After a misfired rocket aiming at American troops killed seven civilians including five children near Baghdad, the US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus once again reiterated that the Iran-backed militias in Iraq “pose an unacceptable danger”.
“We have made the point before that the actions of lawless Iran-backed militias remains the single biggest deterrent to stability in Iraq,” Ortagus said in her statement.
The attack on Monday was one in a series of around 40 targeting American troops or interests in Iraq since August, and it came right after the Trump administration threatened to shut down its massive embassy in Baghdad and withdraw its remaining troops from Iran if the Iraqi government does not stop the attacks.
Ortagus added: “These militias pose an unacceptable danger to everyone in Iraq, from diplomatic officials and facilities to Iraqi activists and families.”
A rocket targeting Baghdad airport on Monday hit a residential area killing five children and two women.
Since the beginning of the US maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, Iran-backed militias in Iraq have repeatedly targeted near American bases and embassy, without any casualties.
Iranian Man In French Court Over Drowned Migrant Family
An arrested Iranian man was brought before a French investigative judge on Friday with a view to being charged with manslaughter, Dunkirk public prosecutor Sebastien Pieve said on Friday [October 30]. The 37-year-old, who has not been named, was allegedly involved with a migrant boat that sank on Tuesday off the coast of Dunkirk.
Four members of an Iranian Kurdish family, from the city of Sardasht, drowned on their way to Britain seeking asylum. Rasoul Irannejad, his wife Shiva Panahi, both 35, and their two children, Anita and Armin, aged 9 and 6, all perished. The family’s 15-month-old toddler Artin has not been found.
Relatives have said the family paid human traffickers £21,000 to take them to Britain in search of a better life. Migrant boats in the English Channel are routinely overcrowded and often unseaworthy.
Kamal Hosseinpour, representative of Sardasht in the Iranian Parliament, was on Saturday quoted by Asr-e Iran news website that a dire economic situation and high unemployment had forced over a thousand young men and women to leave Iran in the past five months.
“There are no industries, no agriculture, no jobs in Sardasht,” he said. The mainly Kurdish-populated city, in West Azerbaijan Province, has a population of 120,000.
Hosseinpour said families were selling all their belongings to pay human traffickers to take them to Europe through neighboring Turkey. “[This type of] emigration happens when people are not able to earn their living in their own region,” he noted.
Sky News television ran an interview with Choman Manish, a 37-year-old Iranian Kurdish refugee, who knew the “beautiful friendly family” in a camp in France and advised them not to risk the Channel.
Iran: Oil Was Seized By ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh evoked a swashbuckling Disney fantasy with a tweet on Friday [October 30] slamming the United States for confiscating an oil shipment going to Venezuela.
“The Pirates of the Caribbean openly boasting abt their booty,” noted Khatibzadeh, who claimed that the oil did not belong to Iran. “But sb else’s oil has certainly been stolen. No one civilized brags abt stealing.”
The US State Department Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams said on October 29 that the US would sell fuel confiscated from four tankers carrying oil from Iran to Venezuela and would use the proceeds into a special fund for “victims of state-sponsored terrorism.” The US navy seized the 1.1 million barrels of fuel in August.
Iran began supplying fuel to its South American ally earlier this year as Caracas faced a severe gasoline shortage. Tehran later said that it received gold in payment for the fuel. The US warned both countries to stop the trade, as both are under American oil sanctions.
With the United Nations arms embargo on Iran lapsing earlier this month, Abrams warned on October 26 that Washington would stop Iranian “long-range missiles” reaching Venezuela or “eliminate” them if they did arrive.
Iran Taskforce: Soleimani’s Legacy Will Be ‘Expelling US Forces’
The expulsion of United States forces from the Middle East in a “not too distant future” will “without a doubt” be the main consequence of the killing of Qasem Soleimani, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters in Tehran on Saturday [October 31].
Amir-Abdollahian, a former diplomat and current foreign-policy aide to parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), was speaking after the first meeting of a taskforce set up to prepare commemorations for the first anniversary of the killing by a US air attack of Iran’s al-Quds force commander in Baghdad on January 3.
Iran has repeatedly vowed revenge for the death of Soleimani, the chief coordinator of Tehran’s military and influence-building measures across the region. Days after the killing, Iran fired ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq. But Amir-Abdollahian insisted this was just a response to the attack on Soleimani’s convoy, while the response to his death would be the expulsion of US forces from the Middle East.
Amir-Abdollahian said that “months before” the first anniversary in January 2021, Soleimani’s supporters “in Iran, the region and even from Latin America” were discussing ideas on how best to honor his memory. As a result, authorities had decided to form the taskforce to mark the anniversary in a “proper” manner.
The parliamentary official added that in the weeks following Soleimani’s killing ceremonies had taken place in 51 venues in the US, while the taskforce now had communications from all round the world over holding events on the first anniversary. US president Donald Trump defended the killing of Soleimani in terms of “stopping a war” and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested it saved American lives, but the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, argued Soleimani’s assassination was illegal.
Iranian Hackers Behind Threatening Proud Boys Emails Accessed Voter Data
Reuters - FBI and US Department of Homeland Security said late Friday that the Iranian hackers behind a wave of threatening emails sent to thousands of Americans earlier this month successfully accessed voter data.
The statement, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), partially confirms the authenticity of a video distributed as part of a disinformation campaign that briefly drew attention when it became public last week.
The campaign - which consisted of thousands of threatening emails sent to random U.S. voters in the name of a pro-Trump group - featured a video in which a hacker purported to demonstrate how they could cause havoc by breaking into voter registration records.
Experts who examined the footage said it amounted to little more than an attempt to scare voters about the integrity of the Nov. 3 contest, but the question of whether the hackers actually did break in anywhere had gone unanswered until now.
CISA and the FBI confirmed Friday that "the actor successfully obtained voter registration data in at least one state."
The state was not identified, although purported personal details of Alaska voters were briefly flashed on the video. The FBI, CISA, and the Alaska Division of Elections did not immediately return messages seeking comment. CISA and the FBI said the Iranian hackers also scanned a number of other states' election sites for vulnerabilities.
Cyberscoop, which first reported on CISA and the FBI’s findings, said 10 states were scanned altogether.
Instagram Blocks Khamenei's Account For Hours After Post About Holocaust
The Instagram page of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in French was blocked on Friday by the social media company for a few hours after posting a comment about Prohpet Muhammad Cartoons and the Holocaust.
On his Instagram page, the leader of the Islamic Republic had earlier urged the French youth to ask their president why is it that “insulting and cursing” Prophet Muhammed is allowed but “doubting the Holocaust is a crime?”
Khamenei's office created another account on Friday and once again posted the message. His original account has been reactivated after deleting the post addressing the French youth.
In 2019, Instagram blocked an English account of Ayatollah Khamenei and several commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Instagram is the only social media platform that is still active in Iran. All other social media and YouTube are blocked for Iranians inside the country. However, most Islamic Republic officials in Iran have social media accounts despite the fact that Iranians can only gain access to these sites using proxy tools, such as VPNs.
In response to Khamenei tweeting the same message on Twitter, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “2500 years ago Cyrus the Great defended the Jewish people from persecution. Now, Khamenei once again shamefully peddles Holocaust denial from his uncensored Twitter account while he throws religious minorities in jail, executes dissidents, and imposes digital darkness on Iran. “
The leader and many officials of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly promoted Holocaust denial and threatened to annihilate Israel.
In a recent US congressional hearing, some US senators asked Twitter CEO why his company had flagged posts by United States President Donald Trump but not those of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
91,000 More Deaths In Iran Signals Higher Covid Toll Than Official Numbers
New statistics from the National Organization for Civil Registration show that between March 21-July 21, 91,000 more Iranians died compared to the same period last year. The official number of coronavirus deaths announced by Iran’s Ministry of Health until the end of October is around 35,000.
Iran was the second country in the world after China where the coronavirus spread, and full-fledged epidemic began in mid-February. First, the government dowplayed the threat to public health and refused to put strong measures in place. In the following months, many officials and lawmakers have argued that the official infection and death numbers announced by the government are far less than the actual Covid toll.
While the official statistic from the National Organization for Civil Registration shows that in the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 21,2020-March 20, 2021) there have been 91,000 more deaths compared to the same period last year, the official coronavirus death toll showed only 15,000 coronavirus deaths in that period of time. Meaning even considering the 15,000 coronavirus deaths, there were still over 76,000 more deaths compared to the first fourth months in 2019.
Iran also does not publish a geographical breakdown of its Covid numbers, making it hard to track the accuracy of health ministry's figures.
Hamshahri Online wrote that the number of deaths in the first fourth months of this year shows that the real death toll of coronavirus could be much more than the official reports; even over 2.5 times or according to one health official, up to five times higher.
Former Revolutionary Reiterates Call For Khamenei's Resignation
A prominent Iranian dissident figure says the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be reformed and that efforts to reform have proven futile.
In a commentary on the foreign-based opposition website Kaleme on Friday, October 28 two weeks before the anniversary of the bloodiest crackdown on protesters in Iran in November 2019, former regime insider turned reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani said that "religious despotism" will surrender to reform only in the face of a "national uprising," adding that even that "would be too late."
Calling the Islamic Republic despotic and corrupt, Ghadiani said, "The religious despotism brutally cracked down on the movement by those who had nothing to lose. Despot Ali Khamenei ordered his suppressive forces to shoot at the protesters at point blank."
He was referring to a speech by Khamenei in November 2019 when he told IRGC commander "to do whatever it takes" to suppress the uprising that had started with economic motives but quickly turned into a revolt against the regime.
Ghadiani was jailed for several years after the disputed 2009 presidential election when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was controversially announced the winner. Later, in 2018 and 2019 he wrote open letters to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei letters and called on him to step down and hold a referendum to change the Islamic Republic regime and replace it with a secular democracy.
He was briefly jailed after his last letter to Khamenei but was released and sentenced to flogging and "copying" Khamenei's books by hand.
In his commentary, Ghadiani reiterated his call for Khamenei's resignation and holding a referendum to change the governing system.
Several other Iranian political figures have also called for Khamenei's resignation during 2019 and 2020, but all of them ended up in jail.
Armenia To ‘Scrutinize’ Iran’s Peace Proposal For Nagorno-Karabakh
Iran’s peace initiative over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be “scrutinized in detail,” Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said on Friday [October 30] after his meeting in Yerevan with Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Ministry for Political Affairs and Special Envoy for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Araghchi is on a regional tour that has taken him to Baku, Moscow and Yerevan. Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia have yet to make any official response to Iran’s initiative, the details of which have not been disclosed. Tehran has generally good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and is keen to see an end to the conflict that flared up on September 27 over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Both parties expressed concern over the transfer of international terrorists from the Middle East region, assessing it as a serious threat to the entire region,” said a statement from the Armenian Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Media Max news website. This referred to reports that Sunni Islamist fighters had arrived from Syria, possibly facilitated by Turkey, to fight alongside Azerbaijani forces – one of many aspects of the conflict alarming Tehran.
The foreign ministry added that Mnatsakanyan had “informed his interlocutor that he was going to meet with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in Geneva on October 30 and continue working in that format.”
On Thursday Araghchi held a three-hour long meeting with Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko to present Iran’s plan, but while in Moscow Araghchi also aired Tehran’s frustration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group. The group - established in 1992 and co-chaired by Russia, the US and France - has failed to resolve the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but ruled de facto by Armenians.
Araghchi charged that some countries in the Minsk Group “have no connection to this crisis” and others were “not interested in peace” in Nagorno-Karabakh. As well as its co-chairs, the Minsk Group includes Belarus, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
After his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, the first leg of his regional tour, on Wednesday, Araghchi in a tweet called the meeting “positive and constructive.” In a tweet Hikmet Hajiyev, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs in the Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, thanked Araghchi for expressing “condolences to Azerbaijani martyrs.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards ‘Shell Border Villages’ In Iraqi Kurdistan
Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have launched artillery and drone attacks on the Sidakan sub-district of Soran, across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan, north-east of the regional capital Erbil. Three villages were shelled, Soran’s mayor was quoted by ESTA, a news website in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Thursday October 30.
Hengaw, website of Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, said artillery and drone strikes began at mid-day local time on October 29, involving IRGC artillery units stationed in Piranshahr and Oshnavieh in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province. The attacks were confirmed by Kurdistan Media, website of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI).
According to ESTA the extent of damages or casualties was not yet known.
Iran has yet not officially commented on the operations, but Bultan News, a website linked to security forces, reported at least two attacks on Thursday on “bases of the KDPI terrorist grouplet.” Bultan News claimed KDPI bases sustained “major damages.”
Iran has repeatedly accused the KDPI and Free Life Party of Kurdistan (Pejak), a party linked to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), of separatism, assassinating Iranian officials and security officers, and destabilizing the Kurdish regions of Iran. The IRGC perceives the activities of these groups in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq, where they have bases, as a security threat along the country’s western borders.
Germany Seeks To Arrest An Iranian Suspect In Response To Detention Of Its Citizen In Iran
German newspaper Express reported the German government is searching for a person that is said to be an “Islamic Republic spy,” and is also accused of rape, in order to pressure Iran to release Nahid Taghavi, the Iranian-German human rights activist who was recently arrested and imprisoned in Iran.
A German security official who remained anonymous, while pointing out the arrest of 66-year-old Nahid Taghavi, told the Express: Germany cannot sit idly by an allow others to blackmail the country, and if Tehran does not stop this behavior, its spies will be neutralized one after the other.
A few days after the arrest of Nahid Taghavi, the German police announced it is in search of a man named Sohail Omid Kholousian, 32 years old, who had raped a female student twice in 2017. Kholousian’s name has also been added to the list of most dangerous fugitives in Europe.
According to Express, it is yet not clear as to why German officials did not initially arrest Kholousian and why his name has only been added to the list of dangerous fugitives now.
It is also possible that the German intelligence had identified this person long ago as an Islamic Republic spy and preferred to keep him under surveillance.
According to the report, Kholousian’s job is to threaten Iranian activists in Germany who oppose the Islamic Republic, usually through putting pressure on their families in Iran.
UK Government Summoned Iranian Ambassador Regarding Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
The UK Government announced that Iranian Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) October 29 following news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British dual citizen detained in Iran, is to called back to court, and conveyed Britain's “grave concern” demanding an to her "arbitrary" detention.
A day earlier,Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliff, who is in the UK, had announced that she has been summoned to court next Monday to face new charges of propaganda against the regime, and the revolutionary court has asked her to prepare for her return to prison.
Ms. Zaghari Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 during a trip to Iran to visit her family. She was accused of plotting against the Islamic Republic and being a spy. She was tried behind closed doors and received a five-year prison sentence. Human rights organizations and UN experts say Iran arbitrarily arrests foreigners and accuses them of "security" crimes to use them as bargaining chips against Western countries.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We have made it clear to the Iranian ambassador that his country’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is unjustified and unacceptable, and is causing an enormous amount of distress. Iran is further tarnishing its reputation through its actions towards Nazanin. It is time to end her arbitrary detention and that of the other dual British nationals it is holding.”
According to Guardian, Zaghari has been told that her judge will be Abolqasem Salavati. Judge Salavati is a favorite judge of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and is notorious for his harsh sentences for “national security” prisoners, to a point that he is labeled among Iranian dissidents as the “hanging judge”.
Zaghari has already been sentenced to five years in prison and was temporarily released from prison and under house arrest at his parents’ house in Tehran.
US Congress Takes First Step To Sell Bunker-Buster Bombs To Israel
Two US congressmen announced on Tuesday they will introduce a bipartisan bill that would provide legal grounds for the US Department of Defense to sell advanced bunker-buster bombs to Israel.
Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer and Republican Brian Mast say they want Israel to have the Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb in its arsenal to use defensively against Iran if the Islamic Republic tries resuming work to obtain nuclear weapons.
With the recent peace deal between Israel and UAE and the subsequent US announcement about the sale of advanced weaponry to the Emirates, the US Congress is attempting to maintain Israel’s military advantage in the region in accordance with the US-Israel agreement, through the sale of these advanced bombs that were previously denied.
“We must ensure our ally Israel is equipped and prepared to confront a full range of threats, including the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer said on Tuesday. “That’s why I’m proud to be introducing this new bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our historic ally’s qualitative military edge in the region with ‘bunker buster’ munitions. Iran and its terrorist proxies throughout the region must never be able to threaten the US or Israel with a nuclear weapon.”
The massive bomb is capable of penetrating to a depth of 60 meters, the equivalent to reaching the bottom of an 18-story underground building, before detonating. It would be theoretically used to destroy Iranian underground nuclear facilities.
“There should be absolutely no doubt that our ally Israel must be prepared for every contingency if Iran seeks… a nuclear weapon,” Gottheimer emphasized in a video conference with reporters.