US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

JEDDAH/WASHINGTON: Anti-regime protests continued in Iran on Tuesday for the sixth consecutive day, as the US piled pressure on Tehran by calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “The UN must speak out in the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
The Donald Trump administration is also considering slapping sanctions on individuals who are behind the crackdown on Iranian protesters.
In an interview with the state-backed broadcaster VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek, said Washington was mulling targeted sanctions among a package of measures, which includes working with global partners to censure Tehran.
“From our part, we will hold accountable those people or entities who are committing violence, from the top to the bottom, against the protesters,” Peek said. “That involves examining actions we can take against those individuals, like sanctions and other means.”
Trump tweeted again on Tuesday in support of the demonstrators.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” he said. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”
France expressed concern over the “number of victims and arrests” during the protests. “The right to protest freely is a fundamental right,” said the French Foreign Ministry.
More than 20 people have been killed since the protests began last week, the Associated Press reported. Footage on social media showed riot police out in force in several cities as security forces struggled to contain the unrest.
Tehran’s deputy provincial governor was quoted by Reuters as saying more than 450 protesters had been arrested in the capital over the last three days. Hundreds of others have been detained around the country.
Nine people were killed in Isfahan province during protests on Monday night, including two members of the security forces, state television reported.
As the demonstrations showed no signs of abating, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Musa Ghazanfarabadi, said protesters would face harsh punishments.
Detainees would be put on trial soon, and ringleaders could be charged with “moharebeh” — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty, Ghazanfarabadi said.
Shahriar Kia, a human rights activist and member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, told Arab News that the “inhumane regime,” which has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution, is on the verge of being ousted.
The protests are a result of “over three decades of crackdowns and the plundering by the clerics of the Iranian people’s property and wealth,” he said.
The regime has spent “billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money to spread its fundamentalism and terrorism across the Middle East, and to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad,” Kia added.
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said: “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
Kia said: “I believe strongly that peace and stability in the Middle East and the world will be possible only through regime change in Iran.”


Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million have been uprooted from their homes. AP
Updated 16 July 2018
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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

  • Regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside
  • In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on an opposition-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.
The regime’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the opposition-held Idlib province in the north.
Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the UN and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”
In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian regime has restored control of over 60 percent of previously opposition-held territory across the country.
Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.
Syria’s regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.
The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.
In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since early Sunday, regime forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian regime Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.
The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where regime forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the fighters. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to Daesh.
Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa.
Pro-regime TV Al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria.
The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people was likely to be completed by Sunday.