The U.S. announcement on Friday that it is delivering more missile-defense systems and troops to Saudi Arabia intensifies a face-off with Iran-which has warned that an attack on the country would trigger an "all-out war." The Islamic Republic would be a vastly different opponent than it was when the U.S. last targeted the country directly in 1988. Iran now has thousands of missiles, many of them able to reach Israel, into the Mediterranean and, in some cases-according to the U.S.-evade Saudi defenses.
A senior Iranian security official said Saturday that an attack on one of the country's oil tankers won't go unpunished, the official IRNA news agency reported. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said a day after two missiles struck the Iranian tanker Sabiti as it traveled through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia that "vicious behavior in international waterways will not go without a response." He didn't elaborate.
Iran's supreme leader called on the country's elite military force to work on strengthening its weapon capabilities and produce more of its own military equipment. "The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' military tools must be advanced," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was cited as saying by the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency. "Have a look today at what you need in the fields of military and intelligence and pursue that."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A team of British experts arrived in Iran on Monday to begin work to upgrade the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, the UK embassy in Tehran said. Iran removed the core of the Arak facility and filled part of it with cement as part of a 2015 deal that gave the country relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Located southwest of Tehran, the reactor is to be modernized with the help of foreign experts under the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran announced on Sunday that it has discovered a new natural gas reserve with the capacity to produce nearly 400 million barrels of gas condensate, which could generate a total of $40 billion. The natural gas field, named Eram, is located near the Persian Gulf in the southwestern province of Fars and holds about 19 trillion cubic feet of gas, National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Deputy Managing Director Reza Dehghan said at a press conference.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Iran's missile program should be dealt with as a separate matter to its nuclear program. Putin was speaking in an interview with Arab broadcasters, including Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, ahead of his first visit to Saudi Arabia in over a decade. "It is possible, and we should, discuss Iran's missiles program... but the missile program is one thing and the nuclear program is another thing," Putin was quoted as saying.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Four detained Iranian environmental activists have been cleared of a charge that could carry the death penalty, state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday. "The charge of 'corruption on earth' was dropped in recent days for four detained environmentalists," said Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, a lawyer who represents some of the activists. "Of course their other charges still remain," he was quoted as saying.
Iranian Kurds have come out into streets on Saturday protesting Turkey's incursion into Syria's Kurdish populated and controlled northeast, multiple social media images show. Turkey decided to send its army into northeastern Syria in a large military operation to carve out a "safe zone", accusing Kurdish forces who fought with the United States against the Islamic State group as "terrorists". One social media user posted a video showing people in Piranshahr, near the Iraqi border protesting on a main thoroughfare.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
In 9 September, Milad Aghajohari and much of his extended family piled into cars and drove six hours from Isfahan to Tehran's international airport. The 22-year-old was on his way to California, set to start a PhD program at Stanford University. After wishing everyone goodbye, Aghajohari rolled his suitcases into the terminal. He handed his passport to a Turkish Airlines officer and placed his luggage on a scale.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
It wasn't his "luxury" house that made Iranians sit up and notice. It wasn't even the top of the range Mercedes-Benz, described by one prosecutor as payment for Ammar Salehi's alleged role in facilitating a $26m bank fraud. What really surprised people, inured to corruption at the highest levels of power in Iran, was that Mr Salehi had been arrested at all. Many assumed the 39-year-old son of a former army commander was beyond the reach of the state's anti-corruption investigators.
A large group of Iranian lawmakers have submitted a proposal in parliament to stop the teaching of English as a second language in public schools, citing remarks by the country's Supreme Leader. Three years ago, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complained in a speech that teaching English was spreading even "into daycare" institutions. Now, 57 members of parliament are backing a draft law that if passed will bar the teaching of English in government schools and will be taught only in private institutions, under the supervision of the Ministry of Education.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia can play a key role in the Middle East as it has good relations with Iran and the Arab world, he told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV in an interview broadcast on Sunday. On his first visit to Saudi Arabia in more than a decade, Putin said nobody in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates wants a confrontation with Iran. He also said Russia was working on a free trade zone with Israel and Egypt, similar to one between Russia and Iran.
Iran offered on Saturday to engage Syrian Kurds, Syria's government and Turkey in talks to establish security along the Turkish-Syrian border following Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria to fight Kurdish forces. In making the mediation offer, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to a 21-year-old security accord that required Damascus to stop harboring Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants waged an insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkey has said that pact was never implemented.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran's president warned Sunday it would be "a big mistake" to think his country won't respond to threats after a mysterious attack on one of its oil tankers. Hassan Rouhani's remarks came as Pakistan's prime minister was visiting Iran in an effort to ease tensions between Tehran and Saudi Arabia. Imran Khan is planning to visit Saudi Arabia later this week. His mediation efforts come just days after Iran said missiles struck an Iranian oil tanker traveling through the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia, which has denied it was behind the incident.
An Iranian government spokesman on Saturday described as a "cowardly attack" an incident that Iranian media have called the apparent targeting by missiles of an Iranian-owned oil tanker, and said Iran would respond after the facts had been studied. The tanker Sabiti was hit in Red Sea waters off Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian media have reported, an incident that could stoke friction in a region rattled by attacks on tankers and oil installations since May.
A Saudi minister said on Sunday that Riyadh was not behind a suspected strike against an Iranian-owned oil tanker in the Red Sea, which Iranian state-run television said was hit on Friday by missiles but denied reports they came from Saudi Arabia. "We did not engage in such behavior at all. This is not how we operate and that's not how we did (it) in the past," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh.
Leakage of cargo from an Iranian-owned oil tanker apparently hit by missiles in Red Sea waters off Saudi Arabia has been stopped as it heads for the Gulf, the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr reported on Saturday. The tanker Sabiti was targeted on Friday, Iranian media reported earlier, an incident that if confirmed will stoke friction in a region rattled by attacks on tankers and oil installations since May.
IRAQ & IRAN
Thousands of disappointed Iranians have been forced to return to the country before completing the Arbaeen pilgrimage, an annual ritual that brings millions of Shiites from across the world to the city of Karbala in Iraq. More than two million Iranian Shi'ites have already crossed the into Iraq, the Islamic Republic authorities have maintained. Nevertheless, thousands of them were forced to leave the pilgrimage incomplete and return since there was no transportation, drinkable water, and travel services.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Pakistan is conducting shuttle diplomacy to promote talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to end a tense standoff that has roiled energy markets and pushed the rival Gulf powers to the brink of war. During a visit to Iran on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was acting "not as a mediator but as a facilitator" for talks between Tehran and Riyadh, where he's traveling on Monday. In a statement shown live on Iranian state television, Khan said President Donald Trump had also asked him to help aid a dialogue between Iran and the U.S. over the 2015 nuclear deal.