Iran is building an underground tunnel to store missiles and large-scale weapons, according to satellite images obtained by Fox News and Western intelligence sources who reviewed the information. The structure, housed within the Imam Ali military base in Eastern Syria, is estimated to be nearly 400 feet long, 15 feet wide and 13 feet deep. The first image--taken by Image Sat International (ISI), an end-to-end geospatial intelligence solutions company, where construction of the tunnel can be seen--was captured on Oct. 5.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman opened a Gulf Arab summit on Tuesday by calling for regional unity to confront Iran and secure energy supplies and maritime channels. "Our region today is passing through circumstances and challenges that require concerted efforts to confront them as the Iranian regime continues its aggressive actions that threaten security and stability...," he said. In a televised speech, he also urged the global community to address Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The most high-level US ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Germany's government should join the United States and work to stop Iranian regime support for terrorism in response to a German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce event in Berlin. "The economy is strained because the Iranian regime is funneling its resources to terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Syria," Grenell said. "We will continue to explain to our partners that we should work together to end Iranian support for terrorism - not find ways to give the regime more resources."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
People of Iran are tired of wasting their national wealth in proxy wars, the U.S. State Department Representative for Iran, Brian Hook said on Tuesday, November 10. Speaking at a Town Hall meeting at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington D.C., Hook insisted that the Maximum Pressure Campaign on Iran (MPCI) corresponds with what people of Iran demand. "The Iranian people want their government to focus on investing in their own people instead of their proxies. They are sick of the regime's squandering of its own wealth on proxy warfare, which only leads to diplomatic isolation and economic pressure."
Massive, sustained protests in Baghdad and Tehran that have been met with violent responses from security forces throughout the fall and winter have rapidly altered the political dynamics in both Iraq and Iran. But it is still uncertain whether the grassroots anger that has erupted will lead to significant change in either country - or whether the United States will play a role in shaping the outcome. In Iraq, the political establishment has been shaken since protests in Baghdad and other cities began in October, when Iraqis took to the streets in anger over systemic corruption, a lack of basic services, and Iranian domination of Iraq's government.
The supergiant Azadegan oil field, comprising major north and south sites, is as important to Iran's overall strategic plan to survive the current sanctions environment and to prosper when they are lifted as the flagship South Pars supergiant gas field and the added-value products of its petrochemicals sector. Last week Iran's Petroleum Engineering and Development Company (PEDEC) announced that five new development wells and an appraisal well are to be spudded in North Azadegan to maintain current production levels.
Iran will overcome U.S. sanctions by either bypassing them or through negotiations, and it will not cross its red lines in any talks with arch-adversary Washington, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday. Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year, when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that have crippled its oil-based economy.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Under massive pressure from public opinion, the Iranian government has promised to reveal the number of those killed during the mid-November protests in Iran. The Rouhani administration's spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Monday December 9, that the administration will provide a list of those killed in individual provinces as well as declaring the reasons of their deaths. The government has never respected similar promises made after the murder of intellectuals in 1998, student unrests in 1989, the post-election unrest in 2009 and the 2017 and 2018 protests.
In a petition published on December 9 by Amnesty International civil society organizations urged the UN member countries to publicly condemn the grave human rights violations by the Iranian authorities. The petition calls on governments to support the draft resolution of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly's on November 14 on the situation of human rights in Iran and to help ensure those responsible for human rights violations are held to account.
The UK government needs to raise the profile of British-Iranian dual nationals held in Tehran's jails by following the US example and appointing a special envoy for hostages, the wife of one of those held by Iran has said. In a letter to the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, Sherry Izadi - the wife of Anousheh Ashoori, an Iranian-British dual national sentenced to 12 years - says British policy has been an abject failure, adding that a cross-Whitehall figure dedicated to the issue would be more effective than the prime minister, Boris Johnson, joking with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, as if he is a long-lost friend.
In November, Swedish authorities arrested an Iranian suspect for his alleged role in the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The arrest gave new hope to survivors and families of victims, who have spent decades pushing for the perpetrators to be held responsible. But enthusiasm over the prospect of justice was short-lived. Ironically, on the heels of this glimpse of accountability, Iranians now face the specter of further abuses and draconian sentences for prisoners. And the international community is failing to take the necessary steps to stop it.
At midnight on Friday, Nov. 15, the Iranian government attempted to quietly overturn years of policy by revoking long-standing gasoline subsidies. It didn't work. When Iranians woke at dawn and found that gas prices had risen by 50 percent, thousands of people in 100 cities and towns took to the streets in protest. Surprised by the intensity of the backlash, the regime quickly responded with force, unleashing security forces and cracking down on demonstrators.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Russia's challenge to NATO and democratic nations, as well as Iran's influence on the wider Middle East, remain two of the top threats to world peace, two former White House advisers to presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump said Tuesday. The comments by the two former Marine generals, ex-Trump chief of staff John Kelly and Obama national security adviser Jim Jones, mirrored those a day earlier by former Vice President Dick Cheney in Dubai.
Iran warned its citizens, particularly scientists, on Tuesday not to visit America, saying Iranians there were subjected to arbitrary and lengthy detention in inhuman conditions. "Iranian citizens, particularly elites and scientists, are requested to seriously avoid traveling to America, even to take part in scientific conferences and even having an invitation," a travel advisory on the foreign ministry website said. It cited, "America's cruel and one-sided laws toward Iranians, especially Iranian elites, and arbitrary and lengthy detention in completely inhuman conditions" as reasons for the travel advisory.
Iran said American authorities are holding about 20 Iranian nationals in jail, its official news agency reported Tuesday, a day after Tehran said it was ready for more prisoner swaps with the U.S. A prisoner exchange over the weekend saw Iran free a Chinese-American scholar from Princeton who had been held for three years on widely criticized espionage charges. It was seen as a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
President Hassan Rouhani's administration announced Tuesday that two billion euros ($2.22 billion) will be taken from Iran's National Development Fund and given to the military, boosting its budget by 8 percent in the next Iranian calendar year. Iran is in the grip of a deep recession with a 9 percent contraction this year and faces serious problems with earning hard currency for vital imports. Last month, the government raised the price of gasoline, sparking mass protests that were crushed with killing at least 208 protesters and possibly many more. Security forces have jailed 8,000 protesters.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
As Iran's Reformists map their strategy for the February 2020 election, their camp is struggling to improve its public image, given its dismal record in parliament. During the past two years, public criticism of Reformist parliamentarians has grown, as many are accused of not keeping their promises to constituents. In the 2016 parliamentary elections, many prominent Reformists were rejected by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council, which vets candidates.
An outspoken lawmaker in Iran has attacked the entities under Khamenei's control for undermining the authority of the Parliament and warned that weakening the Majles can lead to the downfall of the regime. In a fiery speech in Majles on Tuesday Ali Motahari harshly criticized the involvement of entities appointed by Khamenei in legislation and called for the dissolution of the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) which consists of the President, Chief Justice and Majles Speaker.
Much of the ongoing chaos in the Middle East today shares a common thread: Iran. The chaos we see stems from two sources - aggression mandated by Iran's mullahs and the fallout therefrom. And, while difficult for us to grasp, there may well be a certain method to the mullahs' madness in creating this chaos - although doubtfully it is not playing out as they intended. Before addressing the method, let us examine the chaos. For two years now, protests and strikes have been occurring in Iran with regularity, further wreaking havoc upon an economy that, under the pressure of U.S. sanctions, has been spiraling downward.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russia, Turkey and Iran are concerned about the increased presence of terrorist groups in Syria's Idlib province, the three countries said after talks in Kazakhstan, pledging to coordinate actions aimed at eliminating the militants. Moscow, Ankara and Tehran "highlighted the necessity to establish calm on the ground", the trio said in a joint statement after the talks, also attended by representatives of the Damascus government and the Syrian armed opposition.
Iran's threat to attack Israel from Lebanese territories sparked outrage in Beirut that condemned Tehran for transforming the country into a "mailbox for the Iran Revolutionary Guards." Caretaker Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab deemed the threat a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty. Senior Guards commander Morteza Qorbani told Mizan News: "If the Zionist regime makes the smallest mistake toward Iran, we will reduce Tel Aviv to ashes from Lebanon." He added that Iran would not need to fire a single missile from its territories.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The United Nations is "unable to independently corroborate" that missiles and drones used in attacks on Saudi oil facilities in September "are of Iranian origin," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Tuesday. The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia have blamed the Sept. 14 attack on Iran. Yemen's Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Iran, which supports the Houthis, has denied any involvement.
Yemen's Iran-aligned Al Houthis militia had fired projectiles that fell in a hospital in the Saudi border city of Jizan, causing no casualties, a Saudi official said Wednesday. The attack, which took place late Tuesday, was the first to be reported by Saudi authorities in nearly three months. On September 14, Al Houthis claimed a drone attack on major Saudi oil installations, which Riyadh blamed on Iran.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday the imprisonment of two French nationals in Iran was unbearable and demanded their immediate release, in a case that complicates French efforts to defuse tension between Washington and Tehran. "On Human Rights Day, my thoughts go to Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, our compatriots held in Iran, and their families," Macron said on Twitter. "Their imprisonment is intolerable. They must be freed without delay. I told President Rouhani, I repeat it here," he wrote.
After demonstrators in Iran set fire to hundreds of bank branches last month in antigovernment protests, the authorities dealt with another less visible banking threat that is only now coming to fuller light: a security breach that exposed the information of millions of Iranian customer accounts. As of Tuesday, details of 15 million bank debit cards in Iran had been published on social media in the aftermath of the protests, unnerving customers and forcing the government to acknowledge a problem.
Iran has foiled a major cyber attack on its infrastructure that was launched by a foreign government, the Iranian telecoms minister said on Wednesday, two months after reports of a U.S. cyber operation against the country. U.S. officials told Reuters in October that the United States had carried out a secret cyber strike on Iran after the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Tehran. Iran denied involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement.