Eye on Iran: Iran, Deeply Embedded in Syria, Expands 'Axis of Resistance'

TOP STORIES

Iran, Deeply Embedded in Syria, Expands ‘Axis of Resistance’ | New York Times

When an Iranian drone flew into Israeli airspace this month, it set off a rapid series of strikes and counterstrikes that deepened fears over whether a new, catastrophic war was brewing in the Middle East… [T]he day of fighting drew new attention to how deeply Iran has embedded itself in Syria, redrawing the strategic map of the region.

Iran General’s Profile Rises As Tehran Flexes Mideast Muscle | Wall Street Journal

U.S. officials consider the commander of an elite Iranian military unit a terrorist supporter and the man ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and their Middle East allies. But many Iranians view Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the face of Tehran’s growing regional clout, as their best defense against foreign aggression.

Six Factors Driving Iran’s Sudden Currency Devaluation | Bijan Khajehpour for Al Monitor

A major and unexpected devaluation of the rial on the free currency market has taken many in Iran by surprise. Analysis of the behavior patterns in the Iranian foreign exchange market suggests that six main parameters need to be assessed to understand what has contributed to recent events.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Europe’s Sanctions-Blocking Threats Are Empty | Richard Goldberg for Foreign Policy

European Union official’s threat this month that Europe would block any attempt by the United States to reimpose sanctions on Iran showed a new level of desperation to deter President Donald Trump from leaving the Iran nuclear deal in May. But with their access to the U.S. financial system hanging in the balance, European banks know that, in the end, the EU must satisfy Trump’s demands to fix the deal or be prepared to fully comply when U.S. sanctions return.

Iran Expert: Trump Must Keep Threat to Nix Nuke Deal to Get E.U. Help | Jerusalem Post

Unless the Trump administration keeps a threat hanging over the Europeans about quitting the Iran nuclear agreement, the EU will not confront Tehran about plugging the deal’s holes, [INSS Arms Control Director Emily Landau] said on Tuesday.

NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS

Zarif: Iran Rejects Outside Control of Its Missile Program | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Tehran will not place its missile program under international control, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on February 19 in Moscow.

MILITARY MATTERS & PROXY WARS

Iranian Navy Plans to Unveil “New Generation of Submarines” | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

The Iranian Navy will unveil a new domestically-built submarine in coming days, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, the chief commander of the naval forces of Iran’s Artesh (regular army) has announced.

IRAN PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Life in an Iranian Dungeon for Being a Tech Expert | Maryam Nayeb Yazdi for the Wall Street Journal

Saeed Malekpour [an Iranian-Canadian]... has been in a dungeonlike cell for nine long years.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Pushing Back on Iran, Part 6: Pondering Regime Change | Kenneth Pollack for the American Enterprise Institute

… I don’t believe that regime change should be the primary goal of [a pushback] strategy [against Iran] or a direct aim of US policy at present, although I think the US needs to recognize a change in the regime in Iran is probably going to be necessary over the long term since the clerical regime continues to define itself as America’s enemy and to act aggressively in ways consistent with that self-identification.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Iran and India Agree to Lease Part of Chabahar Port to New Delhi | Voice of America

India and Iran sealed nine agreements during a visit by the Iranian President to New Delhi including a key accord that leases operational control of part of the Iranian port of Chabahar to New Delhi for 18 months. India is helping develop the port to create a strategic trade route to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics, bypassing rival Pakistan.

Iran Deepens Freight Discount To Boost Oil Sales To India | Reuters

Iran has offered to raise the freight discount on oil sales to India in return for New Delhi agreeing to boost imports, as the OPEC member is keen to eat into the market share of other producers including top rivals Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM

Pushing Iran to Take Steps against Terrorist Financing | Katherine Bauer for the Washington Institute on Near East Policy

By focusing on Tehran's struggle to reach an acceptable legal definition of terrorism, Washington can avoid further politicizing the traditionally technocratic effort to bring Iranian banks in line with international norms.

SYRIA & IRAN

Turkey and Iran Face Off in a New Battle in Syria | Ishaan Tharoor for the Washington Post

… [W]e are seeing Turkey and its rebel allies potentially squaring off against pro-Assad militias that are linked to Iran and are operating in tandem with Syrian Kurdish units friendly with the United States — which opposes both the Assad government and Iran's presence in Syria. It is the sort of bewildering entanglement that characterizes the ruinous seven-year conflict, its constellation of warring parties and their tangled sets of interests.

Washington's Militia Problem in Syria Is an Iran Problem | Jackson Doering for The Washington Institute on Near East Policy

While Assad may nominally hold reclaimed areas in the south, he will never truly control them so long as Tehran tells its militia proxies to secure that corridor for its own purposes.

Opposition Figure Says Assad, Iran, and Russia Are Committing 'a New Holocaust' in Syria | Associated Press

A top Syrian opposition figure says government forces along with Iran and Russia are committing a new "Holocaust" in rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus. Mohammed Alloush of the Army of Islam told The Associated Press Tuesday that the United Nations is also to blame "because of its bankruptcy and lies about protecting security and peace in the world."

Tehran Stands To Lose in Syria’s Postwar Reconstruction | Ali Alfoneh for the Middle East Institute

Tehran appears to be losing the race for Syria’s reconstruction despite all the blood, treasure and political capital the Islamic Republic has invested in the Assad regime’s survival over the past six years. Iranian authorities clearly expected otherwise.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

Leader of Iran's Dervishes Appeals for Calm after Deadly Clashes | Bloomberg

A spiritual leader of Iran’s Sufi Muslim Dervishes appealed for calm in an effort to defuse tensions that claimed the lives of three policemen and two members of a civilian militia over the weekend.

Clashes Highlight Tensions Between Dervishes And Iran's Establishment | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Fresh clashes between Iranian security forces and Gonabadi dervishes follow years of tensions and persecution of dervishes, whose houses of worship have been destroyed and members detained.

No Survivors As Iran Finds Wreckage of Plane on Mountain | Reuters

There were no survivors among the 65 passengers and crew on an Iranian plane that ploughed into a mountain top, where most of the bodies lie buried under snow, the first rescue team to reach the wreckage said on Tuesday.