Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said Wednesday it detained two Europeans as a European Union envoy visits the country over its stalled nuclear negotiations with world powers. The announcement by the ministry, during the visit of EU envoy Enrique Mora, comes as Tehran already is threatening to execute an Iranian-Swedish researcher imprisoned since 2016, and as another Iranian national faces a life sentence in Sweden. Iran long has faced allegations it uses its arrests as a bargaining chip with the West. Tehran denies that, though negotiations around its landmark 2015 nuclear deal saw Americans freed in a swap. Meanwhile Wednesday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard reportedly attacked Kurdish positions in northern Iraq.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards shelled an area north of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil on Wednesday, targeting what Iranian state television described as terrorist bases. Iraqi Kurdish media reported that an artillery shell had landed in a village in the Sidekan area near the Iranian border, around 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Erbil. The Iranian state TV said no casualties had been reported and details of the attack would be announced shortly. Iran's Tasnim news agency said the Guards have previously targeted Iranian Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq.
The US still considers Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “You’ve heard from the Secretary [of State Antony Blinken] that the IRGC has conducted terrorist attacks. Clearly, we’re concerned by the threat that the IRGC poses,” Price told Al Arabiya in an interview from the State Department. Reports have suggested that one of the major sticking points that has prevented a return to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the West has been Tehran’s demand to have the IRGC’s terror designation revoked.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council puts out a tweet in Hebrew on the negotiations to restore the accord limiting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Noting EU Enrique Mora is due to visit Iran, Ali Shamkhani says there has been progress in talks on removing sanctions and economic development, “which demonstrate the high capability of people for great action and government control of the most important matters.”
The head of the United Nations' atomic watchdog said on Tuesday Iran was dragging its feet on information about uranium particles found at old undeclared sites in the country, raising the prospect of a clash on the issue in June. Talks to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been on hold since March, chiefly over Tehran's insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its elite security force, from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran will need to import at least 7 million tonnes of wheat in the year to March 2023, marking a second year of high imports as drought continues to affect domestic production, the chairman of Iran's Grain Union said on Tuesday. Kaveh Zargaran gave the forecast in a conference presentation, extracts of which were passed to Reuters by his office. Iran's Grain Union estimates that the country imported a record 8 million tonnes of wheat in the previous year to March 2022, Zargaran's office said.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Three accomplices of an Iranian intelligence chief who masterminded a botched attack on a conference of dissidents in France on Tuesday lost their appeals against conviction for the parts they played in the bomb plot. The trio included a husband and wife, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who claimed they had been pressured by Iranian intelligence services to plant an explosive device at the meeting, which took place on the outskirts of Paris in June 2018. The bombing attempt failed after a joint operation by German, French and Belgian police led to the arrest of the couple in Brussels and the recovery of the explosive device from their car.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran is attempting to inflict “revenge” against the United States over the assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, according to the director of national intelligence. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who served in then-President Donald Trump’s Cabinet when Soleimani was killed, has been a target of Iran, his successor Antony Blinken told Congress last month. Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, attributed Iran's efforts against current and former U.S. officials as an attempt to avenge Soleimani’s January 2020 death in Iraq, where he was killed in an American strike.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The daughter of Iran's former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani faces prosecution over social media comments on the Revolutionary Guards and the Prophet Mohammed, the judiciary said Tuesday. Faezeh Hashemi, 59, is "summoned by the prosecutor over these two affairs," judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodayian told a news conference, quoted by the service's Mizan Online website. Khodayian referred to "remarks by Faezeh Hashemi on sanctions against revolutionary institutions and the insult against the Prophet.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed an Iranian credit line during a surprise visit to Tehran on Sunday, Syrian local media reported. The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that Assad had signed a “new phase” of the credit line, which included supplying Syria with energy and other basic materials to fill the shortage. A credit line is a flexible loan from a bank or financial institution, with a defined amount of money that can be accessed as needed and then repaid immediately or over a specified period of time.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iran on Tuesday described as "unacceptable" upstream dam-building by neighboring Turkey on shared waterways, calling on its neighbor to cease such activity. "Turkey's construction of dams on the border waters is unacceptable and we oppose it," Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. He told parliament that the issue had been raised "at least three times these past months during two face-to-face meetings in New York and Tehran and a phone call with the Turkish foreign minister to express our disapproval.