The European Parliament on Thursday called for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to be put on the European Union’s terrorist list and insisted that sanctions targeting Tehran had to be expanded after the violent suppression of protests. In a nonbinding resolution, the legislature mustered a large majority to call on the EU’s 27 member states for such punitive action to counter what it sees as a swift backsliding of human rights in Iran. Beyond the call to put the organization on its terrorist blacklist, the European Parliament also wants the EU to ban any economic or financial activity that can linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States has already designated the corps as a “foreign terrorist organization,” and subjected it to unprecedented sanctions. The European Parliament action came before Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers where more sanctions against Tehran are expected to be approved.
South Korea and Iran have summoned each other’s ambassadors in a diplomatic spat triggered by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s comments describing Iran as the “enemy” of the United Arab Emirates during a trip to that country this week. While visiting South Korean special forces stationed in the UAE on Monday, Yoon described the hosts as South Korea’s “brother nation” tied by growing economic and military cooperation, and then compared the threat he said UAE faces from Iran to the threat South Korea faces from nuclear-armed North Korea. “The security of our brother nation is our security,” Yoon said. “The enemy of the UAE, its most-threatening nation, is Iran, and our enemy is North Korea.”
Iran’s announcements in recent months concerning its nuclear development have drawn condemnation and concern from parts of the international community, particularly the West. But its near neighbor and longtime adversary Saudi Arabia likely feels that concern more acutely. Iran should relinquish its nuclear program, which violates international agreements, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said Wednesday from the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I believe that Iran has an obligation to give up its nuclear program. I believe that Iran must be in compliance with the terms of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, if it wants to be a member in good standing of the international community needs to respect international law, needs to respect international order,” al-Jubeir told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… On Monday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush called on Washington to pressure Panama to stop "helping" Iran to evade sanctions. Bush is a member of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which seeks to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower. "The Panamanian registry canceled 136 ships in which their direct link with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was proven," Panama's Maritime Authority (AMP), which runs the vessel registry, said in a statement late on Tuesday… UANI's chief executive, Mark Wallace, called for more. "One country and one country alone's flag registry appears again and again associated with vessels shipping Iranian oil. That must stop," said Wallace.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi is facing fresh criticism over a gas crisis in a traditional heartland of support, adding to mounting tension over his ongoing brutal crackdown against anti-government protests. For the past week, Iranian officials have warned of gas shortages and outages in the north and other parts of the country, where demand for energy is at record highs due to unusually cold temperatures. On Saturday, tens of thousands of Iranians in the northeast Razavi Khorasan province — Raisi’s birthplace and where he wields considerable political influence — were left without gas to heat their homes after deliveries were cut.
More than a decade ago, in late 2011, news emerged that an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had been brought down by Iran, which then began to reverse-engineer it, ultimately producing the Shahed 171 Simorgh and Shahed Saegheh. For years, former US President Barack Obama tried to persuade Iran to return the original drone; they never did. They had better things to do with it. The sustained rivalries of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional domination have effectively turned them all into warring garrison states. Iranian authorities boasted that the "spoofing" technique they had used to down the UAV, which took into account latitudinal and longitudinal data, made the drone "land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications" from the US control centre.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A French Irish citizen held in Iran since October 2022 and now on a dry hunger strike to protest his detention will survive no more than a few days unless he is freed, his sister said on Wednesday. Bernard Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant and one of seven French nationals held by Iran, was arrested in October while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran. The 64-year-old's family has said he started a dry hunger strike on Monday, refusing water. He has been refusing food since the start of the year.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman claims about 98 percent of those arrested in Tehran province during the nationwide protests have been released, without mentioning a total number. Masoud Setayeshi said Wednesday that a total of 5,200 people arrested in the capital Tehran have been freed. Setayeshi had previously announced 1,200 detained demonstrators across the country had been released, alleging that “a population of about 4,000 people are now freed from prisons throughout the country.”
An Iranian man has been jailed for more than eight years after decapitating his wife and displaying her head in public in a case that shocked the country, the judiciary said Wednesday. Mona Heidari, 17, was killed in February 2022 by her husband and brother-in-law in Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Video that emerged later of her smiling husband parading her decapitated head in the street sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage in the Islamic republic. Sajjad Heidarnava was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for murder and eight months for assault, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told reporters.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
US State Department has not denied information by Iran International that US envoy Robert Malley held meetings in New York with Tehran's UN ambassador recently. In response to questions, the State Department did confirm that messages are being delivered to the Islamic Republic of Iran, even though the nuclear deal, JCPOA, “is not on the agenda.” In response to questions submitted by Iran International on January 17, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We have the means to deliver specific and firm messages to Iran when it is in America’s interest to do so.”
Brett McGurk, President Biden’s top Middle East adviser, visited Iraq this week to discuss security cooperation between the two countries with new Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said. Why it matters: The U.S. and Iran are fighting for political influence in Iraq. McGurk is the most senior White House official to visit Baghdad since al-Sudani assumed office three months ago. The big picture: Al-Sudani, who was appointed after being endorsed by the pro-Iranian factions known as the Coordination Framework, is trying to balance Iraq's relations with the U.S. and its relations with Iran.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Many Iranians, including artists and athletes have signed a petition endorsing exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi as their representative to lead a transition from clerical to secular rule. An online campaign to give Prince Reza Pahlavi power of attorney has been launched by Iranian actor Ehsan Karami and it has been signed by more than 160,000 people until the time of this publication. Iranian football legend Ali Karimi, a key supporter of the popular uprising, has also signed the petition appointing Pahlavi as his representative.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Just a day after Rep. Katie Porter kicked off her 2024 Senate campaign in a room full of cheering Bay Area Democrats, a very different scene unfolded a few hundred miles away on her home turf. An estimated crowd of more than 100 people gathered outside Porter’s Irvine office on Wednesday, Jan. 18, calling on her to support greater actions against human rights violations in Iran. Demonstrators implored Porter to support the sanctioning of Iran’s leaders and freezing of their assets. They called on her to cosponsor legislation, dubbed the MAHSA Act, to impose visa and property sanctions on certain individuals and entities associated with Iran, should it be reintroduced in the current Congress.
IRAQ & IRAN
Authorities in Pakistan said Wednesday that a militant attack from across the Iranian side of the border between the two countries had killed four soldiers. The attack took place in the remote Panjgur district in southwestern Baluchistan province, the military said in a statement. “Terrorists used Iranian soil to target a convoy of security forces patrolling along the border,” the statement said. It added that the "Iranian side has been asked to hunt down the terrorists on their side” of the more than 900-kilometer border.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Belgian MPs on Wednesday called on their country’s Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and government representatives to travel to Iran to pressurise Iranian authorities to free Belgian citizen and NGO worker Olivier Vandecasteele. He was sentenced last week to 40 years in jail and 74 lashes after 11 months in solitary confinement. “It seems important that parliament, our government, our Prime Minister, go to Iran to signal strongly that our people want to see their fellow citizen again among us,” said MP Daniel Senesael, a member of the socialist party.