Thursday, January 24, 2019

Eye on Iran: Iran Arrested 7,000 Dissidents In 'Year Of Shame', Says Amnesty

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Iranian authorities arrested more than 7,000 dissidents last year in a sweeping crackdown that led to hundreds being jailed or flogged, at least 26 protesters being killed, and nine people dying in custody amid suspicious circumstances, according to Amnesty International. Those rounded up during violent dispersals of peaceful protests in what Amnesty called "a year of shame for Iran" included journalists, lawyers, minority rights activists and women who protested against being forced to wear headscarves.

To safeguard its own national security, the German government took the decisive step Monday, January 21, to deny future landing rights to the Iranian airline Mahan Air, which had operated multiple weekly flights to the Munich and Düsseldorf airports. We applaud the government's decision, which rightly recognizes the airline's role in enabling the Iranian regime's support for terrorist proxies serving the Assad regime and spreading violence and terror across the region - with direct effects on European security.

Three years ago last week, the Iran nuclear deal came into effect, limiting the country's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. But in the wake of the Trump administration's withdrawal from the agreement, and with relations between the European Union and Iran declining sharply, there is growing doubt it will see its fourth birthday. The Europeans and Iran are at odds on a range of issues: Iran's ballistic missile program, attacks and plots against Iranian dissidents in Europe and slow progress towards relieving the effects of US sanctions.


The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran says his country has taken key steps toward being able to quickly resume uranium enrichment to the 20% level, an activity it agreed to suspend under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) struck with world powers in 2015. Ali Akbar Salehi made the remarks in a lengthy face-to-face interview on Iranian state broadcaster's Channel 4 on Jan. 22. The nuclear chief unveiled details about the path Iran has already taken toward being able to resume its largely restricted nuclear program. 


France's foreign minister said on Wednesday that he expected a European-backed system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions would be established in the coming days. Diplomats have told Reuters the European Union is set to officially launch the mechanism this month, but the so-called special purpose vehicle (SPV) will not operate for several months because technical details still need to be worked out.

Japanese refiners will continue to lift oil from Iran through March after receiving a waiver from U.S. sanctions on crude imports in November, Takashi Tsukioka, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ) said on Thursday. Japan resumed oil liftings from Iran this month after refiners Fuji Oil Co Ltd and Showa Shell Sekiyu KK loaded cargoes onto a tanker that is expected to arrive in Japan on Feb. 9 


Iran arrested more than 7,000 people last year, including dozens of journalists, in what Amnesty International on Thursday called a "shameless campaign of repression" as the U.S. released an American anchorwoman for Iranian state television held for days as a material witness. While Iranian officials and state media have widely condemned the arrest of Marzieh Hashemi of the broadcaster's English-language channel Press TV, the figures released by Amnesty highlight the widespread campaign of arrest and harassment those in the media face in the Islamic Republic.

The official IRNA news agency reports that an Iranian court has sentenced a prominent journalist to five years in prison. IRNA said Wednesday the court found Yashar Soltani guilty of false reporting and insulting entities. In recent years, Soltani has routinely published reports on corruption in Iranian public agencies. Authorities in recent months have also detained several other journalists and activists on security-related charges.

Iranian activist Reza Khandan, the husband of a jailed prominent human rights lawyer, has been sentenced to six years in prison, his lawyer and local media say. Khandan has been sentenced to five years in jail for conspiring against national security and one year for propaganda against the system, the lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, said on January 23.

Iranian Writers Association (IWA) has strongly protested the decision by judicial authorities to set huge, unaffordable bails for three of its indicted members, which has led to their detention. In a statement published on Tuesday, January 22, IWA said, the ten billion rials (roughly $240,000) bail set for Bektash Abtin, Kayvan Bazhan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi "is unacceptable" and they should be released immediately.


A U.S. Navy veteran who has been jailed in Iran on undisclosed charges suffers from cancer and may die without access to medical care, according to his mother, who pleaded for his release in a statement on Friday. Michael White, a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, has been held for over seven months since traveling to Iran to visit his partner. He had made frequent trips to visit the woman in recent years, the statement said.

An American journalist for Iran's Press TV was freed in Washington by federal law enforcement officials on Wednesday, her son said, ending a detention that began on Jan. 13 when the F.B.I. took her into custody as a material witness. The arrest of the journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, 59, had become a flash point of tension between Iran and the United States for more than a week. Ms. Hashemi had been ordered to appear before a grand jury in Washington but was not charged with a crime. 

An international conference in Poland next month that the Donald Trump administration had intended to showcase global unity and resolve to isolate Iran is instead highlighting wariness among US allies. European allies are scrambling for excuses to send lower-level diplomats instead of their foreign ministers to the Feb. 13-14 Warsaw conference and also are looking for ways to dilute the agenda while not outright snubbing the United States, European sources said.


Fissures appear along roads while massive holes open up in the countryside, their gaping maws a visible sign from the air of something Iranian authorities now openly acknowledge: the area around Tehran is literally sinking. Stressed by a 30-year drought and hollowed by excessive water pumping, the parched landscape around Iran's capital has begun to sink dramatically. 

An indictment has been issued for President Rouhani's top aide, Hessamoddin Ashena and a lawsuit against him delivered to the court, Tehran's prosecutor said on Tuesday, January 22. Ashena, the head of Center for Strategic Studies, and Rouhani's Cultural Advisor, is prosecuted for comments he made about forty days ago on the fate of Iran Green Movement's leaders who have been under house arrest since February 2011.

European countries have lost confidence in Tehran after detecting espionage and assassination plots, and they have provided evidence on Iran's activities that can not be easily refuted, stated Iran's former ambassador to Germany, Ali Magdi. Magdi criticized the interference of domestic parties in Iran's foreign policy, pointing out that the European countries "face a dual Iranian policy."


Iraq emerges as a potential target for Israel as it steps up efforts to eliminate the Iranian land bridge to the Levant. Recent Israeli airstrikes prove that air defense systems supplied to Syria by Russia are not enough to repulse Israeli aggression against Iranian targets in this country, but this may not be the end of the story. Israel may soon change the course of action to strike Iranian targets beyond Syria's borders and launch aerial campaigns in Iraq where the airspace is defenseless and the political vacuum is too deep for the government to claim territorial sovereignty.

Twenty-one people were killed in the extensive Israeli strikes on Syria overnight Sunday, a war watchdog reported on Tuesday, adding that at least 12 of them were members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. According to the report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, six of those killed in the attack were Syrian soldiers and militiamen and the rest were "foreigners."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday threatened the Gaza Strip after an escalation of violence on the border, saying that Israel was ready for all possible scenarios. "Maybe there is someone in Gaza who thinks they can raise their head, but I suggest they understand that the response will be serious and very painful. We are prepared for every scenario and every escalation," he told soldiers during a visit to the Shizafon army base in the south of the country.

On the afternoon of Jan. 21, after another round of the heavyweight fight of the year between Israel and Iran, the Israel Defense Forces' Twitter account released the following tweet: It shows a map of the Middle East, from the Persian Gulf on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, under the headline, "Iran, you seem to be lost." Four red arrows on the map point to Iran's geographic location with the caption, "This is where you belong," while another red arrow points to the Damascus region with the text, "Iran is here."


Saudi Arabia called on the Security Council to pressure Iran to abide by UN resolutions for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen. Addressing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, the Kingdom's Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Abdullah Al-Mouallimi said any political solution in Yemen must guarantee the sovereignty of the state, unity of armed forces, the commitment to the Gulf initiative, the national dialogue and relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been condemned for pillaging a library in the Unesco-listed heritage site of Zabid, one of the oldest towns in Yemen. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (IESCO) slammed the rebels for ransacking the library and taking historic artifacts, scientific books and manuscripts. Zabid is in Hodeidah province, the site of the battle between the Arab Coalition and the rebels for control of the Red Sea port city vital for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Yemeni population.

Saudi Arabia's envoy to the US urged the United Nations on Thursday to take the Houthi militia to task for "reneging on their commitments" under the Stockholm Agreement on Yemen. "The Stockholm Agreement between Yemeni parties is being violated repeatedly by the Houthis," Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a series of tweets.


Iran has denounced events in Venezuela, saying the opposition's claim there that it holds the presidency is a "coup" and an attempt to take over power unlawfully. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters on Thursday that the "Islamic Republic of Iran supports the government and people of Venezuela against any sort of foreign intervention and any illegitimate and illegal action such as attempt to make a coup d'etat."

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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