Entries in Iran (374)


Ahmadinejad Says Goodbye to Iraq as Iranian President

(BAGHDAD) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have turned into something of a pariah in his homeland but he's still welcomed in Iraq.

With Ahmadinejad preparing to turn over the civilian reins of power to President-elect Hassan Rowhani, he made one last official visit to Baghdad Thursday to essentially reiterate the new ties the two governments have after years of conflict.

When Saddam Hussein was Iraq's leader, there was no love lost between Baghdad and Tehran. However, Hussein’s ouster, thanks to the U.S.-led invasion, helped bring Iraq and Iran closer together, especially with a Shiite government now in control.

Ahmadinejad, who last visited Baghdad in 2008, said during brief remarks, "We are determined to make use of all available opportunities to develop brotherly relations."

It's expected that these ties will continue unabated with Rowhani in control, although he blamed the old administration this past week for the poor state of the Iranian economy.

Currently, the two countries are engaged in $13 billion in annual trade.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Foreign Minister Says Iraq Can't Stop Iran Arms Shipments to Syria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Iraq does “not have the ability to stop” the transport of weapons from Iran to Syria through its airspace without help, Iraq’s foreign minister said on Saturday.

“We reject and condemn the transfer of weapons through our airspace and we will inform the Iranian side of that formally,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview published Saturday.

Without elaborating on what Iran may be delivering to Syria, Zebari said to anyone who thought Iraq was ignoring arms shipments, “I invite you, in the name of the government to help us stop these flights across Iraqi airspace.”

His comments come 10 months after ABC News first reported U.S. officials were furious with Iraq for allowing Iran to use its airspace, violating a U.N. Security Council ban on weapons exports from the Islamic Republic.

Last September, State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that the U.S. had warned Iraqi officials about the issue and as recently as March 2013, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Baghdad to begin inspecting planes flying from Tehran to Damascus.

“Anything that supports President Assad is problematic,” Kerry said in Baghdad. At the time, the New York Times reported that Iranian planes delivering arms to Syria passed through Iraq almost daily.

But Zebari said that their inspections had only turned up non-lethal aid including food and medicine.

The Syrian regime has long been propped up by the Shiite leadership in Iran, which sees the survival of President Bashar al-Assad as a key to its regional strength and leverage. In keeping Assad’s Alawite government afloat, an offshoot sect of Shiite Islam, Tehran seeks to counterbalance the U.S.’s relationship with Israel and Iran’s Arab rivals.  Iran has sent money, weapons and fighters to support the Syrian army, though most of the extra manpower has come from Lebanon’s leading Islamic military and political force, Hezbollah, also supported by Iran.

Most recently, a senior State Department official told ABC News that according to the Free Syrian Army, Hezbollah and Iranian fighters played a key role on the ground in the battle of Qusair.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Moderate Candidate Wins Iranian Presidential Election

(TEHRAN, Iran) -- In a surprising message of change, Hassan Rouhani was elected as the new president of Iran on Saturday.

Rouhani, considered the most moderate candidate on a ballot full of conservatives, will take over for former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was not allowed to run for another term after leading the country for the last eight years.

By winning 50.8 percent of the vote, Rouhani avoided a second round run-off election. He gained a much attention after indicating during his campaign that he would pursue a less confrontational foreign policy and would enact a "civil rights charter" in Iran.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Iran Executes Two Men Accused of Spying for United States and Israel

Hemera/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) – Iran executed two men they had convicted of spying for the Unites States and Israel, according to Iran State Radio.

The radio report said one of the men hanged was Mohammad Heidari, convicted of providing the Israeli intelligence service Mossad with classified information. The second man was Kourosh Ahmadi, who was alleged to have given the CIA intelligence on Iran.

Iran has long accused Israel and the United States of spying on its nuclear program.

It’s not known when the two men were arrested and tried, but they were hanged at dawn Sunday, according to BBC News.

The execution comes only a few months after the Iran Supreme Court overturned Amir Mirzai Hekmati’s death sentence. Hekmati, an Iranian-American national, is accused of spying for the CIA and was arrested in August of 2011 while visiting family in Iran.

Hekmati and the United States government deny Iran’s spying allegations, and numerous groups are working to secure his release.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Family of Marine Held Prisoner in Iran Asks Secretary of State for Help

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The family of a U-S marine who has been held captive for nearly two years in Iran is calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to get involved.

Amir Hekmati, 29, has been languishing in an Iranian prison since August of 2011 when he traveled to the country to visit his grandmother. He was arrested by Iranian authorities and accused of being a spy.

In January of 2012 Hekmati was sentenced to death, but that was overturned, though he remains in custody.

Hekmati’s family has made numerous attempts to free him.

“We've really tried appealing with letters to members of the judiciary, to the Supreme Leader, to the president of Iran,” Hekmati’s sister explained to a reporter on Friday.

Now, the family is reaching out to the secretary of state for help.

Patrick Ventrell, State Department spokesman, responded to their appeal on Friday, saying that freeing Hekmati is a top priority and that they're continuing to reach a diplomatic solution, according to the Washington Post.

The family wants to see Hekmati returned home safely, and soon. Hekmati’s mother says her husband is growing older and is very worried about their son.

“[He] always said, ‘I want to see him before I go.’” Hekmati’s mother told reporters.

They are hoping that the father’s failing health may help their case.

“Our hope is that Iran, with their tendency to respect the eldest son's role in the family, to return home and take care of what their father cannot provide in case of death or illness, that they would find a way to release him out of humanitarian cause,” Hekmati’s brother-in-law explained.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


No Agreement Reached in Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program

iStockphoto(ALMATY, Kazakhstan) -- Iran and the major powers have failed to reach an agreement after two days of talks on Iran's nuclear program taking place in Kazakhstan.

Iran had been negotiation with six world powers, the United States, Russia, China, the UK, France, and Germany, over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran denies that its intentions are anything but peaceful, but world powers are wary of covert nuclear weapons.

Iran was to stop working on its more sensitive nuclear activates, and in return some tough economic sanctions against the country would be eased, though no such deal was reached.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton admitted that they are not even close to an agreement.

"It became clear that the positions... remain far apart on the substance," Ashton said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Kerry Urges Iraqis to Stop Iranian Aid to Syria

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry made his first visit to Iraq on Sunday as America's top envoy in an effort to convince leaders there that they must stop Iran from using Iraqi airspace to transport military assistance to Syria.

Washington has been specific with Baghdad that such allowances should cease. Yet despite assurances from Iraq, the transfer of Iranian arms and fighters continues with Baghdad apparently looking the other way.

Kerry's message to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is that the over flights must end, or at least, Iranian cargo needs to be examined before it is allowed to continue to Syria.

The U.S. government isn't buying the excuse that Iranian planes are only carrying "humanitarian" aid to Damascus. Tehran remains one of President Bashar al-Assad's few allies in the region.

Kerry's unannounced trip was also intended as an appeal to the Shiite government to stop marginalizing the Sunni majority.

The Shiites now wield most of the power in Iraq with both Sunnis and Kurds accusing al-Maliki of cutting them out of important decisions to determine Iraq's progress forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parting of the Ways Between Iran and Al Qaeda?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Iran's leaders appear conflicted about their relationship with al Qaeda even as both are sworn enemies of the U.S. and Israel.

Washington officials believe that Iran's decision to expel Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, is further proof of the changing attitude about the theocratic government's loose connection to the terrorist organization.  Other al Qaeda officials who've sought refuge in Iran have also been given the boot.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser on counterterrorism to the Obama administration, calls it "a partnership of convenience, with some really rough edges."

Simply put, while Tehran permits al Qaeda militants to use its country as a way to move to other hot spots in the region, Shiite-dominated Iran has fundamental differences with the group's philosophy, particularly since al Qaeda is a Sunni organization.

What's more, Iran supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his effort to hold onto power while al Qaeda sides with Sunni fighters attempting to oust the regime.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


US General: An Iranian Nuke Would Spark Arms Race

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A high-level U.S. military commander said Tuesday that if Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, another country in the region has already pledged to do the same.

"At least one other nation has told me they would do that," said Gen. James Mattis, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, before an open hearing for the Senate Armed Services Committee. "At a leadership level, they have assured [me] they would not stay without a nuclear weapon" if Iran had one.

Mattis said he feared that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would be the, "most destabilizing event that we could imagine for the Middle East."

Mattis did not identify the regional actor to which he was referring, but answered in the affirmative after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked if it was a "Sunni Arab state." And Mattis said he didn't believe it would necessarily end there, saying other, "non-Sunni Arab states in the general region" may seek a similar capability.

Iran, which is dominated by Shiite Muslims, is for the most part surrounded by countries in which a majority of the population is Sunni. In December 2011, a Saudi Arabian prince, Turki al-Faisal, reportedly suggested that his country, a powerful regional rival led by Sunni Arabs, would consider a nuclear weapons program should it become clear Iran had obtained the bomb. Last October, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a British newspaper he believed Egypt and Turkey would follow suit. Israel is widely believed to already possess nuclear weapons of their own, but the government has not confirmed their existence publicly.

The "likely" possibility that an Iranian nuclear weapon would lead, "other governments in the region to pursue their own nuclear weapons programs," was noted in the new Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, legislation introduced to the House last week by Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., with 48 co-sponsors.

However, some analysts believe the threat of a Middle Eastern nuclear domino effect is overly hyped.

Colin Kahl, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, wrote in a report last month that Saudi Arabia would have "significant disincentives" to conducting a crash course on nuclear weapon development in response to an Iranian nuke, particularly if it relies on nuclear-armed Pakistan for help. Kahl told ABC News Tuesday that doing so would make both countries, "extraordinarily vulnerable to international sanctions and rupture the security relationship with the United States."

Also, Kahl said he believes Saudi Arabia is at least a decade away from having the rudimentary infrastructure necessary to support such an effort, making that possibility, "a long way away."

Joseph Cirincione of the anti-nuclear proliferation group Ploushares Fund also questioned whether a regional arms race might be triggered if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon and looked to North Korea as a counter-point to the U.S. and Israeli officials' warning words.

Cirincione noted that the small Asian nation has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006 and -- save for the already nuclear-armed China and Russia -- said its smaller neighbors still have not sought to match the capability. He said a nuclear Iran might set off regional discussions, but he too believes Saudi Arabia would be risking too much by attempting to join the nuclear club.

"Would Saudi Arabia really break its alliance with the United States and pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?" he said.

As for Egypt and Turkey, Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in a March 2012 Foreign Policy report that they too would likely not have the combination of will and ability to pursue a weaponized nuclear program even with Iranian prompting.

Mattis said Tuesday he believes economic sanctions still have a chance of dissuading the Iranian leadership from pursuing a bomb in the first place, should unpopularity in the streets trump nuclear ambitions.

"But if that doesn't work, we can bring them to their knees?" Sen. Graham asked, apparently referring to American military capabilities.

After a long pause, Mattis replied, "Yes sir. There are a number of means to do that, perhaps even short of open conflict. But certainly that's one of the options I have to have prepared for the President."

Mattis' comments come the same day newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News' Martha Raddatz that Iran continues to move closer to developing a nuclear weapons capability.

"Lines have been drawn before and they've been passed," Kerry said. "That's why the president has been so definitive this time. This is a very challenging moment with great risks and stakes for everybody because the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon."

For years, Iranian leaders have maintained the country's nuclear program is strictly for peaceful energy purposes.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Biden: America’s 'Not Bluffing' on Iran

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Tough talk from Vice President Joe Biden Monday, warning that the U.S. is determined to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“Big nations can’t bluff,” said Biden at a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a group that lobbies in favor of Israel. “Presidents of the United States cannot bluff. And President Barack Obama is not bluffing.”

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanhayu, has repeatedly called for the international community, and the United States, to keep Iran from crossing the “red line,” enriching enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

The Obama administration has employed a “dual track” strategy on Iran, continuing diplomatic negotiations while imposing harsh sanctions on the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Biden told AIPAC that Iran has a limited time for negotiations.

“We’re not looking for war. We’re looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military options, are on the table,” he said to a cheering crowd.

In his 40-minute speech he also said the Obama administration’s support of Israel is the strongest in the country’s history.  Biden spoke of how the United States supports the Jewish state militarily, citing the success of the Iron Dome program used in last year’s conflict with Gaza, and other missile defense and radar projects currently in progress.

Biden also said America stands up for Israel diplomatically across the globe. He told the crowd that President Obama makes it clear to all other allies that U.S. support for Israel is, and always will be, unwavering.

“There is only one nation, only one nation in the world that has unequivocally, without hesitation and consistently confronted the efforts to delegitimize Israel. At every point in our administration, at every juncture, we’ve stood up on the legitimacy -- on behalf of legitimacy of the state of Israel,” said Biden.

Wherever Obama goes in the world, said Biden, “he makes clear that although we want better relations with Muslim-majority countries, Israel’s legitimacy and our support for it is not a matter of debate…It’s simple, and he means it.  Do not raise it with us. It is not negotiable.”

Biden joked about his envy at President Obama’s trip to Israel later this month.

“I’m a little jealous that he gets to be the one to say ‘this year in Jerusalem,' said Biden, drawing laughter and cheers. "But I’m the vice president. I’m not the president,” he shrugged, smiling.

“So when I told him that.  I’m not sure he thought I was serious or not.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio