Eye on Iran: U.S. Senate Votes Near Unanimously For Russia, Iran Sanctions

TOP STORIES

U.S. Senate Votes Near Unanimously For Russia, Iran Sanctions | Reuters

The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday for legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions on Russia. In a move that could complicate U.S. President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow, the Senate backed the measure by 98-2. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, were the only two "no" votes. The measure is intended to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for Syria's government in the six-year-long civil war. If passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law by Trump, it would put into law sanctions previously established via former President Barack Obama's executive orders, including some on Russian energy projects. The legislation also allows new sanctions on Russian mining, metals, shipping and railways and targets Russians guilty of conducting cyber attacks or supplying weapons to Syria's government.

U.S. Senate's Iran Sanctions Are Breach Of Nuclear Deal: Senior Iranian Official | Reuters

The U.S. Senate's decision to impose new sanctions on Iran is an "unquestionable" violation of a nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Tehran and six major powers including the United States, Iranian media quoted a senior Iranian official as saying. The Senate approved on Thursday the sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement. "The U.S. Senate’s move is unquestionably in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the nuclear deal," Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was reported by media as saying on Friday. "The Iranian committee tasked with monitoring the accord will certainly examine the congressional move and come up with a decent response."

Congress Seeks Embargo On Iran Airline Linked To Terrorism As Tehran Targets US Forces | Washington Free Beacon

Congress is seeking new authorities that would enable it to expose and crack down on an Iranian state-controlled commercial airline known for transporting weapons and terrorist fighters to hotspots such as Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have begun launching direct attacks on U.S. forces in the country, according to new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Congressional efforts to expose Iran's illicit terror networks more forcefully come as U.S. and European air carriers such as Boeing and AirBus move forward with multi-billion dollar deals to provide the Islamic Republic with a fleet of new airplanes, which lawmakers suspect Iran will use to amplify its terror operations. The new sanction legislation targets Iran's Mahan Airlines, which operates commercial flights across the globe while transporting militants and weapons to fighters in Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots.

SYRIA CONFLICT

U.N. Urges Russia, Iran And Turkey To Free Up Aid To Syria | Reuters

The United Nations urged Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday to open up areas of Syria to the delivery of humanitarian aid in "de-escalation" zones whose parameters the three are meant to finalise. The three countries brokered a deal in the Kazakh capital, Astana, in May to create four de-escalation zones in Syria. Russia said on Tuesday that the next round of negotiations in Astana was likely to be held in early July. Jan Egeland, U.N. humanitarian adviser, said that U.N. technical experts were joining officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey in Moscow at preliminary talks that began on Thursday.  A Western diplomat told Reuters the two-day talks are to focus on setting GPS coordinates for the de-escalation zones. Egeland, asked about his hopes for the Moscow meeting, told a news briefing: "That the de-escalation reaches a place like (the southern city of) Deraa, which is supposed to be a de-escalation zone but rather has been an area of increased fighting."

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

In Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s fight, Iran’s the real winner | Reuters

Thanks to a hack allegedly carried out by Russian intelligence, relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia are tense to say the least. The Kingdom has blockaded Qatar ports and several Gulf states have removed envoys and ambassadors. Right now, the Middle East looks a lot like Europe on the eve of World War I. This week on War College, Oklahoma University professor Joshua Landis runs us through the complicated factions making up the Middle East. According to Landis, Iran is the real winner in the latest dust up between old allies.

From Tehran To Beirut: Shia Militias Aim To Firm Up Iran's Arc Of Influence | The Guardian

The town of Ba’aj is deserted and broken. Its streets are blocked by overturned cars, its shops are shuttered and the iron gates of its ravaged homes groan in a scorching wind. Amid the wreckage, though, are the signs of new arrivals – forces who less than a week earlier chased Islamic State (Isis) from one of its most important territories in northern Iraq. Spraying graffiti and planting their battle colours, they have wasted little time in staking their claim to a place that had mattered little in the sweep of Iraq’s modern history, but which is set to be pivotal from this moment on. Ba’aj is now a foundation point of an Iranian plan to secure ground routes across Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon, cementing its influence over lands its proxies have conquered.

Iran Calls For Boycott Against Israel’s Nuke Program | Tasnim News Agency

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency denounced the West’s “double-standards” in dealing with the Israeli regime’s nuclear activities, urging the UN nuclear watchdog to address the issue in a serious manner. Addressing a seasonal meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors in Vienna on Thursday, Reza Najafi described the Tel Aviv regime’s atomic program as a source of serious concern for the Middle East nations and the international community. Highlighting the condemnation of Israeli nuclear weapons by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Najafi urged the Western countries to stop cooperation with Israel in transferring nuclear materials and equipment to the regime, and warned against the negative consequences of such measures for the regional security and for sustainability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Najafi also denounced the Israeli regime for ignoring the international community’s calls and for pushing ahead with its military nuclear plans, which he said benefit from the West’s blind support and violate the whole international regulations brazenly.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Human Rights Lawyer: Iran’s Response To Terrorist Attacks Could Lead To Major Rights Abuses | Center For Human Rights In Iran

The arrests by Iranian security forces of dozens of suspects with alleged links to the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) could result in extrajudicial retaliatory actions against innocent individuals. “In every part of the world, anti-terrorism laws could lead to human rights violations,” Iranian human rights lawyer Hossein Raisi, who is now based in Canada, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).  Two days after the twin terrorist attacks in Tehran on June 7, 2017 that left 18 people dead and 50 others injured, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry issued a statement announcing the arrests of “41 members of the Wahhabi Daesh (IS)” organization in different parts of Iran.  “The terrorist attacks have inevitably generated negative emotions, but it is primarily up to the judiciary to manage them in order to prevent public anger against other ethnicities or followers of other religions and to avoid unfair punishments,” Raisi told CHRI.

DOMESTIC POLITICS

Iranian Forces Kill Two, Arrest Five Sunni Muslim Militants In Southeast Iran | Radio Free Europe

Iranian forces have killed two suspected members of an armed Sunni Muslim group in southeastern Iran and arrested five others, a minister said, accusing Saudi Arabia of "sponsoring terrorists" in the country. "A group of seven terrorists who wanted to attack a barracks in Chabahar (in Sistan Baluchistan province) was dismantled,"Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said late on June 14. Two of the five people arrested were from "a neighboring country," and "unfortunately, an intelligence agent was also killed," he said. Iranian state media said the suspects were members of the militant Ansar al-Furqan group. Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, has seen repeated attacks by Sunni militants against security forces.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

The Real Reason Iran Is Pointing Finger At Riyadh For IS Attack | Arash Karami for Al Monitor

After the first terrorist attack by the Islamic State (IS) in Tehran, Iranian officials from various backgrounds have pointed the finger at their regional rival Saudi Arabia. Iranian officials have pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia as the culprit behind the attack by the Islamic State on Tehran.  Speaking at the Oslo Forum in Norway June 13, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they have “intelligence that Saudi Arabia is actively engaged in promoting terrorist groups” along the country’s eastern and western borders. Zarif referenced comments by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman who said that they will take the war inside Iran’s borders and by Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir who said Iran must be “punished.” The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, directly blamed Saudi Arabia for the IS attack on Tehran. “We have precise intelligence that Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, supported the terrorists and demanded the operations in Iran,” Jafari said June 12. The attack on Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic left 17 dead and 50 wounded.

Iran: The Mullahs’ Discomfort With Persian Language | Amir Taheri For Asharq Al-Awsat

Like in most Indo-European languages, sentence arrangement in the Persian language is based on subject, object, verb or SOV in linguistic code. (In Arabic it is the other way round!) This means that the first thing that a Persian sentence does is to identify the subject (in Arabic: Fa’el), the doer of what is done. The key advantage of that sentence structure is clarity. You know who did what to whom before learning when and how and why. But what if, for whatever reason, you fear clarity and wish to hide reality behind a fog of delusion and diversion.  In clerical terms, what if you wish to practice taqiyeh (obfuscation) or “kitman ” (dissimulation). Throughout the ages some writers, many of them mullahs, have tried to cope with that problem by using a lexical device called “nakereh” (unknown) that allows the writer or the speaker to be vague about the subject of the sentence. Thus, instead of identifying the subject at the start of the sentence you might say “It happened that…” Or they did …” Examples of the use of this device are numerous in the writings of Shi’ite theologians from Muhammad-Baqer Majlisi to the more recent and far deeper Alameh Tabataba’i.