One Dead As Petrol Protests Spread In Iran

Iranian protesters block a road during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Shiraz on November 16, 2019.
AFP

 

One person was killed and others injured in protests that spread Saturday across Iran after a surprise decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing in the sanctions-hit country.

The death occurred Friday in the central city of Sirjan, where protesters had tried to set a fuel depot ablaze but were thwarted by security forces, semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

Protests erupted hours after it was announced the price of petrol would be increased by 50 percent for the first 60 litres and 300 percent for anything above that each month.

Sirjan’s acting governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi said a civilian was killed but it was unclear if he had been “shot or not”.

“Security forces did not have permission to shoot and were only allowed to fire warning shots… which they did,” ISNA quoted him as saying.

He said some people “destroyed public property, damaged fuel stations and also wanted to access the oil company’s main fuel depots and set fire to them”.

Protests were also held Friday in other cities including Abadan, Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, Gachsaran, Khoramshahr, Mahshahr, Mashhad and Shiraz, state news agency IRNA said.

In Ahvaz “rioters” torched a bank and in Khoramshahr “suspicious and unknown armed individuals” opened fire and injured a number of people, state television’s website said.

In other cities, protests were mostly limited to blocking traffic and were over by midnight, it added.

Police fired tear gas at protesters in some cities, state television said.

It accused “hostile media” of trying to use fake news and videos on social media to exaggerate protests as “large and extensive”.

Prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri laid the blame for incidents on a “few disruptors” whose actions showed they opposed the system.

‘Near-total’ net shutdown 

Netblocks, an internet monitoring website, said late Saturday the country was in the grip of an internet shutdown.

“Confirmed: Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7% of ordinary levels after twelve hours of progressive network disconnections,” it said on Twitter.

Fresh demonstrations were held Saturday in the cities of Doroud, Garmsar, Gorgan, Ilam, Karaj, Khoramabad, Mehdishahr, Qazvin, Qom, Sanandaj, Shahroud and Shiraz, IRNA said.

“Some drivers have protested the new petrol price by turning off their cars and creating traffic jams.”

In Tehran protesters were seen blocking a road while elsewhere in the capital demonstrators gathered around a burning vehicle.

Similar scenes were witnessed in the central cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.

The pump price hike is expected to generate 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum and help needy citizens, authorities said.

About 60 million Iranians would receive payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families of five or more.

Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards would pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing 30,000 rials.

Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the subsidies system and curbing large-scale smuggling.

Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The rial has plummeted, inflation is running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s economy to contract by nine percent this year and stagnate in 2020.

‘Under Pressure’

President Hassan Rouhani said 75 percent of Iranians were “under pressure” and the extra petrol revenues would go to them.

Rouhani had tried to hike fuel prices in December but was blocked by parliament after protests that rocked Iran for days.

The scheme comes at a sensitive time as Iran prepares for a February parliamentary election.

The head of Iran’s Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said the price hike was agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief, implying it had across-the-board approval.

The council met again Saturday and, according to the government’s official website, urged the “cooperation of all branches to successfully implement the plan”.

Lawmakers were unhappy to have been circumvented, with Tehran MP Parvaneh Salahshouri tweeting that parliament had “lost its authority”.

In 2015, during his first term, Rouhani had voiced opposition to a dual-price petrol regime adopted by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying “it caused corruption”.

His administration also scrapped Ahmadinejad’s fuel card scheme, only to revive it this year while still denying it was a precursor to rationing and price hikes.

Protests Erupt In Iran After Petrol Price Increase

Iranians fill their vehicles at a petrol station in Tehran, on November 15, 2019. Iran imposed petrol rationing and raised pump prices by 50 percent or more today, in a new move to cut costly subsidies that have fuelled high consumption and rampant smuggling. The Islamic republic provides some of the most heavily subsidised petrol in the world, with the pump price previously standing at just 10,000 rials (less than nine US cents) a litre.
Iranians fill their vehicles at a petrol station in Tehran, on November 15, 2019. STR/AFP

 

Sporadic protests erupted in cities across Iran, state media said on Saturday, a day after the announcement of a surprise decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing.

The demonstrations on Friday night were “severe” in Sirjan in central Iran as “people attacked a fuel storage warehouse in the city and tried to set fire to it,” state news agency IRNA said.

But police intervened to prevent them, it reported.

IRNA said “scattered” protests also broke out in other cities including Abadan, Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, Gachsaran, Khoramshahr, Mahshahr, Mashhad and Shiraz.

They were mostly limited to blocking traffic and were over by midnight, the news agency added.

Iran imposed petrol rationing and raised pump prices by at least 50 percent on Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping citizens in need with cash handouts.

The measure was expected to bring in 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum, the head of the country’s Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said on state television.

About 60 million Iranians in need would get payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families with five members or more, he said.

Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards will pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing them 30,000 rials.

Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the subsidies system and curbing large-scale smuggling.

‘Under pressure’

Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The rial has plummeted in value against the US dollar, inflation is now running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s economy to contract by nine percent this year and stagnate in 2020.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that currently 75 percent of Iranians were  “under pressure” and the extra revenues from the petrol price hike would go to them, and not the treasury.

Rouhani had tried to hike fuel prices in December but was blocked by parliament in the wake of protests that rocked Iran for days.

The speaker at the time ruled out the move as unpopular and said it was “not in the interests of the country”.

The rationing and price hike come at a sensitive time as Iran prepares for a parliamentary election in February.

According to Nobakht, the price hike was agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination, made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief, implying it had received the system’s approval across the board.

Rouhani in his first term had voiced opposition to the petrol dual-price regime adopted by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying “it caused corruption and that is why we made a unified rate” in a 2015 tweet.

His administration also scrapped Ahmadinejad’s fuel card scheme, only to revive it this year while still denying rumours it was a precursor to petrol rationing and price hikes.

 

AFP

Iran Finds New Oil Field With 53bn Barrels Of Crude

 

Iran has discovered a new oil field containing 53 billion barrels of crude, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, a find that would increase Iran’s proven reserves by over a third.

The field covers 2,400 square kilometres (926 square miles) and is located in Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan, Rouhani said in a speech aired on state TV.

“This is a small gift by the government to the people of Iran,” he said.

The 80-metre deep field stretches nearly 200 kilometres from Khuzestan’s border with Iraq to the city of Omidiyeh, Rouhani added.

READ ALSO: Eight Killed As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

The find would add around 34 percent to the OPEC member’s current proven reserves, estimated by energy giant BP at 155.6 billion barrels of crude oil.

Iran is a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and sits on what were already the world’s fourth-biggest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves.

But it has struggled to sell its oil since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.

The remaining parties to the accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have worked to save it by avoiding US sanctions, but their efforts have so far borne little fruit.

Five Killed, 120 Injured In Iran Earthquake

 

A night-time earthquake in northwestern Iran on Friday killed five people and injured 120, according to early reports on state television.

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the city of Tabriz, in East Azerbaijan Province, in the early hours of the morning, the Iranian Seismological Center said.

Described as “moderate”, the shallow quake was eight kilometres (five miles) deep and was followed by five aftershocks.

Provincial governor, Mohammad-Reza Pourmohammadi, told local media that at least 30 houses had been destroyed.

Rescue operations were underway in 41 rural villages, but the damage was largely concentrated in two areas.

READ ALSO: Footballer In Trouble For Killing Chicken On Pitch

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued an alert warning that “significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread”.

Iran sits where two major tectonic plates meet and experiences frequent seismic activity.

The country has suffered a number of major disasters in recent decades, including at the ancient city of Bam, which was decimated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2003 that killed at least 31,000 people.

In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.

Iran has experienced at least two other significant quakes in recent years — one in 2005 that killed more than 600 people and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.

Iran Resumes Uranium Enrichment At Fordow Plant In New Stepback From Deal

 

Iran resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow plant south of Tehran on Thursday in a new step back from its commitments under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into the plant’s mothballed enrichment centrifuges in “the first minutes of Thursday”, the statement said.

The suspension of uranium enrichment at the long secret plant was one of the restrictions Iran had agreed to on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of UN sanctions.

Iran’s announcement on Wednesday that it would resume enrichment at the Fordow plant from midnight (2030 GMT) had drawn a chorus of concern from the remaining parties to the troubled agreement.

Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been trying to salvage the hard-won deal since Washington abandoned it in May last year and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.

They say Iran’s phased suspension of its obligations under the deal since May makes that more difficult.

The resumption of enrichment at Fordow is Iran’s fourth move away from the deal.

Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.

Iran has always denied any military dimension to its nuclear programme.

It has been at pains to emphasise that all of the steps it has taken are transparent and swiftly reversible if the remaining parties to the agreement find a way to get round US sanctions.

“All these activities have been carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the Iranian nuclear organisation said.

A source close to the UN watchdog told AFP that it has inspectors on the ground in Fordow and would report “very rapidly” on the steps taken by Iran.

Iran’s latest move comes after the passing of a deadline it set for the remaining parties to the nuclear agreement to come up with a mechanism that would allow foreign firms to continue doing business with Iran without incurring US penalties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about Tehran’s announcements but said European powers should do their part.

“They are demanding that Iran fulfil all (obligations) without exception but are not giving anything in return,” he told reporters in Moscow.

The Kremlin has previously called sanctions against Iran “unprecedented and illegal”.

European concern

French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran had made “grave” decisions and its resumption of uranium enrichment was a “profound change” from Tehran’s previous position.

“I will have discussions in the coming days, including with the Iranians, and we must collectively draw the consequences,” Macron said during a trip to Beijing.

The next few weeks will be dedicated to increasing pressure on Iran to return within the framework of the pact, the French president said, adding that this must be “accompanied by an easing of some sanctions”.

“A return to normal can only take place if the United States and Iran agree to reopen a sort of trust agenda” and dialogue, Macron said, adding that he would discuss the issue with Trump.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain remained committed to a negotiated way forward but demanded that Iran abide by its obligations.

“We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Iran must roll back its decision to resume uranium enrichment, calling Tehran’s action “unacceptable”.

“We call on Iran to reverse all steps taken since July and return to full compliance with its commitments,” Maas told reporters in Berlin.

“Our aim is to maintain the nuclear agreement,” he said. “We have always fully implemented our commitments and Iran must now urgently relent in order to ease tensions.”

EU ‘Concerned’ By Iran Nuclear Enrichment Announcement

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on November 5, 2019, shows President Hassan Rouhani speaking during the opening of a factory in the capital Tehran. Rouhani said that Iran would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant south of Tehran in its latest step back from a troubled 2015 agreement with major powers. PHOTO / Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

The European Union voiced concern Tuesday at Iran’s announcement that it would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant, warning it is getting harder to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal.

An EU spokeswoman said it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to save the accord, which was abandoned by the US in May last year and which Iran has undercut with a series of recent moves to step up its nuclear activities.

After the US ditched the deal, it reimposed crippling sanctions, prompting Iran to begin suspending its own commitments.

President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran would restart enrichment at the Fordow plant south of Tehran.

“We are concerned by President Rouhani’s announcement today to further reduce Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters, using an abbreviation for the deal’s official title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“We urge Iran to reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments under the JCPOA and to refrain from any further measures that would undermine the preservation and full implementation of the nuclear deal.”

The three European parties to the accord — France, Britain and Germany — along with the EU diplomatic service have tried to keep Iran in the deal despite the US sanctions.

But, to Tehran’s mounting frustration, European efforts to create a way for foreign firms to keep trading with Iran have so far failed to have any significant impact.

Kocijancic said the EU remained committed to the deal but warned this depended on “full compliance” from Iran.

“High Representative Federica Mogherini said herself recently it is becoming increasingly difficult to preserve the JCPOA,” Kocijancic warned.

 Iranian pressure

EU foreign ministers will discuss the nuclear crisis along with the broader tensions in the Gulf at a regular meeting in Brussels on Monday, though no decision or formal statement on the matter is expected.

A key factor for EU countries is the assessment of Iran’s latest actions by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which oversees Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Rouhani’s statement did not make it clear exactly what process would resume at Fordow on Wednesday, and the bloc will look to the IAEA for clarification.

Iran has sought to ratchet up the pressure on the European parties to the deal to do more to help its economy, which is struggling with the US sanctions, and officials in Brussels see this week’s announcements as part of this pattern.

“They haven’t really changed their approach. They are provocative but the measures they have taken up to now are reversible,” one EU official said.

“But the longer they push it, this reversibility is going to disappear,”  the official warned.

The JCPOA, agreed in 2015 between Iran, the three European powers, Russia, China and the US, includes a mechanism for dealing with breaches, but so far this has not been used.

AFP

Iran Says It Now Produces 5kg Of Enriched Uranium Per Day

 

Iran announced Monday a more than tenfold increase in enriched uranium production following a series of steps back from commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the United States.

Iran has also developed two new advanced centrifuges, one of which is undergoing testing, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran.

Enriched uranium production has reached five kilogrammes per day, Salehi told reporters at the Natanz facility in central Iran in remarks broadcast by state TV.

That compares with the level of 450 grams two months ago when it abandoned a number of commitments made under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Tehran decided in May to suspend certain commitments under the accord, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Iran has so far hit back with three packages of countermeasures and threatened to go even further if the remaining partners to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — fail to help it circumvent US sanctions.

On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kilo maximum set by the deal, and a week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

It fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles on September 7.

Salehi said Iranian engineers “have successfully built a prototype of IR-9, which is our newest machine, and also a model of a new machine called IR-s … all these in two months”.

Iran has removed all of its nuclear deal-approved IR-1 centrifuges and is only using advanced machines, leading to the sharp increase in enriched uranium production, he added.

“We must thank the enemy for bringing about this opportunity to show the might of the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially in the nuclear industry,” Salehi said.

“This is while some say (Iran’s) nuclear industry was destroyed!” he said, laughing.

Iran Rules Out Talks With US

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with school and university students in the capital Tehran on November 3, 2019.   AFP

 

Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday again ruled out negotiations with Washington, a day before the 40th anniversary of the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran.

“Those who see negotiations with the US as the solution to every problem are certainly mistaken,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during a speech to mark the anniversary, according to his official website.

“Nothing will come out of talking to the US, because they certainly and definitely won’t make any concessions.”

On November 4, 1979, less than nine months after the toppling of Iran’s American-backed shah, students overran the embassy complex to demand the United States hand over the ousted ruler after he was admitted to a US hospital.

It took a full 444 days for the crisis to end with the release of 52 Americans, but the US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 and ties have been frozen ever since.

Khamenei, however, said the Iran-US “disputes” did not start with the embassy takeover.

“It goes back to the 1953 coup, when the U.S. overthrew a national govt. — which had made the mistake of trusting the U.S. — and established its corrupt and puppet govt. in Iran,” his Twitter account said in English.

That CIA-organised coup, supported by Britain, toppled the hugely popular prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh who was responsible for nationalising Iran’s oil industry.

The coup reestablished the rule of country’s last shah, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, who had fled the country in August 1953 after trying to dismiss Mossadegh.

Tensions have escalated again between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed unilateral sanctions.

Khamenei pointed to North Korea’s negotiations with the US as a sign of Washington’s untrustworthiness, tweeting that “they took photos and praised each other, but the Americans did not lift sanctions even a bit.

“That’s how they are in negotiations; they’ll say we brought you to your knees and won’t make any concessions at the end.”

‘American demands’ 

Khamenei called French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to set up talks between Iran and the US “naive”.

He said Tehran had tested Washington by calling on it to lift sanctions and return to the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Macron’s efforts to initiate a phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September ended in failure.

Rouhani stressed he would only hold talks with the US if sanctions were lifted first.

Khamenei said Macron had considered a meeting with Trump to be “the solution to all of Iran’s problems,” making the French president either “very naive” or the “accomplice” of the United States.

And “for the sake of testing and to clarify for everyone, I said despite the fact that America had made a mistake in leaving the JCPOA, if they lift all sanctions, they (the US) can take part in the JCPOA although I knew they would not accept, as they did not,” he added.

Slamming the seemingly unending “American demands”, Khamenei said that after telling Iran to not be “active in the region” and end its production of missiles, Washington will next “say give up religious laws and don’t insist on the issue of the hijab.”

Tehran has hit back three times with countermeasures since May in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal by suspending parts of its compliance with the agreement’s terms.

It has threatened to go even further if remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — cannot help it circumvent US sanctions.

AFP

Iran Planning To Attack Israel From Yemen, Says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press at the Palmachim Air Force Base near the city of Rishon LeZion on October 27, 2019. Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused Iran of wanting to strike Israel with precision-guided missiles from Yemen as he urged US President Donald Trump’s administration to further pressure Tehran.

Netanyahu made the comments as he met US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem, and while he again congratulated Trump on the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he called for “a lot more” sanctions against Israel’s archfoe Iran.

“Iran is seeking to develop now precision-guided munitions, missiles that can hit any target in the Middle East with a circumference of five to 10 metres,” Netanyahu said.

“They want to place them in Iraq and in Syria, and to convert Lebanon’s arsenal of 130,000… rockets to precision-guided munitions.”

He added that “they seek also to develop that, and have already begun to put that in Yemen, with the goal of reaching Israel from there too.”

READ ALSO: We Have Obtained The Capacity To Destroy Israel, Says Iran General

Netanyahu made reference to September 14 attacks on two Saudi oil facilities and echoing Riyadh, blamed Iran. Tehran has denied involvement.

The attacks were claimed by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

Mnuchin, on a tour of the Middle East and India, said “we have a shared view as to the threat that Iran poses to the region and to the world” and spoke of the US “maximum pressure campaign” involving sanctions.

“We will continue to ramp up more, more, more, as you’ve said.”

Washington has hit Iran with unilateral sanctions since withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Tehran.

Israelis have been concerned over Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from neighbouring Syria that many have viewed as a blatant abandonment of Washington’s Kurdish allies.

There are worries that Israel too could be abandoned by its most important ally, as well as longstanding concerns that Iran could move to fill any vacuum in Syria.

Iran, along with Russia, has been backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s eight-year civil war.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was among the US officials accompanying Mnuchin on his trip.

Kushner and US special representative for Iran Brian Hook also met Netanyahu on Monday.

Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main opponent in Israel’s deadlocked September 17 elections, met Kushner and Hook as well.

Netanyahu failed to form a new government following the elections, and Gantz is now seeking to do so though he also faces long odds.

The stalemate has raised the possibility that Israel will soon be heading toward a third election in a year’s time.

AFP

Iran Says Turkish Bases In Syria Would Be ‘Unacceptable’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a conference that Iran is hosting on unilateralism and international law at the Allameh Tabataba’i University in the capital Tehran on October 21, 2019. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran on Monday denounced as “unacceptable” any move by Turkey to establish military bases in Syria, saying such a step would face opposition from the Islamic republic and other countries.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would set up 12 observation posts inside Syria as he warned Ankara would restart an operation against Kurdish forces across the border.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi criticised the planned move in response to a question at a news conference.

“The Turks can have any bases and can do anything on their own territory and within their borders, but if you mean… establishing Turkish bases in Syria, this is unacceptable,” Mousavi said in remarks aired on state television.

Such a step, he said, would be seen by Iran as an “aggression against the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent country.

“Naturally it will face opposition from the Islamic Republic of Iran and other countries,” Mousavi added.

Iran has repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the Turkish offensive in Syria, launched on October 9 after the United States announced it would withdraw all its troops from the area.

A US-brokered ceasefire gives Kurdish forces until Tuesday evening to withdraw from a buffer area Turkey wants to create on Syrian territory along its southern frontier.

In his remarks on Friday, Erdogan said the proposed “safe zone” would be 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep, and 444 kilometres in length, and patrolled by Turkey.

But, he said, “We have no intention to stay there. This is out of the question.”

AFP

Turkey’s Syria Offensive Must ‘End Now’, Says Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran. 
ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Key Damascus ally Iran on Tuesday renewed its call on Ankara to end a deadly assault on northeastern Syria, as Turkey pressed a cross-border offensive against Kurdish forces.

“The imperative now is to end the incursion into #Syria,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Iran had on Thursday called for an immediate halt to the offensive, launched on October 9 after the United States announced it would withdraw all its troops from the area.

Since then, Syria’s massively outgunned Kurds have forged a deal with Damascus, allowing regime soldiers to redeploy in the Kurd-controlled region for the first time since 2012.

Despite international outcry over its assault, Turkey has vowed to pursue its offensive, slamming the “dirty deal” between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Kurdish forces.

AFP

Iran Arrests Opposition Figure ‘Directed By French Intel’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in New York on September 26, 2019.  Kena Betancur / AFP

 

Iran has arrested an opposition figure who had been “directed by France’s intelligence service” and he is now in custody in the Islamic republic, the Revolutionary Guards said on Monday.

Ruhollah Zam, who ran a “counter-revolutionary” Telegram channel, has been detained in a “sophisticated and professional operation” by the Guards’ intelligence organisation, the Guards said in a statement.

Zam reportedly lived in exile in Paris, but the Guards’ statement did not specify when or where he was arrested.

The Guards said he was “trapped” by its intelligence organisation.

It said this was despite the fact he had been “directed by France’s intelligence service and supported by intelligence services of America and the Zionist regime (Israel).”

The Guards said they managed to “deceive” foreign services and arrest him by “using modern intelligence methods and innovative tactics”.

It said the operation showed Iran’s enemies were “lagging behind” its own intelligence services.

Last year, Iran’s telecoms minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi demanded Telegram shut Zam’s Amadnews channel, saying it was inciting an “armed uprising”.

The channel, which had around 1.4 million followers, was later removed.

Telegram was the Islamic republic’s most popular social network with some 40 million users before it was blocked by the judiciary last year.

Authorities had temporarily banned the messaging app during a wave of protests in early 2018, saying it enabled foreign-based “counter-revolutionary” groups to stir tensions.

AFP