Opinion | Why Is Iran Kidnapping and Executing Dissidents?

And then in 1988, six leading public figures and dissident intellectuals were murdered in Tehran. Many more killings were revealed over time and the murders came to be remembered as “the chain murders.”

Tehran’s nasty habit of assassinating critics and opponents at home and abroad seemed to have been reined in around 1997 after Iran faced international blowback for the killings and the subsequent election of a reformist president.

In 1992 Iranian agents killed Sadegh Sharafkandi, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, at a Greek restaurant in Berlin, where he was meeting Ingvar Carlsson, the former prime minister of Sweden, and Mona Sahlin, the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. The Swedish leaders had to cancel at the last minute, which may have saved their lives. Germans vigorously investigated and prosecuted the case, which led to a landmark ruling by a German court in April 1997, and international arrest warrants were issued against top Iranian regime officials including Ayatollah Khomeini.

A few months later, in August 1997, Mohammad Khatami, a reformist cleric, was elected president with a large popular backing and a mandate for change. Tehran sought to present a new face to the world; the assassination program was reined in. Iran’s energized reformists and reinvigorated press pressured the regime to investigate the assassinations. Eighteen intelligence operatives, who were described by Tehran as “rogue agents,” responsible for the murders, were put on trial. Three operatives were sentenced to death.

In the following years, dozens of opposition media outlets opened outside Iran, and exiled dissidents like myself didn’t fear for our lives in Europe and North America anymore. Mr. Zam’s abduction and execution is among several recent incidents that is forcing Iranian dissidents living overseas to reconsider the threat to their lives.

On Dec. 17, Turkey released video footage and documents exposing how Iranian authorities collaborated with drug gangs to kidnap Habib Chabi, an Iranian-Swedish activist for Iran’s Arab minority. Mr. Chabi was lured to Istanbul for a rendezvous with a female agent posing as a potential lover. He was kidnapped from Istanbul, smuggled across the border to Iran and put on trial there. He faces execution. A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group-in-exile, Jamshid Sharmahd, was abducted from Dubai in July.

Tehran seems to have revived its old tactics, and the timing of Mr. Zam’s execution within weeks of President-elect Joe Biden’s win and his desire to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal raises questions about the motives.

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Iran leader bans import of U.S., UK COVID-19 vaccines, demands sanctions end

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech, in Tehran, Iran January 8, 2021. Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

January 8, 2021

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday banned the government from importing COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, labelling the Western powers “untrustworthy”, as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.

In a live televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei raised the prospect of the two Western countries, long-time adversaries of the Islamic Republic, possibly seeking to spread the infection to other countries.

He added however that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. He gave no details, but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

“Imports of U.S. and British vaccines into the country are forbidden … They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” said Khamenei, the country’s highest authority.

“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” Khamenei said, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.

Khamenei repeated the accusations in a tweet that was removed by Twitter along with a message saying it violated the platform’s rules against misinformation.

Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help Iran defeat the pandemic despite U.S. sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions to pressure Iran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.

In retaliation for U.S. sanctions, which were lifted under the nuclear deal, Tehran has gradually violated the accord. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has pledged to rejoin the agreement if Tehran also returns to full compliance.

Khamenei said Tehran was in no rush for the United States to re-enter the deal, but that sanctions on the Islamic Republic must be lifted immediately.

Iran’s utmost authority, Khamenei ruled out any talks over Tehran’s missile programme and Iran’s involvement in the Middle East, as demanded by the United States and some other major powers.

“Contrary to the U.S., Iran’s involvement in the region creates stability and is aimed at preventing instability … Iran’s involvement in the region is definite and will continue.”

Shortly before Khamenei’s speech, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards unveiled an underground missile base at an undisclosed Gulf location.

The West sees Iran’s missiles both as a conventional military threat to regional stability and a possible delivery mechanism for nuclear weapons should Tehran develop them.

But Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, regards the programme as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States and other adversaries – primarily Gulf Arabs – in the region in the event of war.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei bans imports of US and British coronavirus vaccines

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has banned the Government from importing coronavirus vaccines from the United States and Britain.

“Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are banned. I have told this to officials and I’m saying it publicly now,” the Ayatollah said in a live televised speech.

“If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country.”

Iran has been the worst-hit country by the coronavirus in the Middle East.

It launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, to help defeat the pandemic despite US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.

China and Russia, which are both allies of Iran, are possible sources for vaccines.(AP: Vahid Salemi)

Mr Khamenei praised Iran’s efforts to develop domestic vaccines but said Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”.

He gave no details but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

“I’m not optimistic about France either because of their history of infected blood,” he said, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.

Khamenei says no rush for resuming 2015 nuclear deal

Mr Khamenei also said Tehran was in no rush for the US to re-join the 2015 nuclear deal, but that sanctions on the Islamic Republic must be lifted immediately.

“We are not insisting nor in a hurry for the US to return to the deal,” he said.

“But what is logical is our demand, is the lifting of the sanctions. These brutal sanctions must be lifted immediately.”

Tensions have grown between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited the deal between Iran and six world powers — which sought to limit Tehran’s nuclear program and prevent it developing atomic weapons — and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

In retaliation, Tehran started gradually violating the accord.

Potentially complicating efforts by US president-elect Joe Biden to re-join the deal, Iran said on Monday, local time, it had resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at its Fordow underground nuclear facility.

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity.

Tehran said it could quickly reverse its breaches if US sanctions were removed.

Mr Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said the US will re-join the deal if Iran resumes strict compliance with the pact.


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How America Is Ready to Deter (and Fight) Iran

What if Iran launches some kind of retaliatory strike on the U.S. related to the anniversary of the targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, prompting some kind of massive U.S. military response?

Sea-launched cruise missiles, stealth bomber strikes and perhaps long-range precision ground fires would almost be a certainty, yet how about an amphibious assault from the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf region? How feasible would that be? What might be Washington’s prospects for success in such a massive counterattack? Any even cursory thought given to the topic might quickly and reasonably conclude that such an overwhelming ship-to-shore attack would likely be met with success, but not without challenges.

The Pentagon has recently made it clear, through a formal statement from Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, that it will not back down from the possibility of launching some kind of major military response.

Surely sea mines and Iranian small boat attacks would need to be accounted for, perhaps by air strikes of coastal areas which launch or house these kinds of assets. Undersea and surface drones, many of which are armed with advanced mine-hunting technologies, would likely lead the way, perhaps in tandem with amphibious assault ship-launched F-35Bs to bring maneuverable precision attack from the air. Sea-launched fifth-generation air support would be crucial to any successful amphibious campaign, not just to ensure air superiority but also to provide vital close-air support to advancing attack forces. F-35Bs could, for instance, fly ahead of advancing amphibious vehicles and use its sensor technology to surveil forward areas. The stealth fighters could also launch necessary air strikes to help clear the coast for arriving armored vehicles.

A major, or even more narrowly targeted maritime attack operation would need to first account for large numbers of sea mines and dispatch armed drones, patrol boats or even some heavily armed shallow-draft, coastal platforms such as Littoral Combat Ships able to fire deck-mounted guns to eliminate small boats. Ship-launched surface and undersea drones could conduct forcible entry operations and forward-looking reconnaissance missions, in coordination with aerial surveillance, to identify suitable, less-defended points of entry for assault. Perhaps forward maneuvering armed drones could rely upon AI-enabled autonomous coordination to find and, upon human direction, attack Iranian small boats. This could be done all while larger platform mother ships, such as big deck amphibious assault ships, perform command and control.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles, dispatched and coordinated from large amphibious assault ships could help clear minefields to open up attack corridors in the ocean or even lead armed attacks on coastal defenses. Once a sea lane for approach were cleared, amphibious assault vehicles and Landing Craft Air Cushions filled with Marines, weapons and equipment could head out, firing their way onto the shore to establish a hold.

Any kind of large-scale mechanized land invasion, while possible, would seem less likely, especially at the outset of a military campaign, yet an amphibious assault from the high-threat Strait of Hormuz introduces an interesting proposition. Should a beachhead or landing strip upon which to deploy heavy armored vehicles be established, certainly the U.S. Army and Marine Corps might be well positioned to rapidly advance. This contingency would be based upon the assumption that large numbers of air defenses, coastal launch sites or shore-fired ballistic missiles were either eliminated or heavily depleted through air attacks.

Should a suitable landing point be established, then ship-transported heavy armor such as Abrams tanks, typically hard to deploy, could swarm up onto shore to secure a larger incursion.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University

Image: Reuters.

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Iran May Pass #MeToo Law

After a decade of deliberation, Iran’s government approved a bill on Sunday that criminalizes violence and sexual misconduct against women and specifies punishments for perpetrators.

The decision to move ahead with the bill — which, if approved by the parliament, will be the first law of its kind in Iran’s penal code — comes in the aftermath of a groundbreaking #MeToo movement and shocking reports of so-called honor killings that have gripped the public over the past six months.

The bill, which has been passed by the Cabinet, must now be adopted by the country’s conservative Parliament to become law, but women’s advocates are hopeful of success.

“The events of last year, both ‘honor killings’ that got national attention and the #MeToo movement in Iran, have increased the pressure on the government to push this bill that was in the making for almost a decade,” said Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in New York, referring to the murders of women by male relatives for supposedly shaming their families, even if the women themselves were victims of sexual violence.

Ms. Sepehri Far said that the bill still fell short of international standards and did not address all the aspects of violence that women face. It did not address child marriage and marital rape, she said, and did not properly define domestic violence.

Still, many Iranian rights activists and lawyers said it marked a step forward and reflected the shifting dynamics of Iranian society, which they describe as steps ahead of the government on issues of violence against women.

The complete draft of the bill has not yet been made public, but a summary posted on the government’s website states that “any act that causes physical or emotional or reputational harm” to a woman or results in curbing her freedom and social rights is considered a crime.

It also addresses sexual harassment and coercing women into sexual acts short of intercourse as crimes. Sending a woman an unsolicited sexual message, text or photograph, demanding sexual relations or forcing sexual acts could bring penalties of six months to two years in prison and up to 99 lashes, as well as monetary fines.

The judiciary is required to create and sponsor centers that provide support for victims of violence and women vulnerable to violence, the bill summary said. Security forces are also obliged to create a special female police unit to protect women.

“We have been waiting for this for 10 years,” said Shima Ghoosheh, a lawyer based in Tehran who specializes in representing women and who said she was one of the attorneys the government consulted. “I think this is a step forward because it gives us a general law for protecting women that we can build on and amend.”

The bill still faces a big test in the parliament, which has a conservative majority often at odds with the more centrist government.

Ms. Ghoosheh and two other legal experts in Iran said they expected the parliament to pass the bill because it had been watered down and altered to reflect the views of the judiciary and lawmakers.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women’s and family affairs, tweeted that the measure was the result of hundreds of hours of deliberation by legal and government experts and “dedicated to the deserving and patient women of Iran.”

In May, Romina Ashrafi, 14 years old, was beheaded by her father for running away with her boyfriend. The incident drew national attention because the father had consulted a lawyer and committed the crime after knowing he would face a maximum 10 years in prison. In the aftermath, a law that had been stalled for 11 years to protect children against violence was nicknamed “Romina’s law” and passed.

Credit…Farhad Irani

In August, Iranian women broke their silence and voiced allegations of sexual misconduct against more than 130 men, including a prominent artist, Aydin Aghdashloo. Thirteen women accused Mr. Aghdashloo, who is a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen, of sexual misconduct over a span of 30 years. He has denied the allegations but has faced a backlash in the art world, with an exhibition in Iran canceled and a documentary about his life withdrawn from consideration by two international film festivals.

Two other men who faced allegations of rape and sexual misconduct are now in prison. Keivan Imamvardi, a bookseller accused of raping 300 young college students, was sentenced to “corruption on earth,” the highest crime in Iran’s penal code, and could face capital punishment, according to a report by Hamshahri newspaper on Monday.

An Iranian-British sociologist, Kameel Ahmady, who also faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, was sentenced in December to eight years in prison for an unrelated charge of “working for a hostile government.”

Mr. Ahmady’s lawyer did not respond to questions on whether the sexual allegations had weighed on the judiciary’s sentencing or been discussed during court hearings.

Leila Rahimi, a Tehran-based lawyer who has been representing #MeToo cases pro bono, said at the very least the new bill will help bolster women who are coming forward with their stories and taking legal action. Ms. Rahimi said the number of women contacting her with #MeToo cases has steadily increased since August.

“They tell me I have to do this for myself and for other women,” said Ms. Rahimi. “The hope is, as the women speak up, the law will listen.”

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South Korea to dispatch diplomat for Tehran talks after Iran seizes tanker

South Korea has decided to send a delegation to Iran to seek the release of a tanker seized in Gulf waters by Iranian forces.

A senior diplomat will go ahead with a planned visit to Tehran amid tensions over $7 billion in Iranian funds ($215,066) frozen in Korean banks due to US sanctions.

News of the visit came as Seoul’s foreign ministry called in the Iranian ambassador to South Korea for a meeting and urged the early release of the South Korean-flagged tanker and its crew of 20.

The tanker was carrying a cargo of more than 7,000 tonnes of ethanol when it was seized on Monday local time over what Iranian media said were “pollution violations”.

An Iranian Government spokesman rejected mounting allegations that the seizure of the vessel amounted to hostage-taking, and instead pointed to South Korea’s holding of Iran’s funds as “hostage”.

“We’ve become used to such allegations … but if there is any hostage-taking, it is [South] Korea’s Government that is holding $7 billion which belongs to us hostage on baseless grounds,” spokesman Ali Rabiei said to reporters at a news conference streamed live online.

The incident comes as Iran has shown increasing signs of willingness to assert its claims in the region as US president-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office later this month, succeeding Donald Trump.

Iran started violating a nuclear deal in 2019 in response to Mr Trump’s withdrawal from it the previous year.(Reuters: Shamil Zhumatov)

Tehran also said it had resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear facility: The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after Washington withdrew from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers.

When asked about the status of the ship’s crew before his meeting at the Seoul foreign ministry, Iranian ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari told reporters “all of them are safe”.

Iranian state TV previously cited that a Tehran Government official said South Korea’s Vice-Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun had been scheduled to visit before the seizure of the tanker to discuss Iran’s demand that the frozen funds be released.

Mr Choi will discuss “various pending issues” between the two countries on top of the seizure, foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam told a briefing in Seoul.

“In the earliest possible time, a working-level delegation led by the regional director will be dispatched to Iran to try to resolve the issue on the ground through bilateral negotiations,” Mr Choi said.

China calls for calm

Meanwhile, China has urged calm and restraint after Iran’s uranium announcement, which breaches a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers, including China.

Iran started violating the accord in 2019 in a step-by-step response to Mr Trump’s withdrawal from it the previous year and the reimposition of US sanctions, which had been lifted under the deal.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Iran nuclear issue was at a critical juncture and was “extremely complex and sensitive”.

“China urges all sides to exercise calm and restraint, to stick to the commitments of the agreement and to refrain from taking actions that might escalate tensions, so as to make space for diplomatic efforts and a change in the situation,” she told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

“The urgent task at hand is for all sides to push the United States to return unconditionally to the agreement and remove all relevant sanctions,” Ms Hua said.

Doing so could help bring the agreement back onto “the right track”, she said.

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the “breakout” time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose, to at least a year from roughly two to three months.

It also lifted international sanctions against Iran.


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U.S. hits Iran with fresh sanctions as Trump term nears end

Article content

WASHINGTON — The United States on Tuesday blacklisted a Chinese company that makes elements for steel production, 12 Iranian steel and metals makers and three foreign-based sales agents of a major Iranian metals and mining holding company, seeking to deprive Iran of revenues as U.S. President Donald Trump’s term winds down.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department named the China-based company as Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology Co Ltd. (KFCC), saying it specialized in the manufacture of carbon materials and provided thousands of metric tonnes of materials to Iranian steel companies between December 2019 and June 2020.

Among the 12 Iranian companies blacklisted are the Pasargad Steel Complex and the Gilan Steel Complex Co, both of which were designated under Executive Order 13871 for operating in the Iranian steel sector.

The others are: Iran-based Middle East Mines and Mineral Industries Development Holding Co (MIDHCO), Khazar Steel Co, Vian Steel Complex, South Rouhina Steel Complex, Yazd Industrial Constructional Steel Rolling Mill, West Alborz Steel Complex, Esfarayen Industrial Complex, Bonab Steel Industry Complex, Sirjan Iranian Steel and Zarand Iranian Steel Co.

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Iran and the West

The difficult relationship between Iran and the West

The always difficult relationship between Iran and the Western world suddenly seemed to turn for the best after the signing of the nuclear deal.

The always difficult relationship between Iran and the Western world suddenly seemed to turn for the best after the signing of the nuclear deal. The JCPOA explicitly committed Tehran to a purely peaceful nuclear with limitations also on the conventional missile arsenal, as became clear shortly after the signing of the treaty. The agreement promised a lot in terms of technology exchange and foreign investment, despite the new economic sanctions that Obama’s America had already imposed in the aftermath of the signing. However, it seemed to many that this was the correct way, the only one, to normalize relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States and Europe.

Unfortunately, the unilateral withdrawal from the Treaty by President Trump has completely wrecked the dream of the JCPOA. The elimination of General Soleimani in a drone attack ordered by the Americans then placed the tombstone on relations between Tehran and Washington, at least during the presidency of The Donald [1].

With the American withdrawal from the Treaty and the expiration of the international arms embargo, Iran has decided to have a free hand in deciding its future but the assassination a few days ago of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading scientist of the Iranian nuclear program, has reopened the season of targeted killings carried out by foreign powers against the Iranian country, whose most important personalities have returned to being prey to be hunted and eliminated.

The world has paid very little attention to all this, reacting distractedly to those who stressed the danger of an approach that flouts international law and transforms a sovereign country into a free hunting territory.

It is evident, however, that Iranians have a painfully different view of the problem.

Pooya Mirzaei is an Iranian Journalist and Analyst. He is Editor in Chief for Political Economy Journal [2] and Director General of Nournews English [3]. His is expert on Middle East issues, Foreign Policy, International security and Geopolitics and he has agreed to answer some of our questions about these new, disturbing, events.

1) Which dialogue with Washington is realistically possible after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement? In particular, does JCPOA still exist for Teheran?

A) In the world of politics everything is possible on the condition of securing and ensuring the national interest. However, if you mean to negotiate with Washington is the U.S. return to the JCPOA, it should be said that there is no need to renegotiate and the procedure is clear. This means that if the United States is truly honest, while compensating for the damage inflicted on Iran as a result of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, the lifting of all sanctions, the delivery of all sanctions, the handover of the perpetrators in assassination of General Soleimani and Haj Abu Mahdi al-Mohandas, and the imposition of strong legal and executive guarantees for the survival of the JCPOA and fulfilling its obligations; it can return to the table of the same agreement signed in 2015. But if you mean negotiating new topics, no common sense will again give in to a failed experience with a government that lies easily and does not accept its signature.

2) The diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang made clear that missiles and nuclear bombs make the difference. Does Teheran risk becoming completely defenceless if it accepts again the conditions required by the Americans?

A) Iran has shown that it is always committed to all international standards, and Iran’s survival in the JCPOA is a clear indication of this claim, despite the U.S. withdrawal from it and Europeans’ lack of commitment. On the other hand, the United States has always shown that it has no honesty in its speech and behavior. On its way, Iran trusted the West and chose the path of engagement, but the United States and Europe betrayed that trust. The North Korean model showed how to treat a great liar like the U.S. Of course, Iran has maintained its deterrent elements in accordance with international customs and standards all this time, despite many sanctions, and that is why the United States does not dare to make mistakes. In the following way, even if all the conditions for a renegotiation are provided, Iran will certainly not back down or negotiate any red lines and its power-building elements, particularly its peaceful missile program.

3) The West stands with Tel-Aviv and ignores the Palestinians: what is the Jewish state for Teheran?

A) This question shows that you have also realized the nature of the West’s differences with Iran. In other words, What the West exactly wants from Iran, is nothing but complete dependence and renunciation of its beliefs, because it knows that Iran has a problem with the nature of occupation, aggression, coercion, crime, etc., and as long as these factors exist in the framework of Western-Zionist policies, no agreement can be reached. Therefore, Zionism and the United States, as its supporters, will not be content with anything but the destruction of Iran and Iranians, as if despite the compromise of some Palestinian groups, Israel continues to oppress and kill them.

4) Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s death was easily attributed to Israel, obsessed with the possibility of Tehran obtaining atomic weapons. Is an agreement with Tel-Aviv possible or the only thing that unites Israel and Iran is the abyss that separates them?

A) Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a scientist and a completely scientific figure who had done many services to the Iranian people in various fields, but the Zionist media falsely introduced him as the director of the nuclear weapons production and military nuclear project. As I said before, Iran not only adheres to international standards, but also basically does not believe in the production and maintenance of mass destruction weapons. Nuclear knowledge is not a forbidden knowledge and like many other sciences it has many benefits for the people, but the enemies of Iran, because they themselves are evil and use science and knowledge to kill people, think that the Iranians also have evil thoughts. The usurping Zionist regime had repeatedly stated that it would assassinate Fakhrizadeh, and in the end they did it, and although they do not officially accept responsibility for it, all the evidences are against them and they will pay for it definitely.


[1] https://pejournal.online/biden-wants-to-recover-jcpoa/

[2] https://pejournal.online/

[3] https://nournews.ir/En/


Costantino Ceoldo

Photo: By Bontenbal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13502746


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Iran seizes a South Korean ship after the USS Nimitz does a U-turn

A U.S. Air Force B-52 from Minot Air Force Base is aerial refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility Dec. 30, 2020. The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet and can carry nuclear weapons. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Roslyn Ward / US Central Command
  • Iran seized a South Korean tanker and arrested its crew in the Persian Gulf on Monday as the US military reversed itself and ordered the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to remain in the region.

  • The reversal of the Nimitz’s orders over the past five days alarmed several NATO officials who have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they see as erratic US national security moves post-election.

  • “I suspect they will say there was new information or a new threat and that the Nimitz was needed to stay in the area but there will be widespread suspicions that Trump overruled the redeployment for his own political or emotional concerns,” a NATO official told Insider.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Iran seized a South Korean tanker and arrested its crew in the Persian Gulf on Monday as the US military continued an on-again, off-again military build-up around its border. The maneuvers came days after the first anniversary of the US assassination of a top Iranian general.

The seizure – which Iran described as related to environmental pollution in a statement reported by the Associated Press – came just one day after the Pentagon abruptly reversed a decision to move the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz out of the region just three days prior.

Little more was known about the seizure of the Korean ship on Monday morning.

Routine ship traffic around the Gulf of Oman. MarineTraffic.com

The US and Iran have been flexing their military and rhetorical might over the past few weeks around the one-year anniversary of the US drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan 3, 2020. Iran has threatened revenge for the targeted killing of the country’s most powerful military official.

Last month the US Navy announced it was moving a cruise missile-armed submarine into the Persian Gulf for the first time in nearly a decade. Long-range US Air Force bombers conducted 30+ hour patrols over the region on several occasions from their bases in the United States. At the same time, increased rocket fire on US diplomatic and military compounds in Iraq – believed to have been conducted by Iranian proxy groups – forced the evacuation of non-essential personnel from several facilities. That led to another round of threats and counterthreats by US and Iranian officials in the Trump administration’s last days.

National security advisors convinced Trump not to conduct a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities last November, according to a New York Times report, despite strong encouragement from Israel. The Israeli government fears the incoming Biden administration will take a softer line on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has responded angrily to the provocations, which included last year’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly by Israeli operatives.

The reversal of the Nimitz’s movements over the past five days alarmed several NATO officials who have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they see as erratic US national security moves post-election.

“I feel like my briefings are on a 24-48 hour delay,” said a NATO official in Brussels, who asked not to be named criticizing a close ally.

“What we believe is that after weeks of pushing additional material and warships into the Gulf region to pressure Iran, it was decided to send the Nimitz home after a mission off the coast of Somalia in an effort to reduce tensions,” said the official. “NATO supported this de-escalation because tensions were dangerously high and there’s more than enough military firepower in the region to deter Iran.”

When asked why such an immediate reversal, the NATO official admitted that it was too early to tell. 

“I guess I need a briefing,” said the official. “I suspect they will say there was new information or a new threat and that the Nimitz was needed to stay in the area but there will be widespread suspicions that Trump overruled the redeployment for his own political or emotional concerns.”

The New York Times reported that Trump vetoed the redeployment of the Nimitz over concerns it made him look weak. 

The void among commercial ships possibly shows civilian craft giving a wide berth to the USS Nimitz and its entourage. https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-117.3/centery:32.6/zoom:10

A former US national security official, who is expected to join the Biden administration and thus asked not to be identified, said that the previous overflights of the region by long-range bombers – which the official described as not particularly useful for defensive operations – might have inflamed regional allies enough that the Pentagon concluded the Nimitz had to go, only to be overruled by Trump three days later.

“The B-52s [sent from US bases] are useful on the first day of a major war because they can target command and control centers and anti-aircraft defenses from range with cruise missiles,” said the former official. “It’s an offensive threat and so long as they were over the Gulf, Iran would have been convinced of an imminent attack. But they go home after a few hours, the Nimitz can stay and support a much wider range of operations. So it’s an operational mistake to have tried to send it home at all but maybe this was forced by the outcry over the B-52s. Now there’s double confusion everywhere.”

The USS Nimitz – one of the world’s most powerful warships with dozens of attack and support aircraft – had been operating off the Horn of Africa in support of US forces deployed in Somalia as recently as Dec. 28, according to the US Navy. It is believed to be returning to a patrol position in the northern Gulf of Oman.

For its part, Iran announced just minutes after that it had detained the South Korean tanker that it finds South Korea sanctions unreasonable and planned to discuss the sanctions and the detained ship with the South Korean deputy foreign minister, who is due in Iran this week for talks. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Iran resumes 20 per cent uranium enrichment, seizes South Korean tanker

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Persian Gulf waters and detained its crew containing nationals from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Seoul confirmed the seizure of the chemical tanker by Iranian authorities in the waters off Oman, and demanded its immediate release.

The seizure comes at a time of tension between the two nations over Iranian funds frozen at South Korean banks due to US sanctions.

Several Iranian media outlets, including Iranian state TV, said the Guards navy captured the vessel for polluting the Gulf with chemicals.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency published pictures showing what it identified as Guards speed boats escorting the tanker HANKUK CHEMI, which it said was carrying 7,200 tonnes of ethanol.

It said the tanker was being held at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city. The ship had 20 crew members, according to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet was aware and monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich said in response to a Reuters query.

Iranian authorities have yet to comment on the incident, which comes ahead of an expected visit by South Korea’s deputy foreign minister to Tehran.

British firm Ambrey confirmed the DM Shipping Co-vessel had departed from the Petroleum Chemical Quay in Jubail, in Saudi Arabia, before the incident and had since been tracked inside Iranian territorial waters headed towards Bandar Abbas

In early 2019, Iran heightened tensions in the world’s busiest oil waterway by seizing British-flagged tanker Stena Impero two weeks after a British warship had intercepted an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

Iran resumes uranium enrichment

Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it was ramping up its nuclear programme.(Reuters: Shamil Zhumatov)

The latest incident comes on the same day as Iran announced it has has resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.

The news was met with criticism from others in the international community with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the criticism.

Mr Netanyahu said the move was aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

“Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons,” he said.

The enrichment decision, announced by Iran’s Government on Monday and the latest contravention of the accord, coincides with increasing tensions between the Middle Eastern country and the US in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Iran started violating the accord in 2019 in response to Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the pact in 2018 and the reimposition of US sanctions that had been lifted under the deal.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s death worsened relations between Iran and Israel.(AP: Iranian Defense Ministry)

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

The resumption of uranium enrichment was one of many items mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s Parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Such moves by Iran could hinder attempts by the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the agreement.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency was set to inform members on Monday about developments in Iran, the IAEA said, after the announcement by Tehran.

“Agency inspectors have been monitoring activities at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant in Iran. Based on their information, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected to submit a report to IAEA Member States later today,” a spokesman for the nuclear watchdog said in an email.

‘Considerable departure from commitments’

In Brussels, an European Union Commission spokesperson said that the “move, if confirmed, would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s commitments”.

“All participants are interested in keeping deal alive. The deal will be kept alive as long as all participants keep their commitments,” they said.

On January 1, the IAEA said Tehran had told the watchdog it planned to resume enrichment of up to 20 per cent at Fordow site, which is buried inside a mountain.

“The process of gas injection to centrifuges has started a few hours ago and the first product of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas will be available in a few hours,” government spokesman Ali Rabeie said.

Iran had earlier breached the deal’s 3.67 per cent limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5 per cent, well short of the 20 per cent the Government was aiming for now and of the 90 per cent needed to make weapons.

US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003. Iran denies ever having had one.


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