An American student from Princeton University was arrested in Iran and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges he was spying for the United States, an Iranian judiciary official said on Sunday, an action bound to aggravate relations between the two countries. The arrest and sentencing of the American, Xiyue Wang, a graduate student in history, was announced months after he had vanished in Iran, where he was doing research for a doctoral thesis. There had been rumors of his arrest, but the announcement on Sunday from Iran was the first official confirmation. A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, said at a weekly news conference that one of “America’s infiltrators” had been prosecuted, but he did not identify Mr. Wang by name or nationality. The judiciary’s Mizan News Agency provided his name and his age, 37, saying he had “spider connections” with American and British intelligence agencies.
Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran. A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border. And that’s not even the half of it. Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership. When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
Iran on Saturday blamed what it called Donald Trump's "arbitrary and conflicting policies" for global security threats, rejecting the U.S. president's description of Tehran as a rogue state. Tensions between Iran and the United States have heightened since the election of Trump, who has often singled out Tehran as a key backer of militant groups. "(Trump) ought to seek the reason for subversion and rebellion in his own arbitrary and conflicting policies and actions, as well as those of his arrogant, aggressive and occupying allies in the region," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi, quoted by Iran's state news agency IRNA. President Trump said on Thursday that new threats were emerging from "rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria and the governments that finance and support them". Senior Iranian officials have blamed U.S-allied Saudi Arabia, Iran's Sunni Muslim regional rival, for instability and attacks in the Middle East, including last month's assaults that killed 18 people in Tehran.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Critics of the deal reiterated that its underlying strategic goal was to shift the regional balance of power in Iran’s favor, while enabling the regime to develop a nuclear weapon within weeks of the “sunset clause” of the JCPOA – which effectively removes international oversight of Iran’s nuclear program – being implemented in 2030. “The JCPOA was sold to the public on false premises, mainly that it would ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and empower forces of moderation within the regime,” David Ibsen – the president of advocacy organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) – told The Algemeiner on Friday. “After two years, it is clear these assertions were unfounded.” UANI is now urging the Trump Administration to pursue an improved deal with Iran that would permanently shut down the regime’s path to a nuclear weapon.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Iran’s top diplomat Sunday accused President Trump of violating the international nuclear deal. “The United States has failed to implement its part of the bargain,” Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” He pointed to Trump’s recent meetings in Germany with world leaders as evidence of the US violating the two-year-old deal. “President Trump used his presence in Hamburg during the G-20 meeting, in order to dissuade leaders from other countries to engage in business with Iran. That is violation of not the spirit but of the letter of the JCPOA, of the nuclear deal,” Zarif said. “I believe the United States needs to bring itself into compliance with its party of the obligation under the deal.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce on Saturday slammed the Iran nuclear deal – days before President Donald Trump is to decide whether Tehran is complying with it – saying it allows the regime, "even without cheating, keep a path to a nuclear weapon." "Two years after President [Barack] Obama announced his 'deal' with Iran, the ayatollah is still working toward a nuclear bomb," the California Republican said in a statement posted on Twitter. "The Iranian regime has accelerated its illicit ballistic missile program, and there have been multiple reports of Iran not living up to the agreement. "Just this past week, we learned German intelligence caught Iran trying to buy illegal nuclear weapons technology. "If Iran has not materially breached the agreement, it’s only because the JCPOA is so deeply flawed," Royce said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the deal.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has stressed the importance of “sustained commitment” of all parties to the obligations under the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries. Guterres issued a statement overnight marking the second anniversary of the historic agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. He added that the JCPOA stakeholders’ “sustained commitment is essential for the long-term viability and success of the agreement.” He welcomed the recent recommitment to the “full and effective implementation” of the deal expressed by the JCPOA parties during their 7th meeting of the Joint Commission monitoring the deal’s implementation in the Austrian capital of Vienna on April 25, calling on them to continue to work together “in good faith and reciprocity.” He said that both Iran and the P5+1 group should support further pursuit of the JCPOA and pledged that he would do the same.
The US has called on Iran to immediately release American citizens detained on "fabricated" national security charges, on the same day Iran sentenced an American man to 10 years in prison. The Center for Human Rights in Iran has named the man as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old Princeton University researcher of Chinese origin. Separately, a US university professor who advised Xiyue has defended his former student as innocent of all charges against him. Stephen Kotkin told the Associated Press news agency on Monday that Xiyue is a "remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student" who studied governance in 19th- and early-20th-century Muslim regions. Iran's judiciary announced on Sunday that the convicted American citizen had been accused of "infiltrating" Iran and passing confidential information to the US government and research institutions abroad. But Kotkin said the documents Wang collected in Tehran were 100 years old. "We call for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families," the Department of State said on Sunday.
Iranian senior diplomat Houssein Jaberi Ansari has said that the presence of Iranian troops in Syria will not be limited by any Russian-US deal. The Foreign Ministry’s Deputy for Arab-African Affairs stressed that his countries’ troops in Syria remain unaffected by stances of regional or international role-players. The diplomat was speaking after a meeting with Russian President’s Special Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev who had earlier in the day held talks with Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani in Tehran. “Even if others sign agreements [on areas] covering Iran’s presence [in Syria], these pacts would have no real impact,” IRNA quoted Ansari as telling reporters on Saturday. The two diplomats led the Iranian and Russian delegations in Astana peace talks on Syria, whose fifth round was held on July 4-5. Ansari said they discussed in detail the latest Syrian developments and reviewed ways of resolving differences among players in the conflict blocking a political settlement.
A Chinese-American graduate student sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad is innocent of all charges against him, his advising professor at Princeton University said on Monday. The university said separately that it is “very distressed” by the charges leveled against Xiyue Wang while he was carrying out scholarly research in the Islamic Republic. It has been working Wang’s family, the U.S. government, lawyers and others to secure his release, it added. “His family and the university are distressed at his continued imprisonment and are hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran,” the university said. Iran’s judiciary announced Wang’s conviction during a routine press conference on Sunday; he was not previously known to be among the handful of Americans detained in Iran.
The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Hossein Fereydoun, has been arrested on financial crime charges, the judiciary said on Sunday. "Multiple investigations have been conducted regarding this person, also other people have been investigated, some of whom are in jail," deputy judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie said in a televised press conference. "Yesterday, bail was issued for him but because he failed to secure it he was referred to prison," Ejeie said about Fereydoun, Rouhani's special aide.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
For the second time during the Trump administration, the State Department has reportedly decided to certify that Iran is complying with its 2015 nuclear deal with the Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”). If true, it will be the administration’s second unforced error regarding the JCPOA. Over the past two years, considerable information detailing Tehran’s violations of the deal have become public, including: exceeding limits on uranium enrichment and production of heavy water; illicit efforts at international procurement of dual-use nuclear and missile technology; and obstructing international inspection efforts (which were insufficient to begin with). Since international verification is fatally inadequate, and our own intelligence far from perfect, these violations undoubtedly only scratch the surface of the ayatollahs’ inexhaustible mendaciousness.
July 14th marks two years of a controversial nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), brokered between the international community, represented by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and Germany, with Iran. Where are we now? Has Iran changed for the better? Or has Tehran taken advantage of the Obama administration’s concessions to further advance their domestic crackdown, foreign meddling and nuclear/ballistic missile programs? We are now at a crucial juncture. The Trump administration is currently weighing all options, including regime change, in their evaluation of a comprehensive Iran policy. As wars in various countries and appeasement with Iran have all proved disastrous, regime change by supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition is the best viable option.
Today marks the two year anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Speaking from Vienna on July 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry heralded the nuclear agreement with Iran as "a measureable step away from the prospect of nuclear proliferation, towards transparency and cooperation." Instead, the past two years have been characterized by secrecy and obfuscation. As a result, it is difficult to assess how well the agreement is working, and in particular Iran's compliance with its terms. Supporters of the deal claim success; its critics decry violations. More public transparency is needed for an impartial evaluation of the agreement. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA) offers a good opportunity to get it.
A pervasive perception in US policy circles and among US allies is that Iran seeks hegemony in the Middle East. Israel and other regional states often claim that Iran wishes to "revive the Persian Empire." While such claims would be dismissed as farcical by any Iranian official, it is important to note that such sentiment lies at the root of the current standoff between Iran, its regional rivals and the United States. Rather than perpetuating mantras about Iranian expansionism, the United States and its regional allies should take a closer look at the origins of Iranian threat perceptions. Contrary to mantras such as the above, Iranians broadly view their contemporary history as one of falling victim to aggressive outside powers and struggling to maintain a sense of security. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a series of events and factors have led Tehran to believe that Washington and its regional allies seek regime change and Iran's territorial dismemberment. This perception is fueled by comments such as that of US Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier this week, who said that regime change will be necessary before the US and Iran can have substantially positive relations.
With the recapturing of Mosul, the rein of ISIS in northern Iraq is coming to an end. This, however, can lead to the reemergence of a far more dangerous threat for the future of this fledgling democracy. Iran and its destructive meddling Mesopotamia has devastated this entire nation, leaving at least tens of thousands killed, scores more wounded, injured and displaced. Tehran has continuously targeted the Sunni community in Iraq and taken advantage of the war against ISIS to change the very fabric of this minority. Sunni provinces have been the target of this wrath especially after Nouri al-Maliki, described by many as Iran’s puppet in Iraq, reached the premiership in 2006.