A senior member of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard was killed outside his home in Tehran on Sunday by unidentified gunmen on a motorbike, state TV reported. Although the Guard gave only scant detail about the attack that occurred in broad daylight in the heart of Iran’s capital, the group blamed the killing on “global arrogance,” typically code for the United States and Israel. That accusation, as well as the style of the brazen killing, raised the possibility of a link with other motorbike slayings previously attributed to Israel in Iran, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Iranian state firms have started preparations to revamp Venezuela's largest oil refinery, the 955,000-barrel-per-day Paraguana Refining Center, four people close to the talks said, following a contract to repair its smallest facility. A deal would deepen an energy relationship that has become a lifeline for Venezuela's dilapidated oil industry amid a crisis caused by decades of mismanagement and underinvestment, and aggravated by U.S. sanctions on the South American country.
Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji met Oman’s foreign and energy ministers in Muscat and discussed reviving a project to develop a shared gas field that’s been stalled for almost 20 years. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Saturday that Owji agreed to revisit a 2004 agreement to develop the gas layer of the Hengam field in the Persian Gulf. IRNA didn’t cite a source. The project, estimated at the time to be worth some $1 billion in annual gas sales to Iran, originally involved laying a pipeline on the bed of the waterway to deliver 30 million cubic meters of Iranian gas daily to Oman, IRNA said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…The illegal transit of Afghan refugees to Turkey from its border with Iran has also angered Ankara, which claims that Tehran facilitated the uncontrolled passage. “Relations between Iran and Turkey have become increasingly strained on a number of files: Dam construction; Ankara’s warming relations with Israel; tensions with Iran-backed militias in Iraq; and now Russia’s shifting of resources from Syria to Ukraine will add further complications,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against a Nuclear Iran. A new Pentagon report claimed that Iran-backed militias have been coordinating with the PKK for attacking Turkish troops in northern Iraq.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
While in Tehran last week, the European Union’s chief nuclear negotiator, Enrique Mora, meeting with senior Iranian officials, may have given the Iran nuclear deal new life. Giving Mora’s mission a further push was that his visit coincided with that of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who was also part of the diplomatic effort to revive the deal. Mora was in Tehran from May 10-13, while the Qatari emir visited on May 12. A foreign diplomat based in Tehran told Al-Monitor that the first day of Mora’s visit — including his meeting with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani — wasn't encouraging.
The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani expressed optimism on Friday that an agreement between the United States and Iran could be achieved, voicing readiness to help in the matter. Talks to revive a 2015 accord restraining Iran's nuclear programme with world powers have been on hold since March, chiefly over Tehran's insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the U.S. list of designated terrorist organisations. "We hope there will be an agreement between the parties to the nuclear agreement, and Qatar is ready to participate in resolving this conflict," the emir told a joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Over the weekend, Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, reported that the Iranian leadership was ready for some kind of compromise on the “Iranian nuclear file.” However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry then accused the news outlet of mistranslating the remarks as part of some kind of propaganda. This matters because it shows how complex the Iran deal discussions continue to be and concerns in Iran that its position is being perceived as softening. Tasnim News reported on Sunday that Qatari media has spread stories about how officials in Doha said that “the Iranian leadership told us they were ready for a compromise.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Thousands of supporters of Iran’s clerical establishment, including 50,000 Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia members, rallied on Friday, state media reported, after protests against rising food prices turned political. "The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumours that they spread and lies they tell," Guards commander Hossein Salami said in televised remarks at the massive rally outside the capital Tehran, which marked a major victory in Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Iranian government has once again resorted to suppressing dissent and detaining protesters as it looks to quell discontent over rising prices and workers' rights and low wages. The rights watchdog said in a statement on May 20 that Iranian authorities have arrested several prominent activists since the protests broke out two weeks ago, including a prominent sociologist and four labor rights defenders. "The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country," said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW.
Iranian activist Farhad Meysami has been taken to the hospital following a two-week hunger strike protesting the threatened execution of Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmedreza Djalali, according to Meysami’s lawyer. Lawyer Mohammad Moghimi wrote on Twitter on May 21 that Meysami’s condition was worsening and that his life was in danger. Meysami, a medical doctor, has been on a hunger strike to protest the possible execution of Djalali, who was arrested in 2016 during an academic visit to Tehran.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s hard-line president vowed revenge on Monday over the killing of a senior Revolutionary Guard member gunned down in the heart of Tehran the day before, a still-mysterious attack on the country’s powerful paramilitary force. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hailed Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei as a martyr and blamed “the hand of global arrogance,” a reference to the United States and its allies, including Israel, for his slaying. There has been no claim of responsibility for the killing, carried out on Sunday afternoon by two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike. They shot Khodaei five times in a car, an unarmored budget SAIPA Pride — among the cheapest, most-common Iranian vehicles.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that members of an Israeli intelligence service network had been discovered and arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. "Under the guidance of the Zionist regime's intelligence service, the network attempted to steal and destroy personal and public property, kidnapping and obtaining fabricated confessions through a network of thugs," the IRGC public relations service said in a statement.
Israel accused on Friday a senior official in the Hezbollah party of opening a new route to transfer weapons from Iran to Lebanon. Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee said that Rida Hashem Safieddine was overseeing the route. Safieddine is the husband of Zeinab, the daughter of slain Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in 2020. He is also the son of Hashem Safieddine, head of the Hezbollah executive council and considered the most senior official in the party after its leader Hassan Nasrallah.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit the Sultanate of Oman on Monday, Oman News Agency reported on Saturday. The visit embodies the “good neighborliness and good relations” between Oman and Iran, the report said, adding that Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq and Raisi are keen on improving ties in all fields to serve the interests of both countries. The two countries are expected to sign memorandums of understanding in the fields of economy and commerce, the report added, noting that commercial exchange between the two countries reached $1.336 billion last year.