New video footage appears to lend credibility to President Donald Trump's claim that the United States' immigration system is being manipulated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the video Hassan Abbasi, a high-ranking official with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is seen boasting about a "guerilla movement" of Iranian agents living and working in the United States. Abbasi claims there are over two million Iranians in the United States, and over 7,000 PhD holders. He says, in Farsi while speaking at an unknown location, that Iran is leading a clandestine army of potential martyrs within the US. Iran does not need nuclear weapons, he proclaims, because Iran plans to use subversive measures to destabilize the United States from within.
Saudi Arabia hailed a "historical turning point" in U.S.-Saudi relations after a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman highlighted the two leaders' shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat. The meeting on Tuesday appeared to signal a meeting of the minds on many issues between Trump and Prince Mohammed, in a marked difference from Riyadh's often fraught relationship with the Obama administration, especially in the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Saudi Arabia had viewed with unease the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, whom they felt considered Riyadh's alliance with Washington less important than negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
In a provocative move, Iran announced sending the "45 Group" of the Iranian Naval Force, which consists of a ship and a destroyer to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab. The tension caused by the continued friction between the Iranian gunboats and US forces located in international waters is due to the persistent attempts of Iran to assist and provide the Yemeni militia with weapons. Tasnim news agency, the subsidiary to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claimed that "Iranian warships are going to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al Mandab "in an effort to maintain the Iranian merchant ships," currently docked at the Omani ports. Ever since Operation Decisive Storm, launched by the Arab coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia in March 2015 to regain legitimacy in Yemen, the Iranian navy has stepped up its provocative moves against US forces in the region.
In the first eight weeks in office, the Trump administration has launched dozens of missiles into Yemen, found itself embroiled in controversy over a botched raid into the country, and sought to provide heavier firepower to the Saudi Arabian-led forces fighting there. The real reason for this new interest, experts say, is because of how the country figures into the White House's plans to counter Iran's influence. The Houthis are considered an Iranian proxy by the US, due to both the fact that the group's members practice a form of Shia Islam, despite being a different model than practiced in Iran, and increased weapons shipments from Tehran to the Yemeni rebels over the months.
British trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday he had commissioned work from his department to look at how to normalise "effective payment channels" with Iran to try to open up trading opportunities. Britain is seeking new and deeper trade relations with countries outside the European Union to strengthen its hand in divorce talks with the bloc and is targeting countries in the Middle East among other areas. Fox told a parliamentary committee that he expected to receive the findings of the report at the end of this month.
Australia will be collaborating with Iran to develop renewable energy and construct water desalination projects in the middle eastern country. The announcement, made by Martin Leslie James Hamilton-Smith, the minister for investment and trade in the South Australian House of Assembly, came on the sidelines of a meeting with Alireza Daemi, the Iranian deputy energy minister for planning and economic affairs, in Tehran on Monday. Australia has experienced a boost in renewable energy in the residential sector, Hamilton-Smith said. As much as 44 percent of the country's power is derived from renewable energy, with plans to extend the capacity to 60 percent currently underway.
Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) are expected to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of this month, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced. Making the remarks before his Monday meeting with Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi in Moscow, Novak expressed hope that the agreement will be ready when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes his planned visit to Russia in late March, according to worldbulletin.net. A memorandum of understanding to set up a free trade area between member countries and Iran was signed during the EEU summit in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on March 7. Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia are members of the EEU which aims for common policies in economy and energy markets, and partnership in key infrastructure projects.
The gathering, held on Tuesday, was attended by Iranian Foreign Ministry's political directors in charge of Latin American affairs, representatives from Iranian banks, and diplomats representing a Foreign Ministry committee on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany). In comments at the meeting, Director General for the Americas at Iran's Foreign Ministry Mohammad Keshavarz-Zadeh highlighted Latin American nations' enthusiasm for banking relations with Iran, given the Islamic Republic's elevated position in the international community, high investment security in Iran, its great political and economic weight in the Middle East, as well as the ample trade opportunities available in the country.
The Turkish Ambassador to Iran, Riza Hakan Tekin, has accused Tehran of launching what he called "smear campaigns" against Turkey, stressing it will negatively influence bilateral ties between the neighboring countries. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tekin said, "This responsibility falls on the Iranian side." This weekend, Iran's Foreign Ministry urged Iranians to avoid making unnecessary trips to Turkey during the upcoming Noruz (Iranian New Year) holiday. Turkey has been unsafe for tourists over the past years, hit by numerous terrorist attacks.
Russian and Iranian representatives are holding a meeting in Kazakhstan's Astana at the Rixos hotel. Russia's delegation is led by the president's special envoy for the Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev. Iran's delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Ansari. The round of negotiations is due to be wrapped up on Wednesday with trilateral consultations of the three guarantor countries of Syrian ceasefire: Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Iran's sole Jewish parliamentarian branded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an "insane vampire" for repeatedly saying that modern Iran, like ancient Persia, is bent on annihilating the Jewish people. "Netanyahu is an insane vampire drowned in crimes from head to toe and the recent remarks made by the racist Israeli prime minister [are] not surprising to me," Siamak Moreh Sedgh told the Iranian parliament on Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Sedgh further claimed that anti-Semitism and racism have "never been witnessed" in Iranian culture. Sedgh, a 50-year-old physician who also serves as director of the Tehran Jewish Committee, has represented his community in parliament since 2012 and has been a frequent critic of Israel.
Russian Telecom and Mass Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said on Monday that his country is interested in launching cooperation with Iran in cyber security fields such as electronic trade and software, IRNA reported. "One of the main objectives of holding bilateral talks between Russia, Iran and international bodies is to prepare the grounds for Tehran-Moscow cooperation," Nikiforov said in an appearance with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Vaezi in Moscow on Monday.
On Tuesday, Tehran has asked the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the mission of Asma Jahangir, the special human rights rapporteur, calling her report on the situation of human rights in Iran "politically motivated". "Given the noticeable human rights progress made in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its extensive and constructive interactions with the international human rights mechanisms, it is now time to end the special rapporteur's mission in an appropriate way," Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's Human Rights Council director for international affairs, told the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. He also warned that the UNHRC's "selective" and "politically tainted approach" towards certain countries would make cooperation between the two sides difficult. On Sunday, Qaribabadi commented that Iran will declare its official position on the recent report by Jahangir.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
While the rocket and missile threat built up by Israel's enemies is a recent development, this large-scale, evolving attempt to target the country's soft underbelly will remain a developing threat for many years to come. The effort began in the 1980's when the idea of targeting Israeli civilians with projectiles began to take hold. The PLO led the way; firing rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel. Launching salvos of projectiles at Israeli cities, towns and villages is a task that is intelligence light for the launchers, psychologically heavy for the targeted population. Indiscriminate attacks, designed to terrorize and demoralize, were the hallmarks of the first phase of the rocket attacks against Israel.
If there is any confusion about the Trump administration's foreign policy agenda, Washington-watchers can at least count on one certainty: Trump seems to have a real, though complicated, affinity for Russia. What that actually means or how it translates into the White House's policy towards Moscow is less clear. It is safe to assume, though, that improving relations with the Kremlin is a priority for the new administration. As President Trump noted in a February press conference, "It would be great if we got along with Russia." The administration seems less enthused, however, with the company that Moscow keeps-Iran, in particular. President Trump has strongly criticized the Iran nuclear deal, instated a new round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and placed Tehran "on notice" over the country's recent alleged missile tests. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a moderate in the ranks of the Trump administration, has struck a milder tone on the nuclear deal but has also expressed concerns about Tehran's support of terrorism and has noted that it "does no good to ignore" or dismiss Iran's aggressive behavior.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's first term in office will come to an end in a few months, and it is time to evaluate his administration's economic policies during the past four years. When Rouhani ran for president in 2013, he promised to inject new impetus into the Iranian economy, which was suffering from eight years of misguided populist policies under his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as from external sanctions. Rouhani himself has recently defended his government's economic performance, especially the fact that inflation has been contained. One of the qualitative aspects that Rouhani pointed to was the "return of tranquility" to the Iranian economy. A quick look at some of the key indicators underlines that the government has indeed managed to improve overall economic conditions.
On March 15th the international community will unfortunately be marking a milestone of disastrous nature. The conflict in Syria began as peaceful demonstrations by a nation seeking freedom from the reign of a dictatorship and to establish true democracy. The regime in Iran, however, viewed such a development as a red line and placed its weight fully behind Bashar Assad and his ruthless killing machine. Why is Syria so important for Iran? Syria is of strategic significant for Iran, as the mullahs considers the country their 35th province. This reached the point that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei immediately dispatched his Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to prop Assad's lines in order to maintain their reach to the Mediterranean Sea and continue the flow of much needed weapons, including dangerous missiles, to the Lebanese Hezbollah.