Iran says general fatally shot himself by accident

TEHRAN, Iran – The website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is reporting that a general who fought in Syria and Iraq has allegedly accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun. Gen. Ghodratollah Mansouri allegedly shot himself in the head by accident while cleaning his pistol, according to the Sunday report. The report added that Mansouri was … Continue reading “Iran says general fatally shot himself by accident”

TEHRAN, Iran – The website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is reporting that a general who fought in Syria and Iraq has allegedly accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun.

Gen. Ghodratollah Mansouri allegedly shot himself in the head by accident while cleaning his pistol, according to the Sunday report.

The report added that Mansouri was veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and a "defender of the shrine," a reference to Iranians who fight against the extremist Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq.

Since 2014, Mansouri was a regional commander of the Guard's ground forces in the northeastern city of Mashhad, some 560 miles east of the capital Tehran.

Hundreds of Iranian forces have been killed fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Iran-linked hacking group targeted US officials in apparent sanction retaliation, report says

An Iran-linked hacking group named Charming Kitten reportedly tried to break into the private emails of more than a dozen U.S. officials and nuclear scientists during the last month in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Aside from government officials, the hackers went after defenders, detractors and enforcers of the Iran nuke deal and also targeted Arab atomic scientists, Iranian civil society figures and D.C. think tank employees, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

“Presumably, some of this is about figuring out what is going on with sanctions,” Frederick Kagan, an American Enterprise Institute scholar who was targeted in the hacking, told the Associated Press.

The list surfaced after Charming Kitten left one of its servers open on the Internet last month. Certfa, a London-based cybersecurity group, found the server and extracted a list of 77 email addresses on the hackers' wish list before handing it over to the Associated Press.

Certfa researchers Nariman Gharib, left, and Amin Sabeti look at a computer at a cafe in London on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

Certfa tied the hackers to the Iranian government after a blunder revealed they were operating from computers inside the country. The group’s assessment was backed by others who have tracked the group in the past. The Associated Press reported data suggests Charming Kitten works closely with the Iranian government.

Among the U.S. targets were Andrew J. Grotto, who worked on the U.S. National Security Council between the Obama and Trump administrations, and Jarrett Blanc, a State Department coordinator responsible for the implementation of the nuclear deal under Obama.

“I've retained contact with Iranian counterparts since leaving government,” Blanc told the Associated Press. “I'd be very surprised if there were not Iranian groups trying to hack into my various email accounts.”

At least 13 U.S. Treasury officials were also targeted, including a director at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Iran licensing chief at the Office of Foreign Asset Control, which is in charge of enforcing U.S. sanctions.

Certfa described the attacks as not particularly sophisticated, as Charming Kitten hackers primarily relied on phishing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: Trump was right to withdraw from Iran deal

For many, particularly those often critical of President Trump’s behavior, it can be hard to look dispassionately at issues, scrutinize administration policies, and arrive at conclusions that, despite one’s personal aversion to presidential conduct and tactics, require giving credit where credit is due. Iran is a critical case in point.

There is a general perception in Europe and among many in the U.S. that the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was a policy blunder which Europe now needs to mitigate. This is based on the European view that the deal was succeeding within its intentionally limited scope and offered the best foundation for future negotiation with Iran on other foreign policy matters.

It may be true that, in the technical sense of the word, Iran is complying with the JCPOA, and that it is unlikely that Iran will look to develop an offensive nuclear capability in the short term. It is also true that the JCPOA was an encouraging sign of multilateralism between countries that do not often collaborate on critical geopolitical issues.

The mistake in this perspective, however, has been to believe that because the deal was working on those two levels, it was the right thing to do. Let me suggest another perspective.  By misreading Iranian strategy and underappreciating the significance of secondary consequences, the JCPOA has in fact made the region a much more dangerous place and damaged European interests in the process.

It is doubtful that Iran sought nuclear weapons to use against their regional enemies. The commitment to develop weapons capability for over three decades was essential to an Iranian foreign policy centered around revolutionary, sectarian expansionism, primarily within the Middle East. Iran wants to control the region, a goal which it couldn’t rationally achieve by dropping nuclear bombs on its neighbors. Instead, it sought nuclear capability as leverage and protection for its goal of regional hegemony.

The JCPOA’s final text significantly enriched and emboldened Iran. Free at last from the pressures which had brought it to the negotiating table and with a $150 billion American remittance, the regime could escalate its regional destabilization efforts.

This is not about this administration vs. that administration, about Democrats vs. Republicans, or about Americans vs. Europeans. And it is not about Donald Trump. It is about changing the behavior of a rogue nation which threatens the peace and stability upon which the region and the world depend.

While the agreement may have slowed Tehran’s effort to build weapons, it certainly enhanced its short-term strategy. It does not make you safer to tie one hand of the enemy behind his back while putting a gun in the other one.

In the haste to do a deal, the framers of the JCPOA lost sight of its primary mission: to make the world a safer place.

It is understandable that the Persian Gulf States are frustrated that Europe is working so hard to protect a deal which increases the daily risk to their citizens, but not to Europe’s!

And understandably so. Since the deal was signed in 2015, there has been significant strengthening of Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Palestine, Shiite militias in Iran, and Bahrain’s militant opposition.  That in turn has led to a much-increased military threat to most Arab countries and Israel, and an elevated possibility of a military conflict between regional powers, which certainly would be disastrous for Europe given its impact on security, trade, and refugee flow.

It is understandable that Europe wants to protect its commercial interests with Iran, but by increasing tension and escalating conflict in such an important region, it is not obvious the JCPOA is advancing those interests in the long-run.

This is not about this administration vs. that administration, about Democrats vs. Republicans, or about Americans vs. Europeans. And it is not about Donald Trump. It is about changing the behavior of a rogue nation which threatens the peace and stability upon which the region and the world depend.

Iran’s current objective is to exploit division here at home and drive a wedge between the U.S. and the Europeans while marching onwards in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.  We would be much better off coming together–here in the U.S., with our European allies, and with Persian Gulf countries–and presenting a constructive, united front against Tehran’s regional expansionism.  Only then will Iran feel the pressure required to moderate its behavior, if it is in fact capable of doing so, without being overthrown.

Tom Ridge, Chairman of Ridge Global, served as the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and was the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Families of Iran hostages, Robert Levinson call on world governments to step up and ‘send our loved ones home’

The family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson and the relatives of nearly a half dozen others held captive in Iran say they “shall remain quiet no longer” about demands for world governments to help secure the release of those hopelessly detained in the Islamic Republic.

The declaration came in an open letter addressed to “World Leaders, Rights Organizations and Media Outlets” that was published by the group earlier this week. The families have “banded together now to come to you as one voice," the letter stated.

“We believe that the Iranian authorities have little incentive to end the cruel and horrific practice of hostage taking as a result of inadequate pressure from the international community,” the letter reads. “World leaders need to make the political cost for committing human rights violations so high that releasing our loved ones becomes advantageous to the Iranian authorities.”

The letter highlighted the plights of six dual and foreign nationals who have been held hostage in Iran: Ahmadreza Djalali, Kamran Ghaderi, Nizar Zakka, Saeed Malekpour, Siamak and Baquer Namazi and Levinson. The latter four are some of the nearly 20 known American hostages who remain in captivity or who have been imprisoned by hostile regimes.

Zakka, a Lebanese-born Internet freedom activist who is a permanent resident of the U.S., was detained in Iran in September 2015 while attending a woman’ empowerment conference he was invited to. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges.

A month later, Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, was nabbed while visiting his family, three months after the Obama administration-led Iran nuclear deal was signed.

Namazi's father, Baquer, a former UNICEF diplomat, was arrested in February 2016 after the Iranian authorities granted him permission to visit his son in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

And Levinson, now believed to be the longest-held American hostage in history, was 58 when he boarded a flight from Dubai and then made his way to Kish Island, a resort in the Persian Gulf, in 2007. He was allegedly investigating cigarette smuggling and possibly working on a book, but after checking into the Maryam Hotel, he met with an American fugitive, Dawud Salahuddin, also known as David Belfield and Hassan Abdulrahman.

Salahuddin, who is still wanted for the 1980 murder of an Iranian diplomat in Maryland, was being targeted by the CIA for recruitment, a source close to the Levinson case told Fox News in 2016. Levinson was hoping a successful mission that delivered Salahuddin would lead to full-time hours with the CIA, the source said.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, which includes Levinson as a member, told Fox News that it feels like he is being used as “a bargaining chip for a hostile foreign power."

“I think we need to commend the Trump administration for really preaching hard on this and realizing that Iran is a hostile foreign power and that they continue to take these hostages,” added the society's executive director, Nancy Savage.

The FBI said earlier this year that the bureau and “our partners in the United States Government have worked tirelessly to bring Mr. Levinson home” – and a $5 million reward has been offered for Levinson's safe return.

But Levinson’s family — and the others who wrote and signed the letter — say more needs to be done.

"Over several agonizing years, our loved ones’ cases have each been treated individually, but while they are all unique and complicated cases, this is not an individual problem, it is a pattern; a pattern we call on world leaders to help end," the group said in its letter. "Responsible stakeholders on all sides of this issue know what to do. Please, secure our loved ones’ freedom from Iranian prisons."

The relatives added: “We are a determined group of individuals and families speaking to our governments with one voice, as human beings who have been affected by the horrific situation that the Iranian authorities have created. We are asking for action."

Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany who previously was the longest-serving U.S. spokesman at the U.N., said this week Levinson’s family deserves information on his conditions and whereabouts. Levinson last surfaced in a 2011 video clip.

“I encourage the public to demand the release of all these hostages,” he said, referencing the open letter. “We will not rest until Mr. Levinson, and the rest of Iran’s hostages, are safely home with their families.”

Fox News’ Hollie McKay, Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Pompeo says Iran tested ballistic missile, in violation of UN resolution

The Trump administration on Saturday accused Iran of test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile, with the capability to strike parts of Europe and the Middle East — a move the U.S. says is in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Secretary Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Iran had fired the missile, capable of carrying multiple warheads, and it was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231 — which calls on Iran to refrain from  “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Resolution 2231 was the Security Council’s endorsement of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from in May.

EUROPE OPENS DOOR TO SANCTIONS ON IRAN AFTER TERROR PLOTS IN DENMARK, PARIS

“As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence. We condemn these activities, and call upon Iran to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The Trump administration has been continually pointing to “malign activities” by the Iranian regime that they say violates the Iran deal — which Trump has repeatedly described as one of the worst deals “ever made” — and other international agreements.

Video

On Thursday, the administration accused Iran of violating a U.N. ban on arms exports by sending rockets and other weapons to rebels in Afghanistan and Yemen, and showed weapons and fragments seized that it said provided “irrefutable evidence” that Iran’s activity is getting worse in the region.

"It's important for all nations to understand that this is a global threat that requires a global response," Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters. "it would be an act of negligence for us to be in possession of these arms and not to publicize it."

POMPEO PULLS OUT OF TREATY WITH IRAN, IN RESPONSE TO UN COURT RULING

The Trump administration has reimposed economic sanctions on the regime, with sanctions on crude oil exports re-imposed last month. President Trump, at a U.N. Security Council meeting in September, warned that the U.S. "will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran's malign conduct."

Pompeo announced in October that the U.S. was terminating a 1955 treaty with Iran after the U.N.'s International Court of Justice used it to order to the U.S. to ease some of its economic sanctions on the regime."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a reporter covering U.S. and European politics for Fox News.. He can be reached here.

Over 170 hurt after magnitude 6.3 earthquake rattles western Iran

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck western Iran near its border with Iraq on Sunday night, injuring over 170 people and sending fearful residents running into the street, authorities said.

The temblor hit near Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran's Kermanshah province, which was the epicenter of an earthquake last year that killed over 600 people and where some still remain homeless.

Morteza Salimi of Iran's Red Crescent told Iranian state television that 171 people were injured, most of them slightly. Kermanshah provincial Gov. Houshang Bazvand similarly said there were injuries, but few people hospitalized.

Authorities said six rescue teams were immediately deployed after the quake stopped and the country's army and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard were responding.

The location of the earthquake in Western Iran on Sunday. (USGS)

Officials reported damage at buildings both in town and in rural Kermanshah, as well as to some roadways. The temblor also downed powerlines and caused power outages into the night as temperatures hovered around 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The quake struck just after 8 p.m. in Iran, meaning most were still awake at the time and able to quickly flee.

The 6.3 earthquake had a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Iran state TV gave the depth as 3.1 miles. Such shallow earthquakes have broader damage.

The earthquake was felt as far away as the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Earthquake kills over 400, injures thousands in Iraq-Iran

Kitty Logan reports on the search for survivors.

Iran is located on major seismic faults and experiences an earthquake per day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southern Iran, killing 26,000 people.

Last year's earthquake near Sarpol-e Zahab, a predominantly Kurdish town, had a magnitude of 7.3 and injured more than 9,000 people. The region, nestled in the Zagros Mountains, largely rebuilt in recent decades after Iran and Iraq's ruinous 1980s war, saw many buildings collapse or sustain major damage in the 2017 quake.

Sarpol-e Zahab, some 325 miles southwest of the Iranian capital of Tehran, suffered half of the 2017 temblor's casualties.

Iranian accused of procuring parts for IEDs used on US troops; $3M reward offered for capture

U.S. authorities this week announced a $3 million reward for the capture of an Iranian man accused of procuring parts from a Minnesota company later used to make roadside bombs targeting U.S. military forces in Iraq.

Hossein Ahmad Larijani went on the run after a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted him in 2010 on charges related to the shipment of 6,000 radio transceiver modules made in the state, an FBI news release states.

The reward is being offered by the State Department.

According to the release, Larijani, 55, was assisted by companies in Iran and Singapore, along with four co-conspirators in Singapore, from 2007-08 in transporting the modules from the Minnesota company –referred to in court documents as Company A – to Iran.

Singapore-based Corezing International deceived the firm into shipping the devices to Singapore by telling it the components would be used in a local telecommunications project, the FBI said.

Once the shipments arrived in Singapore, they were allegedly shipped illegally to Iran and used to make remote detonation systems for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The modules could transmit data from up to 40 miles away and were outfitted with encryption capabilities, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“In addition to commercial uses, these same modules have other lethal and destructive applications,” the indictment said.

According to the indictment, between 2008 and 2009, U.S. and coalition forces retrieved numerous remote detonation systems in Iraq assembled using modules shipped from Minnesota.

Three of Larijani's co-conspirators were extradited to the U.S. where they served prison terms before being deported back to Singapore. One remains at large in Singapore, the FBI said.

The FBI believes Larijani is living in Tehran and poses an international flight risk.

Over 170 hurt after magnitude 6.3 earthquake rattles western Iran

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck western Iran near its border with Iraq on Sunday night, injuring over 170 people and sending fearful residents running into the street, authorities said.

The temblor hit near Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran's Kermanshah province, which was the epicenter of an earthquake last year that killed over 600 people and where some still remain homeless.

Morteza Salimi of Iran's Red Crescent told Iranian state television that 171 people were injured, most of them slightly. Kermanshah provincial Gov. Houshang Bazvand similarly said there were injuries, but few people hospitalized.

Authorities said six rescue teams were immediately deployed after the quake stopped and the country's army and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard were responding.

The location of the earthquake in Western Iran on Sunday. (USGS)

Officials reported damage at buildings both in town and in rural Kermanshah, as well as to some roadways. The temblor also downed powerlines and caused power outages into the night as temperatures hovered around 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The quake struck just after 8 p.m. in Iran, meaning most were still awake at the time and able to quickly flee.

The 6.3 earthquake had a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Iran state TV gave the depth as 3.1 miles. Such shallow earthquakes have broader damage.

The earthquake was felt as far away as the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Earthquake kills over 400, injures thousands in Iraq-Iran

Kitty Logan reports on the search for survivors.

Iran is located on major seismic faults and experiences an earthquake per day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southern Iran, killing 26,000 people.

Last year's earthquake near Sarpol-e Zahab, a predominantly Kurdish town, had a magnitude of 7.3 and injured more than 9,000 people. The region, nestled in the Zagros Mountains, largely rebuilt in recent decades after Iran and Iraq's ruinous 1980s war, saw many buildings collapse or sustain major damage in the 2017 quake.

Sarpol-e Zahab, some 325 miles southwest of the Iranian capital of Tehran, suffered half of the 2017 temblor's casualties.

Iranian accused of procuring parts for IEDs used on US troops; $3M reward offered for capture

U.S. authorities this week announced a $3 million reward for the capture of an Iranian man accused of procuring parts from a Minnesota company later used to make roadside bombs targeting U.S. military forces in Iraq.

Hossein Ahmad Larijani went on the run after a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted him in 2010 on charges related to the shipment of 6,000 radio transceiver modules made in the state, an FBI news release states.

The reward is being offered by the State Department.

According to the release, Larijani, 55, was assisted by companies in Iran and Singapore, along with four co-conspirators in Singapore, from 2007-08 in transporting the modules from the Minnesota company –referred to in court documents as Company A – to Iran.

Singapore-based Corezing International deceived the firm into shipping the devices to Singapore by telling it the components would be used in a local telecommunications project, the FBI said.

Once the shipments arrived in Singapore, they were allegedly shipped illegally to Iran and used to make remote detonation systems for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The modules could transmit data from up to 40 miles away and were outfitted with encryption capabilities, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“In addition to commercial uses, these same modules have other lethal and destructive applications,” the indictment said.

According to the indictment, between 2008 and 2009, U.S. and coalition forces retrieved numerous remote detonation systems in Iraq assembled using modules shipped from Minnesota.

Three of Larijani's co-conspirators were extradited to the U.S. where they served prison terms before being deported back to Singapore. One remains at large in Singapore, the FBI said.

The FBI believes Larijani is living in Tehran and poses an international flight risk.

Iran’s leader calls on Muslims to unite against US, refers to Israel as ‘cancerous tumor’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called on the world's Muslims to unite against the United States, as his country grapples with another round of sanctions recently reimposed by the Trump administration.

“Submitting to the West headed by America would be treason against our religion … and against the future generations of this region,” Rouhani said at the Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, in a speech broadcast live on state television, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran that cover the country’s shipping, financial and energy sectors months after pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

The U.S. has said the sanctions are intended to prevent Iran from supporting militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

In addition to the U.S., Rouhani also criticized Israel, calling it a “cancerous tumor” established by Western nations to advance their interests in the Middle East. Iranian leaders have pledged support to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that are committed to Israel's destruction.

Video

Rouhani also took aim at regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“We have a choice to either roll out red carpets for criminals or to forcefully stand against injustice and remain faithful to our Prophet, our Quran and our Islam,” he said.

The countries have supported opposite sides of several conflicts, including the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Earlier this year, Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also called on Muslim nations to unite against the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.