By Editors of The Free Iran Herald
Updates on events unfolding in Iran
US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) confirmed on Tuesday the breaking reports that he and several other Democratic senators, including Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), had secretly met with Tehran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the annual Munich Security Conference last week. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the lead negotiator of the 2015 JCPOA, was also present at the meeting. The news elicited reactions of disgust from Iranians and many Americans, as it is reveals yet another example of American Democratic politicians conspiring with the Khomeinist regime to circumvent and defeat the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure on Tehran. These backdoor meetings and conferrals between the Democrats and Tehran have been occurring since Trump became president, three years ago.
Regimes come and go; mullahs will fall one day. You, however, will be remembered as a prostitute to #Iran’s Islamofascist regime; one who has betrayed the American and the #Iranian people. No hero has ever emerged from among those who appease murderous fascists. #MurphyTreason https://t.co/uMA1tjXNaM
— Reza Behrouz (@RBehrouzDO) February 19, 2020
1)Recently, I have met with @ChrisMurphyCT advisors on two occasions& urged them to break their silence on the brutal crackdown of #IranProtests& stand with Iranian people & stop working with pro-regime lobby groups. I got no response, so I had to take my concern directly to him: pic.twitter.com/yq0TwCk3f8
— Navid Mohebbi (@navidmohebbi) February 17, 2020
When asked to comment about the meeting, Zarif responded, with his customary braggadocio, that his discussion with Murphy had “spooked” Trump. While, of course, it is not true, such meetings with the Democrats help regime officials maintain their delusions that they continue to maintain power, if only they can outlast Trump. The Democrats’ independent outreach to Tehran might also be seen by the regime as a subtle hint to interfere in the US electoral process, in the sense that a Democratic presidency would likely bring another financial bailout for Tehran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, upon hearing of the revelation of Murphy’s actions, commented “This is the foreign minister of a country that killed an American on December 27. And it’s the foreign minister of a country who is the largest world sponsor of terror and the world’s largest sponsor of anti-Semitism…I don’t know what they said. I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own.”
President Trump has often commented on how his Iran policies have been undermined by the Democrats’ collusion with Tehran, led usually by Kerry.
Kerry & Murphy illegally violated the Logan Act. This is why Iran is not making a deal. Must be dealt with strongly! https://t.co/RpTW9c09ZY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
Analysts have also observed that currency trader and Democratic party-donor George Soros may have been involved in arranging the meeting with Zarif, as the billionaire’s son Alex was observed meeting with Senator Murphy in Munich. Soros’s organizations have long been working in Iran, with the regime’s approval, and Zarif has admitted that he personally had dealings with Soros.
— BlueSky⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@QBlueSkyQ) February 19, 2020
Iran admits: Regime working with Soros organization
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif says government working ‘closely’ with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations #IranDealhttps://t.co/xT2V7Brr6S #TuesdayThoughts pic.twitter.com/Eefuc9WNSW
— BlueSky⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@QBlueSkyQ) February 18, 2020
Regime Appeals Court Confirms Sentences Against Eight Environmental Activists
On February 19th, a spokesman for the regime’s judiciary disclosed that an appeals court had upheld the multi-year prison sentences and heavy fines laid against eight environmental activists. Arrested two years ago by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and charged with being foreign spies, the eight worked for the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an organization that was trying to protect endangered animal species in Iran. The foundation’s founder, Dr. Kavous Seyed-Emami, an Iranian-Canadian, was arrested along with the eight activists, and died soon afterwards under suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
The imprisoned conservationists, and their incarceration terms, are:
▶︎ Morad Tahbaz – 10 years
▶︎ Niloufar Bayani – 10 years
▶︎ Houman Jowkar – 8 years
▶︎ Taher Ghadirian – 8 years
▶︎ Sam Rajabi – 6 years
▶︎ Sepideh Kashani – 6 years
▶︎ Amir Hossein Khaleghian – 6 years
▶︎ Abdol Reza Koupayeh – 4 years
Convicted of violating national security and conducting espionage for the US and Israel, most Iranians believe the fanciful and trumped-up charges were brought as a form of cover-up of the regime’s horrible record of environmental mismanagement. As Iran has been experiencing water and food shortages, along with increasing natural disasters, the regime is trying its best to hide the fact that these problems originated from their own flawed policies and incompetence. Hence, dozens of environmental experts have been arrested over the past few years, and many others have died in mysterious and dubious deaths.
PROVEN: Regime Hiding the Spread of the Corona Virus in Iran
The corona virus outbreak continues to wreak havoc across Iran, where it now has caused the second-highest number of deaths in the world, after China. The regime’s lack of attention to controlling the spread of the virus, or to providing any kind of meaningful diagnostic or prevention tools to the public, is accepted by all as the main cause of this situation. Instead of improving their health management, however, the regime is trying to cover up just how deadly the Corona virus is becoming in Iran. Proof has emerged that the regime has ordered media inside the country to not report on the disease until after the regime’s staged parliamentary elections, scheduled for this Friday. The document uncovered by opposition activists’ states that news regarding the disease has to be suppressed “in order not to frighten people away from voting.”
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Despite that, the regime was forced to admit on Wednesday that two elderly men Qom had died from the virus, while claiming then that those were the only cases of the Corona virus in Iran.
Reports coming from #Iran that people have died from Corona virus infection in Qom.
The Islamic Regime instead of putting a medical crisis plan in place is deploying anti-riot vehicles in the streets. 👇👇👇
— Violet (@Daffodil27) February 19, 2020
By Friday, though, as Iranians took to social media to warn each other about the epidemic’s progress, regime officials confessed that another two Iranians had died from the virus, and that they had confirmed 13 more cases of it. Qom has now been placed under a state of semi-lockdown, with even Shi’a Islamic seminaries shut down, as it has the highest concentration of those infected.
Corona virus has reportedly killed one more person in Rasht, Iran. If the reports from Rasht are true at least four people have been killed in Iran since the outbreak.https://t.co/y4UPnYrXf3 https://t.co/EIs9cSAAf8
— Rastakhiz (@sedaye_iran) February 20, 2020
A Health Ministry official has said that it is “possible” that coronavirus has spread to all Iranian cities (!). This is on track to be a catastrophe and the epidemic could have been mitigated if the government had not tried to suppress reports and deny it.
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) February 21, 2020
According to Iranians on the streets, the death toll, and infection rates, are actually much higher. It is very risky, though, for Iranians to post news about the outbreak on social media, because the IRGC is specifically arresting those who reveal the facts about the spread of the Corona virus.
Dr. Alavi works at the Kamkar hospital in Qom, Iran reports that over 20 patients have died from clinically diagnosed cases of #coronavirus at his hospital. Tehran is the only place in the country where COVID19 samples can be tested. (Hector Torres)pic.twitter.com/j6KijtGUZH
— Max Howroute▫️ (@howroute) February 20, 2020
— Iran Revival | فَرَشگَرد (@iranfarashgard) February 20, 2020
Despite the increasing deaths, face masks remain largely unavailable in Iran. Iranians have now started to carry the virus to other countries, with corona-infected Iranian travelers being discovered in Canada and Lebanon. As a result, many travel restrictions are being placed on Iran. Iraq has closed the border with it, for at least three days, and cancelled all Iran-bound flights, and Kuwait has done the same.
According to Iranian doctors, the virus was brought to Iran by Chinese workers. The presence of Chinese labor in Iran, long before the disease outbreak, was highly controversial, in a country with massive unemployment, as the highly-paid Chinese, working in industries conceded to Chinese companies by the regime, made the Iranians feel as if they were becoming colonized by Beijing.
FATF Deadlines Passes with No Action from the Regime: Tehran is Now Financially Blacklisted
On Friday, February 21st, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international organization with representatives from 39 nations, called for Iran to be blacklisted from the global financial system, after Tehran failed to ratify two international agreements – the Palermo Convention and the Convention of Stopping Terrorism Financing. The move came after three years of repeated extensions of the deadline to approve the treaties being granted to Tehran. Although many Iranian businesspersons, and even some figures within the regime, wanted to have the treaties ratified so Iran could trade with other countries more easily, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials rejected signing the two agreements, as complying with them would have meant at least a reining-in of the regime’s many illegal financial operations, which it uses to fund both itself and its armed proxy militias around the world.
Nevertheless, the FATF’s recommendations for how to deal with Iran, in terms of the specific countermeasures to be applied now, were seen as vague, and somewhat half-hearted, with analysts suggesting that they imply that the European governments, most notably, are still hoping that they can salvage their economic relationships with Tehran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the decision, though, stating that the regime will continue to pay for supporting terrorism.
I commend the Financial Action Task Force for calling on members to re-impose countermeasures needed to protect the world from terrorist financing threats emanating from #Iran. Iran must behave like a normal nation or it will continue to pay for its funding of terrorism.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 21, 2020
In a related matter, a new trade report on Iran-Europe commerce revealed that bilateral trade declined by 72% during 2019, to €5.7 billion. Germany remains Tehran’s primary trade partner on the continent, however.