iran government


Ukraine: Recordings show Iran knew jetliner was hit by a missile

The Japan Times

KYIV – A leaked recording of an exchange between an Iranian air-traffic controller and an Iranian pilot purports to show that authorities immediately knew a missile had downed a Ukrainian jetliner after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, despite days of denials by the Islamic Republic. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged the recording's authenticity in a report aired by a Ukrainian television channel Sunday night. In Tehran on Monday, the head of the Iranian investigation team, Hassan Rezaeifar, acknowledged the recording was legitimate and said it was handed over to Ukrainian officials. After the Jan. 8 disaster, Iran's civilian government maintained for days that it didn't know the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had shot down the aircraft. The downing of the jetliner came just hours after the Guard launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for an earlier American drone strike that killed the Guard's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.


New EU foreign policy chief to make his first visit to Iran

The Japan Times

TEHRAN – The European Union's foreign affairs chief is traveling to Iran to meet with the country's leaders, the Iranian official news agency said on Sunday, amid high regional tensions. The visit is seen as the latest move by the EU to save the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have steadily risen since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has responded by gradually rolling back its commitment to the deal. Josep Borrell will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials on Monday, according to IRNA.


Ethics panel warns House members not to share fake images

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee is warning lawmakers not to share doctored images or videos that could "erode public trust, effect public discourse, or sway an election," guidance that comes during a proliferation of online misinformation in the run-up to the 2020 elections. In a memo sent to House members Tuesday, the committee said lawmakers or staffers could be found in violation of House ethics rules and subject to disciplinary proceedings for posting content intended to mislead the public. "Members have a duty, and a First Amendment right, to contribute to the public discourse," the authors of the memo wrote. "However, manipulation of images and videos that are intended to mislead the public can harm that discourse and reflect discreditably on the House." It's the first time the committee has admonished members of Congress on the use of fake images and audio on social media, though the new guidelines may be difficult to enforce because of a loophole allowing fake images when used for satire or parody.


Iran MP offers $3 million 'to anyone who kills Trump': report

The Japan Times

TEHRAN – An Iranian lawmaker on Tuesday offered a $3 million reward to "anyone who kills" U.S. President Donald Trump to avenge the assassination of a top general, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. Ahmad Hamzeh, a little-known member of the Majlis, made the offer on behalf of the people of Kerman, the hometown and final resting place of storied commander, Qassem Soleimani. "We will give $3 million to anyone who kills Trump," Hamzeh, who represents Kahnouj county near the southeastern city of Kerman, was quoted as saying by ISNA. He did not say who would pay the bounty offer, which comes a month ahead of a parliamentary election. Soleimani, one of the most popular public figures in Iran, was killed on Jan. 3 in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad airport.


Regime change quest suspected as Trump seizes on new Iran protests

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – With presidential tweets in Persian and stern warnings to the regime, Donald Trump's administration is rallying behind the latest protests in Iran -- and renewing suspicions that his real goal is regime change. Just a week ago, massive crowds took to the streets in Iran to mourn powerful Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad, and Tehran fired retaliatory missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq without inflicting casualties. Trump's response was, briefly, unusually conciliatory -- seeking a de-escalation with Iran and noting that they shared common interests, including fighting the Islamic State group. But all has changed since Saturday, when Iran admitted that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people, setting off a new round of protests by Iranians furious at the deaths and the regime's initial denial. The tragedy has "turned the tide against the Iranian leadership again," said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, which promotes conflict resolution.


High-gear diplomacy aims to avert U.S.-Iran conflict

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – A flurry of diplomatic visits and meetings crisscrossing the Persian Gulf have driven urgent efforts in recent days to defuse the possibility of all-out war after the U.S. killed Iran's top military commander. Global leaders and top diplomats are repeating the mantra of "de-escalation" and "dialog," yet none has publicly laid out a path to achieving either. The United States and Iran have said they do not want war, but fears have grown that the crisis could spin out of Tehran's or Washington's control. Tensions have careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad on Jan. 3 was seen as a major provocation.


'Doesn't really matter' if there was an imminent threat from Qassem Soleimani: Trump

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday morning defended his decision to kill Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, contending Soleimani posed an impending threat to the United States but also saying that was not important, given the military leader's history. "The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was'imminent' or not, & was my team in agreement." "The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn't really matter because of his horrible past!" Since confirming that Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani had been killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, administration officials have claimed they acted because of an imminent risk of attacks on American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress have questioned the justification of the attacks and said they have not been given adequate, detailed briefings. Last week Trump posited in an interview that Iran had been poised to attack four American embassies before Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.


Pentagon chief says he's seen no hard evidence four U.S. embassies were under threat

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper explicitly said Sunday that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat when President Donald Trump authorized the targeting of Iran's top commander, raising questions about the scale of the threat described by Trump last week. As the administration struggled with its justification for the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Esper and other officials tried to refocus attention on voices of dissent in Iran. Esper said street protests in Tehran show the Iranian people are hungry for a more accountable government after leaders denied, then admitted shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. The plane was downed shortly after Iran launched strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for Soleimani's killing. "You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government -- a different regime," Esper said.


New questions emerge after Iran belatedly admits to downing Ukraine airliner

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Iran's acknowledgement that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people, raises new challenges for the Islamic Republic both externally amid tensions with the U.S. and internally as it deals with growing discontent from its people. The country did itself no favors by having its air-crash investigators, government officials and diplomats deny for days that a missile downed the flight, though a commander said Saturday that he had raised that possibility to his superiors as early as Wednesday, the day of the crash. While its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard took responsibility, the same commander claimed it warned Tehran to close off its airspace amid fears of U.S. retaliation over Iran launching ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces. That retaliation never came, but the worries proved to be enough to allegedly scare a missile battery into opening fire on the Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines. Wider tensions between Iran and the U.S., inflamed after Iran's top general was killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3, have for the moment calmed.


Trump ups Iran accusations, says four U.S. embassies targeted

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Confronted by persistent questions about his military action in the Middle East, President Donald Trump and his top officials offered a string of fresh explanations Friday, with Trump now contending Iranian militants had planned major attacks on four U.S. embassies. Just hours earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the U.S. didn't know when or where attacks might occur. Trump and other officials insisted anew that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani had posed an imminent threat to the U.S., but they rebuffed repeated attempts to explain what they meant by "imminent." Trump, meanwhile, announced additional sanctions against Iran, which he had promised after a barrage of missiles fired by the Islamic State against American bases in Iraq earlier this week. Those Iranian missiles, which caused no casualties, were prompted by the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week in Baghdad.