Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Iranian hackers used female ‘honey pot’ to lure targets: researchers – Reuters

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have impersonated a young female photographer on social media for more than a year, luring men working in industries strategically important to Tehran’s regional adversaries, according to research published Thursday.

The so-called Mia Ash persona has been active on sites including LinkedIn, Facebook Inc (FB.O), WhatsApp and Blogger since at least April of last year, researchers at Dell SecureWorks said.

The campaign showed Iran engaged in a social engineering plot to ensnare its targets with a “honey pot”, a classic espionage trap often involving seduction, more commonly used by criminal hackers.

Dell SecureWorks observed Mia Ash sending specific malware, concealed as a “photography survey” with an attachment, to a victim that matched malware sent by Iranian hacking group Cobalt Gypsy during an unsuccessful “spearphishing” email attempt to the same victim’s employer in January.

The malware, known as PupyRAT, would give an attacker complete control of a compromised computer and access to network credentials, suggesting government espionage. The researchers did not have visibility into how many targets were compromised or what Mia Ash sought to gain with the access.

The fake profile used publicly available social media images of a real photographer based in eastern Europe to create an identity of an attractive woman in her mid-twenties who lived in London and enjoyed travel, soccer, and popular musicians including Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding, Dell SecureWorks said. Her social media biographies appeared to lift details from a New York photographer’s LinkedIn profile.

Dell SecureWorks said it had high confidence Mia Ash was created and operated by the Iranian hacking group known as Cobalt Gypsy.

Iranian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mia Ash primarily lured middle-aged men who worked as technicians and engineers at oil and gas, aerospace and telecommunications firms in the Middle East that had been previously targeted by the same group. Those include Saudi Arabia and Israel in addition to India and the United States.

Mia Ash’s victims failed to notice that none of her profiles included a way to contact her for photography services, according to Allison Wikoff, a senior security researcher at Dell SecureWorks who tracked Mia Ash’s activity.

“These guys aren’t hiring her for photography,” Wikoff said. “Their main thing is, ‘Wow, she’s young, she’s cute, she likes to travel, she’s whimsical’.”

LinkedIn removed the fake Mia Ash profile before Dell SecureWorks finished its research, Wikoff said.

Facebook, where Mia Ash listed her relationship status as “it’s complicated,” took down the profile last week after being contacted by Dell SecureWorks.

Cobalt Gypsy, also known as OilRig, has been previously accused of operating a network of fake LinkedIn profiles to pose as recruiters at major companies, including Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N), but the Mia Ash persona showed an elevated level of persistence, Wikoff said.

Western security officials for years have considered Iran to be among the most sophisticated nation-state cyber adversaries, along with Russia, China and North Korea.

Another report released this week by researchers at Tokyo-based Trend Micro and ClearSky of Israel described efforts to impersonate major technology brands including Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) by another hacking group widely suspected of having links to Iran.

Reporting by Dustin Volz; editing by Jonathan Weber

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

How Trump should handle Iran – Politico

Last week, the Trump administration recertified that Iran is complying the nuclear agreement, setting off predictable debate between who those want to exit the deal immediately and those who see it as his predecessors signature foreign policy achievement.

But for all the will-he-or-wont-he attention on Trumps decision, the focus on the nuclear deal is missing the point: The administrations real agenda on Iran doesnt hinge on the nuclear agreementa dangerous deal that puts the U.S. in a impossible situation. Instead, the Trump administrations priority should be restoring leverage against Tehran, so that we can dissuade Iran from sprinting toward a bomb and create far more favorable circumstances to negotiate an agreement thatunlike Obamas dealactually prevents a nuclear Iran.

Abiding by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is known, will only enable a nuclear and hegemonic Iran. It provides Tehran significant financial, military and geopolitical benefits, both upfront and over time, in exchange for minimal, reversible and temporary concessions on its nuclear program. As the JCPOAs restrictions fall away in coming years, Iran will be legally permitted to produce everything it needs for a nuclear weapon.

Yet, the JCPOA also forfeits what little leverage the United States had in the form of economic sanctions with no way to rapidly rebuild pressure. Thus, leaving the deal would free Iran to sprint for a nuclear weapons capability in a year or less, likely far less time than the United States would need to rebuild the international sanctions regime. Our partners to the deal would be unlikely to go along with us, further undermining our leverage.

This catch-22 stems from earlier failures to develop compelling pressure on Iran, as reported by JINSAs Gemunder Center Iran Task Force, which we co-chair. The Obama Administration created a false narrative that eschewed military options against Irans nuclear program and regional aggression, leaving Congress to focus narrowly on sanctions. These sanctions may have brought Tehran to the table, and helped keep it there long enough hammer out a deal, but alone they could not force it into an acceptable agreement.

Consequently, the JCPOA puts Iran on track to become as intractable a challenge as North Korea is today, and very possibly worse. Threatening the United States and its allies, including with nuclear weapons, is a core ambition of both these rogue regimes. Yet while Pyongyangs relentless pursuit of this goal has only isolated and impoverished it, the JCPOA does the opposite for Tehran.

The Trump administration must not abide this untenable and deteriorating situation. The United States now needs what it clearly lacked before: a comprehensive strategy of robust leverage against all of Irans destabilizing behaviors.

The first step is full enforcement of the JCPOA including potentially re-imposing suspended sanctions in response to Iranian cheating as a clear signal that Tehran can no longer flout its nuclear obligations. However, given the damage already done by the deal and the fact time is not on its side, the administrations ongoing strategic review and threats of renewed sanctions are insufficient.

American policymakers must also rebuild military leverage over Iran. Contingency plans to neutralize Irans nuclear facilities, if it materially breaches or withdraws from the deal, should be updated to reflect its growing nuclear infrastructure and military capabilities under the JCPOA. Just like it already appears to be doing against North Korea, the Pentagon must also develop credible capabilities in preparation for a possible shoot-down of future Iranian ballistic missile tests. U.S. Navy ships must also fully and responsibly utilize rules of engagement to defend themselves and the Persian Gulf against rising Iranian harassment.

It is equally important the United States work with its allies. The recent ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on defense assistance to Israel should be treated as the floor for cooperation, in particular on missile defenses shielding U.S. forces, Israel and its neighbors from increasingly capable arsenals of Iran and its proxies.

Stronger regional collective defense is also needed. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are shouldering the burdens of countering Irans growing footprint around the Arabian Peninsula. Formal U.S. military backing, and possible support from Israel, will raise the costs to Tehran of further aggression while reassuring our worried allies.

Public announcements and military exercises will make these intentions, capabilities and allied unity abundantly clear to Tehran. Strategic communications can also amplify investors continued wariness of the Iranian market and, in combination with human rights, terrorism and missile sanctions, increase internal strains on the regime.

These concentric pressures none of which violate the JCPOA will help deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons capability whether it complies, violates or withdraws from the deal.

They also create the most favorable conditions for a renegotiated agreement one enshrining many of the parameters initially demanded by the Obama Administration. This should include: anytime, anywhere inspections to verify the absence of weaponization activities and secret facilities; dismantling Irans nuclear-capable missiles; ensuring Iran could never enrich enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon; and no sunset or end to sanctions or embargoes until inspectors verify the completely peaceful nature of Irans nuclear program.

Neither staying in nor exiting the JCPOA can accomplish Americas overriding priority in the Middle East. Only increased U.S. leverage can prevent a nuclear Iran.

Ambassador Eric Edelman is former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. General (ret.) Charles Wald is former Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command. They co-chair JINSAs Gemunder Center Iran Task Force.

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July 25, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Gingrich & Bolton are wrong on Iran – WND.com

Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement, and appeasement is surrender.

Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War.

Why is containment surrender? Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power, says Gingrich.

But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?

Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. In our country that was George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi, says Gingrich.

Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, Maryam Rajavi.

Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the shah, broke with the old ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand.

Calling Irans twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, a violent, vicious murderer, Giuliani said, the time has come for regime change.

Bolton followed suit. Tehran is not merely a nuclear-weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region, he said. Hence, the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs regime in Tehran.

We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful.

Good luck. Yet, as the New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.

Is this what America wants or needs a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq?

After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East?

Bolton calls Iran a nuclear-weapons threat.

But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear-weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility.

Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear-weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war?

To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session.

We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

And who created this Shiite Crescent?

It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah.

As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War.

The ayatollahs regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted.

Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Irans oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Irans ties to Europe and the advanced world.

And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies.

Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS?

Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq.

President Trump is key. If he does the War Partys bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.

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July 20, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Avoiding War With Iran – New York Times

Congress, which was overwhelmingly opposed to the nuclear deal when it was signed, is working on new sanctions. Republicans in particular have pressed Mr. Trump to toughen his approach. In a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, four senators said Iran continues to wage regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology and oppress the Iranian people. Theres truth in that. But the nuclear deal was intended to alleviate only the nuclear threat, and they, like other critics, fail to acknowledge that it represented important progress toward decreasing the risk of war in the region.

Top American officials have turned up their rhetoric and have hinted at support for regime change, despite the dismal record in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Mr. Tillerson accused Iran of seeking regional hegemony at the expense of American allies like Saudi Arabia. Our policy toward Iran is to push back on this hegemony and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government, he told a congressional committee. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently called Iran the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East.

Since the 1979 revolution that installed a theocracy in Iran, American leaders have periodically toyed with regime change. But some experts say this time is more serious, because Mr. Trump accepts the simplistic view of Sunni-led Saudi Arabia that Shiite-led Iran is to blame for all thats wrong in the region, taking sides in the feud between two branches of Islam.

The Saudis, who were already facing off against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, have taken an even harsher stance since their leadership change. This month, they created a crisis by mounting a regional boycott against Qatar, which has relations with Iran. Israel also considers Iran a virulent threat, one reason for a deepening alignment between Israel and the Sunni states, and from time to time has reportedly urged America to attack Iran or considered doing so itself.

Anti-Iran voices outside government are trying to push Mr. Trump and Congress toward confrontation with Iran. The head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hawkish group that tried to block the Iran nuclear deal, urged Mr. Trump in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article to systemically dismantle Iranian power country by country in the Middle East and to strengthen Irans pro-democracy forces. Prominent Trump supporters like John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations; Newt Gingrich, former House speaker; and Rudolph Giuliani, former New York mayor, are pressing Mr. Trump to abandon the deal and are speaking out on behalf of the Mujahedeen Khalq, exiled Iranian dissidents who back regime change.

Most Americans are aware of Irans crimes against this country, including the 52 Americans taken hostage in 1979; the 241 Marines killed in the 1983 bombing of their barracks in Lebanon; and the 1996 bombing of the Air Force quarters in Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps less known are events that still anger Iranians like the 1953 coup aided by the C.I.A. that ousted Irans democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, and Americas intelligence support for Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Irans grievances do not make its recent behavior any less concerning. Tehran continues to fund Hezbollah and other extremists; detain Americans; and work to expand its reach, including in Iraq. Iran and the United States appear to be entering a particularly risky time. As the Islamic State gets pushed out of Iraq and Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, along with their proxy forces, will be competing for control. Any attempt at regime change in Iran could destabilize the volatile Middle East in even more unpredictable ways.

Irans government continues to be torn between anti-American hard-liners and moderates like President Hassan Rouhani who are willing to engage with America. Mr. Trump would make a grave mistake if instead of trying to work with those moderate forces he led the nation closer to war.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this editorial appears in print on July 20, 2017, on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Avoiding War With Iran.

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Iran state media accuses Saudis of planting false news story – CNN

A tweet was posted on the account of state-run Alalam news agency on Sunday in Arabic, claiming that Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani had asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to establish an Iranian military base in Qatar. The tweet — which is still visible — did not link to any story on the Alalam website.

The tweet, if it were true, would likely inflame tensions in the region between Qatar and a quartet of countries led by Saudi Arabia, which has frozen trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar, claiming it supports terror organizations. Qatar has vehemently denied those claims.

The boycott followed news stories published online on Qatari state media that quoted Al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, calling Iran a regional Islamic power and describing Qatari relations with Israel as good. Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic ties with Iran or Israel, and it sees Iran as a key rival.

It said the story about the military base was fake, and the decision by Saudi media to republish them showed they were colluding with the hackers.

“Saudi news agencies and websites, though fully aware of the fact that Alalam’s Twitter account has been hacked, publish these false news stories immediately, designating their collusion with the hackers,” the statement said.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment and have not publicly responded to Alalam’s accusations.

Alalam said in its statement that it had been under a series of cyber-attacks for days.

Last week, it published a story accusing Saudi hackers of breaking into its Twitter account. Alalam said Monday it had control of the account on and off in the past week and was currently locked out.

The news agency has said that it believes Saudi hackers were behind the earlier breaches as a Saudi flag appeared as a banner image on its Twitter account last week while it was compromised.

Alalam has offered no other evidence that Saudi Arabia was behind the hacks or was responsible for Sunday’s tweet on the military base.

The Twitter account is still under the control of hackers, the news agency has said. On July 14, during a window when Alalam said it had control of the account, the news agency pinned a tweet explaining that it had lost its blue tick — a mark used by Twitter to show an account has been verified — since being hacked.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash said Monday that a story reported by the Washington Post accusing the UAE of that attack was false. That story, the Washington Post said, was based on information by unnamed US officials.

“The Washington Post story is not true, purely not true,” he said responding to a question after a speech at Chatham House in London. He said that the story “will die” in the next few days.

But Qatar said that the Washington Post report proved its version of events, that its websites were hacked and that quotes were fabricated and published.

CNN’s Sarah Sirgany contributed to this report.

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July 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran is complying with nuclear deal but is ‘in default of its spirit’, says US – The Guardian

Donald Trumps administration has issued contradictory signals on Irans nuclear industry, its foreign minister said on Monday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

The Trump administration has told Congress for a second time that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and can keep enjoying sanctions relief, even as it insisted Tehran would face consequences for breaching the spirit of the deal.

President Donald Trump, who lambasted the 2015 pact as a candidate, gave himself more time to decide whether to dismantle it or let it stand. Instead, senior Trump administration officials sought to emphasise their deep concerns about Irans non-nuclear behaviour, saying transgressions wont go unpunished.

In a shift from Trumps previous threat to rip up the deal, officials said the administration was working with US allies to try to fix the deals flaws, including the expiration of some nuclear restrictions after a decade or more. The officials also said the US would slap Tehran with new sanctions penalising it for developing ballistic missiles and other activity.

Trump, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the agreement, one official said. That assessment carries no legal force, while Trumps certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted.

The late-night announcement capped a day of frenzied, last-minute decision-making by the president, exposing deep and lingering divisions within his administration about how to deal with a top national security issue.

Since early last week, Trumps administration had been prepared to make the certification, a quarterly requirement. Trump first told Congress in April that Iran was indeed complying. With no final decision on his broader Iran policy, the White House had planned to let the status quo stand for another three months.

Iran will continue receiving the same sanctions relief that it did under former President Barack Obama.

In April, when Trump made his first certification, he paired it with new sanctions for non-nuclear behaviour to show there was no softening of his stance toward the Islamic Republic. Earlier on Monday, the White House had told outside experts it would repeat that playbook, by punishing more than a dozen Iranian individuals, organisations and procurement networks involved in ballistic missiles and other nefarious behaviour.

But the day came and went with no such announcement, although officials said they expected more sanctions would eventually be coming. It was unclear why the administration held off or for how long, but typically the treasury department prefers to issue new sanctions during business hours.

We receive contradictory signals, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations before the decision was announced. So we dont know which one to interpret in what way.

We receive contradictory signal so we dont know which one to interpret in what way

For Trump, a vocal critic of the deal, the obligation to report to Congress on Irans conformity has created an unwelcome, tri-monthly headache. Still undecided about whether to withdraw from the deal, Trump must either vouch for Tehrans compliance or try to claim Iran is breaching it even though the International Atomic Energy Agency that monitors the deal says it is not.

In its condemnation of Iran, senior officials emphasised several longstanding US concerns about Irans ballistic missile programs, human rights abuses and support for terrorism in the region. They also criticised Iran for detaining US citizens and limiting freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

Under the deal struck by Obama and other world leaders, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear program long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. The deal does not address global concerns about Irans non-nuclear activities, but also doesnt prevent the US and others from punishing Iran for those activities. Iran remains on the state departments list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel groups.

Scuttling the deal would put further distance between Trump and foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw from the Paris global climate change accord. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the US have said theres no appetite for renegotiating it.

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Iran foreign minister distances himself from US citizen’s espionage sentencing, ‘doubts’ Syria used chemical weapons – Fox News

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that his country has an entirely “independent judiciary” set in stone in its constitution, and deflected the notion that he or the government had much immediate authority in helping free the jailed Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang.

“But we hope an acceptable resolution can be found,” Zarif said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. “There are Iranians being detained (by the U.S.) on charges of sanction violations that are not applicable today… for bogus and purely political reasons.”

Wang, who was in Iran working on his Princeton University thesis on Eurasian history, was sentenced over the weekend to ten years behind bars for “spying,” in a trial that was held behind closed doors.

Zarif also expressed his skepticism that the Syrian regime, led by embattled President Bashar al-Assad, had used chemical weapons in the country’s northwestern rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April this year, despite certainty from U.S officials and other international bodies.

Protesters outside the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. (Fox News)

“I have serious doubts… And no one has a red-line (on the use of chemical weapons more than Iran. When we were victims, nobody cared,” he said, referencing the Iran-Iraq war in which Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein dropped an array of chemical concoctions on Iranian combatants and non-combatants in the 1980s.

Zarif went on to blame both “foreign intervention” and the failure of Arab governments to provide their people with their “basic needs,” as the key reasons for all the anger and frustration that has led to the rise of extremism in the Middle East.

Zarif, who was in New York for a high-level United Nations meeting on sustainable development and to “see old friends,” also used the platform to tout Iran’s “democracy,” and the resilience of the Iranian leadership and its people.

VIDEO: IRAN SENTENCES AMERICAN GRAD STUDENT TO PRISON

“People lined up for ten hours to vote, and in Los Angeles they lined up for four hours to vote (in the recent election) as this was their Avenue to express themselves,” he continued. “Gen. Mattis said that Iranians don’t have a choice, but why would people stand in line for ten hours for a president that was pre-determined? Come on. Don’t kid yourselves.”

Zarif also called the current fighting in Yemen the “worst humanitarian nightmare you can think of” and said he hoped it would not escalate into full-scale war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“We certainly hope that if we don’t agree with each other about the situation in Yemen or about the situation in Syria we can still work with each other in order to bring those situations to an end,” he noted.

Saudi Arabia launched an ongoing bombing campaign on its border with Yemen over two years ago, with U.S support, after Houthi rebels believed to be backed by Tehran took control of large swaths of the country including the nation’s capital, Sana’a.

PRINCETON DEFENDS STUDENT SENTENCED IN IRAN

The top official also shunned reports that Iran effectively controlled Iraq post the U.S.-led invasion, instead mandating that his government is against the presence of foreign militaries anywhere in the region. He stated that Iranian groups are merely in military “advising” roles in both Iraq and Syria, at the invitation of both sovereign governments, and that they offer support only when asked.

Zarif pointed out that when the Islamic State terror network was close to encroaching the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq in 2014, its president, Masoud Barzani, made three calls for help — to the U.S., Turkey and Iran — and it was Iran who came to their assistance in just two hours with advisors and planes of weaponry.

“Foreigners should assist, anything beyond that is destabilizing,” he said.

Zarif also suggested that while the U.S. has simply and unjustly now chosen Iran as its “enemy of choice” and he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have so far had no direct communication, he is open to fostering relations.

The minister additionally indicated that Israel is not Iran’s immediate concern, but expressed dismay over the continued “repression of the Palestinian people” and denied that Iran was developing missiles to carry nuclear warheads, which is prohibited under the reigning nuclear deal.

“We need them to make sure that another Saddam Hussein around the corner will not come and hit us again,” he said, reiterating several times that Iran is committed to never producing nuclear weapons even after the deal expires in just over ten years.

“We will continue to produce enriched uranium,” Zarif said, “for fuel purposes.”

His address Monday was met with a small group of around twenty protestors outside carrying signs and chanting their anger towards Iran’s human rights abuses, a concept that the minister also vehemently dismissed. Zarif said that he found it somewhat odd that Iran is singled out by the U.S. as human rights abusers when there are countries that have “never heard of elections” and go on “beheading” their citizens but a deemed American allies and have never had sanctions imposed on them.

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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US certifies that Iran is meeting terms of nuclear deal – Washington Post

The Trump administration certified to Congress late Monday that Iran has continued to meet the required conditions of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that President Trump intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing malign activities in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism.

We judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent of the agreement as a force for international stability, one official said. Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that took effect in January 2016 after years of negotiations, the official said.

International monitors and other signatories of the agreement have said that Iran is meeting its terms, giving the administration little room for maneuver in providing the assessment required by Congress every 90 days.

The last certification of Iranian compliance, in April, was also followed by new sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies the administration said played a role in ballistic missile tests that arenot covered by the nuclear agreement.

We do expect to be implementing new sanctions related to missiles and Irans fast boat program, the official said, but declined to specify what the measures would be. The administration has charged Iran with using military patrol boats to impede free navigation in the Persian Gulf.

Three senior administration officials briefed reporters on the certification on the condition of anonymity imposed by the White House.

Earlier in the day, Trumps national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previewed the sanctions in a closed-door meeting with representatives of Washington-based think tanks. Reporters were not invited.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran, which denied it was developing nuclear weapons, agreed to sharply limit the number and capability of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, give up nearly all of its previously enriched stock, and submit to intrusive verification measures in exchange for an end to U.S. and international sanctions related to the program.

Trump has called the deal fatally flawed, and said he would either renegotiate it or kill it.

In making the certification, an official said, the secretary of state and the president intend to emphasize that Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. interests and to regional stability, and to highlight the range of malign activities. They include atrocities by the Assad regime that Iran supports in Syria, continuing hostility to Israel and other actions, as well as its missile program and terrorist support.

Other signatories to the nuclear deal Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union have indicated that they think it is working.

An administration review of the JCPOA is expected to be finished before the next certification is due in October. In the meantime, officials said, they will work with allies to try to reach agreement on its flaws.

Ed OKeefe contributed to this report.

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Trump is falling into the same trap as Obama on Iran – New York Post

When President Trump met earlier this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their exchange about Moscows interference in the 2016 presidential election was all anyone seemed to care about. Trumps efforts to present an agreement between the two countries on a cease-fire in Syria as a major achievement were largely ignored by a media determined to focus exclusively on allegations of collusion between the Republicans and Russia.

But it turns out his critics were wrong to dismiss the Syrian pact as a distraction. Its now clear that in his eagerness for a deal, the president fell into virtually the same trap his predecessor did when he signed the Iran nuclear deal.

The real surprise here is that the biggest critic of the Syrian pact is one of the presidents staunchest friends: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He spoke out once he discovered that Trump hadnt taken into account Israels concerns about Iran being the real beneficiary of the agreement.

Like it or not, the Russian and Iranian forces fighting on behalf of the barbarous Bashar al-Assad regime appear to have prevailed. Yet Russia and Iran arent content with just keeping their client in power. They want Western recognition not just of Assads victory but also of their occupation of Syrian territory.

US acquiescence to the Russian presence in Syria is the first step toward the realization of Putins dream of reassembling the old Soviet empire. Once President Barack Obama punted enforcement of his red line about Assads use of chemical weapons to the Russians, there was probably no way to roll back Putins ambitions.

But what Trump has done now by trying to pull a foreign-policy victory out of his meeting with Putin is arguably almost as bad as Obamas feckless Syrian retreat. The cease-fire terms would ensure that Iran and its Hezbollah auxiliaries get a free hand in southern Syria and that the Iranian presence will become permanent.

Israel has kept a close watch on Hezbollahs activities in Syria and launched strikes to prevent Iran from using the civil war as cover to transfer heavy arms to its Lebanese allies or allowing the group to establish bases close to its border. Yet if Trumps cease-fire lets Iran put military facilities adjacent to Israel something Jerusalem has said it cant tolerate that increases the chances of conflict with an Islamist regime that is dedicated to Israels destruction.

Just as troubling is that this will enable Tehran to achieve its dream of a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. Just as Obamas bugout from Iraq allowed Iran to become the dominant power in that nation, the Trump seal of approval on Assads victory could give it the same power in Syria and enable it to link up with a Lebanon dominated by its terrorist errand boys.

Thats the same nightmare of Iranian regional hegemony that scared Arab nations as much as it did the Israelis about the nuclear deal.

Unlike Obama, Trump isnt laboring under the delusion that Irans leaders are moderates. He understands the Iranians are a threat to both the United States and its allies. The problem is that he still refuses to accept that he must choose between his good relations with Russia and getting tough with Iran.

Trump spent the 2016 campaign talking up cooperation with Russia against ISIS and denouncing Obamas nuclear deal with Iran. But events in Syria have proved him wrong. Russia and Iran are interested in Syria for reasons that have nothing to do with fighting ISIS. Indeed, the survival of their man Assad ensures that the terrorist group will continue to retain Sunni support since it is seen as the only local force resisting the regime.

Rather than ignore Israels warnings, the president must wake up and realize that acting as if he can tilt toward Russia while also resisting Iran means that Trump is, in effect, making his own awful Iran deal with implications that could be almost as deadly in the long run as Obamas folly. Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributor to National Review.

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Trump is falling into the same trap as Obama on Iran – New York Post

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iranian hackers used female ‘honey pot’ to lure targets: researchers – Reuters

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have impersonated a young female photographer on social media for more than a year, luring men working in industries strategically important to Tehran’s regional adversaries, according to research published Thursday. The so-called Mia Ash persona has been active on sites including LinkedIn, Facebook Inc (FB.O), WhatsApp and Blogger since at least April of last year, researchers at Dell SecureWorks said. The campaign showed Iran engaged in a social engineering plot to ensnare its targets with a “honey pot”, a classic espionage trap often involving seduction, more commonly used by criminal hackers. Dell SecureWorks observed Mia Ash sending specific malware, concealed as a “photography survey” with an attachment, to a victim that matched malware sent by Iranian hacking group Cobalt Gypsy during an unsuccessful “spearphishing” email attempt to the same victim’s employer in January. The malware, known as PupyRAT, would give an attacker complete control of a compromised computer and access to network credentials, suggesting government espionage. The researchers did not have visibility into how many targets were compromised or what Mia Ash sought to gain with the access. The fake profile used publicly available social media images of a real photographer based in eastern Europe to create an identity of an attractive woman in her mid-twenties who lived in London and enjoyed travel, soccer, and popular musicians including Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding, Dell SecureWorks said. Her social media biographies appeared to lift details from a New York photographer’s LinkedIn profile. Dell SecureWorks said it had high confidence Mia Ash was created and operated by the Iranian hacking group known as Cobalt Gypsy. Iranian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mia Ash primarily lured middle-aged men who worked as technicians and engineers at oil and gas, aerospace and telecommunications firms in the Middle East that had been previously targeted by the same group. Those include Saudi Arabia and Israel in addition to India and the United States. Mia Ash’s victims failed to notice that none of her profiles included a way to contact her for photography services, according to Allison Wikoff, a senior security researcher at Dell SecureWorks who tracked Mia Ash’s activity. “These guys aren’t hiring her for photography,” Wikoff said. “Their main thing is, ‘Wow, she’s young, she’s cute, she likes to travel, she’s whimsical’.” LinkedIn removed the fake Mia Ash profile before Dell SecureWorks finished its research, Wikoff said. Facebook, where Mia Ash listed her relationship status as “it’s complicated,” took down the profile last week after being contacted by Dell SecureWorks. Cobalt Gypsy, also known as OilRig, has been previously accused of operating a network of fake LinkedIn profiles to pose as recruiters at major companies, including Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N), but the Mia Ash persona showed an elevated level of persistence, Wikoff said. Western security officials for years have considered Iran to be among the most sophisticated nation-state cyber adversaries, along with Russia, China and North Korea. Another report released this week by researchers at Tokyo-based Trend Micro and ClearSky of Israel described efforts to impersonate major technology brands including Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) by another hacking group widely suspected of having links to Iran. Reporting by Dustin Volz; editing by Jonathan Weber

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

How Trump should handle Iran – Politico

Last week, the Trump administration recertified that Iran is complying the nuclear agreement, setting off predictable debate between who those want to exit the deal immediately and those who see it as his predecessors signature foreign policy achievement. But for all the will-he-or-wont-he attention on Trumps decision, the focus on the nuclear deal is missing the point: The administrations real agenda on Iran doesnt hinge on the nuclear agreementa dangerous deal that puts the U.S. in a impossible situation. Instead, the Trump administrations priority should be restoring leverage against Tehran, so that we can dissuade Iran from sprinting toward a bomb and create far more favorable circumstances to negotiate an agreement thatunlike Obamas dealactually prevents a nuclear Iran. Abiding by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is known, will only enable a nuclear and hegemonic Iran. It provides Tehran significant financial, military and geopolitical benefits, both upfront and over time, in exchange for minimal, reversible and temporary concessions on its nuclear program. As the JCPOAs restrictions fall away in coming years, Iran will be legally permitted to produce everything it needs for a nuclear weapon. Yet, the JCPOA also forfeits what little leverage the United States had in the form of economic sanctions with no way to rapidly rebuild pressure. Thus, leaving the deal would free Iran to sprint for a nuclear weapons capability in a year or less, likely far less time than the United States would need to rebuild the international sanctions regime. Our partners to the deal would be unlikely to go along with us, further undermining our leverage. This catch-22 stems from earlier failures to develop compelling pressure on Iran, as reported by JINSAs Gemunder Center Iran Task Force, which we co-chair. The Obama Administration created a false narrative that eschewed military options against Irans nuclear program and regional aggression, leaving Congress to focus narrowly on sanctions. These sanctions may have brought Tehran to the table, and helped keep it there long enough hammer out a deal, but alone they could not force it into an acceptable agreement. Consequently, the JCPOA puts Iran on track to become as intractable a challenge as North Korea is today, and very possibly worse. Threatening the United States and its allies, including with nuclear weapons, is a core ambition of both these rogue regimes. Yet while Pyongyangs relentless pursuit of this goal has only isolated and impoverished it, the JCPOA does the opposite for Tehran. The Trump administration must not abide this untenable and deteriorating situation. The United States now needs what it clearly lacked before: a comprehensive strategy of robust leverage against all of Irans destabilizing behaviors. The first step is full enforcement of the JCPOA including potentially re-imposing suspended sanctions in response to Iranian cheating as a clear signal that Tehran can no longer flout its nuclear obligations. However, given the damage already done by the deal and the fact time is not on its side, the administrations ongoing strategic review and threats of renewed sanctions are insufficient. American policymakers must also rebuild military leverage over Iran. Contingency plans to neutralize Irans nuclear facilities, if it materially breaches or withdraws from the deal, should be updated to reflect its growing nuclear infrastructure and military capabilities under the JCPOA. Just like it already appears to be doing against North Korea, the Pentagon must also develop credible capabilities in preparation for a possible shoot-down of future Iranian ballistic missile tests. U.S. Navy ships must also fully and responsibly utilize rules of engagement to defend themselves and the Persian Gulf against rising Iranian harassment. It is equally important the United States work with its allies. The recent ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on defense assistance to Israel should be treated as the floor for cooperation, in particular on missile defenses shielding U.S. forces, Israel and its neighbors from increasingly capable arsenals of Iran and its proxies. Stronger regional collective defense is also needed. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are shouldering the burdens of countering Irans growing footprint around the Arabian Peninsula. Formal U.S. military backing, and possible support from Israel, will raise the costs to Tehran of further aggression while reassuring our worried allies. Public announcements and military exercises will make these intentions, capabilities and allied unity abundantly clear to Tehran. Strategic communications can also amplify investors continued wariness of the Iranian market and, in combination with human rights, terrorism and missile sanctions, increase internal strains on the regime. These concentric pressures none of which violate the JCPOA will help deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons capability whether it complies, violates or withdraws from the deal. They also create the most favorable conditions for a renegotiated agreement one enshrining many of the parameters initially demanded by the Obama Administration. This should include: anytime, anywhere inspections to verify the absence of weaponization activities and secret facilities; dismantling Irans nuclear-capable missiles; ensuring Iran could never enrich enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon; and no sunset or end to sanctions or embargoes until inspectors verify the completely peaceful nature of Irans nuclear program. Neither staying in nor exiting the JCPOA can accomplish Americas overriding priority in the Middle East. Only increased U.S. leverage can prevent a nuclear Iran. Ambassador Eric Edelman is former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. General (ret.) Charles Wald is former Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command. They co-chair JINSAs Gemunder Center Iran Task Force.

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July 25, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Gingrich & Bolton are wrong on Iran – WND.com

Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement, and appeasement is surrender. Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War. Why is containment surrender? Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power, says Gingrich. But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president? Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. In our country that was George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi, says Gingrich. Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, Maryam Rajavi. Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the shah, broke with the old ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State. At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand. Calling Irans twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, a violent, vicious murderer, Giuliani said, the time has come for regime change. Bolton followed suit. Tehran is not merely a nuclear-weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region, he said. Hence, the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs regime in Tehran. We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful. Good luck. Yet, as the New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran. Is this what America wants or needs a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq? After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East? Bolton calls Iran a nuclear-weapons threat. But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear-weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility. Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear-weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war? To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session. We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran. And who created this Shiite Crescent? It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah. As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War. The ayatollahs regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted. Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Irans oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Irans ties to Europe and the advanced world. And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies. Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS? Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq. President Trump is key. If he does the War Partys bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.

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July 20, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Avoiding War With Iran – New York Times

Congress, which was overwhelmingly opposed to the nuclear deal when it was signed, is working on new sanctions. Republicans in particular have pressed Mr. Trump to toughen his approach. In a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, four senators said Iran continues to wage regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology and oppress the Iranian people. Theres truth in that. But the nuclear deal was intended to alleviate only the nuclear threat, and they, like other critics, fail to acknowledge that it represented important progress toward decreasing the risk of war in the region. Top American officials have turned up their rhetoric and have hinted at support for regime change, despite the dismal record in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Mr. Tillerson accused Iran of seeking regional hegemony at the expense of American allies like Saudi Arabia. Our policy toward Iran is to push back on this hegemony and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government, he told a congressional committee. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently called Iran the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East. Since the 1979 revolution that installed a theocracy in Iran, American leaders have periodically toyed with regime change. But some experts say this time is more serious, because Mr. Trump accepts the simplistic view of Sunni-led Saudi Arabia that Shiite-led Iran is to blame for all thats wrong in the region, taking sides in the feud between two branches of Islam. The Saudis, who were already facing off against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, have taken an even harsher stance since their leadership change. This month, they created a crisis by mounting a regional boycott against Qatar, which has relations with Iran. Israel also considers Iran a virulent threat, one reason for a deepening alignment between Israel and the Sunni states, and from time to time has reportedly urged America to attack Iran or considered doing so itself. Anti-Iran voices outside government are trying to push Mr. Trump and Congress toward confrontation with Iran. The head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hawkish group that tried to block the Iran nuclear deal, urged Mr. Trump in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article to systemically dismantle Iranian power country by country in the Middle East and to strengthen Irans pro-democracy forces. Prominent Trump supporters like John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations; Newt Gingrich, former House speaker; and Rudolph Giuliani, former New York mayor, are pressing Mr. Trump to abandon the deal and are speaking out on behalf of the Mujahedeen Khalq, exiled Iranian dissidents who back regime change. Most Americans are aware of Irans crimes against this country, including the 52 Americans taken hostage in 1979; the 241 Marines killed in the 1983 bombing of their barracks in Lebanon; and the 1996 bombing of the Air Force quarters in Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps less known are events that still anger Iranians like the 1953 coup aided by the C.I.A. that ousted Irans democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, and Americas intelligence support for Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Irans grievances do not make its recent behavior any less concerning. Tehran continues to fund Hezbollah and other extremists; detain Americans; and work to expand its reach, including in Iraq. Iran and the United States appear to be entering a particularly risky time. As the Islamic State gets pushed out of Iraq and Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, along with their proxy forces, will be competing for control. Any attempt at regime change in Iran could destabilize the volatile Middle East in even more unpredictable ways. Irans government continues to be torn between anti-American hard-liners and moderates like President Hassan Rouhani who are willing to engage with America. Mr. Trump would make a grave mistake if instead of trying to work with those moderate forces he led the nation closer to war. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter. A version of this editorial appears in print on July 20, 2017, on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Avoiding War With Iran.

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Iran state media accuses Saudis of planting false news story – CNN

A tweet was posted on the account of state-run Alalam news agency on Sunday in Arabic, claiming that Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani had asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to establish an Iranian military base in Qatar. The tweet — which is still visible — did not link to any story on the Alalam website. The tweet, if it were true, would likely inflame tensions in the region between Qatar and a quartet of countries led by Saudi Arabia, which has frozen trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar, claiming it supports terror organizations. Qatar has vehemently denied those claims. The boycott followed news stories published online on Qatari state media that quoted Al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, calling Iran a regional Islamic power and describing Qatari relations with Israel as good. Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic ties with Iran or Israel, and it sees Iran as a key rival. It said the story about the military base was fake, and the decision by Saudi media to republish them showed they were colluding with the hackers. “Saudi news agencies and websites, though fully aware of the fact that Alalam’s Twitter account has been hacked, publish these false news stories immediately, designating their collusion with the hackers,” the statement said. Saudi officials did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment and have not publicly responded to Alalam’s accusations. Alalam said in its statement that it had been under a series of cyber-attacks for days. Last week, it published a story accusing Saudi hackers of breaking into its Twitter account. Alalam said Monday it had control of the account on and off in the past week and was currently locked out. The news agency has said that it believes Saudi hackers were behind the earlier breaches as a Saudi flag appeared as a banner image on its Twitter account last week while it was compromised. Alalam has offered no other evidence that Saudi Arabia was behind the hacks or was responsible for Sunday’s tweet on the military base. The Twitter account is still under the control of hackers, the news agency has said. On July 14, during a window when Alalam said it had control of the account, the news agency pinned a tweet explaining that it had lost its blue tick — a mark used by Twitter to show an account has been verified — since being hacked. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash said Monday that a story reported by the Washington Post accusing the UAE of that attack was false. That story, the Washington Post said, was based on information by unnamed US officials. “The Washington Post story is not true, purely not true,” he said responding to a question after a speech at Chatham House in London. He said that the story “will die” in the next few days. But Qatar said that the Washington Post report proved its version of events, that its websites were hacked and that quotes were fabricated and published. CNN’s Sarah Sirgany contributed to this report.

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July 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran is complying with nuclear deal but is ‘in default of its spirit’, says US – The Guardian

Donald Trumps administration has issued contradictory signals on Irans nuclear industry, its foreign minister said on Monday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA The Trump administration has told Congress for a second time that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and can keep enjoying sanctions relief, even as it insisted Tehran would face consequences for breaching the spirit of the deal. President Donald Trump, who lambasted the 2015 pact as a candidate, gave himself more time to decide whether to dismantle it or let it stand. Instead, senior Trump administration officials sought to emphasise their deep concerns about Irans non-nuclear behaviour, saying transgressions wont go unpunished. In a shift from Trumps previous threat to rip up the deal, officials said the administration was working with US allies to try to fix the deals flaws, including the expiration of some nuclear restrictions after a decade or more. The officials also said the US would slap Tehran with new sanctions penalising it for developing ballistic missiles and other activity. Trump, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the agreement, one official said. That assessment carries no legal force, while Trumps certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted. The late-night announcement capped a day of frenzied, last-minute decision-making by the president, exposing deep and lingering divisions within his administration about how to deal with a top national security issue. Since early last week, Trumps administration had been prepared to make the certification, a quarterly requirement. Trump first told Congress in April that Iran was indeed complying. With no final decision on his broader Iran policy, the White House had planned to let the status quo stand for another three months. Iran will continue receiving the same sanctions relief that it did under former President Barack Obama. In April, when Trump made his first certification, he paired it with new sanctions for non-nuclear behaviour to show there was no softening of his stance toward the Islamic Republic. Earlier on Monday, the White House had told outside experts it would repeat that playbook, by punishing more than a dozen Iranian individuals, organisations and procurement networks involved in ballistic missiles and other nefarious behaviour. But the day came and went with no such announcement, although officials said they expected more sanctions would eventually be coming. It was unclear why the administration held off or for how long, but typically the treasury department prefers to issue new sanctions during business hours. We receive contradictory signals, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations before the decision was announced. So we dont know which one to interpret in what way. We receive contradictory signal so we dont know which one to interpret in what way For Trump, a vocal critic of the deal, the obligation to report to Congress on Irans conformity has created an unwelcome, tri-monthly headache. Still undecided about whether to withdraw from the deal, Trump must either vouch for Tehrans compliance or try to claim Iran is breaching it even though the International Atomic Energy Agency that monitors the deal says it is not. In its condemnation of Iran, senior officials emphasised several longstanding US concerns about Irans ballistic missile programs, human rights abuses and support for terrorism in the region. They also criticised Iran for detaining US citizens and limiting freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. Under the deal struck by Obama and other world leaders, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear program long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. The deal does not address global concerns about Irans non-nuclear activities, but also doesnt prevent the US and others from punishing Iran for those activities. Iran remains on the state departments list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel groups. Scuttling the deal would put further distance between Trump and foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw from the Paris global climate change accord. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the US have said theres no appetite for renegotiating it.

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July 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran foreign minister distances himself from US citizen’s espionage sentencing, ‘doubts’ Syria used chemical weapons – Fox News

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that his country has an entirely “independent judiciary” set in stone in its constitution, and deflected the notion that he or the government had much immediate authority in helping free the jailed Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang. “But we hope an acceptable resolution can be found,” Zarif said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. “There are Iranians being detained (by the U.S.) on charges of sanction violations that are not applicable today… for bogus and purely political reasons.” Wang, who was in Iran working on his Princeton University thesis on Eurasian history, was sentenced over the weekend to ten years behind bars for “spying,” in a trial that was held behind closed doors. Zarif also expressed his skepticism that the Syrian regime, led by embattled President Bashar al-Assad, had used chemical weapons in the country’s northwestern rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April this year, despite certainty from U.S officials and other international bodies. Protesters outside the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. (Fox News) “I have serious doubts… And no one has a red-line (on the use of chemical weapons more than Iran. When we were victims, nobody cared,” he said, referencing the Iran-Iraq war in which Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein dropped an array of chemical concoctions on Iranian combatants and non-combatants in the 1980s. Zarif went on to blame both “foreign intervention” and the failure of Arab governments to provide their people with their “basic needs,” as the key reasons for all the anger and frustration that has led to the rise of extremism in the Middle East. Zarif, who was in New York for a high-level United Nations meeting on sustainable development and to “see old friends,” also used the platform to tout Iran’s “democracy,” and the resilience of the Iranian leadership and its people. VIDEO: IRAN SENTENCES AMERICAN GRAD STUDENT TO PRISON “People lined up for ten hours to vote, and in Los Angeles they lined up for four hours to vote (in the recent election) as this was their Avenue to express themselves,” he continued. “Gen. Mattis said that Iranians don’t have a choice, but why would people stand in line for ten hours for a president that was pre-determined? Come on. Don’t kid yourselves.” Zarif also called the current fighting in Yemen the “worst humanitarian nightmare you can think of” and said he hoped it would not escalate into full-scale war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “We certainly hope that if we don’t agree with each other about the situation in Yemen or about the situation in Syria we can still work with each other in order to bring those situations to an end,” he noted. Saudi Arabia launched an ongoing bombing campaign on its border with Yemen over two years ago, with U.S support, after Houthi rebels believed to be backed by Tehran took control of large swaths of the country including the nation’s capital, Sana’a. PRINCETON DEFENDS STUDENT SENTENCED IN IRAN The top official also shunned reports that Iran effectively controlled Iraq post the U.S.-led invasion, instead mandating that his government is against the presence of foreign militaries anywhere in the region. He stated that Iranian groups are merely in military “advising” roles in both Iraq and Syria, at the invitation of both sovereign governments, and that they offer support only when asked. Zarif pointed out that when the Islamic State terror network was close to encroaching the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq in 2014, its president, Masoud Barzani, made three calls for help — to the U.S., Turkey and Iran — and it was Iran who came to their assistance in just two hours with advisors and planes of weaponry. “Foreigners should assist, anything beyond that is destabilizing,” he said. Zarif also suggested that while the U.S. has simply and unjustly now chosen Iran as its “enemy of choice” and he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have so far had no direct communication, he is open to fostering relations. The minister additionally indicated that Israel is not Iran’s immediate concern, but expressed dismay over the continued “repression of the Palestinian people” and denied that Iran was developing missiles to carry nuclear warheads, which is prohibited under the reigning nuclear deal. “We need them to make sure that another Saddam Hussein around the corner will not come and hit us again,” he said, reiterating several times that Iran is committed to never producing nuclear weapons even after the deal expires in just over ten years. “We will continue to produce enriched uranium,” Zarif said, “for fuel purposes.” His address Monday was met with a small group of around twenty protestors outside carrying signs and chanting their anger towards Iran’s human rights abuses, a concept that the minister also vehemently dismissed. Zarif said that he found it somewhat odd that Iran is singled out by the U.S. as human rights abusers when there are countries that have “never heard of elections” and go on “beheading” their citizens but a deemed American allies and have never had sanctions imposed on them. Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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July 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

US certifies that Iran is meeting terms of nuclear deal – Washington Post

The Trump administration certified to Congress late Monday that Iran has continued to meet the required conditions of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers. But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that President Trump intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing malign activities in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism. We judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent of the agreement as a force for international stability, one official said. Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that took effect in January 2016 after years of negotiations, the official said. International monitors and other signatories of the agreement have said that Iran is meeting its terms, giving the administration little room for maneuver in providing the assessment required by Congress every 90 days. The last certification of Iranian compliance, in April, was also followed by new sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies the administration said played a role in ballistic missile tests that arenot covered by the nuclear agreement. We do expect to be implementing new sanctions related to missiles and Irans fast boat program, the official said, but declined to specify what the measures would be. The administration has charged Iran with using military patrol boats to impede free navigation in the Persian Gulf. Three senior administration officials briefed reporters on the certification on the condition of anonymity imposed by the White House. Earlier in the day, Trumps national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previewed the sanctions in a closed-door meeting with representatives of Washington-based think tanks. Reporters were not invited. Under the nuclear deal, Iran, which denied it was developing nuclear weapons, agreed to sharply limit the number and capability of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, give up nearly all of its previously enriched stock, and submit to intrusive verification measures in exchange for an end to U.S. and international sanctions related to the program. Trump has called the deal fatally flawed, and said he would either renegotiate it or kill it. In making the certification, an official said, the secretary of state and the president intend to emphasize that Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. interests and to regional stability, and to highlight the range of malign activities. They include atrocities by the Assad regime that Iran supports in Syria, continuing hostility to Israel and other actions, as well as its missile program and terrorist support. Other signatories to the nuclear deal Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union have indicated that they think it is working. An administration review of the JCPOA is expected to be finished before the next certification is due in October. In the meantime, officials said, they will work with allies to try to reach agreement on its flaws. Ed OKeefe contributed to this report.

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July 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Trump is falling into the same trap as Obama on Iran – New York Post

When President Trump met earlier this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their exchange about Moscows interference in the 2016 presidential election was all anyone seemed to care about. Trumps efforts to present an agreement between the two countries on a cease-fire in Syria as a major achievement were largely ignored by a media determined to focus exclusively on allegations of collusion between the Republicans and Russia. But it turns out his critics were wrong to dismiss the Syrian pact as a distraction. Its now clear that in his eagerness for a deal, the president fell into virtually the same trap his predecessor did when he signed the Iran nuclear deal. The real surprise here is that the biggest critic of the Syrian pact is one of the presidents staunchest friends: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He spoke out once he discovered that Trump hadnt taken into account Israels concerns about Iran being the real beneficiary of the agreement. Like it or not, the Russian and Iranian forces fighting on behalf of the barbarous Bashar al-Assad regime appear to have prevailed. Yet Russia and Iran arent content with just keeping their client in power. They want Western recognition not just of Assads victory but also of their occupation of Syrian territory. US acquiescence to the Russian presence in Syria is the first step toward the realization of Putins dream of reassembling the old Soviet empire. Once President Barack Obama punted enforcement of his red line about Assads use of chemical weapons to the Russians, there was probably no way to roll back Putins ambitions. But what Trump has done now by trying to pull a foreign-policy victory out of his meeting with Putin is arguably almost as bad as Obamas feckless Syrian retreat. The cease-fire terms would ensure that Iran and its Hezbollah auxiliaries get a free hand in southern Syria and that the Iranian presence will become permanent. Israel has kept a close watch on Hezbollahs activities in Syria and launched strikes to prevent Iran from using the civil war as cover to transfer heavy arms to its Lebanese allies or allowing the group to establish bases close to its border. Yet if Trumps cease-fire lets Iran put military facilities adjacent to Israel something Jerusalem has said it cant tolerate that increases the chances of conflict with an Islamist regime that is dedicated to Israels destruction. Just as troubling is that this will enable Tehran to achieve its dream of a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. Just as Obamas bugout from Iraq allowed Iran to become the dominant power in that nation, the Trump seal of approval on Assads victory could give it the same power in Syria and enable it to link up with a Lebanon dominated by its terrorist errand boys. Thats the same nightmare of Iranian regional hegemony that scared Arab nations as much as it did the Israelis about the nuclear deal. Unlike Obama, Trump isnt laboring under the delusion that Irans leaders are moderates. He understands the Iranians are a threat to both the United States and its allies. The problem is that he still refuses to accept that he must choose between his good relations with Russia and getting tough with Iran. Trump spent the 2016 campaign talking up cooperation with Russia against ISIS and denouncing Obamas nuclear deal with Iran. But events in Syria have proved him wrong. Russia and Iran are interested in Syria for reasons that have nothing to do with fighting ISIS. Indeed, the survival of their man Assad ensures that the terrorist group will continue to retain Sunni support since it is seen as the only local force resisting the regime. Rather than ignore Israels warnings, the president must wake up and realize that acting as if he can tilt toward Russia while also resisting Iran means that Trump is, in effect, making his own awful Iran deal with implications that could be almost as deadly in the long run as Obamas folly. Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributor to National Review.

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed


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