The Trump administration is pressuring Iraq to stop buying energy from its neighbor and sole foreign supplier, Iran, in what has become a major point of conflict between Washington and Baghdad. Iraqi leaders, fearing that a further shortfall in power would lead to mass protests and political instability in their electricity-starved country, are pushing back on the demand, which is rooted in President Trump's sanctions against Iran.
President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian leaders Monday used mass celebrations of the 1979 revolution to lash out against the U.S. and reaffirm Tehran's pledge to continue developing ballistic-missile systems that Washington says threatens the region's security. In the face of intensifying pressure from the U.S. and its allies to curb Tehran's military capabilities, Mr. Rouhani told hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Tehran's Freedom Square that Iran would "continue to pursue our path and our military power."
President Trump on Monday tweeted a message in Persian slamming Iran's leadership on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure. The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future," reads the tweet, which the president also sent out in English.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A senior Iranian official said over the weekend that the Islamic Republic has the chemical and technical know-how to produce a nuclear weapon, according to Farsi language remarks independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon. Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, which enjoys close ties with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, claimed in recent comments that having a nuclear missile "is vital for Iran to confront the U.S. and its allies," according to Farsi language comments made over the weekend.
On Sunday, Iran announced it was "ready" to make the jump to reaching 190,000 separative work units for enriching uranium. Currently, Tehran has some 5,000 centrifuges available to enrich uranium, down from around 19,000 before the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Does this announcement, combined with recent threats to enrich uranium from a 3.67% level to around a 20% level, mean the Iran deal is over and the West and Israel must finally decide between a military option or letting Tehran possess a nuclear bomb?
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Oil prices rose on Tuesday amid OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, although analysts expect surging U.S. output and concerns over economic growth to keep markets in check. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $52.69 per barrel at 0751 GMT, up 28 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close.
Given how Iran's economy has fared in the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution, it's reasonable for Iranians to wonder whether they might be more prosperous had the revolution never taken place. Iran's average annual growth in gross domestic product for the years 1961-78 was 8.86 percent, or more than three times higher than the 2.44-percent average for 1980-2017.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
During the revolution anniversary rallies and marches in Iran on Monday, a group of seminarians turned an event into an anti-Rouhani, anti-government, anti-nuclear-agreement and anti-FATF protest. The seminarians in the Shiite holy city of Qom were holding placards blaming President Hassan Rouhani and his administration of rising prices, corruption and agreeing to the 2015 nuclear deal, which they labeled as treason.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Braving a drenching rain, Iranians came out in droves on Monday to march up Revolution Street to the capital's Freedom Monument, including families pushing strollers decorated with balloons in the red, white and green of the country's flag, clerics, teenagers and others, for a huge state-backed rally commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. While such rallies are organized every year on Feb. 11, this year's seemed larger, despite the uninviting weather.
Vice President Mike Pence is expected to send a strong message to Iran and discuss the rising tension in Venezuela as he travels to Europe this week for two conferences focused on the Middle East and international relations. At a conference hosted by the U.S. and Poland in Warsaw, which seeks to address instability in the region, Pence will give the keynote remarks. His speech at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East is expected to send a strong message to Iran, according to a senior White House official.
Iran's president has insisted "enemy" plots against the country will fail and called President Donald Trump an "idiot" as vast crowds marked 40 years since the Islamic revolution. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians, including soldiers, students, clerics and chador-clad women holding small children, marched through the capital in freezing rain on Monday to mark the anniversary.
Iran's Islamic revolution four decades ago inflicted "failure and broken promises" on the country, President Donald Trump's chief foreign policy advisor said Monday. "It's been 40 yrs of failure. Now it's up to the Iranian regime to change its behavior, & ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country," national security advisor John Bolton tweeted on the anniversary of the upheaval.
Navy's Reversal On 355-Ship Goal Raises Doubts On Countering Iran | Al Monitor
The Pentagon will re-evaluate a plan to grow the US fleet to 355 ships, a move that experts worry could diminish the service's presence as Iran poses a renewed challenge to Middle East waterways through proxy groups. Speaking at the Pentagon earlier this month, the Navy's top officer said that the decision, which will be paired with the US administration's new budget, was made to align the maritime service's mission with the Defense Department's new strategy that focuses on China and Russia.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution Monday in typical fashion, with speeches from government officials, marches, anti-American slogans, protests and also an element of the absurd. As is customary, President Hassan Rouhani delivered a speech at Tehran's Azadi Square for the anniversary, which took place on the 22nd day of the month of Bahman in the Iranian calendar.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Forty years since the Islamic Revolution toppled Iran's monarchy, the country has little to celebrate. The theocracy has endured, but it has failed miserably to live up to the enormous potential of Iran's resources, human as well as petrochemical. There's been little political progress: Voters elect a president and parliament every four years, but real power still rests with a clerical clique led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
President Hassan Rouhani struck a defiant tone as millions of Iranians gathered in cities across the country to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution despite growing public angst over the country's direction. Mr Rouhani said Iran would continue to build missiles and seek to influence regional affairs - policies that have riled US president Donald Trump - as the country's leaders organised a show of support for their theocratic rule on the streets.
The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) released its 9-month economic performance report on February 10, which shows an unprecedented budget deficit. The statistics are based on Iran's fiscal year, which started March 21, 2018. CBI says the Iranian government had projected 244 trillion rials ($5.8 billion, based on official USD rate: $1/42,000 rials) budget deficit for the first nine months of year (March 21-December 22), but the actual deficit value is 451 trillion rials ($10.73 billion).
It was late in the afternoon on a cold winter day. Light snow had covered Tehran the night before, and I was spending the day in the production office of a small film unit of the Basij paramilitary militia. I was researching cultural producers in the Islamic Republic's military and paramilitary organizations, and the young men who worked in this film unit had agreed to talk to me on the condition of anonymity.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday laid historical claims to a number of Arabian Gulf countries without naming them. In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Rouhani said: "47 years ago, which is seven years before the Islamic Revolution during the reign of the traitor Pahlavi regime, an important part of southern Iran separated, and we have read that geographically it was a part of Iran, and its 14th province. That was done by Pahlavi."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who arrived in Lebanon on Sunday met Hassan Nasrallah the leader of the militant group Hezbollah. In recent days, Hezbollah has been pushing the idea of Lebanon officially accepting Iranian military assistance, which Zarif earlier said Iran would be looking forward to.
Admiral Craig S. Faller, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 7, 2019 that "Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere." This statement came on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement on FOX the previous day. Pompeo stated, "Hezbollah has active cells - the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America."
A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Monday that Iran would demolish cities in Israel to the ground if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic. "The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets. But if they attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground," Yadollah Javani, the Guards' deputy head for political affairs was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Lebanon said Monday it will not take part in a Middle East conference in Poland this week that is widely seen as an effort to isolate Iran. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil made the announcement during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to the Mediterranean country. The two-day Warsaw conference begins Wednesday and will be co-hosted by the U.S. Some 80 countries have been invited, including Israel.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered Lebanon on Monday an open-ended proposal for receiving economic, health and security support from Tehran, asserting that no international law prevents the two sides from cooperating. "We will always support the people and extend a helping hand in all frameworks possible, and we are ready to respond to the Lebanese government's request to cooperate with it in any vital area it deems appropriate," the Iranian minister said in a joint press conference held Monday with his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil.
The leader of the Hezbollah terror group said Tehran had assisted it in facing off against "Zionist aggression," during a meeting with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday in Lebanon. Zarif pledged continued support for Hezbollah, which has repeatedly threatened to use its large missile arsenal to target Israel, during the meeting with leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV reported.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran is funding militias throughout the Middle East while turning its own people into paupers, Saudi Arabian Prince Turki Al-Faisal told CNBC Tuesday. "I've described Iran in the past, and I think the description still fits, the leadership in Iran has developed into a paper tiger with steel claws," he told CNBC Tuesday.