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Canada Spy agency investigating ‘credible’ death threats from Iran against individuals in Canada

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Canada’s spy agency is actively investigating what it calls multiple “credible” death threats from Iran aimed at individuals in Canada, CBC News has learned.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it’s aware of state actors from the Islamic Republic of Iran monitoring and intimidating people inside Canada to silence those who speak out publicly against the regime.

“CSIS is actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran based on credible intelligence,” CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam said in a media statement to CBC News.

“Ultimately, these hostile activities and foreign interference undermine the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as our democratic values and sovereignty.”

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It’s the first time the agency has confirmed multiple ongoing investigations involving what it calls “lethal threats to Canadians and people located in Canada” emanating from Iran.

The details were released to CBC News after Britain’s domestic intelligence chief revealed Wednesday that the United Kingdom faces a major security threat from Iran, Russia and China — countries the U.K. accuses of using violence and intimidation abroad to pursue their interests.

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran on Sept. 21 shows Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP via Getty Images)

For the past two months, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Iran to protest the regime. The massive demonstrations were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the so-called morality police and died in custody after allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.

At least 341 people — including teenagers and children — have been killed and more than 15,800 have been detained in relation to Iran’s protests, according to Human Rights Activists News Agency, an organization of Iranian activists. Experts suggest the true numbers could be much higher, given the regime’s crackdown on the release of real-time information online.

MI5, the United Kingdom’s domestic counter-intelligence agency, said Iran’s intelligence service is targeting dissidents abroad they “perceive as enemies of the regime.”

MI5 Director General Ken McCallum gives a speech at Thames House in central London on Nov. 16. (Yui Mok/Associated Press)

Ken McCallum, director-general of MI5, said Iran is responsible for at least 10 potential threats to kidnap or kill British or U.K.-based people this year.

“Iran projects threat to the U.K. directly, through its aggressive intelligence services,” said McCallum.

“The foreign secretary made clear to the Iranian regime just last week that the U.K. will not tolerate intimidation or threats to life towards journalists, or any individual, living in the U.K.”

Canada’s government last year condemned Iran’s “pattern of intimidation and foreign interference” after U.S. authorities laid charges in an alleged Iranian plot to kidnap five people and take them to Iran — including three individuals from Canada.

Family members in Canada who have criticized Iran’s government after losing their loved ones in the destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in 2020 have also reported to RCMP that they’ve been targeted for threats and intimidation by Tehran. Flight 752 was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shortly after takeoff on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 passengers and crew aboard.

CSIS said in its 2021 annual report that it continued to “investigate credible reports” involving “threat actors linked to proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

 

Families of Flight 752 victims report threats

Loved ones of Canadians and permanent residents who died in the crash of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752, say they’ve received a growing number of threats believed to be from Iran and inside Canada.

Dennis Horak, Canada’s former chargé d’affaires in Iran, said that kidnapping and killing people abroad has been part of the Iranian regime’s playbook for decades. He said the latest threats are a reminder of the nature of the regime.

“This is a regime that does not play by the rules internationally and never has,” said Horak, who worked at Canada’s embassy in Tehran from 2009 until it closed in 2012.

In the late 1980s to 1990s, many Iranian dissidents went missing or were killed abroad.

Iranian agents murdered Sadegh Sharafkandi, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, in Berlin at a restaurant. The Germans prosecuted the case and issued international arrest warrants in 1997 for top Iranian regime officials.

Horak said that it was rare for MI5 to reveal the number of attempts, which could signal the agency’s level of concern.

“The Brits may feel that the Iranians have nothing to lose at this point in terms of their international limits, so they may step it up and go after some people who are making the biggest noise about what’s happening domestically,” he said.

CSIS said that while it cannot comment on specific cases, it’s urging people in Canada who believe they’re being targeted by Iran to contact the RCMP. The agency said it’s working with domestic and international partners and the Iranian-Canadian community.

The Iranian diaspora in Canada continues to stage its own protests; the next one is planned for this weekend.

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The state of the union? Unapologetically pro-American, to hear Joe Biden tell it

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The state of the union

U.S. President Joe Biden offered no apologies for his spendthrift, pro-American economic strategy Tuesday, making clear in his second state of the union speech that he intends to persist with a protectionist approach that’s making for anxious allies, including Canada.

Biden, with newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over his shoulder, preached the virtues of working across the aisle as he found himself addressing a newly divided Congress, Republicans have wrested control of the House of Representatives away from Democrats in November.

With some Republicans spoiling for a fight as presidential election season draws near, Biden is under pressure to justify what political opponents say is a profligate approach to the federal purse, making it all the more important to ensure that money stays on U.S. soil.

And he didn’t just defend Buy American. He doubled down on it, promising new rules for federal infrastructure projects that would require all construction materials — not just iron and steel, but copper, aluminum, lumber, glass, drywall and fibre-optic cable — be made in the U.S.

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“On my watch, American roads, American bridges and American highways will be made with American products,” Biden said.

“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away.”

Protectionism notwithstanding, most Canadians still see the U.S. as their country’s closest ally, a new poll suggests — but they seem less certain that their powerful neighbour is a force for good in the world.

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents to the online survey, conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies, said they still see the U.S. as Canada’s best friend, while 16 per cent said they disagreed and 15 per cent said they didn’t know.

Those surveyed were much more divided, however, on the question of whether the U.S. is a positive influence on international affairs: 41 per cent disagreed with that statement, compared with 38 per cent who said they believe it’s true. Twenty-one per cent abstained.

Part of that is likely due to the hyper-partisanship that has come to define U.S. politics and was on clear display as Biden turned to domestic issues like drug costs, oil and gas production, corporate tax increases and the ever-present debt ceiling controversy.

McCarthy has insisted Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling, a necessary step to avoid the U.S. going into default, without an agreement to reduce spending to 2022 levels, a cut of roughly eight per cent.

Biden said Republicans were proposing deep cuts to cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare, an allegation that prompted eyerolls from McCarthy and catcalls and boos from Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, among others.

“Let’s commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned,” he said, before accusing certain Republicans of trying to “take the economy hostage” by proposing an end to those social programs.

“I’m not saying it’s a majority of you … but it’s being proposed by some of you,” Biden told his detractors as they expressed their disdain, which he took as evidence they were backing his position.

“So we all apparently agree: Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? All right, we got unanimity.”

The night wasn’t entirely acrimonious.

Biden spelled out an ambitious effort to curb the flow of deadly drugs like fentanyl into the country, to redouble the search for a cancer cure and to mitigate its causes, to better support veterans at risk of suicide and taking on the mental health crisis.

He twice generated rare bipartisan showers of applause — first in introducing RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, who died last month after a savage beating by police in Memphis. “Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true,” Biden said.

“‘Something good must come from this.'”

The chamber roared again for Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, who was attacked in his California home by an intruder, his rage fuelled by the conspiracy theories that now pervade right-wing politics in the U.S., apparently looking for the former House speaker.

Biden also reiterated his call for a ban on assault weapons, cheering Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old California man who disarmed the gunman who killed 11 people at a dance studio in Monterey Park last month. And he celebrated Ukraine’s defiance in the face of Russian aggression, as well as the American display of unity, solidarity and leadership that helped to make it happen.

With all eyes again shifting toward the coming race for the White House, Biden’s protectionist rhetoric is likely aimed mostly at winning over a domestic political audience, and most observers agree that it’s not Canada but Beijing that the U.S. has in its sights.

And with the country up in arms over what Chinese officials insist was a weather balloon that drifted through Canadian and U.S. airspace last week, downed over the weekend by U.S. jet fighters, the president has ample reason to argue for economic decoupling from China.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the U.S. will automatically turn to Canada for its energy, raw materials and manufactured goods, said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s Auto Parts Manufacturers Association.

“Canada will do well to not assume that we are inside the tent. We will have to prove and reprove ourselves on many points we take for granted,” Volpe said.

“Look for transactional language to begin dominating our relationship rather than ideology. Shared values matter, but sharing value matters more.”

Despite what the president may say publicly, however, the U.S. understands how important Canada is to its own economic fortunes, said Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who will be in Washington later this week with Defence Minister Anita Anand.

“I think it is well understood … that in order for the United States to be resilient, Canada has to be part of the equation,” Champagne said in an interview.

“There’s a lot of opportunities ahead of us. And for me, the big question is how can we innovate more together, how can we do more together, and how can we sell more together to the rest of the world.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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Suspected Chinese spy balloon was 200ft tall – US defence official – BBC

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Suspected Chinese spy balloon was 200ft tall – US defence official  BBC

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Why some migrants turn around and head back to NYC after free bus ride to near Canadian border – CBC.ca

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Why some migrants turn around and head back to NYC after free bus ride to near Canadian border  CBC.ca

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