Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has agreed to pay roughly $4.1 million to settle allegations that a Turkish subsidiary violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday alleged that Berkshire’s indirect subsidiary—Iscar Kesici Takim Ticareti ve Imalati Limited Sirket—sold cutting tools and related inserts to two third-party Turkish distributors between 2012 and 2016, knowing that the goods would be shipped to a distributor in Iran for resale to end-users there.
Russia’s foreign minister called for collective efforts Tuesday to prevent a large-scale war in the Persian Gulf and got strong support from all Security Council members except the United States, which called Iran the major culprit and urged that it be held accountable for supporting terrorists and destabilizing the region. Sergey Lavrov told a high-level virtual council meeting that a worst case scenario was avoided earlier this year following the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, and warned that “the situation remains fragile and could become dangerous and unpredictable again.”
Iran says that it is conducting a massive air defense drill that will cover half of Iran’s airspace this week. It will begin on Wednesday and comes in the wake of a joint Israel F-35 drill with the US. It comes in the context of increased focus on air defense in the region after Azerbaijan has used drones successfully against Armenian forces for the last three weeks of fighting. An arms embargo on Iran recently expired and the country is looking to improve its military and defense technology.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
In its latest report released on Monday, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the Iranian government's net debt will reach about $260 billion by 2020, which is equivalent to 44 percent of Iran's gross domestic product. Before the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Tehran in 2018, Iran's net debt amounted to less than $118 billion. Therefore, the Iranian government's net debt from 2018 to the end of this year will be almost 2.2 times more.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A young woman has been arrested in central Iran for "insulting the Islamic Hijab", state media said on Tuesday, after a video appeared to show her cycling without a veil. "A person who had recently violated norms and insulted the Islamic veil in this region has been arrested," Mojataba Raei, governor of Najafabad, told IRNA news agency. A short video shot with a mobile phone was circulated on Monday on social media networks showing a bare-headed woman cycling in front of a mosque.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Political divisions in the United States may be widening on a broad range of political and policy concerns, but the country is still relatively united on at least one issue. Since the Islamic Republic of Iran’s revolutionary ascent in 1979, Americans of nearly all political stripes have viewed it as a hostile and threatening actor — and sometimes even an evil one. Of course, this sentiment has not always been expressed in policy; Obama White House Deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes famously bragged about the way he and his team manipulated the mainstream media and other “outside groups” who then “validated what [they] had given them to say” about the controversial Iran nuclear agreement.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018 with the express purpose of pressuring Iran into negotiating a deal more favorable to the United States. To that end, the United States has pursued a sanctions policy of “maximum pressure” that has inflicted extraordinary damage on Iranian society. Iran’s economy contracted by seven percent in 2019–20, and its currency has devalued to a record low. Washington recently imposed still more sanctions on Iran’s banking system.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s health minister appealed on Tuesday for more public and government support to enforce restrictions aimed at stemming a third major outbreak of coronavirus infections as new cases set a daily record of 5,039. “Everyone should know that I, as health minister, cannot bring this epidemic situation under control alone, and a lot more (help) is required,” Saeed Namaki said in remarks quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA. “It was announced that anyone without a mask would be fined, but I saw...that 40% of the people on the bus did not wear masks. Can an infection be controlled in this way?” Namaki said.
“We should make peace when the right time has come,” said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani last week in a historical reference to Islam's second Shiite leader Imam Hassan, who clinched a peace agreement with his enemies in the seventh century. Perhaps Rouhani did not anticipate the tremendous backlash from his opponents, who accused the moderate president of exploiting and distorting Imam Hassan’s story to justify his willingness for negotiations with the United States.
A widespread protest is underway on Persian social media against the shortage of insulin in Iran. Eight months have passed since pharmacies in Iran have run out of insulin pens. The lack of response from government officials prompted social media users to circulate the hashtag "no insulin" on Sunday to express their concern about the condition of diabetic patients, demanding the government address the crucial problem immediately.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Explosions occurred in the Syrian village of of Al-Hurriya in northern province of al-Quneitra on Tuesday night, Syrian media reported. Israel was alleged to be behind the shelling, targeting the headquarters of Iranian militias located in a school in the area. No casualties were reported.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the idea of Muslim nations compromising with Israel, calling it a “humiliation,” and issued an ominous warning to nations seeking to normalize ties with the Jewish state. “Muslim nations will never accept the humiliation of compromising with the Zionist regime,” Khamenei tweeted Tuesday. In recent months, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Ukraine renewed on Monday its demand from Iran to receive full details about the downing of the passenger plane that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) admitted to downing earlier this year. Ukraine and Iran kicked off on Monday the second round of talks about the downing of the jet. The IRGC shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight with a ground-to-air missile on Jan. 8 just after the plane took off from Tehran, in what Tehran later acknowledged as a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
Armenia is seeking Iran's support in pressuring Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan also appreciates the Islamic Republic's diplomatic overtures. Both believe that international guarantors France, Russia and the United States are not doing enough to end the conflict in the South Caucasus region. With no signs of Armenia and Azerbaijan's battle over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh abating, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif proposed in a call Friday with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov the establishment of tripartite talks involving Iran, Russia and Turkey to help resolve the conflict.