Adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Dies of Coronavirus



A woman wears a medical mask as a precaution against coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 01, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.

A woman wears a medical mask as a precaution against coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 01, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.
Fatemeh Bahrami–Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
MARCH 2, 2020 4:02 AM EST

(TEHRAN, Iran) — A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader died Monday after falling sick from the new coronavirus, state radio reported, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness that is affecting members of the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71.

The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as settles disputes between the supreme leader and parliament.

His death comes as other top officials have contracted the virus in Iran, which has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Those sick included include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as “Sister Mary,” the English-speaking spokeswoman for the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis, state media reported. Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.

Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus with 54 deaths from the illness it causes, called COVID-19. Across the wider Mideast, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.

Experts worry Iran’s percentage of deaths to infections, around 5.5%, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show.

Trying to stem the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Iran on Monday held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi opened the online news conference addressing the outbreak, dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran and the U.S. have seen some of the worst tensions since its 1979 Islamic Revolution in recent months, culminating in the American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad and a subsequent Iranian ballistic missile counterattack against U.S. forces.

“We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help,” Mousavi said. He added Iran has always been “suspicious” about America’s intentions and accused the U.S. government of trying to weaken Iranians’ spirits over the outbreak.

The British Embassy meanwhile has begun evacuations over the virus.

“Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” the British Foreign Office said. “In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British nationals from within Iran may be limited.”

While Iran has closed schools and universities to stop the spread of the virus, major Shiite shrines have remained open despite civilian authorities calling for them to be closed. The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both home to shrines, have been hard-hit by the virus. Shiites often touch and kiss shrines as a sign of their faith. Authorities have been cleaning the shrines with disinfectants.

Police have arrested one man who posted a video showing himself licking the metal enclosing the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the most-important Shiite saint buried in the country, according to reports by semiofficial news agencies. In the video, the man said he licked the metal to “allow others to visit the shrine with peace of mind.”

Meanwhile Monday, the virus outbreak saw itself dragged into the yearslong boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations over a political dispute.

A prominent columnist at Dubai’s government-owned Al-Bayan newspaper on Twitter falsely described the virus as being a plot by Qatar to hurt the upcoming Expo 2020 world’s fair in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Noura al-Moteari later described the tweet as “satire” to The Associated Press after it gained widespread attention.

The Dubai Media Office similarly described the tweet as being written in a “cynical style” while distancing the Arabic-language daily from al-Moteari.

“Noura is a freelance writer and is not an employee of Al-Bayan nor does she represent the publication’s views,” it told the AP. “That being said, this has no relevance to any social media policy being practiced by the publication nor the state.”

The tweet comes after Qatar expressed disappointment Sunday that nearly all of its Gulf neighbors snubbed invitations to attend the weekend peace signing ceremony between the U.S. and the Taliban.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Iran’s Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’



‘Not anti-Semitic’: Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’

Belying Tehran’s relentless threats to ensure ‘nothing left’ of Jewish state, ‘raze’ Tel Aviv and Haifa, leader says aim is to abolish ‘regime,’ get rid of ‘thugs’ like Netanyahu

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn’t mean the mass slaughter of the country’s Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state’s “imposed regime,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews],” Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

“Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Khamenei further argued that “had the Islamic world been committed to unity, there would have been no tragedy in Palestine.” He lamented that Muslims couldn’t even adhere to what he called the lowest level of unity — non-aggression between Muslims.

“We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence,” he said.

“Our position on the case of Palestine is definitive,” he said. “Early after the victory of the [1979 Islamic] revolution, the Islamic Republic gave the Zionists’ center in Tehran to the Palestinians. We helped the Palestinians, and we will continue to do so. The entire Muslim world should do so.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran regularly threatens to annihilate Israel, viewing the country as a powerful enemy allied with the United States and Sunni countries in the region against Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.

Contrary to Khamenei’s claims, those threats commonly refer to the physical destruction of Israeli cities, rather than of just the regime.

In September, Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces of Tel Aviv from the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim.

“Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Last year, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a key leader of weekly Muslim prayers in Iran, reacted to reports that Israel viewed a war with Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as likely by saying: “If you want Haifa and Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground, you can take your chance.”

In September, the commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaks at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense museum, during the unveiling of an exhibition of what Iran says are US and other drones captured in its territory, on September 21, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

Iran has lately been on edge, fearing an attack on the country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September attributed to Tehran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, but the US and others allege Iran was behind it.

The attack in Saudi Arabia was the latest incident following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the accord. The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons — something Iran denies it wants to do — in exchange for economic incentives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a sharp critic of the nuclear deal negotiated under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, and welcomed Washington’s pull-back from the accord, urging further pressure on Iran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Iran pumps centrifuges with uranium gas as nuclear deal dies



Iran pumps centrifuges with uranium gas as nuclear deal dies

Latest step means Fordow facility will move from its permitted status as a research plant to an active nuclear site.

Iran stepped up activity at its underground Fordow nuclear plant early on Thursday – a move France said showed for the first time that Tehran explicitly planned to quit a historic deal with world powers that curbed its disputed nuclear work.

“With the presence of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran started injecting [uranium] gas into centrifuges in Fordow,” state television reported.


The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran also confirmed the operation, which it said started at 00:00 local time on Thursday (20;30 GMT on Wednesday) following the transfer of 2,800 kg (6,172 lbs) cylinder containing 2,000 kg (4,409 lbs) of uranium hexafluoride from Natanz nuclear facility to Fordow.

Earlier, Iran announced 1,044 centrifuges were installed at Fordow.

The United States,which withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, reiterated its criticism, calling Iran’s move a “big step in the wrong direction”.

Secretary Pompeo


Iran’s plans to increase its nuclear activity at Fordow raise concerns that Iran is positioning itself for a rapid nuclear breakout. It is now time for all nations to reject its nuclear extortion and increase pressure.

1,427 people are talking about this

Iran insists the latest move is not a violation of the nuclear deal, but is based on the Articles 26 and 36 of the agreement.

In another development that could also aggravate tensions between Iran and the West, diplomats said on Wednesday Iran briefly held an inspector for the UN nuclear watchdog and seized her travel documents, with some describing this as harassment.

Iran said the inspector was prevented from entering the Natanz facility because of a concern she might be carrying “suspicious material”, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

It said screening equipment at Natanz flashed a warning sign when the inspector passed through so her equipment was searched, she was denied entry, and the IAEA was subsequently informed.

The incident involving an IAEA inspector appeared to be the first of its kind since Tehran’s landmark deal with major powers was struck in 2015, imposing restraints on its uranium enrichment program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

Nothing in return

Iran’s decision to inject uranium gas into centrifuges at Fordow, a move that further distances Iran from the accord, was described by Russia as extremely alarming. Iran once hid Fordow from the IAEA until its exposure by Western spies in 2009.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concern about Tehran’s announcements but said European powers should do their part.

“They are demanding that Iran fulfill all [obligations] without exception, but are not giving anything in return,” he told reporters in Moscow.

The Kremlin has previously called sanctions against Iran “unprecedented and illegal”.

The new nuclear activity was the fourth step announced by Iran since it began responding to Washington’s abandonment of the nuclear deal last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Iran’s latest move “grave”, saying it explicitly signaled Iran’s intent for the first time to leave the deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“I think that for the first time, Iran has decided in an explicit and blunt manner to leave the JCPOA, which marks a profound shift,” said Macron, who has been at the forefront of efforts by European signatories to salvage the deal after the US withdrew.

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj@yarbatman

1. One of the most frustrating things about where we are now with the JCPOA is that we are once again focusing so much energy on things like centrifuges when the nuclear issue is plainly *not* central to Iran’s contentious status in the global order.

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Enrichment possibilities

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told state television the agency has delivered 2,000 kg of uranium or UF6 to the Fordow plant under the supervision of United Nations inspectors, on Wednesday.

“The restarting of the centrifuges will take a few hours and from midnight, the process of injecting uranium gas into them will begin,” he said.

A spokesman for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said its inspectors at the site “will report back on relevant activities”.

The nuclear accord, signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, bans nuclear activity at Fordow, a plant located near the city of Qom and capped the level of purity uranium can be enriched at 3.67 percent – suitable for civilian power generation and far below the 90 percent threshold of nuclear weapons-grade.

Before the deal, Iran used Fordow to enrich uranium to 20 percent fissile purity. Officials have said Tehran could again enrich uranium to 20 percent but there is no need for that right now.

With the injection of uranium gas into its centrifuges, Fordow will move from its permitted status of research plant to become an active nuclear site.



Saudi Arabia’s crown prince calls Iran’s supreme leader ‘new Hitler’ of the Middle East



Saudi Arabia’s crown prince calls Iran’s supreme leader ‘new Hitler’ of the Middle East

Amid his sweeping cultural reforms and systematic purges from the royal family, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince this week called Iran’s supreme leader the “new Hitler of the Middle East,” comments that are sure to ratchet up the conflict between the two rival Muslim powers.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the statements about Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an interview with The New York Times that was published Thursday. Salman told The Times that Iran’s efforts to expand “needed to be confronted.”

The prince, 32, who is expected to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 81, compared Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power struggle in the region to those fighting for Europe in World War II.

“But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” Salman told The New York Times.


The Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia support rival sides in the various wars and political battles occurring throughout the region. Saudi Arabia backs Sunni Muslims while Tehran backs Shiite Muslims.

Tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this month when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in Saudi Arabia that he was resigning from his position. Hariri accused Iran-backed Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and terror group based in Lebanon, of holding his country hostage and plotting against him. Saudi Arabia has also accused Hezbollah of meddling on Iran’s behalf in regional affairs.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a regional banking conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Hariri told the conference that the country's stability is his primary concern. The remarks, a day after Hariri suspended his resignation, sought to assure the Hariri's government would keep up the effort to have Lebanon remain a top Mideast destination for finance. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier this month he was resigning from his position.  (AP)

Hezbollah, however, accused Saudi Arabia of engineering Hariri’s resignation, calling it “an act of war,” Reuters reported.

Hariri returned to Lebanon this week and said he was putting his resignation on hold.



Salman also told The New York Times the war in Yemen was “going in its favor.” The war, which has raged since 2015, has pitted a Saudi-led coalition backed by the U.S. against the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted president. The war has left over 10,000 people dead, driven 3 million from their homes and destroyed the country’s already fragile infrastructure.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of sending aid to the Houthi rebels in Yemen while Tehran has denied the accusations, the BBC reported.

Iran did not immediately responded to Salman’s comments but Khamenei has previously called Saudi Arabia’s royal family, the House of Saud, an “accursed tree” and accused the kingdom of “spreading terrorism.”

A November crackdown saw the arrests of 11 members of the House of Saud on various charges related to “corruption.” In the midst of the arrests and constant countering of Iran, Saudi Arabia has also worked to institute reforms such as allowing women to drive vehicles in the Kingdom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Iran’s Supreme ‘Liar’ Ali Khamenei Criticizes Officials’ Fears from ‘Enemy Warnings’



Khamenei Criticizes Officials’ Fears from ‘Enemy Warnings’

London- Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei indirectly criticized some political parties for reiterating slogans to distance the country from war.

Khamenei addressed a gathering of top military and army staff, telling them a country would be in its worst situation if its officials fear the slightest of enemy’s threats.

“If they fear them, they have actually opened up a way for the enemy’s invasion and aggression.”

Khamenei went on to note, “if one wishes to be scared, it is alright, as long as the fear is not extended to be on behalf of the nation, because the Iranian people are courageously standing against all threats.”

“Tasks should be done with wisdom, logic and prudence — there is no doubt about that — but they should also be done courageously,” Khamenei said.

“Fearing or worrying, or becoming affected by the threats, frowns, and mistreatment that arise from the world’s superpowers, is just the beginning of a country’s misery.”

“Those who follow western media see how the enemies are trying to disrupt the elections in some way, but the Iranian nation will remain vigilant and wise to these hostile moves and the election will hopefully be held with a high turnout in a secure, passionate and lively atmosphere,” he said.

Khamenei further stressed that an election held with such parameters in mind will bring great immunity to the country.

“I place stress on the people’s living conditions; I put stress on the living conditions of the employees of various sectors; and the living conditions of the staff belonging to the armed forces: These issues should seriously be followed up. This is a duty of the officials,” he said.

He also warned that Iran’s adversaries target weak points of the Iranian economy and stressed the need to strengthen the country’s “resistance economy.”

Khamenei further stated: “The enemies–whether the United States or greater than the United States–cannot do a single thing against the Iranian regime that is linked to its people, a regime that has admiration for its people and the people admire it back.”

Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office


Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office


London – Iranian authorities were worried on Friday after a drone flew near the office of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

Iran’s anti-aircraft forces extensively fired at the drone as it approached the Pasteur strategic area, where the office of the supreme leader is located.

The drone later appeared to have been operated by a film crew shooting aerial footage for a documentary.

Tehran’s deputy governor general for security affairs, Mohsen Hamedani said the state television crew was filming Friday prayers and “did not know about the prohibited airspace.”

He added: “The drone did not respect the no-fly zone” in central Tehran.

Pasteur Street in central Tehran is highly secured due to the presence of key government institutions there, such as the office of the Iranian President, the center of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence leadership, the center of the Assembly of Experts for the Leadership, and the Supreme National Security Council. The street also includes several military schools and the center of the Armed Forces Logistics.

Iran’s Air Defense Base issued a statement on Friday saying the drone had entered Tehran’s airspace without coordination and permission, Mehr new agency said.

The statement said the drone was shot down by the anti-craft forces in a central district of the capital.

ILNA news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that the drone was shot down as “it approached the no-fly zone” near the office of the supreme leader.

The source later explained that the drone belonged to a documentary-making team that had permission to film but “unintentionally started moving it towards the no-fly zone,” Reuters reported.

The commander of Tehran air defense forces said in August that the capital’s airspace was under full control and “no aircraft can enter it without permission.”

Meanwhile, experts expected on Friday that the U.S. decision to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) would engender a new crisis between Washington and Tehran that could negatively reflect on the Nuclear Deal, already criticized by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

On Dec. 15, U.S. President Barack Obama allowed U.S. sanctions against Iran to be renewed, but have rejected in a surprise move to actually sign the legislation that brings the sanctions into force.

AFP said on Friday that the White House said renewing ISA was pointless since it remains suspended so long as Tehran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear program.

“The US Congress never liked the deal and now that Obama is leaving office, they’re trying to find ways of violating the deal without being too obvious about it,” Foad Izadi, a world politics professor at the University of Tehran told AFP.

Iran also fears that keeping the sanctions would affect Tehran’s economic relations with the rest of the world. Tehran therefore believes that the U.S. Treasury should take more measures to comfort banks that are hesitant in dealing with Iran due to the sanctions.

When the banks ask the U.S. Treasury for guidance, the answers are slow and ambiguous, said Izadi.

“They ask for a green light, and they are given a yellow light, which is not enough.”

Shashank Joshi, from the RUSI think tank in London said, “Iran is showing they’re looking into doing something tough, without actually doing it… that they’re willing to tear up the deal if pushed too far.”

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Iran’s Supreme Ruler: Iman Khamenei “Islamic Unity Only Solution To Extricate Muslims From U.S., Zionist Evil


Imam Khamanei: Islamic Unity Only Solution to extricate Muslims from US, Zionist Evil
Imam Khamenei
Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei

“Should we unite and proceed toward Islamic goals in a united manner, then the US and the malignant, nefarious Zionist nexus can no longer hold nations in their clutches,” he said on Saturday on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

The Leader was addressing a number of state officials and diplomatic representatives of Muslim countries as well as participants at an international unity conference in Tehran.

“Today, the Muslim world is facing great tribulations, the way out of which is Islamic unity,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

“Today, Muslim killings are taking place  from Myanmar to Africa; some are being killed at the hands of Boko Haram, others by Buddhists.”

“Today, there are two volitions at contrast with each other in the region: The will for unity and the will for schism. Should unity transpire, the situation will not be as it is today and Muslims will earn esteem.”

Imam Khamenei said the British version of Shia Islam and the American version of Sunni Islam, which pit Muslims against one another, are “two blades of the same pair of scissors.”

The British policy of “divide and rule” is seriously being pursued by the enemies of Islam, the Leader said.

Imam Khamenei said worldwide Muslim unity, the most important type of readiness needed by the Muslim world, would abort the conspiracy to consign the issue of Palestine to oblivion.


Source: Press TV

Iran to work on nuclear-powered marine vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal


Iran to work on nuclear-powered marine vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Shadia Nasralla | BEIRUT/VIENNA

Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers.

Nuclear experts however said that President Hassan Rouhani’s move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set by the nuclear deal to allay fears of Tehran building an atomic bomb.

Rouhani’s announcement marked Tehran’s first concrete reaction to a decision by the U.S. Congress last month to extend some sanctions on Tehran that would also make it easier to reimpose others lifted under the nuclear pact.

Rouhani described the technology as a “nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation,” but did not say whether that meant just ships or possibly also submarines. Iran said in 2012 that it was working on its first nuclear-powered sub.

Rouhani’s words will stoke tensions with Washington, already heightened by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to scrap the deal, under which Iran curbed its nuclear fuel production activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Rouhani also ordered planning for production of fuel for nuclear-powered marine vessels “in line with the development of a peaceful nuclear program of Iran”.

But under the nuclear settlement Iran reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, it is not allowed to enrich uranium above a 3.67 percent purity for 15 years, a level unlikely to be enough to run such vessels.

“On the basis of international experience, were Iran to go ahead with such a (nuclear propulsion) project, it would have to increase its enrichment level,” said Mark Hibbs, nuclear expert and senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


“That’s the point, because Iran would be looking for a non-weapons rationale to provocatively increase its enrichment level in the case that the deal with the powers comes unstuck.”

He pointed out that countries with more advanced navies and nuclear programs have been working on propulsion reactors for decades. Such technology might need uranium enriched to around 20 percent purity.

A Russian Foreign Ministry source told RIA news agency that a careful reading of Rouhani’s order showed he was talking only about developing power-supply units for nuclear-powered marine vessels, but not higher-enriched uranium itself, so “strictly speaking” this would not contravene the nuclear deal.

But the source acknowledged that such vessels typically ran on higher-enriched uranium prohibited by the accord.

Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said developing a reactor suited for higher-grade nuclear vessel fuel would take at least a decade.

“(But) these are unfortunate developments. We are very concerned about the future of the (nuclear deal) under the Trump administration and any signs of erosion … must be taken very seriously and immediately addressed by the international community,” Lyman told Reuters.

Rouhani accused the United States in a letter published by state news agency IRNA of not fully meeting its commitments under the nuclear deal.

“With regard to recent (U.S. congressional) legislation to extend the Iran Sanctions Act … I order the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to … plan the design and construction of a nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation.”

Members of the U.S. Congress have said the extension of the bill does not violate the nuclear deal that was struck last year to assuage Western fears that Iran was working to develop a nuclear bomb. The act, Congress added, only gave Washington the power to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violated the pact.

Washington says it has lifted all the sanctions it needs to under the July 2015 deal between major powers and Iran.

Rouhani’s move followed recent remarks by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hardline allies harshly criticizing the deal’s failure to yield any swift economic improvements in Iran. Khamenei said last month the U.S. Congress’s prolongation of some sanctions was a clear breach and the Islamic Republic would “definitely react to it”.

There was no immediate comment from the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Winning in Moscow and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Iran’s Shiite Supreme Ruler Khamenei Hates Everyone Who Isn’t As Full Of Hate As Him

(Courtesy of MEMRI news agency)


Special Dispatch
Following Rafsanjani Call To Moderate Iranian Policy Vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, Khamenei Delivers Virulently Anti-Saudi Speech, Sparking Increased Conflict With KingdomSeptember 12, 2016Special Dispatch No.6607

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s September 5, 2016 message for the annual Hajj pilgrimage was particularly anti-Saudi in tone; in it, he called on the countries in the region, and on all Muslim countries, to recognize the true nature of the Saudi rulers, and described them idolaters, infidels, criminals, and servants of the American Satan and the Zionists, and saying that they act in this Satan’s name, murder Muslims in the region, and deliberately caused the deaths over the years of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, most of them Iranian. He also called on the Islamic world to rethink whether Saudi Arabia should continue to administer these holy sites.[1] Khamenei’s message was posted on his website along with images showing his hostility towards the Al-Saud dynasty, which he referred to as “the accursed tree” (see Appendix).

It should be mentioned that this year Iranian pilgrims are barred from making pilgrimages to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Following the 2015 stampede in Mina, in which over 1,000 pilgrims, mostly Iranians, died, the Iranian regime accused the Al-Saud royal family of responsibility for the disaster. After Saudi Arabia and Iran failed to reach a deal on arrangements for Iranians to attend this year’s pilgrimage, the two countries traded accusations on who was to blame for the impasse. The Saudi regime stated that the Iranian delegation to the talks had made unreasonable demands in an attempt to politicize the Hajj.  The Iranian authorities, for their part, announced that this year Iranians would not perform the pilgrimage.[2] It should also be noted that, in early January 2016, Saudi Arabia announced that it was cutting off relations with Iran, after Iranian protestors stormed and set fire to Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of senior Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr.[3]

Khamenei’s virulent anti-Saudi comments came the day after Expediency Council Chairman and pragmatic camp leader Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized Khamenei’s policy vis-à-vis both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. In his September 5 Hajj message, Khamenei reiterated the two main pillars of this policy – political conflict with the U.S. and with Saudi Arabia.[4]

Khamenei’s statements provoked harsh responses from Saudi officials. They stressed that Saudi Arabia has always allowed all pilgrims to carry out the Hajj, and that Iranian pilgrims are prevented from doing so this year as a result of the Iranian regime’s unreasonable demands and its attempts to politicize the Hajj ceremonies. The Saudi mufti even said that Iranians “are not Muslims, but rather Zoroastrians, and that their hostility towards the Muslims, particularly the Sunnis, is ancient.” The Saudi press published many cartoons and images condemning Khamenei and the Iranian regime (see Appendix).

The following are excerpts from statements by Iranian and Saudi officials.

Rafsanjani Criticizes Khamenei’s Militant Attitude Regarding Saudi Arabia And U.S.

On September 4, 2016, Rafsanjani’s website published a recent interview with him in which he challenged Khamenei’s policy vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Rafsanjani noted that Americans are human and wish to maintain relations with Iran. With regard to Saudi Arabia, he clarified that Iran must first of all conduct itself appropriately and morally – hinting that it is Tehran that should extend the hand of friendship to Riyadh.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Question: “Regarding Saudi Arabia and the current situation, who should reach out in friendship? You have said several times that it was you who reached out in friendship to the late [Saudi] King ‘Abdallah, and that they [the Saudis] welcomed this…”

Rafsanjani: “If I were president – I don’t mean right now – had I been president at that time, I would not have seen a problem with this issue. Presently, [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani is not in the same position I was. This [dialogue with Saudi Arabia] is possible and I think it is not so hard to get Saudi Arabia to accept [Iran’s] authority. Saudi Arabia understands that there is nothing to gain from a conflict with Iran, and has already realized that it is helpless in Yemen, and that it is suffering humiliation after humiliation there. A country with so many weapons and so many divisions and soldiers can accomplish nothing besides killing people. Ultimately, it will wise up. In any case, we must conduct ourselves appropriately and morally, and then act [to repair relations]…

“The Americans are humans too, and they have certain interests. They want us to work with them. The American people want us to work together. They are afraid [of a scenario in which] we are not working with them and no sanctions [remain]; then, Russia, China, and India [will be] potential [candidates] for cooperation with Iran. They are doing all these calculations, and I think there is a chance that they will make up for [how they acted in the past].”[5]

Khamenei In Hajj Message: The Saudis Are Infidels, Idolaters, And Killers Of Muslims; They Encourage Terrorism And Operate According To U.S., Zionist Dictates

The following day, on September 5, 2016, Supreme Leader Khamenei published his Hajj message. Following are excerpts from Khamenei’s Hajj message, from his English-language website:

“…Those who have reduced Hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicizing hajj’ are themselves small and puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the U.S.

“Saudi rulers, who have obstructed the path of Allah and Masjid ul-Haraam [i.e. the Mecca Grand Mosque] this year and who have blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims’ path to the Beloved [God’s] House, are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the U.S., and on fulfilling their demands. And on this path, they do not shy away from any treason.

“Almost one year has now passed since the horrifying events in Mina, as a result of which several thousand people tragically lost their lives – under the hot sun with thirsty lips – and this happened on the day of Eid while they were in the clothes of ihram [i.e. pilgrimage clothes]. Shortly before that, another group of people was crushed to death in Masjid ul-Haraam while they were worshiping and performing tawaf and salat [Hajj rituals].

“Saudi rulers were at fault in both cases. This is what all those present, observers, and technical analysts agree upon. Some experts maintain that the events were premeditated. The hesitation and failure to rescue the half-dead and injured people, whose enthusiastic souls and enthralled hearts were accompanying their praying tongues on [the] Eid ul-Adha [holiday], is also obvious and incontrovertible. The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers – instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them.

“Several thousand families from different countries lost their loved ones, and their nations were bereaved. From the Islamic Republic [of Iran], close to 500 people were among the martyrs. The hearts of their families are still broken and bereaved and our people remain grief-stricken and angry.

“Instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event, Saudi rulers – with utmost shamelessness and insolence – refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee.

“Instead of being tried as the accused, they acted like the plaintiff and with increased malice and vileness, they revealed their long-standing enmity towards the Islamic Republic and towards any flag of Islam raised to confront kufr [heresy] and arrogance.

“Their propaganda mouthpieces – from the politicians whose behavior towards the Zionists and the U.S. is a source of disgrace for the world of Islam, to impious and haraam-eating [i.e. eaters of foods forbidden in Islam] muftis who blatantly issue fatwas against the Book [i.e., the Koran] and Sunnah, and to media minions who are not even deterred by codes of professional conduct from spreading and telling lies – are making futile efforts to show that the Islamic Republic is at fault for depriving Iranian pilgrims of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

“The fitna-promoting rulers, who by forming and arming wicked takfiri groups have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars, murdering and injuring the innocent and shed blood in Yemen, Iraq, the Levant, Libya and other countries – the godless politicians who have extended the hand of friendship towards the Zionist regime, have closed their eyes on the Palestinians’ sufferings and heartrending tragedies and have spread their oppression and betrayal to the cities and villages of Bahrain – the irreligious and unconscionable rulers who gave rise to the great tragedy in Mina and in the name of being servants of the two holy places, sacrificed divine sanctity and God’s guests on the day of Eid in Mina and in Masjid ul-Haraam shortly before that – these same people are now claiming the need to avoid politicizing Hajj and are accusing others of the great sins that they themselves have committed and caused.

“They are the perfect example of the enlightening Koranic description: ‘And when he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and to destroy crops and cattle and Allah does not love mischief.  And when it is said unto him: Be careful of your duty to Allah, pride takes him to sin. Hell will settle his account, an evil resting-place’ (Koran, Al-Baqara, Verses 205-206).

“Based on reports, this year as well, besides barring the participation of Iranian pilgrims and pilgrims from certain other countries, they have placed pilgrims from the participating countries under unprecedented surveillance, with the help of the spy agencies of the U.S. and the Zionist regime. They have made the divine sanctuary unsafe for everybody.

“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarize themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent, and materialistic nature. They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam.

“Because of these rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of Hajj. Negligence in this regard will confront the Islamic Ummah with more serious problems in the future.

“Muslim brothers and sisters! This year enthusiastic and sincere Iranian pilgrims are absent from the Hajj ceremonies, but they are spiritually present among the pilgrims from different parts of the world and they are concerned about them and they pray that the evil progeny of the taghut [infidel tyrants] do not succeed in harming them.”[6]

Khamenei: “The Hated Saudis Are A Group Within The Islamic World, And Some Of Its Members… Act Against The Muslims”

Two days later, on September 7, Khamenei reiterated his anti-Saudi statements, at a meeting with families of victims of the Mina stampede. He repeated his accusation that the Saudi rulers are not acting like true Muslims or for the benefit of the Arabs, but rather are collaborating with the U.S. against the true Muslims – i.e. the Shi’ites – while it is Iran that is acting according to the Koran and for the benefit of the Arabs. He also reiterated his claim that the Mina stampede was deliberately caused, and called for removing the administration of the Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia from the hands of the Al-Saud family.

Following are excerpts from his remarks:

“The Mina disaster shows again that Saudi Arabia – the criminal and accursed tree – is unfit to administer the holy sites, and this should be realized by all in the Islamic world. If Saudi Arabia is right [by insisting] that it is not responsible [for the disaster], then it must allow a true Islamic and international team to come in, to scrutinize the situation, and to clarify the matter. Saudi Arabia must not use [its] money to shut mouths…

“The brave Iranian nation is standing fast against Saudi Arabia’s stupidity and confusion, and proudly states its positions, which stem from the Koran. Other nations and countries must also show courage and must grab the Saudis by the throat…

“The supporters of the Saudi regime are accessories to the crimes of this regime and to the Mina disaster. The dishonorable Saudi regime relies on American support, and is brazenly standing against Muslims and spilling their blood in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain. Therefore, America and other supporters of Riyadh are accessories to the Saudi crimes.

“The propaganda apparatuses that the [Saudis] control are attempting to depict the Mina disaster as [just] another Shi’ite-Sunni or Arab-non-Arab dispute. The Saudi rulers’ propagandists repeat this lie [as well] – even though most of the 7,000 Mina martyrs were Sunnis, including those from Iran…

“Al-Saud, and the terrorist elements that it created, are drowning the Arabs in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq in blood and ashes. That is why, in contrast to the criminal Western propaganda, Saudi Arabia is not supporting the Arabs, and the Mina affair has nothing to do with some fabricated media clash between Arabs and non-Arabs...

“The truth is that the hated Saudis are a group within the Islamic world, and that some of its members, knowingly or not, are acting against the Muslims. The Islamic world must stand against them and express disgust with the Saudi bosses – that is, the criminal America and England.

“The various [Iranian regime] apparatuses, including the Foreign Ministry, the Hajj [and Pilgrimage] Organization, and the Martyrs Foundation [Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs], need to deal seriously with the Mina disaster, and fully carry out their duty [in this regard].”[7]

 Iranian President Rohani: Saudi Arabia Commits Crimes In The Region, Supports Terrorism, And Spills Muslim Blood – And It Must Be Punished

On this issue, Rafsanjani’s protégé, Iranian President Hassan Rohani, aligned with Khamenei, and at a September 7, 2016 government meeting made harsh statements about Saudi Arabia. He said that the country was spilling Muslim blood in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and bombing it cruelly, and demanded that it be punished. Following are excerpts from his statements:

“If the problem with the Saudi regime was just the issue of the Hajj and [the] Mina [disaster], then maybe we could have solved it. But, unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is committing crimes in the region, supporting terrorism, and spilling Muslim blood in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, cruelly bombing women and children in Yemen every day.

“The problem with Saudi Arabia is greater than just issues such as the Hajj. Countries in the region and the Islamic world should coordinate measures for solving the existing problems, and should punish the Saudi government. If that happens, the Hajj pilgrimage can be made genuinely and honorably, in Mecca, Medina, and the holy sites, and the countries in the region will be saved from the terrorism backed by the Saudi regime and the Yemeni people can live in peace and security.”

Rohani also stressed that Iran would continue to support “Muslims and oppressed people throughout the world” and added that in the near future, there would be security in all the countries of the region, particularly Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.[8]
Cartoon on Iranian Tasnim website: “The Blind Murderer – last year, over 6,000 died in the Mina disaster, and Saudi Arabia is still falsely reporting that only 700 were martyred” (, September 5, 2016)

Khamenei Advisor: Al-Saud Regime Serves America, Zionists

On September 6, 2016, Khamenei’s international affairs advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, called Khamenei’s statements about Saudi Arabia resolute and decisive. He added that the Al-Saud regime was an accomplice to the shedding of Muslim blood in the region, and that Saudi Arabia had sent its mercenaries, that is, ISIS, to the region. Velayati also accused the Saudis of attempting to bring down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and of supporting Wahhabi extremism, and said that instead of serving the holy sites, they serve America and the Zionists.[9]

Saudi Responses To Khamenei’s Statements

Saudi Crown Prince: The Iranian Regime Is Seeking To Politicize The Hajj

The day after Khamenei’s Hajj message was released, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif responded to Iran’s statement that it is the Saudis who are not allowing Iranian pilgrims to make the Hajj, stressing that since its establishment, the kingdom allowed all pilgrims to carry out the Hajj and that Iranian pilgrims are prevented from doing so this year as a result of the Iranian regime’s desire to politicize the Hajj:

“Since its establishment, Saudi Arabia has served the two holy sites [Mecca and Medina], taking care of [all] those interested in making the pilgrimage to them, and providing everything they need to carry out this supreme mission… What was said in the Iranian media and by some Iranian officials is not credible or objective. They [the Iranians] know full well that Saudi Arabia has facilitated Iranian pilgrims just like other pilgrims – but that this year, the Iranian Hajj delegation made demands that contradict the purpose of the Hajj and the obligations of other Hajj delegations. These [demands] jeopardize the security of Hajj and the pilgrims, including the Iranian pilgrims, and also  violate the sanctity of the place and the time.

“Saudi Arabia will absolutely not allow Iran or its ilk to do anything that…  that will violate the Hajj ceremonies, undermine security, or [negatively] impact the lives and safety of the pilgrims. It is elements in Iran that do not want the Iranian pilgrims to come, due… to their desire to politicize the Hajj and transform it into slogans that contradict the teachings of Islam and harm the security of the Hajj and of the pilgrims…”[10]

Mufti Of Saudi Arabia: Iranians Are Not Muslims

In an interview with the official Saudi daily Makkah, ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, mufti of Saudi Arabia and head of its Council of Senior Scholars, had harsh words for Khamenei and the Iranian regime: “Khamenei’s attack on Saudi Arabia and his questioning of the special measures it undertakes during the Hajj are unsurprising. We must understand that they are not Muslims, but rather Zoroastrians, and that their hostility towards the Muslims, particularly the Sunnis, is ancient. Anyone attempting to harm the service that Saudi Arabia [does] for the Hajj and the pilgrims… will be unsuccessful…”[11]

Saudi Arabia’s Council Of Senior Scholars: “Islam Does Not Accept Iranian Regime’s Attempts To Harm And Curse The Hajj Ceremony”

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars itself also criticized Khamenei on Twitter, and expressed support for the Saudi policy vis-à-vis the Iranian demands: “Islam does not accept the Iranian regime’s attempts to harm and curse the Hajj ceremony. Moreover, these attempts constitute harm to Hajj sites and rituals. The Council of Senior Scholars supports Saudi Arabia’s permanent policy to ban any element from ruining the Hajj atmosphere, harming the safety of the pilgrims, or attempting to damage Islamic unity. [To maintain] the security of the [Saudi] state and its holy sites, we cannot allow any action or behavior to overshadow this atmosphere of faith, harm public interests, or offend Muslims.”[12]

Appendix: Images On Khamenei’s Website Express His Anti-Saudi Message; Saudi Press Responds To His Statements With Anti-Iran Cartoons

Images on Khamenei’s Website  

As noted, Khamenei’s Hajj message was posted along with a series of images on September 5 visually expressing his anti-Saudi sentiment:[13]
“Preventing God’s Will: This year, the Saudis prevented God’s will and barred the brave and pious Iranian pilgrims from travelling to the house of God [the Grand Mosque]. They are humiliated deviants who see their calling in an alliance with the Zionists and Americans, and make efforts to carry out their will”
“This year, the Saudis, in addition to blocking pilgrims from Iran and from some other countries, have turned the safe house of God into an unsafe place, together with the American and Zionist espionage apparatuses”
Image shows Saudi mufti hiding behind the face of Saudi foreign minister, accompanied by text: “Useless efforts by Saudi rulers to paint Iran as the guilty party: The voices of their propaganda – from politicians to muftis who are not religious and eat [forbidden] foods and issue fatwas contrary to the Koran and Sunnah and their servants in the media – are all engaged in a useless effort to blame Iran for the ban on Iranian pilgrims during this year’s Hajj”
“The Accursed Tree [Al-Saud family]: We pray that the tyrannical accursed tree does not succeed in causing damage to pilgrims from around the world” (image features the hashtag “Al-Saud Hijacks Hajj”)


“The Hajj is the place to show aversion to infidels and unity to the pious: A unified Islamic Hajj embodies [the verse] ‘be harsh with the infidels and merciful with each other.’ This is the place to show aversion to the infidels and a united alliance with the pious”


Saudi Cartoons Slamming Khamenei And Iranian Regime

The Saudi press responded to Khamenei’s statements with numerous cartoons, infographics and illustrations condemning him and the Iranian regime in general. Below are several examples:

Illustration accompanying ‘Okaz article titled “Iran – World Champion in Executions and Racism” (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016)
Infographic: “The Supreme Leader Gains Wealth while the Iranians Get Poorer. Khamenei – an Empire of Plunder.” (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016)

Khamenei uses Iranian pilgrims to harm Saudi Arabia (‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 9, 2016)


Iran uses Iranian pilgrims to “politicize the Hajj” (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, September 10, 2016 )


Cartoon in Government daily Al-Jazirah: Iran uses its serpent’s tongue to “ignite sectarianism” (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 11, 2016)




[1], September 5, 2016.

[2] ISNA (Iran), May 30, 2016.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6251 Iran Furious Over Saudi Arabia’s Execution Of Shi’ite Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, January 4, 2016; Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No 1215 Unprecedented Tension Between Saudi Arabia, Iran Following Execution Of Shi’ite Cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, January 4, 2016; and Special Dispatch No. 6260, Saudi-Iranian Tensions As Depicted In Cartoons, January 13, 2016.

[4] It should be noted that the conflict with the U.S. also includes military aspects. There have been numerous recent reports of incidents involving speedboats belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confronting American ships in the Persian Gulf. The most recent incident, reported by the Pentagon in early September 2016, involved IRGC speedboats chasing off an American ship in the Gulf; preceding that were four similar incidents in August alone. The September incident is the 31st this year., August 25, 2016;, September 6, 2016;. The conflict with Saudi Arabia also has military aspects, albeit indirect ones, via pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

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