Iran’s Presidential Candidates Talk Economic Policies In 2nd Live Debate Ahead Of June 28 Vote

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Iran’s Presidential Candidates Talk Economic Policies In 2nd Live Debate Ahead Of June 28 Vote | Associated Press 

In the second live debate on state television, six presidential candidates on Thursday discussed Iran’s economic problems ahead of the country’s June 28 election following a helicopter crash last month that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others. It was the second of five debates planned in the days before the vote in a shortened campaign to replace Raisi, a hardline protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once floated as a possible successor to the 85-year-old cleric. Like the first debate, the second one also related to economics with the candidates discussing their proposals for Iran’s spiraling economy which is struggling under sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western nations. The candidates also discussed inflation, the budget deficit, fuel consumption subsidies and education. They all promised to try to get the sanctions lifted and to introduce reforms, but none offered concrete details.  

Report: Iran Has Massive Expansion Of Nuclear Facility, Close To Bomb | Newsmax 

Iran is expanding a nuclear enrichment facility that could provide the country with the means to build nuclear weapons rapidly, according to a report from nuclear experts in The Washington Post. The expansion of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, Iran's most heavily fortified nuclear facility, has been verified by inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency just a few days after the country formally warned the IAEA about the plans to upgrade the facility. According to the Post, the expansions could allow Iran to create a stockpile of enriched uranium, which acts as fuel for nuclear weapons, that could be used to create multiple bombs per month. In addition, the facility's location, in the mountains of north-central Iran, makes it naturally fortified against airstrikes and other attacks. "Iran would gain the capability for a rapid breakout at this deeply buried site, an ability it has not possessed before," David Albright, a physicist and nuclear weapons expert who serves as president of the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security, told the Post. 

Iran Summons Italy Envoy Over Canada Sanctions | AFP 

Iran has summoned the Italian ambassador, who represents Canadian interests in Tehran, after Ottawa listed the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, state media said on Friday. Tensions have been high between the two countries, which broke off diplomatic relations in 2012. In the absence of a diplomatic mission, Canada's interests in Iran have been represented by Italy. Canada on Wednesday listed the Guards as "a terrorist entity", citing "disregard for human rights" and "willingness to destabilise the international rules-based order". Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani called the move "hostile" and contrary to international law. On Thursday, the ministry summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, Paola Amadei, "to convey our country's firm protest against the Canadian government's illegal action", the official IRNA news agency reported.  

MISSILE PROGRAM 

Drone Dilemma: Multimillion-Dollar Aircraft No Longer Rule Skies Above War Zones | The National 

Large, fixed-wing drones, known technically as medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drones, were common in the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where unmanned aircraft such as the Reaper were used to hunt down insurgents and terrorists. The drones were often operated from about 12,000km away at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. There is now evidence the hunter has become the hunted. Since October, the US may have lost about four $30 million Reaper drones in attacks by the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Iran-backed militias in Iraq. Israel has also lost at least four of its Hermes drones to Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, while Turkey has lost at least one Anka drone to Kurdish militants.  

Houthi Leader Says US And UK Air Strikes Have No Effect On Iran-Backed Group | The National 

Abdul Malik Al Houthi, leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, said on Thursday that US and British air strikes had no effect on the group, which has carried out regular attacks against ships in the Red Sea. The Iran-backed Houthis have since November launched hundreds of drones and missiles at commercial vessels, disrupting trade. About 12 per cent of global seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea. Mr Al Houthi said in his speech that “this week, eight ships have been targeted with 26 missiles and drones” and that the group carried out 153 attacks. He also dismissed US air strikes on Houthi command and control positions in Yemen. The US and UK have already suggested that their military strikes would have limited, if any, impact on the Houthis. US President Joe Biden in January publicly admitted that US strikes on Houthi sites would not deter the militant group from its actions but they were to keep on.  

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

Fending Off Houthis Requires Double The Fleet, EU Force Says | Bloomberg 

A naval force deployed by the European Union to protect vessels in the Red Sea needs to more than double in size because of escalating attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the head of the operation said. Four EU vessels have been patrolling the waters off the coast of Yemen since February. In that time, they’ve provided “close assistance” to 164 ships, shot down more than a dozen unmanned aerial vehicles and destroyed four anti-ship ballistics missiles, Rear Admiral Vasileios Gryparis said in an interview on Wednesday. The Yemen-based Houthis began attacking vessels last year to pressure Israel and its allies over the war in the Gaza Strip. Their campaign has roiled global shipping, forcing many vessels to sail thousands of miles around southern Africa instead — despite the EU operation and US and UK bombing that began in January.  

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Iran's Students, Activists Urge Presidential Vote Boycott | Iran Wire 

A coalition of ten student organizations and activist groups has issued a joint statement calling for a boycott of the upcoming "ridiculous" presidential polls. Labeling the vote a sham, they declared their true ballot is for the ongoing "revolution of Woman, Life, Freedom." "A handful of people with a history of crimes against the people of Iran have returned to the stage for the presidency of a government that is at war with its own citizens," read the statement. "The candidates approved by the Guardian Council do not represent the people of Iran," it added, dismissing them as "merely a tool and mechanism to appoint another perpetrator of crimes against humanity" as head of government. The signatories, including prominent student activists, condemned the Islamic Republic's elections as an orchestrated process to install officials "committed to maintaining the policies of the Islamic dictatorial system based on misogyny, imprisonment, torture, and execution." 

Activists File Torture Complaint Against Iranian 'Cultural Figure' Held In France | AFP   

Bashir Biazar has been held in administrative detention in France since June 3 pending expulsion from the country for separate reasons, at a time of strained relations between Paris and Tehran. His lawyer has denounced his detention and planned expulsion as "political" while officials in Iran have condemned France over his arrest and urged his release. Activist group Iran Justice and victims of human rights violations filed the complaint against Biazar in Paris. If the court decides to follow up on it, he could be kept in France to stand trial. It accuses Biazar of complicity in torture due to his past work with Iranian state broadcasting conglomerate IRIB, describing him as a former director of production there. Iranian state media have described him as a "cultural figure". 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS 

US Backs Canada's Terrorist Designation Of IRGC, Offers Global Support | Iran International 

US State Department spokesman on Thursday welcomed Canada's decision to designate the Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist group, pledging support for other countries considering similar actions. “The IRGC’s terrorism and lethal plotting threaten the entire world, and we stand ready to provide support as other countries consider designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization,” stated Matthew Miller. The spokesman elaborated that the US is prepared to supply information to other countries regarding IRGC activities, emphasizing the regular practice of sharing intelligence and other pertinent information with allies and partners about the actions of terrorist supporters globally. Following years of campaigning by activists, Canada's recent designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group comes after uncovering plots where the entity raised funds and recruited agents within Canada.  

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

In Iran Election, A New Target For Conservatives: The Government | The New York Times 

The campaign billboards adorning the streets of Iran for the coming presidential election make grand promises: economic prosperity, an end to corruption, a free press, the reversal of a brain drain and a pledge from one candidate to “save the citizens” from all the woes afflicting the country. In their efforts to attract votes, all six candidates — five conservatives and one reformist, all selected by a committee of clerics — are unleashing blistering attacks on the status quo. In speeches, televised debates and round-table discussions, they have criticized the government’s economic, domestic and foreign policies, as well as the violent treatment of women by the morality police, and have ridiculed rosy official assessments of Iran’s economic prospects as harmful delusions. Iran is holding a special presidential election on June 28 to choose a successor to President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line conservative who was killed last month in a helicopter crash.  

Movement Restrictions Imposed On Iran's Ex-President Ahmadinejad | Iran International 

Iran's security forces have imposed movement restrictions against former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sources confirmed to Iran International. The limitations were imposed after Ahmadinejad's return from a trip to northern Iran, the sources said. Ahmadinejad has turned into a critic of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's policies in recent years and assumed an anti-establishment image. Leaders of Iran's Green Movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard as well as Mehdi Karroubi, were similarly put under house arrest in 2011 for not accepting the results of the 2009 elections which brought Ahmadinejad to power and urging supporters to protest. Iran's election watchdog, the Guardian Council, barred the populist former president from standing in the June 28 snap elections. He was also barred from running in 2017 and 2021 presidential elections.  

Adviser To Iranian Presidential Candidate Praised After Storming Off Tv Set | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 

Supporters of Iranian reformist presidential candidate Masud Pezeshkian have praised his adviser Mohammad Fazeli for storming off the set of a live televised discussion program after a fiery exchange with a hard-line pundit. Iran's state-run broadcaster IRIB has been holding televised roundtables as part of its election programming where candidates appear on set accompanied by two advisers to face a three-person panel of experts picked by the IRIB. Fazeli appeared in the studio on June 19 as one of Pezeshkian’s two advisers on cultural issues, where he found himself on the receiving end of stinging remarks by Shahab Esfandiari, a panelist and the head of IRIB University. In 2021, Fazeli was among a slew of professors and lecturers who were forced out of universities during the early months of the late President Ebrahim Raisi's tenure in office.  

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Russia, Iran Inaugurate Rasht-Caspian Railway: What We Know | Al Monitor 

Senior Azerbaijani, Iranian and Russian officials on Thursday inaugurated the Rasht-Caspian Railway in the Gilan province in northern Iran, part of the International North-South Transport Corridor that connects the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea by rail. The railway was launched at a ceremony attended by Iran's acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, and Minister of Transport and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash. The aide to the Russian president, Igor Levitin, and Astrakhan Oblast Gov. Igor Babushkin attended the ceremony on the Russian side. Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev was also there, as well as the ambassadors of the neighboring countries. The 37-kilometer (22-mile) railway connects the city of Rasht in northern Iran to the Caspian Sea and is expected to facilitate trade between Iran and the other four littoral states of the sea, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.  

Iran Threatens ‘Retaliatory Response’ Against Canada For Listing IRGC As Terrorists | Breitbart 

The IRGC is a formal arm of the Iranian Armed Forces that the regime uses to manage and develop terrorist proxies around the world. Its “Quds Force” is the wing primarily responsible for terrorist activity, including bombings that killed or injured hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq and Syria. The regime uses the IRGC generally, however, to maintain ties with terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, Hamas, and other associates. President Donald Trump’s administration designated the IRGC a terrorist organization 2019 on the grounds that “Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” according to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.