|Iran extends night-time traffic curfew to 330 cities to sustain virus decline|
| Because the virus travels at night|
[Jpost] Iran has extended a night-time traffic curfew to 330 lower-risk cities in an effort to sustain a recent fall in the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths, state television reported on Saturday.
Alireza Raisi, spokesman for the national coronavirus task force, said on state TV that a curfew running from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., already in place in 108 so-called "orange" or medium-risk cities, will be extended to lower-risk "yellow" cities.
Ayatollahs Cuomo and Newsom concur
The curfew, during which there is a ban on the use of private cars to reduce the level of contacts between people, resulted in nearly 100,000 fines on one night in the past week.
There were 5,760 new cases reported, the lowest since Oct. 22, bringing the total to 1,194,964.
Iran’s Central Bank head said on Thursday it had received approval from U.S. authorities to transfer money to a Swiss bank to buy coronavirus vaccines from COVAX, a multi-agency group dedicated to assuring fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
It did not say which vaccines it was buying.
On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani, in televised remarks, reiterated Iran's complaint that U.S. sanctions had made it difficult to make payments for vaccines. "We arranged money from a bank to buy vaccines from COVAX but they said you need (U.S.) approval," Rouhani said.
Food and medicine
|Iran says no new agreement needed after Biden takes office|
In an interview with on Thursday, Rafael Grossi, who heads the IAEA that polices Iran’s compliance to the 2015 nuclear deal, said there had been too many breaches by for the agreement to simply snap back into place when US President-elect takes office next month.
Biden has said the United States will rejoin the deal "if Iran resumes strict compliance."
After President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions, Iran responded by breaching many of the deal’s restrictions.
“Presenting any assessment on how the commitments are implemented is absolutely beyond the mandate of the agency and should be avoided,” Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to IAEA in Vienna, tweeted. “@iaeaorg played its part during negotiations on the JCPoA.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, architect of the 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, has repeatedly said Tehran’s nuclear steps were reversible if the United States lifted sanctions and fully respected the pact.
|Iran's Rouhani says he is happy that 'lawless' Trump is leaving office|
|[THEBAGHDADPOST] Iranian President said on Wednesday he was happy that was leaving office, calling him "the most lawless US president" and a "terrorist."|
"We are not overjoyed about Mr. Biden’s arrival, but we are happy about Trump leaving," Rouhani said in a televised speech to the cabinet.
|Rouhani: Missile program, regional issues ‘non-negotiable’ in nuclear deal|
|[IsraelTimes] will not accept any US preconditions to a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and issues including Iran’s missile program and regional affairs are "non-negotiable," Iranian President says in a speech.|
He also says he will not allow any delay to the end of sanctions on Iran. He may be referring to the so-called sunset clauses of the deal, which limit Iran’s use of certain advanced centrifuges until 2025 and the cap on its uranium stockpile until 2030.
Iran has breached both aspects of the deal since the US pulled out of the accord.
"Some people want to delay the process but we will not consent to it whether it be for one hour," he says.
"Iran has repeatedly made it clear that it will also abide by its full commitments if all of the participants to the agreement live up to their full commitments."
US President-elect has said he plans to reenter the deal when he enters office. He has not set the issue of limits to Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional intervention as a precondition to this, but has said he will seek dialog on the matter.
|Another ally of Iran’s Rouhani faces criminal charges|
|[IsraelTimes] Iranian prosecutors have pressed criminal charges against a deputy of Iran’s President , the judiciary says, making him the second Rouhani ally to face prosecution in recent weeks.|
Vice President Isa Kalantari, who is Iran’s environment chief, is involved in an ongoing case involving the condition of a lagoon in north of the country as well as "remarks that circulated recently on social media," judiciary Gholamhossein Esmaili tells s.
He doesn’t elaborate.
Kalantari has faced strong criticism from conservative media in recent days over comments he made in a year-old interview that they deemed insulting to the founder of the , Ruhollah Khomeini.
"He has presented his explanations. We must wait and see what the court decides, as he has only been recently summoned," Esmaili says.
Kalantari told state news agency IRNA on Sunday that his comments had been taken out of context.
"If you listen to the whole interview, you will see no such (insult) has taken place. It’s not logical to draw conclusions from 20-40 seconds of a two-hour interview," he said.
The 68-year-old served as agriculture minister in the 1990s and was appointed head of the environment department in 2017.
The charges against Kalantari come just days after it was reported that former vice president Shahindokht Molaverdi had been sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of handing classified information to foreign parties and "propaganda" against the state.
Molaverdi served as vice president for women’s affairs during Rouhani’s first term as president and was replaced by current Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar in 2017.
She said she intends to appeal.
When asked about her case, Esmaili says he can’t comment as the "verdict issued is not yet final."
|Iran prepares to raise oil exports in anticipation of Biden administration|
|[Jpost] has instructed its oil ministry to prepare installations for production and sale of crude oil at full capacity within three months, state media said on Sunday, ahead of a possible easing of US sanctions after President-elect takes office.|
They quoted President as saying that Iran exported more than two million barrels a day before U.S. President exited the 2015 nuclear deal with six powers in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy hard by sharply cutting its vital oil exports.US President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20, has said that he would return to the pact and would lift sanctions if Tehran returned to "strict compliance with the nuclear deal."
Rouhani said on Sunday that his country was preparing for a speedy increase of its oil production, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"The Oil Ministry will take all the necessary steps to prepare the oil industry’s facilities to produce and sell - proportionate to the available capacity - within the next three months," IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.
It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared to a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018.
|Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei hands power to son due to health – report|
|[Jpost] It is unclear what has caused recent deterioration in the supreme leader's condition overnight, though some suspect prostate cancer.|
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah may have transferred power to his son amid concerns over his declining health, Iranian journalist Momahad Ahwaze reported Saturday.
Taking to Twitter, Ahwaze wrote in Arabic that sources in were concerned regarding the 81-year-old leader's health, and those close to him are reportedly "very concerned" over his deteriorating condition.
As such, his powers have reportedly been transferred to his son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei, aged 51,
...who does not appear to have appeared in our archives before, for some reason...who currently oversees several important security and intelligence departments in the country. European sources have pegged Mojtaba as a potential successor to the supreme leader's position for over 10 years, and British news outlet The Guardian even dubbed him "the gatekeeper to Iran's supreme leader" in a 2009 article.
Ahwaze noted that it is unclear what has caused recent deterioration in the supreme leader's condition overnight, though he did suspect it could be prostate cancer.
Khamenei's deteriorating health has also reportedly seen the supreme leader cancel some important meetings, such as a recently scheduled meeting with President , according to Ahwaze.
Khamenei has been in power since 1989, having taken over following the death of the 's founder, Ruollah Khomenei. he has had health issues in the past, and in 2014 had surgery on his prostate. According to French news outlet Le Figaro in 2015, Western sources believed the supreme leader had suffered from prostate cancer.
No official confirmation has been made regarding any potential transfer of power, and media outlets have been unable to confirm it.
The Iranian journalist gained notoriety due to his coverage of the 's COVID-19 outbreak, despite Tehran's attempts at downplaying its severity, Newsweek reported.
If his reports are true, it would mean Khamenei is stepping down following increased tensions with the US and Israel, as Tehran blames the Jewish state for the of its chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, on November 27.
|President Rouhani: Iran will not take enemy bait to create regional 'chaos'|
|[Rudaw] Tehran will not be provoked into creating "chaos" in the Middle East by the of Iran's top nuclear scientist, President said on Saturday. |
Rouhani described the of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi on Friday as "bait" from Iran's enemies.
"This savage demonstrates that our enemies are in anxious weeks, as the era of their influence will wane and global circumstances will change," he said at a Coronavirus Task Force meeting in Tehran on Saturday.
Rouhani made explicit reference to Israel as a "usurping Zionist regime" that acted as the "mercenary" in Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi's . He also appeared to be addressing hawks in the Trump administration and key Washington ally , as both have called for maximum pressure on Tehran to be maintained when US president-elect Biden takes over in seven weeks.
"These few weeks are important for them to use to their maximum advantage, to create insecurity in the region and to deflect global attention from the terror and intimidation that they are creating in the occupied territories [Paleostine]... they are thinking about creating chaos and riots," Rouhani said.
"They should know that we have already read their hands, and they will not succeed in their vile objectives."
At least six attacked a vehicle carrying Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and his security detail near the entrance to the city of Absard in Tehran province on Friday, at around 2 pm Standard Time.
|Belgium Tries Iranian Diplomat over Bomb Plot|
|[AnNahar] An Iranian diplomat goes on trial in Belgium on Friday accused of plotting to bomb an opposition rally outside , in a case that has stoked tensions with Tehran.|
The case shines another uncomfortable light on Iran's international activities just as it hopes to ease tensions with the United States after President tore up the 2015 nuclear deal signed by both countries and other world powers.
It also comes a day after a prisoner swap that saw the release of three Iranians over a 2012 bomb plot in Thailand, in exchange for the freeing of an Australian-British lecturer imprisoned by Tehran for alleged spying.
The Australian is Kylie Moore-Gilbert. The three Iranians generously given in trade by Thailand are Saeid Moradi (“Stumpy”), Mohammad Kharzei, and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh.In June 2018, Belgian authorities thwarted what they said was an attempt to smuggle explosives to to attack a meeting of one of Iran's exiled opposition movements.
Later that year, the French government accused Iran's intelligence service of being behind the operation, a charge the Islamic republic has furiously denied.
Assadollah Assadi, a 48-year-old Iranian diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces life in prison if convicted.
The National Council of in (NCRI), which includes the People's Mojahedin of Iran or (MEK), organised a rally in Villepinte outside on June 30, 2018.
Several well-known international figures -- including former US and British officials and Franco-Colombian former senator Ingrid Betancourt -- and NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi were to attend.
On the same morning, Belgian police intercepted a Belgian-Iranian couple driving from Antwerp and carrying half-a-kilo of TATP explosives and a detonator.
The arrested couple, 36-year-old Nassimeh Naami and 40-year-old Amir Saadouni, join Assadi in the dock, alongside another alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, 57.
All four are charged with attempting to carry out a terrorist attack and taking part in the activity of a terrorist group. All face life sentences.
Assadi was arrested while he was travelling through Germany where he had no immunity from prosecution, being outside of the country of his diplomatic posting.
Arefani, an Iranian poet who had lived in Belgium for more than a decade, was arrested in in 2018 after Belgium issued a European arrest warrant.
- 'ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS' -
Counsel representing those targeted by the alleged attack say Arefani was close to Assadi, said to be the architect of the plot, and point to an Austrian SIM card found in his possession.
The two men deny any connection.
"We are looking at a clear case of ," said lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier, who is representing the interests of the NCRI, along with French colleague William Bourdon.
Dimitri de Beco, defence counsel for Assadi, has accused the civil plaintiffs of trying to turn the case into a political trial on behalf of the opposition movement.
According to Iran expert Francois Nicoullaud -- a former French ambassador to Tehran -- Iran's President was surprised to learn about the failed attack.
"Visiting at the time, he was absolutely furious to learn about this intelligence service operation, on which he hadn't been consulted," the diplomat told AFP.
At the time of the alleged plot, Rouhani was trying to maintain the support of European capitals for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abandoned by the Trump administration.
When pointed the finger at Iranian intelligence, an Iranian voiced denial and alleged that opponents of the deal in "certain quarters" were attempting to frame Tehran.
That idea was dismissed by observers like Nicoullaud as a smokescreen. "It's not serious," he said.
The trial is scheduled to take two days, Friday and then Thursday next week. The court is then expected to adjourn to consider its verdict before ruling early next year.
|Iran diplomat on trial over plot to bomb opponents in France|
The bomb was meant to explode in a suburb during a huge rally being held by an exiled Iranian opposition group. It could have caused carnage.
Instead, ripped apart the robot that army specialists were using to defuse the bomb after it was found in the car of a couple arrested in a Brussels suburb.
More than two years after the last-minute, cross-border operation that thwarted the planned attack, the couple go on trial Friday alongside two Iranian citizens, including a diplomat believed to be the plot’s .
The court case in the city of Antwerp has the potential to embarrass Iran. According to legal documents from the two-year investigation obtained by The , Belgium’s intelligence and security agency (VSSE) says the diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, operated on orders of Iran’s authorities and brought the explosives to himself.
In a note to Belgium’s federal prosecutor, the agency argued that "the planned attack was conceived in the name of and at its instigation."
The prosecutor’s office did not comment on the case because the trial had yet to start.
On June 30, 2018, Belgian tipped off about a possible attack against the annual meeting of the the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, stopped the couple’s Mercedes car. In their luggage, they found 550 grams of the unstable TATP explosive and a detonator. In its report, Belgium’s bomb disposal unit said the device was of professional quality.
TATP has been used in several attacks in Europe in recent years, including in 2016 when s killed 32 people on the Brussels subway and at an airport. It could have caused a sizable explosion and panic in the crowd, estimated at 25,000 people, that had gathered that day in the French town of Villepinte, north of .
Regarded by as the "operational commander" of the attack, Assadi is suspected of having hired the couple years earlier.
According to a VSSE note, Assadi, 48, is an officer of Iran’s intelligence and security ministry who operated under cover at Iran’s embassy in Vienna.
Belgium’s state security officers believe he worked for the ministry’s so-called Department 312, the directorate for internal security, which is on the ’s list of organizations regarded as terrorist.
Assadi’s lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, told the AP his client contests all the charges against him.
"His defense will raise a number of procedural issues, including the question of his diplomatic immunity, since it is not disputed that he had diplomatic status, at least at the time of the facts," de Beco wrote in a short message, expressing his hope that the court case won’t be a "political trial."
The MEK, once an armed organization with a base in Iraq, is the most structured among exiled Iranian opposition groups, and is detested by Iranian authorities. It was removed from EU and US terrorism lists several years ago after denouncing violence and getting western politicians to lobby on its behalf. The MEK supports US President ’s hard line on Iran and backs US sanctions on the country.
Among dozens of prominent guests at the rally that day were Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani; , former conservative speaker of the US House of Representatives; and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
The organization’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, has alleged without offering evidence that Assadi received his orders from Iranian President and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah "The regime’s leaders must be prosecuted and face justice," she said last month during a video conference with journalists.
Assadi allegedly recruited the couple — Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who were of Iranian heritage but lived in Antwerp — to obtain information about the Iranian opposition. The fourth suspect, Mehrdad Arefani, is a Brussels resident suspected of traveling to Villepinte on the day of the planned attack. Investigators found that he was in possession of a phone with Assadi’s number.
Travel records obtained by the AP show Assadi made several trips to Iran in the months leading up to the rally, returning from the last one little more than a week before the thwarted attack. According to a note from the prosecution’s files, Assadi carried the explosives on the commercial flight to Austria. He allegedly handed the bomb over to Saadouni and Naami during a meeting in a Pizza Hut restaurant in Luxembourg just two days before they were arrested.
Both have denied they were aware that the diplomat — whose code name was Daniel — had given them a bomb. Naami said she believed the parcel contained fireworks.
Belgium’s bomb disposal unit said the triacetone triperoxide charge in the couple’s Mercedes car was ready to use. It was "wrapped in plastic and concealed in the lining of a vanity case." They also found a digital remote trigger in a small bag belonging to Naami that contained feminine hygiene items.
Upon his arrest, also found a red notebook in Assadi’s car with instructions on how to use the bomb. The analysis of the suspects’ text messages and emails revealed they used code language to communicate, with "PlayStation 4" the alleged name for the .
The French side of the investigation also established that Assadi visited Villepinte during the 2017 MEK rally, possibly on a reconnaissance trip.
If convicted, the four suspects face between five years and 20 years in prison on charges of "attempted terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group." Hearings will last between two and three days and a verdict is expected be delivered by the end of next month.
|Iran's top military figure announces presidential bid|
|[AA.TR] The race for 2021 presidential election has kicked off with a leading military figure -- who previously served as the country’s defense minister -- officially announcing his bid for the top political office.Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan’s name had been doing rounds for many months as a probable contender for the presidency and he finally made it official on Tuesday.|
Dehghan, 64, who presently serves as the top military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader , is believed to have the backing of the latter as well as the support of revolutionary guards (IRGC).
Iran will go to polls on June 18 next year to elect a new government as incumbent President ’s reformist government completes its two terms.
Rouhani’s government has been under severe pressure at home since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2017, followed by re-imposition of sanctions.
It was clear that the wind is blowing in favor of conservatives after they swept the parliament elections earlier this year with an overwhelming majority.
|Abdullah Tackles Bilateral Relations, Afghan Migrants Status with Iranian Officials|
|[KhaamaPress] , chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, arrived in Tehran on October 18 for a three-day official visit.|
is reportedly a key regional power broker with sway over the and Afghan political factions.
Abdullah tweeted before his visit that he would, "meet the Iranian leadership" and "exchange views on Afghanistan Peace and all other relevant bilateral issues to promote long-term cooperation & friendship."
The HCNR chairman met , Foreign Minister of the of Iran, exchanging views on the Afghan , intra-Afghan talks in Doha and bilateral issues of interest, stressing on brotherly bonds between the two countries.
Abdullah Also thanked Iranian officials for a continued principled position on "Afghan peace efforts" and reiterated that "peace & stability in Afghanistan amounts to peace & stability in the region and beyond".
Foreign minister Zarif assured Iran’s continued support for the Afghan and emphasized a process that assures Afghan ownership of their aims for stability and inclusive outcomes.
Following his meeting Abdullah had dialogues with Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf Speaker of the Parliament of Iran, as they both discussed the Afghan and Doha dialogues developments.
Abdullah Abdullah tweeted:
Head of Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation is expected to meet , President of the of Iran throughout his visit.
In a gathering at the Afghan embassy in iran Sunday night, abdullah said the Afghan government would take serious steps to address the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran and had discussed the issue with Iranian officials.
Reports indicate an agreement had been reached with Iranian officials to allow Afghan refugees to travel to Iran legally.
He also called for the distribution of electronic ID cards to Afghan refugees in Iran as part of the agreement.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Iran, Ghafoor Lewal, said there are about 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Iran and that their biggest problem is lack of official documents.