In the first international reaction to the expiration of Iran’s UN arms embargo on October 18, Russia has pledged “cooperation in military-technical sphere” with the Islamic Republic.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov is quoted by TASS news agency that Russia is developing multi-aspect cooperation with Iran and “cooperation in the military-technical sphere will proceed depending on needs of the parties and mutual readiness to such cooperation in a calm fashion.”
The UN arms embargo on Iran was inscribed in resolution 2231 of the Security Council, which formalized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers. The embargo was set for five years to expire on October 18, 2020. The United States attempted to extend it, arguing that Iran cannot be trusted with arms trade, because of its destabilizing role in the region. However, Russia, China and European powers opposed the US move.
Washington has announced it considers the arms embargo and all previous UN sanctions tied to Iran’s nuclear program still to be in effect and will enforce those sanctions. It is yet to be seen if the US will act against any companies doing arms trade with Iran.
Kazem Jalali, Iran’s ambassador in Moscow in a tweet in Russian on Sunday said, “the international community is disturbed by unilateral measures and insists on executing international agreements.”
Iran is claiming a diplomatic victory against the United States, but to what extent the end of the UN arms embargo can benefit Iran remains unclear. The country is in a financial crisis and can hardly afford large weapons purchases.
Iranian MP Calls Taliban 'A Noble Movement'
A member of Iran’s parliament has referred to the Taliban as “one of the noble movements in the region with a Pashtun background.”
Iranian MP Ahmad Naderi tweeted that the visit from a Taliban delegation at the Iranian embassy in Qatar to offer condolences for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is “a good omen”. Fakhrizadeh was a top official in Iran's nuclear program who was killed last Friday in broad daylight near Tehran. Iranian officials have blamed Israel.
Naderi emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s cooperation with the group can “lead to increased stability in Afghanistan and prevent the infiltration of society by groups such as ISIS.”
The Islamic Republic’s embassy in Doha reported on Monday that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office has visited the embassy to offer condolences, and welcomed Ahmad Dehghani’s arrival as the new ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Qatar.
In recent years, US and Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Iran of supporting the Taliban but the Islamic Republic has denied the allegations.
Members of the Taliban’s political office visited Iran several times in the past two years and talked with the Islamic Republic officials about the peace process in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan has condemned these visits.
Last year, a report from the US Defense Department claimed that Iran is providing weapons, money, and training to the Taliban in order to fight US influence in Afghanistan.
Spokesman Says Iran Knows Who Brought Means to Kill Nuclear Scientist
Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, said Wednesday that Iranian intelligence had discovered who had brought into Iran the means used to kill top nuclear official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last Friday.
Speaking to state television, Rabiei offered no details and did not say whether those involved were Iranians. “The Intelligence Ministry has identified individuals who had brought equipment and used technologies,” he said.
Iran has multiple intelligence and security organizations with wide-ranging powers that work in collaboration with the country’s all-powerful judiciary, and often arrest political prisoners who can be held on ‘security grounds’ without public trial or effective legal protection.
Shockwaves are still reverberating in Iran from the daylight assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top manager and scientist involved in Iran’s atomic program and reputedly in its weaponization research before 2003. The Islamic Republic leaders and intelligence organizations appear at a loss to explain how the killing was possible and why perpetrators have not been arrested.
Scenarios put forward so far have often been contradictory, ranging from a dozen assassins taking part in the attack, to a claim that a remotely controlled machine-gun fired on Fakhrizadeh’s convoy in a high-tech and “complex” operation.
Other than the 2017 attacks on the parliament and Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini, claimed by the Islamic State group (Isis) and in which 17 died, violent attacks in Iran during recent years have generally occurred away from Tehran, mainly in Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchestan, areas with ethnic or sectarian minorities. Iranian officials have often claimed to have uncovered ‘terrorist’ cells, arresting opponents and capturing arms and explosives, with such announcements rarely followed up with evidence of trials or further actions.
Iran Budget Bill Counts On State Property Sales And More Oil Exports
Iran's government presented a draft state budget of about $33.7 billion to parliament on Wednesday, promising less reliance on oil revenues and higher growth despite U.S. sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy, Iranian media reported.
The value of the draft budget is set about 8,413 trillion rials, up 74% from last year's figures in rial terms but lower than last year's budget of $38.8 billion in hard currency terms because of the sharp fall of Iran's currency.
"The next year's budget bill focuses on infrastructure reforms, health, creating jobs, non-oil exports and the nation's welfare," according to Iran's state news agency IRNA. Iran's next fiscal year starts on March 21.
But more spending in rials would add to an already very high rate of inflation and less money in real terms for promised spending programs.
President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting that Iran expected to sell more oil next year, adding that the government planned to use state bonds and selling of state properties as sources of revenue.
"We believe Iran will sell more oil next year, around 2.3 million barrels per day, including the exports and domestically," Rouhani said. "But the revenue will be used to develop or empower the underprivileged. This does not mean that our budget has become more dependent on oil."
It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared to a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018, when Washington exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran's economy hard by sharply cutting its vital oil exports.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said that he would return to the pact and would lift sanctions if Tehran returned to "strict compliance with the nuclear deal." But the path is complicated and there is no guarantee that US sanctions will be lifted by March to allow more oil exports.
Reporting by Reuters
UN Security Council Unlikely To Act On Killing Of Iran Nuclear Official
The UN Security Council is unlikely to take any actions or make a statement on the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear official who was killed in a hail of bullets last Friday near Tehran, Reuters reports from New York.
Immediately after the killing Iran sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding condemnation and action by the world body, but so far it appears no country has taken any initiative to bring the issue to the Security Council.
At a minimum, the Council could have issued a statement based on consensus, but South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Jerry Matjila, council president for December, told Reuters on Tuesday that no member had so far requested to discuss the killing or Iran in general.
Iranian officials have blame Israel for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was said to be the main figure in Iran’s research and development project for a nuclear weapon, officially abandoned in 2003, but perhaps being secretly pursued. Some official also blame the United States for the assassination as Israel’s close ally.
Guterres has urged restraint and condemned “any assassination or extra-judicial killing,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday.
The Security Council will meet on Dec. 22 for its biannual meeting on compliance with a resolution that enshrines a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran, which President Donald Trump’s administration quit in 2018. Any council member can raise the issue of the
11 Female Journalists In Iran Form Association Against Sexual Abuse Of Women
The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported a group of Iranian female journalists released a statement criticizing the silence and lack of transparency in the journalists’ association of Tehran province regarding sexual harassment of women in the media and formed an association to fight this phenomenon.
Hrana reported on Tuesday that 11 female journalists have released a joint statement criticizing the lack of transparency in the methods and actions of the committee for the investigation of sexual harassment and supporting the victim that was formed by the journalists association in Tehran.
The statement says the signatories have formed an assembly to “inform and educate” members of editorials about the issue of sexual harassment of female journalists, and draft and implement some guidelines with the leaders of the media.
The goal of the assembly is to “fight against any sexual harassment and transparency in power-based relationships and abuse of power.” The signatories have asked the members of the media to support the assembly.
Previously, the journalists’ association of Tehran province had announced that it has formed a committee to investigate the issue and support the victims.
These journalist women have also demanded changes in the constitutions of guilds and associations to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse of power in the media workplace.
Even Under Sanctions 30 percent of Medicine Comes From US: Chairman Of Iran's Medicine Importers Union
The chairman of the medicine importers union denied any problems with money transfer for importing coronavirus vaccine during sanctions, and said even under sanctions, 30 percent of Iran’s imported medicine comes from the US.
Chairman Naser Riahi told the official ISNA news: “Currently 30 percent of the medicine that enters Iran each month comes from the US, and we must note that sanctions will not include vaccines either.”
Regarding the coronavirus vaccine, he said vaccines from the American companies Pfizer and Moderna will arrive in Iran. According to the reports, the two companies have announced a 95 percent success rate for their vaccines and have received permission for mass production.
However, Riahi believes Iranians will not receive the vaccine before the Persian new year in March.
Referring to the Iranian airlines announcing their readiness to import coronavirus vaccine, Riahi said: “Maybe import conditions have changed and we have not received any information about it.”
The chairman of the union emphasized that issues like sanctions or the transfer of money create no obstacles in the import of vaccines.
“During this time of sanctions and money shortage of the Central Bank, we import 100 million Euros of medicine and medical raw material each month, and if we add equipment, it reaches around 150 million Euros a month,” he added. “We won’t have any problem putting up the money for the vaccine, of course, it would be better if we could barter the cost of the vaccine with our frozen money.”
His comments come at a time that many high-ranking Islamic Republic officials and many in the western media claim that the shortage of medicine in the country, including the recent insulin shortage, is due to the problems with the transfer of money due to sanctions.
Iran's Representative In Vienna: We Reserve The Right To Respond To Assassination
In response to the assassination of the high-ranking IRGC member and head of Iran’s nuclear defense, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Vienna said Iran reserves its "essential right to take all the necessary actions in response to this terrorist attack.”
According to the Islamic Republic’s Fars news agency, Kazem Gharib Abadi said in a letter to the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Ghada Fathi Waly, that Iran will take “necessary action in response to the terrorist attack” and asked him to “unconditionally condemn this terrorist act in accordance with its efforts to eliminate terrorism.”
Gharib Abadi accused Israel of being involved in the assassination and wrote: “Obvious evidence shows the involvement of the Zionist regime in this terrorist attack.”
Previously, Iran’s ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi also in a letter to the secretary-general of the UN claimed Israel and the US were involved in the assassination.
Several countries in the Middle East have condemned the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.
“The UAE condemns assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and (calls) on all parties to exercise self-restraint to avoid dragging the region into new levels of instability and threat to peace," the Twitter account of the UAE foreign ministry wrote.
Kingdoms of Bahrain and Jordan also condemned the assassination, with the foreign ministry of Bahrain calling on “all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid the region drifting to new levels of instability and threatening peace."
Artists In Iran Told To ‘React Appropriately’ To Nuclear Official’s Killing
Ershad, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, has sent a message to several Iranian artists warning them not to remain silent regarding Friday’s assassination of top nuclear official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, sources have told Iran International Television.
In the message, the security department of the Islamic Republic’s cultural watchdog told film, theater, music and cultural personalities that reacting “appropriately” to Fakhrizadeh’s death was their “human and national duty.” The message suggested that some artists who often “intervene” in issues “not related to their profession” had adopted a “deadly silence in this matter.”
Writers, actors and other cultural personalities have on occasion spoken out against human rights violations by the authorities or in defense of freedom of speech. Many have been prosecuted and jailed for signing petitions or writing open letters.
The Ershad message warned artists and cultural figures that remaining silent would lead “to fundamental criticisms” against them. Since the assassination, media outlets controlled by the government, Islamic foundations and security organs have all criticized cultural personalities for being silent about Fakhrizadeh’s assassination near Tehran. Some officials appear to have been flabbergasted by the killing, responding in often contradictory and incoherent ways – while the top security official claimed security forces had known in advance of the plot.
Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), published a condolence letter from some artists but also noted that the social media pages of many celebrities contained more views about the passing of footballer Diego Maradona than about Fakhrizadeh.
All Iranian government ministries and institutions have security departments that deal with political issues, including the ideological orientation of employees. Ershad plays a leading role in book, film and music censorship.
Dozens Arrested In Tehran For Anti-Government Graffiti
Information acquired by Iran International TV indicates that in the past two months Iranian security forces have arrested at least 40 people in Tehran for anti-government graffiti.
In the past three years there have been widespread anti-government protests across the country, including the bloody protests of November 2019. Anti-government graffiti, particularly against the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, has become more frequent. Social media over the past two months has seen many photos of graffiti about the November protests and their victims, vowing revenge, including calls for ‘Death to Khamenei.’
An informed source told Iran International TV that most of those arrested for such graffiti are aged between 20 and 40. The source added that detainees had not been allowed legal representation and that their families had been threatened to ensure their silence over the arrest.
Some detainees have been forced to make “confessions” and at least two of the young people have been coerced into saying they did the graffiti under the influence of drugs, sources in Iran say. The Iranian security forces often favor dissidents making televised confessions, either implicating themselves or others.
Hundreds were killed and thousands were arrested by security forces during the November 2019 protests.
Iran has not announced figures for deaths or arrests, but Amnesty International has reported the killing of at least 304 protesters, including at least 23 minors. Reuters on December 23, 2019 said three sources close to Khamenei’s inner circle had confirmed he had grown impatient and ordered officials to stop the protests. According to Reuters about 1,500 people were killed in the two weeks after November 15.
As Top Iran Official Buried, Calls For 'Punishment' Of Those Responsible
Speaking at a funeral ceremony for Iran’s slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Monday, the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami said the culprits would be pursued “to the end.” In a short message read on his behalf, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for serious efforts to track down “those who ordered and carried out” the assassination and for “definite punishment.”
The ceremony was held at the Ministry of Defense, before Fakhrizadeh was taken for burial at Emamzadeh Saleh cemetery, Tajrish, north Tehran.
Hatami thanked the “nations and governments” that had condemned the killing and warned governments and international organizations that had failed to do so that “terrorism” would “catch up” with them if they continued to display “double-standards.” The European Union on Saturday condemned Fakhrizadeh’s killing as a “criminal act…counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for” and extended condolences to the family.
Monday’s ceremony was attended by the Revolutionary Guard Commander-in-Chief Major-General Hossein Salami, the regular Army Commander Major-General Abdolrahim Mousavi, Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani (Qaani), and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on Friday in Absard, a resort town in the Damavand area east of Tehran. Several Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani have pointed fingers at Israel and the United States over the killing.
No official report about the details has been released. The Iranian media have offered at least four contradictory accounts, including one claiming there were no assailants at the scene and that remote-controlled machine guns were used. Another account claimed at least 12 were involved in the ambush.
The media and some officials have also blamed “intelligence gaps” and “infiltration” in Iran’s intelligence bodies for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
Russia Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Emotions’ In Reaction To Scientist’s Killing
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, has cautioned Iranian lawmakers not to rush to cancel cooperation with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), based on “emotions’ triggered by the assassination of a top nuclear official.
An overwhelming majority in the Iranian parliament voted Sunday to review a bill that would halt implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT), after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior manager and scientist in the country’s nuclear program was assassinated November 27.
“Such reaction is understandable, but emotions aren’t always helpful,” Ulyanov tweeted on Sunday. “Observers note that, probably, the assassination was aimed at undermining #JCPOA and cooperation with #IAEA.” Russia is among world powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement.
Many analysts have suggested that if Israel is behind the killing, its aim was to lure Iran into retaliation, thereby dashing chances of negotiations among world powers to revive the JCPOA. US President-elect Joe Biden has said he will rejoin the JCPOA once in office. President Donald Trump called the agreement inadequate and withdrew the US in May 2018, imposing draconian sanctions on Iran.
Iran still allows the IAEA to conduct regular inspections of its nuclear facilities according to understandings reached when JCPOA was signed, despite having reduced other commitments set by the agreement. Russia as a signatory has urged the revival of the agreement and is wary of Iranian actions that could harm prospects for dialogue.