Israeli defense officials claimed that it is likely that Iran, rather than Hezbollah, was behind the local cell that attempted to plant explosive devices along the border between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights Sunday night. In a statement issued Monday byDefense Minister Benny Gantz, he initially said Hezbollah was responsible for the incident, but a correction that his office sent out moments later omitted any reference to the Lebanese group, and only referred to “terrorists.”
Australia’s ambassador to Iran has visited a British-Australian academic who was convicted of espionage before being moved recently to a notorious Iranian prison, and found that she “is well,” Australia’s government said Tuesday. Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was sent to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years. Concerns for her well-being escalated with news last week that she had been moved to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.
One person is dying from COVID-19 every seven minutes in Iran, state television said on Monday, as the Health Ministry reported 215 new deaths from the disease and state media warned of a lack of proper social distancing. Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari was quoted by the state TV as saying the 215 deaths in the past 24 hours took the combined death toll to 17,405 in Iran, and the number of confirmed cases rose by 2,598 to 312,035.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A member of an influential Iranian security body said on Friday it had ruled out drone or missile attacks as the cause of an incident at a nuclear site earlier this month. The incident occurred at a warehouse under construction at the Natanz nuclear complex in central Iran on July 2, but caused no casualties or radioactive pollution, according to Iran’s nuclear body. “What is certain is that in our view, a drone, missile, bomb or rocket attack is not the case,” ISNA news agency quoted Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, as saying.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian social media users pushed the hashtag created in support of Kurdish tansborder porters (kolbar) to the top of trending hashtags in Persian on Sunday. During the so-called "Twitterstorm" Sunday evening tweets with the hashtag "Don't Kill Kolbars" were retweeted more than 100,000. The Twitter storm or protest by hashtags was spurred by several new reports about the killing of Kurdish porters by border guards in the mountainous border areas of Iran's Kordestan and West Azarbaijan provinces across from Iraq.
A leading human rights organization said July 31 that the Iranian authorities are ignoring cries for help on the bleak coronavirus situation in the country’s prisons. Amnesty International obtained letters from senior officials in the Islamic Republic’s Prisons Organization. The human rights organization said in a press release that the Prisons Organization wrote four letters between March and July to the Ministry of Health reporting “shortages of protective equipment, disinfectant products, and essential medical devices.”
Burning American flags will help Iranians establish solidarity with the protesters in the US, a Tehran University professor said in an interview last month, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Speaking to Iran's Ofogh TV on July 18, Prof. Foad Izadi explained that these protesters should be Iran's "target audience," assuming the Islamic Republic wants to start having an active presence in the US.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
There is nothing like a presidential election campaign to spark debate about the direction of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, and this election season is certainly no exception. John Bolton in his newly released book is dismissive of diplomatic initiatives as a way to deal with Iran, including but not limited to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), negotiated by the Obama administration, and abrogated by President Donald Trump.
Iran was among the earliest countries to suffer a major Covid-19 outbreak, and was also one of the first to suffer a resurgence. It drew scrutiny for scenes of pilgrims licking holy shrines, questionable death figures and a belated government response that saw a slew of top officials contract the disease. As the virus spread, though, governments elsewhere also proved slow to grasp the threat and other leaders fell ill or were exposed to the virus.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) announced on Monday, August 3, that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) had launched a drone and missile attack on its bases in Iran-Iraq border areas. "The Peshmerga forces did not suffer any casualties in the attacks," the anti-Islamic Republic party tweeted. A website that disseminates Kurdish-related news cited the head of the Kurdistan Peshmerga Command – affiliated with KDPI - as saying, "The strikes hit the mountainous Barbzin area of Erbil, close to the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Iraq and the Iran border."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The son-in-law of former industries minister who was on trial in a 6.6 billion euro corruption case has used a "different passport" to flee the country, a judge announced in court on Monday. Judge Assadollah Masoudi-Moqaddam had announced in the previous session of the trial that the court was in possession of evidence against Ali-Ashraf Riahi and that he was in Iran but was "at large". According to judicial authorities, four other defendants in the case have also escaped to unknown locations.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the combative former president of Iran, has re-emerged into the limelight with an appeal for peace in Yemen amid rumours that he hopes to return to office. Mr Ahmadinejad said he had written to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia suggesting they find an acceptable route out of the war. The conflict in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of people and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, has pitted Iran-backed rebels against a government supported by Saudi military power.
“He has to be constantly watched as he may commit some misconduct in any position he holds,” veteran conservative figure and current parliamentarian Mostafa Mir-Salim once said about Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, one of the most powerful politicians within the Islamic Republic’s ruling elites. Earlier this month, Mir-Salim was back to haunt Ghalibaf, providing Iran’s judiciary with evidence implicating the parliament speaker in a massive bribery scheme that had been debated in 2017.
CONGRESS & IRAN
As US-led wars against the Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban wind down, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) appears to be signaling that he prefers to leave troops in the Middle East to deter Iran — and now Congress wants to know how much it will cost. House lawmakers have included a provision in their version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Defense Department to regularly report on the military’s hidden price tag of warding off Tehran’s ambitions in the region.
CHINA & IRAN
A number of high-profile reports last week cited data released on 26 July by China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) as clear evidence that China did not import any crude oil from Iran in June ‘for the first time since January 2007’. This is absolute nonsense. Not only is China continuing to import many millions of barrels of crude oil from Iran every single month but also it will continue to do so in line with the now firmly in-play 25-year deal between the two countries.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Pakistan’s U.S.-requested mediation efforts between Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have been making slow progress, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday. Prompted by Washington, former cricket great Khan in October visited Tehran and Riyadh to facilitate talks after attacks on Gulf oil interests that the United States blamed on Iran. “Our mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia has not stopped and we are making progress, but slowly,” Khan told Al Jazeera in extracts the broadcaster released from an interview to be aired in full on Wednesday.
Top diplomats from Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) discussed the coronavirus crisis on Sunday. It was not the first time the regional foes have put aside their differences to discuss the pandemic. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan via video call, Zarif said in a tweet. They talked about the coronavirus and unspecified other issues in a conversation Zarif called “substantive, frank and friendly.”