Monday, March 6, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Indicts Nuclear Negotiator, Holds Iranian-American on Fraud Charges

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Iran has indicted a member of its nuclear negotiating team who was arrested last year on suspicion of spying, and detained an Iranian-American on charges of defrauding people under the guise of helping them emigrate, the Iranian judiciary said on Sunday. Several Iranian dual nationals from the United States, Britain, Austria, Canada and France have been detained in the past year and are being kept behind bars on charges including espionage and collaborating with hostile governments. Authorities have formally charged a dual national who had been a member of the negotiating team that reached a landmark nuclear deal with world powers before being arrested last year, said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, quoted by the judiciary's website, Mizan. Announcing the arrest in August, Mohseni Ejei said the unidentified individual was a "spy who had infiltrated the nuclear team". Mohseni Ejei gave no further details about the defendant, but some news reports said he is Iranian-Canadian. Mohseni Ejei also told reporters that an unnamed Iranian-American was arrested for defrauding people seeking U.S. residence of $2.6 million, Mizan reported.

A U.S. Navy surveillance ship had a close encounter with an Iranian navy frigate in the Middle East, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports. The frigate came within 150 yards of the USNS Invincible on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, just south of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The gulf separates Oman from southeastern Iran. The encounter was deemed "unprofessional" but not unsafe because the frigate was on a parallel course with the Invincible at the point of closest approach. The Invincible is outfitted with sonar to track submarines and radar to monitor missile tests.

Iran's hardline former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad became the latest leader to join Twitter on Sunday, despite having been instrumental in getting it banned from the country. Ahmadinejad's first tweet from his personal account was a video in which he called on people to follow him at @Ahmadinejad1956. "In the name of God Peace be upon all the freedom loving people of the world," he wrote in English. Despite the service being blocked for ordinary citizens, many of Iran's top officials tweet regularly, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Even the office of supreme leader Ali Khamenei maintains accounts in several languages. Iranian users -- who get round the restrictions using privacy software -- were quick to point out the irony that Twitter was banned following mass protests against Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009.


Last year, when the United States and Iran exchanged prisoners, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Tehran government had also pledged to help in the search for a long-missing American who had disappeared in Iran in March 2007. To bolster that promise, Iranian officials secretly informed the Obama administration that they had received intelligence that the remains of an American had been buried in Balochistan, a rugged, lawless region in western Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and Iran. The remains, it was assumed, were that of the missing man, Robert A. Levinson, a private investigator and former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was also a part-time consultant for the Central Intelligence Agency. But when the Pakistani authorities went to the supposed burial site, they did not find any remains. American officials concluded that the report, rather than a gesture of good will, was a gambit by Iran to further cloud its role in Mr. Levinson's fate. Today, a decade after Mr. Levinson vanished, the Trump administration faces a decision about what steps to take, if any, to bring a resolution of his case.


Iran's government "understands" French energy giant Total's caution over investing in the Islamic republic before Washington clarifies its position on trade with Tehran, the country's deputy oil minister said Saturday. "Total has announced that it is awaiting America's final decision with regards to Iran. We understand Total," said Amir Hossein Zamani Nia, quoted by state news agency IRNA. "They want to invest five billion dollars. We are not upset with Total," he said. "Since a month and a half ago... they have spent more than 20 million dollars" on preparing projects in the Islamic republic. Nia said that Iran was in negotiations with foreign companies on more than 25 projects in the oil and gas sector but it would not be held "hostage" to political demands.


France is working on plans to issue direct loans to companies that want to invest in Iran, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a press conference in Tehran. "We are trying to help these companies," Sapin told reporters at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in Tehran at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Tayebnia. "They wil be able to apply for loans, but it's not active yet. We are working on this." French companies were among the first to return to Iran after sanctions were eased last year under Tehran's nuclear deal with six world powers, but officials have said financing issues have hobbled some big infrastructure projects. France's largest banks have been reluctant to do business with the oil-rich country because of remaining U.S. sanctions, and Iran lacks access to major international lenders.

Iran and neighboring Azerbaijan agreed on Sunday to work towards completing their portion of a planned freight railway route from Europe to South Asia, Iranian state media reported. After talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev, the two countries signed an accord to link their rail systems on a trial basis, state news agency IRNA reported. The planned freight route, called the North-South International Transport Corridor, aims to connect northern Europe to South Asia by using the railways of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia. A shipping service is to be set up between Iran's Gulf port of Bandar Abbas and Mumbai in India.


Iran's advanced S-300 air defence system, delivered by Russia following a July 2015 nuclear deal after years of delay, is now operational, state television reported on Saturday. Iran had been trying to acquire the system for years to ward off repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear facilities, but Russia had held off delivery in line with UN sanctions imposed over the nuclear programme. "The S-300 air defence system has been tested... in the presence of government and military officials," the television said It said that the test at a desert base had seen several targets, including a ballistic missile and a drone, intercepted.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to voice opposition to what the Israeli leader charged were Iran's attempts to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria. "In the framework of a (future peace agreement) or without one, Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria - either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence - and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights," Netanyahu told his cabinet in public remarks on Sunday. "I will express to President Putin Israel's vigorous opposition to this possibility," he said.


Iran is responsible for more than 80% of Israel's security problems, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, quoting one of the country's security agencies. "We are not deterred, and are also building out strength," he said at a ceremony in the Foreign Ministry marking 25 years to the bombing of the embassy in Buenos Aires. "Since the attack in Argentina, Israel has gotten much stronger."

Bahrain said on Saturday it had uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked militant group suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organising a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons. It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied kingdom, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based... State news agency BNA on Saturday quoted the chief prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi as saying that security forces have arrested 25 members and seized 11 pistols and Kalashnikov rifles in a series of operations, including an attempted arms smuggling in December. Hammadi also said that an investigation into the January prison break revealed that a Germany-based leader of the group had helped organise trips for members from Bahrain to Iran and Iraq for training, according to BNA. "The investigation revealed that ... several members (were sent) to Iran and Iraq to train on the use of explosives and automatic weapons in (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist acts inside the country," Hammadi said, according to BNA.


Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency is reporting that the country's judiciary has suspended the prison term of the son of a late dissident cleric. The Saturday report says the six-year prison term of Ahmad Montazeri, son of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, was suspended after approval by the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following a request by a top cleric... A court had sentenced Ahmad Montazeri to prison in November for publishing a tape recording of his father that condemns the execution of thousands of prisoners in 1988. He began serving his prison term in February but soon was released. The late Montazeri, who died in 2009, was an outspoken critic of the country's ruling establishment.


On February 24, 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its fifth report on Iran's compliance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2231 (2015).  UNSCR 2231 codified into international law the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran in July 2015 aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear program.  The JCPOA was implemented on January 16, 2016, a date known as Implementation Day.  The latest IAEA report again states: "Since Implementation Day, the Agency has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments" under the Iran deal.  Nowhere in the report does the IAEA state that Iran is fully compliant with the JCPOA, and it should not make that judgement.  The issue of full compliance is rightly the responsibility of the Joint Commission and governments, in particular those in the P5+1. The IAEA report lists many areas where Iran has met the conditions of the JCPOA's provisions.  However, known verification controversies are not included in the reporting.  Moreover, the report states that the IAEA is still unable to determine the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.  Although this report contains more detail in certain areas than previous reports, the IAEA reporting continues to be too sparse.

On Oct. 23, 2016, during the height of the American presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump made a promise to the American people that I hope he can keep. He tweeted, "Well, Iran has done it again. Taken two of our people and asking for a fortune for their release. This doesn't happen if I'm president." He was talking about my father, Baquer Namazi, and my brother, Siamak Namazi, who had each been sentenced to 10 years in prison days earlier for allegedly "collaborating with the enemy," the United States A month into the new administration, I was in Washington to tell President Trump that I am counting on him to make good on his word. Both my father and my brother are dual Iranian American citizens who have committed no crimes. My family had remained silent for close to a year about this injustice, hoping that Baquer and Siamak would be quietly released once Iran acknowledged their obvious innocence. In fact, in private negotiations with the Obama administration, Iran had actually promised to release Siamak, but instead arrested my father, too. Our hopes were crushed when, in a perversion of justice, both were given extraordinary sentences. Their baseless convictions and the horrific conditions of detention force me to speak out on their behalf.

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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