Archive for January 12, 2020

U.S. Forces Followed Soleimani On Road During Airstrike, Reveal What They Found On Him

January 12, 2020

Source: U.S. Forces Followed Soleimani On Road During Airstrike, Reveal What They Found On Him | The Daily Wire
Screenshot: Fox News

U.S. Special Operations forces were only a few hundred yards behind Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qasem Soleimani last week when an American Reaper drone shot a hellfire missile at his vehicle, killing him, as he and others left Baghdad International Airport.

The Army Special Operations soldiers arrived on scene moments after the drone strike eliminated one of the world’s most notorious terrorists to collect a “bomb damage assessment.”

Soleimani’s body was on fire, grossly disfigured, and missing limbs, according to Leland Vittert of Fox News.

“The source told Fox News that U.S. forces dragged Soleimani’s body away from the scene and extinguished the fire before formally identifying the Iranian general,” Fox News reported. “They took photos of his possessions, which included books of poetry and wads of cash. He was also carrying a pistol and an assault rifle.”

“Under normal circumstances, Soleimani’s phone and other electronics would be taken away for forensic analysis. However, the missile strike and ensuing fire made such an investigation impossible,” Fox News added.

A source who saw the photos and who served in Iraq told Fox News that Soleimani died the same way that many U.S. soldiers died in Iraq who were killed by IEDs that came from Soleimani.


The U.S. State Department released the following fact sheet on Soleimani following his death:

  • Since 1998, Qassem Soleimani commanded Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the terror arm of the Iranian regime. The IRGC-QF is tasked with planning and executing terror and military operations outside Iran’s borders. Under Soleimani’s command, the IRGC-QF has fueled destabilizing sectarian conflicts throughout the Middle East for decades.
  • The IRGC-QF continues to wage an illegal campaign of terrorism, assassinations, and violence. At Soleimani’s direction and with his oversight and guidance, the IRGC-QF has planned and conducted terrorist attacks across six continents and inside the United States.
  • The United States designated IRGC-QF a Foreign Terrorist Organization for its activities, and the United States designated Soleimani as a Specially-Designated Global Terrorist.
  • As the leader of the IRGC-QF, Qassem Soleimani was directly responsible for arming, funding, and training proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Operations carried out by these proxy groups have led to the death and suffering of tens of thousands, including many hundreds of Americans. These proxies routinely target and kill civilians, intensify sectarian conflicts, and prolong the suffering of innocent men, women, and children.
  • Soleimani personally directed and provided arms to militias in Iraq for more than a decade. These militias undermine the sovereignty of the Iraqi state, threaten the legitimacy of Iraq’s security forces, and target American citizens and forces. With Soleimani’s support and lethal assistance, proxies of the IRGC-QF targeted and killed over 600 Americans between 2003 and 2011.
  • We can confirm that in the past several days, General Soleimani had been traveling in the Middle East coordinating further imminent large-scale attacks against U.S. diplomats and service members. These threats were highly credible and the intelligence is sound. General Soleimani’s travel also violated the ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
  • Recent orders given by General Soleimani dramatically escalated Iran’s campaign of violence and terrorism against Americans and American interests in the Middle East. He orchestrated a series of attacks against American forces in Iraq in the past several months, culminating in the rocket attack on December 27, 2019, which resulted in the death of an American citizen, wounded four American service members, and threatened the lives of many more American personnel. General Soleimani also ordered the assault on the American Embassy in Baghdad. General Soleimani continued to command Iranian supported proxies in Iraq, which posed an escalating threat to the lives of Americans.
  • For his actions, Soleimani had been designated and sanctioned by the United Nations, European Union, and United States and is banned from international travel by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. In defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions, however, Soleimani continued to travel to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon directing and coordinating lethal actions that pose a threat to regional peace and security.
  • Some key international and United States designations of Soleimani include:
    • Designated a Tier I terrorist as part of the Department of State designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019.
    • Designated under U.S. Executive Order 13224 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2011.
    • Designated under U.S. EO 13572 for human rights abuses in 2011.
    • Designated under U.S. EO 13882 for providing material support to terrorists in 2007.
    • Sanctioned by the United Nations under UNSCR 1747 for involvement in Iran’s nuclear program in 2007.
    • Designated by the European Union in EU 442/2011 for support to the Syrian regime in 2011.

Ex CIA: Iran’s Next Move & Exposing The Deep State | Bryan Dean Wright

January 12, 2020



Defense Ministry completes trials of advanced version of the Iron Dome 

January 12, 2020

Source: Defense Ministry completes trials of advanced version of the Iron Dome – The Jerusalem Post

A decade since the first successful interception test of the Iron Dome system, Israel took a step closer to defending itself against heavy missile barrages with a series of complex but successful experiments for the advanced version of the missile defense system.

The complex series of experiments were carried out by Rafael Advanced Systems and the  Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), in the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), of the Israel Ministry of Defense in the south of the country.

The tests demonstrated the capabilities of an advanced version of the Iron Dome system in a variety of scenarios that simulated the future threats that the system may confront.

“The success of the experiments is an important milestone for Israel’s operational ability to defend itself against existing and future threats in the region,”  the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The test was conducted ten years after the first test series of the Iron Dome, which was completed on January 6th, 2010.

Moshe Patel, the Director of Israel Missile Defense Organization said that “throughout the last decade, we have conducted tens of interceptions as part of a framework of tests and more than 2000 operational interceptions. The system tested most recently is an upgraded and improved version of the Iron Dome.”

According to Patel, when it will be delivered to the IDF, the Air Force (IAF) will be equipped to confront evolving threats in the region.

Rafael Executive Vice President and Head of RAFAEL’S Air and Missile Defense Division, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman said that the tests were completed with a 100 percent success rate, intercepting all threats.

“Following the test series, we can confidently say that the State of Israel is highly defended, more than ever before” he said.

The primary contractor for the development of the Iron Dome is RAFAEL. The MMR radar is developed by ELTA, a subsidiary of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and the command and control system is developed by mPrest.

After a lengthy development process, and with the financial help of the United States, the Iron Dome went into service in April 2011, with its first battery placed near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Just days later it made its first interception of a grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel. To date, the Iron Dome has successfully carried out over 2,400 interceptions.

The Iron Dome has been used during two military operations against terror groups in the Hamas-run coastal enclave and during the last year and a half of violence along the Gaza border which has spilled over to several rounds of rocket fire. Rockets fired towards Israel from war-torn Syria have also been intercepted by the system.

The Rafael-built system carries 24 pounds of explosives and can intercept an incoming projectile from four to 70 kilometers away  and is able to calculate when rockets will land in open areas, choosing not to intercept them, or towards civilian centers.

The Iron Dome, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets, is an integral component of Israel’s multi-layered defense array,

The Arrow (Arrow-2 and Arrow-3) system intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and the David’s Sling missile defense system which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km.

Israel continuously improves the technology behind the country’s anti-missile systems, and the last upgrade to the Iron Dome was in 2017 in order to expand and improve the performance capabilities of the system in the face of an unprecedented range of threats.

Since its first deployment, it has intercepted over 85 percent of projectiles fired towards Israeli civilian centers, changing the face of battle between Israel and her enemies.


Britain’s Iran envoy denies demonstrating against regime before he was arrested

January 12, 2020

Source: Britain’s Iran envoy denies demonstrating against regime before he was arrested | The Times of Israel

London expresses outrage after Rob Macaire was detained at vigil for 176 plane passengers killed by Iranian missile, says he left when anti-government chants began

Rob Macaire on 12 March 2018. (UK Government/Wikipedia/Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0)

Rob Macaire on 12 March 2018. (UK Government/Wikipedia/Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0)

TEHRAN, Iran — After he was briefly arrested, Britain’s ambassador to Tehran on Sunday denied an Iranian claim that he had taken part in a demonstration that broke out at a memorial for the 176 people killed when a plane was shot down.

Students held a gathering at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University on Saturday evening to honor those killed, hours after Iran admitted the Ukrainian airliner was downed by mistake.

Iran’s Mehr news agency said the ambassador, Rob Macaire, was arrested for his alleged “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at the gathering in front of the university.

“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” Macaire said on Twitter, adding he had been detained half an hour after leaving.

“Normal to want to pay respects — some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting,” he said.

“Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries,” he added.

Rob Macaire


Rob Macaire


Detained half an hour after leaving the area. Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries. See comments by Foreign Secretary @DominicRaab. 


Arrest of Ambassador to Iran: Foreign Secretary statement

The British Ambassador to Iran was briefly detained by Iranian authorities on 11 January.

The British government reacted with outrage, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying “The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law.”

Raab said the Iranian government was “at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab walks through Downing street in central London on September 10, 2019. (ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

Authorities in Tehran have yet to make any statements about the incident.

Iran’s armed forces said on Saturday the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 was mistakenly shot down, after denying for days Western claims it was brought down by a missile.

Police dispersed students who chanted “radical” and “destructive” slogans when the tribute to those killed in the air disaster turned into an angry demonstration, Fars news agency reported.

İran Bülteni@iranbulten

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Videos posted to social media showed demonstrators outside Tehran’s Amirkabir University chanting against the regime and urging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to resign. Calls included “Death to the dictator,” “Shame on you Khamenei, leave the country,” “Death to the liars,” and “Shame on the Revolutionary Guards, let the country go.”

چهار فصل@FourCzen

people chanting that they do not want the IRGC forces and the dictator leadership.

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A BBC reporter said chants included: “Soleimani was a murderer, his leader is too.”

Hadi Nili


Protests emerged on streets in multiple cities across Iran few hours after IRGC admitted to shooting down a commercial flight .

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The plane was shot down early Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was hurt in the attack on the US bases.

Dozens of those who died were young Iranian students traveling to their studies in Canada.

Some reports indicated that protests also spread beyond Tehran, and that some demonstrators were tearing up pictures of Soleimani.

The belated admission of responsibility raised a host of new questions, such as who authorized the strike on the plane and why Iran did not shut down its international airport or airspace when it was bracing for a US reprisal.

It also undermined the credibility of information provided by senior officials, who for three days had adamantly dismissed allegations of a missile strike as Western propaganda. Bulldozers had cleared debris from the site after the crash, in an apparent effort to cover up what had happened.

In this Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division attends a mourning ceremony for Gen. Qassem Soleimani a day after a Ukrainian plane crash, in Tehran, Iran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s acknowledgment also altered the narrative around its confrontation with the US in a way that could anger the Iranian public. Iran had promised harsh revenge after Soleimani’s death, but instead of killing American soldiers, its forces downed a civilian plane in which most passengers were Iranian and none survived.

Iranians had rallied around their leaders after the killing of Soleimani, who was seen as a national icon for building up armed groups across the region that project Iranian influence and battle the Islamic State group and other perceived enemies.

In this photo from January 8, 2020 photo, rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Hundreds of thousands had attended funeral processions across the country in a show of support for the Islamic Republic just weeks after authorities had quashed protests ignited by a hike in gasoline prices. Iran has been in the grip of a severe economic crisis since US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.

November saw mass protests held throughout the country over fuel price hikes, leading to two weeks of violence. Iran has yet to give overall figures for the number of people killed or arrested when security forces moved in to quell the unrest, which saw buildings torched and shops looted.

Human rights group Amnesty International put the number at more than 300 and news agency Reuters pegged the number of dead at around 1,500, including at least 17 teenagers and some 400 women.


Israeli intel helped US carry out strike that killed Iran’s Soleimani — report

January 12, 2020

Source: Israeli intel helped US carry out strike that killed Iran’s Soleimani — report | The Times of Israel

Information provided by Jewish state confirmed that Quds Force leader was at Baghdad airport before missile strike, NBC News reports

A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, in which Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed January 3, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, in which Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed January 3, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

Israel helped the United States in the operation that resulted in the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a US report said over the weekend.

According to an NBC News report late Friday, the Jewish state was involved in the January 3 operation, handing the Americans key intelligence details.

The information helped confirm intelligence provided by informants at a Syrian airport that Soleimani had been on a nighttime flight from Damascus to Baghdad, the report said, quoting two sources with direct knowledge of the operation and other US officials briefed on it.

After his plane landed, it was a simple matter of using drones to track him exiting the aircraft and entering a car, which was later targeted with four missiles.

Israeli media reported the day after the strike that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of time about the US plans to kill Soleimani.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Lisbon, Portugal, December 4, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Pompeo phoned Netanyahu on January 1, ostensibly to thank him for Israel’s support in efforts to combat Iran and after the attack on the US embassy in Iraq.

Before departing for Athens the following morning, Netanyahu alluded to “very, very dramatic things” happening in the region.

“We know that our region is stormy; very, very dramatic things are happening in it. We are alert and are monitoring the situation. We are in continuous contact with our great friend the US, including my conversation yesterday afternoon,” he told reporters at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Hours later, Soleimani and several top officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed in the airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport, along with an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia commander.

Netanyahu had been the only non-US leader who appeared in the know about the planned operation beforehand, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Senior Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (not seen) and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016 photo. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The Reuters news agency reported Thursday that a series of Syrian and Iraqi informants are suspected of providing the US with the information that led to Soleimani’s killing.

The suspected informants — two security employees at Baghdad airport and two workers in private Syrian airline Cham Wings — gave the intelligence about Soleimani’s secret flight from Damascus to Baghdad, the report said, quoting security officials, Baghdad airport employees and Cham Wings employees.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen significantly since the US carried out the airstrike that killed Soleimani. In the wake of the killing, the Iraqi parliament voted to press the government to expel US troops from the country and Iran announced that it will no longer abide by any of the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Last week, a former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa could be targeted to avenge Soleimani after previously alleging that Israel leaked information about Soleimani’s whereabouts to US forces.

The US launched the airstrike that killed the Iranian general after a US defense contractor was killed and several American and Iraqi troops were wounded in a rocket attack in northern Iraq which was in turn launched in retaliation for US airstrike which killed Iranian-backed militants at several sites in Syria and Iraq. Supporters of the militant group subsequently broke into the US embassy in Baghdad.


Netanyahu backs Iranian protesters after Tehran admits downing plane 

January 12, 2020

Source: Netanyahu backs Iranian protesters after Tehran admits downing plane | The Times of Israel

PM says he supports demonstrators: ‘They deserve freedom, liberty and the ability to live in security and peace, all of which the regime denies them’

(L to R) Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 12, 2020. (Tsafrir Abayov / POOL / AFP)

(L to R) Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on January 12, 2020. (Tsafrir Abayov / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised Iranian protesters demonstrating against the regime after Tehran admitted shooting down an airliner by mistake, killing all 176 people aboard.

“I note the courage of the Iranian people who are again demonstrating in the streets against this regime. They deserve freedom, liberty and the ability to live in security and peace, all of which the regime denies them,” he said in Hebrew comments at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

In English, he added, “Iran lied. Just as they lied about their secret nuclear program, they are lying now about the downing of the Ukrainian aircraft. They knew from the start that they had downed it. They knew that it was an unintentional downing, but they lied intentionally. They deceived the entire world.

“This is completely contrary to how a civilized country should act and we send our condolences to the victims of Iran’s deception and negligence,” Netanyahu said.

Iranians expressed horror after the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace division said his unit had shot down the airliner on Wednesday after mistaking it for a cruise missile. The admission followed three days of Iranian officials vociferously denied shooting down the jet, despite mounting evidence.

In response, Iranians in Tehran took to the streets Saturday night to rally against the regime. Protests were also reported in other areas. On Sunday, Iran deployed riot police in the capital expecting possible further protests.

Videos posted to social media showed police firing tear gas at demonstrators chanting against the regime and calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the prosecution of those behind the downing of the jet.

Calls included “Death to the dictator,” “Shame on you Khamenei, leave the country,” “Death to the liars,” and “Shame on the Revolutionary Guards, let the country go.”

Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒


Protest in Iranian city of Rasht. “Mercenary, get lost,” they call out to security forces

Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒


Extraordinary footage, posted by famed film director Jafar Panahi, captures confrontation between regime enforcers and students in Tehran tonight

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Netanyahu’s comments came hours after US President Donald Trump told Iranian protesters that he supported them and warned the regime against cracking down on the demonstrations.

“The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people,” Trump tweeted in English and Farsi.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” Trump added, referring to an internet blackout that blanketed the country during widespread protests in November.

Donald J. Trump


“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” Trump tweeted.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said.

Donald J. Trump


In addition to his comments supporting the protesters, Netanyahu reiterated praise of Trump after the White House announced a new wave of sanctions on Iran following the missile strikes by the Islamic Republic on US bases that came in retaliation for the US drone strike killing Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander.

“I commend President Trump for imposing new and very harsh sanctions against this regime,” Netanyahu said.

“I call on Britain, France and Germany to join the American effort. They need to go to the Security Council, and there they need to activate the sanctions that have been decided upon. I would like to reiterate: Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”


Iranian students seen refusing to trample US, Israeli flags 

January 12, 2020

Source: Iranian students seen refusing to trample US, Israeli flags | The Times of Israel

Students at an Iranian university are filmed this morning refusing to trample an American and an Israeli flag painted on the floor.

The footage is shared on social media accounts supportive of the anti-regime protests of the past two days.


دانشگاه شهید بهشتی، ۲۲دی۹۸

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Today, the crowd in an Iranian university refused to trample US and Israel flag . These IR ideologies, like forced hijab, are falling one by one.

Stepping on flags of countries despised by the Iranian regime is a common pro-regime ritual in the Islamic Republic. It is not immediately clear if the apparent refusal to do so is a sign of support for the flags or the nations they represent, or simply an act of resistance against a sign of fealty to the regime in Tehran.


Excerpt from PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at Weekly Cabinet Meeting 

January 12, 2020



IRAN-CRASH/POLITICS (ANALYSIS):ANALYSIS-Iran’s handling of plane disaster sparks new challenge to rulers

January 12, 2020

Source: ANALYSIS-Iran’s handling of plane disaster sparks new …

(Repeats for wider distribution story first issued on Jan. 11, no changes to text)

* U.S, others said plane was brought down by missile

* Revolutionary Guards belatedly admitted fired in error

* Outcry over plane disaster follows November protests

* Anger may mean more protests, low election turnout

By Parisa Hafezi and Tuqa Khalid

DUBAI, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Iran’s clerical rulers risk a legitimacy crisis as popular anger has boiled up at the way the state handled a passenger plane crash, which the military took three days to admit was caused by an Iranian missile fired in error.

Amid mounting public fury and international criticism, the belated admission of blame by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards has squandered the national unity seen after the killing of the country’s most influential commander in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3.

Huge crowds had turned out on the streets of Iranian cities to mourn Qassem Soleimani’s death, chanting “Death to America”.

But since the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed on Wednesday – an incident Canada and the United States said early on was due to an Iranian missile albeit fired by mistake – social media has been ablaze with criticism of the establishment. All 176 people on board the plane, en route from Tehran to Kiev, were killed.

That mood bodes ill for a parliamentary election in February, when Iran’s rulers typically seek a high turnout to show their legitimacy even if the outcome will not change any major policy.

But instead they are now hearing more rumblings of discontent, after anti-government protests in November in which hundreds of people died.

“It is a very sensitive time for the establishment. They face a serious credibility problem. Not only did they conceal the truth, they also mismanaged the situation,” said a senior former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran’s clerics have swept aside challenges to their grip on power. But the kind of distrust between the rulers and the ruled that erupted in protests last year may now have deepened.

“There will be a short-term blow to the regime’s credibility and this will aid the pressure on the regime from the economic and political problems it had before the latest standoff with the U.S.,” said Daniel Byman, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy.


Video clips on Twitter showed protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanting “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Reuters could not independently verify the footage. It followed a welter of criticism in Iran.

Iran’s state news agency confirmed protests had erupted.

The Guards issued an apology for shooting down the plane, saying air defences were fired in error during a state of high alert. Iran had expected U.S reprisals after it retaliated for Soleimani’s killing by firing missiles at Iraqi bases where U.S. troops were stationed.

One hardline official said the mistake should not be turned into a political weapon against the establishment and the Guards, a parallel force to the conventional army that answers directly to Khamenei and is a guardian of the theocratic system.

“Let’s avoid being so harsh. It was a sensitive time and everyone was nervous. You cannot ignore what the Guards have done to protect the nation and this country since the revolution,” the security official told Reuters.

But Khamenei, who has always cited turnout at elections as a sign of the legitimacy of the system of clerical rule, may now find Iranians are not so keen to show their support.

“Why should I vote for this regime. I don’t trust them at all. They lied to us about the plane crash. Why should I trust them when they don’t trust people enough to tell the truth?,” said Hesham Ghanbari, 27, a university student in Tehran.

The government is already struggling to keep the economy afloat under increasingly tough U.S. sanctions, imposed by Washington after it withdrew in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Vital oil exports have been slashed.


“This tragedy will not be forgotten nor is it easy to overcome for the population under sanctions and pressure not just from abroad but also from the state,” said Sanam Vakil, Senior Research Fellow at Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House.

“This incident is a stark reminder of the gaping lack of governance,” said Vakil.

The clerical system has survived more severe challenges in the past, including a crippling eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.

But its bedrock of support, the poor and lower middle classes who have most benefited from state largesse in the past, were among the first on the street in November in protests sparked by a hike in gasoline prices – a particularly sensitive issue where many rely on cheap fuel.

Protesters’ demands swiftly turned more political, including calls for their rulers to go, before authorities cracked down.


Learning that Iranian forces shot down a plane, whether by accident or not, is a further blow. Many of the passengers were dual national Iranians.

Social media was flooded with angry comments from Iranians, many complaining that the authorities had spent more time denying they were to blame for the plane crash than sympathising with victims’ families.

“It has shocked the public. Once more, the regime carelessly kills its own people,” said Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It punctures the already spurious narrative that the killing of Soleimani has united the Iranian people behind their government,” he said.

Alongside the parliamentary vote, the elections on Feb. 21 will also choose members of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that in future will be responsible for selecting a successor to 80-year-old Khamenei.

Khamenei, who has no term limit, has been in office since the death in 1989 of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Edmund Blair and Frances Kerry)