Iran is responsible for a barrage of emails sent to Americans that purported to be from a far-right group and were intended to intimidate voters and incite social unrest ahead of the presidential election, U.S. officials said. The emails were sent to Democratic voters in several battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania and were intended to appear as though they were written by the far-right group the Proud Boys, according to people familiar with the matter.
To the United States, he is a criminal and a threat to national security. To Iranians cut off from the international financial system by US sanctions, he was an invaluable provider of services many people in other countries take for granted. Last week, Iranian citizen Sajjad Shahidian, better known in Iran as Soheil Shahidi, was sentenced to 23 months in prison by a US federal court in Minneapolis, Minnesota for his role in operating Payment24 – an online financial services company prosecutors say helped Iranians conduct transactions with US-based businesses prohibited under sanctions.
As Iran faces pressure imposed both from external powers and regional unrest, the country's armed forces have staged a massive set of war games demonstrating their capabilities to protect the skies of the Islamic Republic. The drills came as the neighboring Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict occasionally spills over Iran's northwestern border, giving Iran an opportunity to flex its military muscle through impressive displays of firepower.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The October 18 expiration of a decade-long United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Iran has raised considerable speculation on what weapons the Islamic Republic will buy. However, the end of the embargo means that Iran can not only import military hardware but can also return to the market as an exporter. President Hassan Rouhani has openly said that Iran expects to sell more arms than it procures. The statement was not surprising given Iran’s need to boost non-oil exports as well as Iran’s past expressions of readiness to export military hardware to its allies “in order to prevent wars.”
Iran’s state broadcasting company has quietly used U.S.-based operations of Webzilla, a Russia-linked company caught up in the 2016 election meddling probe, to disseminate Iranian government viewpoints in English and Spanish across the hemisphere, an investigation by McClatchy and the Miami Herald shows. Despite being under U.S. sanctions, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, known by its acronym IRIB, is the only organization legally allowed to broadcast radio and TV in Iran. It operates state-run websites in French, English and Spanish that seek to influence U.S., Canadian and Venezuelan audiences.
Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, the country’s oil and gas sector has continuously suffered from sanctions, mismanagement, and underinvestment—challenges that have steadily chipped away at the country’s former status as a major global oil exporter. Today, the situation has become even worse. Iran’s oil and gas sector continues to face crippling U.S. sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, practically eliminating the country’s ability to export to major customers and cutting off its access to much needed foreign technology, investments, and supply chains.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In Tehran, a court has upheld a sentence against Alireza Alinejad, the brother of the outspoken women's rights activist's Masih Alinejad, his attorney said. In Tehran, a court has upheld a sentence against Alireza Alinejad, the brother of the outspoken women's rights activist's Masih Alinejad, his attorney said. "Branch 36 of the Appeals Court in Tehran province has upheld eight-year jail sentence for Alireza Alinejad, regardless of our objections," says Alireza's lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, adding, "I have decided to publish the defense bills soon."
Jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been moved to a women's detention center outside the capital Tehran instead of receiving the hospital treatment she needs, her husband said Wednesday. The UN has called on Iran to free Sotoudeh, a winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov prize, and other political prisoners excluded from a push to empty jails amid the coronavirus pandemic. "Nasrin called me yesterday (Tuesday) to tell me she's been transferred straight (from Tehran's Evin jail) to the one in Qarchak," more than 30 kilometers away, her husband Reza Khandan told AFP.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper addressed the recent agreements to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, saying that they could help deter Iran. “It is a great success by the president and his team in the White House,” Esper said on Tuesday, in remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington, adding that “we’ll see if more countries follow as well. We’re all hopeful, and everybody is trying to roll in that same direction.”
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A member of the Scientific Committee of Iran's Corona National Anti-Virus Headquarters has dismissed as "unrealistic" the figures that Iran's Ministry of Health officially announces daily as the COVID-19 death toll. The real death toll is 2.5 times more than what the Ministry of Health claims, the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) cited Massoud Mardani claiming on Tuesday. A day earlier, the death toll had set a record in Iran when, according to the Ministry of Health, 337 people died of coronavirus in Iran in the 24 hours before noon on October 20.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
An Israeli strike hit on Wednesday the province of Quneitra in southern Syria, with a war monitor saying the attack targeted a base for pro-Iran militias. A missile hit a school in a village in Quneitra's northern countryside, state media reported, without providing additional detail. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel was "likely" responsible for the missile attack. It said the assault, which targeted a base for militias backed by Tehran, left casualties in their ranks.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A few weeks before the US presidential election contest between Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden, which will determine the country’s future foreign policy direction, the first sessions of the US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue took place. Last week’s sessions attested to the depth and importance of the relations between the two nations. Normally, Saudi-US ties are not affected by the results of American elections, but making this visit at such an important time is a reminder of the role that the Kingdom plays with regard to US foreign policy.
Iran secured a significant diplomatic victory on Sunday when the United Nations arms embargo, imposed in 2007 over concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, expired. Efforts by the Trump administration to extend it in the Security Council ended in an embarrassing American failure, as did the effort to invoke the grievance mechanism within the 2015 nuclear deal. The Islamic Republic’s beleaguered President Hassan Rouhani cited the expiration of the embargo as a major accomplishment of the nuclear agreement. At least in theory, Iran is now back in the market to buy and sell conventional weapons.