The German foreign ministry declined to reveal statistics covering illegal Iranian efforts to secure nuclear and missile technology across Europe, according to a March 18 ministry letter reviewed by The Jerusalem Post. "A statistic in the field of foreign trade is not kept at the [German] customs criminal office," in connection with the Iranian regime's attempts to obtain the technology, wrote German state minister Niels Annen in the letter.
President Donald Trump's national security team is deeply divided over whether to let a small group of countries keep buying Iranian oil after a U.S. deadline on sanctions waivers expires in May. Now that fight is getting ugly. The division -- primarily between John Bolton's National Security Council and Michael Pompeo's State Department -- has led to rising frustration and flared tempers. It's exposing fault lines over how the president's most senior advisers approach the Iran issue, according to four people familiar with the debate who asked not to be identified discussing the internal deliberations.
Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it has removed more accounts from Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo, citing what it described as "coordinated inauthentic behavior." A total of 2,632 pages, groups, and accounts were removed from Facebook and Instagram for operations linked to the above mentioned countries, the social media platform said. 513 of those accounts were tied to Iran, while 1,907 were linked to Russia, Facebook said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Israel and Egypt have been at peace for 40 years. In a region beset by national, sectarian and tribal conflicts, the treaty between the two nations has endured since its signing on March 26, 1979. It has withstood the assassination in 1981 of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, two Palestinian intifadas, two wars in Lebanon and the election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi as Egypt's president in 2012. Even though Mr. Morsi refused to deal directly with the Israelis-or say "Israel"-he did not walk away from the treaty during his year in power.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
South Korean government officials are expected to press for extending a sanctions waiver on Iran's petroleum exports that expires in May on a visit to Washington this week. South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Yoon Kang-hyun and other leaders will meet with U.S. State Department officials on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the waiver issued in November to keep buying Iranian oil in exchange for having reduced such purchases, the Seoul government said in a news release on Monday.
When the United States and allies struck a landmark nuclear accord with Iran in 2015, a key selling point was that it blocks Iran's paths to building an atomic bomb. But U.S. President Donald Trump has denounced the deal, and in May 2018 he followed through on a campaign promise to pull the United States out. His administration argues the agreement allows Iran to bide its time, preserving illicit nuclear know-how until provisions of the deal sunset.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. President Donald Trump has recognized Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights -- the rocky plateau that Israeli forces seized from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. Syria also tried to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli forces during the 1973 Middle East war, but the surprise assault was repelled. Signing a formal proclamation on March 25 at the White House, Trump said the United States should have recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights "decades ago."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif derided US President Donald Trump for claiming that the United States, which was behind creation and spread of Daesh (ISIL or ISIS), has managed to defeat the terrorist group. "Trump & Co try to take credit for the "defeat of ISIS"-which was created & nourished by their invasion of Iraq & their fomenting of unrest in Syria," Zarif wrote in a post on his Twitter account on Monday.
Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was received with a standing ovation at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington D.C. on Monday, "we have to isolate Iran," she told the audience. "Nothing stop using the power of your voice," she said, noting that under her term at the UN the US left UINESCO, the Iran deal, and the UNHR council.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The cultural adviser to the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recently raised the idea of a significant reform in the executive structure of the Islamic Republic: the abolition of the presidency and the reinstatement of a prime minister position. Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi said that under such a change, the Iranian parliament would then exercise the authority to remove and replace the head of the government at its discretion and expediency at any moment it finds such a figure unfit to rule.
While celebrating the beginning of the new Iranian year, 1398, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the country's President Hassan Rouhani both addressed the people, with their speeches having several points in common. They both focused on Iran's resistance economy and the need to challenge US sanctions through improving domestic production. They also focused on domestic unity and its importance in the face of external threats, along with the importance of Iranians being aware of deceptive foreign propaganda against their country.
In his first new year speech on March 21, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described U.S. leaders as "top idiots", called Western diplomats "savages," labelled Europeans as "traitors" and "back-stabbers". He also denounced Saudi Arabia as "the worst state" in the world. He also called on the Iranian people to bear the cost of sanctions, adding that sanctions provided "opportunities" for Iran.
At least 18 people were killed and around 100 others were injured in flash floods in Iran's southern Fars province, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday, with more rain forecast following days of devastating floods in the north. Some 26 provinces out of 31 now have flood warnings due to torrential rain in a country more accustomed to drought. State TV said villages near rivers and dams in several provinces had been evacuated for fear of the rising water.
Iran's crude oil pipelines have avoided damage from flooding in recent days and the transfer of oil is taking place normally, Abbasali Jafarinasab, director of the Iranian Oil Pipeline and Telecommunication Co, was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the oil ministry's SHANA news website. At least 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured in flash floods in Iran's southern Fars province, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday, with more rain forecast following days of devastating floods in the north.
The governor of Khuzestan, the biggest oil-rich province in Iran, has banned government officials from leaving it despite the danger of floods in the region, Radio Farda reports, citing a statement by Gholamreza Shariati. "Since there are some concerns over the basin of Karkheh River, forces have been assigned to check the floodgates, and do whatever necessary to confront a possible flash flood in the province," the Khuzestan governor said.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Benny Gantz, who is posing a stiff challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in upcoming elections, said Monday he would not hesitate to use force on Iran to contain the regional rival. In a speech to the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Gantz also spelled out further his views on peace prospects with the Palestinians, insisting that Israel's military will always control security in the West Bank.
In January 2008, a team of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents travelled to Ottawa to meet with RCMP leaders. They had stunning news. The DEA said an elite group of Middle East narco-terrorists in Colombia was using Canada as a key money laundering hub. According to a former senior U.S. official with knowledge of the meeting, the DEA had "dirty calls" - meaning calls providing criminal evidence of cocaine shipments and cash movements in Canada - from narco-kingpins in Colombia to a network of operatives in Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary, and London, Ont.
President Trump's tweeted last week that the U.S. will formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. The decision is strategically wise and morally important. Israel secured the Golan Heights in 1967 after the Six Day War, a defensive conflict Israel fought in response to attacks from Syria and other Arab nations. Since then, the Golan has been a critical part of Israel's defenses.
Israel's military said it struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip and the Islamist group launched numerous rockets into its territory, raising the risk of a wide-scale conflict two weeks before an Israeli election. The latest exchange of fire comes after the Israeli military blamed Gaza-ruler Hamas for an attack earlier Monday that hit a home in the small town of Mishmeret north of Israel's commercial capital of Tel Aviv, injuring seven people.
CHINA & IRAN
Beijing is seen by some as the financial backstop that countries can call on to bail them out when they fall foul of US displeasure and face sanctions. Yet a close examination of the cases of Russia and Iran instead shows that China is reactive to US sanctions policy, to the detriment of its supposed strategic allies. This reflects the attractiveness of the US market, the reach of extraterritorial sanctions and the independence of some Chinese institutions from Beijing's geopolitical interests.