To check Iranian influence in Syria, the United States needs a coherent strategy whose pieces fit together. The United States has leverage but appears unsure how to use it, which tempts rivals such as Russia, Turkey and Iran. "The most expensive option in the Middle East is doing 'nothing.' This simply imposes greater costs on future policymakers," argues Norman Roule, a former chief of Iranian operations at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He recently became an adviser to United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group.
Tehran has told United Nations nuclear inspectors of its plan to build nuclear reactors for ships... Iran's disclosure is almost certain to reignite tensions with US President Donald Trump's administration...
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged Russia and Iran to rein in Syrian forces' offensive against a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, calling the attacks a massacre.
UANI IN THE NEWS
...The group United Against a Nuclear Iran on Feb. 21 published an open letter to the head of FATF requesting that tough warnings against interaction with Iranian financial institutions be reinstated. It called efforts by the government of President Hassan Rouhani to counter terrorist financing and money laundering "nominal," given the role played by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in regional conflicts and the Iranian economy.
In early January, Tunisia and Iran witnessed remarkably similar periods of spontaneous and widespread unrest... Although the scale of Iran's initial unrest captured much of the world's attention, policymakers and investors would be well advised to consider the two events together. To do so shows that protests in each country were driven by the same complaints that ignited the Arab Spring, leaving few doubts that the region remains susceptible to further and sudden fractures.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
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 Thursday.
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS
In its new Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2018, the U.S. intelligence community warns that Iran continues to "enable" attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels against America's Persian Gulf partners. The new assessment highlights "an attempted 3 December cruise missile attack on an unfinished nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi," an important indication that the Iranian proliferation threat encompasses cruise missiles, not just ballistic ones.
IRAN PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The fate of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran has been tied to the settlement of a £400 million debt that London owes Tehran, the family of one of the prisoners has said. Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, who has been held in an Iranian jail since April 2016, said an Iranian judge told her that her release was being held up because of a dispute over the interest owed on an unfulfilled arms deal dating back to the 1970s.
Critics voiced outrage Thursday that Iran's justice minister will travel to Geneva next week to address the UN's top human rights body, despite facing Swiss and EU sanctions over rights violations.
Iran has announced its intent to establish a national cryptocurrency.
HEZBOLLAH & LEBANON
The United States should hold Iran, not only Hezbollah, responsible for any massive missile attack on Israel from southern Lebanon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said on Thursday after he and a bipartisan delegation including six other senators met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Three suspected Bahraini militants wanted on terrorism charges died at sea in unexplained circumstances this month and another is missing, activists said, after they appear to have fled the country by boat headed for Iran. The incident shines a light on alleged links between a small, armed fringe of Bahrain's Shi'ite Muslim opposition and Iran, which authorities in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom accuse of helping stoke years of attacks against its police.
The European Parliament has declined a request to host an exhibition of caricatures meant to display the true face of the Iranian regime and its human rights violation[s], which will instead take place outside the building in Brussels on Wednesday.
SYRIA & IRAN
The last thing Syria needs is more war, but when pro-regime forces entered the Kurdish enclave of Afrin this week to end Turkey's incursion into northern Syria, that's exactly what it got. As the civilian death toll ticks upward, one actor in the brutal civil war is taking advantage of the bloodshed: the Islamic Republic of Iran.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia has freed nine Iranian fishermen detained two years ago, Iranian state TV said on Thursday but a tenth fisherman was killed in the initial incident, his brother said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian media are reporting the country's aviation organization has temporarily banned flights of all ATR-72 aircraft after a deadly crash that killed 65.
Iran's hardline factions once dubbed him "the miracle of the third millennium". But Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the former firebrand president, has turned into "the ally of the Satan," in the words of one hardliner, as he has become an increasingly disruptive force embarrassing those who secured his path to power. The populist politician whose presidency was tainted by corruption allegations, suppression and crippling sanctions, has recently heightened his criticism of regime leaders whom he accuses of inefficiency.
In her 38-year career, which is as long as the history of the Islamic republic, Iran's first and only female conductor had led as many public performances as the number of fingers that hold her baton. Last month, however, Nezhat Amiri conducted a 71-member orchestra performing at Tehran's most prestigious concert hall - a remarkable milestone in a country where it is considered taboo for state TV to show musical instruments, women are not allowed to sing solo and female musicians have been prevented from going on stage in provincial cities.