Trump Praises Protesters Against ‘Brutal And Corrupt’ Iranian Regime

President Donald Trump praised Iranian protesters on Tuesday for acting against Tehran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime after days of bloody unrest, while also lashing out at his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted, a day after calling for regime change in the Islamic republic.

“All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”

The comments were Trump’s latest hint of a possible US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — that was a signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration.

Trump has been vocal on Twitter about the protests in Iran since they erupted last week.

On Monday, he said it was “time for change” in Iran and that the country’s people were “hungry” for freedom.

In response to Trump’s latest Twitter attack, Iran’s foreign ministry said the US president should focus on “homeless and hungry people” in his own country rather than insulting Iranians.

“Instead of wasting his time sending useless and insulting tweets regarding other countries, he would be better off seeing to the domestic issues of his own country such as daily killings of dozens of people… and the existence of millions of homeless and hungry people,” said ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hit back at Trump’s comments, saying the US leader — whose “whole being is against the nation of Iran — has “no right” to sympathize with protesters.

Protests began in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country’s “enemies.”


450 People Arrested Over Three Days In Tehran

An image grab taken from a handout video released by Iran’s Mehr News agency reportedly shows a group of men pulling at a fence in a street in Tehran on December 30, 2017. Handout / MEHR NEWS / AFP

Some 450 people have been arrested in the Iranian capital over the past three days during unrest linked to protests, an official told local media on Tuesday.

“200 people were arrested on Saturday, 150 on Sunday and around 100 on Monday,” Ali-Asghar Naserbakht, a deputy in the Tehran city governor’s office, told the reformist-linked ILNA news agency.

Protests have been relatively small in Tehran compared with many parts of the country since the unrest began last Thursday.

“We feel the situation in Tehran is more calm than previous days. Already yesterday, it was calmer than before,” said Naserbakht.

He added that no request had yet been put to the Revolutionary Guards to intervene in the capital.

“We will not permit insecurity to continue in any way in Tehran. If it continues, officials will take decisions to finish it,” said Esmail Kowsari, a deputy commander for a local branch of the Revolutionary Guards, on state television.


‘Life Is Really Difficult’: Tehranis Share Economic Grievances

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. Criticism is different to violence, warns Iran’s Rouhani.

The streets of Iran’s capital have been relatively quiet as protests hit much of the country, but Tehranis still have plenty to complain about and demand action from the government.

“Life is really difficult. The high prices really put me under pressure. My husband is a government worker but his salary is no way enough for us to make ends meet,” said Farzaneh Mirzaie, 42, a mother of two.

She said much of her family worked in a carpet factory in Kashan, a town 250 kilometres (150 miles) south of the capital, but they have all recently lost their jobs.

“The owner of the factory cannot afford to buy thread for carpets and so he sacked everyone. How should they survive?”

It is a story heard up and down the country as Iran struggles to recover from years of poor economic management and crippling international sanctions.

On Sunday night, Tehranis listened to President Hassan Rouhani address the mass protests that have spread across Iran since Thursday, in which he said people had the right to protest but should not engage in violence.

“He says it’s free for people to protest but we’re scared of speaking. Even now, I’m scared of talking to you,” said Sarita Mohammadi, a 35-year-old teacher.

“If it’s free to speak out and protest, then why have they deployed so many forces out there in the streets?”

‘We’ll have to pay for it’

Many people are nonetheless put off by the violence they have seen from protesters who have attacked banks, government buildings and symbols of the regime.

Sara, a 26-year-old student in conservative dress, agreed with the government line that the protests were being “guided from abroad”, but even she felt the protests began over “people’s economic hardship”.

“I’m not at all for demonstrations in which public property is vandalised. When some break windows, then we’ll have to pay for it later,” added Shiva Daneshvar, a 55-year-old housewife.

But everyone understands the frustration seething under Iranian society.

“I think people don’t like to vandalise and set fire to places, but this is the only way to make their voices heard,” said Nasser Khalaf, 52, who works for an oil company, adding that he has two unemployed sons in their twenties.

Many feel the nation has not been rewarded for enduring decades of hardship — the tumult of the 1979 revolution, eight years of brutal war with Iraq in the 1980s and recent US sanctions.

“After 40 years they have realised that all the hardship… was in vain,” said Arya Rahmani, a 27-year-old nurse.

“I’m working in this society but I always have the stress of whether I’m going to be sacked tomorrow.”

“Mr Rouhani says ‘protest in a proper way’, but what is the proper way? If I come and say ‘Mr Rouhani, I’m an educated person but I’m unemployed’… well, he wouldn’t give a damn.”

Trump in ‘his palace’

There was typical derision regarding US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly tweeted his support for the protests in recent days, saying Monday that it was “TIME FOR CHANGE!”

“Verbal support is of no use,” said Rahmani. “He’s living in his palace and here I’m arrested. What can Trump do?”

“It would be better if he didn’t support the protests,” added Khalaf, saying that external support from opposition groups was also unwelcome.

Many harbour a deep mistrust of Trump after he barred Iranians from visiting the United States as part of his ban on “terrorist” nations.

“The government should improve the people’s situation to a level where Trump won’t dare say such a thing,” said Mirzaie, the housewife.

Underlying it all is a deep-seated frustration that their country has failed to capitalise on its huge potential.

“Our country is really like gold. Whatever you can think of, you can find in Iran. But we are not benefiting at all from the things we have in our country,” said Mirzaie.

It remains unclear where the protests will go from here.

Without a clear leadership structure, the protests may struggle to stay focused, particularly if authorities decide to crack down more firmly than they have so far.

Khalaf, the oil company employee, said that may be tougher than during the last mass protests that followed allegations of election-rigging in 2009.

“In 2009 when people took to the streets it was only in Tehran and so they easily managed to suppress it,” he said.

“When it is widespread, then less forces can be sent.”


Iran’s Ex-President Rafsanjani Dies

Iran's Ex-President Rafsanjani DiesIran’s ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a dominant figure in the country’s politics since the 1980s, has died at the age of 82, media say.

Mr Rafsanjani had suffered a heart attack on Sunday and died in an hospital in Tehran.

He served as president from 1989 to 1997 but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he ran again in 2005.

Rafsanjani was an influential figure in Iran, and headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.

He was also a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran’s most powerful figure.

Rafsanjani has been described as “a pillar of the Islamic revolution.” His pragmatic policies – economic liberalization, better relations with the West and empowering Iran’s elected bodies – appealed to many Iranians but was despised by hardliners.

The 12-member Guardian Council, a dominant force in Iran that interprets the constitution, disqualified Mr Rafsanjani after he entered the race for the 2013 presidential election as a reformist candidate.

Iraq To Intervene In Iran/Saudi Row         

 iraqIraq has sent its foreign minister to Tehran with an offer to mediate in an escalating feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran, reflecting Baghdad’s fears that new sectarian conflict could undo its campaign against Islamic State.

On arrival in Iran, the Iraq Foreign Minister told journalists his country has solid relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia and therefore cannot stay silent in the crisis.

Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shi’ite cleric on Saturday has inflamed sectarian anger across the Middle East, infuriating Iran.

Powerful Iran-backed Shi’ite militia called on Iraqi Prime Minister, Haidar Al-Abadi on Wednesday to shut a Saudi embassy that reopened only last month after decades of strained ties.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters hit the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Both countries are major rivals in the Middle East and back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

There has been immediate reaction from Saudi Arabia to the Iraqi mediation offer.

Saudi-Iran Row: Kerry Calls For Calm

saudi-iran conflictUS officials have said that the United States is trying to mend fences between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, has appealed to both sides to remain calm while State Department spokesman, John Kirby, explained that the phone conversations involve foreign ministers of both countries and the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters hit the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Both countries are major rivals in the middle east and back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

On Tuesday, Kuwait said it was recalling its ambassador from Tehran, describing the attack on the Saudi Embassy as a “flagrant breach of international norms”.

Saudi allies Bahrain and Sudan broke off diplomatic relations with Iran on Monday and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has also downgraded its diplomatic team in Tehran.

On Monday, the UN Security Council issued a strongly worded statement condemning the attack on the Saudi Embassy – making no mention of the execution of Shia Muslim Cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others on terrorism charges.

UN Condemns Saudi-Iran Dispute

SaudiThe UN Security Council has strongly condemned an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of a Shia cleric.

Saudi Arabia has broken off diplomatic relations with Iran and is cutting trade and air links.

On Monday, some of Riyadh’s allies also joined diplomatic action against Iran.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government had urged both sides to calm their diplomatic row, saying the dispute will only worsen regional tensions.

Deputy Prime Minister, Numan Kurtulmus, said that the Middle East is “already a powder keg”.

He criticised attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and he also criticized Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia Muslim cleric, which triggered the dispute.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are respectively the key Sunni Muslim and Shia powers in the region and back opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia had earlier criticised UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who had spoken of his “dismay” at the executions, however, Mr Mouallimi described Mr Ban’s comments as “misinformed”.

Following the attacks on the missions, Saudi authorities announced late on Sunday that they were severing diplomatic relations with Iran. They said that all commercial and air traffic links were being cut and that Saudi citizens were banned from travelling to Iran.


Buhari To Lead Nigeria’s Delegation To Forum Of Gas Exporting Countries

BuhariPresident Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Sunday for Tehran where he will participate in the 3rd Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum (GECF) opening in the Iranian capital on Monday, November 23, 2015.

President Buhari and the leaders of Iran, Russia, Qatar, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Oman, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Bolivia and other member-countries of the GECF are expected to  review the current market outlook on gas and discuss strategies for boosting gas production during their meeting in Tehran.

Nigeria and other GECF members currently account for 42 percent of global gas production‎, 70 percent of global gas reserves, 40 percent of pipeline transmission of gas and 65 percent of the global trade in Liquefied Natural Gas.

President Buhari, who is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with other participating Heads of State and Government on the side-lines of the GECF summit, will also meet with Nigerians resident in Iran.

The President will be accompanied on the trip by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr  Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Power, Works & Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Ibe Kachikwu and the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd.).

He is due back in Abuja on Tuesday, November 24, 2015.

Hajj Stampede: Iran Victims’ Bodies Repatriated

hajj stampede victims arrive iranIran has begun receiving its dead as the first bodies of pilgrims killed in a stampede during the annual hajj pilgrimage in mecca have arrived back in the capital Tehran.

The ceremony saw 104 bodies returned home from Saudi Arabia. Iran says at least 464 of its nationals were killed.

The Saudi authorities put the total death toll at 769, but foreign media reports and officials put the figure at well over 1,000.

Tehran had blamed the incident on Saudi “mismanagement”.

But Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, had accused Iran of “playing politics” with the disaster, calling on Tehran to await the outcome of an investigation.

Speaking at the repatriation ceremony, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, said that the tragedy was a “big test” for everyone. “In this incident, our language has been that of fraternity and respect”, he said.

“When required, we have used the language of diplomacy. If needed, the Islamic Republic of Iran will also use language of power.”

The crush happened as two large groups of pilgrims converged as they were taking part in one of the Hajj’s major rites.

The Saudi authorities have not released a breakdown of victims by nationality.

British Embassy In Tehran Reopens

British embassyNearly four years after it was closed, Britain has reopened its embassy in Iran.

British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, is in Tehran with a delegation of business leaders for a ceremony to mark the reopening.

It held about the same time, Iran was also reopening its embassy in London.

The UK embassy was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by protesters during a demonstration against sanctions.

Mr Hammond is the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit Iran since 2003.

The visit came weeks after Iran reached a deal with six world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Mr Hammond said the  nuclear deal and the election of Hassan Rouhani as President in June 2013,  had drawn greater engagement with the western world and had been “important milestones” in the improved relations between the two countries.

In November 2011 Iran announced it was expelling the UK’s ambassador in retaliation for British support for tougher sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Hundreds of protesters stormed embassy compounds two days later, smashing windows, torching cars and burning Union flags.

The UK responded by closing the Iranian embassy in London later that month.

But following the election of Rouhani and an agreement on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, proposed the reopening of the embassy in June last year.

Since then, the reopening of the embassy had been held up by technical problems over visa policy and communications equipment, Mr Hammond said.

At least 39 Passengers Die In Iranian Plane Crash

Mideast Iran Plane CrashAt least 39 people were killed on Sunday in Tehran after Iran-140 Sepahan Air passenger plane crashed after leaving the runway at Mehrabad International Airport, when an engine failed, the FARS semiofficial news agency reported.

According to the report, 48 passengers and crew had been killed, but the State Media later reported that some passengers had been injured and transferred to hospital.

The State Television said, pilot detected technical issues four minutes after takeoff and tried to return to the airport,  but the twin-engine turboprop crashed on a road at 9.18 am local time. One eyewitness said the plane crashed into a wall.

The crash also injured people on the ground, including employees at a glass factory and some of the injured suffered severe burns, a report says.

One survivor said he was saved by jumping through a hole in the plane’s body created by a blast. “The force of the blast threw us out of the plane,” Mohammad Abedzadeh was quoted as saying. “Seconds later, I saw the entire plane in flames,” he said through tears.

Rescue workers were still working on Sunday afternoon to remove bodies from the wreckage, Tasnimnews said.