Friday, June 9, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Leaders Accuse US, Saudis Of Supporting Tehran Attacks

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Iranian leaders on Friday accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of supporting the Islamic State-claimed dual attacks that killed 17 people in Tehran this week. The country's Supreme Leader said the attacks will add to the hatred that Iranians harbor toward the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. In a condolence message ahead of a funeral for the victims, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the attack: "will not damage the Iranian nation's determination and the obvious result is nothing except an increase in hate for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like Saudi (Arabia)," state media reported. On Thursday, Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavai said investigators were working to determine whether Saudi Arabia had a role Wednesday's attacks but said it was too soon to say if that was the case.

At least five assailants in the deadly Tehran attacks were recruited by the Islamic State from inside Iran, the government said Thursday, a strong indication they were Iranian citizens The new detail about the assailants, who were killed during the attacks on Wednesday, came as the Iranian news media reported that the civilian casualty toll had risen to 17 dead and 52 wounded, and as the police presence in the Iranian capital increased noticeably. The assaults' aftermath also was punctuated by new acrimony between Iranian leaders and the Trump administration, which expressed condolences on Wednesday coupled with an assertion that their country had fallen "victim to the evil they promote." The assaults also coincided with Senate action advancing new sanctions on Iran.

U.S. authorities have charged two operatives belonging to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah with terrorism offenses, accused of plotting to target American and Israeli targets in New York and Panama. Police arrested Samer El Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, and Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, on June 1. They both appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday. U.S. authorities said the pair had been supporting "Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad organization" and had been in Lebanon for weapons and bomb-making training. Kourani is accused of scouting targets in the U.S., specifically Israeli military personnel and U.S. military and law enforcement facilities. He looked for firearms suppliers, airport security information and returned information to the group via coded emails sent to a handler. He had receiving military training with the group on several occasions between 2008 and 2014.


Russia has announced readiness to electrify a main railway that connects the Iranian capital Tehran to the northwestern city of Tabriz.  First Vice President of Russian Railways operator Alexander Misharin told reporters in Sochi that he had presented the proposal in a meeting with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) Saeed Mohammadzadeh. "We are discussing the following electrification segments: Tehran -Tabriz, around 600 kilometers," Misharin was quoted as saying by Russia's TASS news agency. Appropriate agreements can be made this year, he added. Russia and Iran signed an agreement worth €12 billion in November 2015 to electrify a train line that would connect north-central Iran to the northeastern border with Turkmenista.


American and coalition forces operating in southeast Syria were attacked Thursday by a drone that hit a coalition patrol, part of a rapidly escalating war with Iranian-backed militias in the country, according to the Pentagon. The attack, which U.S. military officials say caused no casualties or damage to equipment, was the first time U.S.-backed forces had been targeted by a drone in Syria, and indicates that the Bashar al Assad regime and his Iranian backers are willing to target American and coalition troops directly. It also came just after American warplanes struck Shiite militias, backed by Iran, for the third time in as many weeks near the U.S. garrison at al Tanf. A spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, Col. Ryan Dillon, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the drone was similar in size to a U.S. MQ-1 Predator, indicating it was likely Iranian-made, even if it was piloted by Syrian forces. Dillion would not comment on the make of the drone, or where it might have come from.  

US-backed forces announced Tuesday that they had begun the long-awaited assault on the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called Islamic State's main stronghold in the country and its self-declared capital. But some 170 miles to the south, in a remote corner of Syria's southeastern desert, another clash is brewing that is pitting the strategic objectives of the United States against those of Iran, and that could soon bring US troops and Iranian-backed forces into direct military confrontation. Both US and Russian warplanes have been deployed, and some shots have already been fired, including by US-backed coalition forces on Tuesday, the US military said. The clash is over a military garrison at Tanf, located near a border crossing on a highway that cuts through hundreds of miles of flat desert. It was captured from jihadist forces more than a year ago and is being used by US Special Forces and allies to train Syrian militias to fight ISIS, which controls territory to the northeast.

The Syrian government's allies will strike at American positions inside Syria if it crosses any "red lines," Hezbollah warned on Wednesday. The Lebanese militant group, a close ally to the Syrian government, issued the threat via its military media arm - one day after American forces bombed pro-government forces in eastern Syria. The Pentagon said Tuesday the pro-government forces were infringing on a "de-confliction" zone established to protect U.S.-backed local opposition forces, who are engaged in fighting the Islamic State group. On its TV station al-Manar, Hezbollah broadcast footage it said was of an Iranian drone tailing an American one over eastern Syria. It said the video was proof the Syrian government's backers could strike American units at will. Iran is a key backer of Hezbollah and the Syrian government, and is deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.


China's foreign minister has told his Iranian counterpart that maintaining peace and stability in the Gulf is best for everyone, after several Arab states cut off ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with the small Gulf Arab state on Monday. Qatar has denied the charges levelled at it. Meeting on the sidelines of a regional security summit in Kazakhstan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that peace and stability in the Gulf accords with the common interests of the region and the international community. "China upholds that the relevant countries should appropriately resolve the disputes between them," the Chinese foreign ministry cited Wang as saying on Thursday. The brief statement gave no other details of their talks over what the Chinese foreign ministry described as "the present situation in the Gulf region".

A German government spokesman on Friday urged Iran to avoid any actions that could further exacerbate tensions in the Gulf after key Arab states cut off ties with Qatar, and underscored Germany's opposition to any state funding of militant groups. Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Gulf states believed that Iran was playing a role behind the scenes in the conflict, but Tehran should not do anything to increase tensions. "At any rate, it is important that nothing is done on the other side of the Gulf ... to pour oil on the fire. That is really the last thing that this region can use," Schaefer told a regular government news conference. Schaefer said Germany would do all it could to promote a resumption of dialogue to resolve the crisis, but had no intention of becoming a key mediator despite meetings in recent days between German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Qatar


Iranian authorities have arrested two suspects linked to attacks in Tehran this week that killed 17 people, Iranian media reported on Friday. "Two suspects with links to the terrorist raids in Tehran on Wednesday have been arrested in (the western Iranian province of) Kermanshah," state TV quoted intelligence ministry as saying. "Some terrorist cells also have been dismantled." Islamic State claimed responsibility for Wednesday's suicide bombings and gun attacks in Tehran.

When terrorists strike Iran, they usually target the Sistan-Baluchistan province on the country's border with Pakistan. It was there in April that Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni Muslim insurgent group, killed 10 Iranian border guards. Between 2013 to 2015, the group killed at least 22 other border guards in a bid to call attention to religious discrimination against Iran's Sunni population. Terrorist attacks in major Iranian cities are rare, which is one reason the near-simultaneous assaults Wednesday in Tehran were so remarkable. They struck at the heart of the capital - the parliament building and the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Republic - leaving 17 people dead and dozens more injured. Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for what would be its first successful terrorist operation on Iranian soil.

Perpetrators of the twin attacks in Tehran were recruited inside Iran by Islamic State and fought in both Iraq and Syria, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said on Thursday. Five assailants who died in the attacks "had ties to Wahhabi groups," the ministry said in a statement published by Fars news agency, referring to the austere form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.  After joining Islamic State they left Iran and "took part in operations in Mosul and Raqqa," according to the statement, which withheld the attackers' surnames citing security reasons. A sixth assailant -- a female -- was caught alive and is being interrogated, Tasnim news agency reported, citing the chairman of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. The jihadist group had claimed responsibility for the attacks shortly after they occurred on Wednesday.


Thousands packed Tehran's streets on Friday to mourn the victims of two suicide bomb and gun attacks, and joined their supreme leader in accusing regional rival Saudi Arabia of involvement in the assaults. People in the crowd chanted "Death to Saudi Arabia" alongside the more customary "Death to America" and slogans against Israel, as they reached out to touch coffins wrapped in flags and covered in flowers. Bombers and gunmen killed 17 people in Iran's parliament and near the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, on Wednesday, in rare strikes on the capital that exacerbated regional tensions. The Sunni Muslim militants of Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Shi'ite Muslim state. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message read at the funeral, said the raids would increase hatred for Saudi Arabia, the region's main Sunni power, and America.


Farzad Safaei was one semester away from a bachelor's degree in industrial metallurgy at the Islamic Azad University in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, when he was expelled on May 20, 2017 by the security office for being a member of the Baha'i faith.  "In all my four years at the university I concealed my faith, even from my classmates and professors because I didn't want to be prevented from studying," Safaei told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). "I didn't even talk about it outside the university, but I was suddenly expelled because of my faith." Iran's Constitution does not recognize the Baha'i faith as an official religion. Although Article 23 states "no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief," Bahai'is are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.  "One day I noticed I couldn't log onto the university's website to select courses," Safaei told CHRI. "I went to the security office to ask what the problem was. To be honest, based on what had happened to other expelled Baha'i students, I had a feeling what had happened, but I was still hoping it was only a mistake."


Appeals for unity answered with calls for revenge. Pledges of solidarity competing against vows to "eliminate" the culprits. The deadly twin terror attacks that rocked the Iranian capital, Tehran, on June 7 have triggered a dramatic split in public opinion. Many officials, as well as the country's pro-reform and moderate press, are calling for unity in the aftermath of the attacks. Hard-liners, however, are vowing revenge while pointing fingers at Iran's main regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Seventeen people were killed and more than 40 wounded when assailants stormed the parliament building in central Tehran and simultaneously attacked the shrine of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility, a first for the militants in Iran.


For the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, a Sunni extremist group managed to successfully carry out a terrorist attack in Tehran. Iranians sat mesmerized in front of their TV sets, watching the unfolding events in disbelief and waiting for any information on the terrorists, their motivation and their affiliation. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks against two potent symbols of power in Iran, which left at least 12 dead and 42 wounded. By attacking the Imam Khomeini mausoleum, the final resting place of the founder of the Islamic republic, the terrorists targeted the Islamic revolution itself. And by attacking the parliament, they assaulted Iran's vibrant yet imperfect democracy. These were attacks on Iran's political institutions, not Shiism. By targeting both the symbols of Iranian democracy and the autocratic system of the velayat-e faqih (governance of the jurist), the terrorists, paradoxically, ended up uniting an Iranian society fractured by the recent presidential campaign that saw Hassan Rouhani get reelected.

One could be forgiven for confusing Saudi King Salman with Frank Underwood this week. The way the Saudi monarch cajoled Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates into isolating Qatar by withdrawing recognition of Doha, as well as restricting land, sea, and air travel, were eerily reminiscent of the effectiveness of House of Cards' protagonist's ability to whip votes in the House. President Trump not only backed the move, but has taken credit for it - followed by a quick "thank you" to the Qataris for giving the U.S. basing rights. However, Iran is the real winner. Qatar's search for status has put it at odds with other Arab states for years. Measures from Al Jazeera's open criticism of other regimes and promotion of Qatari interests, to Doha's support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to unilaterally backing its own horses in Syria have put it at odds with its neighbors. And then there's Iran - the nation most Arab states - starting with Saudi Arabia, view as their biggest existential threat.

Since the early days of the Islamic Revolution, Iran's prisons and legal systems have been frequently used by the regime as a method to eradicate all its outspoken political opponents, as well as to instil terror into the population. At the time of the 1988 massacre, many of those being hung, had been held in custody for several years, suffering under a horrific regime of torture and abuse. The majority of those held were one-time political allies of Khomeini that had turned against him, after realizing he was replacing one violent dictatorship with another. Others were those deemed by their accusers to be a threat to the fledgling regime, due to their popularity amongst the Iranian people. Countless numbers of these political prisoners had been incarcerated for organizing street demonstrations against Khomeini's rule, or had spoken openly condemning it. While many others had committed no crime at all, except for having taken part in street demonstrations.

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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