Iranian Lawmaker: US Sanctions Don't Affect Our Ability To Purchase Weapons | Iran International

Iranian Lawmaker: US Sanctions Don't Affect Our Ability To Purchase Weapons

A member of the national security committee at Iran’s parliament claimed that the sanctions have had no impact on the military and defense, and said Iran will maintain its connections with neighboring countries and also Russia and China in the military sector. 

Fada Hossein Maleki stated that despite the banking sanctions, Iran can still purchase weapons from countries like Russia and China, and said: It is true that we are under US sanctions, but due to the competent management of the country, we will continue our relations with the countries of the region, even in the military sector. 

Previously, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic Mohammad Javad Zarif had claimed that “it is unlikely that the American sanctions would prevent other countries from selling weapons to Iran, and with the expiration of the arms embargo against Iran, there will be no obstacle for Russia and China to sell weapons to Iran.”

Maleki also pointed out the long history of cooperation between Iran and Russia and said: “Just as we are sanctioned, America has Sanctioned the Russians in a way, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate and share technological and military science. 

However, so far, Iran's most powerful allies China and Russia have generally observed the US sanctions and have substantially decreased their economic ties to the Islamic Republic. Banks in the two countries avoid doing business with Iran.

The member of parliament claimed that Iran currently has the most advanced technology in the military field and emphasized that Iran is willing to transfer its knowledge to other countries. 

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.

 

US Congress Takes First Step To Sell Bunker-Buster Bombs To Israel

Two US congressmen announced on Tuesday they will introduce a bipartisan bill that would provide legal grounds for the US Department of Defense to sell advanced bunker-buster bombs to Israel.

Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer and Republican Brian Mast say they want Israel to have the Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb in its arsenal to use defensively against Iran if the Islamic Republic tries resuming work to obtain nuclear weapons.

With the recent peace deal between Israel and UAE and the subsequent US announcement about the sale of advanced weaponry to the Emirates, the US Congress is attempting to maintain Israel’s military advantage in the region in accordance with the US-Israel agreement, through the sale of these advanced bombs that were previously denied.

“We must ensure our ally Israel is equipped and prepared to confront a full range of threats, including the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer said on Tuesday. “That’s why I’m proud to be introducing this new bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our historic ally’s qualitative military edge in the region with ‘bunker buster’ munitions. Iran and its terrorist proxies throughout the region must never be able to threaten the US or Israel with a nuclear weapon.”

The massive bomb is capable of penetrating to a depth of 60 meters, the equivalent to reaching the bottom of an 18-story underground building, before detonating. It would be theoretically used to destroy Iranian underground nuclear facilities.

“There should be absolutely no doubt that our ally Israel must be prepared for every contingency if Iran seeks… a nuclear weapon,” Gottheimer emphasized in a video conference with reporters.

US Approves Sale of F-35 Jets To United Arab Emirates.

Reuters - The U.S. State Department notified Congress it approved the sale of 50 Lockheed Martin Co F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates in a deal that could be worth $10 billion, sources said on Thursday, potentially setting up a showdown with lawmakers over the deal.

The United States and the UAE aim to have a letter of agreement for the F-35 jets in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2, Reuters reported in September.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticized the UAE's role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process.

Israel initially balked at the prospective sale but last week dropped its opposition after what it described as U.S. guarantees that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.

Any deal must satisfy a longstanding agreement with Israel that any U.S. weapons sold in the region must not impair Israel's "qualitative military edge," guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are "superior in capability" to those sold to its neighbors.

"We all face a common threat," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent allusion to Iran, told reporters on Thursday when asked about reports of the impending UAE jet sale.

"But with that said, it was important that the (Israeli) defense establishment received this clear American undertaking to preserve our qualitative military edge," added Netanyahu, who earlier on Thursday hosted visiting Pentagon chief Mark Esper.

Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, confirmed that an informal notification was sent to Congress on Thursday. "As Congress reviews this sale, it must be clear that changes to the status quo will not put Israel's military advantage at risk," he said.

The sources said the Trump administration aims to send formal notifications for the deal in the coming days. Once formally notified, Congress can choose to pass legislation to block the sale.

US To Use Iranian Fuel Sale Proceeds To Aid Terror Victims

By ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

The Trump administration plans to use proceeds from the sale of fuel confiscated from Iranian tankers to benefit victims of terrorism, officials announced Thursday.

The U.S. military in August seized 1.1 million barrels of fuel from four Iranian tankers bound for Venezuela. The fuel has since been sold, and officials say the proceeds will go to a special fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorism.

The money "will now go to a far better use than either regime, Iran or Venezuela, could have envisioned because it will provide relief for victims of terrorism rather than the perpetrators of such acts," said Elliott Abrams, the State Department's special representative for Iran and Venezuela.

“So that is both poetic and tangible justice,” he added.

The U.S. estimates that it will be able to recoup some $40 million from the sale, said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

A separate forfeiture complaint from the Justice Department centers on Iranian missiles that were seized from flagless vessels in November and February. Officials say the cargo was intended for militant groups in Yemen.

In addition to the forfeiture complaints, the administration also announced sanctions against multiple petroleum companies in Iran.

The administration has had a contentious relationship with Iran, announcing last month that it had restored all United Nations sanctions that had been eased under the 2015 nuclear deal. Last week, officials accused Iran of election interference through the distribution of threatening emails to Democratic voters in multiple states.

“With these seizure actions, we are expanding our toolbox to combat Iran’s bad behavior,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official.

Spokesman: US Sanctions Won’t Bar Iran’s Oil Minister From OPEC

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh will continue to attend summits of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, despite being sanctioned by the United States, the Kasra Nouri, the oil ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday [October 28].

Nouri told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that Zanganeh and other ministry officials would still go to international meetings and that the latest sanctions “only apply to traveling to the United States or possible assets [held by the designated officials] in that country.”  

The US Department of the Treasury on October 26 designated the Iranian Ministry and Minister of Oil, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and several affiliates for alleged “terrorist financing.” The Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin referred specifically to funding of the Qods Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

“The Iranian Ministry of Petroleum [Oil] has been used by individuals at the highest levels of the Iranian regime to facilitate the IRGC-QF’s revenue generation scheme," the Treasury statement said.

In a tweet on the same day, Zanganeh called the move “a desperate reaction to the failure of Washington’s policy to bring [Iran’s] oil exports down to zero…

Iran’s oil industry will not be crushed...I have no assets outside Iran to be subjected to sanctions. My life and honor at the altar of Iran.”

Iran’s oil exports have declined dramatically from 2.5 million barrels a day since the US imposed third-party sanctions in 2018, but analysts tracking tanker data suggested they revived substantially in September.

Government Scrambles To Deal With Cooking Oil Shortage In Iran

Iran’s Ministry of Trade had denied media reports of shortages of cooking oil but conceded there have been distribution problems and price rises.

“There is a sufficient supply of oil in chain supermarkets and distribution centers,” Yazdan Seif, Deputy Trade Minister and Head of the Government Trade Company, told Channel Two of state-run television (IRIB) on Wednesday [October 28]. “Nothing has happened to make this product hard to find or unavailable. There is plenty of oil in the country.”

But Seif added that “disruption” in the distribution of ingredients to factories from ports and price increases at retail outlets had caused a “shock in the market” during the past week. He said large quantities of the raw ingredients used to make cooking oil had been imported and awaited release from customs.

On Sunday Qods Online quoted Amir-Houshang Birashk, the Secretary of the Cooking Oil Industries Association, that in the first six months of the current Iranian calendar year, beginning March 21, imports of cooking-oil ingredients had dropped by 50 percent by volume. Across the board, the falling value of the rial has driven up the price of imports.

Iranian news agencies, websites and social media users have all reported that some shops have run out of cooking oil or are selling only a few bottles to each customer. A doubling of the price is also mooted.

Iran relies on imports of raw ingredients and unblended oils for cooking oil production. More than 90 percent, around 1.6 million metric tons, of the feed for factories and bottled cooking oil, around 1.6 million metric tons, is imported by both the private and state sectors. The government subsidizes imports of basic commodities, including those used for cooking oil, and holds strategic stocks to ease any shortages.