The Iranian Fars News Agency used DNS spoofing to restore its '.com' domain after it was blocked by an order of the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Saturday, according to Radio Farda. One official from a company owned by Iran's Ministry of Telecommunications admitted that the company had restored the domain to Fars by using DNS spoofing, a type of hacking that redirects users to the wrong website when they try to access a certain URL.
In narrow terms, the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran in the last two years have been effective, shrinking the Iranian economy by 10 to 20 percent. But they have also accelerated Iran's use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which are increasingly used by the Iranian government and public to evade legal barriers. This has led to an attempted crackdown on bitcoin by international regulators-but the cryptocurrency industry is proving more nimble than the enforcers of sanctions, reported Foreign Policy.
When the Revolutionary Guards officer spotted what he thought was an unidentified aircraft near Tehran's international airport, he had seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger. Iran had just fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at American forces, the country was on high alert for an American counterattack, and the Iranian military was warning of incoming cruise missiles. The officer tried to reach the command center for authorization to shoot but couldn't get through. So he fired an antiaircraft missile. Then another.
UANI IN THE NEWS
When news broke that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was scheduled to deliver the Friday Prayer sermon on January 17 for the first time since 2012, Iranian media went into overdrive to promote the event. One reporter with the state media conglomerate Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) previewed his appearance, suggesting it would be a "history-maker.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium at any percentage if Iranian authorities decide to do so, the deputy head of the country's nuclear agency said in a report posted on its website on Saturday. "At the moment, if (Iranian authorities) make the decision, the Atomic Energy Organization, as the executor, will be able to enrich uranium at any percentage," Ali Asghar Zarean said.
Iran's enriched uranium stockpile has far exceeded the level allowed by its international nuclear deal, an aide to Iran's nuclear chief said on Saturday. Ali Asghar Zarean said that Iran has stockpiled 1,200 kilograms, or about 2,600 pounds, which is well beyond what the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers allowed. "Iran is increasing its stockpile of the enriched uranium with full speed," he said. The claim has not been verified by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.
The United States will not lift sanctions on Iran in order to negotiate, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted late on Saturday, seemingly in response to a Der Spiegel interview with Iran's foreign minister. "Iranian Foreign Minister says Iran wants to negotiate with The United States, but wants sanctions removed. @FoxNews @OANN No Thanks!" Trump tweeted in English on Saturday and later in Farsi. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Sunday by tweeting an excerpt from the interview with Der Spiegel published on Friday, where he said Iran is still open to negotiations with America if sanctions are lifted.
The Iran nuclear deal empowered the country to step up the developing of traditional weapons and has created more destruction in the Middle East, the Saudi deputy defense minister said. The Iranian regime increased the budgets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and the Houthis, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said in an interview with Vice Media Saturday. "There were way more ballistic missiles launched at the Kingdom after the nuclear deal than before," he said.
The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell on Friday extended the time available to discuss ways to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran under a dispute mechanism triggered by France, Germany and Britain. Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran on Jan. 14 of violating the terms of its 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program, which eventually could lead to the reimposing of U.N. sanctions lifted under the deal. "There is agreement that more time is needed due to the complexity of the issues involved. The timeline is therefore extended," Borrell said in a statement.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's Petropars will develop phase 11 of South Pars, the world's largest gas field, after the withdrawal of French oil major Total and the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), Iran's oil minister was quoted as saying on Saturday. "Now with the exit of the other two companies from the contract, Petropars has completely taken their place and the development of the first unit of phase 11 of South Pars has been given to this company," Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by ICANA, the Iranian parliament's news site.
The U.S. added four foreign companies to its Iran blacklist Thursday after they reportedly transferred hundreds of millions to the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company for oil exports. Two of the companies are based in Hong Kong, one in Shanghai, and the fourth in Dubai. By placing the firms on the blacklist, the U.S. can freeze their American-held assets and halt any American business dealings with them. "This is simply another step in the economic terrorism the U.S. is engaging in against Iranians," Alireza Miryousefi, Iran's U.N. mission spokesman, told The Wall Street Journal.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's only female Olympic medalist said on Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country. Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there. "Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind," Ms Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran is not ruling out negotiations with the United States even after an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, the country's foreign minister said in an interview released Saturday. Mohammed Javad Zarif told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine that he would "never rule out the possibility that people will change their approach and recognize the realities," in an interview conducted Friday in Tehran. There has been growing tension between Washington and Tehran since in 2018, when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Iranians should not allow U.S. President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" approach to harm national unity ahead of parliamentary elections, President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech, lashing out at hardliners over mass disqualification of candidates. Iran's clerical rulers face challenges in keeping the economy afloat under increasingly tough U.S. sanctions imposed by Washington after it withdrew in 2018 from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Vital oil exports have been slashed.
A new poll shows Americans are more likely than not to support President Donald Trump's decision to order a drone strike that killed an Iranian general, even amid widespread skepticism about his foreign policy overall. The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was taken about two weeks after the Jan. 3 strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. It found that 41% of Americans approved of the action while 30% disapproved of it. The rest didn't express an opinion either way.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Just before dawn on Sept. 14, more than two dozen small drones and cruise missiles descended on Saudi Arabia's state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, evading American-made missile defenses and wiping out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production in just hours. The attack, which U.S. and Saudi officials have attributed to Iran, shook the region and highlighted an acute vulnerability as these new types of weapons proliferate.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
On February 21, Iranians will head to the polls to choose members for the country's 290-seat parliament. The vote could not come at a more sensitive time for Iran. The country is still grappling with the chaotic fallout from the United States' assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3. The killing, which pushed the longtime foes to the precipice of an all-out-war, came as Washington tightened sanctions against Tehran as part of a years-long "maximum pressure" campaign that has crippled Iran's economy and driven down its oil exports.
Iran's president warned Monday of threats to the Islamic republic's "democracy and national sovereignty", after a body dominated by his ultra-conservative rivals disqualified thousands of candidates, weeks before elections. President Hassan Rouhani's moderate conservatives and their reformist allies are locked in a public quarrel with the Guardian Council over the disqualification of thousands of candidates -- including 92 sitting MPs.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to resign over the downing of a Ukrainian jet carrying 176 passengers earlier this month, The New York Times reports. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accidentally shot down the passenger plane amid heightened tensions with the United States that have since cooled a bit. A series of communication errors reportedly led to an officer firing missiles at the plane, believing it was a hostile U.S. aircraft. Upon realizing what had actually happened, the IRGC began to cover their tracks, refusing to even tell Rouhani the truth for days.
CHINA & IRAN
Washington's top official for Iran accused China on Friday of financing terrorism by continuing to buy Iranian crude oil and urged Beijing to take the "long view" by siding with the Iranian people rather than the government in Tehran. Speaking the day after the Trump administration sanctioned several Chinese entities over their purchases of Iranian petroleum and crude oil, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said that Washington and Beijing shared the same interests in a more peaceful Middle East.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iranian media have characterized the anti-U.S. demonstrations in Baghdad on Friday January 24 as a "million-strong" show of opposition to Washington and an affirmation of Iran's policies. Some Iranian agencies even went out of their way posting pictures of an earlier demonstration in Karbala to prove the point. Thousands of Iraqis took part in the demonstrations, demanding an end to U.S. military presence in Iraq.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, would like to make an official visit to Iran, he said in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper. Charles however declined to address the tensions relating to the crisis in the British monarchy sparked by his son Prince Harry, who is stepping down from his royal role with his wife Meghan, the paper said. "Yes, obviously I would like to [go to Iran]," he was quoted as saying.