Entries in Iran (28)


Michelle Obama’s Image Altered By Iranian News Agency

The First Lady in the pre-touchup photo. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- A semi-official Iranian news agency called Fars altered an image of Michelle Obama at the Academy Awards to appeal to their more conservative readers.

An image was Photoshopped to show Mrs. Obama with covered shoulders and chest– a stark contrast from the sleeveless silver gown that she was wearing by designer Naeem Khan on Sunday night.

Although modest by American standards, the designer gown, which exposed the shoulders and partial chest of the first lady, violated the codes of modesty enforced in many Muslim countries.

Patrick Ventrell, deputy State Department spokesperson, wouldn’t comment on Michelle Obama’s manipulated photo but he did say that the State Department has seen images and statements manipulated in the past by the Iranian government.

“We’ve persistently seen Iranian news agencies, whether they’re partially or fully state-run, use fabrication and use other means to distort images.”

Ventrell continues, “It’s something that we’ve seen in the past here in this department. We’ve seen photos manipulated. We’ve seen official statements manipulated. So there would be nothing new. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

And he is right, as Michelle Obama certainly isn’t the only female figure that has been covered up by Middle Eastern media. In 2011, images of supermodel Gisele Bündchen were digitally altered to cover the model, who was starring in a new H&M campaign. The photo alterations were made to ads running in Dubai.

Singer Mariah Carey’s outfits were also modified in Saudi Arabia where her album shots were Photoshopped to more closely align with the values of the Muslim culture.

Michelle Obama wasn’t the only thing that bothered Iranians about the Academy Awards this year. According to the Washington Post, Iranian media has also criticized the best picture of the year Argo as an unflattering portrayal of Iran.

Mehr News produced a headline criticizing Affleck’s acceptance speech. The headline read, “After distorting history, Ben Affleck continues to show a bleak picture of Iran: Iranians live in terrible circumstances.”

And The Asriran news website published remarks suggesting the film has anti-Iranian inclinations.

Though Argo, which focuses on the Iranian hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, has not been shown in any Iranian cinema, Iranian media called the award a “political” win.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Biden: US Remains Open to Direct Talks With Iran

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joseph Biden says the White House remains open to direct talks with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, but the U.S. would refuse to engage Tehran until its government and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demonstrated they were “serious” about moving forward.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Germany Saturday, the vice president said the administration had been clear it “would be prepared” to meet for one-on-one negotiations between the states, outside the multilateral meetings that have not convened for major talks since June.

“We would not make it a secret that we were doing that,” Biden said. “We would let our partners know if that occasion presented itself.  That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible, and there has to be an agenda that they’re prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise.”

Any thawing of the chill between Tehran and Washington suffered another setback last month when Iran announced it would accelerate enrichment of uranium that could be used in fuel reactors as well as nuclear warheads. The decision came ahead of six-power talks expected to resume soon, although the State Department said Iranian leadership has continually changed their preconditions and dates.

Also this week, Iran claimed to have launched a rocket carrying a monkey into space. While analysts have cast serious doubt over the veracity of the claim, it dovetailed with continued international concern the country’s “space program” was being used as a testing bed for ballistic missile technology.

Biden said it wasn’t too late to work within the confines of the multilateral discussions with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

“There is still time, there is still space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed,” he told the conference. “The ball is in the government of Iran’s court, and it’s well past time for Tehran to adopt a serious, good-faith approach to negotiations with the P5-plus-1.”

In December, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told state-run media that his government was also open to bilateral discussions, but that approval would ultimately come from the ayatollah. The minister is at the Munich convention and is expected to make remarks Sunday, although there is no meeting scheduled between the two leaders.

This position on bilateral talks is not a new stance for the Obama administration. But last October the New York Times reported the White House had taken it a step further, with the U.S. and Iran agreeing, in principle, to one-on-one discussions. Citing anonymous members of the Obama administration, the paper said Iran had insisted on delaying negotiation until after the U.S. presidential election in November.

At the time, the White House denied the Times’ report that any such agreement had been met.

While the six-power discussions have gained little traction since the summer, international trade sanctions on Tehran continue to cut into its oil and financial infrastructure.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Chuck Hagel, Obama Differ on Iran Sanctions

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As has been well documented, not everyone is so pleased that President Obama nominated former Senate colleague Chuck Hagel, a Republican, as the next secretary of defense.

Some of that has to do with Iran sanctions.  Groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel have noted that Hagel opposed them repeatedly when he was a senator -- a big no-no among Israel hawks. 

ECI, meanwhile, has blasted Hagel for opposing military action against Iran as irresponsible.

Iran sanctions came up during the presidential race last year, as Mitt Romney and Republicans blasted Obama for going the multilateral route, eschewing U.S.-originated unilateral sanctions and instead gathering international support.

While one might assume that Hagel falls neatly in line with this Obama sanctions paradigm -- multilateral good, unilateral less effective -- it’s worth noting that Hagel found himself on the opposite side of Iran-sanctions bills from Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and new secretary of state nominee John Kerry.

A few notable instances, pointed out to ABC News by an Iran-sanctions expert:

  • Hagel did not cosponsor the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, which urged the president to designate the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group; 72 senators, including Obama, Biden, and Kerry, cosponsored the bill.
  • In July 2001, the Senate overwhelmingly extended the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which requires the president to “penalize” foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector.  The extension passed 96-2.  Hagel voted against it along with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who later enjoyed a good relationship with Obama as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Biden and Kerry both voted for it.
  • In August 2008, Hagel opposed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act in the Senate Banking Committee, as it passed on a 19-2 vote.  With Hagel no longer in the Senate, the measure passed 99-0 in 2010.  Kerry voted for it, and Obama signed it that year.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Breaking for Staff, Press Football Game, Mitt Romney Ignores Questions on Iran, Debates and Polls

Alex Wong/Getty Images(DELRAY BEACH, Fla.) -- Mitt Romney stopped by a football game between members of his staff and the press this afternoon, declining to take questions on Iran, the debate or polls, during a rare break from debate prep.

“Let’s see, look at the captain,” said Romney, walking onto the beach across the street from the Delray Beach, Florida hotel where he’s spent time preparing for Monday evening’s debate. Romney and his wife Ann spent the morning at church, but shortly after returning, the Republican nominee opted to pop by the game.

As he stood and watched the first play, reporters peppered him with questions.

Asked if he would be open to one-on-one talks with Iran, a reference to the White House shooting down a story yesterday in the New York Times that the administration had agreed to the talks, an aide quickly jumped in, “Guys this is a football game, come on.”

“I thought you were talking about one-on-one talks with the President, I was about to answer,” Romney said, laughing.

Another reporter asked Romney if he feels ready for Monday’s debate, to which Romney responded, “Ready for football!”

When asked about this morning poll that showed him in a dead heat nationally with the president, Romney ignored the question altogether.

Prior to the start of the game, Romney conducted the coin toss between a reporter and his communications director, Gail Gitcho. The reporters won the toss – correctly calling “tails.”

“Tails it is! That’s the last call you guys are getting,” Romney said to the group of reporters. “Who’s the ringer over here. Who is it, who is it?”

Then, poking fun at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not on hand for today’s game, Romney said, “Where’s Chris Christie when we need him? He’s our line.”

Romney led a team huddle among his staff, which included much of his senior brass – Bob White, Senior advisers Peter Flaherty, Ron Kaufman, Eric Fehrnstrom and debate prep partner Sen. Rob Portman. Romney lead them in a team cheer, referencing the popular quote “Clear Eyes Can’t Lose” from the television series “Friday Night Lights,” and then offered some advice to the team:

“Figure out which of their players is best and take them out early,” he said. “That’s right, don’t worry about injuries guys, this counts. Win.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Says US Needs to Match Iran’s Influence in Syria

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney said Tuesday night he was prepared to work with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to facilitate the delivery of weapons to “moderate voices” within the Syrian resistance as a means of combating Iran’s “major role” in supporting Bashar al-Assad's government forces.

Turkey has already exchanged artillery fire with the Syrians.  Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the U.S. “must also be playing a role to help shape what’s happening there.”

This is the second time in less than 48 hours the Republican presidential nominee has called for a more direct intervention in Syria’s civil war.

On Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney warned of ”the rising influence of Iran” in the region and suggested the U.S. should act more openly to arm rebels “who share our values” to help in their fight against Syrian “tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.”

“We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran -- rather than sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

Romney also doubled-down on a seemingly subtle bit of language that could push up the timeline for confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.

As during his address at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney on Tuesday asserted that Tehran must be deterred from acquiring the “capability” to build nuclear weapons.

“Preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability rather than assembled weapons means the Romney position is tougher, requiring stopping the slide toward those aims by Iran from continuing,” former U.S. ambassador Mark Lagon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said after Monday's speech.  “Romney is clearly less disturbed by the prospect of any Israeli strike on Iran than [President Obama.]”

As recently as Sept. 14, during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Romney said his “red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon.”

On Tuesday night, the candidate did offer a more conciliatory tone, asking viewers to “recognize that we have a long way to go before military action may be necessary.  And hopefully it’s never necessary.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Says Military Action Against Iran May Not Be Necessary

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney said Friday that he does not believe military action will be necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capability.

Romney added that he still leaves the option of military action “on the table” should it be needed.

Romney’s remarks came as he told reporters Friday afternoon about the phone conversation he had just finished with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During the conversation, Romney said it was made clear that he and Netanyahu “very much have the same interest to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear capability, which would threaten the existence of Israel, threaten devastation potentially in other nations of the world, and we must make every effort to prevent them from developing that nuclear capability.”

“I also believe that there is a strategy that would lead us to preventing Iran from developing nuclear capability. I do not believe in the final analysis we will have to use military action,” said Romney.

“I certainly hope we don’t have to.  I can’t take that option off the table; it must be something which is known by the Iranians as a possible tool to be employed to prevent them from becoming nuclear,” he said. “But I certainly hope that we can prevent any military action from having to be taken.”

Romney, who repeated Friday that he would have encouraged crippling sanctions against Iran earlier than the President did, appeared to soften his tone, no longer declaring with certainty that if Obama is reelected, Iran will get a nuclear weapon.

In his speech to the United Nations on Thursday, Netanyahu, who has for months hinted that Israel would take military action against Iran, also appeared to take a more softened tone.

Netanyahu pushed back to next summer the date by which he believes Iran could get a nuclear weapon, and even offered President Obama, with whom relations have not always been good with, praise for the sanctions he’s placed on Iran.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House: GOP Criticism of Plouffe's $100K Payday 'Clearly Politics'

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defending President Obama’s senior adviser, the White House today said Republican criticism of David Plouffe for speaking to an affiliate of a company with ties to Iran is misplaced and purely political.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Plouffe received a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010, before he joined the White House, for delivering remarks on digital communications to a subsidiary of a company that has since been linked to Iran.

“Criticism of Mr. Plouffe now for issues and controversies that developed much later is simply misplaced,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. “This was prior to David Plouffe coming to work in the White House. It was before the watchdog group had even made an issue of this particular holding company.”

“This is political criticism after the fact that's clearly designed to try to score some points when this was several years ago, prior to this dynamic we have now with regards to sanctions and companies like this,” he said.

Republicans pounced on the story today, saying it “raises serious questions” about the president’s adviser giving a speech to a company “profiting from the oppressive policies of the Iranian regime.”

“David Plouffe may be the biggest loophole in the international community's sanctions against Iran,” an RNC spokesperson said in a statement.

Pushing back, Carney noted that Republican politicians have received similar fees for speaking to groups with connections to the Iranian government.

“I certainly don't recall similar criticism from the RNC when senior members of the George W. Bush administration, prior to taking office, had given paid speeches to companies that, in the case of Credit Suisse and UBS, were cited for violations regarding financing in Iran. And I think that this is clearly politics,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Softens Tone After Aide's Iran Attack Remark

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages(JERUSALEM) -- A top adviser to Mitt Romney said on Sunday that the Republican presidential candidate would "respect" an Israeli decision to use force against Iran, but Romney himself took a softer tone when later discussing Iran.  

Romney and his wife Ann arrived in Israel this weekend and he was hoping for a less controversial trip than his visit to London, where his comments about the Olympics angered Brits, including London's mayor.

The Romneys went to the Western Wall on Sunday where each placed notes in the wall.  He will also hold a fundraiser on Monday in Israel, but the focus of his comments Sunday were on foreign policy and Iran.

Romney's foreign policy adviser Dan Senor said that Romney believes preventing Iran from nuclear capabilities is the "highest national security priority."

"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision," Senor said.

Senor later clarified his comment, saying that Romney hopes that diplomacy and sanctions will succeed in halting Iran's nuclear ambitions, but added, "Gov. Romney recognizes Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it."

Romney took a similar, toned down tact when discussing Iran on Sunday.

In a speech Romney gave Sunday evening, he said, "My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country."

"Make no mistake: The ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses.  They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way," Romney said.

In an interview with ABC News, Romney said, "I recognize the right of Israel to defend itself.  At the same time as two nations we are both committed to employing every means we have to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear following."

"Sanctions are beginning to have a greater impact on Iran," he said.  "We want to execute all of these elements, soft power if you will.  But we of course maintain all options if our political and economic options were to fail we of course retain military options as well."

Romney's trip to Israel is the second stop on his foreign foray and follows a bumpy trip through London where he riled the Brits over his comments about their readiness to put on the Olympic Games.

He will wind up his trip in Poland.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


On Iran, Top Pentagon General Stresses Defense

(NEW YORK) -- The top member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  Monday described the U.S. military posture in the Persian Gulf  as “defensive and deterrent” with regard to Iran.

Gen. Martin Dempsey would not say at what point the troubled U.S. diplomatic relationship with Iran over the country’s nuclear program would or could escalate.

“That’s not my call to make,” Dempsey said during a Memorial Day appearance on “Good Morning America.” “My job is to provide options on behalf of the joint chiefs and the combatant commanders to the commander in chief, who will then determine when the current track, which as you know emphasizes political, diplomatic and economic sanctions  … is exhausted.”

Dempsey’s comments came the day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta struck a resolute tone against Iran during an interview on “This Week” with ABC’s Jake Tapper.

“The fundamental premise is that neither the United States nor the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon,” said Panetta. “International community’s been unified. We’ve put very tough sanctions on them as a result of that, and we are … prepared for any contingency in that part of the world. But our hope is that these matters can be resolved diplomatically.”

Tapper pointed to recent comments made by the U.S. ambassador to Israel that the U.S. is “ready from a military perspective to carry out a strike on Iran.”

Panetta said, “One of the things that we do at the Defense Department, Jake, is plan. And we have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves.”

Dempsey echoed that language about defense and emphasized that the U.S. is already engaged in other operations in that part of the world.

“I’ve got – we’ve got – forces postured in the Gulf for any number of reasons. Some in support of Afghanistan. Some that are still in the process of flowing out after the end of a long war in Iraq, and those forces can be turned, but there are no …  I would describe our current stance in the Gulf as defensive and deterrent in nature,” he said.

Dempsey also discussed the coming drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan before the planned cease of combat operations for NATO forces at the end of 2014, and also reflected on the sacrifices of the fallen on Memorial Day.

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 Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Accuses GOP of 'Beating the Drums of War' On Iran

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama shot down criticisms on Tuesday that he has been weak on Iran, accusing his Republican rivals of “beating the drums of war” amid rising concerns about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

“What’s said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities,” the president said at his first White House news conference of the year. “They’re not commander-in-chief.”

The president warned that critics of his Iran policy are “folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk,” but are neglecting the true costs of war.

“This is not a game.  And there's nothing casual about it,” the president said. “We don't play politics with it. When we have in the past, when we haven't thought it through and it gets wrapped up in politics, we make mistakes.”

Republican front-runner Mitt Romney has accused the Obama administration of having “dawdled” with sanctions against Iran.

The president portrayed such remarks as dangerous political posturing. “I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be.  I'm not one of those people,” he said.

Obama’s “Super Tuesday” news conference was an attempt by the administration to divert attention away from the Republican presidential candidates, who are facing off in 10 contests.

When asked to respond to Romney’s accusations about his foreign policy, Obama simply told Romney, “Good luck tonight.”

“No, really?” one reporter asked.

“Really,” Obama responded to laughter from the White House press corps.

When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the president continued to argue there is still a “window of opportunity” for diplomatic and economic pressures to work.

Absent from the president’s remarks, however, were his recent calls for all options, including military action, to be on the table.

Obama’s continued push for diplomacy comes as the Israelis have asked the White House to more starkly threaten military action against Iran if it continues to violate its international agreements to refrain from building a nuclear weapon.

Obama assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday that “the United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security.” On Tuesday, the president explained he was simply restating his “consistent position that the security of Israel is something I deeply care about.”

“It was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action,” Obama said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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