Lebanon bridles at Iranian air chief’s remarks on missiles and sovereignty 

Lebanon bridles at Iranian air chief’s remarks on missiles and sovereignty 
Demonstrators during a protest in Jal El-Dib, Lebanon. Over the past decade, pro-Iranian Hezbollah has become the main power broker in Lebanese politics. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 04 January 2021

Lebanon bridles at Iranian air chief’s remarks on missiles and sovereignty 

Lebanon bridles at Iranian air chief’s remarks on missiles and sovereignty 
  • People in a pro-Hezbollah town attempt to burn picture of slain Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani

BEIRUT: Lebanese reacted angrily on Sunday to an Iranian commander’s remarks about their missile capabilities and sovereignty, with people in a pro-Hezbollah town attempting to burn a picture of the slain Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh boasted on Saturday that Lebanon owed its missile capabilities to Iran and that the country was in the front line of Iran’s fight against Israel.
“Tehran supports any party that stands against Israel,” he added.
President Michel Aoun tweeted on Sunday that the Lebanese had “no partner” in protecting their country’s independence, sovereignty over its border and territory, and freedom of decision.
But the mildness of his response — and its delay — was criticized by some media and public figures.
The leading daily newspaper Al-Nahar called the Iranian stance “a very blatant breach challenging the principle of the sovereignty of Lebanon and a lack of respect to the minimal standards of dealings between states.”
The newspaper was surprised by Aoun’s initial silence on Hajizadeh’s remarks, while former MP Fares Souaid renewed his call for the president to resign.
He said: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has announced its leadership of Lebanon’s missiles against Israel. Where is the Lebanese state? Mr. President, for the sake of your dignity and ours, resign.”
Lebanon’s former ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun, the granddaughter of former President Camille Chamoun, described Aoun’s response as “shy.”
She said: “The foreign minister should summon the Iranian ambassador to answer to the matter and to be warned. If you are unable to uphold sovereignty, then at least save face.”

FASTFACTS

• President Michel Aoun tweeted on Sunday that the Lebanese had ‘no partner’ in protecting their country’s independence, sovereignty over its border and territory, and freedom of decision. 

• The mildness of his response — and its delay — was criticized by some media and public figures.

Hezbollah hung pictures of Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, along the roads extending from the southern suburbs of Beirut to southern Lebanon and in the border town of Al-Khiam, which overlooks Israeli positions on the other side of the border.
But the act was criticized on social media. Former justice minister, Ashraf Rifi, said that naming Lebanese streets after the “leaders of vandalization and Iranian militias” did not represent Lebanon. He also described the hanging of the pictures as “an illegal and provocative act” that entrenched the image of Lebanon as a “prisoner of Iran.”
Hussein Al-Wajeh, who is a media affairs adviser to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, said that Lebanon was not and would not be the front line for Iran’s battle. “The Lebanese will not pay any price on behalf of the Iranian regime. Despite this, some Iranian officials insist on considering Lebanon an Iranian province.”
Kataeb Party leader Sami Gemayel said that Lebanon and the Lebanese were “hostages” to Iran through Hezbollah. “They are using us as human shields in their battle, which has nothing to do with Lebanon.
“The president, the government, and parliament are false witnesses and they are covering the capture of Lebanon.”
Salam Yamout, head of the National Bloc Party, said that involving Lebanon in battles associated with regional disputes was a direct threat to the interests of the Lebanese and their battle to restore their sovereignty and dignity.


Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 19 January 2021

Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Multiple cities have experienced blackouts and a halt to industrial work in recent weeks
  • Tehran offering $4,750 reward for informants who expose illegal cryptocurrency mining operations

LONDON: Iran has ordered a crackdown on cryptocurrency miners after blackouts in major cities were attributed to the excess toll the activity takes on the energy grid.

Parts of Tehran, as well as Mashhad and Tabriz, have experienced repeated blackouts in recent weeks, temporarily halting production lines and plunging the cities into darkness.

State electricity company Tavanir said it had temporarily halted all known crypto-mining operations, including a Chinese-Iranian mine in Rafsanjan that is reported to have been consuming 175 megawatt hours — enough electricity to power an average Western home for 17 years.

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin.

The process is extremely energy intensive, meaning that cryptocurrency mining is most profitable in locations with cheap energy.

Because of significant state subsidies and excess fuel reserves held by Iran due to sanctions, oil-fueled electricity is very cheap in the country — less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour.

This has massively fueled production of cryptocurrencies in Iran, to the extent that in 2020, the country was responsible for 8 percent of all the world’s Bitcoin production.

The effect of the crypto-mining on Iran’s grids has become such a problem that the government is now offering a $4,750 reward for tips on illegal crypto-mining locations.

At $35,000 each, the price of Bitcoin has reached record levels in recent weeks, making mining of the currency particularly attractive in a place with few economic opportunities such as Iran.

The appeal of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is also relevant for states and groups that operate on the fringes of the global economy, such as Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, as well as terrorist groups.

Bitcoins can be traded outside the traditional banking system, allowing Iran to circumvent economic sanctions on its financial sectors, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Daesh to trade on the black market anonymously.

In 2019, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would launch its own cryptocurrency to circumvent US sanctions, but little else is known about the project.

Despite the difficulty in tracing cryptocurrency transactions, in 2018 the US sanctioned two Iranians who had been converting cryptocurrency into Iranian rials on behalf of hackers who had targeted American corporations, hospitals, universities and government agencies.