Eye on Iran: Iran Kills ‘Mastermind’ of Terrorist Attacks as Inquiry Focuses on Kurds

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Iran Kills ‘Mastermind’ of Terrorist Attacks as Inquiry Focuses on Kurds | New York Times

In a cross-border strike, Iranian intelligence operatives hunted down and killed the “mastermind” of the terrorist attacks on two landmarks in Tehran last week, a top official said. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks at Iran’s Parliament building and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, which killed 17 people. The Iranian official, Mahmoud Alavi, the intelligence minister, speaking on state television late Saturday night, described the man who was killed as “the mastermind and commander of the team” that carried out the assaults. The suspect, whose name was not revealed, fled the country after the attacks, Mr. Alavi said, and was captured and killed with “the help of intelligence services of allied countries.”

India's Plan To Develop Key Iranian Port Faces U.S. Headwinds | Reuters

Western manufacturers are shying away from supplying equipment for an Iranian port that India is developing for fear the United States may reimpose sanctions on Tehran, Indian officials say, dealing a blow to New Delhi's strategic ambitions in the region. Lying on the Gulf of Oman along the approaches to the Straits of Hormuz, the port of Chabahar is central to India's hopes to crack open a transport corridor to Central Asia and Afghanistan that bypasses arch-rival Pakistan. India committed $500 million to speed development of the port after sanctions on Iran were lifted following a deal struck between major powers and Tehran to curb its nuclear program in 2015.

Iran Confident About $3 Billion Boeing Deal As U.S. Mulls Sanctions | Bloomberg

An Iranian airline that signed a $3 billion contract at list prices with Boeing Co. is confident the deal won’t face a political backlash in Washington, days after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a bill that could bring new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Aseman Airlines, a private company whose largest owner is Iran’s National Pension Fund, signed a final purchase agreement with Boeing in Tehran on Saturday for 30 737 Max jets and an option for 30 more, spokesman Amir Reza Mostafavi said in an interview. Boeing will deliver the first jets in 2022. “We’re a commercial company, like Boeing is a commercial company, and we’re operating in an economic sphere, not a political one,” Mostafavi said. “In this area, work is moving forward and things are getting under way."

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Iran company finalizes deal with Boeing to buy 60 planes | Associated Press

Iran’s official IRNA news agency is reporting that the country’s Aseman Airlines has finalized a deal to purchase 60 planes from the American company Boeing. The Saturday report said that the planes will be delivered in two batches and the first batch will consist of 30 737 passenger planes to be delivered in 2019. This is the second deal between the Chicago-based Boeing and an Iranian airliner since a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers went into practice in 2016. In December Iran Air, the country’s flag carrier, finalized a $16.6 billion deal with Boeing to purchase 80 passenger planes. In September, Washington granted permission to Boeing and its European competitor Airbus to sell billions of dollars worth of aircraft to Iran.

Oil majors submit surveys to develop Iran's Azadegan | Reuters

International energy companies including Total, Petronas and Inpex, have presented technical surveys for the development of the Azadegan oilfield, an Iranian oil official was quoted as saying on Saturday. Tehran is looking to ramp up its crude output and with 37 billion barrels of oil, the Azadegan field is Iran’s largest, shared with its neighbor Iraq. It is located in southern Iran, 80 km west of the Khuzestan provincial city of Ahvaz. The managing director of Iran's Petroleum Engineering and Development Company was quoted by Mehr news agency as saying that France's Total, Malaysia's Petronas, and Japan’s Inpex Corp. <1605.T, > have offered their surveys on the field. Noureddin Shahnazizadeh added that some other companies like Royal Dutch Shell, Italy's oil and gas group Eni, and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) are also interested in the tender for development of the oilfield.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Iran urges Arab nations to end Qatar crisis | Associated Press

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has urged the Arab nations who have cut ties to Qatar to negotiate an end to the crisis. Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi tells reporters in a weekly news conference: “These countries should try to settle their differences at the negotiating table in a positive and comprehensive process.” The diplomatic crisis, the worst since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent Gulf War, has seen Arab nations and others cut ties to Qatar, which hosts a major U.S. military base and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Ghasemi also says of the countries involved: “They should move toward peace and stability in the region and we invite them to negotiating and exercising restraint.”

Iran flies food to Qatar amid concerns of shortages | Reuters

Iran has sent four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetable every day, Iranian officials said, amid concerns of shortages after Qatar's biggest suppliers severed ties with the import-dependent country. Qatar has been in talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut links, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar says the allegations are based on lies. "Following the sanctions ... on Qatar, IranAir has so far transported food and vegetables to this country by four flights," Shahrokh Noushabadi, head of public relations at Iran's national airline, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. The head of the industries, business and trade organization in the Fars province was also quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying on Sunday the first planes carrying food to Qatar had flown from the southern city of Shiraz.

AP Explains: Qatar’s ties with Iran and Islamist groups | Associated Press

The political crisis engulfing Qatar stems from accusations by its Arab neighbors that it supports terrorism. Qatar denies the allegations, but its ties with Iran and embrace of various Islamist groups have brought intense scrutiny, made it a regional outlier and created enough smoke to suggest a fire...A deal negotiated recently to release kidnapped members of Qatar’s ruling family has been a source of anxiety for Gulf leaders, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as its top adversary. Qatar reportedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that had kidnapped the 26 hostages on Dec. 16, 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq.

MILITARY MATTERS

Iran says two warships heading to Oman | Reuters

Two Iranian warships will leave for Oman on Sunday, Iran's navy said, before starting their mission in the open seas. "An Iranian naval flotilla will depart to Oman on Sunday and then will go to the north of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden," the public relations of the naval forces of the army said in a statement published on the Tasnim news agency. Tasnim said the flotilla included two warships.

IRAQ CRISIS

Iran Opposes Iraqi Kurdish Independence Vote | AFP

Iran voiced its opposition on Saturday to an announcement by Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region that it will organise a vote on independence later this year. "Iran's principal position is to support the territorial integrity of Iraq," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said. "The Kurdistan region is part of the Iraqi republic and unilateral decisions outside the national and legal framework, especially the Iraqi constitution... can only lead to new problems." Iraqi Kurdish leaders announced on Wednesday that they will organise an independence referendum on September 25, not only in their three-province autonomous region but also in other historically Kurdish-majority areas they have long sought to incorporate in it. Iran worries about separatism among its own Kurds, most of whom live in areas along the border with Iraq.

HUMAN RIGHTS

'Iran Has Kidnapped Our Granddaughter' | Daily Mail

A British toddler turns three today trapped in Iran after her mother was thrown into prison for espionage charges.  Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, was arrested out of the blue at Tehran Airport in April 2016 after visiting the country with her daughter Gabriella. The British and Iran dual-citizen was accused of plotting to overthrow the Muslim government which her in-laws have described as 'complete nonsense'.  The project manager for Thomson Reuters maintains her innocence but is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in a notorious jail where up until recently, her toddler daughter also stayed with her. But now as Gabriella turns three today, she is trapped in Iran and unable to come back to her home to see her father, a 42-year-old accountant who lives in West Hampstead, London.   Devastating, the family haven't been together since Nazanin was arrested and jailed in a court case where she wasn't even allowed to speak to see the charges made against her, her family said.

DOMESTIC POLITICS

Iran arrests almost 50 after deadly Tehran attacks | Reuters

Iran has arrested almost 50 people in connection with twin attacks on Tehran that killed 17 people last week, officials said, as security forces stepped up efforts to crack down on suspected militants. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings and gun attacks on parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on Wednesday. Iran's intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi said on Saturday night that 43 suspects had been arrested and operations to identify and crush more "terrorists cells" were under way. On Sunday, the head of the justice department in Kordestan province in western Iran announced more arrests. "Six people who were certainly connected to Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Tehran were identified and arrested," Aliakbar Garousi was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. Iran also said its security forces killed the mastermind of the attacks on Saturday.

State media: Iran kills 4 IS-linked gunmen | Associated Press

Iran’s official IRNA news agency is reporting that police have killed four Islamic State group-linked gunmen in the country’s south. The Monday report quotes the chief of police of Hormozgan province, Gen. Azizollah Maleki, as saying his forces killed the gunmen Sunday in a shootout near the town of Roudan, 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) southeast of Tehran. Maleki said police confiscated an IS flag and four machine guns, bullets and some explosives. He added that two of the four were foreigners. He did not elaborate. Five IS-linked attackers stormed Iran’s parliament and a shrine to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Wednesday, setting off clashes with security forces and killing at least 17 people and injuring more than 50.

Tribal fighting kills 22 in southern Iran: lawmaker | Reuters

Fighting between rival tribesmen in southern Iran left 22 people dead on Friday night, an Iranian lawmaker was quoted by ILNA news agency as saying on Saturday. "The incident last night in Ramhormoz county (in Khuzestan province) is rooted in an old tribal conflict," the lawmaker, Hedayatollah Khademi, said. "Unfortunately in last night's clash, advanced military weapons were used and 22 people were killed," he said. Tribal fighting is common in southern Iran, where gun battles can break out, sometimes motivated by notions of traditional tribal justice.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

In Iran, Radio Liberty Doesn’t Live Up to Its Name | Sohrab Ahmari for the Wall Street Journal

President Trump is hiring a chief executive for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America and other media outlets charged with beaming light and liberty into closed societies world-wide. Politico reports the leading contender is Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and president of the Claremont Institute. Whoever gets the job faces an uphill battle to reform an agency that has lost its sense of mission. To get a feel for the dysfunction, consider Radio Farda, the Persian-language component of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. With an annual budget of $117 million, RFE/RL is supposed to serve as a surrogate press in 23 countries across Europe and Asia that restrict media freedom. Farda is one of its most important broadcasters, intended to give Iranians a rigorous, fair and morally credible alternative to propaganda from Tehran.

Will Iran Descend Into Chaos? | Christopher De Bellaigue for The New York Times

Almost since the beginning of this millennium, Iran has been an island of calm amid instability and violence. Afghanistan, its neighbor to the east, descended into chaos following the American-led invasion of 2001; Iraq, across its western border, suffered the same fate after 2003. Eight years later, in 2011, Syria erupted into civil war. Although Shiite Iran has been involved in the conflicts that have ensued in all three of those neighbors — sending men, money and arms to advance the fight against Sunni chauvinists and their sponsors in the Gulf — its own territory has remained remarkably untouched. Iran has been a functioning nation state where the central authorities have enjoyed a monopoly of force and people out of uniform have been overwhelmingly unarmed. Last year, on a trip to Europe, the country’s reform-minded president, Hassan Rouhani, boasted that Iran was “the safest, the most stable country” in the Middle East.