Iranian media: ‘sabotage attack’ on nuclear building foiled

Iranian media: ‘sabotage attack’ on nuclear building foiled
Iranian flag in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility on Nov. 10, 2019. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2021

Iranian media: ‘sabotage attack’ on nuclear building foiled

Iranian media: ‘sabotage attack’ on nuclear building foiled

TEHRAN: An Iranian news site close to security services says that authorities have thwarted a “sabotage attack” on the country's civilian nuclear program, without providing further information.
Nournews, a website believed to be close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported Wednesday that the attack was foiled “before causing any damage to the building.” It said the case was “under investigation.”
When asked for comment, an Iranian official referred to the Nournews report. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they did not have authorization to discuss the matter with the media.
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency said the building was located near Karaj City, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west the capital of Tehran.
The website of state-owned IRAN newspaper published the same report without offering the location or other details.


Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons

Updated 33 sec ago

Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons

Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons
SAMARRA, Iraq: Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province was left partially without power after “terrorists” blew several pylons, the government said Thursday, as increasing attacks add to the strain on Iraq’s electricity network.
“Terrorist elements” using “explosive devices” carried out attacks on 13 pylons over the past 48 hours, the electricity ministry said in a statement.
Provincial authorities distributed photos showing the damaged pylons.
Several districts in Salaheddin have since been without power, including some neighborhoods in Samarra, one of the province’s largest cities, an AFP correspondent said.
Unclaimed attacks on Iraq’s electricity network have been increasing since the start of summer.
Authorities normally accuse “terrorists” of being behind the attacks, without identifying a particular group.
Oil-rich Iraq produces just 16,000 megawatts of power — far below the 24,000 megawatts needed, and even further from the expected future needs of a country whose population is set to double by 2050, according to the UN.
The country buys gas and electricity from neighboring Iran to supply about a third of its power sector, which has been worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance, and is unable to meet the needs of the country’s 40 million population.
Last month, areas in the country’s south were plunged into darkness for several days after a series of similar attacks.
Around the same time, Iran briefly suspended its gas and electricity exports because of Iraq’s failure to pay a $6 billion energy debt.
The US blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 as it ramped up sanctions, but has granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping that Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy.
The failure of Iraq’s power system is particularly acute in the baking hot summer months, often a time of social protest exacerbated by electricity shortages, when temperatures shoot past 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
Energy consultant Harry Istepanian said factors contributing to Iraq’s energy crisis included not only the Iranian export suspension but also a “lack of enough generation capacity and fuel supply, lack of maintenance of the existing generation units, high demand... high technical and commercial losses, vandalism and sabotage.”

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government
Updated 4 min 42 sec ago

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's OPM designate Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government after meeting president.


Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action
Updated 10 min 28 sec ago

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action
TEL AVIV: Israel’s defense minister warned Thursday that his country is prepared to strike Iran, issuing the threat against the Islamic Republic after a fatal drone strike on a oil tanker at sea that his nation blamed on Tehran.
The comments by Benny Gantz come as Israel meanwhile lobbies countries for action at the United Nations over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. The tanker, struck off Oman in the Arabian Sea, is managed by a firm owned by an Israeli billionaire.
The US and the United Kingdom similarly blamed Iran for the attack, but no country has offered evidence or intelligence to support their claims. Iran, which along with its regional militia allies has launched similar drone attacks, has denied being involved.
Speaking to the news website Ynet, Gantz responded to whether Israel was prepared to attack Iran with a blunt “yes.”
“We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran,” Gantz said. “The world needs to take action against Iran now.”
Iran did not immediately respond to Gantz’s comments. However, in a letter Wednesday to the UN Security Council, its chargé d’affaires in New York described Israel as “the main source of instability and insecurity in the Middle East and beyond for more than seven decades.”
“This regime has a long dark record in attacking commercial navigation and civilian ships,” Zahra Ershadi wrote. “In less than two years, this regime has attacked over 10 commercial vessels carrying oil and humanitarian goods destined to Syria.”
Ershadi’s comments refer to an ongoing shadow war being waged on Mideast waterways since 2019 that has seen both Iranian and Western-linked ships attacked.
Last week’s attack killed the vessel’s Romanian captain as well as a British crew member who worked for Ambrey, a maritime security firm. In a statement Thursday, Ambrey identified the victim as Adrian Underwood, a former soldier in the British Army who started at the firm as a maritime security officer in 2020 before becoming a team leader.
“We continue to be in contact with Adrian’s family to offer support at this sad and difficult time,” said John Thompson, Ambrey’s management director.
The attacks began a year after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. President Joe Biden has said he’s willing to rejoin the accord, but talks over salvaging the deal have stalled in Vienna.

Fears grow for Iranian dual-national prisoners ahead of Raisi inauguration

Fears grow for Iranian dual-national prisoners ahead of Raisi inauguration
Updated 05 August 2021

Fears grow for Iranian dual-national prisoners ahead of Raisi inauguration

Fears grow for Iranian dual-national prisoners ahead of Raisi inauguration
  • Iranian news outlets quote official as saying Tehran has “no incentive” for prisoner exchanges
  • UK govt spokesman: “Iran’s continued arbitrary detention of our dual nationals is unacceptable”

LONDON: Iranian media reports that Tehran has cooled interest in prisoner swaps with Western nations has thrown into doubt the release of British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and future relations between the two countries.

The Nour news website quoted a senior Iranian official on Tuesday as saying Tehran had “no incentive” to proceed with proposed prisoner transfers with the US, and a plan with the UK to exchange Zaghari-Ratcliffe for £400 million ($557 million) owed as part of a failed arms deal in 1979 had stalled after London also sought the release of environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who holds both UK and US citizenship, as part of the negotiations. 

The shift in policy is thought to stem from the impending inauguration of new hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, which is set to take place on Thursday. 

He is accused by a multitude of international bodies of serious human rights violations — including murder, enforced disappearance and torture — during his tenure as head of Iran’s judiciary.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Imam Khomeini International Airport in 2016 on charges of espionage, and imprisoned for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.”

She has repeatedly been denied representation from the UK in her dealings with the Iranian court system, and was sentenced to a further year in prison in April on propaganda charges. She has always denied all allegations made against her.

On Wednesday, an Iranian court sentenced another British-Iranian, Mehran Raouf, to over 10 years in prison on charges of undermining the regime, alongside German-Iranian Nahid Taghavi.

Iran has been accused of engaging in “hostage diplomacy” to achieve various political ends. A UK government spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: “Iran’s continued arbitrary detention of our dual nationals is unacceptable. We urge the Iranian authorities to release the detainees without any further delay.”


Iranian commandos failed to storm tanker after engines disabled: Intelligence source

Iranian commandos failed to storm tanker after engines disabled: Intelligence source
Updated 05 August 2021

Iranian commandos failed to storm tanker after engines disabled: Intelligence source

Iranian commandos failed to storm tanker after engines disabled: Intelligence source
  • “US and Omani warships turned up and the Iranians got into some boats and went off”
  • Operation took place 5 days after deadly drone strike on tanker blamed on Iran

LONDON: Iranian special forces commandos raided a tanker in the Arabian Sea but failed to divert it to their country after the crew disabled the vessel’s engines, a source with access to intelligence about the incident told The Times.

Iranian Navy operators boarded the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess near the Strait of Hormuz, before fleeing after the ship was rendered inoperable and US, Omani forces approached, the source said.
The operation off the UAE coast on Tuesday took place five days after the Iberian-flagged Mercer Street tanker, operated by an Israeli-linked UK-based company, was attacked by a drone in Omani waters. 
The explosion killed a British Army veteran and a Romanian, both of whom were working on the ship. 
The UN Security Council “must respond to Iran’s destabilising actions and lack of respect for international law,” tweeted UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
The Times’ source said intelligence indicated that “armed Iranians stormed the (Asphalt Princess) vessel and tried to take it back to Iran but the crew scuppered the engines, so that is why it was shown bobbing in the water. Then US and Omani warships turned up and the Iranians got into some boats and went off.”