The United Nations' atomic agency has heeded calls by the U.S. and Israel to inspect a site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed last fall was housing Iranian nuclear equipment and material, according to officials familiar with the agency's work. But the visit may have come too late to yield proof of the claims. The International Atomic Energy Agency first sent a team of inspectors to the site, which is in Tehran, in February, according to the officials. The agency's staff took a series of environmental samples that are currently being analyzed, they said. It isn't clear when the IAEA first asked for access to the site.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has appealed for unity to confront "great power" challenges from Russia, China and Iran on the 70th anniversary of Nato. "We have rightly sought peace through strength here in NATO. We must continue to do so, especially in this new era of great power competition from Russia, from China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran," he told a meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers.
Exiled Iranian opposition activists say Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has fired on protesters who tried to stop it from diverting floodwaters in a southwestern town, resulting in a protester's death. The activists said the protester died after being shot by IRGC forces in Wednesday's predawn confrontation in the Dasht-e-Azadegan district of Khuzestan province. They said minority Iranian Arab residents of the area, also known as Ahwazis, were trying to stop the IRGC from destroying a dyke and diverting floodwaters into their farmland.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has raised doubts on the ability of European powers to bypass sanctions imposed on Tehran by the US after it withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. "The Europeans at first viewed the JCPOA (nuclear deal) as an achievement, but maybe they were not prepared to, and certainly they were not capable of standing up against US sanctions," Zarif said on Thursday in an interview with Khamenei.ir, the official website of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Any Iranian hopes of Europe salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are quickly fading nearly a year after the United States reneged on the nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 3 had some harsh words for Europe in an interview with Khamenei.ir, the official website of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has revealed the results of its so-called "maximum pressure campaign" against Iran, even as the head of the world's top nuclear agency argued Iran still honored the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal designed to protect it from such sanctions. President Donald Trump scrapped the deal in May, accusing Iran of using the sanctions relief given in exchange for curbing nuclear production in order to fund militant groups and develop ballistic missile technology.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Mehdi Rajabian, 29, is on temporary bail from the brutality that lurks behind the walls of Tehran's notorious Evin prison - but he wants the world to know the oppression and fear he and many more face at every moment under the iron thumb of the regime. His crime? A childhood love of music. "I was born in a small province in Iran. I was always passionate about music, I would drown in the imagination of color and fairytale while listening to music," Rajabian told Fox News from Iran, which he is forbidden to leave.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Flooding has caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to Iranian agriculture, an official said on Thursday, as the parliament speaker questioned whether government funds would be adequate to compensate communities and farmers. About 1,900 cities and villages have been affected by floods and exceptionally heavy rains since March 19. The disaster, which has so far killed 62 people, has left aid agencies struggling to cope and seen 86,000 people moved to emergency shelters.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Saudi Arabia intends to invest $1 billion in development projects in Iraq and open a consulate in the capital, reversing a longstanding policy of disengagement there as it seeks to curb rival Iran's growing influence in the Middle East. A Saudi ministerial and business delegation is in Iraq this week to discuss investment ideas for some of the kingdom's biggest companies, including oil giant Aramco, Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and the Maaden mining corporation, Saudi Commerce and Investment Minister Majid Al-Qasabi said in Baghdad.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria and ways to foster cooperation. The two leaders also tackled Iran's role in Syria. An Israeli official said that Netanyahu called on Russia to use its influence in Syria to prevent Iran from securing a lasting presence in the country. Putin stressed the special significance of keeping communication between the two countries.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
It is a good idea in theory: Assemble a coalition of Sunni Arab states, call it the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), and create a multinational military force meant to serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, and extremism. Such an alliance would finally allow the U.S. to lessen its Middle East footprint, as the 2017 National Security Strategy recommended, and allow the Pentagon to redeploy some capabilities toward China and Russia - two of the "Big 4" countries that pose the greatest menace to the United States according to the latest U.S. intelligence community's Worldwide Threat Assessment. It is also hoped that such a self-sufficient Arab military pact would help bring some much-needed stability to the region.
With the Israeli Presidential election just days away, cyber experts are warning about an uptick in Iranian cyber interference and the spread of disinformation. "Iran is using tactics very similar, if not the same, that Russia used in the 2016 U.S. election," Jeff Bardin, chief intelligence officer of Treadstone71 who specializes in Iranian activity, told Fox News. "Starting in January of 2017, Iran created a website that was very likely to kick off this effort - Countdown2040.com."
Iran uses a network of websites, which are misleading and registered with "false" data, to spread its digital propaganda in the Arab world, according to a study published by Oxford University. The study, titled "Iranian Digital Interference in the Arab World," points out that the network mainly attacks Saudi Arabia. The study was prepared by three researchers from the Project on Computational Propaganda (COMPROP) based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.