Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eye on Iran: Coalition Shoots Down Iran-Made Drone In Syria

View our videos on YouTube


A US warplane shot down an Iranian-made drone operated by pro-regime forces in southern Syria early Tuesday, officials said, in the latest incident in rising tensions between the two sides. It comes days after a US warplane shot down a Syrian government fighter jet in the north of the country, prompting a furious reaction from Russia. Moscow has now suspended an incident hotline intended to prevent confrontations in Syria's crowded air space, and warned it could consider US-led coalition planes "targets". The rising tensions prompted Australia to announce it was suspending its participation in air missions over Syria as part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS. In Tuesday's incident, the US-led coalition said an F-15E Strike Eagle jet destroyed an armed Shahed-129 drone in the early hours of the morning as it neared the Al-Tanaf base along Syria's eastern border. "It displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces," the statement said.

An Iranian opposition group has found 12 sites, not previously disclosed, where the Islamic government is developing ballistic missiles with the help of North Korean experts. The disclosure, one of many in a lengthy and detailed report released Tuesday by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), describes how Iran's missile program has accelerated since it signed an agreement on July 14, 2015, to limit its development of nuclear weapons. The report's material reflects intelligence gathered by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. "The findings show the first full picture of the missile program of the Iranian regime, which is very extensive and costly. It also shows a close tie between the nuclear weapons program and the missile program," Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's U.S. office, said to Fox News.

Iranian state media on Wednesday called the appointment of Mohammed Bin Salman to the position of crown prince and successor to Saudi Arabia's King Salman as a "soft coup". "Soft coup in Saudi Arabia/Son becomes the successor of the father," read the headline on the Iranian state TV website. The move is likely to rattle Iran's leadership, which has been critical of comments by Prince Mohammed last month that the "battle" should be taken into Iran. Iran, which is predominantly Shi'ite Muslim, and Saudi Arabia, which is mostly Sunni, compete for power and influence across the region. The two countries support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.


Legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran that passed the U.S. Senate nearly unanimously last week has run into a procedural problem that could prevent a quick vote in the House of Representatives, lawmakers said on Tuesday. The Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, which also includes new sanctions against Russia, passed the Senate 98-2 last week, an overwhelming vote that looked like it might complicate President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow. But the measure must still pass the House before it can be sent to Trump to sign into law, or veto, and the House parliamentarian found that the legislation violated a constitutional requirement that any bill that raises revenue for the government must originate in the House, something known as a "blue slip" violation. "The final bill, and final language, violated the origination clause in the Constitution," Representative Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters.


France's Total SA said Tuesday it would push forward with a $1 billion investment this summer in a giant Iranian gas field, the first commitment by a Western company to put real money into the Islamic Republic's re-emerging energy industry. The Paris-based oil giant has been at the forefront of Western energy companies looking to return to Iran after sanctions on its energy industry were lifted in January 2016. Total reached a preliminary agreement late last year with China National Petroleum Corp. and an Iranian company to invest $4.8 billion to develop parts of a giant gas field in the Persian Gulf, but the deal is still being completed. In May, Iran's oil minister Bijan Zanganeh told The Wall Street Journal he was "very optimistic" about reaching an agreement with Total "very soon." CNPC didn't respond to requests for comment, and its investment commitment wasn't disclosed Tuesday.


Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Wednesday that OPEC members are considering further oil output cuts but should wait until the effect of the current reduced level of production is made clear. "We are in discussions with OPEC members to prepare ourselves for a new decision," Zanganeh said after a cabinet meeting, according to the website for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). "But making decisions in this organisation is very difficult because any decision will mean production cuts for the members." The reason for the discussion is an increase in the levels of U.S production which OPEC members had not predicted, Zanganeh said.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday against any measures that could weaken the Tehran-backed Shi'ite paramilitary groups, saying such actions would endanger Baghdad's stability.  At a meeting in Tehran, Khamenei said the Shi'ite militias were Iraq's main forces pushing back Sunni jihadist groups, and Baghdad should not trust the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, Iranian state media reported. The Shi'ite militias, known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) helped Baghdad defend the country against the Islamic State militant group when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse in 2014. Since then, the Iran-backed militias, estimated to comprise more than 60,000 fighters, have continued to attack the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, which has declared a Caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria. But Sunnis in areas freed from Islamic State control say the Shi'ite militias have carried out looting, abductions and murder.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spoken out against a referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurds set for later this year. A Tuesday report on Khamenei's website quoted him as telling visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, that Iraq "should remain integrated" and that advocates of Kurdish independence are "opponents of the independence and identity" of Iraq. Iran has its own Kurdish minority in the west of the country and the central government dismantled a self-proclaimed Soviet-backed Kurdish government in the 1940's. Kurdish officials in Iraq say the referendum will be held in Sept. 25. Iran and Iraq have been close allies since fall of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday praised the "success" of Iraqi forces in the battle against the Islamic State group in Mosul. "Today Daesh is fleeing Iraq and this is an admirable success," Khamenei said in reference to the jihadist group as he received Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran. But he warned that Iraq "should not trust" the United States, which is leading a coalition fighting IS in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Abadi is on a regional tour that started in Saudi Arabia and will include a stop in Kuwait. He also met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as Iraqi forces on Tuesday pressed an assault on the Old City in western Mosul, the last part of Iraq's second city still held by the jihadists.


Iran's Revolutionary Guard is rejecting Saudi claims that its navy captured three members of the elite force intending to carry out an attack on a major offshore oilfield. Gen. Rasoul Sanaeizadeh, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard's political bureau, described the Saudi allegations as a "sheer lie" and "an amateurish fabrication." His remarks were published Tuesday by Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency. Saudi Arabia says the Revolutionary Guard members were aboard a boat carrying explosives headed toward the Marjan oil field in the Persian Gulf on Friday. Other Iranian officials have claimed the detainees are fishermen who were lost. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran are bitter rivals that back opposing sides of the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to immediately release three detained Iranians that it says were fishermen but that Saudi authorities say were trying to carry out an attack. Iran's Interior Ministry said Wednesday that the Saudi government should "compensate" the detainees and "punish the agents of this irresponsible action." Saudi Arabia says the three were Revolutionary Guard members. It says their boat was loaded with explosives and they were heading toward the Marjan offshore oil field in the Persian Gulf when they were apprehended on Friday. Iran has denied the allegations, saying they were fishermen whose boat was carried off course. The two countries are bitter regional rivals, and severed diplomatic ties last year.


Even the gentle references to sexuality in Fereshteh Ahmadi's short story Harry Is Always Lost meant it was hit by the censors. The female protagonist is late catching a flight. In a frantic taxi journey to the airport, she is with a man, but it is not clear if they are dating or are husband and wife. On the plane, she sits next to a strange man, who starts a conversation and ends up giving her a lift when they land in Tehran. This stranger drives so fast that the wind blows her scarf away, leaving her struggling to cover her head until they manage to buy a new one. The story was initially in Ahmadi's 2013 collection, Heatstroke, but censors at Iran's ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, who vet all books before publication, asked her to remove it. "They wanted the man and the woman in the story to be husband and wife or at least be engaged," says the Tehran-based writer, while visiting the UK for the first time on the invitation of the International Agatha Christie festival in Torquay.


In the aftermath of the June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran claimed by the Islamic State (IS), Iranian Reformists and moderates have sought to overcome the heightened factional divisions lingering from the recent presidential elections. Indeed, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Mohammad Reza Aref and Mostafa Tajzadeh among many other Reformist politicians have called for national unity. In contrast, conservative and hard-line politicians have not missed the opportunity to target their rivals. Even as bullets were flying inside parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a political offensive against moderate President Hassan Rouhani kicked off. Rather than a cause for national unity, the attacks in Tehran marked the beginning of a new bout of political infighting. Though Iranian hard-liners have quickly seized the June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran as an opportunity to rally forces, it is unclear whether their security-focused discourse will gain steam.


Rarely has the Middle East been more baffling. The United States sells fighter jets to Qatar, a country the American president accuses of sponsoring terrorism. In Syria, the U.S. is relying on Kurdish fighters that Turkey, a NATO country closely aligned with Qatar, says are terrorists, supporting their mission to take Raqqa, the Islamic State's capital, with airstrikes launched from a giant U.S. base outside of Doha. The U.S. accuses Russia of complicity in the Syrian government's chemical attacks on its own people, and hits Syrian forces, but hopes to collaborate with Moscow to fight ISIS. Got all that? Amid this confusion, Iran is pressing ahead to strengthen its grip on Syria, even as Trump goes after ISIS. Iran's intervention to save President Bashar al-Assad's regime has involved sending not just elite Iranian military advisers but also bringing in Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shia militias from as far away as Afghanistan. While estimates vary on the size of these forces, the numbers are in the tens of thousands. Iran's sectarian shock troops are being used to extend the regime's writ, especially as the Syrian regime's deployable military manpower has shrunk to about 20,000 forces.

The Trump administration has quietly ramped up its involvement in trying to free two Iranian Americans being held in Iran's notorious Evin prison, including one who is in very poor health. The effort is now not only a focus of the administration's approach to Iran, but also part of an overall increase of attention to the plight of Americans held unjustly abroad. Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American businessman, was arrested in Tehran in October 2015 and charged with espionage and collusion with an enemy country - the United States. When Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated for the release of five American hostages to coincide with the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal, Namazi was not among them The following month the Iranians arrested his father Baquer Namazi, a former longtime United Nations official who is 81 years old and in poor health Both have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Now, as the Trump administration conducts a comprehensive review of its Iran policy, the White House is considering new action to bring them home.

On Sunday evening, a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian jet after it bombed American-backed rebels in northern Syria...Even if the Pentagon may not want to directly engage Syrian forces or their Russian and Iranian-backed allies, there's a danger of accidental escalation, especially as various forces continue to converge on eastern and southern Syria to reclaim strategic territory from ISIS...But the dangers are perhaps particularly acute when it comes to Iran, which made dramatic battlefield moves of its own on Sunday, when it launched several missiles from inside Iran against ISIS targets in eastern Syria. Officially, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the volley of missiles fired at Deir Ezzor province was a response to a pair of attacks by ISIS in Tehran on June 7, which killed 18 people and wounded dozens; the attacks marked the first time that ISIS had struck inside Iran. But the Iranian regime had several less-dramatic means to exact revenge against ISIS targets in Syria-after all, there's no shortage of Iranian allies operating in the war-ravaged country.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment