At least 12 people have been killed in Iran since protests against fuel price rises erupted three days ago, officials have said, although reports suggest the number of dead is far higher. The situation on the streets is unclear on account of a nationwide internet shutdown. But demonstrations are reportedly continuing in some cities. The government said Monday had been "calmer", despite "some minor issues". Meanwhile, the powerful Revolutionary Guards demanded an end to the unrest.
The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran's Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site. "The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world's largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters. The U.N. atomic watchdog and Iran itself said this month Tehran is again enriching uranium at the sensitive site, which Iran hid from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran asserted on Monday that the Islamic Republic establishment should listen to the demands of the Iranian people. Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State echoed his boss' latest comments, insisting that Washington firmly stands with the Iranian people, and supports their desire for a government "that doesn't rob them blind" and spend the money in Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Yemen.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Authorities in Iran have blocked internet service for a third day as part of a crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests in which at least eight people have been killed since the unrest began Friday. "Khamenei is giving himself space to put the blame on the Rouhani government in case things go haywire," said Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, in a VOA Persian interview. "Right now, we see protests in the streets and things are going not in the regime's favor," Brodsky said. "So I think Khamenei is doing the same thing that he's always done, and that is, to condition and hedge his support for government decisions in order to protect himself and his office at the end of the day."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has breached another limit in its nuclear deal with major powers by accumulating slightly more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, a substance used in a type of reactor it is developing, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Monday. The restriction is the latest Iran has exceeded in protest at the United States for withdrawing from the deal last year and imposing punishing economic sanctions on Tehran. Washington says its "maximum pressure" will force Iran to negotiate a broader deal that will also include its role in Middle Eastern conflicts. Tehran says it will not negotiate until sanctions are lifted.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's government has begun rushing out promised direct payments to 60 million Iranians, in a sign that the regime has been spooked by the scale of protests against petrol price rises announced last week. In some cases petrol prices are being raised by as much as 300%. Unrest continued throughout Iran on Monday and internet access remained blocked for a second day. Videos smuggled out of the country showed municipal buildings and banks being torched and large traffic jams as drivers blocked roads.
High-profile members of the House and Senate GOP applauded the Trump administration's move Monday to cancel some civil-nuclear waivers for Iran but called for a complete end to the program, which they say enables Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) said the U.S. should end sanctions relief for nuclear activity at its Fordow and Arak nuclear plants.
Just how durable is the Iranian economy, really? As the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran marks its one-year anniversary, that's the question many policymakers in Washington are asking. Iranian officials have been eager to supply the answer. According to the country's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, U.S. pressure has foundered in the face of Iran's heroic revolutionary resistance. America, Khamenei recently intoned, was deluded in thinking that it "will bring Iran to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, particularly through economic sanctions."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Protests erupted across Iran on Friday when the state dramatically raised gasoline prices without warning. Clashes between angry citizens and the security forces left at least a dozen dead over the weekend. Popular uprisings are nothing new in the Islamic republic. But this time feels different. I've experienced prolonged periods of unrest in Tehran and other Iranian cities, first in 2003 and then again in 2009 and 2011. Reporting amid the crowds, I took blows from batons and endured blasts of tear gas.
A hard-line newspaper in Iran is suggesting that those who led violent protests will be executed by hanging as the unrest continues. An article published Tuesday in the Keyhan newspaper made the claim, though Iranian authorities still have not offered a detailed accounting of the toll of the demonstrations that began Friday over government-set gasoline prices rising. The newspaper said: "Some reports say that judiciary considers execution by hanging for the riot leaders a definite punishment."
Anti-government protests in Iran have left buses and banks burned, hundreds under arrest, the Internet blocked and an unconfirmed number of people dead. That raises the question of whether the Trump administration's "maximum pressure'' campaign is starting to deliver. The unrest was sparked by Tehran's decision last week to both ration and raise the price of gasoline. But there was ready tinder to be lit, consisting of the sorts of frustrations that have stoked violence around the globe in recent months, from Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, to Hong Kong, Iraq and Lebanon.
Iran's top paramilitary force threatened to crack down on Iranians protesting a rise in fuel prices, as Tehran struggles to counter U.S. sanctions that are crippling the country's economy and posing a risk to the government. As demonstrations persisted on Monday, the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it would "confront the continuation of any insecurity and actions disturbing the people's peace and calm in a revolutionary and decisive way."
Protests in Iran triggered by petrol price hikes last week have subsided, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, a day after the elite Revolutionary Guards warned of "decisive" action if anti-government protests do not cease. Social media videos posted in defiance of an Internet block showed protests continued in several cities on Monday night, however, and a heavy presence of security forces in streets. The images posted on social media could not be verified by Reuters.
Three members of the Iranian security forces have been stabbed to death by "rioters" near Tehran, the ISNA and Fars news agencies reported late Monday. The assailants wielding knives and machetes ambushed the three-a Revolutionary Guard and two members of the Basij militia-west of the capital, the news agencies reported. The deaths take to at least five the number of people confirmed to have been killed in violent demonstrations that erupted across Iran on Friday against a surprise petrol price hike.
Iran has sought to soften the public impact of increased fuel prices after a decision to reduce oil subsidies provoked the biggest anti-government demonstrations in two years. Following three days of protests, the Iranian government on Monday said it would provide monthly cash payments to more than 70 per cent of Iranians to compensate for the higher petrol costs. "This evening, the first phase will start by which 20m people will receive cash," Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, told reporters in Tehran. Another 40m people would receive payments this week, he said.
Since widespread demonstrations against a three-fold increase in gasoline prices broke out four days ago, enraged protesters have attacked nearly nine Shi'a seminaries and Friday Prayer Imams' offices across the country, reports say. Hawza news agency said that protesters on Friday night attacked Khuzestan's seminary, in the province's capital city, Ahvaz, southwest Iran, and set it on fire. Meanwhile, Khuzestan's seminary maintained that forces affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) Baseej (Basij) (Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed) rushed to the scene and did not allow the attackers to enter the seminary.
Though protests in Iran over a gasoline price hike due to subsidy reductions appear to have slowed down, they continued for a fourth day Nov. 18. Meanwhile, internet in the country was nearly completely shut down for a fourth straight day as well, restricting the information traveling to and from the country regarding the size of the protests and the number injured or killed. However, the protests were still large enough that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) felt the need to issue a statement.
On Monday, Iran remained an offline nation. A startling weekend of protests gripped the country after its theocratic regime issued an edict Friday cutting fuel subsidies and raising the cost of gasoline. The measures incensed many ordinary Iranians, who have for months felt the bite of U.S.-imposed sanctions on the country's enfeebled economy. The dramatic scenes of unrest prompted Iranian authorities to effectively switch off the Internet.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
When a Marine veteran from Michigan was freed by Iran in 2016, an ordeal of imprisonment, torture and deprivation that had lasted almost four and a half years came to an end. Amir Hekmati was welcomed home as a hero. But his battle with the government in Tehran has given way to a struggle against another country - his own. On Monday, Mr. Hekmati, 36, sued the United States government over its failure to pay any of the compensation promised to him from a special fund for American citizens who are considered victims of state-sponsored terrorism.
Brian Hook, Washington's special envoy for Iran, says the United States is working to help Iranians bypass a near-total Internet shutdown imposed by the clerical establishment amid violent protests over a sharp hike in gasoline prices. Speaking to RFE/RL on November 18, Hook said the United States was trying to put in place "workarounds" to help Iranians access the global Internet. NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide Internet access, said connectivity in Iran had fallen to just 5 percent of ordinary levels in recent days.
The full extent of the protests that erupted across Iran over the weekend is hard to gauge, not least because the regime in Tehran has shut down internet access for most of the country. That decision suggests that the regime feels more threatened by the latest demonstrations of public anger than it did by previous protests at the end of 2017. This round was sparked by the government's decision to raise gasoline prices, to plug a budgetary hole caused in part by U.S. sanctions.
Rightly condemning Iran's repression of its own people, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo correctly terminated a sanctions waiver for Iran's Fordow nuclear facility. The announcement follows Iran's recent announcement of recommenced uranium enrichment activities at Fordow. Following steady Iranian actions towards a nuclear breakout, the United States is rightly underlining its unwillingness to allow Iran to reach a nuclear weapon. That's no small or distant concern.
The United States is ending a sanctions waiver for civil-nuclear work at a site where Iran recently announced it was enriching uranium, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday. "The United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow effective Dec. 15, 2019," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
A key official in Iran has said that meeting the requirement of the Palermo Convention against transnational crimes and the convention against funding terrorism (CFT) will allow foreign powers to monitor the activities of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) under the pretext of combating money laundering. "They can find out what we are doing, who we are working with and how we do it if we join these conventions. Everything related to the IRGC will be a subject of anti-money laundering [inspections] which is not good," Expediency Council member Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghaddam told Mehr News Agency on 18 November.
Iran is continuing construction on an army base along the Iraq-Syria border, according to satellite images taken Sunday and obtained by Fox News. The Imam Ali base had been partially destroyed during airstrikes in early September. The new images, examined by analysts at ImageSat International (ISI), showed eight zones of construction or reconstruction. Each zone had hangers big enough to conceal trucks and large quantities of equipment.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has gone almost entirely offline as authorities try to stem the spread of nationwide protests that have gripped the country since Friday. Protesters took to the streets shortly after the government announced an increase in fuel prices by as much as 300%. Social media images showed banks, petrol stations and government buildings set ablaze by rioters. Some protesters chanted "down with Khamenei," according to videos, referring to the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The latest unrest in Iran is about something far more serious than rising gasoline prices. The proof is that, over the weekend, the regime took most of the country offline. NetBlocks, a nongovernmental organization that monitors digital rights, says that by Saturday, Iran's internet connectivity was 5% of what it was earlier in the week. The clampdown began on Friday, coinciding with demonstrations and protests throughout Iran, with intermittent outages in major cities such as Tehran and Shiraz.
Iran had a blunt solution this weekend to an eruption of protests by angry citizens: Turn off the Internet. All of it. Web shutdowns have become a common strategy for repressive governments eager to disrupt civilians' ability to act on and to amplify their discontent, but experts say this weekend's response to widespread demonstrations over a spike in gasoline prices is the biggest yet. It took officials 24 hours to achieve their aim, but once they did only 5 percent of regular users - including top politicians such as the supreme leader - were still online.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Two days of intense fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militant group last week once again highlights Iran's expansionist ambitions in the Middle East, experts say. Founded in 1981, PIJ is a Sunni militant group based in the Gaza Strip that follows a radical religious ideology. It is the second-largest militant group in the Palestinian region. The PIJ reportedly receives financial and political support from Iran, and has for years been developing its rocket program with direct assistance from Tehran.
The rockets fired from Syria just before five in the morning come after almost two years of escalation on the Syrian front. This includes actual and attempted drone and rocket attacks. They began in the context of deepening Iranian entrenchment in Syria and have continued as the Syrian regime re-conquered southern Syria from the Syrian rebels in 2018 and as tensions between Israel and Iran have grown. They represent Iran's attempt to create a corridor of power across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and to threaten Israel from areas near the Golan.
Young men chanting "people want to bring down the regime" gathered outside the office of Lebanese legislator Mohammed Raad, the powerful head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc. A man grabbed a metal rod and swung it at the sign bearing Raad's name, knocking it out of place as others cheered.
Thousands of protesters rallying against the Lebanese political elite blocked roads in central Beirut on Tuesday, preventing lawmakers from reaching the parliament and forcing the postponement of a legislative session. The session had been scheduled even though the country is still without a Cabinet following the prime minister's resignation amid unprecedented demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since mid-October.
Four rockets were launched from Syria toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights at dawn on Tuesday, setting off air-raid sirens but causing no harm, according to the Israeli military. The military said that the incoming fire was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system and that it appeared no rockets had fallen on the Israeli-controlled side of the line.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A western intelligence report showing Qatar knew of Iranian plans to attack four ships off the coast of the UAE could have "devastating" legal implications for Doha, an international relations expert said. Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of the London consultancy Cornerstone Global Associates, also told The National the intelligence report, which detailed how Qatar failed to warn its western allies of the May attack, showed Doha was "clearly not a trusted ally" of the West. "The intelligence is very serious and has very serious implications for Qatar," Mr Nuseibeh said.
IRAQ & IRAN
Several senior Iraqi officials named in a New York Times report based on leaked Iranian intelligence cables denied on Monday that they were close to Iran or that they had given sensitive information to its government. The report, based on about 700 pages of secret Iranian intelligence cables obtained by The Intercept and shared with The Times, was published online early Monday and shed light on the extent of Tehran's reach inside Iraq's power circles.
The Iraqi people were left unfazed by the hundreds of leaked pages of Iranian intelligence cables detailing how Tehran managed to gain influence over its neighboring country since 2003. "The documents are nothing new. The Iranian infiltration and Tehran's detailed control of several files in Iraq has been known since 2003," head of the Political Thinking Center, Dr. Ihsan al-Shammari told Asharq Al-Awsat.