National Security Advisor H.R.McMaster made an appeal to NATO members and allies at the Munich Security Conference to look hard at who they’re doing business with overseas and cut off funding that indirectly funds Hezbollah and other proxy militias that weaken Middle East nations to bolster Iranian influence. “When you invest in Iran, you’re investing in the IRGC. You might as well cut the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a check and say, ‘please use this to commit more murder across the Middle East,’” McMaster said. “And when we look at the biggest trading partners with Iran, we of course see Russia, we see China. But we also see Japan, South Korea and Germany. It’s time to focus business intelligence efforts to figure out who we are really doing business with, and cut off funding.”
The United States has sketched out a path under which three key European allies would simply commit to try to improve the Iran nuclear deal over time in return for U.S. President Donald Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing U.S. sanctions relief in May.
European companies engaged in business with Iran are enriching the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and inadvertently fueling its military activities in the wider Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNBC on Sunday.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
European officials are intensifying their efforts to save the Iranian nuclear deal, opening a new channel to press Tehran to curtail its military involvement in neighboring conflicts just as tensions spiral throughout the Middle East. European diplomats sat down with a senior Iranian official over the weekend on the sidelines of a major security conference in Munich. They hope to check Iranian activity in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a way to show U.S. President Donald Trump that Iranian expansion can be reversed while sticking with the nuclear agreement.
France reaffirmed its commitment to the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, saying it wanted it to be strictly implemented and was continuing talks with its European and U.S. partners on the programme. The foreign ministry said France was concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its activities in the region, mentioning its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen but making no mention of its role in Syria.
IRAN PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Three police officers were killed in Tehran on Monday, a police spokesman said, as clashes broke out with members of a Muslim religious order seen as a threat to the Shi‘ite theocratic establishment.
Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran… Today, armed with this evidence, we have the chance to rein in Iran’s behavior and demand that it live up to its international agreements that discourage conflict. But if action is not taken, then someday soon, when innocent Saudi civilians are killed by Iranian weapons, the chance for peace will be lost.
An Iranian airline under sanctions by the U.S. for ferrying weapons and fighters into Syria repeatedly bought U.S.-made jet engines and parts through Turkish front companies over the past several years, most recently in December, federal investigators said in a new U.S. government filing.
The U.S. effort to put Iran in a financial vice was working. European banks were paying big fines and closing off its money flows, and severe sanctions on the country’s banking and energy sectors were forcing it to the table on a nuclear deal. But as U.S. enforcement officials would soon discover, Iran had found a new channel for its illicit transactions: Asia. Lenders in South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere in the region may have played a part, knowingly or otherwise, in helping Iran evade trade sanctions before the nuclear deal and turn some of its oil proceeds into U.S. dollars, according to court testimony, legal filings and people familiar with the matter.
Iran's official IRNA news agency says the foreign ministry has summoned Sweden's ambassador over the Nordic country decision to grant citizenship to an Iranian researcher [Ahmad Reza Jalali] who is in jail in Tehran.
Iran issued a strong warning to Israel on Monday in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fiery speech at last weekend's Munich Security Conference.
SYRIA & IRAN
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed recent developments in Syria’s rebel-held town of Idlib and the Afrin region in a phone call on Monday, a source in Erdogan’s office said.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Britain called on Iran to stop taking actions which could escalate the conflict in Yemen after a United Nations group of experts found that missiles and military equipment of Iranian origin were introduced into Yemen after an arms embargo.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Stagnation and inequality were central to the grievances that erupted a few weeks ago into Iran’s worst unrest for a decade. In cities across the country, including Zanjan, protesters smashed bank windows and clashed with police. The violence shook the regime -– and on both sides of Iran’s sharp political divide, it’s forcing a rethink of economic priorities.
An Iranian commercial airplane brought back into service only months ago after being grounded for seven years crashed Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of southern Iran, and officials said they feared all 65 people on board were killed.