Iran unveiled a new short-range missile called Thunder on Sunday and launched a satellite named Victory which failed to reach orbit. The developments took place at a time of high tension with the United States, which killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting an Iranian missile attack on a U.S. base in Iraq. Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said the satellite launch had not gone as planned.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard has unveiled a new ballistic missile, the country's state TV reported Sunday, amid heightened tensions with the U.S. Iran routinely unveils what it describes as technological advances for its armed forces ahead of the February anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. State television said the missile, called Raad-500, or thunder, had half the weight of a similar ballistic missile, Fateh-110, but had 200 kilometers (some 120 miles) more range.
Four Republican senators are asking Twitter to ban Iranian leaders from the social media platform in order to comply with U.S. sanctions against the regime. In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the lawmakers -- Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee -- argue the site is violating President Trump's sanctions on the Islamic Republic by conducting business with Iran.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, underlined the need to ensure Iran's benefits under the 2015 nuclear agreement in order to prevent the hard-won deal from falling apart. The nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been unraveling since the United States pulled out unilaterally in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran. As the remaining parties failed to offset the effects of the sanctions, Iran also moved away from its obligations step by step.
Even though North Korea and Iran differ like the proverbial chalk and cheese, there are enough fundamental similarities pertaining to their nuclear ambitions to derive worrying predictive value from Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development. Correspondingly, Tehran's recent threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) should not be taken lightly.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has signaled to Iraq its willingness to extend sanctions waivers enabling the country to continue importing vital Iranian gas and electricity imports, three Iraqi officials said this week, a move that would be a key test of Baghdad-Washington ties. The decision comes amid strained U.S.-Iraqi ties following last month's Washington-directed airstrike in Baghdad that killed a high-profile Iranian general and a senior Iraqi militia leader.
Iran supports deeper crude oil cuts by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) if a majority of members agreed with it, Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh was quoted as saying by the Iranian energy news website Shana. A technical panel, known as the JTC, that advises OPEC and its allies led by Russia - a grouping known as OPEC+ - proposed on Thursday a provisional cut of 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), three sources told Reuters.
Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged on Saturday the impact of new US sanctions against the country, describing them as "literal crimes". "We should be strong to prevent any war against the county. Being weak will encourage our enemies to attack Iran," he said. "These sanctions are criminal act... but we can turn it to an opportunity by distancing Iran's economy from being dependent on oil exports," he added.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) agents arrested a teachers' representative at his home in Iran on February 8. Mohammad Taqi Fallahi is the secretary of the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association, an independent entity which campaigns for higher salaries, better work conditions and improvement of schools in Iran. IRGC agents also confiscated some of Fallahi's personal items during the arrest, including his telephone, computer case and a hard disk.
Near the hometown of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, workers at a small Iranian factory diligently add all 50 stars and 13 red-and-white bars to what are supposed to be U.S. flags, and carefully imprint the blue Star of David on Israeli ones. That's even as all their work is destined to go up in flames. The company Diba Parcham Khomein serves as a major producer for the American and Israeli flags constantly burned at pro-government rallies in the Islamic Republic.
The Islamic Republic's intelligence organs have summoned at least 21 Iranian journalists across the country, threatening them not to speak about government disinformation over the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) passenger plane on January 8 over the capital city Tehran. In its latest report on Iran, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterated on Thursday, February 7, that it deplores the harassment of dozens of Iranian journalists, who have been interrogated, threatened, searched and forced to close social media accounts for daring to protest about the fact that they have been discredited as information sources because they reported a "state lie as the truth."
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran has a very strong Air Force despite limitations imposed on the country by the United States since the country's 1979 Islamic revolution, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a gathering of Air Force commanders and staff on Saturday. "Since the revolution their aim was to stop us from having a strong air force ... but look at us now. We even build planes. We have transformed their pressure to opportunity," said Khamenei according to state news agency IRNA.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran should increase its military might to prevent a war, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a gathering of air force commanders on Saturday, dismissing the U.S. sanctions on the country as "criminal act". "We should be strong to prevent any war against the county. Being weak will encourage our enemies to attack Iran," Khamenei, Iran's top authority, said according to state news agency IRNA.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's clerical establishment is so determined to fix this month's parliamentary elections that hardliners are likely to sweep to power, bringing closer the final collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, according to western diplomats. Reformist candidates have been systematically purged from the elections due on 21 February after vetting by the Guardian Council, a 12-strong body of lawyers and religious leader appointed indirectly by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
A hardliner Iranian politician and a senior member of Revolutionary Guard commander has said that after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran "was after an excuse to attack Israel", which he said was involved in the killing of the Qods Force commander. Mohsen Rezai (Rezaee), who is the Secretary of the Islamic Republic Discernment Council told the Lebanese Al Mayadeen television, "Have no doubt that we would have flatten Tel Aviv for sure".
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran reopened its consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, after protesters set fire to its building last year. Visa processing operations have resumed and full consular services will start from next week, Hamid Makarem, the Iranian consul general in Najaf told IRNA.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iran is ready to help Turkey and Syria resolve their differences over the nearly nine-year-old war in Syria, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, adding that Tehran backs the sovereignty of its key regional ally Damascus. Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Iran and Russia have supported Assad's forces in the war. The three countries have also collaborated on a political solution to the conflict.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Puneh Gorji and Arash Pourzarabi were married in Iran on January 1. A week later, the newlyweds were returning to Canada to resume their studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton when their plane was shot down over the Iranian capital, Tehran. All 176 people on board the Ukrainian airliner were killed.
Iran is not posing any threat to other countries, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday, according to State TV, adding that Tehran was determined to guarantee its own security. "Iran poses no threat to any other country ... Our only aim is to make sure our security is guaranteed," Khamenei told a group of commanders and staff of Iran's Air Force.
In a video posted on Instagram on Thursday, Britain's ambassador to Iran who left the country following his brief arrest by Iranian security forces three weeks ago said he is back in Tehran after planned meetings with the foreign minister and other high-ranking officials of his country. The British envoy, Robert Macaire, was arrested for "instigating and organizing suspicious activities" in a protest rally in front of Tehran's Amir Kabir University on January 12.
Iran repelled a cyberattack on Saturday that disrupted the country's internet services for an hour, a telecommunications ministry official said. "At 11:44 (0814 GMT) a distributed denial-of-service attack disrupted the internet services of some mobile and fixed operators for an hour," tweeted Sajad Bonabi. A DDoS attack involves overwhelming a target's servers by making a massive number of junk requests.
Hot on the heels of a "serious" cyber-attack that compromised United Nations servers, and in the same week that the head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, warned of the global financial implications of cyber-attacks, Iran has seemingly come under cyber-attack. Indeed, so powerful was the impact of this alleged attack that the internet was disrupted across the country. The NetBlocks internet observatory, which maps internet freedom in real-time, confirmed that there was extensive Iranian telecommunications network disruption on the morning of February 8.