Iran’s new parliament convened on Wednesday after the Feb. 21 elections under strict health protocols and social distancing rules to ward off the coronavirus in one of the hardest-hit Middle Eastern countries. Many lawmakers wore masks and their temperatures were taken before entering the parliament building in southern Tehran, Iranian media reported. Iran’s hardline watchdog body, the Guardian Council, which must approve parliamentary candidates, disqualified thousands of moderates and leading conservatives and permitted voters a choice mostly between hardline and low-key conservative candidates loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to contest the elections.
In open defiance of the US “maximum pressure” policy, a second Iranian tanker has arrived in the Venezuelan port of El Palito. The tanker Forest was second in a flotilla of five, carrying a total of 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and other petrochemical products to the Latin American nation grappling with hyperinflation. The United States had earlier announced it was considering measures to block the deal by the two nations that both suffer from severe American sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday issued an executive order requiring the implementation of a law passed last week that bars any cooperation with Israel, including the use of Israeli software and hardware. The Iranian interior, intelligence, foreign and defense ministries as well as the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the Judiciary are required to implement the law, approved last week by the parliament and the Guardian Council, the Fars News Agency reported.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Planes and fuel tankers from Iran have been crossing the Atlantic en route to Venezuela. They undermine the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaigns against both ruling regimes—as well as the security of the Americas. It's time to stop ignoring the threat. Over a decade ago, former Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela established a special relationship—finding common cause under a banner of "anti-imperialism." Iran began pledging to invest millions in economic development projects bolstering Venezuela's petrochemical and small-arms ammunition factories.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The third cargo of an Iranian tanker flotilla carrying fuel for gasoline-thirsty Venezuela on Tuesday reached the nation’s exclusive economic zone as the previous two were discharging at state run PDVSA’s ports, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.The Iran-flagged tanker Petunia crossed the Caribbean Sea earlier on Tuesday, following the same route as vessels Fortune and Forest. The Fortune arrived on Monday at a port serving PDVSA’s El Palito refinery. President Nicolas Maduro said he would announce in the coming days a “plan” for fuel distribution.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Police in Iran has arrested the father of a thirteen-year-old girl today for murdering his daughter as an act of "honor killing", after she fled her parents home with an older man. The thirteen-year-old girl was killed with a sickle in the city of Hovigh, Talesh county, northern Iran. Her father was detained after widespread reaction to the tragedy across the country and on social media. Speaking to the Islamic Republic official news agency, IRNA, on Tuesday, May 26, Hovigh district Governor, Kazem Razmi, announced that the murderer was in custody and an investigation into the case was underway with details to be made public after the judicial procedure.
In a voice recording sent from Qarchak prison on Monday Soheila Hejab, a political and civil rights activist, has said that agents of the Revolutionary Guard brutalized and arrested her after attending an appeals court hearing on Saturday. In her message, the activist says her assailants held her by her hair, dragged her on the ground and kicked her before taking her to the notorious Qarchak prison. According to Ms. Hejab her Revolutionary Guard interrogator has repeatedly threatened to have her killed by dangerous criminals in prison.
The representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the southwestern province of Khuzestan has visited some of the people who were wounded by security forces during a protest over a lack of drinking water last week. In a video published by the semiofficial Fars news agency on May 25, Seyed Abdolnabi Mousavifard is seen in the home of a young man who had one leg badly injured by plastic bullets during the rally two days earlier.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband says her release "feels quite close" as he waits to find out if she is among 3,000 prisoners granted clemency. The British-Iranian mother was jailed for five years in 2016 on spying charges - which she has always denied.She was temporarily released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison in March as 85,000 inmates in Iran were allowed out as part of attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
An alleged controversial letter has resurfaced after seventeen years in Iran and rekindled a heated debate over Tehran- Washington relations. The letter attributed to the Islamic Republic's ex-President Mohammad Khatami and his close aides has been described as a "roadmap" for Iran-US rapprochement. Ali Baqeri (Bagheri) an ultraconservative ally of the country's Supreme Leader who is currently the Secretary of the Iranian judiciary's Human Rights Council, mentioned the letter in an interview aired by the state-run television on May 3 and 4.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
More than two months after closing its popular shrines over coronavirus concerns, Iran has reopened them as part of an easing of restrictions across the country. Mosques and key religious sites in Iran that attract millions of Muslim pilgrims each year were closed in mid-March. Mobs of angry Shiite hard-liners stormed the country’s holy shrines in protest, despite fatwas from Shiite clerical authorities urging people to refrain from gathering.
Iran further eased restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus Tuesday by allowing restaurants to accept customers, as it announced another 57 deaths from the virus. Since the first cases of COVID-19 appeared on its soil in mid-February, the country has sought to halt the spread of the virus without imposing lockdowns. A deputy health minister signaled the easing of restrictions on eateries. "Restaurants which before this decree were only allowed to distribute food will be allowed to accept customers from today," Mohsen Farhadi told state television.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and his Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi have been sending mixed messages to the country's new Islamic Republic Parliament ahead of its opening on May 28. Rouhani tweeted on Monday: "As the Majles turns 40, and starts the fifth decade of its activity, the people are looking forward to the cooperation between the Majles and the administration during the next year. The administration is reaching out to the new Majles for friendship."
For two months, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran, has left Iran’s armed forces in charge of leading the country’s efforts against the covid-19 pandemic. The militarization of Iran’s public health efforts demonstrates how Khamenei and his allies have shrewdly used the outbreak to sideline the government of President Hassan Rouhani and increase their grip over the country’s population. While this might seem like an unexpected turn of events, Iranian clerics using a pandemic to advance their worldly goals is actually not unprecedented in Iran’s modern history.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Although Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reject claims that their views are antisemitic, they have increasingly been highlighting their Yemenite Houthi allies of the Ansar Allah movement, whose slogan is “curse the Jews.” The Houthis rose to prominence in 2015 when they rapidly conquered part of the country and threatened to take Aden. Iran backs the Houthis against Saudi Arabia, which had intervened to prevent Aden from falling. Iran’s role in Yemen gives it the ability to project power into the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait. It has shipped drones and missiles to the Houthis. The Houthi rebels call themselves Ansar Allah (God's Helpers) and they make no secret of their views on Jews. Their official slogan is “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam.”
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday announced the country would take a tougher stance with Iran after Tehran sentenced a French-Iranian academic to prison. “This sentencing was founded on no serious elements and was politically motivated. So we firmly say to the Iranian authorities to release Fariba Adelkhah without delay. This decision makes our relations with the Iranian authorities a lot more difficult”, he said.
The social media giant Twitter has labelled two tweets by US President Donald Trump, calling them “unsubstantiated.” By doing so it has waded into a thorny debate about politics and the role that social media giants should play in censoring or labelling misleading content. This leads to questions about why Twitter has not had the same policy for the Iranian regime and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who regularly spouts extreme anti-Israel and anti-women views, some of which have been accused of being antisemitic.