Monday, June 19, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran's Supreme Leader Criticizes U.S. Policies Toward Tehran

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out on Sunday at U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and what he characterized as its hostility to the Islamic Republic.  "This inexperienced group has not recognized the people and leaders of Iran," he said, according to the website for state TV. "When they get hit in the mouth, at that time they'll know what's going on." Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials have ramped up their criticism of the United States in recent weeks after Trump went on an official visit last month to Saudi Arabia, Iran's main regional rival.  During that visit, Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. He has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, including the United States, that led to the lifting of most sanctions against Iran, in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. Trump has said Washington would review the deal but stopped short of pledging to scrap it.

Iran on Friday condemned new sanctions adopted by the US Senate and vowed to respond with "reciprocal and adequate measures". Tehran "will take reciprocal and adequate measures to guarantee its national interests", foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said, quoted by ISNA news agency. He did not elaborate. The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions on Iran for its alleged "continued support of terrorism" and the bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for approval. The new restrictions impose mandatory sanctions on people involved with the Islamic republic's ballistic missile programme and those that transact with them. It also applies terrorism-related sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and re-enforces aspects of the arms embargo on Iran. Ghassemi retorted that the measure against Iran's ballistic missile programme was "totally illegal and illegitimate".

Iran's ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria served both as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month and a warning that Iran could strike Saudi Arabia and U.S. interests in the Mideast, an Iranian general said Monday. The launch, which hit Syria's eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Sunday night, appeared to be Iran's first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict amid its support of embattled President Bashar Assad. It adds new tensions in a region already unsettled by a long-running feud between Shiite power Iran and the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as a campaign by Arab nations against Qatar. It also raises questions about how U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which already said it put Iran "on notice" for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.


Iran expects to sign a long-delayed gas deal with French oil major Total in the next few weeks, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying on Saturday. "Iran and Total are summing up the discussions on signing the contract for the development of phase 11 of South Pars, and this is almost in the final stages," said Zanganeh, quoted by the oil ministry's news website SHANA. "The contract ... will be signed before the end of the (current) government," Zanganeh said. Re-elected in May, President Hassan Rouhani is expected to form his new cabinet in August. Total's chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said in late May that the company planned to conclude the South Pars gas deal before summer. Separately, the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said it had certified five more companies from Russia and Azerbaijan to bid for Iranian upstream energy projects.


Manhattan's Fifth Avenue packs a world of intrigue into a few blocks. Trump Tower at 57th Street was the launch pad for Donald Trump's run to the White House. Four blocks south, 666 Fifth Ave. is a white elephant that has pushed owner Jared Kushner, Trump's son-and-law and adviser, into a well-scrutinized hunt for rich investors. Then there's the nearly decade-long legal melodrama over a 36-story building across the street from Kushner's tower. U.S. prosecutors are in the home stretch of an attempt to seize 650 Fifth Ave. and related assets from a charity that owns it, alleging the organization is a front for Iran's government and that it violated economic sanctions against Iran since 1995. In a trial entering its fourth week in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors say the building's primary owner, the Alavi Foundation, has illegally funneled millions of dollars to Iran under cover of its charitable activities. They hope to recapture more than $500 million with the proceeds going to victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.


Iran fired missiles on Sunday into eastern Syria, aiming at the bases of militant groups it holds responsible for attacks in Tehran which left 18 dead last week, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported. Iranian Revolutionary Guards launched the mid-range ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran into the Deir al Zour region of eastern Syria, killing a "large number" of terrorists and destroying their equipment and weapons, it said. The missiles targeted the "headquarters and gathering centers of Takfiri terrorists supporting and building car bombs", it said.  Reuters could not independently verify the report. Military leaders and officials in Iran, a predominantly Shi'ite country, often refer to Sunni Muslim radicals as Takfiris. The Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria against militant groups who oppose President Bashar al-Assad. The attack last week, which included shootings and at least one suicide bombing, was on Iran's parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Sunday it launched missiles into eastern Syria targeting Islamic State militants in response to an attack on Iran's parliament and a shrine in Tehran, warning that it would retaliate in like manner on anyone else carrying out attacks in Iran. The paramilitary force said it launched surface-to-surface medium range missiles into Syria's Deir el-Zour province, an extremely rare direct attack from the Islamic Republic amid its support for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A Guard statement carried on its website said the strike came from its bases in western Iran. It said many "terrorists" were killed and their weapons had been destroyed in the strike. The paramilitary force warned Islamic State militants and their "regional and international supporters" that similar retaliatory attacks would target them as well if another assault in Iran occurs.


Kuwait's highest court on Sunday overturned the death sentence imposed by a lower tribunal against a man convicted of belonging to a group Kuwait said was trying to destabilise the Gulf Arab state on behalf of Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Iran has denied any links to the alleged cell. Some Kuwaiti officials and some other Gulf Arab countries, mostly ruled by Sunnis, accuse Tehran of seeking to weaken them by infiltrating local Shi'ite communities and stirring up local politics. The so-called "Abdali cell" was uncovered when security forces raided a farmhouse in Abdali outside Kuwait City in 2015 and found a cache of guns and explosives. In January, a court found 23 guilty of various crimes, including intent to carry out "hostile acts" against Kuwait and possessing weapons.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi said that the Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, paid a short visit to Qatar where he met with Qatari officials and exchanged views about the bilateral relations and the most important international issues. The Iranian news agency "IRNA" stated that Qasimi pointed out that Jaberi Ansari carried friendly messages from Iranian officials to Qatari officials. He stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran always seeks unity and solidarity among the Islamic world and helps to set foundations of peace and security in the region. The Spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that this visit comes in the framework and the continuation of previous consultations with Qatari officials. "Iran era" site, which is close to the government, reported that Ansari carried a verbal message from Rouhani to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, emir of Qatar.


Iran and China began a joint naval exercise in the Gulf on Sunday, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.  The military drill comes at a time of heightened tension between the Iranian and U.S. military in the Gulf and is likely to be a cause of concern for Washington. In recent months, the U.S. navy has accused the Iranian navy of sending fast-attack boats to harass warships as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz. An Iranian destroyer and two Chinese destroyers are among the vessels that will participate in the exercise, which will take place in the eastern portion of the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman, according to IRNA. Some 700 Iranian navy personnel will be participating in the drill.  Two Chinese warships docked at Iran's Bandar Abbas port to take part in a joint naval exercise in the Gulf for the first time in 2014.


Iran's support to Shi'ite groups in Iraq is obstructing efforts to bridge the sectarian divide ahead of a parliamentary election next year, Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi said on Friday. Iraqi leaders hope to restore control over all Iraqi territory, defeating Islamic State, before an election due by the middle of next year. "Iran has been interfering even in the decision (making process) of the Iraqi people," he told Reuters. "We don't want an election based on sectarianism, we want an inclusive political process ... we hope that the Iraqis would choose themselves without any involvement by any foreign power." Allawi, a secular Shi'ite politician who has supporters among some Sunnis, was in Cairo to meet Egyptian leaders including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for discussions about oil and the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Iraq lies on the faultline between Shi'ite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world. Deep-running animosity and distrust between the two sides is fueled by sectarian divides.

The Iraqi prime minister is reaching out to regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran for support for his anti-terror campaign. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office says he left for the kingdom on Monday, his first stop on a three-day regional tour that will also include Kuwait and Iran. The statement says the visit aims to boost bilateral relations and seeks more cooperation in fighting terrorism. The visit comes as Gulf Arab states are embroiled in a major dispute with Qatar over allegations the small nation backs terror groups and that its policies, including its support for Islamist groups, threaten the region. Qatar denies the charges and says the decision to isolate it is politically motivated. Al-Abadi has said that his government will not take sides in the dispute.


Saudi border guards have opened fire on an Iranian fishing boat in the Gulf, killing a fisherman, Iran's Tasnim news agency said on Saturday, amid high tension between the two rival states. "Two Iranian boats that were fishing in the waters of the Persian Gulf were pushed off their course by waves. There was shooting by Saudi border guards ... and one Iranian fisherman was killed," the semi-official agency quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying. "We are pursuing this matter to determine if the Iranian boats had crossed the Saudi border or not, but the action of the Saudis does not comply with humanitarian and navigational principles," Majid Aqababai, director general of the ministry's border affairs, was quoted by Tasnim as saying. There was no immediate Saudi reaction. Iranian reports said the incident happened late on Friday. Relations between the two countries are at their worst in years. Last week Riyadh, along with other Arab governments, severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as a reason.


To those Iranians shaking their hips and backsides to Latin American music during Zumba exercise classes, Iran's Muslim clerics - and an American company - have the same message: Stop it. It's illegal. The country's Zumba fans, however, are refusing to back down. Iran has undergone a health revolution in recent years, with gyms and fitness clubs opening in many neighborhoods. Men lift weights to become buff; women sweat in aerobic classes to stay lean. As in many countries, Zumba, an aerobics dance class, has attracted a wide following here, especially among women who gather a couple times a week to work out to upbeat tracks by singers like Ricky Martin and Shakira and lose weight in the process. "It's fun. It's positive," said Sunny Nafisi, 33, a Zumba instructor who works in an upscale Tehran gym. But recent days haven't been fun or positive at all, Ms. Nafisi admitted.


The regime in Tehran continues to be in a state of shock after the passage of unprecedented United States Senate sanctions on Thursday targeting Iran's ballistic missile program, support for terrorism in the Middle East and flagrant human rights violations. Many of the new measures imposed on Iran are far more complex than any sanctions even prior to the Iran nuclear deal. There is no need for the Trump administration to tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as these new sanctions provide the US President vast authority for further punitive action. This new initiative also contains a classified amendment believed to describe Iran as an extremely dangerous state.

Several neighboring Arab states have cut or reduced their ties with the Arabian Gulf state of Qatar, ostensibly in retaliation for Qatar's support for terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. For most Americans, any collaboration with terrorists is immoral and dangerous. Thus, many Americans may support the actions of Saudi Arabia and others in ostracizing the oil-rich nation. Such a rush to judgement, however, fails to take into the account the strategic realities that Qataris have to face, and the U.S. decisions that make those strategic calculations even more difficult. With a population of only 2.2 million, a land area the size of Connecticut, and a small military force, Qatar is barely 100 miles from Iran, the enemy of oil-producing states throughout the region, and a budding nuclear power. (By comparison, Iran has a population of 83 million, land area the size of Alaska, and one of the most powerful militaries in the world.) Geographically, Qatar is perhaps the most vulnerable of all the Arab Gulf states, jutting as it does into the Gulf like a piece of ripe fruit.

In December of 2016 Boeing announced that a new sale of 80 aircraft to Iran Air would "support nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs." Those numbers seem murky at best. Since the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement in January 2016, government-owned Iran Air has flown at least 134 flights from Tehran to Damascus, even while this route does not appear in Iran Air's formal booking system. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies' research shows that these flights are unlikely to be civilian flights, but rather airlifts of weapons and military personnel that enable Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to continue waging war against his own population. That's the main reason the Treasury Department should block the deal, which it can do if it finds that Iran Air is in fact engaging in this activity. But does Boeing's job-creation justification hold water? Recent history suggests that while the deal will surely add revenue to Boeing's coffers, it would not create new U.S. jobs to fill these orders. Rather, they would be filled by an increasingly automated production line.

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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