Iran-linked drug trafficking on rise amid financial crisis

10/08/20

DR. MAJID RAFIZADEH

This photo grabbed from an undated video handout on July 1, 2020 by the Naples branch of the Italian Guardia di Finanza law enforcement agency shows a record seizure of 14 tons of amphetamines, in the form of 84 million captagon tablets produced in Syria by the Islamic State (IS) Group. – The drug, in the form of 84 million Captagon tablets, was worth about one billion euros, police said in a statement, describing the operation as “the biggest seizure of amphetamines in the world”. The shipment was hidden in three containers found in the port of Salerno, just south of Naples. (Photo by Handout / Guardia di Finanza press office / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / GUARDIA DI FINANZA / HANDOUT” – NO MARKETING – NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

A record seizure of 14 tons of amphetamines, in the form of 84 million captagon tablets produced in Syria can be seen. (File/AFP)

Iran and its staunchest allies, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, seem to be stepping up their drug trafficking activities, which span several continents.

A Lebanese man, Ghassan Diab, was last month extradited from Cyprus to the US to face charges linked to the laundering of drug money for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. According to the US Department of Justice, Diab is alleged “to have conspired to engage, and actually engaged, in the laundering of drug proceeds through the use of the black market peso exchange in support of Hezbollah’s global criminal support network.”

Meanwhile, also last month, Italian authorities announced they had seized 15.4 tons of counterfeit Captagon pills, which were produced in Syria — a country that is believed to be the largest producer and exporter of the drug. The counterfeit Captagon pills were worth an estimated $1.1 billion. Captagon is banned in many countries because of its addictive nature. The seized pills were so carefully hidden that airport scanners did not detect them, according to the commander of the Naples financial police. It was the interception of phone calls made by local criminals that allowed the police to find the drugs.

Greek authorities last year also seized a large haul of Captagon pills, worth more than half a billion dollars, which again came from Syria. The Greek financial crimes unit said in a statement: “It is the largest quantity that has ever been seized globally, depriving organized crime of proceeds that would have exceeded $660 million.”

It is difficult to believe that the Syrian authorities and their allies Hezbollah and the Iranian regime are unaware of the large-scale production of the illegal drug. Syria can be considered a good candidate for Hezbollah and Iran to produce these pills because there is hardly any international monitoring in the country.

Rouhani has admitted that the Islamic Republic is encountering the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran and its allies are under significant pressure financially due to the strain US sanctions have imposed on Tehran. The sanctions have caused Iran to cut its funding to its militias in Syria. Iran’s militants are reportedly not getting their salaries and benefits, making it extremely difficult for them to continue fighting and destabilizing the region. A fighter with an Iranian-backed militia in Syria told the New York Times last year: “The golden days are gone and will never return. Iran doesn’t have enough money to give us.”

Feeling the pressure of sanctions on Iran, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has also called on his group’s fundraising arm “to provide the opportunity for jihad with money and also to help with this ongoing battle.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has admitted that the Islamic Republic is encountering the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979.

Revenues from drug trafficking can be a significant boost to Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and Iran. The roles of Hezbollah and Iran — specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — in smuggling drugs date back to the early 1980s. According to the book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God,” written by Matthew Levitt: “Following the establishment of Hezbollah in the early 1980s — recruiting heavily from key Bekaa Valley tribes and families — it benefited from a religious edict, or fatwa, issued in the mid-1980s providing religious justification for the otherwise impure and illicit activity of drug trafficking. Presumed to have been issued by Iranian religious leaders, the fatwa reportedly read: ‘We are making drugs for Satan — America and the Jews. If we cannot kill them with guns, we will kill them with drugs.’” According to an FBI report declassified in November 2008, “Hezbollah’s spiritual leader… has stated that narcotics trafficking is morally acceptable if the drugs are sold to Western infidels as part of the war against the enemies of Islam.”

Iran has also been increasing its cooperation with Latin American drug cartels. This will not only help Tehran and Hezbollah bypass global sanctions and generate revenue, but it also helps the Iranian regime to infiltrate and pose a threat to the US, which is considered its No. 1 enemy. It is hard to believe that these illicit drugs do not enter the US and Canada. The Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society in 2014 published a paper titled “Canada on Guard: Assessing the Immigration Security Threat of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.” It stated that Venezuela has granted many passports to radical Islamists. These passports could be used for travel to North America or Europe.

It is worth recalling that Iran recruited members of a Mexican drug cartel in 2011 in a failed attempt to assassinate the then-Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel Al-Jubeir, by blowing up a restaurant in Washington.

The international community must pay close attention and disrupt the dangerous drug trafficking triangle that Iran, Hezbollah and Syria have most likely developed and expanded.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Prince Khalid bin Salman: Iran’s Saudi Arabia attacks show regime’s ‘dark vision’ for region

Time: 02 July, 2020

Prince Khalid bin Salman. (File/AFP)
  • Prince Khalid called on the international community to maintain the arms embargo on Iran
  • Adel Al-Jubeir: The world is witnessing Iran’s growing aggressive behavior and the regime must stop its crimes

Iran’s involvement in sabotage attacks on Saudi Arabia illustrates the regime’s “dark vision” for the region, Prince Khalid bin Salman said on Wednesday.
The Kingdom’s deputy defense minister called on the international community to maintain the arms embargo on Iran and “end the crimes and hostility” of the Tehran regime.
Prince Khalid said Saudi Arabia’s decision to request an independent UN investigation confirmed what the Kingdom already knew about the Iranian regime.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the world was witnessing Iran’s growing aggressive behavior and the regime must stop its crimes.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented his report to the Security Council in a videoconference. It showed that Iran was responsible for attacks in September 2019 on two Saudi Aramco facilities that temporarily halted half of the Saudi crude oil production.
Guterres told the council that his report highlighted the Iranian regime’s aggressive approach in destabilizing the region through military and financial support of armed militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and 
Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the report and said “it leaves no doubt for the international community about Iran’s hostile intentions toward the Kingdom in particular, the 
Arab region and wider world 
in general.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the UN report was a reminder to the international community to take a firm stance against the Iranian regime’s aggression and terror.
He called for “a continued ban on arming the Iranian regime, and confronting its developing nuclear and ballistic programs.”

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Saudi foreign minister: Iran must change behavior for discussions to take place

Time: 16 February, 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud attends a panel discussion during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 15, 2020. (AFP)
  • Saudi FM: Iran’s behavior is reckless and threatens the global economy
  • He added that the Kingdom has ambitious plans for hosting the G20 summit which will be held in Riyadh in November 2020

MUNICH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the 56th Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Iran must change its behavior before any discussions between Tehran and other countries can take place.

He added that the Kingdom is also seeking de-escalation but Iran continually engages in “reckless behavior” that causes instability in the Middle East and “threatens the global economy.”

Prince Faisal added that no private messages or direct contact had taken place to ease tensions with Iran.

“Until we can talk about the real sources of that instability, talk is going to be unproductive,” the foreign minister said.

Speaking about Yemen, Prince Faisal said that the Kingdom has always supported a political solution in the country and hopes the Houthis will put the interests of Yemen, not Iran, first.

On Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US, the foreign minister said the two states have common interests and share a historic relationship. He added that the Kingdom has good channels for dialogue with the US Congress.

He added that the Kingdom has ambitious plans for hosting the G20 summit which will be held in Riyadh in November this year.

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Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jubeir: Iran should stop targeting Kingdom with missiles and militias

24/01/20

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir gives a joint press conference with the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Jan. 24, 2020 in Budapest, Hungary. (AFP)
  • Al-Jubeir: The Iranian regime has hijacked the country
  • He added that Saudi Arabia is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia does not target Iran with missiles and through militias and therefore the Islamic Republic should stop doing the same, the Kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said at a press conference in Hungary on Friday.

Al-Jubeir added that the Iranian people are “historically moderate,” but that the regime had “hijacked the country.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Al-Jubeir said sanctions had been imposed on Iran “because of its behavior in the region,” not because of Saudi Arabia’s wishes.

As US President Donald Trump prepares to host Israeli leaders in Washington to reveal details of his long-delayed Middle East peace plan, Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom “has no relations with Israel and is committed to a two-state solution, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.”

He added that Saudi Arabia does not want war in Yemen and is seeking a political solution.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said “Iran wants to export the revolution” and has “an expansionist ideology.”

In a televised interview with VICE Media that will air on Al Arabiya on Friday evening, Prince Khalid added: “Iran wants other states in the region not to be partners, but to be under the Iranian expansionist project. And this is a big difference; we have Vision 2030 that is moving us forward, and they have vision 1979 that is trying to move the region and Saudi Arabia backward.”

He also said Iran and its militias threaten security in the region.

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Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain

Time: December 18, 2019

The scene of a bomb blast that killed a man in a Bahraini village in 2014. A new report shows the weapons have become increasingly sophisticated. (AFP/File photo)
  • Weapons-smuggling investigators find links in seized components
  • Tehran regime spreads explosives expertise into eastern part of Kingdom

LONDON: Bomb parts seized by security forces in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain match explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in Yemen, a new report reveals.

The electrical components for improvised explosive devices (IED) were also identical to those seized from a ship off the coast of Yemen in 2013, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organization that tracks smuggled weapons.

The cargo vessel was laden with missiles, rockets and ammunition when it was intercepted by US and Yemeni forces after leaving Iranian waters. UN experts said the regime in Tehran was behind the shipment.

The link raises concerns that Iran-backed militant groups have tried to spread bomb-making expertise into eastern Saudi Arabia from cells in Bahrain, CAR said.

CAR

@conflictarm

CAR has analysed IED components recovered in between 2013 and 2018. Our new report shows how some material is identical to items captured from Houthi forces in . https://www.conflictarm.com/reports/the-ied-threat-in-bahrain/ 

See CAR’s other Tweets

“There is some evidence to suggest that the increasing domestic capacity of militant factions to manufacture homemade explosives — and IED more broadly — may extend from Bahrain to nearby regions of Saudi Arabia,” it said.

CAR researchers studied IED parts captured from militant groups between 2013 and 2018 in Bahrain, where security forces have been targeted by insurgents.

They also recorded details from components seized in a raid in Awamiyah in eastern Saudi Arabia in April 2017, where militants clashed with security forces for several months.

Another seizure also took place on a bus on the King Fahd causeway that links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

IEDs and plastic explosives recovered from militant cells in Bahrain in 2017 and 2018. (CAR)

Components from the seizures, including infrared sensors, and radio-controls “are identical or similar” to components documented in Yemen after their capture from Houthi forces and to those found on the cargo ship in 2013, the report said.

“The components either originated in Iran or are linked to Iranian-backed supply networks in the region.”

Iran supports and supplies the Houthis with weapons and has been accused of supporting militant Shiite cells in Bahrain. Arab countries blame Tehran for destabilizing the Middle East with its support of proxy forces, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and armed factions in Iraq.

In Bahrain, the level of sophistication for IED increased dramatically after 2013, when security forces started to intercept ships carrying readymade bomb components among supplies of conventional weapons. The bombs have killed at least 14 security force members and injured dozens in Bahrain since 2013. Before that, crude devices had been used amid protests and rioting in 2011.

Components for making bombs seized in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were studied by experts and found to match those supplied by Iran to Yemen.  (CAR)

The report found that the militants stored the explosive and non-explosive components at separate locations and delayed assembly until close to the time of use.

This “implies that militant factions use relatively sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures” and “centralize the construction of non-explosive components in preparation for onward distribution.”

Researchers also found information that usually helps identify components, such as circuit boards, had been systematically removed. The only other place they had seen this carried out to such an extent was in Yemen, among components seized from the Houthis.

“It’s striking that those involved in the supply chain chose to obliterate identifying information and serial numbers of RCIED circuit boards, at a rate much higher than found in CAR’s data set from investigations in Iraq and Syria,” CAR executive director James Bevan said. “It indicates a concerted effort among parties to the illicit supply chain to conceal the origins of materiel and prevent investigations like ours from tracing supply routes.”

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Iran’s child soldiers and the world’s silent complicity

17/12/19

A newly recruited teenage Houthi fighter takes part in a gathering in the capital Sanaa to mobilize more fighters to battlefronts to fight pro-government forces in several Yemeni cities, on February 2, 2017. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

After the victory of the so-called Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the theocratic regime that seized power — usurping the rights of the Iranian people — adopted several sectarian strategies that reflected its extremist ideology.

The regime focused on brainwashing and adopted Orwellian indoctrination tactics to serve its new policies. These moved from theory to practice during the early post-revolutionary phase via educational curricula in schools and colleges, as well as revolutionary admonition assemblies, during which the Iranian people were castigated by regime clerics for any perceived deviation from the regime’s harsh ideological worldview. This totalitarian regime developed swiftly and the clerics soon felt the need to go beyond Iran to test the effectiveness of their policies regionally. The Iran-Iraq War provided an appropriate opportunity for this, and it also allowed the region to observe the reality of the new Iranian ideology and the regime’s policies.

One of the most prominent examples of how the regime used indoctrination during the Iran-Iraq War was its use of children as human shields or cannon fodder, with countless young boys from the ranks of the poor sent to the frontline to fight. Many were, infamously, used to run across minefields placed along the Iran-Iraq border so that Iranian troops would be able to cross safely after them. This was seen by the regime as a cost-effective way to minimize military casualties and damage to military equipment, while the children of the poor were viewed as expendable “collateral damage.” Before leaving for the battlefront, these children were each presented with a cheap key on a ribbon to hang around their necks, and were told it was the “key to paradise” that would allow them to enter heaven as glorious martyrs.

Despite the passing of decades, it is despicable that, even now, the regime in Tehran feels unashamed to admit perpetrating such horrific crimes against innocent children. It regularly and proudly airs footage on state TV and publishes photographs in its official newspapers showing child soldiers, who are lavished with praise for their “heroic” acts and “martyrdom” during the eight-year war with Iraq.

Apparently inspired by this criminal abuse of children, Hezbollah has followed in the Iranian regime’s footsteps, indoctrinating children with extremist ideology and training them from a young age to take up arms and fight in battles that serve the Iranian regime and its expansionist project across the Middle East. Anyone who has watched Hezbollah’s media propaganda will have observed children being indoctrinated and exploited.

This indoctrination has not been confined to Iran and Lebanon, but has also spilled over into other areas as the Iranian regime spreads its extremist ideology. This includes Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthis routinely use children — some of them shorter than the guns they carry — to fight in battles in Yemen itself and on the Saudi-Yemeni border. A UN report issued in 2015 suggested that more than 1,500 Yemeni children had been forcibly conscripted, while activists in the country assert that the real number is far higher.

With Iran’s regime we are dealing with an ideological project of infinite cruelty and depravity

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

As elsewhere, the horrific but undeniable reality of the Houthis’ use of child soldiers is well documented by video and TV footage and regular reports from the country. In a recent BBC Arabic documentary, a reporter approaches a massive military vehicle guarded by a child no older than 14 years of age (and possibly far younger), sitting in the back beside a mounted machine gun that dwarfs him. When the reporter asks the child why he is there, the boy replies: “I don’t know; they asked me to do so.” The reporter attempts to prompt the boy, asking him: “Are you here to defend your homeland?” The child hesitates, clearly not understanding the question, before mumbling, “Yes.” Children are also used to clean barracks and guard checkpoints, with the Houthis even attempting to defame the Arab coalition with the lie that it is responsible for these crimes.

Dozens of Houthi child soldiers have been captured by the forces of the legitimate Yemeni government during battles in Yemen or in fighting along the Saudi-Yemeni border. As in all cases of the use of child soldiers, this exploitation of children is purely the doing of those cruel enough to use them in such a cynical way.

As all these cases underline, with Iran’s regime we are dealing with an ideological project of infinite cruelty and depravity, which has no difficulty in sending children to die so long as this serves its objectives. All these factors show that the regime’s fate is a foregone conclusion. Anyone who can support such conscription and exploitation of children, whether through threats, rewards or punishments and usually a mixture of all three, does not fear punishment in this life or the next, and is wholly indifferent to all the international covenants and treaties that condemn such horrendous acts. Despite these facts, however, international bodies and human rights groups concerned with protecting children remain shamefully silent and passive on Iran’s criminal behavior.

The Iranian regime’s exploitation of children in Yemen and elsewhere needs to be exposed and this requires concerted action to bring such heinous practices to light. While international bodies remain silently complicit about this evil — contradicting their slogans about caring for and protecting children — it is essential to expose Iranian behavior before global public opinion in the admittedly slender hope that this might move the world’s conscience to reject complicity in such Iranian criminality and to bring those responsible to trial.

• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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US, European, Asian chiefs of staff support Saudi Arabia’s right to self-defense

22/10/19

Representatives from more than 60 countries including Israel but not Iran met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security following attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations. (SPA)

Representatives from more than 60 countries including Israel but not Iran met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security following attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations. (SPA)

Following recent attacks against tankers in the Gulf, the United States formed a naval coalition to protect navigation in a region that is critical to global oil supplies
Tension between Tehran and Washington has grown since the United States abandoned a multinational deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year
JEDDAH: Saudi Military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamad Al-Ruwaili said the Kingdom’s armed forces are confronting all threats from Iran and its allies, adding that he is looking forward to producing a stance that stresses international support in protecting oil facilities and ensuring their protection from future attacks.
He pointed out that everyone should actively be involved in strengthening the capabilities to resist Iran’s threats and those of its allies.
Al-Ruwaili’s statement came during the Security and Defense Conference of the chiefs of staff of GCC states and other countries including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Britain, the US, France, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and Greece.
The aim of the conference was to emphasize maritime and air protection, discuss Iranian hostilities and participate in the procurement of capabilities needed for the security of the region.
Highlighting the importance of the region, Al-Ruwaili said it contains about 30 percent of the world energy supplies and shipping lanes that constitue 20 percent of the global trade paths, which is equivalent to 4 percent of the world gross domestic product.
He said: “Today’s meeting aims to find appropriate ways for joint military cooperation to ensure the protection of vital and sensitive facilities, as the region continues to suffer from ongoing crises since the time the regime came to power following (1979) revolution in Iran, which aims to export the revolution to other countries, in contradiction with international conventions and treaties.”
He added that this has contributed to “spreading chaos by using religious sectarianism to serve political objectives, adopting and supporting loyal armed groups and forming parties and militias that contribute to destabilizing security and stability in several countries in the region.
The participants visited an exhibition, in which they were briefed on the unprecedented attack on vital facilities in the Kingdom as well as intercepted ballistic missiles, Iranian drones and photos of Iranian terrorist tools used to destabilize the region.
Participants issued a joint statement denouncing the attacks on the Kingdom, and expressing their determination to deter future attacks on vital facilities that are crucial for the global economy.
They also expressed their full support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to deal with attacks, and affirmed its right and the right of its neighbors to self-defense in accordance with international law.
They also stressed the need to identify the best ways to support the Kingdom, deter threats against vital infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the safety of navigation in its waters, which will be discussed in the upcoming meeting on Nov. 4.

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Iran’s claims about Saudi messages are inaccurate says Al-Jubeir

Time: October 02, 2019  

Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom supports peace and stability in the region. (File/AFP)
  • Al-Jubeir said Iran needs to stop interfering in the internal issues of Arab states
  • Tensions between the two states rose after the Sep. 14 Aramco attacks

DUBAI: Iranian claims Saudi Arabia sent its government messages is inaccurate, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir has said in a series of tweets.

“What happened was that friendly nations were seeking to calm the situation, and we told them the Kingdom is always seeking peace and stability in the region,” Jubeir said.

Al-Jubeir reiterated the Saudi stance towards Iran, urging the Islamic Republic to stop supporting terrorism and disruption through the interference in internal issues of Arab states, producing weapons of mass destruction and creating ballistic missile programs.

“Act like a normal country, and not like a rouge terrorism-supporting state,” he added.

Tensions between the two states increased after Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for the Sep. 14 Aramco oil facilities attack, which was claimed by Houthi militia.

Iran denies the charges, although they support the Houthis in Yemen.

“The Kingdom has not and will not discuss Yemen with the Iranian regime,” Al-Jubeir said.

Yemen belongs to Yemenis, and the Iranian interference is the reason behind the war, he added.

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Protesters urge Trump to reject compromise with Iran Previous

Time: September 24, 2019  

  • Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil
  • They hope of reminding President Trump, American officials and UN delegates of Iran’s history of terrorism

NEW YORK: Thousands of members of a coalition of Iranian American organizations vowed to confront Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he addresses the UN on Wednesday reminding the world of the more than 120,000 political dissidents and democracy advocates who have been murdered by Iran’s government over the past 40 years.

Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil. Their numbers will continue to grow, according to the Political Director for the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) which coordinates anti-regime activism in the US.

Dr. Majid Sadeghpour said the world community “should not be fooled” by false gestures of goodwill from Iran’s representatives. “No amount of economic and political concessions can moderate the behavior of this medieval regime. The mullahs understand only the language of power and firmness. Maximum pressure must be applied to help the Iranian people free themselves from the yoke of the mullahs,” he added.

“We began protesting last week in anticipation of the opening of the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session and the appearance of Iran’s officials, and we will continue protesting until the Iranian regime is held responsible for its ongoing atrocities against the people of Iran,” Sadeghpour said.

“We will be here in numbers when officials of the Iranian regime are expected to address the UN on Wednesday.”

Sadeghpour said protesters have maintained daily vigils since last week in the hope of reminding President Trump, American officials and UN delegates of Iran’s history of terrorism and brutality against its people.

He said Trump and the UN must “reject the false pretenses of moderation” by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his representatives.

Trump had originally taken a strong public stand against Iran, accusing them of engaging in terrorism and violence, and then seemed to soften two weeks ago when he said he would meet Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani if he came to the opening session of the UN General Assembly’s 74th year.

But a week ago, after a coordinated drone and cruise missile attack targeted Saudi Aramco oil fields along the Yemen coast, Trump said America’s military was “locked and loaded,” suggesting America was ready to go to war with Iran. Trump said he would move to block Rouhani and his regime from attending the UN meeting in New York, but later relented.

The assault by the 25 drones and multiple missiles took early on Saturday, Sept. 14. During a press briefing this week in Riyadh, coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the assaults forced Saudi Arabia to shut down half of its oil production.

Saudi officials, including Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeebah, the head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, have said the sophisticated, technologically coordinated attacks in Abqaiq and Khurais were “too complex” to be orchestrated only by the Houthi militias.

“Iran is behind many attacks against the region. The UN should take action. There should be a resolution against Iran. The involvement of the UN delivers a message,” Al-Rabeeah said on Wednesday during a press briefing to outline Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen where Iran-backed Houthi militias have targeted civilians, aid workers and coalition forces.

Calling Rouhani a “murderous moderate,” Sadeghpour said Rouhani and other Iranian regime officials should be held accountable for the killings of the more than 120,000 Iranian civilians, including 30,000 murdered during a nationwide purge in 1988.

Nine years after taking control of Iran from the former leader, the Shah of Iran, the Iranian regime under the direction of Ayatollah Khomeini, ordered a purge of dissidents demanding democracy. The crackdown began on July 19, 1988, and continued throughout the country for nearly five months. Because so many people were taken prisoner, Iran used construction cranes to hang the victims at half-hour intervals.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has addressed protests against the Iranian regime in the past, is expected to join former Senator Joseph Lieberman in speaking to the protesters at the anti-regime rallies.

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UK, France, Germany blame Iran for attacks on Saudi oil facilities

24/09/19

Leaders all on Tehran to agree to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs and regional security issues
US official says Washington seeks negotiations with Tehran that include missile program and terror support
UNITED NATIONS: Britain, France and Germany joined the United States on Monday in blaming Iran for attacks on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Fallout from the Sept. 14 attacks is still reverberating as world leaders gather for their annual meeting at the UN General Assembly and international experts investigate, at Saudi Arabia’s request, what happened and who was responsible.
The leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany released a statement reaffirming their support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the US exited, but telling Iran to stop breaching it and saying “there is no other plausible explanation” than that “Iran bears responsibility for this attack.”
They pledged to try to ease tensions in the Middle East and urged Iran to “refrain from choosing provocation and escalation.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said late Sunday while flying to New York that the UK would consider taking part in a US-led military effort to bolster Saudi Arabia’s defenses after the drone and cruise missile attacks on the world’s largest oil processor and an oil field.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, denied any part in the attacks. He said Monday that Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who claimed responsibility, “have every reason to retaliate” for the Saudi-led coalition’s aerial attacks on their country.

“If Iran were behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery,” he boasted.

He also stressed on the eve of President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations in New York City that “it would be stupid for Iran to engage in such activity.”
Zarif called it an attack “with high precision, low impact” and no casualties. Facilities hit in the refinery would take the Saudis a year to repair, he said. “Why did they hit the lowest impact places?” Zarif asked, saying if Iran was responsible, the refinery would have been destroyed.
France has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to US-Iranian tensions, which soared after the Saudi attacks.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at a news conference at the UN that he planned to meet separately with both Trump and Rouhani over the next day and would work to foster “the conditions for discussion” and not escalation.
Macron called the Sept. 14 strikes “a game-changer, clearly” but reiterated France’s willingness to mediate.
Zarif, however, ruled out any Iran-US meeting. He said Iran had received no request from the US, “and we have made clear that a request alone will not do the job.”
He said Trump “closed the door to negotiations” with the latest US sanctions, which labeled the country’s central bank a “global terrorist” institution — a designation the Iranian minister said the US president and his successors may not be able to change.
“I know that President Trump did not want to do that. I know he must have been misinformed,” Zarif said in a meeting with UN correspondents.
Zarif said he plans to meet Wednesday with ministers of all five countries remaining in the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew, including Russia and China.
Johnson, the UK prime minister, said Britain still backs the existing nuclear agreement and wants Iran to stick to its terms but urged Trump to strike a new deal with Iran.
“Whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it’s time now to move forward and do a new deal,” he said.
Asked about Johnson’s suggestion, Trump said he respects the British leader and believes the current agreement expires too soon.
The joint UK, France, Germany statement urges Iran to reverse its rollback on key provisions in the 2015 nuclear deal and calls for a new agreement.
“The time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery,” the three countries said.
Shortly before leaving for the UN meetings Monday, Iran’s Rouhani said on state television that his country will invite Arabian Gulf nations to join an Iranian-led coalition “to guarantee the region’s security.”
Rouhani said the plan also encompasses economic cooperation and an initiative for “long term” peace. He planned on presenting details while at the United Nations.
Zarif said the new Hormuz Peace Initiative — with the acronym HOPE — would be formed under a UN umbrella with two underlying principles: nonaggression and noninterference. He said it would require a major shift from countries “buying” security from other nations or mercenaries and instead promote the notion that “you can gain security relying on your own people and working with your neighbors.”
Johnson said he would meet Rouhani at this week’s UN gathering. He said he wanted Britain to be “a bridge between our European friends and the Americans when it comes to the crisis in the Gulf.”
Johnson stressed the need for a diplomatic response to the Gulf tensions but said Britain would consider any request for military help.
The Trump administration announced Friday that it would send additional US troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of a “defensive” deployment. Officials said the number of troops was likely to be in the hundreds.
“We will be following that very closely,” Johnson said. “And clearly if we are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role, then we will consider in what way we could be useful.”

A UK official told The Associated Press that a claim of responsibility for the attacks by Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen was “implausible.” He said remnants of Iran-made cruise missiles were found at the attack site, and “the sophistication points very, very firmly to Iranian involvement.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, did not say whether Britain believed the attack was launched from Iranian soil. Iran denies responsibility and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.”
Meanwhile Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei suggested the release of a British-flagged oil tanker held by Tehran since July would be imminent, though he doesn’t know when it will leave.
The Stena Impero has not turned on its satellite-tracking beacon in 58 days and there has not been any sign that it has left its position near Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the vessel after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian crude oil tanker. That ship has since left Gibraltar, leading to hopes the Stena Impero would be released.

ru

This article was first published in Arab News

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