Germany’s federal intelligence agency on Tuesday released a report detailing security threats faced by the federal republic in 2020, ranging from Iran’s drive to obtain illicit technology for its nuclear weapons program to its increased attempts to secure material for its missile program. The report revealed a significant increase in membership and support for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah, who are active in Germany. The Jerusalem Post examined the 420-page German-language report for The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution—the formal name for the national intelligence agency.
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.
Iranian hackers have upgraded their capabilities to carry out cyber attacks against foreign targets, it is feared. A German intelligence agency said attacks emanating from Iran had hit targets in Europe and the US as well as Tehran’s regional rivals. The targets in Europe included politicians, government officials, businesses, scientists and researchers. A fighter belonging to Iraq's PMF paramilitary forces stands guard at the group's headquarters in Baghdad. AFP Iran-backed militias display long-range drone power in regional escalation
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives is demanding the Biden administration have Congress review and assess any new nuclear deal with Iran, citing a 2015 law. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and other Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. “We are writing to remind you of the Administration’s statutory obligations to provide Congress with an opportunity to review and assess any nuclear agreement that you reach with Iran,” they wrote in the letter.
Iran has made 6.5 kg (14 lb) of uranium enriched to up to 60%, the government said on Tuesday, detailing a move that rattled the country's nuclear talks with world powers by taking the fissile material a step towards nuclear weapons-grade of 90%. Government spokesman Ali Rabiei was quoted by state media as saying the country had also produced 108 kg of uranium enriched to 20% purity, indicating quicker output than the rate required by the Iranian law that created the process. Iran said in April it would begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move that would take the uranium much closer to the 90% suitable for a nuclear bomb, after Tehran accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site.
Since Iran and the U.S. held more talks this week to try to revive their nuclear deal, with some progress reported, I want to share my views on this subject: I supported the original deal negotiated by Barack Obama in 2015. I did not support Donald Trump’s tearing it up in 2018, but when he did I hoped that he’d leverage the economic pain he inflicted to persuade Iran to improve the deal. Trump failed at that, leaving Iran free to get closer than ever to a bomb. I support Joe Biden trying to revive the deal. And I support Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s ability to ever build a nuclear weapon — no matter what the deal.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A prominent contender in Iran's presidential election appealed Tuesday for better economic and political relations with the West, his most extensive attempt yet to attract reformist voters just days ahead of the poll. Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, among the seven candidates allowed on the ballot for Friday's vote, has no official ties to any political faction but is positioning himself as the likely candidate for moderate and reform-minded voters.
Leading Iranian moderate presidential candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Tuesday Iran could hold talks with longtime arch-foe the United States if Washington adhered to "positive coexistence" with Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state in Iran, has repeatedly ruled out negotiations with the United States, with which it has had no diplomatic relations since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. But Tehran has been holding indirect talks on reviving its 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and world powers that was abandoned by Washington in 2018.
U.S. President Joe Biden voiced support on Tuesday to speed up approval of the financial transfers needed to deliver more food and medicines to Iran through a Swiss humanitarian channel, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said. Cassis, speaking to a news conference after the 30-minute talks with Biden in Geneva, said: "The trouble is it hasn't been used enough, and why? Because there are transfers of funds that still require approval, and I think on this the U.S. is willing to accelerate their decisions so that this channel can be used to its full effect." Only a trickle of deals has gone through so far.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The only reformist candidate in Iran’s upcoming presidential election dropped out of the race Wednesday on the last day of campaigning, state media reported, likely trying to boost the chances of a moderate candidate. Mohsen Mehralizadeh, 64, resigned in a letter to Iran’s Interior Ministry, which runs elections in the Islamic Republic, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Such dropouts are common in Iranian presidential elections in order to boost the chances of similar candidates.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reached out to all Iranians to participate in Friday's presidential election, which has been lamented as a one-sided race fixed by powerful hard-liners. In a video message posted on Instagram, Zarif told Iranians that their vote would accelerate the lifting of Western sanctions, which have pushed the Iranian economy to the edge of collapse and triggered widespread public discontent and disillusionment.
In the Persian puppet theater known as Shah Selim Bazi, tragicomic tales of court intrigue gave audiences a glimpse into the mind of their ruler and the workings of his administration. Behind the screen, the strings were pulled by the “morshed,” or spiritual leader, who also served as narrator. This allowed him to manipulate not only the marionettes but also public opinion. It is tempting to view Iranian presidential elections as a variation of this form, with the ruler himself playing the morshed.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
In an interview on the “Uvda” TV program last week, former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Israel’s operations in Iran were carried out by a “Mossad operational team” whose operatives speak “foreign languages.” From the questions and answers in this revealing interview, as well as from Cohen’s body language and self-satisfied smiles, it was easy to conclude that the “team” that participated in the daring operation to steal Iran’s military nuclear archive on January 31, 2018, was composed of foreigners.