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Iran ‘We are at a critical point in time’ EU High Representative

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Following today’s (18 October) Foreign Affairs Council. The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell said that the JCPOA  (‘Iran Nuclear Deal’ - Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)) was at a critical point in time. 

Borrell reported that he had spoken with the new Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the UN General Assembly and that the European External Action Service team had met with the negotiation team in Tehran. He dispelled rumours that there was going to be meeting in Thursday this week. 

“Everybody’s determined to get it back on track,” said Borrell. “We are working hard to go back to Vienna, but we also made it clear to the Iranians that time is not on their side.”

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Iran-backed militia staged drone attack on Iraqi PM - officials

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A drone attack that targeted the Iraqi prime minister on Sunday was carried out by at least one Iran-backed militia, Iraqi security officials and militia sources said, weeks after pro-Iran groups were routed in elections they say were rigged, writes Baghdad newsroom, Reuters.

But the neighbouring Islamic Republic is unlikely to have sanctioned the attack as Tehran is keen to avoid a spiral of violence on its western border, the sources and independent analysts said.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (pictured) escaped unhurt when three drones carrying explosives were launched at his residence in Baghdad. Several of his bodyguards were injured.

The incident whipped up tensions in Iraq, where powerful Iran-backed paramilitaries are disputing the result of a general election last month that dealt them a crushing defeat at the polls and greatly reduced their strength in parliament.

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Many Iraqis fear that tension among the main Shi'ite Muslim groups that dominate government and most state institutions, and also boast paramilitary branches, could spiral into broad civil conflict if further such incidents occur.

Baghdad's streets were emptier and quieter than usual on Monday, and additional military and police checkpoints in the capital appeared intent on keeping a lid on tensions.

Iraqi officials and analysts said the attack was meant as a message from militias that they are willing to resort to violence if excluded from the formation of a government, or if their grip on large areas of the state apparatus is challenged.

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"It was a clear message of, 'We can create chaos in Iraq - we have the guns, we have the means'," said Hamdi Malik, a specialist on Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim militias at the Washington Institute.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Iran-backed militia groups did not immediately comment and the Iranian government did not respond to requests for comment.

Two regional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Tehran had knowledge about the attack before it was carried out, but that Iranian authorities had not ordered it.

Militia sources said the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards overseas Quds Force travelled to Iraq on Sunday after the attack to meet paramilitary leaders and urge them to avoid any further escalation of violence.

Two Iraqi security officials, speaking to Reuters on Monday on condition of anonymity,said the Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq groups carried out the attack in tandem.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany October 20, 2020. Stefanie Loos/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

A militia source said that Kataib Hezbollah was involved and that he could not confirm the role of Asaib.

Neither group commented for the record.

The main winner from the election, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is a rival of the Iran-backed groups who, unlike them, preaches Iraqi nationalism and opposes all foreign interference, including American and Iranian.

Malik said the drone strike indicated that the Iran-backed militias are positioning themselves in opposition to Sadr, who also boasts a militia - a scenario that would hurt Iran's influence and therefore would likely be opposed by Tehran.

"I don't think Iran wants a Shi'ite-Shi'ite civil war. It would weaken its position in Iraq and allow other groups to grow stronger," he said.

Many Iran-aligned militias have watched Sadr's political rise with concern, fearing he may strike a deal with Kadhimi and moderate Shi'ites allies, and even minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds, that would freeze them out of power.

The Iran-backed groups, which like patron Iran are Shi'ite, regard Kadhimi as both Sadr's man and friendly towards Tehran's arch-foe the United States.

Iran-backed militias have led cries of fraud in the Oct. 10 election but offered no evidence. Since then their supporters have staged weeks of protests near Iraqi government buildings.

One of the Iraqi security officials said the drones used were of the "quadcopter" type and that each was carrying one projectile containing high explosives capable of damaging buildings and armoured vehicles.

The official added that these were the same type of Iranian-made drones and explosives used in attacks this year on U.S. forces in Iraq, which Washington blames on Iran-aligned militias including Kataib Hezbollah.

The United States last month targeted Iran's drone programme with new sanctions, saying Tehran's elite Revolutionary Guards had deployed drones against U.S. forces, Washington's regional allies and international shipping.

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Saudi move to withdraw from Lebanon, a game changer?

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Speaking in an interview on CNBC,  Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah Al Saud (pictured) said: “There is a crisis in Lebanon with the dominance of Iranian proxies over the scene. This is what worries us and makes dealing with Lebanon pointless for the kingdom, and for, I think, Gulf countries," writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Prince Faisal explained that Kordahi’s remarks underscore how “the political scene in Lebanon continues to be dominated by Hezbollah, a terrorist group, a group that by the way, arms and supplies and trains that Houthi militia.”

His comments came after Saudi Arabia decided to pull its ambassador from Lebanon last Friday in reaction to comments made by the Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi, who commented on the situation in Yemen by saying that the Houthis were “defending themselves … against an external aggression”. He called the Saudi-led military operation to subdue them “futile”.

Kordahi is close to the Christian Marada Movement, an ally of Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia called his comments “insulting.”

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Riyadh was joined in its decision to withdraw its ambassador by other Gulf countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia also suspended all its imports from Lebanon.

The Saudis also froze the assets of the leading Iranian-Hezbollah financial institution and “benevolent society,” the Al-Qard al-Hassan, designating it as a terror organization. Al-Qard al-Hassan has been under US sanctions since 2007.

Moreover, Saudi officials have accused Hezbollah of trying to change Lebanon’s Arab identity by striving to expand Iranian hegemony and adopting the Iranian Shi’ite theocracy.

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The fact that Kordahi’s interview was given before he became a government member was ignored by the Saudis, who took note of the recent accusations by Hezbollah leaders that the kingdom maintains relations with the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces and its chief commander, Samir Geagea. Furthermore, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan accused Hezbollah and Iran of being behind Kordahi’s declarations.

In addition, he pointed at Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Yemen in tandem with the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, under the instructions of Iran. “Lebanon needs a comprehensive reform that restores its sovereignty, strength and position in the Arab world,” Prince Faisal told Al Arabiya.

According  to Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Saudi and Gulf States’ move has shaken the political establishment in Lebanon and divided it into:

  • Those who demand the immediate resignation of the information minister (Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Maronite Archbishop Bechara al-Rahi);
  • Those who accuse Hezbollah of trying to draw Lebanon into Iran’s political hegemony (former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri);
  • Those who declare that Lebanon will not bow to Saudi Arabia at any cost (Suleiman Frangieh, head of the Marada Party, and members of Hezbollah).

France and the United States have intervened and asked Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati not to announce the resignation of his government, even though it has barely met since its establishment two months ago. It has been paralyzed by Hezbollah, which threatened to leave the government if Judge Tariq Bitar’s investigation into the deadly Beirut Port explosion of Aug. 4, 2020, is not called off.

Jacques Neriah noted that the Saudi move has serious implications for the Lebanese scene, which has witnessed three developments since October:

  1. The gun battle that erupted in Beirut’s Tayouneh neighborhood on Oct. 14, 2021, followed by the demand by Hezbollah that Samir Geagea and his Lebanese Forces’ role in the bloody events be investigated (a demand that, in true Lebanese style, had no follow-up).
  2. The withdrawal of Shi’ite ministers from the government as a protest, with the aim of pressuring the premier and the president to remove Judge Bitar from his investigation of the Beirut Port explosion.
  3. The Saudi diplomatic move, which has become the center of attention of Lebanon’s political establishment. The possible results of the Saudi move are such that it has eclipsed all earlier events; in Lebanon, it is considered a game-changer.

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Iran: Call for justice

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Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

Iran has been a complicated challenge for the international community in the past decades. Since 2003 that the National Council of Resistance of Iran (the opposition movement to the Ayatollah) revealed Iranian regime secrete nuclear program, this subject has formed the core policy of the EU and the US towards Iran. Iranian regime nuclear program usually appears on the headlines, although negotiations have been held in a disappointing atmosphere for several years. Despite an international wave to describe JCPOA as an achievement the deal had almost no guarantee from both sides. The former US president withdrew from the deal with a stroke of a pen and the Iranian regime reinitiated uranium enrichment to above 60% within few months. Still, a neutral observer affirms the EU and the US efforts to revive the deal even with providing concessions to the Iranian regime, writes Ali Bagheri.

The blockage in Iran nuclear deal is not because of the EU and the US bad intentions, or because Iran has no interest in negotiations. The failure of diplomacy between western powers and the Iranian regime has a deep and historical root in the Iranian society. On July 14, 2015, Maryam Rajavi (pictured), president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, stated that any agreement that disregards and fails to underscore the Iranian people’s human rights will only embolden the regime in its suppression and relentless executions. Today, six years after the signature of JCPOA, it is almost evident that the deal is failed and both sides are not capable to form an agreement, and this is due to the missing point as is it was stated in Maryam Rajavi’s message which is the human rights of the people of Iran.

If someone digs the contemporary history of Iran, a bloody war between Iranian people and the governing regimes for freedom and democracy forms the backbone of the social developments. This internal war has a direct influence on Iranian regime external policy. Iranian regime has thirst to equip its foreign bodies with wars, terrorism, and nuclear weapon to push back the international community whenever it needs to suppress the internal war, in other words the people of Iran.

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For instance, the 8 years Iran-Iraq war was a cover to suppress the growing opposition against the establishment of Islamic Republic. On the top of all the crimes committed by Iranian regime officials, there is the 1988 Massacre when 30000 political prisoners, mainly MEK supporters were executed in a deafening international silence. This internal war can be addressed in every moment of the contemporary history of Iran.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Truly, “Justice” is the last battlefield that Iranian people and their opposition are working extensively to change the policy in Europe and the US towards Iran. Although supporters of appeasement policy recognize no boarders to deal with murderer mullahs, Iranian people and their resistance trapped both the Iranian regime and the appeasement policy supporters in the hands of justice. This is the place that there is no way out.

In June 2018, when the Iranian diplomat terrorist was arrested for a foiled terrorist attack in Paris, the news covered the headlines all around the world. It was a case that Iranian regime clearly plotted a terrorist attack against the democratic opposition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI. Despite an extensive effort by the Iranian regime to swap the Iranian diplomat terrorist with the Iranian-Swedish professor jailed in Evin prison, the definitiveness of Antwerp court halted any intervention of political interest in European justice, that Belgian minister of Justice affirmed the independence of powers in Belgium.

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Belgium is a small country, but it changed the playground, and it must be admired for its determination. These days, another European court in Sweden opened the case of one of the criminals of the 1988 massacre in Iran. Hamid Noury who was arrested in Arlanda airport in Stockholm was one of the staff during the massacre who was involved to operate the orders of death commission about prisoners. According to the witnesses, he participated in executions, and he distributed sweets when he executed the political prisoners. But the 1988 massacre does not ends here, the sitting president in Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, was a member of death commissions in Tehran, who personally ordered thousands of executions, and the conviction of Hamid Noury and the recognition of 1988 massacre in European courts would be the biggest challenge for Irnaian regime officials.

The case of the Iranian diplomat terrorist in Belgium and the case of Hamid Noury in Sweden might look different in their natures, but the federal prosecutor of Switzerland opened a recent investigation about the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi who was killed 30 years ago in Geneva. The federal prosecutor in Switzerland runs the new investigations about this terror under the chart of genocide and crime against humanity. Because, at that time Dr. Kazem Rajavi was working on the case of 1988 massacre which happened less than a year before his assassination. Without no surprise, the terrorists who killed Dr. Rajavi were entered to Switzerland with diplomatic passports, and they were in contact with the Iranian regime office in Geneva. Therefore, without any hesitations Iranian regime uses its diplomatic apparatus to conduct terrorist attacks against its opposition.

In all these cases, Iranian regime never distances itself from terrorists and criminals. It remained loyal to its agents and terrorists and vice versa. However, the new era that the Iranian people and their resistance entered is not conditioned to political interests and deals. The Iranian opposition movement, MEK and NCRI, are defending their rights and the rights of the Iranian people by means of judicial power. It is the place that the supporters of appeasement policy and the Iranian regime have already lost. They cannot push for deals or political interests in the court, but they should mention their facts, and the fact is that the Iranian regime has a dark history of human right violations, crimes, and terrorism, as it has been stated in 69 UN resolutions for human rights violations in Iran. In conclusion, we entered a new political era which is founded on justice and human rights. It might take sometimes until Europe and US obey the new situation and stop pushing for deals with mullahs, but there is no chance that the Iranian regime can endure the pressure from the Iranian opposition and the protests by the Iranian people as much as it loses its supports from western countries.

Ali Bagheri is an energy engineer, PhD from University of Mons. He is an Iranian activist and an advocate for human rights and democracy in Iran.

Twitter: @Bagheri_Ali_

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