European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said a special purpose vehicle meant to help companies do business with Iran will be completed by the end of the year. "I would expect this instrument to be established in the coming weeks, so before the end of the year, as a way to protect and promote legitimate business with Iran," Mogherini told reporters in Brussels after a meeting of foreign affairs ministers. "Work is advancing well."
Iran has confirmed a recent ballistic missile test that was condemned by the United States. The semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday quoted Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh as saying the test was an "important one." Hajizadeh, who leads the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, said the American outcry "indicates that the test was very important to them." The U.S. seized on the missile test to urge European countries to follow its lead in restoring tough sanctions on Iran.
Canadian lawmakers and a former justice minister are urging Justin Trudeau's government to impose new sanctions against key Iranian officials, citing what they say is a sharp increase in human rights abuses this year. Irwin Cotler, a former minister who now leads the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, released a report Monday calling for sanctions against Iranian ministers, judges, prosecutors and prison chiefs. Lawmakers from Trudeau's Liberal party and its two chief rivals joined Cotler in calling for so-called Magnitsky law sanctions.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
China's anger is growing over the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive wanted by the United States. A Canadian court on Monday delayed its decision on whether she should be let out on bail. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been detained in Vancouver since December 1 and faces extradition to the United States. She's accused of helping Huawei, one of the world's biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment, dodge US sanctions on Iran, according to Canadian prosecutors.
Exports of Iranian oil have improved since early November, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said in a statement broadcast live on state TV on Tuesday. The United States imposed sanctions on Iran's oil industry in early November and U.S. officials have said they want to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero. Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran's nuclear program in May.
The European Union's foreign policy chief said on Monday a system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions could be in place by year's end. The European Union wants the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to help preserve the economic benefits for Iran deriving from the curbs it placed on its nuclear program under a 2015 deal with world powers, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in May.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday he had discussed his country's sanctions against Iran with Iraqi energy officials, but did not provide details. Perry spoke at a Baghdad hotel where he was attending a U.S. chamber of commerce event alongside Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban.
Iran has set the official selling price (OSP) of its Iranian Light grade for its Asian buyers at 30 cents above the Platts Oman/Dubai average for January, $1 lower than the previous month, a price document reviewed by Reuters showed on Tuesday. The producer has also cut prices for the other three crude grades it sells to Asia.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned of a 'deluge' of drugs, refugees and attacks on the West as he lashed out at 'unjust and illegal' US sanctions. Rouhani threatened on live state television: 'I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran's ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected ... you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.'
Global pistachio market is dominated by Iran and the United States who are in stiff competition to gain a bigger share of the market, said the head of Iran Pistachio Association on Monday. Mahmoud Abtahi told Iran Daily that although the US had managed to grab a larger share of the global pistachio market in recent years, Iran's high quality product had been able to attract more buyers. He said the annual pistachio exports of Iran and the US stood at 160,000 tons and 200,000 tons respectively in recent years.
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Mon. Iran has the ability to build ballistic missiles with a broader range. Noting that Iran's missiles currently cover a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), General Hajizadeh said, "we have the ability to build missiles with a broader range... We do not have limitations from a technical perspective or by conventions with regard to missile range.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran has sentenced two human rights lawyers to six years in prison and a third to 13 years, newspapers reported Tuesday. The Arman daily said Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Keikhosravi were sentenced to five years in prison for taking part in an "illegal gathering" and one year for "propaganda" against the ruling system. It says they can appeal the verdict. The two were arrested in August when they took part in a protest outside parliament calling for free elections. They were released on bail last week.
Iran has detained an Australian-based academic on charges of trying to "infiltrate" Iranian institutions, according to state media. State news agency IRNA identified the detainee as population expert Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi who was held as she was leaving Iran. Hosseini-Chavoshi is affiliated with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.
In an attempt to address economic issues and root out corruption, Iran's judiciary has handed out another death sentence and dozens of long prison sentences for economic charges. According to judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, Iran's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Hamid Bagheri Darmani. He was originally arrested in 2014 and charged with "corruption on earth," which carries the death sentence.
Iranian authorities have reportedly arrested over 100 Christians in the past few days, as they seek to crack down on conversions and what they claim is proselytizing by evangelicals. Citing Open Doors UK, a charity that monitors persecution of Christians around the world, the Telegraph reported Monday that growing public interest in the minority faith, which makes up less than 1 percent - or around 350,000 - of the population, has worried the Islamic regime, leading to to crackdowns on churches and congregants.
Workers at Iran's Ahwaz steel factory took to the streets on Monday to protest while wearing Islamic burial clothes in a symbolic gesture of their worsening financial and psychological conditions. According to local sources, the protestors walked in Ahwaz streets chanting against the regime until they reached governmental institutions where they continued to protest.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 10 called attention to "innocent Americans held hostage" by Iran and demanded their release. Monday, December 10 was Human Rights Day and Pompeo referring to the international rights day asks to "spare a moment" to remember the detainees and particularly Robert Levinson who disappeared in Iran in March 2007.
The State Department is using Sunday's "International Anti-Corruption Day" as an opening to criticize what it says is rampant corruption in Iran and name and shame numerous government officials, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. "Today is #AntiCorruptionDay," the State Department said on Twitter of Sunday's U.N.-sponsored event. "Sadly, for the Iranian people, their government is full of corrupt hypocrites. Take Ayatollah Khamenei, who has a tax-free hedge fund worth billions."
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Russia and Iran were both set to send military forces to Venezuela in a show of support to the socialist Latin American nation, whose embattled economy has been further damaged by U.S. sanctions. The Russian Defense Ministry announced Monday that two Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers, an Antonov An-124 heavily military transport aircraft and an Ilyushin Il-62 long-haul plane arrived at the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An adviser to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says "changing Iran's Constitution is possible in theory, except for four principles that emphasize the Islamic and republican nature of the regime, the guardianship of jurisconsult (Velayat-e Faqih) and the reliance on people's vote." Presidential adviser Hesamoddin Ashna made the remarks during a meeting with students at the University of Tehran on belated Students' Day, on Sunday December 9 (the actual anniversary was Thursday December 7), stressing that any "harder struggle" for reform in Iran would be "costly" for those who have a problem with the underlying principles.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The more the tension rises between Israel and its regional foes Iran and Hezbollah, the more the talk of war becomes louder. This dynamic has been at play for years; as each side gains more power, the greater the public fear of war. Yet the possibility of a real war occurring keeps falling despite all the hot air. Since Dec. 4, the world has been following Israel's Operation Northern Shield on its border with Lebanon.
Iran is reducing its activities in Syria in response to its unpopularity at home, IDF Intelligence Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heiman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. The price of Iran's presence in Syria is very controversial in Teheran, and the IDF sees a trend leading to it being reduced significantly. According to Heiman, the economic crisis in Iran has grown deeper since the US renewed sanctions, and oil exports have dropped. Israel is "determined to keep Iran and Syria away from the Golan Heights," Heiman said.
IRAQ & IRAN
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and president of the Al-Nasr coalition raised concerns over Iraq's national security. Today marks Iraq's one-year anniversary on its defeat over ISIS that tightened the noose on the country in 2014. Al-Abadi expressed his fear that the victory over ISIS, and the elimination of sectarianism, as well as the country's hard-fought sovereignty and security, could be sacrificed at the hands of foreign intervention.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary has said on Monday that protests in France are part of the "Islamic awakening" and a development foreseen by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to Mizan news agency, Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani said Khamenei had predicted years ago that Islamic awakening will not be limited to Muslim countries and will reach Europe. He did not explain how the protests are related to Muslims.
The European Union's asylum office says people from Iran and Turkey are increasingly applying for international protection throughout the EU. EASO said Tuesday that "Iran and Turkey have both been amongst the top five countries of origin over the past few months." It says that 3,170 Iranians applied for asylum in the EU in October, the highest number for more than two years. More than one in three Iranian applicants received protection in the past six months.
An investigation by Reuters revealed last month that a Tehran-based agency has quietly fed propaganda through at least 70 websites to countries throughout the world. The Iranian dissidents have a primary target of the ayatollahs misinformation campaign. The National Council of Resistance of Iran and its affiliate Mujahedin-e Khalq are perhaps the two most lied about organizations in the world.