Iran arrests eight suspects in terrorist attack on IRGC forces
Iran has detained eight suspects in connection with a recent terrorist attack that killed 27 Iranian security forces in the country’s southeast, a provincial official announced.
The head of the Justice Department of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Ebrahim Hamidi, said that two of the suspects were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday.
He added that one of the suspects arrested is a woman who was the owner of the vehicle used in the terrorist attack on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel, according to Tasnim News Agency.
A bus carrying IRGC personnel was traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, in Sistan-Baluchestan Province on Feb. 13, when it was targeted by a suicide car bomb attack.
Twenty-seven IRGC members were killed and 13 others injured in the attack, claimed by the so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group based in Pakistan.
In a rapid operation on Sunday night, the IRGC forces detected and raided several dwellings in the cities of Saravan and Khash, where a number of elements behind the recent terrorist attack were hiding, and arrested them.
Three terrorists were captured in the operation, while 150 kilograms of explosives as well as 600 kilograms of explosive materials in production, a number of weapons and some ammunition were confiscated.
According to the IRGC, the terrorists arrested in the operation were the same ones who had prepared the explosive-laden vehicle used in the February 13 attack and had provided support for the suicide bomber.
IRGC said on Tuesday the man who carried out the suicide bombing was a Pakistani citizen.
Iran has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for sheltering terrorists connected with attacks in the border area.
IRGC’s Lieutenant Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami said on Friday the country will definitely avenge the recent terrorist attack, but the revenge will not be limited to “a bunch of terrorists,” IRNA reported.
“We cannot disclose the way in which we will respond to the terrorists, but no act will go unanswered,” he said.
“The scale of Iran’s revenge is not limited to clashes with four terrorists. Rather, we will track the terrorists and find whom they are linked to,” the top general said.
“Our responses are strong, and those who receive it will get familiar with them,” General Salami warned.
The top commander also slammed the “hostile” behavior of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which Iran says have masterminded the Zahedan attack, but at the same time noted that such terror attacks are too trivial to undermine Iran’s deterrence power.
“We seek to defeat big powers, and such incidents are too small for us.”
Bastam, Kharghan birthplaces of prominent Iranian mystics
Bastam and Kharghan in the northern Iranian province of Semnan are two famous towns on the rim of the desert where celebrated Iranian mystics are born.
The desert area of Iran combines nature with mysticism, destinationiran.com wrote.
Throughout history, prominent mystics and scholars were born in the desert and arid regions of Iran. Each of the mystics played an important role in disseminating and developing mysticism in Iran and across the world.
In addition, water has always been the main concern of the inhabitants of the desert areas in Iran. In the poems of Ibn Yamin, one comes across verses referring to the years of drought in Shahroud City, Semnan Province. However, the desert has been the source of inspiration for many mystics in the area.
In fact, the people living in a desert base their lives on saving and contentment. Their humble manner and simple lifestyle are also exposed in their culture, history, civilization and literature. We know that art reflects the artist’s society like a mirror, and the mystics of various periods of Iran are no exception.
On the other hand, today, we see people from all over the world looking for the most effective way to engage in cultural dialogue. Cities such as Konya, Ashgabat, Khojand, Samarkand, Bukhara, Bastam and Kharghan are among the cities embracing mystical tourism in the Middle East and Iran.
Obviously, the burial complex of Bayazid Bastami is the focal point of the city and its historic site. This complex consists of:
● Tomb of Bayazid Bastami
● Bayazid Bastami’s Convent
● Bastam Friday Mosque
Also, outside this historical complex, there are some other historic sites:
● Kashaneh Tower of 14th century made of bricks, also known as Ghazaneh. Some believe it used to be a fire temple before Islam while others contend that Ghazan Khan, the Mongol ruler had built it.
● Sang-e Chakhmaq historic mound, which is six kilometers away from this city. It’s a Neolithic site dating back to 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. The site provides the key to understanding the spread of the lifestyle of this period to the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau as well as southern central Asia.
● Bayazid Bastami was born in a Zoroastrian and priest family. This Iranian Sufi was a master/teacher of the knowledge and mysticism of his time in the pre-Islam era.
By studying the history of mysticism, we understand that Bayazid was one of the first writers and poets among the most famous Iranian mystics. In the 12th century, Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (also known as Imam Mohamad Ghazali), the great scholar in the field of Islamic studies, used the works of Bayazid Bastami for writing.
On the other hand, as Bastami was famous for humility and lack of pretense, there are currently no well-documented references to his works.
“Bayazid is indeed one of the greatest Sufis that Islam has ever had over the centuries. His teaching is an immediate expression of inner life. The teachings of Bayazid moved many great scholars with admiration and surprise. However, Bayazid never assumed his duties as a master and cleric, and did not leave any writing behind himself,” according to Henry Corbin, a theologian and professor in Islamic Studies.
The principles of Bayazid’s spiritual process have come to us through narrations and teachings. His immediate disciples, or some of the laymen who visited him, have narrated some traditions from him.
To visit the tomb of Bayazid, you should drive six kilometers north of Shahroud to get to Bastam. The tomb is located in Bastam’s
● Abu al-Hassan Kharghani is a poet and mystic of the 12th century. Among the distinguished disciples of Sheikh Abu al-Hassan Kharghani, we can mention Khwaja Abdullah Ansari. The works of Abu al-Hassan Kharghani had inspired several other writers and scholars, especially those of the mystics who lived centuries after him.
According to some historical sources, Sheikh Abu Sa’id Abu al-Khair, Avicenna and Nasir Khusraw (Iranian poets and thinkers) traveled to Kharghan to visit Abu al-Hassan Kharghani to discuss mysticism with him.
In many books, writers and scholars have admired the spiritual authority of Abu al-Hassan Kharghani. In addition, several writers have mentioned that Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni visited Abu al-Hassan Kharghani seeking his advice and maxim. The tomb of Abu al-Hassan Kharghani is 45km north of Shahroud, Bastam district.
Here is the most famous quotation from him expressing his exalted vision:
“How do you define true humanity?” someone asked the Sheikh.
“It includes three things: The first is
generosity, the second is compassion and the last is self-sufficiency,” replied the Sheikh.
Meanwhile, we can see the highest level of humanity in the words written above the Khanqah of Sheikh:
“Whoever gets in this place, feed him, but never ask his faith. This is because the one, who deserves life bestowed on him by God, deserves food in Abu al-Hassan’s home.”
● Outside Bastam and Kharghan, but close to it, we have another famous Iranian Sufi: Ibn Yamin Faryumadi. The poems of Ibn Yamin is quite renowned for containing maxim, irony, and satire. Ibn Yamin was one of the brightest poets in the ode (Qasida) and Masnavi poetic forms.
During the constant struggles of the Emirs of Khorasan under the Ilkhanid era and the Timur invasion, the collection of Ibn Yamin poems was lost. Therefore, the poet forced to compile his scattered poems into a new collection. The latter is currently available and includes 15,000 verses with different Persian forms of poetry such as ode, Ghazal, Quatrains and Tarkib band.
The style of Ibn Yamin in speech is fluent, coherent and free of adornment and pretense. The complete works of Ibn Yimin Faryumadi follow the Khorasani style of poetry.
The following poem is one of the well-known works of Ibn Yamin Faryumadi that is translated into English regardless of rhythm and rhyme:
The one who doesn’t know and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know,
Will be forever lost in his ignorance.
The one who doesn’t know and knows that doesn’t know,
Will lamely get his mule eventually home.
The one who knows and doesn’t know that he knows,
Wake him up not to sleep forever!
The one who knows and knows that he knows,
His horse of chance will ride forever.
To visit the tomb of Ibn Yamin, you have to travel to Faryumad Village in Meyami County. The village is located 45km on the road from the Meyami to Sabzevar. Faryumad village is dry but beautiful. The tomb of Ibn Yamin is located in the middle of this village.
● Outside Bastam and Kharghan, but at the same province, we have Ala ud-Daula Simnani. He was one of the greatest mystics of Iran. Sheikh Simnani spent 16 years in Sakakieh Khanqah and practiced 140 retreats of 40-days to attain pure Sufism. Furthermore, in another case, he practiced 130 retreats of 40-days to reach a high position in Sufism. Retreat or Chilla is a spiritual practice of penance and solitude of 40 days.
Thus, he completed 270 retreats during his life and tried to reach a high position in Sufism. Today, the tomb of Ala ud-Daula Simnani is in Sufiabad village of Marn district, Semnan Province.
Semnan Province is the cradle of the mystics and great Sufis. In addition to those introduced at this article, other famous mystics like Manuchehri, Sheikh Shahab al-Din, and Sheikh Hassan Juri lived in this area.
After hundreds of years, the Sufis of Bastam and Kharghan and their teachings of the mysticism are prevalent among philosophers throughout the world.
Iran starts naval drills to test sub-launched missiles
Iran on Friday began large-scale naval drills at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which will feature its first submarine cruise missile launches.
More than 100 vessels were taking part in the three-day exercises, codenamed “Velayat 97”, in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean.
“The exercise will cover confronting a range of threats, testing weapons, and evaluating the readiness of equipment and personnel,” Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said in remarks carried by Iranian TV.
“Submarine missile launches will be carried out ... in addition to helicopter and drone launches from the deck of the Sahand destroyer,” Khanzadi said.
The drills are composed of four separate phases, including naval parades, simulation of a real naval war, maritime and land offense to practice recapturing the territories occupied by the enemy, and the display of the navy’s power by launching various types of missiles and torpedoes, he said.
For the first time, the Iranian navy is to fly patrol, reconnaissance and bomber drones during the drill, the commander said, adding that electronic warfare tactics and electronic data transmission from the coast are among other parts of the exercise.
IRNA said Iran would be testing its new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) submarine which is armed with cruise missiles and was launched last week.
Iran launched its domestically made destroyer Sahand in December, which has radar-evading stealth properties.
Iran displayed a new cruise surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,300km (800 miles) earlier this month during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.
Decision time, not extra time, EU Brexit negotiator says
Brexit talks now require a “decision” rather than going into “extra time”, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Friday as the clock runs down on March 29 when Britain is set to leave the block, with or without an exit deal.
“We don’t need extra time, what we need now is a decision and for everyone to take responsibility,” Barnier told Europe 1 radio, AFP reported.
He did not exclude granting Britain more negotiating time – beyond March 29 – for concluding an agreement on the Brexit divorce terms, but said it was now up to “the British to take their responsibilities and assume the consequences of decisions they took democratically,” he said.
The British government said Thursday that ongoing Brexit talks are focusing on securing new guarantees to reassure eurosceptic British lawmakers, rather than on demanding that a divorce deal already concluded with the EU be reopened.
EU leaders insist the withdrawal agreement, which they struck with Britain last year, cannot be reopened to appease British MPs who rejected it in Parliament.
Brussels however appears open to adopting a more ambitious political declaration that would set a roadmap for negotiating close EU-UK trade ties during a transition period after March 29.
Japan’s refiners seek clarity over Iran oil waiver extension
Japanese refiners are seeking clarity on whether there will an extension to the 180-day sanctions waiver from Washington in March, as they hope to continue buying Iranian oil without any disruption, Petroleum Association of Japan’s president, Takashi Tsukioka, said Friday.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Tsukioka said that the Japanese refiners are planning to load Iranian crude by March, as well as considering their options beyond May, S&P Global Platts reported.
In the absence of clarity over the extension of the US sanctions waiver in March, Tsukioka said the refiners’ lifting of Iranian oil would stop in April. “It would be best to have clarity over the sanctions waivers by the end of March,” Tsukioka said.
“If decided in March, we will be able to continue loading [Iranian oil].”
Tsukioka also added that Japanese refiners would continue to buy spot Iranian oil whether or not their term contracts are renewed if the sanctions waiver is granted.
Showa Shell, Fuji Oil and Cosmo Oil were the first Japanese refiners to resume Iranian crude loadings in January – the first in four months – totaling around 4.9 million barrels.
This was followed by JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy resuming loadings in early February.
Idemitsu Kosan has also said it intends to resume its purchases of Iranian crude oil during the current US sanctions waiver.
Hopes for progress in talks
Asked about the outlook of talks with a top US State Department delegation in Tokyo, Tsukioka confirmed the visit as well as expressing his hope for progress toward securing the extension to the Iranian oil sanctions waiver.
“It would be beneficial for Japan to secure the sanctions waiver by all means,” Tsukioka said. “We are hopeful of the government.”
He added that the Japanese oil industry does not have any plans to meet the US State Department delegation during the visit.
Francis Fannon, the assistant secretary at the US State Department’s Bureau for Energy Resources, is on a visit to Japan until February 26, following his visit to South Korea earlier this week.
Oil supply diversification
The State Department has said the assistant secretary’s two-country tour will focus on energy security, regional cooperation on energy as well as highlighting the importance of energy diversification in the Indo-Pacific region.
The visit comes at a time when the East Asian oil consumers are calling for their 180-day sanctions waiver on Iranian oil imports to be extended beyond May.
South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yun Kang-hyeon, Fannon and his counterpart “talked about the Iranian crude issue and South Korea’s efforts toward diversification of sources of crude imports,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said on Thursday.
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Iran welcomes FATF’s extended deadline to fortify anti-money laundering rules
The Central Bank of Iran welcomed a global anti-money laundering body’s decision to extend the deadline for Iran to complete reforms.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said Friday Iran has until June to fix its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing rules or face increased international scrutiny of its banks.
In a Friday statement, the Iranian Central Bank (CBI) praised the steps that have been taken so far by the Iranian legislative bodies in relation with completing the reforms required by FATF, which prompted the global watchdog to extend the deadline for Iran.
Last October, the Paris-based watchdog had already given Iran until February to complete an action plan of reforms that would bring it in line with global norms, or face consequences.
The FATF concluded this week at a meeting that “there are still items not completed” and said in a statement it “expects Iran to proceed swiftly in the reform path”.
“While welcoming the passage [by Iran] of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the FATF expresses its disappointment that the Action Plan remains outstanding and expects Iran to proceed swiftly in the reform path to ensure that it addresses all of the remaining items,” the statement said.
It warned that if Iran fails to enact the remaining legislation based on FATF’s standards by June 2019, the FATF will “require increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran.”
Iran’s Parliament has approved four bills put forward by the government to meet standards set by the FATF but the oversight Guardian Council dismissed one of the bills.
The council said it had found “flaws and ambiguities” in the draft legislation which is purported to fight terror financing, but in fact targets Iran for supporting resistance movements such as Hezbollah.
“Until Iran implements the measures required to address the deficiencies identified with respect to countering terrorism-financing in the Action Plan, the FATF will remain concerned,” the Friday statement said.
If the shortcomings were not remedied by June, currently suspended countermeasures would automatically kick in, said Marshall Billingslea, the US assistant Treasury Secretary for terrorist financing, after chairing the FATF meeting
In the absence of compliance, the FATF called on its members to advise their banks to scrutinize all business with Iran, including obtaining information on reasons for intended transactions, stepping up controls on transactions and identifying patterns of transaction for further scrutiny.
Foreign businesses say compliance and Iran’s removal from the FATF’s blacklist is key for making investments in the country, especially after the United States re-imposed sanctions on Iran. France, Britain and Germany have tied this compliance angle with the use of a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran to avert US sanctions.
Those countries have said they expected Iran would swiftly put into place all elements of its FATF action plan.
Reuters, Press TV and Mehr News Agency contributed to this story.
Hunger worsens in South Sudan despite peace deal
Five months into South Sudan’s fragile peace, 1.5 million people are on the brink of starvation and half the population, more than six million people, are facing extreme hunger, say the United Nations and South Sudan’s government in a report issued Friday.
Without aid more than 7.5 million people will be at risk of extreme hunger, 260,000 of whom could slip into catastrophe, at risk of starvation, by May, a 70 percent increase compared to the same time last year, said the report, AP wrote.
Aid agencies are concerned that months after the end of South Sudan’s five-year civil war, which killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, that populations are still starving.
“There has been no countrywide improvement since last year, this is the start of a concerning trend with the same number of people struggling to access basic food requirements,” Katie Rickard country representative for REACH, a humanitarian research initiative that contributed data for the analysis told The Associated Press.
It’s been two years since South Sudan declared famine in two counties in Unity state, the first formally declared famine anywhere in the world since Somalia’s crisis in 2011. While famine hasn’t returned the numbers are grim. 18 counties are currently classified as being in emergency with 45,000 people in Jonglei, Lakes and Unity states in catastrophe, said the report.
“Without food aid there would be a full blown famine,” said one aid worker with close knowledge of the report who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.
The critical conditions are being attributed to displacement driven by conflict, low crop production, an enduring economic crisis and restricted humanitarian access.
Despite a 2017 decree by President Salva Kiir for unhindered access, aid workers still struggle to reach the most vulnerable people. In January the number of bureaucratic impediments such as delays and blockages at checkpoints almost tripled from 2018, according to the UN. In December supplies were stopped at the border and trucks traveling between Juba and Bentiu were each charged approximately $4,500 to pass through almost 60 checkpoints.
“It is unacceptable that over half of the population faces severe acute food insecurity whilst humanitarian workers continue to be killed and detained,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy director of research. The government should stop this man-made humanitarian crisis, she said.
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