Thursday, November 3, 2016

Eye on Iran: Iranians Mark Anniversary of US Embassy Takeover in Tehran

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Thousands of Iranians have burned the American flag and chanted anti-U.S. slogans as they marked the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant students 37 years ago. Such protests take place every year outside the compound that once housed the embassy on the anniversary of the 1979 takeover that followed the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Iranians at the rally outside the former embassy building on Thursday chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" and burned the U.S. and Israeli flags. On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days after Washington refused to hand over Iran's toppled shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, for trial in Iran.

An Iranian airline, backed by the country's notorious Revolutionary Guard and used to ferry weapons and fighters to support Syria's government, has acquired rights to fly commercial routes in more than a dozen European and Asian countries in spite of U.S. terror-related sanctions. The Iranian nuclear agreement, signed by six world powers last year, ended some of the sanctions that had punished and isolated Iran for its nuclear program. But sanctions for ballistic missile research, terrorism, human rights violations and money laundering remain in place. Mahan Air, the country's second-largest carrier, is under terror-related sanctions. The U.S. has accused the company of providing "transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services" to the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Forces, flying them and weapons to Syria to train Hezbollah militants, Syrian army troops and others. Many countries honored the U.S. terror sanctions and blocked Mahan Air. But weeks before the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, the airline announced it was launching a route to Munich - its second German destination. A wave of new routes to 15 countries followed, including France, Russia, China and Italy. France and Denmark were added in June 2016, and talks continue to add more routes in Europe. A U.S. Treasury official told The Associated Press that the U.S. has been trying to get those countries to cooperate with U.S. efforts to block the airline's financial network, but has met with stiff resistance.

Tehran is struggling to persuade western energy companies to make a rapid return to Iran and ensure a lasting revival of the country's antiquated oil and gas industry... western energy companies involved in exploration and production have not so far returned to Iran because of several outstanding issues... Chief executives say the political risks and uncertainties in Iran make it hard to justify investment at a time of weak oil prices and resulting capital scarcity. "We have no shortage of projects to invest in - most of them more straightforward than Iran," says one industry executive. There have been some tentative signs of companies rebuilding ties with Tehran. The UK's BP, which has its roots in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that pioneered exploration in Iran, this month bought its first shipment of Iran oil since sanctions were lifted. Bob Dudley, BP chief executive, said this month that the deal was "a good step to learn how to work with Iran". But he warned that US sanctions were an obstacle for European as well as US oil groups. "We're going to have to be very careful. We don't want to violate sanctions," he said. Western energy companies are interested in investing in Iran, but stress they need for an appropriate business framework.


A full-page newspaper ad warning international companies about the dangers of doing business with the regime in Tehran "soured the mood" at last week's Iran Investment Summit in Singapore, CNBC reported. The ad - published in the Financial Times by the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) advocacy group - cautioned attendees of the first-ever-of-its-kind summit that they should be "skeptical of the business environment" in the Islamic Republic. "Serious financial, legal and reputational risks for businesses, shareholders, investors, employees, and the international community loom large in betting on Tehran," the ad said... Reporting live from the summit, CNBC journalist Sri Jegarajah said UANI's "inflammatory" campaign "has not gone down at all well here." "There has been a fair share of drama and controversy dogging this investment summit because of the politics," Jegarajah noted.


A senior Iranian military official welcomed Thursday what he said was the "strong decline" of the United States, during celebrations marking the start of the 1979 US embassy siege. "America is no longer number one and the first power of the world," deputy Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami told thousands gathered outside the former US mission in Tehran. "America's political will can no longer manage political and military development in... the world of Islam. America's political power has strongly declined." ... "Our fight with the Americans will continue" Salami said. "Pursuing our ideals in the world of Islam and in Iran, we will recognise no stopping point or red line. He also warned the US not to criticise Iran's ballistic missiles, calling its system "the real centre of our power (that) must be strengthened."

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei reiterated on Wednesday that negotiating with the US government will not resolve Iran's problems, but will aggravate them. In an address to a gathering of students in Tehran on Wednesday, Imam Khamenei ruled out the notion that 'settlement of Iran's problems hinges on rapprochement with the US.' "We need to solve problems by ourselves through reliance on the local capabilities and young forces," the Leader said in the meeting, held to mark the 'National Day of Fight against Global Arrogance.' The wrong and "very dangerous" notion that détente with the US would resolve Iran's problems can be proved false with detailed reasoning, Ayatollah Khamenei underlined, referring to the US violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a lasting nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, as a glaring example of falsehood of that concept.


When Congress returns to Washington later this month to tackle a budget impasse and a massive defense policy bill, there will be one more contentious item on its agenda: extending sanctions on Iran. At the end of the year, the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) expires - and with it, the regime of existing U.S. sanctions lawmakers say are essential to ensure Washington can "snap back" punitive measures against Tehran should Iranian leaders violate the terms of the nuclear deal that went into effect earlier this year. But if lawmakers go too far in their bid to renew and possibly stiffen the sanctions, the White House fears Tehran could interpret it as a U.S. violation of the deal - and take that as a cue to fire up their nuclear reactors again... The Iran Sanctions Act "should remain in place until the regime stops exporting terror and threatening us and our allies with deadly weapons," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), who is sponsoring the measure. "That's why I'll be introducing a bipartisan, long-term extension of these important sanctions." But it is unclear if the Senate will follow the House's lead - or if the White House is even ready to accept a bipartisan renewal of existing sanctions.


Trade between Britain and Iran is beginning to grow but the reluctance of large Western lenders is holding back a major expansion of ties and needs to be resolved, government and finance officials said on Wednesday... British trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday that Anglo-Iranian relations had improved since Britain reopened its Tehran embassy last year and it would work to expand bilateral trade following the vote to leave the European Union. "Slowly but with increasing enthusiasm, British companies are starting to do business with Iran again ... We are seeing the first signs of growing trade between the UK and Iran," Fox told a City and Financial Global conference in London. "The banking sector's ongoing concerns about facilitating payments or providing financial services means that the benefits of sanctions relief are not yet being fully realised. Resolving these problems remains a priority for this government." Norman Lamont, Britain's trade envoy to Iran and a former British finance minister, said the deadlock over progress on banking access to Iran was "profoundly unsatisfactory"... Justine Walker, director of financial crime with the British Bankers' Association (BBA), which represents the industry, said primary U.S. sanctions still in place could not be ignored. "For any of the global banks, they do have a very strong U.S. presence and that is something that they need to get comfortable with in how they insulate their U.S. exposure and that is taking time and involving changing lots of policies," she told Reuters.

Iran's second-largest carrier, Mahan Air, is flying commercial routes to more than a dozen European and Asian countries in spite of U.S. terror-related sanctions. Backed by the country's notorious Revolutionary Guard, the airline is sanctioned by the U.S. for providing "transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services" to the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Forces, flying them and weapons to Syria to train Hezbollah militants, Syrian army troops and others. Many countries honored the U.S. terror sanctions and blocked Mahan Air. But weeks before the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, Mahan announced it was launching a route to Munich - its second German destination. A wave of new routes followed to more than a dozen countries, including France, Russia, Thailand and Denmark. A look at the countries that have granted landing rights to Mahan Air commercial flights or are home to companies affiliated with the airline.


The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the country's elite military force, is sending assets to infiltrate the United States and Europe at the direction of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to recent Farsi-language comments from an Iranian military leader. The IRGC "will be in the U.S. and Europe very soon," according to the Iranian military commander, who said that these forces would operate with the goal of bolstering Iran's hardline regime and thwarting potential plots against the Islamic Republic. "The whole world should know that the IRGC will be in the U.S. and Europe very soon," Salar Abnoush, deputy coordinator of Iran's Khatam-al-Anbia Garrison, an IRGC command front, was quoted as saying in an Iranian state-controlled publication closely tied to the IRGC... "The IRGC is [the] strong guardian of the Islamic Republic," Abnoush was quoted as saying. "The Fedayeen of Velayat [fighting force] are under the order of Iran's Supreme leader. Defending and protecting the Velayat [the Supreme Leader] has no border and limit."


The Islamic Republic remains a revolutionary state dedicated to its founding principles of exporting its ideology to neighboring countries. A recent interview with Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, a senior military advisor to the Supreme Leader, provides valuable insight into the regime's perceptions of its soft and hard power efforts.[1] Firouzabadi is a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was the only armed forces chief of staff to serve Khamenei until his retirement in June 2016. Firouzabadi's rhetoric is likely an accurate reflection of the regime's consensus over its broader outlook and priorities. In the interview, Firouzabadi underscores the reality that Iran's commitment to building a network of armed and unarmed proxies, partners, and allies is deeply ingrained within the regime's core principles. This priority will continue to shape Iran's foreign policy regardless of any transactional agreements with the U.S. or its allies. Firouzabadi also details Iran's support of actors in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Levant, and publicly confirms Iranian military deployments to Gaza. Iran's support of Hamas and other Sunni militant organizations is an important reminder that sectarian divisions do not necessarily limit Iran's regional aspirations.


A former high-ranking Iranian judicial official who came to symbolize Iran's violent suppression of rights activists and journalists has been sentenced to 135 lashes in a corruption case. The punishment of the former official, Saeed Mortazavi, who built his reputation as a feared judge and prosecutor in Tehran beginning in the early 2000s, was reported on Wednesday by the official Iranian news media. It was unclear when, or even whether, the punishment would be carried out on Mr. Mortazavi, who has been described by Human Rights Watch as a "serial human rights abuser." Lashing or flogging, widely regarded as torture in much of the world, is still a common sentence in Iran for crimes like adultery, theft and alcohol consumption... Rights activists on Wednesday were critical of the punishment in the corruption case, describing it as a barbaric sentence that distracted from what they called Mr. Mortazavi's real crimes.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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