This article titled “Thousands of Iranians join counter-protests after week of unrest” was written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 12.47 UTC
Thousands of pro-government counter-protesters have taken to the streets of Iranian cities after nearly a week of unrest.
Footage broadcast on national television and images published by state news agencies showed a high turnout in pro-establishment rallies, in cities that have seen turbulent scenes since Iran’s biggest demonstrations in nearly a decade began on 28 December.
State television aired a rally from Ahwaz, the capital of Khouzesan province, which showed thousands of people marching on a long bridge connecting two parts of the city, while holding up pro-regime placards and chanting in support of the establishment.
It broadcast similar footage from Ilam, also in the west of the country, as well as from Arak, in the centre of Iran.
The semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, forces involved in the crackdown on protesters, described the rallies as “the revolutionary outburst of Iranian people against lawbreakers”.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday it had deployed forces to three provinces – Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan, where most of the casualties have occurred – but claimed the anti-government protests were over.
“Today we can announce the end of the sedition,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari. “A large number of the trouble-makers … have been arrested and there will be firm action against them.”
During violent clashes between protesters and the security guards, in a week of demonstrations that has seen both sides becoming increasingly confrontational, at least 21 people have lost their lives – mostly protesters but also some security guards, according to officials.
Iranian authorities have claimed that the protests, which began over economic grievances before taking a political turn, have been hijacked by the country’s foreign enemies. The theory has also been repeated by some figures within the reformist camp, who are critical of Iran’s rulers but wary of regime change.
Anti-government protests continued for a sixth consecutive day in provincial cities on Tuesday evening, whilst Tehran was relatively calmer, with a heavy presence of riot police.
Mohammad, a protester from Karaj, a city just west of the capital Tehran, told the Guardian that the protesters had clashed with the security guards in its Gohardasht neighbourhood on Tuesday evening.
“A lot of basij militia used electric shockers to confront protesters, and arrest them – I saw them filling at least six buses full of those detained,” he said. The protester claimed the security guards also damaged public properties to find a pretext to step up their crackdown. This could not be independently verified – the authorities have made similar accusations against protesters.
“People are fed up with unemployment and being poor. There is no job security,” he added. “The protesters don’t have a leader, it’s a leaderless movement, and I call it the movement of the hungry, the starved people.”
Milad, from Shahinshahr, a city in the province of Isfahan, which has seen violent clashes in recent days, said people were unhappy with the way the city was run. “There’s a deficit in the city’s budget because of mismanagement and the authorities have instead cut down public salaries,” he said.
It is not possible to compare the size of the crowds at the anti-government protests with the counter-demonstrations approved by Tehran. No independent journalists are permitted to film the anti-government protests, while Iranian authorities have on similar occasions bussed in supporters.
Major European countries have resisted pressure from the US president, Donald Trump, to sign a joint statement condemning the Islamic Republic, but have instead issued separate statements warning the Iranian government to allow peaceful protests and not resort to mass arrests.
Iran’s mission to the UN has accused the US ambassador, Nikki Haley, of shedding “crocodile tears” for the Iranian people.
EU states are concerned that Trump is trying to use the demonstrations as a vehicle to place further pressure on the EU to abandon its support for the Iran nuclear deal signed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2015.
The EU remains convinced Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal, but continued US-imposed sanctions, mainly on banks, are making it hard for Iran to gain the expected economic benefits from the deal. Trump is eager to see the deal abandoned, and sees the protests as a means of resisting what Washington sees as Iranian expansionism in the Middle East.
Trump on Wednesday pledged support for Iranians trying to “take back” their government. “You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” he said, without offering any specifics on what or when that might be.
Nevertheless, faced by reports that more than 400 protesters have been arrested, European leaders have become more vocal in their criticisms. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on Tuesday and called for restraint, his office said.
Macron also decided to postpone this week’s planned visit to Tehran by the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, which was intended as a precursor to a visit by Macron himself.
Macron’s office said the French leader underscored that “fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate must be respected”.
Rouhani in turn asked Macron to take action against a Paris-based Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, PMOI), which he accused of fomenting the recent protests.
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Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died
Buckingham Palace has announced that The Duke of Edinburgh has died.
Philip Mountbatten, the rakish naval officer who captured the heart of a young Elizabeth Windsor and became the lifelong consort to the British queen, has died aged 99.
The death ends the longest marriage of a reigning monarch in British history, an enduring alliance that outlasted the Cold War, war and peace in Northern Ireland and the painful divorces of three of their four children.
Reacting to the death, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said;
“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the UK, across the Commonwealth & around the world.
He was the longest serving consort in history & one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in WW2.”
Prince Philip never held the official title of Prince Consort, but he was Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidant, most reliable political advisor and the undisputed master of the royal household for more than six decades.
Philip was known equally as a curmudgeon and a charmer who could quickly put nervous guests at ease with an easy oneliner.
The Queen, on the event of their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, said of her husband: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”
The Duke is survived by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his children Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
While Elizabeth presided over affairs of state, Philip championed dozens of charities, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has promoted selfreliance, physical development and other personal accomplishment for more than 6 million youths all over the world.(more…)
Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow
The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.
The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan.
The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.
In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.
Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.
“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President
(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.
Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.
Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.
Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.