Syrian Allies Ratify Condemnation of US Aggression

Damascus, Apr 10 (Prensa Latina) The Joint Operations Command Center of Syria's allies ratifies support for this country of the Levant and condemns US aggression, according to a statement released today in Damascus.

We will respond adequately to any aggression from the United States and 'we will increase our support for the Syrian Army and brotherly people', says the document of that command that groups forces from Iran, Russia, the Hezbollah Lebanese resistance movement and Iraqi and Palestinian militias.

'The United States, with its arrogance, did not expect permission from anyone, nor respected the affiliated countries under the United Nations leadership, even before issuing the results of the investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident, it attacked Syria and announced that attack with all insolence,' the document said.

The statement emphasizes that 'it has not escaped our attention what the United States is trying to achieve in northern Syria and northwestern Iraq, and it must know what we are accurately monitoring all its steps and movements, and we are giving them follow-up. Their attempts to control this geographical area make them illegal forces because they are occupying a sovereign territory of Syria.'

Washington, with its aggression against Syria, 'has surpassed the red lines, and from now on, we are going to respond strongly to any aggression and any action that exceeds those limits by whoever it is. And they are well aware of our ability to respond,' the communiqué emphasizes.

'The one who attacks and violates the legitimate rights of the peoples of the region and has used the veto against the rights of the Palestinian people dozens of times, has no moral right to present itself as the defender of human rights, presuming to ensure dignity of the peoples of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine,' the statement added.

'Russia and Iran will not allow the United States to dominate the world and impose a unipolar system through continued direct aggression against Syria, violating international law, and acting outside the framework of the United Nations,' the statement concludes.

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Iran Reiterates Criticism of Trump by Praising Oscar for The Salesman

Tehran, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina) Iran received today the Oscar won by director Asghar Farhadi with ''The Salesman'' as another triumph for his cinematography and an occasion to lash out at US President Donald Trump's immigration policy.

In addition to the specialized press, all news media - printed, radio, television and digital - echoed the award given by the Hollywood Academy to the Best Foreign Language Film today (yesterday in Los Angeles), but above all, they highlighted the message of Farhadi.

The Persian director explained that his absence at the ceremony was 'out of respect for the people of my country and those six other nations who have been disrespected by the inhuman law that prohibits the entry of immigrants to the United States,' alluding to a recent and controversial decision by Trump.

Following a provision by the White House new tenant, the United States issued a visa veto for citizens of Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries, sparking widespread criticism from human rights organizations, social activists, and religious circles.

'Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear,' said Farhadi, who already won a golden statuette in 2012 in the same category for his film 'A Separation' (2011).

His message was read to the public by two Iranian-Americans who represented the director at the 89th Academy Awards, Anousheh Ansari, the first engineer female space tourist, and Professor Firouz Naderi, former Director of Solar Systems Exploration at NASA.

Farhadi added that the stance of the new US Republican administration is 'a dishonest justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries that have been the victims of aggression.'

Meanwhile, sources in Tehran hailed the second laureate for Iranian filmmaking, particularly for Farhadi, but honored his position announced on January 29 of refusing to travel to Hollywood, even if he was granted an exception to the presidential order.

While Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was proud of the Oscar Award and the position of the film director, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) issued an open letter to Trump, blaming him for his immigration policy, Middle East interventionism and treatment to women.

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Iran Encourages Palestinians Resistance against Israel

Tehran, Feb 22 (Prensa Latina) Presidents and members of parliaments from Arab and Islamic countries showed a strong solidarity with the Palestinian people that resists the occupation of Israel, after two days of debates in a conference that concludes today.

Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat (the lower house of the Parliament of Malaysia) Amin Mulia, said that Muslim states should set aside sectarian differences and 'return to Islam,' and that intolerance must leave Islamic society to create stability in this community.

Malaysia has tried several times to pass a resolution against Israel on the UN Security Council, 'but China, the United States, Russia and France vetoed our draft resolutions,' he said at the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada (Uprising).

The chairman of the Oman Consultative Assembly, Khalid bin Hilal bin Nasser Al-Mawali, affirmed that to continue the Palestinian ideology all Muslims need to remain united.

The sufferings of the Palestinians are increasing because their holy places are being disrespected by extremist Jewish settlers, he said, adding that the political and media manipulation that calls terrorists those who defend their territories from Zionist encroachment is wrong.

Al-Mawali added that states should think about current developments in the Islamic world while Israelis continue to build homes in occupied land settlements.

Syrian parliament speaker Hadiya Khalaf Abbas stressed the importance of organizing a meeting of this nature and Iran's support for the Palestinians and the fight against terrorism in their country and the region.

He commented that political and military successes of Bashar Al-Assad's government are, to a large extent, due to the contribution of the Persian republic and the Resistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

In that sense, Deputy Secretary-General of that Shiite group, Sheikh Naim Qassem, denounced that the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, 'is doing everything possible to unravel the Muslims' and Israel seeks to take advantage of that reality.

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US defense, intel warn against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorist group – media

Top military officials have cautioned the White House against designating Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group, arguing the move would endanger American troops in Iraq, where the Corps is also fighting Islamic State, US media revealed.

The concerns were raised recently by defense and intelligence officials at the highest levels, according to the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources in the administration. 

The news comes amid emerging reports that the White House is preparing to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – by far the most powerful national security and defense entity in Iran – as a terrorist organization. The proposal, possibly coming in the form of an executive order by the Trump administration, would prohibit any material support or other kinds of contact with the sanctioned entity.

Given the extraordinary nature of the proposal and its potential impact on Middle Eastern affairs, the issue was still under debate, a senior administration official told the newspaper.

Despite pressure from hardliners in the Trump administration who champion a tough stance against Iran, dissenting voices are still making themselves heard. “I don’t think it’s so much defense and intelligence; I think it’s ourselves,” the official said.

“There are so many second, third and fifth order of facts with every decision, as we see it, and so I think that this is an area where, rightly so, we have to be very smart,” the official added. “This all has to do with [Iran’s] behavior. What we have to do is figure out what are the right things to consider. We consider a lot of things. What we actually decide to do is different.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the report, telling journalists on Wednesday that “there is no one who can question the president’s commitment to fully attacking and addressing the threat that we face from radical Islamic terrorism… The first step is knowing and proclaiming who the enemy is.”

With that in mind, US defense officials are concerned that the designation could affect the uneasy contact the US military maintains with Shiite militias in Iraq that are organized by the Quds Force unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the Washington Post, there is a tacit agreement – negotiated through the Iraqi government – between the US contingent in Iraq and the Shiite militias, allowing them to avoid clashes. However, the agreement is fragile and could possibly lead to attacks on American forces, officials said.

While the designation could favor rulers in the Gulf – with many of them accusing Tehran of forming a ‘Shia crescent’ to undermine the Sunni monarchies – it would also strengthen Iranian hardliners in their internal dispute with moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose cabinet negotiated the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal with several major world powers, including the US.

If issued, the executive order would create the first known instance of designating a foreign government institution as a terrorist entity. The IRGC is the guardian of Iran’s internal security and a powerful yet independent military organization that includes its own army, navy and air forces as well as special forces and intelligence units.

Created by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to safeguard the ruling regime, the Corps is said to comprise more than 120,000 active personnel. Throughout the past years, the Revolutionary Guard has been deployed abroad, including in neighboring Iraq and Syria, where it is engaged in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The Corps’ elite Quds Force has already been designated as a terrorist organization by the US Department of Treasury, prohibiting transactions between the group and US nationals, and freezing any assets under American jurisdiction. While little is reliably known about the Quds Force, the group is believed to conduct high-risk intelligence, sabotage and special operations against Iran’s adversaries.

Last week the US administration imposed new sanctions against 25 Iranian nationals and entities in response to a ballistic missile test. Iran itself is one of three countries on the State Department’s notorious list of so-called ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’ The other nations on the list are Sudan and Syria.

Somewhat ironically, Iran is contributing military advisers, troops and materiel to the armed forces of Syria, where a bloody war against Islamist extremists has been raging since 2011.

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Iran’s Khamenei: Trump ‘shows real face of America’

In his first speech since the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Republican has shown the real face of America to the world.

“We are thankful to [Trump] for making our life easy as he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei told a meeting of military commanders in Tehran, according to his website.

“During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the US ruling system,” he added.

Khamenei blasted Trump days after he imposed new sanctions against Iran over its development of ballistic missiles. Trump has also criticized a nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, which the new administration reportedly seeks to renegotiate to be more to its liking.

The Iranian leader was skeptical about the deal in the first place, but still endorsed sealing the agreement. Khamenei has since criticized the US for continuing pressure on Iran, which he believes violates the spirit of the nuclear accord.

The speech on Tuesday came in preparation for the celebration of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran later this week. Khamenei said Trump’s America will not be able to force Tehran into submission.

“No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation,” he said. “[Trump] says 'You should be afraid of me.' No! The Iranian people will respond to his words on February 10 and will show their stance against such threats.”

Trumps’ first move as US president met condemnations from many Americans as well as foreign politicians. Critics say moves like banning entry from seven predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran, which had been imposed by the White House, are inherently un-American.

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Russia disagrees with Trump labeling Iran ‘number one terrorist state’

Russia disagrees with a remark recently made by US President Donald Trump’s that branded Iran as “the number one terrorist state,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, citing partnership between Moscow and Tehran.

“We do not agree with the definition,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. “All of you know that Russia enjoys warm relations with Iran, we do cooperate on a range of issues, and we do appreciate our economic ties which, we hope, will go further,” he added.

Trump lambasted the landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States, plus Germany), and the European Union.

In the first part of the interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, which was published on Sunday, Trump said “they [Iran] have total disregard for our country, they’re the number one terrorist state, they’re sending money all over the place and weapons.”

Earlier in February, one day after the White House imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to a ballistic missile test, US Defense Secretary James Mattis called Tehran the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.”

“It's no secret for anyone that Moscow and Washington hold diametrically-opposed views on many international and regional policy issues,” said Peskov. “Meanwhile, it can’t be and should not be an obstacle when it comes to forging normal communication and pragmatic mutually-beneficial relations between Russia and the US.”

A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, is currently being arranged, Dmitry Peskov also said on Monday.

“Such contacts are being prepared. We’ll inform you of the possible date in due time,” Peskov said when asked if a meeting with the Iranian president was on Putin’s schedule.

Earlier on Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Iran, Levan Dzhagaryan, told RIA Novosti that “Rouhani’s visit [to Russia] is expected to take place in late March.”

“During the talks with the Russian leadership, [the sides] will discuss the main aspects of bilateral relations concerning the political and trade and economic sectors. Aside from this, attention will be paid to the most urgent issues on the regional agenda, such as the situation in Afghanistan, the Caspian problem, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Dzhagaryan said.

The Syrian issue will also “take up significant space in the agenda of negotiations,” the ambassador added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed the Kremlin’s statement, stressing that Tehran takes an active part in fighting Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).

“Iran has never been complicit in any links to IS or Al-Nusra Front whatsoever,” the minister said.

“Moreover, Iran contributes to combatting IS. We have long advocated the idea of creating a unified anti-terrorist front. I am convinced that Iran must be part of our common effort if we evaluate potential contributors to such an alliance objectively,” Lavrov said.

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Tehran ‘unmoved’ by US threats, will use weapons ‘only in self-defense’ – Iranian FM to Trump

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has responded to US President Donald Trump’s Twitter accusations that Tehran was “playing with fire,” also taking to social media to say that Iran was “unmoved” by US threats and “will never initiate war.”

The foreign minister posted two videos on Twitter, with the tweets reading: “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.”

Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.

He also challenged those who warn Iran, accusing them of hypocrisy.

@JZarif We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.

“We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement,” Zarif wrote.

In the two videos posted on his Twitter account, Zarif is seen explaining Iran’s stance in a previous speech.

“You were not the subject of war, where your cities were showered with missiles carrying chemical warheads, and you didn’t have a single missile to retaliate, so that maybe Saddam Hussein would stop,” he said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

“We went to one country after another, begging – I insist, begging – for a single scud missile to defend our people. Now, you want us to get a few dollars, and to abandon defending our people,” he goes on to say, adding that Iran is “entitled to the rudimentary means of defense.”

On Monday, Fox News quoted US officials as saying that Iran had conducted medium-range ballistic missile tests. Iran confirmed that it had tested the missile, and that the launch was "in line" with its plans.

"We will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs," Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Tasnim news agency on Wednesday.

Zarif’s tweets came after the US President Trump attacked Tehran, saying that “Iran is playing with fire,” and warning the country’s officials that he would not be as “kind” as former President Barack Obama.

A historic deal brokered during Obama’s time in office stated that Iran would curb its nuclear potential significantly, but not completely, cutting the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds.

The deal also obliged Iran to cap its uranium enrichment program below the level necessary for bomb-grade material, and involved Tehran agreeing to reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000kg to 300kg for 15 years. In exchange, the US lifted long-standing sanctions against Tehran.

The UN has only recently said that Tehran is honoring its part of the bargain.

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Trump Adopts Aggressive Stance Toward Iran After Missile Launch

Trump has frequently criticized the Iran nuclear deal, calling the agreement weak and ineffective.

The White House put Iran “on notice” on Wednesday for test-firing a ballistic missile and said it was reviewing how to respond, taking an aggressive posture toward Tehran that could raise tensions in the region.

While the exact implications of the U.S. threat were unclear, the new administration signaled that President Donald Trump intended to do more, possibly including imposing new sanctions, to curb what he sees as defiance of a nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama.

The tough talk commits the administration to back up its rhetoric with action, which could cast doubt on the future of the Iran agreement and sow further uncertainty in an already chaotic Middle East, experts said.

Officials declined to say whether the military option was on the table, although Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said: "The U.S. military has not changed its posture in response to the Iranian test missile launch" on Sunday. 

A fiery statement from Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, marked some of the most aggressive rhetoric by the administration that took office on Jan. 20, making clear that Obama's less confrontational approach toward Iran was over.

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