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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NPR’)

 

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

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

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian Butcher Khamenei sets terms for Tehran to remain in nuclear deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Khamenei sets terms for Tehran to remain in nuclear deal

Iranian leader says Europe must vow not to seek limits on missile program and regional actions, and must protect Islamic Republic’s economy from American sanctions

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday set conditions for Europe for Tehran to remain in the 2015 nuclear accord, following the US withdrawal from the deal earlier this month.

Khamenei, addressing government officials on the occasion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said European powers must vow not to seek new limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program or its activities in the Middle East, as demanded by the Trump administration.

They must also “fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales,” he said, adding that if the US “damages” oil sales through renewed economic sanctions, “Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil.”

European banks, he added, “must safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic” in the face of new sanctions.

He also said the EU “must submit a resolution against the US at the UN Security Council” to protest the American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

He warned that should conditions not be met, “Iran reserves the right to restart its suspended nuclear activities.”

He added: “We do not want to start a fight with [Europe] but…we don’t trust them either.”

The Iranian leader said Tehran has learned it cannot “interact” with the United States as it is a country whose word cannot be trusted.

“The first experience is that the government of the Islamic Republic cannot interact with America… Why? Because America is not committed to its promises,” Press TV quoted him as saying.

Khamenei said the US has been aiming to topple the Islamic republic for 40 years. “From the first day of the Islamic Revolution the US has applied all kinds of enmity to hit the Islamic republic,” he said.

The speech comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a steep list of demands to be included in a nuclear treaty to replace the deal scuttled by Trump. Among them, Pompeo demanded that Iran make wholesale changes in its military and regional policies or face “the strongest sanctions in history.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation, on May 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Pompeo has called for the negotiation of a new deal that would go far beyond the single focus of the nuclear agreement and would have the status of a formal treaty. The 2015 deal concluded under the Obama administration dealt only with the nuclear program.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani compared Pompeo’s comments to those made by the administration of George W. Bush ahead of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“The era of such statements has evolved and the Iranian people have heard these statements hundreds of times, and no longer pay attention,” Rouhani said.

Other senior Iranian officials rejected the demands, saying the US was afraid to face Iran in battle and vowing to push ahead with their country’s military programs.

On Monday a senior IRGC officer said Pompeo deserves a “strong punch to the mouth.”

Commenting on US threats to ramp up sanctions on Iran, Ismail Kowsari said, “The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them.”

Pompeo argued that Iran had advanced its march across the Middle East precisely because of the nuclear deal, which saw the West lifting sanctions on Tehran in return for Iran limiting its nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump is seen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on May 17, 2018. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

US President Donald Trump’s newly installed top diplomat also hinted at the possibility of military action should Iranian leaders reconstitute their nuclear program.

“If they restart their nuclear program, they will have big problems, bigger problems than they’ve ever had before,” he said, also threatening to “crush” Iran’s terrorist proxies around the world.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States.

Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.

Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing long-range missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.

Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.

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Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

 

For those of us who are old enough to remember the Iranian hostage debacle where the American embassy in Tehran was over ran by ‘students’ loyal to the new Islamic Revolutionary government in the fall of 1979 was the beginning of the end for one Demon and the rise of the Devil who took his place. Now our President with the stroke of his pen has brought this event back into the news concerning payments to all the former hostages and their families is just another slap in the face of the American tax payers. For those of you who are too young to remember this event that lasted 440 days, ending the day Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush was sworn into office (January 20th, 1981) you need to crack open the history books and enlarge your knowledge of this event. This was a major black eye to all Americans and it did hasten the downfall of President Jimmy Carter as our President.

 

I do not blame the people of Iran for being livid with the American government for their (our) backing of their Dictator the Shaw of Iran. This monster murdered thousands of his own countrymen and imprisoned and tortured many thousands more. Our government had a long track record of backing people like him and Saddam as long as our government got things like a listening post, Airfields or Bases that we could have access to, we turned a blind eye to the murders and torturing of the citizens. Plus the fact that this gave our military industries here in America extra customers that was worth many billions of dollars to their stock holders and did help create and keep thousands of Americans employed in well-paying jobs. We had no moral high ground when it came to propping up these blood thirsty foreign leaders, it is/was no wonder that the people of Iran hated our country. But there again is the issue of reality, we the people didn’t know what was going on in Iran, but our governments security agencies did know and they still gave the Shaw the weapons to kill his own people with. It is quite stupid to believe that a countries people (here in America) should be held at charge for what they had no knowledge of yet we do teach that a person or people are (guilty by association). When a government is evil (aren’t they all) it is easy to paint the citizens of that country with the same brush their leaders are painted with. This is ignorant yet we humans do still make this mistake often in our everyday laws.

 

When a person takes a job with the government and you are assigned to one of our embassies you know very well that you just became a target for those who hate your flag and that your position comes with dangers. The people working at the Tehran embassy knew their lives could be in danger for working there yet they accepted the jobs they had and the pay checks and benefit packages that came with their position. Then there is the matter of the Marines who were guards there at that time, they darn sure knew the dangers of that job before they ever stepped foot into the compound. What I am saying is that what happened back then was part of the job that they all knew could happen, or even worse, do you remember Benghazi Libya just a few of years ago?

 

Buried deep in a federal spending bill that President Obama signed was an allocation of money to be given to those 53 former hostages (only 36 are still alive) and their families. I hate what those people had to go through at the hands of those so-called students but you and I should not have to pay each of them 4.4 million dollars as compensation plus $600,000 to each of their surviving spouses and grown kids (97) of them. If anyone should have to pay this bonus to these people it should be the then Vice President in waiting George H. W. Bush and his estate. Why should he have to pay this money? My answer to that is simple, Mr Bush (study your history) who coined the phony phrase “America doesn’t negotiate with terrorist” cut a deal with the government of Iran to keep those Americans as hostages until he and Mr Reagan took office. We (American government) gave the Iranian government missiles and other weapons to keep our people as hostages because he (Mr Bush) did not want the Carter Administration getting the credit for their release. In my opinion, Mr. Bush’s actions were criminal as well as treasonous just as his Iran Contra actions a couple of years later where we sold weapons to Iran for the cash to support our illegal (Congress said so) attempt to over through the government in Nicaragua. Now do you see why I believe that if anyone should have to put money out-of-pocket to cover these ‘bonuses’ it should be the Bush estate not the American people. Mr. Bush also signed off the hostages ‘right’ to sue the Iranian government for their country’s actions, nice caring ‘leader’ huh?

 

I am going to end this article with some numbers for you to digest. To the former hostages themselves we the tax payers are paying those 53 people a total of $233,200,000.00 plus the $600,000.00 to another 97 spouses and children totaling $58,200,000.00. Folks that is a total of $291,400,000.00 that you and I have to cough up in order to pay this bill. I as a person like seeing these people getting this life altering amount of cash, good for them, their children, and their grandchildren but you and I should not have to pay this bill. These poor souls suffered a lot during their time of being kidnapped by this Demonic Iranian horde but the fact still remains that they received their pay checks while in the employment of the American government during and after this event. Mr Bush being he is the one that negotiated with these terrorists I believe if anyone should have to cough up that money it should be the Bush family, not we the people.

 

 

TEHRAN, Iran — Labor strikes Nationwide protests Bank failures

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

FILE- In this Jan. 5, 2018 file photo, Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran. In recent months, Iran has been beset by economic problems despite the promises surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers. (Ebrahim Noroozi, File/Associated Press)
 March 10 at 4:29 AM
TEHRAN, Iran — Labor strikes. Nationwide protests. Bank failures.In recent months, Iran has been beset by economic problems despite the promises surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers.

Its clerically overseen government is starting to take notice. Politicians now offer the idea of possible government referendums or early elections. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acknowledged the depths of the problems ahead of the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

“Progress has been made in various sectors in the real sense of the word; however, we admit that in the area of ‘justice’ we are lagging behind,” Khamenei said in February, according to an official transcript. “We should apologize to Allah the Exalted and to our dear people.”

Whether change can come, however, is in question.

Iran today largely remains a state-run economy. It has tried to privatize some of its industries, but critics say they have been handed over to a wealthy elite that looted them and ran them into the ground.

One major strike now grips the Iran National Steel Industrial Group in Ahvaz, in the country’s southwest, where hundreds of workers say they haven’t been paid in three months. Authorities say some demonstrators have been arrested during the strike.

More than 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, government spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht has said. The unemployment rate is over 11 percent.

Banks remain hobbled by billions of dollars in bad loans, some from the era of nuclear sanctions and others tainted with fraud. The collapse last year of the Caspian Credit Institute, which promised depositors the kinds of returns rarely seen outside of Ponzi schemes, showed the economic desperation faced by many in Iran.

Meanwhile, much of the economy is in the grip of Iran’s security services.

The country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard paramilitary force, which answers only Khamenei and runs Iran’s ballistic missile program, controls 15 to 30 percent of the economy, analysts say.

Under President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric whose government reached the atomic accord, there has been a push toward ending military control of some businesses. However, the Guard is unlikely to give up its power easily.

Some suggest hard-liners and the Guard may welcome the economic turmoil in Iran as it weakens Rouhani’s position. His popularity has slipped since winning a landslide re-election in May 2017, in part over the country’s economic woes.

Analysts believe a hard-line protest in late December likely lit the fuse for the nationwide demonstrations that swept across some 75 cities. While initially focused on the economy, they quickly turned anti-government. At least 25 people were killed in clashes surrounding the demonstrations, while nearly 5,000 reportedly were arrested.

In the time since, Rouhani has suggested holding a referendum, without specifying what exactly would be voted on.

“If factions have differences, there is no need to fight, bring it to the ballot,” Rouhani said in a speech Feb. 11. “Do whatever the people say.”

Such words don’t come lightly. There have been only two referendums since the Islamic Revolution. A 1979 referendum installed Iran’s Islamic republic. A 1989 constitutional referendum eliminated the post of prime minister, created Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and made other changes.

A letter signed by 15 prominent Iranians published a day after Rouhani’s speech called for a referendum on whether Iran should become a secular parliamentary democracy. The letter was signed by Iranians living inside the country and abroad, including Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

“The sum of the experiences of the last 40 years show the impossibility of reforming the Islamic Republic, since by hiding behind divine concepts … the regime has become the principal obstacle to progress and salvation of the Iranian nation,” read the letter, which was posted online.

But even among moderates in Iran’s clerical establishment, there seems to be little interest in such far-reaching changes, which would spell the end of the Islamic Republic. Hard-liners, who dominate the country’s security services, are adamantly opposed.

“I am telling the anti-Islamic government network, the anti-Iranians and those runaway counterrevolutionaries … their wish for a public referendum will never come true,” Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said Feb. 15, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Yet there are signs that authorities realize that something will have to give. Khamenei’s apology in February took many by surprise, especially as the country’s true hard-liners believe he is the representative of God on earth.

Khamenei’s apology came after a letter from Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition activist who remains under house arrest, demanding that the supreme leader take responsibility for failures.

“You were president for eight years and you have been the absolute ruler for almost 29 years,” Karroubi wrote in the letter, which was not reported on by state media. “Therefore, considering your power and influence over the highest levels of state, you must accept that today’s political, economic, cultural and social situation in the country is a direct result of your guidance and administration.”

Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed by many for the country’s economic woes, has come out for early elections. He also demanded they be “free and fair,” while continuing his own campaign against Khamenei, whom he ignored in his attempt to run in the 2017 presidential election.

However, Ahmadinejad’s action drew immediate criticism, as his own widely disputed 2009 re-election sparked unrest and violence that killed dozens.

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Widow of jailed wildlife expert prevented from leaving Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’)

 

Widow of jailed wildlife expert prevented from leaving Iran

Seyed-Emami family were boarding plane to Canada when security forces stopped widow

Kavous and Maryam Mombeini Seyed-Emami with their sons
 Kavous and Maryam Mombeini Seyed-Emami with their sons in Iran. Photograph: AP

The widow of an Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in a Tehran prisonunder disputed circumstances has been barred from leaving the country, according to one of her sons.

The family – all of whom are dual citizens of Iran and Canada – were boarding a Lufthansa flight for Canada on Wednesday when Maryam Mombeini, 55, was stopped by security forces and told she was forbidden from leaving the country.

Soon after, her son posted a photo online showing himself and his brother seated in the plane without their mother. “Enough is enough,” Ramin Seyed-Emami wrote on Instagram, noting that both he and his brother would not “stay silent for one second until we are reunited with our mom”.

Mombeini is the widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami, the founder of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation. The group seeks to protect Iran’s rare animals, including the Asiatic cheetah, which ranks as one of the world’s most endangered species, with only 50 remaining.

Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami
 Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami Photograph: handout/AFP/Getty Images

Seyed-Emami and several others from the group were arrested in late January. Two weeks after being taken to Iran’s notorious Evin prison, officials said Seyed-Emami, 63, was dead.

Iran’s judiciary said he had killed himself and described him as an agent of the CIA and Mossad who had used the wildlife foundation as a cover to collect information about the country’s missile bases.

Their claims were met with widespread scepticism. His family has been calling for an independent investigation into his death.

On Thursday the Canadian government – which has also pressed Iran for information about the detention and death of Seyed-Emami – demanded that Mombeini be allowed to leave Iran.

“I am outraged to learn that Maryam Mombeini, widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami, was barred from leaving Iran,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, wrote on Twitter. “We demand that, as a Canadian, she be given the freedom to return home.”

Canada cut all diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012, expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada and closing its embassy in Tehran. Despite a 2015 campaign promise by Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, to restore diplomatic relations with the country, the Italian government continues to handle Canada’s interests in Iran.

Ramin Seyed-Emami – a well-known singer in Iran – said his family had decided to leave Iran after persistent harassment and threats had left them living in a “state of constant terror”.

The family had been under pressure to stay silent about the death of Seyed-Emami, he added. “My brother and I are followed and under surveillance everywhere we go,” he said in a statement sent to journalists. “The authorities told our lawyers to tell the brothers ‘to shut up or we’ll shut them up’.”

Iranian woman who removed headscarf jailed for two years

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’)

 

Iranian woman who removed headscarf jailed for two years

Prosecutor says woman took off obligatory hijab in Tehran street to ‘encourage corruption’

The hijab is obligatory in public in Iran.
 The hijab is obligatory in public in Iran. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

An Iranian woman who publicly removed her veil in protest against Iran’s compulsory headscarf law has been sentenced to two years in prison, the judiciary said on Wednesday.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, who announced the sentence, did not give the woman’s identity but said she intended to appeal against the verdict, the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency reported.

Dolatabadi said the unidentified woman took off her headscarf in Tehran’s Enghelab Street to “encourage corruption through the removal of the hijab in public”.

The woman will be eligible for parole after three months, but Dolatabadi criticised what he said was a “light” sentence and said he would push for the full two-year penalty.

More than 30 Iranian women have been arrested since the end of December for publically removing their veils in defiance of the law.

Most have been released, but many are being prosecuted.

Women showing their hair in public in Iran are usually sentenced to far shorter terms of two months or less, and fined $25.

Iranian law, in place since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, stipulates that all women, Iranian or foreign, Muslim or non-Muslim, must be fully veiled in public at all times.

But the zeal of the country’s morality police has declined in the past two decades, and a growing number of Iranian women in Tehran and other large cities often wear loose veils that reveal their hair.

In some areas of the capital, women are regularly seen driving cars with veils draped over their shoulders.

Dolatabadi said he would no longer accept such behaviour, and had ordered the impound of vehicles driven by socially rebellious women.

The prosecutor said some “tolerance” was possible when it came to women who wear the veil loosely, “but we must act with force against people who deliberately question the rules on the Islamic veil”, according to Mizan Online.

Iran Pledging All Its Might To Hamas For Jerusalem Battle

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran pledging all its might to Hamas for Jerusalem battle, terror group says

‘All of our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal,’ Gaza leader Sinwar says General Qassem Soleimani told him

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist terror movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist terror movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said that a senior Iranian military commander pledged all of the Islamic Republic’s military resources to help the Gaza-based terror group fight Israel over Jerusalem.

“All our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem,” Sinwar said Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, told him over the phone.

The statements by Sinwar regarding Soleimani were broadcast Monday by the pro-Iranian Lebanese news outlet al-Mayadeen, and seemed to be from a speech he gave on Thursday in Gaza to young men and social media activists.

According to Sinwar, Soleimani asserted that “Iran, the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force stand with all they have with our people in order to defend Jerusalem so that Jerusalem will endure as the capital of the state of Palestine.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani (YouTube: BBC Newsnight)

Sinwar, who said he met with the Iranian military commander in Tehran in 2012, added that Soleimani was in touch with the leadership of the military branches of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In a move that delighted much of Israel’s leadership but ignited protests across the Muslim world, US President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with the Jewish state since seizing power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The terror group has been urging a new intifada, or uprising, since Trump’s declaration, and has encouraged thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence, where there have been several fatalities in clashes in recent weeks.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Official Hamas media)

In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing for the Gaza-based terror group.

Sinwar has said that Iran has become the key military sponsor for the Gaza-based terror group, though he has not explained in what capacity Tehran provides support.

In November, a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Iran in order to attend the funeral service for Soleimani’s father. The delegation included deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri and a second official, Ezzat al-Rishq.

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France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TASNIM NEWS AGENCY OF IRAN)

 

France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

News ID: 1576462 Service: Politics

بهرام قاسمی

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi slammed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for his recent anti-Tehran remarks and said the western European country has a “one-sided and biased” stance on crises facing the Middle East region.

Qassemi made the remarks on Thursday in response to comments made by Le Drian, who earlier in the day expressed concern about what he called Iran’s “hegemonic” intentions in the Middle East.

At a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir during a trip to Saudi Arabia, Le Drian said, “I’m thinking specifically about Iran’s ballistic program.”

In reply, Qassemi said, “Unfortunately, it seems that France has a one-sided and biased view of the crises and humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East.”

This view only exacerbates regional conflicts, “whether intentionally or unintentionally,” he added.

The Iranian spokesman also stressed the need for stability and security in the region and advised leaders of France and other nations to take a “realistic and responsible” stance on the conflicts.

Qassemi also pointed to arms sales by “trans-regional countries” to Middle Eastern governments, including those used in Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against Yemen and said the western support has only led to “more instability and insecurity” in the region.

Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for more than two years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Over 14,000 Yemenis, including thousands of women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.

US Air Force official: Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

US Air Force official: Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian

  • Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital, says the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast.
  • Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.
  • “There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”

A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh's King Khaled Airport on Saturday.

Houthi Military Media Unit | Reuters
A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport on Saturday.

Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital and remnants of it bore “Iranian markings,” the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.

The comments by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, further internationalizes the yearslong conflict in Yemen — the Arab world’s poorest country.

Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.

“There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists at a news conference in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Air Show. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.

Saudi Arabia says it shot down the missile Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest yet to reach into the kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry later said investigators examining the remains of the rocket found evidence proving “the role of Iranian regime in manufacturing them.” It did not elaborate, though it also mentioned it found similar evidence after a July 22 missile launch. French President Emmanuel Macron similarly this week described the missile as “obviously” Iranian.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement Tuesday that the July launch involved an Iranian Qiam-1, a liquid-fueled, short-range Scud missile variant. Iran used a Qiam-1 in combat for the first time in June when it targeted Islamic State group militants in Syria over twin militant attacks in Tehran.

Harrigian declined to offer any specifics on what type of missile U.S. officials believed it was, nor did he show any images of the debris. He also didn’t explain how Iran evaded the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition, which intensified after the missile targeting Riyadh.

“How they got it there is probably something that will continue to be investigated over time,” the lieutenant general said. “What has been demonstrated and shown based on the findings of that missile is that it had Iranian markings on it. That in itself provides evidence of where it came from.”

The Houthis have described using Burkan-2 or “Volcano” Scud variants in their recent attacks, including the one Nov. 4. Those finless missiles are reminiscent of the Qiam, wrote Jeremy Binnie of Jane’s Defense Weekly in a February analysis.

“The Burkan-2 is likely to heighten suspicions that Iran is helping Yemen’s rebel forces to develop their ballistic missile capabilities,” Binnie wrote.

Adding to that suspicion is the fact that Yemen’s missile forces previously never had experience in disassembling and rebuilding the weapons, said Michael Knights, a fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen.

It is “not a stretch to believe that Tehran is supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice and specialized components,” Knights wrote in an analysis Thursday. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions and international blockade.”

The U.S. already is involved in the war in Yemen and has launched drone strikes targeting the local branch of al-Qaida, though it stopped offering targeting information under the Obama administration over concerns about civilian casualties. That prohibition continues today, though the Air Force continues to refuel warplanes in the Yemen theater and offers support in managing airspace over the country, Harrigian said. The Saudi-led coalition also uses American-made bombs and ordinance in its attacks.

Yemen long has had ballistic missiles, dating back to the 1970s when Yemen was split between the socialist South Yemen and North Yemen. After unification in 1990 and a later civil war, Yemen largely moved its ballistic missile stockpile to a mountain base in Sanaa, the capital. It also purchased more from North Korea.

When the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, their allied fighters also held control of the ballistic missiles. The Yemeni military was widely believed to possess around 300 Scud missiles at the time, though exact figures remain unknown.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. It then attacked the ballistic missile base in April 2015, touching off massive explosions that killed several dozen people. Saudi Arabia implied at the time that the Scud arsenal in Yemen had been seriously degraded, if not entirely destroyed, as a result of the airstrikes.

It soon would become clear that wasn’t the case. In June 2015, the rebels fired their first ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia near the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait. In the time since, Yemen’s rebels have fired over 70 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ missile defense project.

For its part, Iran long has denied offering any arms to Yemen, though it has backed the Houthis and highlighted the high civilian casualties from the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign of airstrikes.

But others in Iran have been coy about the ballistic missiles in Yemen. Mehdi Taeb, an influential hard-line cleric who is a brother to the intelligence chief of the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, said in April that Iran tried three times to send missiles to Yemen. The Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, oversees Iran’s missile program.

“We did it one time via an airplane, one time via a Navy boat and one time with a ship,” Taeb said in an online video.

The cleric said ultimately the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the transfers stopped over negotiations on the nuclear deal with world powers, without offering a specific time for the attempted shipments.

“They said come back because the Americans said, ‘If you send missiles to Yemen, we will end the negotiations,'” Taeb said.

Iran: (Demonic Hypocritical) Iran blasts ‘bloodthirsty’ Israel after terror tunnel destroyed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran blasts ‘bloodthirsty’ Israel after terror tunnel destroyed

Tehran accuses Jewish state of ‘seven decades of crimes, bloodshed and child-killing’ against the Palestinians

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (center right) meets with senior Hamas officials in Tehran on August 7, 2017. (screen capture)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (center right) meets with senior Hamas officials in Tehran on August 7, 2017. (screen capture)

Iran on Monday condemned Israel as “bloodthirsty” after the Israel Defense Forces blew up an attack tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, killing seven people, including two commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

“The bloodthirsty Zionist regime is trying to bend the will of the oppressed people of the occupied territories to guarantee its security by killing Palestinian youths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.

“This is while seven decades of crimes, bloodshed and child-killing could not weaken the determination of this patient and courageous people at all,” he added.

The IDF on Monday said it “neutralized a terror tunnel” that was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after 2014. The tunnel was being built by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

The blast killed at least five members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing, including a senior commander and his deputy, and two members of Hamas’s military wing died in rescue efforts. At least 12 others were injured, Gaza’s health ministry said. Many reports said the terrorists were killed inside the tunnel, though this was not definitively clear.

The statement from Iran came days after a Hamas delegation visited Tehran and officials in the Iranian regime praised the Gaza rulers for not abandoning its armed struggle against Israel.

The IDF said the tunnel was “detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence.”

Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah earlier on Monday accused Israel of trying to foil ongoing unity efforts between them in destroying the tunnel.

In a statement, Hamas called the Israeli measure “a desperate attempt to sabotage efforts to restore Palestinian unity and maintain the state of division.”

The body of Palestinian Marwan Alagha,22, is carried by mourners after he was killed when Israel blew up what it said was a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory, at Naser hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 30, 2017. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Earlier this month, the two factions signed an agreement in Cairo allowing for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to resume control of Gaza — which Hamas seized in a near civil war with Fatah in 2007 — by December 1.

Fatah spokesperson and vice-chairman of the party’s revolutionary council Fayez Abu Eita echoed Hamas’s sentiment that the move by the Israeli army to detonate the tunnel in Gaza was aimed at disrupting the unity talks.

“This crime comes in the context of [sowing confusion] and creating tension in the atmosphere in order to thwart the Palestinian national reconciliation,” he said, in a statement carried in the official PA news outlet Wafa.

Abu Eita said that despite the incident, the Palestinians would push ahead with the unity plan.

“The one who is most harmed by Palestinian national reconciliation is the occupation. The implementation of the reconciliation agreement is the optimal response to this crime,” he said.

The incident raised tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowing revenge.

Israel deployed its Iron Dome anti-missile system in the area and declared the border region a closed military zone.

“The explosion took place inside Israeli territory. The majority of the dead were activists that entered the tunnel after it was exploded and died in the Gaza Strip, and not as a result of the explosion,” said IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee.

“We are not interested in an escalation, but we are ready for all scenarios,” he said.

The IDF said the tunnel ran from the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossed under the border, and approached the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed the IDF for destroying the attack tunnel, with the two leaders attributing its discovery to Israel’s new “breakthrough technology.”

The prime minister said Israel holds Hamas responsible for all military action against Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip and “whoever hurts us, we hurt them.”

Israeli soldiers patrol close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Despite an assassination attempt on Hamas’s internal security chief Tawfiq Abu Naim on Friday, blamed variously on Israel and Islamic State, the terror group says it will continue to abide by the Cairo agreement and hand over control of Gaza’s border crossing to the PA on Wednesday.

The fate of the Hamas security forces after it transfers power to the PA in the territory is one of the most delicate issues facing the reconciliation process.

Abbas wants the handover to be comprehensive and include all security institutions, but the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has said “no one” can force his group to disarm.

Israel and the United States have meanwhile said that Hamas must disarm as part of any unity government.

They have also said it must recognize Israel and sever ties with Iran.

The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel, but Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks Israel’s destruction, has not. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report. 

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