European security officials have intercepted communications that suggest an Iranian diplomat was not only involved in an alleged plot last year to bomb a meeting of Tehran opponents outside Paris, but coordinated efforts with colleagues back in Iran, a well-placed western official told The Independent.
Iran says European nations have not responded to its offers to sell them crude oil despite having U.S. waivers. The semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday quoted Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh as saying "we have called them many times, but they do not return our calls." He did not name the oil importers, but appeared to be referring to Greece and Italy, which were among eight nations granted waivers to import Iranian oil when the U.S. restored sanctions in November.
European diplomats have convinced themselves that they must abide by the flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran to demonstrate their credibility. Their latest attempt to keep the deal alive despite U.S. opposition shows otherwise. Behold the special-purpose vehicle, unveiled last week by the European Commission and Europe's three signatories to the 2015 deal. The SPV, now christened the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchange (Instex), is supposed to allow European Union companies to keep trading with Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Instex will do this by managing complex barter transactions to avoid running afoul of sanctions the U.S. reimposed last year when it withdrew from the nuclear deal.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Trump did withdraw the United States from the deal, though the other countries that signed it are still in it. Although some parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sunset over time, gradually allowing Iran to pursue more nuclear energy research, the deal includes this permanent restriction: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons." CIA Director Gina Haspel last month testified to Congress that Iran was technically in compliance with the terms of the deal.
Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution by unveiling a new land attack cruise missile called the Hoveizeh that experts say looks like a knockoff of the Kh-55, a nuclear-capable Soviet missile. A 2015 deal struck between the US, UK, Russia, China, France, Germany, the EU and Iran forbids Tehran from building nuclear weapons, but the deal places no real limits on Iran's missile program.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
As Iran could soon pass four controversial bills that would remove it from the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) blacklist, the so-called E3 (Britain, France and Germany) joint statement on the unveiling of a new trade mechanism has provided Iranian hard-liners with a pretext to firmly proceed with their plans. Iran's government has submitted four FATF-related bills to parliament, which has passed them after extensive, fierce debates and fervent opposition of hard-line parliament members.
India's Hindustan Petroleum Corp could buy 0.9 million tonnes of Iran oil in its 2018/19 financial year, said Vinod S Shenoy, the company's director of refineries. HPCL bought 0.7 million tonnes of Iranian oil from April 2018 to February 2019, Chairman M K Surana said. Surana said the company will buy about 4.5 million tonnes of Iraqi crude oil in 2019, the same as last year.
Iran dismissed on Tuesday European Union unease about its missile program and rights abuses, calling it "non-constructive", as Europe seeks to shield Iran from US sanctions while containing its regional policies. The European Union said on Monday it was gravely concerned by Iran's ballistic missile tests and called on it to stop activity that deepened mistrust and destabilized the region.
Iran on Saturday displayed a new cruise missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers. The regime's official media reported the unveiling during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Defense Minister Amir Hatami identified this surface-to-surface missile, dubbed "Hoveizeh," as part of the Soumar family of cruise missiles, which he said Iran had added to its arsenal in 2015. He added that the "cruise missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The halls of the former prison in the heart of Iran's capital now are hushed, befitting the sounds of the museum that it has become. Wax mannequins silently portray the horrific acts of torture that once were carried out within its walls. But the surviving inmates still remember the screams. Exhibits in the former Anti-Sabotage Joint Committee Prison that was run under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi include a frightened man trapped in a small metal cage as a cigarette-smoking interrogator shouts above him.
A group of Iranian lawyers has condemned Iran's government for imprisoning a fellow lawyer convicted of slandering a former official and demanded that their colleague be released. In an open letter to the Iranian people dated Monday and shared with VOA Persian by lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz, he and 18 other lawyers said Sunday's jailing of their counterpart, Mostafa Tork Hamedani, at Tehran's Evin Prison violates Iran's international commitments to the principles of a fair trial.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged that the United States will continue to confront Iran's clerical regime. In his second State of the Union address delivered to the U.S. Congress on February 5, Trump declared, "We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people."
Iran's foreign minister is pushing back after President Donald Trump said the country does "bad, bad things" and appeared to link it to the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last year by an American anti-Semite. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Wednesday that "Iranians - including our Jewish compatriots - are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us."
The United States supports "dictators, butchers and extremists" in the Middle East, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Twitter post Wednesday in a response to U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech. Tensions have ramped up between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal last May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's expressed wish to keep U.S. forces in Iraq in order to monitor neighboring Iran has exposed American "lies" about fighting terrorism. In a recent interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation," Trump said the U.S. has an "incredible base" in Iraq that he intends to keep, "because I want to be able to watch Iran."
President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address linked his actions targeting Iran to the threat to Jews manifested in the October massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Trump also bookended his speech with references to D-Day, including salutes to troops, among them Jewish American veterans, who helped liberate Europe, and Holocaust survivors who were liberated thanks to the American-led action. The salutes earned standing ovations.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian state media has released an animated video showing one of the country's Ghadir-class submarines sinking an American aircraft carrier. The video opens with the aircraft carrier cruising on an open sea escorted by four smaller ships and carrying two planes on its deck. A green periscope bearing an Iranian flag then appears, sinister music begins playing, and one by one, the American ships disappear beneath the surface.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's state TV says gunmen have killed a policeman and wounded a police officer in a shootout in which a stray bullet hit a fuel tanker, causing it to explode. It said Wednesday that the shootout erupted near a gas station in the western province of Lurestan. It says the explosion shattered the windows of a nearby building. State TV says the wounded police lieutenant is in "satisfactory" condition after being transferred to a local hospital.
Ashkan Gomrokian is a young man who's easy to find. Most afternoons he's in the skate park in downtown Tehran, perfecting his crooked kickflip and lipslide. The commonplace scene would've been considered deviant in Iran a few years ago. Gomrokian recalls once getting dragged off to a police station and accused of being a satanist. He says authorities still don't like his skater tribe much-"the oversized clothes, the hair, the tattoos"-but the Tehran municipality has built multiple dedicated skateboard spaces in the past few years...
It all began with petitions signed by "the revolutionary people" of Karaj, a city west of the capital Tehran, where parliament speaker Ali Larijani was scheduled to deliver a speech on the upcoming 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution Feb. 11. According to ultra-conservative outlet Raja News, the petitions were an expression of anger backed by the city's Friday prayer leader Seyyed Mohammad Mehdi Hosseini Hamedani, who declared it a "legitimate" protest.
Mohammad Bathaei, Iran's controversial education minister, can finally claim some victory in gathering bipartisan support for his campaign against the country's educational book publishers. During his two years in office, the 55-year-old former teacher has managed to ban supplementary books from schools, claiming that they are "detrimental" to the school curriculum.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran warned Israel on Tuesday of a "firm and appropriate" response if it continued attacking targets in Syria, where Tehran has backed President Bashar al-Assad and his forces in their nearly eight-year war against rebels and militants. Without responding directly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless said it was important to block Iranian influence in Syria.
Senior Iranian figures said Wednesday that Syria was a top foreign policy priority and American troops should withdraw, as planned by U.S. President Donald Trump. "Whether they want to or not, the Americans must leave Syria," Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was reported as saying.
Iran is ready to help rebuild Syria, the Islamic republic's top diplomat said Tuesday as he hosted his Syrian counterpart in Tehran. Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country has been a staunch ally to Damascus throughout Syria's devastating war, met Walid Mouallem for closed-door talks at the Islamic republic's foreign ministry.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month in Moscow for talks on Iranian military activity in Syria.It will be their first face-to-face meeting since November and follows a series of air strikes in January against what Israel said were facilities belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force in Syria.
Iran's latest threat to Israel is worth your attention. Coming from the head of Iran's national security council, Ali Shamkhani, it represents the current thought process of the Iranian hardliner bloc under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Shamkhani is a longtime conservative who has been at the cornerstone of Iranian efforts to build a strategic deterrence capability via ranged missile platforms and research of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
...Across the Middle East, we face the menace of extremism. Radical interpretations of Islam represent a tiny minority of those who practice the faith. But often the shrillest voices shout the loudest - whether it is on TV, on the internet or in a mosque. They twist and obscure the fact that Islam is a religion of peace. As one article from Dabiq, the English-language magazine of the so-called Islamic State, declared to its secular readers, "We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah - whether you realize it or not."
IRAQ & IRAN
Top Donald Trump administration officials indicated today that US bases in Iraq would have little role in monitoring Iran-backed proxies after the president vowed in a TV interview that American troops would stay in the country to "watch" Iranian forces. Iraqi political figures roundly criticized Trump in the wake of a Sunday interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The Iranian revolution is eating its own children. A few weeks ago, while the Tehran regime was polishing its plans for the celebration of the Islamic revolution's 40th anniversary, the young activist Sepideh Qolian was savagely beaten by a dozen goons, tossed into the back of a van and "disappeared". Her crime: taking part in a protest of sugar cane workers who hadn't been paid.
The Remexi malware began an operation to target foreign diplomats in Iran using locally-produced spyware linked to a Farsi-speaking hacking group named Chafer. The group used Windows-targeting surveillance-ware to monitor figures in the Middle East. A new build of the Remexi software has been spotted lurking on multiple machines within Iran, mostly those located within foreign embassy buildings