Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary Guards Corps’

Go home, Tillerson tells Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

October 22, 2017

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday it was time for Iranian-backed militias and their Iranian advisers who helped Iraq defeat Islamic State to “go home” after a rare joint meeting with the leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The United States is concerned that Iran, a Shi‘ite regional rival, will take advantage of gains against IS there and in Syria to expand the influence it gained after the U.S. invasion in 2003, something Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia also oppose.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday. (Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images)

“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms in 2014 after IS seized a third of the country’s territory, forming the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which receive funding and training from Tehran and have been declared part of the Iraqi security apparatus.

A senior U.S. official said Tillerson had been referring to the PMF and the Quds Force, the foreign paramilitary and espionage arm of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Iraq’s military, armed by the United States but supported by the PMF, ejected the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militant group from Mosul and other cities in northern Iraq this year. Several thousand U.S. troops are still in the country, mostly for training but also to carry out raids against IS.

The campaign to uproot the militants left whole cities in ruins and has hit Iraq’s economy.

A new joint body between Iraq and Saudi Arabia convened an inaugural meeting earlier on Sunday to coordinate their fight against IS and on rebuilding Iraqi territory wrested from the group.

Jubeir emphasized historic ties between the two neighbors, which share a border, vast oil resources and many of the same tribes.

“The natural tendency of the two counties and people is to be very close to each other as they have been for centuries. It was interrupted for a number of decades. We’re trying now to make up for lost ground,” he said.

The rare senior meeting, signaling a thaw between states that have been at loggerheads for decades, was also attended by Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“We have launched a program for the future of the region based on development and security rather than the differences and wars that we have suffered,” Abadi said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 22, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS


Tillerson said the council would contribute to reforms to build Iraq’s private sector and encourage foreign investment.

“This will be critical to winning the peace that has been earned through the hard-fought military gains,” he said.

State media said the council had expressed satisfaction with global oil markets’ recovery orientation as a result of a deal with other countries to boost prices by limiting production.

The council also agreed to reopen a Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) office in Iraq and grant Saudi agriculture company SALIC an investment license.

A second meeting will be held in Baghdad but no date was mentioned.

Tillerson and Jubeir also discussed Washington’s hawkish new policy towards Iran, including a possible withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and new sanctions on the IRGC.

“Both our countries believe those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, any of their entities, European companies or other companies around the world really do so at great risk,” said Tillerson.

Relations between Riyadh and Baghdad have been cut since the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, is wooing Baghdad now in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of arch-foe Iran.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih visited Iraq on Saturday to call for increased economic cooperation and praise existing coordination to boost crude oil prices, the first Saudi official to make a public speech in Baghdad for decades.

A commercial Saudi airplane landed in Baghdad last week for the first time in 27 years, and in August the two countries opened a border crossing for trade which had been closed just as long.

Tillerson’s six-day trip will also take him to Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.

Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans


The Washington Post
October 22 at 12:28 PM
 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday urged Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to “go home,” and warned European companies doing business with the Revolutionary Guard in Iran that they could face “great risk” from sanctions.Shiite militias mostly composed of Iraqi citizens but backed by Iran were instrumental in helping the Iraqi army drive the Islamic State from Mosul and other strongholds in Iraq. There have been reports of Iranian advisers among them. Tillerson said they have no business being on the battlefield now that the Islamic State has been routed.

“Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, using other common acronyms for the Islamic State. “Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home, and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors.”

A senior U.S. official indicated Tillerson was referring to the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The position of the Iraqi government and the position of our government is that there should be a single Iraqi security force answerable to the Iraqi state,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to a pool reporter in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The ideal, he added, is that the militia fighters either “go home or they integrate into the Iraqi security forces.”

Iran’s broad and growing influence in the region dominated Tillerson’s public comments Sunday, though he covered a wide range of issues in his talks with Saudi officials. He hailed the budding new relationship between Baghdad and Riyadh, saying he hopes closer ties between the two countries pave the way for a stronger Iraq that can counter Iranian influence.

“We do seek to support, as does the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a whole of Iraq, that is secure and stable and has the ability to stand on its own,” he said. “We believe this will in some ways counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside Iraq.”

In other remarks designed to send a message to Tehran, Tillerson also advised European businesses that they should avoid investing in businesses linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is involved in many parts of Iran’s economy.

“Those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or any of their entities, European companies or other companies around the globe, really do so at great risk,” Tillerson said.

The threat of more sanctions is one of the most potent weapons for undercutting Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal. The potential for Iran to rejoin the world economy and improve its fortunes was the main reason Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in the landmark agreement with six world powers, including the United States. But the Trump administration is taking a more aggressive stance toward a country it considers a malign actor in the region, largely because of actions not addressed in the nuclear deal.

In Riyadh, Tillerson attended the inauguration of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the council an “important step toward enhancing relations.”

“We are facing in our region serious challenges in the form of extremism, terrorism as well as attempts to destabilize our countries,” said Saudi King Salman. “These attempts require our full attention.”

Tillerson praised other small milestones in the improving relations, such as the recent opening of a border crossing and direct flights between Riyadh and Baghdad. He said the new council can boost cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State and help with the rebuilding of infrastructure in areas liberated from the militants.

“Your growing relationship between the Kingdom and Iraq is vital to bolstering our collective security and prosperity, and we take great interest in it, ” Tillerson said before the agreement establishing the council was signed.

Tillerson also talked with Saudi officials about the ongoing war in Yemen, where Saudi-led airstrikes have killed thousands of people over the past three years. The vast majority have been civilians.

Tillerson also is trying to revive hopes of ending an economic embargo that four Arab countries have imposed on Qatar since June. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt contend Qatar finances terrorism, interferes in their domestic affairs and is too friendly with Iran. Doha denies the allegations and has accused Saudi Arabia of violating Qatari sovereignty and attempting to engineer a change of power.

Tillerson came to the region in June in an unsuccessful attempt to end the diplomatic row, which the United States believes could imperil the fight against the Islamic State. Qatar is home to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, with 11,000 troops stationed there.

Last month, after publicly showing sympathy for Saudi Arabia’s stance, President Trump offered to mediate the dispute, predicting “you’d have a deal worked out very quickly.” But with the prolonged squabble at a stalemate, Tillerson has chided the Saudi-led bloc of countries, saying they are unwilling to sit down and negotiate as Qatar has offered to do. Tillerson has expressed pessimism that a breakthrough could be imminent.


War of Words Escalates Between Iran, U.S.

October 8, 2017


 OCTOBER 8, 2017 12:20

“If America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” warns Revolutionary Guards Corps chief.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fires back at US President Donald Trump on Iran nuclear deal, October 7, 2017. (Reuters)

“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, according to state media.

Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialog with the United States, according to state media, and issued a stark warning to American troops.

“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world particularly in the Middle East,” Jafari said.

The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are Iran’s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not.

Iran sees the Sunni Muslim militants of Islamic State as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic where the majority of the population are Shi’ites.

On June 7, Islamic State claimed an attack on Tehran’s parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 18 people. The Guards fired missiles at Islamic State bases in Syria on June 18 in response.

Guards commanders have framed their military involvement in Iraq and Syria, where they are fighting to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, as a fight against Islamic State.

Dozens of members of the Guards, including senior commanders, have been killed in Syria and Iraq.


The website for state TV reported Jafari as adding that the United States was mistaken if it thought it could pressure Iran into negotiating on regional issues.

Jafari also said that Tehran would ramp up its defense capabilities, including its missile program, if the US undermined a nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions.

However, Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the deal, a senior administration official has said, in a step that potentially could cause the accord to unravel.

“The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Jafari said, according to state media.

The prospect of Washington backtracking on the deal has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis in the shape of North Korea.

If Trump does not certify that Iran is in compliance, the U.S. Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal. U.N. inspectors have verified Iranian compliance with the terms.

The Guards navy was also carrying out a military exercise on Sunday in the Gulf, an area of tension with the US navy in recent months.More than 110 vessels were involved in the exercise, including some that have rocket and missile capabilities, a state media report quoted a Guards commander as saying.

Military leaders from Iran, Turkey meet to discuss Syria, Kurds, and counter-terrorism

August 16, 2017

ANKARA — Turkish and Iranian military leaders held talks on Wednesday over cooperation in the Syrian conflict and counter-terrorism, officials said, during a rare visit to NATO-member Turkey by the Islamic Republic’s military chief of staff.

Turkey’s ties with Washington have been strained by U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, and the visit by Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri is the latest sign that Ankara is increasing cooperation with other powers such as Iran and Russia.

Image result for Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri, in Turkey, photos

Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (R) in Ankara to hold talks with a number of high-ranking Turkish officials on cooperation in settling the crises in Syria and Iraq and other issues

Baqeri met his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday and Turkey’s Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday in what Turkish media said was the first visit by an Iranian chief of staff since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

He was due to meet President Tayyip Erdogan later on Wednesday.

Turkey and Iran have supported rival sides in Syria’s six-year-old conflict, with Iran-backed fighters helping President Bashar al-Assad to drive back rebels battling to overthrow him, including some supported by Ankara.

Turkey is concerned that the Syrian chaos has empowered Kurdish forces who it says are closely tied to the long-running insurgency in its southeastern regions, as well as Islamic State fighters who have waged attacks inside Turkey, and is working with Iran and Russia to reduce the fighting in some areas.

An Iranian source said Baqeri was accompanied by the head of the ground forces of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s most powerful security entity.

“There have been no such visits between the two countries for a long time, but considering regional developments and security issues – border security and the fight against terrorism – there was a need for such a visit,” Baqeri told Iranian state television on arrival on Tuesday.

The Iranian source said that, in addition to the war in Syria, the two sides would discuss the conflict in Iraq as well as dealing with Kurdish militants in the Turkish-Iranian border region, where Turkish media say Turkey has started building a frontier wall.


Turkey, Iran and Russia agreed in May to set up “de-escalation zones” in Syria to try to stem the fighting in some parts of the country, including the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and has since been overrun by jihadists linked to a former al Qaeda affiliate.

That has thrown into question any suggestion that the three countries could deploy a force to police the Idlib region.

“The negotiations regarding the Idlib issue are still ongoing,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster TRT Haber on Wednesday.

“After the Iranian chief of staff, the Russian chief of staff will also come to Turkey,” he added.

Turkey has said for months that it is close to buying an S-400 missile defense system from Russia, and Erdogan said in July that the deal had already been signed.

Cavusoglu said Russia understood Turkey’s sensitivities about arming Kurdish fighters better than the United States, although he said U.S. officials had informed Turkey that the most recent shipments to the YPG did not include guns.

“The United States gives us reports about how many weapons they have given to the YPG every month,” he said. The latest “said they gave armored vehicles and a bulldozer, but no guns.”

Turkey’s stepped-up military talks with Iran and Russia coincide with a major oil and gas deal involving firms from the three countries.

The Turkish firm Unit International said this week it has signed a $7 billion agreement with Russia’s state-owned Zarubezhneft and Iran’s Ghadir Investment Holding to drill for oil and natural gas in Iran.

Turkey is also discussing transporting more goods through Iran to the Gulf state of Qatar, which is locked in a dispute with its neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

(Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Editing by Dominic Evans and Alister Doyle)

ISIS claims responsibility for terror assaults in Tehran — 12 Dead

June 7, 2017

ISIS claimed responsibility for a pair of Wednesday attacks in Tehran in which suicide bombers and teams of gunmen stormed Iran’s parliament and the nearby shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing at least 12 and injuring dozens of others.

This is the first attack orchestrated by ISIS in the Islamic Republic, SITE Intel Group reported. It wasn’t initially clear if the death count, reported by state broadcaster IRIB, included the attackers.

In a rare and stunning move, ISIS released video from inside the parliament building while the attack was under way.  The video, circulated online, shows a gunman and a bloody, lifeless body of a man lying on the ground next to a desk. A voice on the video praises God and says in Arabic: “Do you think we will leave? We will remain, God willing.” Another voice repeats the same words. The two appeared to be parroting a slogan used by IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, who was killed in Syria last year.

The parliament assault ended Wednesday morning with all four attackers there being killed.

One of the terrorists blew himself up inside the parliament building, where a session had been in progress, according to a statement carried by Iran state TV. It quoted lawmaker Elias Hazrati as saying the attackers were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

An Associated Press reporter saw several police snipers on the rooftops of buildings around parliament. Shops in the area were shuttered, and gunfire could be heard. Witnesses said the attackers were shooting from the fourth floor of the parliament building down at people in the streets below.

“I was passing by one of the streets. I thought that children were playing with fireworks, but I realized people are hiding and lying down on the streets,” Ebrahim Ghanimi, who was around the parliament building when the assailants stormed in, told The Associated Press. “With the help of a taxi driver, I reached a nearby alley.”

Police helicopters circled over the parliament building and all mobile phone lines from inside were disconnected. The semi-official ISNA news agency said all entrance and exit gates at parliament were closed and that lawmakers and reporters were ordered to remain in place inside the chamber.

State TV reported four attackers were involved in the parliament attack.

Iran’s official state broadcaster said a security guard was killed and four people wounded in the shrine attack. It said one of the attackers at the shrine was killed by security guards and that a woman was arrested. It described the shrine attackers as “terrorists” and said one carried out a suicide bombing, without providing further details.

In addition to being lethal, the attack on the shrine of Khomeini is symbolically stunning. As Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Khomeini is a towering figure in the country and was its revolutionary leader in the 1979 ouster of the shah.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



BBC News

Iran attacks leave 12 dead at parliament and Khomeini mausoleum

Media captionGunfire could be heard from outside the parliament in Iran

Twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in the capital, Tehran, have killed at least 12 people and injured many more.

The assault on the parliament building appears to be over, after earlier reports of a hostage situation. A suicide bomber died at the mausoleum.

Iranian officials say they foiled a third attack.

The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has claimed it carried out the attacks, which would be a first in Iran.

IS later posted a video which showed what it claimed is footage from inside the parliament building.

Latest updates

Iranian media reported that four attackers inside the parliament building had been killed by security forces.

It is not clear whether the death toll of 12 includes the attackers.

Gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs entered the parliament on Wednesday morning. Images from the scene show a major security operation.

On video filmed outside parliament heavy gunfire could be heard.

Reports said the gunmen had entered parliament via a public entrance, dressed as women.

Picture shows explosion outside at the mausoleum
This image, posted by Fars News, shows an explosion taking place outside the mausoleum. JAMARANNEWS/FARS

At around 10:40 (06:10 GMT) attackers at the mausoleum in southern Tehran, which is dedicated to the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini, opened fire.

The governor of Tehran said one attacker there had detonated a suicide vest and another had been killed by security forces, state broadcaster Irib reports.

Images from the scene showed grenades and magazines for automatic weapons, apparently recovered from the body of an attacker.

There are reports that at least one of the attackers was female, or possibly just dressed as a woman.

Several members of the public, visiting the shrine, have been injured.

Map of Tehran showing parliament and shrine

Background – by Jenny Norton, BBC Persian

This is the most serious terrorist violence in Tehran since the turbulent early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

It will come as a huge shock to ordinary Iranians, who have got used to living in a country which is generally far more stable and safe than most of its neighbours.

Despite Iran’s active involvement in fighting IS in both Iraq and Syria, the Sunni group has not so far carried out any attacks inside Iran, and appears to have little support in this predominantly Shia country.

However, in recent months the group has stepped up its Farsi-language propaganda efforts – targeting Iran’s restive Sunni minority, and the Iranian intelligence agencies claim to have foiled an number of IS-inspired plots.

Analysis – from BBC Monitoring’s Jihadist Media Team

IS has this year released a number of propaganda pieces focused on inciting attacks inside Iran.

An IS documentary-style video in March featured militants who were introduced as Iranian fighters in IS ranks based in Iraq.

Speaking in Farsi, they denounced the Iranian government and the religious establishment, including the country’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

By mounting a successful attack, IS could claim a major coup against a traditional foe that other Sunni jihadist groups, including its rival al-Qaeda, have failed to target in the past.

Iranian policemen try to help some civilians fleeing from the parliament building during an attack in Tehran, Iran, 07 June 2017
This image appears to show a child being lowered from a window of Iran’s parliament building. EPA
File photo of people attending a commemoration to mark the 18th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, at his mausoleum in Tehran (June 2007)
There are conflicting reports about events at the mausoleum, in south Tehran AFP

Iran Says Parliament and Mausoleum Attacked in Terror Raid With AK-47 Assault Rifles — Up to seven dead

June 7, 2017


Wed Jun 7, 2017 | 7:11am EDT

Members of Iranian forces take cover during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin | LONDON

Attackers raided Iran’s parliament and set off a suicide bomb at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing up to seven people in a twin assault at the heart of the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested a “terrorist team” planning a third attack, without giving further details.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement. If confirmed, they would be the first assaults by the hardline Sunni Muslim group inside the Shi’ite Muslim country.

The attacks, targeting parliament and the shrine of the Republic’s revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, took place less than a month after the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate.

Three assailants, one with a pistol and two with AK-47 assault rifles, attacked the parliament building in central Tehran, lawmaker Elias Hazrati told state television.

Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB reported that one attacker detonated a suicide vest there, though some other news agencies said the explosion might have been caused by grenades thrown by the assailants.

Tasmin news agency said there were unconfirmed reports the attackers had taken four hostages inside the parliament building. Up to seven people died and several others were wounded, it added.

About half an hour later, attackers opened fire at the mausoleum a few kilometers south of the city, wounding several members of the public, Iran’s English-language Press TV said.

One attacker detonated a suicide vest, one was killed by security forces and other assailants were arrested, the Governor of Tehran was quoted as saying by IRIB.

“The atmosphere is tense. It is a blow to Rouhani. How can four armed men enter the parliament, where a very tight security has always been in place,” said a senior official, who asked not to be named.

Rouhani retained power with a landslide victory over candidates supported by the hardline clergy and the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the country’s most powerful security force in charge of ensuring national security.

Iranian TV said parliament had resumed, and broadcast footage of what it said was the opening session proceeding normally.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


Iran’s Rouhani accuses West of exploiting Sunni-Shi’ite rift, raps Israel — Did Obama Make Israel Less Secure?

July 1, 2016

Fri Jul 1, 2016 7:40am EDT

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani waves during a rally marking the international al-Quds day in support of the Palestinians, in Tehran, Iran July 1, 2016. via

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused Western powers of trying to exploit differences between the world’s Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims to divert attention from the Israel-Palestinian conflict, state television reported on Friday.

Rouhani’s comments came as tens of thousands of Iranians joined anti-Israel rallies across the country to express support for the Palestinians. They chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” and burned the Israeli flag.

“The global arrogance (the United States and its allies) wants to create discord among Muslims … Unity is the only way to restore stability in the region,” Rouhani said.

“We stand with the dispossessed Palestinian nation.”

Opposition to Israel, which Tehran refuses to recognize, has been a cornerstone of Iranian policy since its 1979 Islamic revolution. Shi’ite Muslim Iran backs Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups who oppose peace with Israel.

“The Zionist regime (Israel) is a regional base for America and the global arrogance … Disunity and discord among Muslim and terrorist groups in the region … have diverted us from the important issue of Palestine,” Rouhani said.

Shi’ite-led Iran has repeatedly called on its Sunni Muslim rival Saudi Arabia to help improve their strained bilateral relations and work for stability in the Middle East.

Arch-rivals for regional hegemony, the two oil producers are on opposite sides in proxy battles in the region, where they back competing factions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.

Ties have worsened since Riyadh’s execution in January of prominent Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr prompted attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia subsequently cut all ties with Iran.

Riyadh is worried that a landmark nuclear deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other major powers in 2015 will help Tehran gain the upper hand in their regional standoff.


Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said in March that “the occupied Palestinian territories are within the range of most of the Islamic Republic’s missiles”, Iran’s state television Press TV reported.

A senior IRGC commander said Iran’s new Russian-made S-300 missile defense system would be operational by March.

“Its divisions are being delivered to Iran and the system will be operational by the end of this Iranian year,” the semi-official Tasnim quoted Amir Farzad Esmaili as saying.

Russia delivered the first part of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran in April, one of the most advanced systems of its kind that can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles around 150 km (90 miles) away.

“Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles that are ready to hit Israel to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes,” Tasnim quoted IRGC deputy head Hossein Salami as saying.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

John Kerry, left and Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo by AFP

 (Thomas Pickering was also Chairman of the Investigation into the death of four Americans at Benghazi on September 11, 2012 –along with formerChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen — Hillary Clinton was never questioned during that investigation…) (Pickering also serves on the Board of Advisors to the notorious National Iranian American Council — NIAC – widely viewed as a lobbying front for the Iranian regime)

Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, threatened to retaliate against the Bahraini government for its move.

US Navy sailors kneeling before their Iranian captors in the Persian Gulf, January 13, 2016. AFP photo

Revolutionary Guards Commander Says “We Never Accepted U.N. Resolutions” — Iran’s Missile Work Will Never Stop — Threat to Israel

March 10, 2016


MARCH 10, 2016, 1:42 A.M. E.S.T.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by Farsnews on March 9, 2016.

ANKARA — Iran’s ballistic-missile program will never stop under any circumstances and Tehran has missiles ready to be fired, said a senior commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) according to state TV on Thursday.

“Iran’s missile program will not stop under any circumstances … The IRGC has never accepted the U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran’s missile work … we are always ready to defend the country against any aggressor. Iran will not turn into Yemen, Iraq or Syria,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told state TV on late Wednesday.

Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh

The IRGC test-fired several ballistic missiles on Tuesday and Wednesday, state media reported. The tests are seen as a challenge to a United Nations resolution and the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran agreed to restrict its atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Michael Perry; Editing by Michael Perry)


Export of Iran’s revolution enters ‘new chapter’: general

March 11, 2015


Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari is commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps. AFP Photo
TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s top general said Wednesday his country has reached “a new chapter” towards its declared aim of exporting revolution, in reference to Tehran’s growing regional influence.

The comments by Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the nation’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, come amid concern among some of Shiite Iran’s neighbours about Tehran’s role.

“The Islamic revolution is advancing with good speed, its example being the ever-increasing export of the revolution,” he said, according to the ISNA news agency.

“Today, not only Palestine and Lebanon acknowledge the influential role of the Islamic republic but so do the people of Iraq and Syria. They appreciate the nation of Iran.”

He made references to military action against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq and Syria, where the Guards have deployed advisers in support of Baghdad and Damascus.

“The phase of the export of the revolution has entered a new chapter,” he added, referring to an aim of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

In his speech to the Assembly of Experts, Iran’s top clerical body, Jafari also mentioned Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party in Lebanon whose fighters fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006.

“Hezbollah and its resistance against one of the armies in the world — that is to say the army of the Zionist regime.. is one of the Islamic revolution’s miracles,” he said.

“It is (part of) the powerful influence of the Islamic system as the helmsman in the region.”

Jafari’s remarks echoed those of another Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force, the Guards’ foreign wing, who has reportedly been posted in Iraq near the front line against IS.

“Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa,” he said on February 11.

Iran’s role, however, has aroused concern in Saudi Arabia, the region’s major Sunni Muslim power, and also in the United States.

Former CIA chief Michael Hayden said Tuesday he was “uncomfortable” with Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, especially in an offensive in Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

The city, which was the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein, is the target of an assault led by Iraqi troops and Shiite militias backed by Tehran.

“I am made uncomfortable by the fact that it looked like a Shia advance against a Sunni town,” said Hayden, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency between 2006 and 2009.

“And the proof would be what happens if and when they retake Tikrit… how the militias act toward the local population.

“It’s clear to me that the Iranian policy is based upon Shia dominance of the new Iraqi state, and that effort in itself feeds the Sunni opposition.”

Iran Says It Has Again “Captured a Foreign Enemy Drone”

February 24, 2013

Dec. 8, 2011: This image provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards claims to show the chief of the aerospace division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, left, listening to an unidentified colonel as he points to a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone. (AP)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard denied Sunday that it had captured a foreign unmanned drone during a military exercise, despite Iranian media reports to the contrary.

Gen. Hamid Sarkheili told Iranian media that Guard experts took control of one unmanned aircraft’s navigation system and brought it down near the city of Sirjan where the military drills began on Saturday.

“While probing signals in the area, we spotted foreign and enemy drones which attempted to enter the area of the war game,” the official IRNA news agency quoted the general as saying. “We were able to get one enemy drone to land.”

But a spokesman for the Guard, Yasin Hasanali, told The Associated Press that the drone was actually being used during the drill as a supposed enemy aircraft.

Iran has claimed to have captured several U.S. drones, including an advanced RQ-170 Sentinel CIA spy drone in December 2011 and at least three ScanEagle aircraft.


Earlier this month, Iran said it had broadcast footage on state TV allegedly extracted from the Sentinel after it entered Iranian airspace near the border with Afghanistan.

After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the Sentinel had been monitoring Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

In November, Iran claimed that the U.S. drone had violated its airspace. The Pentagon said the aircraft, which came under fire but was not hit, was over international waters.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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RQ-170 Sentinel CIA spy drone

 Brig.Gen. Hamid Sarkheili

TEHRAN, Feb. 24 (UPI) — A general in the Revolutionary Guards Corps said a foreign surveillance drone was shot down on the first day of military exercises in Iran.

“On the first day of the Great Prophet 8 war games, the I.R.G.C.’s electronic warfare system detected signals showing that alien drones were trying to enter the country,” Brig.Gen. Hamid Sarkheili said Saturday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. He said the “alien drone” was shot down over the war games zone.

Sarkheili said the I.R.G.C. was in possession of images taken by the drone and if the country’s senior security echelon agree, the images would be released to the public.

Sarkheili did not divulge any further details, such as where the drone may have originated.

The Guards began a three-day military exercise Saturday in the southeast province of Kerman.

Iran has claimed to have captured several U.S. drones, including an advanced RQ-170 Sentinel CIA spy drone in December 2011 and at least three ScanEagle aircraft.

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