Archive for October 1, 2018

Germany approves extradition of Iranian diplomat over alleged bomb plot

October 1, 2018

Source: Germany approves extradition of Iranian diplomat over alleged bomb plot | The Times of Israel

Hebrew media reported earlier this year that the planned attack on an opposition rally in Paris was thwarted by the Mossad

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards reading 'Deliver the Iranian diplomat - terrorist to Belgium' during a demonstration calling for the extradition of a secret service officer to Belgium in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2018, activists of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hold placards reading ‘Deliver the Iranian diplomat – terrorist to Belgium’ during a demonstration calling for the extradition of a secret service officer to Belgium in front of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

A German court said Monday it gave the green light for an Iranian diplomat linked to an alleged bomb plot against an Iranian opposition rally to be handed over to Belgium.

The superior regional court in Bamberg said in a statement that it had on September 27 approved the extradition of the Iranian diplomat based in Vienna who has been named as Assadollah Assadi.

“The wanted man cannot cite diplomatic immunity because he was on a several day holiday trip outside his host state Austria and not traveling between his host country and the state that dispatched him,” the court said.

The suspected plan to target a gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) organized by dissident group The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) in a Paris suburb came to light a few days after the June 30 event.

People hold pictures of relatives killed by the Iranian regime during the “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative” event on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Six people were arrested in Belgium, Germany and France for an alleged plot to attack the rally, including an Iranian diplomat and his wife. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

Hebrew media reported earlier this year that the plot was thwarted by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Six people were arrested in Belgium, France and Germany, two of whom were later released.

German prosecutors say Assadi, believed to be an intelligence agent, ordered a couple to attack the rally and had handed them the explosives at a June meeting in Luxembourg.

Tehran has dismissed the alleged bomb plot as a “sinister false flag ploy” designed to discredit Iran at a time when it faces major diplomatic tensions with the United States.

Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks at the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and democracy at the Grand Hyatt, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The rally in the Paris suburb of Villepinte was attended by several allies of US President Donald Trump, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, both of whom urged regime change in Iran.

Belgian authorities in July requested the extradition of both Assadi and a man identified as Merhad A., who was detained in Paris.

Belgian police believe Merhad A. is an accomplice of a husband and wife team caught in Brussels in possession of 500 grams of the powerful explosive TATP and a detonator.

The couple were identified as Amir S. and Nasimeh N.

All three are Belgian nationals of Iranian origin.

The MEK, formed in the 1960s to overthrow the shah of Iran, fought the rise of the mullahs in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It earned itself a listing as a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department in 1997 and was only removed from terror watchlists by the European Union in 2008 and by Washington in 2012.

 

Rev Guards fire 8 missiles from Iran at ISIS in E. Syria – DEBKAfile

October 1, 2018

Source: Rev Guards fire 8 missiles from Iran at ISIS in E. Syria – DEBKAfile

Tehran state media reported that on Monday, Oct. 1,  IRGC missiles targeted the headquarters of the terrorists” east of the Euphrates in Syria in reprisal for their attack on a military parade in Ahvaz on Sept. 8, which killed 30 people and injured scores.

The missiles were fired from the Iranian Kurdish region of Kermanshah. It was the second time in three weeks that the Revolutionary Guards had fired surface missiles from their base in Kermanshah at a target outside Iran. On the day of the Ahvaz attack, they launched missiles against Kurdish political centers and military headquarters in northern Iraq, alleging they were complicit in a recent spate of cross-border raids on Iranian military border positions in the north.

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the missiles fired on Monday aimed at the region east of Abu Kamal between Harse and Hajin, which is the last piece of land still held by ISIS in Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be hiding there.  The Ahvaz attack was claimed at the time by ISIS and Iranian Arab separatists. The IRGC’s response indicated that the former was held accountable.

Witnesses report that at least two of the eight missiles fired from Kermanshah, exploded prematurely and fragments dropped into northern Iraq.  No word has come from Syria about the missile attack, although the area east of the Euphrates houses a US military presence, Syrian Kurds, Syrian forces and Iraqi Shiite militias.

Lebanese Hizballah sources did not miss the opportunity to imply that the Iranian missiles also addressed a warning to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Tehran State TV released images Monday morning of an IRGC soldier pointing to a slogan on one of the missiles: “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Al Saud.” Soon after the first attack into eastern Syria, Tehran announced another had taken place, this one by Iranian drones.

 

Iran scrambling to cover up newly revealed nuclear site, Israeli official says 

October 1, 2018

Source: Iran scrambling to cover up newly revealed nuclear site, Israeli official says | The Times of Israel

Senior source asserts Netanyahu’s announcement of Tehran warehouse has caused ‘growing pressure’ in Islamic Republic; claims 15kg of radioactive material was moved out in August

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation at the UN on Thursday of a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site has caused “growing pressure inside Iran,” a senior Israeli official said over the weekend.

“They’re wondering how to deal with this facility, how to evacuate it, how to cover it up,” the official said. “There is no doubt it is a very important site for them; they’re seeking to conceal it and stall in any way possible.”

According to the official, the 15 kilograms of radioactive material that Netanyahu said was removed from the facility and dispersed around Tehran was taken away at the beginning of August.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, told Israeli reporters in a briefing Friday that it was past time for the IAEA to act, and that Iran had been exposed “as deceiving and cheating the international community.” He also said that Iran was aiming to break out to a nuclear arsenal when it deems the time ripe: “There’ll be a crisis somewhere or other, and they’ll [take advantage of the distraction] to break out to a nuclear arsenal,” he warned. “That’s the Iranian plan.”

In his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, revealing the “secret atomic warehouse,” Netanyahu said “[Global] intelligence services and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have known about this for six weeks” and failed to act. The warehouse allegedly contained nuclear materials that Iran is not allowed to hold without declaring them to the IAEA.

Netanyahu, in his speech, claimed the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program,” which was quickly being moved to other parts of the city.

The site may contain as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, he added.

The US on Friday asked the IAEA to investigate Netanyahu’s new allegations, although Reuters also quoted a US official as saying the prime minister’s information was misleading, and that the site contained documentation and not nuclear materials.

The Israeli official rejected this on Friday, saying “It’s not just documents. There are other things there,” and added: “Did he check it? First of all, let them check.” He noted that it seemed “very important for Iran to hide it, to disperse things across Tehran.”

The official acknowledged that Israel did not have information on everything contained within the site, and said this was why the IAEA should “go and check.”

Asked if the existence of the secret warehouse and its contents definitely violated the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Israeli official replied: “First of all, let them check… Why did they remove 15 kilograms of radioactive material? That’s a question that needs to be looked into.

“We know there’s radioactive material there. They distributed that radioactive material all around Tehran. Those 15 kilograms are a fact. Why did they go around dispersing it? What happened? They need to check.”

Iranians on Friday published selfies on social media taken outside the facility, and mocked Netanyahu’s claim that it was a secret nuclear facility. The official said “The fact that you have young Iranians taking selfies there is unbelievable.”

An Iranian poses outside the site identified by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a secret Iranian nuclear facility on September 28, 2018 (Twitter)

The senior official scoffed at the notion that Netanyahu had exposed sensitive intelligence material. “That’s absurd. We had discussions about this, what to reveal and what not to, and it was decided to reveal it at this point.”

Briefing Israeli reporters traveling with him in the US, Netanyahu himself on Friday said it was “time for [the IAEA] to act.” As to whether it would, he said: “They may act and they may not act, but one thing is certain — Iran has been exposed as deceiving and cheating the international community. That’s been revealed and that’s the main purpose. Anything else is a bonus.”

Netanyahu once again lambasted the 2015 nuclear deal, saying Iran “immediately” used funds freed up by the accord to bolster its war machine. “It gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in direct released funds, in credit and in the entry of investors” and Iran had since seen “a 40 percent increase in its defense budget.”

Said Netanyahu Friday, in a bitter denunciation of the accord: “The essence of the 2015 nuclear deal was that, in that in return for not enriching uranium for a single bomb, Iran in a few years will get the right to enrich for hundreds of bombs. Iran has already announced that it will produce 200,000 centrifuges, some of them 20 times faster than the current generation.”

Iran, he said, has “mountains of yellowcake” uranium concentrate. “They have their archived information [on bomb-making] in their secret atomic archive. They can push not for one bomb, but for hundreds of bombs simultaneously.”

“There’ll be a crisis somewhere or other, and they’ll [take advantage of the distraction] to break out to a nuclear arsenal,” he warned. “That’s the Iranian plan. And that’s what the agreement gave them.

“It also gave them hundreds of millions of dollars — directly released funds,” he noted. “They put that money directly into their war machine; there’s been a 40% increase in their defense budget.

The Iranians, he said, “were also obligated [under the deal] to come clean on all their [nuclear] activities. The 15 kilograms [of radioactive material] is further prove [of their failure to do so].”

The newly revealed warehouse, said Netanyahu, did not merely contain documents, as some US officials have charged. “There are other things too. But they key fact is that they hid it.”

On Friday an unnamed official told Channel 10 news that the facility was uncovered by the Mossad spy agency a few months ago, and had since been kept under surveillance.

When the IAEA failed to act, the Israeli government apparently agonized over what to do with the information, and decided after discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu would reveal it in his annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday in an attempt to goad the IAEA into taking action.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

“There was no choice but to reveal this information, because the goal is to prompt the IAEA to take action,” the senior official said. “We wanted to wake up the world and pressure the IAEA to act against the suspected facilities in Iran.”

Channel 10 reported that the senior official revealed that the nuclear facility is under the supervision of a secret Iranian defense ministry department headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by Netanyahu in his April presentation of the seized nuclear archive as the Iranian physicist who heads the country’s nuclear program.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu had said in April, showcasing the material that he said proved conclusively that Iran lied when it said it had not sought nuclear weapons and that the 2015 nuclear deal was built upon “Iranian deception.”

The Israeli official was adamant, by contrast, that what the Iranians were keeping in the newly revealed warehouse was considerably more grave than the contents of the archive. The official did not elaborate beyond saying it was “forbidden nuclear material,” the TV report said.

In May an Israeli TV report suggested Jerusalem may have decided not to assassinate Fakhrizadeh because it prefers to keep him alive and watch what he is up to, even as other Iranian nuclear experts have been assassinated in recent years in hits attributed to the Mossad.

At the General Assembly speech (full text here),  the prime minister said the IAEA had failed to take any action after he revealed in April a nuclear archive that Israeli spies managed to spirit out of Iran, and so he was now revealing what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, a few miles from the archive.

Both the archive and warehouse, Netanyahu said, were proof that Iran had not given up its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu added.

On Thursday, Netanyahu also met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and urged him to ask the IAEA to investigate the facility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) in New York, September 27, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

He urged IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, who he called “a good man,” to “do the right thing” and “go and inspect this atomic warehouse immediately — before the Iranians finish cleaning it out.”

Inspect “right here, right now,” he urged, “and inspect the other sites we told you about… Tell the world the truth about Iran.”

Iranian officials have dismissed Netanyahu’s claims about the atomic warehouse as unfounded and “obscene.”

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country is committed to nonproliferation and Iran’s nuclear program is under surveillance of the IAEA. The website of state TV briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launches missiles into Syria over parade attack

October 1, 2018

Source: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launches missiles into Syria over parade attack | The Times of Israel

Several ballistic missiles said to kill and wound militants in east of the country in response to assault on military parade in Ahvaz on Sept. 22 that killed at least 24 people

This picture taken on September 22, 2018, in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz shows Iranian soldiers carrying away an injured colleague at the scene of an attack on a military parade that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

This picture taken on September 22, 2018, in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz shows Iranian soldiers carrying away an injured colleague at the scene of an attack on a military parade that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Monday it launched ballistic missiles into eastern Syria targeting militants it blamed for a recent attack on a military parade.

State television and the state-run IRNA news agency said the attacks “killed and wounded” militants in Syria.

“The headquarters of those responsible for the terrorist crime in Ahvaz was attacked a few minutes ago east of the Euphrates by several ballistic missiles fired by the aerospace branch of the Guardians of the RevSolution,” the Guards said on their official website.

Syrian state media did not immediately acknowledge the strike.

The Guard published images on its website showing what it described as the missile launch near a rocky outcropping in an undisclosed location. Previously, the Guard has launched missiles from Iran’s western provinces for such attacks.

The attack adds to confusion over who carried out the assault on the military parade in Ahvaz on Sept. 22 that killed at least 24 people and wounded over 60.

Iran initially blamed Arab separatists for the attack in which gunmen disguised as soldiers open fire on the crowd and officials watching the parade from a riser in the southwestern city. Arab separatists also immediately claimed the attack and offered details about one of the attackers that ultimately turned out to be true.

In this photo provided by Mehr News Agency, civilians try to take shelter in a shooting scene, during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, Sept. 22, 2018 (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Mehdi Pedramkhoo)

The extremist Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for the assault, but initially made factual incorrect claims about it. Later, IS released footage of several men that Iran ultimately identified as attackers, though the men in the footage never pledged allegiance to the extremist group.

In a three-minute audio recording released last week, the Sunni jihadist group’s spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir said Iran “had not recovered from the fearful shock, which God willing will not be the last.”

The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has warned Israel and the US that they can expect a “devastating” response from Iran, repeating accusations of their involvement in the attack.

An Iranian man holds a placard denouncing the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia during a mass funeral for the victims of those killed during an attack on a military parade on the weekend, in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz on September 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

This is the third time in recent months that Iran has fired its ballistic missiles in anger.

Last year, Iran fired ballistic missiles into Syria over a bloody IS attack on Tehran targeting parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In September, Iran fired missiles into Iraq targeting a base of an Iranian Kurdish separatist group. The separatists say that strike killed at least 11 people and wounded 50.