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Assad renews Syria’s bonds with Iran

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MAY 9, 2022 

The unannounced arrival of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran on Sunday makes yet another wrinkle to the geopolitics of West Asia. In a short trip of a few hours, Assad had meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raeisi and returned to Damascus. 

This is only the second trip by Assad to Iran in the past 11 years since the conflict erupted in Syria. The last occasion was in 2019, when he came accompanied by the charismatic commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force late Qassem Soleimani to mark Syria’s “victory” in the conflict. Much water has flowed down down the Euphrates and the Tigris since then. 

There is some speculation that Russia may redeploy its forces in Syria. The Israeli intelligence website DebkaFile reported cryptically on Friday that “Russian units deployed to Syria are assembling at the air bases of  Hmeimim, Qamishli, Deir e-Zor and T4, ready for some to transfer to the Ukraine warfront. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians are handing over key bases to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah.” 

Prima facie, this is kite-flying, so to speak. There is no independent word from Moscow. Iran will be certainly in the loop on any big Russian troop withdrawal from Syria. The Turkish air space is closed to Russian [military] planes since April and on February 28 Ankara had restricted the passage of Russian warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits (unless they are returning to their bases in the Black Sea.) 

Analysts have interpreted the Turkish decisions as “anti-Russian” but they come under the ambit of Montreux Convention (1936) and on closer look, may even work to Moscow’s advantage since the door is also closed to any NATO naval build-up in the Black Sea. Russian papers have pointed out that Moscow has been using the air corridor via Iran and Iraq to supply its troops in Syria. 

Indeed, Turkey is doing a delicate trapeze act vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine, being a Black Sea power with overlapping security concerns, while also a NATO power. Turkey has deftly created space to manoeuvre since NATO is technically not at war with Russia, and since Turkey is not a EU member country, it isn’t obliged to sanction Russia, either. 

Turkish leadership has actively nurtured contacts with the Kremlin, and the economic partnership continues, including over the construction of the massive $20 billion Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (comprising four 1,200 MW VVER units), which is expected to meet ten percent of Turkey’s electricity demand when it is completed in 2025. 

Again, Russian carrier Aeroflot has just resumed flights to Turkey in anticipation of the tourist season. Believe it or not, Turkey has found an ingenuous formula to allow Russian tourists to travel to Turkey bypassing the suspension of Visa and Mastercard by making it possible to access their funds through Russia’s homegrown payments system called Mir! Some 4.7 million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year, accounting for 19% of the total tourist arrivals, fetching an annual income exceeding $10 billion. 

When it comes to Russian-Iranian relations too, the picture is broadly similar to India’s — neither supporting Russia nor opposing it while refusing to censure Russian intervention and counselling ceasefire and dialogue as the only solution. 

According to Iranian media reports, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak is due to visit Iran shortly in connection with the session of the Iran-Russia Joint Economic Committee. The discussions are expected to focus on “strengthening financial cooperation and resolving transit problems” between the two countries as well as cooperating in the fields of oil and gas and promoting trade and tourism. Tehran knows that such camaraderie with Moscow is contrary to the spirit of Western sanctions.   

Moscow has every intention to remain actively involved in Syria. Special Russian Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov disclosed to Tass last week that Russia is working on scheduling the next international meeting on Syria in the Astana format for the end of May in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Does that look like Russia washing its hands off Syria? To quote Bogdanov, “We already discussed this with partners Iran and Turkey as the guarantors of the Astana process plus with the Syrian government and opposition delegations.” 

The official Syrian news agency Sana described Assad’s trip to Tehran as a “working visit.” It quoted Assad as stressing to Khamenei about “the importance of continuing cooperation in order not to allow America to rebuild the international terrorist system that it used to harm the countries of the world,” adding that the US “is weaker than ever.”

There are four main takeaways from Assad’s talks with the Iranian leadership. First, Assad made it clear in no uncertain terms that no matter Syria’s normalisation with the UAE (or other Arab countries involved in the conflict), he continues to attribute the highest importance to Syria’s alliance with Iran. Assad underscored that Syria is ready for broader coordination with Iran in security, political and economic fields.

Second, Damascus needs Tehran’s help for finally freeing Syria from foreign occupation. Raisi told Assad, “The whole of the Syrian land must be liberated from foreign occupiers. This occupation should not be subject to the passage of time, and the occupying forces and their mercenaries should be expelled.” Sana cited Khamenei as stressing that Iran will “continue to support Syria to complete its victory over terrorism and liberate the rest of the country’s lands.” 

Third, the two countries have a consensus on the effectiveness and vibrancy of the resistance front. Assad acknowledged that the weakening of the US’ influence in West Asia and the end of Israel’s military supremacy regionally is a direct outcome of the strategic relations between Iran and Syria, “which must continue with strength.” 

Interestingly, Khamenei recalled that Soleimani had “a special liking towards Syria and literally sacrificed his life” for that country and viewed the issue of Syria as a “sacred duty and obligation”. Khamenei reminded Assad poignantly, “This bond is vital for both countries and we should not let it weaken. On the contrary, we should strengthen it as much as possible.” Raisi called Assad “one of the figures of the Resistance Front” like his father Hafez al-Assad.

Fourth, Assad sought and obtained assurances from the highest level of Iranian leadership that Iran will help Syria overcome its difficulties. This is particularly crucial at a juncture when regional politics is in flux and Russia is preoccupied in Ukraine. 

A resuscitation of the US-led regime change project in Syria is not to be expected and Washington no longer wields commanding influence over its Persian Gulf allies or Turkey to get them to act as its surrogates. But Assad’s challenge is that Syria is getting relegated to the back burner as new hotspots and topical issues draw the region’s attention — such as JCPOA, Yemen, Iran-Saudi normalisation, OPEC+, etc. 

Although the conflict has ended, Syria still remains under foreign occupation and its economy is in ruins. A frozen conflict may legitimise the status quo. Meanwhile, Israel is waiting in the wings. Assad’s visit to Tehran signals that Iran remains the mainstay of Syria’s future strategy to avoid such a dismal fate. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian affirmed on Monday that Assad’s visit was held in an atmosphere of “fraternity and friendship,” and it opens a new chapter in the strategic ties.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran: Politicization of Syria’s chemical-weapons file harms OPCW credibility

Press TV – April 30, 2022

Iran’s deputy permanent representative to the UN has decried the politicization of the Syrian chemical-weapons file by certain countries, stressing that the move will endanger the credibility and authority of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical watchdog.

Zahra Ershadi made the remarks in an address to the UN Security Council session titled “The situation in the Middle East: (Syria – Chemical)” on Friday, during which she strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, and under any circumstances.

Ershadi stressed the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and said the treaty aims to protect humanity from the devastating repercussions and scourge of the use of chemical weapons.

“We reiterate our call for the full, effective, non-political, and non-discriminatory implementation of the CWC, and preserving the OPCW’s authority as well. We believe that politicizing the implementation of the Convention and exploiting the OPCW for politically motivated agendas endangers the Convention’s credibility and also the Organization’s authority,” the Iranian envoy to the UN said.

“We also emphasize that any investigation into the use of chemical weapons must be impartial, professional, credible, and objective in order to establish the facts and reach evidence-based conclusions, and in doing so it must strictly adhere to the provisions and procedures within the framework of the Convention; no deviation from the Convention shall be permitted,” she added.

Underlining Syria’s strenuous efforts to meet its CWC obligations, she said the country has shown its willingness to collaborate with the OPCW.

“However, it is disappointing that certain States Parties have politicized the Syrian chemical weapons file, preventing the OPCW from confirming Syria’s compliance with its obligations, which could have resulted in constructive dialogue and cooperation with Syria,” Ershadi said.

“We recognize the critical importance of the Syrian government’s efforts to fulfill its obligations under the Convention,” she further added.

Ershadi also expressed Iran’s support for the approach taken by OPCW and Syria to hold a high-level dialogue and hoped that the initiative would yield positive results.

OPCW, CWC ‘politically biased’

Ershadi’s remarks came after the US accused Syria of flouting the CWC and obstructing the OPCW’s inspectors on Friday, which marked the 25th anniversary of the implementation of the landmark treaty.

Responding to the US accusations, Syrian ambassador Bassam Sabbagh said the inspectors had been denied access because of a “lack of objectivity and professionalism.”

Sabbagh also accused the OPCW and the CWC of political bias.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said the convention had become a “punitive” instrument wielded in the interests of a “narrow group of countries” against Syria.

“At its 25th anniversary, the OPCW has very serious systemic problems and a tarnished reputation,” Nebenzya noted. “Russia unconditionally supports the CWC and is committed to its letter and spirit. What gives rise to question to us is how its provisions are being implemented by the OPCW.”

Moscow and Damascus have on many occasions said members of the so-called White Helmets civil defense group stage gas attacks in a bid to falsely incriminate Syrian government forces and fabricate pretexts for military strikes by the US-led military coalition.

The group, which claims to be a humanitarian NGO, has long been accused of collaborating with anti-Damascus militants.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain, and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometres northeast of the capital Damascus.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, a charge the Syrian government rejected.

According to concealed OPCW documents that were revealed later, the investigators of the Douma incident had found “no evidence” of a chemical weapons attack.

However, the organization censored the findings under pressure from the US and its allies to conceal evidence undermining the pretext of the ensuing US-led bombing of Syria.

Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry.

The Arab country has consistently denied the use of chemical weapons despite Western rhetoric.

April 30, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran and China agree to counter ‘unilateralism’

Samizdat | April 27, 2022

Iran sees its relations with China as part of an effort by like-minded powers to confront US unilateralism and create stability and order, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told the visiting Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Wednesday.

Raisi said that the successful implementation of the 25-year strategic cooperation agreement between China and Iran, signed in 2021, was a priority for Tehran, according to the state media.

“Confronting unilateralism and creating stability and order is possible through the cooperation of independent and like-minded powers,” Raisi was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency. He added that the current “regional and global developments show more than ever the value of Iran-China strategic cooperation.”

Wei said his visit was aimed at “improving the strategic defense cooperation” between Tehran and Beijing, which would have a “remarkable” impact on fighting terrorism and defusing unilateralism, “particularly in the current critical and tense situation.”

Wei also met with Iranian Defense Minister General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani and reportedly invited him to visit China. In their meeting, Ashtiani stressed “the need to counter American hegemony in the world by strengthening multilateralism,” according to a statement by the Iranian Defense Ministry.

Ashtiani also criticized the US military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere, saying that “wherever the US has had military presence, it has created waves of insecurity, instability, rifts, pessimism, war, destruction and displacement,” according to IRNA.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, also met with the Chinese visitor, and offered some details on the shape of their cooperation going forward.

“We agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in joint military drills, exchange of strategies, training issues and other common fields between the two countries’ armed forces so that we can provide better security for the two countries,” Bagheri told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.

The 2021 strategic cooperation treaty has paved the way to military cooperation between Iran and China, but also a variety of economic activities ranging from oil trade to transportation and agriculture.

Iran has been under unilateral US sanctions since 2018, when the Trump administration reneged on the 2015 nuclear deal. China is one of the signatories of the original pact, along with the UK, France, Germany, and Russia. The current US government has said it wants to restore the agreement, but the talks have gone nowhere due to Washington’s refusal to lift the sanctions against Tehran.

April 27, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

Enemies Seeking to Sow Discord between Iran Afghanistan: Iranian Minister

Al-Manar – April 12, 2022

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stated that the recent attacks against diplomatic missions in in Herat and Kabul have aimed at sowing discord between Iran and Afghanistan.

Vahidi described the recent events as the enemies’ plan seeking to make a schism between Iran and Afghanistan, saying that the “Iranians have always been a good host for Afghan refugees, and the actions of some people in Herat and Kabul have aimed at sowing discord between the two nations,” Vahidi said as quoted by Mehr news agency.

The attacks are part of enemies’ plan seeking to make a schism between Iran and Afghanistan, he added.

The Iranian minister also called on Afghan officials to be vigilant and take care of such issues.

In recent weeks, unverified videos purporting to show Afghan refugees being mistreated in Iran have been published on social media, angering many Afghans.

On Monday, crowds of Afghan people gathered in front of Iran’s embassy in Kabul and its consulate general in Herat, throwing stones at the buildings and damaging the security cameras.

April 12, 2022 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Iran: Zionist Entity’s Naked Terrorism Root Cause of Unrest in Palestine

Al-Manar | April 9, 2022

Iran decried the “apartheid Zionist regime’s naked acts of terrorism” as the root cause of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement released on Friday night, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reacted to the recent developments in occupied Palestine.

“Racism, repression, carnage, incarceration, massive deprivation and daily humiliation of the oppressed Palestinian people and also the naked terror by the apartheid Zionist regime are the root causes of all tensions in the occupied territories,” the statement read, as cited by Tasnim news agency.

Khatibzadeh said the defenseless people of Palestine have a legitimate, clear and natural right to fight against the occupiers in response to the repeated Israeli crimes.

The Iranian spokesman also reaffirmed Islamic Republic’s support for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people’s fight for freedom.

Khatibzadeh, meanwhile, urged all nations, governments and international bodies to move toward providing the Palestinian people with security “in line with the principle of legitimate defense against occupation and terrorist activities by the apartheid Zionist regime and to prevent the aggression and brutal crimes of Zionists in Palestine.”

April 9, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

Russia, Iran hold major economic forum to expand ties

Press TV – April 7, 2022

Russia has hosted a major economic forum attended by a large Iranian delegation as the two countries seek to expand their trade and economic cooperation.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said in a Thursday report that representatives from more than 300 Russian businesses and companies had attended the gathering held earlier in the day at the conference hall of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation (TPPRF) in Moscow.

An Iranian economic delegation attended the meeting which authorities said was aimed at studying new capacities for economic and trade cooperation between Iran and Russia, said the report.

It said that more than 53 Iranian private businesses were represented in the forum where TPPRF President Sergey Katyrin highlighted the importance of the close cooperation between Iran and Russia in light of the current political and economic circumstances in the region.

Russia has been facing a raft of economic sanctions from the US and European countries since it started a military operation in Ukraine in February.

The sanctions are much similar to a series of bans imposed on Iran by the United States since 2018 when Washington pulled out of an international deal on Iran’s nuclear program and started a campaign of maximum economic pressure on Tehran.

Iran decided to increase its trade ties with Russia since US sanctions were imposed through signing an agreement with the Russia-led EAEU bloc of Eurasian economies.

Trade ties between Iran and Russia exceeded $4 billion in value terms over the Iranian calendar year to March. However, the two countries have insisted the figure could more than double because of new geopolitical situation in the region.

“The goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to increase our trade turnover to at least $10 billion in the short-term,” Iranian deputy trade minister Alireza Peymanpak said on Wednesday while addressing Iranian and Russian delegates in Moscow.

April 7, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Israel to send military attache to Bahrain soon, says envoy after Negev summit with Arab states

Press TV – March 29, 2022

Israel will “soon” appoint a military attache to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, says the Israeli ambassador to Manama, as diplomats from the Persian Gulf country and three other Arab states attend a meeting in the Negev desert in occupied Palestine.

“This will happen soon – an attache to the fleet,” Eitan Naeh told Israel’s Army Radio. “It is in the midst of various bureaucratic processes. I reckon that, by the summer, we will have a fuller staff, along with other officials who will join the embassy.”

Last month, the Israeli minister of military affairs, Benny Gantz, visited the US fleet in Bahrain and met with its commander, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, and Bahraini naval commanders.

Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf and a former Iranian province, is some 300 kilometers to the south of the coastal Iranian province of Bushehr, which hosts a key nuclear power plant.

In Tehran, an Israeli presence so close to the Bushehr nuclear site is deemed a threat to the country’s national security, as the regime in Tel Aviv has in the past covertly carried out acts of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear facilities and assassinated Iranian scientists while overtly threatening to launch attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

On Sunday, top diplomats from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt, the United States, and Israel met in the Negev desert to press ahead with a US-brokered normalization of relations between the Arab states and the Israeli regime.

Egypt was the first Arab country to have diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, while the UAE and Bahrain reached normalization agreements with Israel in 2020 through the mediation of former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Morocco and Sudan later reached similar US-brokered deals, which have been roundly condemned by Palestinians as a brazen betrayal of their cause.

US, Israel launch naval exercise

Also on Sunday, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the Israeli Navy launched a 10-day maritime exercise in the Red Sea.

The drill, dubbed Intrinsic Defender, focuses on maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, health topics, and unmanned systems integration.

Over 300 American personnel as well as US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67), dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8), and various unmanned vessels are also scheduled to participate in the exercise.

The drill comes amid Washington’s diminishing role in the region, including its withdrawal from Afghanistan and a change in its role in Iraq from military to advisory under the pressure of Iraqi resistance groups.

The US military is also expected to be expelled from Syria, where it has retained an illegal military presence throughout a foreign-sponsored conflict that began in 2011.

Observers believe Washington is scaling down its presence in the Middle East to focus on a large-scale confrontation with China, which is poised to soon overtake the US economically.

March 29, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran draws up gas field development plan after Saudi-Kuwaiti move

Some 23 Iranian hydrocarbon fields lie in border areas and are shared between Iran and adjacent countries
Press TV – March 28, 2022

An official says Iran has worked out a plan to develop its part of the Arash natural gas field shared with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait after the two Arab states announced having signed a document to build the reservoir without Tehran’s participation.

Last week, Kuwait said it planned to extract 1 billion standard cubic feet per day of gas and 84,000 barrels per day of condensate from the field under an agreement signed with Saudi Arabia. Iran dismissed the agreement as “illegal”, saying it breached their discussions to build the field together.

Ahmad Asadzadeh, deputy petroleum minister for international and commercial affairs, said Sunday Iran believes shared fields should be carried out jointly, adding this would lead to the strengthening of economic ties among the countries.

“Even if the border is not demarcated, the field can be developed jointly using internationally tested models,” he said. “The Ministry of Petroleum declares its readiness to negotiate in this regard,” Asadzadeh added.

Iran began talks with Kuwait in 2000 to develop the field but no agreements were reached. In 2013, the National Iranian Oil Company said it had jackets and rigs ready to develop the field and that if talks did not lead to a development plan, it would have the right to go ahead alone.

Iran, Asadzadeh said, has delayed developing the shared field in anticipation of a decision on the demarcation of the border with Kuwait.

“But given that the other side, regardless of the previous talks, is unilaterally moving to develop the field, there is no reason for delay,” Asadzadeh said.

“The Ministry of Petroleum has made necessary preparations and carried out studies to develop and exploit the shared field of Arash,” he added.

Arash was discovered in 1962 in the Persian Gulf with around 13 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Petroleum said parts of the Arash gas field which Kuwait and Saudi Arabia call al-Durra are located in areas between Iran and Kuwait whose water borders have not yet been defined.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran also reserves the right to exploit the gas field,” it said in a tweet in reaction to the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s statement on its bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “The recent move by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the framework of a cooperation document is contrary to what was previously discussed, and illegal.”

“Any action on the operation and development of this field should be in the coordination of all three countries,” he added.

Some 23 Iranian hydrocarbon fields lie in border areas and are shared between Iran and adjacent countries, including Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan.

Most of Iran’s oil and gas fields lie in a belt running along its maritime boundary in the Persian Gulf and the foothills of the Zagros Mountains – an extensive folded zone which is geologically the result of the Arabian plate’s collision with the central Iranian plateau.

The collision has trapped thick layers of ancient limestone and sandstone and turned them into some of the world’s biggest oil and gas accumulations.

The Zagros basin covers more than 550,000 square kilometers, stretching from Turkey and Syria through the Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran where its sediments are ideally up to 12,000 meters thick.

March 28, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

US to remove IRGC from terror blacklist

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MARCH 19, 2022

Axios reported earlier this week citing Israeli officials and US sources that the Biden administration is considering the removal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] from its terror blacklist, in return for a ‘public commitment from Tehran to de-escalation in the region.’

It is improbable that Tehran will give any such ‘public commitment’. But, a ‘private commitment’? Well, that may be possible. Indeed, the Axios report acknowledged that ‘The IRGC designation is not directly related to the nuclear deal, and any decision would take the form of a separate bilateral understanding between the US and Iran.’

No doubt, the lifting of the US sanctions is incompatible with the ban on the IRGC. The IRGC is deeply incorporated into the country’s economy and business. According to some estimates, up to 60% of Iran’s economy — including both state and private companies — is controlled by individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.

And the IRGC is well represented in the organs of the state. Executing a nuclear deal at Vienna while excluding the IRGC elites from plucking its low-hanging fruits is simply unrealistic. Arguably, even Americans wouldn’t want that to happen.

It is entirely conceivable that they too are eagerly looking forward to doing business with the IRGC top brass. After all, it’s best to do business with those who matter most in Tehran.

On balance, therefore, the Biden administration will concede Iran’s demand to drop the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. The crux of the matter is that the US is desperate to normalise with Iran since they also see potential to erode Iran’s friendly ties with Russia. The immediate goal of the Biden administration is to release Iran’s oil reserves. The amount of Iranian oil that may enter the market once sanctions are lifted is estimated at over two million barrels a day!

That said, even a US-Iran ‘bilateral understanding’ over the activities of the IRGC is not easy to achieve. The IRGC functions directly under the Supreme Leader’s supervision. Clearly, while from the American side, it is rather a formality requiring an executive order by the state department to legitimise IRGC, from the Iranian part, there is an ‘operational angle’ to it — namely, a commitment to end Iran’s expansion in the so-called Shiite Crescent of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

That involves the jettisoning of Quds Force’s ‘resistance’ and settling for peaceful co-existence with Israel. Does that look simple? 

But then, when it comes to Iran, nothing is simple, because nothing is iron-cast. Didn’t Iran help in the US invasion of Afghanistan and the creation of a puppet government in Kabul? Resistance politics too was the child of difficult times when the country was besieged. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran is unbound for the first time after the 1979 revolution.

To be sure, there is a growing uneasiness among regional states — and, possibly, even in Moscow — about Iran’s future trajectory. The Raisi government now proclaims a ‘balanced foreign policy’ — ‘neither with the West nor the East.’ The framing of the paradigm in this suggests that Tehran anticipates the world community to queue up on the road to Tehran.

Iran’s few steadfast friends in the region may begin to wonder what lies in the womb of time. Syrian President Assad’s visit to the UAE on Friday hints at realignments. Assad hopes to create more space for himself by rejoining the Arab family. Now, he has never been an acolyte of ‘resistance’ and is well aware that the UAE is Israel’s closest regional ally in West Asia.

The bottom line is that Iran will certainly seek integration with the industrial world, which will help it get the best that money can buy in technology or goods and services. But Iran also harbours ambitions that it will not be a junior partner of the West.

This is going to be a trapeze act. Integration into the world economy will require the freeing of market forces, which, in turn, carries attendant risks, as the pent-up social and economic discontent within the country seeks political expression and the genie gets out of the bottle. Colour revolution can take many forms, as current history shows. When George Soros and company move in, nothing is impossible!

Iran, of course, will be in doubts about the US’ intentions, too. Presently, Washington needs an accommodation with Iran devolving upon its capacity to pump more oil. But the US’ male-fide intentions are yet to be exorcised. And the crimes it has committed to the Iranian nation are no secret, either.

Above all, there is never any consistency in the US policies. Its self-interests come first and last. Iran doesn’t have to look far to see in the next-door Gulf region the debris of the US’ discarded Arab alliances once their purpose was served.

March 19, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran frees two dual British nationals jailed for espionage

Press TV – March 16, 2022

Iran has released two dual British-Iranian nationals jailed for involvement in espionage activities against the Islamic Republic, with the pair preparing to leave the country.

British-Iranians Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri are heading to a Tehran airport to leave the country, their lawyer Hojjat Kermani confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday.

Ashoori, who previously lived in southeast London with his family, was detained in August 2017 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for cooperating with Israel’s spy agency Mossad and two years for obtaining 33,000 euros in “illicit funds” nearly a year later.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, had been found guilty of plotting to orchestrate a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic and has been in jail since 2016.

Back in October 2017, the prosecutor general of Tehran stated that she was being held for running “a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran.”

Both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her employer had maintained she was simply visiting family while on vacation.

A report published by Fars news agency on Monday said Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released soon in return for London’s commitment to pay off a long-overdue debt to Tehran.

In return, Britain would pay $530 million (400 million pounds) to Iran to settle a debt related to an unfulfilled military contract that dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Fars reported.

Britain has delayed the payment for many years citing problems faced because of foreign sanctions against Iran.

However, Tehran has insisted the debt should be settled regardless of issues that exist between Iran and the West.

The money is owed to Iran over an upfront payment made by the former Shah of Iran to Britain to buy 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other military vehicles.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday declined to comment on Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case and whether there have been direct talks on the debt issue in Tehran although he admitted that talks on consular cases have been going on for a long time.

Later in the day, British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq said Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her British passport returned.

“I am very pleased to say that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been given her British passport back,” Siddiq said on Twitter.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday morning that her country is looking at ways to pay the 400 million pound debt to Iran.

“We have been clear this is a legitimate debt that we do owe Iran and we have been seeking ways to pay it,” Truss told Sky News.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Moscow reveals whether US sanctions would harm Iran deal

RT | March 15, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow has received written assurances from the US that Ukraine-related sanctions won’t hinder its ability to trade with Iran under the terms of a new nuclear agreement. “We received written guarantees. They are included in the text of the agreement itself on the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’, or JCPOA, is the official title of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Signed by Iran and the US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China and the EU the deal promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, claiming that Iran was breaching its obligations, and negotiators have been meeting in Vienna, Austria and attempting to hammer out a new deal for nearly a year now.

An unnamed US official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the US was not prepared to ease any Ukraine-related sanctions to save the deal, and would be open to negotiating a “replica of the JCPOA” without Russian involvement if Moscow insisted on exemptions being made.

Commenting on the reports, Lavrov suggested that Washington itself is still not ready to support the deal, and pointed out that, according to his Iranian counterpart, the problem with the agreement is in the US’ “exorbitant demands.”

Appearing beside Lavrov on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that there is no link between the conflict in Ukraine and the talks in Vienna.

The Iranians have repeatedly insisted that Russia remain a part of any deal.

The Vienna negotiations have been paused since last week, but an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that they should resume shortly, when they will enter their “final, crucial steps.” Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday that he believes these talks are on the home stretch, and called on the US to “return to the legal framework of this nuclear deal” and lift “the illegal sanctions the US has imposed to hurt not only Iran and its people, but a number of other countries.”

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Missile strike on Mossad centers in northern Iraq aimed at defending Iran’s security: Ambassador

Press TV – March 14, 2022

The Iranian ambassador to Iraq says the latest missile strike by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on secret bases of the Israeli Mossad spy agency in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region was strictly necessary, as operations against Iran’s security were being plotted and orchestrated there.

Iraj Masjedi made the remarks while addressing an international conference in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala on Monday.

The Iranian diplomat said Israeli operatives used the Iraqi Kurdistan region to plot and launch operations against Iran’s security, emphasizing that Iranian officials had time and again warned the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s authorities against their activities, but to no avail.

Masjedi highlighted that the missile attack was carried out in order to safeguard Iran’s security, “and was neither intended to violate Iraq’s sovereignty nor was meant to insult the Arab country and its nation.”

“We expect you to force Israelis out of Iraqi soil and get rid of them,” Masjedi addressed Kurdish officials, adding, “However, if they are not expelled, will we stand by with our hands tied behind us to [allow them] carry out operations against our security? Definitely not.”

The Iranian ambassador emphasized that the attack was aimed at Israel’s training centers and did not target the United States or the Iraqi government.

“Some media outlets have asserted that we targeted the US consulate. I’m surprised by such allegations. It is true that a conflict has been going on between us and the United States for forty years, but the recent operation was not against them. It was an operation against an Israeli base, where plots against our security were being hatched,” Masjedi said.

A dozen ballistic missiles hit secret Mossad bases in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, reportedly leaving several Israeli operatives dead.

Citing security sources, Iraq’s Sabereen News reported that two Mossad training centers were targeted by ballistic missiles in the early hours of Sunday.

Al-Mayadeen television news network said a Mossad base on the Masif-Saladin Street in Erbil was “fully razed to the ground and a number of Israeli mercenaries were killed or injured.”

In a statement issued earlier on Sunday, the IRGC indicated that the operation was in response to an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus last Monday, in which two IRGC officers were killed. The IRGC identified the two slain officers as colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saeidnejad, warning that Israel would “pay for this crime.”

March 14, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 5 Comments