Wednesday 29 August 2018

Fissures grow at top of Iranian government (allegedly) as gov't arrests spies

Iran arrested ‘tens of spies’ within government – minister

Iran arrested ‘tens of spies’ within government - minister

28 August, 2018

Iranian security forces have identified and arrested “tens of spies” working in government agencies, according to Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi.

The intelligence ministry's anti-espionage unit has successfully identified and arrested tens of spies in different governmental bodies,” Alavi was quoted by the news agency ISNA on Tuesday.

The minister did not offer any details about the arrests or identities of the alleged spies. He did say the ministry has been on the lookout for dual nationals, however.

Security forces arrested a member of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militant group in southern Iran earlier this month, and broke up a “terrorist cell” in the north of the country, Alavi said.

The intelligence ministry has also foiled several bombing plots in metro stations and universities, but had not previously disclosed it to the public, said the minister.
Alavi’s announcement comes as the US has reimposed sanctions on Tehran following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. More sanctions are scheduled to take effect in November, and the US has threatened to punish anyone in the world who does business with Tehran.
Iran has responded by unveiling new homemade weapons, including a fighter jet and a ballistic missile, as well as saying its navy is “vigilantly controlling” the Strait of Hormuz. Some 18.5 million barrels of crude oil transit the strait every day, on the way from the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world.

In February, Iranian authorities arrested three environmental activists in the southern province of Hormozgan, charging them with spying for the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.

Earlier this month, the US arrested and charged two Iranian nationals, accusing them of spying on an orthodox Jewish center in Chicago and a New York conference of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a US-backed exile group Iran considers a terrorist organization.

NOTE: This comes from western reports.

Fissures Grow At Top Of Iran's Government As Rouhani Censured, Top Officials Sacked

28 August, 2018

Iran's parliament has censured President Hassan Rouhani, voting on Tuesday to reject his explanations for why the country's economy is crumbling. 

Reuters reports this came after Rouhani underwent a grilling in front of parliament on live TV as hardliners gain the upper hand after crippling rounds of US sanctions. 

It's but the latest sign of deep fissures that run to the top of Iran's government after parliament sacked the minister of economy and finance over the weekend.

This followed the labor minister's sacking as well — both were blamed for not staving off the collapse of the rial and surging inflation

Fighting erupted over whether to oust the finance minister during a parliamentary session in Tehran. Image source: EPA via LA Times

The dismissal of the now former finance minister Masoud Karbasian is unlikely to do anything positive to halt the downward spiral at this late hour with the rial falling to new lows seemingly on a weekly basis against the U.S. dollar. 

The rial fell this past weekend to 107,000 to the dollar, while a year ago it was about 33,000 rials to $1.

It signals an overall trend that conservatives and Islamists are seizing the opportunity to gain momentum over moderates and pragmatists amidst trying to survive economic war with the US. 

Over the last year since you became the minister, the dinner table of the people has shrunk to the point of invisibility,” conservative lawmaker Hosseinali Hajideligani told the finance minister during a contentious legislative hearing over the weekendThe purchasing power of the people has dropped down at least by 50%. You have made the people poorer every day."

Karbasian, for his part, blamed the sanctions while implying there's nothing that could have stopped the pressure from squeezing the entire economy, saying America had “targeted our entire economy and social fortifications.”

America is seeking to block the country's economic vessels to put people under pressure and stir dissatisfaction,” the finance minister told lawmakers. “They are after hitting the government and ruling system. You should believe that we are at an all-out economic war.”

But in the end a narrow majority of 137 lawmakers in the 260-seat parliament voted to boot Karbasian, suggesting that moderates who joined in on lashing out at the chief administrative overseer of economic policy may have tipped the scales against him.

One reformist lawmaker, Elias Hazrati of Tehran charged: “What have we done? What have we done to the Iranian people?” And questioned further, “Why should the people suffer from this situation? What is the people's fault?”

No doubt, the White House welcomes these growing public divisions as President Trump has now on multiple occasions credited increased domestic turmoil in Iran with his pulling the US from the Iran nuclear deal last May and reimposing aggressive sanctions targeting major industries. 

As Reuters acknowledges"The action in parliament is a further sign of how the Trump administration’s decision to re-impose sanctions could affect Iran’s leadership and its relationship with the outside world, potentially for decades to come."

And yet, as a number of analysts predicted, the hard-nose approach will likely raise the stature of the Islamic hardliners in Tehran, who from the beginning preached that American duplicity, saying the US would never honor the 2015 deal when Rouhani entered into it.

Reuters summarizes this trend as follows:
Iran’s rulers have been divided between a pragmatic faction that aims for better international relations, and hardliners who are wary of reforms. Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal was opposed by U.S. allies in Europe, who argued that he undermined Rouhani and strengthened the hands of the hardliners.

Meanwhile it appears there's likely more carnage within Tehran's leadership to come: following the exit of both the finance and labor ministers this month, Tasnim news agency reported that 70 lawmakers have already moved to impeach a third: the Minister of Industry, Mines and Business. 

The long-term ascendancy of the hard-line faction in Iran's government is also likely to make it easier for hawks in Washington and Tel Aviv to make a public case that the regime needs to be toppled. 

Iran Asks UN Court to Lift US Sanctions, Argues Violation of 1955 Treaty

27 August, 2018

After previously filing a lawsuit against the U.S. over the threat of new sanctions, Iran asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday to lift new sanctions imposed in recent weeks.

The latest developments on the case are available at the ICJ’s website. The full transcript of today’s proceedings can be found here.

An earlier request by the tribunal to halt new sanctions was not fulfilled by the U.S. State Department. In addition to new sanctions on Iran, the U.S. also established a new ‘Iran Action Group’ to coordinate all of its anti-Iran policies.

On July 25th, the ICJ issued “urgent communications” to the U.S. not to impose any new sanctions against Iran until the court could hear arguments and reach a verdict in the lawsuit filed by the Islamic Republic. (Photo: Tehran Times)

Iran has filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a court order to lift US sanctions against them. The sanctions were imposed in recent weeks as part of the US withdrawing from the P5+1 nuclear deal, and subsequently trying to reimpose nuclear sanctions on the Iranians.
Iran argues that the unilateral sanctions are in violation of the 1955 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations signed between Iran and the US in 1955. The treaty has been cited in previous Iranian lawsuits against the US at the ICJ.

This is the first time, however, that Iran has pushed a lawsuit regarding the treaty to prevent US sanctions. This may reflect that in the past, US sanctions tended to be part of international measures, while in this case, the US unilaterally withdrew from the existing diplomatic deal, and seeks to reimpose sanctions unilaterally, pushing the rest of the world to comply with them.

The US hasn’t commented on the new lawsuit, though since previous administrations have cited the 1955 treaty with Iran in other contexts, so it will be difficult for the current administration to claim that it isn’t still effectively in place.

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