Unified Gulf Council Backs Extension of Iran Arms Embargo
U.S. to press UN Security Council; Russia, China threaten veto
Letter a rare show of unity amid long-running Qatar dispute
Bloomberg, August 9, 2020
The Gulf Cooperation Council called for the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo against Iran, an effort that dovetails with U.S. efforts to persuade Russia and China not to veto a resolution the Trump administration plans to introduce.
In a letter to the Security Council sent Saturday and obtained by Bloomberg News, the GCC called on the Security Council to extend the embargo and “further impose any additional measures necessary to prevent the destabilizing proliferation of Iranian weapons, such as a targeted asset freeze and travel ban on individuals involved in the supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materiel to or from Iran.”
Iran “has continued to proliferate weapons across the region as an integral part of its expansionist regional policy and longstanding interference in the internal affairs of Arab States, including GCC member states, in clear violation of the UN Charter,” the group wrote. It was sent by GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf.
The letter is a rare show of unity from the group — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — in the three years since four of the states led by the Saudis severed diplomatic and trade dies with Qatar over accusation that it supported militant groups and had meddled in their internal affairs for years. Qatar denies the claims.
Sunday’s letter is the first significant joint statement released by the group since the rift, said a person familiar with the matter.
“Countries in the Middle East from the Gulf to Israel support extending the arms embargo,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a tweet on Sunday. “It is deeply important to every one of them. Arabs and Israelis are speaking with one voice and the Security Council must listen.”
GCC members agreed to the letter after weeks of shuttle diplomacy by Brian Hook, the U.S. envoy for Iran, as the U.S. seeks to garner more outside support to extend the arms embargo, which expires in October. The U.S. is set to introduce a resolution at the Security Council as soon as Monday to extend the embargo. Russia and China have indicated they’ll oppose it, and as permanent members of the council their vetoes would sink the initiative.
“GCC unity on this issue sends a very strong message to the world, and the Security Council needs to listen to the region,” Hook said in an emailed statement.
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Why Are Fingers Pointed At Hezbollah In Beirut Explosion?
Radio Farda, August 9, 2020
Although the ammonium nitrate that caused the massive explosion in Beirut on August 4 is not directly linked to Hezbollah, some people have been holding the militant group responsible for the tragedy and pointed out the historical cases of the use of the explosive by Hezbollah.
Those who accuse the group of the involvement in the tragic explosion, raising large swaths of the Lebanese capital to the ground, allege that Hezbollah prevented the stash from being disposed of and also cite its history of stockpiling and using the material in several operations around the world in the past few decades.
The explosive chemicals that caused the blast were seized by Lebanese authorities in 2013 from a Moldovan-flagged ship en-route from Georgia to Mozambique and stored at a warehouse at Beirut Port where they stayed despite the massive risk and repeated pleas by the port authority until August 4.
Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah on August 7 strongly denied that his group had any role in the management of Beirut Port or had any warehouses there. “We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor (ammonium) nitrate,” he said in a televised speech.
“Hezbollah shouldn’t be absolved of responsibility for the incident, as it hardly seems plausible that the group was unaware of the presence of the deadly cargo in the port’s warehouse, despite Nasrallah’s public denial to the contrary,” David Daoud wrote in the Atlantic Council website on August 7.
Daoud has pointed out that the Hezbollah perhaps more than any other group in Lebanon is acutely aware of the danger that such chemicals —even if not of a military grade—pose for civilians.
He has raised the question of why Hezbollah failed to raise the issue of the explosives through its allies who headed the Transportation Ministry responsible for all Lebanese ports and the Finance Ministry which controls the Customs Authority or raise public concern about it through its vast resources.
Hezbollah’s name is tied with ammonium nitrate in several historical cases the most recent of which was in May this year when Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that Mossad had given information to Germany on Hezbollah’s activities on its soil, including stashing of hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate, ahead of the country banning the Lebanese terror group.
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Iran shutters newspaper after expert questions virus numbers
Iran has shut down a newspaper after it published remarks by an expert who said the official figures on coronavirus cases and deaths in the country account for only 5% of the real toll
ABC News, August 10, 2020
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran shut down a newspaper on Monday after it published remarks by an expert who said the official figures on coronavirus cases and deaths in the country account for only 5% of the real toll, allegations rejected by the Health Ministry.
Mohammad Reza Sadi, the editor-in-chief of Jahane Sanat, told the official IRNA news agency that authorities closed his newspaper, which began publishing in 2004 and was mainly focused on business news.
He also said the virus was detected in Iran a month earlier than Feb. 19, when authorities announced the first confirmed case. He said they held up the announcement until after the commemorations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and parliamentary elections earlier that month.
“The administration resorted to secrecy for political and security reasons,” he said, and only provided “engineered statistics” to the public.
He also criticized testing efforts and warned of a renewed outbreak next month as universities hold entrance exams and people mark major Shiite holidays.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari rejected the allegations and said Mahboobfar had no role in the government’s anti-coronavirus campaign. IRNA quoted her as saying the ministry has provided figures in a “transparent” way.
“The Health Ministry is not a political body and health of people is its main priority,” she said.
The ministry has reported a total of nearly 330,000 cases and 18,616 deaths, including 189 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
Authorities in Iran have come under heavy criticism since the start of the pandemic because of their reluctance to impose the kind of sweeping restrictions seen elsewhere in the region. Iran is home to the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East.
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Iran Protests & more
Sources: Iranian Labor Union Leader’s 5-Year Jail Term Prolonged to Punish His Peaceful Prison Activism
VOA, August 9, 2020
WASHINGTON – Multiple sources say a jailed Iranian labor union leader has had his five-year prison term extended for another year by Iran’s appellate court in retaliation for his pursuit of peaceful activism while in detention.
One source, who is close to jailed activist Jafar Azimzadeh, told VOA Persian in a Monday interview that the court upheld his new 13-month sentence in an August 1 ruling and informed him about it on the same day. A lower Revolutionary Court had issued the sentence June 8, convicting Azimzadeh of spreading anti-government “propaganda” from inside Tehran’s Evin prison.
Azimzadeh has been held at Evin since January 29, 2019, when he was rearrested to serve the remainder of a five-year prison term imposed on him by Iranian courts in 2015. He had begun serving that sentence at the same prison on November 8, 2015, and later secured an early release on June 30, 2016, after enduring a two-month hunger strike to protest his detention.
Azimzadeh is a leading member of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, a group that formed in 2006 without government approval and advocates for better wages for workers.
The group has said Iranian authorities filed the anti-government propaganda charge against Azimzadeh to punish him for several peaceful acts of protest at Evin last year. Those include his signing of a November letter with other dissidents highlighting the lack of medical treatment for sick prisoners in Iran, his recording of an audio message denouncing the arrests of labor activists who joined a May Day rally outside the Iranian parliament, and his criticism of the sentencing of workers demanding unpaid wages at Iran’s Haft-Tapeh Sugar Cane Company.
The FIUW responded to the apparent upholding of Azimzadeh’s additional 13-month prison sentence with a Sunday statement on its Telegram channel, calling it a cruel move aimed at suppressing demands for workers’ rights. It said Azimzadeh has not committed any crime by defending the demands of Iranian workers.
There has been no mention of the Iranian appellate court’s decision in Iranian state media.
Azimzadeh received his initial five-year prison sentence for the offenses of spreading anti-government “propaganda” and “assembly and collusion against national security through organizing and operating an illegal group.”
Days before the Iranian appellate court approved the extension of his prison term, Azimzadeh was assaulted in Evin prison by two fellow inmates, according an Instagram post by his wife Akram Rahimpour.
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Executed Iranian Protester Tortured to Make False Confession
Iran-HRM, August 6, 2020
New information from inside Iran indicates that Iranian protester Mostafa Salehi who was hanged on August 5, 2020, in Isfahan had been subjected to vicious tortures to confess the killing on an IRGV member.
He never accepted the charges but was still hanged despite the lack of evidence.
A source said that Mostafa Salehi had been severely tortured in the past two years to confess the killing of Sajjad Shahsanaei a member of the IRGC Basij forces.
“Mostafa’s hand and both legs had been broken during interrogations. Agents also used needles to puncture under his nails,” the source said.
“The tortures were so severe that his neck and spinal cord became injured. They tortured him to confess but he never did,” the source said.
According to the source, Mostafa’s family were told to stay silent and that “it would be bad for Mostafa” if they talked to anyone about his plight.
“His family stayed silent, but in the end they still executed him,” the source added.
The human rights website said that Mostafa was the father of a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.
Despite facing persistent pressure and enduring long periods of torture while he was held at the Isfahan Police Department, during interrogations by the Isfahan Intelligence Agency, Salehi refused to confess, as the Najafabad (Isfahan) prosecutor later confirmed. No weapons, ammunition, or other evidence were found. He pleaded not guilty in court.
Torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited under international law including Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.
However, the Iranian regime is notoriously renowned for making up scenarios and extracting forced confessions from political prisoners to justify their execution.
The regime’s Judiciary confirmed on Friday, July 10, the death sentences for three young protesters, Amir Hossein Moradi, Saied Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi, arrested during November 2019 nationwide uprising. The regime later stepped back due to the worldwide campaign.
The trial of the three men, which took place on 5-6 January 2020, was grossly unfair, according to Amnesty International.
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Commentary:The UN Failed to Address Iran’s Crimes Against Humanity, It’s Time For Western Democracies to Step In
Town Hall, August 3, 2020 by Taher Boumedra
U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on July 17 called on the international community to conduct independent investigations into the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, and to provide accountability and justice.
Following a fatwa handed down by Ayatollah Khomeini, then the regime’s supreme leader, in mid-July 1988, over several months more than 30,000 political prisoners, primarily affiliated with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), were secretly mass executed after mock trials that lasted just five minutes. Their corpses were doused with disinfectant, packed in refrigerated trucks, and buried at night in mass graves across the country.
That summer, the United Nations was given credible information that a massacre was taking place secretly in Iran’s prisons. The UN did nothing to stop it.
Afterwards, when Amnesty International and other human rights groups documented thousands of executions of political prisoners that had taken place, the UN still failed to act.
Even when a 1988 audio tape of members of the “Death Commissions” and top officials discussing the massacre surfaced in 2016, the UN still refused to hold Iranian officials accountable.
The UN’s silence has only bred impunity in Tehran. Today one of those Death Commission members whose voice could be heard on the tape, Ebrahim Raisi, is Iran’s Judiciary Chief. Another Death Commission member, Alireza Avaie, is Iran’s Justice Minister.
These same officials are responsible for the numerous death sentences handed down in recent months to Iranians for taking part in the nationwide anti-regime Iran protests last November.
In 2016, a group of human rights lawyers founded Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), a London-based NGO dedicated to ensuring accountability for the perpetrators and closure for the victims’ families.
We have interviewed dozens of survivors and obtained photographic evidence of 59 mass graves. We sent all our evidence, including two lengthy reports, to the UN hoping to trigger an investigation, but nothing happened.
Over the past four years, I personally met UN officials on numerous occasions at the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, and I handed them physical copies of our reports. Each time, they promised to look into the case. But they never did. In truth, the UN fears taking any action that would upset the regime in Tehran.
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Members of the Senate sending messages to the #FreeIran2020 Global Summit
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