LATEST: Mid-February Nuclear Discussions in New York


Video Analysis: Tehran’s Syria Strategy — Can It Still “Win”?

The Supreme Leader, through his senior foreign policy advisor, has said that the Geneva II talks on Syria’s crisis are unlikely to yield “favorable” results because Iran is not present.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign Foreign Minister and Presidential candidate, said on Sunday that talks have been doomed by the “illegitimate demands” of Syria’s “foreign-backed” opposition.

He said the peace conference will likely end without “tangible” and “positive” results as it lacks any solid basis, with the opposition consisting of “mercenaries and supporters of terrorism”.

At the start of last week, the United Nations invited Iran to the conference, but the invitation was withdrawn, following the insistence of the Syrian opposition and the US that Tehran accept President Assad’s departure for a transitional governing authority.

The Islamic Republic said the demand was not legitimate and claimed it had never requested the invitation to the meeting.

On the nuclear issue, Velayati continued to give the Supreme Leader’s support to the interim deal with the 5+1 Powers and forthcoming talks on a comprehensive agreement: “We are facing complicated and sensitive negotiations and it is necessary to support the negotiating team.”

Mid-February Nuclear Discussions in New York

The State Department has confirmed Iranian reports that the next round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 Powers will take place in New York in mid-February.

Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokesperson said by e-mail:

It is our understanding that the first round of comprehensive negotiations will be in New York in mid-February with dates still being confirmed on schedules.

New York —– agreed to by EU High Representative [Catherine] Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif –– has a similar support infrastructure to Geneva. We believe that United Nations and international support is important for work on a comprehensive agreement.

The discussions will begin consideration of a comprehensive agreement to follow up November’s interim nuclear deal.

Basij Militia “To Monitor Human Rights Violations by West”

The Lieutenant Commander of the Basij militia, Ahmad Esfandiari, has announced, “From the beginning of the next Iranian year (March 21, 2014), we will release quarterly reports on the human rights violations by the westerners and the Americans.”

Esfandiyari said the US has launched military attacks on 52 countries, “and 50 million American-Indians have been killed in the US since its establishment as a country”.

He explained that 3,000 people are on Death Row in the US, even as Iran is condemned for its executions. Meanwhile, “the US justice secretary has announced that the number of shootings in the US has tripled during 2008-2013 as compared with the 2000-2008 period, which shows lack of security for the Americans”.

Britain to Re-Open Embassy in Iran?

Arron Reza Merat of The Economist reports:

Britain closed its Embassy after the compound was stormed by a crowd in November 2011. London subsequently expelled Iranian diplomats.

In a sign of improved relations, each side appointed a non-resident Charge d’Affaires in November, following discussions between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations in New York.

Journalists Call on Rouhani to Fulfill Promise to Re-Open Association

Almost 800 journalists have urged President Rouhani to deliver his promise to reopen the Association of Iranian Journalists.

In a letter to Rouhani, the 772 signatories said the re-opening would have been one of the new Government’s accomplishments, but instead they are disappointed that the organization is still banned.

The Association was shut down in 2009 on the order of Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi, who is now on trial for complicity in the abuse and killing of protesters after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

The letter comes after Rouhani made a deal with the Supreme Leader to back away from pledges to open up Iran’s political and cultural sphere, in return for Ayatollah Khamenei’s continuing support for nuclear negotiations.

See Iran Special: Rouhani & Supreme Leader Deal – Protecting A Nuclear Agreement, Giving Up Political Prisoners & “Freedom”

Deputy FM on Syria: “Removal of Assad Would Lead to Haven for Terrorists, Threatening All of Us”

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, in an interview with an Irish newspaper, has warned that if Syria’s President Assad is removed, “We would face a failed situation in Syria which would be a haven for all these terrorists.”

Araqchi warned that fighters who had travelled from Europe and joined terrorists in Syria could eventually return to European capitals:

[The terrorists] are recruiting. I heard 800 from Germany, 600 from France. Suppose that they finish their job in Syria with a sense of victory and come back to Europe…

They may go back to Afghanistan, they may come to Iran, they may go back to Europe. It’s a common danger, a common concern for all of us.

Larijani: We Will Increase Military Budget in Response to US Threats

Iran is continuing its campaign against US Secretary of State John Kerry’s “military options still on the table” remark, with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani declaring that the Majlis will increase the country’s military budget in response to Washington’s “war rhetoric”.

Larijani told MPs, “You heard Kerry’s remarks and saw his sabre-rattling against the Islamic Republic of Iran and we should fully understand this sensitivity and take practical measures against it.”

The Supreme Leader’s advisor to the Revolutionary Guards, Yadollah Javani, added his warning, “The Americans are well aware that if they make a mistake, the Islamic Republic’s response will be much [more] crushing and devastating and in other words, we will give a response with a wider radius.”

Kerry said last Thursday that the US had all measures ready if Iran did not adhere to November’s interim nuclear agreement.

Over the weekend, Iranian lawmakers, the military, and the Foreign Ministry queued up to denounce Washington, with Revolutionary Guards head Mohammad Ali Jafari pronouncing:

Mr. Kerry must know that direct battle with the US is the biggest dream of pious and revolutionary people across the world. Your threats offer our revolutionary people the best opportunity.