Opinion

Iran increasingly turning to Latin America to defy US sanctions

Iran increasingly turning to Latin America to defy US sanctions

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The signing of a 20-year strategic cooperation agreement by Iran and Venezuela on Saturday was not a surprise. The deal between the two major oil-producing countries that are subject to US sanctions shows the nature of their relationship.

The ties that unite these two countries are greater than the size of the sanctions imposed on them. The cooperation projects announced in the fields of energy, oil, gas, refineries and petrochemicals, in addition to the two countries’ work “on defense projects,” are not new.

The Iranian regime’s presence in South America is being intensified, mostly backed by a wave of left-leaning governments that flourish in this region, fueled by propaganda slogans against imperialism and US policies. Iran has also strengthened its diplomatic presence in the region through numerous tours by high-ranking officials.

It is clear that political hostility and ideological and intellectual slogans were factors in advancing the common interests of Venezuela and Iran in light of the American economic sanctions on them.

The sanctions created a common ground for economic and political cooperation. And Tehran wants to weaken America’s attempts to isolate it internationally by building interests and joint capabilities with Latin American countries, as well as the likes of China and Russia.

The nature of Iranian-Venezuelan relations as a whole is based on personal friendships between the heads of the two countries and their political hostility to the US. Iran deliberately defied the US sanctions by jumping into America’s backyard, taking advantage of the nature of the political regimes in that region, the spread of anti-American sentiment and the clear search for political realignment.

Iran also aims to strengthen its relations with Latin American countries, including Venezuela, to balance the international community's attempts to rein in its nuclear program, which is seen as a threat to world peace.

There is no doubt that Iran is actively working to increase its economic, cultural and intelligence presence in this region in order for it to remain an important card in its relations with Washington. It is focusing on cooperating on economic and commercial aspects, including many projects and investments in the fields of energy and oil.

Oil, which provides nearly half of the budgets of both Venezuela and Iran, has played a key role in the nature of the economic relations between them.

The level of bilateral cooperation between Iranian and Venezuelan oil companies in terms of exploration and petrochemicals continues to grow, with Tehran announcing assistance in building the platforms for developing oil fields in the Orinoco delta region, estimated at $4 billion, in return for investments inside Venezuela.

Venezuela has announced that it will defy international sanctions and supply Iran with gasoline — an attempt to weaken the US’ isolation of Tehran by exploiting its deep dependence on refined foreign oil.

The same scenario was repeated but in reverse in 2020, when the Venezuelan economy collapsed due to unprecedented levels of inflation and the high price of basic commodities, which led to the collapse of the local currency against the US dollar, a deterioration in gross domestic product and a shortage of fuel.

Five Iranian tankers carrying millions of barrels of gasoline and its components arrived in Venezuela under military escort, providing Caracas with the tools, supplies and technical expertise required to support the refining services of the Venezuelan state oil company.

Since the Khomeinist revolution in 1979, Iran has worked to strengthen its relations with Latin American countries and this has increased in the past two decades, especially during the era of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez were close friends and political and economic partners. Between 2005 and 2012, more than 270 agreements were signed, including trade treaties and agreements on development projects, vehicle development, energy policies and banking programs. The momentum of the two countries’ political and economic relations also increased.

It is clear that Venezuela has become an outlet for Tehran as it seeks to bear the financial burden of America’s economic sanctions

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

The strengthening of ties between the two countries continued in 2015 with the signing of several diplomatic, financial and scientific agreements. And this was followed by the visit of then-Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2016.

Iran has long wanted to enhance its political position, both at the regional and international levels, by seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon. This would help strengthen its military position and thus change the balance of power in the Middle East. But the international community sensed the danger of the Iranian nuclear program and the UN Security Council decided to impose sanctions on Tehran between 2006 and 2008 (although these were lifted after the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015).

In light of this increasing international pressure, Iran resorted to Venezuela to break its political isolation, find new strategic tools and weaken the control of the US. It has been noted that, during Chavez’s rule, Venezuela was a major supporter of Iran in international forums, as it rejected recommendations to refer Iran to the UNSC over its noncompliance with international resolutions related to its nuclear program. Current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has also defended the right to “free trade” with Iran, rejecting the criticism that followed the arrival of Iranian fuel in his country.

With its relations with Latin American countries, Iran seeks to project an image of global power, confront political and economic isolation, mobilize diplomatic support for its nuclear program, and respond to the US in what is considered to be its backyard. It is clear that Venezuela has become an outlet for Tehran as it seeks to bear the financial burden of sanctions. In return, Venezuela could eventually become a vehicle for Iran to convert currency, obtain high-tech facilities and enter the global financial system. However, the two countries’ economic difficulties increased after the US imposed new sanctions on Iran and Venezuela under President Donald Trump.

After the reimposition of sanctions, Iran also found in Latin America fertile ground for its suspicious activities and operations, including money laundering and arms and drug smuggling.

Economic cooperation between Iran and Venezuela expanded significantly in this period, as Tehran sought to diversify its economy to overcome economic sanctions, while illicit trade — often through Hezbollah — became an issue of particular concern to the US.

It intensified the level of cooperation and investment in many areas, but concentrated on the oil, banking and finance, and housing sectors.

Iran has used its proxies in the region, especially Hezbollah, to contribute to the implementation of many of its suspicious activities and operations, especially in the tri-border area shared by Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

There have been reports of suspicious activities by Iran’s agents in this area, including drugs and arms smuggling, money laundering and terrorist training. The repercussions of this Iranian impact on regional security have become an increasing threat to the interests of Washington and its allies.


SPOTLIGHT

Analysis: Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?


Iran’s role in drug smuggling is widespread and well documented throughout Venezuela, with the US Drug Enforcement Agency reporting an extensive cocaine trade from eastern Venezuela to West Africa and then Europe.

The supply is suspected to come from Iranian facilities in the Orinoco delta, with fishing vessels and other boats used to transport the drugs. Cocaine from Venezuela is also sent to the US’ Gulf Coast via the Dominican Republic.

The proceeds from such illicit activities are laundered in various ways, such as buying used American cars and exporting them to Africa.

The movement of Hezbollah operatives and Iranian proxies would not be smooth were it not for Venezuela providing covert access to Latin America through state airline Conviasa, which runs a weekly return flight to Syria.

These flights are closely controlled, with seats only provided to those with approval from the Iranian or Venezuelan authorities.

According to a 2008 Los Angeles Times report, Western government officials feared that Hezbollah “may be using Venezuela as its base of operations.” A counterterrorism official told the newspaper that the relationship between Venezuela and Iran was “becoming a strategic alliance.”

Some sources also reveal that Hezbollah has as many as five training camps in Venezuela that have government approval. According to a 2019 US State Department report on terrorism, Venezuela has a permissive framework for established armed groups, including Colombian rebels and Lebanese Hezbollah members.

And United Press International reported in 2009 that Iranian military advisers had joined Venezuelan forces.

The Iranian regime has built a set of tactical bases in Venezuela, allowing its intelligence service and Quds Force to operate all over the country. In these facilities, the military and security forces in Latin America are trained in a variety of skill sets, including asymmetric warfare. Chavez was said to be fascinated by the Iranian doctrine of asymmetric tactics.

US officials have watched the special relationship between the two countries develop with great concern, expressing worries about the Iranian military presence and its arms sales to South American countries.

Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Iran and Venezuela, warned in 2020 that the US would destroy any long-range missiles sent to Venezuela by Iran.

That state of alert came a few days after Maduro announced the formation of a scientific and technical military council with the help of “brotherly” countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba, to seek the country’s independence in terms of military armament.

Iran’s money laundering operations are facilitated by the ability of some governments, especially those in the Bolivarian states, to use their power to move Iranian money through Latin American banks, thus making it available for use in Western markets.

This strategy was partially effective in getting Tehran back into the international economy.

Iranian-Venezuelan relations represent a real danger in several areas, with the most threatening being the resumption of their oil exports and the use of these revenues to finance terrorism.

And let us not forget the danger of having a regime like Tehran’s in possession of a nuclear weapon.

We are watching the Vienna negotiations falter and Iran’s failure to respond to negotiations — as seen with other files, such as its regional expansionism and ballistic missile program — shows that the regime is intent on spreading havoc and destruction on every continent.


• Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @drhamsher7

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?

The Iranian and Venezuelan political leadership have found a common enemy in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 14 June 2022

Can a new Iran-Venezuela pact end either country’s economic woes?

  • Agreement aims to provide stimulus, but experts say ‘two unsuccessful economies do not make a successful one’
  • Iranian drone tech, Venezuela’s uranium reserves could pose risk to Middle East, South America and elsewhere

LONDON: A newly inked cooperation deal between Iran and Venezuela will see the two pariah states further integrate their economies, but one oil-rich and legitimacy-poor state cannot fix the woes of another, according to experts.

On Saturday embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appeared on Iranian state media in north Tehran to sign a 20-year “cooperation agreement” with his Iranian counterpart, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The deal, according to Raisi, will see the two countries cooperate in the oil, petrochemicals, defense, agriculture, tourism and culture sectors. But more than economics, looming large in the signing of the deal — an unlikely covenant between a Shiite theocratic regime on one side and a communist dictatorship on the other — was the US and its sanctions regime against each country, as well as the two nations’ relationships with the wider international community.

“Venezuela has shown exemplary resistance against sanctions and threats from enemies and imperialists,” Iran’s Raisi said. “The 20-year cooperation document is testimony to the will of the two countries to develop ties.”

“Sanctions and threats against the Iranian nation over the past 40 plus years have been numerous, but the Iranian nation has turned these sanctions into an opportunity for the country’s progress.”

But to Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow with the MENA Program at Chatham House, the deal fails to address the fundamental problem in both countries: “Bad governance.”

“Iran and Venezuela could be two of the richest countries in the world, and they are not,” he told Arab News. “If you look at their natural resources, not to mention Venezuela with their natural reserves, their oil industries are falling apart.”

Now, when demand for oil and gas is skyrocketing, both Venezuela and Iran should be flourishing — but their governments have prevented the “gold rush” other energy-exporting countries are now experiencing and using to prepare for the post-fossil-fuel age.

“Iran and Venezuela are countries that could prosper — their problem is bad governance. Whether from the left or the clerical parties, regardless, they are failed states,” Mekelberg said.

He pointed out that both countries also have confrontational relationships with the US and wider international community.

“Their alliance is the alliance of those who, under sanctions, can’t really deal with their own domestic issues, then fell foul with their own regions, so they are trying to find a way out of it by supporting each other,” he said.

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“There is an internal logic to all of it, but I don’t think this is going to help them much. They need to deal with the world. Two unsuccessful economies do not make a successful one.”

With regard to energy specifically — each country’s main export — does the deal signed in Tehran do anything to help grow their economies?

Both Iran and Venezuela being major oil and energy producers, “they are not going to export to each other,” said Mekelberg.

The two countries have, however, made some progress in exchange of expertise. Iranian engineers have been involved in the repair of rundown Venezuelan facilities, and will soon start work on Venezuela’s largest refinery.

“But what they really need is investment,” said Mekelberg — something that he does not believe either country is able to do in the volumes required.

While the economic aspects of the deal are likely to raise few eyebrows — the two have cooperated for years in the illegal exchange of oil and other commodities — the potential for further defense cooperation is perhaps of more concern to those in South America, the Middle East and the US.

As early as 2006, Venezuela and Iran cooperated militarily. In a speech given to the Brookings Institution in 2009, a district attorney for New York raised the alarm about Iran’s training of Venezuelan fighters into Hezbollah-style terrorists.

“It has been reported that since 2006 Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan troops,” the late Robert Morgenthau had said. “Asymmetric warfare, taught to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and Hamas, has replaced US army field manuals as the standard Venezuelan military doctrine.”

And perhaps of further concern is the potential for nuclear cooperation. According to a 2008 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of uranium deposits ready to be mined.

While warnings of the potential for nuclear cooperation have persisted for years, the stalled progress in the Iran nuclear talks ongoing in Vienna, accompanied by ever-lower breakout times predicted by experts, means that the new agreement could play an outsized role in the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons.




The new deal will see the two pariah states further integrate their economies. (AFP)

“Venezuela’s support for Iran’s nuclear program has fluctuated in recent years, with intelligence sources previously indicating that (the late President Hugo) Chavez discussed purchasing uranium from Iran at the same time as entering talks to buy a nuclear reactor from Argentina,” Rhiannon Phillips, associate analyst MENA at political risk consultancy Sibylline, told Arab News.

“Cooperation on ‘defense projects’ may allude to Iranian partnerships on offensive and combat drone technology, prompting a significant concern for Western allies. This again is not a new trend, with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz outlining his concern about Iranian MoHajjer UAVs in Venezuela earlier this year, with reported ranges of up to 200 km.”

Phillips added: “Iranian support for terrorism is already a key driver of geopolitical hostilities in the Middle East, namely between Tehran (on the one hand) and Saudi Arabia and Israel (on the other hand). But it could elevate concerns among Latin American countries if Venezuelan capabilities exceed or violate the threshold of regional security.

FASTFACTS

• Agreement covers political, cultural, tourism, economic, oil and petrochemical fields.

• Iran has delivered the second of four vessels it is contracted to build for Venezuela.

“Notably, Diego Molano, Colombia’s defense minister, has already expressed concern over the presence of Iranian proxies in Venezuela, namely Hezbollah militants, and the likelihood of these groups seeking to utilize Iranian military technology to carry out domestic attacks.”

Phillips also said that Iran has long been implicated in terrorism in the Middle East — the specter of which the Iran-Venezuela cooperation agreement threatens to resurrect.

The 1994 AMIA suicide bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. In 2006, Argentinian prosecutors formally accused the Iranian government and Hezbollah of carrying out the bombing. And it appears that Argentina has not forgotten that attack.




Both sides are major energy and oil producers and will support each other’s projects. (AFP)

On Sunday, Argentinian authorities grounded a Boeing 747 that was sold to Venezuela by Iran’s Mahan air — an airline closely linked with the IRGC and sanctioned by the US government.

According to an Argentinian Interior Ministry document shared with Reuters by Argentine lawmaker Gerardo Milman, 14 Venezuelans and 5 Iranians were traveling on the plane. Milman warned: “Our information is that this is a plane that has come to conduct intelligence in Argentina.”

It is not clear what the agents were investigating. What is clear, though, is that Argentina, acutely and tragically familiar with Iranian terrorism, is unwilling to take the risk of waiting too long where national security is involved.


Syria reports 39 dead in cholera outbreak

Updated 05 October 2022

Syria reports 39 dead in cholera outbreak

DAMASCUS: Syria’s health ministry has recorded 39 deaths from cholera and nearly 600 cases in an outbreak spreading in the war-ravaged country that the United Nations warned is “evolving alarmingly.”
A total of 594 cases have been recorded across 11 of its 14 provinces since late last month, the health ministry said late Tuesday.
“The situation is evolving alarmingly in affected governorates and expanding to new areas,” the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.
Most of those who have died are in the northern province of Aleppo, and it was not immediately clear if the dead were included in the overall case tally.
It is the first major outbreak of cholera in Syria in over a decade.
The extremely virulent disease is generally contracted from contaminated food or water, and causes diarrhea and vomiting.
It can spread in residential areas that lack proper sewerage networks or mains drinking water.
The disease is making its first major comeback since 2009 in Syria, where nearly two-thirds of water treatment plants, half of pumping stations and one-third of water towers have been damaged by more than a decade of war, according to the United Nations.
The source of the latest outbreak is believed to be the Euphrates River which has been contaminated by sewage pollution.
Reduced water flow due to drought, rising temperatures and dams built by Turkey have compounded the pollution problem.
Despite the contamination, over five million of Syria’s about 18 million people rely on the Euphrates for their drinking water, according to the UN.
The latest outbreak is especially alarming for overcrowded displacement camps that have little access to clean water and sanitary products.
Cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, according to the WHO, but many of those infected will have no or mild symptoms.
It can be easily treated with oral rehydration solution, but more severe cases may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics, according to the WHO.
Worldwide, the disease affects between 1.3 million and four million people each year, killing between 21,000 and 143,000 people.


Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Updated 05 October 2022

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

  • The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary has opened an investigation into the death of a teenage girl, who was reportedly killed during protests over the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces.
“A case has been filed in the criminal court to investigate the cause of Nika Shakrami’s death,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency late Tuesday.
“An order to investigate the case has been issued and necessary measures are being taken in this regard,” he added.
Earlier, the prosecutor said 400 protesters were released from prison “on condition of not repeating their actions.”
He stressed, however, that those “who acted against national security” will be dealt with “decisively, seriously and without leniency.”


Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

Updated 05 October 2022

Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

  • Britain’s foreign ministry had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires over crackdown on protests

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in reaction to “interventionist comments” from the British foreign ministry, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported on Wednesday.
“The British side, by issuing unilateral statements, shows that it has a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic Republic,” the director general of Western Europe at Iran’s foreign ministry added, after saying that London’s remarks on Iran’s internal affairs were “based on fake and provocative interpretations.”
Britain’s foreign ministry said on Monday it had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires, Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain, over the crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.
The British envoy in Tehran was summoned on Tuesday.
The Iranian official added Tehran will consider possible options in response to any unusual actions from Britain.
A 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 by the morality police in Tehran for wearing “unsuitable attire.”

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Lebanon suggests amendments to maritime border deal with Israel

Updated 05 October 2022

Lebanon suggests amendments to maritime border deal with Israel

BEIRUT: Lebanon has submitted to the US a list of changes it would like to see in a proposal on how to delineate a contested maritime border with Israel, a top Lebanese official said on Tuesday.
US envoy Amos Hochstein has shuttled between Lebanon and Israel since 2020 to seal a deal that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration and defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Hochstein sent a draft proposal to Beirut last week. It was discussed on Monday by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Deputy speaker of parliament Elias Bou Saab said he had earlier that day submitted to the US ambassador in Lebanon the amendments Beirut would like to see, without providing details.


SPOTLIGHT

Will maritime-border settlement imply Lebanon’s indirect recognition of Israel?


He said he does not think the proposed changes would derail the deal and that, while the response did not signify approval of the draft, talks were so advanced that “we are done negotiating.”
Speaking to local broadcaster LBCI, he said the draft deal had been produced by thinking “outside of the box.”
“We started to talk about it as a business deal,” Bou Saab said.
The 10-page draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.

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While that company has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE . A top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Bou Saab on Tuesday said that, according to the draft deal, Lebanon had secured all of the maritime blocs it considered its own.
He added that Lebanon will not pay one cent from its share of Qana to Israel.

 

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EU pushes to impose Iran sanctions over Mahsa Amini ‘killing’

Updated 04 October 2022

EU pushes to impose Iran sanctions over Mahsa Amini ‘killing’

  • Rights groups voiced concern after riot police used tear gas and paintball guns against students at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology on Sunday night
  • Video footage showed detainees being taken away with fabric hoods over their heads

PARIS: The European Union said Tuesday it was weighing tough new sanctions on Iran over a lethal crackdown on protests sparked by the “killing” of Mahsa Amini, after a similar move by the United States.
Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16, days after the notorious morality police detained the Kurdish Iranian for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
Anger over her death has sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock Iran in almost three years and a crackdown that has seen scores of protesters killed and hundreds arrested.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was considering “all the options at our disposal, including restrictive measures, to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have been responding to the demonstrations.”
It came after President Joe Biden said the United States would impose “further costs” this week on “perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters” in Iran.
Rights groups voiced deep concern after Iranian riot police used tear gas and paintball guns against hundreds of students at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology on Sunday night, with video footage showing detainees being taken away with fabric hoods over their heads.
Protests also spread to schools, with video footage shared by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showing schoolgirls demonstrating in two cities in Amini’s native Kurdistan province.
“Women, Life, Freedom,” the young female protesters chanted as they marched down the central strip of a busy highway in Marivan, in footage that AFP has not independently verified.

Biden gave no indication of what measures he was considering against Iran, which is already under crippling US economic sanctions largely related to its controversial nuclear program.
Iran on Tuesday accused the US leader of “hypocrisy” in invoking human rights to impose fresh punitive measures.
“It would have been better for Mr.Joe Biden to think a little about the human rights record of his own country before making humanitarian gestures, although hypocrisy does not need to be thought through,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in an Instagram post, reported by Iranian media.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had on Monday accused arch foes the United States and Israel of fomenting the protests.
The riots “were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime, as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad,” Khamenei said.

The unrest has overshadowed diplomatic efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers which had come close to a breakthrough in recent months before stalling again.
But White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed the “problems with Iran’s behavior” are separate from efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which Washington will pursue “as long as we believe” it is in US national security interests.
In his first public comments on Amini’s death, 83-year-old Khamenei stressed on Monday that Iranian police must “stand up to criminals.”
Khamenei said “some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burned the Qur'an, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars.”
He added that “this is not about hijab in Iran,” and that “many Iranian women who don’t observe the hijab perfectly are among the steadfast supporters of the Islamic republic.”
On Tuesday, an official said singer Shervin Hajjipour — arrested after his song “Baraye” (“For“), with lyrics taken from social media posts about the reasons people were protesting, went viral — had been released on bail.
Another 400 people arrested in the crackdown were released Tuesday “on condition of not repeating their actions,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests and last week said nine foreign nationals — including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had been arrested.
At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the Mahsa Amini rallies, said Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, which has been working to assess the death toll despite Internet outages and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram and other online services.
Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said last week that “around 60” people had died.
At least 12 members of the security forces have been reported killed since September 16.

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