The United States accused Iran on Thursday of defying a U.N. Security Council resolution with one ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December and urged the council to "bring back tougher international restrictions" on Tehran. A 2015 U.N. resolution "called upon" Iran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons following an agreement with six world powers.
Families of Americans imprisoned or missing in Iran faulted the U.S. government on Thursday for not doing more to bring their loved ones home and called for establishing a dialogue with Tehran to negotiate their return. At turns embittered and bewildered, the criticisms of the Obama and Trump administrations were leveled by relatives of three men whom the United States considers hostages of the Iranian government.
Iran remains the "long-term destabilizing factor" in the region, a top US commander said Thursday. "Their efforts are not limited to the support they provide to the Houthis in Yemen. They strive to be a regional hegemon and use malign influence qualitatively and quantitatively, expanding capabilities, facilitation, and support to multiple proxies to exert pressure, and threaten other countries in the region," US Central Command head General Joseph Votel told Congress.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah once dubbed dividing his group into distinct political and military wings an "English innovation." Yet, last week, the United Kingdom decided to end this mainstay of British policy. Shortly after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a total ban on Hezbollah, Parliament amended the UK's Terrorism Act 2000 to proscribe the group "in its entirety." London's acknowledgment of Hezbollah's unity aligns British law and policy with the United States.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has rejected to lead the 'economic war', accusing the United States on Wednesday of plotting to use economic pressure to overthrow the Islamic republic's clerical establishment, and ruling out the possibility of talks with Washington. "Iran is in an economic and psychological war with America and its allies. Their aim is to change the regime but their wish will not come true," Rouhani said in a speech in the northern province of Gilan as reported by Reuters.
Iraq's parliament speaker, Mohamed Halbousi, stressed Monday his country's refusal to be a "platform for war against neighboring countries," referring to the growing conflict between the United States and Iran. Halbousi arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, heading a parliamentary delegation at the invitation of the President of the Iranian Shura Council Ali Larijani.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A prominent human rights lawyers was reportedly convicted this week of charges related to her defense of female Iranian protesters and faces years in prison. The Associated Press reports that Nasrin Sotoudeh, 55, was convicted after she defended Iranian women who protested the country's enforced public uniform of hijabs and robes.
Reports on social media say that two women in Kangavar, western Iran have been arrested for removing their headscarves in public. Hijab or head scarf with all-body cover is obligatory for women in Iran. But since December 2017 there have been dozens of incidents when women removed their headscarves in protest against obligatory hijab. A trend on social media called "White Wednesdays" has been encouraging women in recent years to defy the hijab laws.
Three independent labor groups in Iran have demanded a minimum monthly wage of 70 million rials for the coming Iranian year. Based on current free market exchange rates, the requested amount would be equal to approximately $540 monthly. Based on multiple reports in recent weeks, inflation in Iran is extremely high with essential goods and specially foodstuff rising at almost double-digit rates every month.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. authorities have allowed about a dozen Christian refugees from Iran into the U.S. after a federal court ordered their cases reopened, but the fate of hundreds of other Iranian refugees seeking American visas remains uncertain, lawyers said. The small group of Iranians arrived in Los Angeles in recent weeks after a federal judge last year ordered the U.S. government to reconsider their applications, which had been previously denied.
The wife of a former FBI agent who vanished in Iran in 2007 expressed bitter frustration Thursday about efforts to get her husband back home. Christine Levinson told a House panel that she holds Iran responsible for the disappearance of her husband, Robert. But she also said three American administrations have failed to press Iran hard enough for his return. "Time and time again, Bob has been left behind, deprioritized, or seemingly forgotten," she said in prepared remarks for the hearing on the status of Americans detained in Iran.
The family members of three Americans held captive in Iran testified before a congressional subcommittee on Thursday, asking President Trump and U.S. lawmakers to do more to free their loved ones. Speaking to the House Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism Subcommittee, Christine Levinson - she's the wife of retired FBI special agent Robert Levinson - made a personal appeal to the president to negotiate her husband's release.
Radio Farda's Hannah Kaviani has interviewed Jonathan Franks the spokesperson for Michael White's mother, Joanne White. Michael White, 46, has been held since July, and is the first known American to have been detained in Iran since Donald Trump became president two years ago. Hannah Kaviani got in touch with Franks through a crowdfunding campaign trying to raise money for legal expenses in Iran.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian naval forces intervened to repel pirates who attacked an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, state television reported on Friday. The broadcast said pirates in 11 speedboats attacked a tanker with a cargo of 150,000 tonnes on Thursday. It showed naval forces opening fire on speedboats, without saying whether the footage was from the latest incident. Iran's navy has extended its reach in recent years, dispatching vessels to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A hard-line cleric once thought to be a possible successor to Iran's supreme leader was appointed head of the Islamic Republic's judiciary Thursday, sparking concern from rights activists over his involvement in the execution of thousands in the 1980s. Ebrahim Raisi was named to the post in a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Iran's former moderate president, Mohammad Khatami has warned that in the absence of reforms, convincing people to go to vote in the next elections will be a tough undertaking. Khatami, who served as president for eight years (1997-2005), was speaking to the reformist faction of Majles (Iranian parliament) on Wednesday, March 6.
Excluding spending for state-owned enterprises, the Iranian government's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year (beginning March 21) is set at 4,700 trillion rials ($111.9 billion). The education budget, which covers the expenditures of elementary to upper secondary schools, amounts to 458 trillion rials ($10.9 billion). While public spending has risen by 40% overall in the proposed budget, the educational system's allocated resources have only increased by 28%.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
One day after foreign minister of four Arab countries harshly criticized Iran's policies in the region, Tehran rejected their claims as "baseless" and "unconstructive". On Thursday, March 7, on the margins of the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain issued a statement denouncing Iran's "provocative statements and expressed "deep concern over Iranian sectarian incitement in Arab countries and its support of terrorist militias."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
As Iran's parliament debates whether or not to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - a global organization that develops policies to combat money laundering - recent developments indicate such a move on the part of Tehran would be good news for the state of Israel. Pressure from the FATF recently forced the Pakistani government to ban a terror-related organization (Jamat-ud-Dawa) as well as a financial organization with terrorist links (Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation).
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Amid an escalation in attacks by the Houthi militias against legitimate government positions in southern Hodeidah, the Iran-backed militants informed UN officials in Sanaa Thursday that they wanted to maintain their security presence in the city and its ports, in defiance of the Sweden deal. Informed political sources in Sanaa said high-ranking officials from the coup government held a meeting with director of the office of UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, deputy of Michael Lollesgaard, the head of the UN observer mission.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The U.K. government has decided to provide diplomatic protection to a British-Iranian woman detained in Iran for nearly three years. The Foreign Office said Friday the move means Britain formally asserts that Iran has failed to meet its international obligations in its treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government. Her family denies the allegations.
Britain is to give jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in an attempt to put pressure on Iran to release her. Foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said resorting to a little-used way for governments to seek to protection their nationals was unlikely to be a "magic wand", but might help Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case. But Iran's ambassador in London said the move "contravenes international law".
Iran has accused Britain of breaking international law by taking the rare step of granting diplomatic protection to a dual British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran over spy allegations. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Friday that London's decision to extend the special status to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was aimed at sending a "very strong message" to Iran. But Iran's envoy to London said the decision "contravenes international law".