Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Humiliated by Attack, Vow to Retaliate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Humiliated by Attack, Vow to Retaliate

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A funeral ceremony in Ahvaz, Iran, on Monday for the victims of the attack on a military parade. Credit Attention Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Soldiers in dress uniform lay prone in the street. Others, apparently heavily armed, faced the assailants, then threw themselves to the ground without firing back. Some just ran for their lives.

Captured on video and widely shared on social media, the attack over the weekend on an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps parade in Iran was a humiliating blow. A local Arab separatist group claimed responsibility, but Iran said the perpetrators were backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The moment terrorists struck a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran Credit Video by Press TV

On Monday, Iranian officials vowed revenge against all three countries and Israel.

The attack has escalated tensions between Iran and the Persian Gulf states and their American allies. The Trump White House has taken a hard line against Iran, withdrawing from a nuclear agreement and imposing sanctions that have damaged Iran’s flailing economy.

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have clashed with Iran over Yemen, Qatar and Syria. The conflicts are expected to take center stage at the United Nations General Assembly this week.

The attack on Saturday in Ahvaz, Iran, killed at least 25 people, including some children and other civilians who had been among the spectators, according to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, and a dozen members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

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Iranians at the funeral on Monday. Iranian news accounts said the four assailants had worn Iranian uniforms.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

A widely posted image on Facebook showed members of the Revolutionary Guards military band, wearing tricolor sashes and carrying musical instruments, hiding in a drainage ditch — described by many commentators as a sewer — during the attack.

Iranian officials, including the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, focused blame on Arab kingdoms on the Persian Gulf, as well as the United States. “This cowardly act was carried out by those who are rescued by Americans wherever they are entangled in Syria and Iraq and their hands are in the Saudi and Emirati pockets,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Monday, the Fars news agency reported.

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In a speech on Monday at a funeral ceremony for the victims of the attack, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said, “You have seen our revenge before,” according to the news agency Al Ahed, which is run by the pro-Iranian organization Hezbollah in Lebanon. “You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating, and you will regret what you have done.”

The Ahvaz National Resistance, a little-known group with roots among the Arab minority of Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday. So did the Islamic State, though the links to that group were ambiguous. It was the worst attack inside the country since an Islamic State-claimed assault on Parliament in 2017.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran, where many of the country’s Arabs live. The Islamic State posted a video that it said showed three of its fighters on their way to the attack, according to IRNA. Two of the fighters were speaking Arabic with an Iraqi accent.

الجزيرة مباشر الآن

@ajmurgent

عاجل | مراسل الجزيرة: وزير الاستخبارات الإيراني يعلن اعتقال شبكة من الأفراد لصلتهم بهجوم

G181@G18113

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The Islamic State claimed responsibility with bulletins on its Amaq news service, which also ran the video of the fighters. But the video did not explicitly say the attackers belonged to the Islamic State, nor did they pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as similar claims from the group have done in the past.

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The attack killed 25, including children and other civilians who had been among the spectators, according to the state news agency IRNA.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

Iranian news accounts said there had been at least four assailants, who disguised themselves in Iranian uniforms and attacked from behind the viewing bleachers at the parade. They said three of the assailants had been killed and one captured.

Iranian officials provided no evidence that the countries they blamed were behind the attack. The United States and the Emirates issued statements dismissing the accusation.

But the attack came at a volatile time in Iran’s relations with those countries.

A prominent academic in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, added fuel to that fire by saying the attack had been part of an effort to bring the fight against Iran inside the country. Mr. Abdulla, who has frequently been described as an adviser to the Emirate government and as close to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, suggested support for the attack in a Twitter post on Saturday: “A military attack against a military target is not a terrorist act,” he said.

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla@Abdulkhaleq_UAE

هجوم عسكري ضد هدف عسكري ليس بعمل إرهابي.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned an Emirati envoy to complain about Mr. Abdulla’s remarks and warned that the Emirates “would be held accountable for individuals affiliated with official Emirati agencies that show clear support for terrorist acts,” the ministry said in a statement.

Analysts said the Revolutionary Guards, an elite militia that operates independently of the Iranian government, were bound to react strongly to such a public humiliation.

“They’re going to go for a strong reaction to remedy the horrible image this attack has given them, the imagery that they are running away, falling down on the ground and so on,” said Ahmad Moussalli, a regional expert and professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. “They could correct that with a heavy military blow somewhere.”

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The scene of the attack on Saturday. The Ahvaz National Resistance, a little-known group with roots among Iran’s Arab minority, claimed responsibility for the attack, as did the Islamic State.CreditMorteza Jaberian/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He said that he doubted the Revolutionary Guards would risk a direct military confrontation with the Emirates or Saudi Arabia and that the response would more likely occur in Syria or Iraq. The attack, though embarrassing, Mr. Moussalli said, “shows that the gulf and the United States is targeting Iran now, and gives Iran a pretext to flex their military power.”

The Emirates were not the only regional power cheering on internal resistance to the Iranian government recently.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, suggested a year ago that it was time to turn from external pressure on Iran to internal pressure. Prince Mohammed, in repeated interviews in the United States this year, also likened Ayatollah Khamenei to Hitler, saying at one point, “I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good.”

Saudi Arabia had also bitterly opposed the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and other world leaders, and it had cheered the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement.

President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, fueled claims of an American campaign against Iran when he addressed an “Iranian uprising summit” in New York on Saturday — hours after the attack in Ahvaz — saying that a leadership change in Iran was inevitable because of United States sanctions.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them,” Mr. Giuliani said, according to a Reuters report. “It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen.”

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Mohammad Taha Eghadami, the father of a 4-year-old boy killed in the attack, at the mass funeral on Monday.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, insisted that the Trump administration was not seeking a leadership change in Iran. In response to President Hassan Rouhani’s criticism of the United States, she said in an interview with CNN: “He can blame us all he wants. The thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

After attacks in Tehran last year, the Revolutionary Guards said that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States were responsible, but most government officials blamed terrorists. This time, Iranian leaders described the attack not as terrorism, but as an act of foreign aggression — a significant difference, said Hussein Allawi, a national security analyst at Al Nahrain University in Iraq.

“The Iranian authorities denied that a terrorist organization did the operation,” he said. “Instead it accused states in the Middle East of carrying out the operation, even though signs of terrorism in the operation were clear.”

Despite the bellicose language from the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, other officials seemed to adopt a more cautious reaction, at least initially.

Speaking at the funeral for the Ahvaz victims on Monday, the deputy commander of Iran’s regular army, Brig. Gen. Nozar Nemati, said it was too early to say whether Western intelligence agencies had been involved in the attack, and suggested it may have originated closer to home.

“They are the same people who were followers of Saddam at the onset of the war, and they are pursuing the same goal,” IRNA quoted him as saying. He was referring to the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who fought a bitter war in an attempt to destroy Iran in the 1980s.

Follow Rod Nordland on Twitter: @rodnordland.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Falih Hassan from Baghdad, and Rukmini Callimachi from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Blaming U.S. and Gulf States, Iran Vows Revenge for Humiliating Attack. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

ISIS releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic State releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

Assailants disguised as soldiers attacked annual military parade in city of Ahwaz, killing at least 29, including women and children

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agencyy purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agency purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group released a video Sunday which purports to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack at a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left at least 29 people dead, including women and children, and wounded dozens more, some of them critically.

The footage, released by the Amaq news agency, shows three men in a vehicle, apparently on their way to carry out the attack.

“We are Muslims, they are heretics,” one of the men can be heard saying in the video. “We will kill them with a guerilla attack, inshallah.”

Gunmen disguised as soldiers on Saturday attacked the annual Iranian military parade in the country’s oil-rich southwest, marking the anniversary of the start of its 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The attack saw gunfire sprayed into a crowd of marching soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, bystanders, and government officials watching from a nearby riser.

Iranian officials blamed a number of different targets, including Israel, the US, and regional-arch enemy Saudi Arabia, while two groups — the Islamic State and an anti-government Arab group — claimed responsibility.

But in the hours following the attack, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible.

An image made available by Iran’s Mehr News agency on September 22, 2018, shows an Iranian soldier carrying a child at the site of an attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz, that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. (AFP/ MEHR NEWS AND AFP PHOTO / Mehdi Pedramkhou)

Ahvaz lies in Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community and has seen separatist violence in the past that Iran has blamed on its regional rivals. The separatists, however, previously only conducted pipeline bombings at night or hit-and-run attacks.

The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran has blamed its Mideast archival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP / STR)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused US-backed Gulf states of being behind the attack, saying in a statement that “this crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States.”

“Their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained, armed, and paid” by foreign powers. The claim further raises tensions in the Mideast as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, ordered the country’s security forces to identify those behind the attack, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency, and warned of an aggressive response.

“The response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the smallest threat will be crushing,” Rouhani said on his official website. “Those who give intelligence and propaganda support to these terrorists must answer for it.”

Earlier Saturday, a spokesman for the Iranian army blamed Israel and the US for the attack.

Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state news agency IRNA, that the gunmen who opened fire at the parade were “not from Daesh [Islamic State] or other groups fighting [Iran’s] Islamic system … but are linked to America and [Israel’s intelligence agency] Mossad.”

Shekarchi also claimed “the terrorists have undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf.”

The Islamic State terrorist group had earlier claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Citing a security source, its propaganda agency Amaq said: “Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces in the city of Ahvaz in southern Iran.”

An Iranian soldier runs past injured colleagues lying on the ground at the scene of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, September 22, 2018. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

In a further claim, Yaghub Hur Totsari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahvaz, told Reuters the Ahvaz National Resistance umbrella organization of Arab anti-government armed movements was behind the attack, but did not specify which particular group carried it out.

Shekarchi said the dead included a young girl and a former serviceman in a wheelchair.

“Of the four terrorists, three were sent to hell at the scene, while the fourth who had been wounded and arrested went to hell moments ago due to his severe wounds,” Shekarchi told state television.

Khuzestan deputy governor Ali-Hossein Hosseinzadeh told the semi-official ISNA news agency that “eight to nine” troops were among those killed, as well as a journalist.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran’s economy.

Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif also said that an Arab separatist group funded by Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia carried out the attack.

“Those who opened fire on civilians and the armed forces have links to the Ahvazi movement,” Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told ISNA. “They are funded by Saudi Arabia and attempted to cast a shadow over the Iranian armed forces.”

State television immediately described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen,” a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group, and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.

Saturday’s rally was one of many in cities across Iran held to mark the anniversary of the launch of the war with massive Iraqi air strikes.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Iranian armed forces members and civilians take shelter in a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Behrad Ghasemi)

A rare attack

The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guard soldiers marched down Ahvaz’s Quds (Jerusalem) Boulevard, which, like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq. Images captured by state television showed journalists and onlookers turn to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire.

“Oh God! Go, go, go! Lie down! Lie down!” one man screamed as a woman fled with her baby.

In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied in their dress uniforms, helped their comrades to ambulances.

“We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits started attacking the comrades from behind [the stage] and then opened fire on women and children,” an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. “They were just aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target.”

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. That attack had at that point been the only one by the Sunni extremists inside of Shiite Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Revolutionary Guard members carry a wounded comrade after a shooting during their parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Shayan Haji Najaf)

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege. Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini’s mausoleum on Tehran’s southern outskirts. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

In the last decade, such attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009 more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.

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Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

Syrian soldiers reportedly arrested in connection with downed spy plane; IAF commander to fly to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A munitions warehouse in a Syrian military facility appears to have been completely obliterated in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian port city of Latakia late on Monday, satellite images released Wednesday show.

A Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria during the Israeli strike, killing all 15 crew members.

On Wednesday Syria released video footage from the site of the attack, reiterating its claim that Israel targeted an aluminium factory, not a weapons warehouse in Monday’s strike, according to the Ynet news site. The veracity of the footage could not be independently verified.

On Monday, Syria accidentally shot down the Russian reconnaissance plane when its air defenses swung into action against the Israeli strike on Latakia. The Russian defense ministry initially blamed Israel, saying the IAF jets used the Russian plane as cover.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later told reporters that the downing of the plane by Syrian air defenses was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The remains of a Syrian ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a base in Latakia, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

On Wednesday, the Russians approved Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to fly air force commander Major General Amiram Norkin to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident.

Syrian media and opposition sources reported Wednesday that several Syrian soldiers who were involved in the downing of the Russian spy plane were arrested and interrogated.

The fighters from the air force base in Latakia were reportedly arrested by members of the Russian military police. A Syrian unit was also reported to have taken part in the arrest, according to Hadashot TV.

Meanwhile, the remains of another plane, a Boeing 747 aircraft that was destroyed in an earlier alleged Israeli strike at Damascus airport on Saturday, and believed to be in the use of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, can be seen in separate images provided by ImageSat International (ISI).

The remains of a suspected Iranian aircraft which was hit in an Israeli airstrike, Damascus, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the rising tensions between the two countries in the wake of Monday’s airstrike.

In the call, the Israeli leader “noted the importance of the continued security coordination between Israel and Syria that has managed to prevent many casualties on both sides in the last three years,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The Kremlin said that Putin emphasized that the Israeli attack violated Syria’s sovereignty and also breached the Russian-Israeli agreements on avoiding clashes in Syria. The Russian leader urged Netanyahu “not to allow such situations in the future.”

Israel said its jets had attacked a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Netanyahu told Putin that Israel was “determined” to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry to be used against Israel.

Netanyahu also reiterated that Israel would completely share all the information it had on the circumstances of the raid and suggested sending Israel’s air force chief to Moscow to “deliver all the needed information.”

The conversation came on Tuesday evening just before Israel began observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Earlier Tuesday, Putin confirmed that Israel did not shoot down the plane, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends the inauguration ceremony for Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyaninin on September 18, 2018. (AFP/Sputnik/Alexey Filippov)

“An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane,” the Russian leader said.

The Russian defense ministry on Tuesday morning had blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals.

Putin said he had signed off on the defense ministry statement. “No doubt we should seriously look into this,” Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Israel said its deputy ambassador in Moscow Keren Cohen-Gat was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said there would be no comment on what was discussed.

Putin also said Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response. “These will be the steps that everyone will notice,” he said, without providing further details.

He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a “tragedy for us all.”

The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia’s game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defense supplied to Syria.

The Israeli military on Tuesday acknowledged conducting the airstrike the night before and “expressed sorrow” for the deaths of the 15 Russian airmen.

In a statement, however, the IDF denied all responsibility for the downing of the Russian spy plane, saying that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah were the ones at fault.

“Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” the IDF said, and noted that the Russian plane that was hit “was not within the area of the operation.”

A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows an Russian IL-20M (Ilyushin 20m) plane landing at an unknown location.
Russia blamed Israel on September 18, 2018 for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response. (AFP PHOTO / Nikita SHCHYUKIN)

The Israeli strike was conducted at approximately 10 p.m. by four F-16 fighter jets, according to the Russian military.

Syrian air defenses opened fire at the incoming missiles, at the attacking aircraft and — according to Israel — at nothing in particular. The Russian Il-20 was shot down in the air battle.

“The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” the army said.

According to the IDF, the target of its Monday night strike was a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Explosions seen in the Syrian city of Latakia after an attack on a military facility nearby on September 17, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The target of the Israeli strike was identified by Syria as a subsidiary of its defense ministry, known as the Organization for Technical Industries, which has suspected ties to the country’s chemical weapons and missile programs.

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” the army said.

Though Israeli officials have said, generally, that the military conducts operations inside Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, the IDF rarely acknowledges specific airstrikes, preferring instead to adopt a formal policy of neither confirming nor denying the attacks attributed to it.

The military said its initial investigation found that its strike was completed before the Russian plane entered the area of the operation and that the reconnaissance aircraft was shot down after the Israeli fighter jets had returned to Israeli airspace.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,” the army added.

This appeared to refute the claim made by Moscow that the Israeli pilots used the surveillance plane as cover for their attack.

A Russian military official gives a briefing on the downing of an IL-20 military plane near Syria on September 18, 2018. (screen capture: Sputnik)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also accused Israel of failing to inform the Russian military of its plans, which he said would have been in the “spirit” of Israeli-Russian coordination in Syria. The Russian defense ministry said Israel warned them of the impending strike “less than a minute” before it began, which left them insufficient time to clear their personnel from the area.

The Israeli and Russian militaries maintain what they call a “deconfliction mechanism,” which is meant to coordinate their activities in Syria in order to avoid incidents like this one. Until Monday night, these efforts had largely succeeded in preventing direct or indirect clashes since Russia became more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war three years ago.

The Israeli military said it had coordinated with Russia ahead of the attack, though it did not address Moscow’s specific claims about the amount of time between the notification and the airstrike itself.

The IDF also said it would “share all the relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

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Iran: Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 – 09:45
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
In the latest in a wave of criticism against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close associates, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb, describing him as “psychologically imbalanced” and not fit for the job.

He accused the judiciary and the IRGC of fabricating cases against his aides over political differences.

In a video, Ahmadinejad lashed out against Taeb, saying that all he does is “fabricate cases,” revealing that during his presidency, he was opposed to him assuming his current post.

The former president asserted: “All state officials know that he is imbalanced and everyone knows what he has been up to.”

Ahmadinejad said that “the fabrication campaign against him and his aides was launched by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence in 2011 under Taeb’s leadership.”

Furthermore, he also wondered whether “the use of state power is permissible in political disputes.”

Ahmadinejad also revealed that Taeb, who served as deputy intelligence minister under former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was removed from his post for sparking disputes among various officials.

“They kicked him out of the Intelligence Ministry, but they later violated the law and gave him a top post with full authority elsewhere,” said Ahmadinejad.

In April 2011, the European Union included Taeb and 23 other officials on the sanctions list for “gross violation of human rights” of Iranian citizens. He is barred from entering EU countries.

Ahmadinejad’s stances and criticism of the Iranian regime, coupled with growing public discontent as a result of the deteriorating economy and living conditions, have sparked widespread debate in the country. His opponents accuse him of adopting “populist” positions.

In another part of the video, Ahmadinejad stated that what he says is “not an insult or a propaganda against the regime… we want to reform the situation… we say that this is bad and damaging the regime, the Iranian revolution, and the people.”

A few days ago, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, vice president, chief of staff, and senior aide to Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of threatening national security.

In March, Mashaei protested in front of the British embassy and burned a court sentence against former vice president and close Ahmadinejad aide, Hamid Baghaei, in a symbolic reference to accusations of “links” between the Chief Justice and Britain.

Commenting on Mashaei’s charges, Ahmadinejad said it “distorts the image of the regime,” while also criticizing IRGC intelligence service for setting up its own prisons.

Last week, a group of Ahmadinejad supporters published a video of Mashaei in which he speaks of attempts to assassinate him in prison. He also accused Taeb of working to force confessions from Baghaei, who is serving a sentence in Evin prison.

IRGC intelligence service is a parallel organ of the Ministry of Intelligence. Khamenei appoints its chief, who is therefore considered one of the most powerful figures in the regime.

The Guards’ intelligence service is known for prosecuting senior officials accused of security violations. It is tasked with providing protection for the supreme leader and senior officials of state agencies, airports and nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad is not the first senior Iranian official to criticize the IRGC intelligence chief.

In recent years, current deputy speaker Ali Motahari and reformist opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi have sharply criticized Taeb and the IRGC intelligence service’s operation in parallel to the Ministry of Intelligence.

Among the most prominent arrests were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and brother of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Mehdi Jahangiri, on charges of corruption.

Prior to the 2017 presidential elections, Rouhani had criticized the arrest of a number of activists on his electoral campaign by the Guards’ intelligence.

Africa: Padding Bank Accounts Of A Few, Freedom Will Be Lost For A Couple Billion?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Djibouti on the Rise as Hub for Foreign Military Bases in Africa

Monday, 10 September, 2018 – 10:15
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 23, 2017. (Reuters)
Djibouti – Sahwqi al-Rayyes
Last year, China launched its first overseas military base in Djibouti, positioning its base only 10 kilometers away from a sophisticated US base with a crew of over 6,000 marines. France, Italy and Japan also boast bases in the neighborhood.

Situated on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, Djibouti controls access to the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

In short, Djiboutian ports overlook waters that account for 25 percent of the world’s exports that flow into Asian and Mediterranean markets.

Since launching its military base, Beijing has not stopped displaying military ambitions on the African continent.

In late June, it hosted the first forum on security and defense cooperation between China and African countries. It lasted over three weeks and highlighted a growing Chinese presence in the continent.

The Chinese military role on the international arena has also been on the rise.

The forum, which will be held once every three years, aims to deepen China’s strategic partnership with Africa, meet mutual security and defense requirements and bolster the preparedness of its armed forces.

Beijing says Djibouti is ideally placed for China to resupply peacekeeping and humanitarian missions and combat piracy off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia.

Joining the scores of military bases, Saudi Arabia is about to complete its first-ever foreign military base in Djibouti.

A base off the shores of Djibouti will reduce war costs spent by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen. The base will able to detect and intercept Iranian supplies to the Houthi militias passing through the Somali coast.

A Djiboutian defense official welcomed Saudi Arabia’s military presence in his country, saying that “brotherly relations exist between the two countries, and the military cooperation agreement is overseen by a joint committee.”

Getting approval for opening military bases is not an easy task, however.

The official told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country had previously rejected a Russian request to establish a military base “so that is not used in the conflict in Syria.”

In addition to hosting many Western military bases, Djibouti has also become a focal point for counter-terrorism activities on the African continent and the training of special forces in neighboring countries.

Iraqi cleric shows Iran’s part in killing US troops

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Decade-old interrogation of Iraqi cleric shows Iran’s part in killing US troops

Recently declassified testimony of Shiite militia leader Qais al-Khazali details Iranian efforts to stoke 2007 attacks that killed or wounded hundreds of Americans

This file photo taken on January 8, 2016 shows Qais Al-Khazali, the head of the Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, speaking at a press conference in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)

This file photo taken on January 8, 2016 shows Qais Al-Khazali, the head of the Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, speaking at a press conference in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)

Interrogations by US-led forces in Iraq of a top Shiite military and religious figure a decade ago are bringing to light the scale of Iran’s involvement in Iraqi Shiite militias’ attacks on US troops in the years following the American invasion.

Qais al-Khazali, who now heads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that won 15 parliamentary seats in the country’s May elections, detailed the scale of Iranian involvement in the country in the 2007 interrogation, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing recently declassified documents.

Khazali was under arrest at the time on suspicion of organizing an attempted kidnapping of US soldiers in the Iraqi city of Karala that left five Americans dead.

Khazali’s testimony from that period, declassified earlier this year by the US military’s Central Command, is especially damning.

Though he is now a critic of Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs, a decade ago his statements to US interrogators depicted Iranian assistance as key to the ability at the time of Iraqi Shiite militias to carry out their ongoing campaigns of bombings and other attacks against US troops. The report also comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and the Trump administration after the latter’s withdrawal in May from the nuclear deal.

Khazali and his group are also now being considered by the US for designation as terrorist entities.

American soldiers at a base complex in Iraq, December 29, 2014. (AFP/ALI AL-SAADI)

In one interrogation report cited by the Journal, from June 18, 2007, Khazali said his militia was among those that received training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in military bases near Tehran.

“There are Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah conducting the training at these bases,” the report was quoted as saying, citing Khazali’s comments in the interrogation.

“The Iranians are experts in full scale warfare while the Lebanese are experts in urban or guerrilla warfare,” it added.

Some of the ordinance key to the campaign against US troops, including explosively formed penetrators that killed and injured hundreds of Americans, were delivered by Iran, he claimed.

As the report says, “Detainee said that anyone can receive EFP training and Iran does not care who gets it. This is because of the availability and low cost of EFPs.”

This frame grab from video provided on Dec. 8, 2017, by Asaid Ahl al-Haq’s TV station al-Ahd, shows Iraqi militia commander Qais al-Khazali of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, speaking in front of a wall that was built by Israel at the Fatima Gate border point in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon. (Al-Ahd TV station via AP)

Even the attack at Karbala that led to his capture was planned by Iran, he said.

He also detailed how he traveled personally to Iran to raise funds and support for his militia, and met with Iranian officials including top IRGC general Qassem Suleimani.

The US-led coalition released Khazali to Iraqi officials in 2009 after he promised to lay down his arms. US forces left Iraq in 2011.

Khazali’s group angrily denied the claims in the interrogation reports, with Qassim al-Darraji, a member of its political bureau, telling the Journal, “It seems that the US is leading a campaign against Asaib Ahl al-Haq and its leader Sheikh Qais al-Khazali because he strongly rejected foreign interference in Iraqi affairs.”

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Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

Noting facility’s apparent similarity to Iran’s Parchin complex, report says site likely spared from Israeli strike due to nearby Russia anti-aircraft battery

Satellite photos published Thursday purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising fresh concerns over the extent of the two countries’ military cooperation on Israel’s northern border.

The photos, which were taken by ImageSat International and published by Channel 10 news, were said to show a facility outside Wadi Jahannam in northwest Syria resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Beyond noting an apparent surge in construction work at the site and the building’s seeming similarity to Parchin, Channel 10 did not say how it was identified as a missile factory.

Unlike other Iranian facilities in Syria that have been targeted in Israeli airstrikes, the report said the site was likely spared due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 ant-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility in April (photo credit: Institute for Science and International Security/AP)

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012. (AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

In July, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in nearby Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier this month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

According to a New York Times report, Israel believed that Dr. Aziz Asbar was leading a classified weapons development program called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy rebuilding an underground weapons factory to replace the one said destroyed by Israel.

Israel did not comment on its alleged involvement in the July airstrike on the facility, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement following the raid that Israel “will not stop taking action in Syria against Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there.”

Iran has been one of the top military backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the over sever-year-long civil war in the country, as has been its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terror group.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meeting with Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami, in Damascus, Syria, on August 26, 2018. (SANA via AP)

Both Israel and the United States have called for the removal of all Iranian-backed forces from Syria. Russia, which like Iran is fighting on behalf of Assad, has expressed support for this goal but said it can’t force Iranian forces out of the country.

Iran for its part has vowed to remain in Syria, and earlier this week the two countries signed a defense agreement during a visit by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami to Damascus.

Hatami said the pact would include the rebuilding of Syria’s military and defense programs.

Netanyahu this week reiterated that Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, and issued an emphatic warning against those who call for Israel’s annihilation, such as the Islamic Republic.

“Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal,” Netanyahu said during a ceremony at the nuclear research facility in Dimona.

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Egypt’s Hamas-Israel Peace Deal: Only If President Abbas Is A Total Idiot

 

Earlier today I read an article in the Times of Israel whose headline was about Egypt being upset with President Abbas because he was not in favor of the peace program they sculpted between Israel and Hamas. My commentary to you today on this issue will be a short one because the reality to the situation on the ground between Hamas and Fatah is short and un-sweet. I believe it was in 2007 when Hamas split with Fatah and by force took control of the Gaza Strip in south-west Israel. Israel if they had known that Hamas would rise up and take control of one of the two Conclaves they were going to give to the Palestinian People in the so called “land for peace” deal they would not have given up this land in the first place. My thoughts then and now is, how could the leaders of Israel at that time have been so naive as to believe that Hamas would not rise up against Fatah and take control of the Gaza Strip? A couple of years ago Mr. Abbas canceled elections that were suppose to unite Fatah and Hamas once again but when the leaders of Fatah realized that Hamas was going to easily win this election, they canceled the election.

 

Reality is this simple, any deal, no matter who brokers it, whether it be Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran or even Fatah themselves is a death sentence to Fatah and to Mr. Abbas. Hamas is only interested in one thing, total control, both of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and of all of modern-day Israel. Hamas does not play well with others, only an idiot or a fool does not realize this reality. Israel does know this now, this is why they are also against this Egyptian brokered plan. Israel’s leaders played the fool once, they are not going to play it again. Mr. Abbas has proven that he has learned from his experiences in his dealings with Hamas also and as the title of this letter to you states very plainly, only if Mr. Abbas is a total idiot would he ever go along with this Egyptian so-called peace plan. It does appear that the leaders of Egypt who brokered this plan have not learned this basic lesson.

Iran’s Zarif: ‘There will be no meeting’ with US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran’s Zarif: ‘There will be no meeting’ with US

Regime issues its most explicit rejection of talks, after speculation that economic pressure would force leaders back to the negotiating table

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the  Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday there would be no meeting with the United States in the near future, following Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

Asked by the conservative Tasnim news agency if he had any plan to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Zarif said: “No, there will be no meeting.”

He said there were also no plans for a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, which both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Donald Trump are due to attend.

“On Trump’s recent proposal [of talks], our official stance was announced by the president and by us. Americans are not honest and their addiction to sanctions does not allow any negotiation to take place,” Zarif told Tasnim.

It was Iran’s most explicit rejection of talks to date, after much speculation that economic pressure would force its leaders back to the table with Washington.

The US reimposed sanctions on Tuesday, following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers in May.

President Donald J. Trump signs an EO on Iran Sanctions in the Green Room at Trump National Golf Club Monday, August 6, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Zarif met repeatedly with then US secretary of state John Kerry during the agreement’s negotiation and implementation.

Rouhani said last week that Iran “always welcomed negotiations” but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

Zarif’s words came hours after Iranians claimed that the state broadcaster had muted stadium noise during the previous evening’s soccer match in Tehran, in an apparent attempt to drown out anti-government chants.

Iran has seen nationwide strikes and protests in recent weeks, focused on high prices and unemployment but also featuring radical political slogans.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018. Protesters in the Iranian capital swarmed its historic Grand Bazaar on Monday, news agencies reported, and forced shopkeepers to close their stalls in apparent anger over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy, months after similar demonstrations rocked the country. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

The authorities have acknowledged anger over the economic situation — which has been exacerbated by the United States’ reimposition of sanctions.

On Friday US officials were quoted as saying Iran carried out a ballistic missile test last week for the first time in 2018.

The test of the Iranian Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missile was carried out at the Strait of Hormuz during a naval exercise in which at least 50 small ships took part, Fox News reported. According to the report, the missiles flew “shore to shore” for more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) over the Strait of Hormuz to a site in the desert.

The missile launch test is the first known test of the Fateh-110 in over a year. Last time such a missile was launched by Iran was in March, 2017.

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Death of a 12-year-old boy lays bare the plight of Iran’s Ahwazi minority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Death of a 12-year-old boy lays bare the plight of Iran’s Ahwazi minority

Ahwazi children walk alongside a canal. A 12-year-old boy has been the latest casualty of Ahwaz’s continued state of poverty and struggle. Image: Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0

A 12-year-old Ahwazi boy was reported dead by suicide on the evening of July 24, 2018, in the Republic of Iran, sparking outrage over the discrimination and hardship faced by the country’s minority Ahawzi population.

Suicide rates and cases of self-immolation continue to rise among the Ahwazi, an Arab community who live in Iran’s oil and gas-rich southern provinces and constitute 10 percent of the country’s population. Viewed as inferior because of their ethnicity, most Ahwazis exist below the poverty line, with limited or no access to employment, education, healthcare, or basic utilities.

The mother of the young boy, who was identified only as Meysam, returned to the family home in Abadan, in the province of Khuzestan, on Tuesday evening to find that her 12-year-old son had hanged himself. The boy was the eldest of two children, the other a five-year-old girl.

The mother, the sole wage-earner of the household, worked as a housekeeper and cleaner and struggled to provide for herself and her children. According to activists, shortly before her son’s death, the woman had sold some of the family’s meager possessions, including her son’s mobile phone and bicycle, in order to pay outstanding rent.

Meysam’s suicide is the latest to afflict the Ahwazi Arab community. In the past couple of years, a high number of Ahwazi Arab young men have protested through acts of suicidal self-immolation, often in front of the oil and gas companies’ headquarters and government offices.

In an interview with Ahwaz monitor in April 2017, the Ahwazi activist Karim Khalaf Dohimi pondered the reasons behind those events:

There is a surge of high incidence of suicide across Al-Ahwaz due to poverty and the high rate of unemployment as well as the closure of the Ahwazi Arab free market that led to Ahwazi youth and especially those who are married to commit suicide. The suicide attempts also increased in rural areas in Ahwaz since 90 percent of Ahwazi Arab people in rural areas are suffering from poverty and very low income. They are overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture and fishing for their food but these people have been left with no alternative source of income after their entire arable lands on the banks of the Karoon River were forcibly confiscated by regime officials with very low compensation.

There is, however, an economic crisis occurring across Iran, and there is a general upswing of suicide rates across the country. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and various studies led inside of Iran reported by Iranian news agencies such as the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), suicide rates in Iran are on the rise. In 2014, the WHO reported that 5,3 out of 100,000 Iranians committed suicide.

On social media, in reaction to the harsh news, one Iranian remarked on the sad state of the country reflected in both Meysam’s suicide, alongside similar deaths amongst another Ahwazi boy of 17 years old alongside another 15 year old girl from an Arab dominated city of Iran.

vania🏳@bigvania88

حکومت جمهوری اسلامی تو یک هفته؛
۱. خودکشی پسر ۱۲ ساله آبادانی
۲. خودسوزی پسر ۱۷ ساله اهوازی
۳. دختر ۱۵ ساله‌ی شهرک الغدیر

+ هر سه به دلایل معیشتی خودکشی کردن. چه شعارهایی قبل از ۵۷ دادند، حالا بعد از چهل سال همون مردم دارن‌ برای بقا مبارزه میکنند.

The Islamic Republic of Iran in one week

  1. The suicide of a 12 year old boy from Abadan
  2. The suicide of a 17 year old boy from Ahwaz
  3. A 15 year old girl from the city of al-Ghadir

+ all 3 killed themselves because of the struggle for a livelihood. What slogans were there before 1979, and now after 40 years of it? #become_united

In Ahwaz, the region’s natural wealth has been turned into a source of suffering for its people. On one hand, the Ahwazi bears the brunt of the environmental pollution caused by the oil and gas drilling operations; on the other, profits from operations in the region bolster the authorities’ security apparatus, who are employed to crush any resistance in the region.

The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit Befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.