Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader, accused of being one of the masterminds of the deadly 1998 attacks on American embassies in Africa, was killed in Iran three months ago, intelligence officials have confirmed. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down on the streets of Tehran by two assassins on a motorcycle on Aug. 7, the anniversary of the embassy attacks. He was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden.
Twitter has suspended the account of Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh because it violated the website’s rules against impersonation, the company said. An official at Iran’s oil ministry, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak to the media, said earlier on Sunday that the suspension appeared to be linked to sanctions. Zanganeh was personally sanctioned by the U.S. on Oct. 26. “The account was suspended for violation of the Twitter rules against impersonation,” a spokesperson for the social media company said in an email, without giving any more details.
Ukraine has said Iran is dragging its feet on investigating the downing of a Ukrainian airliner near Tehran in January by not sharing information and not responding to requests for cooperation. Iran has also rejected Kyiv’s calls for life sentences for those responsible, Deputy Prosecutor General Gyunduz Mamedov told Reuters on Thursday, in written comments ahead of a third round of talks on the crash next month. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards say they shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 by accident on Jan. 8, mistaking it for a missile at a time when tensions with the United States were high; Washington had killed Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani five days earlier with a drone strike in Iraq.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…But Iran conceals the bulk of its oil trade through subterfuge, with practices ranging from the simple — changing the names and registrations of oil tankers — to the complex and dangerous, such as clandestine transfers of crude oil or liquefied petroleum gas between vessels in the open sea. United Against Nuclear Iran, a Washington advocacy group that monitors Iran’s illicit oil trade, obtained aerial photographs depicting four vessels allegedly engaged in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of Iranian oil in October. In five other instances, foreign ships were seen picking up Iranian liquid petroleum gas and transferring the fuel to other vessels bound for Chinese ports. The photographs are part of a report due to be published by UANI this week.
…Jason Brodsky, an expert on Iran, pointed out on Saturday that the story of the death was wilder considering media reports in August that suggested Habib Dawoodi “was killed outside the home of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Tehran.” Muhandis was a pro-Iranian Iraq leader of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq. He had been killed by the US in an airstrike in January alongside IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The insurrection against the regime of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that began on November 15, 2019, coupled with the Islamic Republic’s murder of the champion wrestler Navid Afkari this past September, reveal for all to see the fragility of the theocracy and its war on working-class Iranians. Khamenei’s order to his security apparatus last year to “do whatever it takes to stop them [the protesters]” marked the onset of absolute clarity about his long-standing campaign to enthrone the theocratic state above the working men and women of Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Six months before the Iranian presidential election, Joe Biden’s victory in the US could influence the vote in Iran, where hopes to resume negotiations on the nuclear deal have prompted enthusiasm from moderates and even some hardliners. However, analysts expect that any future talks would be vexed. Iranians eagerly awaited the presidential results on November 3. After four years of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policies, Biden’s victory could pave the way for more emollient approach on both sides. In theory, that would put the lifting of US sanctions on the cards.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran on Saturday denied a New York Times report that al Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed in Iran in August by Israeli operatives at the behest of the United States. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that there were no al Qaeda “terrorists” on Iranian soil. “From time to time, Washington and Tel Aviv try to tie Iran to such groups by lying and leaking false information to the media in order to avoid responsibility for the criminal activities of this group and other terrorist groups in the region,” the ministry said.
Iranian forces launched an artillery barrage on armed rebels in a northwestern border area on Saturday, a day after three Iranian border guards were killed in the remote region where the borders of Iran, Iraq and Turkey meet, Iranian state media reported. The Revolutionary Guards said its ground forces targeted positions of “counter-revolutionary terrorist groups on the other side of the northwestern borders of our country”, inflicting heavy losses and casualties, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday declared “the general mobilisation of the nation and the government” to confront the third wave of the coronavirus after health authorities announced the highest ever number of daily cases in the Middle East’s worst-hit country. “I call on all governmental organisations and other forces and institutions to rush to the aid of the health ministry and health workers with all possible means,” Rouhani said in a statement, published by Iranian state media.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Six Iranian proxy militants were killed in an unidentified missile strike against the Iraq-Syria border city of Al Bukamal. It was not known whether Israeli fighter jets or the US-led international coalition had staged the raid. “Violent explosions, on Friday midnight, rocked Al Bukamal city which is controlled by militias loyal to Iran stationed in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. “Explosions that hit al-Sikkah neighborhood in Al Bukamal were caused by missile strikes that killed six Iranian proxy militiamen in addition to destroying their vehicles,” local sources told the Observatory.
Jews were responsible for a historic “Holocaust,” according to an article published by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency. While the actual Holocaust was questionable, the original one was carried out by Jews against Christians more than 1,000 years ago on the border of modern-day Yemen, the article said. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the Kayhan, a conservative Iranian newspaper close to the regime, wrote an article about the Holocaust in the context of accusing France of insulting Islam, Fars reported.
TURKEY & IRAN
Unknown gunmen on Friday killed three Iranian border guards near the country’s northwestern border with Turkey, Iran’s state media reported. The official IRNA news agency said the three were killed in a clash when “terrorists” tried to sneak into Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, located about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran. The report said two other border guard were wounded and that the infiltrators suffered heavy casualties. The province of West Azerbaijan borders both Iraq and Turkey and the report did not say which country the infiltrators had come from.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran risks being suspended from international chess tournaments beginning next month unless it publicly approves of Iranian players facing competitors from Tehran’s regional foe, Israel, according to a senior member of the game’s global governing body. In a Tuesday interview with VOA Persian from his home in Athens, Greece, Nigel Short, International Chess Federation (FIDE) vice president and a British grandmaster, said Iran would be suspended if the body’s general assembly passed a resolution that he introduced on November 8 and the Islamist-ruled nation did not change its position on competition with Israelis.