Iran's Foreign Ministry on Monday called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach an immediate cease-fire and opt for negotiations for settling disputes.
It comes as clashes continued over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh after hostilities broke out the day before, with both sides blaming each other for resuming the deadly attacks that reportedly also wounded scores of people.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian forces started shelling the town of Tartar on Monday morning, while Armenian officials said the fighting continued throughout the night and Baku resumed “offensive actions" in the morning.
Reports from Israeli experts say that Azerbaijan has received a lot of advanced weapons and drones from Israel and Turkey before the latest round of fighting. But on Sunday Armenia forces managed to shoot down 2-3 Azerbaijani helicopters and nine drones.
"We believe that prompt ceasefire, giving up hostilities and starting mutual talks is the only definitive solution to this issue", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told journalists at a news briefing in Tehran.
Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry told the Interfax news agency Monday that over 550 Armenian troops have been killed, a claim that Armenian officials denied.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 31 servicemen have been killed so far.
Armenia's Defence Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Monday over 200 people have been wounded.
The heavy fighting broke out on Sunday morning in the region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting, the heaviest since clashes in July killed 16 people from both sides.
Mostly mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh — a region around 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 square miles) or about the size of the US state of Delaware — lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Armenian border.
One Of Rouhani’s Former Vice Presidents Sentenced To Prison
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s official Fars news agency reported that Shahindokht Molaverdy, President Rouhani’s former vice president has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
According to the report, Rouhani’s former vice president for women and family affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi was sentenced to two years in prison on the charge of “using the office to provide others with classified information and documents with the intent to undermine national security.”
Previously, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the court’s reasoning for this charge was that Moleverdi signed an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund.
According to Fars, she has also been sentenced to six months in prison for “propaganda against the regime”.
In 2015, Molaverdi once claimed that all the men in a village in Sistan and Baluchistan province were executed for drug smuggling. After that, Sistan Baluchistan’s public prosecutor charged her with propaganda against the regime.
Molaverdi told Tasnim news that the sentences are preliminary and she has 20 days to ask for appeal, and that she will request for appeal.
A while back some Iranian media reported that Molaverdi has been convicted of “promoting corruption and prostitution and encouraging people to follow sexual perversions”.
Molaverdi’s Telegram channel published a poster on Family Day, in which there was a same-sex couple with a kid along with many other families. The poster was deleted quickly but she was charged anyway.
Iranian Tanker Flotilla Sailing To Venezuela Despite US Sanctions
A fleet of around ten Iranian tankers with signals turned off to avoid detection are heading to Venezuela in defiance of United States sanctions, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. The fleet is the biggest since President Donald Trump imposed stringent sanctions on Venezuela in 2019 and seeks to ease fuel shortages plaguing the oil-producing country and encouraging protests against President Nicholas Maduro.
Quoting “people with knowledge of the matter” who declined to be named “because the transaction is not public,” Bloomberg said some of the tankers would also export Venezuelan crude oil after discharging their cargo.
According to Bloomberg, the oil ministry in Tehran had been unavailable for comment during the Iranian weekend (Friday). Messages sent to Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company had not been answered.
Iran has been supplying fuel to Venezuela since May. The last shipment of gasoline carried by three tankers arrived in early October. Relations between Iran and the Latin American country expanded during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after they in 2007 announced an ‘Axis of Unity’ against ‘US imperialism.’ The two presidents signed over 250 deals.
When Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Venezuela in early November, the two countries agreed to continue ‘defense cooperation.’ After meeting his Venezuelan counterpart, Zarif said the countries were “legally entitled to develop cooperation in this field.” The head of the US Southern Command Admiral Craig Faller on Wednesday [December 2] told reporters that Iran had sent arms and Revolutionary Guards to help Maduro stay in power.
The US is among around 50 countries that do not recognize Maduro, who became president in 2013 after Chavez’s death, as Venezuela’s president. Around five million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years due to political tension and economic hardship.
Iranian Parliament Seeks To Restrict Foreign Travel Of Rouhani Officials
The Iranian parliament is considering a draft bill that would restrict foreign travel by senior officials and managers in President Hassan Rouhani’s government once their term in office ends next year.
Jalal Rashidi-Kuchi, a member of parliament, told Fars news agency Saturday that the purpose of the bill was to protect confidential and secret information from leaking. But an overview of the proposed bill published in November referred to protecting people’s money from “profit-seeking” individuals who were “defenders of enemies’ interests.”
The bill would apparently require former government officials to make a special request for foreign travel and only with the permission of intelligence organizations they would be able to leave the country. The bill would restrict travel during the last year of public service and for three years subsequently.
Kuchi referred to an alleged trend of senior officials resigning now with plans to leave the country before Rouhani’s term in office expires next June. A consideration of officials’ property and assets would be part of the review process before permission for travel was granted.
Kuchi underlined the case of individuals privy to “special and secret information,” who should not be able to “easily” leave the country after their term in office ended. He also vaguely referred to the bill covering the children of officials living abroad.
In recent years, both exiled opponents of the Islamic Republic and Iranian hardliners have complained of thousands of family members of senior officials living abroad, especially in the United States and Canada. Since February’s election, parliament has had a solid majority of principlists critical of the Rouhani administration in both domestic and foreign policies, with some accusing Rouhani and allies of being close to countries like the United States they describe as ‘enemies.’
Iran Supreme Court Orders Re-Investigation Into Death-Row Protesters
Iran’s Supreme Court has ordered a re-investigation into the cases of three protesters sentenced to death, the court said in a statement on Saturday [December 5]. The Chief of the Supreme Court, Ahmad Mortazavi Moghaddam, has ordered the cases re-examined by a different branch of the Revolutionary Court.
Babak Paknia, one of the lawyers representing the three men, wrote in a tweet on Saturday that he had been informed of the decision and that the re-investigation will open in the next few days. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran in February passed a death sentence behind closed doors on Amir-Hossein Moradi, 27, Mohammad Rajabi, 27, and Saeed Tamjidi, 29, all arrested during anti-government protests in November 2019.
Judge Abolghasem Salavati − known to opposition activists as the ‘hanging judge’ − sentenced the three to a total of 38 years in prison and 222 lashes on top of the death sentence on various charges including being accessories to armed robbery.
The verdicts were upheld by the Supreme Court, but the death sentences spurred a massive social-media campaign. On July 19, the Supreme Court put the executions on hold.
Defense lawyers, who were denied access to court documents, have always insisted that the defendants were not involved in any violence. The Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News Agency published a video of Amir-Hossein Moradi confessing, something a source close to his family has said was forced. The young man’s father committed suicide in September, reportedly due to the psychological impact of his son’s death sentence.
Pompeo says Iran ‘Desperately’ Keen To Return To Talks For Sanctions Relief
Reuters - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said Iran was “desperately” signaling its willingness to return to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief, but warned against going easy on Tehran in such talks.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal, and restored harsh economic sanctions to pressure Tehran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.
US sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy but so far have not led to the opening of a negotiation for a new nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.
In a virtual address to the IISS Manama Dialogue, a Middle East security summit, Pompeo defended Washington’s “maximum-pressure” campaign, which opponents have widely criticized as failing to change Tehran’s behavior while increasing hardships for Iran’s people.
“We know our campaign is working because now the Iranians are desperately signaling their willingness to return to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief,” Pompeo said. He did not elaborate on what signals Washington has seen.
Pompeo warned against going easy on Tehran.
“In the event that they come to the table, and are only willing to talk about turning off a few (nuclear) centrifuges for a few months or a few years, the world should not find that satisfactory. ... We ought to not cut short negotiation,” he said.
President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office on Jan. 20, has said he will return the United States to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance with the agreement.
Israel Has Secret Recording Of Fakhrizadeh Asking For Funds To Build 5 Nuclear Bombs
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has released top-secret documents that indicate Israeli intelligence had a recording of recently assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in which he talks about his efforts to produce five nuclear warheads for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The report states that the Israeli intelligence agencies had managed to recruit an Iranian official close to Fakhrizadeh who recorded him talking about developing these nuclear weapons.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, these documents clearly show the role of Fakhrizadeh in pointing Iran’s nuclear activities toward building nuclear bombs.
This recording of Fakhrizadeh in which he requests funding for developing the nuclear bombs was played in 2008 by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for the US president of the time George Bush.
In the recording, while talking about building five nuclear bombs, Fakhrizadeh insists that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) must provide him with the necessary funding for it.
Yedioth Ahronoth goes on to say that a close friend of Fakhrizadeh, named Nasiri, delivered his recorded tape to Mossad and was later executed by the order of Fakhrizadeh.
In another part of this report, Yedioth Ahronoth has published Fakhrizadeh’s handwriting under a report about installing nuclear warhead on missiles, saying “to be followed through”.
The report also reveals maps of places designated for nuclear bomb testing in Iran. The maps are part of the documents that Israel was able to bring out of Iran in 2018.
Fakhrizadeh, a senior IRGC official who is characterized by Iranian media as a nuclear scientist was killed on November 27 near Tehran in what looked like an ambush on his motorcade.
Formerly Jailed Dual Citizens Urge World To Help Free Swedish-Iranian Doctor
A group of foreign nationals and dual citizens previously imprisoned in Iran as “hostages” have written to world leaders urging them to put pressure on Iran to free Iranian-Swedish doctor, Ahmad-Reza Djalali (Jalali), 49, who is in imminent danger of execution.
The signatories of the letter - including United States citizen Xiyue Wang, British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, American-Iranian Jason Rezaian, Iranian-Canadian web designer Saeed Malekpour and Lebanese national Nizar Zakka – write as “former hostages.” Most were freed in prisoner exchanges or through international mediation. In the latest instance, on November 25, Iran swapped Kylie Moore-Gilbert with three Iranians jailed in Thailand for a planned bombing attack in 2012.
On November 25 Djalali’s wife, Vida Mehrannia, told Iran International that her husband was “a victim of Iran's relations with Europe,” so fueling speculation that Iranian authorities sought, by threatening to execute Djalali, either to influence the trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi in Belgium or to secure a prisoner exchange.
Executing Djalali would be “the most shocking escalation in its hostage enterprise,” Rezaian, former Washington Post reporter in Tehran arrested in 2015 and held for 544 days, said in a tweet on December 1. Rezaian mocked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for hiding “behind ridiculous claims of an independent judiciary.”
Xiyue Wang on Thursday also criticized the foreign minister. “Zarif’s demand for more prisoner swaps is NOT diplomacy, but precisely ANTI-diplomacy in disguise of diplomacy,” he wrote. “You don’t take hostages of a given country if you want diplomacy with that country, as simple as that!”
Iran Parliament Official Says A 35 Percent Wage Increase Is Needed Amid Rising Poverty
Wages for workers in Iran should increase by 35 percent, the spokesman of parliament’s social commission has said, as high inflation has made million of people poor according to media and officials. Ali Babaee-Karnami said that this estimate is based on careful research over along period of time.
Workers receive wages ranging from $100-150 dollars a month, while some estimates put the minimum living basket for necessities at $400 a month.
Iran’s currency has lost its value eightfold since early 2018, when the US was deciding to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement and to impose sanctions, that have led to more than 40 percent annual inflation for two consecutive years, making current wages completely inadequate for millions of people.
There is no agreement as to how much the minimum basket of necessities costs, but some labor groups have demanded 100 million rial wages or $400 per month, considering that a worker has to support a family of four. According to this estimate a 35 percent wage increase will not be adequate to address the minimum needs of workers.
According to a minimum food basket the health ministry has announced, it is estimated that 60 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Iran has experienced intermittent labor strikes and protests since 2017, and three rounds of nationwide protests have rocked the country. Last November, a sudden decision by the government to raise fuel prices led to widespread unrest and security forces killed hundreds to suppress the revolt. Economic demands have increasingly led to anti-regime protests, which has alarmed the clerical rulers.
Qatar Signals Movement On Resolving Row With Neighbors
DUBAI, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Qatar's foreign minister said on Friday there has been movement on resolving a bitter diplomatic dispute among the Gulf countries but he could not predict whether a breakthrough was imminent or would fully resolve the matter.
The United States and Kuwait have worked to end a row after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar since mid-2017. Washington says it wants a united Gulf front against Iran.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani's comments to an Italian diplomatic conference come after White House senior adviser Jared Kushner held talks in Doha on Wednesday following a visit to Saudi Arabia.
"Right now there are some movements that we hope will put an end to this crisis," Sheikh Mohammed, told the "Mediterranean Dialogues" online conference, speaking by videolink.
"We are hopeful that things will move in the right direction right now. We cannot predict whether it will be imminent or resolve the issue in one day."
The other four nations accuse Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar, which hosts the region's largest U.S. military base, denies the charges and says the boycott aims to undermine its sovereignty.
Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that an announcement could be made soon on an initial step towards resolving the dispute.
Qatar's priority was to restore free movement of its citizens to the boycotting nations, access to their airspace and reopen its only land border shared with Saudi Arabia, diplomats and sources have said.
Asked if a resolution would be bilateral or include all the Gulf states, Sheikh Mohammed said it should be "holistic" and based on mutual respect.
"No country is in a position to impose any demands on another country, whether from Qatar or from the quartet ... Each country should decide its foreign policy," he added.
The four countries had set out 13 demands for Qatar, from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran, which shares a giant gas field with Qatar.
Joe Biden: We Can't Allow Iran To Get Nuclear Weapons
President-Elect Joe Biden has emphasized that his administration will not allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and said the Trump administration's decision to leave the nuclear deal helped Iran get closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
In an interview on CNN with Kamala Harris on Thursday, Biden said: “The bottom line is that we can't allow Iran to get nuclear weapons."
Referring to the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Biden said: “He has pulled out to get something tougher, and what have they done? They've increased the ability for them to have nuclear material. They're moving closer to the ability to be able to have enough material for a nuclear weapon. And there's the missile issues."
Asked about the consequences of the killing of senior IRGC official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and its impact on US dealings with Iran, Biden said it is “hard to tell” how much this assassination will complicate things with Tehran.
“All those things, I think, are going to be very difficult. But I know one thing: We cannot do this alone. And that's why we have to be part of a larger group, dealing not only with Iran, but with Russia, with China and a whole range of other issues," he added.
Biden had previously said he would be willing to return to the nuclear deal through negotiations. The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that Tehran will not negotiate once again about what it has already negotiated.
Flood-Stricken Citizens Protest in Iran's Southern City Of Sarband
People of Sarbandar city in Khuzestan province gathered in the streets in protest to the lack of response from city officials to continued flooding in the last five days and demanded compensation for the damages. People gathered near an area that has been blocked by the flood for five days, and chanted against the mayor, city council, and the city’s representative in parliament.
Local sources have reported that some houses have been destroyed due to flooding and many houses sustained damages. Many electrical appliances have also been destroyed.
Videos on social media show floods in Sarband, Jarahi, and other areas in Mahshahr county.
According to the governor of Mahshahr county, during floods in the last five days, at least 5,000 residential units had water damage as well. The governor of Mahshahr said the damages to people’s houses must be compensated by the Housing Foundation of Islamic Revolution.
Meanwhile, the governor of Khuzestan in a virtual meeting with President Rouhani reported only damages to 250 to 300 houses across the province and said: During last year’s flood around 3,000 thousand houses were damaged, we have not assessed the damages this year but 250 to 300 houses were damages at maximum.
Heavy rain and massive floods in over a dozen provinces in Iran in 2019 caused billions of dollars in damages and displaced many citizens. The governmetn response and reconstruction has been patchy at best.