Iran has condemned new United States sanctions that punish any company that works with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, saying they were “cruel” and would exacerbate suffering in the war-torn country.
On Thursday, the leader of the Hezbollah movement also denounced the restrictions, calling the move an American attempt to “starve” Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, which share close financial relations.
The Caesar Act came into force on Wednesday with the first designations targeting 39 people or entities, including al-Assad and his wife Asma.
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“[Iran] does not respect such cruel and unilateral sanctions waged as bullying and considers them to be economic terrorism against the people of Syria,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
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The sanctions were “against international laws and human values” and would only “exacerbate the suffering of Syria’s people” amid the coronavirus outbreak, he said in a statement.
Mousavi vowed Tehran would maintain its economic ties with Damascus.
Iran has also been under US sanctions since 2018 when Washington unilaterally withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers and reimposed them, targeting the crucial oil and banking sectors.
The Caesar Act is named after a Syrian former military photographer who fled in 2014 at great personal risk with 55,000 images of brutality in al-Assad’s prisons.
Sanctions aim to ‘starve’ Syria
Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, also condemned the new US sanctions.
“The Caesar Act aims to starve Lebanon just as it aims to starve Syria,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Tuesday.
“Syria has won the war … militarily, in security terms and politically,” he added, describing the Caesar Act as Washington’s “last weapon” against Damascus.
The US law targets companies that deal with al-Assad’s government, which Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia support in Syria’s nine-year conflict.
It imposes financial restrictions on the Damascus government to compel it to halt “attacks on the Syrian people”, and it is expected for the first time to target Russian and Iranian entities active in Syria.
The Syrian government and loyalist businessmen are already targeted by US and European sanctions.
After nine years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, Syria is mired in an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar-liquidity crisis in Lebanon, a major conduit for government-held regions.
A large chunk of Syria’s population is living in poverty, prices have soared and the value of the Syrian pound has hit record lows against the dollar on the black market.
Nasrallah also accused the US of engineering the collapse of the Syrian currency but vowed al-Assad’s allies would stand by the regime.
“The allies of Syria, which stood by its side during the war … will not abandon Syria in the face of economic warfare and will not allow its fall, even if they are themselves going through difficult circumstances,” he said.
Syrians have difficulty in finding a place to live due to the lack of campsites, infrastructure and the excessive amount of refugees in their camps [File: Esra Hacioglu/Anadolu]
Lebanon too is experiencing the worst financial meltdown since the end of its own 1975-1990 civil war, as well as being rocked by months of anti-government protests.
“The Americans are pressurising the Bank of Lebanon to prevent it from putting enough dollars into the market,” Nasrallah said, alleging Washington was just using claims that Hezbollah was sending dollars into Syria as a pretext.
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He also accused the US government of trying to get Lebanon to push Hezbollah into giving up its weapons but vowed it would never do so.
Nasrallah called on the Lebanese government “not to submit” to the Caesar Act, noting the country is likely to be deeply hurt if it does.
He said Syria was Lebanon’s only land route to the world, so trade would be harmed. Losing the land route with Syria would force Lebanon to turn to Israel, which Nasrallah suggested is the aim of the US sanctions.
The US has warned al-Assad he will never secure a full victory and must reach a political compromise.
Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, urged him to accept a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, elections and political transition along with UN-led talks.
“The Assad regime has a clear choice to make: pursue the political path established in Resolution 2254, or leave the United States with no other choice but to continue withholding reconstruction funding and impose sanctions against the regime and its financial backers,” Craft said.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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