Iran Digest Week of February 2 - 9

Iran Digest Week of February 2 - 9

Iran Plays Down Report that US Secretly Asked for Talks on Prisoners

An Iranian official dismissed as “old news” on Thursday a report in the Western news media that Washington had reached out to Tehran in December to establish secret, back-channel talks to negotiate the release of prisoners held by both sides.
The official, Hamidreza Taraghi, said that he had given interviews as far back as July to Iranian news outlets about similar attempts by the Trump administration to arrange secret talks on prisoners using intermediaries from Oman and from Europe.
But Mr. Taraghi, an adviser to the hard-liners around the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Iran had rejected the entreaties then and would never enter into discussions with the Trump administration. (New York Times

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Iran Digest Week of January 26 - February 2

Iran Digest Week of January 26 - February 2

Tillerson: US, European allies working on Iran nuclear deal

Working groups have begun meeting to discuss possible ways to address what the Trump administration sees as serious flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday.
Speaking to reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Tillerson said that the U.S. had already reached an agreement with Germany, France and the United Kingdom — the three European countries involved in the Iran deal — to identify problem areas within the agreement.
The working groups, he said, are looking at the scope of what to address in the Iran deal, as well as how to engage Tehran on possible fixes to those issues. (The Hill)
 

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Iran Digest Week of January 19 - 26

Iran Digest Week of January 19 - 26

Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military

The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.
The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven't done so for five months, U.S. military officials said.  (Wall Street Journal)

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AIC Chairman Senator Johnston Speaks with Tehran Times & Mehr News

AIC Chairman Senator Johnston Speaks with Tehran Times & Mehr News

AIC's Chairman Senator Johnston was recently interviewed by journalist Javad Heiran-Nia of the Tehran Times and Mehr News.  

The Tehran Times interview is copied below.  The Persian language version in Mehr News can be found here:   https://www.mehrnews.com/news/4208064

TEHRAN — Bennett Johnston, an American politician in the Democratic Party and lobbyist who represented Louisiana in the United States Senate is the current chairman of the American-Iranian Council. Mr. Johnston is of the opinion that under the present circumstances, neither the EU nor Iran would accept Trump’s new conditions that undermine the Iran nuclear contract. “We know that President Trump’s team – that is the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State publicly and strongly are in favor of the continuation of the agreement,” Johnston tells the Tehran Times. The Chairman of the American-Iranian Council also adds that “it is clearly not in the interest of the U.S. or Iran to withdraw from the JCPOA.” Following is the text of the interview:

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Iran Digest Week of January 12 - 19

Iran Digest Week of January 12 - 19

Iran Sanctions: Tehran Vows Retaliation Over Trump Move

Iran says the US has "crossed a red line" by imposing sanctions on the head of its judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani.
The foreign ministry vowed to retaliate but did not say what form any action might take. Iran also rejected any changes to its nuclear deal with world powers.
US President Donald Trump, a critic of the 2015 accord to prevent Iran developing nuclear arms, said he would extend sanctions relief one last time. However, the US imposed fresh sanctions on 14 individuals and entities over alleged human rights abuses. (BBC)

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Iran Digest Week of January 5 - 12

Iran Digest Week of January 5 - 12

Trump Is Expected To Stop Short Of Reimposing Strict Sanctions On Iran

President Trump has again stopped short of reimposing draconian sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, two people briefed on his decision said on Thursday, but he is expected to give Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the deal or the United States will pull out of it.
He also approved targeted sanctions against several Iranian government officials for corruption and human rights abuses, some of it related to the antigovernment protests that have convulsed Iranian cities this month, these people said.
Mr. Trump’s action, which the White House will announce on Friday, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it “the worst deal ever” and threatening repeatedly to rip it up. (The New York Times

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Trump’s National Security Strategy: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Trump’s National Security Strategy: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The Trump administration’s recently issued National Security Strategy for 2017 has already sunk from public sight. Judged by its content, that is as it should be. As The New York Times reflected when the NSS was issued, both its tone and substance were in marked contrast to the remarks that President Donald made at its unveiling, which contained more of the sharp edges his foreign and domestic policies usually possess.

In any event, the annual NSS is a bastard document. Congress mandated its preparation and public issuance in the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act as a means for Capitol Hill to try getting a handle on the administration’s foreign and national security policy. But over the years, few if any of these documents have measured up to the task. Most important, the NSS is not operational: that is, it contains no decisions about foreign policy, defense, and the all-important appropriations to make them work. The Office of Management and Budget plays that role in its annual budget submissions to Congress. At the Pentagon, that role is played by the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), from which cascade progressively more granular documents that culminate in spending requests. The NSS itself has no practical effect.

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Iran Digest Week of December 29 - January 5

Iran Digest Week of December 29 - January 5

As Iran protests dwindle, U.S. calls emergency U.N. talks

The United Nations Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Friday afternoon on what U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has described as the "troubling and dangerous situation in Iran."
At least 450 people have been arrested and 21 killed in anti-government protests that swept quickly across the Islamic Republic late last week. The demonstrations began Thursday with a single protest in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad over economic hardship, and the rate at which they spread took both the regime in Tehran and the U.S. by surprise.
But as the Trump administration sought to use the protests to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, issuing public support for the demonstrators and calling for a United Nations response, the Iranians appeared to have largely quashed the uprisings with an overwhelming and aggressive security response. (CBS)

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2018 New Year Greeting

2018 New Year Greeting

Let us begin by sending you a warm New Year greeting from everyone at the American Iranian Council. Given the growing US objections to Iran’s missile program and regional behavior, US-Iran relations could further deteriorate in the months ahead despite the fact that Iran has implemented its commitments in the JCPOA (the nuclear deal).  Even more daunting are the challenges that come with the growing troubles between Iran and the two major US Middle east allies, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

However, and notwithstanding these difficulties, we strongly believe that, with your support, we can make 2018 a year of substantive achievements.

AIC is a long-standing non-profit, non-partisan educational organization with nearly three decades of experience working with administrations on both sides of the political aisle.  Because of our longevity and expertise, as well as the caliber of our leadership, we are well-positioned and prepared to work with the Trump administration to achieve meaningful results towards improved understanding and dialogue.

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Iran Digest Week of December 15 - 22

Iran Digest Week of December 15 - 22

U.S. Urges U.N. To Punish Iran, But Russia Says No Sanctions

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the Security Council on Tuesday to punish Iran for what the Trump administration calls its "dangerous violations" of U.N. resolutions and "destabilizing behavior," while Russia said dialogue is needed rather than threats or sanctions.
Haley told a council meeting on implementation of the resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that in the coming days the U.S. will explore a number of options with council members to pressure the Iranians "to adjust their behavior."
Haley said the council could strengthen the resolution, adopt a new one to prohibit all Iranian ballistic missile activity, explore sanctions "in response to its clear violation of the Yemen arms embargo," and hold the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accountable for violating numerous council resolutions. (ABC)

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Iran Digest Week of December 8 - 15

  Iran Digest Week of December 8 - 15

Haley Says U.S. Has Evidence Iran Is Violating U.N. Resolution

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, standing before military debris that she claimed to be of Iranian origin, offered Thursday what she presented as “indisputable” evidence of Iran’s UN resolution-violating actions in the Middle East.
“The nuclear deal has done nothing to moderate the regime’s conduct in other areas. Aid from Iran’s revolutionary guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing,” Haley said at a press conference at Joint Base Andrews, where reporters were invited to inspect the evidence on display behind her.
“Its ballistic missile and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” (Politico)

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Iran Digest Week of December 1 - 8

Iran Digest Week of December 1 - 8

CIA Director Sent Warning To Iran Over Threatened U.S. Interests In Iraq

The CIA director said on Saturday he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the US would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on US interests in Iraq.
Mike Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran and was this week reported to be under consideration to become secretary of state, said he sent the letter to Gen Qassem Soleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general did not read it.
“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might, in fact, threaten US interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. “He refused to open the letter – didn’t break my heart, to be honest with you. (The Guardian)

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AIC's Emad Kiyaei Moderates Discussion with Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Seyed Hossein Mousavian at Hamilton College

AIC's Emad Kiyaei Moderates Discussion with Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Seyed Hossein Mousavian at Hamilton College

On Thursday, November 30th, 2017 former ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Seyed Hossein Mousavian discussed US-Iran relations and the JCPOA (otherwise known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal”) at an event at Hamilton College moderated by Emad Kiyaei. Pickering served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, as well as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Russia, India, Israel, and Jordan. Mousavian served as the Iranian Ambassador to Germany, Head of the Foreign Relations Committee on Iran’s National Security Council, General Director of the Foreign Ministry for West Europe, and as Iran’s spokesman during the P5+1 nuclear negotiations. Kiyaei is the Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor at Hamilton College, a principal at the IGD group, and a policy advisor to the AIC.

Photography courtesy of Nancy L. Ford

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Iran Digest Week of November 24 - December 1

Iran Digest Week of November 24 - December 1

Turkish Gold Trader Implicates Erdogan In Iran Money Laundering

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader on Thursday told jurors in a New York federal court that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan authorized a transaction in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
Reza Zarrab is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive accused of helping to launder money for Iran. At the time of the alleged conspiracy, Erdogan was Turkey's prime minister.
Zarrab said he had learned from Zafer Caglayan, who was Turkey's economy minister, that Erdogan and then-treasury minister Ali Babacan had authorized two Turkish banks, Ziraat Bank and VakifBank, to move funds for Iran. (U.S. News)

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Iran Digest Week of November 10 - 17

Iran Digest Week of November 10 - 17

Criticism Of U.S. Sanctions Returns In Iran After Earthquake

With Iranian-Americans abroad unable to send money directly to Iran to aid those affected by this week’s powerful earthquake that killed over 530 people, criticism of U.S. sanctions on Iran flared up anew on Thursday.
The 2015 nuclear deal Tehran struck with world powers lifted some sanctions but others, dating back as far as the days after the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover, still stand, including those that prohibit about 1 million Iranian-Americans from directly sending cash to Iran.
The state-run IRNA news agency, as well as other media, published articles criticizing the rules. “Despite all the difficulties, Iranians living in the U.S. are doing their best to devise innovative solutions to send their humanitarian supplies to the quake-hit areas in western Iran,” IRNA’s report said. (The Washington Post)

 

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Iran Chat: Interview with Dr. James Miller about Health Diplomacy

Iran Chat: Interview with Dr. James Miller about Health Diplomacy

Our latest Iran Chat is with Dr. James Miller, Managing Director of the Oxford International Development Group, a health research and project management consulting company in Oxford, Mississippi.  

Dr. Miller began working in the area of health diplomacy in 2004 while seeking ways to improve health outcomes and access to medical care for people in the impoverished rural Mississippi Delta region.  For this, he turned to Iran’s primary health care model, which is known for its system of health houses staffed by citizen health workers who provide health education and preventative health services to their local communities.  Recognized by the World Health Organization for its success in improving medical outcomes for rural communities in Iran,  Dr. James Miller began working with the architects of this system to develop and adapt the Iranian model in ways that could address the health disparity challenges in the impoverished Delta regions.   

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Iran Digest Week of November 3 - 10

Saudi Accuses Iran Of Potential 'Act Of War'

Saudi Arabia has lashed out at Iran over the firing of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh by Houthi rebels in Yemen, citing evidence that Tehran was behind the attack and labeling it a potential "act of war".
A statement issued on Monday via the state news agency SPA denounced the "flagrant military aggression by the Iranian-controlled Houthi militias" and said that an examination of the debris "confirmed the role of Iran's regime in manufacturing [this and a previous missile] and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the Kingdom, its people, and vital interests".
The statement accused Iran of violating the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits states from supplying weapons to Yemeni armed groups. "Iran's role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitutes a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally," the SPA statement noted. (Al Jazeera) 

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AIC's President Dr. Amirahmadi Speaks with Radio Farda

AIC's President Dr. Amirahmadi Speaks with Radio Farda

AIC's President Dr. Amirahmadi recently spoke with Radio Farda regarding US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's explanation of US policy towards Iran.  The audio is in Persian; the English translation is below.

Translated and transcribed by: Celine Aslinia

After meeting with his counterpart in New Delhi, India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that America’s policy towards Iran had three axes:  “one was dealing with the nuclear agreement between Iran and 5 + 1 countries. The second important pillar of that policy is to deal with Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” The ‘destabilizing activities’ [Tillerson] mentioned included the manufacturing of ballistic missiles, procurement of weapons for terrorist groups, delivery of fighters to foreign countries, and intervention in Yemen, Syria, and other areas. [Tillerson continued], “And the third pillar - which does not get talked about much - is a support for moderate voices inside of Iran. We know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government.”

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Iran-Iraq Earthquake Kills More Than 450

Iran-Iraq Earthquake Kills More Than 450

Published in the NYTimes by Thomas Erdbrink

Iranians dug through rubble in a frantic search for survivors on Monday, after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border, killing more than 450 people and injuring thousands of others in the world’s deadliest earthquake so far this year.

The quake, recorded at 9:18 p.m. on Sunday, was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. The epicenter was near Ezgeleh, Iran, about 135 miles northeast of Baghdad, and had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, according to the United States Geological Survey. Seismologists in the country said it was the biggest quake to hit the western part of Iran.

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The United States should stand by the Iran deal

The United States should stand by the Iran deal

Originally published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
By AIC's Honorary Board Member Thomas R. Pickering.  

President Donald Trump has taken the first step toward pulling the United States out of the international agreement that is preventing the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

With no factual basis, this decision looms like pure domestic politics over America’s international commitments and leadership. Trust is the coin of the realm in foreign affairs, and we have just begun to debase it in the eyes of much of the world. Who will make a deal with us if we can confect a reason out of thin air to pull out of our agreements? U.S. leadership is imperiled, especially in dealing with Iran and North Korea.

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