Brief on Iran (BOI – 274)


MEK vows to step up fight against Tehran from new Ashraf-3 base camp

Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman among speakers to address gathering in Albania

Washington Times, July 13, 2019
ASHRAF-3, Albania — Iran’s largest opposition group opened the doors of its new home base to the world on Saturday with a wave of praise from political leaders — from both the left and the right — hailing from nearly 50 different countries and all enthusiastic about the group and its goals.
The not-quite-finished Ashraf-3 community rests on a sprawling plot of land that until 30 months ago was farmland, located around halfway between the Albanian capital of Tirana and the country’s Adriatic coastline.

Home to more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents from the Mujahedin-e Khalq, best known as MEK, Ashraf-3 is too new to appear on map programs. Cement was still drying around the base of some flag posts and workers were still painting the handrails on a bridge as more than 350 dignitaries from 47 countries arrived Saturday.

The gathering was the 15th edition of MEK’s “Free Iran” event, but the first to take place at its new Albanian home. Paris hosted the event between 2004 and 2018.

“We look at the fact that so many leaders came to our home so far from where they live as a testament to the international support that exists for MEK and the faith they have in what we want to accomplish,” said Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group that includes the MEK.

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Over 5000 Iranians to Cry for Freedom in Stockholm
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi: The European Union should list Beyt Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), main centers of suppression and terrorism, in the list of terrorist organizations and impose a comprehensive sanction on them

NCRI, July 20, 2019
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, 5000 Iranians in a major demonstration in Stockholm called for a solid policy and comprehensive sanctions against the mullahs’ regime, terrorist listing of the IRGC, the MOIS and Khamenei’s Beyt (House), as well as recognizing the right of the Iranian people to resist to overthrow the clerical regime.

They announced their full support for the Mojahedin and resistance units and supported Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the resistance and her ten point plan for the future of Iran. They strongly condemned any relationship with and promotion of the mullahs’ regime and called on European governments to prosecute, punish, and expel intelligence agents and terrorist Quds force mercenaries.
The rally began at the Kungtärgården Square, with the speeches of the personalities, followed by the march in Stockholm centre and then returned to the Kungtärgården Square.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, described the demonstrators as the vibrant voice of resistance units and the National Liberation Army throughout the world, who have risen up for the liberation of the Iranian people from persecution, poverty and injustice.

Ms. Rajavi said that the time of appeasement with religious fascism in Iran has come to an end, and the resistance and popular uprising have brought the regime to the end. There is no place for the minimum human rights, freedom of expression, justice, equality between women and men, the autonomy and the rights of minorities and nationalities, in the clerical regime. The mirage of transformation and illusion of reform and moderation in this regime will not deceive anyone anymore.

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Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz
There will be “serious consequences” if Iran does not release a British-flagged tanker seized in the Gulf, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

BBC, July 20, 2019
The Stena Impero’s owners say they have been unable to contact their vessel, which had 23 personnel on board and was “heading north towards Iran”.

It was surrounded by four vessels and a helicopter, Mr Hunt said.
A second British-owned Liberian-flagged tanker was boarded by armed guards but is now free to continue its journey.

The Mesdar’s Glasgow-based operator Norbulk Shipping UK said communication had been re-established with the vessel after it was boarded by armed guards at around 17:30 BST on Friday and its crew was “safe and well”.

There were 25 personnel on board the Mesdar when it was surrounded by 10 speedboats, Mr Hunt said.
The government’s emergency committee, Cobra, met in Whitehall twice on Friday to discuss the incident.
A spokeswoman told the BBC the government is “deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions”, saying they “represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation”.

“We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period,” the spokeswoman added.

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US sanctions Chinese oil trader for violating Iran restrictions: Pompeo
AFP, July 22, 2019

The United States is placing a leading Chinese oil importer on its sanctions blacklist for trading in Iranian crude, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.

“As part of that maximum pressure campaign, I am announcing that the United States is imposing sanctions on the Chinese entity Zhuhai Zhenrong and its chief executive Youmin Li,” Pompeo said in a speech.

“They violated US law by accepting crude oil,” he said.

The announcement was the latest step by Washington to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its alleged military activities in the Middle East and its nuclear program by taking aim at business partners.

“We’ve said all along that any sanction will indeed be enforced. We can’t tolerate more money going to ayatollahs, putting American soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, putting their lives at risk. It’s too important.”

Zhuhai Zhenrong along with Chinese state refiner Sinopec are responsible for nearly all the Iranian crude that China imports.

Bloomberg reported that China took in about 12 million tonnes of Iranian crude in the first five months of this year.

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Five days that can shake Iran
NCRI Editorial; July 16, 2019

Ashraf 3, home to members of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin (Mujahedin-e Khalq, PMOI or MEK) in Albania, has just witnessed five days of intense political activity with a number of conferences and exhibitions involving resistance members and local and international political figures, at a time when Iran is in the news against a backdrop of regional and international tensions.

Events of the last five days in Ashraf 3 have strategic significance for Iran’s current situation:
The unveiling of Ashraf 3 constitutes a victory for the Iranian opposition. Previously, when MEK members were situated in Iraq, the mullahs tried repeatedly to annihilate the group physically, politically and socially. The establishment of Ashraf 3 in Albania, nowadays part of the free world and out of the reach of the mullahs and their mercenaries, is the last thing Khamenei and his regime needed in their times of trouble. Ashraf 3 is the victorious culmination of a decade of resistance again terrorist, regional and political efforts to bring an end to the MEK. Instead the MEK has emerged stronger, more acceptable, and invincible at this critical juncture.

The international impasse and the regional crisis in which the mullahs’ regime is entrenched reflects, and at times hides, the deep social crisis that, for more than a year, has engulfed the regime in the shape of organized, well-aimed social activities especially by Iranian youth and women. Despite brutal repression, the mullahs have been unable to curb the growing qualitative and quantitative reach of this social crisis.
In parallel with events inside the country, the long and winding road from Ashraf 1 (Camp Ashraf in Iraq) to Ashraf 3, now behind the Resistance thanks to a long international mobilization of support for more than ten years, has given birth to a strong political trend in the international arena against the mullahs. Like the Resistance itself, this political trend has blocked the path of Western appeasement towards the mullahs, and in its evolution, it has found its way to the highest decision-making centers of the world.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was chained to bed in hospital, says husband
UK-Iranian aid worker has been returned to prison from psychiatric ward, Richard Ratcliffe says
The Guardian, July 22, 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman being held in Tehran, was chained to a bed for days while being detained on a psychiatric ward, her husband has said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was transferred back to Evin prison on Saturday after spending six days in effective solitary confinement in Imam Khomeini hospital, according to Richard Ratcliffe. He said he was able to speak to his wife on Sunday, when she informed him about the move and said she had finally been allowed to see her mother and young daughter the same day.

She described the six-day ordeal to her husband as “proper torture” during a conversation he subsequently relayed to reporters. “I am all right – broken, but I survived. They did all they could to me – handcuffs, ankle cuffs, in a private room 2m x 3m, with thick curtains, and the door closed all the time. I wasn’t allowed to leave the room, as I was chained to the bed.”

She added that the experience had left her struggling. “I am glad I survived. The original order was for 10 days. I managed to survive for six. I think it was an achievement.”

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Monograph: ‘The Ayatollahs and the MEK – Iran’s Crumbling Influence Operation’
Lincoln J. Bloomfield Jr
June 2019

Ambassador Lincoln J. Bloomfield Jr. has published a new monograph, The Ayatollahs and the MEK–Iran’s Crumbling Influence Operation , through the University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs.

Bloomfield, a former defense and foreign policy official who has served three presidents over five administrations in the Pentagon, the White House and the U.S. State Department, is the author of a 2013 study of the MEK, The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)–Shackled by a Twisted History , also published by the University. The story of this group, which was formed by student intellectuals during the 1960s to oppose the Shah of Iran but became an enemy of the clerical regime of Ayatollah Khomeini after the revolution, was twisted by U.S. officials in a misguided attempt to engage and appease the Iranian government. Bloomfield has also prepared testimonies about the MEK for hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Like the 2013 monograph, this work includes a foreword by Ivan Sascha Sheehan, associate professor and executive director of the School of Public and International Affairs in the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs; Sheehan specializes in global terrorism, counterterrorism, U.S. foreign policy, and international conflict management.

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