Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Seizure

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

 

Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Seizure

Tuesday, 5 November, 2019 – 12:30
A woman walks in front of new murals of the former US embassy in Tehran, Iran November 2, 2019. (Reuters)
London, Tehran – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran marked the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the mission of the US Embassy in Tehran with dozens of rallies in several cities across the country chanting against the US.

State television showed footage of crowds packed in the streets surrounding the former embassy building, dubbed the “den of spies” after Iran’s 1979 revolution. The building is currently under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

State television broadcast live footage of similar gatherings in several cities, including Mashhad, Qazvin and Tabriz in the north; Ilam, Bushehr, Ahvaz and Shiraz in the south; Isfahan in the center, as well as Zahedan in the southeast.

According to the Mehr news agency, “millions are taking part in these gatherings” across the country.

In Tehran, men, women and children waved placards in English and Farsi, reading: “Down with USA.. Death to Israel..Victory to Islam.” They carried effigies mocking US President Donald Trump.

In 1979, hard line students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza, and took 52 US citizens hostage. The protesters demanded Washington hand over the Shah for persecution inside Iran in exchange for releasing the hostages. They released them after 444 days when the Shah died in Egypt.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for trying to promote talks between the United States and Iran.

“The French president, who says a meeting will end all the problems between Tehran and America, is either naive or complicit with the US,” he said in remarks reported by state television.

He warned Iranian officials against holding talks with the US unless it returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and lifts reimposed sanctions. “Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100 percent wrong,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about “America’s crimes”, as lawmakers attending the session chanted “Death to America”.

Relations between the two countries have been deeply strained since President Trump abandoned in 2018 the 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.

The United States has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal that includes Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities.

Iran State Television Airs ‘Confession’ of Exiled Journalist

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

 

Iran State Television Airs ‘Confession’ of Exiled Journalist

Wednesday, 16 October, 2019 – 11:45
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) march during an annual military parade (File photo: Reuters)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iranian state television aired Monday footage showing Rouhollah Zam, editor-in-chief of the Paris-based Amadnews website, after he was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as part of a “complicated intelligence operation.”

A short video showed a man blindfolded and handcuffed to the back seat of a car, which the television claimed to be taken after Zam’s arrest, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

After that, the same man appeared sitting in an armchair next to the flags of Iran and IRGC.

The man identified himself as Zam and “the founder of Amadnews”, a Telegram channel that the Iranian authorities accuse of having played a major role in the protests that broke out in December 2017.

Zam said he regrets “what has happened in the past three or four years,” and admitted he was wrong to have trusted other governments, namely the French government.

In another clip, Zam does not appear to be handcuffed and avoided looking directly at the camera, indicating that it is not right to trust governments, especially governments that show they do not have good relations with Iran, including the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He then apologized to the whole Iranian political regime, reported AFP.

The Revolutionary Guard announced Monday the arrest of Zam describing him as a “counter-revolutionary” who was directed by France’s intelligence service.

IRGC didn’t specify when or where Zam had been arrested. He had been reportedly living in exile in Paris.

Telegram shut down Amadnews which had around 1.4 million followers after Iranian authorities demanded the messaging application remove the account for inciting “violence.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged Iranian authorities to stop broadcasting “confessions” of suspects, saying they violate the “defendants’ rights.”

Khamenei Demands that IRGC Develop More Advanced, Modern Weapons

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

 

Khamenei Demands that IRGC Develop More Advanced, Modern Weapons

Sunday, 13 October, 2019 – 11:15
FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives a speech to a group of scholars and seminary students of religious sciences in Tehran, Iran September 17, 2019. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS
Asharq Al-Awsat
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Sunday to develop more advanced and modern weapons, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

“The Guards should have advanced and modern weapons … Your weapons should be modern and updated. It should be developed at home. You need to develop and produce your weapons,” Khamenei said.

The Iranian leader’s statement come after months of tension between Washington and Tehran in the wake of sanctions against Iranian oil exports, after US President Donald Trump pulled out in May 2018, from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

On Thursday, Chief Commander of the IRGC General Hossein Salami also said his naval forces were fully prepared to defend Iran in case an armed conflict with “enemies” breaks out.

Speaking at conference on “speedboats” in the northern port of Anzali, he further questioned the enemies’ ability to confront Iran’s naval unit if armed maritime conflict erupts.

According to Reuters, in response to Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran has gradually reduced its commitments under the nuclear pact and plans further breaches if European parties fail to keep their promises to shield Iran’s economy from US penalties.

Iran: IRGC Commander: Iran Test Fires New Missile

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

 

IRGC Commander: Iran Test Fires New Missile

Saturday, 24 August, 2019 – 10:15
Iran launches a ballistic missile in a Reuters file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran has test fired a new missile, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said on Saturday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

“Our country is always the arena for testing a variety of defense and strategic systems and these are non-stop movements towards the growth of our deterrent power,” Salami said. “And yesterday was one of the successful days for this nation.”

He did not provide any additional information about the missile.

Iran displayed what it described as a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defense system on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last year and stepped up sanctions on Tehran in order to curb its development of ballistic missiles and its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. The two countries have been exchanging threats and warnings since then.

Iran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June, nearly setting off a conflict with the United States.

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

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

 

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 – 11:45
A picture taken on March 22, 2017 near the town of Latamneh in the countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, shows a displaced Syrian family travelling with their belongings down a road as two rebel fighters on a motorcycle drive past them. AFP file photo
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
“Eye of the Euphrates” has published on its social media sites maps and detailed locations of 13 key Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) positions in the strategic Syrian city of al-Bukamal.

The page, which was created last year and has more than 122,000 followers, published a video showing a truck transporting arms and ammunition from one base to another.

It noted that the Iranian militias have gone on high alert and were changing their deployment locations.

Fatemiyoun leader in al-Bukamal Salman al-Irani has pledged a financial award to whoever provides information on the persons monitoring and taking photographs of Iranian militia bases.

Such developments come amid unprecedented tension between Iranian and Russian forces in the wake of Russian measures east of the Euphrates to limit Iranian influence in the area.

Among the locations revealed by “Eye of the Euphrates” is a site on the banks of the Euphrates river on the other side of al-Baghouz village which now falls under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The site is a main base for Iranian militias, where 150 Fatemiyoun members are located.

Another map showed two key locations in Hay Jamiat, the first belonging to Hezbollah and the second to Harakat al-Nujaba.

This neighborhood also includes two headquarters for intelligence agents, one belonging to Hezbollah and the other to the IRGC.

According to “Eye of the Euphrates,” the headquarters of Zainebiyoun militias who are specialized in night patrols are widespread as well.

In Bukamal’s countryside, there is a base for the Fatemiyoun that constantly erects checkpoints to inspect civilians.

A meeting bringing together the national security advisers of Russia, the US, and Israel was held in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iranian presence in Syria and urged Moscow to engage in downsizing Iranian power.

Iran: IRGC Threatens to close Hormuz Strait

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

 

IRGC Threatens to Close Hormuz Strait

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019 – 11:00
An Iranian warship and speed boats take part in a naval war game in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Fars News
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has hinted that it would close the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is prevented from using it, in what appeared to be the first response to the US plan to end waivers on Iranian oil exports.

“If Iran’s benefits in the Strait of Hormuz, which according to international rules is an international waterway, are denied, we will close it,” IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said after the Trump administration revealed Monday that it will no longer exempt any countries from US sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil.

Iran has previously threatened to close the strait.

“Don’t play with fire, or you will regret,”  Iranian President Rouhani cautioned Trump last July. Rouhani said that the Americans should come to realize that establishing peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and waging war with the country is the mother of all wars.

At the same time, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei agreed that Rouhani’s threats to close the international waterway expressed the regime’s policy.

Khamenei replaced chief commander of IRGC Mohammad Ali Jafari with Brigadier General Hossein Salami, seven days after the US designated the group a foreign terrorist organization.

Tangsiri added that replacing the IRGC commander-in-chief had nothing to do with Washington’s recent decision.

However, Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier-General Abu al-Fadl Shakarji said Monday that Salami’s appointment is a blow to the US.

The Iranian foreign ministry said Iran was in “constant talks with its international partners including the Europeans” on Washington’s ending of the exemptions. It added that an “important decision” will be announced later, without elaborating.

China, India, North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, and Greece will face US sanctions starting May in case they continue to purchase Iranian oil. In November, Washington reimposed strict economic sanctions against Tehran and all states that don’t abide by them, after its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Add IRGC and Individuals to Terror Lists

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

 

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Add IRGC and Individuals to Terror Lists

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018 – 15:00
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade in Tehran September 22, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo
Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat
In multilateral action, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain added on Tuesday Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and senior officers of its Quds Force to their lists of people and organizations suspected of involvement in terrorism.

SPA quoted a statement from the security services saying Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, and the force’s Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai were named on the list.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s State Security Presidency and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a US-Gulf initiative to stem finance to militant groups, sanctioned and designated nine individuals associated with the Taliban and their Iranian facilitators.

TFTC has taken action “in a collective effort to identify, tackle and share information related to terrorist financing networks and their activities of mutual concerns, including threats emerging from countries supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations,” a statement on SPA read.

It designated the following Taliban figures and Iranian facilitators: Mohammad Ebrahim Owhadi, Esmail Razzavi, Abdullah Samad Farugui, Mohammad Daoud Muzzamil, Abdulrahim Manan, Mohammad Naim Barich, Abdulaziz Shah Zamani, Sadr Ibrahim, and Hafiz Abdulmajid.

The center was established in May 2017 during US President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the US co-chair the group and Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. This action is the third collective TFTC designation action since the center’s establishment.

The TFTC is a bold and historic effort to expand and strengthen TFTC members cooperation to counter terrorist financing, coordination to disrupt funding of terrorism, sharing the information and capacity building to target the financing networks and the related activities that pose threats to the TFTC members national security.

As a result of this action, and pursuant to TFTC members domestic laws, all assets, properties and related revenues to these names will be frozen in the designating countries and persons are prohibited from engaging in any transaction with the designated names.

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

Image
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.

Image
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

ـژ 🔴فـيــديـو لـ[ 3 ] من منـفـ››ـذي‌ےهـجـ››ـوم مـديـنـ›ـةےالأحـ›ـواز جـنــوب إيــران‌ےأمس‌ے🎥pic.twitter.com/kPrsp4mTap

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.

Image

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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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.