Hundreds of thousands across Iran marked the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution on Tuesday amid some of the highest tensions ever between Tehran and the U.S. in the past four decades. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech in Tehran's iconic Azadi Square denouncing the U.S., he also focused on encouraging the country to vote in upcoming parliamentary elections, even after officials disqualified thousands from running, including 90 current lawmakers.
Israel will soon disappear from the Middle East, a brigadier general in the public relations sector of Iran's army said on Tuesday. He was speaking to armed forces veterans in Zarandieh in Iran. Commemorating fighters from various units and the Basij on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution he spoke with passion about how Iran's "resistance" was confronting the US and Israel.
The Senate will take up a resolution this week intended to rein in President Donald Trump's ability to attack Iran without congressional authorization, as Democrats and a small group of Republican senators push back following the killing in January of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. "This is not about bucking the president," Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said Monday. "This about making sure the process works as the Constitution requires."
UANI IN THE NEWS
The group United Against Nuclear Iran is noting that while Iran is commemorating the 41st anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution today, it isn't exactly a cause for celebration. "The Iranian regime is reeling from the U.S. maximum pressure campaign. The death of the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Qassem Soleimani; the protests enveloping the country; its downing of the Ukrainian jetliner; its failed satellite launch; and its forces being pummeled by airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have all taken its toll on the regime," said the group's chairman former Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Mark Wallace, its CEO. "However, it would be a mistake to underestimate its ability to weather this storm. The revolution may be severely stressed, but Iran remains an enduring threat to international peace and security," said the two in a joint statement. "That is why it is time for the international community to join the United States in its maximum pressure campaign. Isolation, rather than integration, is the only way to neutralize the regime's destabilizing aggression."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran is not "complying at all" with the landmark nuclear deal and continues to prevent international nuclear inspectors from accessing key sites suspected of housing the regime's sensitive atomic weapons program, according to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) told the Washington Free Beacon in a wide-ranging interview on the Islamic Republic's continued nuclear subterfuge that he is worried by new reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that there are "possible undeclared Iranian nuclear sites" that remain active in Iran.
America's most significant foreign policy agreement of the 21st century never was sent as a treaty to the Senate for approval. This was because, in 2015, President Obama knew he did not have the two-thirds support of the Senate required to approve his signature foreign policy achievement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to become a treaty. Fifty-eight senators from both parties opposed the nuclear agreement in its final form; only a Democratic minority of 42 senators approved the deal negotiated by then-Secretary of State John Kerry along with Iran, Russia, China, England, France and Germany.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran overtook Russia to emerge as the top buyer of Indian tea last year, after sanctions against the Islamic Republic halted imports other than specially negotiated deals. India and Iran have been trading through a rupee-based bank account to bypass restrictions imposed by the U.S. While this bilateral trade has boosted imports of the Indian leaf at higher-than-normal prices, the outlook for orthodox teas is uncertain with even Lipton owner Unilever Plc weighing a sale of one of its best-known brands.
The Trump administration has expressed openness to extending sanctions waivers allowing Iraq to import Iranian electricity and gas, Iraqi officials reportedly said. An existing waiver granted to Iraq is set to expire on Thursday. Three unidentified Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that the State Department has signaled that it is prepared to extend it another three months if Baghdad can develop a timeline by the end of the week for transitioning off Iranian gas imports.
Iraqi officials have indicated that the United States is likely to renew a key Iran sanctions waiver that will allow Baghdad to continue importing Iranian natural gas to fuel its electricity needs, the AP reported today. The three-month waiver is set to expire Thursday. Iraq relies on Iranian imports to meet the lion's share of its electricity needs in the face of shortages that have helped provoke widespread protests in recent years.
France condemned efforts by Iran to build a new ballistic missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers, further complicating efforts to keep Tehran operating within the framework of a faltering nuclear accord. "The development of Iran's ballistic missile program undermines regional stability and affects the security of Europe," the French foreign affairs ministry said on Monday. "France calls on Iran to fully comply with its international obligations in this regard."
Despite Iran's much-publicized satellite launch on Feb. 9 that failed to reach orbit for the third time, Iranian officials have put a positive spin on the endeavor and stressed the country will continue to progress in its space program. Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi addressed the failure on social media, posting a video on Instagram. "Dear people of Iran. Hello," began a solemn Jahromi, standing behind a podium in a similar fashion to US presidents making important announcements.
The good news is that Iran's Sunday satellite launch failed to stay in orbit and eventually crashed. The bad news is that Iran may be getting closer to getting it right. This is bad news because Iran could be trying to use the same path which India took to developing a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile capability: moving from a space launch vehicle to an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
An international watchdog on illicit money will decide next week if Iran will go back on a global laundering blacklist, which would increase its financial isolation as its economy is rocked by US sanctions. The Financial Action Task Force meets in Paris from February 16 to decide if Iran's efforts to tackle illicit money flow and terrorist financing are enough to stop it being locked out of the international banking system.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian opposition figure who had been living in exile before being arrested faces the death sentence, the opening day of his trial heard Monday, according to the judiciary's website. Ruhollah Zam, 41, went on trial "behind closed doors and in the absence of the media," Fars news agency said. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced the arrest of Zam in October last year, describing him as a "counter-revolutionary" who was "directed by France's intelligence service." It did not specify where he was arrested.
"I'm hopeful," Googoosh, the legendary Iranian performer, told me recently. "I have to be!" Her optimism might be surprising, given the recent grim news from Iran. Yet she follows events in her homeland closely, she said, perusing TV, radio and social media: "Whatever brings me closer to the brave students and demonstrators standing up for their rights. I love them, and I'm praying for them." Several of her recent concerts, including one here in Washington in November, were broadcast live on satellite channels so that Iranians inside the country could watch and for a moment feel connected.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The head of Iran's nuclear program said Monday the U.S. killing of a high-ranking Iranian general has weakened the fight against the Islamic State extremist group in the region. Ali Akbar Salehi told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that last month's drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani showed "the U.S. administration has not yet come to its senses in recognizing the realities on the ground." Washington targeted Soleimani, who headed Iran's expeditionary Quds Force, saying that he was planning attacks on Americans.
The U.S. military on Monday disclosed a more than 50% jump in cases of traumatic brain injury stemming from Iran's missile attack on a base in Iraq last month, with the number of service members diagnosed climbing to over 100. No U.S. troops were killed or faced immediate bodily injury when Iran fired missiles at the Ain al-Asad base in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at the Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani charged Tuesday that the United States finds it "unbearable" that the Islamic Revolution remains in place 41 years after bringing down US ally the shah. "It is unbearable for the United States to accept the victory of a great nation and that a superpower has been driven out of this land," Rouhani told a rally in Tehran marking the anniversary of the ouster of the shah and establishment of the Islamic republic in 1979.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was jeered by supporters of hard-line conservative rivals as he called for national unity and fair elections in a key address just weeks head of parliamentary polls. Marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Rouhani praised Iranians for withstanding the economic hardship and instability brought on by U.S. President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign. "We shouldn't talk about this or that faction. The revolution belongs to everyone," Rouhani told a crowd that also included supporters, government workers and school children.
CHINA & IRAN
With tensions high between the United States and Tehran, Iran's attempts to reach out to China have increasingly been put on public display. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has made several trips to China in the past year. That includes one highly publicized visit Zarif made to Beijing in late December and early January when the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Ukraine is pressing Iran to send the so-called black box recorders from the Boeing Co. plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran last month, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said. "The black box and cooperation with Tehran was the very difficult issue from the beginning and we will try to keep the message" focused on recovering the data, Prystaiko told the Foreign Press Association in Rome on Monday. Iran is under international pressure to provide more information on the circumstances that led to the shooting down of Ukrainian International Flight 752.
Canada's complaint about a Ukrainian passenger plane that was mistakenly shot down by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in January has no legal basis, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday, according to Iranian media reports. "Iran's actions are based on international rules," Zarif said, according to the Khabaronline website. Iran has rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's call to send the "black box" flight recorders from the plane abroad to be decoded.