The British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged his country owes Iran hundreds of million of pounds that he is actively seeking to repay, which could help the release of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, a British dual national detained since 2016.
Wallace wrote to lawyers representing Zaghari Ratcliffe and families of other dual nationals held by Iran that the government is exploring legal ways to pay the debt arising from undelivered Chieftain tank to Iran more than 40 years ago. The United Kingdom was an ally of Iran’s Shah and a major weapons supplier before Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979.
Zaghari Ratcliffe a British-Iranian dual national living in Britain traveled to Iran in 2016 to see her family and was arrested by Iran’s intelligence at the airport on her way back. She was charges with vague accusations of acting against the regime and sentenced to prison.
Iran has arrested several foreigners and dual nationals, accusing them of espionage without presenting any evidence or holding open trials. It is generally believed they are detained as bargaining chips for the Islamic Republic and used against Western governments.
Britain had never admitted it owed money to Iran, although it had lost an arbitration case in 2008. Iran says the debt amounts to 400 million pounds. Neither country officially says the issue of the debt is related to the release of prisoners, but the mere fact the first admission from the British government is communicated to the lawyers of the detainees is revealing.
Instagram Blocks Khamenei's Account For Hours After Post About Holocaust
The French Instagram Page of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran was blocked by Instagram for a few hours after posting about Charlie Hebdo and Holocaust.
On his Instagram page, the leader of the Islamic Republic urged the French youth to ask their president why is it that “insulting and cursing” Prophet Muhammed is allowed but “doubting the Holocaust is a crime?”
The office of the leader of the Islamic Republic created another account on Friday and once again posted the message. His original account has been reactivated after deleting the post addressing the French youth.
In 2019, Instagram blocked an English account of Ayatollah Khamenei and several commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Instagram is the only social media platform that is still active in Iran. All other social media and YouTube are blocked for Iranians inside the country. However, most Islamic Republic officials in Iran have social media accounts despite the fact that Iranians can only gain access to these sites using proxy sites.
In response to Khamenei tweeting the same message on Twitter, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “2500 years ago Cyrus the Great defended the Jewish people from persecution. Now, Khamenei once again shamefully peddles Holocaust denial from his uncensored Twitter account while he throws religious minorities in jail, executes dissidents, and imposes digital darkness on Iran. “
The leader and many officials of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly promoted Holocaust denial and threatened to annihilate Israel.
In a recent US congressional hearing, some US senators asked Twitter CEO why his company had flagged posts by United States President Donald Trump but not those of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
91,000 More Deaths In The First Four Months of This Year In Iran Compared to Last Year
New statistics from the National Organization for Civil Registration show that in the first four months of this year in Iran 91,000 more Iranians have died compared to the same period last year. The official number of coronavirus deaths announced by Iran’s Ministry of Health is 34,478.
Iran’s Ministry of Health numbers still indicates a daily coronavirus death toll of over 300 and over 8,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The Spokesperson for Iran’s Health Ministry Sima Sadat Lari reported on Friday that in the past 24 hours, 365 coronavirus patients have died, and 8,011 new confirmed cases were identified.
On Wednesday this week, the number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours was 415, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
While the official statistic from the National Organization for Civil Registration shows that in the first four months of the current year in Iran there have been 91,000 more deaths compared to the same period last year, the official coronavirus death toll shows only 15,000 coronavirus deaths in that period of time. Meaning even considering the 15,000 coronavirus deaths, there have still been over 76,000 more deaths compared to the first fourth months last year.
Hamshahri Online wrote that the number of deaths in the first fourth months of this year shows that the real death toll of coronavirus could be much more than the official reports; even over 2.5 times.
In the past, many Iranian officials and members of parliament had also criticized the official numbers of coronavirus victims released by the Ministry of Health, calling them fake or unrealistic.
Former Revolutionary Reiterates Call For Khamenei's Resignation
A prominent Iranian dissident figure says the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be reformed and that efforts to reform have proven futile.
In a commentary on the foreign-based opposition website Kaleme on Friday, October 28 two weeks before the anniversary of the bloodiest crackdown on protesters in Iran in November 2019, former regime insider turned reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani said that "religious despotism" will surrender to reform only in the face of a "national uprising," adding that even that "would be too late."
Calling the Islamic Republic despotic and corrupt, Ghadiani said, "The religious despotism brutally cracked down on the movement by those who had nothing to lose. Despot Ali Khamenei ordered his suppressive forces to shoot at the protesters at point blank."
He was referring to a speech by Khamenei in November 2019 when he told IRGC commander "to do whatever it takes" to suppress the uprising that had started with economic motives but quickly turned into a revolt against the regime.
Ghadiani was jailed for several years after the disputed 2009 presidential election when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was controversially announced the winner. Later, in 2018 and 2019 he wrote open letters to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei letters and called on him to step down and hold a referendum to change the Islamic Republic regime and replace it with a secular democracy.
He was briefly jailed after his last letter to Khamenei but was released and sentenced to flogging and "copying" Khamenei's books by hand.
In his commentary, Ghadiani reiterated his call for Khamenei's resignation and holding a referendum to change the governing system.
Several other Iranian political figures have also called for Khamenei's resignation during 2019 and 2020, but all of them ended up in jail.
Armenia To ‘Scrutinize’ Iran’s Peace Proposal For Nagorno-Karabakh
Iran’s peace initiative over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be “scrutinized in detail,” Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said on Friday [October 30] after his meeting in Yerevan with Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Ministry for Political Affairs and Special Envoy for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Araghchi is on a regional tour that has taken him to Baku, Moscow and Yerevan. Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia have yet to make any official response to Iran’s initiative, the details of which have not been disclosed. Tehran has generally good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and is keen to see an end to the conflict that flared up on September 27 over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Both parties expressed concern over the transfer of international terrorists from the Middle East region, assessing it as a serious threat to the entire region,” said a statement from the Armenian Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Media Max news website. This referred to reports that Sunni Islamist fighters had arrived from Syria, possibly facilitated by Turkey, to fight alongside Azerbaijani forces – one of many aspects of the conflict alarming Tehran.
The foreign ministry added that Mnatsakanyan had “informed his interlocutor that he was going to meet with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in Geneva on October 30 and continue working in that format.”
On Thursday Araghchi held a three-hour long meeting with Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko to present Iran’s plan, but while in Moscow Araghchi also aired Tehran’s frustration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group. The group - established in 1992 and co-chaired by Russia, the US and France - has failed to resolve the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but ruled de facto by Armenians.
Araghchi charged that some countries in the Minsk Group “have no connection to this crisis” and others were “not interested in peace” in Nagorno-Karabakh. As well as its co-chairs, the Minsk Group includes Belarus, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
After his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, the first leg of his regional tour, on Wednesday, Araghchi in a tweet called the meeting “positive and constructive.” In a tweet Hikmet Hajiyev, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs in the Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, thanked Araghchi for expressing “condolences to Azerbaijani martyrs.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards ‘Shell Border Villages’ In Iraqi Kurdistan
Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have launched artillery and drone attacks on the Sidakan sub-district of Soran, across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan, north-east of the regional capital Erbil. Three villages were shelled, Soran’s mayor was quoted by ESTA, a news website in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Thursday October 30.
Hengaw, website of Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, said artillery and drone strikes began at mid-day local time on October 29, involving IRGC artillery units stationed in Piranshahr and Oshnavieh in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province. The attacks were confirmed by Kurdistan Media, website of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI).
According to ESTA the extent of damages or casualties was not yet known.
Iran has yet not officially commented on the operations, but Bultan News, a website linked to security forces, reported at least two attacks on Thursday on “bases of the KDPI terrorist grouplet.” Bultan News claimed KDPI bases sustained “major damages.”
Iran has repeatedly accused the KDPI and Free Life Party of Kurdistan (Pejak), a party linked to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), of separatism, assassinating Iranian officials and security officers, and destabilizing the Kurdish regions of Iran. The IRGC perceives the activities of these groups in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq, where they have bases, as a security threat along the country’s western borders.
Germany Seeks To Arrest An Iranian Suspect In Response To Detention Of Its Citizen In Iran
German newspaper Express reported the German government is searching for a person that is said to be an “Islamic Republic spy,” and is also accused of rape, in order to pressure Iran to release Nahid Taghavi, the Iranian-German human rights activist who was recently arrested and imprisoned in Iran.
A German security official who remained anonymous, while pointing out the arrest of 66-year-old Nahid Taghavi, told the Express: Germany cannot sit idly by an allow others to blackmail the country, and if Tehran does not stop this behavior, its spies will be neutralized one after the other.
A few days after the arrest of Nahid Taghavi, the German police announced it is in search of a man named Sohail Omid Kholousian, 32 years old, who had raped a female student twice in 2017. Kholousian’s name has also been added to the list of most dangerous fugitives in Europe.
According to Express, it is yet not clear as to why German officials did not initially arrest Kholousian and why his name has only been added to the list of dangerous fugitives now.
It is also possible that the German intelligence had identified this person long ago as an Islamic Republic spy and preferred to keep him under surveillance.
According to the report, Kholousian’s job is to threaten Iranian activists in Germany who oppose the Islamic Republic, usually through putting pressure on their families in Iran.
UK Government Summoned Iranian Ambassador Regarding Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
The UK Government announced that Iranian Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) October 29 following news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British dual citizen detained in Iran, is to called back to court, and conveyed Britain's “grave concern” demanding an to her "arbitrary" detention.
A day earlier,Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliff, who is in the UK, had announced that she has been summoned to court next Monday to face new charges of propaganda against the regime, and the revolutionary court has asked her to prepare for her return to prison.
Ms. Zaghari Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 during a trip to Iran to visit her family. She was accused of plotting against the Islamic Republic and being a spy. She was tried behind closed doors and received a five-year prison sentence. Human rights organizations and UN experts say Iran arbitrarily arrests foreigners and accuses them of "security" crimes to use them as bargaining chips against Western countries.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We have made it clear to the Iranian ambassador that his country’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is unjustified and unacceptable, and is causing an enormous amount of distress. Iran is further tarnishing its reputation through its actions towards Nazanin. It is time to end her arbitrary detention and that of the other dual British nationals it is holding.”
According to Guardian, Zaghari has been told that her judge will be Abolqasem Salavati. Judge Salavati is a favorite judge of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and is notorious for his harsh sentences for “national security” prisoners, to a point that he is labeled among Iranian dissidents as the “hanging judge”.
Zaghari has already been sentenced to five years in prison and was temporarily released from prison and under house arrest at his parents’ house in Tehran.
UN Watchdog Confirms That Iran Is Building Underground Nuclear Site
AP - The Secretary-General of UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy confirmed that Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after the explosion that destroyed the Natanz nuclear site.
Rafael Grossi also stated that Iran continues to stockpile greater amount of low-grade enriched uranium, which does not appear to be enough to produce a weapon.
Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area. Satellite pictures of Natanz analyzed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran's central Isfahan province.
“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”
He would not give further details, saying it’s “confidential information.” Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear department, last month told state television the destroyed above-ground facility was being replaced with one “in the heart of the mountains around Natanz.”
Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.
Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal's limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset U.S. sanctions.
Pompeo: Iran, China, North Korea Have Tightened Coercive Measures On Religious Freedoms
On the 22nd anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement criticizing China, Iran, and North Korea for tightening their coercive measures to silence their people.
The statement begins by mentioning the fact that the United States was the country that enacted the International Religious Freedom Act, and reiterated that ”religious freedom and other themes of human dignity are – and will always remain – a core US foreign policy priority."
The statement continues: Today, three of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers – the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea – have tightened their coercive measures to silence their own people. Worse, the PRC has sought to eradicate all forms of faith and belief that don’t align with the Chinese Communist Party doctrine.
The treatment of Uighur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party has caused global criticism and backlash, especially by the US. China has kept millions of Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps” in terrible condition.
Iran discriminates against religions and sects not officially recognized by the government. The Baha'i community is the most persecuted but other groups, such as Dervishes also find themselves under pressure. If the large Muslim Sunni community experiences various discriminations, including restrictions on holding high office or freely building their own mosques.
In its previous annual statement on religious freedom, the US Department of State had demanded that the violators of religious freedoms in Iran be identified and sanctioned.
The statement concludes: Every person, everywhere, has the right to believe or not believe, change one’s beliefs, speak one’s beliefs, gather, and teach. On this International Religious Freedom Day, the United States is proud to promote and protect religious freedom.
President Of Iran’s State TV Demands Legal Action Against ‘Enemy Satellite Channels’
Almost 130 Persian speaking channels and 140 channels in ethnic Iranian dialects are actively broadcasting against our country, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Abdolali Ali-Askari announced on Tuesday.
He did not explain how he arrived at these numbers or offer any information about these channels.
In a meeting with the IRIB legal experts, Ali-Askari said: “We must be able to legally investigate and neutralize this aggression.”
“It is unprecedented for us to file a legal complaint against the massive amount of negative propaganda and campaigns to change public opinion against us on satellite channels,” Ali-Askari continued.
He did not clarify, however, what charges and accusations will be used to sue the media outside of Iran.
Meanwhile, several international satellite channels of the Islamic Republic have been restricted or penalized on international satellite networks for broadcasting forced confessions and violating human rights.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to bar satellite channels from broadcasting into Iran for decades and has used different methods to do so.
For decades the regime has banned satellite dishes in the country and threatened citizens with fines and even jail time if they would install a satellite dish. Despite all these efforts, according to the most conservative estimates, over 70 percent of Iranians now use satellite dishes. In recent years the regime has mostly given up on that pursuit.
The regime has also been jamming satellite signals for decades, specifically Persian speaking news and political channels.
Seoul Delaying Decision On Frozen Iranian Assets Until US Election
The Chairman of Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday suggested that Seoul is stalling talks between the two countries over Iranian funds frozen in South Korea as it awaits the outcome of the United States presidential election.
“The central banks of the two countries are making provision for the release of our money in some manner,” Hossein Tanhai told the Iranian Labour News Agency on Tuesday. “There is no doubt that the [result of the] plans being made is tied to the outcome of the US elections. Both countries are awaiting the announcement of the US elections result.”
Tanhai said the funds frozen by Korean banks since US sanctions were tightened in May 2018 amounted to $8.5 billion.
Iranian diplomats have been busy in talks with trade partners to release delayed payments for Tehran’s exports and thereby replenish Iran’s foreign currency reserves, which have been depleted both through collapsed oil revenue and in support of the national currency, the rial, which has lost its value almost tenfold against the dollar since early 2018.
Several billions owed to Iran, mostly for the supply of electricity and gas, have been frozen in Iraq. An official of the Central Bank of Iraq on Thursday told Iran International that the bank was unable to pay the debt even in Iraqi dinars due to deepening US sanctions.
Tehran has threatened legal action against Seoul, although on September 23 Vice-President Ali Vaezi expressed optimism that South Korean banks would release the funds. Korea has exported $500,000 worth of medicine and medical equipment to Iran since Seoul announced in April that Washington had granted it a license for some humanitarian trade with Iran.
Deputy Minister Says Tests Suggest 35 Million Iranians Have Had Covid
Iran’s deputy health minister has reiterated that studies in several cities indicate that as many as 35 million Iranians had caught Covid19 by September. But Dr Reza Malekzadeh, deputy minister with responsibility for research and technology, stressed that government policy was to control the epidemic, not to reach ‘herd immunity,’ which he said would be unethical.
Malekzadeh was quoted in the Hamshahri newspaper on Tuesday [October 27]. “A study that we conducted in April indicated that more than 25 million had already caught the virus,” he said. “We estimate that a month ago the number…had increased to 35 million.” Malekzadeh said a larger study was underway with results expected in a month or two.
On September 14 Malekzadeh told Hamshahri that a study carried out on 10,000 asymptomatic subjects – including in Qom, an early epicenter of the pandemic, and Rasht in the north, a ‘hot zone’ soon after the Qom outbreak in February – had found more than 30 percent had caught the virus. Malekzadeh said the study had used blood samples, regarded as a more accurate means than regular Covid test kits.
The studies have been based on serological tests that can identify antibodies – immunoglobins (IgG) in the case of coronavirus – in the blood. These antibodies are employed by the body against viruses and bacteria, and they far outlast the source of infection so that their presence reveals the earlier occurrence of the infection.