Raeisi: Gov’t efforts aimed at promoting interactions with world
Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi said since taking office in August, his administration has focused efforts on increasing interactions with the world, particularly the neighboring states.
Raeisi made the remark in a Friday meeting with senior Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Javadi Amoli in the northern province of Qom, stressing the need to improve Iran’s international relations, IRNA reported.
Commenting on his administration’s efforts to improve the country’s economic conditions, the president said all national capacities are required to be used to reduce people’s livelihood problems.
He added over the past few months, his administration has managed to increase exports to neighbors by up to 40 percent.
Raeisi said neighboring states are interested in importing Iranian agricultural and industrial products.
Turning to the widespread public vaccination against COVID-19 in the country, the president noted when his administration took office, average daily fatalities stood at 700; whereas at present, the situation has become much more favorable.
Raeisi added following the improvement of the country’s COVID-19 situation, schools and universities managed to resume providing in-person education.
Budget deficit elimination
Speaking in a meeting with another senior Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, on the same day, Raeisi said eliminating the budget deficit is among the administration’s main concerns.
He added unlike the former administration under ex-president Hassan Rouhani, the present one does not borrow from the Central Bank of Iran, noting that the government is fighting on two fronts: Minimizing the negative impacts of U.S. sanctions and lifting them.
Through making maximum use of the country’s capacities, the president said, it would be possible to achieve an economic growth of eight percent.
Commenting on Qom’s special status in the Muslim world, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi said launching the city’s airport is among the necessities given that Qom belongs to all Muslims across the globe, is home to Hazrat Masoumeh’s (PBUH) holy shrine, the Holy Mosque of Jamkaran and Islamic Seminary and millions of people travel to it annually.
Calling for reforming the country’s banking system, he added people are not satisfied with domestic banks.
Citing abusing imports by some people and smuggling as the root causes of soaring prices in the domestic market, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi insisted that such problems are required to be resolved completely.
Raeisi arrived in Qom on Thursday as part of his regular provincial visits. The trip to Qom was the president’s 13th provincial visit.
Soleimani a true hero in fight against arrogant powers
By Sadeq Dehqan
When the American president authorized the assassination of Iran’s top commander, he might have thought that it would eliminate a powerful enemy from the scene of regional, or even global, conflicts. He might have hoped that what General Qassem Soleimani achieved would go away his untimely death. Only if he knew better.
“He serves as a role model for our youth in fighting the arrogant powers,” said Isa Hosseini Mazari, the cleric in charge of Tebyan Social and Cultural Center in Afghanistan as well as Afghan Voice Agency (AVA), in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily. “His influence has indeed been very deep on our youth.”
Soleimani’s name may immediately evoke images of his presence in battlefields of Syria and Iraq, fighting to push back Daesh. However, he has rendered many significant services to Afghanistan as well, dating back a long time ago. “No one could match the services General Soleimani offered to Afghan governments and people during almost three decades,” said Mazari in the interview, explaining the roles played by the late commander to restore peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
As much as his combat service in battlefields west of Iran is covered, his presence in Afghanistan is largely underappreciated. Could you please explain about Martyr Soleimani’s contribution to Afghanistan?
Before being appointed as the commander of Quds Force, Martyr Soleimani served along the Afghan Mujahedin as a ranking official of the Quds Force. After the victory of Afghan people and Mujahedin in Kabul, he had the back of Mujahedin’s government, helping Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud put their affairs in order.
And that continued until the collapse of Mujahedin government.
To the best of my knowledge, General Soleimani was in Kabul one day before Mujahedin’s government collapsed. Even Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Islamic government of Mujahedin withdrew to Panjshir upon consultation and in coordination with General Soleimani. He was also beside Ahmad Shah Massoud and other leaders of the resistance when they announced their official positioning in Panjshir. In fact, General Soleimani played a fundamental role in the resistance’s establishment, survival, and ultimate victory.
How was the situation in Afghanistan when General Soleimani stepped into the battlefield?
Afghanistan was in a very difficult situation and bad shape in that period of time. Without his presence in Afghanistan and Iran’s provision of political and economic assistance, the resistance front would have failed to win the war against Taliban, in which case they would have taken over Afghanistan with their brutal mentality and violent behavior, ultimately adopting policies which would have been in favor of Saudi Arabia and the United States. However, General Soleimani pursued tactics which allowed the resistance to succeed.
What about after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan?
General Soleimani did not spare any effort to help the Afghan government even when it was run by Western puppets such as Hamid Karzai and later Ashraf Ghani. He sincerely believed that security in Afghanistan can only be established by the incumbent governments.
Did General Soleimani personally take part in operations during the war against Taliban or he just played an advisory role?
General Soleimani was actively present when the resistance against Taliban started in various areas, especially in Panjshir. For example, he attended operations in Balkhab district, which is a mountainous, remote, often snow-covered area in northern Afghanistan.
Tell us about his views on Taliban over the years.
General Soleimani did not approve of Taliban’s policies in 1990s when they had Afghanistan in their control for five years. So, he stood beside the resistance against Taliban. Taliban’s position, however, changed as it managed to have some sort of engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which led to a change in General Soleimani’s stance toward them.
So the change in the tide is nothing new.
It is not. In fact, the change in the Islamic Republic’s approach toward Taliban started when General Soleimani was actively present in Afghanistan.
The actions of General Soleimani in defending the Afghan people had not been covered until few years ago. What was the reason of that media blackout?
I think it has had more to do with the Iranian side. Even if you can now find references to his services in Afghanistan, it’s because people like me started talking about it. Last year, for example, on the occasion of his anniversary, we invited knowledgeable people to give speeches about his services in Afghanistan but it was not welcomed in Iran. It’s only fair to emphasize that no one could match the services General Soleimani offered to Afghan governments and people during almost three decades, including the time when Mujahedin were in power, then during five years of resistance, and after Taliban took over the country for the first time.
My impression of your explanation is that it has been mostly direct help offered to various Afghan groups and figures on the ground.
His help was not limited to that. General Soleimani had even direct impact on negotiations carried out within the framework of the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in 2001, after the collapse of Taliban. According to some Iranian officials, he managed to remotely guide the talks through phone calls. He also played a significant role in political, cultural, and even economic fields in Afghanistan, especially in terms of the reconstruction efforts in the country. For example, he personally followed through the construction of Islam Qala-Herat road.
How do the people of Afghanistan see General Soleimani?
They know General Soleimani for the countless services he rendered to their country. Perhaps more importantly, they consider him to be a true hero of the fight against global tyranny of the arrogant. In that fight, he helped the downtrodden throughout his life across the globe. He serves as a role model for our youth in fighting the arrogant powers, in directing the Islamic societies, and in living a decent personal life.
As a Muslim cleric, how do you see him?
In my opinion, General Soleimani has been the greatest figure of resistance in the Muslim world. He was an exemplary Muslim. Complying with measures of religious life, he made strides to be active in as many fields of social life as possible, effectively serving as a cultural ambassador of the Islamic Revolution. In strictly religious terms, he was a noteworthy believer in all three foundational aspects of a religious life, namely embracing true convictions, observing personal and ritual practices, and following a moral life.
You pointed to General Soleimani’s influence on the Afghan youth. How was this influence formed?
His influence has indeed been very deep, beyond temporal or spatial limits. In that spirit, he not only influenced the youth who managed to have an appreciation of his character by physically fighting beside him, but also those who were only remotely connected to him, studying his character from afar. In my opinion, the young people who are now fighting against injustice in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and even Afghanistan, they all are inspired by him.
I’m also curious to learn about the nature of his influence on the Afghan youth.
Informed and inspired by his ethics of life, the policies he adopted, and the personal character he demonstrated over more than two decades, Afghan freedom fighters have grown undeterred by the presence of 150,000 US troops in their country. Just four years ago, on the occasion of the Quds Day, people held rallies in Kabul to show solidarity with Palestinians, setting fire to the effigies of the US officials, in a country which was formally and effectively occupied by the US. Such courage has much owing to him.
How do you assess the approach of the Quds Force to Afghanistan under its new commander Esmaeil Qa’ani?
The current approach of the Quds Force is very smart and in line with the interests of the Afghan people. Toward the end of Ashraf Ghani’s government, one could see the formation of resistance fronts. The Islamic Republic certainly, and quite naturally, provided the resistance front with assistance. It should be noted, however, that neither us nor the Islamic Republic of Iran found what happened to Panjshir Front after Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in the interests of the Afghan people.
That said, a new resistance front did not emerge in Afghanistan. Due principally to the policies of the Quds Force and the Islamic Republic’s engagement with Taliban, the group took a much more positive and flexible attitude, to the extent that it followed a more benign path in its dealings with its opposition forces, including the Shia Muslims.
That apparent change of attitude in Taliban, then, has something to do with Iran’s policies?
We can’t help but notice the significant effect which the policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran have had on Taliban. A sort of engagement with Taliban is initiated by Iran while emphasizing that an all-inclusive government should be established in Afghanistan through which all Afghan people, all its ethnic and religious groups, could see themselves contributing to their collective path toward security, stability, and reconstruction. Today, the Quds Force encourages the forces which move toward improving stability and paving the way for reconstruction.
Do you know of any plans in Afghanistan to hold ceremonies in commemoration Martyr Soleimani on the occasion of the anniversary of his assassination and martyrdom?
Ashraf Ghani ran a hireling government which depended on the West and acted quite tyrannically. He used to do whatever that pleased the United States. So, last year plans to honor the martyrdom of General Soleimani ran into problems. But now, the stage is ready and there will be no problem this year.
Does your center have specific plans for the occasion?
Tebyan Cultural Center has planned to hold ceremonies in various cities both across Afghanistan – especially in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Bamyan – and in other countries – most notably in Iranian cities of Mashhad, Tehran, and Qom – to commemorate Martyr Soleimani. Afghan Voice Agency has also extensive plans to remind and honor two top martyrs of the assassination, General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iran: Current US gov’t also responsible for Gen. Soleimani’s assassination
Tehran vows to bring all perpetrators to justice
Iran said on Friday the current US administration is also “responsible” for the assassination of revered commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike carried out two years ago under former president Donald Trump.
“Undoubtedly, the criminal act of the United States in martyring General Soleimani is a clear manifestation of a ‘terrorist attack’ that was orchestrated and carried out in an organized manner by the then US government for which the White House is now responsible,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement referring to US President Joe Biden’s administration as the country began ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the attack.
Trump sent shockwaves through the region on January 3, 2020 with the targeted killing of General Soleimani, who was the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
He was assassinated along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, in a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport ordered by Trump.
Five days later, Iran fired a volley of ballistic missiles at American forces based in Iraq in an attack described by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution as “just a slap” in the face of the US. Washington said dozens of troops suffered traumatic brain injuries from the explosions.
“The US government bears ‘definitive international responsibility’ for this crime,” the ministry said, adding that “all the agents, instigators, contributors and perpetrators of this terrorist crime are responsible”.
The statement noted Iran has taken numerous measures to hold all individuals and entities involved accountable before courts and “will continue on this path until the final result is achieved”.
The ministry hailed General Soleimani as a “hero of the fight against terrorism” who helped establish peace and stability in the region and beyond.
“The martyrdom of General Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their great companions, not only did not diminish the capacity of the Axis of Resistance, but on the one hand imbued the domestic environment of Iran with national cohesion and unity, and on the other hand further highlighted the strategy and discourse of the Resistance,” added the statement.
The top commander played a pivotal role in taking out the Daesh terror group that overran parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The move by then US officials to publicly assassinate General Soleimani “is in itself a message of support for terrorist groups that explicitly exposes the lies of counterterrorism claimants,” the Iranian ministry said.
Iran launces satellite with three research devices into space
Iran has launched a rocket with a satellite carrier to send three research devices into space, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
“The Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite launcher carried three research payloads into space,” Seyyed Ahmad Hosseini, the ministry’s spokesman for its space division said.
“In this space research mission, for the first time, three research devices were launched simultaneously at an altitude of 470 kilometers and at a speed of 7,350 meters per second,” he added.
National TV showed footage of the firing of the launch vehicle from the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran at dawn.
He said the space center’s components performed flawlessly and the stages of the satellite carrier’s launch took place according to plans.
“The research goals foreseen for this launch have been achieved,” Hosseini told national TV.
He noted that the launch was done as preliminary. “God willing, we will have an operational launch soon.”
“The payloads were subsystems of satellites that were tested in vacuum conditions and high altitude as well as high acceleration and speed and the data was gathered,” the official added.
The spokesman said that Iran aims to become one of the six countries that can launch satellites into the GEO (geostationary) orbit.”
“By developing our capacity to launch satellites, in the near future satellites with a wide range of applications... will be placed into orbit,” Hosseini said.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Issa Zarepour expressed hoped that “lessons learned from this research launch will pave the way for operational access to satellite clusters launch technology”.
US, Germany reactions
A US State Department spokesperson said Washington was aware of reports on the launch, claiming that such launches defy a UN Security Council resolution enshrining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“The United States remains concerned with Iran’s development of space launch vehicles, which pose a significant proliferation concern,” the spokesperson said, Reuters reported.
Germany also urged Iran to stop sending satellite launch rockets into space.
“We call on Iran to refrain from further ballistic missile launches, including satellite launchers, and to comply with its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” a German diplomat said.
Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only, and does not breach the nuclear deal or any other international agreement.
Resolution 2231 adopted on July 20, 2015 to endorse the nuclear deal states that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology”.
Iran says nothing in the resolution bans the country from its defensive missile activities and that its missiles have not be designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Iran has also made it clear that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature as repeated reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified Tehran’s full compliance with the 2015 deal.
Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and its Rasad (Observation) satellite was sent into orbit in 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite, Navid (Good News), into orbit.
In April 2020, Iran announced the successful launch of its first military satellite into orbit.
Good progress made in Vienna on sanctions removal, verification: Iran
Iran’s top negotiator said on Thursday that good progress has been made during the latest round of talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with regard to the removal of sanctions and subsequent verification of sanctions removal.
“The issue of sanctions removal was the main focus of the talks. Iran and the other side continued their negotiations on multiple issues, including a number of sessions on the verification of sanctions removal,” Ali Baqeri Kani told reporters on Thursday before leaving the Austrian capital for Tehran after the negotiators adjourned for a few days on the occasion of the New Year holidays, Press TV reported.
He added that Iran held separate sessions on the issue of verification with Enrique Mora, the European Union’s political director who coordinates the Vienna talks, and negotiators of the three European signatories to the deal – France, Germany and Britain.
“There was also some exchange between the two sides on the issue of sanctions removal. Good progress was made during the first days of the eighth round,” Baqeri Kani added.
Iran’s top negotiator also expressed hope that after a few days of recess over the end-of-year holidays, more serious work would be pursued on the issue of sanctions removal by the other parties.
“We hope more serious work gets underway on the issue of sanctions removal once the delegations return to negotiations after the New Year holidays,” he noted.
Iran and the P4+1 group of countries, including Russia and China, on Monday started the eighth round of the Vienna talks focused on the removal of all sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic after the United States in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Russia: Agreement possible
in first half of February
The Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna also talked to reporters following the conclusion of talks on Thursday, saying that in his opinion an agreement could be clinched by participants in the Vienna talks before the end of February 2022.
“I believe it is doable to achieve an agreement in first half of February; maybe a little bit earlier or later. Nobody can say precisely and accurately…. The most important thing is that we observe steady progress. It’s difficult but we move ahead,” Mikhail Ulyanov said.
The Russian diplomat added in a post on his twitter account that the eighth round of negotiations will resume on January 3.
“Informal consultations still continue within the framework of the #ViennaTalks. But time has come to take a New Year break. The 8th (not the 9th) round of negotiations on restoration of #JCPOA will resume on Monday, January 3,” Ulyanov tweeted.
Also on Thursday, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied reports that the Iranian delegation is stalling the Vienna talks.
Speaking at a weekly briefing, Maria Zakharova said Russia sees no reasons to accuse Iran of stalling the Vienna talks.
“We don’t see any reasons to assert that the Iranian side is stalling this process,” the Russian diplomat said, adding, “Actually, as Tehran has repeatedly stated, this is not in its interests because, while the JCPOA is stuck, illegitimate American sanctions continue to be in effect.”
She noted that Washington “has already regretted several times the fatal decision by the previous administration to end the nuclear deal with Iran” when the US unilaterally “simply ran away” from the JCPOA.
“It is always more difficult to restore than to destroy,” the Russian spokesman said, adding, “Washington has to tangibly support with concrete steps its numerous promises to return to the JCPOA.”
“It is obvious that the position of a violator of the UN Security Council resolution creates more and more discomfort for the Americans. On our part, we are doing everything necessary in order to help rectify the situation and we hope that intensive negotiating efforts at the Vienna venue will continue despite the counteraction of the opponents of the nuclear deal.”
“We proceed from the premise that there is no alternative to the JCPOA,” Zakharova said, adding, “We are confident that its full implementation will have a favorable impact on the political climate in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf region and, of course, will facilitate a decrease in tensions and the strengthening of trust in the region.”
Putin tells Biden new sanctions over Ukraine could rupture ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his US counterpart Joe Biden that imposing new sanctions over Ukraine could lead to a complete breakdown in relations.
In a phone call late on Thursday, Putin said such sanctions would be a “colossal mistake”.
Biden, meanwhile, told Putin that the US and its allies would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine, BBC reported.
The call, requested by Russia, was the pair’s second such conversation this month and lasted for almost an hour. It marked the latest effort to defuse tensions over Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, where Ukrainian officials say more than 100,000 Russian troops have been sent.
The build-up has prompted concern in the West, with the US threatening Putin with sanctions “like none he’s ever seen” if Ukraine comes under attack.
Russia, however, denies it is planning to invade the country and says the troops are there for exercises. Moscow says it is entitled to move its troops freely on its own soil.
Although the two sides exchanged warnings during the call, Russian foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters shortly after that Putin was “pleased” with the conversation.
He added that it had created a “good backdrop” for future talks.
A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tone had been “serious and substantive”.
“President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
“He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” she added.
US and Russian officials are set to meet for in-person talks in Geneva next month, and the White House said Biden urged his Russian counterpart to pursue a diplomatic solution.
In a holiday message before Thursday’s call, Putin told Biden he was “convinced” the pair could work together based on “mutual respect and consideration of each other’s national interests”.
His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow was “in the mood for a conversation”.
“We believe that only through talks it is possible to solve all the immediate problems that we have in abundance between us,” Peskov added.