Local sources in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province in Iran have reported continued protests despite the heavy presence of security forces in the city. It was also reported that the killed fuel carriers in Saravan were buried on Thursday.
According to the reports, the funeral of at least 10 fuel carriers who were shot and killed by the Islamic Republic armed forces on Monday, February 22, was held in Saravan on Thursday.
On Thursday night, protesters in Karim Abad area in Zahedan continued their protest and blocked some streets.
Protests in Zahedan and other areas in Sistan and Baluchistan have continued while the cellphone internet is either shut down or disrupted in most areas of the province.
Local sources claim that Tharallah Brigade in Kerman has sent some troops to crack down on the protesters in Sistan and Baluchistan.
Videos and images from Zahedan and Iranshahr show that on the third day of protests, security forces have started shooting at the protesters from building roofs.
Baluch Activists’ Campaign reported that after the protests spread to other areas of the province, on Wednesday a number of protesters were arrested and at least two protesters, Hassan Mohammad Zehi and Mohammad Saleh Moqaddami, a teenager and a middle-aged man respectively, were killed by the security forces.
The Persian Twitter account of the US State Department has expressed deep concerns about the shutdown of the internet and the government’s violence against protesters.
Canada Offers Residency To Families Of Downed Ukrainian Plane
Canada has announced it will grant permanent residency to families of victims of two air disasters, the Ukrainian plane shot down by Iran and the Ethiopian Flight 302.
The new policy offers Canadian residency to immediate and secondary relatives of the victims who are currently in Canada or have applied for permanent residency. A new website set up for the purpose would accept applications, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has announced.
The Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by two missiles fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the early morning of January 8, 2020, hours after Iran fired missiles at two US bases in Iraq. Authorities did not close the civilian airspace and then air defense units fired at the plane as it took off from Tehran. Iran has not yet given a full explanation of what led to the disaster.
Mendicino said that the granting of permanent residency to relatives of the victims will stay valid until May 2022, to demonstrate compassion and solidarity with the families in their efforts to seek justice.
Groups of families have gone to Canadian courts to demand justice, suing the Iranian government and individual officials.
Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people who died in the Ukrainian plane incident. Eighteen Canadians died in the Ethiopian plane that crashed in March 2019 near Addis Ababa killing all 157 people aboard.
Governor Of Oil-Rich Iran Province Says Unemployment Up To 50 Percent
The governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province has said that “usually unemployment figures [in Iran] are not real” and unemployment in his province is between 45-50 percent. The official government unemployment rate in Iran is around 10-11 percent.
Qasem Soleimani-Dashtaki pointing to the fact that in official government figures Khuzestan’s unemployment rate is cited to be around 14.5 percent, said “if you look around in this province, unemployment is much higher and, in many areas, it is around 45-50 percent”.
The governor also pointed out that according to Iran’s method of calculating unemployment, two hours of work per week is considered employment, which “is totally meaningless”.
International organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have no direct presence in Iran and rely on government statistics to measure the country’s economic health.
US sanctions since 2018 have badly hurt the economy, which has been in contraction for three years. Forecasts say in 2021 Iran’s economy might reach a small growth but it would depend on political factors, such as a resolution to US-Iran relations and at least a partial lifting of American sanctions.
Khuzestan’s governor urged an improvement of the economic conditions in the province. He stated that many industrial entities have stopped production or have minimized their activities. Many companies have been taken over by banks that are state controlled, he said and urged the return of these companies to their owners to stimulate production.
Iran Regulator Denies Mass ‘Disappearance’ Of Covid Vaccines
The spokesman of the regulatory Iran Food and Drug Agency, Kianoush Jahanpour, tweeted Thursday to deny that a large quantity of imported Covid-19 vaccines had disappeared. Mohsen Dehnavi, a principlist member of parliament and active critic of the government over Covid management, this week alleged in a television interview that 200,000 of 2 million imported vaccine doses have “disappeared.”
Jahanpour wrote that the government had obtained 3.2 million vaccines, which were held by the health ministry and in the vaccination pipeline. He suggested that what had disappeared was the “honesty of some politicians and remarks backed by facts.” Jahanpour on Wednesday had conceded in an interview that some fraud had taken place in vaccine distribution.
Iran was the second country after China where the Covid pandemic spread in February 2020, but its response has been haphazard. It has failed to start mass vaccination of its more than 83 million population and has not made an effective attempt to procure a large quantity of vaccines.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned American and British vaccines in January, while Iran imported a limited quantity from Russia and China. Other countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Chile have bought large quantities from China, but Iran despite close relations with Beijing has not imported enough Chinese vaccines to start mass vaccination.
Houthis Launch Missile, Drone Attack On Saudi Arabia
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group on Thursday said its forces had launched 12 ballistic missiles and drones towards a site belonging to the Saudi state oil company Saudi Aramco, Najran airport and other targets in Najran, in southern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen said it had intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles fired towards Saudi Arabia, without specifying where.
Houthis have been attacking Saudi oil and other installations, including airports, with missiles and drones that UN experts have said have Iranian origin. Missile and Drone attacks escalated in 2021 as the new US Administration delisted the Houthis as a ‘terrorist’ organization and pushed for de-escalation and peace talks.
Iran and Saudi Arabia began talks last month to improve relations after years of instability in the region, sparked by wars in Syria and Yemen. At the same time, the US is engaged in indirect talks with Iran in an attempt to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Thursday is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Houthis.
With reporting by Reuters
Iran Spokesman Says Talks In Vienna And With Saudi Arabia Are Going Well
President Hassan Rouhani’s spokesman Tuesday told reporters that Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna and negotiations with Saudi Arabia are progressing well and called for national unity at a sensitive time for the country’s diplomacy.
Referring to talks with Riyadh Ali Rabiei said Iran is hopeful that “fake issues” can be resolved in Iran’s regional relations and tensions reduced.
Asked about reaching an agreement in Vienna before May 24 when a temporary Inspection agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog ends, Rabiei expressed hope that all parties would do their best to reach conclude a deal in time.
The government spokesman however reiterated that all decisions and policymaking in this regard are the prerogative of “higher authorities.” This is a clear reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has the final say in all important policy matters.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a leaked audio recording published by Iran International on April 25, said that the military has hijacked Iran’s foreign policy and the foreign ministry has no input in policy making.
Rabiei said that there are some positive signs in talks with “regional countries”, but there is still work to be done to make sure that appropriate condition are created for stability and peace.
Iran's Guards Blame US Navy For Warning Shots Incident In Persian Gulf
Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday accused a US Coast Guard ship of "provocation" after it fired warning shots against Iranian military boats that approached it in the Persian Gulf.
The Pentagon said on Monday the US Coast Guard ship Maui fired about 30 warning shots after 13 fast boats from the Revolutionary Guards' navy came close to it and other American Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
A Revolutionary Guards statement accused US naval ships of "unprofessional behavior such as flying helicopters, firing flares and aimless and provocative shooting".
"It would be better for the Americans to avoid unprofessional behavior and not to endanger the security of the Persian Gulf by obeying the rules and regulations of the sea," said the statement carried by Iranian media.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the Iranian vessels had been acting "very aggressively". The Iranian speedboats approached within 100 meters of the American ships.
It was the second time within the last month that US military vessels have fired warning shots because of what they said was unsafe behavior by Iranian vessels in the region, after a relative lull in such interactions over the past year.
The latest incident comes as world powers and Iran seek to speed up efforts to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord.
US officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its terms about a year later.
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Reportedly Agreed To Pay Hamas For Intelligence On Israeli Missiles
Israel’s Channel 12 reported Monday that the Islamic Republic of Iran has agreed to provide $30 million financial support monthly to the Palestinian Hamas in return for information on Israel’s missile capabilities and its missile locations.
The report says the agreement was reached in a meeting two weeks ago between nine senior members of the militant group and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
Reports in the past put Iran’s financial support for Hamas at $70 million annually, but increasing the support to $30 million a month is unprecedented.
Iran is currently under tough US sanctions and its foreign currency reserves have evaporated. It faces serious economic problems, with very high inflation impoverishing nearly 60 percent of its population.
The US is currently negotiating to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that former president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, and lift most the sanctions the previous administration had imposed. Critics say that lifting sanctions will enable Iran to boost its financial support for militant groups across the region.
Iran has been supporting Hamas and other militant groups, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, in what it calls support for the “resistance front” against Israel. The leaders of the Islamic Republic have called for the annihilation of Israel in the past and threats to destroy the Jewish sate continue periodically by Iran’s hardliners and military leaders.
US Lawmakers Ask DOJ Why Company Violating Iran Sanctions Is Not Prosecuted
A group of 18 US lawmakers have written to US Attorney General Merrick Garland to inquire why the Justice Department did not prosecute a multinational German software company that illegally did business with clients in Iran for several years.
SAP SE is the largest non-American software company by revenue, the world's third largest publicly-traded software company by revenue, and the largest German company by market capitalization. It also offers cloud services worldwide.
The justice department announced on April 29 that SAP admitted to thousands of illegal exports of it s software products to Iran and entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the US government. It agreed to pay combined penalties of more than $8 million as part of a global resolution with the US Departments of Justice (DOJ), Commerce and Treasury.
The lawmakers in their letter ask DOJ, “If you had ample evidence that SAP violated U.S. sanctions, why did you choose to pursue a Non-Prosecution agreement rather than punitive action?”
The signatories also ask DOJ if it would conduct an investigation to see what US technologies ended up in the hands of the Iranian government and its extraterritorial military and intelligence arm, the Qods (Quds) Force.
The Biden administration is in indirect talks with Iran in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, abandoned by former president Donald Trump. If an agreement is reached it would presuppose lifting significant sanctions imposed by the Trump team. But many critics of the Biden effort to reaqch a deal with Iran say that the Administration even now is not rigorously enforcing existing sanctions.
US Navy Ship Fires 30 Warning Shots After Encounter With Iranian Vessels
A US Coast Guard ship fired about 30 warning shots after 13 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and other American Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the warning shots were fired after the Iranian fast boats came as close as 150 yards (450 feet) of six US military vessels that were escorting the guided-missile submarine Georgia.
"It's significant... and they were acting very aggressively," he said, adding that the number of Iranian vessels was more than in the recent past.
The US coast guard cutter fired the warning shots from a .50 caliber machine gun before the Iranian vessels left, Kirby said.
The US Navy announced on April 27 that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a warship had engaged in dangerous maneuvers around US Navy vessels in the southern Persian Gulf earlier in April, the first such incident in at least a year.
That incident happened four days before Iran was set to start talks in Vienna with the participating countries of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, or the 2015 nuclear deal. In addition, indirect talks were scheduled between Iran and the United States in the same venue.
Reporting by Reuters