A motion for Iran to quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was introduced in parliament on Tuesday, the assembly's news site ICANA reported, in a move that appears to raise the stakes in Tehran's confrontation with the West. The report did not say when parliament might vote on the motion. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, makes the final decisions regarding the country's nuclear policy.
Iran is preparing a site for launching a satellite, a government minister said on Monday, highlighting a program the United States says is a cover for ballistic missile development. "Yes, a site is being prepared for placing the Zafar satellite into orbit," Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted. The post included a link to a story by U.S. broadcaster National Public Radio that noted satellite imagery suggested the Islamic Republic was preparing for a space launch.
The Islamic State group's self-styled "caliphate" across parts of Iraq and Syria seemed largely defeated last year, with the loss of its territory, the killing of its founder in a U.S. raid and an unprecedented crackdown on its social media propaganda machine. But tensions between the United States and Iran and the resulting clash over the U.S. military presence in the region provide a comeback opportunity for the extremist group, whose remnants have been gradually building up a guerrilla campaign over the past year, experts say.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Iran should stick to rules set by an anti-money laundering watchdog to protect ties between the sanctions-hit country and international banks, as a deadline for compliance looms. Hit hard by reimposed U.S. sanctions since 2018 that limited its oil sales, Iran is scrambling for funds after having reduced its nominal expectations for oil revenue by as much as 70% with its 2020-2021 budget, according to analysts' estimates.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The tools the Iranian regime uses to address foreign policy issues are multifaceted, depending on the nature of the issue at hand and the opportunities strategized. Regionally, the Iranian regime has deployed brutal militias and terror groups, comprised mainly of criminals wanted by both Western and Arab governments.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
After another flare-up of public protests, the Iranian establishment is working to mend internal rifts that have broken into the open as it faces greater pressure than at any point since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Faced with popular anger over the Iranian military's initial attempt to conceal its accidental Jan. 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, the government publicly blamed the armed forces for withholding information about the crash for three days.
Hundreds of Iranian hardliners on Monday afternoon rallied in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran to protest against Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and the remarks he made about the possibility of talks with the United States in an interview with Der Spiegel on January 24. The protesters chanted slogans against Zarif, the United States, Israel and Britain and called the Foreign Minister an opportunist, a compromiser and demanded that he resign from his post.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The deportation of an Iranian student who held a valid visa to study in Boston last week has cast further scrutiny on the practices of immigration authorities, including vetting of travelers of Iranian heritage, at a time of heightened tension between the two countries. Mohammad Shahab Dehghani, a 23-year-old economics undergraduate, was deported last week at Logan International Airport as he was returning to Northeastern University from Iran.
A number of protesters gathered outside of Iran's Foreign Ministry building to demand the resignation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over an interview with the German publication Der Spiegel in which he discussed negotiations with the United States. In the interview, Zarif was asked about the possibility of negotiations with the United States following the assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday expressed outrage in a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the continued assaults by Iran's armed groups targeting U.S. facilities in Iraq, including Sunday's rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy, the State Department said. "The Secretary underlined once again that these attacks demonstrate a wanton disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and a failure to rein in these dangerous armed groups," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
An incoming Ph.D. student at Michigan State University was detained by authorities and deported to Iran on Monday despite having a valid visa to enter the U.S., his attorneys say. Michigan NBC affiliate WILX reported that 27-year-old Alireza Yazdani voluntarily gave up his application to enter the U.S. and was deported on Monday after six hours of detention at Detroit Metro Airport.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An outspoken reformist lawmaker on Monday alleged that middlemen ask for up to $300,000 in bribes to help candidates in parliamentary elections to be approved for the race by the election watchdog, the hardliner Guardian Council. In a tweet on Monday, without further elaboration, Mahmoud Sadeqi (Sadeghi) said: "In this round of elections middlemen have on some occasions demanded up to 40 billion rials (about $300,000) [to ensure the candidate is] approved. What a parliament it is going to be!"
Iranian media claims that "many CIA" officers were killed in a plane crash on Monday. The Taliban initially claimed large numbers of Americans were killed, while Russian media and Iranian media then asserted that a senior CIA officer responsible for killing IRGC general Qasem Soleimani was on board. The claim has been greeted with skepticism.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Gulf Arab states have long channelled funds into Lebanon's fragile economy but its rich neighbours, alarmed by the rising influence of their arch-rival Iran's ally Hezbollah, now appear loath to help ease Beirut's worst financial crisis in decades. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, whose cabinet took office last week with the backing of the Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah movement and its partners, said his first trip abroad would be to the Arab region, particularly the Sunni-dominated Gulf monarchies.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
No government has ever overcome obstacles in its relationship with Iran such as Kuwait, and no country has ever tolerated Iranian terrorism like Kuwait. But this has not spared the country direct abuse and incitement against it. Perhaps the Iranian officials' claim that Kuwait was involved in the killing of Iran's Al-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and the deputy chief of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was a natural reflection of its arrogant policy that does not differentiate between an enemy and a friend.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi parties aligned with Iraq took the unusual stance of distancing themselves from the latest rocket attack against the US embassy in Baghdad. On previous occasions, the parties would have hailed the attack against the mission, but they adopted a different tone this week. Iran-aligned parties in the caretaker government described the firing of five Katyusha rockets against the embassy as an "act of sabotage" that aims to obstruct the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq.
A white surveillance balloon floats overhead along the border between western Iraq and Syria, but the armed drones are not always so obvious. While reported attacks in the area are often difficult to verify as media access to the area is restricted, there were reports Jan. 24 - quickly denied by Kataib Hezbollah - that a Kataib Hezbollah leader and other fighters had been killed in Qaim by a drone.
Israel's Channel 12 on Sunday reported that cyber-attacks originating from Iran were among the 800 distinct cyber-attacks on Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and planes of world leaders arriving in Israel to attend Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on 23 January. According to The Times of Israel on Sunday Channel 12 cited officials from the Airports Authority Cyber Division in a report that said last week, when world leaders including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Russian President Vladimir Putin were arriving in Israel to attend the memorial, more than 800 cyber-attacks targeted Israel's international airport and the planes landing there.