Iran’s Rouhani warns UN agency over nuke site access demands

President Hassan Rouhani ‘Iran is still ready to accept legal surveillance by the (UN) agency.’ (AFP file photo)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Iran’s Rouhani warns UN agency over nuke site access demands

  • President Hassan Rouhani said a stern response ‘is easy’ for Iran but that the country prefers cooperation with the UN watchdog

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s president on Wednesday warned the UN nuclear watchdog to expect a “stern response” from his country regarding the agency’s demands for Iran to provide access to sites where Tehran is thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material.
In a televised speech, President Hassan Rouhani said a stern response “is easy” for Iran but that the country prefers cooperation with the UN watchdog.
The remarks reflect Tehran’s irritation at a resolution adopted last week by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency demanding access to the sites. The resolution was proposed by Germany, France and Britain while Russia and China voted against it.
Iran has dismissed allegations of nuclear activities at the sites in question.
Rouhani said on Wednesday that “Iran is still ready to accept legal surveillance by the (UN) agency and would continue close cooperation within the legal framework” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The IAEA resolution came after the agency’s Director General Rafael Grossi reiterated concerns that Iran had denied for more than four months access to UN inspectors to two locations “to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.”
Activities at the sites are thought to have been from the early 2000s, before Iran signed the nuclear deal. Iran maintains the IAEA has no legal basis to inspect them.
“The agency should not exit its legal path,” said Rouhani, stressing that the issues raised “belong in the past, dating 18 to 20 years ago.”
It is not clear what effect the new resolution will have on the nuclear deal but Iran has threatened unspecified consequences.
The IAEA maintains that of the two sites that Iran has blocked access to, one was partially demolished in 2004. At the other, the agency said it observed activities “consistent with efforts to sanitize” the facility from July 2019 onward.
A third site, the IAEA said, had undergone “extensive sanitization and leveling” in 2003 and 2004 and there would be no verification value in inspecting it.
The watchdog also said Iran has “not engaged in any substantive discussions” with the IAEA for almost a year to answer the agency’s questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and activities. The agency also said that Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of the nuclear deal.
In 2018, President Donald trump pulled the US out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Tehran has since then hoped that the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China, which have been struggling to save the accord — would increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the US withdrawal.
Iran accuses the US of trying to prevent that by pressuring the countries still in the deal. Meanwhile, Iran has been violating its restrictions, including the amount of uranium it can enrich and the purity of enrichment, to try to pressure the five countries.
“We expect the agency to preserve its independence,” Rouhani said.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.