All PH foreign posts on alert amid US-Iran tension

Marje Pelayo   •   January 8, 2020   •   216

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin has met with Iranian Charges D’affaires Nader Naseri and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Abdullah N.A. Al Bussairy regarding the security of Filipino nationals in their respective countries amid the rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

The two envoys reassured the Philippine government of keeping all Filipinos safe in the event hostilities erupt in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Locsin confirmed the readiness of all Philippine foreign posts in the Gulf region in response to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Likewise, he assured, that the Philippine Coast Guard are already on standby in the event of massive evacuation of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

At home, Philippine National Police (PNP) has stepped up its security measures in Embassies of the US, Iran and other allies in the country.

“We’ll be meeting the Embassies’ liaison officer or protocol officer so that we will be able to put in place what is supposed to be done,” noted P/Lt.Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the PNP Deputy Officer for Operations.

Conflict sparked between the United States and Iran after an airstrike by a US drone killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a move by the US that prompted governments to caution their citizens for possible evacuation.

DOLE assures cash, livelihood aid for Filipinos repatriated from Middle East

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has assured that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were recently repatriated from the Middle East will be provided with livelihood and cash assistance from the government.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said returning Filipinos from Iraq amid tensions between the United States and Iran will get cash aid amounting to P20,000, for active members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and P10,000 for non-active members.

Last January 15, around 13 Filipinos evacuated from Iraq arrived in Manila along with some labor officials.  

The DOLE said that a total of 1,640 Filipinos, documented and undocumented, are currently in Iraq. From these figures, 847 are staying in Baghdad, 655 in Erbil, and 148 in Sulaymaniyah.

The Philippine government ordered for a mandatory repatriation of Filipino workers in Iraq last January 8. It was triggered by the hoisting of alert level 4 due to the security threats in Middle East.

The alert level for Filipinos in Iraq was raised after Iran launched a series of ballistic missile attack at Iraq’s bases, where US forces were housed.

Iran’s firing of rockets was in retaliation for the death of top military general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last January 3.

On the same day, more than 170 passengers were killed after Iran shot down a Ukrainian plane while on alert following its missile attack against US forces.

Filipinos in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East who wish to avail of the government’s repatriation program are advised to contact the Embassy for assistance in securing exit visas and other necessary documents to ensure smooth repatriation process.

Iran calls for unity to expel US from Middle East during visit by Syrian PM

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis delivers an address during the opening of the Damascus International Fair on Sept. 6, 2018, in Damascus, Syria. EPA-EFE FILE/Youssef Badawi

By Marina Villen

Tehran – Iranian authorities on Monday called on the region’s countries to unite to expel US troops from the Middle East during a visit to Tehran by a Syrian delegation headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis.

Khamis’s presence in Iran was significant because the Islamic Republic has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its war against the armed opposition and insurgent groups, support that mostly came via Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was recently killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

“As long as US terrorist forces are present in West Asia, the region will not achieve peace or security,” Ali Shamkhani, an influential official who serves as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the Syrian prime minister.

To end this situation, Shamkhani said that “the withdrawal of the US will happen through the unity of the countries and governments of the region,” Iranian official state media reported.

“The presence and interference of the United States have caused instability, especially in Iraq and Syria,” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said.

The expulsion of US troops, therefore, is “the best revenge,” Jahangiri said.

Syria is part of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the United States and Israel led by Iran and comprised of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Iran and some of these groups vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“Without a doubt, the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani will make the Axis of Resistance more determined in its fight,” Shamkhani said.

The United States thought that Soleimani’s killing would lead to the “collapse of that front of the region,” Shamkhani said.

The Iranian general’s killing, however, led to “more cohesion and strengthening of the Axis of Resistance,” Shamkhani said.

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani expressed the same view during his meeting with Khamis.

As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years spread Iran’s influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq.

Khamis posthumously awarded Syria’s highest military medal to Soleimani, noting that the honor reflected “the deep affection” of al-Assad for the late Iranian general.

The Syrian official also thanked Iran for its support in eradicating terrorism in Syria and called for strengthening economic and trade relations at a time when Iranian companies are seeking huge contracts to rebuild the Arab country.

Soleimani’s killing is “an example of the US conspiracies in the region,” the Syrian prime minister, who headed a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem and Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said.

“The fight against the presence of US forces in the region must become a sustained process,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.

Despite Soleimani’s death, “the path of resistance continues,” Hatami said.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran on Sunday, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to ease tensions in the region on Monday.

Qureshi, who is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia next, called for “maximum restraint and immediate steps” to resolve the crisis, advocating “dialogue and diplomacy.”

No one wants war, the Pakistani official said.

Iranian President Hasan Rohani said he welcomes “with pleasure, Pakistan’s efforts to promote regional peace and stability.”

The Islamic Republic “never tried to start a war,” the Iranian president said. EFE

mv-ar/ta/hv

US sanctions that caused tension with Iran

Maris Federez   •   January 9, 2020

Protestors participate in the ‘No War with Iran’ demonstration in San Francisco, California, USA, 08 January 2020. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

The tension between the United States of America and Iran started when the US imposed sanctions, through Executive Order 12170, against Iran in November 1979 after a group of radical students forcefully entered the American Embassy in Tehran and held the people inside hostage.

EO 12170 ordered the freezing of $12-billion in assets, which included bank deposits, gold and other properties, and a trade embargo against Iran.

The sanctions were lifted in January 1981 as part of the Algiers Accords, which provided for a negotiated settlement for the release of the hostages.

In 1984, during the Iran-Iraq War that started in September 1980, the US prohibited weapon sales and all assistance to Iran.

in 1987, US President Ronald Reagan ordered sanctions against Iran because of its actions from 1981-1987 against the U.S. and other shipping vessels in the Persian Gulf and support for terrorism.

In 1995, the US imposed unprecedented sanctions to censure Iran as a response to the latter’s continued illicit nuclear activities and support to terrorist organizations, such as the Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad.

US President Bill Clinton issued several executive orders banning trade and investments in Iran.

In December 2006, U.S. sanctions targeted investments in oil, gas, and petrochemicals, exports of refined petroleum products, and business dealings with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) after Iran refused to comply with UNSC Resolution 1696 which demanded that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program.

The US sanctions covered banking and insurance transactions, shipping, web-hosting services for commercial endeavors, and domain name registration services.

In 2013, members of the US House of representatives voted 400 to 20 in favor of toughened sanctions against Iran.

On 24 November 2013, Iran and the P5+1 countries signed the Joint Plan of Action in Geneva, Switzerland, which provided for a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran, as the countries worked towards a long-term agreement.

The Joint Plan of Action, which was implemented on January 20, 2014, represented the first formal agreement between the US and Iran in 34 years.

The P5+1 refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany.  

In November 2018, however, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and ordered the sanctions against Iran reinstated.

In April 2019, the U.S. threatened to sanction countries continuing to buy oil from Iran after an initial six-month waiver announced in November expired.

In a televised speech on December 31, 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that successive US sanctions on Iran cost the country $100-billion in oil revenue and another $100-billion of investment money.

Rouhani called US financial measures on Iran’s oil and banking sectors an “economic war”.

On January 3, 2020, Iranian top military commander Qassam Soleimani was killed by a US Drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq.

Soleimani was considered the “Single Most Powerful Operative in the Middle East.”

The strike was a retaliation on the part of the US after Iranian troops attacked the K-1 Air Base in Iraq, where Iraqi and U.S. personnel were stationed, and the US Embassy in the Green Zone.

The attack in the K-1 Air Base killed an American contractor, in which the U.S. responded by launching airstrikes across Iraq and Syria that killed 25 Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militiamen.

The US underscored that President Trump approved the strike which aimed to disrupt what it called further imminent attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.

On January 8, 2020 (US Time), US President Donald Trump announced that Iranian missile strikes on bases in Iraq did not harm any US troops stationed there and that the damage was minimal.

Iran “appears to be standing down”, said Trump at the White House amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the US killing of  Soleimani.

Trump also announced that the US would immediately impose new powerful sanctions until “Iran changes its behavior”. /mbmf

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