All of Israel is within range of Hezbollah's missiles, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said in an interview with Iranian media on Sunday. "The current status quo and the current capabilities of the Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution are all the unique accomplishments of the Islamic Revolution which cannot be verbally described and they rather should be sensed," he said in an interview with the Persian-language Soroush Magazine.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to push back against Iran's "maligned" regional interests by visiting Israel, Kuwait and Lebanon this week. "In each of those places, [we have] a different mission set, but the common thing in each of those places is helping those countries bolster their efforts to push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo told Fox and Friends on Friday as he described his March 19-23 visit to the Middle East.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that the government would file a legal case in Iran against U.S. officials who imposed sanctions on the country as a precursor to action in international courts. Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television that U.S. sanctions had created difficulties including a weaker rial currency that has fed into higher inflation.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Saturday frequent U.S. comments about oil prices had created market tensions, the ministry's news website SHANA reported. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made the U.S. economy one of his top issues, has repeatedly tweeted about oil prices and the Organization of the Petroleum Producing Countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani formally inaugurated four new phases of South Pars, the world's largest gas field, on Sunday, according to a statement posted by the Iranian oil ministry on Twitter. Iran has invested $11 billion to complete the four phases and they will increase the country's gas production capacity by up to 110 million cubic meters per day, the statement said.
Iran's state-controlled news outlets and politicians have put significant emphasis on the relationship between Baghdad and Tehran after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week made a surprise trip to Iraq - his first visit to the neighboring country since he became president in 2013. Rouhani's first visit to Iraq points to several important issues.
Oil prices are expected to rise by at least $5 per barrel if the US administration does not extend Iran sanction waivers granted to eight countries following the reimposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic late last year, analysts said. "If [US President Donald] Trump does not renew waivers and takes Iranian exports off the market, we expect oil prices to rise by approximately $5. A final figure around this number also depends on the timing of disruptions from Venezuela," said Jaafar Al Taie, managing director of Manaar Energy group.
Secretary of Iran's Expediency Discernment Council, Mohsen Rezaei, says the EU needs to Guarantee oil purchase from Iran if it wants Iran to ratify the bills required by FATF, the Financial Action Task Force. Two of the four bills that would join Iran to international conventions against money laundering and funding terrorism and ensure transparency of the Islamic Republic's international financial transactions are stuck at the Council, which is the arbiter between the Iranian Parliament and the constitutional watchdog Guardian Council.
A mechanism similar to the EU's INSTEX trade channel, to be called the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), will be registered in Tehran, the head of Iran's central bank (CBI) said on March 15. Germany, France and Britain launched Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) in January to facilitate business between Europe and Iran in face of tough U.S. economic sanctions.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian authorities handed down a 10-year prison sentence to U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been held since last July, his attorney said Saturday. Mr. White, whose arrest was confirmed in January by Iranian authorities, was detained as he and his Iranian girlfriend attempted to leave the country from Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city, in July. Mark Zaid, Mr. White's U.S. attorney, said he has had no direct contact with his client and heard about the sentence through the State Department, which was informed of it by representatives of the Swiss government.
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh will not appeal a 12-year prison sentence imposed on her last week for "encouraging corruption and debauchery", her husband said on Sunday. "She said she wouldn't want to appeal, and the reason is that the judicial process is unfair and such protests will do no good," Reza Khandan told AFP over telephone.
In a letter published on March 15, more than 40 human rights organizations have supported the renewal of the mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Situation in Iran. In the letter, a copy of which was published by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), 42 organizations have called the members of the UN Human Rights Council (UHRC) to extend Javaid Rehman's assignment.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
On his first trip to Beirut this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be walking a fine line between continuing support for Lebanon's institutions while waving the threat of sanctions if evidence emerges that their funds are being diverted to militant group Hezbollah. Mr Pompeo, who leaves on Tuesday for a four-day-trip to the Middle East, is expected to arrive in Lebanon on Saturday after visiting Kuwait and Israel.
Iran's president is urging Iranians to put a curse on the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia - blaming the U.S. and its allies for his country's ailing economy. Monday's televised remarks by Hassan Rouhani were meant to deflect criticism of his administration's performance amid a spiraling economy after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran last year, targeting Iran's vital oil sector.
In July 2017, Ahmadreza Doostdar, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, visited the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, where FBI agents surveilled him performing what appeared to be a surreptitious exchange of information - a brush pass - with a woman in one of the museum's rooms. After leaving the museum, Doostdar walked toward two nearby Jewish centers, snapping photos with his phone camera, appearing to pay particular attention to entrances and exits, including a wrought iron fence at the perimeter of one the buildings.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A conservative politician in Iran, who was minister of culture in the first administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has proposed to eliminate the presidency in the Islamic Republic. Speaking in a television program on March 17, Mohammad Saffar Harandi who is now a member of Iran's Expediency Council proposed to replace the president with a prime minister. Harandi is also affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, IRGC.
A member of the Iranian reformist Supreme Council for Policymaking says Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri continues to serve in his post after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected his resignation. Reports about Jahangiri's resignation made headlines in recent months, but Rouhani's administration has denied it.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The military chiefs of staff of Syria, Iran and Iraq will hold a rare meeting in Damascus to discuss "ways to combat terrorism", the pro-Syrian government al-Watan daily reported on Monday. The paper gave no further details of what would likely be discussed at the meeting, or its timing and location. Iran has been one of the most steadfast supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during eight years of civil war, and is also a close ally of Iraq.
Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative on Iran, says the U.S. campaign of economic pressure on Iran has had "a lot of progress" to the extent that Tehran has decreased its military budget and its client, the Lebanese Hezbollah is making public appeals for donations. Speaking in an interview with Alhurra television on March 15, Hook said, "What you can expect to see as the result of our sanctions on Iran is further denying the regime of its revenues.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's Houthi militia warned on Saturday they could launch attacks against the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The threat came as the United Nations was trying to salvage a truce deal in Yemen, seen as crucial to diplomatic efforts to end the country's four-year war. The Iran-backed Houthis have targeted Saudi border towns and Riyadh with ballistic missiles.
Last December, Yemen's government and Houthi rebels signed a UN deal in Sweden known as the Stockholm Agreement. The deal called for the withdrawal of troops on both sides from the major port city of Hodeidah in order to admit humanitarian aid to Yemenis afflicted by famine due to four years of civil war. But the Houthis have since failed to uphold their end of the agreement on the pullout.
IRAQ & IRAN
An Iranian guard was killed in a fight with an armed group near the western border with Iraq, local media reported on Monday. Iran's armed forces have been stepping up their presence along its borders to prevent smuggling, illegal immigration and militant infiltration. "Last night around 9 p.m., the border guards who were trying to stop armed smugglers entering the country had a fight with armed bandits," Tasnim news agency quoted Kiumars Sheikhi, commander of the border guards in Kermanshah province as saying.
Will the Middle East's shattered Christian villages, towns and cities somehow retain their religious and cultural heritage - which dates back to the first century? No one knows for sure, but due to Iranian aspirations, the answer is far from encouraging. In November 2014, I visited the devastated survivors of Islamic State's genocide who were sheltering in Erbil, Kurdistan (Iraq).
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran recalled its ambassador to Kenya because of a court decision upholding sentences for two Iranians in jail, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Sunday, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency. Iran also lodged a formal complaint with the Kenyan ambassador in Tehran on Saturday because of the Kenyan court decision in the case of Ahmad Abolfathi and Seyed Mansour Mousavi.
Tyrannical regimes seek to control what their populations read, see and hear, lest the people obtain information that might encourage them to question the power that subjugates them. Some go to extraordinary lengths, reaching far outside their borders, to prevent that happening. One obvious example was the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey last October.