Tehran’s ‘terror drone’ program is a growing international threat, says Iranian opposition

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's Washington office. (Screenshot/NCRI)
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Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's Washington office. (Screenshot/NCRI)
Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's Washington office. (Screenshot/NCRI)
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Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's Washington office. (Screenshot/NCRI)
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Updated 07 October 2021

Tehran’s ‘terror drone’ program is a growing international threat, says Iranian opposition

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI's Washington office. (Screenshot/NCRI)
  • It ‘has only one purpose and that is destabilizing the region and creating chaos,” warns National Council of Resistance of Iran’s deputy director
  • Calling for greater global pressure on the regime, he said ‘sanctions by themselves will not solve all of this problem but sanctions are a tool, making (Iran) pay the price’

CHICAGO: Iran’s aggressive and expanding unmanned aerial vehicles program is a growing threat not only to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, but also the West, according to officials from the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI’s Washington office, said the program includes eight production and assembly sites across Iran that receive parts and materials from foreign countries.

During a briefing on Wednesday, attended by Arab News, he said UAVs, or drones, have been used to attack many Western targets in conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq, as well as targets in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran supplies the Houthi militia in Yemen with the drones that are the primary weapons used in its terror campaign against targets in Saudi Arabia, Jafarzadeh said. They are “assembled in Yemen” and many essential components come from sources outside of Iran, he added.

“The UAV program has only one purpose and that is destabilizing the region and creating chaos,” Jafarzadeh said. He added that eight industries in Iran are involved in “disguising” the production of the weaponized drones.

“The Iranian regime has really stepped up its efforts and money and resources to its UAV program, to destabilize the region. Billions of dollars have been spent on UAVs and missiles, and under (Iranian President Ebrahim) Raisi this program will gain more prominence. The question is, what is to be done?”

Jafarzadeh said that Iran’s multibillion-dollar UAV program, which he described as “the regime’s primary weapon for terrorism,” is directed by Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

He continued: “Iran is expanding its terror and destabilizing efforts in the region, and the oppression of people in Iran. We must hold Iran responsible and make them pay the price. … We need to see firmness, decisiveness and stepped-up pressure against the Iranian regime.”

Iran’s UAV program is a direct result of “counterproductive” negotiations with Western nations about the lifting sanctions, Jafarzadeh said, during which Tehran bolstered and expanded the program.

“Obviously, sanctions by themselves will not solve all of this problem,” he added. “But sanctions are a tool, making (Iran) pay the price.

“If the regime is allowed to carry out an extensive operation (like) that we showed today without any consequences, then they are encouraged and will do more. You want to hold the regime itself accountable.”

To support his arguments, Jafarzadeh presented detailed satellite images, graphs and charts he said reveal the complexity and “alarming new details” of Iran’s UAV terror program. The information was gathered inside Iran for the NCRI by opposition group the Mujahedin-e Khalq.

Over the past two decades, the NCRI has exposed dozens of what it says are key sites that form parts of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, missile program and growing terrorism network in the region.


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 6 sec ago

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials
BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 07 December 2021

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
  • The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported

DUBAI: The UAE government will transition to a four-and-a-half-day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend starting Jan. 1, 2022 for all federal departments, state news agency WAM reported. 
The new system will be applied in all federal government entities with working hours from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m., it added.
Working hours on Fridays will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon, with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options during those days. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE. 
The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported.


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.