Iran dismisses US claims on space activities, ballistic missiles
Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi rejected as baseless allegations by the US permanent representative to the world body over Iran space activities and ballistic missiles, according to IRNA.
Takht-Ravanchi in letters to the United Nations and the UN Security Council on Friday said Iran has repeatedly maintained that none of its “ballistic missiles are designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
He added that Paragraph 3 of Annex B to Resolution 2231 (which endorses a nuclear deal signed between Iran and major world powers) does not limit, in any way, Iran’s activities regarding the conventional ballistic missiles.
“Consequently, Iran’s related activities are not inconsistent with that paragraph. Rather, they fall outside of the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution and its annexes (S/2015/550),” he added.
The Iranian diplomat also rejected the desperate attempts by the United States for an arbitrary reinterpretation of paragraph 3 of annex B to Resolution 2231, according to Press TV.
“There is no implicit or explicit reference in that paragraph either to the Missile Technology Control Regime itself or to its definitions and, thus, any reference thereto is totally misleading. Moreover, while the Missile Technology Control Regime criteria are not legally binding, even for its 35 members, any attempt to portray them as the universally agreed definition is definitively premature.”
Takht-Ravanchi pointed to Washington’s “unlawful” withdrawal from the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and its subsequent policies and practices in violation of Resolution 2231, and said the US administration’s “call for reimposing the restrictions contained in Security Council Resolution 1929 (2010) – which is a terminated and, in fact, dead resolution – is ironic.”
“In fact, when the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, chooses to defy the Council’s resolutions repeatedly without consequence, it seriously undermines the fundamental credibility of the Council,” Takht-Ravanchi said.
He warned that the continuation of such US policies and practices would further erode the Security Council’s credibility, which already faces a severe trust and confidence deficit due to such irresponsible policies of that country.
US Ambassador Kelly Craft earlier alleged at a UN Security Council meeting that Iranian missiles were behind a recent attack on Saudi oil installations; an accusation categorically refuted by Tehran.
New CBI sanctions show US empty hands: Governor
Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati dismissed the latest sanctions against the CBI by the United States as evidence of Washington’s inability to impose further pressure on Iran.
“The US administration’s imposition of sanctions on the CBI again shows how empty their hands are in finding leverage against Iran,” Hemmati stated in remarks released on Friday night, as quoted by Tasnim News Agency.
“If such measures were effective in pushing the cruel demands of that administration, the economic situation in the country (Iran) would be very different from the current one,” he said.
“The repeated failures of the US administration over the past year and a half show that these sanctions have become more futile than ever,” the CBI chief said, adding that the Iranian economy has proved resilient to such restrictions.
The US Department of Treasury announced in a press release on Friday that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had taken action against the CBI, the National Development Fund of Iran (NDFI) and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co. under its counterterrorism authority.
Addressing reporters at the White House on the same day, US President Donald Trump said the new sanctions represent the “highest sanctions ever imposed on a foreign country.”
Iran routs Australia for third Asian volleyball title
Iran outclassed Australia in straight sets to claim the title at the 2019 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship in Tehran, Iran – a third title after lifting 2011 and 2013 trophies.
In a repeat of a first-round group-stage match, where Australia posted a shock 3-1 victory, Igor Kolaković’s men rose up to the occasion this time around to make a quick work of the Aussies (25-14, 25-17, 25-21) at Tehran’s Azadi Indoor Hall.
Having finished second in Pool A behind Australia, Iran overcame China and India in the second round to book a place in the quarterfinals.
Iran then overcame Chinese Taipei before a straight-set semifinal victory over South Korea.
The 20th edition of the Asian championship took place in the Iranian capital from September 13-21.
Protests in Egypt call for Sisi ouster
Anti-government protests broke out in Egypt Friday, urging President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to step down.
The former army general has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands. Sisi came to power in a military coup that deposed the then elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 amid protests against Morsi’s one-year-rule.
In the capital, Cairo, dozens of protesters gathered Friday night near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, AP reported.
Demonstrators chanted slogans echoing the uprisings that briefly defied dictatorships across the region in 2011.
The protesters were responding to a call by Muhammad Ali, a self-exiled businessman who claimed corruption by the military and government.
In viral social media videos posted over the past weeks, Ali alleged his contracting business had witnessed the largescale misuse of public funds in the building of luxurious hotels, presidential palaces and a tomb for Sisi’s mother, who died in 2014.
The remarks came as the government’s economic reforms and austerity measures have squeezed Egypt’s lower- and middle-classes badly.
In a speech on Tuesday, Sisi angrily dismissed the allegations as “sheer lies.” He portrayed Ali’s videos as an attempt to weaken Egypt and undermine the public’s trust in the military.
He said he would continue building new presidential residences for the good of Egypt. “I am building a new country,” he said.
The president also warned Egyptians against protesting or repeating the 2011 uprising.
On Friday, security forces speedily dispersed the protests, which came directly after a soccer game between al-Ahly, Egypt’s biggest team, and its archrival Zamalek.
No casualties reported
The willingness of the protesters to defy police and laws that all but ban public protests suggests Friday could be a turning point, however small.
“This is a very important development because this was the first such protest against the rule of Sisi,” said political scientist Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed of Cairo University. “The small demonstrations demolished the wall of fear installed by Sisi and that could lead to more protests in the future.”
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said security forces reportedly rounded up at least four dozen people in Cairo and elsewhere in the country.
There were also small protests in other cities including the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged Egyptian authorities to protect the right to peaceful protest.
“President Sisi security agencies have time and again used brutal force to crush peaceful protests,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. “The authorities should recognize that the world is watching and take all necessary steps to avoid a repetition of past atrocities.”
Egyptian authorities did not immediately comment. Sisi was in New York Saturday to attend the UN summit meetings.
Yemen’s Houthis announce plan to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia
Yemen’s Houthi fighters unexpectedly announced late Friday that they planned to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative to end their country’s devastating conflict, almost five years after they took control of the capital Sana’a.
The announcement came after a wave of drone strikes last weekend on Saudi oil installations knocked out half of the kingdom’s production and sent shock waves through energy markets, AFP reported.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Riyadh’s ally Washington has condemned them as an “act of war”, placing the blame on Tehran and announcing new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran has denied any involvement and warned that any act of aggression will be met with crushing response.
Mehdi al-Mashat, the head of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, announced in a speech marking the 2014 uprising “the halt of all attacks against the territory of Saudi Arabia.”
He added that he hoped “the gesture would be answered by a stronger gesture” from the Saudis, according to the Al-Masirah television channel.
“Pursuing war is not in anyone’s interest.”
Yemen’s conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people – most of them civilians – and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
‘Blood of Yemenis’
Mashat said the Houthis’ peace initiative was aimed at “bringing about peace through serious negotiations to achieve a comprehensive national reconciliation which does not exclude anyone.”
A major goal was to “preserve the blood of Yemenis and achieve a general amnesty,” he added.
The plan calls for Houthis to “stop all attacks on Saudi territory by drones, ballistic missiles and other means,” he said.
He also called for the reopening of Sana’a International Airport and open access to Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid.
The announcement was a sharp reversal from previous statements from the Houthis, who early on Friday had accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of endangering the fragile truce around Hodeida with strikes on four targets north of the port.
The Houthis have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition that launched an air campaign in 2015 to support the country’s former government.
The Houthis have repeatedly targeted key Saudi infrastructure in recent months in cross-border attacks in retaliation for the coalition’s air raids.
The September 14 aerial attacks sparked fires at two Aramco oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, knocking out six percent of global supplies.
It is the third attack in five months on the oil giant’s infrastructure, after the Houthis also claimed strikes in May and August.
Saudi Arabia has so far not directly accused any party of carrying out the attacks, but said authorities have launched an investigation to determine the culprits.
Tehran has denied responsibility for the attacks against the heart of Saudi’s all-important oil industry, raising the specter of “all-out war” in the event of retaliatory measures by Washington or Riyadh.
Iran issues warning as US set to send more troops to Saudi Arabia
Trump says not seeking war with Iran
Zarif: New US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine
Any strike on Iran will result in “an all-out war” and that any country that does so will become the “main battlefield”, Iranian officials warned Saturday after the United States ordered reinforcements to the Persian Gulf following attacks on Saudi oil installations.
Tensions escalated between Iran and the United States after last weekend’s attacks on Saudi energy giant Aramco’s Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oilfield halved the kingdom’s oil output.
Washington approved the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia at “the kingdom’s request,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, noting the forces would be “defensive in nature” and focused on air and missile defense.
But the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Commander Major General Hossein Salami said Iran was “ready for any type of scenario”.
“Whoever wants their land to become the main battlefield, go ahead,” he told a news conference in Tehran.
“We will never allow any war to encroach upon Iran’s territory.”
He added, “If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them.”
“We hope that they don’t make a strategic mistake,” he said, listing past US military “adventures” against Iran.
Salami added that Iran does not want to start a conflict, but appeared to warn the US and Saudi Arabia that Iran is prepared.
“We won’t stop until the destruction of any aggressor. And we will not leave any secure spot. Do not miscalculate and do not make a mistake.
“Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited… We will pursue any aggressor.”
Salami was speaking at Tehran’s Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Museum during the unveiling of an exhibition of US and other drones captured in Iran’s territory.
It featured a badly damaged drone with US military markings said to be an RQ-4 Global Hawk that Iran downed in June, as well as an RQ-170 Sentinel captured in 2011 and still intact.
The IRGC also displayed the domestically manufactured Khordad 3 air defense battery that was used to shoot down the Global Hawk.
“What are your drones doing in our airspace? We will shoot them down, shoot anything that encroaches on our airspace,” said Salami, noting Iran had defeated “America’s technological dominance” in air defense and drone manufacture.
“Sometimes they talk of military options,” Salami said, apparently referring to the Americans.
Yet he warned that “a limited aggression will not remain limited” as Iran was determined to respond and would “not rest until the aggressor’s collapse.”
His remarks came only days after strikes on Saudi oil facilities claimed by Yemen’s Houthis, but the US says it has concluded the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and amounted to “an act of war”.
Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in an almost five-year war across its southern border in Yemen, has said Iran “unquestionably sponsored” the attacks.
The kingdom says the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian-made, but it stopped short of directly blaming its regional rival.
Iran has denied involvement in the Sept. 14 attack. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in New York for the UN meetings, has warned that any retaliatory strike on Iran by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war.”
Zarif said in a tweet that Saudi Arabia does not believe its own allegations that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil sites.
“It is clear that even the Saudis themselves don’t believe the fiction of Iranian involvement,” Zarif said, pointing to what he described as a Saudi retaliatory attack on Houthi forces in southwestern Yemen.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah warned Saudi Arabia on Friday against betting on a war against Iran because it would destroy the kingdom and said Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates should halt the conflict in Yemen to protect themselves.
“Don’t bet on a war against Iran because they will destroy you,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Noting that the attack had initially halved Saudi oil output, he added, “Your house is made of glass and your economy is made of glass. Like the glass cities in the UAE.”
US ups sanctions
US President Donald Trump signaled on Friday that he was not inclined to authorize an immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attacks on the Saudi oil industry, saying he believes showing restraint “shows far more strength” and he wants to avoid an all-out war.
Trump said separately Friday that America “just sanctioned” the Central Bank of Iran.
He called the measures the toughest America has ever imposed on another country.
“These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”
“The easiest thing I could do (is) knock out 15 different major things in Iran,” Trump said.
“I could do it right here in front of you. And that would be it. And then you would have a nice, big story to report,” he said.
“Much easier to do it the other way. It’s much easier.”
Washington has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran since unilaterally pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.
It already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, but the US Treasury said Friday’s designation was over the regulator’s work in funding “terrorism.”
The US Treasury Department said the Central Bank of Iran had provided “billions of dollars” to two groups blacklisted by the United States.
The United States also imposed sanctions on the National Development Fund of Iran, the country’s sovereign wealth fund and Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s Defense Ministry.
Zarif said the new sanctions meant the United States was “trying to block the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine.”
“This is dangerous and unacceptable.”
It showed the US was in “despair” and that “the maximum pressure policy has reached its end,” he said from New York.
“This is a sign of US desperation ... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Zarif said.
Zarif said he would on Wednesday meet foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia as well as the United States.
“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) ... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.
AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.