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Princeton scholar under fire for boasting about Iran threat against US over Soleimani

A US-based former Iranian diplomat has come under fire after he appeared to be gloating on Iranian state TV that threats made by the Iranian regime following the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani supposedly frightened the family of a former US official.

Iran’s state media marked the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death with a new documentary earlier this month that glorified the late Revolutionary Guards commander.

Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force – the overseas arm of the Revolutionary Guards – was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq on January 3, 2020. He was considered the most powerful figure in Iran after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Hossein Mousavian, a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University who served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany from 1990 to 1997, took part in the documentary.

Mousavian came under fire after he appeared to boast during the documentary that Iranian threats to target US officials as part of the revenge for Soleimani had purportedly caused the wife of Brain Hook, the US Special Envoy for Iran at the time, to panic.

Mousavian, who travelled back to Iran in January 2020 to attend Soleimani’s funeral, claimed: “After returning to the US, an American told me that Brian Hook’s wife had not slept for several days and that she was shaking and crying. That’s how afraid they were.”

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group that seeks to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons, issued a statement on Friday condemning Mousavian.

“Princeton scholar Hossein Mousavian … recently sounded gleeful over the fact that American citizens and their families were concerned by death threats received from supporters of the Iranian regime in a documentary … UANI strongly condemns Mousavian and calls upon Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber to dismiss him from any association or affiliation with Princeton without delay,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Mousavian’s affiliation with Princeton is a stain on the university’s reputation and credibility,” UANI said, noting the assassinations of several Iranian dissidents in Germany in the 1990s while Mousavian served as ambassador to Berlin.

Mousavian is accused of being involved in the assassination of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in September 1992 in Berlin.

Mousavian was removed as ambassador at the request of the German government after Berlin’s highest court concluded in April 1997 that the 1992 assassinations were ordered by a committee headed by Supreme Leader Khamenei.

“Laughing at death threats and even bragging about them is not behaviour people at academic institutions should display,” Vahid Yucesoy, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Montreal, wrote on Twitter. a

Kenneth Weinstein, Walter P. Stern distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, slammed Princeton for “providing a home for an enemy of America who boasts about intimidating the family of an American public servant.”

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High activity spotted at N. Korea nuclear complex after Kim’s bomb-fuel order: Report

Satellite images show a high level of activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site, a US think tank reported on Saturday after the North Korean leader ordered an increase in production of bomb fuel to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Washington-based 38 North Korea monitoring project said the activity it had spotted, based on images from March 3 and 17, could indicate that an Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) at the Yongbyon site was nearing completion and transition to operational status.

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The report said the images showed that a 5 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon continued to operate and that construction had started on a support building around the ELWR. Further, water discharges had been detected from that reactor’s cooling system. New construction had also started around Yongbyon’s uranium enrichment plant, likely to expand its capabilities.

“These developments seem to reflect Kim Jong Un’s recent directive to increase the country’s fissile material production to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal,” the report added, referring to the North Korean leader.

On Tuesday, North Korea unveiled new, smaller nuclear warheads and vowed to produce more weapons-grade nuclear material to expand its arsenal, while denouncing stepped up military exercises by South Korea and the United States.

Its state media said Kim had ordered the production of weapons-grade materials in a “far-sighted way” to boost the country’s nuclear arsenal “exponentially.”

It is unclear whether North Korea has fully developed miniaturized nuclear warheads needed to fit on smaller weapons it has displayed and analysts say perfecting such warheads would most likely be a key goal if it resumes nuclear testing for the first time since 2017.

South Korea and the United States have warned since early 2022 that North Korea may resume nuclear testing at any time.

In a report last year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated North Korea had assembled up to 20 nuclear warheads, and probably possessed sufficient fissile material for approximately 45–55 nuclear devices.

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UK water companies to face unlimited fines for sewage pollution

Water companies will incur unlimited fines for polluting rivers and the sea under new UK legislation to protect the environment, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Therese Coffrey, the environment secretary, will announce plans next week to remove the £250,000 maximum fine on civil penalties for companies that break the rules. The environment agency is also seeking to strengthen its ability to impose sanctions on water companies without going through the courts.

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Fines will be reinvested into a new Water Restoration Fund which will work with local communities and groups to improve water quality and support projects to improve management of waters and restore protected sites. Penalties and fines will be taken from water company profits, not customers.

Last year, 10 water and sewage companies within England released sewage into rivers and the sea on 301,091 occasions, with United Utilities and Yorkshire Water responsible for 40 percent of the spills.

“I want to make sure that regulators have the powers and tools to take tough action against companies that are breaking the rules and to do so more quickly, Therese Coffrey said in a statement.

The government’s ‘Plan for Water’ will also include measures against other forms of pollution, such as storm overflows, agriculture, plastics, road run-off and chemicals and pesticides.

The proposals will be published within a consultation on Tuesday.

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Iraq, KRG close to deal to resume northern oil exports

Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are close to striking a deal aimed at resuming northern oil exports, four sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Saturday.

Turkey stopped pipeline flows from the Kirkuk fields in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to its port of Ceyhan on March 25, after it lost an arbitration case brought by Baghdad.

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In the case, Iraq accused Turkey of violating their 1973 pipeline agreement by allowing the Kurdish government to export oil without Baghdad’s consent between 2014 and 2018.

The halted flows of around 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) only accounted for about 0.5 percent of global oil supply, but the stoppage, which forced oil firms operating in the region to halt output or move production into rapidly-filling storage tanks, still helped boost oil prices last week back to near $80/bbl.

An initial agreement between the two sides states that Iraq’s northern oil exports will be jointly exported by Iraq’s state-owned marketing company SOMO and the KRG’s ministry of natural resources (MNR), according to two of the sources – a senior Iraqi oil official and a KRG official.

Revenues will be deposited in an account managed by the MNR and supervised by Baghdad, the KRG official said.

The preliminary agreement has been sent to Iraq’s prime minister for final approval, according to two of the sources. The KRG source expects the deal to be confirmed by Monday.

The KRG declined to comment. Iraq’s oil ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached outside regular business hours.

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