A disagreement between the Central Bank of Iran and factions of the government, backed by lawmakers, over profits from foreign exchange sales has now taken the form of a pending amendment to the country's annual budget law. If passed by the Guardian Council, the amendment - which calls on the central bank to pay a significant sum to the government as tax - will increase money supply and exacerbate inflation. It could also negatively impact foreign exchange rates, ultimately hurting average Iranians the most.
The Trump administration is using the former embassy of Iran as the newest backdrop for its campaign to isolate the government in Tehran. A highly produced video recorded by the State Department outside the old embassy in Washington seeks to draw a contrast between how the two countries have behaved since the Iranian Revolution four decades years ago. Yet it could also open up the administration to the criticism that it is exploiting a diplomatic facility and Iranian asset for propaganda.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that tensions between Tehran and Washington were at "a maximum" rarely seen in the decades-long contentious relations of the two countries. Animosity between Washington and Tehran - bitter foes since Iran's 1979 revolution - has intensified since May when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed sanctions lifted under the accord.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's exports of crude oil were higher than expected in January and are at least holding steady this month, according to tanker data and industry sources, as some customers have increased purchases due to waivers from U.S. sanctions. Shipments are averaging 1.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in February, Refinitiv Eikon data showed and a source at a company that tracks Iranian exports said. They were between 1.1 and 1.3 million bpd in January, higher than first thought.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Iran said Tuesday that at least three Pakistani citizens were among the assailants responsible for killing 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on a bus last week, including the driver of the explosives-laden car that rammed the vehicle. The Feb. 13 bombing in a restive southeast region along the Pakistan border was one of the deadliest attacks in years to strike Iran. At least 13 people were wounded and the bus was destroyed, according to Iranian news websites.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A group of Iranians attacked a morality police van in Tehran last week after two young women were detained for "improperly" wearing a compulsory headscarf, according to state-owned Iranian media and activists. Officers fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd of people who tore off one of the doors of the vehicle, according to a report by the state-owned IRNA news agency about the February 15 incident.
Videos published on Twitter today showed Iranians in the city of Andimeshk tearing down a large billboard portraying Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces who were killed in Syria. The Iranians are seen cheering and celebrating as the billboard falls to the ground in the videos. The action was seen as protest against Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, has been tapped to lead a new White House global initiative to encourage the legalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it remains a crime to be gay. Grenell, 52, is the most prominent openly gay member of the Trump administration and lives in Berlin with his partner Matt Lashley. His new role, reported by NBC, was revealed before a Berlin meeting Tuesday between U.S. embassy officials and LGBT activists from throughout the continent.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
In yet another milestone on Tehran's path to becoming a self-sustaining regional power, Iranian state news announced the Iranian Navy has commissioned its first homemade submarine. The new Fateh-class vessel was unveiled by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late last week, at a ceremony held at the Bandar Abbas naval base. Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami noted that "The Fateh ("conqueror") submarine is completely homegrown and has been designed and developed by capable experts of the Marine Industries [Organization] of the Defence Ministry and enjoys [the] world's modern technologies."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The trial has begun for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's brother and close confidante, who faces corruption allegations brought by hard-liners who dominate the country's judiciary. The semi-official ISNA news agency reported that Hossein Fereidoun, who was on the team that negotiated Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, went on trial Tuesday with four other defendants. They are charged with financial misconduct dating back to 2016.
Under Article 89 of the Iranian Constitution, an impeachment motion against a sitting president requires signatures from one-third of lawmakers to officially go before parliament. With 290 parliament members currently serving in a parliament dominated by pro-government moderates and Reformists, that goal might seem to be far-fetched and unrealistic.
Many experts on the Middle East never thought they'd see the day when the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates would be sitting collegially with the prime minister of Israel. Yet in Warsaw last week, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo managed to convene such a remarkable gathering for the "purpose of promoting peace in the Middle East" and to respond to the ongoing, illicit activities of Iran's Islamist regime.
Iranian news outlets were busy "censoring", or "rephrasing" the latest comments made by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During a meeting with hand-picked people from the province of Eastern Azarbaijan, northwest Iran, Khamenei had initially said on Monday, February 18, "The enemy's ballyhoo should not dishearten the [Iranian] authorities".
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Hezbollah's growing role in the Lebanese government worries the United States, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said during a meeting with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday, according to the U.S. embassy. The armed Shi'ite group, which is backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, controls three of the 30 ministries in Hariri's new cabinet, the largest number it has ever held. They include the Health Ministry, which has the fourth-largest budget in the state.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Four people died and 12 were injured when Houthi rebels shelled a public market in Al Mutaiyna in southern Hodeidah on Tuesday. "The Houthis hit the market with three mortar shells that killed four civilians including two children," a medical source told The National. "The injured were transferred to the public hospital in the district of Al Khokha to be treated but six were taken to Aden because their conditions were very serious."
Qatar is a hospitable base for the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the world's most virulent Islamists, a senior member of prominent Washington-based think tank Security Studies Group said in an opinion article published in the Washington Times. "Qatar has been the Brotherhood's most hospitable base of operations...Brotherhood Islamism would soon emerge as Qatar's de-facto state ideology, as the ruling al-Thani family welcomed the Islamists with lavish funding, the highest state honors, and the establishment of new Islamist institutions that would seek to indoctrinate thousands," the senior vice president for strategic operations, David Reaboi, wrote.
IRAQ & IRAN
It is exactly the withdrawal of the 2,000 US soldiers from their current positions in Syria and Jordan - an operation that continues at considerable speed - which is creating significant strategic space for Iran. President Trump also claims he wants to keep an indefinite amount of US soldiers in Iraq, just to control Iranian movements and developments towards the Syrian border with Iraq.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Jordanian Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh called Monday on Iranian authorities to release three Jordanians, who have been held by Tehran for two months now on charges of entering the country's territorial waters "by mistake" when they were on a fishing trip off the UAE. Tarawneh raised the case of the three detained Jordanians during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdosipour, urging Iranian authorities to take a "positive step" towards ensuring their quick release.
The 40th anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution this month predictably showcased the mix of breast-beating and victimhood that so characterises the theocratic nationalists who rule the Islamic Republic. Even Hassan Rouhani, the pragmatic president now more beholden to the regime's hardliners after President Donald Trump last year pulled the US out of the nuclear deal struck with Iran in 2015, has lent full-throated voice to the jingoistic chorus.
Iran and China have been carrying out increasingly more aggressive cyberattacks in recent months, The New York Times reported Monday. Dozens of U.S. entities - including banks, businesses and government agencies - have been targeted in what experts have attributed as an Iranian hacking campaign, multiple sources told the Times.