Lebanon to review move to let Iranians in without passport stamps: Source

File photo showing Nohad Mashnouq Lebanon interior minister in the caretaker government of PM Saad Hariri. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Lebanon to review move to let Iranians in without passport stamps: Source

  • IRNA news agency said some Iranians who had traveled to Lebanon had faced difficulty obtaining European visas.

BEIRUT: Lebanese ministers will review a security agency’s decision to allow Iranians to enter at the airport without having their passports stamped, an interior ministry source said on Tuesday.
The move by the General Security agency has sparked an outcry from some politicians who fear it reflects the deepening influence of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, which emerged from a recent parliamentary vote with more sway.
The staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, described the change as an attempt to help Iran send more forces to Syria through Beirut or move money to Hezbollah despite US sanctions.
The agency, which oversees airport security, has defended its decision and said entry cards will be stamped instead.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA, reporting on the new measure this week, said some Iranians who had traveled to Lebanon had faced difficulty obtaining European visas.
The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group and has tightened sanctions against those accused of doing business with it. The European Union classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as terrorist. Tehran and Shiite Hezbollah provide critical support to the Syrian army in the seven-year conflict next door.
Caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, returning from a trip abroad, will meet Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri and other officials on Wednesday to discuss the passport move and determine whether or not to nullify it, the source told Reuters.
Machnouk retweeted an article on Monday in local daily Al-Nahar that cited ministry sources as saying he would challenge the measure.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim, who heads General Security, defended the step as a normal procedure.
“Unfortunately, some in Lebanon have a wide imagination,” he said in remarks to local daily Al-Joumhouria.
A database automatically registers all Iranian arrivals and departures, said Ibrahim, a Shiite official who has coordinated with Hezbollah and its political ally the Amal party.
He added that many European and Gulf countries refrained from stamping passports and that introducing new technology at Beirut airport would eventually eliminate the need for stamps.
A lawmaker with the Lebanese Forces, which nearly doubled its seats in parliament in the election, said he believed the interior ministry would cancel the new measure.
“This does not need discussion,” Wehbe Katicha told Reuters. “A director general made an administrative decision, when it should be a political one. It’s a mistake.”


Rouhani warns Trump of ‘mother of all wars’ as US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s regime

Updated 11 min 58 sec ago
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Rouhani warns Trump of ‘mother of all wars’ as US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s regime

  • Rouhani warned Trump on Sunday: “Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it”
  • Trump suggested Iranian leaders are “going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal’” but Iran rejected talks

DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday cautioned US President Donald Trump about pursuing hostile policies against Tehran, saying “America should know ... war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” but he did not rule out peace between the two countries, either.
Iran faces increased US pressure and looming sanctions after Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats, Rouhani said: “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” the state-news agency IRNA reported.
“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said, leaving open the possibility of peace between the two countries which have been at odds since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests,” Rouhani said, in an apparent reference to reported efforts by Washington to destabilize Iran’s Islamic government.
In Washington, US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups.

More than half a dozen current and former officials said the campaign, supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, is meant to work in concert with US President Donald Trump’s push to economically throttle Iran by re-imposing tough sanctions.

The drive has intensified since Trump withdrew on May 8 from a 2015 seven-nation deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The White House declined comment on the campaign. The State Department also declined to comment on the campaign specifically, including on Pompeo’s role.

A review of the State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter account and its ShareAmerica website — which describes itself as a platform to spark debate on democracy and other issues — shows a number of posts critical of Tehran over the last month.

Iran is the subject of four of the top five items on the website’s “Countering Violent Extremism” section. They include headlines such as “This Iranian airline helps spread violence and terror.”

In social media posts and speeches, Pompeo himself also appeals directly to Iranians, the Iranian diaspora and a global audience.

On June 21, Pompeo tweeted out graphics headlined: “Protests in Iran are growing,” “Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights,” and “Iran’s revolutionary guard gets rich while Iranian families struggle.” The tweets were translated into Farsi and posted on the ShareAmerica website.

Rouhani scoffed at Trump’s threat to halt Iranian oil exports and said Iran has a dominant position in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping waterway.
“Anyone who understands the rudiments of politics doesn’t say ‘we will stop Iran’s oil exports’...we have been the guarantor of the regional waterway’s security throughout history,” Rouhani said, cited by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries came in reaction to efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for any hostile US action. Separately, a top Iranian military commander warned that the Trump government might be preparing to invade Iran.
“The enemy’s behavior is unpredictable,” military chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri said, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
“Although the current American government does not seem to speak of a military threat, according to precise information it has been trying to persuade the US military to launch a military invasion (of Iran),” Baqeri said.
Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new US sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere.
Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.
But it has somewhat eased its stance since, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.