The U.S. case against the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies, who was arrested in Canada last month, centers on the company's suspected ties to two obscure companies. One is a telecom equipment seller that operated in Tehran; the other is that firm's owner, a holding company registered in Mauritius. U.S. authorities allege CFO Meng Wanzhou deceived international banks into clearing transactions with Iran by claiming the two companies were independent of Huawei, when in fact Huawei controlled them.
U.S. sanctions are putting pressure on Iran and its people, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, according to his official website. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran's nuclear programme in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. "The sanctions do put pressure on the country and the people. The Americans happily say that these sanctions are unprecedented in history," Khamenei said.
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian asked a federal judge Tuesday to impose $1 billion in damages against the government of Iran to deter future taking of American hostages, saying his ordeal began when one of three Iranian security agents pointed a gun at his head in the parking garage of his Tehran apartment building at about 8 p.m. on July 22, 2014. "Are you Jason Rezaian?" the gunman asked.
UANI IN THE NEWS
...David Ibsen, President of UANI, a civil society group committed to preventing Iran from fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, stated: "Diplomatic and economic sanctions are the only effective approach to dealing with a country that continues to target regime opponents on European soil with impunity. This tactic, however, is undermined by the EU's general approach to Iran, of providing economic benefit to the regime in the hope that it will moderate its behaviour. Actively encouraging EU businesses to stay in Iran, for example through the proposed special purpose vehicle, takes the force away from this move to sanction Iranian Intelligence staff, and ultimately renders the EU's foreign policy ineffectual in dealing with the Iranian regime."
...David Ibsen - president of the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) advocacy group - stated, "Appeasing the regime in Tehran will only allow it to continue to target opponents abroad with impunity. Strongly sanctioning this behavior is the only way to bring Iran into line. We urge EU leaders to ensure these sanctions mark the beginning of a new, more robust approach to dealing with Iran."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Turkey has resumed imports of Iranian crude oil after a one-month hiatus in November when U.S. sanctions on Iran were reimposed, trading and shipping sources said. The United States granted Turkey and other countries import waivers in early November. Turkey said it was permitted to take 3 million tonnes a year, equivalent to about 60,000 barrels per day (bpd), under the waiver.
After the United States pulled out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed and added to sanctions last year, the Trump administration granted waivers to eight countries who were already established buyers to continue buying specified amounts of Iranian oil for 180 days. Now, however, a senior Iranian energy official in Tehran says that these countries are not making use of the waivers and are instead complying fully with the strict zero-oil sanctions.
New images obtained by CNN Tuesday indicate Iran is preparing to launch a remote sensing satellite into space, the latest sign that the Islamic Republic is moving ahead with the planned mission despite recent warnings from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The high-resolution satellite images, captured by Planet Labs on January 4, 6 and 7, show activity at the Imam Khomeini Space Center consistent with steps that were taken prior to a previous launch in 2017, according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, known as "Abu Hafs al-Mauritani," the former Mufti of al-Qaeda, revealed in an interview with Al Arabiya English what he described as the balanced relationship pursued by both the Iranian regime and Qatar with armed extremist groups. According to his interpretation, the two countries' relations with al-Qaeda, the Takfir, Hijra, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other armed groups are part of the agenda to maintain "political interests".
The European Union imposed sanctions on Iran's intelligence ministry and two Iranian nationals on Tuesday as the Dutch government accused Iran of likely involvement in two assassination plots in the Netherlands. The allegations were contained in a letter released by the Dutch government to parliament. The letter indicates Iran is suspected in at least four assassination and bomb plots in Europe since 2015, which will probably bolster the Trump administration's calls for greater international isolation of Tehran.
The European Union added two Iranian individuals and the directorate for internal security of the Iranian Ministry for intelligence to the bloc's terrorist list, it said in a statement on Wednesday. "These listings have been adopted by the Council as part of its response to recent foiled attacks on the European soil," the statement said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's Culture Ministry says it is considering action against an Iranian pop singer and his recording company amid accusations that Mehdi Yarrahi sullied the "martyrs" and ideals of past conflicts. The ministry last week dismissed reports that it had already blacklisted Yarrahi, saying it was awaiting a response from the company that produced the clip in question for the song Torn Rock.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation into claims by a mill workers representative that he was tortured while in detention. Hessamoddin Ashena , an adviser to Rouhani, wrote on his Telegram account that the president ordered a probe into the claim of violence against Esmail Bakhshi. Earlier on Friday, Bakhshi, a representative of workers of a sugar cane mill in southwestern Iran, wrote on his Instagram page that he was beaten and tortured when he was in detention for nearly a month in November.
The family of Lebanese citizen Nizar Zakka, who was arrested in Iran in 2015, has said that a video report was recently broadcast on Iranian state television framing him. It said in a statement on Tuesday that Zakka has been moved to a Revolutionary Guard prison from Evin prison in Tehran. According to the statement, the video was a clear attempt by Zakka's "kidnappers" to convince the Iranian public that the detention was justified, despite "the Iranian presidency's request for his release."
An Iranian cleric who is a judicial official has said that imprisonment in the Islamic Republic can reduce punishment in your afterlife. Ali Mozafari, who heads the Judiciary in Iran's Khorasan-Razavi province declared that being imprisoned in the Islamic Republic has "an impact on afterlife", including "avoiding punishment in hereafter".
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A U.S. Navy veteran has been held in an Iranian prison since July after visiting his girlfriend there, according to his family. The New York Times reported Monday that Michael R. White's mother learned three weeks ago that her son is alive and being held at an Iranian prison. His arrest was first reported by an online news service by Iranian ex-patriots who interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in the city of Mashhad in October.
Iran seized a Navy veteran from California five months ago while he was visiting the country and is still holding him on unspecified charges, his family said Tuesday. Michael R. White was captured by authorities in late July, when he was there to visit his Iranian girlfriend, the veteran's mom, Joanne White, told NBC News.
Iran's supreme leader has called U.S. officials "first-class idiots," mocking American leaders as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tours the Mideast. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments on Wednesday were unusually harsh, reflecting broader tensions between Iran and the United States after President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Khamenei also recounted a story about a U.S. official who once predicted he would celebrate Christmas in Iran.
The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it was aware of reports of the detention of a U.S. citizen held in Iran for more than six months, amid heightened tensions between the countries following the reimposition of U.S. sanctions. The New York Times reported on Monday that Michael R. White, a 46-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, was seized while visiting Iran and has been held in jail since July on unspecified charges.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States was "redoubling not only our diplomatic but our commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran". He said the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria did not jeopardise efforts to counter threats in the region, which he characterised as coming from Islamic State and Iran.
President Donald Trump has tapped Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to be director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction on the National Security Council, multiple media outlets reported on Monday. As a staffer for former Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Goldberg helped write legislation that served as the basis for the Barack Obama administration's sanctions regime on Tehran prior to the nuclear deal.
In a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo stressed over Washington's commitment to Jordan's security, and to confronting the most important threats facing the region, ISIS and Iran. Pompeo assured the relations between the two countries will continue to strengthen, in terms of settling the Syrian crisis and in the fight against terrorism.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's military is not as strong as previously believed, according to a US think tank. While Tehran has made major advances in building its ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as asymmetric forces, the report says Iran's conventional military is aging. "Sepending data shows that many of Iran's conventional military foces are equipped with aging, mediocre weapons," the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said.
Former Israeli cabinet minister Gonen Segev is to be jailed for 11 years after he admitted spying for Iran, Israel's justice ministry says. Segev, who served as energy minister in the 1990s, was allegedly recruited while working as a doctor in Nigeria. He was accused of leaking details about Israeli officials and security sites. Segev was detained in Equatorial Guinea in May and extradited to Israel. He pleaded guilty to serious espionage as part of a deal with prosecutors.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Following the death of Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi after a long illness, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has chosen the current head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to another powerful post: chairman of a council tasked with resolving disputes among government branches and potentially playing a role in selecting Khamenei's successor.
lawmaker in Iran has warned that the "unnecessary costs" and bad priorities of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy could lead to its collapse, pointing to the failure of the Soviet Union as an example. Reformist politician Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi made the remarks this week before Iran's parliament, according to Radio Free Europe. He took aim at the negative consequences that Iran's actions throughout the Middle East and internationally have brought to his country, including mass demonstrations in the streets of major Iranian cities.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria will not jeopardize Washington's efforts to counter threats in the region, which come from Iran and Islamic State, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday. Pompeo was in Jordan, making his first visit to the Middle East since President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement that he will pull the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, which caused alarm among U.S. allies in the region and prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A former Israeli government minister charged with spying for archenemy Iran will serve 11 years in prison as part of a plea bargain with authorities, Israel's justice ministry said Wednesday. The ministry said Gonen Segev agreed to the deal after confessing to severe espionage and passing information to an enemy. The plea bargain will be brought to a judge next month and no further information was provided.
Iran has the right to defend its interests in Syria, Qatar's Ambassador to Russia, Fahd bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah told the Interfax News Agency on Sunday. "Iran just like any other country has legitimate interests," Al-Attiyah said. "We don't mind these legitimate interests to be protected."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
15 Houthi militants were killed attempting to launch ballistic missile towards Saudi Arabia from Al-Tayyar district in Saada province on Wednesday, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News Channel reported. The United Nations envoy for Yemen held talks on Tuesday with the country's president, as he sought to shore up a truce in key port Hodeidah.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
The Taliban must have a role in Afghanistan in future, Iran's foreign minister said on Wednesday, but added that the hardline Islamist group should not have a dominant role.Efforts for a negotiated settlement of the 18-year war in Afghanistan have gathered pace in recent weeks, even as reports that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops have triggered uncertainty in Kabul.
After years of accusations, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani confirmed that Iran had been holding talks with the Taliban during a Dec. 26 visit to neighboring Afghanistan. Shortly after this trip, Taliban representatives headed to Tehran to discuss the Afghani peace process with Iranian officials. Redefining the Taliban is part of Tehran's strategy of defensive engagement in its efforts to adapt to the changing geopolitics of Afghanistan.