Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chief flays activists seeking talks with US

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system, left, is on display for the annual Defense Week, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chief flays activists seeking talks with US

  • 100 Iranian activists wrote an open letter in which they asked Iranian leaders to hold “direct and unconditional talks” with the US to solve its differences with Washington
  • We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies’ strategic targets are already within this 2,000-km range

LONDON, TEHRAN: Iran has no plans to extend the range of its missiles since their 2,000-km reach is enough to protect the country, the Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, amid mounting US pressure over Tehran’s missile program.
The Guard also criticized Iranian activists who signed an open letter last week asking Iran’s leaders to take part in direct talks with Washington, saying they have “sided with the US, the enemy of the people.”
The website of the Guard on Tuesday quoted Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying “their recent action is a 100-signature letter asking for talks with Trump. They have accompanied the US, the enemy of the people.”
“Possibly some of them were assigned” to sign the letter, he said, without offering evidence.
On Sunday, Iranian media reported that 100 Iranian activists, mostly foreign-based, wrote an open letter in which they asked Iranian leaders to hold “direct and unconditional talks” with the US to solve its differences with Washington.

No plans to increase missile range
Iran’s government ruled out negotiations with US President Donald Trump over Tehran’s military capabilities and regional influence, saying that such talks would be against the values of the Islamic Republic.
Trump withdrew the US last month from the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.
He said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not curbed Iran’s ballistic missile program or reined in its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and said Washington would reimpose tough sanctions on Tehran.
“We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies’ strategic targets are already within this 2,000-km range. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic...,” Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
Jafari said on Tuesday previous negotiations with the United States about Iran’s nuclear program were “an exception,” and called Iranian politicians and activists who have favored fresh talks with Trump as “traitors and anti-revolutionaries.”
On Saturday, over 100 activists associated with the moderate and reformist camps in Iranian politics welcomed Trump’s deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un envisaging a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In a statement published by Iranian media, the activists urged Tehran to start direct negotiations with Washington “with no preconditions” to resolve decades of enmity between the two countries dating to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Jafari rejected their call. “The North Korean leader was a revolutionary but a communist, not an Islamic one. That is why he surrendered, but we will not do the same,” he was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying.
Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht echoed Jafari’s remarks. “There are no grounds or logic to talk to such a person (Trump). Public opinion would not welcome that either,” Nobakht was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
Jafari said previously that the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles was based on limits set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who commands the armed forces.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.