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The Art of No Deal

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Published on September 28th, 2013 | by Guest

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This Week in Iran News — Sept. 20-27

by Shawn Amoei

Foreign Affairs

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry had a 30-minute, one-on-one chat with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif following the P5+1 meeting. Both parties declared the talk positive and constructive.
  • Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that an American request for a meeting between presidents Rouhani and Obama was made on short notice and “enough time to make necessary arrangements” did not exist, but had there been more time such a meeting “could have taken place.”
  • President Hassan Rouhani met with top EU officials Thursday including president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

  • In a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani announced the reaching of an agreement between Iran, Iraq, and Turkey on the need for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
  •  After meeting with representatives from the P5+1, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced, “I am satisfied with this first step. Now we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so we can move forward.”
  • Leader of conservatives in Parliament and recent presidential candidate Gholamali Haddad Adel reacted to President Obama’s UN speech and credited Iran’s election for America’s change of position on Iran, saying, “It [the election] was definitely impactful. When they see a country within a sea of chaos in the region reach a degree of political maturity that, despite sanctions and economic pressure, conducts a peaceful, bloodless election, this means positive developments in Iran have occurred.”
  • Safar Naemi-Zar, member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, expressed optimism for establishing ties with the US if both sides “control excited political behavior.” He added that “radical groups” exist in the US and Iran that seek to prevent improved ties.
  • FM Zarif met separately with foreign ministers from Greece, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Croatia, Australia, Italy, and Switzerland on Monday to discuss expansion of bilateral ties. On Tuesday he met counterparts from Russia, Germany, Bahrain, and Burundi, and on Wednesday with representatives from Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, and Belarus.
  • Mansour Haghighatpour, head of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that relations with the US are within reach provided a shift in position by the US. “The Americans must remove the wall of mistrust that for 60 years they created between Iran and the US and pay the cost from their pocket so the Iranian people may gain confidence by the change in behavior.”
  • British Foreign Secretary William Hague with Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif Monday. Both emphasized the need for normalizing relations and cooperation on a range of issues.

Nuclear Program

  • President Rouhani responded to a question about what time frame he has in mind for resolving Iran’s nuclear dispute by saying, “Iran believes it will take three months. If it takes six months, that is fine too. This issue will be solved in months not years.”
  • Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi confirmed the transfer of Bushehr’s nuclear power plant from Russia to Iranian scientists and announced the planned construction of a new plant in the near future.
  • Members of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team have been named. Javad Zarif will head the team, while others holding key government posts have been added, including Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, Majid Takht Ravanchi, Hamid Baeidnejad and others from the country’s Atomic Organization and Security Council. The team will also have an official spokesperson.
  • Negotiations on the nuclear program between Iran and the P5+1 are scheduled to take place mid-October in Geneva.

Military

  • Rouhani and other senior political and military officials attended a military parade on Sunday set every year during ‘Sacred Defense Week’ in commemoration of the Iran-Iraq war.
  • Major General Yahya Safavi, senior military advisor to the Supreme Leader, attributed responsibility for US hostility toward Iran to the ‘Zionist lobby’ and advised the US government to “not sacrifice themselves, their country, and their interests for the interests of the Zionist lobby.”

Human Rights

  • Attorney-General Gholam-Hossein Eje’i announced the Supreme Leader’s decision to pardon 80 political prisoners, many of whom were arrested in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2009.
  • Minister of Intelligence Hojatoleslam Mahmoud Alavi responded to a question on the release of more political prisoners by suggesting that additional pardons are planned for the holiday of Ghadir Khum that takes place on October 22nd.

Economic Issues

  • Optimism stemming from Iran’s new political posture and leadership has led to continued growth in the Tehran Stock Exchange as it witnessed a 4% increase this week.
  • Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh has issued three new orders to boost Iran’s gas production as part of an effort that would see Iran’s output surpass that of neighboring Qatar.
  • An Iranian gas field that was jointly operated with BP until sanctions banned the company’s involvement three years ago is increasingly showing signs that the ban could soon be lifted as various top officials in the British government predicted this week.
  •  Masoud Daneshmand, representative of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, expressed optimism that improved relations with the US could lead to strong economic ties and the creation of a shared Chamber of Commerce based on a proposal already devised by the Iranians.

Civil Society

  • The popular reformist newspaper Hammihan has received license to renew publication after it was shut down during Ahmadinejad’s tenure. The move is part of what appears to be a trend toward greater press freedoms since Rouhani’s election.
  • A number of journalists and media outlets awaiting trial on charges lodged against them by Ahmadinejad’s government were dismissed and set free following an order by President Rouhani. The cancellation of all charges is part of an effort to ease pressure on journalists.

– Shawn Amoei is a London-based foreign affairs analyst, specializing in US foreign policy and the Middle East. He writes for Iranwire and the Huffington Post, and can be reached by email.

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