The U.S. intelligence community and Treasury Department can make it harder for Iran to meddle in regional affairs by exposing Iranian businesses that have ties to the nation's elite security force, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said on Thursday. Their comments suggest the investment climate in Iran could become more challenging just as foreign firms seek to build or restore ties in the country following the lifting of sanctions last year.
A US military official has revealed his country’s intention to form forces to send them to the Arab region to help counter Iranian threats. “The United States wants to help the Arab countries deal with Iranian threats,” said General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command at the 26th annual Arab-American Policymakers Conference in Washington. “The Pentagon is working to achieve that desire and ensure its effective implementation. That includes the establishment of US military battalions sent as missions to the region and be designed specifically to provide advice and assistance,” he noted, stressing that such cooperation was an example of “partnership” between Washington and its allies in the region.
Iran’s military chief of staff visited a frontline position near the Syrian city of Aleppo, a military news outlet run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah reported on Friday, during a visit that has underlined Tehran’s deep military role in Syria. General Mohammad Baqeri visited the position with a number of Iranian officers, according to the report, which was accompanied by photos showing Baqeri looking at a map and peering through binoculars. Neighboring Israel has expressed deep concern over Iran’s role in Syria, where Iranian fighters and Iran-backed groups such as Hezbollah have played a major role fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Baqeri met Assad on Thursday during a visit to set out a joint military strategy, Syrian state media reported.
UANI IN THE NEWS
“What’s necessary now is for the Trump Administration to articulate a non-nuclear strategy in the region. The president did a good job of outlining Iran’s sorry record around the Middle East, however, the administration - what they need to do next is articulate a clear strategy for moving forward.”
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
The leaders of the 28 members of the European Union are showing their support for the Iran nuclear agreement, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s opposition to it. EU spokesman Preben Aaman tweeted that the EU leaders agreed at a summit Thursday to show their joint commitment to the international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS
Argentina offered to supply Iran with nuclear expertise and technology as part of a secret pact exonerating the Tehran regime of responsibility for the July 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, a former Argentine intelligence operative told a court in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the bombing in the Argentine capital, which was coordinated by Iran and its Lebanese Shia proxy Hezbollah.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to the Middle East, South Asia and Europe this week on a diplomatic mission focused on conflicts in Iraq and Syria and blunting Iranian influence in the region, the State Department said Thursday. Tillerson departs on Friday for travel to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan and India before returning home through Switzerland on Oct. 27, the department said in a statement. In Riyadh, Tillerson will explore ways of improving relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq by participating in the first meeting of the two countries’ new coordination council, it said. That effort, which U.S. officials say Tillerson has pushed for months, is aimed reducing Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq by encouraging Baghdad to align more closely with Riyadh.
CONGRESS & IRAN
The Senate has a difficult path to walk if it is going to pass changes to the Iran nuclear deal demanded by President Trump to stave off a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have unveiled plans to enact Trump’s proposals, but their legislation would need 60 votes — including support from at least eight Democrats — to pass the chamber.
Russia’s Rosneft has been in talks with Tehran to set up a supply chain to deliver oil from Iran and Central Asia nations to the global markets, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russia’s oil major Rosneft, said on Thursday. Rosneft will forge a partnership with China’s CEFC firm in a number of projects including exploration, production, refining, oil and oil products trading, Sechin told an industry forum in Verona.
RUSSIA & IRAN
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations took the US and Israel to task on Wednesday for focusing on Iran during a UN Security Council meeting whose agenda called for a discussion of the Mideast “including the Palestinian question.” US ambassador Nikki Haley and Israeli envoy Danny Danon both targeted Iran during the meeting, with Haley accusing Iran of “aggressive, destabilizing and unlawful behavior” and urging the Security Council to adopt the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to the country instead of looking solely at its compliance with the nuclear deal.
Russia’s foreign minister says the landmark Iran nuclear deal can be amended only as long as his country and other signatories agree to proposed changes… Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that any unilateral changes to the deal “could bury this agreement, which is vital for strategic stability and nuclear non-proliferation.”
Israel has been promoting the idea that its ties with Arab countries are improving, and some experts say there are signs that shared concerns over Iran are indeed nudging them closer. Formal recognition of Israel by Arab states does not seem likely anytime soon, but behind-the-scenes cooperation has opened up in various areas, a number of experts and officials say. Significant rapprochement would constitute a departure from the decades-old policy of Arab countries refusing to deal with Israel until an independent Palestinian state is created. But in the latest sign of mutual interests, both Israel and Saudi Arabia congratulated US President Donald Trump last week after his speech in which he declared he would not certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Syria’s state news agency says President Bashar Assad has met with a visiting Iranian army commander to discuss military cooperation. The Iranian general also conveyed a message from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. SANA says Assad’s meeting with Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri on Thursday focused on bilateral relations in all fields, mainly military cooperation, “which has witnessed a qualitative development during the war that Syria and its allies, mainly Iran, are waging against terrorism” in Syria. Iran has been one of Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.
Look, I think my credentials as an Iran hawk are pretty strong. When, during the Clinton administration, many American policymakers and academics were enthralled with newly-elected President Mohammad Khatami's rhetoric of "dialogue of civilizations," I warned that it was a public relations distraction and that the Iranian behaviors that most concerned the United States remained unchanged. My first monograph, Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran, focused on how hardline, extra-legal forces moved to constrain meaningful reform of the system.
Iraqi forces took Kirkuk city from the Kurds this week with hardly a shot fired. Twenty-two Kurdish fighters were killed in the sporadic and disorganized resistance, while seven Iraqi soldiers also lost their lives. It is a remarkable setback for the Kurds, who just a few weeks ago held an independence referendum. The loss of Kirkuk especially, given the city’s vast oil resources, lessens the likelihood that an independent state will emerge from the Kurdish Regional Government area in northern Iraq.
Najmaldin Karim, the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk Province, will not be returning to the city that elected him in 2011 and 2014. It's too dangerous. In an interview Wednesday, he told me he fled his home on Tuesday in the early evening and has no plans at the moment to return. "If I go back, my life is in danger," he told me. "Even the night when all this happened, I had to maneuver carefully to go to safety." Karim's blunt assessment calls into question a few things the Iraqi and U.S. government have been saying about the crisis that began after the Iraqi military this week drove out the Kurdish militias that had secured the city of Kirkuk since 2014. To start, it suggests many Kurds do not put faith in Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's recent order for Shiite militias, many of whom are proxies of Iran, to leave the city.
IRANIAN DOMESTIC POLITICS
Iranian security forces prevented former president and opposition figure Mohammad Khatami from leaving his Tehran home late Wednesday, local media reported. It was the latest sign that regime hard-liners were seeking to crack down on the country’s reformists, activists said. Two opposition-linked news sites said security forces arrived at Khatami’s home in the Iranian capital to block him from meeting with political allies, a move that one outlet referred to as “temporary house arrest.”
According to Iranian opposition websites, security forces prevented former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a Reformist, from leaving his house to attend an unspecified ceremony Oct. 18. Saham News, which is affiliated with Mehdi Karroubi, a Green Movement leader who is currently under house arrest, wrote that three cars belonging to security forces had parked outside Khatami’s home and prevented him from leaving. Though details about the ceremony that Khatami was to attend are unknown, news reports state that Khatami had intended to meet with political figures. Security forces instructed Khatami and his security detail that they would not be permitted to leave the house. Afterward, security forces remained outside Khatami's house.