Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Assad’

U.S. Sanctions Iran Finance Network in Bid to Sever Tehran’s Global Ties

October 17, 2018

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Washington’s latest action sets the stage for next phase of economy-crippling sanctions and are a warning shot to companies and governments still engaged with Iran


Members of Iran’s Basij militia marched in a parade in Tehran in April.
Members of Iran’s Basij militia marched in a parade in Tehran in April. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—The U.S. sanctioned a multibillion-dollar network of Iranian companies, banks and funds accused of financing the country’s elite paramilitary unit, ratcheting up global pressure on Tehran and sending a warning to governments and companies considering continued engagement with Iran.

By targeting the Basij militia’s financing network and citing the group’s alleged use of child soldiers and other human-rights abuses, the U.S. hopes to not only choke off funding to the prominent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unit, but also scare off any business dealings with the country.

“The IRGC is pervasive within the Iranian economy,” a senior administration official said. “This is precisely the kind of activity that we have warned other companies and governments about extensively.”

Many firms are pulling out of Iran as the U.S. rolls out an escalating and economy-crippling sanctions campaign meant to force Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear and security deal that addresses an array of U.S. concerns.

But from China to Europe, some governments and companies are considering maintaining financial and trade ties with Tehran as a way to keep the country’s critical oil supplies flowing and to oppose Washington’s decision this year to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The U.S. Treasury’s sanctions say the Basij’s ownership and control of banks and companies is integrated across the entire Iranian economy. All of those institutions are already targeted under the coming round of hardest-hitting U.S. sanctions coming into force Nov. 5, the second phase of Washington’s new pressure campaign meant to cut Iran from financial and trade ties to the world.

But the sanctions announced Tuesday link a unit condemned by human-rights groups and blacklisted by many Western governments, including the European Union, to corporations and financial institutions that do business in Europe and around the globe.

Besides intending to raise the political pressure on countries in Europe and elsewhere, Tuesday’s effort is also meant as a warning shot before the full set of sanctions come into force. Given the opacity of Iran’s economy and the extent of the IRGC’s involvement in the country’s economy, companies or banks risk U.S. penalties and reputational damage if they preserve their Iran ties.

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, didn’t address the specific U.S. allegations or the details linking Iran’s military unit to an economywide network of companies and financial institutions, when asked about the action by the Journal. He called the sanctions part of a “unilateral campaign of bellicosity against Iran.”

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The Treasury said a nexus of the Basij network is the Mehr Eqtesad Bank, which U.S. officials say provides hundreds of millions of dollars to the militia’s foundation through dividends and interest-free credit lines. The bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bank Mellat—an institution targeted under the Obama administration for its role in helping finance Iran’s nuclear program—funneled similar amounts to Mehr Eqtesad Bank, the U.S. said on in its Tuesday announcement. Bank Mellat, which the U.S. says is owned by the Basij foundation, has subsidiaries in Germany, the U.K., Turkey and South Korea, according to the institution’s website. The bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mehr Eqtesad Bank’s investment firm owns or controls many Iranian companies, including the largest manufacturer of tractors in the Middle East and North Africa, the country’s multibillion-dollar zinc and lead conglomerate, as well as engineering, investment, chemical and metal smelting firms, U.S. officials said.

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “The international community must understand that business entanglements with the [Basij] network and IRGC front companies have real world humanitarian consequences.”

The watchdog group Human Rights Watch has accused the Basij of torture, particularly of political prisoners, including beatings and rape, and tied the elite unit to the recruitment of Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria, where Tehran is supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as he prosecutes a war against Syrian opposition forces.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that has backed more aggressive sanctions against Tehran, said Treasury’s action should be red flag to companies. Besides revealing the depth of the Basij network’s involvement in Iran’s economy and stigmatizing financial institutions linked to the unit, he said the sanctions set the stage for the next phase of sanctions becoming effective in early November.

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One company caught in the crosshairs of some U.S. policy hawks, including national security adviser John Bolton, is the financial messaging firm SWIFT. The Brussels-based company acts as the global banking system’s infrastructure, allowing institutions to carry out interbank transactions. Under U.S. law, SWIFT is supposed to sever ties with Iranian banks.

But European politicians, pushing back against Washington’s Iran policy and seeking to keep Tehran in the nuclear accord, have sought to protect the institution from U.S. action if it keeps those channels open.

“We’re going to make sure, whether it’s through SWIFT or through other means, that sanctions are enforced,” the senior U.S. official said. “If there are prohibited transactions, going through SWIFT or any other entity, we’re going to make sure we enforce those sanctions quite vigorously.”

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but has said it has been consulting with U.S. and European officials.

Some U.S. policy makers favor sanctioning SWIFT if it doesn’t disconnect Iran from the global financial system to deepen Tehran’s global isolation. Others argue that the sanctions against transactions with Iranian banks has the same effect, without deepening the rift between the U.S. and Europe by action against an ally’s firm.

Write to Ian Talley at

Appeared in the October 17, 2018, print edition as ‘Sanctions Take Aim At Iran Network.’


Assad regime renews threat to attack Idlib after militants refuse to pull out

October 16, 2018

The Assad regime renewed its threat on Monday to launch an offensive in Idlib province in northwest Syria after militants defied a Russia-Turkey deal for them to pull out.

The fighters failed to meet the Oct. 15 deadline for them to withdraw from a planned buffer zone around Syria’s last opposition stronghold.

“Our armed forces are ready around Idlib to eradicate terrorism if the Idlib agreement is not implemented,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem said at a press conference in Damascus with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari.

A Syrian rebel-fighter from the National Liberation Front (NLF) walks in a street in the rebel-held al-Rashidin district of western Aleppo’s countryside near Idlib province on October 15, 2018. (AFP / Aaref Watad)

“Idlib, as any other province, has to return to Syrian sovereignty. We prefer to have it through peaceful means, through reconciliation, but if not there are other options.”

Al-Moualem said it was now up to Russia to judge whether the agreement, which averted a regime offensive last month, was being fulfilled. “We have to wait for the Russian reaction. Russia is monitoring and following the situation,” he said.

When Idlib was recaptured from the opposition, the regime would turn its attention to territory held by the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the minister said. “After Idlib, our target is east of the Euphrates,” which must also return to Syrian sovereignty, he said.

Civilians in Idlib said they were concerned about an increase in violence if the Russian-Turkish accord collapsed. “We fear the deal’s sponsors will fail to implement all its points, and that the bombardment and battles will return,” one said.

The deal provides for a 15-20 km horseshoe-shaped buffer zone around opposition-held areas in Idlib and the neighboring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.

The dominant militant force in the region is Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch. The group has signaled that it would abide by the terms of the deal, although it has not explicitly said so.

“We value the efforts of all those striving — at home and abroad — to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it,” HTS said.

Elsewhere in Syria, the Assad regime on Monday reopened a vital border post with Jordan and a crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Two white jeeps crossed into Israeli-occupied territory during a low-key ceremony to mark the reopening of the Quneitra crossing in the Golan, four years after it was closed when Syrian opposition forces seized nearby territory.

In the south, and three years after it too was closed, a black metal border gate opened at the Nassib crossing into Jordan as police and customs officials stood nearby.

The Jordan crossing was previously a major trading route, while the remote Quneitra post is used primarily by a UN force that monitors a cease-fire line separating Israeli-occupied parts of the Golan Heights from Syria.

Syrian businessman Hisham Falyoun, who lives in Jordan with his wife and children, was the first person to cross the border in his black Mercedes SUV.

“I wanted to be the first person to cross to show everyone that Syria is safe, Syria is back,” said Falyoun, who was hoping to surprise his parents in Damascus.

Arab News

Jihadists fail to quit Syria buffer, throwing deal into doubt

October 15, 2018

Jihadists in Syria’s Idlib failed to meet a Monday deadline to leave a planned buffer zone ringing the country’s last rebel bastion, casting fresh doubt over a deal to avert bloodshed.

A Russian-Turkish truce agreement reached nearly a month ago for the northwestern region gave “radical fighters” until October 15 to leave a proposed demilitarised area between government and opposition forces.

Syrian protesters wave their national flag as they demonstrate against the regime and its ally Russia, in the rebel-held city of Idlib on September 7, 2018
Protesters in the city of Idlib called for international help to stop the expected offensive. AFP photo

The accord was a last-ditch effort to stave off a regime onslaught on Idlib, the largest rebel stronghold left in war-ravaged Syria and home to around three million people.

But the target date for the withdrawal came and went without any hardliners leaving.

“We did not document the withdrawal of any jihadist fighters from the entire demilitarised zone,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said on Monday morning.

Jihadists had until midnight Sunday to Monday to pull out, according to Abdel Rahman and two rebel commanders in Idlib.

Syria’s government said it would take “time” to judge if the deal had failed.

“We have to wait for the Russian reaction. Russia is monitoring and following the situation,” Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told reporters in Damascus.

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Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem

Hours before the cut-off time, Idlib’s jihadist heavyweight Hayat Tahrir al-Sham vowed to continue fighting.

“We have not abandoned our choice of jihad and fighting towards implementing our blessed revolution,” said HTS, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s onetime Syria branch.


Pompeo says Syria won’t get a dollar in reconstruction aid if Iran forces stay

October 11, 2018

In signs of a shift, he tells Jewish policy group that a new key role of US troops in Syria will be to ensure Tehran withdraws its forces; backs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets

October 11, 2018


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — The United States will refuse any additional reconstruction assistance to war-torn Syria so long as Iranian troops are present in the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.

Speaking to a pro-Israel group, Pompeo vowed to press forward with US President Donald Trump’s push to isolate Iran, boasting of imposing “some of the harshest sanctions in history.”

“The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian government, which bears responsibility for its presence there,” Pompeo told the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

“If Syria doesn’t ensure the total withdrawal of Iranian-backed troops, it will not receive one single dollar from the United States for reconstruction,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s remarks come as the Trump administration shifts its reasoning for US involvement in Syria’s brutal civil war, which a war monitor says has killed close to 365,000 people since 2011.

The United States has some 2,000 troops in Syria, mainly training and advising rebels, after former president Barack Obama authorized the mission to defeat the Islamic State extremist group, or IS.

This Tuesday, March 7, 2017 frame grab from video provided by Arab 24 network, shows U.S. forces take up positions on the outskirts of the Syrian town, Manbij, a flashpoint between Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, in al-Asaliyah village, Aleppo province, Syria. Syrian government forces backed by Russia also operate in the area. The U.S. military’s new mission, “reassure and deter,” is designed to prevent the Syria conflict from escalating through confrontation between the Turkish troops and the rival Syrian Kurdish forces. (Arab 24 network, via AP)

Pompeo said that fighting IS “continues to be a top priority” but listed rolling back Iran as another.

National security adviser, John Bolton, said last month that US troops would stay “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

Iran, ruled by Shiite Muslim clerics, has deployed both troops, its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and other militias to prop up Assad, a secular leader who belongs to the Alawite sect and is facing down hardline Sunni Muslim forces.

Pompeo did not make similar demands for a withdrawal by Russia, which has long considered Syria a major ally.

Trump in August already pulled out of Syria’s immediate reconstruction, suspending $230 million after pledges by Gulf Arab allies.

Department of State


.@SecPompeo at @jinsadc: —like all nations—has the right to defend its sovereignty. That means we will continue to stand up for its right to target Iranian-backed militias within for as long as the threat remains.

“Iran has seen instability in Syria as a golden opportunity to tip the regional balance of power in its favor,” Pompeo said.

He warned that Iran, a sworn foe of Israel, would open a new front against the Jewish state if it remained in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran, or its Shiite proxies, to establish a permanent presence in postwar Syria. It has launched numerous attacks on targets it says are a threat to its security.

Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to Assad as he has fought back a seven-year uprising. It has also sought to build missile factories in Syria and uses its bases there to convey advanced weapons to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

And Pompeo said that the US fully supports the Israeli strikes.

“Israel, like all nations, has the right to defend its sovereignty,” Pompeo said.  “That means we will continue to stand up for its right to target Iranian-backed militias within Syria for as long as the threat remains.”


Syria’s Assad says Idlib deal ‘temporary measure’

October 8, 2018

Syria’s President Bashar Assad on Sunday said that a Russia-Turkey deal for the last major rebel bastion of Idlib was a “temporary measure,” state news agency SANA reported.

“The agreement is a temporary measure through which the state has realized many achievements on the ground starting with stemming the bloodshed,” SANA reported the president as saying at a meeting of the central committee of his Baath party.

The deal reached on September 17 between regime ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara aims to avert a massive regime assault on Idlib province and adjacent areas, by creating a 15 to 20-kilometer (9-12 mile) buffer zone ringing the country’s last major rebel stronghold.

“This province and other Syrian territory still under terrorist control will return to the Syrian state,” SANA reported Assad as saying, employing the regime’s usual term for both rebels and jihadists.

Assad’s regime has retaken large parts of Syria from opposition fighters and jihadists since Russia intervened militarily by its side in 2015.

More than half of the Idlib region is held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, while Turkey-backed rebels hold most of the rest.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.


Netanyahu, Putin to meet after Syria friendly fire incident — Bibi Restates Israel’s Strong Stand Against Iran

October 7, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss coordination in Syria after the accidental downing of a Russian plane led to tensions.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Putin and the two agreed “to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination”.

Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu again pledged to stop “Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon”.

The meeting would be the first since the Russian plane was downed by Syrian air defences, which fired in response to an Israeli raid in the country.

© POOL/AFP | Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018

Putin and Netanyahu have spoken at least three times by phone since the September 17 incident.

Fifteen Russians were killed in the incident that Moscow blamed on Israel, accusing its pilots of using the larger Russian plane as cover.

Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.

Russia announced new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian army with S-300 air defence systems and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.

Those measures have led to concern in Israel that it will be forced to limit its strikes against what it calls Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the neighbouring country.

It has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

Both Iran and Hezbollah — enemies of Israel — are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.


John Kerry: ‘I have not met with any Iranians’ since Trump pulled out of Iran deal

October 7, 2018

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said he has not met with any Iranians since President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite vocalizing his disagreement with the administration’s decision.

“I’m speaking out as a citizen in America,” Kerry said in an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish that aired Saturday morning. “If they don’t want me to speak out, that’s a different issue. But I’m telling you, I have not met with any Iranians since the President pulled out of the agreement, period.”
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Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that Kerry’s behavior was “unseemly and unprecedented” after Kerry said he had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif a few times since leaving office.
“This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him, he was talking to them, he was telling them to wait out this administration,’ Pompeo added.
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Mike Pompeo
During his tenure as secretary of state, Kerry was critical in constructing the Obama administration’s 2015 deal, which aimed to restrict Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Trump announced he would pull out of the deal earlier this year, and Kerry has since been vocal about his opposition to Trump’s Iran strategy.
In Kerry’s interview on “Smerconish,” he said he thinks pulling out of the deal “loses the best option of all,” which he goes on to explain would have been to stay in the deal in order to leverage other countries to work with the United States “to hold Iran accountable on the missiles, to do a better job in Yemen, to work on the issue of Hezbollah, which we don’t like them supporting, which is a terrorist organization.”
Kerry added that Trump’s move to pull out of the agreement did not serve the “best interests” of the United States.
“So we could have leveraged better outcomes, I think,” he said. “But by just pulling out and angering everybody, I don’t think it serves the best interests of our country and I’m free to speak my mind with respect to that.”

Includes video:


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John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, January 16, 2016. Credit Kevin Lamarque, AP, File

John Kerry, left, and Sergei Lavrov after agreeing the proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons

This photo, published on 14 September 2013, shows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Sergei Lavrov after the two said they agreed on the proposal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons entirely. Photo: RUBEN SPRICH/REUTERS (That effort was deemed a failure after Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical weapons again.)

Syria rebels deny withdrawal from Idlib buffer zone — Failaq al-Sham: “What was cited of our withdrawal from the demilitarized zone is a lie.”

October 1, 2018

The Failaq al-Sham rebel faction in northwest Syria has denied a report saying it withdrew forces and heavy arms from a demilitarized zone agreed by Turkey and Russia.

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Faylaq al-Sham. Credit Al-Masdar News

October 1, 2018

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday the group was the first to start pulling out of the buffer zone in the Idlib region.

Under the deal between Ankara and President Bashar al-Assad’s key ally Moscow, the zone will run along the contact line between insurgents and government forces, and will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.

“What was cited of our withdrawal from the demilitarized zone is a lie,” Sheikh Omar Huziefa, a Failaq al-Sham leader told Reuters on Sunday night.

Another commander in the National Front for Liberation alliance said he visited a front in the Aleppo countryside on Sunday and there was no change in the situation on the ground.

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The alliance of Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebel factions includes Failaq al-Sham.

“Nothing has happened on the fronts so far. Most of the heavy weapons are not at the front lines anyway,” Abdul Salam Abdul Razzak said.

Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky


Russian airstrikes in Syria killed 18,000 people: monitor — But the figure is actually closer to 85,000

October 1, 2018

A Syrian war monitor has claimed Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed more than 18,000 people over the past three years. But Russia says the figure is actually closer to 85,000.

Russian bombers (picture-alliance/Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation)

More than 18,000 people have been killed in Russian air strikes since Moscow started a bombing campaign in Syria exactly three years ago, a monitor said Sunday.

Russia’s military intervention in support of the Syrian government on September 30, 2015 changed the course of the war, allowing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to retake large swaths of the country.

Read more: Syria conflict: What do the US, Russia, Turkey and Iran want?

During those three years, Russian airstrikes have killed 18,096 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Of those, 7,988 were civilians, including 1,936 children and 1,199 women, the UK-based monitor said. Another 5,233 “Islamic State” fighters and 4,875 fighters of rebel and jihadi factions were killed, the Observatory said.

The West and rebel factions have accused Russian and Syrian warplanes of indiscriminate bombing and intentionally hitting hospitals, schools and markets.

Russia has denied targeting civilians. Its defense commission said Sunday “accurate” airstrikes had killed 85,000 “terrorists.”

The White Helmets, a Syrian rescue group, also put out a report on Sunday limited to Russian attacks its teams have responded to in opposition areas.

It said those Russian strikes had left 1,848 civilians dead, including 27 White Helmet volunteers.

Russia has “indiscriminately attacked civilian spaces, causing countless deaths and injuries, and massive infrastructural damage by bombing markets, bakeries, residential areas, IDP camps, schools, and hospitals,” the White Helmets charged.

The White Helmets


Three years on the Russian intervention .. Field study 

Russia also has special forces and military police on the ground in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have helped the Assad regime.

At the time of Russia’s intervention, the Syrian regime controlled only a quarter of the country’s territory compared to about two-thirds today.

In addition to Russia and Syrian warplanes, the US-led coalition against IS has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since September 2014.

Read more: Rebuilding Assad’s Syria: Who should foot the bill?

Last week, the Observatory said coalition airstrikes have killed more than 3,300 civilians since it intervened against IS.

The Coalition has confirmed 1,059 civilian fatalities, including those in Iraq, where it has conducted airstrikes against IS since June 2014.

Airwars, a monitoring group, estimates that a minimum of between 6,575 to 9,968 non-combatants have been killed in Coalition action in Iraq and Syria from August 2014 to August 2018.

The Observatory says it determines whose planes carried out strikes according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions.

Iran warns Israel will face ‘sorrow, penitence’ for striking its forces in Syria

September 27, 2018

Senior Tehran official says further airstrikes against Iranian troops will be met with retaliatory attacks against Jewish state

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Israeli Merkava Mark IV tanks take positions near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (Menahem Kahana-AFP)

Assembled from a Times of Israel Live Blog

Iran’s Rouhani says US headed into isolation after UN meeting

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the UN Security Council meeting chaired by US President Donald Trump yesterday shows America is increasingly isolated among the international community.

Rouhani spoke after returning to Tehran from New York, where he addressed the UN General Assembly.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on September 24, 2018, one day before the start of General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. (AFP Photo/Don Emmert)

He says Trump achieved the opposite of what he’d hoped for and that the Security Council meeting backed Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Trump pulled America out of the accord in May and is re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

Rouhani says “nobody backed the United States, putting America into a unique historical and political isolation.”

On Wednesday, Rouhani told reporters at the UN that the US withdrawal from the deal was “a mistake” and that he believes America will “sooner or later” support the deal.

— AP


Abbas spokesman hits back at Netanyahu: We won’t ever accept Israeli troops

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, says the Palestinians will not accept the presence of Israeli soldiers in a future Palestinian state.

Mahmoud Abbas. Credit Mohamad Torokman-Reuters.

His comments came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly that under any peace accord with the Palestinians, Israel would retain security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

“We will not accept the presence of an occupation soldier on our Palestinian land,” Abu Rudeinah says in a statement published on the official PA news site Wafa. “We will only accept an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

— Adam Rasgon


Delek-Noble announces $500m deal to allow Israeli gas exports to Egypt

Noble Energy and its Israeli partner Delek, along with Egyptian East Gas Company, announces that it has bought 39 percent of a disused pipeline connecting the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon with the north Sinai, a deal that will enable the export of Israel’s natural gas to Egypt.

The consortium paid $518 million for the interest in the East Mediterranean Gas Company pipeline.

An aerial view of the Israeli ‘Tamar’ gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon. Noble Energy and Delek are the main partners in the oil field, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The mainly undersea pipeline will be used to transport natural gas from the Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs to Egypt from as early as 2019, allowing a 10-year $15 billion deal signed in February with Egypt’s Dolphinus to move forward, Delek says in a statement.

It will be the first time Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, imports gas from its neighbor.

— with AP


Iran warns Israel will face ‘sorrow and penitence’ for striking forces in Syria

A senior Iranian security official is threatening Israel with harsh “reactions” if the Jewish state “continues to attack” Iranian and government forces in Syria.

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Houthi Military Media Unit shows the launch by Iran-backed Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia March 25, 2018. Houthi Military Media Unit-Handout via Reuters. Iran has threatened to attack Israel with ballistic missiles.

The semi-official Fars news agency quotes Ali Shamkhani, of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that in case of further airstrikes, Israel “will face reactions that would cause sorrow and penitence.”

Earlier in September, Israel attacked the airport in the Syrian capital, Damascus, with missiles that are believed to have targeted arms depots there of the Iranian forces and or the Lebanese terror Hezbollah group — both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops in the civil war.

Iran has maintained that its forces in Syria are in advisory role to the Syrian army in its war on Islamic State jihadists and armed opposition groups.

— Agencies


  (From Bloomberg)

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump, at the U.N. in New York, September 26, 2018