Eye on Iran will be suspended Monday, December 31 through Tuesday, January 1 in observance of the holiday season. It will resume Wednesday, January 2.
A spokesman for the German company Krempel, which provided construction material to Tehran businessmen that was used in rockets produced by the Iranian regime to gas Syrians earlier this year, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the global business firm has stopped trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran. "Since several months ago, Krempel no longer delivers goods to Iran," Rainer Westermann said.
The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has accused Iran of using Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned for 1,000 days, as a pawn for diplomatic leverage. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national from Hampstead, north London, has been held in Iran since April 2016. Tehran, which accused her of seeking to overthrow the government, has ignored repeated calls from her family and UK officials to release her.
Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia hit their lowest in more than five years in November as U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil exports took effect last month, government and ship-tracking data showed. China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported about 664,800 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the data, down 12.7 percent from the same month a year earlier.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Just one week after American officials reportedly met with a Taliban delegation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Adm. Ali Shamkhani confirmed for the first time that Iran has also held talks with the Taliban. Shamkhani made the comments during a Dec. 26 visit to Kabul to meet with Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib, to discuss regional and bilateral security issues.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's interior minister has tried to downplay the threat from protests by various groups in the past year, insisting that none of them were organized by political groups or unions. Major protests rocked Iran between December 28, 2017 and early January 2018. Later, there were mass protests in June and August, in addition to crippling strikes by truckers, bazaar merchants and industrial workers in various parts of the country.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother jailed in Iran was allowed to meet with her daughter on her 40th birthday. Four-year-old Gabriella, who has been staying in Iran with family, said she "wished her mum was free" as the pair shared cake in jail, her father Richard Ratcliffe said. He added that Nazanin had been involved a "long battle" with prison authorities over recent months about health matters.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
When U.S. forces leave Syria, the plan is for troops from neighboring Turkey to take their place. One exception: a small, remote U.S. base in southern Syria that has made it more difficult for Iran to project power across the Middle East. More than 200 U.S. troops have been advising local Syrian fighters at the al-Tanf garrison, which they have used to combat Islamic State and which sits in strategically important terrain astride a potential Iranian supply route through Iraq to Syria.
Leading Iranian general has called on President Donald Trump to withdraw his forces from the entire Middle East, arguing that the United States has wasted resources there as rival nations such as Russia and China rose. Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a ceremony for the premiere of a new computer game at the Art University of Tabriz in northwestern Iran that the "U.S. is facing a big economic challenge" made worse by the ongoing war on terror launched with the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. Citing strategists, Safavi said that "the U.S. focused on Iraq and Afghanistan and wasted its costs, whereas the main rivals of the U.S. were China and Russia, which the U.S. ignored," according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
In the days and months following massive protests across Iran that erupted in December 2017, the regime's vulnerability became clear. The anniversary of that nationwide uprising is approaching, and one year later, the anti-regime uprising has grown, in visibility and viability, coalescing into a unified movement that now includes virtually all sectors of Iranian society. The days of the ruling theocracy are numbered. The people of Iran are demanding regime change.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Not many details about Iran's budget bill for the next year, presented to the parliament on December 25, have been publicly released. However, a few key points about Iran's defense budget for the next year were leaked the day after President Hassan Rouhani presented the bill amid heckling and protests by a group of hard-line MPs. Many Iranians on social media, mainly regime supporters, protested against what they called "a dramatic decline" in Iran's military budget.
Following months of turbulence this year, the Iranian rial has regained a significant portion of its lost value in the past several weeks. However, this trend has not been seen in consumer prices, leading to increasing public discontent. The depreciation of the rial has led to sharp jumps in the prices of imported products, ranging from vehicles, audio-visual devices and cellphones to iron and aluminum. Given the import tariffs levied by the authorities, these kinds of products were already sold in Iran at prices often higher than the global average.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The implications of Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will play out over many months, but a portent was apparent Wednesday. While Mr. Trump was defending his Syria pullout during his visit with U.S. troops in Iraq, Russia was condemning Israel's defensive air strikes in Syria. This is only some of what will fill the vacuum left by America's departure.
The Israeli military on Wednesday destroyed another cross-border tunnel it says was built by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, sending a loud explosion throughout the volatile area. Israel this month announced the discovery of the tunnels, which it says were part of a Hezbollah plot to sneak across the border and carry out attacks in Israel.
President Trump may seek to pull troops from Syria, but Iran and its Hezbollah terror surrogate remain firmly entrenched there and in adjacent Lebanon. That's clear from their threats to Israel: This week IDF forces uncovered the fifth in a series of surprisingly sophisticated tunnels built by Hezbollah and designed to sneak terrorists into Israel from Lebanon.
When Iranian officials say Israel will be wiped off the map, does it mean they are suggesting that Iran should be the one to do it? The debate was renewed last week by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. When an interviewer from a French news magazine suggested that Paris might be reluctant to sell weaponry to Iran because the Islamic republic had called for Israel's destruction and had missiles that carried the inscription "Death to Israel", Zarif objected.
New satellite images of an Iranian weapons storehouse outside the Syrian capital of Damascus showed significant damage done to site following Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets earlier in the week. The images, taken by ImageSat International (ISI), showed the complete destruction of the 60x15 meter storehouse which supposedly held Fajr-5 missiles at an Iranian base in the Syrian regime's 4th Division camp in the Al-Muna area.
President Donald Trump's surprise decision Dec. 19 to pull US forces out of Syria has sparked different reactions, both inside and outside the United States. US allies France and Britain expressed their dissatisfaction over the move, emphasizing that the Western mission in Syria is still far from accomplished. Russia and Turkey, as two pillars of the Astana framework, welcomed the decision, seeing it as a positive step toward resolving the Syrian crisis. At the same time, American lawmakers from both ends of the US political spectrum interpreted the move as a mistake that would empower Iran and Russia in Syria.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The well-known face of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy, Adel al-Jubeir, was moved to a new position in the Kingdom as part of a shakeup that saw former finance minister Ibrahim al-Assaf appointed as foreign minister. Jubeir was a passionate critic of Iran who believed the US should play an important role in the Middle East. In January 2016, after the Iran deal but before the election of Donald Trump, Jubeir warned about the "nefarious activities" of Iran. He was concerned about instability in the region. "If an American decline were to happen or an American withdrawal were to happen, the concern that everybody has is that it would leave a void, and whenever you have a void, or a vacuum, evil forces flow."
IRAQ & IRAN
As minor pockets of Islamic State (IS) territory in eastern Syria are treated as of little consequence following the entrance of US-backed fighters into the long-besieged Hejin region, Iraq's western Anbar province is facing up to emboldened pro-Iran armed groups nearby. The surprise announcement Dec. 19 that the United States plans to pull its roughly 2,000 troops out of eastern Syria strongly suggests that the already heavy influence of Iran-backed armed groups near the border will rise.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
This year has been one of the most challenging ones for the security services in European countries as they have yet to form a firm counter-terrorism strategy to halt state-sanctioned terrorist operations across the EU. If the ISIS targeted people arbitrarily without any operation center in the EU, Iran's regime uses its embassies to organize terrorist operations across Europe as part of its desperate response to domestic crises and growing dissent inside the country.
The paper was compiled by the official Iranian resistance movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). It makes damning assertions which implicate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in waging "cyber warfare to preserve the theocracy". NCRI representative Hossein Abedini has spoken to Express.co.uk about his group's findings. Furious Iranians, making use of cyber technology to disseminate their message, have been part of a popular uprising that erupted in Tehran in December 2017.