The Trump administration said on Tuesday it was launching an inter-agency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in the United States' national security interests, while acknowledging that Tehran was complying with a deal to rein in its nuclear program. In a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran remained compliant with the 2015 deal, but said there were concerns about its role as a state sponsor of terrorism. Under the deal, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days on Iran's compliance under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is the first such notification under U.S. President Donald Trump.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified that Iran is complying with the multinational deal to curb its nuclear program but announced a review that could result in scuttling the accord. Tillerson, in report to Congress required every 90 days, said Iran is compliant through April 18th with its commitments in the accord signed in 2015 that provided relief from economic sanctions that crimped Iran's oil exports and hobbled its economy. Still, President Donald Trump ordered his National Security Council to review whether to reimpose the sanctions because of Iran's continued support for terrorism. "Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods," Tillerson wrote in the letter to Congress. He said the review will evaluate whether the suspension of sanctions "is vital to the national security interests of the United States."
At an annual military parade in Tehran on Tuesday, Iran showed off its new S-300 air defense missile system and other weapons, many displayed under banners calling for Israel's demise. The military parade showcased the Iranian-made Sayyad-3 anti-aircraft missile for the first time, its Russian-made S-300 system and a slew of other military equipment. Some of the trucks carrying weapons were adorned with banners showing a fist punching through a blue Star of David and the slogan "Death to Israel" in Persian. Attending the ceremony was President Hassan Rouhani, who said that while the Iranian military was "avoiding tensions and encounters" it had to "remain vigilant in the face of plots hatched by the others and increase deterrent power."
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC MISSILE PROGRAM
The European Union (EU) announced on Tuesday that it has signed the first-ever project for nuclear safety cooperation with Iran, under the framework of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The European Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that the €2.5 million ($2.6 million) project aims to enhance the capabilities of the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (INRA), NewEurope news website reported. The statement added that the project will do so by preparing feasibility study for the Nuclear Safety Centre foreseen in the nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Leaders of Iranian-American organizations asked a U.S. district court in Washington Tuesday to become the latest to order a nationwide halt to President Trump's executive order banning new visas and immigration from six Muslim-majority countries. Testimony came on behalf of the largest ethnic group directly affected by the March 6 order, and was entered in one of a half-dozen challenges to the White House action watched closely by legal analysts. The lawsuit is unusual in that U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington allowed live testimony by individuals who allege they are harmed by the order, and because the case is on a fast-track, said Michigan University law professor Margo Schlanger, sponsor of the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse that is tracking more than 80 related lawsuits.
Iran's return to the world economy is helping planemakers cope with a downturn in global demand, providing homes for airplanes orphaned by reversals in the growth plans of airlines elsewhere. Planemakers are also gambling that the early delivery of such aircraft could help prop up a nuclear sanctions deal between Iran and world powers, threatened by conservative opponents in both Washington and Tehran, Western sources said. Since sanctions were lifted under the deal to reopen trade and curb Iran's nuclear projects, the Islamic Republic, trying to boost its economy after years of isolation, has joined a waiting list of up to eight years for 200 new aircraft. But efforts to meet its most immediate needs have been boosted by financial problems facing other airlines across the globe as new airplanes come onto the market at bargain prices.
Iran will probably be allowed to keep its oil production unchanged if OPEC decides to extend its six-month agreement on output cuts beyond June, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said. "I think they will keep the same level if the deal is extended," Almarzooq, who chairs the committee monitoring the cuts, said Wednesday in an interview in Abu Dhabi. Kuwait was the first country to call for extending the production cuts beyond June. Oil prices will increase as demand improves, chipping away at oil inventories in the second half, he said. The most important business stories of the day.Bottom of Form Iran was allowed to increase its output under the deal as the nation rebuilds from international sanctions that crippled its energy industry. Since sanctions were eased in January 2016, Iran's oil production has climbed 35 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Lufthansa is in talks with Iran Air to provide catering, maintenance and pilot training services as it seeks to take advantage of emerging business opportunities in the country, executives at the German airline group said on Wednesday. Foreign companies have been vying for contracts in Iran since economic sanctions were lifted last year in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear technology development projects. "We are in very, very intense discussions, actually almost on a weekly basis," said Karsten Zang, Lufthansa's regional director for the Gulf, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, at a press briefing in Dubai. Lufthansa Group subsidiaries LSG Sky Chefs, Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Pilot Training are seeking the contracts with Iran Air whilst the group is also in talks to provide services to other Iranian aviation firms, he told reporters at a company briefing in Dubai. Iran has signed orders for 200 new Western-built aircraft for Iran Air, taking delivery so far of two new Airbus A330s and an A321.
A member of the Iranian Parliament's Presiding Board Akbar Ranjbarzadeh said Saudi Arabia has accepted Iran's demands to ensure the safety, dignity and health of Iranian Hajj pilgrims. Ranjbarzadeh made the remarks among reporters on the sidelines of the Parliament's open session on Wednesday. "During a meeting held behind the doors on Wednesday morning, Leader's representative for Hajj and Pilgrimage Affairs Seyyed Ali Ghazi Askar and Iranian Culture Minister Reza Salehi Amiri submitted a detailed report on the dispatch of Iranian pilgrims to the Hajj pilgrimage," Iranian MP noted. He also underlined that holding Umrah Hajj is subject to the successful holding of obligatory Hajj this year.
Iran's judiciary has blocked newly introduced voice calls on Telegram, the most popular messaging app in the country, state media reported Wednesday. The blockage follows the arrest last month of 12 people who ran popular reformist channels on Telegram, ahead of a presidential election next month. It was not clear if the blockage of voice calls, which Telegram introduced worldwide last week, was political or designed to protect the commercial interests of domestic phone companies. "We gave the authorization for the establishment of Telegram's voice call service Friday... but it was blocked by a judicial order," Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi told reformist newspaper Shargh.
Despite being repeatedly disqualified in the past, one of Iran's top political activists, Azam Taleghani, has registered to run in the country's May 19, 2017 presidential election. The daughter of a moderate leader of Iran's 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani (1911-1979), Azam Taleghani told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that she registered to "clear the confusion" over male interpretations of the Constitution that have blocked women from running for the presidency. "The Guardian Council has never presented its argument for rejecting the qualifications of women candidates," she said. "It has never explicitly stated that women have been disqualified for being women." "The council's position has not been completely negative," she added. "It has the capacity to accept women's participation by presenting a different and correct interpretation of the Constitution."
In Iran, homosexuality is a crime, punishable with death for men and lashings for women. But Iran is also the only Muslim country in the Persian Gulf region that gives trans citizens the right to have their gender identity recognized by the law. Before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran there was no official government policy on transgender people. After the revolution, under the new religious government, transsexuals were placed in the same category as homosexuals, condemned by Islamic leaders and considered illegal. Things changed largely due to the efforts of Maryam Khatoon Molkara. Molkara was fired from her job, forcible injected with male hormones and put in a psychiatric institution during the 1979 revolution. But thanks to her high-level contacts among Iran's influential clerics, she was able to get released. Afterwards, she worked with several religious leader to advocate for trans rights and eventually managed to wrangle a meeting with Ayatollah Khomeini, the "supreme leader" of Iran at the time.
Iran's radical hardliners may secure the presidency in the country's upcoming elections, a new poll finds. More than 40 percent of respondents said the current incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, is "somewhat likely" to lose the May 19 election, while 14 percent said he was "very likely" to lose. The numbers suggest Rouhani, who was ushered into office on promises to reinvigorate the economy, will lose to a more hardline candidate who may prove more palatable to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's former president, has called regional powers in the Middle East to change their foreign policies, including in Syria, saying the conflict in the region was imposed "from outside".The ex-president made the comments to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, less than a week after surprising Iranians by registering as a candidate for next month's presidential election. Ahmadinejad had previously said he would not stand after being advised not to by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying he would instead support his former deputy, Hamid Baghaei, who also registered on April 12. "The supreme leader gave me advice but he did not ask me not to run. It was just advice," Ahmadinejad said in his interview with Al Jazeera. "I announced my nomination and support to my brother, Baghaei, because the situation on the international, regional as well as on internal levels has gone through many changes," he added.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
President Trump and his advisers are rightly concerned about Syria and North Korea. These rogue states, guilty of human rights atrocities, pose the risk of wider violence and destabilization. Syria's civil war has already created millions of refugees, has rekindled diseases (e.g. polio) that were once thought to be extinct and has allowed the country to become a haven for Islamic State terrorists. And yet, these should be lesser concerns in the bigger scheme.
At a time when public hatred in Iran nears a high point for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani due to his report card of deception and influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi for his role in massive killings and massacres, firebrand former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered his candidacy for Iran's presidential election. Ahmadinejad's return has furthered already dangerous divides among the Iranian regime's senior ranks. First and foremost, this sheds important light on the weakness of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and serves as a litmus test of the entire regime. Ahmadinejad claims to have remained loyal to his pledge to Khamenei to keep out of this election's fiasco, and that his candidacy is merely aimed to support that of Hamid Baqai, a former vice president to Ahmadinejad known for his role in the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. However, the rendered disputes inside the regime prove otherwise.
Congress is considering a new bill that aims to counter Iran's nefarious activities. In fact, this bill undermines the Iran nuclear agreement and endangers the lives of U.S. men and women in uniform. I say this as a retired U.S. Army officer, former army physician assistant, former special operations soldier, and multi deployed combat veteran with three and a half years in Afghanistan and Iraq. I do not underestimate the Iranian threat. I experienced it first hand. When I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, Iran's efforts were directly in opposition to ours. They deliberately targeted U.S. forces. To this day, I wear a wrist band in memory of Staff Sgt. Jude Jonaus and Master Sgt. Thomas Wallsmith - two of my fellow soldiers and friends. My army brothers, killed by sophisticated, Iranian-supplied explosive formed projectiles that easily cut through their up-armored Humvees.