PHOTO: “Go to the Bay of Pigs!” — Cartoon on Supreme Leader’s website challenges US
UPDATE 0900 GMT: The Supreme Leader has told a group of state officials and Muslim ambassadors, “Today, the definite American policy is to fight Islam, Iran, and Shias.”
Ayatollah Khamenei continued, “Lately, the Americans have announced that Iran’s policy in the region is a cause for sanctions and confrontation, meaning ‘you, the Iranian people who are vigilant and aware; you have to back down and let us do our work’.”
He insisted, “This is ignorance.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Following the Supreme Leader, Iran’s officials are striking tough poses over the Persian Gulf and defiance of the US.
Both military commanders and the Foreign Ministry put out statements reinforcing Ayatollah Khamenei’s declaration on Monday to a group of teachers, “The Persian Gulf coast and much of the coasts of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful nation, therefore we have to be present in this region, [stage] maneuvers and show off our power.”
Khamenei teased the US by saying it should keep its own drills in the Bay of Pigs, the site of the disastrous 1961 operation which sought to overthrow Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
On Tuesday the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, said on State TV that Iran will not give in to “restrictions from any power in the world” over its “legal right” to hold military exercises. He invoked a 1982 UN convention on the Law of the Sea to proclaim that Iran will “decisively confront” any menacing passage through the Strait of Hormuz.
Salami cited Iran’s brief detention of 10 US sailors in January, after their boat drifted into Iranian waters in the Gulf: “The Americans should learn from recent historical truths…the fact that we have developed a powerful Navy in the IRGC [Guards] and the Armed Forces, capable of defending the country’s interests and independence.”
Rear Admiral Reza Abbasi added on Wednesday, “The US Navy does not pursue anything in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman except causing insecurity, spreading terrorism, espionage, and [fomenting) Iranophobia.”
In contrast, the presence of Iranian naval forces in high seas is to deter threats against the country’s territorial waters, he added.
Yesterday the Foreign Ministry sent a note to the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents US interests in Iran, asserting that “Iran will do whatever is necessary to bolster peace and stability in the Persian Gulf”.
The Ministry said that its note was a response to a bill proposed last week by Republican Congressman Randy Forbes that called for measures against Iran’s military drills in the Persian Gulf. There is almost no chance that the proposal will advance through the House of Representatives, let alone be adopted as legislation.
Iran’s naval commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, has said that the Navy plans to hold at least 20 special military exercises by March 2017.
However, the Supreme Leader’s challenge is in the wider context both of his ongoing hostility to the US, despite January’s implementation of a July 2015 nuclear deal; Iran’s continuing economic problems; and regime in-fighting over political and social issues as well as foreign policy.
The Supreme Leader warned the Rouhani Government in March that it must take a tougher line with the US, amid ongoing and new American sanctions implemented despite the nuclear agreement. Khamenei said that he might take over control of the “Resistance Economy”, pursuing Iranian self-sufficiency, from the President and his Ministers.
Pro-regime commentator Seyed Mohammad Marandi, of the University of Tehran, supported the latest campaign on Wednesday with the proclamation that “the US is the world’s worst rogue regime”:
The academic insisted, “Any attempt by the United States to limit Iran’s capabilities or protecting the Persian Gulf…will be met…by the Iranians with a very sharp counter-response.”
Blogger Ronaghi Maleki Freed on Bail After 6 Years in Prison
Ailing Iranian blogger and activist Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, who was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, was released on bail on Wednesday.
“I’m so thankful,” Laleh R, a close friend of Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, told Journalism Is Not A Crime, IranWire’s sister website. “He wasn’t going to let up with his hunger strike and his voice was getting weaker by the day.”
Ronaghi-Maleki was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced for his blogging, on charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.
In prison, his kidney problems worsened. He was given medical leave in June 2015 but ordered back to Evin Prison in January. Since his return, he was reportedly denied medication and refused to hospitalization.
Claimed Picture: Iran Elite Commander Soleimani Returns to Aleppo Front in Syria
A claimed picture, from Iran’s Ahlul Bayt News Agency, of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani returning to the battlefront near Aleppo:
Soleimani, the leading Iranian general in the Syrian conflict, was injured on the Aleppo front in November. This would be his first confirmed return to Syria since he was wounded.
(Cross-posted from Syria Daily)