Protests against the Iranian government erupted for a fifth day across the country on Tuesday, as the authorities scrambled to crush the unrest and reports emerged of mounting injuries and deaths. The rights group Amnesty International said that as many as 106 protesters in 21 cities had been killed over the course of the protests, in what would be a dramatic increase, if confirmed, from the 12 reported killed by semiofficial Iranian news agencies. Hundreds of people have been injured over the last week and more than a thousand arrested, according to official Iranian news agencies.
Israel's military said it struck dozens of targets in Syria after four rockets were fired toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on Tuesday. The violence ratcheted up tensions in Israel's north days after a shaky cease-fire ended fighting with Iran-backed militants in Gaza that had raised concerns of a wider conflict in the country's south. The rockets fired from Syria were intercepted by Israel's air-defense systems and caused no harm, Israel's military said. In response, Israeli jet fighters attacked targets in Syria, including what it described as an Iranian Quds Force site and Syrian military bases.
Iran will likely buy new advanced fighter jets and tanks next year when a U.N. Security Council arms embargo is scheduled to be lifted, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday as the Defense Intelligence Agency released a new assessment of Iran's military capabilities. The DIA report concludes Tehran is committed to becoming the dominant power in the Middle East, and it warns that the Islamic Republic is making rapid progress developing attack drones and other missile systems.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Former national security adviser John Bolton has returned to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), the advocacy group announced Tuesday. Bolton had served on UANI's advisory board until 2018, when he became national security adviser for President Trump. In a press release, Bolton said, "Iran poses one of the most serious and sustained threats to America and her allies. "I'm looking forward to returning to UANI - an organization that has shown tremendous results over the past few years - because it is solely focused on addressing the Iranian threat and it does so successfully."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says Iran has breached another limit in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by stockpiling more heavy water than the accord allowed. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Iran informed it on Nov. 16 that it had surpassed the 130 tons (143.3 U.S. tons) allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The agency confirmed Nov. 17 that Iran's stockpile had reached 131.5 tons. Heavy water helps cool reactors, producing plutonium as a byproduct that can be used in nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Russia strongly condemns the U.S. decision to drop a sanctions waiver related to Iran's Fordow nuclear facility and believes the decision violates U.S. international commitments, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. Moscow is continuing its close cooperation with Iran on the Fordow reconfiguration, it said. The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran's Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.
France lamented on Tuesday a U.S. decision to end a sanctions waiver related to Iran's Fordow nuclear facility, but also said it feared Tehran's latest violations of a 2015 deal could lead to serious nuclear proliferation. "We regret the decision of the United States, following Iran's resumption of enrichment on the Fordow site, to terminate an exemption that would facilitate the conduct of civilian projects on this site," foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in an online briefing.
Despite decades of sanctions, Iran has succeeded in developing its missile arsenal, which is larger than that of any other Middle Eastern country including Israel, a Pentagon study said Tuesday. "Iran has an extensive missile development program, and the size and sophistication of its missile force continues to grow despite decades of counterproliferation efforts aimed at curbing its advancement," the Defense Intelligence Agency said. The study said Iran considered missiles to be a strategic necessity due to the limitations of its air force, which still has some US planes ordered by the pro-Western shah, who was toppled in 1979.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian President Rouhani on Wednesday claimed victory over unrest he blamed on Iran's foreign enemies, according to state media, after protests over an increase in gasoline prices last week that have shaken the country. "The Iranian people have again succeeded at an historic test and shown that they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country's management," Rouhani said in remarks carried by the state broadcaster IRIB on its website.
Tehran has moved to quell violent unrest sparked by a fuel-price increase by handing out cash stipends to the poor and orchestrating pro-government demonstrations to marshal support for a policy intended to boost the sanctions-hit economy. The new measures, which the government said had taken effect on Tuesday, come amid reports of a rising death toll and more arrests of protesters in Tehran and other major cities, where demonstrators burned and destroyed banks, gas stations and security bases.
The U.N. human rights office voiced deep concern on Tuesday at the Iranian security forces' use of live ammunition against demonstrators and urged authorities to rein in its use of force to disperse protests sparked by a hike in fuel prices. Rupert Colville, U.N. human rights spokesman, also called on authorities in Iran to restore the internet service cut off since Saturday and uphold the demonstrators' rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Recent protests kicked off by a rise in fuel prices last week have been a security matter and not carried out by the people, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday in remarks published by his official website. "Friends and enemies should know we have pushed the enemy back in the military, political and security war arena," he said. "This work of these days has been security work, not from the people."
Reports received from Radio Farda listeners in Iran and a government news agency indicate protests continued Monday and Tuesday in several cities and towns in Iran, with armed clashes reported. A listener from Mashhad, northeast Iran says Monday night protesters tried to attack the offices of Ayatollah Ahamd Alamolhoda, an influential hardliner cleric representing Iran's Supreme Leader in the region and the Prayer Imam of the city. Protesters were met with teargas and plainclothesmen and retreated.
Iran is suddenly seeing its largest protests in years, in over 100 cities - and the government's cracking down hard. Amnesty International reports more than 100 deaths, while exile groups put the figure above 200; official media admit to more than 1,000 arrests. In a bid to stifle further demonstrations, the regime has imposed a nationwide Internet blackout and banned reporters from covering the protests. The anger broke out Friday after Tehran announced fuel rationing and a price increase of 50 percent.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the vital Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, amid simmering tensions between Iran and the United States. Tensions in the Gulf have risen since attacks on oil tankers this summer, including off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and a major assault on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Washington has blamed Iran, which has denied being behind the attacks on global energy infrastructure.
The Trump administration informed Congress on Tuesday that it has deployed 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East to help combat the growing threat posed by Iran. The troop deployment comes as Iran and its regional terror proxies wage attacks on Israel and U.S. interests in the region. Tehran also has attacked oil infrastructure, including in Saudi Arabia, where the American forces will be stationed.
In order for the World Wide Web to work well, it requires a constant connection through which data can be sent and received. If the state or the provider cuts off the connection, nothing works. It's nearly impossible for ordinary users with computers and routers to quickly access familiar internet services if a regime blocks network connections. However, limited communication may still be possible with a fair amount of effort.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is likely to seek out Russia and China to purchase advanced weapons systems such as tanks and fighter jets when a United Nations arms embargo against the country expires next year, a senior defense intelligence official said today, amid rising tensions in the Middle East. In a report released on Tuesday that unveils the Defense Department's public assessment of Iran's military capabilities, the Pentagon's top intelligence agency expressed concern that "modern conventional capabilities" will be available to Tehran when the UN embargo expires in 2020, allowing the country to become "a more traditional military force.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranians are still offline, three days after the government pulled the plug on the internet amid nationwide anti-government protests. Experts say the shutdown is an attempt by the government to stop the flow of information and quash the demonstrations. David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, told CNN that the blackout makes it "harder for people to organize, harder for people to protest.
The Iranian people have experienced days without the internet, the result of a government-backed shutdown as a response to nationwide protests over gas price increases. This isn't the first time the Tehran government has blocked Iranians' access to parts of the internet or to social media sites. But observers say the current shutdown, which began Saturday night, has been nearly complete, with few residents still with internet access. "It's a coup against internet freedom," said Amir Rashidi, an internet security and digital rights researcher at the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has lambasted the Islamic Republic for shutting down the Internet in Iran. In a statement published on November 18, IJF said, "The Iranian regime has blocked nearly all internet access amid rising repression against protests over the hike in fuel prices that began on November 15. Furthermore, the international body that represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries has condemned the Internet shutdown as "an attempt to cut communication lines and silence media reporting on the situation facing the country."
Authoritarian governments have increasingly sought to use internet disruptions and blockades as weapons to crush dissent. Reports of internet shutdowns have recently come from Hong Kong, Iraq and Indian-controlled Kashmir, where access to the internet has been cut off for more than three months now. Now it's Iran's turn. Over the weekend, the government imposed a nationwide internet blackout to suppress news of anti-government protests. The country's internet access was disrupted during the protests in 2017 and 2018 - but this almost complete shutdown sets a new oppressive benchmark.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Senate Republicans and Democrats stopped short Tuesday of calling for action in support of protesters in Iran, saying protests in Hong Kong, sanctions on Turkey and monitoring the situation in Iraq and Lebanon are jockeying for attention. "As far as formal action, I haven't really given that any thought," Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Hill. "I got Hong Kong pending; I got Turkey pending; I got a bunch of other things pending."
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's Foreign Affairs Ministry denounced Iran's recognition of Houthi militia's representative in Tehran. In a statement, the Yemeni Foreign Ministry expressed its strong condemnation of Iran's recognition of Houthi representative and considered Tehran's approach a clear violation of UN Charter, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and Security Council's relevant resolutions on Yemen, mainly Resolution 2216.
IRAQ & IRAN
Tahrir Square was jubilant as anti-government protesters poured into the occupied roundabout for the daily show of support for the country's continuing uprising. Since early October, Iraqis have taken to the streets to demand basic services, economic opportunities, and an end to corruption among the country's political elite. More than 300 people have been killed and at least 15,000 wounded as a result.
TURKEY & IRAN
The chairman of Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), Nail Olpak, said that Turkish investors aim to significantly increase the volume of trade between Turkey and Iran. Olpak explained, at a meeting of the Iranğian Business Council in Tehran, that the goal was to increase the trade volume from $9.5 billion to the level of $30 billion set by the presidents of the two countries. The 16th meeting of the Iranian Business Council was attended by business people from Turkey, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Syria, India, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country hoped the ongoing popular demonstrations in Iran would end and stability would be restored as soon as possible. In a speech during the discussion over next year's Turkish foreign budget in parliament on Monday, Cavusoglu said that Turkey maintained the policy of "good-neighborliness" with Iran in a way that serves the common interests of the two countries. He added that his country has strengthened the existing cooperation with Tehran in many areas, most importantly trade, tourism, transportation and energy.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Everywhere Yaghoub al-Tostari goes, an officer from Denmark's spy service follows him. Wearing an earpiece and armed with a handgun, the official keeps an eye not just on the Arab-Iranian activist, but on those around him - a man lingering on a street corner, a motorcyclist carrying a passenger stopped next to them at the traffic light. When Tostari has an appointment, his driver circles around seemingly at random before dropping him off.