Benjamin Brière, 36, was arrested in May 2020 after flying a drone near the Iran-Turkmenistan border. France's foreign ministry called his conviction "unacceptable" and said it had "no basis in fact". A lawyer for Mr Brière, Philippe Valent, said his client had grown "more and more weak" from a hunger strike which he began in December. He "did not have a fair trial in front of impartial judges", the lawyer was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. Mr Brière was tried behind closed doors in the Revolutionary Court in the eastern city of Mashhad. Mr Valent said his client had not been fully informed of the charges against him.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Tuesday an agreement with the United States over its nuclear deal with world powers is possible if sanctions on Iran are lifted, state TV reported. Raisi’s comments came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian signaled a willingness by Iran to engage directly with the U.S. in discussions over the deal if necessary to reach a satisfactory agreement. “If the parties are ready to lift the oppressive sanctions, it is quite possible any agreement can be reached,” Raisi said in a live broadcast. Iran and world powers have begun another round of nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria aimed at salvaging the tattered 2015 nuclear deal. The meetings include all the deal’s remaining signatories — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Every day Mohammad Hosseini feels squeezed by Iran's soaring prices, his experience of hardship at odds with a rosy official target of 8% economic growth even with U.S. sanctions still in place. The retired teacher's plight is found across the Islamic Republic, where worsening economic misery is palpable after years of harsh U.S. sanctions and Iranian mismanagement. "Every day we are getting poorer. My salary is not even enough for paying bills and the rent every month,” said Hosseini, who has three children and five grandchildren. "After 30 years of teaching at school, now I have to drive a taxi at age 65 to finance my family," he said. His monthly income is about $250.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Jason Brodsky, policy director for the United Against Nuclear Iran, told VOA's Farsi service that the United States and its European allies would be forced to discuss the future in early or mid-February in talks to revive the nuclear deal. Nuclear talks with Iran decide.
…The same source reported that Abdulsalam had visited Iran’s capital city of Tehran on the day of the first attack on UAE, January 17, to meet with Islamic Republic President Ebrahim Raisi. Given Iranian financial and military support for the Houthis, it’s likely not a coincidence amid a diplomatic stalemate in indirect negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal in Vienna. “I don’t think that the Houthis would have undertaken these operations in the UAE without at least Iran’s advance knowledge of what is going on,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Dispatch. “And I think it has the added benefit for the Iranians in demonstrating their own leverage in the region.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
All options are on the table if negotiations don’t move fast enough to bring Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Tuesday. “This negotiation is urgent, and progress has not been fast enough,” she told Parliament. “We continue to work in close partnership with our allies, but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse.” If Iran does not choose to seriously negotiate, it will be responsible for the collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, Truss said. “And if the JCPOA collapses, all options are on the table,” she added.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
At least 10 inmates in three Iranian prisons have gone on hunger strike in protest at the death of free speech campaigner Baktash Abtin who contracted Covid-19 inside Tehran’s Evin jail. Seven political prisoners at Evin went on strike on January 16 and were joined by three others the following day at a women's prison and a second jail in the capital, according to the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran. Campaigners say Abtin died earlier this month because of the failure of the Iranian authorities to look after him in prison. They say the Iranian poet and filmmaker died while in an induced coma in hospital after his treatment was delayed at Evin, where he was serving a six-year sentence on trumped-up national security charges. Abtin, 48, was a leading light at the Iranian Writers’ Association, which continues to campaign against censorship despite being banned by the authorities. Three colleagues from the association remain in prison.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen are threatening escalated attacks against the UAE and Saudi Arabia if their demands are not met. Operations over the past two weeks have achieved their goals, they said, adding that worse acts could take place in the future, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported. The report was based on a statement by a political council linked to the Houthis. “This operation achieved our goals in these two aggressor countries,” the Yemeni Supreme Political Council was quoted as saying. In a threat against the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and potentially Israel, the statement called on the Houthi rebels to intensify their operations against “aggressors.” It also warned countries in the region to “consider their calculations.” “What you have seen is a blow and a turning point in our attacks,” the statement concluded.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian universities have fired four professors of social sciences in less than a week, in what critics see as further political cleansing of academia. Sharif University of Technology in Tehran fired Mohammad Fazeli, a professor of sociology on January 21. Then, Shahid Beheshti University dismissed Arash Abazari, lecturing philosophy on the same day, and on January 24 the University of Tehran fired lecturer Reza Omidi and the Iranian human rights news agency broke the news of the dismissal of Arezoo Rahimkhani by the Islamic Azad University in Andimeshk. The four lecturers and professors were not political activists, and their public record shows they maintained a relatively low profile. Following the dismissals, while some observers criticized university students for their silence in the face of the firing, some students argued that these and other professors never took part in any campaign to support the rights of hundreds of students who were expelled or harassed for political reasons.
An Iranian opposition group operating within and outside the Islamic republic has released figures claiming nearly half-a-million people have died from COVID-19 in the country. According to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, more than 499,800 virus-related deaths had occurred in Iran, almost four times the latest official toll of 132,274. In the worst-hit province, Tehran, the PMOI said 116,735 people had lost their lives to COVID-19. Even by official figures, Iran is the worst-hit country in the Middle East, with deaths and hospitalizations far exceeding those of its neighbors. It was also the first country in the region where the virus was detected.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen’s prime minister on Tuesday accused the Houthi militia of allowing Iran to use the war-torn country as a base for attacking other countries, the official news agency SABA reported. Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed told British Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim that the Houthis have shunned peace efforts to end the war and have served as a stooge for the Iranian regime to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE and undermine international maritime navigation through the Red Sea.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq is planning to file a lawsuit against Iran for water cuts, according to Iraq's Minister of Water Resources Mahdi Rashid Al Hamdani. Iraq has received only one-tenth of what it was receiving in the past from Iran, while water from Turkey also fell by almost two-thirds. “The Ministry of Water Resources submitted a letter to the Foreign Ministry and has completed all technical and legal procedures for the lawsuit,” Hamdani said in December 2021. Iran is blaming climate change and asking Iraq to understand its position, saying Iraq should follow up on the matter with Turkey instead.