A wave of antigovernment protests that began in Iran’s southwest 11 days ago has spread to the capital, Tehran, where demonstrators have marched and chanted slogans against their Islamist rulers for the first time in 18 months. Video clips of Monday’s demonstration in central Tehran were widely shared on social media and acknowledged by the deputy governor of the Iranian capital region, Hamidreza Goudarzi. The clips showed at least dozens of Iranians marching on Tehran’s Jomhuri Islami Avenue, or “Islamic Republic Avenue,” chanting slogans against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei…
Here is a snapshot of what’s happening with Iran, its nuclear talks and energy markets. France said on Monday it was urgent for Iran to return to talks with world powers aimed at reviving a 2015 accord to curtail its nuclear work. Tehran has said it will not return to negotiations until August, when president-elect Ebrahim Raisi enters office. In the meantime Iran’s nuclear stockpile has been growing, raising the stakes for diplomacy and frustrating Western powers. Iran’s actions are aggravating the situation, France’s Foreign Ministry said, and if it continues on this trajectory the restoration of the nuclear deal could be in jeopardy.
Iran's Intelligence Ministry claimed that it has arrested a network of Mossad agents and seized a heavy shipment of weapons and ammunition after they entered Iran through its western border, according to Fars News Agency. The ministry claimed that the alleged agents intended to use the weapons during the ongoing protests taking place throughout Iran in order to carry out assassinations and that Israel attempted to carry out "acts of sabotage" in various places during the recent presidential elections. The ministry stated that the Mossad network in the area was "hit hard" after Iran managed to thwart the alleged sabotage attempts. The seized weapons included pistols, grenades and shotguns, according to the ministry, which added that some of the weapons have been used to "provoke clashes" during protests. The Intelligence Ministry thanked the people of Iran for their "constant vigilance" and called on all citizens to be more vigilant and aware of "suspicious offers," especially on the Internet.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran is taking advantage of the lull in nuclear talks with the US to get dangerously close to a nuclear weapon, Israeli officials have warned their American counterparts. They called for setting a deadline for a return to negotiations. Tehran has said it will not return to talks at least until after President-elect Ebrahim Raisi is inaugurated on August 5, nearly two months after the end of the sixth round of indirect negotiations between the US and Iran in Vienna, which are intended to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
She knew Iran’s Islamist regime despised her, but Masih Alinejad is still reeling over how far it was willing to go to silence her. According to a recently unveiled U.S. federal indictment, the Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist was the subject of an attempted kidnapping plot cooked up by Iranian intelligence operatives. They used private investigators to track her movements in Brooklyn and even considered spiriting her away on a speedboat that may have gone first to Iran-friendly Venezuela, prosecutors allege.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s daily Covid caseload crosses the 30,000 mark for the first time, its health ministry says, less than a week after the country recorded a daily infection record. In the past 24 hours, the Islamic Republic registered a record 31,814 new infections to bring its total number of positive cases to 3,723,246. It also recorded 322 additional coronavirus-related deaths, taking the total to 89,122.
Iran’s parliament has suspended its review of a highly controversial bill that a minister, citizens and businesses say will only lead to more internet restrictions in the country. The bill, first proposed three years ago, is titled “Protecting Users in Cyberspace and Organising Social Media” but critics say it is aimed at introducing more controls in a country where most prominent global services are already banned. An online petition calling for the legislation to be scrapped has already garnered close to half a million signatures.
Online media outlets in Tehran including the proreform news website Fararu and conservative website Tabnak warned in recent days that Iran's next government is likely to face unprecedented inflation, even higher than the current official 44 percent recently announced by the Statistical Center of Iran for mid-June to Mid-July. Tabnak warned Iran's next administration that "the income of Iranian households lags behind the explosive growth in prices." Quoting the report by the Statistical Center of Iran, Tabnak said that in comparison to two years ago, the expenses of Iranian urban families have risen by 31 percent, and the expenses of rural families by 30.5 percent during the past year. The cost of providing bread, meat, and housing accounts for half of the expenses of Iranian families, Tabnak added. Warnings about accelerating inflation come at a time of daily protests by citizens who have become frustrated by a multitude of hardships. Lack of water in many regions, nationwide power cuts, a total failure to deal with the Covid pandemic, unpaid wages and what is equally important, the lack of hope for the future.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will travel to France this week to discuss spyware sold by Israeli cyber firm NSO that was allegedly used to target French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron's phone was on a list of targets that were possibly under surveillance by Morocco, which used NSO Group's Pegasus software, according to France's Le Monde newspaper. The French leader has called for an investigation. Gantz will meet French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Wednesday, an official Israeli statement said.
Iran arrested a number of people it said were linked to Israel’s Mossad spy agency on the country’s western border, according to state television. They were smuggling weapons, including rifles, pistols and grenades, for “use in urban riots and terror operations,” the network said, citing the Intelligence Ministry’s head of anti-espionage operations, without naming him or giving details of exactly where the people were detained. The report didn’t provide any further information to back up the claim, which comes a week after protests erupted in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan on Iran’s southwestern border with Iraq.
IRAQ & IRAN
First Afghanistan, now Iraq. As Iraq's prime minister visits the White House for talks with President Joe Biden, an announcement has been made that all remaining US combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year as part of an ongoing "US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue". This prompts two key questions: what difference will this make on the ground, and does this open the door for a return of Islamic State (IS), the group that terrorised much of the Middle East and attracted recruits from as far afield as London, Trinidad and Australia?
A year and a half after the United States assassinated the Iranian Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to wield considerable influence in Iraq, and Iran-backed militias continue to violently pressure U.S. forces to leave Iraq. However, a closer look at the recent developments shows that Iran now faces a series of serious challenges that are directly and indirectly related to Soleimani’s death and seem to be limiting its influence in Iraq.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
With the Olympic Games underway, we’ve already seen inspirational stories of lifelong dreams coming to fruition through sport. But some athletes never get the chance to reach their potential or attend the Olympic Games. Consider Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestling champion. Navid will never get to compete in the Olympics, despite being a world class athlete, because he was murdered by the Iranian regime for opposing the government. Yet despite this appalling crime committed by Iran, as well as many others, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other sporting bodies continue to allow Iran to compete. Why?
Five secret documents allegedly showing Iranian plans to hack infrastructure in Western countries, including in Europe, were publicized by Sky News late Monday. Although there are reports of such hacks by Iran and others in the past, it is unusual for a media organization to obtain actual internal planning documents for Unit 13, the cyber unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Some of the potential hacks, which the IRGC cyber group may be planning according to the report, would be against a cargo ship's ballast water system.
The United States and Iran will face off in basketball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Wednesday. The American and Iranian men’s national basketball teams are in the same group for the early round of the global competition, and will play one another in each team’s second Olympic match. The United States and the Islamic Republic do not have formal relations and have historically been in conflict. Iran-backed militias in Iraq regularly attack US military positions in the country, and the US military in turn bombs them. On the other hand, the two states are currently holding indirect talks on a possible US return to the Iran nuclear agreement.