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.

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will deploy its military police on the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel, its defense ministry said on Thursday, after weeks of mounting volatility in the area.

Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi speaks during a news briefing, with a map showing the territory of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria seen in the background, in Moscow, Russia August 2, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s sweeping away of rebels in southwestern Syria has worried Israel, which believes it could allow his Iranian backers to entrench their troops close to the frontier.

Underlining the tensions, Israel killed seven militants in an overnight air strike on the Syrian-held part of the Golan Heights, Israeli radio said on Thursday.

Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defense ministry official, said that Russian military police had on Thursday begun patrolling in the Golan Heights and planned to set up eight observation posts in the area.

He said the Russian presence there was in support of United Nations peacekeepers on the Golan Heights who, he said, had suspended their activities in the area in 2012 because their safety was endangered.

“Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone,” Rudskoi told a briefing for journalists in Moscow.

“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police,” Rudskoi said.

He said the Russian presence there was temporary, and that the observation posts would be handed over to Syrian government forces once the situation stabilized.

The deployment of the Russian military police highlights the degree to which the Kremlin has become an influential actor in Middle East conflicts since its military intervention in Syria which turned the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.

Israel has been lobbying the Kremlin to use its influence with Assad, and with Tehran, to try to get the Iranian military presence in Syria scaled back.

Israel sees Iran, and Iran’s allies in the Hezbollah Shi’ite military, as a direct threat to its national security.

That message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met in Moscow last month, a senior Israeli official said.

Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, TASS quoted a Russian envoy as saying on Wednesday, but Israel deemed the pullback inadequate.

Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Christian Lowe, Richard Balmforth

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

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

 

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.

“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.

The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.

Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.

Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”

The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.

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China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

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

 

China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

Friday, 6 July, 2018 – 09:15
Trading shows and ships are docked on the Arabian Gulf waters near the town of Khasab, in Oman. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
China condemned on Friday Iran for threatening to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran should make more effort to ensure stability in the Middle East and get along with its neighbors, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong.

He made his remarks during a news briefing ahead of a major summit between China and Arab states that kicks off in Beijing next week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.

Asked about the Iranian threat to the strait, Chen remarked that China and Arab countries had close communications about Middle East peace, including the Iran issue.

“China consistently believes that the relevant country should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there,” he added.

“Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully,” he continued. “China will continue to play our positive, constructive role.”

Ministers from 21 Arab countries are attending the summit, as well as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah. Chinese President Xi Jinping will give the opening address on Tuesday.

The United States Navy vowed on Thursday to protect oil routes and international navigation in the Hormuz Strait in wake of Iran’s threats.

“The US and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.

Asked what would be the US naval reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

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Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

Sergey Lavrov says Putin and Trump will discuss situation in southern Syria on July 16; US said seeking full Iranian pullout

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Jerusalem has accused Tehran of seeking to gain a foothold in the border area as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in clearing out rebel groups there. The US and Israel view Iran’s extensive military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad’s forces, helping them turn the tide in the civil war, but Israel has also coordinated its military strikes in the territory with Iran-allied Moscow.

Lavrov on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

US officials, the diplomat was quoted as saying, are convinced that Russia would be unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in Syria.

The diplomat, who was not identified in the report, also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks as the Russian-backed regime offensive in the south of Syria was pushing tens of thousands of refugees toward the borders with Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Ahead of the trip, Safadi said he hoped there would be “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”

He added that Amman has open channels with Damascus and Moscow and the talks will focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were facing a deadline Wednesday in negotiations with regime ally Russia to either agree to tough surrender terms in the south or come under a renewed military onslaught.

Moscow has been backing a two-week offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

But it is simultaneously brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that Russia and the regime have successfully used in the past.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control and talks were focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city.

Rebels were set to meet with a Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon to deliver their decision on Moscow’s proposal for a regime takeover of the rest of the south, a spokesman for the opposition’s southern operations said.

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Iranian general blames water woes on Israeli ‘cloud theft’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(WHEN YOUR HEART AND SOUL ARE FILLED WITH HATE IT TENDS TO SHOW THAT YOU ONLY HAVE SH-T FOR BRAINS WHEN YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH) (oped: oldpoet56)

Iranian general blames water woes on Israeli ‘cloud theft’

But country’s chief meteorologist disputes claim, says clouds and snow can’t be stolen

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali of Iran's Civil Defense Organization (Screen capture: YouTube)

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization (Screen capture: YouTube)

An Iranian general on Monday accused Israel of manipulating weather to prevent rain over the Islamic Republic, alleging his country was facing cloud “theft,” before being contradicted by the nation’s weather chief.

“The changing climate in Iran is suspect,” Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization told a press conference, semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

“Foreign interference is suspected to have played a role in climate change,” Jalali was quoted as saying, insisting results from an Iranian scientific study “confirm” the claim.

“Israel and another country in the region have joint teams which work to ensure clouds entering Iranian skies are unable to release rain,” he said.

“On top of that, we are facing the issue of cloud and snow theft,” Jalali added, citing a survey showing that, above 2,200 meters (7,218 feet), all mountainous areas between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean are covered in snow, except Iran.

An abandoned ship is stuck in the solidified salts of the Oroumieh Lake, Iran, on April 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran’s own meteorological service struck a skeptical note, however.

General Jalali “probably has documents of which I am not aware, but on the basis of meteorological knowledge, it is not possible for a country to steal snow or clouds,” said the head of Iran’s meteorological service Ahad Vazife, quoted by ISNA.

“Iran has suffered a prolonged drought, and this is a global trend that does not apply only to Iran,” Vazife said.

“Raising such questions not only does not solve any of our problems, but will deter us from finding the right solutions,” he added, in apparent reference to Jalali’s claims.

The general’s allegations of weather pilfering were not the first time an Iranian official has accused the country’s foes of stealing its rain.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2011 accused Western countries of devising plans to “cause drought” in Iran, adding that “European countries used special equipment to force clouds to dump” their water on their continent.

In a video last month addressed to Iranians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to share Israel’s water expertise with Iran, saying “the Iranian people are victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime that denies them vital water.”

Netanyahu told the Iranians that Israel faced similar water issues and found ways of dealing with them, adding that Israeli technology can help the Iranians.

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U.S. Has Postponed The ‘2 + 2’ (Security And Defense) Talks With India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWSPAPER OF INDIA)

 

Why US postponed the 2+2 talks with India

The 2+2 dialogue scheduled for July 6 – the first simultaneous meeting of the Indian defence and external affairs ministers and their US counterparts – was postponed by the US on Wednesday citing “unavoidable reasons”.

INDIA Updated: Jun 29, 2018 07:21 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US president Donald Trump with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Philippines in November 2017.
US president Donald Trump with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Philippines in November 2017.

It was the sudden “classified travel” of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo that resulted in the last-minute deferral of the so-called 2-plus-2 dialogue between India and the US originally scheduled for July 6, senior Indian officials involved in talks with the US said.

Indeed, the US is keen on the talks and could even be open to shifting the venue for the discussion between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries to India, they added.

The officials, none of whom wished to be identified, said the dialogue had been postponed because Pompeo has to travel either to North Korea or Russia.

They dismissed theories that it was US concern over Iran (and India’s oil purchases from that country), the purchase of S-400 missiles from Moscow, or bilateral trade issues that resulted in the deferment. A report in the Financial Times said Pompeo was likely to travel to North Korea to discuss the country’s denuclearisation plans.

The Indian embassy in Washington was informed about the postponement of the dialogue by the state department on Wednesday morning with an assurance that secretary Pompeo would himself conveys his regrets to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj later over phone. Before the state department communication, both countries were preparing for the meeting, with US ambassador to India Kenneth Juster meeting foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on Tuesday afternoon.

Indian diplomats in the US echoed these views. They, and the Indian officials, pointed to US ambassador Nikki Haley’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which she said the US would not tolerate Pakistan becoming a safe haven for terrorists. They also pointed to the fact that a US trade delegation led by assistant US trade representative Mark Linscott is currently in Delhi negotiating the way to address bilateral trade concerns. India,for its part, the officials said, has decided to address the Trump administration’s concerns by buying oil and gas worth $4 billion a year from the US and also facilitating the purchase of 300 civilian jets worth $40 billion.

During his meetings with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross in Washington this month, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu agreed with his hosts that the only way to address trade concerns was through a comprehensive dialogue.

On US concerns over India buying the S-400 missile systems from Russia, South Block officials agreed that “this was not an ideal situation” but said that both sides were open to having a candid discussion given India’s legacy issues.

Although US sanctions against Iran will kick in on November 4, senior Indian diplomats said the US is not threatening India over purchase of crude oil from Tehran; Washington is aware that New Delhi had already cut down its oil intake from the Islamic Republic to 6% of the total oil it imports before the sanctions were lifted when Iran signed its deal with the US when Barack Obama was in power.

Even now, India imports only 18% of its crude oil from Iran. Before the dialogue was postponed, the talks on Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) had recorded forward momentum towards closure by the end of this year and hardware acquisition through the foreign military sales route had been finalized with the two countries involved in advanced Malabar and RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) naval exercises.

It has also been decided that both India and the US will closely collaborate on a maritime security architecture through the Indo-PAC Command of the US Navy.

“ India-US relations are multi-faceted and on a vast canvass. It is normal to have differences over some issues. But saying US is threatening India (and that the postponement of the talks is one embodiment of this) is an overexaggeration of the facts on ground,” said a top Indian diplomat dealing with US.

In Tehran, Economic Protests Flare As Iran’s Currency Plunges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NPR’)

 

In Tehran, Economic Protests Flare As Iran’s Currency Plunges

Demonstrators filled the streets of Tehran on Monday to protest economic downtown in Iran.

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s capital has been racked by protests this week over a plunge in the value of the country’s currency, the rial. Crowds at one point shut down Tehran’s sprawling Grand Bazaar, an economic center and a place where the 1979 revolution gained footing.

Protesters called for shop owners to close their businesses as the demonstrations ramped up on Monday. They marched to the gates of Iran’s parliament, and police tried to quell them with what multiple news outlets said appeared to be tear gas. Videos purportedly showing clashes between security forces and protesters were put up online Tuesday. BBC Persian posted footage of people running as security forces approached.

The rial has fallen to a new low — 90,000 against the U.S. dollar on the country’s black market, Iranian media said, despite government efforts to control the currency rate. The official exchange rate is about 42,000 rials to the dollar.

Anti-government demonstrations driven by economic troubles erupted across the country last December and January. But they didn’t gain traction in Tehran. This week’s demonstrations in the capital were the biggest in years, multiple media outlets have reported.

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, tells NPR via email that these demonstrations are different. “They have taken place amongst the regime’s hitherto reliable basis of support — the members of the bazaar and the working classes. For over a hundred years, strikes in bazaars have been harbingers of change and invariably the clergy were allied with these merchants. Now the ruling clergy are the subject of the merchants’ wrath.”

President Hassan Rouhani addressed the protests on state television Monday night, telling the Iranian people that the United States is to blame for the country’s economic difficulties. He said the spontaneous demonstrations were caused by “foreign media propaganda.”

He was also quoted as saying that the government would be able to endure the rial’s downward spiral and upcoming sanctions, which the Trump administration plans to impose after announcing a withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May. “Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided. We have enough sugar, wheat, and cooking oil. We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market,” Rouhani said, per Reuters.

Iran’s economy was lagging before President Trump announced the exit from the Iran nuclear deal, and it has grown weaker in anticipation of U.S. sanctions, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports. The country’s buying power and retail sector have suffered.

The Central Bank of Iran reportedly announced that it will create a secondary currency market to relieve pressure on the country’s currency.

Citing economic security, Iran is also clamping down on foreign products by banning imports of more than 1,300 items, according to Reuters.

It wasn’t immediately clear who led the Tehran protests. Some observers believe that conservative factions in the government may have encouraged the demonstrations in an attempt to undermine the more moderate Rouhani. But some protests evolved into chants with anti-government slogans, according to the U.S.-government funded Voice of America.

Milani said that Rouhani faces pressure not just from the angered public, but radical conservatives such as the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The hardliners clearly think they can ride public dissent into more consolidated power for themselves,” he said. “But they might well have underestimated the seriousness of the crisis and its possible outcome.”

RUSSIA MILITARY SAYS U.S. CEASEFIRE IS OVER IN SYRIA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

RUSSIA MILITARY SAYS U.S. CEASEFIRE IS OVER IN SYRIA AS ISRAEL REPORTEDLY ATTACKS IRAN WEAPONS IN DAMASCUS

The Russian military’s main air force base in Syria announced on Tuesday an end to a ceasefire agreement reached with the U.S. and Jordan in southwest Syria, citing breaches by insurgent groups. The decision comes at a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stages a new offensive to retake one of the last rebel-held regions in the country.

The Hmeymim base, an airfield located in the west coast province of Latakia, is one of two major Russian-leased military installations in Syria, the other being a naval base about 40 miles down the coast in Tartous. Russian warplanes—likely based in Hmeymim—reportedly struck targets Monday in the southwestern province of Daraa, where Russia and Syria had agreed last year to a ceasefire with rebel groups attempting to overthrow Assad since a 2011 uprising backed by the U.S., Turkey and Gulf Arab states.

“The end of the period of reduced escalation in southern Syria can be confirmed after it was breached by extremist groups and illegitimate armed groups operating against Syrian government forces, while the agreement remains in the Syrian province of Idlib,” the Central Channel for the Hmeymim Military Base wrote on Facebook.

The base also denied reports of civilian casualties in a later message, maintaining that “Russian bombers do not target civilian sites by any means. Our missions are limited to the destruction of the terrorist bases belonging to the Nusra Front and ISIS [Islamic State militant group] terrorists, in order to support friendly land forces advancing on the ground.”

GettyImages-984308400Smoke rises above opposition-held areas of Daraa during airstrikes conducted by the Syrian military, June 26, 2018. Russia-backed Syrian troops have for weeks been preparing an offensive to retake Syria’s south, a strategic zone that borders both Jordan and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.MOHAMAD ABAZEED/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The news, which was also reported by Saudi Arabian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, came as elite Syrian troops stormed through southern towns and villages held by various rebel groups, including elements of the Free Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi coalition recently added to the list of U.S.-recognized terrorist organizations due to its Al-Qaeda ties. Quick government gains have prompted Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to issue a series of statements calling on rebel factions to unite against the military and condemned those currently attempting to broker reconciliation deals with Damascus.

The ceasefire collapse also occurred as airstrikes reportedly struck Damascus International Airport on Tuesday. While the attack remains unclaimed, it has been widely blamed on Israel, who rarely takes responsibility for strikes against Iranian and pro-Iran targets in neighboring Syria. The U.K.-based, pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israeli warplanes struck “a shipment of Iranian weapons” that had arrived at the airport, while Russia’s state-run Sputnik News highlighted reports claiming an Iranian cargo plane may have been the target.

Related: Iran Says ‘War’ with U.S. and Israel Is ‘Possibility’ But It Has ‘a Plan for Every Possible Threat’

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said that two Israeli missiles fell near the country’s main airport, without specifying the target. The channel connected the suspected Israeli attack to the Syrian military’s retaking of large swathes of territory in the Al-Lajat region in Daraa, where international powers have rushed to prevent an even larger escalation between Iran and Israel.

Anticipating last year’s ceasefire agreement to unravel as the Syrian military retook rebel enclaves outside the capital, the U.S. and Russia entered quiet negotiations with Jordan aimed at excluding Iranian and pro-Iran forces from taking part in the Syrian campaign. Israel considers their presence a provocation and has for years bombed military assets allegedly associated with Iran. When these forces reportedly responded to a deadly pre-emptive Israeli attack last month by launching rockets at the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, Israel retaliated with its largest aerial assault on Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

GettyImages-890107316Russian President Vladimir Putin (3r-L), his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (4th-R), and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) pose with Russian air force pilots during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeymim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia, December 11, 2017. Russian air support has been vital in helping the Syrian military and its allies defeat insurgents and jihadis.MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Despite their opposition to Assad, the U.S. and Jordan have stepped back their support for rebel groups as they became increasingly saturated with jihadi movements. Washington told Free Syrian Army commanders that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us” in a stern message published Saturday by Reuters. Jordan has repeatedly stated that it would not grant entry to any fighters or civilians fleeing to Syria’s southern border with the kingdom, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi asserting “our borders will remain closed” in a tweet Tuesday.

Iran-backed groups, such as the Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement, have reportedly pulled back from southwestern Syria as part of a recent agreement, but Iran has maintained that it would not leave Syria unless asked to do so by the local government. The latest airstrikes in Damascus, however, may indicate that the deal has fallen apart or did not preclude Israeli attacks elsewhere in the country. Last week, unclaimed airstrikes blamed on both the U.S. and Israel reportedly killed dozens—including Iraqi militias—in Syra’s far eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Assad has welcomed both Russia and Iran as partners in the battle against insurgents and jihadis, but he has called the U.S. and Turkey to withdraw their forces immediately. Iraq, while deeply critical of U.S. and Israeli targeting of pro-Syrian government forces, has managed to maintain close relations with both the Syria-Russia-Iran axis as well as the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

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