US pressures Iran by targeting Chinese, UAE front companies

US pressures Iran by targeting Chinese, UAE front companies
The United States imposed new sanctions on petrochemical producers in Iran. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2022

US pressures Iran by targeting Chinese, UAE front companies

US pressures Iran by targeting Chinese, UAE front companies
  • The US imposed new sanctions on petrochemical producers in Iran

The US imposed sanctions on Thursday on Chinese and Emirati front companies and on a network of Iranian firms that help export Iran’s petrochemicals, a step that may raise pressure on Tehran to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The US Treasury department said it had imposed penalties on two front companies based in Hong Kong, three in Iran, and four in the UAE, as well as on Chinese citizen Jinfeng Gao and Indian national Mohammed Shaheed Ruknooddin Bhore.
“The United States is pursuing the path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement, referring to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Under the pact, Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder for Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from US, European Union and United Nations sanctions that had choked Iran’s oil-dependent economy.
Then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and restored US sanctions, prompting Iran to start violating the nuclear restrictions about a year later. Talks to revive the agreement have so far failed.
“Absent a deal, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to limit exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran,” Nelson said.
In Tehran, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic diplomacy dismissed the new sanctions as ineffective.
“Our petrochemical industry and its products have long been under sanctions, but our sales have continued through various channels and shall continue to do so,” Mehdi Safari told Iranian state TV.
Henry Rome, deputy head of research at the Eurasia Group, said the sanctions may aim both to raise pressure on Iran and to blunt US domestic critics who argue that US President Joe Biden has failed to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
“Washington is likely aiming to raise the costs for Iran of a continued no-deal scenario while also deflecting domestic and foreign criticism that it is allowing its Iran policy to drift,” Rome said, saying that any single sanctions action was unlikely to change thinking in Iran or China absent a broader strategy.
“Indeed, Tehran may calculate that given the state of the oil market and global inflationary pressures, a concerted (US) campaign to collapse Iranian energy exports to Trump-era levels is not in the cards in the near term,” Rome added.
The nuclear pact seemed near revival in March but talks unraveled partly over whether Washington might drop the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
The Treasury Department named the Hong Kong-based companies as Keen Well International Ltd. and Teamford Enterprises Ltd. and the Iran-based firms as Fanavaran Petrochemical Company, Kharg Petrochemical Company Ltd. and Marun Petrochemical Company.
The two Hong Kong-based companies and Gao could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kharg could not be reached for comment late on Thursday, the weekend in Iran, while Fanavaran and Marun did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment.
The Treasury listed the four UAE-based companies as Future Gate Fuel and Petrochemical Trading L.L.C., GX Shipping FZE, Sky Zone Trading FZE and Youchem General Trading FZE. 
All property and interests in property of the firms falling under US jurisdiction are blocked and those who deal with them may also be sanctioned or penalized under some circumstances. 


Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies
Updated 16 sec ago

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies
JERUSALEM: An Israeli wounded in rare bombings to hit Jerusalem earlier this week died Saturday, the hospital treating him announced, the latest casualty as violence surges in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital announced the death of Tadesa Teshuma “who was fatally wounded in an attack at the entrance to Jerusalem.”
A 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian was also killed in Wednesday’s twin blasts, which hit bus stops frequented by ultra-Orthodox Jews at the city’s western exit.
Thirteen others were wounded, medics said, in the first bombings to hit the contested city since 2016 according to Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency.
A security source told AFP the explosives were detonated remotely and no group has claimed the attacks, which were celebrated by Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The bombings come amid a spike in violence, which has claimed the lives of six Israelis and 14 Palestinians this month across Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Israeli security forces remain on high alert and on Saturday police briefly closed a main road in Jerusalem, not far from the site of the bombings, due to a suspicious package. The incident turned out to be a false alarm, police said.
During the second intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s, Palestinian militants repeatedly planted bombs at urban bus stops, including in Jerusalem.
Much of the recent violence has centered on the West Bank, where more than 125 Palestinians have been killed this year according to an AFP tally.
At least 26 Israelis have also been killed in attacks across Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The dead have included Israeli troops, Palestinian militants and civilians on both sides including multiple children.
Earlier this year, 49 Gazans were killed in a three-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave.

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
Updated 26 November 2022

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
  • Decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday
  • So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council announced on Monday it would hold an urgent session this month on Iran, where a brutal crackdown on mass protests has left hundreds dead.
The United Nations’ highest rights body said a special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran would be held on November 24.
The decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday.
The support of 16 of the Human Rights Council’s 47 members — more than a third — is required to convene a special session outside the three regular ones held each year.
So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call, the body said.
The request follows eight weeks of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.
At least 326 people have been killed in the crackdown on the protests, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), as the demonstrations have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 fall of the shah.
Thousands of peaceful protesters have also been arrested, according to UN rights experts, including many women, children, lawyers, activists and journalists.

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
  • Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran's rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests
  • Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called 'trial' today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice," the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said

PARIS: The family of an Iranian rapper detained for supporting protests over Mahsa Amini’s death said his life was at risk after he went on trial behind closed doors on Saturday.
Iran has intensified a crackdown on the protests sparked by the September 16 death of Amini after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women.
Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran’s rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests, human rights groups said.
“Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called ‘trial’ today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice,” the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said on Twitter.
His family tweeted that his “life is at serious risk right now” as he faced charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” — sharia-related charges that are capital crimes in the Islamic republic.
Salehi had disappeared at the end of October before appearing in a video published on November 2 by Iran’s state-run media.
The video claimed to show the first images of Salehi after his arrest.
It depicted a tattooed man in a sleeveless black T-shirt sitting on the ground, wearing a blindfold and looking bloodied and bruised.
The man says: “I am Toomaj Salehi. I said I made a mistake. I said... that you should run. I didn’t mean you.”
Activists condemned the recording as a forced confession extracted under duress.
Salehi is one of a number of prominent figures to be arrested in a mass crackdown that has seen dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society and cultural figures arrested.
His detention came shortly after he gave an interview highly critical of the regime to the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation.
“You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation... in order to keep its power, money and weapons,” Salehi said in the interview.
Iranian state media claim Salehi was arrested while trying to cross one of the country’s western borders, but his family have denied this saying he was in the southwestern province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari at the time.


Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh
Updated 26 November 2022

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh
  • Over the past week, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq
BEIRUT: The commander of the main US-backed Kurdish-led force in Syria said Saturday they have halted operations against the Daesh group due to Turkish attacks on northern Syria over the past week.
Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters that after nearly a week of Turkish airstrikes on northern Syria, Ankara is now preparing for a ground offensive. He said Turkey-backed opposition fighters are getting ready to take part in the operations.
Abdi added that Turkish strikes over the past week have caused severe damage to the region’s infrastructure.
Abdi said Turkey is taking advantage of the deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups. Kurdish organizations have denied any involvement in the Istanbul attack that killed six and wounded dozens.
Over the past week, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq in retaliation for the Istanbul attack.
“The forces that work symbolically with the international coalition in the fight against IS are now targets for the Turkish state and therefore (military) operations have stopped,” Abdi said, using an Arabic acronym of the Daesh group. “Anti-Daesh operations have stopped.”
His comments came hours after the US military said two rockets targeted US-led coalition forces at bases in the northeastern Syrian town of Shaddadeh resulting in no “injuries or damage to the base or coalition property.”
The US military statement said SDF fighters visited the site of the rocket's origin and found a third unfired rocket.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, blamed Daesh sleeper cells for the Friday night attack on the US base.
“Attacks of this kind place coalition forces and the civilian populace at risk and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.
The SDF said in a statement before midnight Friday that as Turkish drones flew over the al-Hol camp that is home to tens of thousands of mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters, some IS family members attacked security forces and managed to escape from the sprawling facility. The SDF did not say how many escaped but that they were later detained.
Kurdish authorities operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria holding about 10,000 Daesh fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans.

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.