From financing the expansion of the vast courtyards that lead into the Shiite shrines of the holy city of Najaf, to ensuring that a Tehran-friendly candidate gets the job of interior minister, Iran's role in Iraq keeps growing. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran arrived in Baghdad on Monday for a visit to a place that his country has shaped in ways big and small over the past several years.
Hamas released Hisham Salem, head of a-Sabrin, the terrorist organization affiliated with Iran in the Gaza Strip, along with other activists who were arrested last week, Palestinian media reports. Salem released weapons and rockets in his possession to Hamas. They warned him not to continue his terror in Gaza, according to a different report.
The Iranian-backed Lebanon's Hezbollah has called on its supporters to donate money as it suffers increasing pressure from Western sanctions intended to isolate it financially. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a Friday statement that Hezbollah supporters must remain steadfast in the face of these pressures and said the group's enemies would be "disappointed."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's oil ministry said on Sunday that it had been receiving revenues from selling oil despite difficulties caused by U.S. sanctions, denying allegations made by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over government mismanagement in the energy sector. Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Shargh daily newspaper on Sunday that the government of President Hassan Rouhani had not received $30 billion of revenues from oil sold in the last five years.
The trial has started in an Iranian court for 13 petrochemical industry executives charged with embezzling 6.6 billion euros ($7.4 billion) in one of the nation's biggest corruption cases, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The defendants, most either chief executives or board members of Iranian petrochemical producers and exporters, are accused of "causing a great economic disturbance" by establishing shell companies overseas to circumvent sanctions...
The Trump administration is giving Iraq a few more months to continue buying oil and electricity from neighbouring Iran before the United States enforces sanctions against Tehran. After years of conflict, Baghdad now relies heavily on Iran for goods and services. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is visiting Iraq to solidify ties between the neighbours, trying to convince them to defy the US president.
The head of Iran's Central Bank has said that subsidized dollars for imports of essential goods, including medication and food has failed to stem the tide of rising prices in the country. As the Iranian currency began to devalue one year ago, the government and the central bank decided to offer the U.S. dollar at a subsidized, preferential rate of 42,000 rials to selected importers, in order to keep prices low for working class Iranians. The dollar is currently trading at more than 130,000 rials on the open market in Iran.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A top Iranian diplomat has rejected Britain's decision to give diplomatic protection to a British-Iranian woman who has been detained in Iran for nearly three years, saying it contravenes international law. British officials have said that Iran has failed to meet international obligations in its treatment of the woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and offered her diplomatic protection this past week.
A young Iranian couple have been arrested after a marriage proposal in public, captured on a video clip that went viral on social media. The police say the pair offended Islamic mores on public decency but were later released on bail. The video, which spread on social media last Friday, shows the young man standing in a heart-shaped ring of flower petals next to colorful balloons in a mall in the central city of Arak.
It is unfortunate that the Iranian regime's human rights violations are attracting little attention from international media outlets. When President Hassan Rouhani was running for re-election, he famously criticized the human rights situation in the country and promised to improve it. But, since he won the election, the president evades discussing it. Based on the latest developments, a report published by Amnesty International last month indicated that human rights abuses have reached a new high.
French President Emmanuel Macron has named 35 attorneys, including prominent Iranian lawyer and civil rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, to give recommendations to the Group of Seven (G7) nations. Macron, along with a group of human rights advocates, gathered on February 19 at Elysees Palace in Paris to discuss potential strategies that the G7 could employ to reduce violence and discrimination against women.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Relatives of Americans long held hostage in Iran gave heartbreaking testimony to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, as U.S. lawmakers look for new ways to reunite these families and deter the Iranian regime from its 40-year practice of turning innocent people into bargaining chips. A bipartisan group of senators also introduced a bill called the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act, named after a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Confirmation from Iran's judiciary spokesman that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raeisi as the new judiciary chief appears to boost Raeisi's national stature as a possible successor to Khamenei. It has been only three years since Khamenei, 79, named Raeisi, 58, head of Astan Qods Razavi, the well-endowed foundation managing the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, and it has been less than two years since Raeisi fought a credible campaign and claimed 38% of votes in the 2017 presidential election as Hassan Rohani won 57% to gain a second term.
IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani has received Iran's most prestigious medal of honor, the Order of Zulfiqar. Fars news agency reported on Sunday March 10 that The Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has awarded the medal but did not say when was Soleimani decorated.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Germany has ruled out designating Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group, as a terrorist organization, a move likely to cause friction with the U.S. government after the Trump administration urged European countries to put pressure on the Iranian regime. The decision came in the wake of the United Kingdom's declaration last month that all wings of Hezbollah are banned in the country and are designated as part of the terror group responsible for destabilizing the Middle East.
About this time eight years ago, the people's revolution in Syria broke out. It has become clear since then that the world has conspired against the Syrians, including the US administration under Barack Obama, whose first and last concern was appeasing Iran. Obama's administration had no goal besides reaching an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme.
Last month a conference in Warsaw brought together high ranking officials from 60 countries, called to discuss the current chaos in the Middle East, and to zero in on the threat posed to the region by the regime in Tehran.This year, as Iran observes the 40th year of its revolution, its geostrategic objectives remain unchanged. But one other constant that has been in place since the fateful day that a triumphant Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini left France for Tehran is Iran's incessant call for the elimination of Israel.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
The Saudi-led Arab Coalition fighting in Yemen announced Saturday that the Houthi militia has committed as many as 41 violations within 24 hours since the cease-fire agreement reached in Hudaydah. The statement came only hours after the Iranian-backed militia threatened to escalate the situation in Hudaydah as the group has intensified attacks against government troops and Arab Coalition soldiers east and south of the city.
The Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen exposed thousands of violations and crimes committed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Taiz since the start of Yemen's war, Saudi press agency reported Friday. The report, titled "Taiz - the longest siege in history," documented thousands of Houthi violations and crimes from March 21, 2015 to Jan. 31.
IRAQ & IRAN
President Hassan Rouhani's visit to Iraq this week is a strong message to the United States and its regional allies that Iran still dominates Baghdad, a key arena for rising tension between Washington and Tehran. The first Iranian presidential visit to Iraq since 2013 is also meant to signal to President Donald Trump's administration that Tehran retains its influence in much of the region despite U.S. sanctions.
Citrix is best-known for software that runs behind the scenes, but a massive data breach is putting the company front and center. The FBI has warned Citrix that it believes reports of foreign hackers compromising the company's internal network, swiping business documents in an apparent "password spraying" attack where the intruders guessed weak passwords and then used that early foothold to launch more extensive attacks.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
North Korea has punched a hole in the web of United Nations sanctions intended to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear-weapons programs and long-range missiles, accelerating its import of petroleum products through illicit ship-to-ship transfers and stepping up coal exports, according to a report to the U.N. Security Council by a panel of international experts that is expected to be issued this week.