Tehran, Jan 13 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Iran's Foreign Ministry denied that Tehran considers withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear deal, Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday.
The Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi strongly denied recent "rumors" inside the country about the country's plan to pull out of the landmark deal as "untrue."
It seems that certain groups are "systematically" fomenting mental chaos in the society and disrupting the market to favor the profiteers, Qasemi was quoted as saying.
"They are attempting to spread biased and false news to create negative psychological atmosphere in the market," he said, adding that any decision about the nuclear deal comes within the purview of the Iranian high council monitoring the accord.
Qasemi also ruled out any disagreement between the Iranian foreign minister and President Hassan Rouhani over the ongoing political affairs of the Islamic republic.
He dismissed the idea that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is going to resign or that there is a division between the foreign ministry and the administration, saying that "certain elements inside the country are insanely spreading false news to weaken the foreign ministry and its hardworking personnel."
Iran has stressed that the country will remain in the nuclear deal as long as the nuclear deal serves its interests.
Washington, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. military said Friday it has started pulling equipment, but not troops, out of Syria as a first step in meeting President Donald Trump's demand for a complete military withdrawal. The announcement fueled concern about how quickly the U.S. will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by administration officials on an exit timetable.
The withdrawal began with shipments of military equipment, U.S. defense officials said. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart even as the White House vows to keep pressure on the Islamic State group. Once the troops are gone, the U.S. will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the IS group a lasting defeat.
Uncertainty over the timing and terms of the Syria pullout have raised questions about the Trump administration's broader strategy for fighting Islamic extremism, including Trump's stated intention to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan this summer.
U.S. airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.
The U.S. military has a limited network of bases inside Syria. Troops work mostly out of small camps in remote parts of the country's northeast. Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group. Al-Tanf is on a vital road linking Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon — and Israel's doorstep.
Trump's decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked U.S. allies and angered the Kurds in Syria, who are vulnerable to attack by Turkey. It also prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a "betrayal of our Kurdish partners."
The U.S. military command in Baghdad, which is managing the counter-IS campaign in Iraq and Syria, said Friday that it "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," adding that, for security reasons, it would not reveal timetables, locations or troop movements. Other U.S. officials later made clear that the pullout did not yet include troops.
The withdrawal plan, whose details are classified, includes bringing hundreds of additional troops into Syria temporarily to facilitate the pullout. These include troops to provide extra security for those who are preparing to leave. The full withdrawal is expected to take several months.
The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship is now in the region and could provide troops and equipment to support the withdrawal.
U.S. troops are still working with a partner known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to stamp out the last IS holdouts in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border. Trump has asserted that the IS group in Syria is defeated, but others have said a continued U.S. military presence is necessary to prevent a resurgence of the group. Two weeks before Trump announced he was ordering a pullout, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. still had a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to stabilize areas ridden of the IS group. He said it would take 35,000 to 40,000 local forces in northeastern Syria to maintain security, but only about 20 percent had been trained.
Another complication is the fate of hundreds of foreign IS fighters being held in Syria. The U.S. doesn't want these prisoners to be released once U.S. forces are gone, since they could rejoin the militant cause in Syria or elsewhere.
There has been confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order amid threats from Turkey to attack the Kurdish fighters, who are seen by Ankara as terrorists because of their ties to insurgents within Turkey.
On a visit to Turkish troops stationed near the Syrian border Friday, Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, reiterated that Ankara is "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists and said military preparations were ongoing.
"When the time and place comes, the terrorists here will also be buried in the ditches and trenches they have dug," he said.
Earlier this week, Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until the IS group is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signaling a slowdown in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.
In Cairo on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that although Trump has decided to bring troops home, he will keep up the fight against the IS group more broadly.
"Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over," Pompeo said.
The distinctive feature of the U.S. military campaign in Syria is its partnership with the Kurds and Arabs who were willing to act as American proxies by fighting the Islamic State group without U.S. troops having to take the lead combat role. U.S. forces took a similar approach in neighboring Iraq, starting in 2014, but in that case, they had a willing partner in the Iraqi government, whereas in Syria, the U.S. is present without the blessing of President Bashar Assad.
Syria also is complicated by the presence of Russian troops who are, in effect, propping up the Assad government, and by Iranian support for Assad. American and Russian warplanes have shared the skies over Syria, carrying out separate— and in some cases, conflicting — missions against the IS group and other targets.
The U.S. has about 5,200 troops in Iraq to assist its security forces, and Trump has given no indication he intends to withdraw them any time soon. He has, however, asserted that the U.S. must bring an end to the Mideast wars that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He has questioned the wisdom of continuing the 17-year war in Afghanistan and recently demanded that about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops there be sent home.
Tehran, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Iran's president said Thursday the Islamic Republic soon will send two new satellites into orbit using Iran-made rockets, despite U.S. concern the launch could help further develop its ballistic missiles.
President Hassan Rouhani's comments, during a commemoration for the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, confirmed the rocket launches would take place.
Iran typically displays achievements in its space program in February, during the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution, which saw the Persian monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi replaced by the Islamic Republic overseen by a Shiite cleric.
"Soon, in the coming weeks, we will send two satellites into space using our domestically-made rockets," Rouhani said, without elaborating.
Previously, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The U.S. and its allies worry the same satellite-launching technology could be used to develop long-range missiles.
Last week Iran said country's three new satellites have successfully passed pre-launch tests.
Earlier in January, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country's defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran insists the launches do not violate the resolution.
Meanwhile Thursday, Iran began an annual air drill in central parts of the country.
The state-run IRNA news agency said dozens of fighter jets, bombers and transportation planes are taking part in the 2-day maneuver. It said beside U.S.-made F-14, F-5 and F-4 fighter jets of the shah's era, the Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jet as well as the Iranian -made Saegheh fighter will participate in the annual war game.
Drones, laser-guided rockets and heavy smart bombs also will be used, said Gen. Amir Angizeh, the maneuver's spokesman.
Pompeo is currently touring the Mideast to promote the White House's tough stance on Iran and to assure America's Arab allies that the Trump administration is not walking away from the region.
On Wednesday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Washington officials "first-class idiots" in unusually harsh remarks that reflect the broader tension between Iran and the U.S. after President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Sanaa, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — A bomb-laden drone flown by Yemen's Houthi rebels flew into a military parade on Thursday outside of the southern port city of Aden, killing at least six troops from a Saudi-led coalition and their allies in a brazen attack threatening U.N.-brokered peace efforts to end the yearslong war tearing at the Arab world's poorest nation.
The attack at the Al-Anad Air Base, where American special forces once led their fight against Yemen's al-Qaida branch, targeted high-ranking military officials in Yemen's internationally recognized government.
The attack also raised new questions about Iran's alleged role in arming the Houthis with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the weapons to the Islamic Republic.
"Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces in order for deployment and reinforcements," said Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani, who said two senior military officials were wounded in the attack.
"This is time for the international community to stand by the legitimate government and force the militias to give up their weapons and pull out of the cities," he added.
The Houthis immediately claimed the attack through their al-Masirah satellite news channel, saying the attack targeted "invaders and mercenaries" at the base in the southern province of Lahj, leaving "dozens of dead and wounded."
Yemeni officials said that among the wounded were Mohammad Saleh Tamah, head of Yemen's Intelligence Service, senior military commander Mohammad Jawas, and Lahj governor Ahmed al-Turki, adding that authorities were still searching for wounded among the rubble. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Local reporter Nabil al-Qaiti was attending the ceremony and standing in front of the stage when he saw a drone approach and hover nearby about 25 meters (yards) high in the air, minutes after the parade started. Army spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib was delivering a speech from a podium when the drone exploded.
"It was a very strong explosion and we could feel the pressure," he said, adding that two of the people standing next to him — a soldier and a journalist— were wounded. Al-Qaiti saw many wounded but no dead.
"The drone was packed with explosives," he added.
Some 8,000 soldiers had been taking part in the parade, as well as two governors and a large number of top military commanders including the chief of staff. Initial reports said six troops were killed.
Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 when the rebels captured Sanaa, and the Saudi-led coalition intervened a year later when they pushed further south. The coalition, which is fighting alongside government troops, has since been trying to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government to power.
Hopes were raised last month that the country was moving toward peace, after the two sides agreed to a prisoner swap and cease-fire in the port city of Hodeida, where rival forces were to withdraw to allow humanitarian aid flows to return and hopefully relieve a country pushed to the brink of famine by war.
Fighting has largely abated in Hodeida but progress on the withdrawal has been slow. The U.N. humanitarian aid chief Wednesday accused the rebels of blocking humanitarian supplies traveling from areas under their control to government-held areas. Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that the rebels also recently informed humanitarian agencies that 72 hours' notice is required ahead of any movements instead of 48 hours.
Officials in the Saudi-led coalition have shown journalists a series of drones they said showed a growing sophistication by the Houthis, starting first with plastic foam models that could be built by hobby kit to one captured in April that closely resembled an Iranian-made drone.
Those drones have in the past been flown into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia's Patriot missile batteries, according to the research group Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.
Iran has been accused by the U.S. and the U.N. of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthis, something Tehran denies.
Arab satellite channels owned by Saudi Arabia immediately began describing the drone used in Thursday's attack as Iranian made, without offering evidence. However, a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen issued a report in 2018 noting that the Houthi's Qasef-1 drone "is virtually identical in design, dimensions and capability to that of the Ababil-T, manufactured by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries."
"At least two components of the system were supplied to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the implementation of the targeted arms embargo" in April 2015, the panel said.
The Ababil-T can deliver up to a 45-kilogram (100-pound) warhead up to 150 kilometers (95 miles) away.
Such drones also remain difficult to shoot down with either light or heavy weapons fire. Iraqi forces learned while driving out the Islamic State group from northern Iraq, where the extremists would load drones with grenades or simple explosives to target their forces.
Tehran, Jan 9 (AP/UNB)— Iran's supreme leader on Wednesday called U.S. officials "first-class idiots," mocking American leaders as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured the Mideast to promote the White House's tough stance on Iran.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments were unusually harsh, reflecting the broader tension between Iran and the United States after President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Khamenei, speaking to a group from Iran's religious capital of Qom, made the remark while recounting a story about a U.S. official once predicting he'd celebrate Christmas in Iran.
"Some U.S. officials pretend that they are mad," Khamenei said. "Of course I don't agree with that, but they are first-class idiots."
The supreme leader did not name the official. However, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton told a meeting of the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq last March that "before 2019, we here ... will celebrate in Iran." Trump's personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has made similar comments before the MEK over the years.
Iran's supreme leader, viewed by Shiite hard-liners as second only to God, typically doesn't make such forceful remarks. However, Trump's decision last year to withdraw from the nuclear deal has seen the 79-year-old cleric grow increasingly critical.
In 2017, Khamenei dismissed remarks by Trump calling Iran a "terrorist" nation as "idiotic." Last May, after Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, Khamenei told Trump in a speech: "You cannot do a damn thing!"
"The body of this man, Trump, will turn to ashes and become the food of the worms and ants, while the Islamic Republic continues to stand," Khamenei said at the time.
Khamenei's comments Wednesday came as Pompeo visited Iraq. On Tuesday, the U.S. top diplomat threatened that America would double down on commercial and diplomatic efforts in the coming weeks to "put real pressure on Iran."
Khamenei's remarks to Qom residents were meant to mark the anniversary of religious riots in 1978 that challenged Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. They would spiral into the nationwide demonstration that saw the shah leave Iran and give rise to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranians will commemorate the revolution's 40th anniversary in February.