Watch | Israel-Iran strikes | Can India escape being caught in conflict?

News breaking now of multiple strikes by Israel on bases and nuclear facilities in Iran are further driving up tensions in the region- while the two countries have had a shadow war between them for 45 years, we have not seen such openly direct strikes on each other thus far. Up ahead we will look at how this new turn will change the west Asian landscape, and seven ways India is impacted.

We have been covering everything that has happened since October 7- terror attacks by Hamas, Israel’s pounding of Gaza, but here’s is how the scene is shifting now.

On April 1: Israel launched strikes on Iran’s Embassy in Damascus, killing 7 military diplomats, including a senior General . Iran protested this was a violation of UN conventions, the Vienna conventions- many saw this as Israel’s attempt at broadening the war as its war on Gaza has gone into an impasse, and no progress of freeing Hamas-held hostages

Amir Abdollahian: No member state will remain silent on such an attack…diplomatic agents

April 12: Iran seized an Israel-linked ship MSC Aries- 17 crew members were Indian. While 1 has been sent back to India, the fate of the other 16 remains unclear.

On April 13: Iran launched 300-350 drones and missiles directly on Israel, the first time it has openly done so. The missiles, which were slow moving, were mostly repelled by Israel’s Iron Dome, but also with help from the US, Jordan, and reportedly with intelligence support from some Gulf States. Iran said it had 3 objectives: to deter Israel from further action, to showcase Iran’s missile capabilities and to demonstrate its ability to target vital Israeli military bases at will.

Netanyahu: We will take our own decisions, and the state of Israel will do what it needs to defend itself

On April 19: Israel has reportedly launched strikes on several targets inside Iran- believed to be bases, nuclear facilities and other strategic locations. This despite US President Biden expressly asking PM Netanyahu not to respond to Iran’s strikes.

India has also called on both sides to show restraint- External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to both Iranian FM Amir Abdollahaian and Israel FM Israel Katz, but both sides have high expectations from India

You can read more in this interview with Iranian Ambassador to India Iraj Elahi

On the diplomatic front, we have seen some major moves as well:

UN Security Council met over the escalating tensions, but did not come up with a resolution
US, UK and others imposed new sanctions on Iran- targeting its drone capabilities
12 UNSC members voted in favour of making Palestine a full member state- the US vetoed it however, and Israel debated against it

Israel Amb: Granting the perpetrators full recognition is the vilest reward for the vilest crime

What’s next?

How will Iran respond to the Israeli strikes?

Will Iran now consolidate actions along with its proxies in the Gulf region

Hezbollah in Lebanon

Houthis in Yemen

Hamas in Gaza

Other militia

What is on the escalation ladder for Israel?
Thus far Israel conducts covert targeted assassinations on Iranian officials and nuclear scientists- will the Damascus attack pave the way for more such open strikes
Big worry over nuclear confrontation- neither country is a declared nuclear weapons power, yet the worry is that with this conflict deepening one or both might reveal their nuclear capabilities, further driving the crisis

Impact on India

1. Geopolitical impact- India has strong strategic ties with both countries, and this escalation makes it more difficult to maintain those ties. In its statements about Iran and Israel action, MEA has taken care to criticise neither side, to much disappointment in both capitals

2. Strategic impact: India’s connectivity projects with both Israel- under I2U2 and the proposed IMEEC are already in jeopardy, now the connectivity through Chabahar port and the INSTC corridor to Central Asia will be in trouble too

3. Oil impact- Even as elections get under way in India, the West Asia conflict will no doubt drive up the price of oil- already under strain with the Russia- Ukraine war- will India be forced to restart oil imports from Iran which it gave up in 2018 under threat from the US

4. Economic Impact- inflation of prices, jittery markets, interest rates are likely to be kept high

5. Trade impact- Cargo trade through the Red Sea and Hormuz is already under attack from Houthi groups, now shippers and insurers are likely to take longer routes around the region, given clouds of conflict

6. Travel impact: Flights will need to take longer detours as well, this will affect air ticket prices and travel times this summer. Air India has already suspended flights to Tel Aviv.

7. Labour Impact: While other Gulf countries account for about 8 million Indian labour and expatriate workers- Israel has only about 18,000 and Iran between 10-15,000 including a large number of merchant navy crew and personnel- caught in the crossfire right now- 6,000 Indian workers recruited for jobs in Israel are unable to leave, and questions about Indian crew on board various ships- with about 2.5 lakhs merchant navy personnel Indian, Indians rank 3rd in numbers

WV Take:

Given the numbers of Indians living and working in West Asia, a conflict between Israel and Iran, that bookend the region is a conflict in India’s immediate neighbourhood, and New Delhi cannot be immune to the escalation in tensions and on the ground- the immediate casualty, could also be India’s grand plans for connectivity which depend on both Iran and Israel as hubs for trade routes to the West.

WV Reading Recommendations:

1. Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry That Unravelled the Middle East by Kim Ghattas

2. Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

3. Cold War In The Islamic World by Dilip Hiro

4. Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination – and Secret Diplomacy – to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar

5. The Making of the Modern Middle East: A Personal History Paperback – 14 September 2023 by Jeremy Bowen

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Gayatri Menon and Shibu Narayan

Source link

#Watch #IsraelIran #strikes #India #escape #caught #conflict

‘Iran is in for the long haul’ with oil tanker hijacks, expert says, as U.S. considers more sanctions

Iranian soldiers take part in an annual military drill in the coast of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

The containership MSC Aries seized by Iran over the weekend marked at least the sixth vessel hijacked by Iran and its proxies in response to the Israel-Gaza war, and it’s adding to the challenges to longstanding freedom of navigation principles that maritime shipping relies on.

Before this weekend’s tanker seizure, the last vessel Iran hijacked was the St. Nikolas on January 1. According to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, that brought the total number of vessels being held to five, and over 90 crew members hostage. Previous to that, the Iranian-backed Houthis hijacked The Galaxy Leader on November 19.

The latest development has shipping and energy experts bracing for a long-term timeline of uncertainty.

“Iran is in this for the long haul,” said Samir Madani, co-founder of, an independent online service that tracks and reports crude oil shipments in several geographical and geopolitical points of interest.

The MSC Aries was identified by Iran as having a link to Israel. The containership has a carrying capacity of 15,000-TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent containers). MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

MSC declined to comment directly to CNBC.

In a statement released by MSC on Wednesday, it said the crew members were safe and discussions with Iranian authorities were underway to secure their earliest release and to have the cargo discharged.

Madani said he does not expect a quick release. “They will hold the MSC Aries for a long period. Iran has been holding some tankers for about a year, if not longer now,” he said.

According to Tankertracker information, Madani said the vessel is being held in the Khuran Straits, not too far from three other tankers Iran hijacked: the Advantage Sweet, Niovi, and St. Nikolas.

A Planet Labs satellite image of the location of the MSC Aries and other tankers recently hijacked by Iran.

Planet Labs PBC

As the U.S. considers more sanctions against Iran in response to its recent attack on Israel, Iran has been using the hijacked ships as a means of sanctions retaliation.

“Iran has already seized the Kuwaiti oil that was onboard the Advantage Sweet and has been loaded onto their VLCC supertanker the Navarz. Iran chose to do this as a way to compensate for sanctions,” Madani said.

While the Niovi was empty at the time of the seizure, the St. Nikolas is filled with a million barrels of Iraqi oil.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the government may do more to prevent Iran’s ability to export oil despite U.S. sanctions. China’s purchases of Iranian oil in recent years have allowed Iran to keep a positive trade balance.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, imported 11.3 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2023, 10% more than in 2022. Iran ranked second in oil exports to China behind Russia. Customs data indicates that China imported 54% more crude oil (1.1 million b/d) from Malaysia in 2023 than in 2022, with industry analysts speculating that much of the oil shipped from Iran to China was relabeled as originating from countries such as Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to avoid U.S. sanctions.

The markets continues to assess the risk of further escalation in the military tensions between Israel and Iran, which could lead to a disruption in the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 30% of the world’s seaborne oil passes, according to JPMorgan. On Tuesday, oil edged higher amid talk of sanctions.

An Iranian blockade would supercharge oil prices, but the risk is low given that the strait has never been closed off despite many threats by Tehran to do so over the past four decades, according to JPMorgan.

“They can’t close the Strait of Hormuz, but they can do significant damage to energy infrastructure, to vessels in the region,” RBC’s head of global commodity strategy and Middle East and North Africa research, Helima Croft, told CNBC on Monday, referring to Iran’s capabilities.

“While I can’t imagine Iran would want to fill up their anchorage with vessels, they want to keep the waters in a constant state of chaos,” Madani said. But with a closure, he said, “They would shoot themselves in the foot since their biggest client is China.”

Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, says the closure of the Strait of Hormuz would result in a spike of Brent crude oil prices to the $120 to $130 range. “This would strain ties with China and India who purchase a significant amount of Persian Gulf oil to meet much of their energy demand.”

Lipow also said Iran might be reluctant to shut the waterway for fear of antagonizing Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, who depend on the strait being open for most of their oil exports. The bigger immediate fear in the oil market, he said, is that the attack by Iran on Israeli territory leading to a counterattack by Israel on Iran damaging oil-producing and exporting facilities.

Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, says the markets need to keep an eye on sanctions from both the US and UN potentially.

In a note to clients, ClearView highlighted that the House of Representatives added several Iran sanctions bills to its calendar for consideration this week, under suspension rules, including new sanctions on Iranian oil exports to China. Book said the House was considering 11 bills in all in response to Iran’s attack on Israel.

“We think most if not all bills could garner (notionally) veto-proof bipartisan support,” the note said. “Passage requires a two-thirds majority of all members present and voting.”

Israel has also asked the U.N. to reinstate multilateral sanctions lifted by the Iran nuclear deal, but for this to happen, France, Germany and the U.K., parties to the nuclear deal, would have to agree. “There are many risks unfolding. The forest is on fire,” Book said.

Sen. Dean Sullivan talks impact of Iran's strikes on Israel and what it means for crude oil prices

Source link

#Iran #long #haul #oil #tanker #hijacks #expert #considers #sanctions

‘I’m a bitch too’: Women in Iran launch hashtag against harassment by mullahs

At a hospital in the holy city of Qom, a young woman squats in a corner with a sick child in her arms. Her headscarf has slipped down to her shoulder revealing her hair, and a mullah is seen using his phone nearby. Surveillance video of the scene published on March 9 has caused a furore in Iran, with women angrily accusing the mullah of planning to denounce the mother for hijab violations on a special app created by the Islamic regime. Users supporting the regime have labelled the mother a “bitch”, and Iranian women in response have flooded social networks with the hashtag “I’m a bitch too”.

Issued on:

5 min

The video that emerged on social media was recorded by a surveillance camera in a hospital in Qom, one of Iran’s most religious cities.

An initial excerpt shows the mother squatting in a corner, her headscarf on her shoulders and her hair visible, as a mullah stands nearby using his phone. A second excerpt shows the mother angrily accusing the mullah of taking photographs of her and her sick child without permission. “Give me your phone, let me see the photo, delete it,” she tells him. Several other women, some wearing the Islamic hijab and some not, come to her aid, and one of them takes the mullah’s phone to check it.

A screenshot from the Qom hospital video published on March 9, 2024 shows a mother squatting with her hair uncovered as a mullah uses his phone nearby. Social media users suggest the mullah was using a government-supplied app to report the mother for hijab violations. © Observers

A year and a half after the “Woman Life Freedom” protests kicked off in September 2022, the reaction from women in Iran has been fierce. The videos have been seen hundreds of thousands of times on social networks, with comments suggesting the mullah was using a government-supplied app on his phone to report the mother for hijab violations. The app, known as “Nazer” (“watcher / informant” in Persian), is issued to government-vetted informers to allow them to report hijab violations to the authorities. Women who are reported receive “unveiling notifications” sent via text message, and in some cases receive punishments such as having their vehicle impounded.


In this March 9, 2024 post on Telegram Iranian women share extracts from a surveillance video at a hospital in Qom in which a mother is seen accusing a mullah of taking photographs of her with her sick child. The posters call the mullah a “dirty pig” who was using a government-supplied app to report her for hijab violations.

Pro-regime users accuse the mother of ‘bitchy behaviour’

On March 10, Qom’s chief prosecutor, Hasan Gahrib, also a mullah, announced his staunch support for the mullah in the video. “We are pursuing the disruptors of public order and the people involved in spreading the video footage on social media and the Persian opposition media abroad,” he said. The city’s Deputy Prosecutor Rohollah Moslemkhani told local media March 12 that four people had been arrested so far in connection with the dissemination of the video footage.

Pro-regime social media users placed the blame on the mother, with some accusing her of “bitchy behaviour,” using the Persian insult “saliteh,” for allowing her headscarf to fall as she tended to her child. 

Supporters of the “Woman Life Freedom” protests reacted by creating the hashtag “I’m a bitch too” to express their support for the mother. “The Woman Life Freedom revolution is alive,” one woman wrote on X. “It is unstoppable and is impacting our lives and culture at every opportunity. Sometimes we resist by taking off our scarves, sometimes by using words: #I’m_a_bitch_too.”


Another woman wrote: “#We_are_bitches, and to overthrow the perverted mullahs, we will get even bitchier.”


After the Qom hospital surveillance video was published by an opposition media outlet, some pro-regime social media accounts labelled the mother a “bitch”: “Well… what is clear in this video is the bitchy behaviour of this woman”.
After the Qom hospital surveillance video was published by an opposition media outlet, some pro-regime social media accounts labelled the mother a “bitch”: “Well… what is clear in this video is the bitchy behaviour of this woman”. © Observers

What was the mullah doing on his phone?

After the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in September 2022 and the massive protests that followed, the Islamic Republic changed its strategy. Street patrols by the morality police were halted, and the regime urged Iranian citizens to step in to help report women seen without a hijab in public.

The regime created websites, tiplines and an app for smartphones that allowed citizens to easily report women without a hijab to the police. Citizens downloading the Nazer app must register, be approved and undergo a brief training. Their reports are then used to fine or, in some cases, arrest the women reported.

This message posted on X March 10, 2024 mentions the possibility that the mullah at the Qom hospital was using an app provided to the confirmed agents of the regime “Nazer”. This app allows its users to tip off the authorities about women who do not abide by the hijab rules.

READ MORE  Iran’s hijab war continues with business shutdowns and surveillance cameras

Another confrontation between a mullah and a woman over the hijab in a metro in Tehran. The video was published on March 10, 2024. People come to support the woman.


‘If she’s a bitch, we are all bitches’

Asieh Amini is an Iranian women’s rights activist based in Norway. She explains the situation in Iran.

The Islamic Republic is trying to turn people against each other by assigning its followers to take action against people who do not think like them.

People got angry when they saw this video in which a mullah has actually become an informer.

Attacking this woman in Qom and calling her a “bitch” has led to a movement and a hashtag that says we are all bitches if defending her rights and fighting back made her a bitch in your eyes.

Insulting and humiliating women with words like “bitch” is like using a weapon to gain control over their bodies, their behaviour and their lives. Saying “OK, I’m a bitch too,” is a way for women to disarm the weapon.

The real story here is that the Islamic Republic did not arrest the mullah. They arrested the people who posted this video.

People’s reaction to issues like this related to the hijab and women have intensified since the “Woman Life Freedom” protests. 

The Islamic Republic may be disempowering protesters on the streets with killings, rapes, arrests and executions, but that does not mean the protests have stopped. These online campaigns or these kinds of reactions to this mullah are other forms of protest.

Since the “Woman Life Freedom” protest in Iran in 2022, the gender paradigm in Iran has generally changed. In a poll released last week in Tehran, less than 2 percent of people in Tehran support the oppression of people by the state over issues such as the hijab.


CORRECTION (13/3/2024): The original version of this article used the English “slut” as a translation for the Persian word “saliteh” being used in connection with the video of the incident at the hospital in Qom.  We have replaced the word “slut” by “bitch,” which is a more accurate translation in this context. While the Persian word “saliteh” is sometimes translated as “slut” or “loose woman” or “Jezebel” in English, in Iranian culture and literature it is also used as a general misogynistic term in a similar way to the English words “bitch” and “shrew”. 




Source link

#bitch #Women #Iran #launch #hashtag #harassment #mullahs

Iran cyber police target ‘un-Islamic’ stores on Instagram

Authorities in Iran are cracking down on small businesses that sell “un-Islamic” clothing and other products on social media, notably Instagram. Owners of Instagram businesses say they have been contacted by the Islamic Republic’s cyber police, who take control of their pages, replacing images of their products with messages saying the pages have been closed for reasons of “#IslamicHijab” or that, “According to a court order, this page has been shut down”.

Issued on: Modified:

5 min

While Iran’s notorious “morality police” have kept a low profile since the eruption of the “Woman Life, Freedom” protests in September 2022, the Islamic Republic’s cyber police have stepped in online, imposing their brand of “morality” on small businesses that rely on social media – many of them owned by women.

Iran’s cyber police, known as FATA, are responsible for monitoring illegal online activity such as child pornography, fraud, and drug and weapon sales. But in recent months they appear to have another priority: targeting small businesses on social media. While networks such as Facebook, Instagram, X, Whatsapp and Telegram have been blocked in Iran for years, millions of Iranian users use VPNs to bypass the censorship.

Clothing and lingerie designers, tattoo artists, massage therapists, tour guides, make-up artists … the businesses that are targeted promote what is perceived as a Western lifestyle, often with photos that violate Iran’s practice of Sharia law. Women appear on lingerie and fashion pages without Islamic hijab, their hair and arms visible. Women and men are seen touching each other on pages that promote tattooing or massages.

Their pages are taken over by the cyber police, and the content is replaced by an announcement: “This page has been closed by the Police for the Sphere of the Production and Exchange of information,” the official name of the FATA cyber police. Businesses that have spent years accumulating thousands of followers see their work and livelihood put on hold.

Despite the pressure from the Islamic regime in Iran on the small fashion designers who sell their products on Instagram, many of them continue their work under fear, as our Observer confirms. The photos have been blurred and modified by FRANCE 24 to ensure the security of the pages. © Observers

The online businesses’ motivations are usually economic, not political. Their owners cannot live without the income they earn from selling their products on social media, especially Instagram. According to a survey published in 2022, there are more than 415,000 small businesses on Instagram in Iran. The jobs of more than 1 million Iranians are directly and indirectly linked to these small businesses on Instagram.

This ceramics manufacturer, which sells its products on Instagram, removed these photos and ceased production of some of its items after Iran's cyber police FATA started targeting online businesses selling products deemed un-Islamic.
This ceramics manufacturer, which sells its products on Instagram, removed these photos and ceased production of some of its items after Iran’s cyber police FATA started targeting online businesses selling products deemed un-Islamic. © Observers

Pages that promote tattooing and massages are regular targets of Iran’s cyber police. However there are hundreds of tattoo artists and masseurs who are active on Instagram.
Pages that promote tattooing and massages are regular targets of Iran’s cyber police. However there are hundreds of tattoo artists and masseurs who are active on Instagram. © Observers

Another page closed by the police, where the police did not hesitate to also remove the bio and put a new hashtag in the bio: “#IslamicHijab”
Another page closed by the police, where the police did not hesitate to also remove the bio and put a new hashtag in the bio: “#IslamicHijab” © Observers


‘I am not going to change my lifestyle out of fear’


Tina [not her real name] is a small business owner in Iran. Her sales are solely dependent on her Instagram page. She designs and produces women’s clothes, including underwear, and her page features images that show female models with bare shoulders, arms and midriffs, in violation of Iran’s restrictive Islamic hijab rules. While Tina’s Instagram page has not yet been targeted by the police, she is concerned because many of her friends and colleagues with small businesses on Instagram have been ordered to close.


I have been running this page for about a year. My only source of income is my clothing, which I sell on my Instagram page. I also try to sell my stuff on Amazon, but it’s very complicated in Iran because we are under an international embargo.

I have several friends whose pages have been closed by the police. They have received either a text message or a phone call, in some cases even via their Instagram messages, asking them to go to the police. The police ask for their password, change the password, then delete all their content and replace it with a single post saying the page was shut down by the police.

In some cases, my friends were lucky that the police only asked them to delete certain photos and they were able to keep their page. I also have some other friends who have ended up in court and are awaiting trial.

This is so much stress that I don’t even want to think about it. My friends always warn me to be careful, but I just refuse to think about it.

I could do business differently, present my products differently. But firstly it would reduce my turnover. And secondly, why should I do that? I am not going to change my lifestyle out of fear of the regime.

Even if they close my page, if they delete my content, I will create a new page.

They can force me to sell my products without photos and videos of models on my page, but I will also make another anonymous page, with models. I will not give up.

What I do is completely normal. It’s the demands of the Islamic Republic that are abnormal.

I also have a personal battle to fight. My family is not very open-minded and they are not happy with what I am doing. They are not religious, but they are conservative. They have changed a lot in recent years, especially after the “Woman Life Freedom” movement, but they still don’t like it when their daughter publishes her photos in revealing clothes that I make to sell.

I don’t want to fight, I’m not an activist, but I will not change my lifestyle, the way I want to live, unless I am forced to. When you live in a country like Iran, you get used to always living in fear and threat, but we have to live our lives. That’s the way it is. 


In a further attack on the freedom of social media in Iran, Mohammad Mahdi Esmaili, the Iranian minister of culture, announced on January 31 that “all bloggers with more than 5,000 followers must apply for permission to continue working”.

Source link

#Iran #cyber #police #target #unIslamic #stores #Instagram

Iran’s upcoming election is a mafia-style tussle of Khamenei’s minions

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The 1 March election is set to be an insider patron-client fight, with various oligarchic clans competing to have the upper-hand insider hand and ultimately a greater slice of the pie in the kleptocratic so-called “holy system” that is the Islamic Republic, Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi write.


Friday marks parliamentary election day in the Islamic Republic of Iran — or so the regime will want the world to believe. 

Cue the staged queues lining up at the ballot box ready to deliver their rehearsed script on “Islamic democracy” to international journalists, who will in turn flaunt their “rare and exclusive” reports in Iran. 

And while some mainstream media outlets in the West will no doubt fall into the ayatollah’s trap, polling day on 1 March is anything but a free and fair vote.

Of course, this will (hopefully) come as no surprise to many: there are no democratic elections in Iran. 

Rather, all candidates are pre-approved by the 84-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who rules with absolute authority as God’s representative on Earth — and the outcome is manufactured to his taste. 

But even for the standards of the Islamic Republic, election engineering has been unprecedented this time around.

A patron-client fight is about to unfold

The lack of consequences for the Islamic Republic has meant the previously self-conscious Khamenei no longer cares what the world thinks of his regime. 

He has pulled off the veil of electoral “legitimacy” and exposed the naked totalitarianism of his regime.

In the process, we’ve witnessed mass disqualifications and even the boycotting of the vote by some elements of the Islamist left (often wrongly depicted as “reformists”). 

In turn, only the Islamist right — the social base of Khamenei and his all-powerful paramilitary force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — has been permitted to run for office.

But “electoral” competition, if we can call it that, isn’t between political parties. Instead, 1 March will be an insider patron-client fight, with various oligarchic clans competing to have the upper-hand insider hand and ultimately a greater slice of the pie in the kleptocratic so-called “holy system” that is the Islamic Republic. 

Competition is centred on egos, personalities and resources, not political power per se. After all, Iran’s legislature, the Majlis, has very little, if any, authority — and the successful candidates will be nothing more than Khamenei’s minions.

So, who are the patron-client networks battling it out?

The infighting of the old guard

In simplest terms, this mafia-like tussle is between the old cohort of Khamenei absolutists and the supreme leader’s younger generation of zealots.

The figureheads of each clan have produced a list of Khamenei pre-approved candidates that will represent their network on the “ballot”. 

While some of these patrons have entered the race themselves, others have preferred to guide from afar — and, in doing so, present themselves as less opportunistic.

The old guard all fall under three main figures.

The first is none other than Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the incumbent Majlis speaker who has earned the title of the IRGC’s “most corrupt commander” — a remarkable achievement given the already rampant corruption in the Guard. 


Ghalibaf’s most recent corruption scandal took place this week, with leaked documents revealing his son laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in Western banks. 

Until now, Ghalibaf has been continuously bailed out by Khamenei’s close circle each time he has found himself in a corruption scandal. But the latest case may prove too far — and it has provided his opponents with ammo to strike.

Next in line is Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel, a senior adviser to the supreme leader. 

Hadad-Adel is very much in the inner circle of Khamenei connected through family relations, with his daughter married to Khamenei’s power-hungry son, Mojtaba — tipped to be the next supreme leader.

Last but certainly not least is fiery hardline cleric Morteza Aghatehrani. Aghatehrani was the student and protégé of the late Ayatollah Mohammad Taqhi Mesbah-Yazdi, the IRGC’s ideological forefather who once issued a fatwa that encouraged acid attacks on women with “improper” hijab.


While this old cohort will be battling out between themselves, their main fight will be with the younger generation of elites who are just as, if not more, radical and extreme. They can be split into two patron-client groups.

The ‘kids’ are not alright

The first falls under Mehrdad Bazrpash, incumbent Minister for Roads and Urban Development and the former IRGC’s Student Basij Organisation for Sharif University — an entity sanctioned for gross human rights violations. 

Bazrpash’s rise took place under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when at only 27, the former hardline president made him head of “Saipa” and “Pars Khodro”, two of the biggest car manufacturing companies in Iran — all as a reward for his ideological commitment. 

While Bazrpash will not be directly participating, he will be fielding candidates under his political faction called “Sharayan”.

And finally, there’s the new crazy on the block: the IRGC-affiliated Ali Akbar Raeifpour. 


Raefipour can be best described as a radical antisemitic conspiracy preacher. He has teamed up with Saeed Mohammad — a young and radical IRGC commander who had rising political ambitions that were cut short by the Guard’s old cohort, not least Ghalibaf. 

Despite the noise, Raeifpour’s network is unlikely to mount a serious challenge to the old oligarchic elite. 

But the fact that this radical preacher, whose extremism was once regarded as being “too irrational” even for segments of the hardline clerical establishment is indicative of the “dumbification” of the regime. 

The “dumbification” refers to Khamenei’s systematic effort to replace experience and knowledge for absolute ideological commitment — or what his circle has termed “purification”.

The regime doesn’t care

This mafia-like competition between the supreme leader’s older and younger zealots in the Majlis is identical to that of the coming elections for the so-called “Assembly of Experts”, which are also taking place on 1 March. 


In theory, this body is responsible for selecting the next supreme leader, but in practice, it is tightly controlled by Khamenei.

In the past five years, as part of his manifesto for the next 40 years, Khamenei has been able to fully personalise power in the Islamic Republic and “purify” its ranks so as to ensure the triumph of his cult of personality across every branch of government. 

In doing so, the 84-year-old ayatollah’s goal is to both guarantee a smooth succession process — ousting all but absolutists — and to ensure his hardline Islamist ideology outlives him.

While these patron-client oligarchs will be battling it out for a bigger share of the pie, the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people have paid no attention to the election circus. 

According to state-backed figures, which are always inflated, as few as 15% of Iranians in the capital Tehran are planning to actually go to the polls. Not that the regime cares.


Inevitably, there will be only one winner from this week’s “vote” — namely, Khamenei himself.

Kasra Aarabi is Director of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) research at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), specialising in Iranian military and security affairs and Shi’a extremism. He is also a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. Saeid Golkar is Senior Advisor at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and UC Foundation Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Source link

#Irans #upcoming #election #mafiastyle #tussle #Khameneis #minions

What is Kataeb Hezbollah, the militia accused of killing American soldiers in Jordan?

The United States launched air strikes against Iranian forces and allied militias in Iraq and Syria on Friday, with President Joe Biden vowing more to come in retaliation for a deadly drone attack on a US base in Jordan. The Pentagon particularly has its sights on Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the main militias responsable for attacking US troops. 

The United States blamed a January 28 drone attack on forces backed by Iran, but did not strike inside the country’s territory when retaliating on Friday, with both Washington and Tehran seemingly keen to avoid an all-out war.

Attacks on US troops in the Middle East have reached an unprecedented level since the October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement.

There have been at least 165 drone strikes and rocket attacks since mid-October against the positions of US forces and those of the anti-Islamic State (IS) group coalition in Iraq and Syria. Yet no human losses had been reported until the latest attack on January 28, when a drone attack at the Tour 22 logistics base in Jordan near the Syrian border killed three American soldiers and injured 40 others.

This had been unheard of since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas, said David Rigoulet-Roze, a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis (IFAS) think-tank, for whom “a red line has been potentially crossed”. US President Joe Biden vowed the evening of the attack that the US “shall respond”. Biden later said in a written statement that the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner (of) our choosing”.

Iran has denied it was behind the drone attack. But Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the attack has “the footprints of Kataeb Hezbollah” – an Iran-backed militant group in Iraq which the Pentagon has blamed for previous violence.

The White House proffered a similar accusation, with spokesperson John Kirby during a press conference attributing the drone attack to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias. This grouping “includes” the militant group Kataeb Hezbollah, he noted, while specifying that the deadly attack “certainly bore the mark” of this influential pro-Iran armed group in Iraq.

At the orders of Iran’s Supreme Leader

The Iraqi militia Kataeb Hezbollah – not to be confused with Lebanon’s Hezbollah – is one of the Iraqi militias “closest to Iran”, said Rigoulet-Roze. “They follow the principle of ‘velayat-e faqih’, which means they recognise the Iranian Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] as their supreme commander.”

The former leader of Kataeb Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, previously the right-hand man of the powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, died alongside his boss in 2020 in a US strike on their convoy in Baghdad.

A member of the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Iran-backed factions, carries a portrait of slain Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iraq’s central holy city of Karbala on December 29, 2020, during a symbolic funeral ceremony on the anniversary of the air strikes by US planes on several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades near Al-Qaim. © AFP, Mohammed Sawaf

Classified as a “terrorist” group by Washington and targeted by sanctions, the Kataeb Hezbollah faction has been hit in recent weeks by US strikes in Iraq, along with Harakat al-Nujaba, another fiercely anti-US faction.

Most of the attacks targeting Americans in recent months have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which includes Kataeb Hezbollah and Harakat al-Nujaba. This nebulous group of fighters from pro-Iran armed militias says they are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians. Yet above all they seek the departure of some 2,500 American soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition fighting against the IS group. Their demand has been heard: in the volatile context, the US and Iraq recently announced they would begin talks about formulating “a specific and clear timeline” for the future of US and other foreign troops in Iraq, with a timeline for reducing their presence.

Washington’s former allies 

Among the insurgent groups which compose the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah is undoubtedly the most influential. It is also affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi faction, which is made up of former Iraqi paramilitaries affiliated with Iran and “has a major role” within Kataeb Hezbollah, said Rigoulet-Roze. The current leader of Kataeb Hezbollah, Abu Fadak al-Muhammadawi, is also Hashed al-Shaabi’s chief of staff.

Hashed al-Shaabi was launched in June 2014 to support Iraqi forces against the IS group. Together, alongside the anti-IS group coalition led by Washington, they contributed to the defeat inflicted on the IS group in 2017 by Iraq.

“There was an objective alliance between the coalition, therefore the Americans, and the Hashed militias against Daesh [the IS group]. The two fought on the same side, with some on the ground and others in the air. After 2017, these groups found their Iranian- and therefore anti-American- DNA,” said Rigoulet-Roze.

Hashed al-Shaabi is currently composed of dozens of groups and has more than 160,000 members, according to estimates by the AFP. The US think tank The Washington Institute estimated that the militia has around 230,000 members. Yet neither the Iraqi authorities nor the organisation communicates on the numbers of its forces.

The exact number of militiamen in Kataeb Hezbollah remains unknown. According to Rigoulet-Roze, the figure ranges from 3,000 to 30,000, since some of its forces are mobilized only occasionally.

‘The executive branch has no control’

Faced with the increase in attacks against US troops in recent weeks, the Iraqi government feels caught in the crossfire. It was brought to power by a coalition of pro-Iran Shiite parties and a parliamentary majority including Hashed al-Shaabi, whose deputies have held seats in Iraq’s parliament since 2018.

Theoretically, Hashed al-Shaabi and its components, including Kataeb Hezbollah, are part of the country’s regular forces, according to a law passed in 2016. “This is largely a procedural question. In reality, the executive branch has no control over these militias. These groups benefit from a large margin of autonomy, and this is a problem for the executive power of [Iraqi Prime Minister] Mohamed Chia al-Soudani,” said Rigoulet-Roze.

Faced with the increase in attacks against US troops in recent weeks, the Iraqi government feels caught in the crossfire. It was brought to power by a coalition of pro-Iran Shiite parties and a parliamentary majority including Hashed al-Shaabi, whose deputies had sat in Iraq’s parliament since 2018.

After the threats of the US president, who said he held Iran “responsible” for having provided the weapons for the strike that killed the American soldiers, Kataeb Hezbollah announced on January 30, “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassing the Iraqi government”.

The statement, signed by the group’s Secretary General Abou Hussein al-Hamidawi, mentioned the Iraqi government purely as a matter of form. Iran most likely intervened behind the scenes to calm the situation, knowing that there was now the risk of uncontrolled escalation with the White House. Yet the US reprisals on January 2 against Iran-linked factions could prompt them to reconsider their decision. 

(With AFP)

This article was translated from the original in French.

Source link

#Kataeb #Hezbollah #militia #accused #killing #American #soldiers #Jordan

US says Islamic Resistance in Iraq group carried out attack on base in Jordan

The United States on Wednesday attributed the drone attack that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias, as President Joe Biden weighs his response options to the strike.

The attribution comes as Iran threatened on Wednesday to “decisively respond” to any U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic after the U.S. said it holds Tehran responsible. The U.S. has signaled it is preparing for retaliatory strikes in the Mideast in the wake of the Sunday drone attack that also wounded at least 40 troops at Tower 22, a secretive base in northeastern Jordan that’s been crucial to the American presence in neighboring Syria.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday the U.S. believes the attack was planned, resourced and facilitated by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah. He said Biden “believes that it is important to respond in an appropriate way.”

Kirby said Biden was continuing to weigh retaliation options to the attack but said “the first thing you see won’t be the last thing,” adding it “won’t be a one-off.”

Kirby dismissed a statement by Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah announcing “the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government.” He said that the group can’t be taken at face value, and he added, “they’re not the only group that has been attacking us.”

Biden, meanwhile, is set to attend the somber return of the fallen troops to U.S. soil on Friday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, known as a dignified transfer, the White House announced.

Any additional American strikes could further inflame a region already roiled by Israel’s ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The war began with Hamas attacking Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage. Since then, Israeli strikes have killed more than 26,000 Palestinians and displaced nearly 2 million others from their homes, arousing anger throughout the Muslim world.

Violence has erupted across the Mideast, with Iran striking targets in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria, and the U.S. carrying out airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels over their attacks shipping in the Red Sea. Some observers fear a new round of strikes targeting Iran could tip the region into a wider war.

A U.S. Navy destroyer in the waterway shot down an anti-ship cruise missile launched by the Houthis late Tuesday, the latest attack targeting American forces patrolling the key maritime trade route, officials said. The U.S. later launched a new round of airstrikes targeting the Houthis.

The Iranian warnings first came from Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York. He gave a briefing to Iranian journalists late Tuesday, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

“The Islamic Republic would decisively respond to any attack on the county, its interests and nationals under any pretexts,” IRNA quoted Iravani as saying. He described any possible Iranian retaliation as a “strong response,” without elaborating.

The Iranian mission to the U.N. did not respond to requests for comment or elaboration Wednesday on Iravani’s remarks.

Iravani also denied that Iran and the U.S. had exchanged any messages over the last few days, either through intermediaries or directly. The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, which is based in and funded by Qatar, reported earlier that such communication had taken place. Qatar often serves as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran.

“Such messages have not been exchanged,” Iravani said.

But Iran’s government has taken note of the U.S. threats of retaliation for the attack on the base in Jordan.

“Sometime, our enemies raise the threat, and nowadays we hear some threats in between words by American officials,” Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami, who answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said at an event Wednesday. “We tell them that you have experienced us, and we know each other. We do not leave any threat without an answer.”

“We are not after war, but we have no fear of war,” he added, according to IRNA.

Kirby, for his part, said the U.S. doesn’t “seek a war with Iran. We’re not looking for a broader conflict.”

On Saturday, a general in charge of Iran’s air defenses described them as being at their “highest defensive readiness.” That raises concerns for commercial aviation traveling through and over Iran as well. After a U.S. drone strike killed a top general in 2020, Iranian air defenses mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board.

Meanwhile, attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels continue in the Red Sea, most recently targeting a U.S. warship. The missile launched Tuesday night targeted the USS Gravely, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement. No injuries or damage were reported.

A Houthi military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Wednesday morning, calling it “a victory for the oppression of the Palestinian people and a response to the American-British aggression against our country.”

Saree claimed the Houthis fired “several” missiles, something not acknowledged by the U.S. Navy. Houthi claims have been exaggerated in the past, and their missiles sometimes crash on land and fail to reach their targets.

The Houthis claimed without evidence on Monday to have targeted the USS Lewis B. Puller, a floating landing base used by the Navy SEALs and others. The U.S. said there had been no attack.

On Wednesday, a U.S. military jet struck a surface-to-air missile that was about to launch from Houthi-controlled Yemen, a U.S. official said. The missile was deemed an immediate threat and destroyed. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details ahead of a public announcement.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

The Houthis hit a commercial vessel with a missile on Friday, sparking a fire that burned for hours.

The U.S. and the United Kingdom have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes targeting the Houthis as allied warships patrol the waterways affected by the attacks. The European Union also plans to launch a naval mission in the Red Sea within three weeks to help defend cargo ships against the Houthi attacks, the bloc’s top diplomat said Wednesday.


Source link

#Islamic #Resistance #Iraq #group #carried #attack #base #Jordan

Why did Iran carry out strikes in three countries?

People hold photos of a child killed in the Iranian strikes at the house of Peshraw Dizayi during a protest in front of the U.N. office in Irbil, Iraq on January 16, 2024. Dizayi, a prominent Kurdish businessman, was killed in one of the Irbil strikes along with members of his family.
| Photo Credit: AP

On December 15, 2023, a police station in Rask in Iran’s Sistan Baluchestan province, roughly 60 km from the Pakistani border, came under attack by a number of gunmen. At least 11 Iranian security personnel were killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Jaish al-Adl (the Army of Justice), a Sunni Islamist group operating in the border region that has been designated as a terror outfit by Tehran. 

On December 25, Brigadier General Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a senior adviser to Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed in an air strike in a southern suburb of Damascus. Mousavi, who was one of the most influential IRGC commanders operating in Syria, was killed after a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador in Damascus. Tehran immediately blamed Israel for the strike and the latter neither confirmed nor denied its role. 

On January 3, 2024, a memorial event for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander who was assassinated by the U.S. in January 2020, in Kerman in southeastern Iran was hit by twin blasts, killing at least 94 people. The Islamic State-Khorasan, the Afghanistan-based branch of the Islamic State terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. All these attacks took place after the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7, and Iran-backed militias in the region started attacking U.S. and Israeli troops as well as commercial vessels. As a regional crisis was spreading, Iran seemed vulnerable to growing security challenges. And the pressure on the Mullahs was building up.    

Also read | Pakistan-Iran attacks LIVE Updates

Iran’s retaliation 

On January 15-16, Iran claimed to have carried out retaliatory strikes against “the perpetrators” of all these attacks. First, it launched missiles and kamikaze drones into Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan. Iraq is a de facto Iranian ally, but the Iraqi Kurdistan, a close partner of the U.S., is an autonomous region. The IRGC claimed that its attacks destroyed “an espionage centre” of Mossad, Israel’s external security agency, in Erbil. It said the centre was used to “develop espionage operations and plan acts of terrorism across the region, especially in Iran”.

Iran’s claims were dismissed by the local authorities in Erbil, who said the strike hit the house of Peshraw Majeed Agha Dezaei, a Kurdish businessman with close ties to the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Dezaei, a property magnate, was instantly killed in the attack. IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency claimed in its Telegram channel that Dezaei was “a very important colleague of Mossad” and that he was involved in the export of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to Israel. While Kurdistan exports more than 1,03,000 barrels of oil to Israel daily, Iran provided no evidence of either Dezaei’s involvement in the trade or his links to Mossad.

On the same day, Iran launched at least four ballistic missiles into Syria’s Idlib, the northwestern region controlled by jihadists and rebels. Iran says the IS-K jihadists, who operate from Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, get training in Idlib, which is run by Tahrir al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist outfit which was previously called Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria. The IRGC claimed that its attacks destroyed IS-training camps in Idlib.

Spillover effect   

On January 16, Iran carried out a surprise attack in Panjgur, a border town in neighbouring Pakistan’s Balochistan, targeting what it called the training camps of Jaish al-Adl, which had taken responsibility for the December 15 attack in Rask. Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni Islamist group, seeks to separate Iran’s eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which is mostly Sunni, from the rest of the country, which is ruled by the Shia clergy. Iran had in the past complained about the presence of Jaish in Pakistani soil. But Tuesday’s attacks marked a significant escalation in tensions between Iran and Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country, and also enhanced risks of the West Asian crisis spilling over into South Asia. Pakistan has protested the attack, saying it’s a violation of its air space, and warned Iran of “serious consequences”.

Also Read | Pakistan condemns Iran over bombing allegedly targeting militants that killed two people

Iran came under great pressure after the Gaza war broke out, between Hamas, which gets support from Tehran, and Israel, its main rival in West Asia. Besides fighting a devastating war in Gaza, which has killed over 24,000 Palestinians, Israel has also carried out targeted strikes in Lebanon and Syria, killing Iranian, Hezbollah and Hamas commanders. Houthis, another Iran-backed Shia militia, are also being attacked, by the U.S. and the U.K., after they targeted vessels in the Red Sea

Ring of fire 

The crisis is spreading like wildfire across the region, with profound implications for Iran’s security, both internal and external. By carrying out multiple strikes in three geographies, Iran seems to be flexing its military muscles. It wants to send a message, to both the Sunni militants and its conventional rivals in the region, that it would not hesitate to take military actions in its weak, fractured neighbouring countries against targets which it deems hostile if its security red lines are breached, even at the risk of a wider war. Iran also seeks to assure its people that the government can act assertively to ensure security of the Islamic Republic and that the killing of its commanders would be avenged.  

Iran may also be thinking that Israel is stuck in Gaza and the U.S. is preoccupied with the Houthis. This gives Tehran some space to make relatively bolder military moves. But what’s to be seen is whether the attacks would help Iran improve its internal and external security or these would further worsen the security crisis in a region, which is already in a ring of fire.

Source link

#Iran #carry #strikes #countries

Pakistan recalls ambassador to Iran after air strike that killed 2 children

Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran on Wednesday, a day after Iran launched airstrikes on Pakistan that it claimed targeted bases for a militant Sunni separatist group. Islamabad angrily denounced the attack as a “blatant violation” of its airspace and said it killed two children.  

Tuesday’s strike on Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province imperilled diplomatic relations between the two neighbours, but both sides appeared wary of provoking the other. Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks. 

The attack also threatened to further ignite violence in a Middle East unsettled by Israel’s ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Iran launched strikes late Monday in Iraq and Syria over an Islamic State group-claimed suicide bombing that killed over 90 people earlier this month. 

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, announced that Islamabad is recalling the country’s ambassador to Iran over the strikes.

“Last night’s unprovoked and blatant breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty by Iran is a violation of international law and the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations,” she said in a televised address

Baloch added that Pakistan asked the Iranian ambassador, who was visiting Tehran when the attack took place, not to return. Iran did not immediately acknowledge Pakistan’s decision.

China on Wednesday urged Pakistan and Iran to show “restraint” after the strike. 

“We call on both sides to exercise restraint, avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension and work together to maintain peace and stability,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

“We consider both Iran and Pakistan as close neighbours and major Islamic countries,” she said.

Iranian state media reports, which were later withdrawn without explanation, said the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard targeted bases belonging to the militant group Jaish al-Adl, or the “Army of Justice.” The group, which seeks an independent Baluchistan and has spread across Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, acknowledged the assault in a statement shared online.

Six bomb-carrying drones and rockets struck homes that the militants claim housed children and wives of their fighters. Jaish al-Adl said the attack killed two children and wounded two women and a teenage girl. 

Videos shared by the Baluch activist group HalVash, purportedly from the site, showed a burning building and two charred, small corpses. 

A Pakistani intelligence report said the two children killed were a 6-year-old girl and an 11-month-old boy. Three women were injured, aged between 28 and 35. The report also said three or four drones were fired from the Iranian side, hitting a mosque and other buildings, including a house.

Jan Achakzai, a spokesperson for Baluchistan province, also condemned the attack.

“Pakistan has always sought cooperation from all the countries of region – including Iran – to combat terrorism,” “This is unacceptable and Pakistan has a right to respond to any aggression committed against its sovereignty.”

A senior Pakistani security official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to reporters, said Iran had shared no information prior to the strike. He said Pakistan reserved the right to respond at a time and place of the country’s choosing and such a strike would be measured and in line with public expectations. 

Read moreIslamic State group claims responsibility for deadly Iran bombings

“The dangerous precedent set by Iran is destabilising and has reciprocal implications,” the official said.

However, there were signs Pakistan was trying to contain any anger over the strike. The country’s typically outspoken and nationalistic media covered the attack Wednesday with unusual restraint. 

Iranian state media meanwhile continued not to address the strikes, instead discussing a joint naval drill held by Pakistan and the Iranian navy in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday. Pakistani officials acknowledged the drill, but said it came earlier than Iran’s strikes.

Pakistani defence analyst Syed Muhammad Ali said the government would weigh any potential retaliation carefully.

The country’s air defence and missile systems are primarily deployed along the eastern border to respond to potential threats from India. But it might consider taking some measures to respond to such strikes from its western border with Afghanistan and Iran, Ali said.Jaish al-Adl was founded in 2012, and Iranian officials believe it largely operates in Pakistan.

The group has claimed bombings and kidnapped members of Iran’s border police in the past. In December, suspected Jaish al-Adl members killed 11 people and wounded eight others in a nighttime attack on a police station in southeastern Iran. Another recent attack killed another police officer in the area.

In 2019, Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting a bus that killed 27 members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Iran has suspected that Sunni-majority Pakistan is hosting insurgents, possibly at the behest of its regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia reached a Chinese-mediated détente last March, easing tensions. Pakistan, meanwhile, has blamed Iran in the past over militant attacks targeting its security forces. 

Iran has fought in border areas against militants, but a missile-and-drone attack on Pakistan is unprecedented. 

It remains unclear why Iran launched the attack now, particularly as its foreign minister had met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister the same day at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

After the Islamic State group bombings this month, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry alleged the two bombers involved in the attack had traveled from Afghanistan into Iran through its southeastern border at the Jalg crossing – meaning they had traveled through Baluchistan.

Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, as well as Iran’s neighbouring Sistan and Baluchestan province, have faced a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades. They initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but later initiated an insurgency for independence.

Iran’s attack on Pakistan came less than a day after Iranian strikes on northern Iraq that killed several civilians. Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations and summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad on Tuesday in protest. Iran separately struck Syria as well.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

Source link

#Pakistan #recalls #ambassador #Iran #air #strike #killed #children

Airstrikes are unlikely to deter the Houthis

Jamie Dettmer is opinion editor at POLITICO Europe.

TEL AVIV — In a preemptive bid to warn off Iran and its proxies in the wake of Hamas’ October attacks on southern Israel, United States President Joe Biden had succinctly said: “Don’t.” But his clipped admonition continues to fall on deaf ears.

As Shakespeare’s rueful King Claudius notes, “when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” And while exasperated Western powers now try to halt escalation in the Middle East, it is the Iran-directed battalions that are bringing them sorrows.

Raising the stakes at every turn, Tehran is carefully calibrating the aggression of its partners — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in the Red Sea —ratcheting up to save Hamas from being destroyed by a vengeful Israel. And out of all this needling, it is the Houthis’ more then two dozen attacks in the Red Sea that crossed the line for Western powers — enough to goad the U.S. and the United Kingdom into switching from a defensive posture to launching strikes on dozens of Houthi targets.

As far as Washington and London are concerned, Western retaliation is meant to give teeth to Biden’s October warning, conveying a clear message to Iran: Stop. But why would it?

Privately, the U.S. has reinforced its warning through diplomatic channels. And U.K. Defense Minister Grant Shapps underscored the message publicly, saying the West is “running out of patience,” and the Iranian regime must tell the Houthis and its regional proxies to “cease and desist.”

Nonetheless, it’s highly questionable whether Tehran will heed this advice. There’s nothing in the regime’s DNA to suggest it would back off. Plus, there would be no pain for Iran at the end of it all — the Houthis would be on the receiving end. In fact, Iran has every reason to persist, as it can’t afford to leave Hamas in the lurch. To do so would undermine the confidence of other Iran-backed groups, weakening its disruptive clout in the region.

Also, from Iran’s perspective, its needling strategy of fatiguing and frightening Western powers with the prospect of escalation is working. The specter of a broadening war in the Middle East is terrifying for Washington and European governments, which are beset by other problems. Better for them to press Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza and preserve the power of Hamas — that’s what Tehran is trying to engineer.

And Iranian mullahs have every reason to think this wager will pay off. Ukraine is becoming a cautionary tale; Western resolve seems to be waning; and the U.S. Congress is mired in partisan squabbling, delaying a crucial aid package for Ukraine — one the Europeans won’t be able to make good on.

So, whose patience will run out first — the West or Iran and its proxies?

Wearing down the Houthis would be no mean feat for the U.S. and the U.K. In 2015, after the resilient Houthis had seized the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, Saudi Arabia thought it could quickly dislodge them with a bombing campaign in northern Yemen. But nearly a decade on, Riyadh is trying to extricate itself, ready to walk away if the Houthis just leave them alone.

The United Arab Emirates was more successful in the country’s south, putting boots on the ground and training local militias in places where the Houthis were already unpopular. But the U.S. and the U.K. aren’t proposing to follow the UAE model — they’ll be following the Saudi one, albeit with the much more limited goal of getting the Houthis to stop harassing commercial traffic in the Red Sea.

Moreover, Western faith in the efficacy of bombing campaigns — especially fitful ones — has proven misplaced before. Bombing campaigns failed to bring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to heel on their own. And Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria have shrugged off Western airstrikes, seeing them as badges of honor — much like the Houthis, who, ironically, were removed from the U.S. terror list by Biden in 2021. They seem to be relishing their moment in the big leagues.

War-tested, battle-hardened and agile, the Houthis are well-equipped thanks to Iran, and they can expect military replenishment from Tehran. They also have a firm grip on their territory. Like Hamas, the Houthis aren’t bothered by the death and destruction they may bring down on their people, making them particularly difficult to cajole into anything. And if the U.S. is to force the pace, it may well be dragged in deeper, as the only way to stop Iran replenishing the Houthis would be to mount a naval blockade of Yemen.

Few seasoned analysts think the Houthis will cave easily. Tom Sharpe, a former Royal Navy captain and specialist anti-air warfare officer, said he’d suggest “just walk[ing] away.”

“Make going round the Cape the new normal,” he wrote last week, albeit acknowledging he’d expect his advice to be overruled due to the global economic implications. But degrading the Houthis enough to make the Red Sea safe again, he noted, would be “difficult to do without risking a wider regional conflict in which the U.S., U.K. and friends would be seen as fighting on the Israeli side.”

And that is half the problem. Now ensnared in the raging conflict, in the eyes of many in the region, Western powers are seen as enabling the death and destruction being visited on Gaza. And as the civilian death toll in the Palestinian enclave mounts, Israel’s Western supporters are increasingly being criticized for not doing enough to restrain the country, which is determined to ensure Hamas can never repeat what it did on October 7.

Admittedly, Israel is combating a merciless foe that is heedless of the Gazan deaths caused by its actions. The more Palestinians killed, the greater the international outrage Hamas can foment, presenting itself as victim rather than aggressor. But Israel has arguably fallen into Hamas’ trap, with the mounting deaths and burgeoning humanitarian crisis now impacting opinion in the region and more widely.

A recent poll conducted for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that 96 percent of the broader Arab world believe Arab nations should now sever ties with Israel. And in Britain, Foreign Secretary David Cameron told a parliamentary panel he feared Israel has “taken action that might be in breach of international law.”

Meanwhile, in addition to issuing warnings to Iran, Hezbollah, and others in the Axis of Resistance to stay out of it, Biden has also cautioned Israeli leaders about wrath — urging the Israeli war Cabinet not to “repeat mistakes” made by the U.S. after 9/11.

However, according to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 75 percent of Jewish Israelis think the country should ignore U.S. demands to shift to a phase of war with reduced heavy bombing in populous areas, and 57 percent support opening a second front in the north and taking the fight to Hezbollah. Additionally, Gallup has found Israelis have lost faith in a two-state solution, with 65 percent of Jewish Israelis opposing an independent Palestinian state.

So, it looks as though Israel is in no mood to relent — and doesn’t believe it can afford to.

Source link

#Airstrikes #deter #Houthis