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
IRGC Navy Holds Parade With Hundreds Of Fishing Boats
In an unorthodox military move, Iran’s Navy conducted a naval parade in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday using hundreds of local fishing boats and its military speed boats.
The parade was on the 41st anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war that the Islamic Republic calls “Holy defense”. Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard presided over the naval parade that took place in the Bandar Abbas region.
The local fishing boats are dubbed by the Iranian military as “naval Baseej” or paramilitary, as regular Baseej (Basij) under IRGC’s command is known throughout Iran. One naval commander told local media that 650 civilian boats took part in the show.
It is not clear what kind of a military role the “naval Baseej” can play. It is made up of slow-moving fishing boats with civilian crews, lacking proper military training or heavy weapons.
Lacking a strong navy capable of facing US naval power, Iran has been relying on speed boats that have often come close to US vessels to show their defiance. Iran has also been developing various missiles and drones to beef up its naval power.
Iran Says Ready To Buy Pfizer Vaccines 9 Months After Khamenei's Ban
Iran has decided to import two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine made in Belgium nine months after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British Covid-19 vaccines.
An official of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration told Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the government intends to buy the Pfizer vaccines if it can transfer the money, given US banking sanctions on Iran.
Khamenei banned the importation of American and British vaccines in January saying that he does not trust the United States and the United Kingdom. He brought up a conspiracy theory that the West can manipulate the vaccines to destroy “the Iranian gene”.
After a fourth and a fifth wave of the pandemic killed tens of thousands of people, the Islamic Republic in August changed course, saying that Khamenei had only banned vaccines made in US and UK, and if manufactured in other countries, it can be imported.
Iran’s claims that it can produce its own domestic vaccines also proved to be unrealistic, despite huge investments by the government.
Until the end of April, the United States never exported vaccines made in the US, supplying international markets from production plants overseas, but Iran still refused to place orders. As a result, its vaccination program seriously lagged behind until this month when China began shipping large quantities of its vaccines.
Iran Releases Dissident Rapper On Bail After Social Media Outcry
Prosecutors in Iran on Tuesday freed a dissident rap singer from jail on bail after whose arrest led to a social media storm and controversy among Iranian activists and journalists abroad.
Toomaj Salehi an underground rapper living near Esfahan was arrested reportedly by Iran’s intelligence ministry on September 13. After a few days the family and his lawyer found out that he was in Esfahan’s central prison and charged with propaganda against the regime.
Toomaj had recently released a song, “Buy a Rat Hole”, on social media that harshly criticized the Islamic Republic for its violations of human rights and also those that he said were aiding the regime in covering up its crimes. The song’s title and lyrics implied that people applying or supporting injustice one day must answer for their crimes.
Some journalists abroad accused the rapper of threatening those who cover up the government's injustices, while others said such an accusation could endanger the artist's life.
Thousands of Iranians on social media condemned his arrest and Amnesty International demanded his immediate release in a statement on September 17.
In a video Toomaj released immediately after he was freed, he thanked all those who supported him, and he expressed astonishment that his arrest had led to a large public outcry.
Iran Wants Nuclear Talks That Lead To Lifting Of US Sanctions -Raisi
Iran wants a resumption of nuclear talks with world powers to lead to the removal of US sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) told the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday in a pre-recorded address.
"The Islamic Republic considers the useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive (US) sanctions," Raisi said in his address.
Hardline cleric Raisi, who is under personal US sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses in his past as a judge, said the US sanctions, imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, "were crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic."
The official government news website IRNA quoted Raisi as saying, the January events at the US Capitol and images of Afghans falling from American planes in Kabul sent a message to the people of the world that “America’s domination both at home and abroad is not credible.”
Harsh sanctions reimposed by Trump since 2018 have prompted Tehran to violate the deal's limits. However, Tehran says its nuclear steps are reversible if Washington lifts all sanctions.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear pact stopped two days after Raisi was elected as Iran's president in June. Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to announce when the next round of negotiations will resume. However, Tehran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers in Vienna to reinstate the nuclear pact would resume in a few weeks.
Biden Says US Will Prevent Iran From Getting Nukes, But Ready To talk
The United States will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, at the same time reiterating his intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal.
The President who pledged to rely on diplomacy in international affairs, said, “The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. We are working with the P5+1 to engage Iran diplomatically and seek a return to the JCPOA. We’re prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same.”
Biden during last year’s presidential campaign repudiated president Donald Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 nuclear agreement and pledged to return to it if Iran stopped its retaliatory activities since 2019 violating the deal.
His administration entered indirect talks with Iran in April to reach an agreement on how the two sides could restore the JCPOA, but the talks so far have failed to make a breakthrough.
Diplomats were expecting a meeting of JCPOA members this week in New York, but since Monday both the European Union and Iran have said only bilateral talks would take place. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to meet his French and British counterparts.
India Seizes $2.72 Billion Of Afghan Heroin Shipped From Iran
Indian officials said on Tuesday they had seized nearly three tonnes of heroin originating from Afghanistan worth an estimated 200 billion rupees ($2.72 billion) amid the chaos following last month's takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Afghanistan is the world's biggest illicit opiate supplier, but since taking power, the Islamist Taliban have said they plan to ban the drug trade, without giving details on how.
The containers had been declared as containing semi-processed talc stones from Afghanistan and had been shipped from Bandar Abbas Port in Iran to Gujarat Mundra port, the Gujarat official said, adding that forensic tests confirmed the presence of heroin.
Two people had been arrested in connection with the haul and investigations were ongoing, an official in Gujarat said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak publicly.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), India's top anti-smuggling agency, seized two containers at western Gujarat's Mundra Port on Sept. 15 after receiving intelligence they contained narcotics, the official said.
"Investigation conducted so far has also revealed the involvement of Afghan nationals, who are under investigation."
The narcotics were headed to Delhi and the two arrested people had sought an import-export licence based on a house address in Vijayawada, police in Vijayawada said in a statement on Monday.
More than 2,988 kg of heroin was recovered in one of India's biggest such hauls to date.
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Says Nuclear Talks Will Resume 'In A Few Weeks'
Iran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear deal would resume in a few weeks, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
"Every meeting requires prior coordination and the preparation of an agenda. As previously emphasized, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to IRNA.
Khatibzadeh added that the Iran’s foreign policy team must complete its final overview about the nature of the talks, before returning to negotiations.
The world powers held six rounds of indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna to try and work out how both can return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. The talks stopped in June, pending the start of Iran's new government, but one month after the cabinet was formed Tehran has not issued an exact date about its return to the negotiations.
Asked if the nuclear issue will be discussed in a multilateral framework in New York, the spokesman reiterated that Iran would hold bilateral talks with the parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement, JCPOA. Earlier, EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had said no collective talks would take place.
US Says No Plans For Blinken To Meet Iranian Counterpart At UN
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no plans to meet with his new Iranian counterpart next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Friday.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna on reviving a 2015 deal, aimed at curbing Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon, stopped in June. Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Iran's hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August and his Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian is due to travel to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
"We have been engaged with the Iranians and in Vienna, and those discussions will continue," Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters.
"We have not made any direct plans for bilateral meetings while they are here, but that doesn't mean that we don't see value in having discussions with the Iranians because we do want to move forward on issues related to the JCPOA," she said.
The nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China is referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under the agreement Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
However, former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Tehran to start violating some of the nuclear limits in 2019.
Israel Is Reluctant To Interfere With Iranian Fuel Shipments To Lebanon
Amid claims of victory by Lebanon’s Hezbollah to have imported Iranian fuel, Israeli sources and media said their country will not interfere to stop the shipments.
Tanker trucks carrying the fuel Syria, where it was unloaded from an Iranian vessel, began arriving in Lebanon, which is desperately short of essential fuel amid a serious economic crisis since 2019.
The shipment was arranged by Hezbollah in August, and it is not clear whether Iran is getting paid or is sending the fuel for free. In case of brokering free or very cheap Iranian fuel shipments through Hezbollah, the militant organization is poised to make large financial gains.
Israel’s Channel 12 has reported that if the Iranian shipping of fuel is stopped by Israel, it will be seen as harming Lebanon, with which Israel has a complicated relationship. While it is practically at war with Hezbollah, there are many other groups and communities in the small country that do not regard Israel as an enemy.
While Hezbollah blames US sanctions for the economic meltdown in Lebanon, local media, citizens and international experts say that decades of corruption in a sectarian political system drowned Lebanon in debt and empty government coffers.
The fuel delivery is also seen by many as a sign of more domination by Hezbollah, which is a state within a state, pulling multi-religion country more into Iran’s orbit.
Iran Says It Has Been Accepted As Full Member Of Shanghai Pact
Official government media report that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accepted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Friday’s summit held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
The government’s IRNA official news website says that President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) in his speech at the summit thanked other members of the SCO, which includes Russia, China, four former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
IRNA also reported that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Iran in his speech.
Iran’s admittance to the SCO is just the first step to its full membership that has a long process, but the Friday’s development is treated as a big victory for Iran’s new hardliner president who fully follows policies set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Both Raisi and Khamenei have been emphasizing that Iran should “look East” to counter its economic isolation imposed by American and to a lesser extent, European sanctions. However, without a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran acceding to international financial regulations set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) its isolation cannot be easily overcome.
Negotiations over the nuclear issue that started in Vienna in April came to a halt in June by Iran’s decision. Western powers have been urging Tehran to return to the talks in the past few weeks, as it continues to advance its uranium enrichment program, getting closer to accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.
Iran's Raisi Will not Travel To NY For UNGA, Delivering Speech Via Video
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) will not travel to New York to take part in the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Tehran’s ambassador at the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi has announced.
Raisi is under US human rights sanctions and his travel to New York will be potentially a complicated issue amid suspended nuclear talks between Tehran and the West. Instead, Raisi will address the annual gathering via video link next Tuesday, the UN ambassador was quoted by the official government news website IRNA. However, Iranian government-controlled media avoid mentioning Raisi's status as a sanctioned individual.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to travel to New York, as his first trip to the West after assuming office in August.
In the previous decade, both former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani attended the UNGA and delivered speeches in person.
Iranian Americans opposed to the Islamic Republic have appealed to the 192 UN members, President Joe Biden and the UN Secretary General to remind then that Raisi has a serious track record of human rights violations.
Farashgard, an opposition group has asked member states to leave the meeting when Raisi starts to deliver his speech.
Iran, Russia, China And Pakistan Discuss Afghanistan In Dushanbe
Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan have held talks on Afghanistan in recent days prior to and during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Iran’s foreign minister has announced.
The official IRNA news website quoted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Friday as saying that the results of the talks will be announced in a communique later, and that the foreign ministers have confirmed the counties’ commitments to the results of the discussions.
The issue of Afghanistan and policy toward the new Taliban government dominates the 21st summit of SCO that will conclude on Friday. Iran also hopes its membership will be accepted in the organization where Tehran is currently an observer.
Amir-Abdollahian also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the summit. IRNA says the Iranian foreign minister emphasized cooperation and mutual understanding between Moscow and Tehran specially on Afghanistan. Lavrov invited Amor-Abdollahian to visit Moscow and hold further talks.
Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is participating in the summit with the official invitation of Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.