DUBAI, Sept 14 (Reuters) - TankerTrackers.com has visual confirmation that an Iranian tanker is discharging gasoil in Syria's Baniyas port which is destined for neighbouring Lebanon, the online oil shipment tracking service said on Tuesday.
"Unable to deliver directly by sea to Lebanon due to sanctions, the vessel went instead to Baniyas, Syria, for land transfer," the firm said on Twitter, referring to U.S. economic sanctions on the government in Tehran. Syria is also under U.S. sanctions, so has nothing to lose from receiving the oil.
It will require 1,310 trucks to transport the cargo to Lebanon, it added, estimating the cargo at 33,000 metric tons of gasoil.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's armed Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, said on Monday that a first ship carrying Iranian fuel oil to help Lebanon through its financial crisis had docked in Syria on Sunday and the shipment should reach Lebanon by Thursday.
He added a second ship with fuel oil would arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas in a few days, with a third and fourth, respectively carrying gasoline and fuel oil, also due.
Daily life has been almost paralysed as fuel dries up because Lebanon lacks the dollars to pay for it. The state-owned power company is generating only minimal electricity, leaving businesses and households almost entirely dependent on small, private generators that run on fuel oil.
A financial crisis has wiped 90% off the value of the Lebanese pound since 2019, pushed food prices up by more than 550%, and propelled three-quarters of the population into poverty. The World Bank has called it one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
Israel Is Reluctant To Interfere With Iranian Fuel Shipments To Lebanon
Amid claims of victory by Lebanon’s Hezbollah to have imported Iranian fuel, Israeli sources and media said their country will not interfere to stop the shipments.
Tanker trucks carrying the fuel Syria, where it was unloaded from an Iranian vessel, began arriving in Lebanon, which is desperately short of essential fuel amid a serious economic crisis since 2019.
The shipment was arranged by Hezbollah in August, and it is not clear whether Iran is getting paid or is sending the fuel for free. In case of brokering free or very cheap Iranian fuel shipments through Hezbollah, the militant organization is poised to make large financial gains.
Israel’s Channel 12 has reported that if the Iranian shipping of fuel is stopped by Israel, it will be seen as harming Lebanon, with which Israel has a complicated relationship. While it is practically at war with Hezbollah, there are many other groups and communities in the small country that do not regard Israel as an enemy.
While Hezbollah blames US sanctions for the economic meltdown in Lebanon, local media, citizens and international experts say that decades of corruption in a sectarian political system drowned Lebanon in debt and empty government coffers.
The fuel delivery is also seen by many as a sign of more domination by Hezbollah, which is a state within a state, pulling multi-religion country more into Iran’s orbit.
Iran Says It Has Been Accepted As Full Member Of Shanghai Pact
Official government media report that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accepted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Friday’s summit held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
The government’s IRNA official news website says that President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) in his speech at the summit thanked other members of the SCO, which includes Russia, China, four former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
IRNA also reported that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Iran in his speech.
Iran’s admittance to the SCO is just the first step to its full membership that has a long process, but the Friday’s development is treated as a big victory for Iran’s new hardliner president who fully follows policies set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Both Raisi and Khamenei have been emphasizing that Iran should “look East” to counter its economic isolation imposed by American and to a lesser extent, European sanctions. However, without a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran acceding to international financial regulations set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) its isolation cannot be easily overcome.
Negotiations over the nuclear issue that started in Vienna in April came to a halt in June by Iran’s decision. Western powers have been urging Tehran to return to the talks in the past few weeks, as it continues to advance its uranium enrichment program, getting closer to accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.
Iran's Raisi Will not Travel To NY For UNGA, Delivering Speech Via Video
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) will not travel to New York to take part in the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Tehran’s ambassador at the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi has announced.
Raisi is under US human rights sanctions and his travel to New York will be potentially a complicated issue amid suspended nuclear talks between Tehran and the West. Instead, Raisi will address the annual gathering via video link next Tuesday, the UN ambassador was quoted by the official government news website IRNA. However, Iranian government-controlled media avoid mentioning Raisi's status as a sanctioned individual.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to travel to New York, as his first trip to the West after assuming office in August.
In the previous decade, both former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani attended the UNGA and delivered speeches in person.
Iranian Americans opposed to the Islamic Republic have appealed to the 192 UN members, President Joe Biden and the UN Secretary General to remind then that Raisi has a serious track record of human rights violations.
Farashgard, an opposition group has asked member states to leave the meeting when Raisi starts to deliver his speech.
Iran, Russia, China And Pakistan Discuss Afghanistan In Dushanbe
Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan have held talks on Afghanistan in recent days prior to and during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Iran’s foreign minister has announced.
The official IRNA news website quoted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Friday as saying that the results of the talks will be announced in a communique later, and that the foreign ministers have confirmed the counties’ commitments to the results of the discussions.
The issue of Afghanistan and policy toward the new Taliban government dominates the 21st summit of SCO that will conclude on Friday. Iran also hopes its membership will be accepted in the organization where Tehran is currently an observer.
Amir-Abdollahian also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the summit. IRNA says the Iranian foreign minister emphasized cooperation and mutual understanding between Moscow and Tehran specially on Afghanistan. Lavrov invited Amor-Abdollahian to visit Moscow and hold further talks.
Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is participating in the summit with the official invitation of Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.
Iran Calls IAEA 'Unprofessional' Before Upcoming Talks
Iran on Thursday dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog's work as "unprofessional" and "unfair" shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran.
The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.
"The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors.
Gharibabadi was referring to a passage in an IAEA report last week that said the lack of progress was seriously affecting the IAEA's ability to determine that Iran's program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran says it is.
Failure to resolve the issue complicates efforts to restart talks aimed at bringing the United States and Iran fully back into the fold of the 2015 nuclear deal, since Washington and its allies continue to pressure Iran to give the IAEA answers.
Having obtained concessions last weekend from Iran on another issue, keeping some monitoring equipment running, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is due to meet Iranian nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami in Vienna next week for talks on the particles.
Reporting by Reuters
Nine Iranian Kurdish Refugees Face Peril After Deportation To Syria
Reports received by Iran International say nine Iranian Kurdish refugees who were deported from Turkey to a rebel-held area in Syria three weeks ago are facing a religious trial by extremist Sunni groups.
The nine individuals were trying to get to Europe when Turkish police arrested them in Istanbul and deported to a rebel-held region in Syria. The brother of one of the refugees told Iran International that the group is being held by an armed militia opposed to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
The group first demanded $2,000 to free the nine captives but now they say they will put them on trial to determine whether they are Sunni or Shiite Moslems, the family source said. He added that the Islamic Republic’s interior ministry and other organs have no information about the refugees.
Anti-Assad groups are also Iran’s sworn enemies because of Tehran’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war since 2011. It is not clear if they are held by Arab religious extremist groups or pro-Turkish local militias.
Turkey Plans To Add 242 Kilometers Of Border Wall With Iran
Turkey will add 242 kilometers (150 miles) to its border wall with Iran to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants and bolster security, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on Thursday.
“Thus, we will have finished a large part of our border with Iran,” Hürriyet daily quoted the minister as saying.
Turkey began building its border wall with its eastern neighbor in 2017 and has so far completed 221 kilometers (137 miles) of the concrete structure. The announcement to add a longer segment comes after the Islamic militant Taliban movement tokk over Afghanistan that can lead to a huge refugee wave toward Europe.
Already there are about 500,000 Afghans refugees and millions of Syrians in Turkey according to estimates. Ankara has also reinforced 837 kilometers of its 911-kilometer (566 mile) border with Syria.
Turkey also faces dangers from armed Kurdish insurgents who can relatively easily cross borders into and from neighboring countries, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Ankara is also planning to build walls along borders with Armenia and Georgia.
The Greek government has also recently announced its plans for building a 40-kilometer wall along its border with Turkey for preventing illegal migrants crossing into the European Union.
In 2014, a huge wave of Syrian and other refugees crossed mainly from Turkey into Europe creating the biggest single-year influx that led to political crisis on the continent.
Ancient Afghan Jewelry Enters Iran's Black Market, Report Says
A consignment of ancient jewelry has entered in Iran from Afghanistan and part of it has already been sold on the black market to a local buyer, a local website in Iran has reported.
Sedaye Miras (Voice of Heritage) website said on Thursday that the jewels arrived in Iran’s Mazenderan northern province one month before the fall of Kabul in mid-August. The consignment includes golden necklaces, belts and eight earrings mostly decorated with turquoise stones.
The report said that 2,170 grams of the jewelry was sold for around $200,000 to a well-known local buyer of historic artifacts who is looking for foreign customers to resell his purchase at a profit.
The report also says the jewels are apparently from illegal digs in northern Afghanistan’s Tila Tappeh (Golden Hill) that was excavated in 1978 by Soviet archeologists and unearthed more than 20,000 artifacts from burial chambers.
The 2,000-year-old hoard including gold coins struck by Persian kings, went missing during the 40-year conflicts in Afghanistan and resurfaced in 2003. The Afghan government was planning a museum in Kabul to showcase the artifacts.
Earlier this year, the speaker of parliament Mir Rahman Rahmani demanded the artifacts to be sent to a secure country but the presidential administration reacted strongly, saying the collection will be defended “like national treasure”.
Iran's Raisi To Attend Regional Conference In First Visit Since Taking Office
Tehran's participation in a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference demonstrates the importance it places on regional cooperation, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said before leaving for Tajikistan on Thursday on his first foreign trip since taking office last month.
The summit in Dushanbe will discuss last month's takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a neighbouring country of the SCO's largely Central Asian members. Afghanistan itself is an observer at the SCO, as is Iran.
The SCO was launched in 2001 to combat radical Islam and other security concerns in China, Russia and four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics
"Regional cooperation is a top priority for us," Raisi said in live televised remarks at Tehran airport before leaving for Dushanbe. Legal, economic, and agricultural agreements would be signed with Tajikistan, he said without giving details.
Raisi also said he will have separate meetings with other regional leaders attending the conference. The new Iranian president has limited experience on the international arena. His career mostly involved judicial and prosecutorial roles.
The official IRNA news agency said Raisi was accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs, energy, justice, labour and social welfare, cultural heritage, and tourism.
Reporting by Reuters, IRNA
Hezbollah Begins Trucking In Iranian Fuel From Syria To Lebanon
Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi'ite group says should ease a crippling energy crisis but which opponents say risks provoking US sanctions.
A convoy of trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of al-Ain, where Hezbollah's yellow flag fluttered from lampposts.
"Thank you Iran. Thank you Assad's Syria," declared a banner, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said a convoy of around 20 trucks had crossed into Lebanon. Overall, 1,300 tanker truck trips are needed to bring the fuel to Lebanon.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said the ship carrying the fuel docked in Syria on Sunday after being told going to Lebanon could risk sanctions.
Washington has reiterated that US sanctions on Iranian oil sales remain in place. But it has not said whether it is considering taking any action over the move by Hezbollah, which it designates a terrorist group.
The Lebanese government has said its permission was not sought to import the fuel.
The move marks an expansion of Hezbollah's role in Lebanon, where critics have long accused the heavily armed group of acting as a state within the state.
Hezbollah declared it had broken an "American siege".
Lebanon's financial system unraveled as a result of decades of profligate spending by a state riddled with corruption and waste. A new government was formed last week to negotiate a financial rescue plan with Western countries and international organizations.
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Approves Five Homegrown Covid Vaccines Before Sufficient Testing
Iran has approved five homegrown Covid-19 vaccines for production, while some of them have not completed their trial and testing periods or no information is available about their efficacy and safety.
Health Minister Bahran Einollahi on Wednesday announced the government decision while official; government figures showed the fifth wave of the pandemic is showing signs of ebbing and daily vaccinations have increased by imported Chinese vaccines.
A member of the national vaccination committee, Mostafa Ghanei has said that two of the vaccines, Noura and Fakhra have barely completed the first phase of their trials. None of the other vaccines have been examined by any independent medical authority.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in January, which set back Iran’s inoculation effort. Critics say that as a result tens of thousands unnecessarily died in the fifth wave of the pandemic that has gripped the country since July.
There is also controversy over the large number of vaccines being developed, while Iran is behind advanced countries in both technology and funding. Most vaccine development projects seem to be the result of competing economic interests between influential groups.
On Tuesday, more controversy ensued when a former member of parliament alleged that Brakat, the most well-connected vaccine developer received one billion dollars from the state in advance and has delivered only a fraction of the quantity promised.