Following the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s new president, the parliament, also dominated by hardliners, announced Friday that next week it will take a proposed bill to hand over control of internet traffic to the military.
The bill called “Plan to regulate social media messengers” will also obligate the ministry of communication to uncover the names of all users and ban the use of all VPNs and circumvention software tools people use to break through current blockings by the government.
Iran has banned or blocked tens of thousands of websites worldwide and key social media platforms such as Facebook and You Tube both for religious and political purposes.
The current bill was tabled in parliament on June 6 by Reza Taghipour, former communications minister and a Tehran representative, who is an associate of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi and headed his campaign committee on cyberspace.
If passed, the law would require foreign and domestic social-media networks and messaging applications to register with a regulatory and supervisory board, set up within three months from the law’s passing and including representatives of the intelligence ministry and the intelligence organization of the Revolutionary Guards. The ministry of communications and information technology would be charged with blocking social networks and messaging applications that failed to gain approval.
The law would also require all smart phones imported from abroad to carry domestic social media messengares that are controlled by the government.
UK 'Will Not Rest' Over Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iran Detainees Minister Says
AP - London - Sept 20 - UK Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said on Monday that Britain would "not rest" until all its dual nationals being held in Iran were returned home.
He said the UK's new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was due to meet her Iranian counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later on Monday, and call for the immediate release of UK nationals such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
"I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations and we will continue pushing and pushing and pushing until we get our British dual nationals home," he told British broadcaster Sky News.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been held Iran since 2016, on spying charges, which she has always denies.
Her husband, Richard, said he had talked with Truss on the phone on Sunday and that it was unclear how negotiations with Iran would go.
He described his wife as feeling "disorientated" with the recent UK government cabinet shuffle and that she had felt former Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had been making some headway with her case.
He said they were still waiting for a date for an appeal over her second prison sentence.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe's is currently staying with her mother in Iran.
Iran's VP In Women's Affairs Disagrees With Limiting Child Marriage
President Ebrahim Raisi’s vice president in women’s affairs has refused to support an age limit in child marriage arguing that other factors such as mental and social growth should play a role.
Ensiyeh Kazali, known as a religious conservative, in her first press conference on Monday said that she married when she was 16 years old.
Child marriage is a controversial social and political issue in Iran, as Islamic law in essence allows girls who are nine years old to be wed, based on a tradition that prophet Mohammed married a girl who was nine years old.
Vice presidents in charge of women’s affairs have usually been more protective of women’s rights and have advocated a legal age limit for children’s marriage, but Khazali, daughter of an ayatollah, apparently follows the ideology of most Moslem clerics in Iran who do not believe marriage for girls younger that 13 should be forbidden.
She has been one of the opponents the UNESCO 2030 agenda that advocates equality in education and access for females and all social groups.
Child marriage has increased in Iran in recent years, partly linked to growing poverty. The Statistical Center of Iran reported last month that marriage of girls aged between 10-14 increased by 10.5 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, with more than 31,000 cases in one year.
Family Of Detained Rapper In Iran Concerned About His Life
Iranian dissident rapper, Toomaj Salehi, who was detained on September 13 was arrested by the intelligence ministry in Esfahan, family sources have told Iran International. They are extremely worried about the safety of the young singer.
The underground rapper was apparently arrested for his latest song distributed on social media, condemning the Islamic Republic for oppression and those whom he accuses of whitewashing its crimes.
Iran International has also learned that the singer known with his first name Toomaj is being kept in the central prison in Esfahan. His lawyer Amir Raisian was quoted by a website in Iran as saying that he does not have exact information about charges his client faces, but “unofficially his father was told he is accused of propaganda against the regime.”
In his song, “Buy a rat hole”, Toomaj without naming individuals refers to those whom he accuses of perpetrating injustice or justifying it, from regime "agents" and "executioners" to political groups such as reformists in Iran and the US-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
The Washington-based group condemned Toomaj’s arrest on September 16, after many on social media criticized indifference toward the latest crackdown on freedom of speech.
Amnesty International has also condemned the arrest in a statement issued September 17. Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi has also slammed the arrest, saying that protest artists are reflecting public opinion in Iran in favor of a regime change.
Syrian Military Chief Makes Rare Visit To Jordan Over Border Security
Syria's defense minister visited Jordan on Sunday to discuss stability on their mutual border, the first such meeting since the Syrian conflict erupted a decade ago, officials said.
The meeting comes after Syria's army reestablished control this month over Deraa, a city south of Damascus and near Jordan’s border, in a Russian brokered deal that averted an all-out military assault.
Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti met Syrian Defence Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub over the Deraa situation and to discuss issues such as the fight against terrorism and drug smuggling in the area, Jordan's army said.
Jordan had for years supported mainstream Western-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria until a campaign by the Syrian army in 2018 aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias retook the province. Some insurgents remained in Deraa but left the area with Russian mediation after Iranian-backed forces began an assault in August.
Amman, with close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, remains concerned over the presence of Iranian-backed forces on its border.
Jordanian officials have accused Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement of being behind drugs smuggling in the area. The group has repeatedly denied allegations made by the West and others that it is involved in any such smuggling network.
Reporting by Reuters
New Defense Minister Says Iran Will Defend Itself Against Israeli Threats
Iran’s new defense minister General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani has called threats made against Iran “rants by enemies” vowing that Iran will defend itself.
Ashtiani, who was speaking at a gathering of senior managers at the defense ministry on Monday referring to “rants by the leaders of the Zionist regime”, said that Iran has prepared itself against all kinds of threats.
Israeli officials have intensified their warnings over Iran’s nuclear program and its support for militant groups recently. In August, defense minister Benny Gantz issued warnings that Israel must be prepared to act against the Islamic Republic, when a tanker was attacked in July by what appeared to be Iranian drones.
Ashtiani stressed that Iran has made advancements in military technology and would ward off all threats, But the new defense chief also underlined that Iran’s military capabilities was to defend its territory against attack and did not use customary threats against Israel. He said that “the Zionist enemy” has suffered from multiple defeats at the hands of Iran and has resorted to rants.
Since early July 2020, important facilities in Iran have suffered mysterious attacks, generally believed to have been sabotage operations by Israel. Iran’s top nuclear scientist was killed in November 2020 near Tehran in a sophisticated assassination plot involving no human attackers on the ground.
Third Iranian Tanker Sails Carrying Fuel For Hezbollah In Lebanon
A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution by Hezbollah in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments, imported by the Iran-backed Hezbollah, constitute a breach of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Hezbollah announced in August that it had asked Iran to send fuel to Lebanon, which is experiencing the world’s worst economic crisis in modern history. Iran readily agreed, saying it would be a victory for the “resistance front” a term used by Tehran to refer to its allies and proxies in the region.
Local media reported earlier that Hezbollah will distribute part of the fuel to hospitals and other essential public institutions and will sell the rest to the private sector, or at low prices to private hospitals, bakeries, etc., Al Hurra TV reported on September 16.
SO far there are no reports about which institutions have received fuel from the shipment. Hezbollah stands to make large profits if Iran gave the fuel for free or at very low prices. Both Iran and Hezbollah are sanctioned by the United States.
The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there tanker trucks began transporting the fuel to Lebanon.
Iran's Oldest And One Of Largest Banks On Verge Of Bankruptcy
Iran’s Bank Melli, the oldest and one of the biggest banks in the country is on the verge of bankruptcy after losing 675 trillion rials last year, equaling $2.8 billion in free market exchange rate. The losses equal 73 percent of the bank’s capital.
The bank has published its financial reports for the previous Iranian calendar year ending March 20, 2021, after years of silence. Iranian law says that if an entity’s losses exceed 50 percent of its capital the shareholders should convene a meeting and dissolve the company.
The bank was established in 1927 by an act of parliament as part of Iran’s modernization process. A former US State Department trade official, Arthur Chester Millspaugh, was its founder who helped Iran free itself borrowings from foreign governments and banks at unfavorable terms. Millpaugh reorganized the country’s finances by establishing modern budget and management practices during the reign of Reza Shah, Iran’s modernizing king.
At the time Iran regarded the United States as a liberator that helped its independence in the face of British and Russian influence and pressures.
Iran’s banks are all directly or indirectly owned by the state or state entities and have suffered from corruption and mismanagement in recent years. Government and its companies borrow money from their banks that ultimately lose money and turn to the Central Bank to be rescued.
Iran Dismisses NYT Report On Scientist's Killing As Just A Media Account
Asked to comment about a recent New York Times report on the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh at his weekly presser Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the claims about the manner of the assassination as described by the US newspaper merited attention only as "newspaper report."
Fakhrizadeh who was known as the "father of Iran's nuclear weapons program" was assassinated outside Tehran on November 26. The NYT report and others have said Israel was behind the complicated operation.
Khatibzadeh added that Iran's security and intelligence bodies had detailed reports of the incident including on "all those who had participated" in the operation.
Fakhrizadeh was shot with a machine gun controlled by Israel's Mossad operatives from hundreds of miles away, the New York Times report said on Saturday. The report claimed that the machine gun used by the Mossad team was a modified Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus and powered with artificial intelligence technology.
The NYT said its report was based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, “including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation.”
Despite earlier eyewitness claims about assassins on the scene, two days after Fakhrizadeh's assassination the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News published a report offering details of the event and said no assassins were on the scene and a remotely controlled automatic weapons had fired at the convoy.
Iran's Top Commander Demands Closure Of US Base In Northern Iraq
The chief commander of Iran’s armed forces on Sunday has warned that the American base in northern Iraq must close, accusing the United States of assisting armed opposition groups operating from the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
This is the most direct accusation by an Iranian official that US forces stationed in Iraq support armed insurgents against Tehran. Iranian media in the past has hinted that US intelligence is supporting the groups.
The US has a base near Erbil’s airport that has in recent months become a target of rocket and drone attacks by pro-Iran Shiite militias in Iraq.
General Mohammad Bagheri said Tehran will continue military operations against Kurdish insurgents and warned that “officials of [Iraqi Kurdistan] region and the Iraqi government should take action against these groups.”
Bagheri said officials of the Kurdish autonomous region should not allow armed “anti-revolutionaries”, who are “agents of America and the Zionist regime in northern Iraq to have military bases, radio and TV stations and attack our borders.”
Iran has long campaigned for the expulsion of US forces in Iraq that have been assisting the government in its fight against the remnants of the Islamic State group. President Joe Biden has reduced the size of the force and changed its mission to training Iraqi forces.
Iran has been launching artillery and drone attacks at Iranian Kurdish insurgents based on the Iraqi side of the border in the past ten days.
Teachers, Gas And Petrochemical Workers Protest In Iran
School teachers across Iran held protests on Saturday demanding an improvement in their work conditions, as workers in natural gas and petrochemical sectors protested for their wages in southern Iran.
Teachers held rallies in Esfahan, Fars, Alborz, Ilam, Khuzestan and several other provinces, chanting slogans about government inaction to address their demands. They have been holding periodic protests in the past several months.
One of their demands is for parliament to pass a law setting a ranking system for teachers, which would affect salaries. Education, expertise and other qualifications should be considered in the job ranking scheme.
Teachers earn meager salaries, and many are unable to afford a basic living amid a 50-percent inflation rate in the country. Recently, some teachers have committed suicide highlighting the hardship they feel.
Also on Saturday, contract workers in Iran’s natural gas industry in the southern gas fields of Asalouyeh held protests to demand the implementation of promises made by their employers. They returned to work form a long strike, based on employer promises to pay better salaries and improve work conditions.
There was also a separate protest by workers in the petrochemical industry in Mahshahr, in southern Iran.