Environmentalists Blame Chinese Companies For Draining Iran Marshes | Iran International

Environmentalists Blame Chinese Companies For Draining Iran Marshes

Amid protests in Iran’s oil-producing Khuzestan Province, triggered by a severe water crisis, Iran’s Petroleum Ministry denied that it had plans to drain the Hour al-Azim marshes for oil exploration by diverting natural water flows to the area.

Kasri Nouri, head of the oil ministry’s press office on Friday told Rokna news agency that “environmentalists are talking nonsense” and the ministry “has said for years that it has no opposition to allowing more water to flow to the marshes bordering Iraq. Hour al-Azim region has substantial oil deposits and exploration as well as production has gone for years around the natural reserve.

The issue of draining the marshes started during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when in 2008 his government gave 7,500 hectares of the area to the oil ministry for exploration.

Ahmad-Reza Lahijanzadeh, a top official at Iran’s governmental Environmental Protection Organization had said in a television program on July 16 that the Japanese were ready to use special technologies in 2000s to extract oil in the marshes without environmental damage but when the Chinese came into picture, they argued that this would be very expensive.

He added that Chinese companies were able to get the permission of the Supreme National Security Council in 2010 to start exploration and production according to their own plan.

After Lahinjanzdeh’s remarks, other environmental experts also alleged that Chinese companies want to pursue their projects at minimum cost and pursue the goal of draining the marshes.

Iran Fails To Fully Honor Nuclear Monitoring Agreement, IAEA Says

Iran has failed to fully honor the terms of a deal struck with the UN nuclear watchdog two weeks ago allowing inspectors to service monitoring equipment in the country, the watchdog said on Sunday.

Iran allowed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to replace memory cards in most of the equipment, as agreed on September 12, the IAEA said. But it did not allow that to happen at a workshop that makes centrifuge components at the TESA Karaj complex, the watchdog added.

"The (IAEA) Director General (Rafael Grossi) stresses that Iran's decision not to allow Agency access to the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop is contrary to the agreed terms of the Joint Statement issued on 12 September," the IAEA said. 

The UN watchdog criticized Iran earlier this month for having blocked proper monitoring at its nuclear facilities, putting Tehran at risk of being punished by its board of governors in a meeting in mid-September. Iran invited Grossi to visit and resolve the issue, but now IAEA says it has not fully honored the agreement.

Earlier this year, Iran put substantial limitation on IAEA’s monitoring activities, demanding the lifting of US sanctions.

Reporting by Reuters

Renowned Iran Activist Says Will Disobey Summons To Serve Sentence

The co-founder and chairperson of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, Narges Mohammadi, in an Instagram post Sunday said she has been summoned to serve a 30-month prison sentence and 80 lashes for "propaganda against the regime" and protesting against the Judiciary. She declared that she will disobey the court summons.

Mohammadi who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Amnesty International in Norway and two Norwegian parliament members, in a Clubhouse session in May said her most recent sentence resulted from her objections to the prison governor's inappropriate behavior that amounted to sexual humiliation.  

She insisted that she has never accepted the charges brought against her in this particular case, considers the case "shameful and cruel", and has not signed any papers, hired a lawyer, or attended court sessions.

"I will refuse to serve the penalties ordered by the court and conveyed to me," she wrote. "I will not allow the agents of the dictatorial religious regime to lash me, even once. I will resist as much as I can and pull the whip out of their hands," she declared, insisting that she will protest in the prison against what she considers as an injustice if she is taken by force.

Mohammadi has been temporarily detained by security forces on several occasions for participating in protests after her release from prison ten months ago. She said Sunday that several new cases have been opened against her during this time.

Mohammadi who was first arrested in 1998 has served several prison terms. She was awarded the Andrei Sakharov prize in 2018.

Fuel Sent To Lebanon's Hezbollah 'Not For Free': Iran Lawmaker

Speaking to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) Sunday, a member of the Iranian parliament's Energy Committee, Hadi Beiginejad said fuel shipments to Lebanon will be paid for and are "definitely not for free".

Reiterating Iran's previous assertions, he described sending fuel to the Hezbollah of Lebanon as "trade with Lebanese private sector" but did not explain how the cost of the fuel could be paid in the face of banking sanctions on Iran. Hezbollah has also claimed that the fuel was purchased by Lebanese Shiite merchants.

"This cooperation is a win-win for both sides," Bieginejad said and added that Iran should continue to supply fuel to "friendly and like-minded countries such as Venezuela and Lebanon".

Lebanon's Hezbollah announced the arrival of a second ship loaded with diesel coming from Iran to Syria's Baniyas port Thursday evening, the group's al-Manar TV said on its Telegram channel early on Friday. Both Syria and Iran are under U.S. sanctions.

Reuters reported Saturday that Venezuela has agreed to a key contract to swap its heavy oil for Iranian condensate that it can use to improve the quality of its tar-like crude, with the first cargoes due this week.  

In August, Iran’s ally, the Hezbollah announced that it has agreed to bring Iranian fuel to alleviate a crippling fuel shortage in Lebanon, which is economically bankrupt and had to stop some public services.

Hardliner Daily Attacks Pundit For Criticizing Iran's Nuclear Posturing

Iran’s hardliner flagship daily Kayhan has attacked a well-known university professor for criticizing the country’s nuclear negotiating position and the policies of economic self-reliance espoused by hardliner supporters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Sadegh Zibakalam a longtime reformist pundit has become more vocal in recent months, criticizing the controversial presidential election that brought Ebrahim Raisi to power and Iran’s tough position in the Vienna nuclear talks.

Kayhan on Sunday accused Zibakalam and reformists of ruining Iran’s economy by being “pro-Western” and relying on diplomacy with the United States to solve the nuclear issue.

Kayhan is financed by Khamenei’s office and generally defends the most hardline positions signaled by the Supreme Leader.

Zibakalam has been saying on social media and statements to the media that hardliners follow the wrong policy of relying on revolutionary slogans to find cures for Iran’s ailing economy. He argues that the government should focus on reaching an agreement with the United States to lift sanctions and improve the economy.

Kayhan also attacked Zibakalam’s for criticizing the appointment of hardliner Ali Bagheri to replace Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi as deputy foreign minister.

Bennett Calls On Iran, Palestinians Not To 'Obsess' Over Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has called on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Palestinians to stop “obsessing” over Israel and focus on providing for their own people.

“We do not define ourselves according to others, not according to Iran and not the Palestinians. I suggest that their leaders deal with their people, in improving their situation, and stop this obsession with the State of Israel,” he said.

Bennett who left for New York Saturday evening to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) also praised the 420-9 vote in the US House of Representatives in favor of reaming the Iron Dome missile defense system and called the opponents a small minority.

The Times of Israel reported that Bennet’s address to the UNGA on Monday is expected to heavily focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Bennett government has been warning that it would act to stop Iran from producing a nuclear weapon if the Biden Administration’s diplomacy fails to deliver a stronger agreement with Iran.

Bennett is scheduled to meet with foreign ministers Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates that were the first to sign the Abraham Accords with Israel last year establishing full relations.

US Republican Senators Slam Release Of Huawei's Meng

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said on Saturday the release of Huawei's finance chief raised serious questions about President Joe Biden's ability to confront the threat posed by the technology giant and the Chinese Communist Party.

Rubio, in a text message to Reuters, called on the Biden Administration to brief Congress urgently on the issue.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returned to China on Saturday after reaching an agreement with U.S. prosecutors on Friday to end the bank fraud case against her.

"The release of Ms. Meng raises serious questions about President Biden's ability and willingness to confront the threat posed by Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party," said Rubio. "We have already seen how the administration's single-minded focus on climate is causing them to downplay genocide. This is just another example of the Biden Administration's dangerously soft approach towards Beijing."

Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. warrant, and indicted on bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC in 2013 about the telecommunications equipment giant's business dealings in Iran. She spent more than 1,000 days under house arrest in Canada.

The deal was also criticized by Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, who told Reuters it was more capitulation to China.

"I'm very concerned that this appears, that it could be more appeasement from the Biden Administration, more capitulation," said Hagerty, a former ambassador to Japan. "Huawei is an aggressive predatory company. It's backed by the Chinese Communist Party. We have given up leverage today." 

Iran's Ambassador Says Relations With Azerbaijan Are Strong

Iran’s relations with the republic of Azerbaijan are so strong that no foreign power can drive a wedge between them, Tehran’s ambassador to Baku, Abbas Mousavi, said on Saturday.

In recent days there have been reports of military tensions on the border between the two neighbors, after Azerbaijan announced that it had seized a 527-kilogram heroin shipment from Iran to Lithuania.

Mousavi was quoted by the official IRNA news website as saying that Relations are very good and friendly, and both we and the Azerbaijanis know that these friendly relations have many ill-wishers.”

Azerbaijan has been inspecting vehicles entering Armenia from Iran, with some destines to the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian region. The Iranian ambassador said that Tehran respects the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the shipment in question was the work of private shipping companies.

Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan held a military drill near the Iranian border that increased tension. An Iranian foreign ministry official Friday travelled to Baku and had a tripartite meeting with Azeri and Turkish officials. Mousavi said that in this meeting it became clear that a “third party was involved.”

In the past Iran has expressed concern over close ties between Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan.


Teachers In Iran Protest Low Wages On First Day Of School

Teachers continued their protests on Saturday in several cities across Iran demanding higher salaries and legislation establishing a ranking system. Teachers began the new round of their protests on September 18.

The educational year kicked off on Saturday, as President Ebrahim Raisi promised to improve salaries for teachers and adopt the ranking system demanded by teachers’ groups. They threatened to go on strike if their demands are not met soon.

Teachers in Kurdistan also demanded the right to teach Kurdish at schools, based on article 15 of the Iranian constitution.

Teachers earn meager salaries of around $200 a month, and many are unable to afford a basic living amid a 50-percent inflation rate in the country. Recently, some teachers have committed suicide highlighting the hardship they feel.

Parliament’s education committee has passed new legislation codifying a ranking system for teachers that can help raise their salaries, but parliament has not yet passed the law, which would create new financial obligations for the government.

Iran has a large budget deficit due to lack of oil export revenues and a deep economic crisis that began in 2018 when the United States pulled of the 2015 nuclear agreement and imposed tough sanctions.

Raisi Claims Most Vaccinated While Only 15 Million Received Two Doses

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has claimed that in a few days around 60 million people with be vaccinated for Covid-19, while as of Friday only 15 million had received both doses.

Raisi who was speaking at the opening of schools on Saturday said 70 percent of the 85- million population will be vaccinated in a matter of days.

Data published on the health ministry’s website shows that 34 million have received just the first dose and 15 million both doses for a total of close to 50 million. It is clear that Raisi is counting people who received one dose as vaccinated.

Iran’s Covid vaccination lagged for months, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the import of American and British vaccines in January. Iran acquired a limited quantity form China and Russia, while many of its neighbors were ahead using both Western and Chinese vaccines.

In early July a new wave of infections hit Iran and the death rate spiked. As Raisi assumed office in early August, officials began back-pedaling on Khamenei’s ban, claiming he had never banned any vaccines. Soon, large quantities began arriving from China, apparently ordered by the previous government, but the Raisi administration is taking the credit.

Iran Issue Dominates Blinken Meeting With GCC Members

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a meeting with representatives of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arab states on Thursday in New York, which mainly focused on Iran, The National reported on Friday.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirate’s Minister of State Yousef Al Otaiba attended.

Sources told The National that GCC members did not oppose US plans to limit Iran’s nuclear program by restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the 2015 nuclear deal. But some argued that it depends on what concessions Iran would receive.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reportedly asked Blinken if the United States has any plans in case negotiations with Iran fail, but he did not receive a clear answer.

Several Arab states and Israel are concerned that a revival of the JCPOA would mean lifting of US sanctions without sufficient guarantees that Iran will stop its aggressive regional policies and curtail its missile program.

President Joe Biden announced his intention to restore the JCPOA during last year’s presidential campaign and soon after taking office, talks began in Vienna with the participation of current members of the JCPOA and the US on the sidelines. So far no agreement has been reached and Iran has not set a date to return to the talks that it suspended in June.