European countries on Tuesday triggered a dispute mechanism in their nuclear deal with Iran, citing Tehran's decision to ignore limitations on its nuclear energy program. Iran said it would not comply with any restrictions on enriching uranium after Washington's targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Jan. 3. It had gradually reduced its commitments under the deal since the United States withdrew and reimposed sanctions in 2018.
Widespread anger at the Iranian government for shooting down a passenger plane and then misleading the public about it simmered for a third day on Monday, with the police and protesters facing off in at least two cities and increasing demands from lawmakers for accountability. After days of denials, Iran acknowledged Saturday that it had mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.
Iran's judiciary said it had made arrests in the shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed 176 people. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Tuesday "extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested," according to the Associated Press.Iran, which initially denied that one of its missiles had brought down the jetliner, did not disclose the number of arrests.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Iran has declared that it has concluded its official retaliation for the death of former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani with a largely symbolic missile strike on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces. However, it now remains to be seen how its "Axis of Resistance" will react, particularly Lebanon-based Hezbollah. While eulogizing Soleimani, the group's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah essentially declared open-ended war on all American forces throughout the Middle East, irrespective of an Iranian retaliation.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview Tuesday that he welcomed replacing the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal with a new agreement negotiated by President Trump. "If we're going to get rid of it, let's replace it and let's replace it with the Trump deal," Johnson told BBC, referencing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
France and Russia have a shared desire to safeguard Iran's nuclear deal, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday. Macron said in a statement he had a phone call on Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Sunday called on Iran to return to full compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and refrain from further violence.
Leaders of three European powers on Sunday expressed continued support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, rebuffing an explicit call by President Donald Trump last week to abandon the troubled accord. The Europeans signaled that they could soon invoke a dispute resolution mechanism under the accord after a series of steps by Iran to reduce its commitments to the deal to protest the resumption of harsh economic sanctions imposed after the Trump administration quit the deal in 2018.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran is caught in a wretched economic crisis. Jobs are scarce. Prices for food and other necessities are skyrocketing. The economy is rapidly shrinking. Iranians are increasingly disgusted. Crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have severed Iran's access to international markets, decimating the economy, which is now contracting at an alarming 9.5 percent annual rate, the International Monetary Fund estimated.
Are we on the brink of war? It seems the answer could be yes as the United States and Iran trade attacks and counterattacks in the wake of the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week. After Iran responded with a missile attack on U.S. troops, however, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made it clear that Iran's retaliation measures were far from finished. Last night, they were given "one slap," Khamenei was quoted as saying.
The United States is working closely with China to have it cut off altogether imports of Iranian crude oil, as the U.S. steps up sanctions pressure on the Iranian regime, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, told Fox News' 'Sunday Morning Futures'. Despite the U.S. crackdown on Chinese tanker companies dealing with Iranian oil, China continues to import oil from the Islamic Republic, but in much smaller volumes than it used to, before the U.S. ended all waivers for all Iranian oil customers in May last year.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian authorities warned protesters not to stage further antigovernment demonstrations, as a video appeared to show security forces using tear gas to contain protests over the weekend. The demonstrations broke out after the Iranian military on Saturday said it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner last week, killing all 176 people on board, after denying for days that it was responsible. The protesters denounced what they called lying and incompetence by the country's leadership.
Iranians staged protests Monday for the third straight day, with anger at the government intensifying after it admitted it shot down a Ukrainian airliner it mistook for a hostile aircraft amid heightened tensions with the United States last week, killing all 176 people on board. Videos posted on social media showed hundreds of students gathered Monday in a courtyard at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, a wellspring of anger at the cleric-led government. The university said 13 of its students and alumni were killed when the plane was shot down.
The demonstrations that erupted after Iran admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane during a tense standoff with the United States last week are the latest of several waves of protest going back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution - all of which have been violently suppressed. Iranians were shocked and appalled by the shootdown of the Ukrainian jetliner, which killed all 176 people on board, mostly Iranians. Many are also angry at the government's misleading statements in the wake of the tragedy, which it initially blamed on a technical problem.
Protesters took to the streets of Iran to denounce the country's clerical rulers and riot police deployed to face them in a third day of demonstrations on Monday after authorities acknowledged shooting down a passenger plane by mistake. Iran's president called last week's downing of the Ukrainian plane a "disastrous mistake" on Saturday, and said its air defenses responded in error while on alert after Iran carried out missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.
Accusations of lethal force against protesters in Iran should be fully investigated, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, saying reports of violence against those protesting the downing of a civilian airliner were "worrying." "We're obviously following very closely the demonstrations that have been taking place today and over the weekend in Iran and the Secretary-General recalls the rights to freedom of expression and association in peaceful assembly of people," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Iranian authorities fired live ammunition to disperse protesters in Tehran on Sunday night, wounding several people, according to witness accounts provided to the Guardian and footage circulating on social media. Hundreds of protesters had defied a heavy security presence in the Iranian capital to hold vigils and demonstrations after the government belatedly admitted its own forces had shot down a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet last Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.
On Monday students in several universities in Tehran and Isfahan held rallies and chanted slogans against the Basij militia and the clerical regime for a third day. In a video showing a rally at Isfahan Industrial University students chant: "Execution and imprisonment no longer scare us" and "Get lost Basiji". Referring to the many highly-educated passengers who were killed in the Ukrainian airline downed by an IRGC missile on Wednesday last week, the protesting students at Sharif Industrial University in Tehran were chanting slogans against clerics ruling the country.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A flurry of diplomatic visits and meetings crisscrossing the Persian Gulf have driven urgent efforts in recent days to defuse the possibility of all-out war after the U.S. killed Iran's top military commander. Global leaders and top diplomats are repeating the mantra of "de-escalation" and "dialogue," yet none have publicly laid out a path to achieving either. The United States and Iran have said they do not want war, but fears have grown that the crisis could spin out of Tehran's or Washington's control.
Iran's government spokesman dismissed on Monday tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump voicing support for Iranians, saying the Iranian people would remember he killed a top general and was the reason many were facing economic challenges, state media said. Trump, who told Iran's authorities in tweets in Farsi and English not to kill protesters and praised the "great Iranian people", was shedding "crocodile tears" when voicing concern for Iranians, Ali Rabiei said.
The theory was born last Thursday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where President Trump stood before men in hard hats and orange construction vests for an environmental announcement and offered a fresh rationale for his controversial order to kill a top Iranian general. "They were looking to blow up our embassy," Trump said, referring to the heavily secured Baghdad facility that had become a magnet for protesters. Later that night, at a raucous campaign rally in Ohio, Trump added to his story.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the U.S. has the constitutional authority to strike Iranian proxies in Iraq and Iran on the Islamic Republic's home soil in retaliation for attacks on American forces. In an interview with NPR on Monday, Esper said the Authorization for Use of Military Force Resolution gives the U.S. military the right to attack Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq. He said the president's power under Article II of the Constitution would allow the U.S. to strike Iran in the event that U.S. interests are targeted.
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is indifferent about the prospect of talks with Iran after two weeks of back-and-forth attacks and his imposition of fresh sanctions targeting the Iranian economy. His national security adviser Robert O'Brien told CBS' Face the Nation Sunday morning that Iran is "being choked off," and that U.S. officials see an opportunity to further intensify pressure on the country's leaders and leave them with no choice but to negotiate. "Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate," Trump said in a tweet late Sunday.
President Trump offered words of praise on Monday for Iranian protesters after footage of students appearing to refuse to step on U.S. or Israeli flags went viral. In a tweet, the president thanked "wonderful" demonstrators in Iran for the apparent pro-U.S. gesture, which comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran were dialed back after coming to the brink of armed conflict.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
U.S. commanders at the Iraqi military base targeted by Iranian missiles said Monday they believe the attack was intended to kill American personnel, an act that could have pushed the two powers closer to outright war. The missile barrage last week against the sprawling Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq left deep craters and the crumpled wreckage of living quarters and a helicopter launch site. At least two soldiers were thrown through the window of a meters-high tower, and several dozen U.S. troops were later treated for concussion as a result of the missile strikes, military officials on the base said.
Nearly eight hours before Iran's Jan. 8 missile attack on U.S. forces at bases in Iraq, American and Iraqi soldiers at Ain al-Asad air base scrambled to move personnel and weaponry to fortified bunkers, two Iraqi officers stationed at the base told Reuters. By midnight, not a single fighter jet or helicopter remained out in the open, said one of the sources, an intelligence officer. Another Iraqi intelligence source said U.S. troops even seemed to know the timing of the attack, saying they seemed "totally aware" the base would be attacked "after midnight."
Iran is unlikely to block the Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest oil-shipping channel, in reprisal for the killing of Qassem Soleimani for fear of aggravating its Gulf allies and China, regional analysts said on Monday. Tehran has long threatened to block the waterway between Iran and Oman - 33 km (21 miles) wide at its narrowest point and the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea - as a way of hitting back at the West.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said that de-escalation and dialogue were needed to resolve regional crises during this "sensitive" time. "We agreed... that the only solution to these crises is de-escalation from everyone and dialogue," he said during a joint news conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday. Sheikh Tamim underscored the "historic bilateral ties that have witnessed huge development", stressing that channels were always open between Qatar and Iran.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he opposes a Senate resolution asserting that President Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Monday that the Senate will "soon" debate a measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. The measure, co-sponsored by two Republicans, would send the wrong message to U.S. allies after the Trump administration killed Iran's top general earlier this month, McConnell said.
The Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said on Monday he was "disappointed and frustrated" that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declined to testify at a committee hearing on Iran set for Tuesday. "Each passing day raises new questions about the strike that killed General Soleimani. Was there really an imminent threat? Was it part of a larger operation? What was the legal justification? What is the path forward?" the committee's chairman, Representative Eliot Engel, said in a statement.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
On January 3, a US drone strike killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), shortly after he landed in Baghdad following a visit to Lebanon and Syria. On January 8, the Iranian regime retaliated by firing ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq housing American and Iraqi forces. While direct confrontation between Washington and Tehran remains improbable in the foreseeable future, there are questions about what implications the current escalation might have for Lebanon and Syria, especially since Soleimani was the main architect of Iranian expansion in the Levant.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Five countries whose citizens were killed when an airliner was shot down by Iran last week will meet in London on Thursday to discuss possible legal action, Ukraine's foreign minister told Reuters. Speaking on the sidelines of an official visit to Singapore on Monday, Vadym Prystaiko said the five nations would also discuss compensation and the investigation into the incident. All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight were killed in the crash on Wednesday, minutes after the plane took off from Tehran airport.
Iran will severely respond if Britain makes "new mistakes," Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday, a day after Tehran briefly detained the U.K envoy for attending an "illegal" rally. "Any new mistake of Britain will be severely confronted by Iran and London will be responsible for that. The presence of the UK envoy is against diplomatic norms... Threatening Iran with fresh sanctions over that will cause tension between Tehran and London," the statement said, according to state TV.
The only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for Iran announced this weekend that she had defected from the nation because of "hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery" and said she had been used as a "tool." The Olympian, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, announced her decision in an Instagram post accompanied by a photo from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won a bronze medal in taekwondo.