A prominent member of Iran's powerful Guardian Council has told The Associated Press that the Islamic Republic should stop honoring all terms of the collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers amid tensions with the United States. The comments by Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei show an increasing willingness among Iran's hard-liners to use the country's atomic program to pressure Western powers. Nonproliferation experts are already concerned that steps Tehran has taken over the past months away from the accord narrow the estimated year it would need to build a nuclear bomb, if it chose to pursue one.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday added more than a dozen companies and individuals to its trade blacklist for allegedly providing material support to chemical and biological weapons activity in Syria and diverting U.S. items to Iran without authorization. The action from the department's Bureau of Industry and Security bars the firms and individuals from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval.
An Iranian citizen has been jailed in Sweden on suspicion of carrying out crimes against humanity and murder in the late 1980s in Iran, a Swedish prosecutor said Wednesday, the same time period of mass executions by Tehran. Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander said the unidentified man is suspected is of committing the crimes between July 28, 1988, and Aug. 31, 1988, in Tehran. The prosecutor did not elaborate.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Brodsky discussed Iran's fourth phase of reduction in its JCPOA commitments in addition to President Rouhani's recent remarks on negotiating with President Trump. Brodsky argued that U.S. and Iranian demands are not aligned at the moment -- Iranians want sanctions relief for a meeting to take place and the U.S. government wants a change in Iranian behavior prior to any consideration of sanctions relief.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Iranian government has reportedly finalized power tariffs for cryptocurrency miners and is offering a bounty for exposing illegal mining operations in the country. Anyone who will expose cryptocurrency miners using subsidized electricity will be rewarded with up to 20% of the recovery of the damage caused to the national power grid, Mostafa Rajabi, a spokesman of Iran's Energy Ministry, told local news agency IRIB News in an interview Wednesday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The Islamic Republic of Iran owes Saeed Abedini and his sister Zibandeh Abedini Galangashy $47 million for the torture and beatings Abedini endured in prison between July 2012 and January 2016, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled Nov. 13. Galangashy, who moved from England to the U.S. out of fear Iran was tracking her, was entitled to compensation under a theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency is reporting that a road accident in the country's southeast has killed 28 Afghan nationals. The report says 21 people were also injured when two vans collided near the town of Khash in Sistan and Baluchistan province early on Thursday. That's about 1,500 kilometers, or 930 miles, southeast of the capital, Tehran. The area is a frequent route used by traffickers to smuggle illegal Afghan migrants, usually in crammed vehicles in desperate conditions.
An Iranian fugitive businessman charged with financial crimes and accused of ties to President Hassan Rouhani's brother, who has been jailed for graft, has returned home, the country's judiciary said on Wednesday. Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereydoun, is serving a five-year jail term in a corruption case that the president's supporters allege was politically motivated. The circumstances surrounding the return to Iran of businessman Rasoul Danialzadeh, and whether he did so voluntarily, were unclear.
Schools in Tehran were ordered to be closed on Wednesday after the Iranian capital was cloaked in dangerously high levels of air pollution, authorities said. Governor Anoushiravan Mohseni-Bandpey said kindergartens, preschools and primary schools would be shut in the city and the counties of Gharchak, Pishva and Varamin. "The air quality index for the city of Tehran still has not passed the unhealthy status for sensitive groups," he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Iran's capital Tehran has been blanketed by heavy smug this week, forcing schools to shut down and hospitals have admitted many more cases of heart and respiratory emergencies. The head of Environment and Sustainable Development at Municipality of Tehran says air pollution costs the capital of Iran up to $2.6 billion per year. But other major cities, specially in the south also suffer from periodic heavy air pollution.
President Hassan Rouhani has defended his criticism of the Iranian Judiciary about the way it deals with financial corruption in Iran, vowing not to remain silent before parliamentary elections. In a speech on Monday, when Rouhani was heckled by protesters, he attacked Iran's Judiciary controlled by hardliners for pursuing corruption cases selectively. Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday November 13, Rouhani said: "Let us not turn the campaign against corruption into disputes" among officials.
Harsh diatribes and ruthless rhetoric are heralding raucous Iranian parliamentary elections, scheduled for Feb. 21. The preelection front line opened with a clash between President Hassan Rouhani - a moderate and Reformist - and hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who chairs the powerful Guardian Council, which has the final say in most of Iran's electoral processes. The 12-member council is made up of six clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six lawyers proposed by the judiciary chief and approved by the Iranian parliament.
Iran's Judiciary, which President Hassan Rouhani has accused of neglecting major corruption cases, announced that it has arrested a number of the employees of the Judiciary's own Deeds and Properties Organization as well as the chairman of the City Council of Rudehen in Tehran Province on charges of "corruption and embezzlement".
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli airstrikes killed more Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza on Wednesday as rocket fire toward Israel resumed after a brief overnight lull. At least 21 Palestinians have been killed in the heaviest round of fighting in months, according to the Gaza health ministry. The military said more than 250 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities since the violence erupted following an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander accused of being the mastermind of recent attacks.
The spokesperson of Iran's foreign ministry has denied reports Mohammad Javad Zarif is opposed to the appointment of a former member of parliament as ambassador to Moscow. Recently, there have been reports saying Kazem Jalali, a politician close to the Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani will be appointed as ambassador. Other reports said that Zarif is opposed to taking this step, despite requests from Larijani.
Gaza's second-largest militant group declared a cease-fire with Israel, after two days of rocket-fire from the Palestinian territory and strikes from Israel raised concerns of an imminent wider conflict. Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egypt-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. local time Thursday. Israel didn't confirm an official truce, officials said the country would only respond to attacks.
On Tuesday, Lebanese president Michel Aoun sat down with two journalists to speak about the worst crisis his country has seen since the end of the civil war in 1990. For nearly a month, nationwide protests have taken place because of deteriorating economic conditions and the pervasive corruption of the ruling class. The protesters have been demanding a government free of politicking, clientelism and sectarianism. It has been more than two weeks since prime minister Saad Hariri resigned. Despite a worsening financial crisis, the political forces seem no closer to forming a government.
A new wave of protests paralyzed Lebanon on Wednesday after President Michel Aoun enraged demonstrators by urging them to end their revolt against corruption and cronyism in the political establishment. One month after the eruption of nationwide protests, Lebanon is in deep political and economic crisis with no sign of its leaders agreeing on a new government to replace the outgoing cabinet of Saad al-Hariri, who quit as premier on Oct. 29.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi says his country believes "political negotiation is the only solution to the region's problems," and that Tehran will do its best to make that possible. Mousavi made the remark on Wednesday November 13 in response to a statement by a United Arab Emirates official who has called for reducing tensions in the region. Mousavi's remarks came one day after an Iranian deputy foreign minister said Iranian officials have had meetings with their UAE counterparts.
On Nov. 6, Iran condemned the Riyadh Agreement, which integrated the Southern Transitional Council into the Cabinet of Yemen's internationally recognized government. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the Riyadh Agreement would lead to the "occupation of southern Yemen" by Saudi Arabia, and "will by no means help settle the problems of Yemen." Iran's strident opposition to the Riyadh Agreement can be explained by its apprehensions about the deal's impact on the balances of forces in Yemen and concerns about escalating tensions with Saudi Arabia.
The idea that "the world will be a better place" after the death of Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a far-fetched one. Sure, Isis was dealt a major blow, but that hardly makes the Middle East a better-looking place. It makes it look like a pig wearing makeup. Isis effectively took a wrecking ball to the Arab world. The group's main aim was to blur existing national borders in favour of its "caliphate". But its historic and dramatic rise left us struggling to recognise the wider Middle East's descent into anarchy.
IRAQ & IRAN
For Iraqis opposed to the Baghdad government and its sponsor Tehran, there is even more than football at stake when Iraq faces Iran in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday. Anti-regime rallies at the epicenter of protests in the capital's Thrill Square have faded in recent days, following a spree of arrests, threatening messages and killings of activists.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, Europe and Iran have been testing each other's resolve to stay within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This has especially been the case since the Trump administration announced in May that it would seek to impose a total embargo on Iran's oil exports. Iran, which had remained compliant with the JCPOA for more than a year after the US quit, began taking steps to breach limits in the deal on numbers and types of centrifuges in operation, level of uranium enrichment, stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and finally on November 6, the venue for enrichment.
A 58-year-old Iranian citizen has been arrested in Sweden on suspicion of murder in Iran in 1988, prosecutors said on Wednesday, and national news agency TT said the case involved killings of political prisoners. Human rights groups say the Islamic Republic executed thousands of political detainees in the late 1980s. Many of them belonged to opposition groups. Iran denies having political prisoners or having executed any such prisoner.
The Iranian hacking group behind a Microsoft Outlook attack earlier this year that prompted a U.S. Cyber Command warning is back in the news. The U.S. government has warned of an increasing threat from Iran as tensions escalate in the Gulf. Iran doesn't have the same level of cyber weaponry used by threat groups in Russia and China, but it has proven very adept at attacks on civilian and critical infrastructure-targets that are less hardened than government or military agencies. Now a report from Trend Micro has exposed the use of a dedicated virtual private network by one "aggressive" Iranian hacking group to hit targets while keeping its activities secret.