Cyberattacks linked to Iranian hackers have targeted thousands of people at more than 200 companies over the past two years, Microsoft Corp. said, part of a wave of computer intrusions from the country that researchers say has hit businesses and government entities around the globe. The campaign, the scope of which hadn't previously been reported, stole corporate secrets and wiped data from computers.
Iran hopes a new trade channel with Europe aimed at cushioning the blow of reimposed U.S. sanctions will be working within weeks, its deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday. France, Britain and Germany have set up the new mechanism for non-dollar trade with Iran in response to Washington's withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that lifted international sanctions against the Islamic republic in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities.
An Iranian cleric known for his role in condemning thousands of political prisoners to death in the 1980s will take leadership of Iran's powerful judiciary this week, in a move that is expected to keep the post under the influence of hard-liners. Ebrahim Raisi is set to take oath as Iran's new chief of judiciary on Friday, according to an Iranian lawmaker quoted in state media. He succeeds Sadegh Larijani, another conservative cleric, who served as chief justice for 10 years before being named in December as head of head of a council that advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Well, puzzling as the North Korea leader always seems to be, what's really unusual about this is that apparently South Korean intelligence saw this beginning of the reconstruction of the missile testing launching site before Kim Jong Un went to meet President Trump in Hanoi. So what was that? Was that to send a message to the president that this would happen if they didn't reach an agreement. I don't know, but I think it all says to us that the president was right to take a walk, as he said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran's deputy foreign minister says Tehran has received "strong support" from all remaining parties to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with his country since the U.S. pulled out unilaterally last year. Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday that Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China have "acknowledged that the deal can only survive if Iran can receive the benefits of the deal," and remain committed to making it work.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he will push to ensure the U.S. never rejoins the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and repudiated last year by President Trump. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, told reporters on Tuesday he intends to include language in the next defense authorization act to cement Mr. Trump's decision to pull out of the deal and reinstate harsh economic sanctions on Tehran.
Iran and world powers discussed the latest steps in ongoing efforts to offset the impact of US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal during a meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, which also intended to flesh out a newly established European mechanism to circumvent American sanctions. The meeting was the first convened by Iran and members of the Joint Commission-which is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the nuclear deal-since Europe set up INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to conduct non-dollar trade with Tehran via a system that would help avert US penalties.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
India wants to keep buying Iranian oil at its current level of about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), as it negotiates with the Washington about extending a sanctions waiver past early May, two sources in India with knowledge of the matter said. India has reduced its purchases of Iranian oil but has been in talks on extending its sanctions waiver, a senior India official said in January.
Oil prices crept up on Thursday amid ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against exporters Venezuela and Iran, but gains were capped by record U.S. crude output and rising commercial fuel inventories. Brent crude futures were at $66.12 per barrel at 0757 GMT, up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A prominent Iranian lawyer who defended women arrested when they defied Iran's head-covering rule has been convicted of security-related crimes in a secret trial and could face a "very lengthy sentence," a human-rights monitoring group reported Wednesday. The group, the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said it had learned of the conviction of the lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, from her husband. She was seized at her home by security agents last June and placed in Evin Prison in Tehran.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's state broadcaster is currently airing "Last Station of Lies," a controversial documentary series that claims to reveal the truth about outside forces seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Part two of the series focuses on Amad News. Founded in 2015 by Ruhollah Zam, an exiled journalist based in Paris, Amad News has long been demonized by the Islamic Republic, cast as a news source that incites violence and promotes regime change through the dissemination of fake news.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The deputy of General Qassem (Ghassem) Soleimani has said that Iran's Qods force brought Syria's Bashar Assad to Tehran last week. Esmail Qa'ani deputy commander of the Qods force is quoted by Iran's ISNA as saying that "those who were supposed to know [about the trip], knew about it". Bashar Assad paid an unannounced visit to Iran last week, which prompted a controversy as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was not invited to his meetings with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.
When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tried to quit last week, the move looked another troubling defeat for his country's beleaguered moderates. Highly intelligent, sophisticated, and U.S.-educated, Zarif always made an unlikely chief diplomat of the world's most anti-American regime. Totalitarian governments, wrote Hannah Arendt, "invariably replace all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty."
In a strange twist some Iranian reformists have welcomed the likely appointment of hardliner cleric Ebrahim Raeesi as Iran's next Judiciary chief. This comes less than one week after Abdolkarim Soroush, a prominent reform figure characterized Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, as one of the most knowledgeable men in Iran's history. Even some conservatives have interpreted the move as a way of pleasing the hardline-dominated establishment to garner a share for reformists in the country's political life.
The phenomenon of "dirty" or suspicious money appears to have increasingly found a new haven: Iran's cinema and TV production industry. In 2015, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli spoke of an issue that had existed for a long time but was rarely confirmed: "dirty money." The term has since come to be used in Iran to refer to money laundering or financing with unclear sources. Mentioning the "large amount of money" in the Iranian economy, Rahmani Fazli said in 2015, "A portion of this [type] of money has entered politics and has been used by individuals in elections etc."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel's navy could take action against Iranian oil smuggling, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, urging world powers to foil any effort by Tehran to evade U.S. sanctions. The Israeli leader told naval officers that Iran was still resorting to clandestine measures to ship fuel that it first used prior to a 2015 nuclear deal easing Western sanctions on its oil sector. U.S. President Donald Trump last year quit the nuclear deal and reimposed some sanctions, aiming to cut Iran's oil exports to zero.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
An American hostage who was freed in Yemen in February after nearly 18 months in captivity was rescued in an armed raid led by the United Arab Emirates with help from the United States, according to American and Yemeni officials. The hostage, Danny Lavone Burch, had been held by a criminal Yemeni gang with a record of kidnapping Westerners for ransom. The gang was known to sell hostages to a powerful local affiliate of Al Qaeda, the officials said.
Yemen's deputy culture minister, Abdulhadi al-Azazi, remembers standing two years ago amid the rubble of a national museum in his war-torn hometown, Taiz. Objects he had admired as a youngster - ancient limestone carvings, gilded Torah scrolls, bejeweled Islamic daggers, a spindly 2,500-year-old mummy - were missing amid the charred debris and shattered display cases.
Microsoft has detected cyberattacks linked to Iranian hackers that targeted thousands of people at more than 200 companies over the past two years. That's according to a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday that the hacking campaign stole corporate secrets and wiped data from computers. Microsoft told the Journal the cyberattacks affected oil-and-gas companies and makers of heavy machinery in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and the U.S., and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Iranian hackers working to penetrate systems, businesses and governments around the world have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, a report said Wednesday. Researchers for tech giant Microsoft said the attackers stole secrets and wiped data from computer networks after targeting thousands of people at some 200 companies over the past two years, according to The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the report.