Iranian social media users have launched an online campaign to alert the public of attempts by the government to destroy a cemetery south of Tehran where political prisoner killed in 1988 are believed to be buried.
Around 3,500 political detainees, mostly young people, were killed in prisons by a high-level decision and their bodies were buried in unknown graves, some in Khavaran cemetery.
The authorities have dug new graves and pressure the persecuted members of the Baha’i sect to bury their dead in Khavaran, in an apparent attempt to make other remains disappear. The Baha’i have their own cemetery nearby.
The Islamic Republic in recent years has tried to destroy the graves of the political prisoners in the cemetery. Families of executed prisoners have told Iran International of attempts to dig new graves to destroy the remains of their loved ones.
Amnesty International and Justice for Iran collected evidence in 2018, including satellite images of cemeteries where prisoners killed in 1988 were buried and attempts by the authorities to destroy the graves.
Representatives of the Baha’i community say also protest official attempts to force them to bury their dead in Khavaran, while their own cemetery has plenty of space left.
Israel's New Foreign Minister Says He Will Do Everything To Stop Iran Nukes
Israel’s new foreign minister and alternate prime minister Yair Lapid has said Monday that he and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will work together not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Lapid stated that Israel must be prepared for a possible agreement between the United States and Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, adding that Israel must “prepare quickly.” He emphasized that the new coalition government will “do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.”
The new foreign minister said he was always opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “It was a bad deal,” he said and added, “I opposed it. Israel could have, with a different approach, influenced it far more.”
Criticizing former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s very close ties with President Donald Trump, Lapid emphasized that Israel’s traditional policy was equally close ties with both US political parties. He pledged to restore relations between Israel and the Democratic Party, while underlining that “The Republicans are important to us.”
Netanyahu was a staunch opponent of the JCPOA and once Trump was elected his relations with new administration is believed to have helped crystalize a tough policy toward Tehran that led to the US withdrawal from the agreement and the imposition of sanctions.
Saudi Arabia Says It Intercepted Another Houthi Armed Drone
Saudi Arabian air defenses intercepted and destroyed an armed drone launched by Yemen's Houthi group towards the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, state television said on Monday.
It cited the Saudi-led military coalition, which has been battling the Houthis for over six years, as saying it was taking operational measures to protect civilians from such assaults.
On Sunday, Saudi state media said a drone rigged with explosives fell on a school in the kingdom's Aseer province but that no injuries were reported.
The Iran-aligned Houthis have frequently launched cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities in the war. The coalition has in the past responded with air strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen.
The Houthis have not responded to calls by the Biden administration and the United Nations to engage in ceasefire talks and possibly peace negotiations.
Iran and Saudi Arabia announced in April that held talks in Iraq aimed at improving their relations and stability in the region, but these talks have not continued as Iran is geared to elect a new president on Friday.
Reporting by AP
Iran Covid Spokesman Mocks Candidates’ Flippancy On Vaccines
Alireza Raeesi, spokesman of Iran’s coronavirus task force, has chided presidential candidates over promises on the speed of Covid-19 vaccinations. “They think the vaccine is an ice cream,” Raeesi told a government event Monday.
“They wake up in the morning and say they will vaccinate Iran’s population in three months,” the spokesman said. “Perhaps they do not know how to count.” He added that more powerful countries had encountered problems and that Iran would achieve nothing through slogans.
Iran has been slow to vaccinate its 84-million population, with 4.5 million doses administered and 2.7 percent of people covered. John Hopkins figures – tracking Covid-19 globally – give a 0.77 percent of Iranians, or 638,000, as “fully vaccinated.”
Iran rejected Western vaccines and has relied on a limited quantity of Chinese and Russian vaccines, while saying its pharmaceutical companies are working on several domestic vaccines. Reports in recent days say that vaccination in some provinces has stopped due to shortages.
Official government figures report over 3 million cases of coronavirus with 82,000 deaths, while health officials, some politicians, and some media all say real numbers are much higher.
Several candidates in the June 18 presidential election have promised to speed up nationwide vaccination, partly by allowing the private sector to import vaccines. It was reported in April that the government had approved a number of private companies to begin imports, but it has remained unclear how these vaccines would be distributed and how they might square with United States sanctions.
Iran Red Crescent Requests Money From Red Cross For Drought Victims
Iran’s Red Crescent announced Monday that it has requested financial assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) societies to fight the impact of drought.
Hassan Esfandyar, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society’s humanitarian projects, told local media that his organization has requested one million Swiss francs from IFRC to deal with the impact of drought in four provinces.
Iran has faced a long drought for at least a decade, but the crisis has worsened this year with minimal precipitation. Iranian officials have said that thousands of villages face serious water shortages, while the government is in financial crisis mainly due to US sanctions.
Critics and opponents of the Islamic Republic say money should be spent on helping people in the country instead of supporting allies and proxies in the region.
Esfandyar said that the request for assistance has been submitted for an emergency aid fund for the four provinces most affected by the drought. He added that if IFRC donates funds it will be spent on assistance to needy families, supply of drinking water and developments of water transfer infrastructures. He also announced that the Iranian Red Crescent is planning to ask for more international assistance.
As Netanyahu Exits, Iran Nuclear Deal Remains An Israeli Issue
Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as Israel's prime minister ended on Sunday with parliament approving a new "government of change" led by nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Bennett said renewing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal would be a mistake and reiterated that Iran should not be allowed to become a nuclear power.
In a day-long raucous session at the Knesset Bennett’s coalition won the right to form a government by a narrow vote. The long-time former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Bennet is not capable of standing firm against US pressure on Iran nuclear talks.
Heading into opposition, Netanyahu, 71, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, pledged he would soon return to power.
A former defense minister and a high-tech millionaire, Bennett, 49, was due to be sworn in shortly after the vote.
With little in common except for a desire to end the Netanyahu era and political impasse that led to four inconclusive elections in two years, the coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties is likely to be fragile.
The new government, formed after an inconclusive March 23 election, plans largely to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button international issues such as policy toward the Palestinians, and to focus on domestic reforms.
Palestinians were unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett would pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.
Under a coalition deal, Bennett will be replaced as prime minister by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, in 2023.
Germany's Maas Urges 'Flexibility And Pragmatism' In Iran Nuclear Talks
FRANKFURT, June 12 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged all sides to show flexibility and pragmatism in talks about the Iranian nuclear deal which are due to resume later on Saturday afternoon.
"It is about flexibility and pragmatism from all participating parties," he told Reuters. "Playing for time is in no-one's interest," he added.
The talks between Iran and world powers are aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal that was abandoned three years later by then President Donald Trump, who reimposed sanctions that slashed Iran's oil exports.
Iran retaliated by violating the limits imposed under the accord on its nuclear programme. It now seeks an end to United States sanctions.
The new round of indirect talks is about how both sides might resume compliance with the old nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under JCPOA, Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain fissile material for atomic weapons in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.
The U.S. said on Thursday it had removed sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies that previously traded Iranian petrochemicals, a step one U.S. official called routine but that could show U.S. readiness to ease sanctions when justified.
The global oil market is watching the talks closely as additional oil volumes would weigh on prices.
Iran's Larijani Demands Public Explanation About The Rejection Of His Candidacy
Iran’s former parliament speaker Ali Larijani has demanded a clear public explanation of the reasons why the election watchdog, the Guardian Council, rejected his candidacy in the June 18 presidential election.
In a short letter published by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Larijani asked the Council to publicly explain the reasons behind its decision, specially that earlier reports about his daughter having foreign citizenship or residing abroad have been proven wrong.
The Guardian Council is a non-elected body operating under the supervision of the Supreme Leader and among other things, is tasked by the constitution to vet presidential and parliamentary candidates.
In May, the Council disqualified Larijani and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom opinion surveys showed to be a top candidate. This was widely seen as an attempt to ensure the election of Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi), the conservative head of Iran’s Judiciary as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s choice to succeed President Hassan Rouhani.
Later, Khamenei expressed regret that perhaps injustice was done and called for some sort of redress, but the Guardian Council did not change its decision. The controversy did not help reverse the public’s general apathy toward the election seen in all opinion polls. Participation in the vote is expected to be well under 50 percent.
Putin Calls Report Of Russia Selling Advanced Satellite To Iran 'Fake News'
President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Friday dismissed as “fake news” a recent Washington Post report that his country is planning to sell an advanced radar system to Iran.
Putin who was speaking with the American network NBC about US and Russian relations said he had never heard of a plan to sell a satellite system to Iran that could track military targets across the Middle East. “It’s just fake news. At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” he said and added "It's just nonsense garbage."
The Washington Post reported June 10 that Russia was preparing to provide Iran with Kanopus-V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera which could be launched from Russia within months.
The satellite would allow "continuous monitoring of facilities ranging from Persian Gulf oil refineries and Israeli military bases to Iraqi barracks that house US troops," said the paper, which cited three unnamed sources - a current and a former US official and a senior Middle Eastern government official briefed on the sale.
While the Kanopus-V is marketed for civilian use, leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have made several trips to Russia since 2018 to help negotiate the agreement, the Post said.
Russian experts traveled to Iran this spring to help train crews who would operate the satellite from a newly built facility near Karaj west of Tehran, it added.
US Envoy On Iran Condemns Death Of Political Prisoner In Tehran
US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, has expressed sadness for the death of an Iranian political prisoner in a Tehran prison that occured on June 5 and has asked for respect for human rights and freedom of expression.
In a tweet on Friday, Malley, who is heading the US delegation in the Vienna nuclear talks with Iran wrote, “Saddened by the news that Sassan Niknafs died in Greater Tehran Prison. The 36-yr old father of two was imprisoned unjustly for expressing his opinions…Human rights must be respected.”
Niknafs’ death caused a stir on Iranian social media as thousands expressed outrage for yet another death of a political prisoner in Iran. Many other prisoners have also been denied proper medical care and international human rights organizations have repeatedly raised the issue.
Iranians critical of the Biden administration for trying to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran have accused US officials of not being tough on Tehran’s violations of human rights. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however, has reiterated that the administration is sensitive to the issue.
The Trump administration that launched a policy of ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran was very vocal on Iran’s human rights violations and openly defended the right of Iranians to protest against their government.
China Calls For Resolution Of Iran Nuclear Issue, Blames US For 'Bullying'
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, addressing the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament on Friday, said "unilateral bullying acts of the United States" were the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue.
Wang said that as nuclear talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna were in a "final sprint", parties to the 2015 big-power agreement with Iran, the JPCOA, must redouble diplomatic efforts to "bring the JCPOA back on track". Then-president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018.
President Joe Biden aims to reverse that decision and rejoin the nuclear deal, but wants Iran to reverse nuclear steps it has taken since 2019 and return to full compliance with the Accord.
Iran has been holding talks with signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna since April 6, negotiating with the United States indirectly through The E3, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Dilpomats say key issues still need to beresolved as Iran gears up to elect a new president in a week.
China is an ally and a dilplomatic supporter of Iran but has generally abided by US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration since 2018.
Wang also urged the United States and Russia on Friday to cut their nuclear arsenals, days before U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Geneva.
US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood urged China to engage in talks on risk reduction and strategic stability, saying he regretted that US efforts have been "rebuffed".
Reporting with Reuters