Iran fires minister as sanctions start to bite

Rabiei was impeached on Wednesday after months of mounting anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis which has deepened with the return of US sanctions. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2018
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Iran fires minister as sanctions start to bite

  • Rouhani ally pays price for economic meltdown
  • A total of 129 members of parliament voted that Rabiei be impeached and removed from office

LONDON: Iran’s labor minister was fired on Wednesday as the fall-out grew over the country’s economic meltdown in the face of new US sanctions. 

Ali Rabiei, a close political ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost a parliamentary motion calling for his removal from office by 129 votes to 111. 

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment, a plunging rial that has lost half its value since April, and a series of nationwide protests against government corruption, economic mismanagement and the squandering of national resources on military intervention in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Analysts doubt whether Rouhani can respond effectively, given his failure to address long-standing economic problems. “The economic section of Rouhani’s team is the weakest part of the government. Everyone knows this, but he never changed his direction because they are his allies,” said Mohammed Reza Behzadian, a former head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.

Protests began last December, spreading to more than 80 cities and towns and resulting in 25 deaths. Sporadic demonstrations led by truck drivers, farmers and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar have continued regularly since then and have resulted in violent confrontations with security forces.

They have intensified in the past week, with a fresh wave of demonstrations in cities including Isfahan, Karaj, Rasht and Tehran, resulting in what Amnesty International described as a “wave of mass arrests.”

Amnesty called on Tehran on Wednesday to release peaceful protesters and to conduct a “prompt, impartial and independent” investigation into the killing of a protester in Karaj, northwest of Tehran, on Aug. 3.

“Amnesty International is also urging the authorities to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment and to reveal the fate and whereabouts of dozens of detainees whose families have not heard from them since their arrests,” the rights group said.

“Among those detained and at risk of torture and other ill-treatment is human rights defender Nader Afshari, who was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials on Aug. 1, 2018, in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran, and whose whereabouts are unknown as he is being held in a secret detention facility.

“Since July 31, 2018, thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice their grievances over increasing economic hardship in Iran caused in part by high inflation and the steep devaluation of the rial currency.

“According to reports from journalists and human rights activists inside Iran, as well as independent news groups outside the country, security forces have detained scores of people in jails and secret detention facilities notorious for torture and other ill-treatment over the past week, denying many of them access to their families and lawyers.”


Washington says observation posts in place on Syria-Turkey border

This Wednesday, April 4, 2018, file photo shows a US position, installed near the tense front line between the US-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council and the Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria.(AP)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Washington says observation posts in place on Syria-Turkey border

  • The measure aimed to reassure the YPG, which Turkey considers a "terrorist" group but which is the spearhead of the international fight against the Daesh group
  • Syria's long-oppressed Kurdish minority has established a semi-autonomous region in the north of the war-torn country

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon announced Tuesday that American observation posts in northern Syria, meant to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and US-supported Kurdish militia, have been erected, despite Ankara's request to scrap the move.
US support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) has strained relations with Turkey, which fears the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region on its southern border.
"At the direction of Secretary (James) Mattis, the US established observation posts in the northeast Syria border region to address the security concerns of our NATO ally Turkey," Department of Defense spokesman Rob Manning said.
Mattis announced in November that the US military was in the process of installing the observation posts.
The measure aimed to reassure the YPG, which Turkey considers a "terrorist" group but which is the spearhead of the international fight against the Daesh group.
"We take Turkish security concerns seriously and we are committed to coordinating our efforts with Turkey to bring stability to northeastern Syria," Manning added.
The Turkish army since 2016 has already launched two military operations against Kurdish forces in Syria, the last of which saw Ankara-backed Syrian rebels take the border city of Afrin in March.
After Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria in late October the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is the backbone, announced the suspension of their operations against Daesh for several days, to the embarrassment of Washington.
During a meeting with US Special Envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, in Ankara on Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had asked that Washington scrap the observation posts.
Akar also called for the US to end its cooperation with the YPG.
Syria's long-oppressed Kurdish minority has established a semi-autonomous region in the north of the war-torn country.