Iran blames US, Israel for stoking unrest in Iraq, Lebanon

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A senior Iranian official has called for peace and non-interference in Iraq and Lebanon, blaming the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel for fomenting unrest in the two Arab countries.

Mahmoud Vaezi, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian president, told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet session on Wednesday that “the US, Saudi Arabia, certain regional countries and the Zionist regime have been riding a wave of popular demands” and providing financial support to foreign forces, saying such policies harmed both the Iraqi and the Lebanese nations.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s stance has always been that the governments should pay heed to public demands and the demands should be put forward in such a way that will not lead to disorder, commotion, destruction or the killing and injuring of people,” Vaezi added.

“Our advice has always been a call for peace and stopping interference by foreign forces [in these countries] that seek to advance their own goals and weaken the present governments and … depict authorities and legal parties as corrupt,” he noted.

Iraqi cities have been the scene of anti-government protests for days, which were initially peaceful but later turned violent.  

Tens of thousands of Iraqis marched on the capital’s central Tahrir Square on Tuesday as protests continued for a fifth successive day.

Tuesday’s gathering in Baghdad came after an overnight curfew and was the largest of its kind since the eruption last week of a second wave of mass demonstrations this month against corruption, mass unemployment and failing public services.

At the start of October, street protests erupted in several Iraqi cities over unemployment and a lack of basic services. An official investigation found that a total of 157 people, including civilians and security forces, had been killed in the first round of the rallies in the capital and other cities.

Medics attend to protesters injured in clashes with security forces amidst demonstrations on al-Jumhuriya bridge which connects between the capital Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and the high-security Green Zone, during the ongoing anti-government protests on October 29, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The rallies resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. The gatherings have turned violent at some points over the past days, with conflicting unofficial reports of fatalities.

In Lebanon too, 13 days of mass protests have been demanding the departure of the country’s entire political elite.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down on Tuesday, surrendering to one of the demands of the protesters, who accuse the ruling political elite of dragging the country to economic collapse amid growing anger over corruption, poor public services, and years of economic mismanagement.

Hariri said he had reached a “dead-end” in trying to resolve the crisis that has paralyzed Lebanon for two weeks.

Lebanon’s president on Wednesday acknowledged the government’s resignation but asked it to stay on until a new cabinet is formed.

Michel Aoun “asked the government to continue to conduct affairs until a new cabinet is formed,” his office said in a statement.

‘Baghdadi’s death won’t end Daesh-style terror groups’

Asked about the report of the death of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the hands of American military forces, the Iranian official said the Daesh leader’s death won’t end the proliferation of US-backed terror groups.

“Daesh won’t end with al-Baghdadi’s killing. Daesh was nurtured by the Americans. When they needed it, they supported and used it in any possible way, but they did this (claimed killing al-Baghdad) now that they are on the threshold of the elections and are after a bargaining chip,” he added.   

He said that former US President Barack Obama also did the same when he announced the killing of al-Qaada leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011 before the race for the US presidential election.

US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi blew himself up after he was cornered by US forces during an assault on his compound in Idlib in northern Syria.

The spokesman for the UN Secretary General, however, says the world body cannot verify the accuracy of the United States’ claim on the death of the Daesh leader.

‘Iran to consider slashing further JCPOA commitments’

Regarding Iran’s further steps to slash its nuclear commitments, Vaezi said that a committee is evaluating the next step, adding that “if what we are seeking is not met within the set two-month deadline for the third step during the negotiations, we will take the fourth step as planned.”

Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in a failed bid to strangle the Iranian oil trade.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — in July 2015.

In response to the US move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments three times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

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