Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Ready to Give U.S. 'Slap in the Face': Commander

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The United States should expect a "strong slap in the face" if it underestimates Iran's defensive capabilities, a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday, as Tehran concluded war games. Since taking office last month, U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that it was playing with fire and all U.S. options were on the table "The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake," said General Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Guards' ground forces, quoted by the Guards' website Sepahnews. On Wednesday, the Revolutionary Guards concluded three days of exercises with rockets, artillery, tanks and helicopters, weeks after Trump warned that he had put Tehran "on notice" over the missile launch. "The message of these exercises ... for world arrogance is not to do anything stupid," said Pakpour, quoted by the semi-official news agency Tasnim. "Everyone could see today what power we have on the ground." The Guards said they test-fired "advanced rockets" and used drones in the three-day exercises which were held in central and eastern Iran.

Officials from both countries say Iran and North Korea want to strengthen relations. A Sunday report by, the news agency of Iran's Parliament, quotes parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying: "We have always been after stability of relations with North Korea." Larijani was addressing Choe Thae-bok, visiting chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly He also said both countries should improve economic relations. Thae-bok responded, saying: "North Korea is seeking improved relations with Iran." He also praised Iran's economic and defense improvements.

Everything was in place on Tuesday for a gala celebration at Iran's annual conference in support of Palestinians. Awaiting the hundreds of guests was a table piled high with cakes and fruit, with plenty of tea to wash it all down and a placard saying, "Netanyahu: Go to Hell." The theme for this year's gathering was "All Together for Palestine." Prominent seatings were reserved for the heads of Parliament for Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Syria, as well as the leaders of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah. All three of those groups are considered terrorist organizations by the United States. Iran's support for them is one of the main reasons the White House has, for years, and particularly now, in the Trump era, labeled Iran perhaps the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world... All three have offices in the Iranian capital and all have received money, intelligence and even weapons from Iran - at least in the past. On Monday, the evening before the conference, Iranian state television broadcast an hourlong interview with the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who warned that his organization was capable of striking Israel's nuclear facilities.


An Iranian semi-official news agency is quoting a Revolutionary Guard commander alleging that a U.S. permanent resident sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran confessed he tried to "encourage decadence" in the Iranian society. Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese with resident status in the United States, disappeared in September 2015 during a trip to Iran to attend a conference. It wasn't possible to independently confirm the alleged confession. Zakka's supporters deny accusations he is a spy and note he was invited to Tehran by the government. The Mehr news agency Wednesday quoted Gen. Sayyari of the Guard's intelligence service, as saying that Zakka tried to corrupt "Iranian women and families."


Air India Express, the low-cost unit of the South Asian nation's flag carrier, has put on hold a plan to fly to Tehran amid renewed tensions between the U.S. and Iran after President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on the Persian Gulf country. Since some of Air India Ltd.'s plane purchases were funded by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, it won't be able to fly to places where the U.S. government imposes sanctions, K. Shyamsundar, the airline's chief executive officer, told Rishaad Salamat in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore on Tuesday. The carrier may now fly to Bahrain via Doha instead, he said.


U.S. prosecutors are pushing forward on an Iran sanctions investigation that had languished during the multiyear period when Washington and Tehran were negotiating their nuclear pact, according to people briefed on the matter. The Justice Department is continuing to examine whether Clearstream Banking SA and its parent company, Deutsche Boerse AG, provided a conduit for illegal Iranian transactions and made false statements to regulators during a review of Deutsche Boerse's unsuccessful 2012 bid to buy the New York Stock Exchange, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The investigation is being run by the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, a holdover from the Obama administration who was asked to stay on by President Donald Trump.


Iran announced on Tuesday it will begin selling 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Russia within the next 15 days and receive payment half in cash and half in goods and services, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh provided details about the deal after meeting Russian energy minister Alexander Novak in Tehran, ISNA said. "Of course we were ready to sign the contract tonight but our Russian counterpart was in a hurry and had to go to the airport," Zanganeh said. He added that a number of Russian companies have already signed memorandums of understanding with Iranian companies.


Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Jalali, detained in Iran since April 2016, began a second hunger strike in Evin Prison on February 15, 2017 to protest against his lawyers being dismissed by the judge shortly before his trial, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned. Jalali's wife, Vida Mehran-nia, also told the Campaign that her husband was moved to solitary confinement as punishment for his decision to go on hunger strike. "Ahmadreza asked the judge why he had accepted his lawyers at first, but decided to dismiss them now that the trial is approaching," she said. "He also called for the [Intelligence Ministry] official who had promised to review his case, but Judge (Abolqasem) Salavati replied that Ahmadreza would never see that official again," she added. "So, when my husband returned to prison (from Salavati's office), he phoned the family and told them what had happened and said he was going on hunger strike again."

To most observers, nothing stood out about Dorsa Derakhshani last month when she competed at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival. The 18-year-old female grand master fared fine on the board, twice using the Four Knights defense, and looked like any other teenager you might see in the British territory that borders southern Spain. But to the head of the Iranian Chess Federation, Derakhshani practically committed an act of treason. Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh didn't have a problem with Derakhshani's play, but her headwear. Derakhshani wore a simple headband in her long hair, instead of a hijab, Iran's traditional headscarf, which became a compulsory accessory for women after the 1979 revolution. As a result, Pahlevanzadeh announced on Monday that Derakhshani would be kicked off the national team. Derakhshani's younger brother Borna, 15, who also entered the tournament, was also kicked off the team. His offense was agreeing to play an Israeli opponent, a strict no-no in the country that doesn't recognize Israel as a state.

A Lebanese national held in Iran on charges of cooperating with the United States was visited last week by the Lebanese ambassador to Iran for the first time since he was arrested 17 months ago. The family of Nizar Zakka said in a statement that the meeting was "positive and fruitful." The two "discussed his case and official documentation received by the embassy." Zakka, a resident of the U.S. at the time of his arrest, led the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium. Zakka had been invited to attend a conference in Iran on economic opportunity. He disappeared on Sept. 18, 2015. Several weeks later, Iranian state television reported he was in custody, charged with cooperating with the U.S. government.


Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's refusal of an offer to achieve "national reconciliation" in Iran by ending the six-year extrajudicial house arrests of three opposition leaders has crushed hopes that the state's crackdown on dissidents, which intensified in response to the nationwide protests against the results of the disputed 2009 election, would finally end... By slamming the door shut on any kind of compromise on the issue of the house arrests, Khamenei has made the prospect of reform in Iran highly unlikely. During a February 7 speech, four days before the 38th anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution, former President Mohammad Khatami (1997 to 2005) suggested that releasing presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard would allow the Islamic Republic, which has been in a state of internal conflict and political polarization since 2009, to move towards unity and stability. Khamenei dismissed Khatami's offer by offering a revisionist version of the country's recent history. "What do the people want reconciliation for?" he said during a speech televised on state TV on February 15. "Are they in conflict with each other? There's no conflict."

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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