Iran delivers ‘a fatal blow’ to hopes of revived nuclear deal

Iran delivers ‘a fatal blow’ to hopes of revived nuclear deal
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general of IAEA, made the comments at a suddenly called news conference in Vienna on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 10 June 2022

Iran delivers ‘a fatal blow’ to hopes of revived nuclear deal

Iran delivers ‘a fatal blow’ to hopes of revived nuclear deal
  • Tehran removes UN watchdog’s surveillance cameras
  • “We are in a very tense situation,” agency chief warns

JEDDAH: Iran on Thursday began removing international surveillance cameras from its nuclear development sites in what the head of the UN’s atomic energy watchdog described as a “fatal blow” to hopes of reviving the collapsed 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran had threatened retaliation if the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors passed a resolution drafted by the US, France, Britain and Germany criticizing Tehran for its continued failure to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites. The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority late on Wednesday.

In response, Tehran has begun removing all the monitoring equipment installed under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the original 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.

There is now a window of up to four weeks to restore some of the surveillance cameras or the IAEA will lose the ability to piece together Iran’s most important nuclear activities, agency chief Rafael Grossi said on Thursday. “I think this would be a fatal blow,” he said.

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, Iran has breached many of the agreement’s limits on its nuclear activities. It is enriching uranium to close to weapons grade. Talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the agreement have been stalled since March.

Since the deal’s collapse, Iran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium. Nonproliferation experts warn that Tehran has enriched enough up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent — to make one nuclear weapon should it decide to do so. 

Cameramen at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna film a demonstration of a monitoring camera that is used at Iran’s nuclear sites. (AFP)

Grossi spoke on Thursday at a news conference in Vienna, standing next to an example of the cameras installed across Iran. The surveillance equipment is being removed from sites in Tehran, the underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, the facility in Isfahan and the Arak heavy water reactor in Khondab, he said. 

Grossi said about 40 IAEA cameras would continue operating as part of the core monitoring in Iran that predated the 2015 deal. However, Tehran has already been withholding footage from those cameras since February 2021 as a pressure tactic to restore the nuclear agreement.

“We are in a very tense situation with the negotiations on the revival of the JCPOA at a low ebb,” Grossi said. “Now we are adding this to the picture; so, as you can see, it’s not a very nice one.”

Despite mounting international pressure, Iran remained defiant on Thursday.

“You think we would retreat …if you pass a resolution at the IAEA board of governors?” Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said. “We will not back off a single step from our positions.”

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match
Updated 29 November 2022

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match
  • Players warned their relatives face arrest, torture if they do not back regime in final group game
  • Source tells CNN IRGC has flooded Qatar with operatives, officials to monitor players

LONDON: Iran’s footballers at the World Cup in Qatar have been warned that their families could be imprisoned and tortured if they show any signs of protest or dissent during the team’s final group game on Tuesday.

In their opening game against England, the Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem in a show of solidarity with protests across the country, but did participate during the second game against Wales.

A source told CNN, ahead of the match against the US, that the players had been informed in a meeting with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that “violence and torture” awaited their relatives if they did not “behave” this time.

It marked a severe change in tone, the source added, as prior to the World Cup the team had been promised lavish gifts if they performed well at the tournament.

Coach Carlos Queiroz also had a separate meeting with IRGC officials, but it is not known what was discussed.

Queiroz had previously said his players could protest as long as it met with criteria established by FIFA.

The source said “dozens” of IRGC members are in Qatar to monitor the players, who are not allowed to meet with or talk to foreigners for the duration of the competition.

“There are a large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source told CNN.

“In the last game against Wales, the regime sent over hundreds of these actor supporters in order to create a false sense of support and favor amongst the fans.

“For the next game against the US, the regime is planning to significantly increase the number of actors into the thousands.”

Protests have engulfed Iran since September following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the country’s morality police, for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands arrested, with many facing execution.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called the situation a “full-fledged human rights crisis.”

Thousands of Iranian fans have taken their protests to World Cup venues, holding anti-regime banners, calling for women’s rights to be protected, and booing the national anthem.

UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday

UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday
Updated 29 November 2022

UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday

UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday
  • Rashid rover will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, tomorrow (Nov.30)
  • If the lunar mission succeeded, the UAE would be the fourth country to land on the moon.

DUBAI: The UAE has completed the final preparations to launch its rover to the moon in the Arab world’s first lunar mission, it was announced on Tuesday.

Rashid rover will blast off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, embarking on a five-month journey to the moon.

In a statement, Japan-based ispace inc. announced it had completed the integration of its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander into the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“We are pleased to have finished the first phase of the Mission 1 with the final preparations before launch completed,” said Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace.

“To do this, we utilized a design and development model that balanced reliability and low costs by employing proven technologies and components from around the world,” he added.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) invited viewers from all over the world to watch the launch live at 12:39pm UAE time (GMT+4).



The rover will land on the “unexplored moon surface at Atlas Crater, on the southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (“Sea of Cold”)” in April 2023, the center said.

“The target site criteria were carefully considered by the Emirates Lunar Mission Team, including the duration of continuous sun illumination and communication visibility from Earth,” the MBRSC said in a statement. Once launched, the integrated spacecraft will take a low-energy route to the moon rather than a direct approach.

If the lunar mission succeeded, the UAE would be the fourth country to land on the moon.

The 10kg Rashid rover will study the properties of lunar soil, mobility on the lunar surface, the petrography and geology of the moon, dust movement, and study surface plasma conditions and the moon’s photoelectron sheath.

It will send data and images back to Earth, using two high-resolution cameras: Microscopic, and thermal imaging ones, said the mission’s team.

The lunar mission was the latest of the UAE’s effort in space exploration. Earlier in February 2021, the UAE made history by landing its Hope probe to Mars, becoming the first Arab nation to launch an unmanned mission to the red planet.

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general
Updated 29 November 2022

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general
  • The toll includes dozens of police, troops and militia killed in clashes with demonstrators or murdered

TEHRAN: Iran has for the first time reported that more than 300 people have died in over two months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
The Islamic republic has deployed state security forces against what it labels “riots” that broke out after the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian died on September 16, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s dress code for women.
“Everyone in the country has been affected by the death of this lady,” said Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajjizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a video published by the Mehr news agency.
“I don’t have the latest figures, but I think we have had perhaps more than 300 martyrs and people killed,” among them some of “the best sons of the country,” said Hajjizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.
The toll includes those who have taken to the streets as well as dozens of police, troops and IRGC militia who have died in clashes with demonstrators or who were killed elsewhere.
The latest official death toll is much closer to the figure of at least 416 people “killed in the suppression of protests in Iran” published by the Oslo-based non-government group Iran Human Rights.
The group says its toll includes those killed in violence related to the Amini protests and in distinct unrest in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Thousands of Iranians and around 40 foreigners have been arrested and more than 2,000 people have been charged, according to judicial authorities.
Among these, six have been sentenced to death, with their appeals set to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the monarchy, Iranian law requires all women to wear modest dress and a hijab head covering that conceals their hair, rules enforced by morality police squads that patrol public places.
Over the past two decades, however, many women, especially in Tehran and other major cities, have shown more of their hair, before the rules were tightened again — a flashpoint issue in the protests.
Iran has blamed its enemies for the civil unrest, pointing at the United States, other Western powers and Israel, as well as exiled Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups based in northern Iraq whom it has hit with repeated missiles and drone strikes.
Amid the heightened tensions, Iran’s national football team will play the US side at the World Cup in Qatar from 1900 GMT Tuesday — a match seen as highly political between the countries that have had no diplomatic relations since 1980.
Iran’s judicial authorities Tuesday announced the release of more than 1,100 detainees in 20 provinces, including protesters, following Iran’s World Cup win Friday against Wales, the Mizan Online news agency reported.

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’
Updated 29 November 2022

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’
  • Dubai police arrest 6 ‘high-value’ suspects linked to Netherlands, Spain, France
  • Emirates committed to joint global security pacts, says deputy PM

DUBAI: The UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan lauded on Monday the arrest of 49 drug kingpins, including six chief suspects in Dubai, involved in a “super-cartel” that controlled a third of Europe’s cocaine trade network.

The arrests were the result of coordinated efforts between the UAE’s Ministry of Interior, the Dubai Police General Command, the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation Europol, and several overseas law enforcement agencies.



With the support of Europol, parallel investigations launched in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE targeted the activities of the prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.

Over 30 tons of drugs were seized by law enforcement officers during the massive international operation, Europol said.

Dubai had arrested two “high-value” suspects with ties to the Netherlands, two with ties to Spain, and two with ties to France.

“One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish,” a Europol source told AFP.



Another 13 people were arrested in Spain, six in France and 10 in Belgium, while 14 people were nabbed in 2021 in the Netherlands as part of the same operation, Europol said.

Sheikh Saif attributed the success of Operation Desert Light to the cooperation between nations and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Joint agreements remained a key part of the UAE’s commitment to global safety and security, he said.

In September, Europol and the UAE Ministry of Interior signed a Liaison Officer Agreement, as part of this commitment to tackle transnational crime, Europol said. The agreement ensures the deployment of UAE law enforcement liaison officers to Europol’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

A UAE official has already joined the network of over 250 liaison officers from more than 50 countries and organizations with permanent representation at Europol.

Four Palestinians dead, soldier wounded as West Bank violence flares

Four Palestinians dead, soldier wounded as West Bank violence flares
Updated 29 November 2022

Four Palestinians dead, soldier wounded as West Bank violence flares

Four Palestinians dead, soldier wounded as West Bank violence flares
  • The army fired on “rioters” who attacked soldiers in two separate clashes

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank Tuesday, Palestinian officials said, before a suspected car-ramming attacker was killed after wounding an Israeli soldier, Israeli medics and the army said.
The army confirmed its troops had fired on “rioters” who attacked soldiers in two separate clashes in the West Bank overnight.
The 20-year-old woman soldier was “moderately injured and evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment” following the suspected car-ramming north of Jerusalem, the army said. Jerusalem’s Shaare Tzedek hospital confirmed the alleged attacker had been killed.
The West Bank has suffered spiralling violence this year, with near daily Israeli army raids leading to scores of deaths — of Palestinian fighters and also civilians — while Jewish settlers have been increasingly targeted by at times deadly Palestinian violence.
In Kafr Ein, near Ramallah, two brothers were killed by Israeli fire, the Palestinian health ministry said.
A third man died of bullet wounds to the head fired by Israeli troops in Beit Ummar, near the flashpoint city of Hebron, the ministry said.
Commenting on the Beit Ummar clash, the Israeli army said it had opened fire on “rioters” who “hurled rocks and improvised explosive devices at the soldiers” after two vehicles got stuck during an “operation patrol” in the area.
Palestinian official news agency Wafa named the dead man as Mufid Mahmud Khalil, 44, from the Beit Ummar area.
The health ministry identified the dead in Kafr Ein as brothers Jawad Abdulrahman Rimawi, 22, and Dhafer Abdul Rahman Rimawi, 21.
The Israeli army said “a violent riot was instigated by a number of suspects,” during “routine” overnight activity in the Kafr Ein area.
“The suspects hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails toward the soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal means and live fire,” an army statement said, adding that the military was “aware” of reports of two fatalities.
“The incident is under review,” the army said.
Palestinian Authority civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh described the killing of the two brothers as an “execution in cold blood.”
Near the West Bank settlement of Migron, the army reported “a ramming attack.”
The Magen David Adom emergency response agency said its staff treated “a 20-year-old female injured in a car-ramming terror attack,” and took her to Shaare Tzedek hospital.
On Monday, the United Nations envoy for Middle East peace, Tor Wennesland, warned the situation in the West Bank was “reaching a boiling point.”
“High levels of violence in the occupied West Bank and Israel in recent months, including attacks against Israeli and Palestinian civilians, increased use of arms and settler-related violence, have caused grave human suffering,” he told the Security Council.
This week, the army announced it had made more than 3,000 arrests this year as part of Operation Break the Wave, a campaign it launched following a series of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.
The UN says more than 125 Palestinians have been killed across the West Bank this year.
Israel has occupied the territory since the Six-Day War of 1967. An estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers now live in the territory, alongside some 2.9 million Palestinians, in communities considered illegal under international law.
Tuesday’s violence came as veteran hawk Benjamin Netanyahu continued negotiations to form what could be the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, following a general election earlier this month.
On Friday, Netanyahu signed an agreement with lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir that promised the far-right firebrand the new post of national security minister, with responsibility for the border police in the West Bank.
Ben-Gvir, known for anti-Arab rhetoric, has repeatedly called on police and soldiers to use more force when confronting Palestinian unrest.