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Archive for the ‘Ancient Land of Persia’ Category

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey meet UN envoy on Syria

September 11, 2018

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Syria hosted key diplomats from Iran, Russia and Turkey on Tuesday to discuss work toward rewriting the country’s constitution, amid concerns about a possibly devastating military offensive on rebel-held Idlib province.

The talks led by Staffan de Mistura started and ended with little or no comment to reporters at the U.N. offices in Geneva, and offered a sideshow to the concerns about a looming battle for the northern province — the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria after 7½ years of war and now home to some 3 million civilians.

De Mistura’s spokesman, Michael Contet, said in an email that any debriefing by the envoy about the meeting will be “reserved” for comments that he plans to make to U.N. Security Council next Tuesday.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the diplomats discussed the formation of the constitutional committee, “which constitutes a significant step in the struggle to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” as well as procedural rules.

It said the sides confirmed their “agreement in principle” to lists of participants proposed by the Syrian government and the opposition and held consultations on which civil society groups would also participate in the committee.

The ministry said the Turkish, Russian and Iranian officials would hold more talks on the issue at a “technical level.” On Monday, the head of the U.N. humanitarian agency, Mark Lowcock, warned that Idlib could see “the worst humanitarian catastrophe, with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century.”

Iran and Russia have backed a military campaign on Idlib involving Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, despite Turkey’s pleas for a cease-fire. Before Tuesday’s meeting, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a special envoy for Iran’s foreign minister, said a “good result” could emerge. Asked whether Iran shared the concerns about a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, Jaberi Ansari replied: “We are worried too. We are trying to avoid this.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, declined to answer a question on his way into the talks about whether Russia would stop its airstrikes. De Mistura met informally with members of the three delegations on Monday.

The talks are set to focus on creating a constitutional committee under Syria’s Russian- and Iranian-backed government. Russia, Turkey and Iran have been working together as “guarantors” for a series of talks around ending Syria’s war. Turkey has taken in 3.5 million refugees from its neighbor.

On Monday, airstrikes on Idlib and Hama provinces forced some people to flee their homes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Crypto Mining Accepted as an Industry by Iranian Authorities

SEP 05, 2018

The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council revealed that various ministries of the country’s government have accepted crypto mining as an industry, local news agency IBENA reports September 4.

According to the report, the Cyberspace Council’s secretary Abolhassan Firoozabadi stressed that the mining of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) has been approved as an industry by major government authorities. However, official legislation forming a legal framework for the industry has yet to be introduced in the country.

Firoozabadi said that crypto mining has been accepted as an industry by Iran’s major authorities, including the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade, the Ministry of Energy, as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance.

Firoozabadi stated that the Iranian National Cyberspace Center is developing a platform for cryptocurrency mining regulation. He added that the government is also considering the launch of a national cryptocurrency in order to create a financial tool to cooperate with Iranian business partners amid economic pressure from U.S. sanctions.

The secretary reportedly claimed that the relevant authorities will introduce a regulatory framework for crypto-related startups and firms in late September.

In late August, Iran’s National Cyberspace Center revealed that the draft of the state-backed cryptocurrency project is ready, following instructions from President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. At that time, the deputy director in charge of drafting regulations for Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council claimed that the idea of launching a national cryptocurrency is being actively pursued.

Source: Coin Telegraph.

Link: https://cointelegraph.com/news/crypto-mining-accepted-as-an-industry-by-iranian-authorities.

Iran says it will boost missile capacity

Saturday 01/09/2018

TEHRAN – Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying on Saturday.

News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.

State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against “foreign threats” including its arch foe, the United States.

Tehran is furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. They say the country’s missile program is solely for defense purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries.

“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.

Speaking to Tehran-based foreign military attaches, Ahadi said international sanctions had not hampered the development of Iran’s arms industry.

“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defense industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.

He also defended Iran’s role in conflicts in Iraq and Syria: “If Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq had not stopped Islamic State, today the map of the region would be different and the world would face a terrible challenge.”

Separately, the head of the Defense Ministry’s naval industries said Iran was developing a water jet propulsion system that would be ready by next March and a military commander said the air force planned to adopt Iran’s new Kowsar fighter plane after successful tests, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.

The exercises by the Basij militia, which are led by the elite Revolutionary Guards, come ahead of massive annual rallies planned for later this month to mark the start of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

“The motto of these war games is unity … and to declare that, when it comes to adversity and threats from foreigners, we all join to defend the (Islamic Republic’s) system,” Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: https://www.middle-east-online.com/en/iran-says-it-will-boost-missile-capacity.

Syria monitor: Missile attack kills 26, mostly Iranians

April 30, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — A missile attack targeting government outposts in Syria’s northern region killed 26 pro-government fighters, mostly Iranians, a Syria war monitoring group said Monday, amid soaring Mideast tensions between regional archenemies Israel and Iran.

Iranian media gave conflicting reports about the overnight incident amid speculation that it was carried out by neighboring Israel. The attack came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked to President Donald Trump on the phone. The White House said the two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East, “especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ratcheted up the Trump administration’s rhetoric against Iran and offered warm support to Israel and Saudi Arabia in their standoff with Tehran. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” Pompeo said after a nearly two-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The United States is with Israel in this fight,” he added on his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat.

Israel has cited Iran’s hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and development of long-range missiles. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the late Sunday night attack appears to have been carried out by Israel and targeted an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base in northern Syria known as Brigade 47. The Observatory said four Syrians were also among the casualties.

It said the death toll could rise as the attack also wounded 60 fighters and there were several others still missing. Iranian state television, citing Syrian media, reported the attack. However, an Iranian semi-official news agency denied reports that Iranian fighters were killed or that Iranian-run bases were hit. The Tasnim news agency quoted an unnamed Iranian informed official in its report but did not elaborate on the denial.

Another semi-official news agency, ISNA, said the strike killed 18 Iranians, including a commander, in a suburb of the central city of Hama. It cited “local sources and activists” for its report. The missiles targeted buildings and centers which likely include a weapons depot, ISNA reported.

The Syrian government-owned Tishrin newspaper quoted what it called “sources on the ground” as saying that the attack on military positions in Aleppo and Hama provinces consisted of nine ballistic missiles fired from American-British bases in north Jordan. The report could not be independently confirmed.

There was also no immediate comment from Israel, which rarely confirms or denies its attacks in Israel. Israeli media reported that the security cabinet will hold an unscheduled meeting later Monday on the subject of the nuclear deal with Iran.

President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay in from European and other parties.

Tehran has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s seven-year civil war. The attack comes amid soaring tensions between Iran and Israel following an airstrike earlier this month on Syria’s T4 air base in central province of Homs that killed seven Iranian military personnel. Tehran has vowed to retaliate for the T4 attack.

Syria, Iran and Russia blamed Israel for that T4 attack. Israel did not confirm or deny it. On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the time when Iran’s enemies can “hit and run” is over.

“They know if they enter military conflict with Iran, they will be hit multiple times,” he said in comments during a meeting with workers, according to his website. He did not specifically refer to the latest attack in Syria.

Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published last Thursday that his country will strike Tehran if attacked by archenemy Iran, escalating an already tense war of words between the two adversaries.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Monday quoted chief of Fatimayoun Brigade, an Iran-backed Afghan militia in Syria fighting alongside Iranian forces, as saying their base near Aleppo was not targeted during the strikes and they had no casualties. It did not elaborate.

Earlier on Monday, Syrian TV reported a “new aggression,” with missiles targeting military outposts in northern Syria. The state-run television reported that the missiles targeted several military positions before midnight Sunday outposts in the Hama and Aleppo countryside.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar daily, that is considered close to the militant Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and the Syrian government said the attack targeted “important arms depots used by the (Syrian) army and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.” It said that missiles used in the attack appear to have been bunker buster.

Syria-based opposition media activist Mohamad Rasheed said that base that came under attack is about 10 kilometers (7 miles) outside the city of Hama, adding that the airstrike led to several explosions in the arms depot. He added that the area is known as the Maarin Mountain or Mountain 47.

Rasheed said that some of the exploding missiles in the arms depot struck parts of Hama, adding that residents in areas near the base fled their homes. He said the base has been run by Iranian and Iran-backed fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Iran lifts ban on non-Muslim city council member after outcry

July 22, 2018

A top Iranian body on Saturday lifted a ban imposed by a hardline-led council on a politician from the minority Zoroastrian religion who had been elected to a city council in the central city of Yazd, the state news agency IRNA reported.

The rare reversal came after a widespread public outcry, lobbying by reformists and criticism by President Hassan Rouhani over of the ban by the Guardian Council, which vets laws and elections for compliance with Iran’s Islamic constitution.

The Expediency Council, tasked with resolving conflicts between parliament and the Guardian Council, backed parliamentary amendments allowing members of recognized religious minorities to run for city councils, IRNA reported.

The ruling allows Sepanta Niknam, a Zoroastrian elected to Yazd’s city council, to join the assembly after being suspended by the Guardian Council in 2017, which said only Muslims were allowed to run in the election.

Rouhani, a pragmatic Muslim cleric, had contacted the parliament speaker over Niknam’s case and last month called his suspension “saddening”, according to the presidential website.

Iran’s constitution mandates a total of five reserved seats in the 290-seat parliament for recognized religious minorities – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Zoroastrianism is Iran’s pre-Islamic religion. The Baha’i faith, which also has followers in Iran, is not a recognized religion in Iran, where the Shia religious establishment considers it a heretical offshoot of Islam.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180722-iran-lifts-ban-on-non-muslim-city-council-member-after-outcry/.

Iran has no intention to leave Syria, top official says

July 13, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — Iran has no intention of leaving Syria regardless of U.S. and Israeli pressure, a senior envoy to Iran’s leader said Friday, reaffirming a tough stance on the issue expected to top the agenda of the upcoming U.S.-Russian summit.

The statement from Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came in the wake of his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin that Israel wants Iran to leave Syria.

The high-level talks precede Monday’s summit in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, who are set to discuss the Iranian presence in Syria. Both the U.S. and Israel want Iran to pull out of Syria, while Russia has warned it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.

A possible deal could see Syrian troops replacing Iranian forces and its proxy Hezbollah militia in the areas near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Velayati reaffirmed Iran’s firm intention to maintain its presence in Syria, but skirted a question about a possible pullback from the border, saying only that Tehran won’t bow to U.S. and Israeli coercion.

“We coordinate the Iranian presence in Syria with Russia and Syria,” Velayati said during a meeting at Moscow’s Valdai Club discussion platform. “We will be present there the way we consider necessary. Sometimes we will play our role in Syria open-handed, sometimes we will do it with our hands hidden.”

While Velayati maintained a combative tone, his careful response reflected the intense diplomatic maneuvering ahead of the Helsinki summit. He expressed skepticism about the outcome of the meeting, repeating tough criticism of the U.S. and saying he didn’t expect Trump to make any positive contribution to stabilizing the Middle East.

Velayati argued that Iran along with Russia helped stem fighting in Syria and prevented the country from falling to the Islamic State group and other militants, scoffing at the U.S. demands to leave. “We have come there without the Americans’ permission and we won’t heed their demands to leave,” he said.

Velayati also strongly warned Russia against listening to the U.S. arguments about the Iranian presence in Syria. “I told the Russian officials: Now the Americans are telling you that the Iranians must leave Syria and tomorrow they will ask you what you are doing in Syria,” he said. “They are trying to split our alliance.”

Iran president arrives in Switzerland, nuclear deal in mind

July 02, 2018

ZURICH (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has arrived in Switzerland for talks expected to focus on salvaging progress from the Iran nuclear deal after the Trump administration’s walkout. Rouhani on Monday began a two-day visit to the neutral Alpine nation, starting in Zurich before heading to Bern, the capital, for deal-signings, talks and a news conference on Tuesday.

Since 1980, shortly after Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Switzerland has held the “protecting power mandate” on behalf of the United States in Iran. It recently became an intermediary between Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani is leaving Iran just as protests have erupted in the country’s south, and Trump said he got Saudi Arabia to agree to increasing oil production — which could lower the price of oil, possibly impacting Iran’s economy.

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