Iran’s presidential candidates debate economic policies ahead of the June 28 vote

Vehicles move past a billboard displaying the faces of the six candidates running in the upcoming Iranian presidential election in Valiasr Square in central Tehran on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
Vehicles move past a billboard displaying the faces of the six candidates running in the upcoming Iranian presidential election in Valiasr Square in central Tehran on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2024
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Iran’s presidential candidates debate economic policies ahead of the June 28 vote

Iran’s presidential candidates debate economic policies ahead of the June 28 vote
  • Five of the candidates are hard-liners while the sixth candidate, lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, 69, is a heart surgeon who has the support of some pro-reformers

TEHRAN, Iran: Six presidential candidates on Monday discussed Iran’s economic problems in a four-hour live debate on state TV, ahead of the June 28 presidential election following a helicopter crash last month that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others.
It was the first of five debates planned in the 10 days remaining before the vote in a shortened campaign to replace Raisi, a hard-line protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once floated as a possible successor to the 85-year-old cleric.
The candidates were to discuss their proposals and plans for Iran’s spiraling economy, struggling under sanctions from the United States and other Western nations.
They all promised they would try and get the sanctions lifted and introduce reforms but none offered any details. The candidates also discussed inflation, the budget deficit, Iran’s housing problem and ways to fight corruption.
The June 28 election comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, its arming of Russia in that country’s war on Ukraine and its wide-reaching crackdowns on dissent.
Iran’s support of militia proxy forces throughout the wider Middle East, meanwhile, have, been increasingly in the spotlight as Iran-backed Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack ships in the Red Sea over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Five of the candidates are hard-liners while the sixth candidate, lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, 69, is a heart surgeon who has the support of some pro-reformers.
The most prominent candidate remains Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, 62, a former Tehran mayor with close ties to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. However, many remember that Qalibaf, as a former Guard general, was part of a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.
Among those running for president are also Iran’s vice president, Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, 53, and the current Tehran mayor, Ali Reza Zakani 58. A member of Supreme National Security Council, 58-year-old Saeed Jalili and cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, 64, a previous interior minister under former relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, are also in the race.
Qalibaf promised he would be a “strong” president who would support the poor, better manage the economy and effort to remove sanctions through diplomatic means.
Pezeshkian said the sanctions were a “disaster” and also lobbied for less restrictions on the Internet. Iran has long blocked Facebook, X, Instagram, Telegram and other major social media platforms and messaging systems, mainly over security concerns
All the candidates pledged to strengthen the country’s currency, the rial, which has plunged to 580,000 against the dollar. The rial was 32,000 to the dollar when Iran and world powers reached a deal with world powers in 2015 on capping Tehran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
The six stayed away from the topic of the tattered nuclear deal. Khamenei has final say on all major state matters, including nuclear, foreign policy, space and military programs.
Pro-reform figures such as former President Mohammad Khatami and former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal have backed Pezeshkian, though votes in his favor in his parliamentary constituency in the northwestern city of Tabriz declined from 36 percent to 24 percent of the vote in elections over the past eight years.
Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election in a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

 


Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
Updated 10 sec ago
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Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
TRIPOLI: Libya held Wednesday a conference on irregular migration that saw the attendance of representatives from 28 European and African countries hoping to establish a “strategic” cooperation to resolve the issue.
“We have a moral responsibility” toward the mainly sub-Saharan migrants “who cross the desert and the sea” hoping to reach Europe, Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah said at the opening of the Trans-Mediterranean Migration Forum.
Libya, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Italy, is a key departure point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, risking perilous Mediterranean Sea journeys to seek better lives in Europe.
But with mounting efforts by the European Union to curb irregular migration, many have found themselves stranded in Libya and other North African countries.
“Libya found itself caught in pressure between (Europe’s) turning back of migrants and (their) desire to migrate,” said Dbeibah.
He called for development projects in departure countries.
“We can only resolve the migration crisis at the root, in the countries of departure,” he said.
Last week, authorities in Libya said that up to four in five foreigners in the North African country are undocumented, and hosting migrants hoping to reach Europe has become “unacceptable.”
“It’s time to resolve this problem,” Interior Minister Imad Trabelsi had said, because “Libya cannot continue to pay its price.”
Libya is still struggling to recover from years of war and chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Smugglers and human traffickers have taken advantage of the climate of instability that has dominated the vast country since.
The country has been criticized over the treatment of migrant and refugees, with accusations from rights groups ranging from extortion to slavery.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Wednesday’s forum called for an end to “human trafficking... (which) is nowadays one of world’s most powerful criminal networks.”
The far-right minister denounced “criminal organizations” who “decide who has the right or not to live in our countries,” adding that “illegal migration is the enemy of legal migration.”
Italy recorded 30,348 migrant arrivals from North Africa between January 1 and July 16 — a 61-percent decrease in a year — with 17,659 people leaving from Libya and 11,001 from Tunisia, according to official figures.

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
Updated 49 min 33 sec ago
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16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
  • Maritime Security Center in Oman said that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon
  • Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels

AL-MUKALLA: Search operations have escalated for 16 seamen who went missing in the Arabian Sea on Monday when their oil tanker, bound for Yemen, sunk off Oman.

The Maritime Security Center in Oman said on Tuesday that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker that collapsed 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah near the Omani port town of Duqm.

The Indian news agency Asian News International reported that the Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels and coast guards to find the missing sailors. The Indian Navy warship was able to locate the capsized tanker on Tuesday morning.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides ship information, the Prestige Falcon is an oil tanker flying the Comoros flag, and which was going from the UAE to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. In Yemen, the state-run Public Electricity Corporation in Aden said that the capsized ship was carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel owned by a local merchant, contradicting media reports claiming that it controlled the ship’s cargo.

This comes as the Conflict and Environment Observatory, an environmental advocacy charity, stated that images provided by the Sentinel 2 satellite on Tuesday showed a 220 km oil slick beginning 106 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which was believed leaked from the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion that the Houthis attacked.

On Tuesday, the Houthis released footage of an explosive-laden and remotely operated boat colliding with the Chios Lion in the Red Sea, which was traveling 100 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah on Monday, resulting in an explosion and ball of fire. The CEOBS condemned the Houthis for damaging the Red Sea’s ecosystem by assaulting oil vessels. “Attacks have already impacted the Red Sea environment and attacks on oil and bulk chemical carriers pose ongoing risks,” it said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s government said that it had found no evidence of contamination in the Red Sea or along the country’s coast from a fertilizer-laden ship that sank in the Red Sea, repeating appeals for the international community to provide it with technology to neutralize the ship’s danger. The MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and gasoline, sank in the Red Sea earlier this year after being attacked by Houthi missiles.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission responsible for the sinking ship, told Arab News that the Yemeni government teams who visited the ship’s area and combed the Yemeni coasts had not observed any signs of pollution.

He also said that the Yemeni government had requested equipment from some nations, including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to address the MV Rubymar sinking or any similar incident in the future as the Houthis intensify their attacks on ships. “So yet, there is no pollution or slicks surrounding the ship, and it remains bowed up, indicating that water has not infiltrated all of its compartments,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two others, fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and deployed drones and drone boats to attack commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Yemeni militia sees this as an attempt to pressure Israel to end its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 17 July 2024
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Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • CNN has reported US authorities received intelligence weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations calls the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious”

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
  • “The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television
  • Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group

TRIPOLI: Armed groups clashed in a seaside town outside the Libyan capital late Tuesday, killing a woman bystander and sowing panic among beachgoers, emergency services and media reports said.
The fighting erupted in Tajura, a town 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Tripoli which is popular with families seeking escape from the heat of the capital.
“The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television.
Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group.
A myriad of armed groups have vied for control of the North African country ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Although relative calm has returned in the past few years, clashes periodically occur between rival groups, most of which are allied with either the UN-recognized government in Tripoli or the rival administration based in the east.
Clashes broke out in Zawiya, west of the capital, in May and in Tripoli itself in April.
In August last year, 55 people were killed in the fiercest clashes to hit the capital in a year.


Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
Updated 17 July 2024
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Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
  • The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas
  • The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition

BAGHDAD: Two drones were launched against a base in Iraq where forces of the US-led anti-extremist coalition are stationed, security officials said Wednesday.
“An attack using two drones” targeted Ain Assad base in Anbar province on Tuesday evening, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“One drone was shot down outside the base by defense systems, and the second exploded inside the base without causing any injuries or damage,” he added.
The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and Hamas.
Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq have largely halted similar attacks on US-backed troops in recent months, but have continued to threaten action should war break out between their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.
A senior security official in Baghdad confirmed Tuesday’s attack, saying he believed it was meant to “embarrass” the Iraqi government and pressure the ongoing talks on the future of the international coalition in Iraq, with Iran-backed groups demanding a withdrawal.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition.
The coalition was deployed to Iraq at the government’s request in 2014 to help combat Daesh, which had taken over vast swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, has carried out more than 175 rocket and drone strikes against US-led troops in Iraq and Syria.
It says the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, demanding an end to the Israeli offensive.
In April, rocket fire from northern Iraq targeted a base hosting the international coalition in Syria.
In late January, a drone strike blamed on Iraqi armed groups killed three US soldiers in a base across the border in Jordan.
In retaliation, the US launched deadly strikes against pro-Iran factions in Iraq and Syria.
Baghdad has sought to defuse the tensions, engaging in talks with Washington to negotiate a timeline for the coalition’s withdrawal.
The senior security official said that an Iraqi delegation is expected to travel to Washington later this week for the ongoing talks.