Eye on Iran: Iran Successfully Test Fires A Naval Missile, Tasnim Reports

TOP STORIES

Iran Successfully Test Fires A Naval Missile, Tasnim Reports | Reuters

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps has successfully test-fired a naval missile, the semi-official news agency Tasnim said on Thursday, a move likely to heighten concern in Washington, whose warship operate in the waters near Iran. Tasnim said the missile, called the Hormuz 2, could destroy moving targets at sea at ranges up to 300 km (180 miles). The missile was built in Iran, Tasnim said. "The naval ballistic missile called Hormuz 2 this week has successfully destroyed a target which was 250 km away," said Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC's Aerospace Force, according to Tasnim. The missile test is the latest event in a long-running rivalry between Iran and the United States in and around the Strait of Hormuz, which guards the entrance to the Gulf.

Iran's Top Leader Appears To Rebuke President As Election Nears | New York Times

Iran's top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits. The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer. "We receive complaints from people," Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. "People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now." It is not yet clear who may run against Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric. While he is said to enjoy a longstanding relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei, the president is not well liked by some other hard-line conservative elements of Iran's political hierarchy.

Iran Poses Threat To Centcom's Area Of Responsibility, Votel Says | U.S. Department Of Defense

Iran poses the most significant threat to U.S. Central Command's complex area of responsibility, Centcom commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Centcom has dealt with a number of significant challenges over the past 12 months, including in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and the Sinai, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, he said. We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region," the general said at the hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command. "It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world," Votel said. Iranian activities of concern, according to Votel, include "malign influence across Iraq and Syria," and efforts to prop up the Syrian regime and exploit Shia population centers.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

10 Years Ago, Former FBI Agent Bob Levinson Disappeared In Iran. His Family Is Asking Trump For Answers. | Washington Post

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of former FBI agent Robert Levinson on the Iranian island of Kish. Acknowledging the anniversary Thursday, both the FBI and the White House released statements that pledged to do more to find the missing American. "Bob went missing in Iran," FBI Director James B. Comey said. "Ten years is an inhumane amount of time to ask a family to wait for word of their loved one. Our ability to reunite Bob with his family is dependent on this shared commitment and we continue to call on the Iranian government to provide assistance." White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the Trump administration remained "unwavering" in its commitment to finding Levinson and getting him home. "We want him back, and we will spare no effort to achieve that goal," Spicer said.

White House Pledges To Bring American Levinson Back From Iran | Reuters

The White House marked the 10th anniversary on Thursday of the disappearance of American Robert Levinson in Iran with a pledge to bring him back to the United States. "The Trump Administration remains unwavering in our commitment to locate Mr. Levinson and bring him home. We want him back, and we will spare no effort to achieve that goal," according to a statement, which noted a $5 million reward for information leading to Levinson's safe return. Levinson, a former FBI agent and DEA agent, disappeared in Iran in 2007.

Son, Brother Of American Hostages In Iran Pleads For Trump's Help | Daily Signal

On Oct. 18. 2016, Tehran sentenced Baquer and his youngest son, Siamak, 45-also a U.S. citizen-to 10 years in prison for collaborating with a foreign government-the United States. The U.S. government, and Namazi family, dismiss the charges as baseless, and consider their detention as a play by Iran's notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to taunt America, and extract concessions. As the Obama administration tried and failed to negotiate with Iran to free Siamak and Baquer, Babak, an attorney, had stayed silent, not wanting to disrupt the fragile talks. "I came to Washington to highlight my family's situation," Babak says. "These are two American citizens being held captive in Iran. My father's situation is extremely dire. I understand we are in a new U.S. administration. From a logical and rational point of view, I understand things take time. But from an emotional point of view, my father's time is running out very quickly."

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Linde Revives Iran Contracts, Waits For Banking System | Reuters

German industrial gases group Linde has revived plant-engineering contracts in Iran that lay dormant for years under sanctions but cannot act on them until there is a way to transfer money out of the country, its chief executive said. "We have already signed engineering contracts to resuscitate projects from years ago but the banking system has to be fixed first before we can start performing on these contracts," Aldo Belloni told analysts on a conference call on Thursday.

VW's Seat Considers Selling Cars In Iran - CEO | Reuters

Volkswagen's Spanish subsidiary Seat is considering selling its cars in Iran to broaden its reach beyond the crowded European market, its chief executive said on Tuesday. Seat has been invited by the Spanish government to explore opportunities in Iran but entering the market would require major investment and only work in conjunction with Seat's German parent VW, Chief Executive Luca de Meo told Reuters. "It's not a market where we can go alone," de Meo said at the Geneva auto show. "We have to see what our sisters and brothers are doing. We are analysing the situation but nothing concrete is on the table." French carmakers once dominated the Iranian market and both PSA and Renault are ramping up investment and production there after an international deal to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran's nuclear activities. Western and Japanese carmakers that had previously avoided Iran are also eyeing its potential and Iran's deputy industry minister told a conference in Tehran last month that VW may soon finalise a production deal with an Iranian company.

Continental Resumes Production With Parts Maker In Iran | Financial Tribune

Germany's Continental, commonly known for its quality tires, has signed a deal with Iran's Crouse Co. to set up a local auto parts production joint venture. The two companies will produce injectors, engine management sensors and electronic control units through the JV named Crouse-Continental Automotive Components, ILNA reported at the weekend. The total investment in the venture will be €18 million, and Continental is committed to put up 45% of the capital. The company will later expand production to brakes and car audio systems. Tire production has not been highlighted in the deal. Crouse has incorporated technology transfer as one of the conditions of the joint venture with the Germans. Currently, four engineers from the German company are training their counterparts in Iran. The number of German engineers participating in the project is set to rise to 10 in the coming weeks. Crouse and Continental have collaborated for 12 years, producing engine parts. According to company statistics, they have produced eight million engines during this period. However, during the sanctions years the German firm halted cooperation. With revenue of €40 billion in 2016, Continental is the third largest auto parts manufacturer in the world.

Iran To Receive Second Airbus On Saturday | Press TV

Iran Air announced in a statement as quoted by the domestic media that the plane - an A330 - would arrive in Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport from France's Toulouse at 08:00 local time.Last January, Iran signed a deal worth $18 billion with Airbus to purchase 100 new planes including 46 A320 family, 38 A330 family, and 16 A350 XWB aircraft. Last year, Iran also sealed another plane purchase deal to purchase 80 new planes from US aviation player Boeing.The US-led sanctions against Iran prevented global plane providers from selling aircraft to Iran. However, this restriction was lifted after a nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany - the so-called P5+1 - came into effect last January.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Netanyahu Urges Putin To Block Iranian Power Corridor On Israel's Border | Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow on Thursday seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country's presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel's northern border.At the start of his meeting with Putin, Netanyahu noted the significant progress made by Russia and other players in the region in fighting Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He added, however, that "the victory over the terrorism of ISIS cannot lead to an upsurge in terrorism by Iran and its proxies. We will not exchange terrorism for terrorism." ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. After the meeting, Netanyahu issued a statement in which he said, "I made it clear that regarding Syria, while Israel is not opposed that there should be an agreement there, we strongly oppose the possibility that Iran and its proxies will be left with a military presence in Syria under such an agreement."

Alleged Iranian Spy Goes On Trial In Germany | Associated Press

A 31-year-old Pakistani man went on trial Wednesday in Berlin on allegations he operated as a spy for Iran in Europe, collecting information on possible Israeli and Jewish targets for attack in Germany and France. Haider Syed Mustafa is accused of having collected extensive information for an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Reinhold Robbe, the former head of the German-Israeli Association in Berlin, and Daniel Rouach, a French-Israeli professor from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris university. No pleas are entered in the German system and Mustafa refused to make a statement as the trial opened. According to prosecutors, Mustafa collected large amounts of information including photos and video of the two men, and details of their workplaces, homes, families and acquaintances as well as the neighborhoods and public transportation they frequented. He then allegedly sent the information to a contact called "Mahmud" who passed it on to the Iranian Quds Force unit.

MILITARY MATTERS

Iran's Homemade "Fighter" Plane Nearly Ready | Popular Mechanics

Iran's Defense Minister claims that his country's indigenous fighter, the F-311 Qaher ("Conqueror") is nearing production. The fighter was first unveiled in 2013, when it was widely ridiculed as a fake. First revealed in 2013 to great fanfare, a full-size mockup was shown to the public. The plane then disappeared into obscurity. "The fighter jet is Iranian-made and all its parts have been manufactured domestically," Qaher's project manufacturer told Iranian state television at the introduction. At the time of rollout, FlightGlobal polled several aviation experts about Qaher's airworthiness. The experts were united that the "plane" was not a viable aircraft and was likely being shown off for propaganda purposes. Qaher's weird design, which included droopy wings and thick wing leading edges, appeared to make the plane unstable and not particularly stealthy.

SYRIA CONFLICT

Iran's Presence In Syria Blocks Peace Deal, Netanyahu Tells Putin | Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday there could never be peace in Syria as long as there was an Iranian presence there. "We discussed at length the matter of Iran, its objectives and intentions in Syria, and I clarified that there cannot be a peace deal in Syria when Iran is there and declares its intention to destroy Israel," Netanyahu said in footage supplied by his office after their meeting. Iran, Israel's arch-enemy, has been embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him in the country's civil war. "(Iran) is arming itself and its forces against Israel including from Syria territory and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel," he said in reply to a reporter's question. "There cannot be peace when they continue the war and therefore they have to be removed."

HUMAN RIGHTS

Iran: Seven Prisoners Hanged In One Day | Iran Human Rights

At least seven prisoners were executed in Iran on Saturday March 4.

IRAN: Annual Report On The Death Penalty 2016 | Iran Human Rights

The 9th annual report of the organization Iran Human Rights (IHR) on the death penalty in Iran shows that in 2016 at least 530 people were executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although this number   is significantly lower than the annual execution numbers in the past five years, Iran, with an average of more than one execution per day, remains in 2016 the country with the highest number of executions per capita. Commenting on the relative decrease in the 2016 execution figures, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director and spokesperson of IHR said: "We welcome any reduction in the use of the death penalty. But unfortunately there are no indications that the relative decrease in the number of the executions in 2016 was due to a change in the Islamic Republic of Iran's policy. Our reports show that in just the first two months of 2017  Iranian authorities have executed at least 140 people."

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Obama's Legacy, A Nuclear Iran? | Emily B. Landau In Middle East Forum

There is little doubt that Barak Obama deems the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015 to be his crowning foreign policy achievement and an important pillar of his presidential legacy. To his mind, the deal is a shining nonproliferation success story achieved via peaceful diplomacy and an important catalyst to improving decades-long, moribund U.S.-Iranian relations. But, Obama's assessment is wrong. The JCPOA has many flaws and weaknesses, and it is important to assess the president's role in the process that produced this dubious deal: What happened on the ground; how Obama's perceptions of nuclear disarmament colored his attitudes toward Iran, and the tactics he used to marginalize criticism and mobilize support for a flawed deal at the domestic level. It is equally important to examine to what lengths the president went in order to protect his problematic deal after it was presented, and at what cost. What legacy on Iran has Obama left for the next administration?

Report Of The Special Rapporteur On The Situation Of Human Rights In The Islamic Republic Of Iran | UN Human Rights Council

The present report is submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to resolution 31/19. The report communicates developments in the human rights situation of the Islamic Republic of Iran that have transpired since the submission of the report of the former Special Rapporteur to the 71st session of the General Assembly in October 2016.  During its 33rd session, the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Asma Jahangir as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The present report outlines the Special Rapporteur's activities since her appointment by the Human Rights Council, examines ongoing issues, and presents some of the most recent and pressing developments in the country's human rights situation.. It is envisaged that a number of important issues not covered in the present report will be addressed in the Special Rapporteur's future reports to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

Trump Should Use His Dealmaking Skills To Free My Father From Iran | Dan Levinson In The Washington Post

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which investigates cases of arrest that may be in violation of international human rights law, did something in January that the previous two U.S. presidents failed to do: It announced a finding that my father, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, was arrested by Iranian authorities without any legal grounds in March 2007 on Kish Island, and it called on the Iranian government to release him immediately. In finding that Iran has violated international law - and fundamental human decency - by detaining a U.S. citizen and providing him no rights whatsoever, the U.N. working group is being far more aggressive than our own U.S. government has been in 10 years. This is shameful.We desperately need President Trump to succeed now where his two predecessors failed. Last March, then-candidate Trump stated Iran "absolutely" knows where my father is. He also spoke of how he believed my dad might be released before he even took office. While that unfortunately did not happen, this is still one of Trump's first foreign policy opportunities to demonstrate American strength.