Exiting the 2015 nuclear deal is one of Iran's options, the Iranian president's chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, said on Wednesday, according to the official IRNA news agency. "It was discussed that it's possible some may take Iran's file to the (U.N.) Security Council ... If this happens we will take tougher decisions such as leaving the nuclear deal," said Vaezi, adding that President Hassan Rouhani had previously raised the possibility in a letter to the European powers.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country will never seek nuclear weapons, with or without a treaty in place, and urged European nations not to violate the 2015 deal that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of in 2018. "We have never sought nuclear weapons ... With or without the nuclear deal, we will never seek nuclear weapon," Rouhani said, according to Reuters, which cited the president's Iranian website.
Kelly Craft, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, called out the Security Council in a speech Tuesday, saying the world body continued to criticize Israel but failed to work toward keeping Iran in check. Speaking at the quarterly Security Council debate on the Middle East, which historically has focused solely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Craft said its diplomats needed to be more active when dealing with the Tehran regime.
UANI IN THE NEWS
On January 3, President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) external operations branch. Days later, the regime retaliated by rocketing Iraqi army bases hosting U.S. forces. However, Iran's truly concerning reaction came when it announced an end to all limits on its uranium enrichment capacity, the percentage of enrichment, stockpiling, and research and development.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A U.S. envoy said on Tuesday that Iran would be sending a "very, very negative message" if it quits the 1970 global nuclear non-proliferation treaty after European countries accused it of violating a separate 2015 deal with world powers. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Monday that Tehran would withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if Europeans continued with what he called "their improper behavior" or refered Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its alleged violations of the 2015 deal.
Exiting the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers is one of Iran's options, the Iranian president's chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, said on Wednesday. "It was discussed that it's possible some may take Iran's file to the (UN) Security Council ... If this happens we will take tougher decisions such as leaving the nuclear deal," said Vaezi, according to the official IRNA news agency. He added that President Hassan Rouhani had previously raised the possibility in a letter to the European powers.
The commission overseeing the 2015 deal limiting Iran's nuclear program is "treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves," said Jackie Wolcott, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran's effort to shorten the time to produce a nuke "does not pose an immediate risk," wrote Kelsey Davenport, an expert with the Arms Control Association in the United States. "Currently, due to restrictions put in place by the nuclear deal, the United States estimates that timeline at 12 months," Davenport explained in a July 2019 assessment.
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to make a deal in the Middle East and that could become a reality if he is reelected, according to a Dubai property magnate. "In my view, most of the people in the region are tired of war," Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble Tuesday. "I think there is a good chance of peace happening, a deal happening in the second term of Trump if he gets elected."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has declared that any European attempt to hold Iran to account for stepping back from its nuclear commitments could lead Iran to far more broadly step back from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Zarif may seek to scare Europe into concessions, but his reading of precedent and Iran's ability to simply walk away is severely flawed: While Iran can walk away from the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency, it cannot wipe blank the slate of outstanding concerns.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's annual inflation rate has reached 38.6 percent in the last 12 months compared with the previous 12-month period, the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) announced on Tuesday, January 21. The figure shows a 1.4 percent decline compared with a month earlier when annual inflation stood at 40 percent. However, the drop does not mean prices for goods and services have decreased in Iran. It only shows that inflation has slightly slowed down.
The bank through which Iraq pays for Iranian gas imports to power its grids said Tuesday it would stop processing payments if a crucial US sanctions exemption expires next month. "We'll stop. As simple as that," the head of Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) Faisal al-Haimus told AFP. That could be devastating for Iraq's crippled electricity sector, which has relied on Iran for about a third of its supply, and comes at a time of heightened US-Iran tensions.
General Electric Co has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to help in the investigation of a Ukrainian passenger plane accidentally shot down by Iranian forces, a GE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this month that the department would grant sanction waivers to allow Americans or anyone else to participate in the investigation of the Jan. 8 crash of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 near Tehran that killed all 176 people onboard.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has shifted two preliminary matches in its elite club competition from Iran to neutral venues because of security concerns, Asian soccer's governing body said on Wednesday. Shahr Khodro FC were scheduled to host Bahrain's Riffa and Esteghlal FC were set to play Kuwait SC on Tuesday but both Asian Champions League matches were postponed after several governments issued warnings against traveling to Iran.
Iran confirmed in a report released Tuesday that two Russian-made antiaircraft missiles hit a Ukrainian airliner that was shot down on Jan. 8, killing all 176 aboard. While Iran's Revolutionary Guard had previously admitted it shot down the plane, the report marked the first official acknowledgment that two missiles struck the aircraft, matching amateur videos that surfaced after the Boeing 737-800 went down.
"More important than a military strike, it was a serious blow to dignity, a blow to the dignity of the U.S. as a superpower." That's how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, described recent missile strikes against bases in Iraq housing American troops during a rare Friday prayer sermon in Tehran last week. Earlier, Khamenei likened the strikes to a "slap" against America. While Iranian officials are no stranger to bombast and invective against the U.S., Iran's broadcasting of the missile strike, and Khamenei's repeated touting of it, does not neatly comport with Tehran's long-established preference for proxy warfare and deniability.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
"I am entirely alone in Iran," she wrote in one letter. "In addition to all the pain I have endured here, I feel like I am abandoned and forgotten." Those words were written by a British-Australian academic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been held in an Iranian prison for more than a year - including long stretches of solitary confinement - in a series of letters published by British news outlets this week. Ms. Moore-Gilbert was detained in Iran in September 2018 while attending a conference.
One photograph from among the dozens showing young Iranians protesting the shooting down of Ukrainian aircraft, has stayed with me over the past few days and weeks. I find myself returning to the image, which captures a single moment in time: a young woman is bravely confronting, even admonishing, a policeman in full riot gear, energetically wagging her finger as he stares blankly. She is bursting with anger, while he looks out of ideas.
A British-Australian academic jailed in Iran said she refused an offer from Tehran to become a spy in exchange for her release, according to media reports. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University, was imprisoned for 10 years in September 2018 on espionage charges. She is being held in an isolated wing of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, The Guardian reported. In a series of letters spanning June 2019 to December 2019 that were smuggled out of the prison, Moore-Gilbert said she'd been denied visits and phone calls.
An Iranian student was turned away from Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday, sparking protests over the latest in a growing number of cases of international students blocked from entering the United States amid heightened diplomatic tensions with Iran. Shahab Dehghani, 24, who was planning to study economics at Northeastern University, arrived in Boston on Sunday night with a valid student visa but was held at the airport overnight for questioning and put back on a plane to Iran the next evening.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A U.S. envoy on Tuesday called an Iranian lawmaker's offer of a $3 million reward to anyone who killed U.S. President Donald Trump "ridiculous" and said it pointed to the "terrorist underpinnings" of the Iranian government. "It's just ridiculous but it gives you a sense of the terrorist underpinnings of that regime and that regime needs to change its behavior," Robert Wood, U.S. disarmament ambassador, told reporters in Geneva.
Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq for closer evaluation of potential concussion injuries from the Iranian missile attack of Jan. 8, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. The exact number of troops flown to Germany was not immediately clear, but officials said it was a small number. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because some details were still being sorted out. Last week, 11 U.S. service members were flown from Iraq to U.S. medical facilities in Germany and Kuwait for further evaluation of concussion-like symptoms.
The media told us that Qassem Soleimani was beloved, but they weren't telling the truth. The media told us that President Trump's strike on Soleimani would unify Iran behind its terrorist regime, but they weren't telling the truth there either. In recent days, we've seen the people of Iran rise up to refute the propaganda that Soleimani was a beloved general and unequivocally condemn a corrupt government that wastes billions on terror adventurism around the world.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Masked gunmen on Wednesday ambushed and killed the local commander of a paramilitary security force in southwestern Iran, an associate of Iran's top general recently killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad, the official IRNA news agency reported. The slain commander, Abdolhossein Mojaddami, headed the Basij forces, a paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard used for internal security and other tasks, in the town of Darkhoein. He was gunned down in front of his home in the town in the country's oil rich Khuzestan province.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may be spread too thin to handle both a large-scale regional conflict and major domestic unrest, according to a report. Iran's Reserve of Last Resort: Uncovering the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces Order of Battle, the report from the American Enterprise Institute examines the IRGC's command structure and its responsibilities both domestic and foreign. "We think that the regime could face a dilemma at a certain point if it were stressed in the region and also stressed by domestic unrest that rose to the level where it actually needed to use IRGC ground forces units," co-author Fred Kagan told the Washington Examiner.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised three South American countries on Monday for designating Lebanon's Hezbollah as a terrorist group, though criticized Venezuela for giving the group a haven. "We applaud the announcements of Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala to designate #Iran-backed #Hizballah [sic] a terrorist organization. It and other transnational terrorist groups remain active in the region. The U.S. continues to rally international support to counter these threats," tweeted Pompeo.
IRAQ & IRAN
"Militias kidnapped my son," shouts Umm Mohammad, a 43-year-old mother of two, under a tent awning in central Baghdad. "Why isn't anyone doing anything?" Businesses around here have been closed for months as full-time protest camps occupy Tahrir Square and the surrounding area. Roads are shut down, and a tower of Iraqi flags resembling a Christmas tree blows in the wind. The only vehicles are motorcycles and three-wheeled Tuk-Tuk cars. Most of the protesters' demands have not wavered since the demonstrations began in October.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran said it had asked the US and French authorities for equipment to download information from black boxes on a downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially angering countries that want the recorders analyzed abroad. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, which lost 57 of the 176 people killed in the crash, said Iran did not have the ability to read the data and he demanded the cockpit and flight recorders should be sent to France. Kiev wants the recorders sent to Ukraine.
A cyberattack was launched against Gulf computer networks late last month. The nature of the attack indicated that it was a long time in the making - the attackers had apparently gained access to the targeted networks months earlier and lain dormant until Dec. 29, when the malware was launched, in the form of a "wiper" that erased data on the systems it was able to penetrate. Cybersecurity experts believe this attack came from Iran, as it was almost identical to cyberattacks Tehran had launched in the past.