Eye on Iran: Another Country with Nuclear Aspirations is Watching the North Korean Stand-off Very Closely

TOP STORIES

Another Country with Nuclear Aspirations is Watching the North Korean Stand-off Very Closely | CNBC

As the world turns its attention to reports North Korea has mastered a key component to making a nuclear missile, experts warn that the White House must also keep its eye on Iran. The concern, some say, is that Tehran will see that if North Korea can get away with building a nuclear weapon in spite of U.S. protests, then it can too. Matt Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said he believes North Korean progress may lead Iran to try to become the next nuclear power. "It's a human and emotional response, but also logical," he said of Tehran's possible goals.

U.S. Envoy to U.N. Will Go to Vienna to Review Iran Nuclear Activities - U.S. official | Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will travel to Vienna later this month to discuss Iran's nuclear activities with U.N. atomic watchdog officials, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, as part of Washington's review of Tehran's compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal The official told Reuters that Haley, a member of President Donald Trump's cabinet, would meet with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials and the U.S. delegation in Vienna to further explore the extent of Iran's nuclear activities. In April, Trump ordered a review of whether a suspension of sanctions on Iran related to the nuclear deal was in the U.S. national security interest. He has dubbed it "the worst deal ever negotiated."

Iran: Shameful Execution of Man Arrested at 15 | Amnesty International

Following today’s execution of Alireza Tajiki, a young Iranian man who was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death as a child, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Magdalena Mughrabi said: “By going ahead with this execution in defiance of their obligations under international law, and despite huge public and international opposition, the Iranian authorities have again cruelly demonstrated their complete disdain for children’s rights. This shameful act marks a critical turning point for Iran, and exposes the hollowness of the authorities’ claims to have a genuine juvenile justice system.”

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Iran Parliament Committee Passes Anti-US Bill | Financial Express (Iran)

A bill aimed at confronting “the U.S. support for terrorism and adventurism in the Middle East” has been discussed in Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) committee on Tuesday and now it will be referred to the Guardian Council, for final ratification, like all laws in Iran. The final session of discussing the bill to confront US hostile measures was held in Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on Tuesday, and after being ratified by members the related report was submitted to the Parliament presiding board, Deputy Chairman of the Committee Kamal Dehghani Firoozabadi, Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

TERRORISM

Is Iran Using Nuclear Deal Sanctions Relief to Fund Terrorism? | Jewish News Service

As the Trump administration considers its options regarding Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the 2015 nuclear deal is funding Tehran’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East? Last week, President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and its human rights violations. The sanctions come amid Iran’s reported efforts to fuel the Temple Mount crisis, and its agreement to bolster relations with Hamas.Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah also continue to back President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war, although Russia’s military support for Assad is far more important for Iran’s involvement there than the sanctions relief that Tehran obtained in the nuclear deal.

Islamic State Threatens New Attacks In Iran In Video | Reuters

Islamic State issued a video on Wednesday threatening new attacks in the Iranian capital Tehran and calling on young Iranians to rise up and launch jihad in their country. A man wearing a black ski mask and holding an AK-47, seated alongside two others, made the threat in a video bearing the Islamic State's Amaq news agency logo and showing footage of two attacks in Tehran in June claimed by the militant group. "The same way we are cutting the necks of your dogs in Iraq and Syria we will cut your necks in the center of Tehran," the man said, speaking accented Farsi. Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group which has sought to establish a caliphate in parts of the Gulf but is now under pressure from national armies and international groups in Syria and Iraq, sees Iran, which is predominantly Shi'ite, as one of its biggest enemies in the region. The group killed at least 18 people in attacks on parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini on June 7.

RUSSIA-IRAN COOPERATION

Iran, Turkey, Russia Sign Deal on Investment in Oil, Gas Fields Development | Sputnik News

According to Shana News Agency, it is expected that the parties will set up joint ventures to finance projects both in Iran and outside the country. Each company will allocate equal investment shares in the jointly financed projects, with Iran's Ghadir Exploration and Production Company in charge of leading the consortium. Zarubezhneft, Ghadir and Unit International also agreed on joining technical and economic efforts, the news outlet reported. This is a landmark agreement for the Iranian petrochemical industry, the first trilateral investment deal the country's company has closed with foreign partners.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

UAE Jails Man for Spying for Iran, Nuclear Work: Gulf Press | Reuters

A court in the United Arab Emirates has convicted an Iranian national for spying and aiding Tehran's nuclear program, sentencing him to 10 years in jail then deportation, local newspapers reported on Thursday. The man, named as 48-year-old Reza Mohammed Hussain Mozafar, was found guilty of spying and fraud to smuggle equipment and devices that could be used in Iran's nuclear program, the English language Gulf News daily said citing court documents.

SYRIA CONFLICT

Iran Reports Fresh Casualties in Syria | Radio Farda

Iranian media reported on Wednesday about new casualties among forces sent by Iran to Syria. A news agency, Holy Defense, reported that during the past few days five Iranian troops were killed at the hands of what it called, “Takfiri, Wahhabi forces”. Takfiri is a term used by Iranian Shi’ites for hardline Wahhabis who totally reject other Muslims. Holy Defense says that all five casualties served in the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, IRGC.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Iran Arrests Six for Zumba Dancing | BBC News

Iranian officials have arrested six people accused of teaching Zumba dancing and trying to "change lifestyles", media reports say. The group of four men and two women were charged over their dancing and not adhering to the hijab dress code. Instructors allegedly "attracted boys and girls, taught them Western dances", and posted videos to social media. The Latin American fitness routine has proved controversial in Iran, which has laws restricting dance. "The members of a network teaching and filming Western dances have been identified and arrested," Hamid Damghani, a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by local media outlets.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

North Korea-Trump Nuclear Crisis: Good News for Iran, Bad News for the Mideast | Avner Golov for Haaretz

The challenges Washington faces today when crafting a strategy against North Korea may be the salvo to the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program after the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in July 2015 ends. In fact, the campaign against North Korea is not only an important learning opportunity to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb, but could also determine American's position against Iran when the constraints over its nuclear program wane… [A] successful campaign against North Korea can reinforce the campaign against Iran. An assertive campaign that includes collaboration with China and Russia will demonstrate American resolve and capacity to prevent regimes determines as rogues from acquiring nuclear weapons. It will strengthen the message that nuclear weapons are a threat to a regime, and not an asset.

Who Are You Calling a 'Warmonger'? | James Kirchick for the Los Angeles Times

Do you believe that economic sanctions are necessary to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining nuclear weapons? That small, Eastern European democracies living in the shadow of an aggressive Russia ought have the choice to join a defensive military alliance? That democracy promotion and the protection of human rights should be at the forefront of American foreign policy? If so, you have probably been called a “warmonger.” It’s a favorite of the isolationist alt-right and the burgeoning, equally isolationist “dirtbag left.” Of course, the traditional left doesn’t shy away from it, either… As a term of political abuse, “warmonger” is frequently deployed to assail individuals recommending measures far short of war, like the aforementioned Iran sanctions, NATO enlargement or human rights promotion. “Warmonger” belongs to the idiom of political propaganda, and like all propaganda, its purpose is not to clarify but to condemn — which is key to understanding its ignoble 20th century pedigree as a pejorative favored by fascists and communists, sometimes speaking in harmony.

Tehran’s Iraqi Proxies and Looming Conflict with U.S. | Ali Alfoneh for the Middle East Institute

The motives behind K.S.S. commander’s accusations against the United States are unclear. K.S.S. may have found it embarrassing to admit his forces were killed by the Islamic State although the terrorist group had announced its plan for the attack. Nouri may also have found it more honorable to claim his men were “martyred” by the superior U.S. Air Force rather than a terrorist group on the verge of collapse. Regardless of Nouri’s motives, this incident raises the bigger question of the fog of war or disinformation. The United States has attacked Tehran’s proxies in Syria in the past, and Tehran at some point may believe accusations such as Nouri’s. To what length are Tehran’s proxies likely to go in advancing their own interests regardless of the strain it may put on relations between Tehran and Washington? How would Tehran react to such attacks in the future if it thinks are carried out by the U.S. military against its proxies? What mechanisms are in place in Tehran and Washington to avoid further escalation of such conflicts?

Iraqi Militia Leader Says Will Hold U.S. Responsible for Killing 40 Militiamen, 7 I.R.G.C. Officers | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The commander of an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary unit has accused the American troops of colluding with the Islamic State and killing dozens of Iraqi militiamen and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) officers along the Iraqi-Syrian border last night – a charge the U.S.-led coalition denied… The militia group, which is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.), warned that it will hold the U.S. military responsible for the killing… With the Islamic State on the verge of defeat in Iraq, the I.R.G.C. and its Iraqi militia proxies have recently dialed up their propaganda campaign against the U.S. and its regional allies – accusing the U.S. troops of colluding with the Islamic State. This poses security risks to U.S. military advisers that are still helping the Iraqi security forces battling the Islamic State and stabilizing the country. It also increases the potential for a dangerous confrontation between Iran-backed Iraqi militias and U.S. troops in Iraq. Iranian-backed Iraqi militia groups are shifting their attention from fighting the Islamic State to challenging the presence of American troops stationed in Iraq. The U.S. military has recently targeted Iranian-backed militias approaching the de-confliction zone near al-Tanf in southern Syria. Remarks by Welayi and other Iranian-linked P.M.F. leaders indicate that a potentially more dangerous confrontation between Iranian-supported Iraqi militias and U.S. forces in Anbar Province is also on the horizon.

Tajikistan Accuses Iran of Sponsoring Terrorism, Restricts Iranian Organizations’ Activities | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

Tajikistan has accused Iran of having played a subversive role in the country’s civil war in the 1990s by sending terrorists to the Central Asian republic, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries… Relations between Tehran and Dushanbe have soured in recent years. On June 30, the Iranian embassy in Tajikistan shut down its economic and cultural offices in northern parts of the country after Tajik authorities ordered the directors of Iranian government organizations in Khujand, the second-largest city in Tajikistan, to suspend their activities in the north. The Tajik government has not provide detailed explanation for the latest government crackdown on Iranian activities in the country. Over the past two years, several Iranian government organizations and charities have also been forced to suspend their activities in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe – including the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, the Cultural Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and a hospital jointly run by the Tajik government and the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Relations between the two countries took a nosedive in December 2015 when the Iranian government invited Muhiddin Kabiri, a Tajik opposition leader living in exile, to attend the annual “International Islamic Unity Conference” in Tehran as a “special guest.”

Iraqi Paramilitary Forces to Participate in Tal Afar Operation despite Concerns | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The spokesperson for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) has announced that the paramilitary forces will participate in the upcoming military operation against the Islamic State in Tal Afar despite regional concerns… The P.M.F.’s potential participation in Tal Afar operation will have serious implications for post-Islamic State stabilization efforts in Iraq. The strategic town of Tal Afar, located about 40 miles west of Mosul, could prove to be a dangerous flashpoint for sectarian violence and proxy wars between regional countries, particularly Iran and Turkey… The P.M.F.’s increasing role in western Mosul, particularly in Tal Afar, has been a matter of grave concern for Iraqi Sunnis and regional Sunni leaders, who have repeatedly expressed the worry that Iran-backed sectarian groups may engage in revenge killings against Tal Afar’s Sunni inhabitants once the Islamic State is ousted… While some P.M.F. units are Iraqi nationalists and follow Iraq’s top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, what makes Iraqi Sunnis and regional Sunni states particularly worried is that, despite P.M.F.’s diversity, it is the Iran-backed militia units that are playing a leading role in western Mosul.

Iran-Allied Iraqi Militia Group Threatens Violence over Kurdistan Independence Plan | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

A senior official of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an Iran-supported militia unit within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.), has threatened violence against the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan, according to Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.)... Tehran and its Iraqi proxy militia groups have lately intensified pressure on the Iraqi Kurdistan leaders not to go ahead with an independence referendum currently slated for late September. An Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) official told Al-Monitor that Iranian officials said in a July 17 meeting with a Kurdish delegation that Tehran would reward the K.R.G. if it halted the referendum. "However, if you go ahead with the referendum, we will do whatever necessary to stop it — things that you cannot even imagine," one unnamed Iranian official was quoted as warning the delegation in the meeting… Iranian leaders fear that the Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence may undermine Iran’s long-term strategic interests in Iraq… Tehran is also concerned that such a move might trigger calls for autonomy among its own Kurdish population.

Damascus Asks Tehran to Play Major Role in Syria’s Rebuilding, Economic Revival | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The Syrian government greatly appreciates Tehran's unwavering support in “the fight against terrorism” over the past years and now wants Iran to play an active role in the war-torn country’s reconstruction and economic development, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said in a meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday… The Syrian government is heavily indebted to Tehran for the latter’s military support over the past six years as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and its Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan proxies have played a key role in shifting the tide of war in favor of Bashar al-Assad… While the war in Syria is far from over, the I.R.G.C. has already stepped up efforts to dominate Syria’s economic sector and expand Iran’s soft power influence over Syria.