Week of April 20 - 27
AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Research Fellow Shiva Darian and Communications Associate Shahab Moghadam. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.
Mattis says Iran nuclear deal includes 'robust' verification
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday emphasized the value of certain aspects of the Iran nuclear agreement, even as President Donald Trump considers pulling out of the 2015 deal, which he has attacked repeatedly and this week called "insane."
Without explicitly giving his opinion about whether the United States should stick with the agreement, Mattis said that after reading the full text of the deal three times, he was struck by provisions that allow for international verification of Iran's compliance. He said that since becoming defense secretary in January 2017, he also has read what he called a classified protocol in the agreement.
"I will say it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat," he said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in" with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to check on compliance. (Star Tribune)
Trump Signals Openness to a ‘New Deal’ to Constrain Iran
President Trump signaled on Tuesday that he was open to a new arrangement with European allies that would preserve the Iran nuclear agreement by expanding and extending its terms to constrain Tehran’s development of missiles and other destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
Hosting President Emmanuel Macron of France at the White House, Mr. Trump again assailed the agreement made by the Obama administration as “insane” and “ridiculous,” but said he could agree to “a new deal” negotiated by American and European officials if it was strong enough. He made no commitment, however, leaving it unclear whether he will pull out of the agreement by a May 12 deadline he has set to either “fix” the Iran agreement or walk away from it. (New York Times)
AP FACT CHECK: Trump's oft-told tale of US payout to Iran
President Donald Trump likes to tell a story about the U.S. paying out billions of dollars to Iran as part of the multinational deal freezing its nuclear program and easing sanctions against it. What he doesn't say is that most of that money was Iran's to begin with. The rest relates to an old debt the U.S. had with Iran.
The numbers and some details change in his retelling - dating back to the 2016 campaign - but his bottom line is always the same: The Obama administration was hoodwinked into giving Iran all that money, some of it in a huge and hidden bundle of cash. (Fox 25 Boston)
Iran's Foreign Minister: America Is Already Violating the Nuclear Deal
Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, spoke with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, in an interview in New York on Monday, April 23, 2018. The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Jacob Heilbrunn: President Trump has until May 12 to make a decision on the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). What happens if he does indeed announce that the U.S. is officially withdrawing?
Mohammad Javad Zarif: Well, you made a pertinent point: officially withdrawing. Because the United States, under President Trump, has really not been a part of the JCPOA, has violated almost every U.S. commitment under the JCPOA, so we’ve had almost sixteen months of a trial period for official withdrawal. If the United States officially withdraws from the JCPOA, the immediate implication would be that it would free Iran of any obligation to remain in the JCPOA. Whether that would lead Iran to immediately withdraw or not, that’s a decision that we will adopt, but that’s the most likely outcome of our response to President Trump. (National Interest)
Russia, China to Obstruct U.S. Attempt to Sabotage Iran Nuclear Deal: TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any U.S. attempt to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
"We are against revising these agreements, we consider it very counter productive to try to reduce to zero years of international work carried out via talks between the six major powers and Iran," TASS quoted Lavrov as saying after talks with Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, in Beijing.
"We will obstruct attempts to sabotage these agreements which were enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution," Lavrov was cited as saying. (US News & World Report)
J Street Welcomes Statement by 26 Senior Israeli Commanders in Favor of Preserving Iran Nuclear Agreement
J Street welcomes a statement by 26 former top-ranking Israeli military and security officials urging the United States to maintain the nuclear agreement with Iran. Their important letter deserves to be widely studied as one of the most significant contributions to the current debate, as President Trump weighs pulling out of an agreement that has been successful in blocking all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon.
Particularly noteworthy is the letter’s unequivocal statement that the deal is working and that a US decision to pull out would undermine Israel’s security. (J Street)
Iran releases messaging app Soroush to replace Telegram
Soroush, a homegrown app promoted by the Iranian government, boasts most of the features found in Telegram, a popular app that was used extensively as a way of communicating during 2017's anti-government protests.
The push for Soroush comes as the National Cyberspace Center decided to withdraw Telegram's license to operate in the country. (Al Jazeera English)
Iran says evidence of Yemen role was fabricated
Iran's foreign minister says somebody "fabricated" evidence that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations used to back up the U.S. claim that Iran is arming Houthi rebels in Yemen.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley took journalists in November and the Security Council in late January to see fragments recovered from missiles launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The parts bore logos that the U.S. said indicated Iranian origin.
But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells The Associated Press that a large missile part had the Iranian logo used on "cheese puffs" — not on military hardware. (Dayton Daily News)
Europe's Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Iran Deal
By: Robert Malley and Colin Kahl
It’s not easy seeking to mollify President Trump, and seldom satisfying. Just ask French President Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting Washington and who has been more successful dealing with Trump than many of his foreign counterparts. He has forged a good personal rapport with the U.S. president—to the point of being granted this White House’s first state visit—and he enjoys more influence over the mercurial commander-in-chief than other European leaders. Yet even Macron couldn’t keep Trump in the Paris climate accord, didn’t stop the United States from initiating a tariff war, and couldn’t convince Trump not to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There is every reason to fear that Macron won’t prevail on the next important item on the agenda: persuading the president to remain in the Iran nuclear deal. (The Atlantic)