Iranian conservatives on Monday celebrate the 40th anniversary of an event that has poisoned U.S.-Iran relations, and introduced what has become a frequent Iranian tactic: detaining foreigners as political pawns. Since a mob of Iranian students during the 1979 Islamic Revolution climbed the walls of the American Embassy in Tehran and took 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days, Iran has routinely imprisoned foreigners, including Americans.
Iran is still the "world's worst state sponsor of terrorism" and Al Qaeda wants to reestablish itself as the "vanguard of the global jihadist movement," the State Department said in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, which was released Friday. The Tehran regime has spent nearly $1 billion per year to support terror groups "that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe," the State Department said. Those groups include Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Iran is launching a new array of 30 advanced IR-6 centrifuges on Monday, the country's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state television, scaling back Tehran's commitments under a nuclear agreement with major powers. "Today, we are witnessing the launch of the array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges," Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said. He added that the move would show Iran's "capacity and determination". The United States last year withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and reimposed sanctions.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Embassy Seizure Four Decades Ago Leaves A Legacy Of Bitterness Between Iran And The United States | UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace And UANI Advisory Board Member Barry Rosen For The Washington Post
Barry Rosen, the press attache at the embassy who was among those taken captive, will spend Monday on Capitol Hill speaking on a United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) panel about the continuing animosity. He said the bitterness he sees coming from Washington and Tehran seems more profound than ever. That is particularly true among the former captives, he said. Mark Wallace, the head of UANI, said the hostage crisis may rarely be mentioned anymore, but the view of Iran as a hostile adversary is drilled into the American psyche. In echoes of 1979, when Iranians called the embassy and its jailed diplomats " den of espionage," at least five American citizens are imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges considered baseless. "It started with hostage-taking in the embassy, and we have people held hostage there right now," Wallace said.
The organization United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) complained in a January 2019 letter to the executives of IMAG and Messe München about their business with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US government classifies Iran's regime the top state-sponsor of terrorism. Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, the head of UANI, wrote that: "IMAG should not organize, participate or otherwise have any role in U.S.-based conferences while it continues to faciliate platforms for sanction-designated Iranian persons and entities and for foreign companies investing in a country whose official mantra is 'death to America.' Be assured UANI will not hesitate to shine the light of public scrutiny on any company that continues to do business in the United States and in Iran." Wallace added that "IMAG's ongoing facilitation of these pro-Iran conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions, even after the U.S. reimposed sweeping secondary sanctions on every major sector of the Iranian economy on November 5, 2018, is assuredly egregious. Ultimately, IMAG is perfectly free to choose where to do business: Either in Iran or in the United States, but not both."
The Trump administration has frozen all military aid to the Lebanese army, including a package worth $105 million that both the State Department and Congress approved in September, congressional officials said Friday. "We still have U.S. interests in the region, and losing our toehold there - no matter how slim it may be now - will prevent us, in the future, from steering things in a better way for us and for Lebanon," said David Daoud, a Hezbollah analyst at United Against Nuclear Iran, which advocates tougher United States policies on Iran. "Does that mean we should be O.K. with what the L.A.F. is doing now?" he added. "Absolutely not. There should be more accountability, there should be a little bit more tough love, but to cut off the aid would be, I think, counterproductive for our interests."
For two weeks, Lebanon has been witnessing countrywide protests demanding the downfall of the current government. Unprecedented for Lebanon, the protests-encompassing around 2 million people or approximately half the country's citizens-are pan-sectarian and non-partisan, demanding economic reform and the dismantling of the sectarian system that has dominated the country since its inception. Despite the display of national unity, this uprising doesn't portend the downfall of the dominant sectarian parties, least of all the militant group Hezbollah."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The head of Iran's nuclear program says that Tehran is working on a prototype centrifuge that's 50 times faster than those allowed under the nuclear deal with world powers. The comments by Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday came as Iranians mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover and start of the 444-day hostage crisis. Salehi says the prototype is called an IR-9 and that it would be as 50-times faster than the first-generation IR-1s allowed under the accord.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The "repetitive" U.S. sanctions on Iran are a sign of diplomatic weakness and inefficiency and should be dropped, the Islamic Republic's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on messaging app Telegram. Mousavi also called on the U.S. to meet its nuclear agreement pledges. The latest wave of U.S. sanctions targeted the construction sector and the country's elaborate missile programs, with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo saying the decision is intended to keep a close watch on Iran's civil nuclear program and constrain its ability to shorten its "breakout time" for a nuclear weapon.
Iran signed a preliminary agreement with Syria on Saturday to help rebuild the Arab ally's electricity grid, Iranian state media reported, as Tehran seeks a deepening economic role after years of the Syrian conflict. A memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' electricity ministers in Tehran covered the construction of power plants, transmission lines, cutting losses in Syria's electricity network, and the possibility of connecting the two countries' grids through Iraq, the state news agency IRNA said.
Italy is set to ban flights by Iran's Mahan Air, an Iranian industry official said on Saturday, as the United States seeks action against the airline accused by the West of transporting military equipment and personnel to Middle East war zones. Germany and France have both already banned flights by the airline, and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early October that Rome was set to make a decision on whether to follow suit.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying on Monday that he expects further production cuts to be agreed at the next meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in December. "We expect the decline in oil production to increase further, which means that we will see a further decrease by OPEC to the market," Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Zanganeh as saying when asked about the next OPEC meeting.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday (November 1) said the U.S. is working with its allies to ensure adequate oil supply in the market so as to offset sanctions on Iran. Mnuchin is in India as part of a tour to build support against Iran over its nuclear programme and its ties to militant networks. On Wednesday (October 30), the United States and six Gulf countries agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals linked to Iran's support for militant networks including Hezbollah.
The Islamic Republic's reputation is in no way smeared with money laundering, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on November 3, while admitting that money laundering in the country amounts to billions of dollars. Summoned by Majles (parliament) for questioning, Zarif told lawmakers that his previous comments on money laundering had also been repeated by several other officials.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
They came dressed in black and wielding sticks. Images emerged on social media of men widely believed to be supporters of powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah tearing through a camp of anti-government protesters in Beirut on Oct. 29, smashing chairs and setting fire to tents. Meanwhile, the anti-corruption protesters regularly can be heard chanting slogans against Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Iran-backed militia and political party's leader.
The secretary of a religious watchdog office in Iran has admitted that since the establishment of the Islamic Republic four decades ago (1979), the authorities have executed 15,000 people for drug-related crimes. The mid-ranking clergy, Jalil Mohebbi, presented the data in a session attended by the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" near the old U.S. embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary on the seizure of the mission, with the country's army chief comparing the United States with a poisonous scorpion intent on harming Iran. State television showed crowds packing the streets around the former mission, dubbed the "den of spies" after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Marches and rallies were being held in some 1,000 communities across the country, state media said.
Iran's supreme leader poured scorn on French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday for trying to promote talks between the United States and Iran. "The French president, who says a meeting will end all the problems between Tehran and America, is either naive or complicit with America," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks reported by state television. Macron tried to arrange a failed meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
Iran has unveiled new murals painted on exterior walls of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran ahead of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the embassy. Among the paintings is a depiction of the Statue of Liberty with an arm cut off and the shooting down of a U.S. drone, which is illustrated with bats flying out of it. They can be seen by drivers and pedestrians passing by. Iran will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover on Monday by staging a rally in front of the compound.
On Nov. 4, 1979, hundreds of Iranian students surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The crowd brushed past the Marine guard, stormed the Embassy and took dozens of American diplomats hostage. The ensuing crisis lasted 444 days, playing out on televisions and morphing into a national trauma. Even 40 years later, the Iran hostage crisis remains for many Americans the most indelible memory of Iran - what Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution has called the "foundation for American understanding," a chaotic act illustrating the "fundamental irrationality" of Iran's revolutionary leadership.
Iran will not lift its ban on talks with the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, describing the two countries as implacable foes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. "One way to block America's political infiltration is to ban any talks with America. It means Iran will not yield to America's pressure," Khamenei, who is Iran's top authority, was quoted by state TV as saying. "Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong,"
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Hardliners in Iran including civilian and military officials have been observed in recent weeks trying to win hearts and minds by appeasing the underprivileged segments of the population, pledging their support for the people in the face of economic hardships, and showcasing what they have been doing to improve the situation. Some have even gone out of their way taking the extra mile to respond to calls for respect for human rights and trying to alleviate unfair pressures on politically active parts of the population such as workers and human rights activists.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The anti-corruption protests that have swept Lebanon over the past two weeks have a remarkable and little-noted feature: They're in open defiance of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that dominates Lebanese politics. And there's another aspect of this reform movement that's highly unusual for a Middle East that often seems addicted to bad news: It appears to be succeeding, at least initially.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran said Saturday it has sent Iraq and Arab states of the Gulf the text of its security and cooperation project first unveiled by President Hassan Rouhani at the UN in September. Rouhani "sent the full text (of the initiative) to the heads" of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iraq and "asked for their cooperation in processing and implementing it", the foreign ministry said. The GCC is a six-nation bloc that groups Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the city of Karbala, in the latest sign of mounting anger against Tehran's involvement in the country's affairs. Protesters scaled the consulate's walls late Sunday while hauling an Iraqi flag. Security forces fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters who were throwing Molotov cocktails over the wall, video footage witnesses provided to The Wall Street Journal showed. The attack on the consulate came days after Iraq's top cleric warned foreign powers, including Iran, not to interfere in Iraq.
Iraqi security forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters trying to break into the Iranian consulate in the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Kerbala overnight, killing three, security and medical sources said on Monday. Burning tyres and chanting "Iran out, Kerbala remains free," the crowd assembled in front of the consulate late on Sunday. "We came here today to revolt and hold a protest in front of the Iranian consulate. We came to pull down the Iranian flag and lift the Iraqi flag instead," said one protester in Kerbala who refused to be identified.
To understand what Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is saying, you have to translate him twice: first from Arabic to English, then from politesse to plain-speak. In the first translation, a key passage from his Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala went like this: "No person or group, no side with a particular view, no regional or international actor may seize the will of the Iraqi people and impose its will on them." The second translation: "Back off, Khamenei!"
Head of the Islamic Republic Civil Defense Organization says the United States has declared a cyberwar against Iran. Speaking before the sermons at the Friday Prayer ceremony in Tehran, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali reiterated that the U.S. has "officially declared cyberwar" against the Islamic Republic. "In the infrastructural layer of the cyberwar," Jalali maintained, "The Americans for the first time announced that they had attacked Iran's infrastructural layers of marine, energy, natural gas, and electricity, to retaliate for their drone downed by Iranian forces."