Iran regime marks 1979 revolution anniversary amid high US tension

Iranians attend a rally at Azadi (Freedom) Square in celebration of the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 12 February 2020

Iran regime marks 1979 revolution anniversary amid high US tension

TEHRAN: Hundreds of thousands across Iran marked the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution on Tuesday amid some of the highest tensions ever between Tehran and the US in the past four decades.

While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech in Tehran’s iconic Azadi Square denouncing the US, he also focused on encouraging the country to vote in upcoming parliamentary elections, even after officials disqualified thousands from running, including 90 current lawmakers.

Iran views high turnout as a vote of confidence in the country’s Shiite theocracy, something it wants to show as public anger still simmers over the country accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January that killed all 176 people onboard. Tehran for days denied its forces shot down the passenger plane before admitting to it in the face of mounting Western pressure.

The shootdown also marred funeral processions that drew millions of mourners for Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

BACKGROUND

There’s anger over Iran’s long-faltering economy, which has been hard hit by the American sanctions.

“We should not withdraw from the ballot boxes,” Rouhani called out to the thousands in the crowd who rallied in the city in freezing winter weather. “The ballot boxes are our savior.”

There’s also anger over Iran’s long-faltering economy, which has been hard hit by the American sanctions. 

In November, protesters angered by Iran raising government-set gasoline prices by 50% blocked traffic in major cities and occasionally clashed with police. 

Amnesty International says more than 300 were killed in violent protests and a subsequent government crackdown. Iran’s government did not release any death toll though lawmakers said thousands were detained.

Rouhani called on voters to still turnout despite “possible complaints and criticism.” “I beg you not to be passive,” he said.

State media said the rallies took place in more than 5,000 cities, towns and districts all around Iran.

This year’s anniversary celebrations come amid ever-increasing bitterness between Tehran
and Washington.


Russian envoy seeks to break ‘suffocating’ Beirut deadlock

Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Russian envoy seeks to break ‘suffocating’ Beirut deadlock

  • Moscow move comes after Iran-backed factions block Macron reforms

BEIRUT: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will visit Lebanon to discuss support for the crisis-hit country following the failure of French efforts to form an independent Lebanese government.

Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, told Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) leader Talal Arslan on Tuesday that “efforts and dialogue are needed to reach a solution that gets Lebanon out of the suffocating crisis it is going through.” 

In a meeting in Moscow on Monday, Bogdanov told Lebanese Ambassador Shawki Bou Nassar that he will visit Beirut in late October for talks with senior officials. 

It will be the first visit by a Russian official since the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4 devastated large areas of the capital and plunged the country into political turmoil.

The Russian move follows the failure of French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to form an independent Lebanese government and introduce reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help the country avoid a financial and economic meltdown.

Last Sunday, Macron gave Lebanese officials a six-week deadline to form a new government, accusing Lebanese leaders of betraying their pledges to him during a high-profile visit to Beirut in early September.

The accusations were directed at the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal Movement factions over obstruction of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib’s plans for a new government.

Both factions were widely criticized in the wake of Adib’s resignation on Saturday and accused of sabotaging the French initiative.

On Monday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Tehran rejected claims of “external interference in Lebanon’s affairs.”

Amal Movement said that Macron’s accusations, as well as attempts to blame Amal Movement and Hezbollah, “are far from the facts and the realities of discussions with the prime Minister-designate.”

The political faction said that its leader, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, “is at the forefront of those keen to preserve Lebanon’s stability and the unity of its people.”

Berri’s political aide, former minister Ali Hassan Khalil, has been been hit by US sanctions on a string of charges, including corruption.

Zafer Nasser, secretary-general of the Progressive Socialist Party, told Arab News that the objectives of Bogdanov’s visit remain unclear and Lebanon must continue to support Macron’s efforts.

“The French initiative is our last chance and we must hold on to it,” he said.

With Lebanon’s central bank expected to begin reducing subsidies for the import of hydrocarbons in coming weeks, gas stations around the country experienced shortages on Tuesday due to delays in imports.

According to a representative of the Gas Station Owners Syndicate, George Brax, a partial reduction of subsidies will raise the price of a can of gasoline to between 37,000 and 40,000 Lebanese pounds, while with a total reduction, it will reach between 65,000 and 70,000 Lebanese pounds.

“If the dollar exchange rate continues to rise, the price of a can of gasoline may reach 85,000 Lebanese pounds,” he said.