How Iran captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and sentenced them to death.

DUBAI, July 22 (Reuters) – Iran has captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported on Monday.
State television quoted the Intelligence Ministry as saying it had broken up a CIA spying ring and captured 17 suspects. A ministry official said some of those arrested had been sentenced to death, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

 

The announcement comes after three months of spiraling confrontation with the West that began when new tighter U.S. sanctions took effect at the start of May. Last week Iran captured a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz after Britain’s Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in July 4.

 

“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” said a ministry statement read on state television.

It was not immediately clear if the arrests were linked to the case in which Iran said in June it had exposed a large cyber espionage network it alleged was run by the CIA, and that several U.S. spies had been arrested in different countries as a result of this action.

 

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The latest sanctions close the door for negotiations forever.—Ali Khamenei.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, is so inconsequential that the Trump administration didn’t even bother to impose sanctions on him. The United States has now levied them on supreme leader Ali Khamenei and eight military commanders, and is preparing similar measures against Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. It had already sanctioned Qasem Sulaimani, commander of the Quds Force, and designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.

In the virulently anti-American politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, being targeted in this way by what they often call the ‘Great Satan’ is something of a badge of honour — one that has been denied to the Iranian president, who is regarded with open contempt by his hardline opponents and by his boss. In a certain light, then, Rouhani’s latest description of the White House as “mentally retarded” might be read as a petulant complaint that his name wasn’t on President Trump’s hit-list.

 
The sanctions on Khamenei may not have a great deal of impact on the ayatollah himself — he doesn’t travel beyond Iran’s borders, nor does he have any known holdings abroad. (Zarif, on the other hand, will miss his access to the salons and think tanks of New York.) It is hard to know which portions of Khamenei’s multibillion-dollar business empire might be affected, but an enterprise built by seizing the property and businesses of his subjects can, presumably, be rebuilt by seizing some more.
Whatever the efficacy of the new measures, however, they are hardly a sign of madness. On the contrary, they are a sane alternative to what President Donald Trump briefly contemplated last week: A military response to Iran’s many provocations.
The regime in Tehran has said the latest sanctions close the door for negotiations forever. This is plainly disingenuous. Khamenei had already slammed that door in the face of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made a good-faith effort to mediate talks between the United States and Iran, only to be humiliated by the supreme leader. Tehran has also ignored offers of mediation from some Gulf countries like Oman, and has dismissed out of hand statements from Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States was open to negotiations, without preconditions.
And there were plenty of other signs that the Iranians had no intention of negotiating — the attacks on neutral shipping, on Saudi oil installations, on an American drone.
There is no such thing as forever in geopolitics. Khamenei, it would appear, is inclined to wait until after the 2020 US presidential election before reconsidering his intransigence about negotiations. He is hoping that Trump will lose the election, and that the next US president will be more favourably inclined toward the Islamic Republic. In the meantime, Iran will build up some leverage — enhancing its uranium stockpile and threatening the stability of the Middle East and safety of crucial shipping lanes.
But Trump, too, might profitably run down the clock on the current government in Tehran. There, the next presidential election is only due in 2021: Rouhani cannot run again, and it is all but certain that he will be replaced by one of the regime’s hardliners. Zarif, who is in bad odour with the same group, will be out, too — so the sanctions on him will be moot. The unelected Khamenei will remain.

 

 

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Rather than embark now on a lengthy process of negotiations, the White House might think it better to give the sanctions two more years to weaken Tehran’s position. If the Islamic Republic keeps enriching uranium and attacking shipping lanes in the meantime it will antagonise the international community, prompting more countries — and especially the Europeans — to support the US position.
And when the negotiations do eventually begin, the sanctions on Khamenei could be one more piece of leverage for the American side, their removal one more small incentive to dangle before Iran’s supreme leader.

 

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How President Donald Trump slapped new unilateral sanctions on Iran, targeting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight Iranian commanders.

The United States has asked the UN Security Council to update its sanctions blacklist on Iran after complaining of lapses in enforcing travel bans and asset freezes, according to a letter seen by AFP on Wednesday.

The push for tougher enforcement of UN sanctions came amid soaring tensions between the United States and Iran following Washington’s decision to impose new sanctions on Tehran and recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

The UN blacklist contains the names of 23 individuals and 61 entities linked to Iran’s nuclear activities, including the commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Qods force, Major General Qasem Soleimani.

All 81 people and entities are subject to a global travel ban and asset freeze to be enforced by all UN member-states.

 

In a letter sent to the council, the United States complained that the list had not been updated in over nine years to include aliases and other information to all UN member-states.

“Full implementation of these asset freeze and travel ban measures requires continuing attention to the details of the designation list,” wrote acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen in the letter sent Monday.

The letter cited an aviation services company known as Pars Aviation which the US said had changed names to Pouya Air and a banned company, Oriental Oil Kish, which the US said was operating or had ties to two trading companies in another country.

 

The United States raised Soleimani’s continued travel including to Iraq and Lebanon and offered to present “a fulsome list” of the commander’s visits abroad, in violation of the travel ban.

The United States did not, however, indicate that it would request that new names of individuals or companies be added to the sanctions blacklist.

On Monday, President Donald Trump slapped new unilateral sanctions on Iran, targeting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight Iranian commanders. The US said it would also slap sanctions Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Since the Iran nuclear deal was endorsed by the Security Council in 2015, 37 individuals and entities have been removed from the UN blacklist.

 

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“We will revitalise ourselves with the blood of the martyrs. It is this blood that has watered the great fruitful tree of the Islamic revolution,”—Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian authorities called for “resistance” against archfoe the United States on Thursday as large crowds mourned soldiers who died in the war with Iraq more than three decades ago.

Iran regularly organises funerals for soldiers killed in the 1980-1988 war whose remains are either returned by its neighbour or found in former combat areas, which were mainly in Iran.

Mourners gathered in front of Tehran University around marquees erected on Enghelab (Revolution) Street to shelter the coffins of nearly 150 “loyal companions” under a scorching sun, according to AFP journalists.

 

Iranian media reported that the dead included two “volunteers” who went to fight in Syria where Iran provides military support to President Bashar al-Assad.

Of the 148 soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war, only 35 have been identified, the reports said.

 

Portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were seen among the crowd along with white, red and pink gladiolas.

“It is our duty to listen to these messages of greatness, perseverance and resistance that awaken in us the sense of responsibility,” the head of the country’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, told the crowd, referring to the “testaments” of soldiers before going into battle.

“We will revitalise ourselves with the blood of the martyrs. It is this blood that has watered the great fruitful tree of the Islamic revolution,” he added.

Raisi struck a defiant tone as he spoke of recent tensions between Iran and the United States.

Washington has ratcheted up crippling economic sanctions on Tehran after the Islamic republic’s forces shot down an unmanned US drone, following a series of attacks on tankers that the United States blamed on Iran.

“The blessed hand that attacked the American drone confirmed that to resist the enemy, the Islamic republic has no hesitation,” he said.

“The Islamic republic recognises America as the main enemy before the Zionist regime (Israel) and, with all its might, is capable of leading them to repentance,” Raisi said before the funeral procession began.

 

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US senate to block military action against Iran without congressional approval.

The Senate will vote Friday on a measure to block President Trump from taking military action against Iran without congressional approval.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that leadership had hashed out a deal to vote on the proposal from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and that they would hold the vote open to give 2020 candidates the chance to return from Miami.

“We intend to stay in session this week to finish the NDAA bill and allow for a vote in relation to the Udall amendment. Senators should plan to vote on Friday on the Udall amendment,” McConnell said from the Senate floor, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act.

He added that “here’s the good news, the vote will start first thing in the morning and be held open into the afternoon to accommodate as many senators as possible.”

The amendment from Kaine and Udall would prevent Trump from using funding to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. Supporters of the amendment argue Trump could still use action without approval if American troops are attacked.

 

The amendment is unlikely to garner the 60 votes necessary to be added to the NDAA. Even if every Democrat supports the measure, they would still need to win over 13 Republicans.

The decision to delay the vote on the Iran amendment comes roughly a day after Republicans, including McConnell, dismissed the call from Democrats to delay the Iran vote until after the Democratic debates, which are taking place on Wednesday and Thursday night.

“I was incredulous to hear the Democratic leader call yesterday to postpone moving forward with the NDAA. Apparently some of our Democratic friends need to go hit the presidential campaign trail. They can’t be here because they have to go campaign,” McConnell said.

In a procedural twist, senators are going to pass the mammoth defense bill on Thursday. If the Kaine-Udall proposal gets enough support it will be added to the defense bill retroactively.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) touted the agreement, saying a vote on the Kaine-Udall proposal was “fair and only right.”

“Many Americans feel that the constitutional right of Congress to examine foreign conflict and potential war be upheld,” he added.

The fight over the Iran amendment had threatened to derail the NDAA, with Democrats threatening to block the defense bill unless they got a vote.

 

Democrats debated their strategy for more than an hour during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is co-sponsoring the Iran amendment, said there was a “strong belief” among several members of the caucus that the NDAA is the right vehicle for holding the line about demanding a vote on Iran.

“There’s a lot of strong belief that we need to take a vote on war in Iran,” Murphy said after the lunch. “There’s there’s a lot of sentiment that this is the moment to take a stand.”

Republicans believe they have the votes to defeat the Iran amendment, if it comes up for a vote.

McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference that he hoped the amendment would be defeated, but acknowledged the margin could be close.
“My hope is that it will be defeated. We’ll find out by how much of a margin, but we – we hope to defeat it. It’s simply not required under this set of circumstances,” McConnell said.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, told reporters that “a few” Republicans would probably defect and support the Iran amendment.

“I think most of our conference is in a different place and doesn’t want to in an unprecedented way put constraints on the president’s ability to defend the country,” Thune said.

 

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What a good decision from Mr. Trump.

US has announced the strike against Iran over the downing of its drone but Donald Trump announced the ‘call off’ on Thursday abruptly. The US officials said that the drone was hit in the international waters while Iran said that the drone entered its territory.

The New York Times released the news of retaliation by the United States against Iran. Iran shot down a drone, RQ-4 Global Hawk Surveillance drone, of the United States with the help of a surface-to-air missile. The military and diplomatic officials were sure about the strike conducted by the United States on Iranian missile sites till Thursday evening.

Trump changed his mind abruptly on Thursday evening and called off the attack on Iranian military assets. The experts said, “Some unforeseen logistic hurdles might force Trump to take this decision abruptly”. Trump said in several tweets that US was going to retaliate against Iran on three locations and then he changed his mind when a general told him that the strikes would kill at least 150 people.

Trump said, “The strikes, which we planned, are not proportionate with the downing of an unarmed drone”. He added, “We are not an any sort of hurry and the sanctions against Iran are biting”. It would have been his third strike in the Middle East region. Trump ordered two strikes in 2017 and 2018 respectively in Syria. He also authorized a Navy raid in Yemen which killed one commando.

Trump also said that Iran had made a huge mistake in the form of shot down of a US drone which Iran claimed was in its airspace. He added, “The strike was not ordered by the top leadership of Iran and we are sure about it. It was ordered by someone very stupid and loose”. Iran said that the parts of drone were collected from its own territory while US denied the Iranian claim by saying that the drone was in the international airspace.

 

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Trump Calls off the retaliation strike against Iran

Commander Warns US of Iran’s Powerful Response to Designation of IRGC as Terrorist Organization

TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Force Brigadier General Kioumars Heidari condemned the US decision to designate the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, warning that implementation of the decision would be reciprocated by Iran powerfully.

“The Iranian Army’s Ground Force cooperates hand in hand with IRGC,” General Heidari said on Friday.

He reiterated that the enemy’s decision to designate IRGC a terrorist group was madness and Americans should know that their move is a self-destruction act since they have put the security of their own forces, in particular the US Central Command (CENTCOM), at risk across the world.

The United States on Monday designated the IRGC as a “foreign terrorist organization”, marking the first time Washington has formally labelled another country’s military a “terrorist group”.

Responding to Washington’s move, Iran immediately declared the US as “state sponsor of terrorism” and American forces in the region “terrorist groups”.

 

Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), in a statement issued on Monday evening declared the United States a “terrorist government”, and blacklisted the “CENTCOM and all its affiliates a terrorist group”.

The SNSC – that is headed by President Hassan Rouhani – condemned Washington’s move, calling it “an illegal and dangerous action” that poses a “major threat to regional and international peace and security and grossly violates the rules of international law”.

The statement further condemned the US decision as “unlawful and unreasonable action” prompted by the Islamic Republic’s regional influence and success in fighting against terrorists, and blamed CENTCOM for harming Iran’s national security as well as ruining the lives of “innocent Iranian and non-Iranian individuals” to promote the US “aggressive policies” in West Asia (the Middle-East).

“The Islamic Republic of Iran regards this baseless move as a major threat to regional and international peace and security and a blatant violation of the compelling rules of international law and the United Nations Charter,” Iran’s top security body reiterated.

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had asked Iranian President Rouhani to designate the CENTCOM as a terrorist organization.

Due to the “clear support” US forces in Western Asia lend to terrorist groups, and their own “involvement in terrorist activities”, the US military in the region should be put on a list of terrorist groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Zarif said in a letter to Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

Also in a tweet on Monday, the Iranian top diplomat slammed the decision by the US administration on labeling the IRGC a “foreign terrorist organization”, seeing Trump’s close ties with Netanyahu as a main contributor to the gravely wrong move made by the US president ahead of the Tuesday election in Israel.

“A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous US misadventure in the region,” Zarif wrote on Twitter on Monday, referring to the IRGC designation as yet another move by the US president in aid of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Trump’s recent decision to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Height.

The US’ Golan Heights decision, which is in obvious contravention of international law, has been met with condemnation by the international community, with the UN and even Washington’s Persian Gulf and European allies blasting the move.

Netanyahu welcomed the US decision to label Iran’s IRGC a “terrorist organization”, rushing to thank his “dear friend” Trump for answering “another important request that serves the interests of our country and the region”.

“We will continue to act together in any way against the Iranian regime that threatens the state of Israel, the United States and the peace of the world,” the Israeli PM wrote on Twitter.

With Israel’s election to take place on Tuesday, the Israeli primer is likely grateful for the latest public show of Trump support for his government. The right-wing Likud party, led by Netanyahu, and Blue and White political alliance, led by former Israeli Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz, who threatens to end Netanyahu’s decade-long tenure, are considered the main rivals in the polls to elect members of Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

 

The Israeli regime’s traditionally close relationship with the US has grown stronger under Trump. Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli “capital” in December 2017 and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city in May 2018, sparking global condemnations.

Responding to the US hostility towards the IRGC, General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces declared in a statement on Tuesday that the forces under its command would fight against the US Central Command known as CENTCOM “terrorist group”.

“The US administration’s move to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group is actually a desperate attempt and retaliation to cap the US failures in the region and of course, it lacks operational value and validity and is practically doomed to failure,” the statement said.

The statement referred to the SNSC’s reaction to Washington’s decision and designation of the CENTCOM as a terrorist group, and said the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces would consider the US Army forces under the CENTCOM command as terrorists and “will not spare any efforts to support the IRGC’s anti-terrorism measures in the fight against the CENTCOM terrorist group”.

 

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Iran awards highest honour to Guards elite force chief

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, a key figure in the battle against the Islamic State group, has received Iran’s highest military award, the country’s supreme leader announced Monday.

The major general, whose unit runs foreign operations, is regarded as the mastermind of Iran’s military strategy in the region.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded him with the “Order of Zulfaqar”, the leader’s office tweeted.

Soleimani became the first to receive the award since the 1979 Islamic revolution, according to Tasnim news agency.

 

The general has been the public face of Iran’s support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments in their battles with Islamic State group jihadists.

He reportedly landed in Baghdad only hours after IS captured Iraq’s second city Mosul in 2014 and threatened to overrun the capital.

In Islamic tradition, Zulfaqar is the name of the double-pointed sword said to have been given by Prophet Mohammed to his son-in-law Ali.

 

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