Ayatollah Khamenei: Enemies have failed to sow discord between Iran, Iraq
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said enemies have been struggling to drive a wedge between the Iranian and Iraqi nations but have failed as the two neighbors are bound together by commonalities, particularly faith.
“Enemies have been making considerable efforts to sow discord between the two nations but, thank God, they have failed and will fail hereafter, too, because the main factors binding the Iranian and Iraqi nations are their faith in God and love for the Household of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and [his grandson and the third Shia Imam] Imam Hussein (PBUH),” the Leader said.
Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with a number of Iraqi moukeb (roadside food stand) holders serving pilgrims of Imam Hussein (PBUH) who head to the holy Iraqi city of Karbala from across the world each year to commemorate Arba’een, which marks 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), according to Press TV.
The Leader thanked the Iraqi nation for hosting and warmly receiving the pilgrims and the Iraqi government and officials for ensuring security during the mourning rituals.
Ayatollah Khamenei described the Arba’een march as an unprecedented event of global significance, which could lay the groundwork for the establishment of a modern Islamic civilization.
The Leader said the Arba’een march is the manifestation of Ashura about 1,400 years after Imam Hussein (PBUH) was martyred.
Pointing to Islamic awakening among Muslim nations, Ayatollah Khamenei commended the Iraqi nation as a great, dignified and civilized nation with a strong willpower.
“Iraqi youths showed their power … and managed to foil a big plot of Daesh and other Takfiri [terrorists] and to defend the nation and their country in the face of a global plot to stoke civil war [in the Arab country],” said the Leader.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Leader said that 40 years of plots, threats and sanctions by the US, its stooges and mercenaries against the Iranian nation have failed.
Minister: Iran will not stop efforts to sell oil
Domestic Economy Desk
Although Iran cannot currently sell its oil with convenience, it will not stop efforts to this end, said the country’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting in the Iranian capital on Wednesday, he said oil is a public good which is needed by the humanity, Shana reported.
The minister stressed that oil is required to be allowed to flow freely in markets.
Commenting on US efforts to replace Iran’s oil by Saudi that of Arabia, he said Washington has, since a long time, been seeking to do this, and use its shale oil.
Probably, this is among the reasons why the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, he noted.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran in two phases.
Shifting to the participation of Russian and Chinese companies in the implementation of Iranian oil industry projects, Zanganeh said Russians have, so far, put in a better performance compared to Chinese firms that up to now, have failed to be very active.
Gas extraction increase
Turning to the increasing trend witnessed in Iran’s gas extraction from the South Pars Gas Field, which it jointly shares with Qatar, he stressed that, “Since a few while ago, Iran’s production from the field has been increasing. The growth in the production has been in such a way that since March 2018, our extraction from the field has been constantly rising.”
“Efforts are underway so that Iran’s daily gas extraction from the field would surpass 750 million cubic meters by March 2020.”
On Monday, Zanganeh said gas production from the South Pars Gas Field is nearing record levels so that Iran can for the first time take the lead in daily production from the field.
He added Iran’s daily output from the world’s largest gas field would reach 790 million cubic meters per day in the near future, outperforming Qatar which currently extracts around 620 million cubic meters a day from the field.
Turning to Saturday’s attacks on Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia, the Iranian minister assured that this is a short-term issue which would have short-term consequences that will impact everyone.
Zanganeh stressed, “Oil is not a weapon and should not be used as one. They are concerned about oil supply security, an issue which has always been raised by Iran. What we say is that to ensure oil supply security and to safeguard interests of consumers and producers, oil should not be used as a weapon.”
Rouhani: US, Saudi responsible for conflict in region
Iran warns of crushing response to any aggression
Japan: Houthis not Iran carried out Saudi attacks
France: No proof for Iran involvement
President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday Iran did not want conflict in the region while Defense Minister Amir Hatami said Tehran had no involvement in the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil installations.
Rouhani said the United States and a Saudi-led military coalition started the war on Yemen.
“We don’t want conflict in the region... Who started the conflict? Not the Yemenis. It was Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, America, certain European countries and the Zionist regime (Israel) which started the war in this region,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani said Yemen’s Houthis attacked Saudi oil facilities at the weekend as a “warning”, after attacks on hospitals, schools and markets in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.
“Learn lessons from this warning and consider that there could be a war in the region,” he said, in a likely address to the rulers of Saudi Arabia which has spent billions of dollars on US weapons.
Rejecting comments about Iran’s role in the operation, Hatami said the issue is very clear: There has been a conflict between two countries (Yemen and Saudi Arabia).
“If a threat is posed to Iran, there will be the same decisiveness with which we responded to the American drone’s minimal incursion [into Iranian skies],” he said, referring to the shooting down of a US spy drone that had intruded into Iranian airspace on June 20.
Saudi Arabia said it would show evidence linking Tehran to the unprecedented attack on its oil industry that Washington claims originated from Iran.
Yemen’s Houthi group has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 14 attacks on oil plants, including the world’s biggest crude processing facility that initially knocked out half of Saudi production.
The Houthis said they used drones to assault state oil company Aramco’s sites.
Energy specialists S&P Platt said around three million barrels per day of Saudi crude would remain offline for at least a month.
Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in an almost five-year war in Yemen, has said the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian-made.
Tehran has repeatedly denied accusations from Washington and Riyadh that it arms the Houthis.
A US official said the strikes originated in southwestern Iran. Three officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to discuss possible retaliation.
US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Pompeo will “discuss our response.”
“As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody but the United States is prepared,” Pence said in a speech in Washington.
“We’re locked and loaded and we’re ready to defend our interests and allies in the region, make no mistake about it,” he said, echoing President Donald Trump’s words on Sunday.
But Trump said on Monday he had not made commitments to protect the Saudis.
“No, I haven’t promised Saudis that. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out,” he said. “That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us. But we would certainly help them.”
Saudi Arabia, which has bought huge quantities of US weaponry, is considered a strategic ally in the region, second to Israel, another bitter foe of Iran.
Trump’s administration is considering responses to the latest attack including a cyberattack or a physical strike on Iranian oil infrastructure or the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US officials.
Republican Lindsey Graham – a vital Trump ally in Congress – struck a belligerent tone Tuesday, charging that “such a sophisticated attack could not have occurred without Iran’s blessing and direct involvement.”
But Iran on Wednesday threatened a crushing response to any military strike.
In a letter sent on Monday to the United States via the Swiss Embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, Tehran said it “denies and condemns claims” by US officials that “Tehran was behind the attacks.”
“It was also emphasized in the letter that in case of any aggression against Iran, that action will face an immediate response from Iran and the response won’t be limited to the source of the threat,” Iran said in the note.
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Germany extends arms export moratorium for Saudi Arabia
Germany decided to extend an embargo on exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia by another six months, a spokesman for the German government said on Wednesday.
“Until March 31, 2020 no applications (for arms exports) to Saudi Arabia will be approved,” the spokesman said, Reuters reported.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday suggested she wanted to stick to the moratorium which was put in place after the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Berlin had tied its position to the development of the war in Yemen.
Germany’s stance was “determined by the Yemen conflict” and a diplomatic resolution to hostilities there is urgently needed, Merkel said on Tuesday.
A coalition treaty between Merkel’s conservatives and Germany’s Social Democrats rules out arms exports to countries which are parties to the war.
In March, the German government came under fire for approving arms deals worth almost €400 million ($441 million) to Saudi Arabia and its allies involved in the Yemen war despite the ban.
The ban was implemented following the murder of Khashoggi and applies to all countries involved in the Yemen war.
The move has faced criticism from German arms manufacturers and some EU neighbors, namely France and the UK who argue that the freeze on exports undermines common defense projects.
The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a brutal war on Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country’s Riyadh-allied former state and crush the Houthis – objectives that have failed to materialize due to Yemenis’ stiff resistance.
According to a data unveiled in June by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), almost 100,000 people have been killed since 2015.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.
EU MPs to vote for Brexit delay upon UK request
European Parliament lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of another Brexit delay in case Britain requests one and certain conditions are met. The motion came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the EU chamber that a no-deal scenario remains “very real.”
After a three-hour debate, European lawmakers adopted a non-binding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline. Lawmakers voted 544-126 with 38 abstentions in Strasbourg, AP reported.
Despite claims from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK will leave on the scheduled October 31 deadline with or without a withdrawal agreement, EU leaders are expected to discuss the possibility of another postponement at a two-day summit in Brussels next month, if no progress toward a deal is made by then.
Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc has already been delayed twice.
EU lawmakers put conditions in the resolution though, saying they would only support an extension if it was justified by a specific purpose such as “avoiding a no-deal departure, holding general elections or a referendum, revoking Article 50 (the procedure that triggered the Brexit process), or approving the (current) withdrawal agreement.”
Speaking at the parliament before the vote, Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, said a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the UK, but it will never be ours.”
The main sticking point over a Brexit deal is the Irish border backstop, which would require Britain to respect EU trade and customs rules in order to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland until a better solution is found.
In their resolution, EU lawmakers also pledged to reject any deal without a backstop and insisted Britain will be “solely responsible for a no-deal departure.” The European Parliament must endorse any Brexit deal for it to be implemented.
“I have no sentimental attachment to the backstop,” Juncker said, adding, however, that he remains committed to the purpose it serves, which is to prevent border structures that could be detrimental to peace in Northern Ireland.
“That is why I called on the British prime minister to come forward with concrete proposals, operational and in writing on all alternatives that would allow us to reach these objectives,” Juncker said.
EU leaders have made clear that any amendment to the current proposed divorce deal should preserve the bloc’s single market and uphold the Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Despite his declaration that Britain will leave on October 31 “do or die,” Johnson insists he can strike a revised divorce deal with the bloc in time for an orderly departure. European leaders are skeptical of that declaration.
“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker said. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”
The Brexit agreement made with the EU by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament, prompting May to resign and the fiercely pro-Brexit Johnson to come to power in July.
Again warning against the harmful consequences of a no-deal Brexit, EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said during the debate he wants to keep working “night and day” in order to find a satisfying deal for both parties and urged Johnson and his team to make concrete proposals.
Spelling out the need for the backstop, Barnier said if Britain leaves without any agreement at all, several major problems will still have to be resolved, including the future of citizens hit by Brexit, peace in Northern Ireland and the protection of the EU’s single market and the Irish economy.
In London, the British government was back at the country’s Supreme Court, arguing that Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the country is set to leave the European Union was neither improper nor illegal.
The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the scheduled Brexit date for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ legitimate scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also say Johnson misled Queen Elizabeth II, whose approval was needed for the shutdown.