An official website of the United States government

This Week in Iran Policy
March 13, 2020

“The United States calls on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release on humanitarian grounds all wrongfully detained Americans being held in Iran. The United States will hold the Iranian regime directly responsible for any American deaths. Our response will be decisive.”

– Secretary Pompeo, Press Statement, March 10, 2020


  • “The Islamic Republic of Iran is an authoritarian theocratic republic with a Shia Islamic political system based on velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist). Shia clergy, most notably the rahbar (supreme leader), and political leaders vetted by the clergy dominate key power structures. The supreme leader is the head of state. The members of the Assembly of Experts are nominally directly elected in popular elections. The assembly selects and may dismiss the supreme leader. The candidates for the Assembly of Experts, however, are vetted by the Guardian Council and are therefore selected indirectly by the supreme leader himself.”
  • “In response to widespread protests that began November 15 after a fuel price increase, the government blocked almost all international and local internet connections for most of a week, and security forces used lethal force to end the protests, killing approximately 1,500 persons and detaining 8,600, according to international media reports. There was no indication government entities were pursuing independent or impartial investigations into protester deaths.”
  • “Significant human rights issues included executions for crimes not meeting the international legal standard of “most serious crimes” and without fair trials of individuals, including juvenile offenders; numerous reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance, and torture by government agents, as well as systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; hundreds of political prisoners; unlawful interference with privacy; significant problems with independence of the judiciary, particularly the revolutionary courts; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and criminalization of libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, such as overly restrictive nongovernmental organization (NGO) laws; severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on political participation through arbitrary candidate vetting; widespread corruption at all levels of government; unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by government actors to support the Assad regime in Syria; trafficking in persons; violence against ethnic minorities; harsh governmental restrictions on the rights of women and minorities; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct; and outlawing of independent trade unions.”
  • “Despite repeated calls from the international community, including the United Nations, the government effectively took no steps to investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials who committed these abuses, many of which were perpetrated as a matter of government policy. This included abuses and numerous suspicious deaths in custody from previous years. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces.”
  • “Government officials materially contributed to human rights abuses in Syria, through their military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizballah forces; in Iraq, through aid to pro-Iran militia groups; and in Yemen, through support for Houthi rebels, who targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.”
  • Click on the link to access the full report.


  • “Reports that COVID-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens. Their detention amid increasingly deteriorating conditions defies basic human decency.”
  • “The Iranian regime recently released 70,000 prisoners due to the outbreak of COVID-19, demonstrating its ability to grant clemency and show mercy. Yet it continues to unjustly detain several American citizens, without cause or justification.”
  • “Any nation considering whether to provide Iran with humanitarian assistance because of COVID-19 should seek a reciprocal humanitarian gesture by the regime: release all wrongly detained dual and foreign national citizens. This request is well within the regime’s power to grant.”
  • “The United States will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained abroad are returned home.”
  • To access the full press briefing, click on the link.


  • “What can you say about the presence and involvement of Iranian forces and proxies in Idlib?”
  • “Ambassador Jeffrey: I’ll take that one. Jim Jeffrey here. One of the major risks to the region of this terrible crisis is the involvement of Iranian forces – not only to prop up the war criminal Assad regime, but also to deploy long-range missile and other weapon systems to threaten our partners and allies such as Turkey, such as Israel, such as Jordan, and to threaten our own U.S. military positions in the Middle East as we saw recently in Iraq. So we have noticed that these forces have become very directly involved in the fighting in Idlib, in part because the Syrian army forces have half-collapsed under the attack of the Turkish military in the past few weeks. This is another indication that Iran is driving on its own axis in Syria, not only supporting the Assad regime, which is bad enough, but trying to expand its own hegemonic agenda throughout the northern Levant, and this is something the United States is absolutely opposed to.”
  • To access the full briefing, click on the link.


  • Thirteen years ago today, on March 9, 2007, Robert A. “Bob” Levinson was abducted on Kish Island, Iran. For 13 years, the Iranian government has denied knowledge of his whereabouts or condition, a claim that defies credibility.”
  • “Mr. Levinson’s family, including grandchildren he has never met, has borne an unimaginable burden of uncertainty and hardship throughout this time. Iran must honor the commitment it has made to work with the United States for Mr. Levinson’s return. International norms, respect for human rights, and basic human decency demand no less.”
  • “Returning all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad is President Trump’s top priority. We will work until Bob Levinson and all U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees come home.” 


  • “U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Brian Hook concluded a trip to the United Kingdom and France, March 3-5. In London, Special Representative Hook met with Members of Parliament and thought leaders to discuss Iran policy and U.S strategy in the Middle East. In Paris, he met with his counterparts from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany for discussions on Iran.” 


  • On March 3 in Vienna, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi issued two new reports that heighten already serious concerns that the Islamic Republic of Iran is hiding its nuclear material and nuclear activities.”
  • “Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran’s safeguards agreements, under that Treaty, require it to declare nuclear material to the IAEA and provide IAEA inspectors with access for verification. Iran’s intentional failure to declare such nuclear material would be a clear violation of its safeguards agreement required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations. Otherwise, the NPT isn’t worth the paper it is written on.”
  • “The IAEA’s latest reports are all the more troubling because we know that Iran continues to lie about its past nuclear weapons program and concealed a vast archive of records from those efforts when it concluded the nuclear deal – not to mention its lies about downing a civilian airliner, and its suppression of the extent of its coronavirus outbreak. Given Iran’s prior covert nuclear weapons program and ignominious record of duplicity, any undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran today would be an extremely serious matter.”
  • “The United States remains committed to denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon. In light of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program, it is imperative that Iran verifiably demonstrate that it has permanently abandoned all such work. Any new deal addressing nuclear concerns in Iran must be built on robust and effective verification.”
  • “The international community must speak clearly and with one voice: full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA and compliance with the NPT is the only path forward for Iran.”

  • Click on the link to access the statement.


.@SecPompeo March 13
As @khamenei_ir knows, the best biological defense would’ve been to tell the Iranian people the truth about the Wuhan virus when it spread to #Iran from China. Instead, he kept Mahan Air flights coming and going to the epicenter in China, and jailed those who spoke out.

.@SecPompeo March 11
Honored to meet Xiyue Wang, who endured over three years in #Iran’s heinous Evin prison, and is finally a free man again! We won’t rest until we bring every single American back home.

.@SecPompeo March 10
The U.S. calls on #Iran to immediately release on humanitarian grounds all wrongfully detained Americans. As #COVID19 spreads to Iranian prisons, their detention defies basic human decency.

.@SecPompeo March 10
Any nation considering humanitarian assistance to Iran should seek the release of all dual and foreign nationals.

.@SecPompeo March 9
Bob Levinson’s family deserves answers from the Iranian regime after 13 horrible years of uncertainty. Bob must come home and the regime held accountable.

.@Statedeptspox March 8
This #InternationalWomensDay ♀, I stand in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. As she said, “the relentless efforts by women have finally proven that regardless of whether we support or oppose them, we can no longer be ignored.” #WomenofCourage

.@SecPompeo March 5
New @IAEAorg reports raise serious concerns about Iran’s compliance with NPT-required safeguards obligations. The international community should be clear that #Iran must immediately provide the IAEA full cooperation regarding potential hidden nuclear material or activities.

.@SecPompeo March 3
America is proud to announce an additional $108M in humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the Syrian people, both inside Syria and the region, in response to the crisis caused by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces.

.@SecPompeo March 3
When the Assad regime – backed by Moscow and Tehran – imperils millions of Syrians, America responds by upholding our deep tradition of generosity in humanitarian assistance. Read how our team helps the most vulnerable Syrians.