EU to sanction Iran militia, police, three entities over 2019 protests: Diplomats

EU to sanction Iran militia, police, three entities over 2019 protests: Diplomats
The individuals to be targeted include members of Iran’s hard-line Basij militia. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 31 March 2021

EU to sanction Iran militia, police, three entities over 2019 protests: Diplomats

EU to sanction Iran militia, police, three entities over 2019 protests: Diplomats
  • The individuals to be targeted include members of Iran’s hard-line Basij militia
  • The travel bans and asset freezes will be the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013

BRUSSELS/PARIS: The European Union will target eight Iranian militia and police commanders and three state entities with sanctions next week over a deadly crackdown in November 2019 by Iranian authorities, three diplomats said on Wednesday.
The travel bans and asset freezes will be the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013 and are set to be put in place some time next week after the Easter holidays in Europe, the diplomats said.
The individuals to be targeted include members of Iran’s hard-line Basij militia, who are under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the Islamic Republic.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the EU was planning the sanctions. The bloc declined to comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations by the West of human rights abuses. The Iranian Embassy in Brussels was not immediately available for comment, nor were other Iranian officials.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019, according to a toll provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials at the time. The United Nations said the total was at least 304.
Iran has called the toll given by sources “fake news.”
On March 9, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, presented a report saying Tehran used lethal force during the protests and chided it for failing to conduct a proper investigation or for failing to hold anyone accountable.
Asked why the bloc had taken so long to process its sanctions response, one EU diplomat involved in the preparations cited the need for strong evidence against those hit with the punitive measures.
The bloc has also shied away from angering Iran in the hope of safeguarding a nuclear accord Tehran signed with world powers in 2015.
The three diplomats said the sanctions were not linked to efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which the United States pulled out of but now seeks to re-join. That deal made it harder for Iran to amass the fissile material needed for a nuclear bomb — a goal it has long denied — in return for sanctions relief.
After days of protests across Iran in November 2019, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an order to crackdown on protesters, Reuters reported in December 2019. That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
In a statement following publication of the Reuters article, a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council described the death toll figure as “fake news,” according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The United Nations has warned about a deterioration of human rights in Iran. Its March 9 report documented Iran’s high death penalty rate, executions of juveniles, the use torture to coerce confessions and the lawful marriage of girls as young as 10 years old.


UK paratroopers dropped into Jordanian desert in military exercise

UK paratroopers dropped into Jordanian desert in military exercise
Updated 13 sec ago

UK paratroopers dropped into Jordanian desert in military exercise

UK paratroopers dropped into Jordanian desert in military exercise
  • Aim is to ‘demonstrate our capabilities and commitment’ to Mideast nation
  • Ministry of Defence: Jordan is key partner in region

British paratroopers have taken part in military exercises with Jordanian counterparts to “demonstrate our capabilities and commitment to Jordan.”

The 150 soldiers, flying from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri in Cyprus, were dropped into the desert outside Amman from 800 feet from two C-130 Hercules aircraft. 

The troops, from the 16 Air Assault Brigade, then simulated an attack on a town by foreign adversaries. 

The unit was acting as part of the UK’s Global Response Force (GRF), which features “air manoeuvre and combat aviation” to reduce global response times to emerging crises around the world. 

Brig. James Martin, the brigade’s commander, said Britain retains strong ties with states in the Middle East and North Africa “which are vital to UK prosperity and security.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Jordan is a key partner in the region, and exercises such as this will help expedite the MoD’s “future soldier” concept, allowing the UK to strike, intervene and assist allies across the globe.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the joint exercise “is a showcase of the GRF’s impressive ability to operate across multiple domains and in harsh environments. They are the soldiers of the future, ready to tackle changing threats around the world.”

The Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group, meanwhile, took part in its first operations as part of Operation Shader, flying F-35Bs from aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth against Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq.


US linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing classified information to Hezbollah

Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 15 min 54 sec ago

US linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing classified information to Hezbollah

Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, worked for a US Special Operations task force in Iraq and had top secret clearance
  • Thompson started speaking with a Lebanese co-conspirator with Hezbollah ties in 2017 and later developed romantic feelings for him

CHICAGO: Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah, designated by the US as a terrorist organization based in Southern Lebanon.

Thompson, 62, from Rochester, Minn., was a contracted linguist for a US Special Operations task force in Iraq and had top secret clearance. She agreed to plead guilty in exchange for leniency, a US Justice Department official said in a statement.

According to court filings, Thompson acknowledged that she passed information to a Lebanese man who she believed would pass the sensitive information to Hezbollah agents. Her contact sought to obtain detailed information on individuals who may have been involved in the Jan 3, 2020 assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Commander Qasem Suleimani. 

“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement

“That Thompson passed our nation’s sensitive secrets to someone whom she knew had ties to Lebanese Hezbollah made her betrayal all the more serious. Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk.”

Thompson admitted that, beginning in 2017, she started communicating with the Lebanese man using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice messaging application. Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator.

She learned that the unindicted co-conspirator had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior and also had strong ties with Lebanese Hezbollah.

In December 2019, while Thompson was assigned to a special operations task force facility in Iraq, the US launched a series of airstrikes in Iraq targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed foreign terrorist organization. These airstrikes culminated in a Jan. 3, 2020 strike that resulted in Suleimani’s death, as well as the founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Following Suleimani’s death, the unindicted co-conspirator began asking Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets who had helped the US target Suleimani. Thompson admitted that she understood “them” to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander.

After receiving this request for information in early January 2020, Thompson began accessing dozens of files on human intelligence sources, including names, personal identification data, background information and photographs of the human assets, as well as operational cables detailing information the assets provided to the US government.

She used several techniques to pass this information on to the unindicted co-conspirator, who told her that his contacts were pleased with the information and that a Lebanese Hezbollah military commander wanted to meet Thompson when she came to Lebanon.

When she was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27, 2020, Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight human assets, at least 10 US targets, along with multiple tactics, techniques and procedures. Thompson said she knew the classified national defense information she provided could risk the lives of US sources and troops.

“The defendant’s decision to aid a foreign terrorist organization was a betrayal that endangered the lives of the very American men and women on the battlefield who had served beside her for more than a decade,” acting US attorney Channing Phillips for the District of Columbia said.

“Let today’s sentence serve notice that there are serious consequences for anyone who betrays this country by compromising national defense information.”

FBI officials who worked with the Justice Department said the information Thompson provided to her Lebanese contact put the nation's security at risk.

“By knowingly distributing classified information that would be passed onto a designated foreign terrorist organization, Mariam Thompson put our national defense in danger,” assistant director Alan Kohler Jr. of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said.

“The men and women of the FBI will continue to work tirelessly to defeat hostile intelligence activities targeting the US and hold those who assist our adversaries accountable.”


American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq
Updated 24 June 2021

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq
  • Mariam Thompson, 62, had admitted transmitting the classified information to a Lebanese national connected to Hezbollah

WASHINGTON: A Pentagon translator was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison for passing the names of US informants in Iraq to a person linked to Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.
Mariam Thompson, 62, had admitted transmitting the classified information to a Lebanese national in hopes that it would be passed on to the group designated a terrorist organization by Washington.
“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.
According to court documents, Thompson worked as an interpreter on a foreign military base when, in 2017, she began a relationship on a video app with a man who said he was connected to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator,” the Justice Department said.
She was assigned to American special forces in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in December 2019, when the unit initiated strikes against a pro-Iranian militia, which ended January 3, 2020 with the death of powerful Iranian General Qassim Suleimani.
Shortly after, Thompson’s contact asked for information about agents suspected of having aided the United States.
She gave him data on several American informants, including the real names of at least eight people, accessed through personnel files, and information on US military tactics.
She was arrested by federal authorities the next month, in late February 2020.


Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
Updated 24 June 2021

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
  • The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the accident
  • The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations

DUBAI: Canada’s final report on the downing of the Ukrainian plane said the decision was made by a senior Iranian official, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the fatal accident on Jan. 8, 2020.
The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations for the downing of the plane, which killed all 176 people on board.
Earlier in June, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said they refused Iran’s proposal to pay $150,000 as compensation for each victim of the PS752 plane victims.
Oleg Nikolenko said compensation to families was an important step to justice, but first the full truth behind the circumstances of the plane crash were needed.
“Only then can we talk about the compensation. The specific amount should be set with the agreement of all the governments of the states whose citizens died in the plane crash, and [should] not [be] a unilateral decision,” one of the country’s biggest TV news channels TSN quoted him.


Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib
Updated 24 June 2021

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib
  • Muammar Al-Eryani said Houthis are still recruiting children
  • Loyalist officials told AFP that pro-government forces had repelled Houthi attacks north of the city

DUBAI: Yemen’s Information Minister said Marib was “invincible” and warned that Houthis who tried to enter would be arrested, state news agency Saba New reported on Wednesday.
Muammar Al-Eryani said Houthis are still recruiting children.
“The Houthi militia are again deploying thousands of their militants, including tribesmen and children recruited from the summer radicalization centers for suicide missions at all fronts of Marib,” the report quoted him as saying.
Fighting between Yemeni loyalists and Houthi rebels seeking to take the strategic northern city of Marib has left 90 fighters killed in two days, pro-government military sources said on Tuesday.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia on Monday night mounted a fresh assault on the internationally recognized government forces in Al-Mashjah and Al-Kasara areas, west of Marib, triggering heavy clashes that continued until Tuesday afternoon and claimed the lives of dozens of combatants.
The Ministry of Defense said dozens of Houthis were killed in the fighting and that they lost a significant amount of military equipment.
Loyalist officials told AFP that pro-government forces had repelled Houthi attacks north of the city in clashes that left 63 rebels and 27 loyalist fighters dead since Monday.