Monday, February 24, 2014

Iran's Rising Executions Dim U.N. Hopes for Reforms




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Reuters: "At least 80 people and perhaps as many as 95 have been executed in Iran already this year, a surge in the use of the death penalty that has dampened hopes for human rights reforms under President Hassan Rouhani, the United Nations said on Friday... 'There were some encouraging signs last year where political prisoners were released ... But it appears at least in the past seven weeks that in fact executions have been scaled up,' U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing. 'We regret that the new government has not changed its approach to the death penalty and continues to impose capital punishment for a wide range of offences. We urge the government to immediately halt executions and to institute a moratorium.' Last year Iran executed between 500 and 625 people, including at least 28 women and two juveniles, Shamdasani said... 'I am concerned that Europe in general is getting ahead of itself, rewarding Iran for a lack of tangible improvements by trying to relegate human rights,' Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, told Reuters by telephone."

Reuters: "Iran has signed a deal to sell Iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million, according to documents seen by Reuters - a move that would break a U.N. embargo on weapons sales by Tehran. The agreement was reached at the end of November, the documents showed, just weeks after Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki returned from Washington, where he lobbied the Obama administration for extra weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants. Some in Washington are nervous about providing sensitive U.S. military equipment to a country they worry is becoming too close to Iran. Several Iraqi lawmakers said Maliki had made the deal because he was fed up with delays to U.S. arms deliveries. A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister would not confirm or deny the sale, but said such a deal would be understandable given Iraq's current security troubles. 'We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it's only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists,' said the spokesman, Ali Mussawi... 'If true, this would raise serious concerns,' the U.S. official said. 'Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of Iran's obligations under UNSCR 1747.'"

Bloomberg: "Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared his country ready to receive investments as a temporary nuclear deal with world powers eases sanctions. 'This is a safe, stable business environment,' Zarif said at a joint press conference with Belgium counterpart Didier Reynders in the Iranian capital. He invited Belgian companies to 'place themselves strategically' and consider business partnerships with Iranians. 'Iran is open for business,' he said, parrying U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew's Feb. 19 assertion that Iran 'is not open for business' following the nuclear deal."



Nuclear Program & Negotiations

AFP: "Iran and world powers will hold technical talks 'next week' in Vienna ahead of a political meeting to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear deal, a top Iranian negotiator said on Sunday. Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers agreed last week on a timetable and framework for the negotiations for an accord that would allay Western concerns about Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions. 'The issues on the agenda are enrichment (of uranium), the lifting of sanctions and international cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy,' said Abbas Araqchi, also a deputy foreign minister. Cited by the official IRNA news agency, Araqchi said the talks would take place on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors 'next week'. He did not specify dates, but the board is set to meet in Vienna from March 3 to 7."

Sanctions Relief

Reuters: "U.S. aerospace companies are seeking permission to sell airliner parts to Iran for the first time in three decades, in a key test of the temporary relief on sanctions given under talks to curtail Iran's nuclear activities. At least two leading manufacturers, Boeing and engine maker General Electric (GE), have applied for export licenses in a six-month window agreed by Iran and six world powers in November, industry officials and other sources familiar with the matter said... Rival European groups, however, have been slower to react because of doubts over the status of the European Union's complex Iranian sanctions legislation and fears of a backlash from the United States, which had warned them not to rush into dealings with Iran."

Reuters: "Iran's non-oil exports are starting to feel the benefits of easing international tensions under new President Hassan Rouhani, Iranian businessmen at one of the world's biggest food industry shows say. Organisers of the annual Gulfood fair in Dubai said 46 Iranian exporters have stands at this week's event, roughly double last year's number - a sign of Iran's partial return to the global trading system since Rouhani took office in August...  Rouhani's diplomacy seems to be helping Iranian exporters in at least two ways. By creating hope for a resolution of Iran's nuclear dispute, he has halted wild swings of the rial currency, which lost roughly half its value against the U.S. dollar in 2012. 'The stabilising of the dollar has helped a lot and decreased the risk of doing business. It's stabilised our prices,' said Mohammad Ali Khoshbin, an executive at the Khoshbin Agro Group, which exports pistachios and raisins to North Africa and Europe. With the risk of an immediate crisis over the nuclear programme receding, foreign buyers of Iranian products also feel safer signing contracts. 'Definitely, Europe has been in more contact with us' since Rouhani took office, Khoshbin said."

Bloomberg: "Iran will offer foreign partners incentives to find and pump more crude and natural gas and will pay some fees in barrels as it seeks to boost income once international sanctions are lifted. New contracts Iran is developing will offer higher fees for riskier exploration and production projects, oil-ministry officials said at a conference in Tehran yesterday. Local and international executives attended a two-day meeting to discuss rules that would govern oil and gas production if Western curbs on Iranian energy exports are removed. The committee revising the Islamic republic's contract model presented terms called the 'Iran Petroleum Contract.' ... Russia's OAO Gazprom, China National Petroleum Corp. and Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, were among a dozen foreign firms the organizers said attended the conference. Western European companies were not present."

Trend: "Italian company, Danieli, has expressed its readiness to establish a factory in Iran for manufacturing mining machinery, ISNA reported on February 21. Danieli's CEO Gianpietro Benedetti made the remarks at a meeting with Iranian Deputy Industry Minister Mehdi Karbasian in Tehran. Currently, a steel plant is being built by Danieli in Iran's city of Shahreza, in Isfahan province, he said, adding that the project will be inaugurated by in the next 15 months. An Italian business delegation will soon visit Iran to explore investment opportunities in the Islamic Republic, Press TV reported. The delegation headed by Chairman of the Italy-Iran Chamber of Commerce Rosario Alessandro, will start a four-day visit to Iran on Saturday, the press office of the Iranian Embassy in Rome, said. The delegation will hold bilateral meetings with their counterparts from Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines."

Foreign Affairs

AFP: "A prominent hardline cleric in Iran warned on Friday against the Islamic republic resuming ties with the United States, and said any attempt to do so would prove futile. 'Some people have created an underground network for establishing relations with the America,' Ayatollah Ahmad Janati told crowds at Friday prayers in Tehran, in comments broadcast by state media. 'Our people are anti-American -- you should be anti-American as well. Why did you go a different way from the people?' Janati asked, addressing those alleged to be behind the move. 'As long as our people and our supreme leader do not want it, your efforts will not bear any fruit,' added Janati, who heads the powerful Guardians Council electoral watchdog. His comments sparked chants of 'Death to the America!' and 'Death to Israel!' from the thousands of Friday worshippers."

AFP: "Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders expressed hope Sunday that Iran's nuclear negotiations with world powers could lead to the restoration of trust between Tehran and the West. 'I hope relationships that are based on trust will be revived with the nuclear negotiations and when a clear, final agreement is reached,' Reynders said in a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Reynders had earlier met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate elected last year on vows to engage the West diplomatically in order to secure the lifting of crippling international sanctions. Reynders is the third foreign minister from the European Union to visit Iran in the past two months, following in the footsteps of Italy's Emma Bonino and Sweden's Carl Bildt... Zarif, for his part, expressed optimism for better economic cooperation with Europe. 'Our European friends should know that a good atmosphere and stable conditions have been created for investment in Iran,' Zarif said. He added that Iran would continue the negotiations 'to remove all excuses for sanctions, so that the situation for foreign investment is prepared.'"

Opinion & Analysis

Michael Kassen & Lee Rosenberg in NYT: "Like all Americans, we strongly hope that the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts lead to the peaceful dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons program. To achieve this key national security goal, we support a policy that complements the current negotiations with a range of congressional actions that threaten greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government. Some opponents of such a policy crudely characterize its proponents as warmongers, and fret that Tehran will walk away from the table. But the critics have it backward. The approach we outline offers the best chance to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, diplomacy that is not backed by the threat of clear consequences poses the greatest threat to negotiations - and increases prospects for war - because it tells the Iranians they have nothing to lose by embracing an uncompromising position. Successful negotiations between adversaries rest on the confluence of interests and goals. Iran came to the negotiating table because it sought the abrogation of sanctions; we came to the table to reach an agreement that, in the words of President Obama, would 'make it impossible' for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Our message to Tehran should be clear: It will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours. Unfortunately, Iran's leaders are acting as if they have not received that message. In recent weeks, the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has declared that his government will not dismantle a single centrifuge. Tehran also went beyond words by testing long-range ballistic missiles that could reach American military bases in the Middle East, as well as our ally Israel. It has even dispatched warships to sail close to the maritime borders of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean. We also know the Iranians have worked to deceive us in previous rounds of negotiations. In 2003, when Mr. Rouhani was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Tehran issued a declaration that it was suspending uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities. Last year, as he ran for president, Mr. Rouhani even boasted that Iran had flouted the agreement. Offering inducements is not enough. Diplomacy must be backed by a clear choice for the Iranian government: Either it dismantles its nuclear program so that it lacks a pathway to weapons capability or it faces greater economic sanctions and international isolation. Without this clarity, no one can be surprised if Iran rejects diplomatic overtures. The partial recovery of Iran's economy in recent weeks, thanks to the relaxation of sanctions, in tandem with its continuing advanced research and development of centrifuges, highlights our concerns. If Iran can achieve such progress without dismantling any part of its nuclear program, why should it make concessions? We strongly believe that the assertion by Congress of its historic role in foreign policy can, in fact, complement and enhance the administration's efforts by forcing Iran to recognize the stark implications of intransigence. The president should welcome such congressional initiatives, which would actually strengthen, not weaken, the hand of his administration in forthcoming negotiations. Thus we urge Congress to outline for Iran the acceptable terms of a final accord. This must include, at a minimum, the dismantling of its nuclear program, so that Iran has neither a uranium nor a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon. Second, Congress should exercise oversight to ensure that Tehran understands that our existing core sanctions architecture will remain in place for the full duration of the negotiations. Third, Congress must oversee continual implementation of the interim agreement: We cannot permit Iran to violate trust again by advancing its nuclear program even as it joins negotiations."

Claudia Rosett in Forbes: "As things now stand, what are the benefits of this process for America and its allies? Well, there's a temporary pause in some aspects of Iran's nuclear weapons program; but nothing to really impede Iran rolling forward again, should its rulers so choose. There's also the pleasure of imagining that Iran's aging Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, having presided for decades over Iran's quest for the ultimate weapon, might decide he'd prefer to be remembered as the ayatollah who surrendered his nuclear ambitions to Catherine Ashton and Wendy Sherman. And for P5+1 diplomats engaged in these talks, there is of course the promise in coming months of fine dining and high-profile diplomatic dealings in Vienna. What's in it for Iran? With partial easing of sanctions, there's a chance for the repressive, terrorist-sponsoring Tehran regime to regroup economically and financially. The hope of the western diplomats leading these negotiations is that sanctions relief, friendly talk and other accompanying favors might entice Iran's despots to abandon their bellicose ways and in the general interest of their fellow Iranians take a seat as benign members of the community of nations. That hope could backfire to terrible effect, if - as seems likely - Iran's rulers stick to their usual ways of favoring their own power, wealth and messianic ambitions over the welfare of their countrymen. While the Iranian economy is enjoying a spell of sanctions relief, the opportunities are expanding again for the funding and procurement needed for Iran's proliferation programs. There is also an utterly undeserved legitimacy now being conferred on Tehran's tyranny.   Iran's regime remains the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, a patron of carnage in Syria, and a brutally repressive power at home. Yet the attention paid to Iranian officials in these negotiations - verging at times on deference - is conferring on the likes of Javad Zarif, or Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, a celebrity status that casually ignores their roles as longtime loyal advance men for a murderous government. What now appears to be playing out at the bargaining table is a potentially protracted, ill-defined gamble, led by the EU and the U.S., that Iran is ready to be talked out of its nuclear program. The model that comes to mind is North Korea, where the road to three nuclear tests over the past eight years - and a fourth quite likely now in the works - entailed round after round of negotiations, under both the Clinton and Bush administrations. The pattern was one of procedural triumphs, announced as progress, only to be followed by Pyongyang's reneging, cheating, pocketing the gains and concessions won at the bargaining table, and walking away. The diplomatic extravaganzas served not to win over the rogue nuclear-proliferating state, but to shore it up. It's a good bet that Iran, a close ally of North Korea, learned something from watching that scene. One might have hoped that Sherman, who served as policy coordinator for North Korea during the second term of the Clinton administration, had learned something as well. But here we go again. Lots of diplomatic procedure. But who benefits?"


Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

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