Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eye on Iran: Iran's New President Sees All Paths for Nuclear Talks Leading to Washington

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AP: "Hasan Rouhani knew there was an element of risk. Just a week before Iran's election gatekeepers announced the presidential ballot, Rouhani said one-on-one talks with Washington are the only way for breakthroughs in the nuclear standoff, given that the United States - as he put it - is the world's 'sheriff.' Such a public portrayal of America's importance and the need to make overtures to it undoubtedly rattled a few among Iran's ruling clerics, who decide which candidates are cleared to run. Yet they allowed Rouhani to enter the race, and to the surprise of many, he surged to a runaway victory. Rouhani's repeated emphasis on direct outreach to Washington may now have a chance for real traction among the ultimate decision-makers in Iran - the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard... 'The bottom line is that Rouhani's views are not a wholesale change from the ruling system's. They are pretty much the same on all the central points on what Iran wants,' said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a British-based Middle East expert concentrating on Iranian affairs. 'The issue is over tactics and how to get there.'"

CNBC: "Wall Street banks are being investigated for transactions that violated sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan and other countries with ties to terrorism, New York state's chief financial regulator disclosed Tuesday. 'When you see that banks are systematically stripping information from wire transfers to hide the fact that they're doing business with terrorist nations, it makes your blood boil,' said Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the state's Department of Financial Services, the new agency that regulates financial services and products. Lawsky told CNBC's 'Power Lunch' that it's 'surprising' how many banks violate sanctions, adding that his agency is investigating a 'line-up of other banks.' He did not specify the number of inquiries, however, or which banks are being looked at... Last week, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ agreed to pay New York $250 million for deleting information from $100 billion in wire transfers with Iran and other nations on the U.S. sanctions list."

RFE/RL: "In an unusual move, Iran's minister for communications and information technology, Mohammad Hassan Nami, has acknowledged that the country restricted the speed of the Internet in the days leading up to the June 14 presidential election. 'The reduction of the Internet speed, which some called disturbances, was the result of security measures taken to preserve calm in the country during the election period,' Nami was quoted as saying in a June 25 interview with the Tasnim news agency. It's not clear why the North Korean-educated Nami decided to publicly admit efforts to slow the Internet, a move widely seen as part of Tehran's attempts to disrupt the free flow of information. Iran has a record of slowing down the Internet and increasing online censorship at sensitive times, but officials rarely acknowledge such efforts. Nami said Iran's efforts were aimed at preventing 'foreigners trying to disrupt the election process' from crossing into the country's cyberspace."
Election Repression Toolkit 

BusinessTech (South Africa): "The Democratic Alliance has raised further questions relating to MTN's operations in Iran, which have come under immense scrutiny since initial claims of bribery were brought against the mobile operator by Turkcell in early 2012. In July 2012, South Africa suspended Yusuf Saloojee, its former ambassador to Tehran, pending an investigation into his ties to MTN. Saloojee was named in a Turkcell suit against MTN for allegedly taking a $200,000 bribe from the SA mobile operator to help it win an operating license in Iran. However, in October 2012, the DA determined that that the ambassador was back at in post, while an investigation into acts of bribery was still in progress."

Al-Monitor: "For the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran is offering production-sharing contracts (PSCs) for investment in its upstream energy field, which involves exploration and production stage of the hydrocarbons industry. The contracts, which allow oil companies to more quickly recoup their investment expenses than the buy-back arrangements Iran had previously favored, could help the Islamic Republic attract desperately needed new cash and expertise and alleviate the impact of draconian sanctions and competition from its neighbor, Iraq. The National Iranian Oil Co. has offered such a contract to an Indian consortium of three companies: ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. and Oil India Ltd. This contract is for developing the offshore Farzad B gas field in the Farsi block in the Persian Gulf. Negotiations over developing the Farzad B gas field had been in process with the Indian consortium since early 2009."

Syrian Civil War

Reuters: "Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Wednesday urged Qatar's new Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to revise his country's policy of backing Syrian rebel groups. 'Hopefully Sheikh Tamim will contemplate the Syrian issue and regarding past policies, he will make a serious revision so we will be able to ... join hands and tackle the Syrian crisis,' Salehi told a news conference in Tehran, broadcast by Press TV."

Domestic Politics

Bloomberg: "When Hassan Rohani won Iran's presidential election this month, he garnered more votes than when his predecessor swept to power eight years before. He also gained a larger list of things to fix. Rohani, 64, a lawyer, cleric and former diplomat, inherits an economy that under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was defined by falling oil exports because of international sanctions, accelerating inflation, a currency collapse and enduring unemployment. He's also confronted by a political scene marked by squabbling over how to drag Iran out of the mire amid pressure from the U.S. and European Union over its nuclear program, which Israel has vowed to curb by any means. 'This Iran is going to be much harder to manage,' said Cliff Kupchan, director for the Middle East at New York-based political risk consultants Eurasia Group. 'Rohani has much more of a mandate than Ahmadinejad had, while the country is in a lot more trouble today than it was in 2005."

FP: "A paragraph from the Ph.D. thesis abstract reportedly written by Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani at a Scottish university in the 1990s includes a paragraph that appears to be largely lifted from a book by a prominent Islamic legal scholar... The Farsi-language website,, run by the Washington, D.C.-based Iranian dissident blogger Nikahang Kowsar, posted an article today noting that a paragraph in the Ph.D. thesis appears to be lifted from a book by Mohamed Hashim Kamali, an prominent Afghan-born Islamic legal scholar who is now the founding chairman and CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia."

Opinion & Analysis

Dennis Ross in NYT: "The election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran's new president has created a sense that there are new possibilities of progress on the nuclear issue; we need to respond, but warily. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowed Mr. Rowhani to win the election recognizing that he had run against current Iranian policies that have isolated the country and invited economically disastrous sanctions... None of this means there will be a nuclear deal. Even if he were given the power to negotiate, Mr. Rowhani would have to produce a deal the supreme leader would accept. So it is far too early to consider backing off sanctions as a gesture to Mr. Rowhani. We should, instead, keep in mind that the outside world's pressure on Iran to change course on its nuclear program may well have produced his election. So it would be foolish to think that lifting the pressure now would improve the chances that he would be allowed to offer us what we need: an agreement, or credible Iranian steps toward one, under which Iran would comply with its international obligations on the nuclear issue. Our bottom line here is that Iran must be prepared to change its program so that it does not have a breakout capability to develop nuclear weapons. The real question for ourselves is whether we should change our approach to diplomacy with Iran, now that a new Iranian president has advertised his desires to end Iran's isolation and the sanctions imposed on it, and to repair the "wound" that he has said exists between the United States and the Islamic Republic. Until now, we have taken an incremental, confidence-building approach within multilateral negotiations with Iran, but they have probably already run their course. Indeed, while our side (the United States, China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France) negotiated with Iran on and off for the last several years with no results, the Iranians were dramatically expanding the numbers of centrifuges they had installed to enrich uranium. They now have roughly 17,000 and have succeeded in upgrading to a new generation of far more efficient centrifuges. Those developments have shrunk the time we have available to ensure that the Iranians cannot break out and present the world with the fait accompli of a nuclear weapons capability. So we may have time for diplomacy, but not a lot. We should move now to presenting an endgame proposal - one that focuses on the outcome that we, the United States, can accept on the nuclear issue. And we should do so even if our negotiating partners - particularly the Russians - aren't prepared to accept such a move, since the clock is ticking. We should give Mr. Rowhani a chance to produce, but the calendar cannot be open-ended. Diplomacy often boils down to two simple elements: taking away excuses for inaction and providing explanations for a deal that could be struck. On the first point, the Iranians say they don't know what we will accept in the end. The answer should be that we can accept Iran's having civil nuclear power but with restrictions that would make the steps to producing nuclear weapons difficult, as well as quickly detectable. Our offer should be credible internationally; if Iran was not prepared to agree to it, the Iranians would be exposed for not being ready to accept what they say they want. Indeed, if we make a credible proposal that would permit the Iranians to have civil nuclear power with restrictions, it would allow them to save face for themselves: they could say the proposal was what they had always sought and that their rights had been recognized."

WSJ Editorial Board: "When Tony Blair's government established the U.K. Supreme Court in 2005, we worried that this new institution would become a vehicle for judicial activism. But who would have suspected it would start conducting its own foreign policy? Last week the nine-member court struck down financial sanctions imposed in 2009 against Mellat Bank of Iran. Until earlier that year, Mellat was wholly owned by the Iranian state, which still retains a 20% direct stake. The U.S. Treasury added Mellat to its sanctions list in 2007 and has long maintained that the bank is a financial conduit for nuclear-weapons programs. Mellat denies the charges. The U.K. Supremes, however, held that cutting Mellat Bank off from access to the British financial system was 'irrational' and 'disproportionate.' Irrational because Iran's ayatollahs could use other banks, including other Iranian banks, to meet their financing needs; and disproportionate because the U.K. Treasury hadn't proved to the court that Mellat was complicit in financing nuclear proliferation. In its opinion, the Court cites two main examples of Mellat's involvement with Iran's nuclear program but waves them off on grounds that the bank says it ended those relationships years ago. It also held a closed-door hearing to examine evidence that the U.K. government didn't want revealed to the public or the defendant, but the Court concluded that this secret evidence added nothing important to the case. The Court's majority opinion includes all the expected niceties about not conducting foreign policy from the bench, before proceeding to do exactly that."

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

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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