Archive for December 6, 2019

Off Topic:  Saudi aviation student kills 3 at Florida naval base, officials probing terror 

December 6, 2019

Source: Saudi aviation student kills 3 at Florida naval base, officials probing terror | The Times of Israel

Second shooting at a US Navy base this week; 11 injured include two sheriff’s deputies who were first to respond, one of whom killed the shooter

This photo taken from video provided by WEAR-TV shows emergency responders near the Naval Air Base Station in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.   (WEAR-TV via AP)

This photo taken from video provided by WEAR-TV shows emergency responders near the Naval Air Base Station in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (WEAR-TV via AP)

PENSACOLA, Florida — A shooter opened fire in a classroom building at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola on Friday morning in an attack that left four people dead, including the assailant, and multiple people wounded. The shooting — the second at a US Navy base this week — prompted a massive law enforcement response and a lockdown at the base.

A US official said the Florida Naval Station shooting suspect was an aviation student from Saudi Arabia and authorities are investigating if the shooting was terrorism-related.

Eleven people were shot all together, including two sheriff’s deputies who were the first to respond, one of whom killed the shooter, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said. One of the deputies was shot in the arm and the other in the knee, and both were expected to recover, he said.

The base remained closed until further notice and those still on base would remain there until it was safe to evacuate, said commanding officer Capt. Timothy Kinsella Jr.

NAS Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website. One of the Navy’s most historic and storied bases, it sprawls along the waterfront southwest of downtown Pensacola and dominates the economy of the surrounding area.

It’s home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and includes the National Naval Aviation Museum, a popular regional tourist attraction.

Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, who works at the Naval Air Station as a civilian contractor, told the Pensacola News Journal he was in line to go through the gate Friday morning when it was shut down due to the active shooter report.

The shooting is the second at a US naval base this week. A sailor whose submarine was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, opened fire on three civilian employees Wednesday, killing two before taking his own life.

 

Defiant Iran declares it will not halt ballistic missile development 

December 6, 2019

Source: Defiant Iran declares it will not halt ballistic missile development | The Times of Israel

Rejecting complaint from France, Britain and Germany, the Islamic Republic says it is ‘determined to resolutely continue its activities’

In this photo from February 7, 2019, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a Dezful surface-to-surface ballistic missile is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

Iran is not going to halt or curb activity on its ballistic missile program, the Islamic Republic said in a letter to the United Nations on Wednesday.

Tehran envoy Majid Takhte Ravanchi wrote that a November 21 complaint about the missile program to the UN Security Council from France, Britain and Germany is unfounded and based on faulty materials.

“Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” Ravanchi wrote in the letter, a copy of which was tweeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

In a letter circulated Wednesday, ambassadors from the three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

If E3 want a modicum of global credibility, they can begin by exerting sovereignty rather than bowing to US bullying.

Separately, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Iran is taking advantage of unrest in neighboring Iraq to stockpile short-range ballistic missiles there.

Quoting American intelligence and military officials, the report said that the missile buildup was part of an Iranian effort to project power in the Middle East as the United States increases its military forces in the region following a series of attacks blamed on Iran.

The intelligence officials said the missiles threaten US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as American troops stationed in the area.

The officials would not comment on the type of missiles Iran is secreting into Iraq, but the report noted a short-range missile with a range of 600 miles (965 kilometers) could strike Jerusalem from Baghdad.

Reuters first reported last year that Iran was placing ballistic missiles with its Shiite proxies in Iraq and also working to make sure its allied militias in the country are capable of building more rockets ingenuously.

The deployment was meant to improve Iran’s ability to retaliate against any Western or Arab attacks on its territory, as well as to expand its options for attacking opponents in the region, Reuters said at the time.

A series of airstrikes in Iraq on Iranian-linked bases and weapons earlier this year was blamed on Israel by Iraqi leaders. Israel has not neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the attacks, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility that it has struck in Iraq.

Illustrative: Popular Mobilization Forces members stand by a burning truck after a drone attack blamed on Israel near Qaim border crossing, in Anbar province, Iraq, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo)

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state.

Tensions have risen in the Persian Gulf since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and began reimposing crippling sanctions in a campaign of “maximum pressure.”

They flared again this May when Iran began reducing its own commitments under the deal and the US deployed military assets to the region.

Since then, ships have also been attacked, drones downed, and oil tankers seized. In September, Saudi oil facilities were attacked in a cruise missile and drone strike blamed on Iran.

Israeli and US officials have warned Iran may be planning more attacks.

Agencies contribute to this report.

 

UK, Germany and France slam Iran for working on nuclear-capable missiles

December 6, 2019

Source: UK, Germany and France slam Iran for working on nuclear-capable missiles | The Times of Israel

In UN letter, Tehran also accused of proliferating ballistic missile technology in the region; Iran insists all its missile activities are legal and not nuclear-related

An Iranian Shahab-3 missile launched during military exercises outside the city of Qom, Iran, in June 2011. (AP/ISNA/Ruhollah Vahdati)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — France, Germany and the United Kingdom say “Iran’s developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles” go against a UN Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles.

Ambassadors from the three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter circulated Wednesday to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The letter cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant “equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle.” It says: “The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”

The Europeans noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program concluded “that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating “Sacred Defense Week” marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Officials in the Trump administration also have said Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, something the Iranians deny.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. But it is still supported by the five other parties — France, Britain, Russia and China, which are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany, which is currently serving a two-year term on the council.

The letter says “France, Germany and the United Kingdom assert once again our firm conclusion that Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and related technologies is inconsistent” with the missile provision in the council resolution.

That provision urges Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But it does not require Tehran to halt such activity, and the Iranian government insists all its missile activities are legal and not nuclear-related.

The Europeans’ letter says they used the Missile Technology Control Regime “performance characteristics” that a rocket system would need to be capable of delivering at least a 500-kilogram payload to a range of at least 300 kilometers (185 miles) to be nuclear capable.

France, Germany and the UK gave four examples of “Iranian activity inconsistent” with the July 20, 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear agreement, which was signed six days earlier:

In addition to the April 23 flight test of the new Shahab-3 missile variant, it cited:

—The launch of the Borkan-3, “a new liquid-propelled medium-range ballistic missile, traveling approximately 1,300 kilometers,” which was announced by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on Aug. 2, 2019, and is an advancement of Iran’s Qiam-1 missile.

—The July 24, 2019, launch of a ballistic missile that flew over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), which media reports indicated was a test launch of a Shahab-3 medium-range missile.

—The Aug. 29, 2019, attempted launch, reported by Iranian media, of a Safir satellite launch vehicle, which was unsuccessful. UN experts have said such launch vehicles share “a great deal of similar materials and technology” with ballistic missiles.

This image taken from the Twitter account of US President Donald J. Trump, shows what appears to be a US intelligence photo of the aftermath of an explosion at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center in the country’s Semnan province, August 29, 2019, with the smoldering remains of a rocket on a launch pad at the center, which was to conduct a US-criticized satellite launch. (Twitter via AP)

The Europeans’ letter says these activities “are the latest in a long series of advances in Iranian ballistic missile technology” and “furthermore, Iran continues its proliferation of ballistic missile technology in the region” in violation of Security Council resolution.

The Security Council has scheduled a Dec. 19 meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 resolution on the Iran nuclear deal.

During last year’s meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the council to again ban Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and to maintain an arms embargo that is scheduled to be lifted in 2020 under the nuclear deal.

 

Netanyahu: Iran’s empire is tottering. Let’s make it totter even further

December 6, 2019

Source: Netanyahu: Iran’s empire is tottering. Let’s make it totter even further | The Times of Israel

At meeting with Pompeo in Lisbon, PM says Israel constantly countering Iranian aggression, refuses to comment on Syria weapons warehouse strike

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meeting with PM Netanyahu in Lisbon, December 4, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

LISBON, Portugal — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for increased action against Iran, indicating that the recent unrest in the Islamic Republic offers an opportunity to topple the regime.

“Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say: let’s make it totter even further,” he said at the beginning of a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak, even today, in the region,” he added. “They’re trying to have staging grounds against us and the region from Iran itself, from Iraq, from Syria, from Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen. And we are actively engaged in countering that aggression.”

However, he refused to comment on reports in the Arab media about a Wednesday airstrike on an Iranian-controlled weapons storehouse in eastern Syria.

“I never talk about that,” he responded to a reporter’s question.

Netanyahu also thanked Pompeo for his statement last month saying that Israeli settlements are not necessarily illegal under international law.

“I think that contrary to every common spin, this actually advances peace, because peace has to be based on truth, and not on lies,” he said. “And we are committed to advancing security, prosperity and peace in our region, and I believe this conversation, and these and many others subjects will do exactly that.”

Pompeo, in his remarks, focused on the recent riots in Iran, during which the regime killed scores of protesters demonstrating against increasing fuel prices.

“These are people seeking freedom [and a] reasonable way to live. And they recognize the threat that is posed by kleptocrats that are running the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

“So we talked to our European partners about that, how we can together ensure that we do everything that we can to create opportunity for these people who simply want freedom and a chance to live a normal life.”

At the center of Netanyahu’s two-day trip to Lisbon is a planned working dinner with Pompeo, a pro-Israel stalwart and key architect of Washington’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which includes tough economic sanctions.

Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP)

The prime minister is also slated to meet with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva.

Speaking to reporters before taking off earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu said the conversation with Pompeo would “focus first of all on Iran, and two additional matters: the defense pact with the US that I seek to advance, and also a future American recognition of Israel applying sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. These are very important issues, we are dealing with them all the time. And there are also other issues, that I will not detail now.”

Talks are expected to revolve around the Iranian regime’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as well as its increasing violations of the 2015 nuclear deal, including its recent decision to resume enrichment of uranium at the Fordo nuclear facility.

The prime minister also repeated his harsh criticism of European countries who recently joined the INSTEX financial mechanism, which is meant to allow Iran to continue to sell its oil despite the punishing US sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sukkah, during talks with the prime minister on October 18, 2019. At left is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Netanyahu said angrily. “While people are risking their lives and dying on the streets of Tehran, they’re giving sustenance and support to this tyrannical regime. The tyrants of Tehran should not be supported now; they should be pressured.”

Pompeo and Netanyahu last met in October in Jerusalem. According to reports, Netanyahu had originally planned to meet Pompeo in London, where world leaders, including US President Donald Trump are gathering for a NATO summit this week.

Netanyahu spoke with Trump over the phone on Sunday. According to the White House, the two discussed Iran and other unspecified bilateral issues.

Netanyahu later said that the proposed defense alliance and annexation of the Jordan Valley were discussed as well in the call, which he termed “a very important conversation for the security of Israel.”

“These are things that we could only dream about, but we have the possibility of implementing them,” he said.

A Palestinian shepherd herds his flock near the Israeli settlement of Argaman, in the Jordan Valley, a strip of West Bank land along the border with Jordan, December 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty/File)

On November 18, Pompeo appeared to pave the way for an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley, and possibly other parts of the West Bank, when he declared that the administration would no longer consider Israeli settlements as necessarily illegal under international law.

“We think the decision that was made that permits the possibility of legal settlements, that they are not illegal per se, is both the correct one and the one that is in the best interest of the security situation in Israel, as well as the situation between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Pompeo told the Israel Hayom newspaper last week.

Normalization drive

After leaving Portugal, Pompeo is slated to travel to Morocco, where he is expected to push normalization with Israel with King Mohammed IV in Rabat.

“Morocco plays a great role across the region as an important partner in promoting tolerance (and) has these quiet ties and relationship with Israel as well,” a State Department official said last week.

Morocco is one of several Arab states in the Middle East being pushed by the US to sign non-belligerence agreements with Israel, as a step toward normalizing relations with the Jewish state, according to a Tuesday report by Axios.

The trip marks the first visit to Portugal of an Israeli prime minister since 2000, when Ehud Barak went to Lisbon to meet then-US president Bill Clinton.

Netanyahu himself last traveled to Lisbon in December 1996, during his first term as prime minister, when he attended a European Council for Security and Cooperation summit there.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

 

US says Iran may have killed over 1,000 protesters in government crackdown

December 6, 2019

Source: US says Iran may have killed over 1,000 protesters in government crackdown | The Times of Israel

Charge comes as Pentagon said mulling sending up to 7,000 troops to region; Washington calls Iranian demonstrations ‘worst political crisis’ ever faced by regime

Iranian protesters gather around a burning car during a demonstration against an increase of gasoline prices, in the capital Tehran, November 16, 2019. (AFP)

AFP — The US said Thursday that Iranian security forces may have killed over 1,000 people in a recent crackdown on demonstrations, which Washington cast as the regime’s worst-ever internal challenge.

The damning account came as the US put new pressure in the region on the Islamic Republic, with an official saying the Pentagon was considering sending 5,000 to 7,000 more troops.

“It appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began,” said Brian Hook, the US Special Representative on Iran.

He acknowledged that information was difficult to verify in Iran, which has severely curtailed internet access, but said: “We know for certain it is many, many hundreds.”

Hook said that “many thousands” of Iranians have been wounded and that at least 7,000 protesters have been detained.

Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

US President Donald Trump, receiving UN diplomats at the White House, called the crackdown “brutal” and a “horrible situation” as he vowed to respond “strongly” to any threat from Iran against US interests.

Protests broke out on November 15 across Iran, whose economy has suffered under sweeping sanctions from the United States, after the government abruptly hiked fuel prices.

Hook said the government’s reaction showed that the regime has had to rely on brute force and was losing support even with its traditional working-class base.

“This is the worst political crisis the regime has faced and its 40 years,” Hook said.

The death toll is sharply higher than the figure of some 208 dead given by Amnesty International, which said it was cautious due to difficulties in verifying information.

But the toll matches the figure of 1,029 dead released Wednesday by the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the formerly armed opposition group that is fiercely critical of the regime and has cultivated close ties with the Trump administration.

Hook said the US was basing its toll in part on photos and videos sent by 32,000 people after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited Iranians to defy internet restrictions.

Hook said videos sent from Mahshahr, a southwestern city home to many of Iran’s Arab minority, showed the Revolutionary Guards chasing protesters into marshlands with machine-guns mounted on trucks.

Illustrative: Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade, marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran, on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

“They then spray the protesters with bullets. Between the rounds of machine-gun fire, the screams of the victims can be heard,” Hook said, charging that as many as 100 people were killed there alone.

Iran has dismissed the high death tolls as “utter lies” and confirmed only five dead — four security force personnel killed by “rioters” and one civilian.

But in a softening of stance that indicates a need to address grievances, Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that people killed in the violence would be considered “martyrs” as long as they did not foment the unrest.

As Hook demanded further diplomatic isolation of Iran, a senior Pentagon official did not rule out sending more forces to the region.

“We’re continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture,” John Rood, the Pentagon’s policy chief, told a Senate hearing.

A US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East.

The official did not confirm where the troops would be sent or in what timeframe.

But both Rood and Esper denied a report in The Wall Street Journal that the United States was considering sending 14,000 more troops — equivalent to the number sent over the past six months.

Tensions have risen sharply with Iran since Trump last year pulled out of a denuclearization pact and sought to ban all of Iran’s oil exports.

In this photo from the US Navy provided on November 19, 2019, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, left, the air-defense destroyer HMS Defender and the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut transit the Strait of Hormuz with the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Pearson/U.S. Navy via AP)

In September, the United States said Iran was responsible for attacks on the major Abqaiq oil processing center in Saudi Arabia.

The United States has also been alarmed by an uptick in attacks on its bases in Iraq, where major demonstrations triggered by economic discontent have also targeted Tehran’s overwhelming influence in its Shiite-majority neighbor.

“We’re lucky no one has been killed. There is a spike in rocket attacks,” another US official said, adding that the sophistication of the attacks indicated that they were not from the Islamic State group.

Hook said that a US warship on November 25 seized a major shipment of Iranian-made weapons bound for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are battling Saudi Arabia, including anti-tank and air-defense missiles.

Britain, France and Germany, which still back the nuclear deal, in a joint letter to the United Nations also accused Iran of developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the allegation a “desperate falsehood” and accused the Europeans of “bowing to US bullying.”

 

Amid Iran tensions, US may send thousands more troops to Mideast 

December 6, 2019

Source: Amid Iran tensions, US may send thousands more troops to Mideast | The Times of Israel

Pentagon mulling deployment as violence spreads in Islamic Republic and intelligence points to a growing threat from regime

A US military helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the Arleigh destroyer USS Mason in the Persian Gulf, May 22, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lasheba James/Released)

AP — The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand additional troops to the Middle East to help deter Iranian aggression, amid reports of escalating violence in Iran and continued meddling by Tehran in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region.

John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “intends to make changes” to the number of troops deployed in the region. Other officials said options under consideration could send between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions yet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The troop deliberations follow several decisions since spring to beef up the US presence in the Middle East because of a series of maritime attacks and bombings in Saudi Arabia that the US and others have blamed on Iran.

US President Donald Trump has approved those increases, even though he also routinely insists that he is pulling US troops out of the Middle East and withdrawing from what he calls “endless wars” against extremists. In October, Trump told his supporters that despite the sacrificing of US lives in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, the region is less safe and stable today.

“The single greatest mistake our country made in its history,” he said, “was going into the quicksand of the Middle East.”

Asked about a possible troop increase, Trump told reporters Thursday: “We’ll announce whether we will or not. Certainly there might be a threat. And if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we will be announcing what we may be doing — may or may not be doing.”

US President Donald Trump speaks at a luncheon with members of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, December 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Later Thursday, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the president was open to sending more troops to the Middle East.

“If the troops are needed to deter Iran, we have the capacity to move them into the region — although I don’t think that’s happening right now,” O’Brien said on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Military leaders have argued that the US needs to increase its presence in the region in order to deter Iran from conducting more and broader attacks. Rood provided no details to back up why the additional troops are needed, but said the US is concerned about recent intelligence indications suggesting an increased threat from Iran.

Rood was asked several times about reports that 14,000 more troops could be sent to the region. He repeatedly said Esper hasn’t made a decision yet, but didn’t specifically confirm or deny the number, so his answers appeared only to confuse senators. Shortly after the hearing, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah sent out a statement flatly denying the 14,000 number, saying Esper told the Senate committee chairman Thursday morning that “we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops” to the region.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the increase came in part at the behest of the Israeli government.

Trump on Thursday called the 14,000 number “fake news.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The troop discussions came as the Trump administration on Thursday accused Iranian security forces of killing more than 1,000 people in crackdowns against recent protests that have swept the country.

The estimated death toll is significantly higher than previously estimates from human rights groups and others, and the administration did not present documentary evidence to back up the claim. But Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told reporters the tally was based on a variety of reports coming out of Iran as well as intelligence analyses.

Speaking at the State Department, Hook said the US had received and reviewed video of one specific incident of repression in the city of Mahshahr in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps had mowed down at least 100 protesters with machine-gun fire.

He said the video was one of tens of thousands of submissions the US has gotten since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed last month for Iranians to submit evidence of atrocities by the authorities in putting down the protests. In it, he said IRGC forces can be seen opening fire on protesters blocking a road and then surrounding those who fled to nearby marshlands where they were sprayed with bullets.

Iranian protesters gather around a burning car during a demonstration against an increase of gasoline prices, in the capital Tehran, November 16, 2019. (AFP)

“In this one incident alone the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more,” Hook told reporters at the State Department. He did not display the video but said the actions it depicted corresponded to accounts of a brutal nationwide crackdown on the demonstrations, which started in response to gasoline price increases and rationing.

“We have seen reports of many hundreds more killed in and around Tehran,” he said. “And, as the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began.” The dead include 13- and 14-year-old children, he said.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said Iran had “killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time” and called for international pressure to be applied. “They are killing protesters. They turned off their internet system. People aren’t hearing what’s going on,” he told reporters while hosting a lunch for the ambassadors of UN Security Council members.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission at the United Nations, again disputed any casualty figures from abroad as “purely speculative and highly inaccurate.” However, Iran’s government has so far refused to release any of its own.

“Mr. Hook has already said in public that he is very pleased with the suffering of ordinary Iranians, and that the US has had arrangements in the past two years to maximize what occurred with the recent violence and damages in Iran,” Miryousefi told The Associated Press.

There was no known public video that supported Hooks’ allegation of a massacre in Mahshahr, although he said the State Department had gotten more than 32,000 responses to Pompeo’s appeal for videos and other evidence using the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is popular in Iran.

Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

Nor has there been any widely accepted claim matching Hook’s death toll of more than 1,000. Amnesty International believes at least 208 people have been killed and that the number could be higher. Iran has disputed that figure, but has refused to offer any nationwide statistics of the number of injuries, arrests or deaths from the unrest.

However, Hook’s numbers appear to match a figure put out late Wednesday by the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which has paid Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for speeches at its events in the past.

The MeK alleged late Wednesday that more than 1,000 people had been killed. It published a list of 320 people it said it had identified so far as having been killed but did not provide proof.

Iran has alleged MeK supporters and those backing exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the country’s late shah, of being behind the unrest alongside foreign powers. It has not offered evidence to support those allegations.

In addition to the deaths, Hook said more than 7,000 protesters had been detained, with many sent to two prisons. Hook said that Pompeo had notified Congress on Thursday that both prisons would be hit with US sanctions for gross human rights abuses. It was not immediately clear when those designations would occur.

Hook’s comments come as the US steps up its “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran that it began after withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year. That campaign has been highlighted by the imposition of increasingly tough sanctions and an increase in rhetoric critical of Tehran and its leadership.

As part of the pressure campaign, Hook announced that the US is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the whereabouts of a top IRGC commander now believed to be supporting rebels in Yemen. He said Abdul Reza Shahalai was responsible for numerous attacks against US forces in Iraq and had been behind a foiled plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington restaurant.

JTA contributed to this report.

 

Iran reinforces Bushehr, Abu Musa, as Netanyahu & Pompeo talk in Lisbon – DEBKAfile

December 6, 2019

Source: Iran reinforces Bushehr, Abu Musa, as Netanyahu & Pompeo talk in Lisbon – DEBKAfile

Iran has poured reinforcements armed with missiles and air defense weapons into Bushehr on its central Gulf shore and the offshore island of Abu Musa, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.  In Lisbon, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday, Dec. 4, discussed the threats coming from Iran, as US officials reported increasing intelligence of potential Iranian aggression.

Addressing reporters, Pompeo hailed US-Israeli bipartisan relationship against Iran’s “destabilizing influence in the region,” while Netanyahu noted: “Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak. We are actively engaged in encountering that aggression,” he said.
As they spoke, unidentified aircraft struck a large Iranian weapons depot and base holding forces of the Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods, Iraqi militias and Hizballah, near the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Abu Kamal. The nearby border crossing serves Tehran as a land corridor for transporting advanced weapons to Hizballah and other allies. Foreign sources report that this base has been repeatedly attacked by Israel in the past.

Our military sources note it just so happens that whenever the Israeli prime minister and US Secretary of State get together, an Iranian military target is usually attacked either before, during or after their meeting.
Another of Iran’s arms routes to its proxies ran into trouble on Wednesday, when a US Navy destroyer for the first time intercepted a stateless ship in the Gulf of Oman found to be carrying a “significant amount of advanced missile components,” evidently being smuggled from Iran to the Yemeni Houthi insurgents. Tehran halted those consignments some months ago, our sources reported; this incident indicates they have been resumed.

At the same time, DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose Iran is heavily ramping up its military strength at Bushehr on its Gulf coast, including a large supply of ballistic missiles – in apparent expectation of an American attack or counterattack. Last week, the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group entered the Gulf from the Arabian Sea and docked at Bahrain opposite central Iran.
Also reinforced in the last few days is the strategic Iranian island of Abu Musa, the site of a large IRGC military command post. This island is situated opposite the United Arab Emirates and the Strait of Hormuz. The reinforcements had come with large array of missiles, including sea-to-sea, surface and air defense batteries.

US intelligence officials also refer to “a possible Iranian arsenal” in Iraq (as DEBKAfile has more than once reported).  It was said to contain short-range missiles with a range of nearly 1,000km, close enough to reach Israel from Baghdad’s outskirts.

US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said on Wednesday that there are indications that Iranian “aggression” could take place in the future amid “aggravating relations between Tehran and Washington.” Other US officials spoke of “consistent intelligence in several weeks” indicating a possible Iranian threat against US forces and interests in the Middle East. They referred to movements of Iranian troops and weapons that “could be put in place for a potential attack if ordered by the regime.”

 

Israel reportedly strikes IRGC weapons cache in Syria – TV7 Israel News 05.12.19 

December 6, 2019