S. presidential debates, underscoring Iran’s prominence in U.S foreign policy. While contemporary analyses — especially in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s rise — often paint Iran as an enemy, the University of South Florida’s Mohsen Milani is quick to point out Iran’s pre-1979 amity with the United States.
“Prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the U.S. and Iran were the closest of allies. More than 50,000 Americans lived in Iran. More than 65,000 Iranians students were studying in American universities. Then the Islamic Revolution came. The unfortunate hostage crisis took place. The two countries became bitter enemies,” Milani told KGOU’s World Views. (KGOU)
Originally posted on The LobeLog By Shireen T. Hunter, former AIC Board Member
Those observers in Iran who thought that a victory by Donald Trump in the US presidential race would be in Iran’s interests should by now have realized how wrong they were. It’s not just because President-elect Trump vowed during the election campaign that he would tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action (JCPOA). More importantly, he has made key appointments that will have significant consequences for the future direction of American foreign policy.