EU ministers on Monday agreed on a new package of sanctions against Iran, the Swedish EU presidency said. "Ministers adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression. The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters," the presidency said in a tweet, without giving further detail. Sources told Reuters last week that EU foreign ministers would add 37 individual entries to the EU's sanctions against Iran at their meeting on Monday.
The European Union cannot list Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity until an EU court has determined that they are, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Monday. EU foreign ministers are however set to add 37 names to the bloc's list of people and entities subject to sanctions over human rights violations in Iran, two European diplomats told Reuters last week. The European Parliament has called on the EU to list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, blaming it for the repression of domestic protests and the supply of drones to Russia.
A U.S.-Iranian dual national imprisoned in Tehran ended a seven-day hunger strike on Monday, saying he had lost 10 pounds but felt strengthened in his resolve to fight for the release of U.S. prisoners. Siamak Namazi, who has been detained since October 2015, said his strike marked the seventh anniversary of Washington's decision to exclude him from a prisoner release that saw five other Americans freed after the inking of a historic denuclearization deal with Iran. Namazi had called on U.S. President Joe Biden to consider the plight of American prisoners in Iran for a minute each day — one "for each of the seven years of freedom" he has lost since the prisoner swap, according to a statement released by his lawyer on Monday.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… The figures, compiled by United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) as part of the watchdog group’s Iran Human Rights Sanctions Tracker, show a gap between the pace of designations by the Biden administration and its international allies. The Biden administration has walked a diplomatic tightrope in hopes the hardline government will resume diplomacy over a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord. But with the protests showing no sign of slowing down—and the Iranian regime becoming increasingly violent—experts say it is past time for the Biden administration to drop its diplomatic talks and get serious about isolating the leadership in Tehran. "The White House was perhaps fearful of appearing to torpedo the Vienna talks to restore the JCPOA by designating regime leaders. But it’s time to face reality. The JCPOA is dead," UANI executive director David Ibsen told the Washington Free Beacon, referring to the nuclear deal by its official acronym. "These designations would also be fundamentally non-nuclear in nature. This raises the question—what else must [Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei and his hand-picked leadership do to earn human rights and terrorism designations?"
… Bush claimed that Panama was the registry for 39% of the 288 ships that a group called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) had suspected of being involved in the illicit transfer of Iranian crude oil or petroleum products. Bush, who sits on the UANI advisory board, went on to say that the AMP had ‘deflagged’ just 18 vessels of the 130 that UANI had told it were of concern.
… Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York-based bipartisan think tank, tweeted that the US and its allies had been “behind the curve” in tackling Iranian drone proliferation. Although the Biden administration has announced fresh sanctions targeting Iranian arms manufacturers responsible for building Shaheds, Brodsky said the West squandered precious time that could have been spent nipping the Iranian drone threat in the bud. “Washington and allies should have been laser focused on this a decade ago with respect to Iran. But the nuclear file dominated all,” he said, referring to the now largely defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
…Providing its flag to some 8,650 ships, the AMP runs the world’s largest vessel registry with 16 percent of the global fleet. It denied failing to act on evidence that tankers operating under its flag had shipped Iranian crude oil in contravention of US sanctions, reacting to allegations by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which seeks to prevent the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower. On Monday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is a member of UANI, called on Washington to pressure Panama to stop "helping" Tehran to evade sanctions.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's troubled currency fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Saturday amid the country's increasing isolation and possible Europe Union sanctions against Tehran's Revolutionary Guards or some of its members. Ties between the EU and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Iran has detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of the violent treatment of protesters and the use of executions.
Iran expects to receive the first of the 24 Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets it ordered from Russia as soon as Mar. 21, the Persian New Year. Tehran also claims it has ordered helicopters and missile systems. Shahriar Heidari, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told Iranian state media that Iran has ordered other Russian military equipment, including helicopters, air defense systems, and other missile systems, and expects to receive them soon. While the specific equipment Iran expects in addition to Su-35s remains unclear, the seemingly imminent delivery of those two dozen air superiority fighters, originally built for Egypt, has dominated discussions and headlines.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Persian pop music blasts from the speakers of our silver Peugeot as we weave through Tehran traffic. It’s a Friday in early 2007 and I’m taking advantage of winter break from school to visit my cousin who lives in Tehran. We have meticulously planned our outfits, pushing the boundaries of the required dress for women of the Islamic Republic of Iran: a colorful ‘monteau’ (tunic) as short as we can get away with, matching hijab covering our hair with as little fabric as possible. My Iranian hosts wanted to show me, an Iranian American, a good time, and so they offered one of the few pleasures afforded them in the strict Republic: a ride around town Islamic.
Iranian authorities have arrested three female journalists in the past two days, local media said Monday, amid months of protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. Iran has been gripped by protests since the September 16 death of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who had been arrested by morality police for allegedly breaching the country's strict dress code for women. Authorities say hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed and thousands arrested during what they label as "riots" incited by the "enemies" of the Islamic republic.
A French Irish citizen held in Iran has suspended his dry hunger strike at the request of his family, who fear for his life, his sister told AFP on Friday. Bernard Phelan, detained in Iran since early October, will accept food and fluids again, Caroline Masse-Phelan said, but remains determined, and will "start again if there is no progress" toward his release. Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant and one of seven French nationals held by Iran, was arrested while traveling there and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran. Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied. He started refusing food on January 1, and fluids on Monday. Phelan, who suffers from a heart condition and a chronic bone issue, was judged to be in critical condition by Wednesday.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Leaked documents show that Iran’s ministries of agriculture, communications, and industry have in separate letters requested to have access to unrestricted internet. The letters by government institutions show that the "classification of the Internet in Iran" is expanding at an unprecedented speed. This means while the public has very restricted access, officials are able to have full access.
Iran held an international congress called Women of Influence which apparently was a response to all-out pressures after ‘Women- Life- Freedom’ protests. The First International Congress for Women of Influence was held in Tehran on Friday with the participation of female guests sent by Iran’s limited list of friendly governments. The Islamic regime says wives of heads of state from Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Armenia attended the event hosted by President Ebrahim Raisi’s wife Jamileh Alamolhoda.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
German foreign ministry says the authorities of the Islamic Republic have denied the arrest of a German citizen in Iran reported earlier this week. In response to Iran International, the German foreign ministry denied the arrest of one of its nationals in Iran, saying “the issue was raised in Iranian media, but after consultations with Iranian authorities, we realized this is not true.” This ministry had earlier issued a statement following a report by Jam-e Jam daily announcing that the German embassy in Tehran is working hard to make this issue clear.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Brussels on Sunday to protest against the detention in Iran of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison on charges including spying. The Belgian government has said the charges are fake. "His life is in danger, contribute to his freedom," "#Free Olivier Vandecasteele," read banners held by protesters who included Vandecasteele's family, friends and colleagues.