US targets Iran's drone program with sanctions – Arab News
WASHINGTON: The US Treasury hit Iran’s drone program with sanctions on Friday, boosting pressure on Tehran ahead of the reopening of negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.
The Treasury said lethal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been used to attack US forces and international shipping in the Gulf region.
The drones have also been supplied to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Yemen’s Houthis, and have also been seen in Ethiopia, “where the escalating crisis threatens to destabilize the broader region,” the Treasury said.
The sanctions singled out Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani, who leads the Revolutionary Guards’ UAV Command.
The Treasury said that Aghajani was behind a 2019 drone attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia as well as the July 29, 2021 attack on a commercial ship off the coast of Oman that saw two crewman killed.
Also named to the sanctions blacklist were two companies, Kimia Part Sivan and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar, which provide components for and help develop the armed UAVs of the Revolutionary Guards.
“Iran’s proliferation of UAVs across the region threatens international peace and stability,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
“Treasury will continue to hold Iran accountable for its irresponsible and violent acts,” he said.
The sanctions came nine days after an attack on a US military base in Al-Tanf, Syria that involved drones.
The Pentagon has not identified the source of that incident, which did not cause any injuries, but says generally that Iran has provided drones for such attacks around the region.
“We have seen these kinds of attacks in the past from – from Shia militia groups, which we know are backed and supported by Iran,” Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.
The sanctions were also announced just two days after Iran said it will resume talks with world powers in November on reviving a nuclear deal.
That commitment came after a five-month gap which saw mounting warnings that international patience was wearing thin with Tehran.
ROME: The leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain on Saturday expressed their “grave and growing concern” at Iran’s nuclear activities, after a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
“We are convinced that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to full compliance,” they said in a joint statement, adding: “This will only be possible if Iran changes course.”
AMMAN: An increase in aggressive actions by Israel in Jerusalem against Christian and Muslim worshipers is threatening to inflame tensions and damage US-Israel relations.
The Israeli municipality in the city began this week to plow through the Yousefieh cemetery, a sacred site outside the walls of Jerusalem that holds the remains of many, including Jordanian soldiers who died in the 1967 war and others.
Videos and the images of the cemetery’s destruction — with Palestinian relatives of the dead clutching gravesites — went viral around the world.
Images also showed kippah-wearing Israeli civilians joining in with officials.
Local Israeli figures have argued that the cemetery must be moved to make way for a public park that would be accessible to Palestinians. But many locals fear that the real purpose is to construct an accessway to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf council in Jerusalem, warned that the situation in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa is “very explosive.”
In an interview with the Akhbarelbalad website, Khatib said that he expected the situation “to get even worse.”
He added: “Since the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, all our land in the city has been under the threat of expropriation.”
While many Jerusalem citizens are steadfast in protecting their land and holy places, he said, “it is important that others give us support — we count on the free world to support us as well as our Christian brothers who are also facing Israeli restrictions, too.”
Meanwhile, on Oct. 27, Israeli plainclothes police and security personnel interrupted cultural activities being held in the Catholic House of Abraham in East Jerusalem, claiming that the event was “illegal.”
The religious program was supported by the Ramallah-based Palestinian government.
The order to interrupt the activities was signed by Omer Barlev, Israel’s minister of public security, based on the British Emergency Regulations of 1945.
Wadie Abu Nassar, adviser and media spokesperson of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, told Arab News that the Israeli order was based on “totally false information” and that the church “had a mission to work with everyone in Jerusalem.”
He said: “The funding came from France and Austria, and anyway, we believe that Jerusalem is an occupied area and that unilateral decisions should not be carried out against the Palestinian population.”
Israel and the US are also in public disagreement over the fulfillment of a promise made by US President Joe Biden to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem and on the need to suspend all illegal settlement building in the occupied territories.
Israel claims that after the Oslo Accords, Palestinians gave away any rights to East Jerusalem and that the Palestinian Authority has no right to have any engagement with fellow Palestinians.
But Palestinian leaders reject this claim. The Palestinian-Israeli agreement makes Jerusalem one of five permanent status issues that were to be negotiated in the five-year interim period.
The Israeli government made a written commitment to honor existing organizations in East Jerusalem, but has closed Orient House and Chamber of Commerce using the same British emergency regulations.
Numerous public events in East Jerusalem have also been repeatedly banned on Israeli orders.
Palestinians celebrating the success of high school graduates in 2020 were ordered to abandon the event.
A puppet festival at the Palestinian National Theater was also banned, as was the premiere of a film that investigated rampant illegal drug use in East Jerusalem.
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s government cannot afford to resign over a growing diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states, a member of a Lebanese crisis group of ministers said on Saturday following a near three-hour meeting over the widening rift.
“The country cannot be left without a government,” due to other pressing matters, and would continue to work to resolve the rift, Education Minister Abbas Halabi said after the meeting.
The row over critical comments made by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen had spurred calls by some top politicians for Kordahi’s resignation, while others opposed the move.
Saudi Arabia expelled Lebanon’s envoy and banned all Lebanese imports on Friday, and Bahrain and Kuwait followed suit, giving the top Lebanese diplomats 48 hours to exit.
KUWAIT: Kuwait summoned its ambassador to Lebanon for consultations, its foreign ministry said Saturday, as tensions over Lebanon’s Information Minister’s comments on the war in Yemen intensify. 
Kuwait said the decision came in response to the persistence of negative statements coming from Lebanese officials and called on Lebanon’s ambassador to leave the country within 24 hours. 
Kuwait’s decision followed similar actions from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in response to comments by Information Minister George Kordahi. 
DAMASCUS: An Israeli missile strike wounded two Syrian soldiers near Damascus on Saturday, the official SANA news agency reported after explosions were heard in the Syrian capital.
“The Israeli enemy fired a salvo of surface-to-surface missiles from northern occupied Palestine targeting positions near Damascus,” SANA said, quoting an unnamed military official.
“Our anti-aircraft defences were activated and were able to hit some of the enemy missiles,” the source said, adding that the attack wounded two soldiers and caused damage.
AFP correspondents in Damascus heard multiple explosions at around midday.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out air strikes inside Syria, mostly targeting Syrian government troops as well as allied Iranian and Lebanese forces.
It is rare for the Jewish state to carry out strikes on Syrian targets during daylight hours.
The Israeli military rarely acknowledges individual strikes but has said repeatedly that it will not allow Syria to become a stronghold of its arch-foe Iran.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Saturday’s raid destroyed arms and ammunition depots belonging to Iranian forces and allied militias in Qudsaya and Dimas.
Israel has targeted these positions in the past.
On October 14, an Israeli air strike on Iranian positions in central Syria killed nine fighters allied to the Syrian government.