Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday that a European mechanism to trade with Tehran fell short and that France, Britain and Germany needed to do more to show their commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. "Instex (the mechanism) falls short of commitments by the E3 (France, Germany, Britain) to save the nuclear deal," Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the Munich Security Conference. "Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism."
Businesses and government agencies in the United States have been targeted in aggressive attacks by Iranian and Chinese hackers who security experts believe have been energized by President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China. Recent Iranian attacks on American banks, businesses and government agencies have been more extensive than previously reported.
A Dutch company has been convicted of illegally exporting to Iran gas turbine parts that could be used in the manufacture of weapons. A court in the southern province of Limburg convicted Euroturbine BV on Monday of setting up shell construction companies aimed at avoiding Dutch export license requirements that were tightened in 2009. The Dutch company was fined 500,000 euros ($565,383) and a Bahrein-based subsidiary 350,000 ($395,800).
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pressed European countries on Saturday to withdraw from a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, and urged them to be wary of using telecoms equipment supplied by Chinese provider Huawei. "The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people," Pence told the Munich Security Conference. "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."
European officials brushed off U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's calls during a diplomatic trip to the continent this week to ratchet up pressure on Iran, saying they will continue defending the 2015 nuclear deal and stay engaged with Iran's government. At the annual Munich Security Conference over the weekend, where world leaders gather to debate issues from the Middle East to trade, senior European officials met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Mr. Zarif on Sunday blasted what he called Mr. Pence's arrogant demands on European soil for Europeans to pull out of the deal.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder on Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry. In an uncharacteristically passionate speech, Ms. Merkel said the nuclear deal was the best way of influencing Iranian behavior on a range of non-nuclear issues, from missile development to terrorism.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew lengthy applause Saturday for her spirited defense of a multilateral approach to global affairs and support for Europe's decision to stand by a nuclear deal with Iran. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was not among the impressed, however, and he doubled down on American criticism of Europe.
The Iranian foreign minister's passionate defense of his country's interests at the Munich Security Conference has made him "a famous person" in China, his Chinese counterpart told him Tuesday, as the sides met amid efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is leading an Iranian delegation to Beijing that includes parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and the ministers of finance and petroleum, as well as the CEO of the country's central bank.
The Iranian public are on the brink of abandoning faith in the nuclear deal signed with Europe and other world powers in 2015, putting pressure on the regime to pull out of the deal, Iran's foreign minister has said. Speaking at the Munich security conference, Javad Zarif also accused Israel of seeking war with Iran and said Europe needed to be prepared to "get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of US unilateralism".
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday warned his country's government not to be deceived by European countries that say they want to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump last year. The comments by the long-serving hardline cleric demonstrate the difficulty the elected government of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani has in maintaining his policy of keeping Iran open to the outside world in the face of new U.S. sanctions.
Divisions between the United States and Europe over the Iran nuclear deal marked this year's Munich Security Conference as US Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took each other to task. Representing the Trump administration, Pence rebuked European powers over Iran and Venezuela in a renewed attack on Washington's traditional allies, rejecting a call by Germany's chancellor to include Russia in global cooperation efforts.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's president on Monday described U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran as an economic war being waged on his country and stressed that "economic war is more difficult than military war." Hassan Rouhani spoke as he inaugurated the third and final phase of the sprawling Persian Gulf Star refinery built in the Persian Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas. Construction of the refinery began in 2006 and it now has the capacity of 400,000 barrels a day, which amounts to about 20 percent of Iran's 2.1 million barrels of daily refining capacity.
The U.S. is putting the full-court sanctions press on Venezuela, while at the same time vowing to get Iranian oilOpens a New Window. exports to zero, which on its own is a very ambitious goal. The Trump administrationOpens a New Window. is trying to nuance oil sanctions on Iran, while at the same time trying to effect change in Venezuela by "steeping up" sanctions on disputed President Nicolas Maduro's key associates. The U.S. is now directly targeting Venezuela's oil chief and intelligence officials with fresh sanctions.
When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Baghdad in January, his entourage included representatives of more than 50 companies. The trip to Iraq came at a pivotal time for Iran's economy, only months after the US reimposed sanctions against Tehran as a result of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday inaugurated a new domestically-built submarine armed with cruise missiles at a time of rising tensions with its arch-enemy the United States. "From this moment, the Fateh Submarine joins Iran's naval force with my order," Rouhani said in a ceremony broadcast live on the state-run English-language Press TV.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran is investigating reports of a U.S. program to sabotage its missiles and rockets. The New York Times reported Feb. 13 that President Donald Trump's administration has accelerated a secret initiative to slip faulty parts and materials into the supply chain of the Iranian aerospace industry. The newspaper said that two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed in the past month, part of a pattern going back more than a decade.
In the later days of the negotiations between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany) and Iran over the country's nuclear program, another in a long line of standoffs emerged. Iran's negotiators argued that since the deal was supposed to eliminate all nuclear sanctions against Iran, the language against Iran's missile program in a 2010 Security Council resolution should be stricken when the Council passes a new resolution endorsing a nuclear deal.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
US Vice President Mike Pence pressed European countries on Saturday to withdraw from a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, and urged them to be wary of using telecoms equipment supplied by Chinese provider Huawei. "The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people," Pence told the 55th Munich Security Conference. "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online. Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister, a cleric, to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Iran blocked a German football broadcast on Friday last week because the referee was a woman. Iranian state broadcaster IRIB censored a match between Bayern Munich and Ausburg in the Bundesliga because German referee Bibiana Steinhaus was officiating. According to Deutsche Welle, the broadcast was stopped because of the country's strict Islamic laws which do not allow images of women wearing shorts to be shown on TV.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's foreign minister on Sunday accused Israel of looking for war and warned that its actions and those of the United States were increasing the chances of a clash in the region. Addressing the Munich Security Conference, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also criticized the U.S. administration after Vice President Mike Pence this week called on European powers to pullout of the nuclear deal with Iran. Zarif urged France, Germany and Britain to do more to save that accord.
Iranian officials rejected over the weekend an accusation by US Vice President Mike Pence that it "openly advocates another Holocaust." Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in the southern German city on Saturday after a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland earlier in the week, Pence accused Iran of trafficking in "vile anti-Semitic hatreds and threats of violence," and warned that "the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it."
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Monica E. Witt, a former United States Air Force intelligence specialist, made her way through the gleaming doors and majestic lobby of one of Tehran's largest luxury hotels in 2013, on her way to a conference that was all about bashing American culture. There, in a crowd filled with fringe academics, Holocaust deniers and the lover of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, Ms. Witt at last found herself among people as critical of her country as she was.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wants less oil income diverted to the country's sovereign wealth fund, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, as the economy reels from renewed U.S. sanctions. Khamenei has instructed parliament to amend the draft budget for the Iranian year beginning March 21 so 20 percent of oil revenue is paid into the National Development Fund, versus the originally planned 30 percent, Tasnim reported, citing lawmaker Nader Qazipour.
To address the shortage of jobs in the country, Iran's government has banked on the thriving technology sector. Yet, despite the alarming unemployment rate, fledgling service sector startups have difficulties with hiring unskilled workers. In this regard, traditional mentalities and new working conditions should be blamed. In July 2018, when Habib Afzali and his business partner established Carno - an on-demand service that allows customers to order waterless car washes at their locations of choice - they thought their biggest problem would be to create enough demand to secure a safe profit margin.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau uploaded to the premier's official YouTube page a video in which Arab leaders can be heard endorsing Netanyahu's message that Iran poses the biggest threat to the region during a discussion at the Warsaw Middle East summit that was held behind closed doors.
CHINA & IRAN
China wants to deepen "strategic trust" with Iran, the Chinese government's top diplomat told Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday, days before Saudi Arabia's crown prince visits Beijing, underscoring China's difficult Middle East balancing act. China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil, but it has been trying to raise its profile, especially in the Arab world.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's government and Houthi rebels have agreed on the first phase of a withdrawal from the key city of Hodeidah, in a deal the UN described as important progress. The redeployment from Hodeidah is a critical part of a ceasefire agreed in Sweden in December that calls on the government and Houthis to move forces away from ports. The fragile truce deal marks the first step toward ending a devastating war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards criticized Pakistan for providing support to terrorists who killed 27 personnel in a suicide bomb attack in southeast Iran this week. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Pakistan's government was sheltering groups behind the Wednesday attack and "had to be held accountable for the crime," the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported. The attack coincided with a U.S.-led summit in Warsaw focused on rallying support against Iran.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has assailed Iran for initially blaming the kingdom for last week's attack that killed 27 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard. Adel al-Jubeir says the allegations by Iran, as a "chief sponsor of terrorism," sought to divert the attention of the Iranian people. Iranian officials had at first said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were behind the attack but later said the attack was planned from "inside Pakistan."
Iran is ready to work with all of its neighbours to secure peace in the Middle East in the face of U.S. and Israeli aggression, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, in his latest attempt to weaken ties between regional rival Saudi Arabia and America. Iran and Saudi Arabia have been fighting proxy wars for years, backing opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen staged over the weekend pro-Tehran rallies in Sanaa and other regions under their control in a move that was widely condemned by the legitimate government. The rallies were held in wake of the Warsaw conference last week that warned of and condemned Iran's malicious policies in the region. The Houthis sought to stage the protests in Tehran's defense under the claim of rejecting the normalization of ties with Israel.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran has summoned the Pakistani ambassador to protest about a suicide bombing that killed 27 of its elite Revolutionary Guards near the border earlier this week, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday. The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday.
Jordan Monday called on Iran to release three of its nationals it said had strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the southern Gulf from the United Arab Emirates last December. Jordan's parliament speaker Atef al-Tarawneh raised the case of the three Jordanians in a meeting with Iran's ambassador to Amman, Mojtaba Ferdosipour, the official news agency Petra said.