A federal grand jury in the US capital on Friday indicted a Canadian-Iranian dual national with the unlawful export of laboratory equipment from the United States to Iran, through Canada and the United Arab Emirates, a Department of Justice statement said.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, aka Reza Sarhang, , 46, a resident of Montreal was indicted in the District of Columbia on multiple counts, including violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which grants the president powers to determine an international threat and take up measures to deal with it.
Beginning in 2015, Kafrani began attempts to purchase mass spectrometry equipment from US companies to ship to the UAE. But Chromatography and spectrometry analytical instruments, such as some of the laboratory equipment purchased by Kafrani, are controlled for nuclear nonproliferation reasons and require a license to be exported from the United States to either Iran or the UAE.
But Kafrani and a co-conspirator were able to ship one mass spectrometer, ship it to Canada and then send it to UAE for transfer to Iran. They then tried to buy more, hiding the real destination of the equipment.
The indictment mean Kafrani has to stand trial and does not mean he is guilty as charged. Indictments are merely allegations until proven in court.
Nine Iranian Kurdish Refugees Face Peril After Deportation To Syria
Reports received by Iran International say nine Iranian Kurdish refugees who were deported from Turkey to a rebel-held area in Syria three weeks ago are facing a religious trial by extremist Sunni groups.
The nine individuals were trying to get to Europe when Turkish police arrested them in Istanbul and deported to a rebel-held region in Syria. The brother of one of the refugees told Iran International that the group is being held by an armed militia opposed to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
The group first demanded $2,000 to free the nine captives but now they say they will put them on trial to determine whether they are Sunni or Shiite Moslems, the family source said. He added that the Islamic Republic’s interior ministry and other organs have no information about the refugees.
Anti-Assad groups are also Iran’s sworn enemies because of Tehran’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war since 2011. It is not clear if they are held by Arab religious extremist groups or pro-Turkish local militias.
Turkey Plans To Add 242 Kilometers Of Border Wall With Iran
Turkey will add 242 kilometers (150 miles) to its border wall with Iran to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants and bolster security, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on Thursday.
“Thus, we will have finished a large part of our border with Iran,” Hürriyet daily quoted the minister as saying.
Turkey began building its border wall with its eastern neighbor in 2017 and has so far completed 221 kilometers (137 miles) of the concrete structure. The announcement to add a longer segment comes after the Islamic militant Taliban movement tokk over Afghanistan that can lead to a huge refugee wave toward Europe.
Already there are about 500,000 Afghans refugees and millions of Syrians in Turkey according to estimates. Ankara has also reinforced 837 kilometers of its 911-kilometer (566 mile) border with Syria.
Turkey also faces dangers from armed Kurdish insurgents who can relatively easily cross borders into and from neighboring countries, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Ankara is also planning to build walls along borders with Armenia and Georgia.
The Greek government has also recently announced its plans for building a 40-kilometer wall along its border with Turkey for preventing illegal migrants crossing into the European Union.
In 2014, a huge wave of Syrian and other refugees crossed mainly from Turkey into Europe creating the biggest single-year influx that led to political crisis on the continent.
Ancient Afghan Jewelry Enters Iran's Black Market, Report Says
A consignment of ancient jewelry has entered in Iran from Afghanistan and part of it has already been sold on the black market to a local buyer, a local website in Iran has reported.
Sedaye Miras (Voice of Heritage) website said on Thursday that the jewels arrived in Iran’s Mazenderan northern province one month before the fall of Kabul in mid-August. The consignment includes golden necklaces, belts and eight earrings mostly decorated with turquoise stones.
The report said that 2,170 grams of the jewelry was sold for around $200,000 to a well-known local buyer of historic artifacts who is looking for foreign customers to resell his purchase at a profit.
The report also says the jewels are apparently from illegal digs in northern Afghanistan’s Tila Tappeh (Golden Hill) that was excavated in 1978 by Soviet archeologists and unearthed more than 20,000 artifacts from burial chambers.
The 2,000-year-old hoard including gold coins struck by Persian kings, went missing during the 40-year conflicts in Afghanistan and resurfaced in 2003. The Afghan government was planning a museum in Kabul to showcase the artifacts.
Earlier this year, the speaker of parliament Mir Rahman Rahmani demanded the artifacts to be sent to a secure country but the presidential administration reacted strongly, saying the collection will be defended “like national treasure”.
Iran's Raisi To Attend Regional Conference In First Visit Since Taking Office
Tehran's participation in a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference demonstrates the importance it places on regional cooperation, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said before leaving for Tajikistan on Thursday on his first foreign trip since taking office last month.
The summit in Dushanbe will discuss last month's takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a neighbouring country of the SCO's largely Central Asian members. Afghanistan itself is an observer at the SCO, as is Iran.
The SCO was launched in 2001 to combat radical Islam and other security concerns in China, Russia and four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics
"Regional cooperation is a top priority for us," Raisi said in live televised remarks at Tehran airport before leaving for Dushanbe. Legal, economic, and agricultural agreements would be signed with Tajikistan, he said without giving details.
Raisi also said he will have separate meetings with other regional leaders attending the conference. The new Iranian president has limited experience on the international arena. His career mostly involved judicial and prosecutorial roles.
The official IRNA news agency said Raisi was accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs, energy, justice, labour and social welfare, cultural heritage, and tourism.
Reporting by Reuters, IRNA
Hezbollah Begins Trucking In Iranian Fuel From Syria To Lebanon
Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi'ite group says should ease a crippling energy crisis but which opponents say risks provoking US sanctions.
A convoy of trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of al-Ain, where Hezbollah's yellow flag fluttered from lampposts.
"Thank you Iran. Thank you Assad's Syria," declared a banner, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said a convoy of around 20 trucks had crossed into Lebanon. Overall, 1,300 tanker truck trips are needed to bring the fuel to Lebanon.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said the ship carrying the fuel docked in Syria on Sunday after being told going to Lebanon could risk sanctions.
Washington has reiterated that US sanctions on Iranian oil sales remain in place. But it has not said whether it is considering taking any action over the move by Hezbollah, which it designates a terrorist group.
The Lebanese government has said its permission was not sought to import the fuel.
The move marks an expansion of Hezbollah's role in Lebanon, where critics have long accused the heavily armed group of acting as a state within the state.
Hezbollah declared it had broken an "American siege".
Lebanon's financial system unraveled as a result of decades of profligate spending by a state riddled with corruption and waste. A new government was formed last week to negotiate a financial rescue plan with Western countries and international organizations.
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Approves Five Homegrown Covid Vaccines Before Sufficient Testing
Iran has approved five homegrown Covid-19 vaccines for production, while some of them have not completed their trial and testing periods or no information is available about their efficacy and safety.
Health Minister Bahran Einollahi on Wednesday announced the government decision while official; government figures showed the fifth wave of the pandemic is showing signs of ebbing and daily vaccinations have increased by imported Chinese vaccines.
A member of the national vaccination committee, Mostafa Ghanei has said that two of the vaccines, Noura and Fakhra have barely completed the first phase of their trials. None of the other vaccines have been examined by any independent medical authority.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in January, which set back Iran’s inoculation effort. Critics say that as a result tens of thousands unnecessarily died in the fifth wave of the pandemic that has gripped the country since July.
There is also controversy over the large number of vaccines being developed, while Iran is behind advanced countries in both technology and funding. Most vaccine development projects seem to be the result of competing economic interests between influential groups.
On Tuesday, more controversy ensued when a former member of parliament alleged that Brakat, the most well-connected vaccine developer received one billion dollars from the state in advance and has delivered only a fraction of the quantity promised.
Iran's Intelligence Claims It Destroyed 'Terrorists' From A Hostile State
Iran’s security organs identified and have dealt with a “terrorist team” from a “hostile state”, a short announcement by Intelligence Ministry said on Wednesday.
The statement promised more details in the future, but it claimed that enemy agents were planning attacks against “sensitive and vital centers” and were destroyed by the intelligence ministry. State controlled media have repeated the ministry's announcement, without adding any information.
Iranian intelligence organs often make similar claims, but they rarely produce any evidence or provide follow-up information about the alleged cases. News about possible trials or punishment of detained individuals is also rare.
Iran has experienced devastating sabotage attacks since July 2020, with two operations hitting its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz in July 2020 and April 2021, as well as the assassination of a top nuclear official in November.
Other military and industrial targets, including navy ships, have also suffered mysterious fires and explosions. In one of the cases any suspects were identified or arrested. Israel has been suspected of being behind at least some of the incidents although it has never officially confirmed or denied its role.
Iranian Airline Resumes Charter Flights To Kabul
Flights between Iran and Afghanistan’s Kabul airport have resumed, Fars news agency close to the Revolutionary Guard reported on Wednesday.
Fars said with “the situation returning to normal” in Afghanistan some Iranian airlines have resumed their flights.
Qatari and United Arab Emirate’s airlines have been flying to Afghanistan in recent days. Now Mahan airlines affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has resumed its charter flights from Mashhad to Kabul, Fars said, adding that the first flight already took 19 passengers to Afghanistan and returned with 26 passengers
The report did not say if scheduled flights will be announced or only the Mashahd-Kabul charter route is active. There are as many as three million Afghans living in Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s government, which had rocky relations with the Taliban prior to 2001, has threaded much more careful line with the Islamic militants who captured Kabul in mid-August. Government controlled media has refrained from criticism of the Taliban, while many Iranians have criticized the government’s soft approach.
US Indicts Three Florida Residents With Breaking Iran Sanctions Rules
Federal authorities in the United States have charged three Florida residents with alleged unlawful export of scientific equipment to Iran and receiving around $3.5 million from overseas via multiple wire transfers.
The US Justice Department announced on Tuesday that the lead suspect, Mohammad Faghihi, who is a psychiatris,t was Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami (UM). His wife Farzaneh Modarresi and sister Faezeh Faghihi are also charged for their part in illegal activities related to the case.
The accused were operating a company in Florida called Express Gene that was used for the illicit trade.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, “between October 2016 and November 2020, Express Gene received numerous wire transfers from accounts in Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, totaling almost $3.5 million,” The Justice Department said.
Part of the money was used to purchase “genetic sequencing equipment from US manufacturers and ship them to Iran” without the appropriate licenses to export the machines, despite sanctions on Iran, the statement maintained.
Faghihi also travelled to Iran at least on one occasion in 2021 and when he returned he made false statements to US customs agents and was carrying “17 vials of unknown biological substances covered with ice packs and concealed beneath bread and other food items, according to the affidavit. All the vials were subject to regulations,” the affidavit said.
Germany Arrests Man For Sending Equipment For Iran's Nuclear Program
BERLIN, Sept 14 (Reuters) - German police arrested a German-Iranian man suspected of exporting equipment to be used in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes in breach of European Union sanctions, Germany's federal prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Police searched 11 locations, including apartments and offices in the states of Hamburg, Schleswig Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia linked to the suspect, the prosecutor said.
The suspect, identified only as Alexander J. under privacy rules, had shipped equipment worth 1.1 million euros to an Iranian whose company in Iran was blacklisted by the EU as a front to procure equipment for nuclear and rocket programmes.
The GBA general prosecutor's office said the suspect was approached in 2018 and 2019 to procure laboratory equipment. He shipped two spectrometers procured for 166,000 euros ($196,510.80) to Iran in Jan. 2020, and six months later shipped another two, procured for 388,000 euros.
He did not apply for a special export licence which would have been required to ship such equipment to a recipient on the EU blacklist.
Western countries have long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies. In 2015, Iran signed a deal with global powers to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, and Iran responded by violating some of its terms. Negotiations have been held this year to revive it.