**NOTE: UANI’s Eye on Iran will be suspended on Monday, February 15 in observance of President’s Day. It will resume Tuesday, February 16.**
Iran has started producing uranium metal, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency said Wednesday, in a fresh breach of the limits laid out in Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The latest violation of the deal, which is aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, came as Iran warned that time was running out for President Joe Biden's administration to save the agreement.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Thursday began a ground forces drill near the Iraqi border, state TV reported. The report said the annual exercise, dubbed the “great prophet,” is ongoing in the southwest of the country and has aimed at readiness and assessment of forces. Drones and helicopters will be used in the drill, too. In recent months, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter.
France’s foreign ministry warned Iran on Thursday against taking further measures that could breach the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and as a result jeopardise a diplomatic window opened with the arrival of a new U.S. administration. “To preserve the political space to find a negotiated solution, we call on Iran not to take any new measures that would further worsen the nuclear situation, already extremely worrying due to the accumulation of violations of the Vienna Accord, including the latest just reported by the IAEA,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
On November 15, 2019, Iran was on the brink of what felt like a peaceful revolution. In the early hours of the morning, against a backdrop of soaring inflation rates and double-digit unemployment numbers, the Iranian regime had unexpectedly announced a 50% gasoline price hike.
Video emerged of Iranian chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, being given a huge reception in Baghdad, where he was flanked by Falih Al Fayyadh, leader of the Popular Mobilisation Forces. Mr Raisi and Mr Al Fayyadh, who is accused of human rights abuses, face sanctions imposed on them by the US. Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said the video was “important optics” for Iranian politics.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has completed the sale of 1.116 million barrels of gasoline that Iran tried to ship to Venezuela last year, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi told Reuters, while the Administration is looking to detain another tanker it believes is part of an Iranian scheme to covertly ship Iranian oil to a foreign customer. In August last year, the U.S. Administration said it had seized the fuel cargo of four vessels, alleging that the fuel came from Iran and was going to Venezuela.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
On January 12, during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an address accusing Iran of being al Qaeda’s “new home base.” Pompeo alleged that after 30 years of cooperation, Iran and al Qaeda had taken their relationship to a new level in recent years. In 2015, Tehran supposedly “decided to allow al Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters” on its territory and now the terrorist organization “is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A UN report released Wednesday on widespread human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran contains shocking findings that the theocratic state imposed electric torture on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. The UN Special Rapporteur for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman, wrote that he is “concerned at reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children were subjected to electric shocks and the administration of hormones and strong psychoactive medications.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is scheduled to unveil its homegrown Kaman-22 armed drone this month, said Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, Commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force last week. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be an upgrade of the Kaman-12 drone, which was first introduced in September last year. The improved aircraft will be able to carry 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of explosives, Nasirzadeh said.
CONGRESS & IRAN
A resolution co-signed by more than 100 House lawmakers from both parties, and supporting a democratic, secular Iran and condemning the regime’s terror plots, was introduced Thursday. The move came a week after an Iranian diplomat was jailed for a bomb plot in Paris. The resolution condemns past and present Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and Iranian dissidents and calls on the government to work with European allies to "hold Iran accountable for breaching diplomatic privileges" and to call on other countries to stop its "malign activities."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
An Israeli intelligence report predicted Iran will seek to use its proxies in the Middle East to pressure the new US administration to return to the 2015 nuclear accord. The report estimates that Tehran will attempt to demonstrate its influence towards Washington, possibly by using allied groups to carry out attacks on “Western targets.” According to the Israeli assessment, Iran will aim to bolster its negotiating position by creating instability in the Middle East through its allies and proxy groups.
Russia and Iran are taking every opportunity to increase their influence in Syria. They recently urged private security companies to open offices across Syria, offering young men large amounts of money to work for them amid deteriorating economic conditions and a lack of job opportunities in the Syrian regime-controlled areas. The Syrian government had stopped issuing licenses to private security companies when the civil war broke out in 2011, but resumed the authorizations in 2013.
According to an adviser to Iran’s parliament speaker, Amir Hussein Abdollahian, Iran’s supreme leader sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the need to strengthen ties and the status of the nuclear deal. Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf travelled to Moscow to personally deliver the letter from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Abdollahian, who published the note on Khamenei’s website Khamenei.ir, “This trip was timed for when there are new tenants in the White House and sends Iran's allies the message that we will not be delayed any longer with White House's games with respect to the nuclear deal.”
CHINA & IRAN
Despite their apparent partnership, the solidity of China and Iran’s alliance is overemphasized. Recent developments associated with U.S. foreign policy suggest that Sino-Iranian relations are growing weaker since the United States exited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reinstated economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. It also shows that China does not consider Iran to be an essential ally. Leaked to the New York Times in July 2020, the Iran-China twenty-five-year cooperation program was presented to President Hassan Rouhani by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his last visit to Tehran in January 2016.