The Supreme Leader’s top foreign advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati engaged in tough talk about the US on Wednesday, amid the nuclear negotiations and the Syrian crisis.

Velayati said, “America knows that symmetric security in the region is not possible without Iran. No country in the region is as powerful as Iran and the stability of no country is as strong as Iran.”

Targeting President Obama and US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman after the opening of talks on a comprehensive agreement, Velayati added:

The Americans will not be satisfied whatsoever. You saw that Ms. Sherman had said that her wish is for Iran to not have any nuclear activities. America’s President has also said that he would open the screws of Iran’s nuclear installations. This is their wish, but they cannot [achieve it].

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The best interpretation is that we say these (Americans) have no choice but to surrender to the role of a ‘strong Iran’ in the region.

Velayati, who is also head of the Expediency Council, repeated Iran’s fundamental position that it will not dismantle facilities under a comprehensive nuclear deal, “The red lines are non-reduction in the number of centrifuges. We will also not forego the Arak heavy water reactor and Fordo (uranium enrichment) site.”

Experts from Iran and the 5+1 Powers began technical talks on Wednesday. The two sides are scheduled to resume high-level negotiations on March 17 in Vienna.

(Hat tip to Iran Tracker for translation)

Reformist Arrested After Criticism of Regime’s Silence About Corruption

Sources say Razawi Faqih, a member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been arrested after he criticized the silence of senior clerics, Parliament, and the Assembly of Experts about corruption during the Ahmadinejad Government from 2005 to 2013.

Faqih called for discussion of the issue before the death of Supreme Leader, “since after his death there will be a massive dispute amongst political parties”.

After the disputed 2009 Presidential election, Fawzi worked for a time in Paris on behalf of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

Tehran Denies Israel Claim of “Iranian Weapons Ship” Bound For Gaza

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has denied Israel’s claim that Iran sent a ship loaded with 302mm rockets for the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that special forces boarded the Panamanian-registered ship a day before it was due in Sudan, en route to the blockaded Strip. They said that the rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, put on a cargo ship, and hidden under cement bags in Iraq before the vessel sailed for Sudan.

See Israel Claims Capture of Iranian “Weapons Ship” Bound for Gaza Strip

The Iranian military and the Gazan movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad also rejected the Israeli allegations.