Saturday, November 28, 2020

Tehran Iran’s supreme leader vows revenge over slain scientist


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist who led Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program, as the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for a slaying that has raised fears of reignited tensions across the Middle East.

After years of being in the shadows, the image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suddenly was to be seen everywhere in Iranian media, as his widow spoke on state television and officials publicly demanded revenge on Israel for the scientist’s slaying.

Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian scientists a decade ago amid earlier tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing Friday. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush, the likes of which Israel has been accused of conducting before. (Read More)

USS Nimitz ordered back to Persian Gulf after Iran's supreme leader threatens revenge over slain scientist

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that it has sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back to the Middle East, citing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a symbol of American military might, the carrier might also prove a deterrent to any aggression from Iran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called the slain man "the country's prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist," said Iran’s first priority was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate. (Read More)

Timing is everything: Assassination of Iran nuke chief Fakhrizadeh

Iranian Revolutionary Guard members in Tehran carry the casket of Iran Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Mohsen Ghajarian, who was killed in the northern province of Aleppo , Syria  (photo credit: ATTA KENARE / AFP)

The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh comes at a sensitive and important time. It is between the US election and the swearing in of a new president. It also comes less than a week after a reported visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Saudi Arabia. That visit was called a message to the new US administration of President-elect Joe Biden, as well as a message to Iran.  

The killing of a nuclear scientist closely linked to Iran’s secretive nuclear program is an even bigger message. Iran has been humiliated by having one of it's leading professors and nuclear chiefs, one whose name was well known, apparently gunned down in broad daylight on the street near Absard Iran, east of Tehran. Photos showed blood, a car with bullet holes and a second vehicle that had been blown up.  

Let’s go back to 2018 when Israel’s Foreign Ministry published a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he named Fakhrizadeh. The entire quote is interesting. “There’s another document from the archive. This is following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, Mr. Shamkhani, today he’s the director of the National Security Council. Following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, the work would be split into two parts, covert and overt. A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work. This is how Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project Amad, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh. So here’s his directive, right here. And he says: “The general aim is to announce the closure of Project Amad,” but then he adds, “Special activities”—you know what that is—“Special activities will be carried out under the title of scientific know-how developments.” And in fact, this is exactly what Iran proceeded to do. It continued this work in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry. And you will not be surprised to hear that SPND is led by the same person that led Project Amad, Dr. Fakhrizadeh, and also, not coincidentally, many of SPND’s key personnel worked under Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad.” READ MORE 

Ex-White House press secretary: John Kerry is a clown

John Kerry and Joe Biden

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer excoriated former Secretary of State John Kerry Friday, calling the 2004 presidential hopeful a “clown” for past comments on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

“How wrong can one man be?” Fleischer tweeted Friday afternoon, with a video attached of Kerry speaking at the Haim Saban Forum in 2016.

In the video, Kerry vigorously rejects the possibility of Israel negotiating separate peace deals with Arab states without first reaching a final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

“There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world. I want to make that very clear to all of you,” said Kerry at the 2016 Haim Saban Forum.

“I’ve heard several prominent politicians in Israel sometimes saying, ‘Well, the Arab world is in a different place now, we just have to reach out to them and we can reach some things with them, then well deal with the Palestinians.”

“No, no, no, and no. I can tell you that reaffirmed even in the last week as I have talked to leaders of the Arab community. There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everyone needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.”

In light of the string of deals reached this year between Israel and Arab and Muslim states, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan, Fleischer mocked Kerry’s claims.

“This is Kerry in 2016 saying it’s a ‘hard reality’ that the Arabs won’t make peace w Israel until Israel first deals w the Palestinians. ‘No. No. No. No. No. No. No’ he said to those thinking they could work directly with Arab leaders. Kerry is a clown.”

Iranian military officials vow to avenge scientist's death

Major General Hossein Salami

Hossein Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), vowed on Friday that Iran will avenge the killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

"Assassination of nuclear scientists is the most obvious violation of the global hegemony to prevent our access to modern sciences," he said.

Iran’s military chief Mohammad Bagheri accused “the malicious Zionist entity of committing a brutal act” and vowed a “harsh response”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said earlier on Friday that there were “serious indications” that Israel was involved in the elimination of the top nuclear scientist and called on the international community to condemn the elimination.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” tweeted Zarif.

“Iran calls on int'l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror,” he added.

Meanwhile, three intelligence officials told The New York Times that Israel was behind the attack in which Fakhrizadeh was eliminated.

Intelligence officials: Israel behind elimination of Iranian scientist

Three intelligence officials told The New York Times on Friday that Israel was behind the attack in which senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was eliminated.

It is unclear how much the United States may have known about the operation in advance, according to The New York Times, and the White House declined to comment.

Fakhrizadeh has been considered the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program for two decades, and continued to work after the main part of the effort was quietly disbanded in the early 2000s.

Earlier on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said there were “serious indications” that Israel was involved in the elimination of a top nuclear scientist and called on the international community to condemn the elimination.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” tweeted Zarif.

“Iran calls on int'l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror,” he added.

Iran has in the past claimed that Israel hires assassins to kill nuclear scientists throughout the Middle East.

Between 2010 and 2012, four nuclear scientists were assassinated inside Iran and a fifth survived a bomb attack. The government in Iran has blamed the attacks on US, British and Israeli intelligence services.

The US and Britain denied involvement, while Israel has not commented.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Report: Architect of Iran’s nuclear program assassinated near Tehran

Iranian missile display in Tehran

According to unofficial sources, an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated near Tehran.

The scientist has been identified as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as "the father of the Iranian bomb" and Amad project.

According to the unconfirmed report, the scientist was approached by anonymous assailants who shot him in the head. He was then rushed to the hospital but all attempts to save his life proved to be futile.

During the last decade, four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated with speculation that Israel may have been involved in the incidents.

Atomic Energy Organization Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi is denying that any assassination has taken place. Iranian State media are still to confirm.

"All of our nuclear scientists are healthy. None of them have been injured and no accident happened to any one of them," the spokesman said.

Annexation currently not on the table, UK envoy Hotovely says

Likud supporters hold flags near then-minister of Diaspora Affairs Tzipi Hotovely at a demonstration demanding Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, February 27, 2020 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The annexation of parts of the West Bank is not currently on the agenda, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely said Wednesday during a first public appearance with her counterparts from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

During a webinar about the so-called Abraham Accords between those countries and Israel, the moderator asked Mansoor Abulhoul and Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohamed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the Emirati and Bahraini envoys to London, respectively, if an Israeli annexation would damage their countries’ diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

Before any of them could answer, Hotovely replied: “I think we should discuss that when it will be on the diplomatic table. It’s not.”

The moderator, veteran UK journalist and politician Lord Daniel Finkelstein, accepted that reply and moved on to other questions.

Hotovely, a former lawmaker for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, drew notice as one of Israel’s most prominent champions of the settlement movement. She was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the annexation of the entire West Bank.

Before she arrived in Britain to assume the ambassador post last month, she served as minister for settlement affairs, a position in which she continued to endorse plans to unilaterally apply sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.

Parts of Israel’s far-right are calling on Netanyahu to advance the annexation of at least parts of the West Bank before US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on January 20, as his successor, Joe Biden, is expected to block any such moves. READ  MORE 

North Korean attempt to steal Covid-19 vaccine data foiled

Hacker

North Korea is still trying to steal vaccine research from other countries, The Guardian writes, citing the News1 agency which reported on Friday that South Korea foiled an attempt to hack into several companies that are currently engaged in developing vaccines for coronavirus.

The report was based on a source on the parliamentary intelligence committee, Ha Tae-keung, who said that he had been briefed by the country's National Intelligence Service, which did not specify which drugmakers or how many were targeted.

Apparently the hackers did not ultimately succeed in their attempts to steal data, nor did the companies sustain any other damage.

Last week, Microsoft announced that hackers working for the Russian and North Korean governments had tried to break into the networks of seven pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in South Korea, Canada, France, India, and the United States.

Trump: If Electoral College votes for Biden, I'll leave White House

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, even though it would be a mistake.

The President made the comments during a conversation with reporters after speaking to US troops via video link in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Trump continued to claim there was voter fraud in the recent election, saying "those number are incorrect numbers."

He would not say whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration.

The President also said he plans a trip on Saturday to the state of Georgia, where people are “very disappointed we were robbed.”

He was asked about his plans for his last Thanksgiving in the White House, to which he replied, “I can’t say what’s first or last,” adding it might be the “first one of a second term”.

Speaking to the soldiers before taking reporters’ questions, Trump said delivery of the coronavirus vaccine would begin next week and the week after.

“We are rounding the curve. The vaccines are being delivered – literally it will start next week and the week after, and it will hit the frontline workers and seniors and doctors, nurses… we’re going very quickly,” he said.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Supreme Court blocks NY from enforcing Covid limits on churches


The U.S. Supreme Court issued an injunction late Wednesday blocking New York’s governor from enforcing 10- and 25-person occupancy limits on religious institutions, granting a request from the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel.

The state had told the court there was no need to act because the restrictions, which were adopted as a way to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had recently been dialed back.

The court apparently divided 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting. In an unsigned majority opinion, the court said the restrictions would violate religious freedom and are not neutral because they “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”

While religious institutions were affected, businesses categorized as essential could admit as many people as they wish, the court said, and the list of such businesses included acupuncture facilities and others the court said were not essential.

The court said there’s no evidence that the organizations that brought the lawsuit have contributed to the spread of Covid-19.

In his dissent, Roberts said he saw no need to take this action, because the state has revised the designations of the affected areas, and none of the houses of worship that sought relief now face numerical restrictions and can hold services up to 50 percent capacity. (Read More / Watch Video)

American Colleges are throwing hate at Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a great holiday! Along with the spiritual part of recognizing all of the things one has to be thankful for. How can one not enjoy a day spent with family even this year if it’s a smaller family segment due to COVID. But we still can watch a parade with giant character balloons, NFL football, and load our stomachs with too much delicious food.

But some do not enjoy the day. Sadly, American colleges hate Thanksgiving. Many liberals who dominate college campuses across America teach our kids that Thanksgiving is a bad day, a celebration of genocide.

The Pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow, it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. No racism there. Just fellowship and gratitude.

It was Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday. When Lincoln declared it a national holiday celebrated on Nov. 26, the holiday superseded Evacuation Day held on November 25, which commemorated the British withdrawal from the United States after the American Revolution. It is not about hate. It’s about appreciation and celebration—except to many liberals. (Read More)

Report: 19 pro-Iran fighters killed in Israeli airstrike in Syria


Air strikes likely carried out by Israel killed at least 19 pro-Iran militia fighters in war-torn eastern Syria, a war monitor said Thursday.

The early morning strikes hit positions of Iran-backed militias outside the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province, killing mostly Pakistani fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian state media did not report the attack and Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes, but the Observatory has accused the Jewish state of launching at least two other aerial attacks against pro-Iran forces in Syria since Saturday.

Early on Wednesday, at least eight Iran-backed fighters were killed in strikes near Damascus and in southern Syria, according to the war monitor, which is based in the UK but relies on a network of sources inside Syria. (Read More) 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Iran-backed Houthis say missile that hit Saudi Arabia will also target Eilat

An official from the Iran-backed Houthi group fighting in Yemen on Tuesday said a long-range missile fired at Saudi Arabian oil facilities a day earlier would someday be used on Israel.

Saudi Aramco said Tuesday that the strike by Yemeni rebels on its plant in Jeddah tore a hole in an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire in another assault on the kingdom’s energy infrastructure. (Read More)

Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. 

The IDF's preparedness measures relate to possible Iranian retaliation against Israel directly or through Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, the Israeli officials said.

Flashback: Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump raised the possibility of attacking Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz in a meeting with senior members of his national security team. (Read More)

Plague-busters: Israeli team combats swarms of locusts in war-torn Ethiopia

At the request of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a crack team of Israelis swooped into the war-, storm-, and famine-struck country earlier this month to aid in its fight against a further plague — desert locusts.

Currently on the ground in the country’s eastern Somali region, the Israeli delegation is testing out an innovative technique of using drone surveillance and targeted night-time spraying, which will reduce the amount of pesticides. (Read More)

Iran Claims Foreign Companies Lining Up to Return After Biden Lifts Sanctions

Iranian Minister of Labor Ali Rabiei speaks during a meeting of the Iranian parliament for his impeachment on March 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

A spokesman for the Iranian government said on Tuesday that foreign companies are already inquiring about the possibility of doing business in Iran again after the Biden administration returns to the nuclear deal and lifts sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

“Recently, contacts about opening offices and the presence of foreign companies in Iran have increased,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said at a news conference, as quoted by Reuters on Tuesday.

“Certainly, with the … lifting of the oppressive sanctions and the absence of Trump, the presence of foreign companies and a willingness to invest in Iran will increase,” Rabiei said.

Reuters quoted some skepticism about these claims from a European diplomat who said that even if sanctions are lifted, foreign corporations will remain uneasy about doing business in “a market with so little financial transparency.”

The Trump administration took more steps to increase sanctions pressure on Iran last week, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended a sanctions waiver for Iraq to buy Iranian energy products for only 45 days. The waivers were originally issued for 120 days, then reduced to 60 over the summer. The 45-day extension means the Trump administration will have a final opportunity to either extend the waiver again or terminate it entirely in January. 

The administration seeks to encourage Iraq to reduce its dependency on Iranian energy imports, and simultaneously reduce Tehran’s political influence in Iraq, particularly the influence it exerts through Shiite militia groups growing increasingly brazen about attacking the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Last week, the Trump administration also blacklisted the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation, an entity controlled by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and leveled sanctions against Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Mahmoud Alavi.

The New York Times (NYT) posited last week that Trump will use his lame-duck months to “increase American sanctions against Iran and sell advanced weapons to its regional enemies,” making it harder for the Biden administration to rejoin the nuclear deal or fully reverse Trump’s Middle Eastern policies.

The NYT suggested Iran might also make it hard for Biden to return to the nuclear deal by making demands even Biden would hesitate to fulfill, such as insisting the United States compensate Iran for all of the financial damage it suffered during Trump’s sanctions.

Secretary of State Pompeo warned last Wednesday that removing sanctions from Iran would be a “dangerous choice” that could “weaken new partnerships for peace in the region and strengthen only the Islamic Republic.”

Pompeo described the Trump administration’s Iran policy as “extraordinarily effective” and promised more sanctions would take effect in the weeks ahead.

At the moment, Iranian leaders are continuing their years-long game of alternately dismissing Trump’s sanctions as irrelevant against the strength and determination of the Islamic Republic, and whining that all of Iran’s many economic and social problems are due to the sanctions. Reuters quoted Ayatollah Khamenei claiming in a Tuesday television interview that he doesn’t really care if Biden returns to the nuclear deal.

“We once tried the path of having the sanctions lifted and negotiated several years, but this got us nowhere,” Khamenei grumbled. “[Western nations] interfere in regional affairs, they tell us not to intervene. And while Britain and France have nuclear missiles, they tell us not to have missiles.” 

“What does it have to do with you? You should first correct yourselves,” Khamenei said to the U.S. and Europe.

Will Trump attack Iran? The IDF prepares

Donald Trump

The political echelon has instructed the IDF to prepare for a scenario of US action against Iran before the departure of President Donald Trump from the White House in January.

Senior Israeli officials involved in the matter told Walla's political correspondent Barak Ravid that the political echelon's directive to the military did not come because of information or an estimate that the Trump administration would act against Iran, but more because of the sensitive period in the weeks leading up to the January 20 change of government in Washington.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has spoken twice in the past two weeks with Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. These talks dealt with the Iranian issue, the situation in Syria and the security memorandum of understanding between Israel and the United States.

According to the Walla report, if the Trump administration acts against Iran, Israel is expected to receive advance warning of the action. However, due to the great uncertainty, the army has been instructed to ensure that Israel's defense systems are ready for any scenario which may arise from a US attack on Iran.

Israel fears that in the event of an American attack, the Iranians may retaliate by attacking Israel through the pro-Iranian militias in Syria or the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon.

Syria blames Israel for overnight strikes

IDF strikes target belonging to Syrian military in southern Syria after explosives found along Syrian border, Nov. 18, 2020 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
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Syria has blamed Israel for a series of airstrikes on locations south of the capital Damascus and on the Golan Heights late Tuesday night.

Syria’s SANA news agency said that the strikes, near the village of Rwihinah, south of Quneitra near the Israeli border, and near Jabal Mane near the town of Kiswah south of Damascus, caused “only material damage.”

 

According to AFP, however, eight pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the strikes. While there was no confirmation by either side of what was struck, according to military defectors who were quoted by Reuters, the target in Jabal Mane was a military base belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel has struck targets in Kiswah several times over the years as part of its war-between-wars campaign against the continued entrenchment of Iran and their terror proxy Hezbollah in Syria, including in July.

Other reports said that the attacks on the Golan Heights targeted a weapons depot and observation post belonging to Hezbollah’s Southern Headquarters. According to AFP, however, eight pro-Iranian fighters were killed in the strikes.

While there was no confirmation by either side of what was struck, according to military defectors who were quoted by Reuters, the target in Jabal Mane was a military base belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. 

Israel has struck targets in Kiswah several times over the years as part of its war-between-wars campaign against the continued entrenchment of Iran and their terror proxy Hezbollah in Syria, including in July. Other reports said that the attacks on the Golan Heights targeted a weapons depot and observation post belonging to Hezbollah’s Southern Headquarters. READ MORE 

The Ayatollah's men in Europe

Iranian currency

The Ayatollahs in Iran have established a vast network of mosques and other organizations across Europe to export and organize their nefarious activities. We will begin with their network in the most Northern European country, Norway, and in future articles further examine the situation in other European countries.

Norway's Police Security Service (PST) reportedly has asked for the imam of the Imam Ali Shia mosque in Oslo to be expelled. The unnamed imam's expulsion is pending a decision by Norway's judiciary, but the reason to expel him has been reported as "based on national security interests."

Who is this Iranian imam in Oslo and why is he considered a national security risk for Norway?

Iranian sources who have followed the case in Norway identify this imam as HojjatolIslam Seyyed Mostafa Motahari, who went to Oslo from Iran in 2016.

The imam allegedly works for Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and has connections with an Iranian-Norwegian dual national, Mohammad Davoudzadeh Loloei, who was found guilty by a Danish court in June of collecting information about Iranian exiles in Denmark. Loloei gave the information about one of the subjects "to a person working for an Iranian intelligence service for use by the intelligence service's plans to kill the exile," the court said.

Davoudzadeh entered Norway eight years ago as a bogus asylum seeker and then obtained Norwegian citizenship.

Motahari's mosque website is in Persian and its Norsk and English links are broken. Its About Us mentions no names of mosque leaders and claims it is "an independent public and religious institution with no ties to any government." READ MORE