Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eye on Iran: Sanction Pain Spurs Iran's Charm Offensive

For continuing coverage follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook group.
Top Stories

"Iran's President Hasan Rouhani aims to reshape the Islamic Republic's image at the United Nations this week in a charm offensive motivated in large part by the dire condition of his country's economy. At Tehran's international airport before departing for New York, Mr. Rouhani told reporters that he would seek 'a path for negotiations and moderation' to replace the economic sanctions that have defined the West's relationship with Tehran in recent years... The shift comes after a year in which Iran has seen its oil revenue-which the government and industry analysts say totaled $100 billion in 2011-fall to half that level because of a European Union oil embargo and banking restrictions. The impact of sanctions has now fully trickled down to Iranian consumers, who are contending with soaring inflation, a lack of affordable medicine and a fluctuating currency. Business executives, industrialists and merchants who hold regular meetings with Iranian officials said the need for relief from sanctions often dominates their discussions. 'Everybody in Iran is hoping that Rouhani will come back with some good news about removal of sanctions from New York because the country can't survive otherwise,' said a Tehran industrialist named Hussein, who asked that his last name be withheld." http://t.uani.com/1bDg8zc

Bloomberg: "With international talks on Iran's disputed nuclear weapons program now set to resume, world powers will test whether the country is moderating its policies or merely its rhetoric... The enthusiastic reception for the Iranian leaders' campaign to advertise their peaceful intentions, through social and traditional media, should be tempered by tests of whether they're prepared to make significant concessions in exchange for relief from the economic sanctions that have battered Iran's economy, according to [UANI President] Gary Samore, who until earlier this year was President Barack Obama's chief adviser on non-proliferation. 'Now that Washington has come this far and achieved a truly painful sanctions regime -- which is obviously working or a charm offensive wouldn't be taking place -- I don't think they're going to throw that away,' Samore, who participated in several rounds of nuclear talks, said in an interview. 'All the good words on both sides are positive, but one should not misread that for a solution that's going to happen tomorrow... In exchange for relief from sanctions, the U.S. and its European allies will 'demand very significant limits on Iran's nuclear capacity -- meaning numbers of centrifuges, numbers of facilities, stockpiles of uranium -- all the things that give them a theoretical possibility to produce nuclear weapons,' said Samore, who's now at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts." http://t.uani.com/1eDZcd5

NYT: "This is Hassan Rouhani's moment. The toast of the United Nations, the new Iranian president is busy granting interviews to select audiences and possibly cramming in a meeting with President Obama - the first such high-level get-together since the 1979 revolution. But when he stands before the world to speak on Tuesday, he will do so as the loyal representative of Iran's supreme leader, the ultimate authority behind the country's recent diplomatic charm offensive. Since his election in June, Mr. Rouhani has made no secret of his wish to reach an accord with the West on Iran's nuclear program - and no secret that the only reason he can reach out so conspicuously is that he has the support, for now anyway, of one man, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader... But the question for many here is, how much room will the supreme leader allow for diplomacy before pulling the rug out from under Mr. Rouhani?" http://t.uani.com/18StUgi
Election Repression Toolkit 
UN General Assembly

NYT: "So, will President Obama actually shake hands with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran at the United Nations on Tuesday, when both men are scheduled to speak to the General Assembly? ... By any standard, a meeting of Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani would be a seminal event: Iranian and American leaders have not met since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Even if it does not happen, officials noted, Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, here later this week - the highest-level meeting between the countries since May 2007. If the two sides were to orchestrate a handshake, diplomats said, the most likely venue would be a luncheon Tuesday for heads of state given by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon." http://t.uani.com/1bDhn1o

Reuters: "Planned talks this week between Iran and six world powers including the United States may show whether Tehran is serious about resolving a dispute over its nuclear program, a senior U.S. official said on Monday. The European Union announced on Monday that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would join a meeting of major powers - including Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States and Germany - to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. 'This opportunity with the Iranian foreign minister will give our ministers a sense of their level of seriousness and whether they are coming with concrete new proposals and whether this charm offensive actually has substance (under it),' the senior U.S. State Department official told reporters." http://t.uani.com/15RepTa

Reuters: "A meeting between Iran's top diplomats and world powers at the United Nations this week will start a 'new era' in efforts to end the dispute with the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Tuesday. It did not hint at any concessions by Tehran. The European Union said on Monday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would join a meeting of major powers - including Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States and Germany - to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. The meeting, due on Thursday and expected to include U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, would be the highest-level encounter involving the two nations since relations were severed in 1980 at the height of the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. 'These talks are the start of a new era. The Islamic Republic has explicitly stated its views regarding its rights to peaceful nuclear energy and the right to enrich (uranium) on Iranian territory,' foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told a news conference, Mehr news agency reported." http://t.uani.com/1fgG0mM     

Nuclear Program

Reuters: "Four senior senators on Monday urged President Barack Obama to stick to tough policies against Iran, despite overtures from Tehran ahead of this week's U.N. General Assembly in New York. In a pair of letters, Democrats Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer, and Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain, said Obama should use his U.N. speech to restate the U.S. goal of stopping Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability and demanding verifiable actions from Tehran. 'Like you, we viewed the election of (Iranian President) Hassan Rouhani as an indicator of discontent amongst the Iranian people and we have taken note of recent diplomatic overtures by Iran. However, whatever nice words we may hear from Mr. Rouhani, it is Iranian action that matters,' Menendez and Graham said in their letter. Menendez is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Graham is an influential voice on international issues." http://t.uani.com/18SvEpU

AFP: "The international community is waiting for 'concrete steps' by Iran before moving to improve relations with the country's new government, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. After meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hague welcomed conciliatory statements by the new government and said moves could be made to end a suspension in ties since Britain's Tehran embassy was ransacked in November 2011. Hague said he and Zarif had discussed Iran's contested nuclear program, the Syria conflict and signals coming from President Hassan Rowhani that he wants better relations with the West. Britain 'does not seek a confrontational relationship with Iran, as I explained to the foreign minister, and we are open to better relations,' Hague told reporters Monday. 'The time is now right for those statements to be matched by concrete steps by Iran to address the international community's concerns about Iran's intentions. And if such steps are taken then I believe a more constructive relationship can be created between us,' he added." http://t.uani.com/19waiL9

WashPost: "The Israeli government, skeptical of Iran's recent diplomatic outreach, believes that the Islamic republic has embarked on a 'smile and enrich' strategy to divert attention as it seeks to rapidly expand its nuclear capability, according to an internal assessment. The assessment, described as reflecting the judgment of the country's senior security and policy officials, concludes that Iran will try over the coming weeks to win relief from harsh economic sanctions through a combination of diplomatic charm and 'cosmetic' nuclear concessions. But it says Iran's recent actions show no sign of willingness to make meaningful cuts in its nuclear program. 'The current Iranian charm offensive aims at reaching a deal with the international community that will preserve Iran's ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing - the so-called breakout option,' states the assessment, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post." http://t.uani.com/1gW9ulx 


Reuters: "India's oil ministry wants to raise imports of Iranian crude - even though U.S. sanctions call for a cut - and has argued its case in a memorandum ahead of President Barack Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday. Oil accounts for about a third of India's total imports and higher dollar prices combined with a rupee near all-time lows have increased its cost, adding pressure to a bloated current account deficit. Oil Minister M. Veerappa Moily is looking for cuts of up to $25 billion in the oil bill and boosting volumes from Iran, which accepts partial payment in rupees even though they are not widely traded, could save foreign exchange outflows. The oil ministry argues in the memorandum seen by Reuters that imports from Iran could be justified at close to 2012/13's low level of 260,000 barrels per day (bpd) and still win a waiver from U.S. sanctions that is tied to cuts of 15 percent." http://t.uani.com/16WNXHM 

Syria Conflict

NYT: "In a softening of the Western stance on Iran, France's foreign minister said on Monday that Iran could be included, under certain conditions, in a Geneva conference that would seek to negotiate an end to Syria's bloody civil war. In a meeting with the editorial board of The New York Times, the minister, Laurent Fabius, said Iran would need to accept the goal of the conference: the establishment by consensus of a transitional government that would not include President Bashar al-Assad. Iran would also need to understand, Mr. Fabius said, that it would not be rewarded for any cooperation on Syria by being granted flexibility to pursue its nuclear program, another major issue between Iran and the West." http://t.uani.com/1b261Bg


Times of Israel: "Iran has resumed its financial backing of Hamas and its government in Gaza, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily reported on Monday. According to As-Safir, a series of meetings have taken place in Iran and Lebanon over the past two weeks between Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian leadership to discuss developments in Egypt and the Palestinian territories following the ouster of Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government in early July. Iranian officials have been holding regular meetings with Hamas, the report said, noting that the Islamic extremist group that rules Gaza plays a crucial role in coordinating between Islamist movements in the Arab world and the regime in Tehran. Last week, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar declared that his movement had formed a joint command with Islamic Jihad, a more radical Islamist movement in Gaza and a close ally of the Iranian regime." http://t.uani.com/18SBeZ8 

Human Rights

AFP: "Supporters of two US citizens jailed in Iran appealed for their freedom Monday as President Hassan Rowhani arrived for the UN General Assembly, with one handing him a letter. Rowhani, seen as a moderate, is paying a closely watched visit to the annual United Nations meeting as he seeks to improve Iran's relations with the West. The wife of Saeed Abedini, a naturalized US citizen involved in underground churches in Iran, approached Rowhani as he checked in at his hotel, a support group said. Naghmeh Abedini 'respectfully introduced herself' and asked Rowhani in Farsi to free her husband, said the American Center for Law and Justice, a group supporting the family. A member of Rowhani's entourage accepted a letter that was written by her husband and addressed to the Iranian president asking for his release, the group said. Separately, 64 members of the US House of Representatives took part in a campaign to free Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who is also imprisoned in Iran. The lawmakers took pictures of themselves with signs seeking Hekmati's release and posted them on social media with the hashtag #FreeAmir. Representative Dan Kildee, who led the campaign, said he believed the Iranian government was responsive to social media." http://t.uani.com/19wdOFi

Reuters: "Iranian authorities have pardoned 80 prisoners ahead of President Hassan Rouhani's visit to the United Nations in New York this week, Iranian media reported on Monday. In a tentative sign that hardline policies are starting to soften following moderate conservative Rouhani's inauguration last month, authorities freed prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and at least 10 other prisoners last week. On Monday, judiciary spokesman Mohseni Ejei told a news conference 80 prisoners had been pardoned, including some arrested over protests that followed the disputed re-election of former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Ejei's comments suggest the total of 80 includes those freed last week in a move seen as intended to dampen Western criticism of Iran's human rights record ahead of Rouhani's address to the U.N. General Assembly." http://t.uani.com/18mQpHU

Toronto Star: "It was the phone call Antonella Mega had waited for during more than five emotionally devastating years: her husband, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, had been released on Monday from Iran's grim Evin Prison, where he had been held on espionage charges and sentenced to death. 'I'm completely elated,' said Mega, who has campaigned tirelessly for his release. 'I'm almost speechless. Hamid hardly knows what is happening. He just wants to come home to Canada.' The unexpected release was part of an amnesty for some 80 political prisoners, in advance of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to the United Nations Tuesday, where he will make his maiden speech ahead of difficult negotiations over Tehran's nuclear ambitions." http://t.uani.com/1b28gEF

Opinion & Analysis

UANI Advisory Board Member Fouad Ajami in Bloomberg: "Down is up and up is down. I feel like we have passed through the looking glass and are looking back at a backwards world," a military historian of the modern Middle East wrote in a recent note to me about the hectic diplomacy over Syria and Iran. 'Where did all the realists go? It's as though the Cold War never took place.' The logic of familiar things has been overturned. Iran President Hassan Rohani comes to New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly preceded by a brilliant publicity campaign. There was an interview with NBC, with a female correspondent at that. There was an op-ed article under his name in the Washington Post. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jews worldwide via Twitter.  The Iranian president stepped forth in the nick of time, right as the Barack Obama administration was reeling from the debacle of its Syria policy. We have been here before with the skilled and tenacious guild that runs the Iranian theocracy. An attractive cleric with a winning smile, Mohammad Khatami, cultured and literate, preaching the notion of a 'dialogue of civilizations,' was elected president in a landslide in 1997; he was re-elected four years later. Great hopes were pinned on Khatami. He delivered an oration at the Washington National Cathedral, and his ascent was seen on both sides of the Atlantic as evidence of the mellowing of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution of 1979. But the hopes invested in Khatami were to no avail. Iran pushed on with its nuclear weapons program and with its bid for greater power in neighboring states. At home, a student rebellion animated by unmistakable liberal sentiments that broke out in 1999 was crushed without mercy. Khatami was either a man powerless to defend the movement or a faithful son of the Khomeini order who was given leeway by the regime's powers that be. He couldn't defy the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or run afoul of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The case is now being made that Rohani is no freelancer, that he is a player of standing in the regime, and that the olive branch he carries with him has the consent of the supreme leader himself. The regime has been humbled, brought low by draconian sanctions, this line of argument goes, and has come to a reckoning with its weaknesses. There are serious and obvious flaws in this view." http://t.uani.com/18mPGGG

Omid Memarian in IHT: "As part of its diplomatic charm offensive before this week's United Nations General Assembly, Iran has released a dozen political prisoners, including my lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh. At the same time, President Hassan Rouhani published an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing his case for resolution of the nuclear crisis. In contrast to his hard-line and often unsophisticated predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is rolling out a coherent and well-planned public campaign... The authorities did not give Nasrin any papers to make her release permanent or official; she has no guarantees that she won't be put back behind bars. Other freed political prisoners are in the same situation, while still many hundreds more remain incarcerated. Many of them are journalists, activists and reformist politicians who have done nothing more than press for reforms and justice for Iranian people. Many of Iran's political prisoners were jailed for airing critical opinions of the previous Iranian government's domestic and foreign policies - critiques of Ahmadinejad's policies similar to the arguments Rouhani is now making with such success in his speeches in Iran and in the American media. Iranian journalists toil under severe censorship, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are restricted, and Iranians generally have no free access to information. As a journalist persecuted for my writings in Iran, I find it remarkable that Rouhani can take advantage of press freedom in America, publishing op-eds and making media appearances while at the same time keeping prominent Iranian journalists imprisoned. When I hear Rouhani speaking of Iranian economic malaise, inflation, Ahmadinejad's wrongheaded foreign policy, the need for reducing international tensions and so forth, I am reminded of my journalist friends behind bars whose lives have been destroyed. .. Iran has many brave rights advocates who should never have been arrested. The United States and other countries should welcome these releases, but also demand an end to the 'revolving door' of prisoners. If these releases were meant to end the repression of a people who have suffered so many injustices, it would be a positive step. But many doubt the sincerity of the gesture, especially given the ad hoc manner in which the prisoners were freed. Instead, this has given rise in Iran to the belief that political prisoners are being treated like hostages whose release is timed with political machinations ahead of the U.N. General Assembly... An Iranian diplomat told me recently that Rouhani has lived in the West, knows its culture and respects democratic values. If this is true, then the Iranian president should put his values into action and ensure freedom of expression for his own people." http://t.uani.com/1eDZRv4

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 Press@UnitedAgainstNuclearIran.com

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment