EU To Impose Further Sanctions On Iran For Human Rights Violations -Germany | Reuters
European Union foreign ministers will slap a sixth package of sanctions on Iran in response to human rights violations, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday. "We want to make clear that nobody is above the law, which is why we will impose a sixth package of sanctions here in Brussels," she told reporters, adding the measures would target those responsible for human rights violations in Iran.
Iraq And Iran Sign Deal To Tighten Border Security | Reuters
Iraq and Iran signed a border security agreement on Sunday, a move Iraqi officials said aimed primarily at tightening the frontier with Iraq's Kurdish region, where Tehran says armed Kurdish dissidents pose a threat to its security. The joint security agreement includes coordination in "protecting the common borders between the two countries and consolidating cooperation in several security fields", a statement from the Iraqi prime minister's office said. Iran's Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani signed the deal with Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji, in the presence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, the prime minister office said. "Under the signed security deal, Iraq pledges it would not allow armed groups to use its territory in the Iraqi Kurdish region to launch any border-crossing attacks on neighbour Iran," said an Iraqi security official who attended the signing.
Iran Protests In Far-Flung Enclave Pose New Challenge To Tehran | Wall Street Journal
In a remote corner of southeastern Iran, protesters from a Sunni Muslim minority are pushing for more rights and autonomy in a sustained challenge to the government, which had largely managed to tamp down last year’s nationwide protests. On Friday, large crowds of residents of Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchistan, took to the streets following noon prayers to protest against the government, according to unverified footage on social media. As they marched outside Zahedan’s main mosque, protesters on Friday chanted, “I will kill whoever killed my brother,” referring to the government’s lethal crackdown in recent months on rallies in the province. The antigovernment rallies in Zahedan erupted simultaneously with unrest across the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in Tehran in mid-September.
UANI IN THE NEWS
John Bolton, Joe Lieberman Say Iran Regime Change ‘Very Close’ | New York Post
Ex-national security adviser John Bolton and former Sen. Joe Lieberman expressed strong support Thursday for ongoing protests against the Iranian government, saying the women-led uprising was “very close” to ushering in regime change. “The events of the past year have really demonstrated that we’ve crossed a line, and the people of Iran are not going to go back,” said Trump administration adviser Bolton at a Senate briefing, referring to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last fall that sparked nationwide protests against the Islamic Republic. “We’ve seen the enormous economic dissatisfaction with the rule of the ayatollahs,” Bolton, 74, added. “And now we see, after the murder of Mahsa Amini, a direct ideological assault on the legitimacy of the regime itself.” “Everyone has a mother, they have sisters, they have wives, they have daughters, and they are hearing every day and every night what the women of Iran believe,” he said. “We are very close to winning.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Israeli Premier’s Meetings In Europe Are A Message For Iran | Iran International
A senior Israeli official has told Iran International that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visits to Europe is to convey the message that Israel would act alone against Iran if need be. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday that Netanyahu's meetings with European leaders were aimed at reassuring them that Israel would do whatever it deems necessary against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. “Recent trips to some European countries and meetings with the leaders of these countries are both a message for Europe and a direct message for the Iranian government," the source said, noting that Tehran has "received" this message. On the backdrop of tensions over his government’s controversial overhaul of Israel’s judicial system, Netanyahu held meetings with Germany's aders, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on his one-day trip to Berlin on Thursday where they talked about concerns over Iran’s fast-paced nuclear enrichment.
Berlin Calls For Resolving Differences Over Iran’s Nuclear File | Asharq Al-Awsat
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday called for resolving differences over the Iranian nuclear efforts and expressed his concern about the “real danger” posed by Tehran's program. Speaking alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after talks in Berlin, Scholz said Germany and other countries are working to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. “Israel should not be threatened,” he affirmed. Meanwhile, Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter account that Israel will do what it needs to do to defend itself against those who want to annihilate the Jewish state. “Israel will also act against Iran's aggression and terrorism. Those who perpetrate terror attacks against Israel and those who send them will pay a heavy price,” he said. On March 7, France, Germany and the UK (E3) gave a joint statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Iran’s implementation of its nuclear commitments under the JCPoA.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian Supreme Leader Calls For Cooperation Among US-Sanctioned States | Jerusalem Post
In a meeting with the Belarusian president on Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on states facing sanctions from the West to unite in order to neutralize the effects of the sanctions. “The countries that have been sanctioned by the United States must cooperate with each other and form a united front to destroy the weapon of sanctions,” Khamenei said. “We believe that such a thing is achievable.” In addition to discussing sanctions, Khamenei and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed seven memorandums of understanding between the two countries. Khamenei argued that the sanctions imposed on Iran had allowed the country to develop independently. “The severe sanctions made Iran aware of its capabilities and internal strengths," he said. “The sanctions provided the ground for many developments in Iran and our country was able to advance outstandingly in various fields.”
Iran Oil Exports Reportedly Surge Despite USA Sanctions | Rigzone
Iran’s oil minister said Sunday the country had shipped abroad 83 million more barrels of crude oil in the first 11 months of the current Iranian calendar year compared to the same period last year, government-owned Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Another report by state media Press TV said, also citing Petroleum Minister Javad Owji, the figure was Iran’s highest raw oil export since the USA’s reimposition of sanctions some four years ago. Washington in November 2018 reinstated economic sanctions on Tehran after the then Trump administration withdrew from a deal aimed at the arms denuclearization of the Islamic republic. The sanctions “target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, shipping, shipbuilding, and financial sectors”, the White House said in a press release November 2, 2018. Iran’s oil exports in the first 11 months of its current year, which started March 2022, marked a jump of around 190 million barrels compared to the same periods two years ago, Owji was cited by IRNA as saying.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran Insists There Is A Prisoner Release Deal With US | Iran International
The Islamic Republic insists it has reached a deal with the US on a prisoner swap, a development that Washington has been denying but Tehran is getting more vocal about it. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian repeated on Sunday that the two countries have agreed on such a deal but it is not clear if the claim is true or it is a stunt by the regime. The new snippet of information that was divulged to the media in Amir-Abdollahian’s remarks was that the US and Iran had agreed on the deal March last year and they are tweaking the details through an unnamed third party in recent weeks. “We have signed a document in March last year through a representative introduced by the United States from a third country. We consider the issue of prisoner exchange to be a completely human issue. In recent weeks, there have been indirect discussions to update that document regarding the exchange of prisoners," he said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Nearly 30,000 Arrested In Iran For Political Reasons – Report | Iran International
A human rights group says nearly 30,000 people were arrested for staging protests, political activities, or the expression of their opinions in the Iranian year ending on Monday, March 20. The report by the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) states that during the 12 months, 29,688 people were arrested in Iran, of which 28,419 were detained for exercising their rights free expression. 328 women's rights activists, 258 trade union activists, 235 ethnic minorities and 169 people of religious minorities were also among the detainees, according to the report. Iran’s chief judge announced March 13 that 22,000 people arrested during recent protests were "pardoned" and released in the past 6 months but he declined to mention the total number of people arrested. In the reporting period, the public and Revolutionary Courts across Iran opened 1,075 legal cases against defendants facing political and national security charges, added the report, saying that the courts issued a combined total of 31,164 months in prison and 2,507 months of suspended jail terms.
Rights Groups: Iran Executed Kurdish 'Political Prisoner' | Voice Of America
Iran on Friday hanged a Kurdish man viewed as a political prisoner by activists, rights groups said, amplifying alarm over the soaring number of executions in the country this year. Mohayyedin Ebrahimi, 43, was hanged at dawn at Urmia prison in northwestern Iran, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Hengaw rights groups said in separate statements. Five other men were also executed on drug-related charges at Urmia on Friday morning, the groups added. Ebrahimi was arrested in 2017 during a clash where he was shot in the leg and was sentenced to death the following year. He was accused of involvement in the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, a banned group that has waged an armed struggle for self-determination of Iran's Kurdish-populated region and indicted on the capital charge of armed rebellion.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian Weapons Are Now Being Used On Both Sides Of The Ukraine War | Rolling Stone
The video shows a Ukrainian soldier unboxing his prize to a soundtrack of dance beats — a brand-new crate of 125mm tank ammunition. On the surface, the clip posted to social media is no different than thousands that Ukrainian soldiers have filmed depicting the day-to-day logistical drudgery of war. But this crate, first spotted by consultants working for the open source Ukraine Weapons Tracker Project, is altogether different from the ones often seen among troops from the Ukrainian army. The crate contains Iranian ammunition made in December 2022, part of a trail of Iranian arms that have appeared in the hands of Ukrainian forces. For months, arms trackers have noticed Ukrainian forces using artillery shells, rockets, and mortars made in Iran — with no explanation of how they appeared in Kyiv’s arsenals. “Starting in the late summer of 2022, we have seen a consistent trend of Iranian ammunition showing up in the hands of the Ukrainian army,” a consultant from Ukraine Weapons Tracker, who goes by the handle Calibra Obscura, tells Rolling Stone.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran Court Sentences Two To Death Over Deadly Shrine Attack | Voice Of America
An Iranian court has handed out death sentences to two men over an attack on a Shiite shrine in Iran that killed 15 people in October and was claimed by the militant group Islamic State, the official news agency IRNA reported on Saturday. Fars Province judiciary head Kazem Mousavi said the two men had been found guilty of charges including "spreading corruption on earth" and acting against national security, IRNA reported, adding that the sentences can be appealed. CCTV footage broadcast on state TV showed the attacker entering the popular Shah Cheragh shrine in the southern city of Shiraz after hiding an assault rifle in a bag and shooting as worshippers tried to flee and hide in corridors. The gunman, identified as a citizen of Tajikistan, later died in a hospital from injuries sustained during the attack.
Raisi Tries To Lure Back Expatriates To Iran With Promises | Iran International
Capital flight and brain drain are two of the most serious challenges Iran faces as President Raisi claims his government is ready to help investors and experts to return. Speaking at a gathering of expatriate Iranians in Tehran Wednesday, Ebrahim Raisi said he has ordered the foreign ministry to form a taskforce to help resolve any legal or consular problems expatriate investors and experts may be facing for returning to the country. By most estimates, 4-5 million first-generation Iranians have settled in other countries, but adding their children born abroad, who often acquire Iranian citizenship, the number can be much higher. There are also many immigrant communities in Asian countries, where no precise numbers exist. Some put the total number of Iranians outside the country at any given time at close to 8 million. Raisi also ordered the ministry to lay the grounds for investments by expatriates and facilitate contacts with academics while claiming that a very bright future is awaiting the country and he cast the blame for the feelings of frustration and disappointment on “the enemy.”
Gas Attacks Reveal A War On Iranian Women | National Interest
In the past few months, poison attacks have affected hundreds of Iranian schoolgirls, prompting some parents to take their children out of school due to fear of what some have dubbed “biological terrorism.” These attacks started in November in Qom, which is the heartland of Shiite extremism and home to Iran’s Shiite seminary and Islamic institutions. This wave of toxic gas attacks has expanded to the rest of the country, but with thirty school attacks, the ultraconservative city of Qom still leads the list of the most-targeted cities. Speculation on the perpetrators of such attacks continues but the regime itself and regime-affiliated extremist groups are the main suspects. Some local media have said that it could be the work of religious zealots who want to prevent girls from attending school. Others, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, have speculated that the poisonings are the work of hardliners who want to “copy” the Taliban in Afghanistan and the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which have banned women’s education and terrorized parents to stop sending their girls to school. Abtahi has asked in an Instagram post: “Has Boko Haram come to Iran?”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran Launches Office In Syria’s Hasakah To Recruit Militia | Iran International
The Islamic Republic has opened an office in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah province to recruit young locals to join its proxies. Offering vulnerable young men a monthly salary of $200, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Islamic Republic is on a new drive to recruit militants from one of the region’s poorest countries. It claimed that 80 men are working voluntarily in the office, part of the Islamic Republic's efforts to expand its military and political influence in Syria. Reports from the rights group claim that in November, the Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, Iran’s most powerful regional militia, destroyed vegetable warehouses in Damascus and turned them into military headquarters of Iran-affiliated proxies. In December, Asharq Al-Awsat also reported that militants affiliated to the Islamic Republic are seeking to buy land and real estate in the southern suburbs of Damascus with the aim of expanding Iran's influence near the Syrian capital.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia Invited Iran's President Raisi To Visit, Tehran Says | BBC
Iran says Saudi Arabia has invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for an official visit - just over a week since the countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations. The invitation is said to have come in a letter from King Salman, but has not yet been confirmed by the Saudis. The Middle East's recent history has been dominated by hostility between the two nations.
Iran Appoints New Ambassador To UAE | The Cradle
The Islamic Republic of Iran officially appointed its ambassador to the UAE on 17 March. The envoy is expected to depart for Abu Dhabi “in the near future,” according to Tehran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani. During a press conference, Kani reiterated that Tehran and Abu Dhabi had not completely severed their diplomatic relations but downgraded them in recent years due to being on opposite sides in regional conflicts. The deputy foreign minister further disclosed that the UAE sent its ambassador to Iran a few months prior. The UAE officially reinstated its ambassador to Tehran in September 2022, over six years after Saudi Arabia and Iran downgraded relations over the storming of Riyadh’s embassy in Iran over the kingdom’s execution of notable Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. On 16 March, Ali Shamkhani, Iran’s National Security Council secretary, called for the two regional nations to put their “family differences” aside during the important high-level talks in Abu Dhabi.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Husband Of Ex-Detainee Slams UK Govt. Over Iran Hostages | Iran International
The husband of former Iranian-British hostage, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, detained in Iran for several years, has accused the UK government of soft pedaling on Iran’s treatment of hostages. Speaking to the Guardian on Thursday, Richard Ratcliffe criticized British officials, saying that they are losing interest in hostages after negative publicity surrounding his wife’s detention has subsided. “One year on, I do find it upsetting how the government won’t say how many Brits are currently held hostage by Iran, that they tried to imply to parliament this week that states do not take hostages, and that since Nazanin’s case, they have not recognized the torture of any British citizen by a foreign government,” he added. The Foreign Office minister, David Rutley, told the foreign affairs select committee on Monday that the UK did not believe a state could act as hostage taker, and instead uses the term “arbitrary detention for diplomatic leverage”.