March 16, 2015
Iran Tracker Blog: Will Congressional Moves Push Iran Towards Concessions??
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s and other political figures’ recent venting about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and an open letter from 47 Republican senators asserting the US congressional role in any final nuclear agreement comes as no surprise. Iranian negotiators may try to use the senators’ move to extract more from the US in the nuclear talks. But it is more likely the letter could push Tehran towards greater concessions, as reaching a deal sooner will mitigate further US congressional actions. On the security front, the growing transfer of advanced weapons from Iran to Iraq to support Baghdad’s campaign against ISIS further demonstrates Tehran’s commitment to becoming the dominant security guarantor in Iraq at the expense of US and allied interests. In Yemen, Iran’s rhetoric continues to advance their al Houthi allies’ legitimacy in Sana’a while supporting a negotiated settlement with all the major Yemeni political actors. Tehran’s actions, including a recent bilateral economic agreement directly with the al Houthis, will likely have the opposite effect instead and help drive polarization between factions in north and south Yemen.
Iran still content with emerging nuclear deal:
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sharply criticized the United States in a March 12 speech before Iran’s Assembly of Experts and reinforced his support for Iran’s negotiating team. Khamenei called recent US statements “ludicrous, cheap, and disgusting,” and termed the March 9 letter from 47 Republican senators “the ultimate collapse of political ethics” in America. On March 15, Expediency Council Chair Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani likened Iran’s domestic critics of the nuclear deal to the 47 Republican senators, whom he said were circumventing negotiations and warmongering. This did not stop National Security and Foreign Policy Parliamentary Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi from stating, “the likelihood of a [nuclear] agreement has increased.” A chorus of similarly optimistic statements about the ongoing P5+1 negotiations in Switzerland from other Iranian leaders indicate the regime anticipates a deal will be reached and is eager to conclude the talks.
Iranian arms escalate Iraqi firepower in Tikrit:
Iranian T-72 tanks were spotted last week near the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the town of Samarra. Reports indicate the tanks are operated by members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which, if true, would constitute a violation of the arms embargo established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747. Iran also reportedly deployed Fajr-5 artillery rockets and Fateh-110 missiles for the Tikrit campaign, but it is uncertain whether Iraqi forces have used either weapon so far in the fight. Iran and Iraq previously signed a $195 million dollar arms deal in February 2014 and a December 2014 Memorandum of Understanding. While Iran’s Chief of the Armed Forces, General Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said Iraqis are responsible for their own security, the head of Iraq’s Islamic Supreme Council Ammar Hakim and Head of the Iraqi Badr Organization Hadi al Amiri praised Iran’s efforts against ISIS. Hadi al Amiri claimed that without Iranian advisors and IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani “all of Iraq would be occupied by ISIS right now.” On March 11, IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari discussed the Tikrit offensive before Iran’s Assembly of Experts, and IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani was sighted in Samarra and Tikrit.
Iran’s ‘common solutions’ are al Houthi solutions:
Following a trip to Doha, Qatar, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called upon regional states to hold “constructive talks for common solutions,” to resolve the conflict in Yemen, and argued that “accusing one side and supporting another does not remedy the problem.” Paradoxically, Larijani and Iran’s Arab and African Affairs Deputy to the Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, criticized former Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi for his decision to resign the presidency and reestablish himself in the de facto southern capitol of Aden. On March 12, Tehran also signed several direct economic agreements with the al Houthis.