Water shortage protests in drought-plagued southwestern Iran appear to have spread to more cities and taken on a sharper anti-government tone as the unrest extended into a sixth night. Videos shared with VOA Persian and posted to social media showed what appeared to be protesters chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Reza Shah, bless your soul” in the city of Izeh in Iran’s Khuzestan province on Tuesday night local time. Gunshots also were heard in some of those videos. VOA could not independently verify the videos. Iran has barred VOA from reporting inside the country.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said July 20 that a high-ranking committee has decided that an Iran-US agreement on the revival of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has to be rejected. Rabiei said the decision was made despite an "agreement in principle" that has already been reached between Iran and American negotiators, who have been indirectly discussing their return to the JCPOA during six rounds of talks in Vienna. The other JCPOA parties present in the negotiations have been China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany.
The supply of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah undermines Lebanon’s national security and poses a threat to the security of the US, President Joe Biden said Tuesday. The president served notice to Congress to extend the national emergency with respect to Lebanon, in place since 2007, beyond its termination date of Aug. 1, 2021. “Certain ongoing activities, such as Iran’s continuing arms transfers to Hezbollah — which include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems — serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty, contribute to political and economic instability in the region,” Biden’s message to the Federal Register said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… However, the Biden administration has pushed to restore the nuclear deal with the regime while ignoring pleas for freedom from the Iranian people. “The administration in Washington out to look at what the Iranian government is doing on the ground. It continues to repress its own people,” expressed Chairman Joe Lieberman, United Against Nuclear Iran. “I think it’s time for the Biden administration to suspend all negotiation with Iran in Vienna about a nuclear deal.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s government said domestic interference was responsible for stalling President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, highlighting legislation that hardline lawmakers had hoped would pressure the Biden administration into swiftly removing sanctions. Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Tuesday that the bill, which compelled Iran’s government to significantly expand atomic activity and limit nuclear inspections, amounted to “an unorthodox interference in executive affairs” that had complicated the negotiations with world powers in Vienna.
“We’ve now been negotiating for months, which makes it all the more unfortunate — I’m using a diplomatic word — that Iran would choose this moment, when we’re negotiating, trying to get back into the deal, for them to escalate their violations.” If Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, was not so diplomatic during our recent interview at the State Department, perhaps he would have used coarser language to discuss Tehran’s latest nuclear enrichment activity and its impact on American detainees whose fates rest on the side of international efforts to confine it.
France and Germany have been cheerleading for the Iranian nuclear deal for a long time. When Joe Biden announced he wanted back in the deal, Paris and Berlin turned cartwheels. Indeed, they urged Washington to run with that ball—fast. “Playing for time is in no one’s interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared. Europeans have been targets of numerous Iranian terrorist plots. They worry as well about a Tehran nuclear threat and the regime’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East and beyond.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The foiled kidnapping plot against activist and journalist Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen living in New York City, has sparked a wave of outrage. The Justice Department’s indictment and detailed court documents indicate the Islamic Republic’s significant investment in the plot. The most troublesome part of this case, however, has been the Biden administration’s weak public response, which invites more malign behavior from Tehran. Hundreds of dissidents have been threatened, kidnapped or assassinated since 1979, when the current regime rose to power in Iran.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian police officer was killed during unrest in the country’s restive southwest amid ongoing demonstrations over water shortages, state media reported Wednesday, raising the death toll in the unrest to at least two people. Gunfire killed the officer in the city of Mahshar and another suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. The report blamed “rioters” for the killing, without elaborating. The protests already saw another man killed, according to Iranian media reports.
After remaining largely silent about death threats targeting the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad in 2020, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists “strongly condemned” last week the alleged plot by Iran’s clerical regime to kidnap Alinejad. The CPJ’s spokesperson Bebe Santa-Wood sent The Jerusalem Post on Monday a statement the organization posted on its website on July 14 after the FBI revealed that Iranian regime intelligence operatives sought to kidnap the Alinejad.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Biden administration of working to make Iran America’s "senior partner" in the Middle East, calling talks with Iran "especially dangerous" for Israel, and saying factions of the Democratic Party are behaving in ways that are "fundamentally anti-Semitic." During an interview with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on her podcast "Real America," Pompeo discussed the importance of "stability and peace" in Jerusalem while accusing the Biden administration of backing Iran over Israel. "Why you would side with Iran against our ally, Israel – that’s effectively what they’re doing," Pompeo said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
“She who lifts weights is no woman,” said veteran Iranian actor Dariush Arjmand in a televised interview in May. To Arjmand, female weightlifters are unworthy of motherhood and can not be considered real women as their weightlifting puts their femininity in danger. In a matter of weeks following the interview, history was made—almost as if on a mission to disprove the naysayers, 16-year-old Yekta Jamali won Iran’s first medal in women’s weightlifting championships. It was her first time competing in an international sports event.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel in a new escalation early Tuesday morning. Sirens sounded in the Western Galilee at around 4 a.m., and two rockets were detected. The last time rockets were fired from Israel’s northern neighbor was during the recent Gaza war, when four were fired on May 19. Although the Iron Dome air-defense system shot down one of the rockets and the other fell harmlessly in Tuesday’s attack, it raises questions about whether rocket fire from Lebanon will now increase and become an accepted norm.
The government formation process in Lebanon has hit a dead end, with the decision of prime minister-designate Saad Hariri to step down. A broader question asked by Mr Hariri and his entourage is why Hezbollah failed to put any pressure on President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil to be more flexible over accepting Mr Hariri’s draft lists of ministers. Mr Hariri’s view is that Hezbollah in public said it wanted a government, and even mediated to reach an agreement, but did little to force Mr Aoun and Mr Bassil to accept a consensual outcome.