Iran-backed militias in Iraq have revealed a collection of long-range drones that could hit other countries in the region, including Israel. On Sunday, video footage emerged of Iraqi groups in the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella organisation of militias, parading an array of apparently new unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Most PMF groups are trained, advised and equipped by Iran, although they have formal status in Iraq's armed forces. “What I found interesting is that they showed Sammad/UAV-X type drones.
Iranians elect a new president on Friday in a race dominated by hardline candidates close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with popular anger over economic hardship and curbs on freedoms set to keep many pro-reform Iranians at home. The front-runner in a carefully vetted field is Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judge seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security establishment at its most fearsome. But the authorities' hopes for a high turnout and a boost to their legitimacy may be disappointed, as official polls suggest only about 40% of over 59 million eligible Iranians will vote.
Iran warned there was “little time left” for world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal as efforts to clinch an agreement before key elections failed to overcome the main sticking points over the weekend. Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said “technical, political, legal and practical issues remain,” while insisting there was no impasse at the talks in Vienna. He said a broad agreement to lift U.S. sanctions on Iran’s industrial sectors, including energy, had been reached but gave no details.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Delegations from Russia and the United States involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran held talks in Vienna on Monday, two days ahead of a summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States is not directly involved in the Vienna negotiations but has regular contacts with participating diplomats. Efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear containment deal for Iran are a rare topic of collaboration between the two global adversaries.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Ebrahim Raisi's record of fierce loyalty to Iran's ruling clerics helps explain why the senior judge is a front-runner in Friday's presidential election, a contest the authorities have limited almost exclusively to hardline candidates like him. A win for Raisi, 60, an implacable critic of the West whose political patron is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would burnish his chances of one day succeeding Khamenei at the pinnacle of power, analysts say.
Iran will hold its presidential election on Friday, and at least one analyst considers it the year’s most important political event for the oil market. “We look at this election as the most important political milestone of 2021 for the global oil market,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at Raymond James, noting that the event has failed to garner much attention in the U.S. or international media, despite its importance. Iran’s current President Hassan Rouhani has been in office since 2013, but by law cannot seek a third term.
NATO leaders on Monday agreed to step up their collective defence "against all threats, from all directions," according to their final statement. NATO said it would adapt to climate-reated security challenges, called on Russia to drop its designation of two allies - the United States and the Czech Republic - as "unfriendly countries" and committed funds to the Kabul airport. It said it would respond to Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and called on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Reentering the Iranian nuclear deal is a “death wish” for Israel and the world, former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Monday. “The idea right now that you have multiple countries around the world, including the United States, looking to figure out how to redo this Iran deal is nothing more than a death wish for Israel and eventually a death wish for the world,” she said during a conversation with a select group of reporters from her Jerusalem hotel.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
“The defense ministry has achieved a major task today in supplying two ships to the Islamic Republic of Iran — the destroyer Dena and a minesweeper,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech. The delivery of the two ships came after Iran announced on Thursday that it had “for the first time” sent a small squadron of ships into the Atlantic Ocean, with the goal of “reinforcing its maritime capabilities.” According to a statement by the army chief of staff, the Dena “is an entirely Iranian destroyer,” equipped with a “helicopter landing zone” and a “range of defense and attack systems.”
Last Thursday’s Washington Post report that Russia is preparing to provide Iran with an advanced satellite that would enable it to track potential military targets across the Middle East sent shudders through much of the region. According to the report, Moscow would launch and then deliver control of a Kanopus-V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera to Iran within months. Anonymous Israeli officials told KAN that they were concerned by the report, while US officials in public did little to dispel the mystery surrounding the issue.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The winner of Iran's presidential election will face a host of tough challenges once he takes over from Hassan Rouhani in August. Seven men are running in the June 18 vote, with a possible run-off on June 25. The ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi is seen most likely to win after his strongest rivals were disqualified and would take over the post in a country where ultimate power rests with the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Here are the five top issues the next president will have to address.
Mehdi Karroubi, the 2009 presidential candidate who was put under house arrest for challenging the result of those elections, has urged Iranians to vote despite the shortcomings of the election process. According to his son Hossein, Karroubi said this year’s disqualifications were “unprecedented.” Well-known moderate candidates such as Ali Larijani and Eshaq Jahangiri and former conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were all disqualified from running for the presidency.
Iran’s presidential election on Friday, though likely more a coronation for a hard-line candidate long cultivated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, still carries implications for a wider Middle East already roiled by years of tensions between Tehran and the West. Khamenei holds final say over Iran’s military and its nuclear program, but the presidency does control domestic matters such as the economy, and serves as the public face of the Islamic Republic.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his final speech in front of the Knesset Sunday to vow a swift return to office, attack his replacement and call out the Biden administration’s effort to revive the nuke deal with Iran. Netanyahu, 71, stepped aside for the new coalition government led by Naftali Bennett, who became the new prime minister after a 60-59 vote. President Biden quickly congratulated the new government. Bennett’s office said he later spoke by phone with Biden, thanking him for his warm wishes and long-standing commitment to Israel's security.
The day after the installation of a new government in Israel, Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday expressed skepticism that there would be any change in its policies under fresh leadership. “Iran’s enemies are gone and powerful Iran is still here,” a ministry spokesman said, according to a report by the Reuters news agency. “I don’t think Israel’s policies will change with the new government.” In a speech to the Knesset shortly before he was confirmed as premier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the nationalist, right-wing Yamina party said his attitude toward Iran matches that of outgoing leader Benjamin Netanyahu.