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January 13, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8490

Gulf Cooperation Council Official: Persistent Military And Economic Pressure On Iran Is The Way To Bring it To The Negotiation Table

January 13, 2020
Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 8490
In an article in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-'Aziz Hamad Al-Aluwaisheg, assistant secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for political and negotiation affairs, commended the bold military action recently taken by the U.S. against Iran. It is precisely this policy, he said, that can curb Iran's aggression and bring it back to the negotiation table – unlike America's previous policy of overlooking Iran's provocations and avoiding significant military action against it, which failed to achieve these goals. Al-Aluwaisheg called on the U.S. to regard military action as an integral part of its overall strategy vis-à-vis Iran, not just as a temporary and limited measure, since combined military and economic pressure may yield results, while also showing America's allies that it is now serious and consistent in its policy. 'Abd Al-Aziz Hamad Al-Aluwaisheg (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London) The following are excerpts from his article:[1] Decisive Military Action Will Deter Iran And Also Convince America's Allies Of Its Serious Intentions "The U.S. made two significant moves lately that can affect the developments in the region by deterring Iran and bringing it [back] to the negotiation table after it has long tried to avoid this. On December 29, [2019] the U.S. bombed five military facilities of the Hizbullah Brigades, an Iraqi organization close to Qassem Soleimani, in retaliation for this militia's firing of 30 missiles on coalition bases in Kirkuk, which caused the death of an American contractor and the wounding of several soldiers. On January 3, 2020, a U.S. drone [strike] killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the so-called Qods Force and the mastermind behind Iran's actions in the region, as well as several of his aides, after his agents attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. "These two events were surprising, because they were conspicuous in their bold, daring and direct confrontation of Iran, and because they came after several months in which the U.S. avoided responding to Iran's provocations. A decisive response of this kind is crucial in order to demonstrate America's sincerity and convince Iran that there will be devastating consequences to its provocations and its stubborn [attempts] to determine the political future of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against the will of their peoples and even if this requires the use of force. "But in order for these blows to be effective in deterring Iran, the American military pressure must persist, along with the economic pressure, whenever Iran and its agents carry out another escapade, and this must be accompanied by diplomatic efforts more energetic than the ones made until now. An accepted principle in foreign policy is that diplomacy is not effective unless accompanied by military and economic pressure (sanctions and other economic tools). Similarly, military achievements will not yield the desired results unless accompanied by diplomatic action that translates them into political profit. "The weakening of the [Iraqi] Hizbullah Brigades and the assassination of Qassem Soleimani are two good examples of the diplomacy of force, but they will not be sufficient to change Iran's behavior unless the latter is convinced that they represent a long-term strategy with clear goals, rather than isolated events in response to a specific provocation. "U.S. policy considers negotiation as the only way to resolve the crisis in Iran's [relations] with the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf and beyond. Paradoxically, the American attacks in Iraq will [actually] increase the likelihood of this happening. Iran has been escalating [the crisis] for years, and especially in the past year – but it never encountered any meaningful response, so it had no incentive to negotiate and nothing to lose by using violence and refusing to conduct negotiations. In other words, the policy of turning a blind eye [to Iran's actions] and keeping quiet did nothing to curb Iran's appetite for adventures, with Soleimani representing the highest degree of this adventurousness. Now That Soleimani Is Gone, It Is Possible To Weaken The Hardliners He Represented "But now the situation has changed, and if the U.S. responses continue at the same level, Iran will [suddenly] see the benefit of negotiations as an alternative to the method of force, aggression and destruction. "Some observers point to the feelings of sorrow and fury over Soleimani's death, and infer that Iran is now interested only in revenge and is not thinking rationally. That is true, but we must consider that the funeral ceremonies and the displays of support [for Soleimani] were coordinated and orchestrated on the official level, and do not necessarily reflect enthusiastic [popular] support for Soleimani and for continuing his path. We must not confuse these temporary displays [of support] with the long-term interests of the Iranian regime. "It is a well-known fact that Soleimani was an embarrassing figure for moderate Iranians, and it is no secret that some government officials regarded him as an obstacle to their efforts to enact a different foreign policy. Some Iranians saw him as an instrument of oppression in the domestic arena and an instrument of war in the external one. Moreover, they held him responsible for perpetrating war crimes that undermined Iran's historical relations with the [rest of] the region. Soleimani's opponents obviously cannot express their true feelings in [the present] charged atmosphere, but [now] that he is gone from the political arena, it is possible to weaken the radical elements he represented... "In other words, the atmosphere in Iran and Iraq does not make negotiation, the [option] Trump favors, very difficult to realize. On the contrary, it may make [this option] easier to achieve, now that Trump has rendered the option of Iranian expansion and refusal to negotiate unprofitable [for Iran]. True, the leader of the Iranian revolution [Ali Khamenei] rejected [the option of] dialogue with Trump, but what is needed is not open-ended negotiations, which the other sides reject as well, but rather negotiations on specific issues, based on principles agreed-upon by everyone. "The negotiations do not have to be bilateral, between the U.S. and Iran, but should be multilateral, between Iran and all the sides that are harmed by its policy. The GCC has already clarified the principles that should underpin the relations between countries of the region, and Iran was informed of this when it proposed [to conduct] a regional dialogue. These principles include commitment to the U.N. charter, which demands to respect the international borders, the political independence and the territorial integrity of neighboring nation-states. They also include a commitment to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs [of other countries] and from using force and civil war to attain political goals. "To increase the chances of successful negotiations on all issues, not just on the nuclear issue, it is crucial to maintain the military and economic pressure [on Iran], along with an ongoing diplomatic track with clear goals that will be determined through consultation, especially with the countries of the region. "The diplomatic activity of the present U.S. administration is clearly limited, compared to that of the previous [administration], and this has caused the [U.S] policy vis-à-vis Iran to gain insufficient support, [both] inside and outside the U.S. Launching [this policy] in the U.S. will initially be difficult, given the election period, since many [Americans] view the administration's actions with a degree of skepticism – but internal support is crucial [given the challenging nature of the tasks ahead]. For example, American diplomacy faces the difficult task of convincing some of its allies and partners of the serious and ongoing [character] of its strategy vis-à-vis Iran, and the effectiveness of its means. In the recent days, [the U.S.] has come a long way towards convincing the skeptics by proving that it is able to take bold and direct military action against Iran."   [1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 8, 2020.

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January 13, 2020 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 205

The Making Of A President?

January 13, 2020 | By Yigal Carmon
Iran | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 205
A few months ago, due to the repeated haplessness of President Trump in the face of major Iranian provocations, I wrote a scathing article titled "No Principles, No Dignity, No Power, No Deterrence",[1] in which I argued that apparently the comprehension that principles, dignity and power translate into deterrence, and prevent escalation into a more costly war, was beyond Trump's understanding as a great hotelier. Today, I must salute him; he has clearly undergone a major change. Today, he seems to understand that leadership is not deal making and particularly not deals with evil. Finally, he understands that the art of the deal belongs to the commercial world, and as a leader of the one superpower responsible for the free world's security, he must stand on principles, yes even on dignity and the readiness to apply power when absolutely necessary. In the operation to take out Qassem Soleimani he reversed all the elements of weakness that characterized his prior conduct. This time the national security team he commanded showed intelligence, technological and political superiority and politically surprised the Iranian adversary and all this combined into deterrence. The scared and deterred Iranian regime was extremely careful not to take American lives in their response, that merits a global innovation prize for waging war without casualties (except for smashed plastic crockery).[2]  Just as the Iranians did not dare to make good their threats, so the Pyongyang Rocketman did not dare play Santa with his promised Christmas present– he too feared a "disproportionate response" by Trump. Those guided by Trump's previous track record view his dramatic strike on Soleimani as yet another sign of capricious behavior. They scoff: he simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed; he needed to kick start his election campaign and so on. They refuse to credit him with undergoing a profound change. Only Trump's response to future crises will tell whether the Soleimani operation, was a one-off based on an instinctive response rather than an assumption of presidential responsibility and leadership. However, Trump's follow up moves after the crisis, attest to a genuine change. For example the policy of combining a halt to further escalation, with standing tough to every Iranian demand and threat. Yesterday, (January 12, 2020) he tweeted: "Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate,"[3] showing his deep comprehension that negotiating with evil is both futile and self-defeating. Trump, as is well known, is ready to quit both Iraq and Afghanistan but not as a defeated power as Soleimani wanted, and as the Taliban seek. Ever since the crisis, we do not hear Trump talking about a deal with an Iran that attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad and was a hairbreadth away from capturing it and taking the embassy staff hostage or worse. Instead, Trump sends his encouragement to the protesters seeking the downfall of the dictatorial regime." To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage."[4] He gets it: Confrontation with evil is unavoidable because evil pursues you even if you try to avoid it. The choice is between standing up or being humiliatingly defeated, and President Trump rejects defeat. In my previous critical article, I questioned Trump's gesture of restoring the bust of Churchill, which Barack Obama had banished from the Oval Office because he believed in peace through appeasement.  At the time, Trump's gesture seemed to me a hollow one, since his actual policy was the opposite of Churchillian. However, in the way he handled the current crisis vs. Iran, he intuitively began to display Churchillian principles.  The deterrence that he achieved extends beyond Iran to other rogue leaders in the Middle East and globally. Whoever had the courage to take out Soleimani, is apparently willing to stand up to other bullies.  Trump set red lines, and as opposed to his predecessor, he stuck to them. Trump's success in the confrontation with Iran is a learning experience for his presidency and America's adversaries and friends. It could mark Trump's personal metamorphosis from celebrating a deal where there is no deal to be made, to growing into the role of fighting evil, which even in victory is a heartbreaking and tragic role for a president and leader of the free world.   [1] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 198, No Principles, No Dignity, No Power, No Deterrence, September 19, 2019. [2] A reference to the ridicule heaped on Iran by the Islamist Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS): "The losses at an American base resulting from the Iranian attacks include: 12 tea cups, 6 plastic plates, 6 forks, 5 spoons, a gas stove, a pair of plastic slippers (may Allah honor you), half a kilo of sugar, two stacks of bread, and two cans of sardines bought with credit at the Salih Al-Samman Shop." [3] Twitter.com/realdonaldtrump, January 11, 2020. [4] Twitter.com/realdonaldtrump, January 12, 2020.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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Jan 11, 2020
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Iranian General Hajizadeh in 2016: Air-Defense Operators Have the Authority to Fire Missiles without Permission; Hajizdeh in 2020: The Operator Failed to Ask for Permission Before Downing the Ukrainian Plane

#7726 |
Source: IRIB Ofogh TV (Iran)IRINN TV (Iran)

In an interview with the Iranian IRINN TV, aired on March 10, 2016, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force said that low-ranking operators have full permission to launch air defense missiles at their own discretion. On January 11, 2020, following the Iranian downing of a Ukrainian Airlines plane, which was mistaken for a cruise missile, General Hajizadeh appeared in a press conference, which was aired on the Iranian Ofogh TV. In the press conference, General Hajizadeh said that he heard about the "heart-wrenching incident" of the downing of the Ukrainian plane and that when he ascertained that "the incident had indeed taken place," he wished he were dead. He added that the IRGC Aerospace Force accepts full responsibility for this incident and will abide by any decision made by the senior officials. General Hajizadeh explained that the "poor guy" who was operating the air-defense system that night failed to do his duty and contact his superior officers to confirm the identity of what appeared to be a cruise missile. General Hajizadeh continued to suggest that this was due to a communication system malfunction, whether because the communication system had been jammed or was overloaded. General Hajizadeh added that the fact that it took several days to make this incident public is not because someone was trying to hide anything but due to the inquest. General Hajizadeh said that "ultimately, this (incident) is the outcome of America's provocations and measures in the region." He continued to say that while he was in the west of the country overseeing the missile attack on the U.S. base in Iraq, "other dear people" were in charge of closing off the Iranian airspace and they should have done so. However, due to the high tensions that night, "the ground was paved for one individual to make this huge mistake."

 

March 10, 2016

Amir Ali Hajizadeh: "Look, in order to launch a missile – [air] defense missile, for example... Do we ask permission from anyone if an enemy plane approaches? A low-ranking officer could be sitting there by the system, and he would get notified, and launch [the missile]. Some time ago, when we hit the Hermes [drone] of the Zionist regime in Natanz – did they get permission from me? Did they get permission from the General Staff [of the Armed Forces]? Did they get permission from the air defense commander? The officer who was by the system saw it, identified it, and hit it.

[...]

 

January 11, 2020

Amir Ali Hajizadeh: "I heard about the heart-wrenching incident of the downing of the Ukrainian Airlines airplane when I was in the west of the country, after completing the missile strikes against the American bases. When I made sure that this incident had indeed taken place, I wanted to die. I wished I were dead and didn't have to witness this incident.

[...]

"We accept full responsibility for this. We will abide by any decision of the senior officials.

[...]

"When this happened, the [air-defense] system encountered a target that was identified as a cruise missile 19 kilometers away.

[...]

"In light of the information provided to the system's operator – that this was a battle situation and that a cruise missile was fired – the poor guy identified [the plane] as a cruise missile. Okay, in such a situation he had the duty to make contact and receive information. This is where the operator made a mistake. But under those circumstances, apparently his communication system malfunctioned. Whether it was because of the jamming systems or due to the overloading of the communications network – he could not make contact. He had 10 seconds to make a decision.

[...]

"We reported [the incident] but the necessary inquiries had to be made. The fact that it has taken a few days until this information was made public is not because someone was trying to hide something. The procedure is that the general staff needs to investigate this.

[...]

"We are sorry. Ultimately, this is the outcome of America's provocations and measures in the region. On that night, we were ready for a comprehensive confrontation.

[...]

"Just as I, on that night, was in the west of the country, commanding the missile strikes, other, dear people, were responsible [for closing the airspace] here, and they should have done so. But the ground was paved for one individual to make this huge mistake, and this incident occurred, unfortunately."

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Jan 09, 2020
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General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of IRGC Aerospace Force: Missile Attack on U.S. Bases in Iraq Just the Beginning of Revenge; Many U.S. Casualties in Attack; Arab Countries must Expel U.S. Forces from Region or Else ‘Resistance’ Groups will Do So

#7725 | 09:09
Source: IRINN TV (Iran)

In a press conference aired on Iran's IRINN TV on January 9, 2020, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of IRGC Aerospace Force said that the missile strikes against American bases in Iraq are just the beginning of revenge operation, which will continue throughout the region. General Hajizadeh said that Ayn Al Asad Air Base was ultimately chosen as a target because the original target, Camp Taji, is located near Baghdad and Iran did not want to disturb any Iraqi civilians with the noise from the attack. Demonstrating on aerial photographs of the air base, General Hajizadeh said that Iran could have struck the barracks and the areas where the troops were located, however Iran's goals was not to kill U.S. soldiers. Despite this, he insisted, many U.S. soldiers were killed. General Hajizadeh said that the U.S. did not fire a single bullet in response to this attack, since "they could not cope with this." General Hajizadeh continued to say that the many wounded U.S. soldiers were evacuated to Jordan, Israel, and Baghdad. In addition, he said that Iran initiated an "important electronic warfare operation," taking control of American drones in the vicinity of the air base and destroying American lines of communication and video. General Hajizadeh turned to the American public, recommending they apply pressure on their leaders to leave the region. General Hazijadeh also urged the leaders of the Arab countries to follow the Iraqi example and resolve to expel U.S. forces from the region. He continued to say that if countries such as the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar do not decide to expel American forces, the "groups of resistance" will force this decision upon them. General Hajizadeh said that "the blood of the Martyr Soleimani will cause a flood and tsunami" that will drown the Americans and anyone who opposes their expulsion from the region. General Hajizadeh was speaking in front of an Iranian flag, accompanied by the flags of all the Iranian-backed militias in the region.

 

Amir Ali Hajizadeh: "Avenging the blood of the martyr Soleimani and the other dear martyrs was a step that was necessary. As the honorable Leader said, the [ultimate] revenge for the blood of the martyrs will be the expulsion of the Americans from the region. The step taken by the Aerospace Force, the Martyr Soleimani Operation, and the landing of missile strikes against one of America's most important bases is just the beginning of this great operation. This is an operation that will continue throughout the region, inshallah.

 

[...]

 

"Within less than an hour [after Soleimani was killed], we were able to identify the bases that played a role in the terror attack the turned Hajj Qasem Soleimani and his comrades into martyrs. The bases that were involved [in the operation] were Camp Taji, Ayn Al Asad Air Base, Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan, and Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.

 

[...]

 

"Our first choice for the confrontation and for the beginning of our great revenge for the blood of the martyrs was Camp Taji. However, later on, perhaps a few hours before the operation, we changed the target and chose Ayn Al Asad Air Base. We did this because Camp Taji is close to Baghdad, close to Al-Kazimayn. It is a joint base shared by the Iraqis and the American forces. We were a bit concerned that the missile strikes and the explosion of the warheads would disturb civilians because of the noise. The sound would have certainly been heard in Baghdad and Al-Kazimayn. This is why we gave up on this and chose Ayn Al-Asad Airbase, which is the largest American military base in the region, not just in Iraq.

 

[...]

 

"We could have struck the barracks and the areas where the forces are located. These [structures] were all familiar to us. However, our goal was not simply to kill. They may have had many casualties there. I'll explain later. But our goal was not to kill. We wanted to deal a deadly blow to America's war machine, to their command and control center, and to their main capabilities and investments. Our main goal was not to kill, although this did happen.

 

[...]

"You may ask why we didn't strike all the bases all at once. We created a lack of security for them. For example, if there were five hangers, we told ourselves that we would only strike one or two of them.

[...]

 

"All of our missiles hit their targets. It is interesting that they didn't even shoot a single bullet. Not a single bullet was shot at our missiles, even though they had many planes in the air and many capabilities deployed. They could not cope with this. Some say that they evacuated the areas ahead of time. Look, after the operation, there were at least nine sorties made by C-130 planes that were used to evacuate the wounded to Jordan and the Zionist regime. Everything is documented – wounded people who were evacuated. A large number of Chinook helicopters brought wounded people to Baghdad, to the American hospital that is close to the U.S. Embassy. I've already mentioned that our goal was not to kill, but we know that many [Americans] were killed. The Pentagon spokesperson said that there are evaluating the damage and the number of people killed. They themselves said this. If the lie that the American President said is true, then they must let journalists in... Why isn't he letting journalists in? He didn't let anybody in. Even Iraqis weren't allowed in.

 

[...]

 

"After the missile strikes, and using special equipment that we prepared ahead of time, we initiated an important electronic warfare operation. It started almost 15 minutes after the operation. For a few moments, we took control of all the drones that were circling Ayn Al-Asad, and we destroyed the Americans' communications and video links. This really scared the Americans.

 

[...]

 

"In total, we launched 13 missiles, but we were ready to launch several hundreds during the first hour or two. Several hundred. We think that had the operation continued... We had estimated that this conflict would last two or three days, or perhaps a week, as a limited conflict, and this is assuming that the conflict did not escalate. If both sides had not shown restraint, then it seems that it would have lasted 3-7 days. Under these conditions, we would have been ready to launch several thousand [missiles].

 

[...]

 

"I recommend that the American public learn a lesson from the operations and events of the last few days, to apply pressure on the American leaders – their rulers – and to leave this area at minimal cost. It would be in their interest to leave voluntarily – not only Iraq, but also Afghanistan and the Arab countries. Because remaining here... What I know from the resistance axis, and from new axes that are forming in the region... The [Americans] will leave this region with damages, and in an embarrassing fashion. My next recommendation is for the region's Arab countries.

 

[...]

 

"The Americans never started a war for your sake – nor will they do so in the future – they didn't even start a war for their own sake. This is America. This is what scared you. We have no issue with the Arab rulers in the region. I ask the people of the region's countries, similar to the decision of the Iraqi parliament... The Iraqi public decided to expel the Americans, and [other Arab countries] should do the same. The Kuwaitis need to decide. The Emiratis need to decide. The Qataris need to decide. The Bahrainis need to decide. The Omanis need to decide. The Jordanians need to decide. The Afghans need to decide. Make a decision! If you do not make this decision, the groups of the resistance will force it upon you. [The Americans] need to leave the region. The decision has been made. The blood of the Martyr Soleimani will cause a flood and tsunami that will drown [the Americans] and those who oppose [their expulsion]. This will happen.

 

[...]

 

"Look, if we had decided to kill many [Americans], we could have planned and killed at least 500 of them. If they would have then retaliated, our circumstances would have changed...

 

[...]

 

"I think that within 48 hours, we could have killed at least 5,000 Americans."

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January 13, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8489

Russia This Week – Focus On Russia’s Bilateral Relations – January 13, 2020

January 13, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8489
Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. Photo Of The Week (Source: Kremlin.ru) In The News: Putin’s Visit To Syria Call For Cease-Fire In Libya Putin’s Visit To Turkey Russian-German Talks News in Brief: Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi; Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince; Putin’s Telephone Conversation With Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani Putin’s Visit To Syria Vladimir Putin visited the command post of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria. The Russian President and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad heard military reports on the situation in various regions of the country. (Source: Kremlin.ru) (Source: Kremlin.ru) (Source: Kremlin.ru) At the Great Mosque of Damascus. (Source: Kremlin.ru) At the Orthodox Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus. (Source: Kremlin.ru) On January 7, on Orthodox Christmas day, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Syria. From Damascus Airport, Putin travelled to the command post of the Russian Armed Forces group in Syria, where he was met by Bashar al-Assad. The two leaders heard military reports on the situation in various regions of the country. Later that day, a bilateral meeting was held between the Russian and Syrian delegations. During his talks with Bashar al-Assad, the President of Russia noted that it was now safe to praise the long distance travelled on the way to restoring Syria’s statehood and territorial integrity. Bashar al-Assad expressed gratitude to Russia and the Russian military for their assistance in the fight against terrorism and the restoration of peaceful life in the republic. After visiting the command post, the Presidents visited the Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Vladimir Putin presented the mosque with a 17th century Quran as a memory of his visit. Afterwards, the President of Russia visited the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus, where he spoke with Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East. (Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020) Meeting with President of Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad Assad to Putin: ‘You Are Very Well Aware Of The Efforts Undertaken By The Russian Army In Conjunction With The Syrian Forces To Reach Their Objectives And To Liberate A Large Part Of Syria’ (Source: Kremlin.ru) Putin: “Mr President, allow me first of all to thank you for your invitation to visit Damascus… “As for Syria, your efforts and our joint work have dramatically changed things. Not only is there a dramatic change, we are witnessing the restoration of Syrian statehood, of Syria as a unified nation. “There are many more issues to resolve, however in the north of the country, in the east, in the north-west and in the south. But what I was greatly pleased to see while being driven around Damascus was that life was coming back to the streets, which were actually bustling. There are a lot of cars on the roads; shops are open along with cafes and restaurants. But much is yet to be done to rebuild the Syrian economy…” President of Syria Bashar al-Assad: “Thank you very much, Mr President. It is a pleasure to see you today here in the city of Damascus. “On this holy day of Christmas, I would like to extend my greetings to you, your family and the entire Russian people. “Just two years ago, only a few months ago, we drove through that district and here, where you are now, and we were constantly shelled. “You are very well aware of the efforts undertaken by the Russian army in conjunction with the Syrian forces to reach their objectives and to liberate a large part of Syria. “Now you have arrived, you have seen it with your own eyes. You do not need a current operational map; you can see that the country is returning to peace, which is the best measure of military success. “We can see civilians, but we cannot see those who have helped bring about peace, because sadly, many of them have died, and many are still fighting on the frontlines. “As I have said, whenever we advance and achieve success, the situation becomes more complicated, unfortunately, due to repeated attempts to bring back and elevate terrorists and terrorism. “For that reason, I believe that your visit today is very important for us to be able to discuss the obstacles and difficulties that are hindering a political settlement and what we can do to coordinate our efforts to ensure continued success in our fight against terrorism. “Once again, I welcome you and thank you for being here.” (Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020) Speeches During Visit To Command Post Of Russian Armed Forces In Syria Putin: ‘I Want To Emphasize Once Again That Here In Syria, You Are Not Only Helping The Syrian People… You Are Defending Your Home Country’ (Source: Kremlin.ru) Putin: “Comrades, good afternoon. “I sincerely greet all personnel of the Russian forces in Syria on the New Year and Christmas. “You are celebrating these holidays far away from you families, your homes, and your country. And it is far away from home that you are defending our country and continuing the fight against terrorism. “Much has been done over the past year. Military police are effective in the Golan Heights, in Palmyra, Aleppo, and other important regions of Syria. Pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces conduct reconnaissance and provide air support to the Syrian army. “Joint operations help eliminate the more dangerous terrorist commanders, which is what the Special Operations Forces have successfully accomplished. “Off the coast of Syria, the Navy personnel are continuing to successfully defend our national interests in the Mediterranean… “I want to emphasize once again that here in Syria, you are not only helping the Syrian people by liberating them from terrorist groups. Here, in Syria, you are defending your home country by preventing terrorists from reaching Russia and its neighboring countries. “I wish you courage, happiness, and health. Thank you for your service.” (Kremlin.ru, January 7, 2020) Putin’s Visit To Turkey Launch ceremony for TurkStream gas pipeline. (Source: Kremlin.ru) Meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Source: Kremlin.ru) On January 7, Vladimir Putin arrived in Istanbul from Syria, where he met with Bashar al-Assad, and visited the command post of the Russian Armed Forces group in Syria. On January 8, Putin attended the ceremony for launching the TurkStream gas pipeline and met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two sides discussed the prospects for developing Russian-Turkish cooperation and the situation in Syria and Libya. The TurkStream project is a gas pipeline consisting of two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas per year each. The first line is to ship Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second one, to the countries of southern and southeastern Europe. The ceremony was also attended by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov. (Kremlin.ru, January 7-8, 2020) Speech At The Ceremony To Launch The TurkStream Gas Pipeline Putin: ‘I Am Grateful For The Political Will Shown By The Turkish Leaders In Implementing Projects Of National Importance’ On January 8, during the speech at the ceremony in Instanbul to launch the TurkStream gas pipeline, Putin said: “… All those present at the official launch of the new gas pipeline, TurkStream, are witnessing a very important event not only for Russia and Turkey, but also for the states of southern Europe, for the entire European continent… “The successful implementation of this grand joint project, a trans-Black Sea gas pipeline, clearly shows that the Russian-Turkish strategic partnership is producing significant, tangible results. “Interaction between Russia and Turkey is growing steadily in almost every area. Despite the complex international situation, and the attempts of a number of global players to hinder the expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries, our work is proceeding steadily. “I would like to note that Russia has been exporting gas to Turkey for 30 years, even though not everyone knows about it. It was initially shipped through the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline, then through the direct, transit-free Blue Stream pipeline. Last year alone, 24 billion cubic meters of fuel was delivered to our Turkish partners. “Now Russian gas will be shipped to Turkey via a new route, the TurkStream. This is in many ways a unique deep-sea gas transportation system, unprecedented in some parameters. Two parallel lines with a capacity of almost 16 billion cubic meters of gas each have been built. This involved laying over 1,800 kilometers of pipes, some of them at a more than two kilometer depth. This was difficult, hard work. It is also a high-tech project because the gas pipeline runs at tremendous depth, as well as in a very hostile environment. “The first line will deliver gas from the fields in western Siberia directly to our Turkish partners. The second one will cross Turkey to the Balkans, carrying fuel to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. “Again, the supply of Russian gas through TurkStream will undoubtedly be of great importance for not only the Turkish economy and the Black Sea region, but will also have a positive impact on the development of many south European countries, and will contribute to improving Europe’s overall energy security… “Thanks to your high professionalism and your excellent dedicated work the TurkStream project was implemented with high-quality and in a timely manner. And, of course, I would like to express my gratitude to the Turkish government, the President of Turkey for the timely issuance of all the permits and licenses required for the pipeline’s construction. I just want to repeat what I said last time I was here: I am grateful for the political will shown by the Turkish leaders in implementing projects of national importance and meeting the national interests of their country. “I am certain that in the future, Russia and Turkey will implement many more mutually beneficial joint projects, both in energy and in other fields. Together we can attain any complex and ambitious goal for the benefit of our two countries, our peoples, and for the benefit of our neighbors and partners. (Applause) “I would like to say one more thing in conclusion: we live in a complicated world, and unfortunately in the region where we are located, we are seeing more indications that the situation is being further aggravated. But Turkey and Russia are modelling completely different behavior – an example of interaction and cooperation for the benefit of our peoples and the peoples of Europe, and the whole world. I know that we will act in the same way in the future and will achieve new successes.” (Kremlin.ru, January 8, 2020) Call For Cease-Fire In Libya During the Putin-Erdogan meeting in Istanbul, the two leaders agreed for a cease-fire in Libya by midnight on January 12. "We have decided to take the initiative and, as intermediaries, call on all parties in Libya to stop hostilities as of 00.00 hours on 12 January, declare a sustainable cease-fire, supported by the necessary measures to be taken for stabilizing the situation on the ground and normalizing daily life in Tripoli and other cities, and immediately come together around a negotiating table with a view to putting an end to the sufferings of the Libyan people and bring back peace and prosperity to the country," a joint statement issued by the two leaders said. The joint statement also said: "We reaffirm our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. Lasting peace and stability in the country can only be achieved by a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process based on sincere and inclusive dialogue among Libyans." The two leader then declared their support for the Berlin Process, which "aims to create a conducive atmosphere to revitalize the U.N. facilitated political process, and remind that the Process can yield tangible results, with the involvement and commitment of Libyans and neighboring countries." (Dailysabah.com, January 8, 2020) Read More: On January 11, Putin held a telephone conversation with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the initiative of the Turkish side. The presidents continued their exchange of views on the situation in Libya based on Russian-Turkish agreements reached at their meeting in Istanbul on January 8. Russia and Turkey’s commitment was reaffirmed to comprehensively facilitate a political settlement of the Libyan conflict. Vladimir Putin briefed Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the results of his talks with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and his telephone conversations with a number of regional leaders. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement) On January 12, the ceasefire in Libya and in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northern Syria introduced at the initiative of Russia and Turkey is largely holding, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article) The Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has declared a ceasefire in the western part of the country starting midnight on Sunday local time (01:00 Moscow time), the army’s spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari informed. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article) Units of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord have violated the ceasefire several times since its declaration, commander of the Western district of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Mabrouk al-Gazavi stated. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article) The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj has declared ceasefire as part of an initiative proposed by Russia and Turkey, the cabinet said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. (Tass.com, January 12, 2020; read the full article) Russian-German Talks (Source: Kremlin.ru) (Source: Kremlin.ru) Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who was in Russia on a working visit on January 11. Putin said: “… The focus during the discussion of the international and regional agenda was on Libya where, unfortunately, large-scale hostilities are ongoing, terrorist activities are on the rise while the economy and the social sphere are in decline, to everyone’s regret. All that undermines security and stability not just in that region but also has negative implications for Europe. I mean illegal migration, smuggling, and arms and drug trafficking. “It is crucial to put an end to the armed confrontation between Marshal Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the Government of National Accord of Mr Sarraj, to establish ceasefire and take steps to restart the political process with the ultimate goal of overcoming the split inside the country and forming national state institutions. It is these goals that we highlighted in the joint statement made recently by President of Turkey and me, calling on the conflicting sides in Libya to cease hostilities starting at midnight today. I gave a detailed account to the Federal Chancellor of the work we did in Istanbul. “We consider Germany’s initiative to hold an international conference on Libya in Berlin to be timely. For the Berlin conference to yield solid results it is necessary to ensure the participation of the states that are really interested in helping the Libya settlement, and the key issue is that its decisions must be previously agreed on with the Libyan parties. Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya, should also play a role in that…” (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020) Read More Germany hails Russian-Turkish initiative to push for ceasefire in Libya. (Tass.com, January 10, 2020; read the full article) News in Brief: Putin’s Telephone Conversation With The President Of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi On January 10, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The two presidents continued to discuss the situation in Libya, including with consideration to the joint statement made by the Russian and Turkish leaders during Putin’s visit to Istanbul on January 8. Both sides stressed the need to step up international efforts with a view to resolving the crisis in Libya by peaceful means, by facilitating political dialogue between the sides to the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 10, 2020; read the full statement) Putin’s Telephone Conversation With The Crown Prince Of Abu Dhabi On January 11, Putin had a telephone conversation with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The conversation focused on the Libyan issues. Putin updated Mohammed Al Nahyan on the results of the talks with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and spoke in favor of accelerating efforts aimed at securing prompt ceasefire in Libya and facilitating the peace process between the parties to the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement) Putin’s Telephone Conversation WithThe Emir Of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani On January 11, Putin had a telephone conversation with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The two leaders had a thorough exchange of opinions on the developments in Libya with due account of the agreements reached in Istanbul, and spoke in favor of the cessation of hostilities and initiating a peaceful settlement of the conflict. (Kremlin.ru, January 11, 2020; read the full statement)

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Dec 31, 2019
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Laya Joneydi, Legal Deputy to Iranian President Rouhani: Joining FATF Would Prevent U.S. Sanctions against Iran from Becoming Global Sanctions; If We Don’t Join, We Will Be Risking Our Trade Relations with Russia, China

#7724 | 03:52
Source: IRINN TV (Iran)

Laya Joneydi, a legal deputy to Iranian President Rouhani, said in a December 31, 2019 interview on IRINN TV (Iran) that the current economic sanctions on Iran are harsher than they have been in the past and that joining the FATF AML/CFT conventions is likely to prevent the situation from getting worse by removing suspicion from Iran's trade deals. She said that joining the conventions would enable Iran to use national currencies and prevent the American sanctions against Iran from becoming global sanctions. Joneydi argued that an economy as large as Iran's cannot be severed from the international banking system, and she pointed out that the additional risk in banking with Iran might prevent China, Russia, and other countries that support Iran from trading with it if it does not join the AML/CFT. The interview aired few days before the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

 

Laya Joneydi: "The Anti-Money Laundering Convention is, in fact, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which we call 'Palermo,' and the Convention on Combating the Financing of Terrorism, the CFT. Almost every country in the world is a member of these two conventions. That's nearly 200 countries. The two or three countries that are not members are us, North Korea, and several countries whose names are difficult to pronounce."

 

[...]

 

Interviewer: "Between 2009 and 2016, we were on the black list, but we continued to have trade deals [with the world]. My question is: What is the relative advantage of joining [the conventions]?"

 

Laya Joneydi: "You should note that in those years, the sanctions were not as harsh as they are now. Back then, we were allowed to [export] one million barrels of oil [per day].

 

[...]

 

"When we join and can [make deals] to a certain limit – at least with national currencies – the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] will say that our deals are not suspicious, and we will be able to conduct our deals using national currencies, in this framework. Then you will see how our expenses will decrease. The price we have to pay right now in order to conduct these deals is relatively high. Part of this is because we cannot use the dollar, you see? But if we enter the FATF black list, even regular banks will not be able to associate with us using national currencies. Besides, we should look ahead to the long term. After all, we are not meant to be under U.S. sanctions forever. Secondly, as a big country, we will not be able... Look, we are now the 20th largest economy in the world, more or less. We are in the top 10-15% in the world. Such a large economy cannot be severed from the international banking system, which is the main artery of the international economy and of trade. Even a small island with a population of 3,000 cannot do it. It can be isolated from the mainland, but not from the world's banking system, because it must conduct deals for its own purposes. We must not think that we can simply ignore this factor. We had better engage in interaction rather than turn the unilateral U.S. sanctions into sanctions by 200 countries."

 

[...]

 

Interviewer: "Dr. Zarif clearly announced that neither he nor President [Rouhani] can guarantee that joining these conventions would resolve the problems. As someone who worked in international law and dealt with these issues, is there any guarantee that the situation will improve?"

 

Laya Joneydi: "Look, it will definitely prevent the situation from worsening. It is very natural. Right now, we are working with national currencies. But even banks in Russia and China have put us on notice. Being put on the black list would create a problem.

[...]

"The Governor of the Central Bank said something interesting: 'Don't ask only for guarantees that the situation will improve. The people who say we shouldn't do it should provide guarantees that the situation will not get worse.'"

 

Interviewer: "But that's how we have been so far. The situation will not be worse."

 

Laya Joneydi: "Yes, it will. China, Russia, and the countries that support us are saying that their banks, postal services, and other credit and financial organizations that want to work with us will have a problem because the risk they [will be taking] is going to increase."

Editorial In ISIS Weekly: The Death of Qassem Soleimani Is God's Punishment To The Shi'ites For Spilling Muslim Blood

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Jan 12, 2020
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Students at Beheshti University of Tehran Refuse to Walk Over U.S., Israel Flags, Boo People Who Do

#7723 | 01:15
Source: The Internet - "Twitter"

On January 12, during the second day of protests in Iran following Iran's acknowledgment of shooting down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, students at Beheshti University in Tehran refused to walk over giant American and Israeli flags drawn on the ground. They booed people who did, and shouted at them that they had "no honor." The video was uploaded to Twitter.

Crowd walking around flags on ground: "Spineless Basijis are the cause of the death of the nation. Spineless Basijis are the cause of the death of the nation."

Man to a few individuals walking on the flags: "Hey! Where are you going?"

Crowd begins chanting: "You have no honor! You have no honor!"

[...]

Man leads crowd in chanting, as some deliberately walk on U.S. flag: "You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor! You have no honor!"

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