Iran to Cut Uranium Enrichment, Number of Centrifuges Once Nuclear Deal is Concluded

IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi (C), Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and his deputy Behrouz Kamalvandi (L) during a press conference in Tehran in March 2022. (AFP)
IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi (C), Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and his deputy Behrouz Kamalvandi (L) during a press conference in Tehran in March 2022. (AFP)
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Iran to Cut Uranium Enrichment, Number of Centrifuges Once Nuclear Deal is Concluded

IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi (C), Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and his deputy Behrouz Kamalvandi (L) during a press conference in Tehran in March 2022. (AFP)
IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi (C), Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami (R) and his deputy Behrouz Kamalvandi (L) during a press conference in Tehran in March 2022. (AFP)

Iran said it will cut uranium enrichment capacity and the number of centrifuges if an agreement is reached in Vienna, the country’s nuclear chief said Wednesday.

The 2015 Iran nuclear, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), stipulates that Iran’s uranium enrichment would be limited to 5060 IR-1 centrifuges for ten years.

The agreement also allows Iran to enrich uranium in research and development without storing enriched uranium and obtaining more efficient centrifuges, such as IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8.

According to Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Eslami, Iran will stick to this limit once a new deal is reached.

In 2019, Iran announced the resumption of uranium enrichment, stepping further away from its deal with world powers after the United States pulled out of it.

It has gradually scaled back its commitments to the deal, under which it restrained its enrichment program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions.

Meanwhile, Eslami said his country has handed over documents related to outstanding issues to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We handed over the documents on March 20 to the agency. They are reviewing those documents and probably the agency's representatives will travel to Iran for further talks and then the IAEA will present its conclusion,” Eslami told a televised news conference, Reuters reported.

Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog last month agreed a three-month plan that in the best case will resolve the long-stalled issue of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in the country, removing an obstacle to reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

Eslami affirmed that one of the particles discovered by IAEA inspectors does not exist in Iran, without offering evidence or details.

He blamed regional archenemy Israel for “sowing doubts” about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program AP reported.

Israel has said it believes Iran would pursue a nuclear weapon, despite Western intelligence assessments indicating otherwise.

“The major topic discussed with the agency is the allegations and fabricated documents Israel prepares and submits on a regular basis.”

In response to a question on whether the IAEA considers espionage and unjustified documents on the Iranian program a reference in its investigation, Eslami said the IAEA can usually proceed from whatever source it gets the information, and it has no restrictions.

As a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is obligated to explain the radioactive traces and to provide assurances that they are not being used as part of a nuclear weapons program.

The IAEA has staked its credibility on finding information about the sites, with its chief, Rafael Grossi, routinely lambasting Iran for its failure to answer where the radioactive particles came from and where they are now.

The IAEA in 2019 first discovered the traces of man-made uranium that suggested they were once connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

The agency has long said Iran had not given satisfactory answers on those issues, but in early March they announced a plan for a series of exchanges.

Grossi said last month he will aim to report his conclusion by the June 2022 (IAEA) Board of Governors' meeting, which begins on June 6.



Philippine and Chinese Boats Collide in their Latest Confrontation over a South China Sea Shoal

This handout photo taken on February 22, 2024 and received on February 25, 2024 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows a China Coast Guard vessel sailing near the BRP Datu Sanday during their mission to bring supplies to fishermen near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)
This handout photo taken on February 22, 2024 and received on February 25, 2024 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows a China Coast Guard vessel sailing near the BRP Datu Sanday during their mission to bring supplies to fishermen near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)
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Philippine and Chinese Boats Collide in their Latest Confrontation over a South China Sea Shoal

This handout photo taken on February 22, 2024 and received on February 25, 2024 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows a China Coast Guard vessel sailing near the BRP Datu Sanday during their mission to bring supplies to fishermen near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)
This handout photo taken on February 22, 2024 and received on February 25, 2024 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows a China Coast Guard vessel sailing near the BRP Datu Sanday during their mission to bring supplies to fishermen near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)

Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels collided in the South China Sea on Tuesday in the two nations’ latest confrontation over the disputed waters, as Southeast Asian leaders gathered for a summit in Australia where alarm over Beijing’s aggression at sea was expected to be raised.
The Chinese coast guard ships and accompanying vessels blocked the Philippine vessels off a disputed shoal and executed dangerous maneuvers that resulted in the minor collision between a Chinese coast guard ship and one of two Philippine coast guard vessels, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said. The BRP Sindangan had minor structural damage, Tarriela said without providing other details.
Tarriela's post on the X platform did not say where the confrontation took place, but the military earlier said the navy was delivering supplies and fresh personnel to the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal, the site of several tense skirmishes between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships and accompanying vessels last year, The Associated Press said.
The Philippine coast guard ships were escorting navy personnel who were aboard two civilian supply boats, one of which was hit by water cannon blast by the Chinese, Philippine military spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said, adding it was not immediately clear if any crew member was injured or if the boat was damaged.
“Throughout the operation, the Philippine coast guard vessels faced dangerous maneuvers and blocking from Chinese coast guard vessels and Chinese maritime militia,” Tarriela said. “Their reckless and illegal actions led to a collision."
The Chinese coast guard said in a statement that "it took control measures in accordance with the law against Philippine ships that illegally intruded into the waters adjacent to Ren'ai Reef,” the name Beijing uses for Second Thomas Shoal.
A Chinese coast guard spokesperson said a Philippine ship deliberately rammed a Chinese coast guard vessel, causing a minor scratch.
The long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea are expected to be discussed at a summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their Australian counterpart in Melbourne.
Ahead of Wednesday’s summit, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a forum in the Australian city that his administration “will do whatever it takes” to manage any threat to his country’s territory but stressed that Manila would continue “to tread the path of dialogue and diplomacy” in resolving disputes with China.
Philippine security officials have accused the Chinese coast guard and suspected militia ships of blocking Philippine vessels and using water cannons and a military-grade laser that temporarily blinded some Filipino crewmen in a series of high-seas confrontations last year.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila accused the Philippines of frequent provocative moves in the South China Sea and said China acted "in accordance with law to defend its own sovereignty, rights and interests."
The confrontations have sparked fears of a larger conflict that could involve the United States.
Chinese and Philippine officials met in Shanghai in January and agreed to take steps to lower tensions but their latest confrontation at sea underscores the difficulty of doing so.
The United States has warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea. China has warned the US to stop meddling in what it calls a purely Asian dispute.
Brunei, Malaysia Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the strategic waterway, a major global trade route which is also believed to be sitting atop rich undersea deposits of oil and gas.


Police: Suspect in Stabbing of Jewish Man in Zurich Expressed Solidarity with ISIS

Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Photo by ARND WIEGMANN / AFP)
Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Photo by ARND WIEGMANN / AFP)
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Police: Suspect in Stabbing of Jewish Man in Zurich Expressed Solidarity with ISIS

Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Photo by ARND WIEGMANN / AFP)
Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Photo by ARND WIEGMANN / AFP)

Swiss police say the 15-year-old suspect in the stabbing of an Orthodox Jewish man in Zurich over the weekend had appeared in a video expressing solidarity with ISIS, and called himself a “soldier” in its self-described “caliphate.”

Zurich cantonal police security chief Mario Fehr told reporters Monday that authorities were investigating whether the teen, who was not identified, had acted alone or as part of a group. Officials said the suspect was a Swiss national.

“He refers to ISIS, describes himself as a soldier of the caliphate,” Fehr said of the video that authorities had authenticated. He denounced the stabbing Saturday as a “terrorist” and “antisemitic” attack. The suspect was arrested at the scene.

Authorities said the 50-year-old victim was critically injured but his life was no longer in danger.

Police have stepped up security measures at Jewish sites in Zurich ever since the attack.

The extra security was put in place for "specific locations with a Jewish connection," police said, following discussions with local Jewish organizations.

Jonathan Kreutner, general secretary of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG), told Swiss television that physical attacks on Jewish people in the country were rare.

"A case like this is really a new dimension," he said.


West Avoids Seriously Confronting Iran as IAEA Meets

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi holds a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi holds a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner
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West Avoids Seriously Confronting Iran as IAEA Meets

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi holds a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi holds a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2024. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner

A quarterly meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog's main policy-making body began on Monday with Western powers again choosing not to seriously confront Iran over its failure to cooperate with the agency on a range of issues, diplomats said.
It is more than a year since the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution ordering Iran to cooperate with a years-long IAEA investigation into uranium particles found at undeclared sites, saying it was "essential and urgent" for Iran to explain the traces.
Since then the number of undeclared sites being investigated has shrunk to two from three but the list of problems between the IAEA and Iran has only grown. Iran failed to fully honor an agreement to re-install IAEA cameras at some sites and in September barred some of the agency's most valued inspectors.
"I ... deeply regret that Iran has yet to reverse its decision to withdraw the designations for several experienced Agency inspectors," director general Rafael Grossi told the Board meeting.
"Only through constructive and meaningful engagement can all of these concerns be addressed and once again I call upon Iran to cooperate fully and unambiguously with the Agency."
With Israel's military offensive in Gaza continuing in response to Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks, heightening tensions across the Middle East, the United States did not want to risk further diplomatic escalation with Iran by pushing for a resolution against it at the IAEA, diplomats said.
"If you did do an (IAEA Board) resolution right now ... it's too dangerous to do anything that could be construed as a wrong signal that could trigger a miscalculation," a Western diplomat said, citing various factors.
"The region is in this heightened state, you don't have a ceasefire or resolution of any sort in Gaza, we don't have the prospects of any kind of nuclear solution, and ... the US is going into presidential elections," they said.
Diplomats had said before the Board meeting that the three European powers that proposed the last resolution jointly with the United States and generally act in coordination with Washington - Britain, France, and Germany, known as the 'E3' - were pushing for a resolution and had drafted a text.
Washington, however, has opposed seeking a resolution against Iran for months, at least in part because of the impending US presidential election in November, diplomats have said, and again it was the most reluctant of the four powers.
The United States and E3 have been vocal in criticizing Iran on these and other issues, such as its growing stockpile of enriched uranium that would be enough, if enriched further, to fuel several nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such intention.


US Condemns Sentencing of Iranian Singer Shervin Hajipour

FILE - First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye" at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
FILE - First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye" at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
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US Condemns Sentencing of Iranian Singer Shervin Hajipour

FILE - First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye" at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
FILE - First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye" at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

The United States on Monday condemned the sentencing of an Iranian singer who won a Grammy award in 2023 for a song that became an anthem for mass Iranian protests after the death of Mahsa Amin while in the custody of the morality police.

Iranian singer and songwriter Shervin Hajipour said on his Instagram account last week that he had been sentenced to more than three years in prison. He was convicted for incitement and provocation of people to disturb national security through his music, local rights advocates noted.
Hajipour, 26, wrote and published the song "Baraye" following the death in police custody of Amini.
US first lady Jill Biden described the song as a "powerful and poetic call for freedom and women's rights" when she presented him last year with the first-ever song for social change Grammy award for "Baraye." A song "can ultimately change the world," she said at the time.

"We condemn the years long prison sentence for Shervin Hajipour," US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters in a press briefing on Monday.

"The Iranian government's actions are just another signal of their intent to crackdown on freedom of expression and repress voices inside their own society whenever possible."

Amini, 22, was arrested in Tehran in 2022 for "unsuitable attire" by the morality police. Her death in police custody sparked huge protests in Iran and by Iranians in other parts of the world.


Trump Wins Colorado Ballot Disqualification Case at US Supreme Court

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Va. (AP)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Va. (AP)
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Trump Wins Colorado Ballot Disqualification Case at US Supreme Court

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Va. (AP)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Va. (AP)

The US Supreme Court handed Donald Trump a major victory on Monday, barring states from disqualifying candidates for federal office under a constitutional provision involving insurrection and reversing Colorado's exclusion of him from its ballot.

The justices unanimously overturned a Dec. 19 decision by Colorado's top court to kick the former president off the state's Tuesday Republican primary ballot after finding that the US Constitution's 14th Amendment disqualified him from again holding public office. The Colorado court had found that Trump took part in an insurrection for inciting and supporting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

But four of the nine justices, including the court's three liberal members, faulted the rest of the court for announcing rules limiting how the constitutional provision may be enforced in the future.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 US election. His only remaining rival for his party's nomination is former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

The ruling was issued on the eve of Super Tuesday, the day in the US presidential primary cycle when the most states hold party nominating contests.

The Supreme Court's decision came five days after it agreed to decide Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution on charges related to trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. The court acted in a speedier manner in deciding the ballot disqualification issue, benefiting Trump, than it has in resolving the immunity question. Delays in deciding the immunity issue could help Trump by delaying his criminal trial.

The 14th Amendment's Section 3 bars from office any "officer of the United States" who took an oath "to support the Constitution of the United States" and then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

"We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency," the unsigned opinion for the court stated.

The justices found that only Congress can enforce the provision against federal officeholders and candidates.

"BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!," Trump wrote on his social media platform immediately after the ruling.

Trump was also barred from the ballot in Maine and Illinois based on the 14th Amendment, but those decisions were put on hold pending the Supreme Court's ruling in the Colorado case.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed disappointment at the ruling "stripping states of the authority" to enforce the disqualification clause.

"Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot," she wrote in a social media post.

‘Momentous and difficult issues’

Though the justices unanimously agreed with the result, the three liberal justices, as well as conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, said the court's opinion decided more than what was necessary to resolve the case by specifying that Section 3 can be enforced only through federal legislation.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson objected to the majority's "gratuitous" decision to announce rules limiting the way Section 3 can be enforced in the future.

"Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oath-breaking insurrectionist from becoming president," the liberal justices said. "Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority's effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision."

In a concurring opinion, Barrett wrote that "this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency. The court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the court should turn the national temperature down, not up," Barrett wrote.

"For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home," Barrett added.

Trump's eligibility had been challenged in court by a group of six voters in Colorado - four Republicans and two independents - who portrayed him as a threat to American democracy and sought to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

The plaintiffs were backed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.

CREW President Noah Bookbinder emphasized that while the court's ruling allows Trump back on the ballot, it did not directly address the Colorado Supreme Court's finding that Trump had engaged in insurrection.

"The Supreme Court had the opportunity in this case to exonerate Trump, and they chose not to do so," Bookbinder said, adding that, "The Supreme Court removed an enforcement mechanism, and in letting Trump back on the ballot, they failed to meet the moment."

As lawsuits seeking to disqualify Trump cropped up across the country, it was important for his candidacy to clear any hurdles to appear on the ballot in all 50 states.

The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees. Not since ruling in the landmark case Bush v. Gore, which handed the disputed 2000 US election to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, has the court played such a central role in a presidential race.

The justices in the immunity case in December declined a bid to speed up resolution of the matter before a lower court had weighed in, then last week agreed to take up the matter after lower courts had ruled - setting arguments to take place in late April, a much longer timeline.

Capitol attack

In a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's 2020 election victory, Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades and swarmed the Capitol. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, repeating his false claims of widespread voting fraud and telling them to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell." He then for hours rebuffed requests that he urge the mob to stop.

The 14th Amendment was ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War of 1861-1865 in which seceding Southern states that allowed the practice of slavery rebelled against the US government.

In ruling against Trump, Colorado's top court cited the "general atmosphere of political violence that President Trump created" and that he aided "the insurrectionists' common unlawful purpose of preventing the peaceful transfer of power in this country."

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Feb. 8. Trump's lawyer argued that he is not subject to the disqualification language because a president is not an "officer of the United States," that the provision cannot be enforced by courts absent congressional legislation, and that what occurred on Jan. 6 was shameful, criminal and violent but not an insurrection.


Kremlin Says German Army Discussing Strikes on Russia, Asks if Scholz Is in Control 

A German national flag is set on the car of the Ambassador of Germany to Russia Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, outside the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia March 4, 2024. (Reuters)
A German national flag is set on the car of the Ambassador of Germany to Russia Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, outside the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia March 4, 2024. (Reuters)
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Kremlin Says German Army Discussing Strikes on Russia, Asks if Scholz Is in Control 

A German national flag is set on the car of the Ambassador of Germany to Russia Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, outside the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia March 4, 2024. (Reuters)
A German national flag is set on the car of the Ambassador of Germany to Russia Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, outside the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia March 4, 2024. (Reuters)

The Kremlin said on Monday a purported recording of German military discussions showed Germany's armed forces were discussing plans to launch strikes on Russian territory, and questioned whether Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in control of the situation.

Russian media last week published an audio recording of what they said was a meeting of senior German military officials discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea, prompting Russian officials to demand an explanation.

"The recording itself says that within the Bundeswehr, plans to launch strikes on Russian territory are being discussed substantively and concretely. This does not require any legal interpretation. Everything here is more than obvious," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Germany says it is investigating the recording. Russia has summoned Germany's ambassador to demand an explanation.

"Here we have to find out whether the Bundeswehr is doing this on its own initiative. Then the question is: how controllable is the Bundeswehr and how much does Scholz control the situation? Or is it part of German government policy?" Peskov said.

"Both (scenarios) are very bad. Both once again emphasize the direct involvement of the countries of the collective West in the conflict around Ukraine."

Germany is among the NATO countries that have supplied weaponry to Ukraine including tanks. Russia accuses what it calls the "collective West" of using Ukraine to wage a proxy war against it; NATO says it is helping Kyiv to defend itself against a war of aggression.


Iran Election Turnout Hits Record Low, Hardliners Maintain Grip on Parliament

Iranians walk in a street in Tehran, Iran March 3, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Iranians walk in a street in Tehran, Iran March 3, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Election Turnout Hits Record Low, Hardliners Maintain Grip on Parliament

Iranians walk in a street in Tehran, Iran March 3, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Iranians walk in a street in Tehran, Iran March 3, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

Turnout in Iran's parliamentary election was around 41%, the country's interior minister said on Monday, the lowest participation since Iran's 1979 revolution that swept the clerical rulers into power.

Friday's election was seen as a test of the clerical establishment's legitimacy amid mounting economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.

"Some 25 million people out of over 61 million eligible Iranians voted in the March 1 election for the 290-seat legislature," Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told a televised news conference.

In the 2020 parliamentary election, turnout was 42.5%. About 62% of voters participated in 2016.

Authorities said the turnout "indicated the people's trust in the sacred system of the Islamic Republic".

Vahidi said invalid votes made up 5% of the total vote count. Some Iranian media reported that number to be as high as 30%, suggesting signs of disillusionment even among core supporters of the country.

"Authorities should listen to the silent majority ... and reform the governance method ... I hope they realize before it's too late to reverse the damage and harm this path will cause," state media quoted reformist politician Azar Mansouri as saying.

In some constituencies, where candidates failed to get the required minimum 20% of the votes cast, a run-off will be held in April, Vahidi said.

In Tehran, which accounts for 30 seats in parliament, a second round will be held for 16 seats.

The election was the first since anti-government protests in 2022-23 that spiraled into one of Iran's worst political turmoil since the revolution and quelled by a violent crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.

With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out and reformists calling the election not free and unfair, the contest was essentially among hardliners and low-key conservatives, all proclaiming loyalty to revolutionary ideals.

Iran's parliament, dominated by hardliners for more than two decades, has little impact on foreign policy or Tehran's disputed nuclear program. These issues are determined by the country's top authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Activists and opposition groups, arguing that a high turnout would legitimize the Islamic Republic, had called for a boycott by widely distributing the hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus on the social media platform X.

Former president Mohammad Khatami, considered the spiritual leader of Iran's reformists, was among critics who did not vote on Friday.

Opposition critics say the ruling clerics are no longer capable of solving an economic crisis caused by a mix of mismanagement, corruption and US sanctions reimposed since 2018 when Washington ditched Tehran's nuclear pact with major powers.

The parliamentary election was twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing the 84-year-old Khamenei's successor.


Haiti Orders Nightly Curfew After Weekend of Violence, Prison Break

This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
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Haiti Orders Nightly Curfew After Weekend of Violence, Prison Break

This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)

Authorities have ordered a nighttime curfew trying to regain control of Haiti's streets after an explosion of violence during the weekend, including gunmen from gangs overrunning the country's two biggest prisons and freeing their inmates.
A 72-hour state of emergency began Sunday night, and the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals that it reported escaped from prison.
“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as acting prime minister.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled abroad last week to try to salvage support for bringing in a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilize Haiti in its conflict with increasingly powerful crime groups.
The emergency decree was issued after a deadly weekend that marked a new low in Haiti's downward spiral of violence. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday — four of them police officers — as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions in Port-au-Prince, including the country's international airport and the national soccer stadium.

But the attack on the National Penitentiary late Saturday was a big shock Haitians, even though they are accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence, The Associated Press reported.
Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates escaped, leaving the normally overcrowded prison eerily empty Sunday with no guards in sight and plastic sandals, clothing and furniture strewn across the concrete patio. Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance.
In another neighborhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind the backs lay face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.
Among the few dozen that chose to stay in the prison are 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Amid the fighting Saturday night, several of the Colombians shared a video pleading for their lives.


Nikki Haley Wins District of Columbia’s Republican Primary and Gets Her First 2024 Victory 

US Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley reaches out to embraces Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc before speaking during a campaign rally in Portland, Maine, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)
US Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley reaches out to embraces Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc before speaking during a campaign rally in Portland, Maine, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)
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Nikki Haley Wins District of Columbia’s Republican Primary and Gets Her First 2024 Victory 

US Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley reaches out to embraces Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc before speaking during a campaign rally in Portland, Maine, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)
US Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley reaches out to embraces Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc before speaking during a campaign rally in Portland, Maine, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)

Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary in the District of Columbia, notching her first victory of the 2024 campaign.

Her victory Sunday at least temporarily halts Donald Trump’s sweep of the GOP voting contests, although the former president is likely to pick up several hundred more delegates in this week’s Super Tuesday races.

Despite her early losses, Haley has said she would remain in the race at least through those contests, although she has declined to name any primary she felt confident she would win. Following her loss in her home state of South Carolina, Haley remained adamant that voters in the places that followed deserved an alternative to Trump despite his dominance thus far in the campaign.

The Associated Press declared Haley the winner Sunday night after DC Republican Party officials released the results. She won all 19 delegates at stake.

“It’s not surprising that Republicans closest to Washington dysfunction are rejecting Donald Trump and all his chaos,” Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement, noting that Haley became the first woman to win a Republican primary in history.

Washington is one of the most heavily Democratic jurisdictions in the nation, with only about 23,000 registered Republicans in the city. Democrat Joe Biden won the district in the 2020 general election with 92% of the vote.

Trump's campaign issued a statement shortly after Haley’s victory sarcastically congratulating her on being named “Queen of the Swamp by the lobbyists and DC insiders that want to protect the failed status quo.”

Haley held a rally in the nation’s capital on Friday before heading back to North Carolina and a series of states holding Super Tuesday primaries. She joked with more than 100 supporters inside a hotel ballroom, “Who says there’s no Republicans in DC, come on.”

“We’re trying to make sure that we touch every hand that we can and speak to every person,” Haley said.

As she gave her standard campaign speech, criticizing Trump for running up federal deficit, one rallygoer bellowed, “He cannot win a general election. It’s madness.” That prompted agreement from Haley, who argues that she can deny Biden a second term, but Trump can't.

While campaigning as an avowed conservative, Haley has tended to perform better among more moderate and independent-leaning voters.

Four in 10 Haley supporters in South Carolina’s GOP primary were self-described moderates, compared with 15% for Trump, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 2,400 voters taking part in the Republican primary in South Carolina, conducted for AP by NORC at the University of Chicago. On the other hand, 8 in 10 Trump supporters identified as conservatives, compared to about half of Haley’s backers.

Trump won an uncontested DC primary during his 2020 reelection bid but placed a distant third four years earlier behind Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Rubio’s win was one of only three in his unsuccessful 2016 bid. Other more centrist Republicans, including Mitt Romney and John McCain, won the city’s primaries in 2012 and 2008 on their way to winning the GOP nomination.


Reports about Iran’s Bid for Naval Base in Sudan Sparks Controversy

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meets with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq in Tehran last month (Iranian Presidency)
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meets with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq in Tehran last month (Iranian Presidency)
TT

Reports about Iran’s Bid for Naval Base in Sudan Sparks Controversy

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meets with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq in Tehran last month (Iranian Presidency)
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meets with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq in Tehran last month (Iranian Presidency)

Media reports saying Iran has asked the Sudanese Army to set up a military base on the Red Sea coast, have sparked controversy in Sudanese circles.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal quoted a Sudanese intelligence official as saying that Sudan refused to let Iran set up a permanent naval base on its coast along the Red Sea in exchange for weapons.
However, local Sudanese media quoted a Sudanese army spokesperson as denying the Iranian offer.
The war in Sudan between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, began on 15 April 2023.
In January, media reports said Iran has supplied Sudan’s army with combat drones. The army has not denied the claims.
Later, Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq visited Tehran and held talks with high ranking officials as part of the two countries’ efforts to restore their diplomatic relations.
According to a WSJ report, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, who advises the Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said Iran offered the Sudanese army explosive drones and a helicopter carrier in exchange for the base.
However, Al Sudani news website denied the reports. It quoted a Sudanese Army spokesperson as saying that Iran made no such offers to the army.
Also, sources close to the Sudanese army's intelligence service ruled out the presence of such an Iranian offer. The sources said the reports were probably a maneuver from Al-Burhan expressing his dissatisfaction with the regional and international neutral stances concerning developments in Sudan.
But despite the denials, the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran could have made the offer during the visit of the Sudanese foreign minister to Tehran last February.
They added that the current Sudanese leadership is aware that an Iranian maritime base in Sudan will surely lead to hostilities in the region.
The sources said al-Sadiq’s visit to Tehran aimed to send a warning message to regional countries backing the Rapid Forces, cautioning that they could shuffle the cards in light of the current tensions in the Red Sea.
“The Sudanese Army leadership knows that Iran cannot offer them unlimited military support in return of nothing,” the sources said. “Therefore, they are seeking to restore their relationship ...to produce a balance of power in the region, particularly in the absence of any country willing to support them at the military level,” the sources added.