The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of terrorist attacks cannot seize Iranian antiquities currently on loan to a museum in Chicago in order to help satisfy a $71.5 million dollar judgment against Iran.
The United Nations Security Council should not condemn Iran in a resolution to renew sanctions on Yemen, Russia’s U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday, resisting a Western bid to denounce Tehran for failing to stop Yemen’s Houthi group getting its missiles.
The Trump administration has embarked on a new campaign to try to repair ties and pull Turkey out of its deepening alliances with Russia and Iran.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, CEO of the United Against Nuclear Iran NGO, endorsed McMaster’s speech on Wednesday, stating, “We fully support General H.R. McMaster’s call for businesses to comprehend the risks of engaging with Iran.” “No business can be assured that by doing business with Iran, they are not engaging with the IRGC, which was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration for its support of terrorist activities,” Wallace added. “With the IRGC immeasurably engaged in Iran’s economy, businesses that choose to enter Iran run the risk of supporting an organization that actively finances and carries out terrorist activity in the Middle East and across the globe.”
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
President Trump’s latest quick-fix approach to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program creates an untenable policy dilemma. Because the deal sacrificed significant U.S. leverage upfront, right now there is currently little Congress can accomplish singlehandedly in trying to strengthen it, and much the administration would place at risk in abruptly leaving it. To truly fix the JCPOA, the United States should stay in it for the time being, so Congress and the administration can focus on rebuilding pressure on Iran to negotiate a better agreement.
Iran will withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal if there is no economic benefit from it and major banks continue to fail to do business with the Islamic Republic, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Thursday.
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS
Israel and its U.S. ally say they have successfully tested an anti-missile system that would protect the Jewish state from a potential long-range missile attack by its regional rival, Iran. Monday’s test of the Arrow 3 interceptor comes eight days after Iran displayed what it called a new version of a Ghadr missile with a 2,000-kilometer range that would put Israeli territory within reach.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
On Feb. 13, US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Daniel Coats presented the 2018 “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” an annual compendium of challenges to American security. These unclassified statements function as an analytical least common denominator, offering a window into the intelligence community’s thinking… On select measures of the Iran threat, the 2018 document is remarkably consistent with themes from the 2017, 2016, and 2015 assessments.
The Trump administration has denied asylum to more than 100 Iranian Christian and other refugees who face possible persecution in their home country, despite White House promises to relieve the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East.
Iran is negotiating a wheat import deal with Russia that would allow it to increase flour exports to neighbouring Iraq, the secretary general of the Iran Federation of Food Industry Associations told Reuters on Saturday.
Late last year, there were reports that the Iranian government was keen on the Bitcoin cryptocurrency as a way of bypassing economic sanctions. However, the government has now said this is not the case at all. According to the independent Iranian news site Iran Front Page, the country’s central bank has denied ever recognizing Bitcoin as an official currency, along with the idea that it was actively facilitating Bitcoin transactions… According to the IFP report, the central bank also said it was working on a mechanism to “control and prevent digital currencies in Iran.”
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
[T]he short-sighted policy of Western powers aided the mullah regime’s grand plan of ascendancy. The obsessive focus on the war against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria left the door wide open for Iranian-controlled Shiite militia. In Iraq, the Obama administration even provided air cover to the same groups that during the 2003 U.S.-led intervention murdered American troops. Khamenei could not have hoped for a better outcome.
The recent tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border have been mainly aerial. But due to developments in the Syrian civil war, real changes are also taking place on the ground in the Golan Heights. The Assad regime, which has gained the upper hand in the war, is now focusing on aggressively attacking rebel enclaves east of Damascus and in the northern Idlib province. But it is also gradually bolstering its presence in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan Heights. And accordingly, Israel is altering its deployment to prepare for what’s to come.
SYRIA & IRAN
Bashar Assad’s Syrian military committed more atrocities this week, bombing the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta and killing at least 200. Rescue workers had to haul dead civilians from the rubble, including a family of five. As everyone deplores the killings, the point to keep in mind is that the driving political power here is Iran and its attempt to make Syria part of its growing Shiite-Persian empire.
Germany has urged Russia and Iran to pressure the Syrian government to end the "massacre" in a rebel-held Damascus suburb that an independent monitor says has killed at least 250 civilians in two days.
On Monday night, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Sources fed local rosy statements to media about “cooperation in the fight against terrorist elements” and Rouhani said the two leaders discussed “plots to disintegrate regional states.” But behind the scenes Iran is quietly opposing Turkey’s operation in the mostly Kurdish Afrin region in northwest Syria. Tehran is a key ally of Damascus but is reticent to confront Turkey, with which it enjoys amicable relations.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
After issuing a rare rebuke of Iran’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added that Moscow also opposes “attempts to view any regional problem through the prism of fighting Iran.” Unfortunately for him, that’s precisely the way most of the Middle East does view many regional problems, as revealed by a stunning informal poll which an Al Jazeera talk show host conducted among his tens of thousands of Arabic-language Twitter followers on February 10. Asked which side they supported in a recent Israeli-Iranian clash in Syria, fully 56 percent–12,800 people–said they backed Israel.
IRAQ & IRAN
In June 2014, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the leading Shiite clergyman in the world, called on all able-bodied Iraqis to defend their country against the Islamic State… Sistani’s fatwa mobilized a 100,000-strong fighting force known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), whose mostly Shiite fighters were instrumental in the fight against isis. The PMF is comprised of multiple Shiite militias who were established after 2014 as volunteer groups that took up arms in response to Sistani’s fatwa… The majority of these groups are aligned with the Iraqi state and take their orders from the Iraqi government. But residing within the PMF are Iran-aligned groups who have become the Forces’ most-powerful militias.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose 2009 re-election prompted mass unrest over alleged vote rigging, has called for “free” presidential and parliamentary elections in an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.