After weeks of savaging Ukrainian cities with Iranian-made drones, Moscow has quietly reached an agreement with Tehran to begin manufacturing hundreds of unmanned weaponized aircraft on Russian soil, according to new intelligence seen by U.S. and other Western security agencies. Russian and Iranian officials finalized the deal during a meeting in Iran in early November, and the two countries are moving rapidly to transfer designs and key components that could allow production to begin within months, three officials familiar with the matter said in interviews.
Iranian security forces swept through the country’s Kurdish region with helicopters and armored vehicles, firing live ammunition and raiding homes in search of opponents, a show of force that demonstrates how the government’s response to a two-month-old protest movement is taking a more violent turn. Protesters in Mahabad and surrounding areas filled city streets Saturday, according to authorities and witnesses. After rumors swirled on social media that authorities were gearing up to attack, balaclava-clad protesters wearing makeshift helmets set bins on fire, according to footage posted by Tavaana, a U.S.-based Iranian civic organization, and other social media accounts.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, has voted to order Iran to cooperate with the agency's investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites as a nuclear deal with the country appears to be less and less certain. The resolution drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany says the board "decides it is essential and urgent" that Iran explain the origin of the uranium particles and more generally give the IAEA all the answers it requires.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Meanwhile, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace said in a statement emailed to Newsweek that "the Iranian people should not have to risk their lives fighting the regime with one hand tied behind their backs." Wallace said that the regime should be held "accountable" and that Western nations should "commit themselves to unrelenting economic pressure and diplomatic isolation against this regime."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has warned that the threat from Iran's nuclear programme is "more advanced than ever before". Addressing an international security conference in Bahrain on Saturday, Mr Cleverly accused the Tehran regime of spreading "bloodshed and destruction" around the world.
Russia sees "no reasonable alternative" to the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and world powers, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Vershinin said in an interview given Thursday to state-owned Rossiya Segodnya. "Any other option will only lead to an escalation with grave and possibly irreversible consequences for international security and global markets," Vershinin added. "The United Nations should be aware of this."
Western powers on Friday urged Iran to take "essential and urgent" action on issues raised by the UN's nuclear watchdog, a day after Tehran was criticized for a lack of cooperation. On Thursday the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors passed a resolution targeting Tehran, amid an impasse over undeclared uranium particles. "The board has sent a clear message that it is essential and urgent that Iran fulfils its (non-proliferation treaty)-required safeguards obligations," said France, Germany, Britain and the United States in a joint statement.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran sanctioned French automobile manufacturers today. The Iranian government said that registering new orders from Renault, Peugeot, Citroen and other French carmakers is prohibited. An Iranian official cited “unprofessional behavior of the French in the past years” as the reason, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported. The official added that Iran would focus on importing cars from China, Japan and other European countries, according to the outlet.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Mourners gathered Friday for the funeral of a 9-year-old Iranian boy shot during one of the protests that have shaken the country, chanting for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as anger grows over the deaths of dozens of children involved in the demonstrations. In a protest movement that is overwhelmingly made up of young people, the presence of minors has been common at demonstrations, especially teenagers who have driven the movement with actions at schools. Of the 381 protesters that human-rights groups say have been killed, at least 57 have been minors.
Protests raged on at Iranian universities and in some cities on Saturday as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the country's "enemies" may try to mobilise workers after failing to topple the Islamic government in more than two months of unrest. One of the boldest challenges to Iran's clerical leaders in decades, the protests have been gaining steam, frustrating authorities who have blamed Iran's foreign enemies and their agents for orchestrating the disturbances.
Protesters in Iran have set on fire the ancestral home of the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as two months of anti-regime demonstrations show no letup, images showed on Friday. The house in the city of Khomein in the western Markazi province was shown ablaze late Thursday with crowds of jubilant protesters marching past, according to images posted on social media, verified by AFP. Khomeini is said to have been born at the house in the town of Khomein -- from where his surname derives -- at the turn of the century.
Iran has arrested two prominent actors who expressed solidarity with the protest movement and removed their headscarves in public in an apparent act of defiance against the regime, state media reported Sunday. Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were both detained after being summoned by prosecutors in a probe into their "provocative" social media posts and media activity, the state-run IRNA news agency said. Iran's clerical leadership has been shaken by more than two months of women-led demonstrations sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin who had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iranian missiles and drones struck an Iranian Kurdish opposition group’s bases in northern Iraq late Sunday night, the group said. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, a Kurdish Iranian group exiled in Iraq, said in a statement that Iranian surface-to-surface missiles and drones hit its bases and adjacent refugee camps in Koya and Jejnikan. The group also asserted that the strikes had hit a hospital in Koya. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Some Kurdish groups have been engaged in a low-intensity conflict with Tehran since the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, with many members seeking political exile in neighboring Iraq where they have established bases.
A senior Iranian military official visiting Baghdad this week threatened Iraq with a ground military operation in the country’s north if the Iraqi army does not fortify the countries’ shared border against Kurdish opposition groups, multiple Iraqi and Kurdish officials said. Such an offensive, if carried out, would be unprecedented in Iraq, and raise the specter of regional fallout from Iran’s domestic unrest, which Tehran has portrayed as a foreign plot without offering evidence.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
British foreign minister James Cleverly will say Iran poses a threat to the Middle East before watching its soccer team take on England at the World Cup during a regional trip which starts on Saturday, his office said. Cleverly will also criticise Russia, saying that no country is immune from the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and food prices, and he will commit to working with regional allies to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.
Iranian journalists working for the BBC’s Persian-language service, as well as those working for opposition media Iran International, have seen a sharp escalation in the regime’s intimidation campaigns, over three months since protests began. Police cars and rifle-armed security stood guard outside Iran International’s bureau in Chiswick, west London on Saturday. Other journalists were forced to move into safe houses. “We can confirm that officers from the Metropolitan Police are working in response to potential threats projected from Iran against a number of UK-based individuals,” a Met spokesman said.
Canada's spy agency said Friday it is investigating credible death threats against people in Canada by Iran, days after Britain levelled similar accusations against the Islamic regime. "CSIS is actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran based on credible intelligence," Eric Balsam, spokesman for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told AFP. "Ultimately, these hostile activities and foreign interference undermine the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as our democratic values and sovereignty," he said.