Tag Archives: Iran

Israel using terror group in Iran attacks

US officials acknowledge Israel is working with Iranian mujahedin group to target nuclear scientists…


Will an air campaign follow the covert killings? © Israeli Defence Forces


Is the picture now becoming clearer on the mysterious deaths and explosions that have taken place in Iran over the last few years? US officials have told NBC News that attacks on Iran’s nuclear scientists are being carried out by a dissident group that is armed and financed by Israel’s security services.

  • The attacks have killed 5 scientists since 2007, in addition to targeting nuclear-related facilities
  • The dissident group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), was accused of attacks on American’s in the 1970s, and is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US
  • The unnamed officials said the Obama administration has no direct involvement, but is aware of the campaign of assassinations
  • The Iranian dissidents have reportedly travelled to Israel for operational ‘training’, however MEK has denied this, and denied any claims of involvement

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman:

As long as we can’t see all the evidence being claimed by NBC, the Foreign Ministry won’t react to every gossip and report being published worldwide.

Read more at MSNBC


See also:-

Tracking the secret war on IranMother Jones

Iran steps up war of words with the West

Iranian officials say new sanctions amount to ‘economic war’…


Mural of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei © Abode of Chaos


As pressure from the West grows on Iran over its nuclear programme, officials in the country have hit back over threatened sanctions. Responding to a proposed oil embargo by the European Union, Iran’s economic minister suggested it would tantamount to “economic war”, while foreign minister Ali Salehi said the country would be unbowed by such measures:

Iran, with divine assistance, has always been ready to counter such hostile actions, and we are not concerned at all about the sanctions

Despite the strong words however the sanctions will certainly hurt Iran, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. In addition to the proposed EU oil embargo, President Obama last week enacted measures against Iran’s central bank that cause further problems for the country’s exports.

The increased saber-rattling between the West and Iran follows recent Iranian threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, a key shipping lane.

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, following a visit to the Pentagon, said that such a move would be unacceptable as he made a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank:

Disruption to the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz would threaten regional and global economic growth. Any attempt by Iran to close the Straits would be illegal and unsuccessful.

He suggested that any attempt would be not just illegal, but would be met with force by the United States and Britain:

We have mine counter-measures capability, we have a frigate present there, and we are an integrated part of the allied naval task force in the Gulf…

One of the missions of that task force is to ensure that those shipping lanes remain open.

Though both Iran and the West have recently indicated that they are prepared to engage in talks again, the latest developments appear to show that a resolution on the nuclear issue is still far from being reached.


Iranian TV puts downed US drone on display

Iranian television has shown footage of what it claims is a downed US drone aircraft. Iran’s Press TV claimed that the drone had been brought down by the country’s “electronic warfare unit”, who hijacked it before steering it to the ground.

Such a claim may seem on the face of it unlikely, however the footage appears to show the drone undamaged and in perfect condition, backing their claims to an extent.

While Nato has acknowledged losing a drone over Afghanistan, the Iranians said it was intercepted over the city of Kashmar, 140 miles inside Iran, and have demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.

The Iranian regime summoned the Swiss envoy -who handles US relations with Iran- and expressed its “strongest protest over the invasion of a US spy drone deep into its airspace”

The sophisticated RQ-170 Sentinel is one of America’s most closely-guarded aircraft, and the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner said the high-flying craft is perfect for surveillance:

America’s RQ-170 Sentinel plane is the perfect stealth drone for peering into another country’s secret sites without being caught.

One was used in May to feed back live footage of the US Navy Seal raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

So it is probably not the sort of hardware the CIA would ever like to fall into the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

It’s thought that the drone was involved in surveillance of Iran’s nuclear programme, and Pentagon officials have said they’re concerned about Iran getting access to such technology, a concern that’s only likely to grow after the emergence of the footage.


Bashar al-Assad still clinging on in Syria

The Syrian regime is relying on a few key allies to keep itself from falling…


© AbodeofChaos


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has now been clinging to power for the best part of year, relying on a brutal crackdown against protesters by his security forces, and international support from Iran and Russia.

After appearing stronger in recent months, action now being taken by the Arab League, in addition to sanctions and international condemnation, would seem to be weakening the regime.

In addition to a public call for him to leave by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Syria has now been suspended by the Arab League, and is facing continuing pressure from its neighbour Turkey. However it appears Assad has little option other than to continue the course he’s followed so far. That will mean more repression, and an increasing reliance on threats to the international community of what will happen if the regime does fall.

For now Syria can count on the support of long-term ally Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Russia meanwhile continues to protect what it sees as its ‘sphere of influence’. It condemned Syria’s suspension by the Arab League, and will likely continue to block measures at the United Nations.

The threat to Assad’s survival likely lies with Turkey, the US and NATO. There have been suggestions of Turkey carving out a humanitarian zone, however on the likelihood of more hawkish action, Turkey PM Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser said such a move would not happen until:

hundreds of thousands of people…start migrating into Turkey.

So for the moment at least, without the loss of its allies or the serious threat of intervention, the Syrian regime may continue to hang on.


Read more at Foreign Affairs:-

How Assad stayed in power – and how he’ll try and keep it

Why the EU sanctions against Assad’s Syria will backfire

Hezbollah after Assad




UK warns Iran after embassy is stormed

UPDATE: Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has ordered the immediate closure of Iran’s embassy in London, along with the expulsion of all Iranian diplomats in the country. He gave staff 48 hours to leave, saying that yesterday’s events involved “some degree of regime consent”.

Speaking in parliament Hague said:

If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here,


The UK has threatened Iran with “serious consequences” following the takeover of its embassy in Tehran, along with the Qolhak Gardens area that houses British officials.

Following the incidents in which protesters along with basij militias -aligned to the Revolutionary Guards- broke into the compounds sending staff fleeing for their lives, the UK Foreign Office issued a statement:

We are outraged by this. It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it. Under international law, including the Vienna Convention, the Iranian government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies in their country and expect them to act urgently to bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of our staff and security of our property.

Prime Minister David Cameron later said that the attacks were “outrageous and indefensible”, while the Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed:

regret for certain unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters in spite of efforts by the police.

The relevant authorities have been asked to take the necessary measures and look into this issue immediately,

While Iranian authorities have now regained control of the compounds, the crisis represents one of the most serious threats to bilateral relations since the Iranian revolution over 30 years ago.

Further coverage:-

In pictures: UK embassy stormed

UK’s Tehran fortress falls to rising anger

Timeline: Iran/UK relations


Bahrain torture condemned in rights report

Independent commission finds evidence of torture, beatings, threats of rape…


Pearl Roundabout re-taken before protests were crushed © Al Jazeera English


The commission set up by Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa, charged with investigating rights abuses following protests earlier this year, has found that security forces committed a litany of abuses in the country.

Bahrain dictator al-Khalifa, head of the minority Sunni-ruled kingdom, set up the commission in response to widespread condemnation from rights organisations and the international community.

Commission chairman Prof. Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said that during the crackdown aimed at clearing protesters, security forces used physical and psychological  torture. This included beatings with iron bars and batons, and threats of rape and electrocution.

Bassiouni said that those responsible for the abuses should be held accountable, no matter how high their position in the government.

In response the King said the country accepted the report and would try to meet international standards of human rights:

We are determined, God willing, to ensure that the painful events our beloved nation has just experienced are not repeated, but that we learn from them, and use our new insights as a catalyst for positive change,

The commission also found that there was no evidence of the idea -pushed by Bahraini authorities and the US administration- that Iran was involved in the protests:

Evidence presented to the commission did not prove a clear link between the events in Bahrain and Iran,

However it also found that there had been violence against Sunnis and foreign workers during the protests, and that a more peaceful outcome may have been achieved if the oppostion had accepted a Bahraini government initiative in March.

Read more at Al Jazeera


America’s new generation of weapons

US arsenal gains hypersonic flying bomb and a huge new bunker buster…


The B-2 bomber will deliver the 'Massive Ordinance Penetrator' © ExpertInfantry


The United States has taken delivery of a new 30,000 pound bunker busting bomb reports the Los Angeles Times. The Boeing-made Massive Ordance Penetrator is five tonnes heavier than anything else in the Air Force arsenal, and is designed to hit deeply buried underground facilities.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Melinda F. Morgan said of the new weapon:

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator is a weapon system designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,

The delivery of the first batch of bombs comes just a week after the latest IAEA report on Iran, and amid fears that the country is trying to move its nuclear operations beyond air strike capabilities.

In further news, it has been revealed that the US military has successfully tested a hypersonic flying bomb, capable of hitting a target anywhere in the world with one hour; a key tenet of America’s ‘Prompt Global Strike’ program. The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon can travel at least five times the speed of sound (the measure for hypersonic speed), and unlike a traditional ballistic missile can be manouevered in-flight.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the military has spend nearly $70m developing the AHW this year, and nearly $250m on the ‘Prompt Global Strike’ program.


The unmoved spectre of war

The IAEA report on Iran changes nothing…


© FutureAtlas


With the latest UN report on Iran’s nuclear programme, the sabre rattling is getting louder, yet the inevitability of an attack on Iran is far from certain.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report into the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons programme this week describes how several of the studies conducted by Iran into nuclear technology have no ‘application…  to anything other than a nuclear explosive’. It would appear that a critical moment has arrived for relations between Tehran and the West and in the days preceding the report, world leaders debated the issue at the G20 summit in Cannes. A White House spokesman confirmed that military intervention is ‘on the table’ and Israel conducted missile tests and a test of its emergency services. With the Greek eurozone tragedy seemingly shifting from centre stage, the spotlight will now surely fall back on Iran and how to proceed.

In a report as comprehensive as can be expected under conditions deliberately restricted by the Iranian government, the IAEA produced the clearest indications yet that Iran is investigating nuclear power for military use. While uncomfortable, it comes as no surprise. Israeli and American leadership in particular, but not exclusively, have suspected this for years; President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are unlikely to have been caught off guard by the findings. It is however, not clear that this publication in itself will have drastic long term implications and after initial attention and rhetoric, the debate will most likely remain the same as it ever was. Fresh economic sanctions are likely but the spectre of war will remain unmoved, no closer to dissipating, but not yet a reality.

There is speculation that Israel might engage in military action unilaterally but while Netanyahu looks anxiously east, he will be aware that without US involvement a preventative war against Iran would be dangerous and devastatingly costly. Israel could not reasonably expect to take up arms against its hostile neighbour as it did against Iraq in 1981; the Iranian facilities are better hidden and better protected and would not be susceptible to a surgical strike in the same way. Israel could not afford to commit alone to what could become a bloody and prolonged conflict, and it would be alone. The West acts only when it is expedient, with intelligence reports used to support action rather than a foundation for decision making; the famous ‘sexing-up’ of the dossier supporting the War in Iraq made this abundantly clear. Obama might be hoping that the report will provide his suspicions with external credibility but ultimately, if he wanted a war with Iran, American troops would be there now.

There are those that sympathise with Iran, that believe the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be little more than an exercise in hypocrisy. While it is true that the NPT divides states into nuclear ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, it has been an effective means by which stability in a nuclear world has been broadly maintained and Iranian defiance of this treaty threatens to fatally undermine it. A nuclear Iran could spur a regional arms race because it is not just Israel that fears Iran, as wikileaks revelations made explicit.

A nuclear Iran is a frightening prospect but this is not primarily because of the potential for proliferation or even nuclear war. It is quite clear that launching a nuclear attack would be tantamount to suicide and Iranian President Ahmadinejad is surely more rational that he would like to appear. Rather, the protection afforded by a nuclear umbrella would enable Tehran to pursue conventional aggression and to strengthen its support for regional militant groups such as Hezbollah with relative impunity. It is entirely justifiable to deny nuclear weapons to a state that regularly threatens the very existence of one of its neighbours and has attempted to assassinate the diplomatic representatives of another.

This is a powder keg in the making. In the short term, the IAEA report may represent the peak of these tensions but they will continue to grow. The prevailing international consensus is clear that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear military capability. It is therefore the responsibility of Western leaders to successfully persuade a stubborn and ideologically driven Iranian elite to abandon a programme that they have been committed to for decades. To win this diplomatic war before it becomes a military one, would be one of the greatest achievements of modern diplomacy and given the stakes, one of the most important.


David Miller is a politics graduate of Nottingham University



The Bomb: Where now for Iran and Israel?

Containment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is far safer than a ‘heedless’ attack…


© Israeli Defence Forces


With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) due to report on Iran’s nuclear program later this week, and rumours of Israel planning a unilateral attack, the state of play between the two nations is at its most dangerous in years.

The IAEA report is expected to suggest, despite denials, that Iran is moving ahead in trying to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Among other facts, the report will contain evidence of:

intelligence that Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead,

David Remnick of The New Yorker argues that though containment is itself fraught with difficulties, it is far preferable to a unilateral attack, that some Israeli cabinet ministers are determined will go ahead if necessary with or without the consent of the United States.

Israel has successfully attacked facilities in Iraq and Syria previously, however Iranian operations are protected to a far greater degree. One Israeli air force officer acknowledged the situation:

It’s a huge issue—because of the day after. If and when it will happen, the whole region will be different.

Ominously, notable Israeli columnist … recently described Benyamin Netanyahu’s thinking on the issue:

Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he isn’t stopped in time, there will be another Holocaust.

There are those who describe Netanyahu’s attitude on the matter as an obsession: All his life he dreamed of being Churchill; Iran gives him the opportunity.

Read more at The New Yorker


US car dealer wins payout over ‘Taliban’ slur

Car dealership was nicknamed ‘Taliban Toyota’ by rivals…


© DanielCTW


An Iranian car dealer in the United States has won a $7.5m payout after a rival dealership regularly alleged that he was a terrorist.

Reuters reports that during the court hearing in Florida, it was claimed that salesman at the rival dealership would warn customers about Shawn Esfahani’s links to terrorism, telling one customer:

(Esfahani) is funneling money back to his family and other terrorists,

While another salesman said:

I have a brother over there [in Afghanistan] and what you’re doing is helping kill my brother.

The jury awarded Esfahani $2.5m in compensatory damages, and $5m in punitive damages.


Archive reveals Saddam Hussein’s paranoia

Release of recordings and documents captured by US forces after Iraq war…


© Amir Farshad Ebrahimi


A small portion of a huge archive of documents and recordings from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein has been publicly released. The archive, captured by American forces following the fall of Baghdad in 2003, reveals the often paranoid and conspiratorial mind of the former dictator.

Among the revelations are Saddam’s underestimation of Iran prior to the war between the two countries. He wrongly assumed that the country would be unable to put up a defence when Iraqi forces attacked, and was backed up by an intelligence report that suggested:

It is clear that, at present, Iran has no power to launch wide offensive operations against Iraq or to defend on a large scale,

When the Iranians launched a counter-offensive and sent planes to bomb Iraq, Saddam immediately came to the conclusion that it was infact the work of Israeli warplanes. In the end the war would last for eight years and cost a million lives.

Saddam’s preoccupation with Israel also reveals his motivation for such assumptions:

Once Iraq walks out victorious [in Iran], there will not be any Israel,

Technically, they are right in all of their attempts to harm Iraq.

Other documents and recordings from the archive reveal the casual way in which the former dictator would order executions, including those of two pilots who failed a bombing mission, and specifically that he ordered the death of Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in order to punish the British government.

Read it at The New York Times

See the full Interactive Archive


Iran faces off with Obama

This week has seen a dramatic deterioration of relations between Iran and the United States…


© Amir Farshad Ebrahimi


Amid claims that two men under order from Tehran plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States; one journalist reporting today from Kabul has reported cross-border fire from Iran into Afghanistan in what is thought to be a dispute over a village in Nimruz province.

Whilst this story is yet to hit major news sources, maybe inferring its relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things, it can only add to what is becoming a widespread desire to isolate Iran.

According to one source, Iranian officials sent a letter to Afghan authorities earlier this week claiming that the village of Badichi is a part of Iranian territory. Local officials have outlined how the village under dispute was in fact wiped out by flash floods in 2005 but has since been rebuilt, attached to Afghanistan. The Deputy Governor of Nimruz, Haji Qaasim Khedri, confirmed that he had received reports that:

as many as seven mortar shells were shot into Nimruz province…from the Iranian side of the border this morning.

Khedri also stated that the Iranian military had made “force deployments along the border line” and that the Afghan border police are prepared to defend the province.

Whilst higher authorities in Kabul are yet to comment, these actions will surely not bode well for the Iranian elite who are already facing intense criticism amid the accusations surrounding the attempted assassination of Saudi Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir on US territory.

The US Justice Department has formally charged two men with “conspiring with Iranian factions to kill the Saudi Ambassador” according to a report for The Telegraph. One of the conspirators, Gholam Shakuri, is noted as “an Iran-based member of the Quds Force,” the elite faction of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps charged with Iranian power projection abroad.

In terms of the Iran-Afghanistan relationship, it has generally been stable since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It is believed that Iran even provided the US with support for the initial invasion, providing them with Special Forces for counterterrorist operations against their long-time enemy, the Taliban. At this time Iran was still engaged in behind-the-scenes talks with the US over a range of issues with a focus on Afghanistan.

Despite some tensions arising between Tehran and Kabul over issues such as oil transfers, as occurred in January of this year; this has owed more to Iranian attitudes towards the presence of ISAF forces in the region as oppose to the Karzai government which it has publicly supported.

Details on both of these incidents remain sketchy; however, both sides have been quick to make broad public statements that could have overarching implications for future relations.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has alleged that the accusations are merely aimed at diverting attention away from the Wall Street protests currently underway in the US. Vice President Joe Biden issued a strong reproach to Iran stating that “nothing has been taken off the table.” Earlier this week, Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman drew attention when outlining his foreign policy, stating:

I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee has officially rebuked the accusations in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon accusing the US of “war-mongering” and re-affirming Iran’s commitment to peace and stability.

Although it seems that the US must have some convincing evidence against the Iranian government given the ferocity of their reaction this week, questions remain. According to the news source Al Arabiya, certain US officials have stated that it is possible the Iranian President and Intelligence Ministry were unaware of the plot.

Similarly though it seems unlikely that Ayatollah Khamenei also would have sanctioned a plot that would create so much of a backlash against the Iranian government. According to the Iran analyst Karim Sadjadpour, Khamenei runs his government much like a CEO, balancing factions with the main aim being regime survival.

According to one analyst, the Quds Force in particular follows an agenda:

parallel to Tehran’s normal diplomatic and economic relations with Kabul.

This highlights the often forgotten fact that the Iranian government is not a monolithic body but one of competing factions, revolving around Ayatollah Khamenei but not necessarily all under his complete control.


Jennifer Lang has an MPhil in International Relations at Cambridge University, and has recently spent time in Israel and the West Bank. She writes on subjects including Afghanistan, Iran and US/EU foreign policy. You can find her on Twitter @Jenn_Lang