Israel’s Head of Intelligience shares fears of Iran launching attack in Qatar

Israel’s Head of Intelligience has shared a stark warning in which he feared that Iran is considering an attack on Qatar during the World Cup.

Speaking at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, Major General Aharon Haliva spoke about the political unrest currently unfolding in the Middle Eastern country.

“Iran is on the whole field, from nuclear to riots,” said Maj Gen Haliva. “The only thing holding them back is how the Qataris will react.”

Since the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini, violent clashes between military and anti-government protests have resulted in the death of at least 378 civilians. The figures date back to November 19 and were published by the Iran Human Rights group.

Other reports, including one released by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) placed the death toll at 402 as of November 18.

Maj Gen Haliva described the unrest as “extremely exceptional protests” that have “moved to a civilian rebellion”.

“The death toll, the attacks on national symbols, this is very troubling for the regimen, in combination with sanctions,” he said.

Although he believes this won’t end Iran’s authoritarian regime, the intelligence specialist said increasing pressure could see the government respond with more hostility.

“I do not see a risk to the regimen … but as the pressure on Iran increases, including internal pressure, the Iranian response is much more aggressive,” he said.

“So we should expect much more aggressive responses in the region and in the world.”

Iran’s football team speaks out

Before Iran’s first game against England, the captain of the Iranian Football team, Ehsan Hajsafi criticised the civil and civilian unrest.

“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said.

“We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we must not respect them.

“We have to perform and score some goals to present the brave people of Iran with a result. I hope conditions change as to the expectations of the people.”

Players also staged a protest during the game, in which Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem prior to their opening match.

On Sunday, Iranian state news agency, Irna also confirmed two high-profile actresses, Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi have been arrested on grounds of collusion and acting against Iran’s authorities.

Before her arrest, Ghaziani shared an Instagram video of herself on a public street in the country’s capital, of Tehran without her headscarf. The act is considered illegal in the highly conservative Islamic country.

In the caption of her sombre post, she wrote: “This may be my last post. From this moment on, if anything happens to me, know that I will always be with the people of Iran until my last breath.”

Iran and Qatar friendly relations

Despite the Israeli Intelligence Chief’s comments, Iran and Qatar are believed to have civil diplomatic relations.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani recently hosted talks with US diplomaat Antony Blinken, where they discussed Iran’s nuclear program. Doha (Qatar’s capital) also shared a large offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

More concerningly, a leaked document from Qatar’s Al-Jazeera appeared to warn journalists to avoid covering or tweeting about the civil unrest in Iran.

The paper was shared by the Regional Head of the British Center for Middle East Studies and Research, Amjad Taha on Twitter.

Dated September 28, 2022, the document read: “In implementation of the directives received from the network’s senior management, it is necessary to circulate to all Al Jazeera affiliates, including broadcasters, journalists and correspondents, banning publication of the demonstrations taking place in the Islamic Republic of Iran on all media affiliated with Al Jazeera Media Network.

“The ban also includes the personal social media accounts of the network’s affiliates. Anyone who violates this will be subjected to punishment under the criminal procedures clause.”

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