Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Hardliners Committed To Nuclear Deal, Says Top Conservative

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Iran's hardliners are committed to the nuclear deal with world powers even as they use the accord to attack President Hassan Rouhani ahead of elections this month, a senior hardline politician said. The agreement was a "done deal" and there would be no attempts to sabotage it, said Alireza Zakani, a senior figure in the hardliners' camp and a former MP. "We consider the nuclear accord a done deal and will remain committed to it unless the US officially withdraws from it," Mr Zakani, who led opposition to the nuclear deal in parliament, told the Financial Times. The accord, which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to unravel, has become a critical battleground between hardliners and reformists ahead of the May 19 presidential vote.

The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have reached a decision that's sure to disappoint Russia hawks: They're not taking up a Russia sanctions bill anytime soon. Instead, Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland have agreed to move forward on a measure to counter Russian influence in Eastern Europe without using sanctions as well as an Iran sanctions bill..."We're not going to do a Russia sanctions bill," Corker told POLITICO on Monday. "The ranking member and I are in strong agreement on a pathway forward and that's what we're going to do. We're going to do an Iran sanctions bill. It'll be done toward the end of this work period...The deal between Corker and Cardin resolves a point of contention between Corker and some Democrats on the Foreign Relations panel, who wanted to move Iran and Russia sanctions together, according to multiple Democratic Senate aides

Boeing Co. is making "steady progress" to complete the terms of an 80-jetliner sale to Iran Air and expects to deliver the initial planes next year, the first U.S. aircraft exports to Iran since the country's revolution in 1979.  "That remains on track," Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg told reporters Monday following the planemaker's annual general meeting in Chicago. "It's really important that at every step of the process, we're working on this hand-in-hand with the U.S. government." The $16.6 billion deal with Iran Air and a separate $3 billion agreement with Iran Aseman Airlines bring two of President Donald Trump's initiatives into conflict: his campaign vows to "get tough" on Iran and his promise to bolster U.S. exports supporting thousands of manufacturing jobs.

Iran said Monday that it had discussed the issue of Americans with dual citizenship held in Iranian prisons during a meeting last week with the United States. The discussion, during a meeting in Vienna on compliance with the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, was the first face-to-face exchange between emissaries from Iran and the United States since President Trump took office. A State Department spokesman, Mark C. Toner, had suggested on April 25 that the imprisonments would be raised at the meeting, which was held while both sides were attending a session of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nonproliferation monitor.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said direct talks between Iran and the US are limited to the nuclear deal, describing as inaccurate media reports that the two governments have discussed the state of two Iranian-American prisoners held in Iran on the sidelines of recent nuclear talks.  Qasemi made the statement in a regular press briefing on Monday, IRNA reported.  Iran and P5+1 (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany) concluded the nuclear deal in July 2015, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.The seventh meeting of the Joint Commission, which monitors the implementation of JCPOA, was held in the Austrian capital Vienna last Tuesday.

India plans to order about a quarter less Iranian crude oil than it bought last year, people familiar with the matter said, as state refiners cut term purchase deals over a row between New Delhi and Tehran on development of a natural gas field. The drop in volumes follows India's threat to order state refiners - Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, and Indian Oil Corp - to reduce purchases from Iran if an Indian consortium is not awarded the rights to develop Iran's huge Farzad B natural gas field. The volume cuts would put India's imports of Iranian crude for this fiscal year at 370,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to the sources with knowledge of the planned deals. India is Iran's top oil client after China, and last year imported about 510,000 bpd of crude from the country, according to shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Leaders from Boeing reportedly traveled to Tehran recently to meet and sign a deal with a top former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) member who threatened to blow up U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, raising new questions about the U.S. aerospace company's continued efforts to ink multi-billion dollar deals with the Iranian regime. Representatives from Boeing traveled to Iran last month to meet with Hossein Alaei, CEO of Aseman Airlines, which is owned and controlled by the state. Boeing is moving forward with a $3 billion dollar deal to sell new planes to Aseman despite fierce opposition on Capitol Hill and direct evidence Iran has used commercial aircraft to ferry weapons and fighters across the region.

A U.S. judge on Monday said he wanted to know whether Iran employs any lawyers for a wealthy Turkish gold trader accused of helping that country evade U.S. sanctions, a team that includes former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In a brief order, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said he planned to ask at a hearing on Tuesday whether Giuliani or any other lawyer for trader Reza Zarrab had been hired by Iran, the United States or Turkey. Tuesday's hearing will focus on whether conflicts of interest bar Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey from representing Zarrab. The trader has pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges that he conspired to conduct illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran's government, violating U.S. sanctions


SMS will be exhibiting along with the Alderley Group at the 22nd Iran International Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition from the 6th - 9th May 2017. SMS will be promoting its range of Hydraulic, Pneumatic and Electrical Control Systems along with their offshore and onshore services.  The business will also demonstrate its full project and multi-disciplined engineering capabilities. Gary Morrow, Business Development Director, comments, "We are looking forward to attending the Iran Oil and Gas show so that we can highlight SMS's expertise in delivering quality solutions and services.  We pride ourselves on meeting the specific requirements of our clients and the exhibition will allow us to discuss with our customers how we can support them locally now and in the future."


Iran will maintain its support for the Syrian government despite the deaths of hundreds of its advisers and volunteers in the six-year civil war, a commander said in comments published Tuesday. Shiite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are the Syrian regime's most important military supporters after Russia in its battle against mainly Sunni rebels. "We will send advisers in all fields and offer all help at our disposal so the resistance front doesn't break," the ground forces commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Pakpour, told the Fars news agency. "They are present there now and we will deploy more as long as there is a need for advisory support."


Britain can no longer rely on U.S. leadership on Middle East policy and must work more closely with Europe to ensure the Iran nuclear deal stays in place, among other policies, a committee of lawmakers said in a report Tuesday. The deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions. During his U.S. presidential campaign, Donald Trump called the agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated" and his administration has launched a review of whether lifting sanctions is in the United States' national security interests.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit warned Monday that Iran and Israel were the main beneficiaries of turmoil across the Arab world, which he described as the worst he has ever seen. "I have never seen anything worse than what we are now seeing," Abul Gheit said at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai. "Iran is enjoying what the Arab world is going through. There are those in Iran who are watching and waiting for us to destroy ourselves." Ties between Iran and Arab states have grown increasingly tense in recent years, with Tehran backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels and armed Shiite groups in Iraq. Arab governments largely back Syrian opposition groups.

Experts from Russia, Iran and Turkey acting as the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, will hold a meeting in Astana on Tuesday. Similar consultations were last held in Tehran on April 18-19. Tuesday's consultations precede international negotiations on the situation in that country that will begin on May 3. Astana is hosting this forum for the fourth time. Russia's delegation led by Presidential Envoy for the Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentiev , the Iranian, Turkish, possibly, the US (at the ambassadorial level) and the Jordanian delegations will be working in Kazakhstan's capital on May 3. UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will arrive in Astana in the evening on May 2. Representatives of Damascus led by Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, have already arrived in Astana, while the participation of the armed opposition has not been confirmed yet.


Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of seeking to control the Muslim world, in remarks that appear to rule out any rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. "How can I converse with" Iran, Prince Mohammed, 31, said in an interview with Saudi-owned MBC television, which will be aired in full on Tuesday night. He said Iran is preparing the ground for the arrival of the Mahdi, a prophesied Shiite savior, and wants to "control the Muslim world." The world's biggest oil exporter and Iran are on the opposing sides of major Middle East crises, including the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The kingdom is bogged down in a two-year war in Yemen, where it's been trying to restore the rule of an internationally-recognized government against Shiite rebels aligned with Iran.


Atena Daemi, a human rights activist serving a seven-year prison sentence for her peaceful activism, is in "critical" condition on the fourth week of her hunger strike She has also been denied proper medical care in Evin Prison in Tehran, her mother, Masoumeh Nemati, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). "Since last week (Daemi) has been experiencing severe blood pressure fluctuations, nausea, vomiting and stomach pains, but her frequent visits to the prison clinic have not made her any better," Nemati told CHRI on April 30, 2017. "One day Atena went to the prison clinic and there was only a male nurse there," she said. "The nurse called the doctor on the phone and explained Atena's problem. The doctor ordered an electrocardiogram (ECG), but the nurse refused because he said it was (religiously) forbidden to touch a woman."


President Hassan Rouhani, a contender in the forthcoming presidential election, has filed a complaint with Iran's Election Campaign Monitoring Committee about allegations leveled by another candidate against him during a live TV debate. Hesameddin Ashena, the cultural advisor to the president, told ISNA on Sunday the complaint was lodged after presidential candidate, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, leveled three accusations against Rouhani, Press TV reported. He noted that Rouhani complained to the committee that he was not given enough time to respond to Qalibaf's accusations. Ashena hoped that the committee would process the complaint. During the first live debate among the six presidential candidates on Friday, Qalibaf claimed that Rouhani had failed to fulfill his promises to solve the country's economic problems during his first 100 days in office and create four million jobs.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday slammed election slogans of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani on the removal of the "shadow of war" from Iran by signing the nuclear deal. Iranians should not thank Hassan Rouhani's policy of detente with the West for any reduction in the threat of war, Khamenei said on Sunday, stepping up his criticisms of the president as elections approach. Hours later, Rouhani renewed his position, but softened his tone. At the same time, Iran's Election Commission announced that it received complaints from four candidates in the presidential elections because of the issues witnessed in the first debate.

Iran's most famous hard-liner, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is off the ballot - blocked by the ayatollahs who vet the Islamic republic's acceptable candidates, but the country's spirited presidential race is still shaping up to be a fierce battle over the nuclear deal with the Obama administration and its allies. President Hassan Rouhani, a Shiite cleric considered a relative moderate on the Iranian political spectrum, is facing increasing pressure from hard-liners to show the payoff from the agreement struck with the U.S. and five global powers in 2015 to curb its nuclear programs in exchange for the lifting of harsh economic sanctions. Mr. Raisi is a close ally of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is said to be dissatisfied with Mr. Rouhani's handling of relations with the West and is eager to for him to be replaced by a more confrontational character capable of responding to the more assertive approach from Washington under President Trump.


In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the administration of President Donald Trump is currently "reviewing ways to confront challenges posed by Iran." This most likely means looking for ways in which to curb Iran's expansionism in the Middle East. But for any containment plan to be effective, Washington must examine Iran's newly emerging strategy in the Levant and must understand that although Tehran still hopes to achieve regional hegemony in the long term, its current plan is to focus on obtaining and maintaining a predominant position in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. The bloody quagmire involving those three countries offers more opportunities to consolidate power than what would surely be a riskier confrontation in the Gulf, where Iran would have to contend with the United States and its allies. Success in the narrower approach, moreover, could ultimately strengthen Tehran's hand against Saudi Arabia and those in the Sunni bloc.

When the Obama administration managed to avoid a congressional vote on its nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 courtesy of a Democratic Senate filibuster, the argument surrounding the controversial agreement seemed to be over. That's why Democrats are reacting with impatience and skepticism about statements from the Trump administration about re-evaluating the deal. Yet rather than an impotent gesture designed to distract us from a decision not to tear up the accord that President Donald Trump blasted throughout the 2016 election campaign, the administration's talk of reopening the issue should be taken seriously. Trump's foreign policy team is coming to grips with the fact that everything it hopes to accomplish in the Middle East as well as threats to US security are connected to an Iranian regime immeasurably strengthened - both politically and economically - by Obama's misguided effort to create detente with Tehran.

Last month, I wrote about the tendency for Western officials, journalists, and even analysts to lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to coverage of Iran's presidential elections. Simply put, the power does not lay with the presidency but with the supreme leader and unelected military and security apparatus. To suggest that Iranian elections are free and fair or, as former President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to imply, represented the will of the Iranian people is naïve. After all, if the election of Iranian moderates reflects the desire for accommodation on the part of the broader public, then what should the broader world conclude when Iranians elect presidents like Ali Khamenei (r. 1981-1989) or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r. 2005-2013)?

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@uani.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.

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