Companies using a European initiative meant to facilitate trade with Iran face U.S. retaliation, President Donald Trump's envoy in Brussels said in a warning that casts even greater doubts about the plan's effectiveness in contending with U.S. sanctions. "Anyone actually using it to trade on anything other than humanitarian activity is going to be sanctioned by the United States," U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said in a Feb. 7 interview.
The United States on Thursday vowed to remain "relentless" in pressuring Iran to deter its missile program after the Islamic Republic unveiled a new ballistic weapon days after testing a cruise missile. Iran's Revolutionary Guards unveiled a new ballistic missile with a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), their official news agency Sepah News reported.
The Iranian government arrested, imprisoned or executed at least 860 journalists in the three decades between the Islamic revolution in 1979 and 2009, according to documents leaked to media monitoring group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF). At a news conference in Paris attended by Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, RSF said whistleblowers had passed on 1.7 million records detailing judicial proceedings against an array of citizens, including minorities, government opponents and journalists.
UANI IN THE NEWS
When President Trump stood in the Rose Garden last May to announce the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, he put 180 days on the clock for businesses worldwide to sever their ties with Tehran or else lose access to U.S. markets. The rush for the exits began immediately, despite the efforts of politicians, particularly those in the European Union. They were unable to stop European businesses fleeing Iran despite any number of grand schemes and proclamations.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran is ready to boost uranium enrichment, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on Sunday during a visit to a park in Qazvin. Behrouz Kamalvandi said that this would include boosting uranium enrichment to 190,000 Separative Work Units (SWU). The announcement could raise concerns in Europe about Iran's goals under the Iran deal and comes amid US sanctions that were put in place last year after the US withdrew from the Iran deal.
The Friday Prayer Imam of Tehran, Ahmad Khatami who is an influential conservative cleric has said that Iran "has the formula for building a nuclear bomb". IRNA reports that in a mourning ceremony in Mashhad on February 9 Khatami has announced, "Iran never had the intention to build an atomic bomb. Of course we have the formula but we do not want to use weapons of mass destruction".
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Thousands of Iranians rallied and marched in Paris yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iran uprising which toppled the country's monarchy. The powerful march swept through the streets of Paris, with the rhythms of the drums echoing as demonstrators chanted powerful slogans against the Iran regime. Protesters called on the global community to act now and end atrocities in Tehran - but it was Europe which was most heavily condemned as the demonstrators stood behind US President Donald Trump for his tough stance on the regime.
When Sina Ghanbari took to Tehran's streets during nationwide demonstrations at the beginning of 2018, he was speaking out against corruption, a sluggish economy and soaring fuel and food prices. Ghanbari was detained during the protests. After being held in the so-called quarantine ward of Tehran's Evin prison for five days, he died on his 22nd birthday.
Sadegh Zibakalam is not expecting much from the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. "On the anniversary, politicians will hold speeches again. They will talk about exporting the Islamic Revolution, about the destruction of Israel and the war against the US. But what almost never appears in their speeches are the true aims of the revolution 40 years ago," the political scientist from Tehran told DW. "The revolution promised us democracy, the rule of law and freedom of the press.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The Trump administration is pressuring Iraq to stop buying energy from its neighbor and sole foreign supplier, Iran, in what has become a major point of conflict between Washington and Baghdad. Iraqi leaders, fearing that a further shortfall in power would lead to mass protests and political instability in their electricity-starved country, are pushing back on the demand, which is rooted in President Trump's sanctions against Iran.
When Iran uses the slogan "Death to America," the country's supreme leader said on Friday, it is specifically wishing death on President Trump and two of his senior officials. "'Death to America' means death to Trump and John Bolton and Pompeo," the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said, referring to John R. Bolton, the president's national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state. "It means death to American leaders, who happen to be these people at this time," he added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for tougher international restrictions on Iran following its latest missile launch. "We must restore tougher international restrictions to deter Iran's missile program," Pompeo said via Twitter. Iran appears to have attempted a satellite launch as part of its space program, according to satellite images released on Thursday.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Monday that Tehran would "firmly punish" aggressors who attack the country, as tensions rise between Iran and the United States and its regional allies. "Islamic Iran has reached a level ... to protect its borders by effective military capabilities, and firmly punish any aggressor," Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif, spokesman for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA...
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Forty years after Iranians overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, leaders in Tehran face public dissent over a broken promise of the Islamic Revolution: its failure to provide better economic conditions for all. As labor unrest, corruption and the toll of a currency reeling from U.S. sanctions fuel discontent, Iran's leaders today are worried about fortifying national unity. To rally Iranians behind the state, they employ the same imperialist stance that powered the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic.
In February of 1979, Tehran was in chaos. A cancer-stricken Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Western-backed autocrat, had gone into exile in mid-January, leaving behind a rickety regency council. On Feb. 1, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the godfather of the revolution, returned from exile in Paris. And in the Iranian version of "Ten Days That Shook the World," street demonstrations raged until the government collapsed on Feb. 11.
Four decades ago, in the months leading up to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made many promises. He spoke about respecting the rights of minorities, democracy and equality for women. Western intellectuals like the late French philosopher Michel Foucault praised Khomeini's vision. In Iran, liberals and communists were happy to join with his followers to topple the corrupt regime of the shah.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched and some burned U.S. flags on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi'ite cleric who toppled the Shah in an Islamic Revolution that rattles the West to this day. On Feb 11, 1979, Iran's army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the collapse of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the United States' closest ally in the Middle East.
Inspired in part by Iran's Islamic Revolution, a young Egyptian army lieutenant emptied his machine gun into President Anwar Sadat in 1981, killing a leader who made peace with Israel and offered the shah a refuge after his overthrow. The assassination carried out by Khalid al-Islambouli and others from a Sunni Islamic extremist group showed the power of Iran's Shiite-led revolution across the religious divides of the Muslim world.
It is a subject that perturbs Iran's inner circle and is all but forbidden in public discourse. Who will take over when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies? The uncertainty is magnified by an unusual contrast; Iran's theocratic system is only 40 years old but most of its revolutionary leaders are nearing the end of their lives.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that he would bring anti-aircraft weapons to Lebanon from Iran in order to confront Israeli aircraft, calling on Beirut to accept the offer. "Will the Lebanese government dare to accept the Iranian proposals? Why should Lebanon remain afraid to cooperate with Iran?" Nasrallah asked in a televised address marking the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
The United Nations Security Council has taken aim at Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its role in Syria, issuing a warning late on Friday for all Lebanese parties to dissociate themselves from any external conflicts. The statement appeared to be directed at the Teheran-backed movement as fears rise about Iran's increasing influence in the Lebanese government after a cabinet formation was confirmed on January 31.
Responding to a question on current instability in Venezuela and the presence of terrorist groups in the region, specifically Lebanese Hezbollah, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a recent interview that the Trump administration believes that the "Party of God," as Hezbollah is known, maintains "active cells" in Venezuela. He went on to say that "Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela," because Hezbollah is trained, financed, and equipped by Tehran.
The United Nations' humanitarian chief Thursday called on Yemen's Houthi rebels to give aid workers access to unused grain that could feed nearly 4 million starving people. The grain is stored in silos near the port city of Hodeida and is at risk of rotting. "I am deeply concerned that the United Nations has been unable to access the Red Sea Mills in Hodeida since September 2018," Mark Lowcock said in a statement. "Enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month has sat unused and possibly spoiling in silos at the mills for more than four months, while nearly 10 million people across the country remain just a step away from famine."
Iran's foreign minister extended an offer for Iranian military assistance to the U.S.-backed Lebanese army on Sunday, saying Iran is ready to assist in all sectors should the Lebanese government want it. Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to reporters Sunday at Beirut's airport shortly after his arrival in the Lebanese capital for a two-day official visit.
Iran is waiting for Lebanon to show a desire to accept its military assistance, Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday, reiterating an offer of support to the U.S.-backed Lebanese military. Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose government backs the powerful Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, was speaking at Beirut airport at the start of his first visit to Lebanon since its new government was formed late last month.
IRAQ & IRAN
An official with the Iraqi government-sanctioned umbrella of mainly Shiite paramilitary groups says a militia commander was arrested after he criticized Iran's influence in the country. The official from the Popular Mobilization Forces said on Friday that Aws al-Khafaji, commander of the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, was detained the previous night.
Forty years after its Islamic Revolution that toppled US-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran is still controlled by hardliners and has become "an ideology with a state", former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya in London. "I would say, frankly, that the hardliners are still very much in control of Iran, and I think we in the West tend to view this sometimes very naively," he said.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said she first had doubts about the 1979 Islamic Revolution when members of the Shah's regime were executed on the rooftop of a school housing its leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. She has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Iran's clerical leadership, 40 years after Khomeini returned from exile in Paris on a special Air France flight to ecstatic crowds on Feb. 1, 1979.