Tag Archives: iran

Iran to host UN Chief ahead sanctions deadline.

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The former president withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018, while Iran started the next year to suspend its compliance with most key nuclear commitments in response.

UN nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi was to open talks Saturday in Iran on the eve of Tehran’s deadline for US sanctions to be lifted, as President Joe Biden called for “careful diplomacy”.

The deadline, set by Iranian lawmakers, carries the threat of a suspension of some nuclear inspections, stoking international concern about a possible expulsion of UN inspectors.

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But Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or expel its inspectors.

Iran and the IAEA have yet to release details on the visit by the UN body’s chief Grossi that runs into Sunday.

He will “meet with senior Iranian officials to find a mutually agreeable solution, compatible with Iranian law, so that the @iaeaorg can continue essential verification activities in Iran”, Grossi wrote Friday on Twitter.

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“Looking forward to success – this is in everybody’s interest,” he added.

Iran has notified the IAEA that it will suspend “voluntary transparency measures”, notably inspection visits to non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity, if the United States has not lifted the sweeping sanctions former president Donald Trump reimposed in 2018.

The new measures are to go into effect on Tuesday.

Iran’s atomic body spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said last week that talks with Grossi will focus on how to cease “voluntary actions beyond safeguard (measures) and how to continue cooperation”.

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‘Diplomatic back-and-forth’

The visit comes in the wake of Biden’s call on Friday for European powers to work together to curb Iran’s “destabilising” activities, a day after committing to rejoin talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Biden told the Munich Security Conference that the United States would work closely with allies in dealing with Iran after his predecessor Trump took an aggressive unilateral approach.

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“The threat of nuclear proliferation also continues to require careful diplomacy and cooperation among us,” Biden told fellow leaders via teleconference.

“That’s why we have said we’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, referring to the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready to return to its nuclear commitments on condition that Washington does so first by lifting the sanctions reimposed by Trump that have dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s economy.

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Following an offer for talks by the Biden administration, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Friday that Iran would “immediately reverse” its retaliatory measures if the US lifts “all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labelled by Trump”.

The former president withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018, while Iran started the next year to suspend its compliance with most key nuclear commitments in response.

In an opening gesture, the Biden administration has dropped a push for more sanctions crafted by Trump, and removed restrictions on Iranian diplomats accredited to the United Nations in New York.

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Saturday stressed that Tehran’s latest nuclear move will not prevent it from responding to any US show of goodwill, and expressed optimism regarding the ongoing diplomatic process.

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It is “neither against our (deal) commitments nor an obstacle for proportionate and appropriate response to any US action to prove (its) goodwill,” he wrote in an op-ed on Iran daily.

“We can confidently predict that diplomatic initiatives will work well (to achieve) the desired outcome, despite diplomatic back-and-forths, which are the natural prelude to the return of all sides to commitments including the lifting of all sanctions in the near future,” he added.

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#Newsworthy

Storyline: West urges Iran to fully comply with new nuclear deal.

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The ministers “expressed their shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20 percent and uranium metal”

European powers and the United States on Thursday warned Iran it would be “dangerous” to carry out a threatened limit to UN nuclear agency inspections, adding Tehran must return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

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The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom – which form the so-called “E3” group – met Thursday in Paris to discuss security in Iran and the Middle East region, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined them by videoconference.

“Regarding Iran, the E3 and the United States expressed their shared fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon,” the ministers said in a joint statement after a virtual meeting.

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is the country’s only nuclear power station and is currently running on imported fuel from Russia that is closely monitored by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

Their statement urged “Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity”, adding that they all shared the aim of Iran returning to “full compliance” with the accord.

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The ministers “expressed their shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20 percent and uranium metal”, the statement said.

It was the second time that US Secretary of State Blinken had held discussions with his European counterparts since President Joe Biden took office last month promising to work more closely with allies than his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Iran has said it will stop part of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear facilities on February 21 if the other signatories do not implement their own commitments under the 2015 deal. The accord has been unraveling since Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

“The measures that have been taken in Tehran and may be taken in the coming days are anything but helpful. They endanger the Americans’ path back into this agreement. The more pressure that is exerted, the more politically difficult it will be to find a solution,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Paris.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the president of the European Council spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week to try to end the diplomatic standoff.

The head of the IAEA is scheduled to travel to Iran this weekend to find a solution that allows the agency to continue inspections.

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#Newsworthy

Top diplomats from Europe, US ‘talks on reviving’ 2015 Iran deal.

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Khamenei emphasised Wednesday that Iran wanted to see action from the US administration that would help its economy.

Top diplomats from European powers and the United States will hold talks to see how to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, days ahead of a deadline set by Tehran that could hinder these efforts.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will host his German and British counterparts in Paris on Thursday, with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joining via videoconference, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Iran plans to restrict some UN nuclear agency inspections if the US does not lift its sanctions – imposed since 2018 by former President Donald Trump – by February 21, under the terms of a bill adopted by its parliament in December.

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Highlighting the tough path ahead, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced “concern” that Iran was failing to meet its obligations in telephone talks with President Hassan Rouhani, her spokesman said in a statement.

Analysts have said only a small window of opportunity remains to save the landmark deal, which received a near-fatal blow when Trump walked out in 2018.

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The administration of current US President Joe Biden has said it is prepared to rejoin the deal and start lifting sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance, a precondition disputed by Tehran.

Iran mulls more non-compliance
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi will travel to Tehran on Saturday for talks with the Iranian authorities to find a solution for continuing inspections in the country, the agency said.

It warned that the step threatened by Tehran would have “a serious impact on the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities in the country.”

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In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Iran should provide “full and timely cooperation” with the IAEA.

“Iran should reverse the steps and refrain from taking others that would impact the IAEA assurances on which not only the United States, not only our allies and partners in the region, but the entire world relies,” he said, adding that Blinken saw an “important role” for the European Union, of which France and Germany are members.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has demanded ‘action, not words’ from the US if it wants to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers [Khamenei.IR/AFP]

Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it was “unlikely” the meeting on Thursday would produce a significant political or economic gesture to prevent Iran from going ahead with the restrictions.

“This deadline has been on the cards for months, and in absence of economic relief Iran’s leaders feel compelled to move ahead,” she told the AFP news agency.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015, saw Iran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions.

But Iran has stepped up its nuclear work in violation of the accord after US sanctions were reimposed as part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy to weaken the Iranian government.

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The UN nuclear watchdog said last week that Iran had started producing uranium metal in a new violation of the accord, prompting European powers to warn that Tehran was “undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy.”

In her talks with Rouhani, Merkel said that “now was the time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution”.

However, the Iranian presidency said Rouhani in the call “criticised Europe’s performance” on its JCPOA commitments after the US withdrawal.

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‘Only action’
While Iran’s policy is ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian presidential elections in June add another time pressure factor.

Rouhani – a key advocate of nuclear diplomacy with global powers – is set to step down after serving the maximum two consecutive terms, and a more hardline figure may replace him.

“There is a short window of time to limit the damage that could ensue from Iran’s next steps, for example by reducing the impact of such moves on the quality of inspections by international monitors,” Geranmayeh said.

She said Washington should move in political and practical terms to show Iran that the Biden administration “is distancing itself from Trump-era maximum pressure.”

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Khamenei emphasised Wednesday that Iran wanted to see action from the US administration that would help its economy.

“This time only action, action. If we see action from the opposite side, we will act too,” he said.

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#Newsworthy

Dozens of oil tanker blast triggers inferno on Afghanistan-Iran border.

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Afghanistan has received waivers from Washington allowing it to import oil and gas from Iran despite US sanctions.

Dozens of oil and gas tankers carrying millions of dollars’ worth of fuel caught fire on Saturday, creating an inferno at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, officials said.

The blaze broke out in the early afternoon at Islam Qala port, 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the western city of Herat, engulfing the tankers that were parked nearby after crossing the border.

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“There were between 200 and 300 fuel tankers there and we managed to save some, but most have been engulfed and the fire is so huge that nobody can get to within even a kilometre of it,” said Younus Qazi Zada, head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce.

“The initial estimate is of millions of dollars of losses, but we have to wait until the fire is extinguished for a proper assessment of damage.”

At least 17 people have been taken to hospital, some of them with serious burns, said Ibrahim Mohammadi, head of the Herat ambulance service.

A security forces personnel walks amidst wreckage of gas tankers after a fire accident at Islam Qala on the outskirts of Herat, in the border between Afghanistan and Iran on February 14, 2021. (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP)

Jailani Farhad, the spokesman for the governor of Herat province, said dozens of tankers were ablaze.

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“We don’t have the required facilities to contain it, so through the foreign ministry, we have asked the government of Iran to help us contain the fire,” he said.

The cause of the fire was unknown, he added.
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Videos posted on social media show towering flames and huge clouds of thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

Around 60 percent of Herat province was without power as a result of the fire, Afghan energy company DABS said.

Islam Qala is one of the major ports in Afghanistan, through which most official trade with Iran is conducted.

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Afghanistan has received waivers from Washington allowing it to import oil and gas from Iran despite US sanctions.

Iran foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the border “was held open for trucks, cars and people running from the fire” towards Iran.

He added that authorities from both countries were helping to tackle the blaze.

Taking advantage of the situation, Taliban insurgents attacked a nearby security post after the blaze broke out, Farhad added.

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Afghanistan has been hit by a surge in violence despite peace talks that started in September between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The rise in violence has led US President Joe Biden’s administration to launch a review of a deal signed between Washington and the Taliban last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all American troops in the coming months.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Iran resumed missiles collaboration with North Korea in 2020 – UN.

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The report’s experts monitor the multiple sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to attempt to force it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

North Korea and Iran resumed cooperation on the development of long-range missiles in 2020, according to a UN report that also confirmed Pyongyang continues to violate various nuclear resolutions.

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The annual report, produced by an independent panel of UN experts, was submitted to the Security Council on Monday and seen by AFP.

It said Tehran denies any such missile cooperation with North Korea.

But according to an unnamed member state, North Korea and Iran “have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects,” the report states.

This picture taken on February 8, 2021 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 9 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the first day of the 2nd plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in North Korea. (Photo by STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP) / – South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT /

“This resumed cooperation is said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020.”

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The report’s experts monitor the multiple sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to attempt to force it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

In a December 21 reply, Iran stated the “preliminary review of the information provided to us by the (experts) indicates that false information and fabricated data may have been used in investigations and analyses.”

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In their assessment of North Korea, the experts said Pyongyang “maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Pyongyang last year announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons.

“It produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure. It continued to seek material and technology for these programs from overseas,” the expert report states.

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The experts also investigated cases in which North Korea acquired ships, sold fishing rights and continued to export coal in violation of sanctions.

North Korea’s border closure due to the pandemic may have hampered those shipments, however.

The experts also found that North Korea had continued to import more refined petroleum than is allowed under its 500,000-barrel limit, sometimes by using “elaborate subterfuge.”

“According to imagery, data and calculations received from a member state covering the period 1 January to 30 September, in 2020 these illicit shipments exceeded the annual aggregate 500,000-barrel cap by several times,” the report states.

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Last year, like the year before, the US presented satellite imagery and data to show North Korea was surpassing its quotas.

China and Russia, North Korea’s main supporters, have rejected the US claims and say petroleum imports are much smaller.

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#Newsworthy

Khamenei says Iran won’t resume nuclear commitments until US succumb.

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The new administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the deal, but insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday the US must “completely lift” sanctions first, followed by verification by Tehran, before the Islamic republic returns to its nuclear deal commitments.

“If they want Iran to return to its commitments … America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper,” Khamenei said in a televised speech to air force commanders.

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“They must be lifted in action, and then we will verify and see if they have been properly lifted, and then return,” he added.

The 2015 landmark deal has been hanging by a thread since US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

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Tehran a year later suspended its compliance with most key nuclear commitments to the deal.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the deal, but insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance.

On January 4, Iran announced it has stepped up its uranium enrichment process to 20 percent purity, far above the 3.67 percent level permitted by the deal, but far below the amount required for an atomic bomb.

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And it may restrict by February 21 nuclear inspections if US sanctions are not lifted or other key parties to the deal do not help Tehran bypass them, according to a law passed by the parliament in December.

According to Khamenei, Iran has “a right to set conditions for the continuation” of the deal as it has upheld its end, unlike the US and the three European members of the deal — Britain, France and Germany — who have “violated all their commitments”.

handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on February 7, 2021, shows him delivering a speech in front of commanders of the air force,days ahead of the 42nd anniversary marking the victory of the Islamic revolution. Khamenei said today the US must “completely lift” sanctions first, followed by verification by Tehran, before the Islamic republic returns to its nuclear deal commitments. KHAMENEI.IR / AFP

“No one in the Islamic republic cares for the nonsense claimed by those not entitled to anything,” he said.

Khamenei insisted that the condition set by Tehran for the US is Iran’s “definite policy”.

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Iran “will not turn back from” it, he said.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif asked the European Union to coordinate a synchronised return of both Washington and Tehran into a nuclear deal, after a diplomatic standoff on who will act first.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Iran to begin vaccinations ‘in the week’

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The president expressed hope that the first three categories would be inoculated before the Persian New Year on March 21.

Iran will kick off its coronavirus vaccination campaign within a week, President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday after the country received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

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The Islamic republic is fighting the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with over 58,000 lives lost out of more than 1.4 million cases of infection.

Iran has bought two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP.

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The first batch arrived in the country on Thursday, and the country is scheduled to receive two more batches by February 28.

“Vaccinations will start this very week; this is a real cause for celebration,” Rouhani told a televised meeting of Iran’s Covid-19 taskforce.

He did not give a specific date, only saying that the programme would begin before next Wednesday, which marks the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution.

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Health workers would be the first to get the jabs, followed by the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, Rouhani said.

The president expressed hope that the first three categories would be inoculated before the Persian New Year on March 21.

Russia registered the Sputnik V vaccine — named after the Soviet-era satellite — in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

In addition to the Russian jab, Iran is expecting to receive 4.2 million doses of a vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca in February.

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They were purchased via Covax, the mechanism for the equitable distribution of vaccines established by the UN World Health Organization.

Iran started clinical trials of one of its own vaccines in late December, and according to Rouhani, they may become available by early summer.

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#Newsworthy

United States decries Iran satellite rocket launch.

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Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April, drawing a sharp rebuke from then secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who vowed repercussions.

The United States on Tuesday voiced concern about Iran’s launch of a satellite-carrying rocket, saying the test could boost missile work at a moment when the two nations are inching back to diplomacy.

“The United States remains concerned with Iran’s efforts to development space launch vehicles (SLVs), given these programs’ ability to advance Iran’s ballistic missile development,” a State Department spokesperson said.

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“SLVs poses a significant proliferation concern due to the fact that SLVs incorporate technologies identical to, and interchangeable with, those used in ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems.”

A handout picture provided by Iran’s Defence Ministry on February 1, 2021 shows the launch of Iran’s newest satellite-carrying rocket, called “Zuljanah,” at an undisclosed location. IRANIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY / AFP

Iran on Monday announced the first launch of the new Zoljanah carrier, boasting that it can put a 220-kilogram (1,100-pound) payload into orbit and compete with technology elsewhere in the world.

Iran says its space program is aimed at boosting business and does not violate any international agreements.

Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April, drawing a sharp rebuke from then secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who vowed repercussions.

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President Joe Biden’s administration, while broadly sharing the previous leadership’s concerns about Iran, supports a return to a negotiated solution based on a 2015 nuclear accord negotiated under then-president Barack Obama.

Iran complied with the 2015 accord’s sharp limits on its nuclear program until former president Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed sweeping sanctions.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Iran expects first batch of Russian vaccine by Feb. 4 – Ambassador

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Iran is fighting the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of Covid-19 with more than 57,800 dead out of over 1.4 million cases.

Iran’s ambassador to Russia said Saturday that Tehran expects to receive the first batch of Moscow’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine by February 4, state news agency IRNA reported.

The news comes just days after Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced the vaccine had been approved by the Islamic republic.

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“A contract for the purchase and joint production was signed yesterday between Iran and Russia,” envoy Kazem Jalali said, quoted by IRNA.

Two more batches are to be delivered by February 18 and 28, he added, without specifying quantities.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier this month banned the use of vaccines made by the United States and Britain, calling them “completely untrustworthy”.

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The country says arch enemy US has blocked its access to vaccines through Washington’s tough sanctions regime.

While food and medicine are technically exempt, international banks tend to refuse transactions involving Iran.

Russia registered the jab — named after the Soviet-era satellite — in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials, leaving some experts wary.

Sputnik V’s developers have since said the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective and several countries outside of Russia have begun administering it, including Argentina.

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Hungary has also said it has reached a deal to buy the vaccine, although it has not been approved by the European Union.

Iran started clinical trials of its own vaccine in late December.

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#Newsworthy

US Blinken sees ‘no quick way’ back to Iran’s nuclear deal.

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Iranian officials fear that Biden’s Democratic party, which holds a slim majority in Congress, will struggle to push through measures that lift sanctions on Tehran in exchange for its compliance.

The United States will only return to the Iran nuclear deal once Tehran meets its commitments, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, warning of a long road ahead until the process is verified.

On his first full day as the top US diplomat, Blinken confirmed President Joe Biden’s willingness to return to the 2015 deal from which his predecessor withdrew, but rejected Iranian pressure for the US to act first.

“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken told a news conference.

“We’re not there yet, to say the least.”

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He declined to say which US official would lead talks with Iran but said “we will bring to bear different perspectives on the issue.”

If Iran returns to the deal, Washington would seek to build what Blinken called a “longer and stronger agreement” that would deal with other “deeply problematic” issues.

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He did not name these but Biden has said they include Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and its support for proxy forces in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

‘Full compliance’
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated under former President Barack Obama and subsequently slapped punishing sanctions.

The nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed by Iran and six leading countries in 2015 and committed Iran to restricting its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief from the US and others.

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Iran responded to Trump’s sanctions by reducing its compliance with the deal.

“President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing,” Blinken said.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has demanded that the US first come into compliance by ending the Trump sanctions, which include a sweeping effort to end Tehran’s key export of oil.

Tehran and Washington have displayed military might in recent months amid heightened tensions between the two foes. The US slapped sanctions on Iran in the final days of the Trump presidency.

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On Tuesday, Israel’s top general warned attack plans against Iran were being revised and said any US return to the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran would be “wrong”.

But Tehran dismissed the Israeli threat as a “psychological war”.

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#Newsworthy

Deadly Baghdad explosion kills 32. [Photos]

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Videos from Thursday’s attack show scenes of chaos, with people running for cover and bodies strewn across pavements and the road.

Suicide bombing that tore through a busy area of central Baghdad on Thursday morning, Iraqi officials said.

Ministry of Defence Spokesperson Yahya Rasool told NoRM‘s known Media one of the two perpetrators lured a crowd of people towards him in a market in the central Tayaran Square by feigning illness, only to detonate his explosives.

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The second bomber struck as people helped victims of the first attack, Rasool said.

The attack is the first twin bombing in Baghdad since January 2018, when 35 people were killed and 90 injured in the same square that was targeted on Thursday.

The health ministry said the capital’s hospitals were being mobilised to treat the wounded. While officials suggested the death toll is likely to rise as many of those injured in the attack are in critical condition.

No one immediately took responsibility for the attack.

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But Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq analyst and fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank, told NoRM‘s known Media: “This kind of attack bears the hallmark of ISIS [ISIL] who have targeted crowded civilian areas in Baghdad with suicide attacks many times in the past.”

“This shows a security failure by the government who have been warned that ISIS is still active and in recent days have seen it target infrastructure and rural areas with similar attacks,” said Jiyad.

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“For Iraqis, this is a worrying development which saps confidence in the security forces and adds to the level of tension already present with geopolitical, economic and pandemic issues,” he said.

Iraq declared ISIL defeated at the end of 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign.

But ISIL attacks across the country have been on the rise again over the past year, particularly in northern Iraq where sleeper cells are still active.

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By Thursday afternoon the area surrounding the market had come back to life. But some stalls near the blasts remained shut and a small crowd of people had gathered to examine the wreckage.

Dry blood was still visible on the tarmac, while the charred remains of toys and clothes once sold by vendors littered the floor.

The Kurdistan Region Government Head of Foreign Relations Safeen Dizaye condemned Thursday’s attack.

“This horrific crime is a sad reminder that terror is still a real threat to peace and stability in the world. [The international] community must stand united against all acts of terrorism,” Dizaye wrote in a tweet.

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The United States embassy in Iraq also strongly condemned the attack in a statement.

“This attack is a reprehensible act of cowardice that underscores the dangers of terrorism that millions of Iraqis continue to face. We extend our condolences to the families of these victims, and hope for the swift recovery for those who were injured,” it said.

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#Newsworthy

Rare twin Baghdad blasts claim over 25 lives.

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The jihadist factions seized a third of Iraq in 2014 and was dangerously close to the capital, but a ferocious three-year fight by Iraqi troops pushed them back.

A rare twin suicide bombing killed nearly 30 people at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday, Iraqi state media said, the city’s deadliest attack in three years.

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At least 28 people were killed and another 73 wounded in the attack amid stalls hawking second-hand clothes in the Iraqi capital’s Tayaran Square.

The market had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of restrictions imposed across the country in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.

According to an interior ministry statement, the first suicide bomber rushed into the market, claiming to feel sick.

Once a crowd of people had gathered around him, he detonated his explosives.

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As people then flocked around the victims, a second attacker detonated his bomb, the ministry said.

An AFP photographer at the scene said security forces had cordoned off the area, where blood-soaked clothes were strewn across the muddy streets.

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Paramedics were working to remove casualties, and Iraq’s health ministry said it had mobilised medics across the capital.

Thursday’s attack was the bloodiest incident in Baghdad since January 2018, when a suicide bomber killed more than 30 people in the same square.

Suicide bombings had been commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

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Later on, as the Islamic State group swept across much of Iraq, its jihadists also targeted the capital.

But with the group’s territorial defeat in late 2017, suicide bombings in the city became rare.

Baghdad’s notorious concrete blast walls were dismantled and checkpoints across the city removed.

‘Despicable act’
President Barham Saleh led political figures in condemning Thursday’s attack, saying the government would “stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilise our country.”

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United Nations’ Iraq mission (UNAMI) also offered condolences to the victims.

“Such a despicable act will not weaken Iraq’s march towards stability and prosperity,” UNAMI said in an online statement.

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Thursday’s attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events often preceded by bombings and assassinations.

The 2018 attack took place just a few months before Iraq’s last round of parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi had originally set this year’s general election for June, nearly a year ahead of schedule, in response to widespread protests in 2019.

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But authorities are in talks over rescheduling them to October, to give electoral authorities more time to register voters and new parties.

Thursday’s twin attack was not immediately claimed but suicide bombings have been used by jihadist groups, most recently IS.

Still, the group’s sleeper cells have continued to operate in desert and mountain areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.

Still, the US-led coalition that had been supporting Iraq’s campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing the increased capabilities of Iraqi troops.

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The United States, which provides the bulk of the force, has 2,500 troops left in Iraq — down from 5,200 a year ago.

They are mainly in charge of training, providing drone surveillance and carrying out airstrikes while Iraqi security forces handle security in urban areas.

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#Newsworthy

Trump’s pentagon stalling transition, risky – Joe Biden

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Biden said he was seeking a “clear picture” from the outgoing administration on the force posture of US troops around the world.

President-elect Joe Biden said Monday that Donald Trump’s appointees at the Pentagon were stalling on the transition and warned that the United States faces security risks as a result.

After he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were briefed by their transition teams on national security, Biden said that political appointees at the Pentagon as well as the Office of Management and Budget had put up “roadblocks.”

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“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security area(s),” Biden said after the briefing.

“It is nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”

“We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit,” Biden said.

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Trump has refused to concede the November 3 election, which Biden won by some seven million votes and by 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College. The president has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

The Trump administration has drawn concern by shaking up the leadership of the Pentagon since the election including firing defense secretary Mark Esper, who had distanced himself from the president’s use of force against unarmed anti-racism demonstrators earlier this year.

Trump’s new acting defense secretary, Chris Miller, has said that the outgoing administration had agreed with Biden’s people to pause briefings for the holiday season, an assertion that the incoming team called untrue.

Miller released a statement Monday saying the Pentagon’s coordination efforts with the transition team “already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go.”

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He added that Department of Defense officials would continue working in a “transparent and collegial manner” to support the transition.

Trump’s last-minute installation of loyalists at the Pentagon comes amid high tensions with Iran, which Trump blamed for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Iraq ahead of the January anniversary of the US killing in Baghdad of a top Iranian general.

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#Newsworthy

Turkey blows hot over Iran’s ‘abusive language’ against Erdogan

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Iran is home to a large Azeri community, mainly in northwestern provinces next to Azerbaijan and Armenia, where the Aras river defines the border.

Turkey on Saturday rebuked Tehran for “offensive language” aimed at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in connection with a controversial poem that might suggest Iran’s northwestern provinces belong to Azerbaijan.

Iran and Turkey have increased economic cooperation over the past decade but remain rivals in several parts of the Middle East and Central Asia.

On Thursday, Erdogan paid a visit to staunch ally Azerbaijan for a military parade marking Baku’s victory over Armenia after six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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During his visit, Erdogan recited a poem that Tehran said could fan separatism among Iran’s Azeri minority.

The next day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “President Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland”.

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According to Iran’s news agency known to NoRM, the poem is “one of the separatist symbols of pan-turkism”.

ISNA said the verses point to Aras and “complains of the distance between Azeri-speaking people on the two sides of the river”.

Iranian authorities summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Tehran to complain about Erdogan’s “interventionist and unacceptable remarks”.

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In return, Turkey summoned Iran’s ambassador to Ankara over the “baseless” claims.

Turkey doubled down on Saturday, with a statement by presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun that said: “We condemn the use of offensive language towards our president and our country over the recitation of a poem, whose meaning has been deliberately taken out of context.”

Altun said the poem “passionately reflects the emotional experience of an aggrieved people due to Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani lands”.

“It does not include any references to Iran. Nor is that country implied in any way, shape or form.”

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his Iranian counterpart in a phone call Saturday that “baseless and heavy statements made by Iran and aimed at our president are unacceptable”, a Turkish foreign ministry source said.

At difficult times of Iran, Turkey stood in solidarity with Iran when others turned their back against Tehran, and this increased the extent of Ankara’s diappointment, Cavusoglu told Zarif, according to the source.

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#Newsworthy

Morocco-Israel Norm of ties ‘betrayal of Islam’ – Iran says

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Morocco follows the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in what the Trump administration calls the Abraham Accords.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned Morocco’s normalisation of ties with the Islamic republic’s arch foe Israel, calling it a “betrayal of Islam”.

The kingdom on Thursday became the fourth Arab state this year to normalise relations with Israel, in a deal announced by outgoing US President Donald Trump.

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In return, Washington fulfilled a decades-old goal of Rabat by recognising its sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

“The deal between the triangle of America, Morocco and the Zionist regime was done in exchange for Morocco’s betrayal of Islam (and) the Palestinian cause, selling Muslims’ honour to international Zionism,” foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati said on his official website Friday.

He added that the normalisation of ties with Israel was “not a new thing” as the kingdom had maintained a liaison office in Israel in the past.

Blasting all four, Velayati said they will “witness popular uprisings in a not so distant future” as their “dependent, submissive and authoritarian” leaders are unmasked.

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US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara has infuriated the pro-independence Polisario Front, which controls about a fifth of the vast region.

Rabat, which has close ties with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2018 accusing it of backing the Polisario, a charge Iran denied.

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#Newsworthy

Update: Iran buries murdered physicist, Mohsen with vows to retaliate

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His body had been taken to the northeastern holy city of Mashhad late on Saturday where he was taken to the shrine of Imam Reza for a ceremonial circling of the tomb and prayers.

Iran has laid to rest assassinated nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in the capital Tehran as authorities blamed Israel for the killing and repeated vows to avenge it.

The funeral on Monday, scaled down due to coronavirus protocols and attended only by Fakhrizadeh’s family and some military commanders, was held at the defence ministry headquarters in Tehran.

Iranian Gov’t confirms assassination of prominent physicist

Fakhrizadeh’s coffin, wrapped in an Iranian flag, was then taken to a cemetery near Imamzadeh Saleh mosque in the north of the city for burial.

Following that, it was taken to Fatima Masumeh’s shrine in Qom on Sunday, and later to the shrine of Imam Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Tehran.

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‘No terror will go unanswered’

Fakhrizadeh, a top figure in Iran’s nuclear and missile programmer, was killed outside Tehran on Friday after assailants targeted his car.

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to kill the scientist remotely

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“The enemies know and I, as a soldier, tell them that no crime, no terror and no stupid act will go unanswered by the Iranian people,” said Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami in a televised speech at the ceremony.

Hatami said the country and its people are honoured that Fakhrizadeh was “the founder of Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme” and will continue to follow his path.

“The criminal Americans have thousands of nuclear weapons and the criminal Zionist regime has hundreds of nuclear weapons. What are they for? Are they to be used as decorations in your homes?”

A representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at the defence ministry read out his statement, in which Khamenei repeated his call for a “definitive punishment” of those behind the assassination.

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Reading Khamenei’s statement, Ziaeddin Aghajanpour said some inside the country believe dialogue and negotiations are the way to counter foreign aggressions.

“But this is not possible because our enemies are against the very nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, adding Iran’s “enemies will never stop”.

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#Newsworthy

Iranian Gov’t confirms assassination of prominent physicist

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Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday confirmed that a high-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had been assassinated.

Fakhrizadeh was shot and injured “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Ab-Sard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death,” the ministry said.

Fakhrizade, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production.

NoRM‘s known Media agency alleged that this was why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for many years.

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Earlier, Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) Spokesman, Behrus Kamalwandi, caused confusion by denying reports of the death, saying, “our nuclear scientists are all well.”

The confusion arose because Fakhrizadeh had left the AEOI and had been working at the Foreign Ministry.

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#Newsworthy

Iran slams United Nations over protests anniversary.

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Amnesty International said at the time it had obtained evidence showing at least 304 people, including children, were killed during the protests and thousands were arrested.

Roughly one year after protests over economic hardship broke out across Iran, officials have condemned a United Nations resolution that among other things calls for upholding human rights of people involved in the protests.

Last week, the third committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with human rights, adopted a resolution put forward by Canada.

The resolution welcomed some progress and continued efforts by Iranian authorities.

But it also expressed “serious concern” about executions for drug-related crimes and against minors, and urged Iran to ensure humane treatment of prisoners and cease “widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention”.

The resolution further called for the release of prisoners arrested during the protests of November 2019 and said Iran should address the “poor conditions of its prisons”.

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In response, Iran earlier this week summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, who represents Canadian interests in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Iranian foreign ministry told the ambassador that Canada continues to refuse to offer consular services to 400,000 Iranians in the country and has become a “safe haven for the world’s economic offenders and financial criminals”.

A number of Iranians wanted for economic corruption in Iran have fled to Canada and the country refuses to extradite them.

Chief among them is Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former CEO of state-run Bank Melli Iran, who was the central figure in a $2.6bn embezzlement case, the largest in Iran’s history.

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‘No legal credibility’
The secretary of the human rights committee of the Iranian judiciary also said the resolution has no “legal credibility” as its sponsors have a history of abusing human rights in their own countries and those of other nations such as Palestine and Yemen.

On Monday, Ali Bagheri-Kani called Canada a “systematic violator of human rights” as it suppresses its native people, violently treats women and supports “terrorist” groups.

He also slammed the resolution and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for refusing to mention the impact of the United States’ unilateral economic sanctions on the Iranian people.

In May 2018, the US reneged on a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and imposed harsh sanctions that have only escalated since. Iran has said that – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – the sanctions amount to “economic and medical terrorism”.

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In a statement late on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also condemned the resolution, saying it is “unacceptable” since it is based on fabricated reports.

“It is unfortunate that a number of countries, including Canada, employ human rights and its international mechanisms as tools to advance their own political agendas,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Khatibzadeh added that Iran sees the resolution as having no legal standing, and called on Canada to stop supporting US sanctions and providing a safe haven for Iranian criminals.

Meanwhile, the US Mission to the UN, a sponsor of the human rights resolution on Iran, has welcomed the resolution, saying it remains “deeply concerned” with the human rights situation in Iran.

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Deadly protests
The political back and forth comes one year after protests broke in dozens of cities across Iran in mid-November 2019 after a sudden increase in petrol prices.

In a surprise overnight move, the government of President Hassan Rouhani announced petrol would be rationed and prices would be up to tripled.

The move was implemented amid high inflation and unemployment as a result of a combination of economic mismanagement and US sanctions.

The government said the move was aimed at improving conditions for the poorest as revenues would be redistributed among low-income families. But the sudden price rise seemed to act as an immediate spark as people took to the streets and violence ensued shortly after.

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Authorities cracked down on protesters as internet access was almost entirely shut down for civilians and businesses alike for close to a week by the order of the Supreme Council of National Security.

Roughly eight months after the protests, the head of the national security commission of the Iranian parliament, Mojtaba Zonnour, said 230 people were confirmed killed. That included six official security officers, he said.

While a number of government officials acknowledged that some of the protesters had legitimate requests in the backdrop of declining quality of life, all authorities traced the hand of foreign influence and “mercenaries” in the protests.

They said a significant number of protesters were killed with weapons that are not standard issue for security officers.


#Newsworthy…

Al-Qaeda’s second in command silently killed in Iran

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The attack, which took place on August 7 on the anniversary of the Africa bombings, has not been publicly acknowledged by the US, Iran, Israel or Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, indicted in the US for the 1998 bombings of its embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, was secretly killed in Iran in August, The Noble Reporters Media reported Saturday.

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who was on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists, was shot and killed in Tehran by two Israeli operatives on a motorcycle at the behest of the United States, intelligence officials confirmed to NoRM.

The senior Qaeda leader, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden, NoRM said.

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US federal authorities had offered a $10 million reward for any information leading to his capture.

Abdullah was the “most experienced and capable operational planner not in US or allied custody,” according to a highly classified document provided by the US National Counterterrorism Center in 2008, according to the Times.

The bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 left 224 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.

Abdullah was indicted by a US federal grand jury later that year for his role.


#Newsworthy…

Jailed Iranian lawyer released temporarily.

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The internationally-renowned human rights lawyer, whose release has been requested by the UN and human rights groups outside Iran, had been imprisoned before.

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been temporarily released from prison after concerns mounted over her deteriorating health.

The 57-year-old “went on furlough with the approval of the prosecutor presiding over women’s prison”, Mizan, the judiciary’s news website, said without providing any further details.

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“Friends, Nasrin came out on furlough a few minutes ago,” he said.

Sotoudeh was arrested two years ago on charges of collusion, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes in 2019.

In September, Sotoudeh was hospitalised after her physical condition worsened following weeks of hunger strike. Her strike ended in late September after 46 days.

She had gone on hunger strike to call for the release of political prisoners and directing attention towards their conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tens of thousands of prisoners have been temporarily released from overcrowded Iranian prisons since February to curb the spread of the coronavirus. A number of them have since been required to return and the initiative has not included some political prisoners.

The worst pandemic in the Middle East has so far killed nearly 38,000 people and infection numbers in Iran have seen a sharp increase since September.

On October 20, Sotoudeh was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Qarchak, a women’s prison outside the city that has been blacklisted under United Nations human rights sanctions.

At the time, her husband Khandan said in a tweet that she was told to prepare to be transferred to the hospital, but was instead moved to Qarchak.

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Sotoudeh’s temporary release comes weeks after two senior judiciary official visited Qarchak and reportedly spent hours talking to prisoners about their conditions.

At the time, Mizan reported that they issued “immediate orders” to answer a number of requests by inmates, without releasing details.

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been held in Iran for more than two years as part of a 10-year jail sentence on charges of espionage, was also in Qarchak at the time and met with the officials.

She was returned to Evin prison days later and remains there.

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French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, detained in Iran since June 2019 on charges of conspiring against national security, was temporarily released from prison on October 3.

Prominent Iranian human rights activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi was also released from prison in early October after her sentence was reduced.

‘Security pressures’
Sotoudeh, a winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, is required by law to serve at least 12 years of her sentence before being eligible for conditional release.

She had also spent three years behind bars after representing people arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the controversial reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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During her first years in jail, Sotoudeh protested against conditions in Evin and a ban on seeing her son and daughter by staging two hunger strikes. She was released in 2013.

Just over two weeks ago, the first court session was held for a case concerning Mehraveh Khandan, Sotoudeh’s 20-year-old daughter.

She was called to court concerning a visit she had with her mother at Evin over a year earlier.

A member of the prison staff reportedly took issue with how she wore her hijab.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: Iran tackles United States after threat over Arms supply.

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Iran says it will sell weapons to countries that ‘won’t misuse them’ and will employ them strictly for defence purpose.

Tehran has hit back at a US threat of sanctions on anyone looking to make deals with Iran after the arms embargo on its military expired, saying Washington’s threats show the futility of US action and rhetoric on sanctions.

After a long-standing conventional arms embargo on Iran ended on Sunday despite Washington’s opposition, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of consequences for any individuals or entities that conduct arms deals with Iran.


READ


“Pompeo’s remarks are the most important sign that not even he believes unilateral US sanctions have been successful, and no [UN sanctions] have been reinstated,” spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.

“Iran continues to believe it can operate within the framework of international agreements. What they fear is Iran’s return to the massive market of technology and arms exports,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Iran produces 90 percent of its defence needs locally and will mostly look to export arms rather than import them.

In an interview with state television on Sunday night, Iran’s defence minister Amir Hatami said Iran would only sell weapons to countries that it is sure “won’t misuse them” and will employ them strictly for defence purposes.

“Unlike the Americans, we wouldn’t do just about everything for money,” he said, pointing out that the US sells billions of dollars of arms to Arab nations in the Middle East that fuel wars.

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Iran’s foreign ministry said “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place” in the country’s defence doctrine.

The US tried to stop the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran twice at the UN Security Council.

In August, it introduced a resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo while in September it claimed it unilaterally reinstated UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo.

On both occasions, the UNSC rejected the moves, saying they have no legal basis.

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The 13-year ban came to an end as part of Resolution 2231 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an accord signed in 2015 that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and has since blacklisted the entire Iranian financial sector.

The expiry of the embargo means Iran will face no challenges by the UNSC in trying to buy or sell conventional weapons, which include tanks, missiles and fighter jets among others.

A European ban on arms deals with Iran, separate from the UN arms embargo, will remain in place until 2023.

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“For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security,” Pompeo, who had led efforts to block the lifting of the embargo at the UN, said in a statement on Sunday.

“Any nation that sells weapons to Iran is impoverishing the Iranian people by enabling the regime’s diversion of funds away from the people and toward the regime’s military aims.”

In trying to stop the lifting of the arms embargo, Pompeo had warned that Russia, China and others could rush to sell advanced weapons to Tehran.

On Sunday, Israel Defence Minister Benny Gantz also vowed to take “whatever measures necessary” to prevent Iran from purchasing weapons.


#Newsworthy…

Any sale of Arms to Iran could attract sanctions – Pompeo warns.

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The embargo on the sale of conventional arms to Iran was due to begin expiring progressively from October 18 under terms of the UN resolution that confirmed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said that arms sales to Iran would breach UN resolutions and result in sanctions, after Tehran said the longstanding UN embargo on arms trade with the Islamic republic had expired.

“The United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement.


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“Every nation that seeks peace and stability in the Middle East and supports the fight against terrorism should refrain from any arms transactions with Iran.”

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Tehran, which could now purchase weapons from Russia, China and elsewhere, has hailed the expiration as a diplomatic victory over its archenemy the United States, which had tried to maintain an indefinite freeze on arms sales.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018 and has unilaterally begun reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Pompeo said that “for the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security.”


#Newsworthy…

Implications for Iran unclear as her 13 years Arms embargo ends.

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A 13-year conventional arms embargo on Iran has ended, but the implications for Iran and the region remain uncertain.

Despite opposition from the United States, a long-standing conventional arms embargo imposed on Iran has expired in line with the terms of a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The 13-year ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) came to an end on Sunday as part of Resolution 2231 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an accord signed in 2015 that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

In a statement carried by state media, the Iranian foreign ministry said “as of today, all restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran … are all automatically terminated.”

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The end of the embargo means Iran will legally be able to buy and sell conventional arms, including missiles, helicopters and tanks, and the Iranian foreign ministry said the country can now “procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions, and solely based on its defensive needs”.

However, Iran was self-reliant in its defense, the statement said, adding that “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place” in the country’s defense doctrine.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018, imposing waves of harsh economic sanctions on Iran. US President Donald Trump’s administration has also employed every means in its power to unravel the nuclear deal and stop the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran.

The latest came in early October when 18 Iranian banks were blacklisted, including those that process humanitarian trade transactions – effectively severing Iran’s financial sector from the global economy.

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The US administration has been fervently supported in its efforts by Israel and a number of Arab countries that oppose Iran’s expanding regional influence.

In August, the US tabled a UNSC resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, but it was rejected.

From the 14 UNSC member states, the so-called E3 of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and eight others abstained while Russia and China opposed the extension. Only the Dominican Republic supported the resolution.

After announcing the triggering of a process to “snap back” sanctions on Iran and waiting for a month, the US in September announced it has unilaterally reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of Resolution 2231.

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If implemented, the move would automatically extend the arms embargo as well.

But an overwhelming majority of UNSC member states once more rejected the bid, saying no process to reinstate sanctions was started because the move had no legal basis.

The US threatened “consequences” for countries that do not adhere to its assertion but has yet to take action.

In trying to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, the US claims the lifting of the embargo will open a floodgate of arms deals that would quickly serve to further destabilise the region.

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EU embargoes on conventional arms exports and missile technology are still in place and will remain in force until 2023.

The foreign ministers of the E3 in July issued a joint statement that said while the three countries remain committed to fully implementing Resolution 2231, they believe the lifting of the arms embargo “would have major implications for regional security and stability”.

Russia and China
In practice, it might take some time for Iran to be able to utilise the freedom from the embargo.

For one, relentless US sanctions have significantly restricted Iran’s ability to buy advanced systems, whose purchase and maintenance could cost billions of dollars.

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Furthermore, China and Russia, or any other country pondering arms sales to Iran, would act based on their foreign policy interests, which would have to consider the balance of power and future economic interests in the Gulf and the wider region.

Iran and China have been considering a major 25-year strategic partnership deal, the details of which have yet to be published.

According to Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, the deal has already caused international scrutiny, so China, which wants to demonstrate the image of a “responsible power”, will tread carefully.

“More importantly, if [Joe] Biden is elected the new US president – which seems increasingly likely – Beijing would want to reboot the US-China relationship with a new US administration,” he told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

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In this vein, Zhao said it would be unlikely for Beijing to jeopardise the opportunity to mend ties with a Biden administration by making huge arms deals with Tehran.

As for Russia, a 2019 US Defense Intelligence Agency report speculated Iran would buy Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 trainers, T-90 tanks, Bastion mobile coastal defence missile systems, and the S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems.

Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami travelled to Russia in late August to visit the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2020 and hold talks with senior Russian officials. The trip boosted speculations Iran is interested in Russian arms.

However, Nicole Grajewski, a research fellow with the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, says there is no indication Russia and Iran have finalised a list of potential arms for negotiations.

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“It is not totally unfounded to suggest that Russia and Iran may wait until the US presidential elections,” she told Al Jazeera. “Both sides have reasons not to antagonise Biden if he is elected: Iran with the JCPOA and Russia with New START.”

New START is an arms reduction treaty and the last existing nuclear arms control pact between Russia and the US that expires in February. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a one-year extension of the pact.

Moreover, Grajewski pointed out that while the Trump administration has been inconsistent in implementing provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Russia will take US sanctions into account – especially since Moscow would like to sell weapons to states that could become subject to secondary US sanctions.

But she believes financing to be the biggest impediment to a potential major Iran-Russia arms deal.

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“Russia won’t be as willing as China to sell Iran weapons on barter like it did in the 1990s,” Grajewski said. “Plus, Russia doesn’t want to damage its relations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel by providing Iran with high-tech or advanced weapons.”

But the researcher believes Iran and Russia may enjoy a boost in military cooperation and contacts that have increased in the past few years due to shared interests in Syria and a general improvement in bilateral relations.

“There will likely be additional military exchanges and drills in addition to an increase in efforts that promote the interoperability between the Russian and Iranian armed forces at the tactical level,” she said.

The end of the embargo means Iran will legally be able to buy and sell conventional arms, including missiles, helicopters and tanks [File: West Asia News Agency/Reuters]

Iran’s perspective
Following the implementation of the nuclear deal in 2016, Russia completed delivery of the S-300 air defence missile system to Iran, which was successfully tested by Iran in early 2017.

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This finally concluded an $800m deal signed between the two states in 2007 that was left unfulfilled by Russia after multilateral sanctions pressure on Iran grew.

But by that time, a lot had changed inside Iran.

As Iranian defence expert Hossein Dalirian explains, after years of multilateral and unilateral sanctions, Iran concluded it has to rely on the expertise of its own engineers and experts to boost defence capabilities.

“With this perspective, extensive efforts were launched inside Iran to develop a diverse range of advanced arms and systems that are now produced locally, which are on par with those of developed nations, even as attested by military experts of Iran’s enemies,” he told Al Jazeera.

Among others, these include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the Bavar-373 surface-to-air missile defence system, which was officially rolled out in August 2019, and which Iran says is on par with the state-of-the-art Russian S-400 system.

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However, Dalirian said, it has not been possible, or economically feasible, for Iran to produce a number of armaments, including fifth-generation fighter jets.

“Even though Iranian experts have recently achieved technological know-how to produce fighter jet parts, and built Kowsar, which is on par with fourth-generation fighter jets, it seems that purchasing fighter jets might be pursued by Iran at the same time as locally developing modern fighter jets,” he said.

Dalirian says many countries have shown interest in Iranian armaments, but have been unable to buy them due to sanctions.

“Now it remains to be seen what Iran’s enemies, specifically the US, have planned for potential buyers of Iranian arms in political terms,” he said.


#Newsworthy…