Iran news round up – March 18, 2015

A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analysts Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Farzin Farzad and Diana Timmerman. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

Key takeaway: The fourth day of U.S-Iran nuclear talks took place in Lausanne. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani reiterated the regime’s stance that Iranian aid is “not limited to a certain group or belief” in the fight against terrorism.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met during the fourth day of U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland today. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani said that the “ball is in their [the West’s] court in the negotiations,” echoing other officials’ earlier sentiments that achieving a deal is a matter of the West’s removal of sanctions and recognition of Iran’s nuclear rights.

Shamkhani also said that Iran’s assistance to regional partners is “not limited to a certain group or belief, and that when it comes to fighting terrorism is [Iran] is considered a supporter and pioneer…” Shamkhani also stated that Assyrian Christians recently approached Iran for training and weapons. The regime, which has long worked to promote itself as a pan-Islamic leader, has claimed that Sunnis as well as Shias have supported its efforts in the fight against ISIS.

 

 

Official statements

  • Rouhani: economic improvements are thanks to the support of the people. President Hassan Rouhani discussed “observing driving regulations and protecting the environment” during Persian New Year celebrations this week. He also stated:
    • “…despite the end of economic problems, people still have problems in the economic sectors of their lives; however, the statistics and indicators are telling us that we had considerable achievements, and these successes once again show the support, presence, help, and efforts of the people in different contexts.”
    • Rouhani pointed to the 50 billion dollars’ worth of exports this past year, expressing hope that in the next fiscal year “all producers in the fields of agriculture, industry, and mining will have a better situation.”
    • Rouhani also stated, “Our relations with [our] neighbors are on a better level than in the past; our planning in economic ties, with neighboring countries in years past are…such that the volume of our trade and economic relations with some countries will be doubled.” (President.ir)
  • Zanganeh: Iran will not reduce its OPEC production share.  Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh criticized OPEC’s failure to reduce production and claimed that Iran would not reduce its production quota.
    • On the price of oil: Political will exists to create disorder in the marketplace, and if this political will ceases, the price of oil will go up…Oil prices should naturally get better because those who brought down the price are all under pressure.”
    • He also said that while Iran wants a better relationship with the world, “we have proven that sanctions cannot stop us.”
    • On OPEC: At current prices, OPEC does not work well and “OPEC’s problem is that consensus must be achieved – OPEC’s strength and weakness lies in this feature… According to the previous [OPEC] decision, each member had a production ceiling and [individual] member quotas were eliminated, and members would produce a total of 30 million barrels and it is very wrong. This means some countries consume the remaining [production] shares if others do not want to fight back…No problem, we are fighting and a barrel will not return to its previous small quota, but OPEC has the legal authority and can do this. Finally with all of these problems, OPEC is not better… and OPEC is the only organization in the Third World that could have an impact on the world, and there is none similar.”
    • On non-OPEC producers: “We should encourage non-OPEC countries to cut production because there isn’t good cooperation.”
    • On subsidies to the oil sector: “Subsidies to the oil sector are under pressure and any more money received increases the power of the industry.”
    • Zanganeh also claimed that America had contributed to the decision to not cut production. (IRNA)
  • Nahavandian: increase in capital formation illustrates our promising economy. On the sidelines of a cabinet meeting today, President Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian stated, “the rate of capital formation has risen from negative 11% to 13.6% this year, which shows that our economic climate has been promising; this rate marks a picture of our economy.” Nahavandian contrasted the Iranians’ “dignified and rational approach” in the nuclear negotiations with the “disputes” which have occurred in the “enemy camp.”  (Mashregh News)
  • Tehran: nuclear negotiations are at a delicate stage. Marzieh Afkham discussed the current round of nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland and said that they are at an “intense and delicate” stage. The Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman stated that the technical side has made “good progress” and Iranian negotiators are “discussing all the legal, political and technical aspects to see what assurances the other negotiating side will provide in this regard.” Afkham also talked about the timetable for reaching a final deal:
    • “Solutions must be found and both sides should say [agree] what the solutions are and accordingly work on the details of some other issues to reach an agreement by the end of June.” (ISNA)
  • Shamkhani praises Iranian resilience. Ali Shamkhani dismissed the notion that economic sanctions have been an effective, because of “…the will of the Iranian people.” The Supreme National Security Council Secretary said that a nuclear deal could be reached if the West recognizes Iran’s rights according to international law and abandons polices of economic pressure and military threats; he stated, “the ball is on their court.” (IRIB)
  • Shamkhani: the Assyrian Christians requested training and weapons from Iran. Shamkhani also highlighted Iran’s role in providing security in the region and said that in a recent visit, Assyrian Christian representatives asked Iran for training and weapons “in order to ensure the security of Assyrians in Iraq.” Shamkhani said that Iran does not limit its aid and added: “This indicates that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s [assistance] is not limited to a certain group or belief, and that when it comes to fighting terrorism it [Iran] is considered a supporter and pioneer to confront this scourge.” (IRIB)
  • Jazayeri: Achievements in missile development owed to the Supreme Leader. Armed Forces General Staff Headquarters Basij Affairs and Defense Culture Deputy IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri said that the greatest military achievements of Iran in various fields, including in the development of missiles, is owed to Supreme Leader. (YJC

Economy

  • $18.5 million in subsidies for manufacturing for the following year. The Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht announced the allocation of 5200 billion toman (approximately $18.5 million) in subsidies for the manufacturing sector for the upcoming year. (Tasnim News Agency

Nuclear Talks

  • Fourth day of bilateral U.S.-Iran talks conclude. The fourth day of bilateral U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ended in Lausanne, Switzerland, with all of the members of the bilateral negotiating team present. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi also held discussions with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernst Muniz on various technical issues. Dismissing the need to open the bilateral talks, Zarif said, “We have seen all of the EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels. We recently met the Chinese Foreign Minister in Tehran and with Mr. Kerry, we met the Russian Foreign minister in Geneva. If the need arises, minsters may come, but I doubt that the presence of the ministers is required.” He added that bilateral U.S.-Iran talks will conclude on Friday before resuming at the end of March in Switzerland. (Mehr News)
  • Salehi: we have made progress on the technical issues, but problems still remain. During this week’s nuclear negotiations, Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi stated, “There will be no agreement unless all issues are encompassed, and it is not possible in one paragraph of two to reach a consensus on an agreement, and other paragraphs remain without mastery.” Salehi also said, “In the technical affairs problems we have made forward progress; however, many issues have remained on which we have still not reached an agreement.” (Mehr News)
  • After his March 16 meeting in Brussels with his German, French, and British counterparts, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated, “negotiations with the European side were good…” (Mehr News

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Abdollahian reiterates Iran’s commitment to Syria. Hossein Amir Abdollahian praised Iranian efforts in refusing to let Syria become like Somalia or Libya, and said Tehran will continue to support the Syrian people. The Arab and African Affairs Deputy to the Foreign Minister credited President Bashar al Assad for maintaining a unified Syria. (YJC)

By AEI Critical Threat