Brief on Iran (BOI – 314)


Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority of House Members Calls on Administration to Extend Iran Arms Embargo May 4, 2020

Washington—Today, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives called on the Trump Administration to extend the United Nations arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October of this year. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel and Ranking Member Michael T. McCaul, Representative Stephanie Murphy, and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick led a group of 387 members encouraging robust diplomacy to prevent the expiration of the embargo and of U.N. travel restrictions on Iranians engaged in proliferation activities. The group of members—more than three quarters of the House—underscored that permitting Iran to buy and sell weapons would pose a grave risk to security and stability around the world.

Chairman Engel said, “The U.N. arms embargo will be the first provision of the Iran nuclear deal to expire. This letter, supported overwhelmingly by both parties in the House, represents an imperative to reauthorize this provision—not through snapback or going it alone, but through a careful diplomatic campaign. The Trump Administration has promised a better deal and it falls to the administration to solve this crisis, not make it worse. Iran continues to be a danger to the United States, our interests, and our allies. We need a realistic and practical strategy to prevent Iran from becoming a greater menace.”

Ranking Member McCaul said, “Nearly every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is in agreement: Iran must not be allowed to buy or sell weapons. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, or even just an American issue. We need to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran for the sake of international peace and security. I am proud the House is speaking with one voice to protect the world against Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior.”

Representative Murphy said, “Preventing the regime in Tehran from buying and selling weapons is critical for U.S. national security and for the security of U.S. allies and partners in the greater Middle East. We all look forward to the time when Iran will become a responsible member of the community of nations. Until then, we must take all reasonable steps at the national and international level to curb Iranian aggression.”
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Nuclear Weapons in Iran

Pentagon calls Iran’s recent military satellite launch a ‘security concern’ amid deteriorating relations
CNBC, May 5, 2020

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military officer said Tuesday that Iran’s recent military satellite launch, the first for the rogue regime, is a concerning feat.

“Different missiles can do different things, one can carry a satellite and one can carry some sort of device that can explode. So, the bottom line is yes, it is a security concern anytime Iran is testing any type of long-range missile,” explained Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley.

“They launched a satellite vehicle and I think we publicly stated that it was tumbling, so the satellite itself, not overly concerned about it, but the missile technology, the second and third-order missile technology and the lessons learned from that is a concern,” he added.

Iran said last month that it successfully launched the nation’s first military satellite, another move in the heightened tit-for-tat fight between Washington and Tehran over the regime’s missile programs. The satellite, dubbed Noor, was sent into orbit using a long-range rocket, according to an April 22 statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

U.S. officials have long feared that Iran’s pursuit of developing satellite technology is a cover for ballistic missile activity. Tehran, meanwhile, has denied those assertions and has said that Iran is not working toward a nuclear weapons program.

The satellite launch came days after the Pentagon claimed that ships from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy took “dangerous and provocative” actions near U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

Six U.S. military vessels were conducting training operations in international waters when 11 Iranian ships “crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” according to a U.S. Navy statement.
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Maryam Rajavi: The situation in Khuzestan is the by-product of Khamenei and Rouhani’s criminal policies. Again, the people, especially the selfless youths, must take it upon themselves to rush to help the ill and needy, while observing medical guidelines., May 7, 2020
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK) announced on May 7, 2020, that the Coronavirus death toll in 314 cities in Iran had exceeded 39,800. The number of victims in Tehran is 6,650, Qom 3,290, Gilan 2,690, West Azerbaijan 1,215, Sistan and Baluchestan 1,091, Lorestan 1,005, Hamedan 985, North Khorasan 433, and South Khorasan 135.

After people were forced to return to work, the situation in Khuzestan Province is getting worse every day. A spokesperson for the Health Ministry said today, “We are currently facing a fragile and volatile situation in Khuzestan Province.”

Today, the state control daily, Entekhab, quoting the head of Razi Hospital in Ahvaz, wrote, “Coronavirus is expanding extensively in Khuzestan; the situation is so bad that one out of two patients must be hospitalized. About 60 patients with respiratory distress are in the ICU, and the condition of these patients is extremely bad … This disease is horrific and savage … We did not have so many patients before, but over the past few days, we have had many patients. The situation in Khuzestan is becoming critical.”

The situation in other provinces is also dire. On May 6, 2020, the official news agency IRNA quoted the deputy governor in North Khorasan, as saying, “Our province is still in a red situation in terms of the spread of the Coronavirus.” Yesterday another state-run daily, Aftab News quoted the deputy director of the University of Medical Sciences, as saying, “The current situation of the Province in terms of the Coronavirus spread is six times worse than what it was on March 19, 2020, and most of the cases occurred in the last four days.”

Meanwhile, Hassan Rouhani turned to bold-faced lies about the stock market, another means to defraud the people, to cover up the crisis, and divert the public’s attention. Still, a new parliament deputy, Ahmad Naderi, was quoted today by the state-run daily Resalat, as saying, “The stock market bubble will burst, and I am worried about the social and security repercussions soon. Major riots, even greater than those in 2017 and 2019 and certainly bigger than the 1990s, are looming.”
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Gilead Sciences Targeted By Hackers Linked To Iran: Report
Forbes, May 8, 2020

TOPLINE Gilead Sciences, the U.S. drugmaker whose antiviral remdesivir has shown promise for treating coronavirus, has in recent weeks been targeted by hackers with ties to Iran, Reuters reported Friday.

An analysis of internet archives conducted by Reuters and three cybersecurity researchers found that staff at Gilead have recently been subject to attacks from Iranian-linked hackers that include email scams.

In one instance, a fake email log-in page designed to steal passwords was sent to a top Gilead executive in legal and corporate affairs last month.

A lead intelligence researcher at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, which closely tracks Iranian hacking activity, told Reuters that the attacks were part of an effort to compromise staff email accounts by using messages that impersonated journalists.

Two other cybersecurity researchers also confirmed that the Web domains and hosting servers used in the attacks were linked to Iran. The attempts represent a growing trend in which state-backed hackers have been gathering intelligence related to coronavirus and a possible treatment.

Gilead is a ripe target for attacks, given that its antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment so far that has been shown in clinical trials to speed recovery for patients infected with the virus and was granted emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration last week.

Reuters said that it had not been able to determine whether the hacking attempts had been successful or the motivation behind them. Iran’s mission to the United Nations denied any involvement, however: “The Iranian government does not engage in cyber warfare,” according to spokesman Alireza Miryousefi. “Cyber activities Iran engages in are purely defensive.” Gilead GILD declined Forbes’ requests for comment.
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Iran Protests & more

Afghan President Orders Probe Over Drowning Of Afghan Migrants Blamed On Iran
Radio Farda, May 9, 2020

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday, May 8, ordered a “thorough” probe into the drowning of several migrants after Iranian border guards allegedly forced them into a river last week.

Afghan authorities had already been investigating the incident, but Ghani formed a new ten-member team to look into the deaths after eighteen bodies of migrants were recovered, some of them bearing signs of torture, AFP reported.
Officials claim the migrants drowned in the Harirud river while illegally crossing into neighboring Iran from western Herat province.

“President Ashraf Ghani, in a decree issued today, appointed a ten-member team to carry out a thorough investigation into reports about the deaths of several countrymen along the Iranian border,” Ghani’s office said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier, the governor of a city in Herat province in Afghanistan had maintained that out of 55 Afghan migrants who were forced into the Harirud River, eighteen bodies had been recovered.

“The fate of six is still unknown, while the rest survived,” the governor of the city of Gulran in Afghanistan, which borders Iran, Abdul Ghani Noori said. Hours before the governor’s briefing, a member of the Afghan parliament had claimed that 45 out of 57 Afghans who had entered Iran were drowned.

Habibullah Pidram, a representative of Herat province in the Afghan parliament, told Reuters that of the 57 people who were forced to jump into Harirud River, “only 12 survived.” According to Pidram, Iranian border guards detained the 57 Afghan men for 24 hours, and then took them to Harirud banks and forced them at gunpoint to jump into the river.

He also said the bodies of five drowned migrants were discovered in Turkmenistan and pulled out of the river. Pidram is a member of the sixteen-strong delegation appointed by President Ghani to investigate the incident.

According to Afghan media and several Afghan officials, a group of at least 50 people, mostly residents of Herat province, illegally entered Iran on May 1, through the Zulfiqar border crossing. They were all captured by the Iranian border patrols. A day later, the guards forced the detainees to jump into Harirud at midnight, May 2, they said.
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Iranian missile fired during training exercise hits support ship, killing 19 sailors
Fox News, May 10, 2020

An Iranian missile fired during a training exercise struck a support ship in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday, killing 19 sailors and injuring 15 others, according to a report on Monday. The missile struck Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship, which Iranian media said was too close to a target during the exercise. The incident was called an accident.

The ship that fired the missile was a Moudge-class frigate called Jamaran. The missile reportedly struck the Konarak ship, Iran’s Tasnim news agency said. About a dozen sailors were wounded, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

The Konarak had been placing targets for other ships to fire upon. The Dutch-made 155-foot ship had been overhauled in 2018 and was able to launch sea missiles. It normally has a crew of about 20 sailors and had been in service since 1988 — with a capacity of 40 tons.

The incident occurred near the port of Jask, about 790 miles southeast of Tehran.

Iran regularly holds exercises in the region, which is close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through.The vessel was towed into a nearby naval base after the strike. A photograph released by the Iranian army showed burn marks and some damage to the ship.

“The circumstances of the incident are currently undergoing technical examinations,” Iran’s Students News Agency ISNA said, according to Reuters.
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Commentary:Iran is using the pandemic as cover for cracking down on intellectuals

Washington Examiner, May 4, 2020 by Eugene Chudnosky

Ali Younesi, 20, has a reputation as a genius among students and professors of Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology, where he studies physics and computer engineering. In 2018, he won a gold medal in the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics in Beijing after securing a medal in the national Olympiad.

On April 10, he left home early in the morning to coach high school students for the tests to join Iran’s science Olympiad team. On his way to the school, he vanished. Alerted about his disappearance, Younesi’s family desperately tried to locate him during the day. At midnight, he returned home badly beaten, with his face covered in blood, accompanied by 12 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Without producing a warrant, the men confiscated all phones and computers they found in the house and detained Younesi’s parents. The parents were interrogated for several hours and released the next day, while Younesi was taken to prison. Later, it became known that his friend Amir Hossein, another student at Sharif University and a winner of science Olympiads, was also arrested.

Informal charges mentioned to Younesi’s parents during the interrogation contained a traditional combo of “collaboration with hostile states” and “anti-government activities.” According to their families, Younesi and Hossein have been focusing on their studies and did not participate in any political actions, neither in person nor online. It is not clear, however, what qualifies for anti-government activities in Iran these days.

Poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic (that Iran has blamed on the United States and Israel) has led to sharp criticism of the country’s leaders by Iran’s intellectual elite. On March 29, 100 Iranian academics signed a letter to the supreme leader, accusing him of being “the No. 1 culprit in the COVID-19 pandemic becoming a national disaster.”
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