Vladimir Putin is done making concessions to the U.S. over Iran's presence in Syria. Having pushed Iranian-backed forces away from the frontier with the Israeli-held Golan Heights in July, the Russian president is defying the Trump administration's demand to expel Iran completely from Syria after the civil war there winds down.
Israel secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and militants of the Islamic State from taking up positions near the Israeli border in recent years, according to more than two dozen commanders and rank-and-file members of these groups.
Protesters in Iraq's Basra on Thursday set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council and the largest Iran-backed Shi'ite militia group in the country, the Badr Organization, local security sources said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
David Daoud, a research analyst at United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Jerusalem Post that while the Lebanon "is an imperfect ally" for Washington it is in the interest of all sides, including Israel, to continue providing aid to the LAF. "The benefits to Lebanon are obvious: it receives military assistance and backing from the world's super power, with no ideological strings attached. As far as Israel is concerned, it's also beneficial that the United States - and not Russia or Iran - are funding or supplying the army," he told the Post.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Washington will consider waivers for Iranian oil buyers such as India but they must eventually halt imports as sanctions are imposed on Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.
The US has committed to working with India on reducing its Iranian oil imports ahead of sanctions that are scheduled to return in November, but Washington continues to aim for zeroing out Tehran's exports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
Expectations Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations will make up for lost barrels of oil from Iran once reimposed U.S. sanctions take full effect in November might be overly optimistic while underestimating the risks from Tehran's response, according to one well-known analyst.
Babies' nappies [diapers] have become the latest casualty of Iran's faltering economy, with huge price rises and shortages across the country.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
France's foreign ministry said on Thursday it regretted the arrest of the husband of a detained Iranian human rights lawyer, a rare criticism that is likely to irk Tehran at a time of strained relations.
An exiled Iranian Dervish rights activist says Iran's ongoing seven-month jailing of seven Dervish women in tough conditions near Tehran is in violation of national prison regulations.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran is signaling that it will buck U.S. efforts to roll back its military presence in the Middle East, moving to cement foreign alliances and continuing to project power abroad despite sanctions that have helped put intense pressure on its economy. Tehran signed a long-term security pact with Syria in August, and has kept up the flow of arms and financial support to proxy forces around the region, according to U.S. officials and a person close to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States and Israel on Thursday of waging a media war to discourage Iranians, state TV reported, as the country faces economic hardship after the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
On August 23, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promoted the acting commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), Alireza Tangsiri, to full commander, replacing Ali Fadavi, who was appointed as the wider IRGC's deputy commander for coordination.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Referring to Iran's "very bleak" economic situation, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff has asked people to avoid buying unnecessary goods.
Iran's supreme leader on Thursday warned against the spread of pessimism in the country, as people face mounting economic woes after the imposition of US sanctions.
Tehran's hard-liners need someone to blamed, but the president has no other utility - for Iranians, for Trump or for anyone else.
The Iranian regime is starting to crack. The terror train is about to derail. But this will also be the most dangerous time for Iran's adversaries, including the United States, as the murderers in Tehran start losing their grip on the Iranian people and on their billions of dollars banked abroad.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN.
Earlier this year, new construction began along the Lebanese border, where Israel is building a wall equipped with cameras in the hope of thwarting any attempt by its enemy Hezbollah to infiltrate and attack.
Hezbollah has been gaining strength in Lebanon in recent years and is virtually in control of the Lebanese army, a senior Israeli commander said Wednesday. He noted that Israel will not distinguish between the militia and the country's forces during the next military confrontation.
The Israeli military simulated a war with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group this week, with paratroopers, fighter jets, attack helicopters, tanks and artillery taking part.
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman expects the annexed Golan Heights to remain under Israeli control "forever," according to an excerpt released Thursday of an interview he gave to the Israel Hayom daily.
The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet Friday in Tehran to discuss the war in Syria, with all eyes on a possible military offensive to retake the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib. The summit between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may determine whether diplomacy halts any military action.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed recent White House statements and again warned Syria and its allies Russia and Iran that the U.S. will act again if chemical weapons are used against Syrian civilians. Haley was addressing a United Nations Security Council meeting on chemical weapons use in Syria Thursday afternoon.
Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah spar regularly, and Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian civil war expanded their conflict's front line. In the years since the war began in 2011, Israel has attacked Hezbollah weapons depots and forces in Syria, and Hezbollah boasts that it shot down an Israeli F-16 jet... Yet war has threatened for over a decade, and despite regular sparring, neither side has gone over the brink. What explains this enduring, if turbulent, peace-and will it last?
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The head of the US Central Command discussed support for Yemen's army and anti-smuggling efforts during a visit on Wednesday that a former US envoy to the country said was a warning to Iran.
A delegation comprising 12 negotiators, representing the legitimate government in Yemen, left Riyadh for Geneva on Wednesday to attend the United Nations-sponsored new round of peace talks slated for Thursday. However, sources in Geneva said that the Houthi delegation would not reach Geneva on time because of their new conditions for attending the talks... "Houthis' demand is that their negotiators' flight shall be allowed to carry the injured Iranian and Hezbollah men on board with a stopover in Oman to facilitate their treatment before the delegation resumes its flight to Geneva," the sources said, adding that Houthis made the condition after their consultation with the Iranian and Hezbollah officials with a plot to hamper the revival of talks.
After protesters in Basra stormed and set fire to a provincial government building and several Iran-backed political parties' headquarters, many moved to the Iranian consulate on Thursday night where they chanted slogans against "Iranian interference" in their country.
An Israeli cyber-security company uncovered three Hebrew news sites as Iranian hack schemes. ClearSky Cyber Security unveiled that the sites, including the Tel Aviv Times Hebrew news site, were operated from Iran as part of a "fake news" influence campaign. Tel Aviv Times receives 65,000 surfers per month, according to SimilarWeb.