Revolutionary Guards deployed to crush Iran demonstrations

A portrait of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with shoe marks over it is seen during a protest on Wednesday in Paris in support of demonstrations in Iranian cities. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Revolutionary Guards deployed to crush Iran demonstrations

LONDON/WASHINGTON: Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards deployed forces on Wednesday to three provinces to put down an eruption of anti-regime unrest as US President Donald Trump assured the demonstrators of support “at a suitable time.”
The protests, that have rattled the clerical leadership and left 21 people dead, began last week out of frustration over economic hardships suffered by the youth and working class. Now they have evolved into a rising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Defying threats from the judiciary of execution if convicted of rioting, protests resumed after nightfall with hundreds hitting the streets of Malayer in Hamadan province chanting: “People are begging, the supreme leader is acting like God!”
Videos carried by social media showed protesters in the northern town of Nowshahr shouting “death to the dictator” — an apparent reference to Khamenei.
Iranian opposition leaders in the UK are “disgusted” at the failure of British politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn regime brutality as the death toll continues to climb seven days after protests began in Iran.
“Both the prime minister and the opposition party here have stayed completely silent when Iranian youth are being slaughtered in the streets of Iran,” said Laila Jazayeri, director of the Association of Anglo/Iranian Women in the UK.
Three members of Iran’s intelligence forces were killed in clashes in the western city of Piranshahr on Wednesday, Mehr news agency reported, citing a statement from the Revolutionary Guards.
The three died “in a fight with anti-revolutionary elements,” the statement read.
The statement did not say if the fight was related to the anti-government protests in Iran.
In a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan provinces to tackle “the new sedition.”
In a state-sponsored show of force aimed at countering the outpouring of dissent, thousands of Iranians also took part in pro-regime rallies in several cities on Wednesday morning.
State television broadcast live footage of rallies in cities across the country, where marchers waved Iranian flags and portraits of Khamenei, Iran’s paramount leader since 1989.
They accused the US, Israel and Britain of inciting protests, shouting, “The seditionist rioters should be executed!”
Trump, who has sought to isolate the Tehran leadership, reversing the conciliatory approach of predecessor Barack Obama, said Washington would throw its support behind the protesters at a suitable time.
“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” Trump wrote in the latest of a series of tweets on Iran’s turmoil.
The protests seem to be spontaneous, without a clear leader, cropping up in working-class neighborhoods and smaller cities, but the movement seems to be gaining traction among the educated middle class and activists who spearheaded the 2009 revolt.
More than 100 Iranian woman activists voiced support for a new uprising in a statement on Wednesday. Several prominent Iranian lawyers, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, urged Tehran to respect people’s right to freedom of assembly and expression, guaranteed under the constitution.
Some labor unions as well as minority Kurdish opposition groups have also thrown their weight behind the protests.
In Geneva, the UN human rights chief urged Iran to rein in security forces to avoid further violence and respect the right of protesters to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the loss of life and called for the security forces and demonstrators to avoid further violence, his spokesman said in a statement.
Germany’s government said protests “deserve our respect.” A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin is closely watching developments in the country.


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.