Christiane looks at the disqualification of candidates from next month's presidential election in Iran.
One of the top advisers to Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a hint of cautious optimism about rebuilding ties with the United States, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
Mohammad-Javad Larijani said that Iran is not “refraining or shying away” from talking to the United States.
“The issue is how we can restructure this relation, after 35 years of hostility and, right now, unfortunately, it's at the peak of that,” Larijani said.
There were new nuclear talks last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan between the U.S., Iran, and five other countries. The parties are due to meet again next month to see if they can resolve the crisis diplomatically and not militarily.
Both sides are publicly portraying the latest talks positively, although onlookers from Israel to Saudi Arabia say they remain skeptical that Iran intends to be fully transparent about its nuclear ambitions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi said the West is showing signs of good faith.
“I would like to share the view of Minister Salehi, but I'm a bit more cautious,” Larijani told Amanpour. “They are always asking the utmost,” Larijani added, saying the West would get more transparency if Iran got more cooperating from the West, alluding to the easing of sanctions.
The West wants Iran to stop producing and enriching uranium to 20% and Larijani signaled that Iran could agree to that under certain conditions.
“I think this is very simple,” he said. “They should sell it to us. If we can buy it like 15 years ago – we bought it [from] Argentina. Then there is no need to produce it.”
Larijani said it would be a “very bad request,” if the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and others were to ask Iran to stop its right to enrichment under NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) rules.
Though, he said Iran is ready to accept all mechanisms under the NPT to supervise this direction of its development.
When pressed about any type of opening for bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran, Larijani did not rule out the possibility.
“My recommendation to the diplomatic machinery is that we should think about new models [of] approach.”
By Samuel Burke, CNN
Unlike many of its neighbors, Iran has enjoyed a strong civil society – the intellectuals and professionals who influence the national trajectory outside the spheres of government and business. This was especially true during the 1990s and early 2000s, during the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami.
According to Human Rights Watch, that distinction is slipping.
A conservative backlash to Khatami, the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the crackdown following the 2009 disputed elections have slowly strangulated the careers and lives of Iranian activists, human rights lawyers, bloggers and journalists.
Simply put, professionals are fleeing, fearing arbitrary arrests, detention and even death.
Since 2009, the number of civil society activists who have applied for asylum has steadily increased. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Iranians filed more than 11,000 new asylum applications in 2009, 15,000 in 2010 and 18,000 in 2011.
Many activists have sought temporary refuge and an uncertain future in neighboring Turkey and Iraq, according to Human Rights Watch.
Faraz Sanei monitors the situation in Iran for the group, and told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the Iranian government used the 2009 elections as a pretext to go after any sort of dissent or and opposition in the country.
“That meant going after independent NGOs, independent journalists who were critical of the government and human rights activists,” he said. “Many of them were imprisoned - arbitrary arrests and detentions. Many of them were detained in secret detention facilities, tortured often and put in solitary confinement. They did not have access to lawyers.”
Many of these civil society professionals were given unfair trials in revolutionary courts, Sanei said, and sentenced to anywhere from five to 20 years in prison. Often, he said, their imprisonment was punishment essentially for doing their job: speaking out against the government and its actions.
There are currently 45 journalists in Iranian prisons according to the Committee to Protest Journalist – the second most of any country in the world, behind only Turkey.
Years of crackdowns are causing a brain drain, though it is not enough to be called a mass exodus, and nowhere near the refugee crisis that has resulted from Syria’s civil war,
Human rights lawyers are fleeing or in prison, including many of the colleagues of Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is also in prison.
Sanctions are seen by many in the West as a tool to help force change from the government, but many ordinary Iranians complain that the global sanctions against the country are hurting the very people that presumably the world wants to help.
Groups like Human Rights Watch are pushing for targeted human rights sanctions, against high-ranking individuals as well as security and intelligence forces, who they say are implicated in serious human rights violations.
They hope these measures might reverse the shrinking space in Iran’s civil society.
CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
The former head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy, has refused to characterize Syrian shelling on the Israel-Syria border as neither deliberate nor as just an accidental spillover from the ongoing civil war.
Initially Israel did not respond to shells falling in its territory. But on Sunday Israel returned fire for the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In an interview CNN’s Hala Gorani on Tuesday, Halevy said that at first, Israel purposely avoided hitting a military target; but after the second shelling, Israeli forces hit an artillery battery.
While Israel did this on the ground, it “also sent a message, an oral message through certain channels to the presidency in Damascus that this would not be tolerated," Halvey said. “It would not be to his interest or the interests of anybody in Syria to involve Israel in any possible way in the current fighting.” FULL POST
By Samuel Burke, CNN
A sensational story is rocking Israel this week – alleging that the Israeli military defied orders from its commander in chief, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Leading Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan is reporting that Netanyahu ordered his military to prepare for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities nearly two years ago. Dayan's story documents that both the army chief and the head of Mossad (Israeli intelligence) refused to comply with Netanyahu’s order.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Thursday, Dayan said the information came from officials who were in the room with Netanyahu when the conversations took place, during a meeting of Israeli ministers. FULL POST
By Samuel Burke, CNN
It's no surprise that David Cameron was the first world leader to congratulate Obama on his reelection Tuesday, considering the two countries' “special relationship” – the term coined by Winston Churchill half a century ago.
But the British Prime Minister also sees big challenges ahead. Cameron has pointed to the global economy and Syria as two issues that need to be tackled immediately.
“I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis,” Cameron said in Jordan Wednesday.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Wednesday, Britain's Ambassador in Washington D.C., Sir Peter Westmacott, says the U.K. is starting to talk more intensively to some of the opposition elements there; and that the United States is taking the initiative to bring together some of the opposition elements inside and outside Syria.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
Israel is signaling a major change in tone toward U.S. President Barack Obama now that he has won reelection.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, gave what could only be described as a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program. It has been a very contentious issue between the two allies, with the U.S. fearing Israel might unilaterally strike Iran’s nuclear sites and drag the U.S. into an regional war.
But Ayalon told Amanpour that despite past differences with the Obama administration over Iran, “I think today we can safely say that we are very much on the same page and will continue to follow the lead of the U.S.”
By Tom Evans; Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR
(CNN) - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Saturday for new sanctions against Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions, encouraging the financial pressure to continue "until it becomes effective."
But he warned that sanctions won't be successful unless Russia and China back them, adding "we recommend to all players not to remove any option from the table."
Barak made the comments to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview to be aired Sunday.
Speaking after extensive talks with top U.S. officials and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Barak declined to be specific about what might happen if sanctions do not deter Iran. But he said he wanted to see results within months not years.
Israel, the United States, and many other countries say Iran is moving closer to building a nuclear weapon, a charge that Iran denies. Tehran says its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes.
// Barak said Tehran is clearly headed toward nuclear missile capability.
"They're trying to defeat and defy the whole world," he said.
"They have two examples in mind," he said of Iran's nuclear ambitions. "One is Pakistan, which they feel somewhat similar (to). And the other is North Korea. And in those two cases they were successful against sanctions."
Barak predicted a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran successfully builds nuclear weapons, saying Saudi Arabia will "turn nuclear in a few months," and Turkey and Egypt will probably follow shortly thereafter.
He praised the Obama administration for addressing the issue and pushing for sanctions against Iran, despite a heavy burden of domestic and international commitments.
"I think we (Israel and the U.S.) both agree (sanctions) should be effective," he said. "We recommend to all players not to remove any option from the table. And we live by what we recommend to others."
Asked if Israel fears an attack by Hezbollah, an organization supported by Iran and Syria, Barak said: "I'm not sure whether we are going to face a pre-emptive attack, but anyhow, we are not interested in conflict in the north or in the east. But if it is imposed on us, we know how to respond."
Asked whether the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone Report accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes in their war a year ago could make Israel "think twice" about how to conduct a future war, Barak said "no."
"We always try to improve ourselves, but we don't need the Goldstone report for this. We started an investigation into the details of what happened (in Gaza) long before Goldstone wrote his report."
He added, "I would like to say something about Goldstone. I see that after seven years of suffering thousands of rockets, terrorizing our civilian population around the Gaza Strip, Israel had the right and the duty to respond. ... Goldstone's report is biased, distorted, and totally unexplainable in my judgment, and it even encourages terror."
Barak declined to comment on the assassination of a top Hamas official in Dubai last month that many are blaming on Israel's external intelligence service, Mossad.
But he did talk about an undercover mission he took part in back in 1973 when he dressed up as a woman. That mission ended with the killing of three high-ranking Palestinian Liberation Organization men in Beirut.
"I never killed Palestinians per se," he said. "I killed terrorists who were directly responsible for the killing - indiscriminate killing - of civilians."
By Senior Producer Charley Keyes
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that Iran's nuclear program is not just a danger not just for Israel.
"Iran is not just a challenge for Israel. I believe it is a challenge for the whole world," Barak said in a Washington speech. "I can hardly think of a stable world order with a nuclear Iran."
Barak said he doubted whether Iran was crazy enough – he used the Yiddish word "meshugah" which means crazy - to launch a nuclear attack against Israel but warned the impact of a nuclear-armed Iran could endanger the region, disrupt oil supplies and empower Iran's terrorist allies.
By Tom Evans; Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.
(CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's policy on Iran is "dubious, inconsistent, and naive," one of Iran's most influential officials declared Tuesday.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, a member of a powerful political clan in Iran, rejected an assertion by Clinton on Monday that the Revolutionary Guard is supplanting the Iranian government, and Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. One of Larijani's brothers is speaker of the Iranian parliament and another is head of Iran's judiciary.
"On the one hand she (Clinton) is worried about democracy in Iran, on the other hand she's offering the most generous military help to states which don't run a single election," Larijani told CNN's Christiane Amanpour just after Clinton had completed a three-day tour of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.
Larijani said the Revolutionary Guard, which has extensive business interests in Iran, is answerable to legal structures of the state.