Iran moves mock-up U.S. carrier to mouth of Gulf: satellite images
Reuters, July 27, 2020
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has moved a mock-up U.S. aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, satellite images show, suggesting it will use the look-alike vessel for target practice in war games in a Gulf shipping channel vital to world oil exports.
The use of dummy American warships has become an occasional feature of training by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its naval forces, including in 2015 when Iranian missiles hit a mock-up resembling a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Tehran, which opposes the presence of U.S. and Western navies in the Gulf, frequently holds naval war games in the strategic Strait, the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.
One of the images taken on July 26 by U.S.-based space technology firm Maxar Technologies showed an Iranian fast attack boat moving toward the model U.S. carrier in the strategic waterway. Another image showed model planes lined up on the deck of the fake carrier.
“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mock-up, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or offensive exercise scenario,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
“We remain confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.”
Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that has sharply dropped Tehran’s oil exports.
Iran’s Guards in April said Tehran would destroy U.S. warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.
There have been periodic confrontations between the Iranian Guards and the U.S. military in the Gulf in recent years. U.S. officials have said closing the Strait would be crossing a “red line” and America would take action to reopen it.
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Opposition group presents a secular alternative to Iran’s clerical regime
The NCRI is vehemently opposed to the regime’s use of terrorism as a tool of Iranian foreign policy
Up to 30,000 NCRI supporters and members were killed in 1988 on the basis of a Khomeini edict
Arab News, July 24, 2020
LONDON: “A force capable of overthrowing the regime is lurking in the heart of Iranian cities. From all indications, the ruling theocracy is at the point of being overthrown,” the leader of the global Iranian resistance declared to an audience of thousands tuning in to the online Free Iran Global Summit on July 17.
Five years ago, this declaration might have sounded like empty rhetoric from a fringe group. Now, two years after Tehran’s failed attempt at bombing the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI) annual rally in Paris, the words of Maryam Rajavi, a former militant commander and now the NCRI’s president-elect, look much less like an empty threat and much more like a promise.
The NCRI is an umbrella group encompassing a broad spectrum of groups opposed to the Iranian regime, and is often described as the country’s government in waiting.
With its charismatic leader at the helm and thousands of Iranian, Western and Arab supporters behind its cause, the NCRI is increasingly being recognized as the legitimate and progressive alternative to the supreme leader and the cohort currently in power.
The NCRI, also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Persian, has three aims for Iran: The demise of the clerical regime, universal suffrage and people’s sovereignty, and social freedom and justice.
Its swelling legitimacy, and the credible alternative it presents for Iran’s future, have not gone unnoticed among political and security establishments in the West.
One long-time supporter of the NCRI, and a speaker at the 2020 Free Iran Global Summit, is Tom Ridge, who was the first ever US secretary of homeland security after the 9/11 attacks.
He is a former governor of Pennsylvania and an outspoken advocate for an Iran “free from tyranny.”
Ridge spoke with Arab News during the summit, and explained his long-running support for the NCRI — despite its designation by the US as a terrorist organization until 2012.
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Iran Says Medics Exhausted in Battle against Coronavirus
VOA, July 26, 2020
TEHRAN – Iran reported 216 new deaths from the novel coronavirus on Sunday, calling on its citizens to observe health protocols more closely to ease the burden on exhausted medical staff.
The Islamic republic announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, and the outbreak quickly became the Middle East’s deadliest.
Declared coronavirus deaths have surged since the end of June and claimed more than 200 lives nearly every day in the past week, including a record 229 on Tuesday.
“Our biggest concerns are the infection and fatigue of medical staff,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised briefing on Sunday.
“We can help them and prevent the spread of the disease” by observing basic guidelines such as hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing, she added.
Iran said earlier this month that 5,000 health workers had been infected with the novel coronavirus and 140 had lost their lives.
According to Lari, the 216 fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours brought to 15,700 the overall death toll in the country’s outbreak.
A further 2,333 new cases of infection were confirmed over the same period, she added, taking the total to 291,172.
The official said that 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces were classified as “red” and 13 were on “alert” or close to red.
Red is the highest category on the country’s coronavirus risk scale.
Authorities have made masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and allowed the hardest-hit provinces, including Tehran, to reimpose restrictions that had been progressively lifted since April to reopen Iran’s sanctions-hit economy.
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Court Donates Part of Iran’s Highest Mountain To A Religious Organization
Radio Farda, July 26, 2020
In an odd and unprecedented ruling Iran’s Supreme Court has handed over the ownership of part of the country’s highest mountain, Mount Damavand, to an organization that operates under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Hamshahri newspaper in Tehran reported on Sunday July 26 that an official title deed has been issued to Iran’s Endowments Organization for one eleventh (1/11th) of Mount Damavand and the slopes leading to the summit.
The “endowment” title deed gives 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres) of highlands to the organization which is part of Iran’s Culture Ministry, but its chief is directly appointed by Khamenei and is the administrative body in charge of shrines and holy sites and appoints clerics in charge of endowments it acquires.
The Endowments Organization on Sunday afternoon denied the issuance of such a title deed and explained what has been donated is a pasture at the foot of the mountain, not part of the summit. But it is not clear who endowed such a large area and if the land already belonged to the state and simply deeded to organization that clerics control.
Based on traditions and rules of the religious canon Shariah, endowments are “bequeathed for pious use” such as habitations for the poor and books for the use of learned men and women.
Traditionally, many schools, water reservoirs, gardens, farmlands and other public facilities are part of the “endowments” bequeathed to be used for the good of the public.
The ruling by the Iranian Supreme Court has been met with objections by environmentalists and members of the public. Mohammad Rajab Ali Pisheh, an official at the Natural Resources Office of Mazandaran Province told Hamshahri that the ruling has been issued without consulting the Forests and Pastures Organization.
Meanwhile, the former chief of Iran’s Environment Protection Organization, Massoumeh Ebtekar has said in a tweet that what has been done is “against the Constitutional Law.”
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Iran Protests & more
Ukraine: Black boxes confirm interference with jet downed in Iran
The flight recorders from a Ukrainian plane shot down by Iran confirm illegal interference, Ukraine says.
Aljazeera, July 24, 2020
The transcript from the black boxes from a Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran on January 8 confirms the fact of illegal interference with the plane, according to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister.
Yevhenii Yenin’s remarks came on Friday, a day after an international team examining the flight recorders from the jet had completed a preliminary analysis of the data in France.
“Grateful to all partners who helped bring this moment closer. Black boxes from #PS752 were read out and deciphered successfully. The transcript confirmed the fact of illegal interference with the plane,” Yenin wrote on Twitter.
He also said Kyiv was expecting an Iranian delegation to visit Ukraine next week for talks.
Iranian forces say they downed the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 jet after mistaking it for a missile at a time of high tensions with the United States. All 176 people on board were killed.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said this month that it was too soon to blame human error for the shooting down of the airliner and that many questions remained unanswered.
A team of investigators from the same countries as the victims of the plane crash met this week at France’s Bureau for Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), in Paris, to begin extracting the data.
“The download and preliminary data analysis was an important milestone in what must be a thorough and transparent safety investigation,” said Katy Fox, the chair of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, on Thursday.
“The work in Paris is finished, but the investigation is far from over. There are still many key questions that need to be answered,” she said in a statement.
“We have urged Iran to release factual information from the recorders as soon as possible,” Fox said, adding that Iran – which is leading the investigation – has not authorised the TSB to release details.
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Iran Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence For Five Protesters
Iran News Update, July 26, 2020
Iran Supreme Court has upheld the death sentences of five men who were arrested by security forces during the December 2017 and January 2018 protests.
The names of the five people whose death sentences have been upheld by the Supreme Court in Isfahan are: Mehdi Salehi Ghale Shahrokhi, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari Kondori, Hadi Kiani and Abbas Mohammadi.
Some sources say each of the men has received two death sentences for the charges of “waging war against God” and “baghi (taking arms against the government)”.
Confirming the news, the lawyer of one of the protesters said that the second Branch of Isfahan’s Revolutionary Court had previously sentenced the men to death in February 2020.
According to the indictment issued by Isfahan’s Revolutionary Court, the five protesters have been charged with “Baghi through effective efforts and activities to advance the goals of the rioters”, “Moharebeh through the use of firearms and the intention to disrupt community security security and shoot at officers” and “Corruption on earth by disrupting public security and leading rioters to disrupt public order and security and disturb public opinion.”
The five men, all in their 20s, have said to the court that they were tortured to make confessions.
This cames nearly one month after the Head of the Justice Department of Isfahan Province on June 26 said eight individuals were sentenced for “corruption on earth”, a charge carrying the death sentence according to Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.
Mohammad-Reza Habibi who was speaking at a Friday prayer sermon did not mention any details about these cases or which protests the defendants had participated in but warned Iranians that if major protesters such as in 2009, January 2018 and November 2019 erupt again, we will “deal decisively with rioters”.
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Commentary:Iran and China, the Totalitarian Twins
WSJ, July 20, 2020, by By Keith J. Krach and Brian H. Hook
Their ‘partnership’ is less than meets the eye, but it does reveal commonalities between the two regimes.
Iran’s foreign minister recently said his government is negotiating with China for a 25-year “strategic partnership” involving a reported $400 billion in Chinese investment. Cue the media circus. Global headlines heralded the deal as a “major pact” that presents a “bold challenge” to the U.S. Not so fast.
For starters, this is a deal between two dishonest regimes that pride themselves on propaganda. The scale and feasibility of the deal deserve healthy skepticism. We should doubt Beijing’s capacity to fund $400 billion of Iranian infrastructure. To put it in perspective, China has invested less than $27 billion in Iran in the past 15 years—and that was before Covid-19 hit China’s economy. At best, this deal is a framework for cooperation.
The purported deal also faces popular outrage among the Iranian people, who have zero interest in their country becoming a Chinese client state. Speculation is swirling that the deal includes oil concessions to Chinese companies, basing rights for China’s military, and long-term leases of Iranian islands—all entirely believable given China’s long history of predatory, neo-imperial deals. China’s proposed military support to Iran, which both countries are keeping under wraps, may already violate the United Nations arms embargo. The Iranian regime’s crisis of legitimacy with its people will only worsen if the deal moves forward.
There are other reasons the deal is unlikely to proceed as reported. Many Chinese state-owned enterprises, particularly in the energy sector, can’t afford the financial hit of U.S. sanctions incurred by entering the Iranian market. On top of this risk, Iran’s economy is deeply corrupt and controlled largely by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated foreign terrorist organization. These two factors make any return on investment far from certain.
Suffice to say the deal is overblown. Yet it reveals something about each nation and why the two have found each other now.
For Iran, this partnership is born of desperation. Because the regime has been severely weakened, in part by U.S. sanctions, the mullahs are willing to do a deal with a predatory power so long as it gains access to capital. The regime is willing to romance the Chinese Communist Party even while it imprisons Uighur Muslims in indoctrination camps. In doing so, the mullahs are breaking with their spiritual father and founder, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who in 1981 summed up the global aspirations of his newly founded Islamic Republic: “We wish to cause the corrupt roots of . . . communism to wither throughout the world.” He called on his followers to “destroy” communism. Has Khomeini’s revolution died at the age of 41?
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OIAC Youth Chapter
Episode 3 of OIAC’s Young Professionals virtual conference series on political, economic, and social situation in Iran and the US policy, entitled, “Struggle for a Free Iran: Human Rights, Women’s Rights, Massacre of Political Prisoners & Protesters,” was held on July 2, 2020.
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