The newly appointed commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force said the United States killed his predecessor, Qassem Soleimani, “in a cowardly way” and promised to “hit his enemy in a manly fashion”.
Esmail Qaani made the remarks on Monday at an introduction ceremony held for him by top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) commanders to mark the formal beginning of his tenure.
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“They (US) hit him (Soleimani) in a cowardly way, but with God’s grace and through endeavours of freedom-seekers around the world who want vengeance over his blood, we will hit his enemy in a manly fashion,” he said.
Soleimani’s assassination in a US air strike in Baghdad on January 3 pushed the US and Iran to the brink of war, but fears of an all-out conflict eased when retaliatory Iranian attacks against US targets in Iraq on January 8 concluded without any fatalities.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has since called for the expulsion of all American troops from the Middle East.
The Quds Force is part of the 125,000-strong IRGC, a paramilitary organisation that answers only to Khamenei.
IRGC oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme, has its naval forces shadow the US Navy in the Gulf, and includes an all-volunteer Basij force.
Under Soleimani, the Quds Force helped boost Iranian influence across the Middle East by building up a vast network of proxies.
In Syria, the unit played a key role in shoring up support for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after the country descended into war in 2011.
It also armed and trained militias that helped defeat the armed group ISIL (ISIS) in both Syria and Iraq.
Khamenei, while announcing Qaani’s appointment, said the Quds Force’s new chief was “among the most prominent IRGC commanders” during the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq, adding the unit under the veteran soldier will follow an “identical” strategy to that pursued by Soleimani.
At the slain commander’s funeral days later, Qaani, 62, pledged to continue on his predecessor’s path “with the same force”, saying his assassination “will be reciprocated in several steps by removing the US from the region”.
Born in the late 1950s in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran, Qaani joined the IRGC in 1980, a few months before Iraqi forces invaded western Iran, triggering a bloody eight-year war that killed about one million people.
Soon after the war, Qaani was appointed as deputy chief of the IRGC’s ground forces.
Although it is unclear when Qaani joined the Quds Force, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said he was appointed as the unit’s deputy in 1997, the same year that Soleimani was named its commander.
With a clear division of labour and maintaining geographically distinct spheres of influence, Soleimani and Qaani together played a strategic role in expanding Iran’s influence in neighbouring nations.
In the few public statements Qaani has made, he slammed the United States and Israel and said in a 2017 article that US President Donald Trump’s “threats against Iran will damage America”.
In 2012, the US sanctioned Qaani citing his role in financial disbursements to the Quds Force’s “elements in Africa” and other “terrorist groups”.
Iran’s Zarif in Iraq in his first visit since Soleimani’s killing |NationalTribune.com
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting Iraq, for the first time since the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January. Zarif and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein stressed the necessity for a stable Iraq for the “good of the region” as the two top diplomats discussed their ties and regional developments in…
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting Iraq, for the first time since the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January.
Zarif and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein stressed the necessity for a stable Iraq for the “good of the region” as the two top diplomats discussed their ties and regional developments in Baghdad on Sunday.
Zarif is also expected to meet Iraq’s president, the speaker of parliament and the prime minister during the visit as regional security, bilateral relations and business investments feature on the agenda.
Zarif’s visit to Iraq comes amid tensions between the United States and Iran, which escalated following Soleimani’s killing in an air attack in the Iraqi capital.
In a joint news conference with Hussein, Zarif said a “stable and powerful” Iraq was in the interest of both the countries.
“That is why we look forward to continued constructive bilateral negotiations. The stability, security and peace in Iraq is the stability of the entire region,” he said.
“Again, we reiterate that we are keen on maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.”
Fuad Hussein said his country looked forward to continuing its “balanced relations” with all the countries in the region.
“[The relations are] based on first our national interest, then on mutual interest with our neighbours without any interfering in our domestic affairs.”
Zarif visits Soleimani memorial
During his visit, Zarif visited a memorial to Soleimani at the site where he and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), were killed near Baghdad’s international airport.
Tehran had retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.
While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain al-Assad killed no US soldiers, dozens were reported to have suffered brain trauma.
Zarif said the assassination of Soleimani was “a criminal act”.
“It is a loss to our country and to the entire region, and it undermines the international efforts for combating ISIL (ISIL) and terrorism in the region,” he said.
This was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since the killing of Soleimani and formation of the new Iraqi government.
Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn, reporting from Baghdad, said the recent months have been turbulent for relations between Iran and Iraq.
“New Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been stressing the importance of Iraq’s sovereignty,” she said.
“He also recently moved against armed groups present in Iraq, such as Kataib Hezbollah, which is considered close to Iran,” she said, referring to the Iraqi armed group backed by Tehran.
“This visit is aimed at recalibrating mutual relations and making sure Iran’s security, economic and political interests are represented in Iraq.”
Zarif’s visit comes a day before al-Kadhimi travels to Saudi Arabia and Iran next week in apparent attempt to balance his country’s ties with regional rivals in his first foreign trip as Iraq’s prime minister.
Fire at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility caused significant damage |NationalTribune.com
A fire that broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility last week caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced centrifuges, an Iranian nuclear official said on Sunday. No one was hurt in the mysterious blaze last Thursday at the site, said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation. Iran’s top security body…
A fire that broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility last week caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced centrifuges, an Iranian nuclear official said on Sunday.
No one was hurt in the mysterious blaze last Thursday at the site, said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.
Iran’s top security body said on Friday the cause of the fire at the facility had been determined and would be announced later, however, specific details have yet to be released.
Some Iranian officials reportedly said it may have been caused by cyber-sabotage and one warned Tehran would retaliate against any country carrying out such attacks.
“The incident could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term,” Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.
“Iran will replace the damaged building with a bigger one that has more advanced equipment. The incident has caused significant damage, but there were no casualties.”
An article by IRNA last week addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the US and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz.
Israel’s defence minister said on Sunday it was not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran.
The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
The IAEA said on Friday the location of the fire did not contain nuclear materials and none of its inspectors was present at the time.
Natanz is the centrepiece of Iran’s enrichment programme, which Tehran says is only for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe it had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms programme that it halted in 2003.
Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.
Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions in a deal reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015.
But Tehran has gradually reduced its commitments to the accord since US President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed and intensified sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.
The deal only allows Iran to enrich uranium at Natanz facility with more than 5,000 of first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.
Iran’s Zarif says ending arms ban ‘inseparable’ from nuclear deal |NationalTribune.com
Iran has said the preservation of its nuclear accord with world powers depends on the scheduled end in October of a UN arms embargo as the United States seeks to extend it.”The timetable for the removal of arms restrictions embodied in Resolution 2231 is an inseparable part of the hard-won compromise,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister…
Iran has said the preservation of its nuclear accord with world powers depends on the scheduled end in October of a UN arms embargo as the United States seeks to extend it.”The timetable for the removal of arms restrictions embodied in Resolution 2231 is an inseparable part of the hard-won compromise,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session, referring to the resolution that blessed the 2015 deal signed to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
“Any attempt to change or amend the agreed timetable is thus tantamount to undermining Resolution 2231 in its entirety,” he said.His comments were made after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the UN body to extend the embargo on Iran.
Washington has circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member council that would indefinitely extend the embargo but Russia and China have already signalled their opposition to such a move.
“If Iran isn’t a threat to peace and security I do not know what it is,” Pompeo said, warning that the embargo’s expiration would risk the stability of the Middle East.”Iran will hold a sword of Damocles over the economic stability of the Middle East, endangering nations like Russia and China that rely on stable energy prices,” he added, referencing two opponents of prolonging the embargo.
Pompeo described Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime,” and urged the UNSC to reject “extortion diplomacy.”
If the US is unsuccessful in extending the arms embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under the nuclear deal, from which Washington unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
Zarif countered calling President Donald Trump’s administration “an outlaw bully” that is waging “economic terrorism” on his country to satisfy domestic constituencies and “personal aggrandizement.”
He called for the US to compensate the Iranian people for the damage and vehemently opposed any extension of the arms embargo, warning that Iran’s options “will be firm” if it is maintained and the US will bear full responsibility.
Pompeo’s threat to trigger a new set of sanctions was met with criticism during the meeting by other members who signalled their opposition to the move, while also stressing the importance of respecting the deal.
While Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia denounced the US’s attempt to extend the embargo as a “utopia”, China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, stressed that the five-year arms embargo should end as scheduled under the 2015 resolution.”Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snapback at the Security Council,” Zhang said, using the official name of the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.European allies of the US have voiced support for extending the embargo but also oppose new sanctions, saying the bigger issue is Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Unilateral attempts to trigger UN sanctions snapback are incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA,” said the British envoy, Jonathan Allen, referring to the nuclear agreement.
Olof Skoog, the European Union representative to the UN, noted that the US has not participated in any meetings on the nuclear deal since announcing its withdrawal in May 2018.
The UNSC was meeting to discuss a report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said the cruise missiles used in several attacks on oil facilities and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin”.
Guterres said “these items may have been transferred in a manner inconsistent” with a 2015 Security Council resolution that enshrines Tehran’s deal with world powers to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran rejected the report saying it had been drawn up under US and Saudi influence.
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