Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

U.S. lawmakers reach deal on sanctions bill for Russia, Iran, North Korea

July 22, 2017


JULY 22, 2017 / 12:06 PM

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Missiles are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on legislation that allows new sanctions against Russia, Iran and now also North Korea, leading congressional Democrats said on Saturday.

The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act passed the Senate a month ago but was held up in the House of Representatives after Republicans proposed including North Korea sanctions in the bill.

Both chambers of Congress will have to pass the revised legislation.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, however, expressed concern that by including North Korea the legislation could face delays in the Senate.

“While we support the tougher sanctions on North Korea, which the House has already passed, I am concerned that adding them to this bill instead of stand-alone legislation will cause further procedural delays in the Senate,” she said in a statement.

“It is essential that the addition of North Korea to this package does not prevent Congress from immediately enacting Russia sanctions legislation and sending it to the President’s desk before the August recess,” she added.

Many lawmakers hope the bill would send a message to President Donald Trump to keep a strong line against Russia.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a strong sanctions bill “is essential.”

“I expect the House and Senate will act on this legislation promptly, on a broad bipartisan basis and send the bill to the President’s desk,” Schumer said in a statement.

Senator Ben Cardin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the agreement was reached after “intense negotiations.”

“A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message,” he said in a statement.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Senator Ben Cardin

Iran Announces New Missile Production Line: State Media

July 22, 2017

BEIRUT — Iran announced the launch of a new missile production line on Saturday, according to state media, against a backdrop of tension between the United States and Tehran.

The Sayyad 3 missile can reach an altitude of 27 km (16 miles) and travel up to 120 km (74 miles), Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan said at a ceremony.

The missile can target fighter planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and helicopters, Dehghan said.

Last week, the United States slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any “positive contributions” coming from a 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

The measures signaled that the administration of President Donald Trump was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place the agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

 Image result for Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan, photos
Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan

The U.S. government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what it said were “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity”.

Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, it said. Others had “orchestrated the theft of U.S. and Western software programs” sold to Iran’s government, the Treasury Department said.

On Monday, the Trump administration said Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement but that it was in default of the spirit of the accord.

It was the second time Trump has certified Iranian compliance with the agreement since he took office in January, despite having described it as “the worst deal ever” during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing then-President Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the accord.

Dehghan said at the ceremony on Saturday that the recent $110 billion military deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia, announced during Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May, was intended as a threat to Iran.

“We recently witnessed an immense purchase that some countries in the region paid as a ransom to America and they intend to bring weapons into the region, and this purchase was done with the goal of threatening Islamic Iran,” Dehghan said according to the website for state TV.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Andrew Bolton)


Iran reveals production line of new missile it says can shoot down stealth fighter jets 75 miles away

  • The new Sayyad-3 missile is allegedly capable of hitting targets at altitudes of up to 17 miles 
  • Iranian defense chiefs boast it’s ‘completely indigenous technology’ and can track 30 targets simultaneously
  • They insisted the move was defensive and said Iran was the ‘protector of peace and security in the region’
  • Although Iran’s nuclear programme was dismantled in 2016 tensions with Israel and the U.S. still remain high 

Iran has begun a production line for a new version of an air defense missile.

The new weapon is called the Sayyad-3, which means ‘hunter’ in Farsi, and has range of roughly 75 miles. It is allegedly capable of hitting targets at altitudes of up to 17 miles.

The country’s air defense chief, Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, said during a ceremony that the missile is ‘a completely indigenous technology.’

The new missile, which translates as 'hunter-3', is allegedly capable of tracking up to 30 targets simultaneously 

The new missile, which translates as ‘hunter-3’, is allegedly capable of tracking up to 30 targets simultaneously

The country's Defense Minister claimed it was capable of engaging with threats including drones and stealth aircraft 

The country’s Defense Minister claimed it was capable of engaging with threats including drones and stealth aircraft

Iran’s Defense Minister, General Hossein Dehghan, told local media the weapons system can track 30 targets and engage 12 of them simultaneously.

He said: ‘Sayyad-3 is designed based on the latest technologies in the world and is capable of fighting with various types of threats including drones, stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, helicopters and various types of other aircraft.

‘We regret that our neighbours consider Iran’s capabilities and power as threats to themselves, while we are the protector of peace and security in the region.’

The Sayyad-3 joins Iran’s formidable arsenal of Surface to Air Missiles, which includes the Russian-built S-300 air defense system – installed last August around the Fordo nuclear site, south of the capital Tehran.

Iran commonly boasts about its indigenous military technology, but it has not been verified by outside experts

Iran commonly boasts about its indigenous military technology, but it has not been verified by outside experts

NATO considers the missiles system to be one of the most advanced in the world. Israeli Air force commander Major General Amir Eshel said the S-300 could pose a ‘significant but not insurmountable challenge’.

Iran has long been preoccupied with potentially having to defend its nuclear weapons programme from Israeli or American fighters.

In 2016 it agreed to dismantle major parts of its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions, however tensions remain.

Iran's Defense Minister, General Hossein Dehghan, said the country was the 'protector of peace and security in the region' 

Iran’s Defense Minister, General Hossein Dehghan, said the country was the ‘protector of peace and security in the region’

Iran occasionally announces production of sophisticated homegrown weapons that cannot be independently verified.

In 2013, the Iranian Air Force announced that it had built a prototype for a single-seat stealth aircraft called the Qaher-313. However independent experts widely ridiculed the plane.

In 1992 the country began a military self-sufficiency program under which it produces mortars to missiles and tanks to submarines.

Iran’s Air Force, however, still comprises of Cold War-era aircraft, liken the F-14 Tomcat and the MiG-29.

In 1992 Iran began a military self-sufficiency programme to produce everything from tanks to planes and missiles 

In 1992 Iran began a military self-sufficiency programme to produce everything from tanks to planes and missiles

An Israeli Air Force F-15. Tensions between the two countries remain high, despite the Iranian nuclear deal in 2016

An Israeli Air Force F-15. Tensions between the two countries remain high, despite the Iranian nuclear deal

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Detain Saudi Fishing Boat, Arrests Crew

July 22, 2017

BEIRUT — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have detained a Saudi Arabian fishing boat and arrested its crew, an Iranian state news agency reported on Saturday, at a time of increased diplomatic tension between the two regional powers.

Five Indian nationals on the vessel were detained on Friday after they crossed into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf, Ardeshir Yarahmadi, a spokesman for the fisheries department of Bushehr province, was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Yarahmadi said it was the second time in the past month that a Saudi boat and its crew had been detained.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are at their worst in years, with each accusing the other of subverting regional security and supporting opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Riyadh, along with other Arab governments, has severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as one of the main reasons for the move.

Iran has blamed Saudi Arabia for being behind deadly twin attacks on June 7 in Tehran claimed by Islamic State. At least 18 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in the attacks, in which Riyadh has denied any involvement.

Iranian media reported last month that Saudi border guards had opened fire on Iranian fishing boats in the Gulf, killing a fisherman and arresting three others.

Iran has urged Saudi Arabia to release the trio, who Tehran said had legal documents but lost their way.

The Saudi Information Ministry said it had intercepted the boat in Saudi waters on June 16 and that three members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards had been detained in the incident.

It said the seized vessel was carrying explosives and those captured intended to conduct a “terrorist act” in Saudi territorial waters. Iran has denied the allegation.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Helen Popper)

The situation in Qatar will soon become like Yemen unless the siege is ended

July 22, 2017

Opinion — Letter

The Independent 

I applaud The Independent for drawing much needed attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged Yemen.

This poor country is in the grip of man-made cholera; is sitting on the cusp of famine, malnutrition, severe shortages of food, medicine, clean water and livestock. This war has weakened the Yemeni people, rendered them more impoverished and susceptible to diseases, acted as a breeding ground for radical extremism and terrorism and resulted in an economic collapse and crumbling health systems, with no end in sight to peoples’ miseries. Warring factions and their backers are responsible for stoking the embers of war and hatred for mere financial gains “the merchants of war”.

It is also imperative to remember the besieged people in Qatar. Unlike Yemen, Qatar is a wealthy country with massive oil and gas reservoirs. However, its unwarranted siege would have severe repercussions for families, students, the elderly, the infirm and the sick. Qatar has always believed in dialogue and diplomacy as a way out of this conflict. The global community cannot remain impervious to the anguish and suffering of people. It is time to demonstrate the wisdom of diversity, constructive engagement and diplomacy during times of adversity.

Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2


Qatar emir calls for negotiations to ease Gulf boycott

July 22, 2017

BBC News

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, 2017
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani condemned a “malicious smearing campaign” – Reuters

The emir of Qatar has called for negotiations to ease a boycott by four powerful Arab neighbours.

In his first public address since the crisis erupted, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said any solution must respect Qatar’s sovereignty.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June over its alleged support for terrorism and ties with Iran, and issued a series of demands.

Qatar denies aiding terrorists.

In his television address, the emir condemned a “malicious smearing campaign” against Qatar and praised the resilience of its people.

“As you know, life in Qatar life goes on normally,” he said.

But he said “the time has come for us to spare the people from the political differences between the governments”.

“We are open to dialogue to resolve the outstanding problems,” so long as Qatar’s “sovereignty is respected”, the emir said.

The restrictions put in place by the four Arab nations have forced the gas-rich emirate to import food by sea and air to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have now backed down from a list of 13 specific demands they made last month. They included shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading relations with Iran.

Instead they say they want Qatar to accept six broad principles before they lift the restrictions. These include commitments to combat terrorism and extremism, and to end acts of provocation and incitement.

Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera: “We’re not partisan to any particular group or ideology or government”

Qatar has not responded directly to the latest demands. It has previously refused to agree to any measures that threaten its sovereignty or violate international law, and denounced the “siege” imposed by its neighbours.

In Friday’s address, the emir thanked Kuwaiti mediators who have been trying to resolve the crisis.

Earlier this week, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem al-Hashimi said: “At this stage, the ball is in Qatar’s court.”

Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organisations by some of its neighbours, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has denied aiding jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or Islamic State (IS).


Qatar informed al-Qaeda of a UAE military operation in Yemen, UAE ambassador says

July 21, 2017

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Russia has said Qatar informed al-Qaeda of a military operation in Yemen, resulting in a suicide bomb attack that left Emirati troops injured.

“Our Qatari allies informed al-Qaeda of our precise location and what we were planning to do. We then received four suicide bombers at our door,” Omar Saif Ghobash told BBC Hardtalk.

The United Arab Emirates is one of four Arab nations leading a boycott of Qatar.

Last month they cut diplomatic ties with their Gulf neighbour and submitted demands of the country, including commitments to combat terrorism.

Qatar has denied aiding terrorists.

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Qatar changes anti-terror law amid Gulf row

July 21, 2017

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DOHA (AFP) – Qatar announced on Thursday changes to its anti-terror legislation, one of the controversial issues at the core of the crisis between Doha and its neighbours who accuse it of backing extremists.

The decree from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani establishes two national lists for individuals and terrorist entities and sets out the requirements for being included on them.

It also defines terrorists, terrorist crimes, terrorist entities as well as the financing of terrorism.

The decree follows the signing of a US-Qatar agreement to combat terror funding, later dismissed by the Gulf nation’s neighbours.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived in Doha, Qatar. Credit Qatar News Agency, via Associated Press

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have put in place a boycott on Qatar since June 5.

They have imposed sanctions on Doha, including closing its only land border, refusing Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from Qatar.

They also presented the emirate with a list of 13 demands with which to comply to end the worst political crisis in the region for years.

Qatar denies the charges of extremism and has called the demands unrealistic.


Kuwait Orders Iranian Embassy to Reduce Staff, Close Offices-Agency

July 20, 2017

DUBAI — Kuwait told the Iranian embassy on Thursday to reduce its staff in the Gulf state and close down some of its technical offices following a court ruling last year that implicated some Iranians in a spying case, state news agency KUNA reported.

The agency, citing a foreign ministry source, said Kuwait also decided to freeze any activities involving joint committees between the two countries following the ruling by Kuwait’s top court in a case known as the “Abdali cell”.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Qatar says Arab countries working to isolate the nation have acted dangerously and in a “disorganized manner”

July 20, 2017
 July 19 at 3:54 PM
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A government official in Qatar said Wednesday that the four Arab countries isolating the tiny Gulf nation have acted dangerously and in a “disorganized manner” after apparently changing their demands.Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said Tuesday that Qatar should commit to six principles on combatting terrorism and negotiate a plan to implement them. The four countries had initially made 13 sweeping demands, including shuttering the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera, which Qatar dismissed as an infringement on its sovereignty.Sheikh Saif Al Thani, director of Qatar’s government communications office, said the four countries have “regularly issued conflicting statements.”

He said there has been no official communication made to Qatar directly or via the United States or Kuwait, which have tried to mediate the crisis.

“These latest comments are another example of the dangerous and disorganized manner in which the illegal blockade has been conducted,” he said in an emailed response to questions from The Associated Press.

“At first there were no demands, but following pressure from mediating countries, the blockaders leaked a list of demands that was quickly deemed neither reasonable nor actionable,” he added.

The apparently new list of six demands includes commitments to combatting extremism and terrorism, preventing financing and safe havens for radical groups, and suspending all acts of provocation and speeches inciting hatred or violence.

Qatar denies it has ever sponsored or supported terror groups and says the accusations are politically motivated.

Not on this list are the more specific demands from the original 13 points that Qatar close down Al-Jazeera, curb ties with Iran, kick out troops from NATO member Turkey, which has a base in Qatar, expel wanted Islamists and pay reparations for damages allegedly caused by its policies.

The four countries accuse Qatar of supporting groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and say Qatar has given citizenship to wanted Brotherhood members and other Islamists.

The small Gulf country’s foreign policy stances have at times sharply contradicted Saudi and Emirati policy in the Middle East. Qatar has backed Islamist opposition groups across the region, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt deem a threat.


News For Qatar Standoff for July 20, 2017 from Al Jazeera

9:50am – Qatar to release report on the hacking of Qatar News Agency

  • Qatar’s Ministry of Interior is set to release a report on thursday on the hacking of its state-run news agency and government social media accounts.

4:25am – Turkish Deputy PM urges Saudi Arabia to drop demands against Qatar

  • Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus called on Saudi Arabia to drop 13 demands it and other Arab states had made of Qatar, saying they represent an infringement on its sovereignty.
  • Speaking in an interview with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera broadcast on Wednesday, Kurtulmus also said: “The UAE must show a stand that is in favour of peace and a settlement and this is in its interest too, otherwise every conflict breeds conflict and no one knows the outcome.”
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar on July 23-24 as part of efforts to resolve the crisis.
  • Kurtulmus also said Turkey had no plans to shut its military base in Qatar, where a fresh contingent of troops arrived on Wednesday, saying it was not aimed against any of Qatar’s neighbours.
  • He also said that Turkey and Qatar were planning to conduct military exercises in coming days and that US forces may join in the exercises.

3:30am – US praises Qatar’s role in fight against ‘terrorism’

  • The US State Department praised Qatar’s “strong partnership” in the fight against “terrorism” in its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism” released on Wednesday.
  • The State Department said Doha had “maintained a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism in 2016 and collaborated to foster closer regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement and rule of law activities”.
  • Qatar, it added, has made “significant progress” in combatting terrorist financing but “terrorist financiers within the country are still able to exploit Qatar’s informal financial system”.
  • The Saudi-led group blockading Qatar accuse it of funding “terrorism”, an accusation Doha rejects as “baseless”.
  • The State Department also said that individuals and “entities” in Saudi Arabia had been channelling money out of the country to “terrorist” organisations but that: “Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a strong counterterrorism relationship with the United States”.
  • The report also mentioned that individuals have made use of the UAE as a financial hub to funnel money out of the country to “terrorist” groups, but that the UAE had increased its counterterrorism prosecutions.

U.S. Says Iran Remains Top State Sponsor of Terrorism

July 19, 2017

By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration says in a new report that Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The report also notes a drop in the number of terrorist attacks between 2015 and 2016.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism” released Wednesday, the State Department accused Iran of being the “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016. It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel groups as well as proxies that have destabilized conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit for Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq and that its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement was unchanged.

The report, the first of the Trump administration, also found that terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 percent from 2015.