A commercial vessel owned by an Israeli firm was attacked near Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates, two pro-Iran media outlets based in Lebanon said on Twitter on Tuesday.
Israel's top-rated television news quoted unnamed Israeli officials as blaming Iran for an assault on an Israeli-owned ship off the UAE coast and said there were no casualties. The channel said a missile had hit the ship.
An Israeli Transportation Ministry spokesman said he was aware of the reports but that he could not confirm them. There was no immediate confirmation from the UAE.
The incident comes a day after Iran accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site and Iran's government spokesman vowed revenge against those responsible.
The Lebanon-based Unews news agency, which has previously reported news of attacks on vessels in Gulf waters, said the vessel was transporting cars and had been at Kuwait's Mina Al Ahmadi port 48 hours earlier.
Al Mayadeen television channel, also citing sources, identified the vessel as Hyperion.
Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the Bahamas-flagged vehicle carrier HYPERION RAY was headed to Fujairah port from Kuwait.
Last month an Iranian container ship was damaged in an attack in the Mediterranean, two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship the MV HELIOS RAY - owned by the same company as the Hyperion Ray according to a U.N. shipping database - was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.
Reporting by Reuters
White House Calls On Critical Companies To Improve Cyber Defenses
WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - The White House is signaling to U.S. critical infrastructure companies, such as energy providers that they must improve their cyber defenses because additional potential regulation is on the horizon.
U.S. President Joseph Biden signed a national security memorandum on Wednesday, launching a new public-private initiative that creates "performance controls" for cybersecurity at America's most critical companies, including water treatment and electrical power plants.
The recommendations are voluntary in nature, but the administration hopes it will cause companies to improve their cybersecurity ahead of other policy efforts, said a senior administration official.
The announcement comes after multiple high profile cyberattacks this year crippled American companies and government agencies, including a ransomware incident which disrupted gasoline supplies.
"These are the thresholds that we expect responsible owners and operators to go," said the official. "The absence of mandated cybersecurity requirements for critical infrastructure is what in many ways has brought us to the level of vulnerability that we have today."
"We are pursuing all options we have in order to make the rapid progress we need," they added.
Biden on Tuesday warned that if the United States ended up in a "real shooting war" with a "major power" it could be the result of a significant cyber attack on the United States, highlighting what Washington sees as a growing threat posed by hackers from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
"The federal government cannot do this alone," said the official. "Almost 90% of critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. Securing it requires a whole of nation effort."
The official described the current state of cybersecurity rules for critical infrastructure companies as "patchwork" and "piecemeal."
"We've kicked the can down the road for a long time," said the official.
Prisoners, Activists In Iran Issue Statement To End Current 'Regime'
More than 100 political prisoners, activists, and relatives of people killed in protests or who have died in detention in Iran published a statement Wednesday supporting protestors in Khuzestan province.
The statement, signed by 114 families and individuals says: “The demand of the Iranian people is to transition from the Islamic Republic to reach a human life under constitutional law based on human rights and safeguarding national interests, as the political path of a Supreme Leader has not been successful in the past 43 years and it has destroyed all bridges of rationality.”
The principle of velayat-e faqih (‘guardianship of the jurist’), under which a clerical head of state exercises wide powers, is a cornerstone of the constitution adopted after the 1979 revolution, 43 years ago by the Iranian calendar in which years begin in March.
The signatories said Iranians had protested because they felt their human and patriotic dignity endangered. They warned “the self-appointed rulers of the Islamic Republic that the wrath of the people is stronger” than guns. The victims’ families and activists also appealed to security forces to consider “their conscience” and “defend the people against suppressors.”
Protests beginning July 15 in Khuzestan over water shortages soon became anti-government unrest across the province and then spread to some other regions of the country. Around ten people have been reported killed in Khuzestan − with five deaths confirmed by HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency) − and hundreds arrested in several provinces.
The signatories also asked “freedom-loving political and civil activists” to inform the world about “crimes of the regime” and insisted that “this government is not the representative of the Iranian people and is a usurping regime.”
US Diplomats Push For Truce As Battles Spread In Yemen
Senior US diplomats are holding talks in the Middle East in a renewed push for a ceasefire in Yemen as fierce ground battles spread and the Iran-aligned Houthi group resumed cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia after a brief lull over Muslim holidays.
US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday following a visit by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Oman, amid stalled efforts for a breakthrough in ending more than six years of war.
The Saudi-led coalition that backs Yemen's recognized government and the Houthis have been at odds over a United Nations-led proposal for a nationwide truce and the lifting of a coalition blockade to ease a dire humanitarian crisis.
Lenderking will discuss "growing consequences" of the Marib offensive that is triggering instability elsewhere and the "urgent need" for Riyadh and the Saudi-backed government to facilitate fuel imports to northern Yemen, the State Department said.
The Houthis have insisted sea and air restrictions on areas they control be removed before any ceasefire talks, while the coalition wants a simultaneous deal.
The Houthi movement holds most big urban centers after ousting the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, which prompted the coalition to intervene months later in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
Reporting by Reuters
Rights Organization Says Iran Killed Or Abducted 540 People Abroad
An Iranian human rights organization has said that it has established the identity of 540 victims who have been killed or abducted abroad by Iran’s security forces in the past four decades.
The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran (ABC), based in Washington DC, released a statement on July 27, highlighting the recent kidnapping plot against US-based Iranian activist Masih Alinejad and said the episode “fits a decades-long pattern of intimidation, extrajudicial killings and abductions of dissidents meant to undermine political and religious groups, silence activists and journalists, and prevent the mobilization of effective opposition movements inside and outside the country.”
The Boroumand center said that although it has identified 540 people who were killed or abducted by Iranian intelligence mainly in the Middle East and Europe, this figure is by no means conclusive.
Most of the victims were targeted in Iran’s neighboring countries, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s, where 329 people were successfully targeted. Thirteen people were killed or abducted in France and six in Germany, but the operation even reached the Philippines, Poland and the United States.
The targets of Iran’s “terror plots reflect Iran’s population in its diversity, including believers and non-believers, Shias and Sunnis, communists, socialists, nationalists and royalists, ABC said.
The high number of victims could be unprecedented in the world in the past 50 years and could surpass operations by the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th century, when there were a few dozen suspected cases of attacks on dissidents abroad.
Official Says Cryptocurrency Mining Machines Enter Iran Legally
An official of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration has said that computers for mining cryptocurrencies enter the country with the knowledge of the government and with foreign currency provided by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).
The government has often blamed high power-usage by cryptocurrency miners for shortages of electricity that have plagued Iran this year, especially during peak winter and summer months.
Mehrdad Jamal Arvanagi, technical deputy of customs told local media that mining machines are imported through official channels and in the past one year the central bank has provided $11 million dollars to importers of these computers.
The imports are conducted “by the private sector” with permits from the ministry of industry and mining and there is no restriction for bringing them through customs.
On Tuesday, Iran’s electricity management company sent a letter to judicial officials warning that with recent restrictions by the Chinese government on cryptocurrency mining, a large number of machines might be transferred to Iran, where electricity is subsidized.
Already, there have been reports and complaints in Iranian media and social media about Chinese mining farms set up in Iran allegedly in cooperation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to generate revenue for operators and hard currency for the military-intelligence force listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Iran's Rouhani Says He was Not Allowed To Reach A Deal With The US
Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani has once again said that if his government had not been restricted in nuclear negotiations, sanctions would have been lifted earlier this year and the country’s battered economy would have started to recover.
In remarks on Sunday delivered at an annual meeting of the central bank, Rouhani defended his government’s economic record, reiterating that difficult conditions since 2018 “have been forced” on his administration. He was referring to the United States sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump when he withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
Rouhani did not elaborate who “tied the hands and feet” of the government in nuclear talks as he put it, but earlier he had blamed legislation passed last December by his hardliner opponents in parliament who set forth tough conditions for talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA.
Rouhani argued that if there were no sanctions and pandemic, Iran’s currency would be now trading for 50,000 rials to the US dollar, instead of the current rate of almost fivefold at 250,000 rials. But the rial stood at 30,000 to the dollar in 2017, before Trump’s intention to withdraw from the JCPOA became apparent. What Rouhani said in effect means that even without sanctions and the pandemic Iran’s currency would have fallen precipitously.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the rial has fallen more than 3,000-fold, from 70 rials to the dollar to 250,000.
Former Iranian Taekwondo Champion Defeats British Gold Medalist
In a stunning sports moment, former Iranian taekwondo champion and a member of the Refugee Olympics Team (ROT) Kimia Alizadeh defeated a former Gold medalist and a great British hope, Jade Jones to advance toward a medal in Tokyo.
Alizadeh, who in January 2020 denounced forced hijab, discrimination against women and government corruption, left Iran and sought refugee status in Germany. The International Olympics Committee invited her to compete as a member of ROT. This group of athletes appeared for the first time in 2016 and in the 2020 Tokyo games includes 29 displaced athletes.
Alizadeh first easily defeated her former teammate from Iran Nahid Kiani and went on to hug her coach, in an awkward moment for the Iranian national team. In her second match on Sunday, she stunned Jones in 6 minutes to the dismay of the British taekwondo coaches. After losing her third match, now she is oised to win a Bronze Medal, which would be the first for the refugee team.
Taekwondo is a codified form of traditional Korean marshal arts, which basically means kicking your opponent, especially on the head but also on the body.
Pandemic Lockdown Ineffective, While Iran Runs Out Of Remdesivir
The head of Tehran’s coronavirus task force Alireza Zali has said that the latest 8-day shutdown in the capital was ineffective and the fifth wave of the Covid pandemic has not reached its peak yet in Iran.
Speaking on television, Zali complained that the lockdown in the capital was not enforced, and most shopping centers and restaurants were open for customers. He added that to be effective, any lockdown should be between 10-14 days long and must be enforced.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in Iran in February 2020, the government has instituted many lockdowns and travel bans but none has been enforced properly. With a failed vaccination effort and the new Delta variant of the virus the country is experiencing a serios spike in new cases. Zali said that currently 8797 Covid patients are hospitalized in Tehran alone.
Meanwhile, the head of health ministry’s medicine department, Haydar Mohammadi announced a shortage of remdesivir to treat Covid patients, blaming the Chinese company supplying the raw material for its delays in delivery. He also said that Iranian insurance companies and hospitals with financial problems have failed to make payments.
Mohammadi said that despite efforts to procure remdesivir from China and India, both countries have refused to help.
Iran withdrew one billion euros from its currency reserves last year to help fight the pandemic but the government later said it had received a portion of the money.
Iran Condemns UN Criticism Of Protester Deaths In Khuzestan
Iran on Saturday dismissed as meddling in its internal affairs criticism by the United Nations' human rights chief of the shooting deaths of protesters during demonstrations in Khuzestan province.
Meanwhile, rallies in support of the protests in the southwestern province of Khuzestan spread to the northwest of the country on Saturday, according to videos posted on social media.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed concern about deaths and injuries and widespread detentions over the past week in oil-rich Khuzestan.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement that Bachelet's "interventionist" and "non-expert and biased comments on the management of the country's water resources were not within the scope of commissioner's responsibilities".
Iranians have taken to the streets for ten days to vent their anger about water and other shortages, which have come during the country's worst drought in half a century and as the economy creaks under US sanctions and COVID-19. Protests that began for water turned into anti-government demonstrations.
Videos on social media on Friday showed marchers in the city of Aligudarz chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said on Saturday that it had been able to identify 10 killed and 102 detained. Witnesses spoke of continued heavy security presence in Khuzestan on Saturday.
"Mobile internet is still down and there are security forces everywhere," a resident of the provincial capital of Ahvaz, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Khamenei on Friday called on officials to deal with the crisis, saying people could not be blamed for protesting over water shortages, but he did not condemn violence by security forces.
Hardliner Cleric Wants To Deny Access To Internet To Prevent 'Lust'
A hardliner cleric in Iran has called on the new president Ebrahim Raisi to deny young people access to the Internet to stop the intrusion of alien cultures.
Ahmad Khatami, who is also a member of the constitutional watchdog the Guardian Council said Saturday that “When our youth have access to all the cyberspace of other countries, it means that the culture of others lives in the homes of all Iranians.
Khatami’s comment about the youth having free access contradicts the existing reality. Iran heavily censors access to the Internet by blocking tens of thousands of Iranian and other websites both for political and religious reasons. Almost every citizen uses VPNs and other software to get access to their favorite social media channels and websites for information or entertainment.
Iran has been trying to create an internal internet and social media platforms that it can easily control and censor, but so far it has not succeeded. Instagram for example, is an effective tool for small businesses to promote their products and services and receive orders.
Khatami, however, once again demanded that under Raisi the government should “domesticate” the internet, claiming that all countries have restricted access, citing the example of Russia. In fact, China has restricted access to social media and the internet. Major platforms are still available in Russia.
Khatami accused the United States of trying to instill “lust” among Iranian youth.