Iran deported over 8000 Afghan refugees

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United Nations (UN) has said that Iran has deported at least 8000 Afghan immigrants in the beginning of the ongoing year.

According to Alarabiya, UN has expressed concern over the extradition of Afghan immigrants in the current situation as they do not have any financial and economic aids to support themselves.

UN has also said in the statement that it is worried over the expelling of illegal Afghan migrants by Pakistan.

Millions of Afghans fled to Iran and Pakistan in the 1980s to flee a bloody anti-Communist insurgency. At the peak of the war, roughly 5 million refugees lived in Pakistan and nearly 4 million in Iran.

Currently, Human Rights Watch estimates about 2 million Afghans still live in Iran as unregistered refugees – some having returned to Afghanistan only to come back once again to Iran driven back by the lack of jobs and a deteriorating security situation in their homeland.

Since 2002, about four million Afghans – three million from Pakistan and about 850,000 from Iran – have been repatriated to Afghanistan with UN help, according to UNHCR.

Iran says “Nuclear Deal” will not be renegotiated

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The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “will not be renegotiated,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister said, ahead of the first anniversary of the agreement’s implementation, like reported by rferl.org .

Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Tehran that “the new U.S. administration cannot abandon the deal,” saying international laws required Washington to implement the agreement.

During his election campaign, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he could “tear up” or renegotiate the deal, which curtailed Iran’s atomic programs in exchange for lifting crippling sanctions.

Trump called the accord “the worst deal ever negotiated,” saying it gives away too much to Iran.

Araghchi reiterated an earlier warning by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said, “If they tear it up, we will burn it.”

Araghch said there would be no further discussions with U.S. officials over the deal.

“Our nuclear negotiations with the Americans are finalized and we have no other political talks with them,” Araghchi said, adding: “In our view, everything is over.”

US extends national emergency on Iran

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President Barack Obama extended the United States’ national emergency against Iran, the Press Secretary Office of White House announced according to trend.az .

In a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate, on Jan. 13, Obama said the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared on March 15, 1995, will continue in effect beyond March 15, 2017.

The US president underlined that certain actions and policies of the Iranian government are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

The National Emergencies Act requires the US president to extend a national emergency within 90 days of its anniversary date, before it is automatically terminated.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards position for power

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards look set to entrench their power and shift the country to more hardline, isolationist policies for years to come following the death of influential powerbroker Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, like reported by reuters.com.

Former president Rafsanjani long had a contentious relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is both the strongest military force in Iran and also has vast economic interests worth billions of dollars.

With a presidential election in May and a question mark over the health of Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, analysts say the Guards will soon have opportunities to tighten their grip on the levers of power.

Rafsanjani, who died on Sunday aged 82, had criticised the Guards’ expanding economic interests, which range from oil and gas to telecommunications and construction, their role in the crackdown on protests after disputed 2009 presidential elections and the country’s missile programme which the Guards oversee.

Rafsanjani was a high-profile member of the Assembly of Experts that selects the Supreme Leader. Though he favoured an easing of security restrictions on Iranians at home, opening up to the West politically and economically, he was a respected go-between who could balance the influence of hardliners.

During mourning ceremonies this week, senior Revolutionary Guards commanders appeared on state TV to praise Rafsanjani, a companion of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and one of the pillars of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But analysts say many are quietly celebrating the departure of one of their biggest domestic critics.

“They’re going to be very happy,” said Ali Ansari, director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St Andrews. “They’re shedding a lot of crocodile tears.”

ABSOLUTELY PIVOTAL

With Rafsanjani out of the picture the Guards can play a crucial role in determining who becomes the next Supreme Leader by steering Assembly members toward a candidate more sympathetic to their interests, analysts say.

“All of the candidates you hear about who could replace Khamenei are much more hardline and have more radical views,” said Mehdi Khalaji, a former seminarian from Qom who is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The hardline camp in Iran has defined itself by a deep distrust of Western governments and rigid opposition to internal political reform, whereas Rafsanjani was the leading force behind moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s election win.

The 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers was also anathema to hardliners and they have often used the deal, and the economic openings it offered Western companies, to criticise Rouhani’s government.

The question of who could replace Khamenei, 77, was first raised in earnest when he was hospitalised in 2014.

State TV showed Khamenei, who became the Islamic Republic’s second Supreme Leader in 1989, in a hospital bed with a string of officials visiting. Analysts said this was done to help the public recognise that a change at the top was inevitable.

In the event of Khamenei’s death, the Assembly of Experts’ 88 members will hold a closed-door session to push for the candidate of their choice before a final vote is taken. Analysts expect the Revolutionary Guards to play a significant role.

“They’ll be absolutely pivotal,” said Ansari.

PIECES IN PLACE

The Revolutionary Guards first secured an economic foothold after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when Iran’s clerical rulers allowed them to invest in leading Iranian industries.

Their economic influence, authority and wealth grew after former guardsman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005 and has increased since, leading some analysts to say the next Supreme Leader is unlikely to wield the same power as Khamenei.

“They have been putting all the pieces in place for a very forceful show of force if Khamenei passes away,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies programme at Stanford University.

“They’re seizing every day one more lever of intelligence power, financial power, police power. Clearly they’re putting their forces in play,” Milani said.

While there is no clear single candidate for the role of Supreme Leader, there are a handful of top contenders.

One possible candidate is Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, 68, a former head of the judiciary who is now deputy head of the Assembly of Experts.

Shahroudi is favoured by Khamenei, experts say, and, crucially, is thought to have the backing of the Revolutionary Guards.

Another candidate is Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, the 55-year-old current head of the judiciary who has twice been appointed to the position by Khamenei.

Larijani comes from a family of political heavyweights – one brother, Ali, is parliament speaker and another has served in government – but Sadeq is not regarded as a senior cleric and is unlikely to muster much support among the old guard.

A third possible candidate is Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a hardline stalwart who has tussled with reformists for years. Mesbah-Yazdi did not get enough votes to keep his seat in the Assembly last year and, at 82, his age will likely be an issue if he is being considered for the top position in the country.

Some analysts say, however, that given the increasing power of the Revolutionary Guards it is perhaps less significant who actually becomes the next Supreme Leader.

“The individual is no longer important,” said Khalaji at the Washington Institute. “When I get asked who’s going to replace Khamenei, I say it’s the Revolutionary Guards.”

Iran’s naval provocations continue

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On January 8, multiple Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy small attack craft harassed a group of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, at one point coming within 900 yards of them. Iran’s nine-hour naval challenge ended when one of the U.S. ships fired three warning shots that caused the IRGC Navy craft to break off the encounter. According to the U.S. Navy, the American ships were on a routine mission in international waters, and the IRGC Navy actions constituted ‘unsafe’ and ‘unprofessional’ actions. No direct weapons fire occurred and there were no injuries.  

The IRGC Navy challenge represented a renewed flare-up of recent U.S.-Iran tensions in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of all seaborne traded oil flows. In December, IRGC Navy vessels aimed at—but did not fire on—a U.S. military helicopter flying over the Gulf. In October, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired Iran-supplied anti-ship cruise missiles at U.S. and UAE naval vessels in the Red Sea. The missiles hit a UAE ship but missed the U.S. vessels, and prompted U.S. retaliatory attacks on Houthi-controlled radar installations. In August and September, the IRGC Navy conducted challenges similar—and with a similar U.S. response—to the events of January 8. Most analysts expect that similar Iranian provocations will continue, as Iran’s leaders seek to demonstrate to the incoming Trump administration that Iran is not intimidated by the President-elect’s characterization of Iran as a key adversary. That description represents a reversion to the U.S. view of Iran from the Iranian revolution in 1979 until the Obama administration; President Obama sought substantial engagement with Iran not only to curb Iran’s nuclear program but also in an effort to help resolve the conflicts roiling the region. 

Aside from their uncertainty about the new administration’s policy on the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement, Iran’s leaders are particularly concerned about the President-elect’s nomination of Marine General James Mattis (ret.) as Secretary of Defense. As commander of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, General Mattis identified Iran as the most significant threat to U.S. interests in the region. Early in his tour, he advocated for U.S. military action against weapons factories inside Iran that were supplying Iraqi Shi’a militias attacking U.S. forces in Iraq. The Obama administration denied the request as too provocative in light of the administration’s attempts to engage Iran in negotiations on its nuclear program. President-elect Donald Trump has characterized the threat posed by Iran in terms similar to those articulated by General Mattis. As such, Mattis is likely to have presidential backing should he seek to allow U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf to respond to future IRGC Navy provocations with the use of deadly force.            

In addition to potentially bringing U.S. and Iranian naval forces into direct conflict, continued Iranian naval provocations could influence the new administration’s decisions about the nuclear agreement. President-elect Trump has been sharply critical of the agreement on the grounds that it places unwarranted trust in Iran’s compliance, and provides Iran with additional resources to expand its influence in the region. However, since being elected, Trump has not stated that his administration will cease implementing the agreement or re-impose U.S. sanctions that have been lifted. Repeated Iranian naval harassment could empower those within the new administration who advocate abrogating the agreement or requesting that it be renegotiated. Alternately, the new administration might augment the U.S. force posture in the Persian Gulf and enhance the naval and air capabilities of America’s Gulf allies with additional sales of sophisticated arms. Further, additional Iranian provocations will likely result in the enactment of new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles—which has substantial support even absent Iranian naval harassment. 

Continued Iranian naval provocations will have deeper implications than simply coloring the views of the incoming Trump administration on Iran. Such Iranian actions—even if directed only at U.S. military assets—are likely to erode global support for the nuclear deal and for economic reengagement with Iran. Even though the nuclear agreement contains no specific restraints on Iran’s regional actions, the U.S and its negotiating partners entered into the deal with an expectation that Iran was seeking to reintegrate into the international community and end its ‘pariah’ status. Iranian naval provocations undermine that perception, as well as international confidence in Iran’s adherence to the accord. Should the U.S. impose any new sanctions on Iran as a consequence of its Gulf actions—even if such sanctions are not counter to the nuclear deal—European and Asian firms are likely to decline to reengage with Iran’s economy, and those firms that have reentered the Iranian market are likely to pull out. Therefore, the ultimate outcome of such provocative actions could lead Iran down a path back towards international isolation and economic distress.

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Afghanistan: 3 Iranian terror suspects detained, Herat official claims

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Three Iranian citizens have been arrested for committing terrorist acts in western Herat province, an official claimed on Wednesday, like reported by pajhwok.com.

Col. Fazal Rahman Khadim, anti-terrorism branch chief,, told Pajhwok Afghan News Majid and Ramazan hailing from Iran’s Mashhad city were recently arrested by police with two pistols.

Another Iranian detained a few days back was accused of helping the Taliban. After investigations, he alleged, it became clear the foreigners had a hand in a string of killings in Herat.

Khadim said the two foreigners, who introduced themselves as Afghans, confessed during interrogation they were Iranians. “Two of the detainees are accused of terrorism and the third of aiding insurgents.”

Iran was financing and equipping insurgents in Guzra district, he claimed. The Abdullah Akbari faction, a notorious anti-government group in Guzra, frequently took refuge in Iran, he said.

The official warned intelligence agencies of Iran and Pakistan to eschew aiding insurgent in Heart, as they would face shamefully fail in achieving their goals.

But Mahmood Afkhami, Iranian consul general in Herat, denied his country aided insurgents in Afghanistan. Iranian authorities condemned terrorists, no matter where they came from, he remarked.

“Anyone, hailing from any country, should be punished and tried according to Afghanistan’s Constitution for committing terrorist activities,” the diplomat said.

He said Iran supported peace and stability in Afghanistan and had never tolerated attempts at disrupting security in the neighbouring country.

Providing Lebanon with weapons from Iran violates U.N. arms embargo

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A Western diplomat at the United Nations in New York stated that reports circulating in Lebanon recently on the possibility of extending the Lebanese army with weapons from Iran, are “inconsistent” with the decisions of the Security Council, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported Tuesday.

The diplomat stressed that Iran cannot extend arms to any side unless the U.N. Security Council decides otherwise, added the daily.

“The Security Council’s resolutions are very clear in terms of preventing Iran from sending weapons to states or non-state actors, and this applies to all countries without exception, unless the Security Council decided otherwise,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iranian officials who visited Beirut recently have expressed Tehran’s willingness to provide the Lebanese army with weapons, the most recent was Chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi.

“Iran’s permanent and firm stance is to stand by the brotherly Lebanese Republic of Lebanon, government and people. We therefore reiterate our firm will in the field of arming the Lebanese army,” said Boroujerdi while in Beirut last week.

Iran is still subject to am arms embargo despite the fact that some sanctions were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France to limit its nuclear program.

US Navy fired warning shots at speeding Iranian boats

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The US Navy fired three warning shots at four Iranian boats after they closed in at speed on Sunday, say defence officials.

It happened in the Strait of Hormuz after they did not respond to request by the USS Mahan to slow down.

The destroyer fired flares and a helicopter dropped a smoke float but the boats carried on at speed, according to the officials, who were speaking anonymously to Reuters.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard vessels came to within 800m of the Mahan, which was escorting two other US ships.

Iran arming Hizballah could have violated nuclear-linked sanctions: UN

Iran supplying weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shia militia group Hizballah could have breached an arms embargo on the Islamic Republic, the UN Security Council has been told, according to alaraby.co.uk

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Iran may have violated an arms embargo by supplying weapons and missiles to Hizballah, former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has said.

The Islamic Republic also faces an accusation that an arms shipment seized in the northern Indian Ocean in March 2016 was from Iran and likely bound for Somalia or Yemen.
“In a televised speech broadcast by Al Manar TV on 24 June 2016, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, stated that the budget of Hizballah, its salaries, expenses, weapons and missiles all came from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ban wrote in the report, seen by Reuters, and due to be discussed by the UN Security Council on 18 January.

“I am very concerned by this statement, which suggests that transfers of arms and related material from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Hizballah may have been undertaken contrary (to a Security Council resolution),” Ban added.

The Iran-backed Lebanese Shia paramilitary group is currently taking part in the Syrian regime’s advances on rebel held areas such Wadi Barada near Damascus.

Most UN sanctions were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union to curb its nuclear program.

But Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.

The report was submitted to the Security Council on 30 December by Ban before he was succeeded by Antonio Guterres on 1 January.

It comes just weeks before US President-elect Donald Trump, who has threatened to either scrap the nuclear agreement or seek a better deal, takes office.

When asked by the international body to clarify the issue, Iran’s mission to the UN said “measures undertaken by the Islamic Republic of Iran in combating terrorism and violent extremism in the region have been consistent with its national security interests and international commitments”.

Under a Security Council resolution enshrining the deal, which came into effect a year ago, the UN secretary-general is required to report every six months to the council on any violations of sanctions still in place.

“Since 16 January, 2016, I have not received any report on the supply, sale, transfer or export to the Islamic Republic of Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the (resolution),” Ban wrote.

In Ban’s first report in July he said ballistic missile launches carried out by Iran in March were “not consistent with the constructive spirit” of a nuclear deal, but it is up to the council to decide if they violated the resolution.

In the most recent report, he wrote that since July “no information regarding Iranian ballistic missile activity or ballistic missile-related transfers … were brought to my attention or that of the Security Council.”

Iran planning to assassinate Israel supporters in Europe

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Pakistani man indicted in Germany planned to kill prominent Israel supporters on behalf of Iran if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear facilities; one of his targets was Reinhold Robbe, a member of the Social Democratic Party and former president of the German-Israeli Society, according to ynetnews.com .

A 31-year-old Pakistani man has been indicted in Germany for his involvement in an attempt to assassinate Reinhold Robbe, a member of the Social Democratic Party and former president of the German-Israeli Society, a body responsible for strengthening relations between the two nations, German media reported.

The Pakistani, Sayed Mustafa, was living in the German city of Bremen and worked as a technician at the German Aerospace Center. He was reportedly recruited by Iranian intelligence services and was tasked with following known, outspoken Israel supporters in Germany.

The indictment claimed that Mustafa was part of a wider operation to follow Israel supporters and scout out targets who had warm relations with Israel in Germany, France, and other European nations.

Mustafa and other operatives were to receive orders to assassinate these targets should Israel strike the Iranian nuclear facilities.

Another target was allegedly an Israeli-French professor who teaches at the Paris School of Business.

The indictment further claimed that the Pakistani was in direct contact with his Iranian handlers, sending them PowerPoint presentations with the details of the people he and his cell were following.

Mustafa was arrested in July on suspicion of spying, and has been known to German intelligence services as a suspected Iranian agent since at least 2015.

 

The Germans reported that Mustafa wasn’t the most sophisticated of Iranian agents, and the people he recruited to help follow and select targets seemed to be amateurs. German authorities reported that it was easy to spot and capture them.