Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to stop women removing their head scarves in public, defended the garments Thursday, saying wearing them protected against “a deviant lifestyle.”
Several women who had attempted to gather in Tehran to mark International Women’s Day have been detained, reports said.
Saudi Arabia is putting the finishing touches on a consulate in Basra’s Sheraton hotel, where Iraqi crooners sing love songs and waiters dance… Air links between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have also resumed, with 140 flights each month. Several state-owned businesses, including SABIC, the Saudi petrochemical giant, are registering offices in Baghdad. At a conference in Kuwait last month, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, pledged $1bn in loans and $500m in export credit to support Iraq’s reconstruction after the war with Islamic State (IS).… Meanwhile, Iranian-backed factions in Iraq are trying to sully the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.
UANI IN THE NEWS
[UANI Senior Adviser Norman Roule]: The threat level is significant, it’s growing. It’s also very different than in the past. Iran has expanded its ballistic missile force significantly over the years with little effort to constrain the complexity, the lethality or the size of the force. But what I think is most important for the region as a whole is that Iran has established a growing number of proxies throughout the region.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
On January 26, the Wall Street Journal reported a near total cessation of small-boat harassment actions by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) over the preceding five months, according to U.S. military sources. This shift has led many observers to speculate about Iran's potential motives, which could include a change in naval doctrine, a switch in tactics, or increased caution in the face of tougher U.S. policies toward Iran. Whatever may be driving it, the reduction in naval harassment is unlikely to presage a permanent shift to a less aggressive posture, especially given Iran's track record in the Gulf and the IRGC's ideological pillars.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNAL DISCONTENT
Iranian women have been raising a new challenge to their Islamic government, breaking one of its most fundamental rules by pulling off their headscarves in some of the busiest public squares and brandishing them in protest.
Major oil firms are holding on to their wallets instead of investing in Iran’s energy sector, one of the world’s largest, writes the WSJ’s Benoit Faucon.
Pakistan, Iran, and nations in the Middle East are among the countries that are least likely to have job opportunities for women, resulting in high rates of female unemployment there, the United Nations has found.
RUSSIA & IRAN
Iran is giving Russia another market to offload its massive wheat harvest. The Persian Gulf nation has agreed to buy the grain from Russia and Kazakhstan, and total shipments may reach as much as 1 million metric tons a year over the next five years, according to the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A new academic curriculum introduced by the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s Sana’a University promotes sectarianism and glorifies the Houthis and their foreign allies in Iran, Lebanon and Syria...
IRAQ & IRAN
On February 25, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri appointed Hassan Danaeifar, former ambassador to Baghdad and an officer of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officer, political adviser. In this capacity, Danaeifar is expected to “expand relations with Iraq and Syria.” The appointment is significant for two reasons: First, it reveals that certain parts of the Islamic Republic government bureaucracy, in reality, are fronts for the Quds Force. Second, it demonstrates the Quds Force’ plans to solidify its long-term presence in Iraq through economic activities. The Quds Force is the IRGC’s elite external operations wing.