Thursday, July 30, 2015

Turkish Military Campaign against Kurds Intensifies

As Turkey launched heaviest airstrikes yet on PKK positions in the Kurdish region spanning southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, the militants today attacked Turkish security forces in two separate assaults, killing five. Turkey began its airstrikes last week, shattering a 2.5-year truce with Kurdish militants who seek autonomy for the Kurdish regions of the country.

Today, the leader of pro-Kurdish opposition HDP party, which won a surprisingly large number of seats in Turkish parliamentary elections on 7 June, accused Erdogan’s ruling party of dragging the country into conflict in revenge for losing its majority in the parliament, largely due to impressive HDP showing.

Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP leader, also said that Turkey’s recent airstrikes in northern Syria, under the cover of targeting Islamic State militants, were largely meant to prevent the Syrian Kurds to establish a contiguous Kurdish region in northern Syria. The PYG, the Syrian Kurdish militants, have been leading the fight against ISIL in Syria, since they famously defeated ISIL in Kobane, and have recently retaken territories in northeast Syria occupied by ISIL. Having a contiguous region in Syria is a crucial step in establishing an autonomous Kurdish region on Turkish border, something Turkey violently opposes.

File photo: A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane over Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey; 28 July 2015 (Emrah Gurel/AP)

European officials in Tehran, eager for post-sanctions business opportunities

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

According to the New York Times, dated 29JUL15:
The French foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, the latest in a string of visits by officials from European countries seeking closer economic and political ties with Iran after the nuclear agreement this month.
The visit by Mr. Fabius comes as French companies such as Airbus and the carmakers Peugeot Citroën and Renault have been seeking to renew ties with local producers that were cut because of the sanctions.
Mr. Fabius’s trip follows a visit to Tehran on Tuesday by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Last week, the German vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who is also his country’s economy minister, arrived with a business delegation. Mr. Fabius will also have several trade-related meetings.
Meanwhile in Washington DC during congressional hearing on JCPOA, much of the talk continued to be focused on potential war with Iran, effectively surrendering considerable post-sanctions business opportunities to the Europeans and Asians. As Tim Maverick at the Wall Street Daily laments in a recent piece subtitled "No lunch for us":
Everyone knows that sanctions on Iran will be lifted eventually.
That’s why European and Asian companies are already in discussions with Iranian officials and businessmen to establish new relationships or to reignite old ones.
But American corporations are being held back by strict, decades-old restrictions on doing business with Iran. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies may be allowed to invest in Iran. But, understandably, executives are wary of running afoul of the politicians.
So, while our top companies stand on the sidelines, our competitors will eat our lunch in Iran.
And it will be quite a tasty lunch, too. China is now Iran’s largest trading partner. And German exports to Iran are expected to quickly grow four-fold from 2.4 billion euros last year to 10 billion euros. Plus, Tehran already said that it will need in excess of $200 billion in investments for its oil and gas industry.
There’s a lot more than energy at play here, too. Iran is also an industrial powerhouse in waiting.
The country is the world’s biggest exporter of cement, and ranks in the world’s top 15 for both steel production and auto production. Iran is also recognized in the global medical community for its work in stem cell research and nanotechnology.
In other words, Iran isn’t a run-of-the-mill emerging market.
The country has little debt, unlike other emerging markets, and has a stock market with a market capitalization of about $110 billion. The Iranian market soared last year in anticipation of a deal, rising a record 130%!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

EU Foreign Policy Chief Mogherini in Tehran

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrived in Tehran today on a 24-hour visit to meet with senior Iranian government officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Moghirini was to discuss the implementation of JCPOA, the nuclear deal, with Iranian officials.

Rouhani and Zarif spoke during her visit on wider implications of the nuclear deal. Rouhani said the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and major world powers this month will “help fight terrorism and bloodshed in the Middle East.” Zarif said Tehran and the European Union could now discuss (other) questions “including energy cooperation… human rights, confronting terrorism, and regional issues.” (Reuters, 28 July)

“The agreement will be very important and influential for the future of relations in the region, Europe and the world,” Rouhani told Moghirini during their meeting. “It will help the fight against terrorism and stop war and bloodshed in the region.”

Zarif said at a joint news conference with Moghirini that they agreed to hold high-level EU-Iran talks on a wide range of issues including fighting terrorism.” (IRIB, 28 July)

Moghirini said regional and international cooperation with Iran “is very important to us.” On JCPOA, she said implementation of the agreement “depends on the political will, commitment and patience of all parties involved.”

File photo: EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini (AFP)

Battle of Anbar: Update

Iraqi Security Forces, including U.S.-trained Iraqi Army units, have made some advances in east and south of Ramadi. Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Iraqi forces took an ISIL command post at the University of Anbar, south of the city. The advance into the city, however, has apparently slowed down in the face of strong defense by the Islamic State fighters.

The situation is less favorable in Fallujah area. Iran-led Shia militia offensive to take the city has apparently stalled due to ISIL’s stiff resistance. Meanwhile, ISW reports that should the Iranian proxies be redeployed from Fallujah to Diyala because of deteriorating situation in that province that borders Iran, anti-ISIL Fallujah operation may lose further momentum. (ISW, Iraqi Situation Report; July 24-27, 2015).

Last August, Islamic State insurgents occupied Jalula, only 19 miles from the Iranian border, and were poised to move toward the border city of Khanaqin, when a Quds Force-led counter-offensive drove them out of the area. Iran does not want to see a resurgence of ISIL so close to its border and now it faces a dilemma. If it redeploys significant number of the Shia militia to Diyala, it risks losing the Battle of Fallujah. Keeping the militia in Anbar risks further deterioration of the situation in Diyala.

File photo: An Shia militiaman holds position north of al-Kamra, near Fallujah, 14 April 2015 (AFP/Press TV) 

Explosion Hits Iran-Turkey Gas Pipeline

A natural gas pipeline connecting Iran and Turkey was blown up late Monday in Turkey’s eastern province of Agri, Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz said. (Reuters, 28 July)

The explosion halted the flow of gas, but the repairs are already underway. Turkish state pipeline operator Botas did not say when the flow would be resumed. There was also no claim of responsibility.

Iran foreign minister and IRGC Quds Force commander in Iraq - Updated

[Updated to include FM Zarif's visit to Baghdad, 07:54 on 28JUL15]
During the last stage of his post-JCPOA Gulf diplomacy tour, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his diplomatic delegation arrive evening of 26JUL15 at Najaf International Airport in Iraq.

Zarif's aircraft is Islamic Republic of Iran Government Boeing 737-286/Adv, reg. EP-AGA (cn 21317/483). First open-source photo of this VIP aircraft in service since very recent D-check by Iran Air and repainting in new style of government livery [see HERE].

Zarif's itinerary includes visits to the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and shrines of Imam Ali and Imam Hussein, and meeting with "Big Four" Grand Ayatollahs Sistani, Hakim, Fayyadh and Basheer Najafi (see below).

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on 26JUL15 at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on 26JUL15 praying at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, Iraq 

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Sayyed Hashem Nizar, Secretary General of the upper threshold of the sacred at Imam Ali shrine

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim. The Grand Ayatollah's second cousin, Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, one of the largest Shia political parties in Iraq.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayyadh. Born in a village in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan to Hazara parents, this Grand Ayatollah holds Iranian and Afghani citizenships

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain Najafi

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and diplomatic delegation arriving 27JUL15 at Baghdad International Airport

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Iraq Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, on 27JUL15 in Baghdad

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Iraq Prime Minister Haider Jawad Kadhim Al-Abadi, on 27JUL15 in Baghdad

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Iraq President Muhammad Fuad Masum, on 27JUL15 in Baghdad

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with Seyed Ammar al-Hakim, President of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, on 27JUL15 in Baghdad.

Photo appearing this week on social media depicting IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimaini, in Baghdad, with Popular Mobilization Force Commander Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and combat leaders from Iran-backed Kata'ib Jund al-Imam. Note in background flags of Kurdistan and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Location possibly Sulaymaniyah.

Photos: Mehr News Agency, Islamic Republic News Agency

Monday, July 27, 2015

U.S. and Turkey to Set Up Buffer Zone in Northern Syria - Report

The Wall Street Journal and other major U.S. media are reporting that the United States and Turkey are close to a deal to establish a de facto no-fly zone, a "safe zone," in northern Syria. The broad sketches of the understanding include eventually relying on moderate Syrian rebels to help take control of the buffer zone along the Turkish border, reportedly 65 miles long and 25 miles deep. This is the area now controlled by ISIL, between the moderate rebel-controlled areas to its left and Kurdish PYG areas to the right.

Turkey agreed to let U.S. to use bases on its soil to attack ISIL positions in Syria. Turkish officials told the Journal that Turkey’s F-16 fighter jets will also be used to help clear ISIL and other extremist insurgents from the safe zone and protect the area.

Claimed ‘top secret’ directives on nuclear deal coverage sent to Iranian media

According to BBC Persian:
The Iranian authorities have ordered the media not to criticise the recent nuclear agreement with world powers, it has emerged.
A top secret document sent to newspaper editors has surfaced on the internet.
Issued by the ministry in charge of the press, the two-page document faxed to media organisations relays directives from Iran's Supreme National Security Council. It says editors should praise the deal and the negotiating team.
COMMENTARY: There is a long history of alleged official documents later determined to be forgeries-- recall the Makhmalbaf-Satrapi “leaked government document" of 2009. This latest claim has yet to be authenticated.

The BBC Persian account as rendered possesses a serious flaw. It seems incredible that “top secret” level documents were sent by fax to media organizations! Perhaps BBC Persian meant "confidential" and not "top secret" level of documents.

It could turn out that a list of guidelines or directives on media presentations regarding the nuclear agreement have been sent, but the evidence requires scrutinizing.

If authentic, this can be taken as a positive indication that SNSC Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani is indeed tabling JCPOA with its assessment to be provided to Iran's relevant branches of  government, in parallel to current deliberations at U.S. Congress.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Iraqi Security Forces Assault ISIL in Ramadi

Iraqi government forces have begun assaulting Islamic State insurgents based at the University of Anbar campus in the city of Ramadi. The university complex serves as a key command headquarters for ISIL in the city.

The Iraqi Security Force offensive in Ramadi, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIL positions, is part of the government’s operations to retake Anbar province. Concurrently, Hashd Shaabi or the PMF, the predominantly Shia militias, under the command of Iran’s Quds Force, and backed by Iraqi air force, have been conducting operations around Fallujah in the past few weeks in an attempt to retake the city, but have faced stiff resistance from ISIL. UPI reported that dozens of militiamen were killed near Fallujah last week.

Photo credit: An Iraqi Security Force soldier takes position near the Green Zone in Baghdad; 26 July 2015 (Mitchell Prothero/UPI)

Turkey Blocks Kurdish Websites

More Than 600 People Arrested Since Friday
Turkey has blocked a number of Kurdish and left-wing news websites as Turkish fighter jets continued to bomb Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) headquarters in northern Iraq, Hurriyet Daily News reported today. The blocked websites include Rudaw, BasNews, DIHA, ANHA, daily Ozgur Gundem, Yuksekova Haber, Sendika.Org, and RajNews. 

Turkish airstrikes against PKK began on Saturday, breaking a 2.5-year truce between the Kurdish militants and Turkish military.

Also, more than 600 people have been detained by the police since launching a series of raids against suspected PKK members and sympathizers in multiple provinces on 24 July.

Meanwhile, users are experiencing difficulty accessing Twitter and Facebook since yesterday, when the Turkish airstrikes against the Kurds began.

Zarif Visiting Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif today began a regional tour to solicit support for the nuclear deal and Iran’s military interventions in the region. Today, Zarif met Sheikh Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, and his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled. Zarif left Kuwait Sunday evening for a visit to Qatar. The three-country tour will also take Zarif to Iraq.

UPDATE: Zarif arrived in Najaf, Iraq, in early hours of Monday after visiting Kuwait City and Doha on Sunday. He will conduct a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Imam Ali and will later meet with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shias, before heading to Baghdad for meetings with senior Iraqi government officials.

Photo credit: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Emir of Kuwait (

Iran Accounts for $86 Billion Unblocked under JCPOA

Frozen Cash Previously Estimated at More than $100 Billion
Central Bank of Iran Governor Valliollah Seif told state TV on Saturday that JCPOA, the nuclear agreement with world powers, would only unlock $29 billion in Iranian assets in overseas banks. (IRIB, 25 July)

Iran had previously said more than $100 billion of its foreign exchange funds were blocked in overseas banks due to U.S. and EU sanctions, an estimate widely accepted by outside experts. Seif added, however, that out of the total assets held overseas, $35 billion is already allocated for oil projects and $22 billion will be held in Chinese banks as security deposit guarantee for buying goods from China.

The sum of the three figures disclosed by CBI governor, the $29 billion available plus $35 billion earmarked for oil projects and $22 billion kept in China, if all accurate, adds up to $86 billion. Based on the more than $100 billion in total assets frozen, CBI estimates leave more than $14 billion unaccounted for.

It was not clear if Iran has also earmarked part of the foreign exchange that would be available under JCPOA to its military interventions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as it has done the same for its future oil projects. And if the cash unaccounted for could be allocated to those foreign operations beyond the current budget.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Turkey Attacks PKK

Breaking 2.5-Year Truce with Kurds
Turkish warplanes on Friday struck camps and weapons storage facilities belonging to the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK at its Mount Qandil headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan. The airstrikes ended a two-and-a-half-year truce between PKK, representing Turkey’s Kurds, and the Turkish military. The truce was considered a signature achievement for Erdogan’s government, but as observed by the PKK it “has no meaning anymore.”

The events culminating with the Turkish airstrikes began after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 30 Kurds in southern Kurdish town of Suruc last week. PKK has long accused Turkey of cooperating with ISIL and it carried out retaliatory shootings against Turkish police.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Kurds led by the PKK-affiliate militia group YPG, who famously fought and defeated ISIL in Kobane, are engaged in fierce fighting with ISIL in Syria, and in recent weeks have captured enough territory previously held by ISIL to enable them to form a contiguous Kurdish territory in northern Syria, a key to formation of an autonomous Kurdish region. Turkey worries that YPG advances could strengthen PKK’s position inside Turkey.

On Friday, Turkey also struck ISIL positions in Syria for the first time in the war. The Kurdish critics of Erdogan government said the attacks on ISIL were a smokescreen to hit PKK positions and silence any U.S. criticism.   

File photo: Turkish F-16 (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

Velayati: No Inspection of Military Sites

Iranian supreme leader’s top foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati said on Friday that Iran will not allow IAEA inspectors into any military sites, Iranian news agencies Mehr and Fars reported. Velayati’s declaration contradicts JCPOA, the nuclear agreement Iran signed two weeks ago with world powers.

“The access of inspecters from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or from any other body to Iran’s military sites is forbidden,” Velayati said. (Fars News Agency, 25 July)

Velayati is also quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying that inspection of military sites under “any conditions and circumstances” will not be allowed “irrespective of the different interpretations that the P5+1 could have of Vienna agreement.”

Annex I of JCPOA, the nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1, allows inspection of military sites. Iran could refuse IAEA’s request to inspect any specific site, but an eight-member Joint Commission comprising the U.S., Iran, EU, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany can with a majority (5) vote overrule Iran’s objection. The process could take up to 24 days, but the inspection will have to be allowed if the Joint Commission votes in its favor, not particularly too high a bar for the U.S., EU, UK, France and Germany representatives to meet.

If Iran indeed refuses to verify the inspection provisions of the agreement, it could throw the implementation of the entire agreement in limbo. The implementation begins with IAEA certification that Iran has implemented all its obligations under the agreement.

Arab Coalition Announces 5-Day Yemen Truce

Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces fighting the Houthi insurgents in Yemen have declared a five-day humanitarian cease-fire effective midnight Sunday. The truce is meant to allow the delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance, a coalition spokesperson said. Since coalition forces recaptured Aden, Saudis and Emiratis have flown relief goods and medical supplies to the city. Coalition forces have continued attacks on Houthi positions in Taiz and Sanaa. (Arab News, 25 July)

Photo credit: A Saudi military cargo plane at Aden International Airport; Friday 24 July 2015 (Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters/Arab News)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Will JCPOA be approved by U.S., Iran legislative branches of government?

Sample of recent quotes made by members of U.S. and Iran legislative branches of government in reference to JCPOA written agreement, with brief commentary provided at bottom of post:

"Members of Congress will ask much tougher questions... when we meet with the president's team, and because a bad deal threatens the security of the American people, we're going to do everything possible to stop it," --U.S. Congressman John Boehner, House Majority Leader [source: Haaretz]

"In failing to secure the disclosure of these secret [IAEA] side deals, the Obama administration is asking Congress and the American people to trust [Iran], but not verify. What we cannot do is trust the terror-sponsoring, anti-American, outlaw regime that governs Iran and that has been deceiving the world on its nuclear weapons work for years."  --U.S. Senator Tom Cotton

"There is a... choice. There are tougher sanctions that will bring Iran to the table for a better deal and a good deal. It's simply unacceptable for the President to be misrepresenting what the options are to Congress and the American people." --U.S. Senator John Cornyn [source: CNN]

"We must ignore the coming public relations campaign that will trumpet this deal as a victory for diplomacy and the false premise that the deal is a choice between peace and war, The more I read [of the agreement], the more my concern grows." U.S. Senator Dan Coats [source: CNN]

"Given a choice between the invasion of Iran or working in a diplomatic fashion toward a negotiation so that we can lessen this threat to the world, I think President Obama made the right choice." --U.S. Senator Dick Durbin [source: CNN]

"Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission as well as a 15-strong special committee  will review the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in full detail" -- Iranian Member of Parliament Nozar Shafiee, Member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission [source: Tasnim News Agency]

"[The nuclear agreement is] a national achievement [enabling the] economy, culture, defense and science sectors to prosper." Iranian Member of Parliament Ali Larijani, Speaker of Parliament [source: IRIB News]

COMMENTARY: Interesting that while JCPOA is not a formal treaty, nevertheless both countries' have activated respective legislative branches of government in a process of ratification.

The American ratification process at U.S. Congress appears focused on Iran being able to achieve nuclear weaponization in spite of the agreement, as well as a geopolitical shift in Iran's favor deemed possible by JCPOA; or alternatively, presented as a choice of peace through diplomacy, or war. More hardline elements of Congress seek a form of Iranian surrender through increased economic coercion efforts, regardless of the Iran nuclear issue being successfully negotiated and approved by Europe, Russia and China.

Meanwhile for Iran's Parliament, nuclear weaponization as a forfeited pursuit of even option is not part of the debate. Rather, concerns appear to focus on identifying factors related to Iranian national security and  conventional military industrial complex that might possibly be rendered compromised by JCPOA. Supporters of the agreement identify recognition of the country's civilian nuclear power industry as a legitimate endeavor, which they say was always the goal of negotiations going as far back as 2003 (and which was not accepted by the U.S. during failed negotiations in 2009 and 2010), as well as expected economic advantages brought on by the cessation of sanctions.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Changing Dynamics of Yemeni Conflict

The loss of the strategic port of Aden by the Houthis in the space of just a few days is a spectacular manifestation that the tide of Yemen’s war has unexpectedly turned, handing a morale boost and possibly military momentum to Gulf Arab-led coalition, Reuters reported today.

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist in the UAE, told Reuters that Gulf Arab states saw Yemen as “proving ground” for their “resolve to confront Tehran,” and last week’s capture of Aden proved they “could hold their own.”

“We are ready to defend our turf,” Abdulla added. (Reuters, 23 July)

Meanwhile, diplomats and Yemeni politicians tell Reuters that representatives of former president Saleh, whose army loyalists laid siege to Aden in alliance with the Houthis in March and April, are negotiating with diplomats from the UAE in Oman. If successful, the development could change the dynamic of the conflict in Yemen against the Houthis and in favor of Gulf Arab-backed resistance and pro-government forces.

Photo credit: A Saudi military cargo plane at Aden International Airport; 22 July 2015 (Al Arabiya)

U.S.-Trained Iraqi Troops Join Ramadi Counteroffensive

For the first time, 3,000 Iraqi troops trained by the U.S.-led coalition have joined the assault force to retake the city of Ramadi. The news was disclosed by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter during his visit to Baghdad today. It was Carter’s first visit to Iraq since he took office in February.

Last month, the Iraqi government had announced the start of major operations in Anbar province to retake territories lost to ISIL. The U.S.-led coalition comprising of Iraqi security forces, including the newly trained soldiers, supported by U.S.-led airstrikes, is getting ready to retake Ramadi.

Concurrently, and Iran-led coalition of mainly Shia militias, supported by Iraqi air force, under the command of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, have been conducing blocking operations around Fallujah. On Wednesday, the Iraqi air force carried out an airstrike in the center of Fallujah airstrike, Al Jazeera reported.

Photo credit: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter with commander of Iraq's Counter Terrorism Service, Gen. Taleb Shegati al-Kenani, second from right, at the joint operations center in Baghdad; 23 July 2015 (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Iran’s leadership views on military ramifications posed by JCPOA and UNSC Res. 2231

Sampling of recent quotes by Iran’s leadership in reference to JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) and their potential impact on the country’s military, followed by a brief commentary at bottom of post:

“Issues related to ballistic missiles have never been on the agenda of the talks, and the [Islamic Republic] will implement its programs in this [aerospace] field with determination.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

PMD issues with the [IAEA] have been agreed on, and we will act accordingly; certainly, we will not grant access to military secrets…to any authority.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

“The Americans ought to have understood this meaning by now: [technological] developments do not standstill for these types of of equipment and weapons; we do not seek permission from any [external] authority to arm our country’s armed forces, and we equip our armed forces in proportion to threats.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

“I can explicitly tell you that the Islamic Republic of Iran under no conditions will compromise on its defensive positions and will build any type of missile it deems appropriate— other than missiles that carry nuclear warheads— whether it be with liquid fuel or solid fuel, whether it be long range or short range.” Ali Akbar Velayati, President of Expediency Discernment Council's Center for Strategic Research [source:]

“Unlike the 1995 Dayton Accords that placed specific military restrictions on Bosnia, Iran will decide for itself what its military needs are and will build whatever it wants, whether it be “fighter jets, anti-aircraft weapons, tanks or other armored tools.” Ali Akbar Velayati, President of Expediency Discernment Council's Center for Strategic Research [source:]

“The missile and arms embargo, from the beginning has been [of limited impact] and will be removed after a certain period, and the violation of these sanctions will no longer be a violation of the agreement.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source]

"[Possessing] ballistic missiles doesn not violate JCPOA… it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the [UNSC] Resolution 2231 which is non-binding." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source]

“This paragraph [of the annex] references missiles with nuclear warheads capability, and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, this paragraph is not relevant to us at all.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source]

“The arms embargo will end in a span of five years…The S-300 [SAM system] is not included in these restrictions and is outside the sphere of the IAEA.” Abbas Araghchi, Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [source: Mashregh News]

“[The West] may make statements but Iran will in no way allow the inspection of military sites, nor will Iran allow interference on what types of defensive weapons Iran can or cannot have.” Abbas Araghchi, Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [source: Mashregh News]

“First, I have to state one more time there is not one official in the Islamic Republic that is opposed to a good deal in the negotiations. Therefore, the foreign media have tried to create untrue polarization on the issue of the nuclear negotiations in the country.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

“For me, as a military official, what is more important than anything else … is the protection and promotion of Iran’s defensive abilities.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

On the agreement that the Security Council voted on, Jafari said, “Some points included in the draft [are] clearly contrary to and a violation of the red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran, specifically of Iran’s arms capabilities and will never be accepted by us.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

COMMENTARY: Where certain American observers express concern that Iran would cheat on the nuclear agreement to embark upon or further advance a nuclear weapons program, Iranian figures express a parallel concern that Western countries would cheat by taking advantage of JCPOA provisions to inspect Iranian military sites for the purposes of espionage activities targeting their conventional arms military industrial complex. Iran's military is sensitive to any potential degrading of its deterrent force against attack, as are all militaries the world over.

While Iranian leadership may also display an annoyance to the perception of impinged sovereignty, in general they maintain that they possessed the upper hand in the nuclear negotiations in not possessing a nuclear weapons program, nor the desire to embark upon one-- meaning this part of the agreement was easy to trade away.

What's more, according to a high-profile Iranian commentator, for the Islamic Republic, the main payoff from the nuclear deal was not, first and foremost, sanctions relief.  Rather, “For Iran, what was important was to have a peaceful nuclear program.  So, the notion that Iran’s path towards a nuclear weapon is blocked is fine for Iranians because it’s not what they were doing in the first place.  The biggest gain for Iran here was the fact that its peaceful nuclear program, and the fuel cycle, was recognized…"

Zarif and the Iranian nuclear negotiators rendering of the annex referencing "missiles with nuclear warheads capability" is noteworthy, and appears to be another clever means of surmounting the divergence of positions that ultimately culminated in a JCPOA.