Satellite photos show Iran had another failed space launch

In this satellite photo from Maxar Technologies, trucks and other equipment surround a scorched launch pad at Iran's Imam Khomeini Spaceport in rural Semnan province Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP)
In this satellite photo from Maxar Technologies, trucks and other equipment surround a scorched launch pad at Iran's Imam Khomeini Spaceport in rural Semnan province Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 02 March 2022

Satellite photos show Iran had another failed space launch

In this satellite photo from Maxar Technologies, trucks and other equipment surround a scorched launch pad at Iran's Imam Khomeini Spaceport in rural Semnan province Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP)
  • Separate images from Planet Labs PBC suggest the attempted launch likely occurred sometime after Friday

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Iran likely suffered another failed launch of a satellite-carrying rocket in recent days attempting to reinvigorate a program criticized by the West, even as Tehran faces last-minute negotiations with world powers to save its tattered nuclear deal in Vienna.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies seen by The Associated Press show scorch marks at a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province on Sunday. A rocket stand on the pad appears scorched and damaged, with vehicles surrounding it. An object, possibly part of the gantry, sits near it.
Successful launches typically don’t damage rocket gantries because they are lowered prior to takeoff. Iran also usually immediately trumpets launches that reach space on its state-run television channels, and it has a history of not acknowledging failed attempts.
Separate images from Planet Labs PBC suggest the attempted launch likely occurred sometime after Friday. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the US military.
The rocket involved appears to have been Iran’s Zuljanah satellite launch vehicle, said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies who first noticed the attempted launch with colleagues.
The gantry apparently damaged in the launch resembled another that was previously used in a successful launch last year of a Zuljanah, named after a horse of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and a key figure in the Shiite faith who was massacred with his fighters at Karbala in the 7th century.
It remains unclear what could have caused the blast. The first two stages of a Zuljanah are solid fuel, but its final stage is liquid and would have needed to be fueled on the launch pad, Lewis said.
“This just looks like it got interrupted, like something exploded,” Lewis told the AP.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The program has seen recent troubles, however. There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, another satellite-carrying rocket. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 also killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
The launch pad used in the latest launch remains scarred from an explosion in August 2019 that even drew the attention of then-President Donald Trump. He later tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure.
The successive failures raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran’s program, something Trump himself hinted at by tweeting at the time that the US “was not involved in the catastrophic accident.” There’s been no evidence offered, however, to show foul play in any of the failures, and space launches remain challenging even for the world’s most-successful programs.
Meanwhile, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The head of the US Space Command later dismissed the satellite as “a tumbling webcam in space” that wouldn’t provide Iran vital intelligence — though it showed Tehran’s ability to successfully get into orbit.
This launch, however, comes as Western diplomats warn time is ticking down to restore Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, setting the stage for years of tensions and mysterious attacks across the wider Mideast.
The US has alleged such satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and called on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003.
Today, Tehran enriches uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent and far greater than the nuclear deal’s 3.67 percent cap. Its stockpile of enriched uranium also continues to grow and international inspectors face challenges in monitoring its advances.
While Iran’s former President Hassan Rouhani dialed back the country’s space program for fears of alienating the West, new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has instead focused on jumpstarting the program. Iran has a series of satellites it plans to launch and Iran’s Supreme Council of Space recently met for the first time in 11 years.


Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record
Updated 16 sec ago

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record
  • Senate Speaker Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek accused the European Parliament of continually adopting positions and policies based on “fragile assumptions and misconceptions”
  • Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek: “Unfortunately, these policies are outdated, reminiscent of a European colonial legacy, and reveal nothing but a hidden desire to spread the culture of a particular civilization”

CAIRO: The Egyptian Senate has branded a European Parliament resolution criticizing Egypt’s progress on improving its human rights record as being based on “fragile assumptions and misconceptions.”

Senate Speaker Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek told a House of Representatives plenary session that the decision was unacceptable and went against “international rules and norms.”

The European Parliament resolution highlighted what it described as a lack of improvement in Egypt’s human rights situation including on the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly or association, and media freedoms.

Calling for a review of the EU’s relations with Egypt in light of “very limited progress on its human rights record,” the European Parliament also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of a number of political activists, journalists, lawyers, and social media influencers.”

In a speech, Abdel Razek said: “We all received with displeasure the decision issued by the European Parliament on Nov. 24 regarding the human rights situation in Egypt.”

He accused the European Parliament of continually adopting positions and policies based on, “fragile assumptions and misconceptions and an attempt to claim that it has the authority to evaluate and hold others accountable outside the borders of its members, in violation of international rules and norms.

“Unfortunately, these policies are outdated, reminiscent of a European colonial legacy, and reveal nothing but a hidden desire to spread the culture of a particular civilization. These are issues that no free country, particularly Egypt, will accept,” he added.

In a statement on Friday, the Egyptian Parliament said the resolution, “shows again that the European Parliament insists on adopting an arrogant approach toward Egypt, giving itself the right to use a host of sheer lies to deliver a judgement regarding some recent developments inside Egypt.”

Abdel Razek noted that Egypt had sought to strengthen efforts to improve the lives of its citizens.

He highlighted the Decent Life Initiative as one of the country’s most important projects bringing together the public and private sectors, and civil society, to help boost living standards for Egypt’s neediest groups.

He added that Egypt had launched a national dialogue to identify issues of concern to citizens and had also reactivated the Presidential Pardon Committee which had previously worked to grant amnesty to convicts and reintegrate them into society.

In addition, millions of refugees and asylum seekers had been welcomed to Egypt, Abdel Razek said, adding that efforts to promote and preserve all human rights within the framework of a national vision were ongoing.


Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales
Updated 37 min 55 sec ago

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales
  • 709 detainees were freed from different prisons in the country
  • prominent Iranian actor Hengameh Ghaziani had also been released on bail

TEHRAN: Iran has released more than 700 prisoners after the national team’s World Cup football victory over Wales, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said Monday.
It announced that “709 detainees were freed from different prisons in the country” following the 2-0 victory on Friday.
Among those are “some arrested during the recent events,” Mizan Online said, making indirect reference to demonstrations which have shaken Iran for more than two months.
It gave no further detail.
The ongoing protests were triggered by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by morality police for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules for women.
Other Iranian media separately reported that prominent Iranian actor Hengameh Ghaziani had been released on bail after her arrest for having supported the protests.
Two of the most prominent figures detained over the demonstrations — former international footballer Voria Ghafouri and dissident Hossein Ronaghi — were also let out on bail, reports said.
State news agency IRNA reported on Monday that former state television host Mahmoud Shahriari, 63, had been released after two months in prison for “encouraging riots.”
Iran on Friday scored twice deep into stoppage time to stun Wales and breathe new life into its World Cup campaign ahead of a politically charged showdown Tuesday against the United States.
Iran lost its first World Cup match to England, 6-2.
Iran’s judiciary says more than 2,000 people have been charged since the start of the protests.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk last week said around 14,000 people have been arrested.

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Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”
Updated 28 November 2022

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

ANKARA: Turkiye and Egypt may restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors mutually “in coming months,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
Ankara and Cairo may re-start diplomatic consultations led by deputy foreign ministers as part of a normalization process “soon,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.
After years of tension, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shook hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Qatar this month in what was described by the Egyptian presidency as a new start in bilateral relations.


Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
Updated 28 November 2022

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
  • Eescalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia

ONCUPINAR, Turkiye: Turkiye’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria and such a decision may come at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Turkish officials said, as Turkish forces bombarded a Kurdish militia across the border.
Howitzers fired daily from Turkiye have struck Kurdish YPG targets for a week, while warplanes have carried out airstrikes.
The escalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia. The YPG has denied involvement in the bombing and has responded at times to the cross-border attacks with mortar shelling.
“The Turkish Armed Forces needs just a few days to become almost fully ready,” one senior official said, adding that Turkiye-allied Syrian rebel fighters were ready for such an operation just a few days after the Nov. 13 Istanbul bomb.
“It won’t take long for the operation to begin,” he said. “It depends only on the president giving the word.”
Turkiye has previously launched military incursions in Syria against the YPG, regarding it as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkiye, the United States and European Union designate a terrorist group.
The PKK has also denied carrying out the Istanbul attack, in which six people were killed on a busy pedestrian avenue.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkiye would launch a land operation when convenient to secure its southern border. He will chair a cabinet meeting at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT).
“All the preparations are complete. It’s now a political decision,” another Turkish official told Reuters, also requesting anonymity ahead of the meeting.
Erdogan said back in May that Turkiye would soon launch a military operation against the YPG in Syria, but such an operation did not materialize at that time.
The first Turkish official said a ground operation, targeting the areas of Manbij, Kobani and Tel Rifat, was inevitable to link up the areas brought under the control of Turkiye and its Syrian allies with incursions since 2016.
Ankara had been in contact with Moscow and Washington about its military activities, the person added.
The United States has told NATO member Turkiye it has serious concerns that an escalation would affect the goal of fighting Daesh militants in Syria.
Russia asked Turkiye to refrain from a full-scale ground offensive. It has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara has backed rebels fighting to topple him.
On Monday, the defense ministry said Turkiye’s army had “neutralized” 14 YPG militants preparing to carry out attacks in Syrian areas under Turkiye’s control. It typically uses the term to describe casualties.
The defense ministry said on Saturday three Turkish soldiers had been killed in northern Iraq, where the military has been conducting an operation against the PKK since April.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, having traveled to the Iraqi border area, was quoted as telling military commanders on Sunday that Turkiye will “complete the tasks” of the mission.


Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
Updated 28 November 2022

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
  • 6,000 creatives sign statement urging support for art students persecuted for protests
  • Signatories slam ‘increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown’

LONDON: A group of Iranian creatives has issued a statement to the international community asking it to stop working with cultural groups and institutions with links to the regime in Tehran.

The statement — signed by over 6,000 artists, academics, writers and film directors, based in Iran and abroad — was issued following the mass arrest and incarceration of students across the country for their roles in anti-regime protests following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September at the hands of the morality police.

The statement calls for the international community to “boycott governmental institutions of the Islamic state of Iran and their covert affiliates, and prevent them from having any presence in international arenas of arts, culture and education” over the regime’s “increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown” that has left at least 300 people dead and around 14,000 in detention.

One of the signatories, London-based curator Vali Mahlouji has also called for direct action by protesters against arts organizations that receive money from Iran.

Mahlouji told The Guardian: “We know that some private Iranian galleries are connected to the money systems of the Iranian state, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Council. They need to be boycotted.”

Since the beginning of the protests, art has been used by demonstrators to signal anger at the regime, including red dye being poured into fountains and red nooses hung from trees.

“This is a society saying: We are terrorized,” Mahlouji said. “There is a big performative response: People tying themselves up; red ink being poured on pictures of the founder of the Islamic Republic; red paint being thrown at buildings; even urinating outside art galleries which have kept themselves open when artists demanded that they close down.”

Canada-based artist Jinoos Taghizadeh told The Guardian that some art galleries “have been the money-laundering arm of the government” and have “tried to depoliticize (Iranian) artists.”

She added that art students in Iran who defy the regime “were constantly threatened by the police and university security,” but “have been very brave and creative despite all the repressions, arrests, kidnappings,” and that “the performance of their music and protest songs and their publication on social media both encouraged the protesters and brought the voice of protest to other cities and outside Iran.”

Art has also been used as a form of protest against the regime overseas: In October, a group called the Anonymous Artist Collective for Iran set up a display of 12 red banners with images of Amini and the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In London’s Piccadilly Circus, exiled Iranian artist Shirin Neshat displayed a digital protest piece of the same slogan, also showing it at Pendry West Hollywood in Los Angeles.

Neshat said: “We are not just a bunch of oppressed artists trying to get the Western culture to feel sorry for us. We’re teaching them that it is time to wake up and understand that culture plays a big part in the political fabric of our world.

“We see these young people who are completely fearless facing tyranny. You really question your own state of mind as an Iranian who has never been able to live without fear for so many years. It’s extremely hopeful to have these young people who are saying no more fear.”