Iran and Russia are preparing to hold joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea, including rescue and anti-piracy drills, the commander of the Iranian navy was quoted on Sunday as saying. "Tactical, rescue and anti-piracy war games between Iranian and Russian naval forces are being planned and will be implemented in the near future," the semi-official news agency Mehr quoted Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi as saying. Iran and Russia have held several naval drills in the Caspian Sea, including in 2015 and 2017.
All countries that were granted waivers from the United States to continue buying a certain amount of Iranian oil imports are complying with U.S. sanctions, a senior Iranian energy official said, noting that Tehran was hopeful to find new buyers. The United States withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran last year and snapped sanctions in place to choke Iran's oil and banking industries, while temporarily allowing eight customers to keep buying crude from the Islamic Republic.
One of the most common arguments against President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria is that it will strengthen Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who leaves tomorrow for a weeklong tour of the Middle East, makes an interesting case for why that isn't so. Trump himself gave his critics ammunition at a Cabinet meeting last week, when he observed that Iran already "can do what they want" in Syria. But his comment was merely descriptive, not a prediction of what will happen when the U.S. leaves.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
It was reported that the Expediency Council has approved a bill paving the way for Iran to join the FATF, but Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghaddam, a member of the council, was quoted by Fars News Agency saying "The bill approved by the council was an amendment to the internal mechanism set up for countering money laundering and contrary to what has been quoted by some media is has no connection with the Islamic Republic to FATF."
Iran's central bank has proposed slashing four zeros from the rial, state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, after the currency plunged in a year marked by an economic crisis fuelled by U.S. sanctions. "A bill to remove four zeros from the national currency was presented to the government by the central bank yesterday and I hope this matter can be concluded as soon as possible," IRNA quoted central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati as saying.
A powerful Iranian council approved an anti-money laundering bill on Saturday, state media reported, a major step towards reforms that would bring Iran into line with global norms and could facilitate foreign trade in the face of U.S sanctions. Iran has been trying to implement standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental organization that underpins the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Salih Muslim, the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), denied claims made by US President Donald Trump that Syrian Kurds have sold oil to Iran. During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump said he was not happy that the Kurds are selling oil to Iran. "I didn't like the fact that [the Kurds] are selling the small oil that they have to Iran, and we asked them not to do it," the US president stated.
Iran's telecommunications minister said Saturday his country's three new satellites have successfully passed pre-launch tests. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi made the announcement in a tweet but did not mention a launch schedule. Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
One summer evening a couple years ago, Hua Qu's son's preschool teacher pulled her aside. Shaofan, Qu's son, had been pretending that bad guys had locked his dad in a dungeon inside of a big castle that was guarded by scary dragon. Was Shaofan just playing around? Qu had tried to be discreet. But for months, she had been working nonstop to bring home her husband, Xiyue Wang, a Ph.D. student at Princeton who had been arrested and imprisoned in Iran. Now Shaofan had finally pieced together - in his 3-year-old mind - why his dad had disappeared.
The head of an Iranian parliament committee to combat economic corruption, Amir Khojasteh, has called for the public execution of those found guilty of corruption. "Thirty one people have been identified as behind Iran's economic corruption and must be executed in public squares," Khojasteh said, according to local news sites.
Iran's parliament will investigate claims by a labour protest leader that he was tortured in prison following strikes at a sugar factory, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday. Alireza Rahimi, a member of parliament's presiding board, said his request for an investigation had been accepted by speaker Ali Larijani, according to ISNA.
Outspoken MP and deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Motahari has called on Iran's intelligence Minister to order an investigation into the allegations of ministry agents torturing a labor activist. In a commentary in reformist daily newspaper Etemad on Sunday January 6, Motahari asked Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi to probe into the complaints made by labor activist Esmail Bakhshi and to declare if there was a legal basis for what has allegedly been done to him by intelligence ministry agents.
The labor struggles of teachers in Iran have expanded simultaneously with the establishment of a modern educational system in the country. The first union action of teachers took place almost a century ago, in 1922, over demands such as wage raises, receiving back pay, improving the quality and quantity of educational spaces and providing free and high-quality education to disadvantaged students. Another notable episode of teacher activism occurred in 1961, when one teacher was killed during a union strike that led to the collapse of the government.
January is the first anniversary of Iran's protests. Massive demonstrations shock Iran to the core. A year passed and the Iranian regime's officials are celebrating their survival. Although supreme leader Ali Khamenei told his followers not to go overboard with joy because in his words" The enemy may have big plans for next year." He is right since the year has been a very difficult one for the regime. It is safe to say that not a day passed without some kind of protest here and there.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A close aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday U.S. officials had approached him during a visit he made last month to Afghanistan to request talks with Tehran, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Tensions between arch foes, Iran and the United States, have increased since last May, when President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic that had been lifted under the terms of the pact.
President Donald Trump on January 6 on his way to Camp David told reporters that Iran is facing difficulties and "they want to talk". Listing his successes and plans on foreign policy, the U.S. president mentioned Iran, saying, "Iran is doing very poorly. Once I took the horrible Iran nuclear deal off, it has had a massive effect in Iran; they are pulling back troops all over the place. They are not doing well. They want to talk."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to embark on an expansive tour of the Gulf and wider Middle East this week in a bid to strengthen alliances and reassure key partners about American backing for the war in Yemen and the battle against Iran's influence in the region. Washington's top diplomat will leave on Tuesday for a trip that will take in eight Middle Eastern capitals, including all of the Gulf Cooperation Council members.
China, Russia and Iran have been identified as the biggest three "national security threats" to the United States in an official US government report listing its top 26 perceived security threats. Titled "Long-range emerging threats facing the United States," the report was compiled by the Washington-based Government Accountability Office. It polled four US federal agencies to come up with the 26 worst threats as identified by the US Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), The National Interest news outlet reported.
Families from around the globe have filed suit in Brooklyn federal court "against several banks they say funded terrorism that killed their loved ones," according to New York Post. Three separate lawsuits filed Tuesday and Wednesday claim banks from Lebanon and Palestine "maintained accounts for various branches of terrorist organizations" the report added.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is to deploy its newest warship to the Atlantic Ocean on a five-month mission -- the navy's longest in a decade, the conservative Fars news agency reported on Saturday. "The navy has had a plan to deploy a flotilla to the Atlantic Ocean for a few years and now everything seems prepared to launch the mission," said Fars, which is considered close to Iran's military.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An earthquake hit an area in western Iran near the Iraqi border on Sunday, injuring 75 people, most of them lightly, the head of the country's emergency medical services said. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initially put the magnitude of the quake at 5.9 but revised this later to 5.5. Pirhossein Koulivand said all but one of the 75 injured had been released after treatment following the earthquake in Gilan Gharb in Kermanshah province, according to the emergency services' website.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The White House has sent national security adviser John Bolton on a mission to allay Israel's concerns about US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, with one official saying Washington will be "very supportive" of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in the country. The pullout announced before Christmas was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of Congress for a more orderly drawdown.
The Trump administration won't withdraw forces from northern Syria unless Turkey offers a firm commitment not to target the U.S.'s Kurdish allies, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday. President Trump's order to withdraw U.S. troops is a "cause-and-effect mission" that requires certain assurances from various players in the region before it can be executed, said Mr. Bolton, the first administration official to outline the conditions for withdrawal.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
The recent talks regarding a cessation of hostilities in Yemen, held in Sweden between the indirect representatives of Iran and Saudi Arabia, represent Sweden's desire to mediate international conflicts and promote its image as a humanitarian power. Nonetheless, the implications of Sweden's foreign policy go beyond the intent of serving "the goals of peace."
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Iran's deputy foreign minister on a visit to Afghanistan met senior government officials to brief them on Iran's talks with Taliban representatives. Abbas Araqchi on Saturday met Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman and informed them of Iran's talks with a Taliban delegation that visited Tehran in late December.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
When China landed an explorer robot on the far side of the Moon last week, it underlined the ability of space to inspire and grip our imaginations. Our increased ability to cross extra-terrestrial frontiers has been one of the few bright spots of recent years. As stock markets wobble and political divisions grow, space has boosted global ambition. The new-generation space race sets a test for many nations. Some, like China, can point to rapid progress. Others, most notably Iran, have fallen short.
Iranians risking their lives by crossing the Channel in small boats may not be genuine asylum seekers, fellow migrants warned last night. They said that while some Iranians have fled their homeland because of religious and political persecution, others want to go to Britain for a better life or simply to join family members.
There's a certain irony to the fact that migration is yet again making front-page headlines in the UK, with less than 84 days left to run until (deal or no deal) Brexit's due date. Migration was one of the most polarizing factors behind the UK's vote to leave the European Union in the first place. Now, as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares for a January showdown with British parliamentarians to secure support for her Brexit deal, the country has seen an almost on-cue news story about illegal migration and border security, with the compelling TV news footage to match.
No matter how intense, the heat of summer yields to the moderating breezes of its successor season. Brutal governments that scourge their own inevitably face movements that hold out the promise of liberation and peace. The passage of 40 years, time enough to span three generations, tests the ability of the suffering people of Iran to endure the inhumanity of their radical Islamic regime