Tehran is showcasing what the Islamic Republic's supporters dub as "achievements" that ensure its "independence and progress" as the Islamic revolution's 41st anniversary approaches on February 11. During the days ahead of the anniversary the state TV features images of inauguration of dams, covering dirt roads with tarmac, or erecting telecommunication towers.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani asked his top aides and lawmakers to draft a bill revising the election-related powers of the Guardian Council, one of the Islamic Republic's most powerful institutions, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Rouhani instructed his first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, to work with his top legal advisers and parliamentarians to review the ability of the council -- a 12-member chamber of clerics and legal scholars -- to vet and disqualify potential candidates for elections, IRNA reported.
Iran will support Palestinian armed groups as much as it can, Iran's Supreme Leader said on Wednesday, urging Palestinians to confront a U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. "We believe that Palestinian armed organizations will stand and continue resistance and the Islamic Republic sees supporting Palestinian groups as its duty," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech, the text of which appeared on his website. "So it will support them however it can and as much as it can and this support is the desire of the Islamic system and the Iranian nation."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has yet to ramp up its atomic output following its decision last month to scrap all commitments to the 2015 international nuclear accord, according to the head of the UN agency monitoring Tehran's atomic programme. The atomic watchdog's assessment reflects the precarious line Iran is treading after Washington killed one of Tehran's top generals in Iraq. The restraint underlines Tehran's hesitation to seal the death of a nuclear deal the US withdrew from in 2018, but which has kept open the door to working relations with the European signatories to counter swingeing Washington sanctions.
The new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned Iran there would be serious consequences if there is any repeat of last year's detention of an IAEA inspector. Speaking to journalists on his first official trip to Washington as IAEA director general, Rafael Grossi said he had met a senior Iranian official inVienna in December and expressed his concern over what he described as a "grave" incident.
Members of the Space Force helped track and detect the Iranian ballistic missiles that struck an Iraqi air base last month, the fledgling military service's vice commander said today. The Pentagon could use the Space Force's early display of capabilities as a pitch to Middle East allies looking to join forces in future galactic fights. "We're getting a lot of positive feedback," Shawn Barnes, the Pentagon's acting assistant secretary for space acquisition, said in response to a question from Al-Monitor, adding that the United States had hosted a summit for allies last week.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian President's Chief-of-Staff Mahmoud Vaezi on Wednesday said the administration has been informed of the death toll of the November protests but the announcement has to be made by the Coroner's Office and the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces. Speaking at the sideline of a cabinet meeting Vaezi said the administration has the information but is not responsible for its announcement.
Reports compiled by a Kurdish rights organization indicate the Iranian government had executed at least 36 citizens in January alone on convictions of illicit drug trade and premeditated murder. The notorious Rajai Shahr Prison, located south of the capital of Tehran, carried out 13 out of 36 of the sentences while the rest were implemented in other facilities across the country, Hengaw - a group that mostly writes on human rights violations involving Kurds in Iran - reported on Tuesday. The report was a compilation of data from organizations dedicated to writing on human rights issues in Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said America was a terrorist and committed terrorist acts, in a speech broadcast live on state TV, pointing to economic sanctions. Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States since top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting the Islamic Republic to retaliate with a missile attack against a U.S. base in Iraq days later.
The wife and son of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, who was killed in 2008 by a roadside bomb in Iraq likely supplied by Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, are calling for aid from lawmakers and the Department of Justice in their legal case against some of the banks that funded Soleimani's terror efforts. Appearing on "America's Newsroom" with hosts Sandra Smith and Ed Henry, Kelli Hake and 13-year-old Gage said that terror law is being incorrectly interpreted by the court system.
Last night, as President Trump's guest in the House gallery, I had the singular honor of representing more than a thousand families of fallen and wounded service members for a portion of the State of the Union that briefly bridged our deep political divide. I watched Republicans and Democrats recognize the sacrifice of the many Americans whose lives were forever changed by the evil work of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian master-terrorist ultimately responsible for the death of my husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, and the killing or maiming of many other Americans.
Iran's top leader said Wednesday that Donald Trump's Mideast plan will not outlive the president, state media reported. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his first remarks since the plan was unveiled last week, predicted the deal will fall apart in Trump's lifetime. "This plan will die before the death of Trump," he said. "Hence, the coming and going and expenditures for it, and unveiling it, is a stupid move." Khamenei said Iran will continue to support Palestinian armed groups as much as possible. "We believe armed Palestinian organizations will resist" the plan.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is involved in training recruits to believe that jihad can be an offensive ideology and that thousands of young Shi'ites across the Middle East should answer Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei's calls for military strikes, a new report shows. Titled 'Beyond Borders: The Expansionist Ideology of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' and published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the report looks deeply at Iran's training of IRGC members.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The son of a cleric whose teachings helped shape the Islamic republic, Ali Motahhari, 62, has for more than a decade been a member of parliament and a leading figure in the Iranian political establishment. But even these impeccable revolutionary credentials failed to prevent his disqualification from participation in this month's Iranian parliamentary elections. More than 90 sitting MPs, including conservatives and hundreds of reformist candidates, have been told they cannot contest the polls.
"There are lots of problems in the country, some of which are due to sanctions and some are due to mismanagement," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted in an address to loyalists in the capital Tehran Feb. 5. "Despite all that, people will come to the battlefield on election day, because it is about the dignity of the establishment and the country's security." Khamenei made the speech ahead of Iran's parliamentary polls scheduled for Feb. 21. But the run-up to the vote has already been marked by serious questions after sweeping eliminations of moderate and Reformist political forces have made a parliament dominated by hard-liners inevitable.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a high turnout in a February parliamentary election, the YJC news site, which is affiliated with Iran's state TV, reported on Wednesday. "Any person who has an affinity for Iran and its security must take part in the election," Khamenei said, according to YJC.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes early on Thursday near Damascus, wounding eight soldiers, Syrian state media said, while an opposition war monitoring group said the strikes targeted army positions as well as Iran-backed fighters, killing 12. The state news agency SANA said the Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles in the suburbs of the capital and the country's south before they reached their targets. It said the Israeli warplanes fired the missiles while flying over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and neighboring Lebanon.
Syrian regime media reported airstrikes across a wide area around Damascus on Thursday morning. The regime says that incidents took place near the International Airport at Marj al-Sultan, at a key interchange of the M5 northeast of Damascus and south of the city near Kiswa and Izra. Meanwhile Damascus is distracted by a major battle in northern Syria against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and extremists. Iran may be maneuvering to increase its role on southern Syria amid the tensions as the Syrian regime focuses on fighting in northern Syria's Idlib.
IRAQ & IRAN
The white Kia pickup turned off the desert road and rumbled onto a dirt track, stopping near a marsh. Soon there was a flash and a ripping sound as the first of the rockets fired from the truck soared toward Iraq's K-1 military base. The rockets wounded six people and killed an American contractor, setting off a chain of events that brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war. The United States blamed an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran and bombed five of the group's bases.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Canada pressed Iran on Wednesday to send the black boxes from a crashed airliner immediately to France where the data can be analyzed, the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement. Iran's civil aviation authority said on Tuesday it would keep working with other countries investigating its downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last month. Tehran has not released the black boxes.
When Iranian-born German academic Erfan Kasraie received an email from The Wall Street Journal requesting an interview, he sensed something was amiss. The Nov. 12 note purportedly came from Farnaz Fassihi, a veteran Iranian-American journalist who covers the Middle East. Yet it read more like a fan letter, asking Kasraie to share his "important achievements" to "motivate the youth of our beloved country." "This interview is a great honor for me," the note gushed.
January 3 was a regular workday in Isfahan, Iran, for indie game developer Mahdi Bahrami. Then he read the news. Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Baghdad by an airstrike authorized by United States President Donald Trump. That's when Bahrami's normal day dissolved into fears for his loved ones and his livelihood. "I was just concerned with the game design before, different details about the game," Bahrami said via a Skype call from Isfahan. "[After Soleimani's death] I'm not thinking about the game. I'm thinking about my life, my family. It sounded like there would be a war, but hopefully that won't happen."