U.S. and European officials said they’ve made progress on revisions to the Iran nuclear accord to address ballistic missiles and sunset provisions, raising optimism among American allies that President Donald Trump can be persuaded not to scrap the deal… Two European diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are ongoing, said they are close to an agreement that could be taken to Trump and his top advisers. A senior State Department official said the U.S. and Europeans are close to an agreement on how to handle Iran’s ballistic missile program.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, said on Thursday he “wants to fix” the international Iran nuclear deal, with just weeks to go before a crucial deadline affecting the pact.
Iran's currency, the rial, has plummeted to an historic low amid growing economic and political uncertainty, causing a rush to the banks as Iranians desperately try to acquire U.S. dollars with exchanges forced to shut their doors to prevent long and chaotic lines. If unchecked, the crisis, combined with further deteriorating relations with the U.S., could spell severe instability for the Islamic republic.
Pompeo says that bolstering the Iran nuclear deal will be a priority if he’s confirmed as the nation's top diplomat. There is one month until a May 12 deadline that Trump set to either address "flaws" in the 2015 agreement or withdraw from it. Pompeo said Thursday that fixing the deal is in America’s best interest. Pompeo added that if the deal can’t be fixed and Trump decides to withdraw, he will continue to advocate for a tougher accord.
Iran urged France on Thursday not to be influenced by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
In a report released on April 12, London-based international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said “more than half (51%) of all recorded executions in 2017 were carried out in Iran.” Iran ranks second in the world after China in terms of executions and has “carried out 84% of the global total number of executions with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.”
Prominent teachers’ rights advocate Esmail Abdi has written a letter from Evin Prison strongly criticizing Iranian officials’ for their failure to uphold the promises of the country’s 1979 revolution.
Six months have passed and the Iranian government has still not resolved the dispute over the suspension of a Yazd City Council member, Sepanta Niknam, due to his Zoroastrian faith.
In a first for Jafar Panahi, the lauded Iranian filmmaker has a berth in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival with his latest work, Three Faces. What is not clear is if he will be allowed to travel to the Riviera for the honor. In 2010, Panahi was arrested by the Iranian authorities and banned from making films. He has continued to work, but is unable to leave Iran and still faces a prison sentence which has not been enforced.
SYRIA, RUSSIA, ISRAEL & IRAN
Iran could destroy Israel so Tel Aviv should avoid any stupid measures against the Islamic Republic, the supreme leader’s representative to the Quds force said on Thursday according to the semi-official Fars news agency. “If Israel wants to continue its treacherous existence ... it should avoid stupid measures. If they give excuses to Iran, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be destroyed,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative at the Quds force cleric Ali Shirazi was quoted by Fars as saying. “Iran can destroy Israel.”
The top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said on Thursday he hoped Syria’s army and its allies would drive U.S. troops out of eastern Syria, and take Idlib in the northwest from insurgents. “Idlib is an important Syrian city, and we hope it will be liberated very soon,” Ali Akbar Velayati told a news conference in Damascus. “East of the Euphrates is also a very important area. We hope big steps will be taken in order to liberate this area and expel the occupying Americans.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Iran not to test his country’s resolve as Tehran builds up its military presence in neighboring Syria.
The reports of yet another Israeli Air Force strike this week on a base near Homs show that there is a new reality in Syria, taking shape as the civil war draws to a close—one that creates a predetermined chronicle of collision between Israel and Iran, on the soil of a third party. The routing of ISIS and the reestablishment of Bashar al-Assad's rule across much of the state of Syria, alongside the seeming lack of American interest in the country except after major chemical attacks, is facilitating the expansion of Iran’s influence—indeed its de facto takeover—in much of the country. And with each passing day the sensation in Israel, of standing alone against the Iranian gambit to turn Syria into an Iranian forward base, grows more intense. The only thing that might change it is change of American policy.
In the past Israel has assured Russia that it does not seek to harm the Assad regime, as long as its own strategic interests in Syria are not jeopardised. That line is starting to change. Yoav Galant, the housing minister and a former general, has made a round of interviews calling for Mr Assad’s removal… It is hard not to interpret this as a message to Moscow. Israel is determined to prevent Iran from expanding its foothold in Syria, even if it means threatening Russia’s client in Damascus in the process.
Although Damascus has sought to maintain a grip over its network of brigades, Tehran is gaining ascendancy and could push more of them to attack U.S. forces or Israel.
Russian media with reference to Iranian dissident and defence expert Babak Taghvaee, reported that Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) had officially asked Iran to provide access to deploy its heavy bombers in Hamedan Air Base.
In an interview last week with Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi urged the Trump administration to sanction the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Tehran’s state-run media corporation. President Trump should heed this call by designating the IRIB pursuant to Executive Order 13628. The conglomerate not only serves as a major propaganda organ for the clerical regime, but also routinely facilitates Tehran’s violations of international law and norms – as well as Iran’s own statutes – by airing the forced confessions of political prisoners.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said on Wednesday that $60 a barrel is a good price for oil currently as the market should avoid volatility.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Farmers in Isfahan, Iran, are continuing to protest the lack of water available to irrigate their fields. Recent amateur video on social media showed protesters chanting slogans while security forces tried to disperse them.
An Iranian state TV network’s unusual decision to censor the crest of Italian football club AS Roma has helped the club attract a big following of Iranian fans to its new Persian Twitter account. As Roma’s head of digital media, Paul Rogers, posted a tweet Wednesday, saying the club’s Persian Twitter account had “really good local fan feedback” in the first 24 hours since it launched a day earlier.