Foreign ministers and senior officials from 60 nations gather in the Polish capital Warsaw on Wednesday where the United States hopes to ratchet up pressure against Iran despite concerns among major European countries about heightened tensions with Tehran. The absence of foreign ministers from major European powers, Germany and France, highlights festering tensions with the European Union over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions.
The Trump administration's sanctions on Venezuelan crude complicate its effort to bring Iran's oil exports to zero. To avoid a price spike, Washington will likely be forced to allow some buyers to continue purchasing oil from Tehran, experts say. The U.S. administration banned the purchase of crude from the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro in late January, just two months after it implemented an embargo on Iran's oil exports.
The International Court of Justice will on Wednesday give its decision on a bid by Iran to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to victims of attacks blamed on Tehran. The case threatens to cause further bad blood after a decision in October when the Hague-based tribunal ordered Washington to lift nuclear-related sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A leading Iranian official has affirmed that his country will "never" move to develop an atomic bomb. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a cleric who is a senior member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, previously had said during a religious service that the country had the capability to build a nuclear weapon. He clarified his comments later in an interview with Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Tuesday. "My remarks in the religious ceremony were the same thing that had repeatedly been said by Iranian authorities," Khatami explained.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched on the streets of Tehran Monday, burning American flags and taunting the West as it celebrated the Islamic Revolution's 40th anniversary by vowing to boost its ballistic missiles in defiance of U.S. efforts to curb its military. Students, clerics and women dressed in black and carried pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in an Islamic uprising that still haunts the West.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's ministry of economy and finance is drafting regulation to set up companies for doing barter trade with foreign partners as a way of circumventing U.S. sanctions. Mahmoud Lahouti a member of Iran's chamber of commerce board in an interview with Mehr news agency on Tuesday explained that the barter system will preclude the use of the international banking system. When Iran exports oil to a country, the receivable money stays in that country in local currency.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's supreme leader says negotiations with the U.S. "will bring nothing but material and spiritual harm" - remarks that come ahead of an American-led meeting on the Mideast in Warsaw. The comments from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are part of a seven-page statement that was read out word-for-word on Iranian state television on Wednesday.
No problem with the United States can be resolved and negotiations are a loss, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday in a statement published on his official website. "With regard to America, no problem can be resolved and negotiations with it has nothing but economic and spiritual loss," he wrote.
Iran's Islamic Revolution four decades ago has been a complete failure for the country, President Donald Trump said Monday. In a tweet written on the anniversary of the upheaval that was also sent out in Farsi, Trump said: "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," he added.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif has reacted to US President Donald Trump's tweet criticizing Iran's government on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution and calling on Trump to rethink the US policy. Trump had tweeted late Monday, "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."
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran may eventually design an actual flying jet plane resembling the mockups it passed off as the real thing-but even, such a plane would likely merely be a testbed and showpiece. There can be such a thing as posturing too hard. Iran's aviation industry has accomplishments to boast about despite operating under heavy sanctions for nearly forty years.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
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).
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, when the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a Western-backed autocrat, was swept away and replaced with the theocratic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The revolution fundamentally changed the lives of most Iranians and the politics of the Middle East.
Forty years ago this week, a broad coalition of Iranian women from across the social and economic spectrum stood shoulder-to-shoulder with men to rid their country of its unpopular, dictatorial Shah. According to the standard Western narrative, the new revolutionary government led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini emphasized traditional Islamic values, which required women to give precedence to their roles as mothers and wives over their desire to become judges, entrepreneurs, and bosses.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu departed for a conference in Warsaw Tuesday night. Netanyahu stated that he conference will focus on ways to counter Iranian "aggression, it's desire to counqer the Middle East and destroy Israel. What's important is that many countries are uniting against this aggression."
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday indicated that his new government would allow terror group Hezbollah to keep its weapons, which it used in a major war against Israel in 2006 and have been frequently used since to threaten Israel. Members of Lebanon's Parliament began discussing the new government's policy statement, which focuses on improving the country's economic conditions.
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."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran Tuesday that Israeli missiles can travel "very far", on the eve of a conference in Poland about peace and security in the Middle East. Speaking during a visit to a naval base in the northern port of Haifa, Netanyahu said: "The missiles you see behind me can go very far, against any enemy, including Iran's proxies in our region" -- an apparent reference to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Monday evening to a threat issued by an Iranian commander, saying that if Iran attacks Tel Aviv, it "would be the last anniversary of the revolution that they celebrate." Speaking at a rally earlier Monday celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said that Iran would demolish entire cities in Israel if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea rejected allegations that Iran and the Hezbollah group have claimed "victory" in Lebanon. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that the confrontation in the region is ongoing. "Some tactical victories and defeats are achieved," he explained.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Monday criticized the European Union for its "dual approaches" toward Iran. "The EU must rise above its dual approaches when they try not to annoy the Americans, and to do something so that Iran sees real efforts, and to make the right choice by deciding in favor of real cooperation," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying, Xinhua reported.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Houthi rebels are jeopardising a historic chance to achieve peace in Yemen, the UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Wednesday, reiterating calls for international pressure on the Iran-backed group. The Stockholm Agreement, brokered through UN-led peace talks in December, is the only logical solution to ending Yemen's nearly four-year war, Dr Gargash said on Twitter.
IRAQ & IRAN
The wrecks of vehicles used by Islamic State militants as car bombs and other metal debris left by the war in Iraq are now helping fund their Iran-backed enemies, industry sources say. Shi'ite Muslim paramilitaries that helped Iraqi forces drive the Sunni IS out of its last strongholds in Iraq have taken control of the thriving trade in scrap metal retrieved from the battlefield, according to scrap dealers and others familiar with the trade.