Friday, April 21, 2017

Eye on Iran: Trump Raps Iran As Violating 'Spirit' Of Nuclear Deal

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Iran is failing to fulfill the "spirit" of its nuclear deal with world powers, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, setting an ominous tone for his forthcoming decision about whether to pull the U.S. out of the landmark agreement. As he often had during the president campaign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in 2015 and said "it shouldn't have been signed." Yet he pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the U.S. would stay in. "They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that," Trump said of the Iranians, though he did not mention any specific violations. Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress than Iran was complying - at least technically - with the terms of the deal, clearing the way for Iran to continue enjoying sanctions relief in the near term.

Iran and the United States traded barbs over the landmark 2015 nuclear deal on Thursday, with the U.S. leader accusing Tehran of not living up to the spirit of the accord and Iran's top diplomat urging Washington to fulfill its own commitments. The exchange came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Congress saying Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal but raising questions about Tehran's role in sponsoring terrorism in the region. Tillerson accused Iran of "alarming ongoing provocations" to destabilize countries in the Middle East and said the Trump administration had launched a review of its policy toward Tehran that will include the 2015 nuclear deal. In the first reaction to Tillerson's remarks from a senior Iranian official, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who tweeted that the United States should "fulfill its own commitments."

A council that vets Iran's political candidates disqualified former two-term president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday - along with hundreds of others - from the presidential election next month. No official reason was given for the disqualifications in the May 19 election, which were announced on state television Thursday night by an election official, Ali Asghar Ahmadi. While Mr. Ahmadinejad's disqualification was not unexpected, the timing of the announcement - just around midnight, two days before what had been the scheduled unveiling of the final list of candidates - was unusual.



Moscow hopes Washington will realize that the Iran nuclear deal is viable after reviewing it, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told TASS on Friday. "We took note of information from Washington that an additional analysis of agreements with Iran on its nuclear program is beginning there," Ryabkov said. "We would like to hope that this analysis will confirm that this agreement is viable and useful for enhancing international peace and regional stability," he said. Ryabkov stressed that Moscow "has been consistently working to enhance" the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).


U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Iran and its ally Hezbollah on Thursday of conspiring to destabilize the Middle East - a charge "categorically" rejected by Iran's U.N. envoy as a misleading propaganda campaign perpetrated by Israel and others in the region. Haley is the current Security Council president and she asked members to focus on the factors causing conflicts across the region during their monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East instead of engaging in what she called routine "Israel bashing." Her targets at the open meeting, where over 50 countries spoke, were Iran and Hezbollah who are supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, training "deadly militias" in Iraq and arming Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. "For decades, they have committed terrorist acts across the region," Haley said.

Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshroo rejected recent allegations raised by the US authorities against the Islamic Republic as "a misleading propaganda campaign against Iran and its role in the region". "Today we heard unsubstantiated allegations against my country which I categorically reject as a misleading propaganda campaign against Iran and its role in the region, designed and perpetrated hysterically by Israel and certain countries in the region, including those who fully supported Saddam Hossein's aggression against Iran," Khoshroo said on Thursday, addressing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Open Debate on "Situation in the Middle East, Including Palestine".


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he's "gravely concerned" about Iran's role in helping Syria develop its chemical warfare program that ended up killing dozens of people weeks ago Rubio, a Republican, said he was troubled by reports that both Iran and Russia were complicit in Bashar Assad's chemical weapons program. While the Trump administration accused Moscow of covering up the Syrian regime's chemical weapons attack, the U.S government has not mentioned Iran's possible role. "Congress and the White House should work together to hold the Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and impose harsh sanctions against its enablers," Rubio told Fox News.


As talk of an independence referendum for Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) grows, Iran's role is becoming more visible, especially that of Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force. But it appears that this role is retreating in the face of Kurdish ambitions for more independence. Iraqi Kurdish political forces have recently increased their calls for a referendum on Kurdish independence, but Iran may try to prevent this from happening. Kurdish media outlets reported April 10 that Soleimani had met senior leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Sulaimaniyah. Rudaw, a media organization aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), reported April 11 that the goal of the visit was to prevent the KRG from holding an independence referendum.


Abdullah al-Maalami the Saudi Permanent Representative in the United Nations, said that Iran supports sectarian militias and tries to replicate the Hezbollah model wherever it gets an opportunity. Maalami also stressed that Saudi Arabia is ready to participate in any international efforts to eliminate terrorism. He added that the criminal regimes in Iran and Syria are trying to take advantage of Palestinian cause, highlighting that the way to peace is ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state as per the 1967 borders.


Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi has been released after nearly five months in Evin prison in Tehran on charges of "propaganda against the state" and "insulting sacred values", the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates, said on Thursday. Karimi, 31, was released on Wednesday, HRANA said.The charges stem from a documentary about political graffiti in Tehran made by Karimi called "Writing on the City". In 2015, Karimi was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison and 223 lashes but an appeals court subsequently reduced the sentence to one year in prison.

The family of two Iranian-Americans imprisoned in Iran is imploring the Trump administration to help secure their release, describing their situation as one of "fear" and uncertainty as their cases languish for months on end."I cannot begin to articulate the feeling of hopelessness, of despair, of sheer fear, of what my family is going through," said Babak Namazi, the son and brother of the imprisoned Americans. "Every day I wake up and I wonder if today is the day that I am going to get any bad news." The prisoners are Baquer and Siamak Namazi, a father and son.

The low number of female participants in Iranian elections is an indicator of inequality in the political, social and cultural fabric of the country, women's rights advocate Nahid Tavasoli told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). Speaking from Tehran, the editor-in-chief of Nafe, an academic women's periodical, said Iranian women are denied many rights as citizens that affect their participation rate in politics. "Women in villages work from dawn to dusk and carry out tough tasks, sometimes even tougher than men's work," she said. "Sometimes, the situation in Iran seems completely paradoxical," said Tavasoli. "On the one hand, women can take part in various political activities, but only with certain restricting conditions. For instance, to become president, a women should be a proven 'political personality.'"


Campaigning officially started on Friday for Iran's May presidential election, pitting pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani against hardliners just as the United States reassesses its policy on the Islamic Republic. A hardline watchdog body in charge of vetting candidates and laws, the Guardian Council, approved six candidates on Thursday for the May 19 vote - including Rouhani - but hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified. A witness who was near Ahmadinejad's house in eastern Tehran on Thursday night told Reuters that "around 50 police officers had blocked two ends of the street to his house to prevent possible gathering of his supporters". Iranian police fanned out across Tehran's main squares overnight after the names of the candidates were announced, according to videos posted on social media.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi were both approved to run in May's presidential election by a government vetting body, while former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified, state media reported on Thursday. The approval of Rouhani, a moderate, and Raisi, a political hardliner thought to have the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sets up a showdown between rival political camps. Four other candidates were also qualified to run. Among them are Rouhani's vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Khamenei had advised Ahmadinejad not to run, and his attempt to become a candidate was widely seen as a public snub to the Supreme Leader, which is nearly unheard of in the Islamic Republic.

Iran's interior ministry said Thursday there would be no live debates in the run-up to next month's presidential election. "Based on a decision by the Election Campaign Monitoring Commission, the election debates of the candidates will be broadcast pre-recorded," said ministry spokesman Seyed Salman Samani. The commission also released guidelines for the debates, telling candidates they are not allowed to "blacken the image of the country... or the actions of the executive, administrative, legislative or judicial bodies".

Iran has announced the final list of candidates for next month's presidential race, which will largely serve as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. President Hassan Rouhani is widely seen as the front-runner, but could face tough competition from hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and popular among hard-liners. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to run but was disqualified. The following candidates were approved by the Guardian Council, which vets candidates for Iran's elections. Half of its 12 members are clerics appointed by Khamenei, who also makes all final decisions on major policies.

Iran's presidential elections are perhaps among the most unpredictable worldwide. Except for the 2001 landslide re-election of Reformist President Mohammad Khatami, predicting the winner of the past five presidential polls has truly been a challenge. The May 19 vote is shaping up to be the most unpredictable yet. Despite the Principlist JAMNA coalition holding a preliminary vote to find a consensus candidate, Iranian conservatives remain divided a month before the country's presidential elections.  In a new development this election cycle, the Principlist movement formed the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, popularly known by its Persian acronym, JAMNA, and adopted a candidate selection mechanism akin to the primaries held by Western political parties. The coalition, which includes top conservative figures, hopes to forge agreement on a consensus candidate to run against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani


Just one day after the State Department officially notified Congress of Iran complying with its commitments based on the nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's latest remarks caught Tehran by surprise. The nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has failed to quell Iran's capability and willpower to develop nuclear weapons, Tillerson emphasized, highlighting the fact that the mullahs' ambitions continue to pose grave threats for international peace and security. Prior to Tillerson's latest lashing at Tehran, the Iranian regime was boasting the State Department's required 90-day report as a major breakthrough. This was a first for the Trump administration in stating anything with the potential of being weighed as positive.

After his campaign promise that he would "rip up" the agreement, it must have galled Donald Trump for his administration to certify to Congress that Iran is meeting its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. That's probably why, in the certification letter Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent to Congress this week, he added that little bit about the administration's review of the deal and the possibility of revisiting the nuclear-related sanctions the United States lifted to secure it. Of course, it was those very sanctions that brought Iran to the table in the first place. Having them lifted was Tehran's incentive for dismantling its nuclear program. So, if we snap them back in place without cause, we -- and not Iran -- would be in noncompliance. We -- not Iran -- would be the ones sending a clear message that we are neither a credible nor trustworthy negotiating partner.

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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