Britain, France and Germany warned Iran on Wednesday that its decision to restart uranium enrichment at 20 percent risked undermining hopes of reviving diplomacy when a new United States administration takes over later in January. Tehran said earlier this week it was pressing ahead with 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.
The head of Iran’s elite Quds Force said Iran may take revenge for the U.S. killing of his predecessor Qassem Soleimani “in your house,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. “You no longer have peace in your own houses and it’s not unlikely that we take revenge in your house,” Esmail Ghaani said at a speech on Wednesday in the city of Kerman, as part of events for the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing last year.
Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad member of the seminary in Qom, warned on his Instagram page on Monday, January 4, that he intends to rise against the "corrupt" seminary and "the ungodly turbaned heads who have no conscience." In a copy of his handwritten text published on Instagram, Ayatollah Amjad shared, "Backed by God's blessing and divine power, and following Prophet Muhammad's footsteps; I have decided to launch a 'great jihad' to seek justice and reject illegitimacy, in a crystal-clear and transparent manner."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Germany, France and Britain on Wednesday said they were "deeply concerned" about Iran's move to step up its uranium enrichment, warning of "very significant" risks. Tehran on Tuesday said it was now refining uranium to 20 percent purity, the biggest break yet from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal struck with world powers. "This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran's commitments" under the pact, the European trio said in a statement.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran said the U.S. owes it $70 billion compensation for income lost as a result of sanctions on its oil exports, the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported on its website, quoting an adviser to the Supreme Leader. The payment is a prerequisite for President-elect Joe Biden’s return to the nuclear deal that Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, Kamal Kharrazi, chairman of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, which advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said.
Iranian authorities shut down 1,620 illegal cryptocurrency mining farms that collectively used 250 megawatts of electricity over the past 18 months, per a report by Financial Tribune. A spokesperson for the state-run power company Tavanir, whose electricity these miners reportedly used, said, “Tavanir is strict in dealing with unauthorized miners. Those who use subsidized power, such as unlicensed miners, will be fined as much as the loss they impose on the national grid.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Referring to the increasing robbery cases in Iran, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly's presidium has called for issuing verdicts to amputate petty thieves' hands. "Sadly, we are nowadays witnessing an increase in the number of robberies in the community. The cases of petty thefts have particularly increased because there is heavy inflation in the country and the rate of unemployment has soared," Nasser Mousavi Laregani said on Tuesday, January 5.
Exiled Iranian journalist and Amad News founder Ruhollah Zam was executed last month. Amad News became well-known in recent years for its exposure of the Iranian regime’s corruption and encouragement of the protests against it. Zam, born in 1978 in Tehran, was a partner in the widespread protests that erupted after the Iranian elections in 2009 (the “Green Movement”) and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in the Evin Prison in Tehran. After his release, he received political asylum in France, which included extensive security protection from the French authorities out of fear for his safety.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran dialed up tensions in the Gulf this week when its troops stormed a South Korean-flagged tanker as it transited through the strategic Strait of Hormuz — a choke point through which a fifth of world oil output passes. The incident is only the latest in a long line of Iranian acts of “state piracy” in the flashpoint region. The MT Hankuk Chemi was en route from Saudi Arabia’s Jubail to the UAE’s Fujairah on Monday when members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy boarded the vessel and brought it to the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran, placing its multinational crew of 20 under arrest.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The unveiling of a large statue in Beirut of an Iranian commander killed by the U.S. last year has sparked indignation among many in Lebanon — the latest manifestation of a growing schism between supporters and opponents of the Iran-backed group Hezbollah. The bronze bust of Gen. Qassem Soleimani was erected Tuesday by the Ghobeiry municipality in a Hezbollah stronghold near Beirut’s airport to commemorate the slain general’s supportive role in Lebanon’s wars with Israel. Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s proxy militias in the Middle East, was killed in a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad airport a year ago.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
It started with a hug. At the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in the historic Saudi desert town of Al-Ula on Jan. 5, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with a warm embrace, ending a 3½-year spat that shut down trade and travel between Qatar and its neighbors and undercut US and Gulf efforts to keep a united front against Iran. "Noble intentions" reaffirmed. The hug may have been more significant than the actual document that emanated from the summit. The Al-Ula Declaration and the GCC Final Communique are silent on the rift itself.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has accused the Iranian regime of becoming more blatant in its support for the Houthis while undermining peace initiatives to end the war in the country. During a meeting with Martin Griffiths, the UN Yemen envoy, in Riyadh on Wednesday, Hadi said that the presence of the Iranian ambassador to the Houthis in Sanaa violates diplomatic and international norms and laws, and reveals Iran’s unashamed support of the Houthis.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
When Navaz Ebrahim learned that a Ukrainian plane had fallen from the sky near Iran’s capital, she didn’t realize her older sister was on the flight. They had just spoken on the phone. Niloufar had promised her, like she always does, that everything was going to be alright. As news spread of the jetliner that burst into flames and plunged to the ground, killing all 176 on board, Ebrahim called her mother in Tehran, desperate to hear that her 34-year-old sister and brother-in-law, newly married in the northern mountains of Iran, had taken any other plane home to London. Then her mother checked the flight number.