France on Wednesday condemned a failed Iranian satellite launch that it said used technology applicable to long-range missiles and urged Tehran to stop all ballistic tests which are not in line with U.N. resolutions. It was the latest in a string of French comments expressing irritation at Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program despite attempts over the last two years by France and other European powers to open talks on the subject with Iranian authorities.
Iranian hackers have congregated since at least 2002 in online forums to share tips on the best ways to create successful cyberattacks. Those conversations have given birth to some of the most significant global cybersecurity incidents, including devastating attacks on Saudi Aramco, attacks against the public-facing websites of large banks and espionage campaigns on a wide range of Western targets, according to new research by cybersecurity intelligence firm Recorded Future.
Iranian authorities carried out arbitrary mass arrests and serious due process violations during 2018 in response to protests across the country over deteriorating economic conditions, perceptions of corruption, and the lack of political and social freedoms, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019. Authorities tightened their grip on peaceful activism, detaining lawyers, human rights defenders, and women's rights activists.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Wednesday that the US withdrawal from the 2016 nuclear deal with Iran was the most important event of 2018, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office. "The most important thing that happened in the last year in the Middle East was President Trump's decision to leave the nuclear deal which led to a weakened the Iranian economy," Netanyahu said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran will be ready for a new satellite launch in a few months' time after a failed attempt this week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, ignoring U.S. and European warnings to avoid such activity. Western officials say the missile technology used in such launches could be applied to delivering a nuclear weapon. Iran's bid to send a satellite, named Payam, into orbit failed on Tuesday as its launching rocket did not reach adequate speed in its third stage.
The recent resignation of Iran's minister of health, Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, led to many speculations. Officially, insufficient allocations in the next Iranian year (beginning March 21) was cited as the reason, but commentators also referred to factional infighting within the Hassan Rouhani administration as well as shifting interests as a result of renewed sanctions.
France on Wednesday condemned a failed Iranian satellite launch that it said used technology applicable to long-range missiles, hours after the United States accused Tehran of posing a missile threat. "The Iranian ballistic program is a source of concern for the international community and France," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said. Paris urged Tehran to stop all ballistic tests which are not in line with UN resolutions.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has ended her three-day hunger strike following a decision by Iranian prison authorities to grant her medical treatment. The former charity worker and her fellow prisoner, Narges Mohammadi, called the strike after allegedly being denied healthcare by Iranian authorities. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband claimed that she had not been granted medical attention for lumps in her breasts, severe neck pain, and numbness in her arms and legs.
The Iranian ambassador to the UK has told the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe that his campaign to secure her release from a Tehran jail is reducing her chances of freedom. Speaking in response to the announcement by the Free Nazanin campaign that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had brought her three-day hunger strike to an end after prison authorities agreed she could receive medical treatment for a lump in her breast, the Iranian ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, claimed that she had already been given full access to the required facilities.
"We urge the Government to immediately and unconditionally provide Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Narges Mohammadi with access to the appropriate treatment and care they have repeatedly requested in light of their serious health concerns," the experts said in a statement. According to the human rights experts, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual UK-Iranian national, has been denied appropriate health care by the Iranian authorities, after finding lumps in her breasts, enduring severe neck pain, and numbness in her arms and legs."
The Islamic Republic's Prosecutor-General has expressed regret that a number of "divine punishments" are set aside to save Iran from being condemned by international bodies. Divine punishments in Islam, Hudud, refers to punishments that under Islamic law are mandated and fixed by God, including Qisas, meaning "retaliation in kind", "eye for an eye", "nemesis" or retributive justice, cutting the hand of a thief, and flogging.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A prominent American-born journalist working for an Iranian state-run satellite television channel has been arrested in the United States, the broadcaster said Wednesday. The reported action, which has not been confirmed by the American authorities, was condemned by Iranian officials. The journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, who has lived in Iran since 2009, is an anchor at the channel, Press TV. It said that Ms. Hashemi, 59, was arrested at the St. Louis airport on Sunday and transferred by the F.B.I. to Washington, where she remained in custody.
Iran kept up its criticism Thursday of the FBI's apparent arrest of an American anchorwoman from Iran's state-run English-language TV channel, with its foreign minister saying "she's done nothing but journalism." The hard-line Vatan-e Emrooz paper criticized the detention of Press TV's Marzieh Hashemi as "Saudi-style behavior with a critical journalist." That's a reference to the Oct. 2 assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Iraq could bear the brunt if conflict intensifies between Iran and the United States, a think-tank study said Wednesday. The International Crisis Group, which researches ways to prevent war, interviewed officials around the world including Iran for an extensive report on the state of the 2015 denuclearization accord between Tehran and major powers.
US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, has condemned the terror activities conducted by Iran that aim to destabilise the region during a roundtable discussion in Bahrain. "Bahrain is a key partner in our Iran strategy. Iran's support of proxies here in Bahrain is part of a much larger strategy to destabilise the region. Iran must stop testing and proliferating missiles, stop launching and developing nuclear-capable missiles, and stop supporting its militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen."
The Trump administration will roll out a new strategy for a more aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect against existing threats from North Korea and Iran and counter advanced weapon systems being developed by Russia and China. Details about the administration's Missile Defense Review - the first compiled since 2010 - are expected to be released during President Donald Trump's visit Thursday to the Pentagon with top members of his administration.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Middle East tour brings to mind the sport of hurdling, as he tries to overcome obstacles while eyeing the last objective: Confronting Iran. The list of hurdles grows long: The Kurds, Turks, Syrians (both the government and fighting factions), Israelis, Iraqis, Saudis and Qataris. However, Pompeo left the region before completing the list.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
At the height of his power in 1971, Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi drew world leaders to a wind-swept luxury tent city, offering a lavish banquet of food flown in from Paris to celebrate 2,500 years of Persian monarchy in the ruins of Persepolis. Only eight years later, his own empire would be in ruins. The fall of the Peacock Throne and the rise of the Islamic Revolution in Iran grew out of the shah's ever-tightening control over the country as other Middle East monarchies toppled.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
US President Donald J Trump's threat to devastate Turkey's economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria.
Iran will keep military forces in Syria, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday, defying Israeli threats that they might be targeted if they do not leave the country. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces would continue to attack Iranians in Syria and warned them "to get out of there fast, because we will continue with our resolute policy".
IRAQ & IRAN
Iranian firms should have a key role in rebuilding Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group, Tehran's top diplomat said Wednesday in a rare meeting with Iraqi paramilitary units. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke in Iraq's holy city of Karbala to commanders of the Hashed al-Shaabi, which is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite groups opposed by Washington.
Iran is ready to sign a deal with Iraq to drop the bilateral customs tariffs to zero, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while on a visit to Iraq on Wednesday. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to zero tariff rates between the two countries," Iran's Fars news agency quoted the foreign minister as saying. According to Zarif, Iran exports US$2 billion worth of gas and electricity to Iraq every year, despite the U.S. sanctions on Iran.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran has stopped issuing tourist visas for Poles, Polish private Radio Zet said on Wednesday. Earlier this month Iran protested at Poland jointly hosting a global summit with the United States focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran to be held in February. On Wednesday afternoon the Iranian embassy in Warsaw was not immediately available for comment.