Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eye on Iran: Amazon Says It Is under Investigation for Selling Goods to Iranian Embassy, Others

View our videos on YouTube


Amazon.com is under federal investigation for possibly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, the online giant said Friday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company says it sold and delivered about $34,000 worth of products - including books, software, consumer electronics, musical instruments and jewelry - to an Iranian embassy, as well as to others with links to the Iranian government, between January 2012 and June 2017. The company says it also sold about $300 worth of items to a person on the U.S. government's terrorism watch list. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.) "We are unable accurately to calculate the net profit attributable to these transactions," Amazon said in the filing. "We do not plan to continue selling to these accounts in the future." Amazon said it has "voluntarily reported" those transactions to the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, which are leading the investigation, and that the review could lead to "the imposition of penalties."

Iran has built up a multinational network of tens of thousands of young men from across the Middle East, turning them into a well-drilled fighting machine that is outgunning the US on the battlefield, as Tehran outsmarts the White House in the corridors of power. These men can be found leading the defense of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, recapturing land from ISIS in Iraq, and fighting for control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The transnational militia of Shiite men - which has no official title - is now the dominant force in the region, enabling Iran to take full advantage in the absence of a coherent strategy from the Trump White House. Over six months, BuzzFeed News spoke to researchers, officials, and militia fighters who described what they knew about the Iranian program, overseen by the secretive Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its infamous commander Qassem Suleimani - who often shows up on front lines in Iraq and Syria. Accounts by the fighters reveal the scale and structure of the program, and although many of the details could not be independently verified, BuzzFeed News was able to confirm all the fighters' memberships in various armed groups.

Federal authorities should investigate how a charitable foundation with ties to Iran steered millions of dollars to dozens of American universities including Columbia, Harvard and Princeton, according to Rep. Dan Donovan. Critics charge the grants from the Alavi Foundation helped fund pro-Tehran and anti-Israel professors. "I'll be contacting the secretary of education about this matter immediately," said Donovan (R-SI). "Did this foundation attempt to subvert American academic institutions? We need to investigate this, and universities have to do a better job of vetting their donors." In June, a Manhattan federal court jury found the Alavi Foundation was illegally managing 650 Fifth Ave. on behalf of Iran.


Iran has complained to the U.N. Security Council over the latest U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran. The semi-official Tasnim news agency says Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani announced the complaint on Tuesday, though it's unclear what Iran expects the United Nations would do. The move came after the U.S. Senate approved sanctions on Friday against Iran for launching a satellite-carrying rocket into space. The U.S. legislation imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. It would also apply terrorism sanctions to Iran's prestigious Revolutionary Guard and enforce an arms embargo. It now goes to President Donald Trump for signing. Iran has said the U.S. legislation amounts to a "hostile" breach of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Sanctions on Iran, on the other hand, have shown some results, because unlike North Korea, Iran wants a deeper commercial and political engagement with the rest of the world. Cutting off access to global markets and investments, as well as freezing $56 billion in assets, hit the country hard. Iran had hoped that signing the 2015 nuclear deal would breathe new life into its economy by allowing it to return to oil markets, and it has-though not by as much as moderates like President Hassan Rouhani had hoped. Iran is still being kept in the cold despite the nuclear deal because the U.S. has retained sanctions over Iran's ballistic missiles program, human rights abuses, and state sponsorship of groups like Hezbollah that Washington considers terrorist organizations.


Iran and Russia signed a €2.5-billion deal on joint manufacturing of passenger and cargo wagons in Iran, IRIB reported. The deal was inked between Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and Russia's largest manufacturer of locomotives and rail equipment, Transmashholding, in Tehran on Monday. Iranian Industry, Mining, and Trade Minister Mohammadreza Nematzadeh and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi besides Russian Ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan were present in the signing ceremony. The two sides had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in this regard during the visit of an Iranian delegation led by IRDO Chairman Mansour Moazzami to Moscow in late March. During the signing ceremony, Moazzami said a joint company will be established by the Iranian and Russian sides, in a way that its shares will be held 80 percent by Russia and 20 percent by Iran. The Russian side will finance the project totally, he noted. Iran needs 8,000-10,000 wagons annually, he said, adding that cooperation with Russia in this area is an opportunity for both countries.


A senior Afghan official has accused Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of providing sanctuaries and material support to the Afghan Taliban. The accusations follow allegations by Afghan officials that Tehran's support enabled the Taliban to briefly capture a district in western Afghanistan last week. The claims underscore the budding alliance between Iran's Shi'ite clerical regime and Afghanistan's hard-line Sunni Taliban, who were once each other's sworn enemies.

A special aide to Iran's parliament speaker hailed unity among Lebanese political groups and parties, saying Tehran will keep supporting the Arab country in the fight against terrorism and the Israeli acts of aggression.  In a meeting with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut on Monday, Iranian Parliament speaker's special adviser on international affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, underscored that Iran will keep providing effective supports for the anti-Israeli axis of resistance in Lebanon. "The people, the army and the resistance in Lebanon are known as the three main sides of victory against the Zionist regime and Takfiri terrorism," Amir Abdollahian noted, praising the current status of unity in the Arab nation. He also lashed out at the US government for interference in the Middle East issues and its destructive role in the region, saying the White House only seeks to ensure the Tel Aviv regime's security and exploit the regional countries.


The Islamic Republic of Iran reportedly provided aid to Palestinian protesters demonstrating against new security measures at the Temple Mount last month. The aid reportedly included boxes of food and drink, which came with a flyer attached depicting the Dome of the Rock and a quote attributed to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reading, "With the help of God, Palestine will be freed. Jerusalem is ours." While Palestinian media reported that the food packages were provided by an Iranian youth movement, a PA intelligence official said it was clear that the Iranian regime was behind the aid. "It is clear to us that the regime in Tehran, by means of its long arms, is behind this catering operation," the official told the Israel Hayom daily in an article published Tuesday.


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on Muslims to take the opportunity of the Hajj rituals to take a united stance against "Israeli efforts to control the Aksa Mosque." The Iranian leader described Hajj rituals as the best opportunity for Muslims to speak up about the Aksa and Palestine issue, Iranian media reported. "Where can the Islamic Ummah find a better venue than Hajj to comment on the Aksa Mosque?" he said addressing a group of Iranian organizers of Hajj on Sunday. He further accused the US of meddling in the issues of Muslim countries and creating terrorist groups in the region. A recent standoff between Israeli authorities and Palestinian worshipers occurred after Muslim gunmen killed two Israeli police officers near the compound on July 14.


Real Admiral Ali Fadavi, naval commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said on Monday new weapons will be rolled out in upcoming war drills in the Persian Gulf. "The Guard's naval force is in good conditions, exemplarily prepared, and tries to unveil its newest equipment in the upcoming exercises," Fadavi told reporters in the southern port city of Bushehr, which sits on the coasts of the Persian Gulf The comments follow two incidents in the Persian Gulf between IRGC and U.S. navies last week, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday.  While the IRGC navy castigated the U.S. Navy for acting "provocatively" and "unprofessionally" in both incidents, the U.S. navy's Bahrain-based fifth fleet has claimed its encounters had been "safe and professional".


Iran's communications and information technology minister was quoted Sunday as saying the widely used Telegram messenger service has transferred some of its servers into the country, but the encrypted application's founder swiftly denied the claim. The report from Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Mahmoud Vaezi as saying: "As a result of meetings with Telegram managers, some of its servers have been moved to the country." But Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said that's not so, reiterating the company's previous position in a Twitter message to The Associated Press on Sunday. "No Telegram servers will be moved to Iran," he wrote, while providing a link to an earlier post. Vaezi said Telegram planned to use third-party systems known as content delivery networks, or CDNs, in Iran. But Durov said CDNs, which internet-based services like Telegram use to make data available faster, "have nothing to do with relocating Telegram servers or complying with unreasonable local laws."


Saudi Arabia has condemned Iran for delaying and refusing to complete investigations into the attack on Riyadh's embassy in Tehran last year. A statement released by Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Iranian authorities refused to accommodate and allow entry of a team from Saudi Arabia to investigate what had happened to its embassy premises in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad despite initially agreeing to. In January of last year, Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad were attacked by Iranian protesters following the execution of a Saudi Shiite preacher along with 46 others. Images shared on social media showed Iranian protesters complicit in breaking into the Saudi embassy and starting fires. "The source added that Iranian authorities have resorted to fraudulent tactics. Iran, despite an initial approval, has denied a Saudi team entry into Iran as part of the Iranian team investigating the attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. The Saudi team was delegated to work alongside the Iranian authorities to inspect the two Saudi facilities and finalize the processes relating to them," a foreign ministry statement read.


At a time when the move towards the abolition of the death penalty is spreading around the world, Islamic Republic of Iran insists on executions which clearly are in contravention the international human rights law. Iran alone accounted for 55% of all recorded executions in 2016; Amnesty International says. 239 executions were carried out in Iran in the first six months of 2017. Among them were seven women and three individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time they allegedly committed the offence they were sentenced to death for. 12 executions were carried out in public. Seeking to rein in increasing protests and the abhorrence of the younger generation in cities across the country, the Iranian regime has intensified the crackdown on society through increasing the wave of executions. The month of July alone saw 103 executions from which seven were made public by media press.  This shows how the state of human rights had been deteriorated during the past month.

Six teachers and civil rights activists who had earlier attended in a traditional ceremony, were summoned during the past week to Revolutionary Court of Saqez, in Kurdistan Province. These activists have been identified as Soleiman Abdi, Mohammad Abedi, art instructor, Seyed Ali Hosseini, English teacher, Molla Hassan Mahmoudi, Friday Prayer's Cleric at the Kani Niaz Village, Loghman Ghoreishi and Hassan Salimi Azadi. They were all charged with alleged "spreading propaganda against the state," according to local sources. Soleyman Abdi, a member of Kurdistan Teachers Association rejected all the charges as being unfounded.


Mahmud Ahmadinejad was no stranger to controversy during his two terms as Iran's president. Now he faces possible sentencing for his alleged mishandling of billions of dollars during his time in office. But following news that multiple verdicts have been issued against the former president, analysts looking at the murky legal process suggest that the development is intended as a warning for Ahmadinejad to rein in his criticism of the country's clerical establishment.


A logical conclusion would be for Iran is to yield back on its ballistic missile program. Yet this isn't necessarily the case for Tehran. We are dealing with a completely pragmatic regime, moving its pawns very carefully, with the utmost calculus to the very end. Iran needs to maintain face on two different issues: 1) While not understood by many in the West, the mullahs desperately need to maintain a straight face before its already dwindling social base. 2) Iran will continue to set the stakes high for the international community - meaning continue their missile program - until pressures corner it in the ring, similar to 2013 when sanctions forced Iran into the nuclear negotiations... Despite the new US sanctions restricting and blacklisting the IRGC being long overdue, needed now is for the Trump administration to fully implement such actions against Iran. There is no more room for reservations that have to this day provided Iran paths to bypass and derail international community efforts.

Like "politics," "regime change" has many faces. A policy of regime change might mean withdrawing diplomatic relations, or introducing sanctions, or enforcing a trade boycott, or banning a nation's citizens from travel to America, or an effort to promote alternate political beliefs. Or, yes, the use of force. But it doesn't mean any one of these things unless you specify further... At present, for example, regime change is the effective U.S. policy toward North Korea, Venezuela, Sudan, Russia, China, and a whole host of other nations. But that doesn't mean we are going to invade any of those countries, or that we'd even seriously consider it. The U.S. calibrates its regime-change policy with patience. Doing so, the U.S. leaves space to deal with those regimes. The U.S. is not pursuing the decapitation strategy that defined our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.Iran's regime cannot be considered compatible with U.S. interests. We should not be considering the use of force to overthrow it, but our experience in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria all prove that Iran's policies directly harm U.S. national security. A slow-rolling, calibrated regime change policy is thus preferable.

Over the past two decades, export controls and sanctions have held back Iran's missile programs. Despite the considerable overlap between SLV and ICBM technologies, Tehran still needs to develop significantly more advanced propulsion systems, as well procure ablative material to shield any re-entry vehicles it produces. To increase pressure on Tehran, Washington should couple the recent designations with sanctions on key sectors of Iran's economy, such as metallurgy and petrochemicals, which play a critical role in its domestic missile supply chain. These tougher sanctions could also demonstrate to Iran the political and economic cost of flight-testing, which would have to continue if Iran were to pursue an effective ICBM capability. Tehran cancelled an impending SLV test in early February 2017, apparently fearful of the potential U.S. response. Days earlier, the White House had put Iran "on notice" over a nuclear-capable MRBM test from January. While the new administration's change in rhetoric towards Tehran has yielded some fruit, Iran's recent Simorgh test is proof that the regime continues to test America's commitment to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons technology. For that reason, last week's launch highlights the need for a comprehensive policy to contest the Islamic Republic's provocations at every turn.

The Iran nuclear deal is deeply flawed. Its duration is too short, and it fails to require of Tehran the universally agreed-upon minimum for effective verification - a complete and correct declaration of all relevant activities. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake for President Donald Trump to renounce it now, as he is reportedly contemplating. First, the deal's short duration is problematic. President Barack Obama himself warned, "[A] ... relevant fear would be that in year 13, 14, 15, [Iran has] advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero." Tearing up the deal now would only compound this problem. Trump should be seeking a longer deal, not a shorter one. Worse, with the unfreezing of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets and approval of like amounts of investments and commercial transactions, Iran has already gained enormous benefits from the agreement, while the other parties have not.

In Tehran's chaotic metropolis, sharing taxis is the norm. But darbast, meaning literally "door-closed", is the word to shout if you want one exclusively for yourself. That long-standing tradition is now giving way to its modern substitute: Snapp, Iran's version of Uber, which is also offering something unique - a fleet of female drivers for women and children.  For years, international sanctions have kept global companies out of Iran, which has in turn spurred a tech start-up boom as local experts build a range of homegrown services from Digikala (Iran's answer to Amazon), to WashMash, an online laundry service.  In the past three years, Snapp has revolutionised the way Tehranis live and travel in the city. "Right now Snapp has become synonymous with giving a ride. What used to be called darbast, it's now known as Snapp," says the company's CEO, Shahram Shahkar, a 32-year-old Iranian entrepreneur who now has 500 staff with an average age of 24. Just a year ago he had 60 employees.

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 press@uani.com.

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