Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in a statement issued September 13 strongly condemned the decisions of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations with Israel.
Since the announcement of Bahrain’s decision to establish normal relations with Israel, Iran’s foreign ministry and the Revolutionary Guard have attacked the small Arab country, which has a Shiite majority population.
The parliamentary commission’s statement repeated the Islamic Republic’s rhetoric that Bahrain’s al-Khalifa ruling family has based its survival on assistance from the United States and “the child-killing Zionist regime”, reported Fars news, close to the Revolutionary Guard. Iran’s clerical government never uses the word Israel.
The statement also repeats the Revolutionary Guard’s threat that “the Zionist regime” will be destroyed at the hands of “pious Muslim youth”.
Both Bahrain and the UAE are also threatened to be held directly responsible for any tensions in the Persian Gulf region created by Israel. “Alliance with the Zionist regime will put the security of Bahrain and the Emirates at a greater risk than in the past”.
Iranian officials have periodically called for the annihilation of Israel, although when pressed by Western journalists, Iranian diplomats try to deny such statements.
Iran’s Arab neighbors, Israel and the United States accuse the Islamic Republic of sowing instability in the region and plotting to expand their influence through proxy forces.
Rouhani Government Allocates Budget For Foundation Run By Soleimani’s Daughter
As the regime of Iran continues to invest in propaganda for Qasem Soleimani, the killed commander of Quds Force, the Rouhani government allocated $340,000 fund in the next year’s budget to the foundation that Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab Soleimani manages.
The next year’s budget draft was sent to the parliament on Wednesday and in it, 85 billion rials (almost $340,000) have been allocated to Qasem Soleimani Foundation, run by Zeinab Soleimani.
Since the founding of the foundation last year, the names of its founders, the content of its constitution, and its objectives have not been announced.
The office of the representatives of Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic congratulated Zeinab Soleimani on her appointment as the president of the foundation, stating that this appointment was the leader’s idea.
However, refusal to announce any more details about the foundation was even criticized by an online media close to the armed forces, which speculated that the foundation will most likely work in parallel to other foundations helping those in the armed forces killed or injured abroad and their families.
Zeinab Soleimani, born in 1991, married the son of Hashim Safi Al-Din, Hezbollah’s number two and a specially designated global terrorist.
Since the killing of her father, Zeinab Soleimani has appeared and spoken at many media and political events of the regime of Iran and Friday prayers, calling for avenging Qasem Soleimani.
Since the killing of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in January, the regime of Iran has allocated huge funds for propaganda about him.
Immediately after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, the Iranian parliament passed an urgent bill to allocate 200 million Euros to the Quds for of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Activist Student Sentenced To 13 Years In Prison
Student Activist Hamed Qareh Ughlani was sentenced to over 13 years in prison by three judges of the Urmia Revolutionary Court on national security and political charges.
According to the reports, the Urmia Revolutionary Court has convicted him on charges of propaganda against the regime, insulting the leader, and cooperating with dissident groups.
His sister Hanieh Qareh Ughlani told Iran International that her brother Hamed is a student of architecture at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University and he was arrested in July of this year by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and was transferred to Urmia prison.
She went on to say that her brother has told her that aside from the confessions that they took from him “under coercion” in the Intelligence Ministry, there is no document or evidence against him.
Hanieh Qareh Ughlani said other charges such as “connection with Israel” were added to her brother’s case later.
There are currently many university students in Iranian prisons for political activity or participating in peaceful protests. In recent years the Islamic Republic judiciary has been mostly using national security-labeled crimes when charging political activists. However, insulting the leader and propaganda against the regime remain the most common charges for political activists, along with conspiracy to act against national security, disrupting public order, and cooperating with dissident groups.
Iranian MP Calls Taliban 'A Noble Movement'
A member of Iran’s parliament has referred to the Taliban as “one of the noble movements in the region with a Pashtun background.”
Iranian MP Ahmad Naderi tweeted that the visit from a Taliban delegation at the Iranian embassy in Qatar to offer condolences for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is “a good omen”. Fakhrizadeh was a top official in Iran's nuclear program who was killed last Friday in broad daylight near Tehran. Iranian officials have blamed Israel.
Naderi emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s cooperation with the group can “lead to increased stability in Afghanistan and prevent the infiltration of society by groups such as ISIS.”
The Islamic Republic’s embassy in Doha reported on Monday that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office has visited the embassy to offer condolences, and welcomed Ahmad Dehghani’s arrival as the new ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Qatar.
In recent years, US and Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Iran of supporting the Taliban but the Islamic Republic has denied the allegations.
Members of the Taliban’s political office visited Iran several times in the past two years and talked with the Islamic Republic officials about the peace process in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan has condemned these visits.
Last year, a report from the US Defense Department claimed that Iran is providing weapons, money, and training to the Taliban in order to fight US influence in Afghanistan.
Spokesman Says Iran Knows Who Brought Means to Kill Nuclear Scientist
Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, said Wednesday that Iranian intelligence had discovered who had brought into Iran the means used to kill top nuclear official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last Friday.
Speaking to state television, Rabiei offered no details and did not say whether those involved were Iranians. “The Intelligence Ministry has identified individuals who had brought equipment and used technologies,” he said.
Iran has multiple intelligence and security organizations with wide-ranging powers that work in collaboration with the country’s all-powerful judiciary, and often arrest political prisoners who can be held on ‘security grounds’ without public trial or effective legal protection.
Shockwaves are still reverberating in Iran from the daylight assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top manager and scientist involved in Iran’s atomic program and reputedly in its weaponization research before 2003. The Islamic Republic leaders and intelligence organizations appear at a loss to explain how the killing was possible and why perpetrators have not been arrested.
Scenarios put forward so far have often been contradictory, ranging from a dozen assassins taking part in the attack, to a claim that a remotely controlled machine-gun fired on Fakhrizadeh’s convoy in a high-tech and “complex” operation.
Other than the 2017 attacks on the parliament and Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini, claimed by the Islamic State group (Isis) and in which 17 died, violent attacks in Iran during recent years have generally occurred away from Tehran, mainly in Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchestan, areas with ethnic or sectarian minorities. Iranian officials have often claimed to have uncovered ‘terrorist’ cells, arresting opponents and capturing arms and explosives, with such announcements rarely followed up with evidence of trials or further actions.
Iran Budget Bill Counts On State Property Sales And More Oil Exports
Iran's government presented a draft state budget of about $33.7 billion to parliament on Wednesday, promising less reliance on oil revenues and higher growth despite U.S. sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy, Iranian media reported.
The value of the draft budget is set about 8,413 trillion rials, up 74% from last year's figures in rial terms but lower than last year's budget of $38.8 billion in hard currency terms because of the sharp fall of Iran's currency.
"The next year's budget bill focuses on infrastructure reforms, health, creating jobs, non-oil exports and the nation's welfare," according to Iran's state news agency IRNA. Iran's next fiscal year starts on March 21.
But more spending in rials would add to an already very high rate of inflation and less money in real terms for promised spending programs.
President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting that Iran expected to sell more oil next year, adding that the government planned to use state bonds and selling of state properties as sources of revenue.
"We believe Iran will sell more oil next year, around 2.3 million barrels per day, including the exports and domestically," Rouhani said. "But the revenue will be used to develop or empower the underprivileged. This does not mean that our budget has become more dependent on oil."
It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared to a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018, when Washington exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran's economy hard by sharply cutting its vital oil exports.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said that he would return to the pact and would lift sanctions if Tehran returned to "strict compliance with the nuclear deal." But the path is complicated and there is no guarantee that US sanctions will be lifted by March to allow more oil exports.
Reporting by Reuters
UN Security Council Unlikely To Act On Killing Of Iran Nuclear Official
The UN Security Council is unlikely to take any actions or make a statement on the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear official who was killed in a hail of bullets last Friday near Tehran, Reuters reports from New York.
Immediately after the killing Iran sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding condemnation and action by the world body, but so far it appears no country has taken any initiative to bring the issue to the Security Council.
At a minimum, the Council could have issued a statement based on consensus, but South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Jerry Matjila, council president for December, told Reuters on Tuesday that no member had so far requested to discuss the killing or Iran in general.
Iranian officials have blame Israel for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was said to be the main figure in Iran’s research and development project for a nuclear weapon, officially abandoned in 2003, but perhaps being secretly pursued. Some official also blame the United States for the assassination as Israel’s close ally.
Guterres has urged restraint and condemned “any assassination or extra-judicial killing,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday.
The Security Council will meet on Dec. 22 for its biannual meeting on compliance with a resolution that enshrines a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran, which President Donald Trump’s administration quit in 2018. Any council member can raise the issue of the
As Top Iran Official Buried, Calls For 'Punishment' Of Those Responsible
Speaking at a funeral ceremony for Iran’s slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Monday, the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami said the culprits would be pursued “to the end.” In a short message read on his behalf, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for serious efforts to track down “those who ordered and carried out” the assassination and for “definite punishment.”
The ceremony was held at the Ministry of Defense, before Fakhrizadeh was taken for burial at Emamzadeh Saleh cemetery, Tajrish, north Tehran.
Hatami thanked the “nations and governments” that had condemned the killing and warned governments and international organizations that had failed to do so that “terrorism” would “catch up” with them if they continued to display “double-standards.” The European Union on Saturday condemned Fakhrizadeh’s killing as a “criminal act…counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for” and extended condolences to the family.
Monday’s ceremony was attended by the Revolutionary Guard Commander-in-Chief Major-General Hossein Salami, the regular Army Commander Major-General Abdolrahim Mousavi, Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani (Qaani), and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on Friday in Absard, a resort town in the Damavand area east of Tehran. Several Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani have pointed fingers at Israel and the United States over the killing.
No official report about the details has been released. The Iranian media have offered at least four contradictory accounts, including one claiming there were no assailants at the scene and that remote-controlled machine guns were used. Another account claimed at least 12 were involved in the ambush.
The media and some officials have also blamed “intelligence gaps” and “infiltration” in Iran’s intelligence bodies for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
Russia Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Emotions’ In Reaction To Scientist’s Killing
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, has cautioned Iranian lawmakers not to rush to cancel cooperation with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), based on “emotions’ triggered by the assassination of a top nuclear official.
An overwhelming majority in the Iranian parliament voted Sunday to review a bill that would halt implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT), after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior manager and scientist in the country’s nuclear program was assassinated November 27.
“Such reaction is understandable, but emotions aren’t always helpful,” Ulyanov tweeted on Sunday. “Observers note that, probably, the assassination was aimed at undermining #JCPOA and cooperation with #IAEA.” Russia is among world powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement.
Many analysts have suggested that if Israel is behind the killing, its aim was to lure Iran into retaliation, thereby dashing chances of negotiations among world powers to revive the JCPOA. US President-elect Joe Biden has said he will rejoin the JCPOA once in office. President Donald Trump called the agreement inadequate and withdrew the US in May 2018, imposing draconian sanctions on Iran.
Iran still allows the IAEA to conduct regular inspections of its nuclear facilities according to understandings reached when JCPOA was signed, despite having reduced other commitments set by the agreement. Russia as a signatory has urged the revival of the agreement and is wary of Iranian actions that could harm prospects for dialogue.
NYT Op-Ed Tells Biden: This Is Not The Middle East You Left Four Years Ago
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman advised President-elect Joe Biden that if he wants to return to the Iran nuclear deal he has to take note that the Middle East has changed in the past four years when he was not in the government.
Friedman argues that the all-important issue now is not Iran’s nuclear program, but its development of precision-guided missiles and weapons systems that pause a clear threat to Israel and the Persian Gulf Arab states. The clear proof for this threat was demonstrated in the September 2019 attack on Saudi oil installations by precision-guided Iranian drones and missiles, he says.
That incident was a pivotal turning point that the columnist says united America’s regional allies into a “loose coalition” against Iran, especially as President Donald Trump decided not to respond militarily to the brazen Iranian attack, signaling that Saudi Arabia and others could not necessarily count on American protection. This led to even closer security cooperation between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Trump forced Israel and the key Sunni Arab states to become less reliant on the United States and to think about how they must cooperate among themselves over new threats — like Iran — rather than fighting over old causes — like Palestine. This may enable America to secure its interests in the region with much less blood and treasure of its own. It could be Trump’s most significant foreign policy achievement,” Friedman writes.
“President-elect Biden knows the region well, but if I had one piece of advice for him, it would be this: This is not the Middle East you left four years ago.”
Iran's Zarif Slams Hardline Rivals For Making Overtures To US
In an exclusive interview with an Iranian website, published on Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif alleged that some hardliners have been sending "signals" to the United States to convince them that working with a hardliner administration in Iran will be easier than working with the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.
"Some people send signals to the United States [saying] they are easier to work with. We have kept silent about these [overtures] but it doesn't mean that we don't notice such signals," Zarif told Entekhab news website in the long interview, which appears to have taken place before the assassination of Iran's nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Friday, as Zarif does not mention the incident.
"I'm not accusing any individual but I know and have been informed that they have told [the Americans or European powers?] that [our moderate rivals] are not going to remain in power and their influence will be short-lived," he added while stressing that those who make such overtures enjoy having "a propaganda machine and political cover" to accuse him of being a "spy" or "agent of globalists". "They believe that [Joe] Biden's victory [in the US elections] will help moderates and reformists to gain power in the [upcoming] elections.”
Zarif added that country’s foreign policy should be pursued in a “cohesive manner”. Iran-based political commentator Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi-Hessar in an interview Sunday told Iran International TV that hardliners have attempted such moves in the past and Iran’s foreign relations are influenced by several “centers of power”.
In another part of the interview Zarif reiterated that he has no intention to run in the presidential elections of June 2020 although many have tried to encourage him to run.
Iran Guards General Says Revenge For Slain Official Should Not Be 'Based On Emotions'
A high-ranking official of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Brigadier-General Mohammad-Esmail Kowsari, on Sunday said reaction to the killing of senior nuclear operative Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Friday is certain but should not be "based on [immediate] emotions". Iranian officials have blamed Israel and the United States for the assassination without providing evidence.
"We cannot react to this issue based on [immediate] emotions. But we will never forget. We will take revenge for these cherished [slain nuclear scientists] but the time, place and kind of revenge will be decided by the authorities. People want the authorities to definitely demonstrate [Iran's] power to make them regret what they have done," Kowsari, Deputy Commander of IRGC's Sarallah Headquarters of Tehran, said in an interview with the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Sunday.
Other IRGC top brass have also promised "hard revenge" for Fakhrizadeh's killing. IRGC Commander-in-Chief Major-General Hossein Salami on Friday in a statement said "perpetrators [of the killing] will be severely punished, while Major-General Abdolrahim Mousavi, Commander-in-Chief of Iran's regular Army, said Iran "reserves the right to take revenge from the enemy in any other arena."
In reaction to the January targeted killing of IRGC's Qods Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed "revenge" but in his message after the killing of Fakhrizadeh he has urged "investigation and definite punishment" of those "who ordered and perpetrated" the assassination.
Some Iranian hardliners have been urging immediate reaction to Fakhrizadeh's killing by targeting Israeli and American interests. In an opinion piece on Sunday, the hardline Kayhan newspaper urged a destructive "deterrent" attack on Israel's port city of Haifa.