US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the new US sanction was ‘unacceptable as an attempt at blocking ... the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine.’ (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

US sanctions target Iranians’ access to food, medicine: foreign minister

  • The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran
  • Unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites were under a cyberattack

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday denounced renewed US sanctions against its central bank as an attempt to deny ordinary Iranians access to food and medicine, and said the move was a sign of US desperation.
The United States on Friday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, some aimed at its central bank and sovereign wealth fund, following attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that Riyadh and US officials have blamed on Iran.
Iran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iranian-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.
“This is a sign of US desperation ... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in remarks shown on state television.
“But this is dangerous and unacceptable as an attempt at blocking ... the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine,” Zarif said, speaking after arriving in New York for the annual UN General Assembly next week.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports on social media said a number of Iranian websites — including those of some petrochemical firms — were under a cyberattack. There was no immediate official comment, and the websites of the main state oil company NIOC appeared to be functioning normally. Residents said their Internet access was not affected.
The fresh sanctions target the Central Bank of Iran, which was already under other US sanctions, the National Development Fund of Iran — the country’s sovereign wealth fund — and an Iranian company that US officials say is used to conceal financial transfers for Iranian military purchases.
Zarif said he would meet on Wednesday with foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany China and Russia as well as the United States.
“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) ... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.
The United States withdrew from the accord last year and re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran.
“I hope the US government realizes that they are no longer the only economic superpower in the world and that there are many countries that want to benefit from the Iranian market,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to state media.


Tension between Iraq defense minister and Iranian-backed faction peaks

Updated 22 November 2019

Tension between Iraq defense minister and Iranian-backed faction peaks

  • ‘Third party’ accused of killings as documents show ministry had tear gas canisters in warehouses imported from Serbia

BAGHDAD: Tension between Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari and several Iranian-backed armed factions peaked on Thursday after documents emerged showing the Iraqi Defense Ministry had tear gas canisters in its warehouses imported from Serbia years ago.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have been witnessing anti-government demonstrations since Oct. 1.

More than 300 demonstrators have died and about 16,000 have been injured so far, mostly in Baghdad, by tear gas and live bullets used by Iraqi forces to quell the protests.

In an earlier television interview, Al-Shammari said Iraqi security forces had not shot at demonstrators and that orders since October had been clear that no live bullets should be used to deal with the protesters.

Al-Shammari also said tear gas that killed dozens of demonstrators after they were hit directly in the head and chest by canisters was not imported by the Iraqi government. 

He accused a “third party” of killing the demonstrators.

“Third parties fired (at the demonstrators) in an attempt to make the conflict seem between security forces and demonstrators,” Al-Shammari said.

“A third party has been killing protesters and security forces.”

Since the start of the protests, the majority of Iraqis have used specific words to describe the demonstrators, security forces, and armed factions supporting the government.

The “third party” is the description used to describe Iranian-backed factions to differentiate between them and security forces, often referred to as the “second party,” while describing the demonstrators as the “first party”.

“Third party” became a term of ridicule after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi unintentionally used it several times in a statements to shirk responsibility for killings, kidnappings and arrests of protesters, activists, journalists and even officials.

The defense minister’s allegations have angered a number of Iranian-backed armed factions and their associated security and military leaders.

He has also faced charges of forgery, manipulation of official records and lying.

On Thursday, the Resistance Media Network, a group of Iranian-funded channels, distributed documents revealing that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense had imported tear gas, smoke and sound bombs, rifles and other riot gear from Serbia under a contract entered into by the Ministry with Yugo Import SDPR in 2007.

Another document revealed the quantity and types of equipment and weapons used by riot police and government-affiliated forces during the past seven weeks, starting from Sept. 30 to Nov. 18, clearly indicating that the Ministry of Defense forces used thousands of tear gas canisters during that period.

Similarly damaging for the defense minister were links to press reports in the Swedish media about Al-Shammari, indicating that the minister, who has been living in Sweden since 2007 and holds  Swedish citizenship, is registered there as exempt from work and taxes, and enjoys a pension and free health care as a result of poor mental health.

Iraqi security and military figures have confirmed the involvement of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and field commander of Iranian operations in Iraq in the suppression of demonstrators.

“The minister is under tremendous pressure now,” a senior military commander told Arab News. “He revealed their (Iranian-backed factions) involvement in the killing of protesters. Although he did not name them, it was clear who was meant by the ‘third party’.

“To be honest, he (Al-Shammari) refused to use violence against demonstrators when he was asked to do so. Then these statements came out to destroy his political future.

“They (Iranian-backed factions) decided to terminate him politically, so these files began to appear both inside and outside Iraq.”