The Biden administration proposed to Israel a few weeks ago the idea of engaging in joint military planning concerning Iran, three U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios. Why it matters: U.S. officials say the proposal is unprecedented and could significantly upgrade U.S.-Israeli military cooperation. Yes, but: Israeli officials have so far treated the proposal with suspicion, fearing it is an attempt to “tie Israel's hands” from taking action against Iran — especially its nuclear facilities — if the U.S. objects. A U.S. official stressed that the proposal is "not about planning any kind of joint U.S.-Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program."
Iran's oil minister Javad Owji said that the oil market is on the right track after decisions made by OPEC+, the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim reported on Wednesday. "Iran and Russia have the same views inside OPEC+," Owji added on the sidelines of an Iranian-Russian conference of economic cooperation held in Tehran. OPEC and its allies led by Russia, known as OPEC+, agreed to cut production in late 2022 to support the market as the economic outlook worsened, hitting prices.
Skincare company Murad has agreed to pay about $3.3 million to settle allegations that for almost eight years it conspired to export goods and services to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions on the country. The El Segundo, Calif.-based company, founded by dermatologist Howard Murad in 1989, allegedly entered into agreements with an Iran-based distributor to sell its products in the Middle East, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The agreements, which lasted between December 2009 and 2018, resulted in at least 62 exports of Murad’s products and services to Iran, totaling more than $11 million, according to the settlement agreement issued by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces U.S. sanctions.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…In February 2022 the Suez Rajan was spotted offloading Iranian oil from another tanker off the coast of China, in violation of the US embargo on Iranian oil exports. The revelation was made by the American organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which includes former diplomats and security officials of the US and Israel. UANI has an application that allows it to monitor via satellites the movements of tankers suspected of transporting Iranian oil.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Threats by Iran against journalists in Britain require a “significant and robust response from the UK”, a senior opposition MP said on Wednesday. Shadow security minister Holly Lynch said plots by hostile states such as Iran and Russia were among the “most immediate concerns within the threat landscape” in Britain. Her appeal came after regime-critical television channel Iran International was forced to leave its London offices because of security issues. Counter-terrorism police said they had serious concerns for Iran International's journalists despite armed officers patrolling the site.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Cars and crowds gathered outside Dastgerd prison in the Iranian city of Isfahan on Sunday night, in the hopes that their demonstration could halt the execution of three men facing death on charges connected to the anti-government protests that began last year and swept the country. Days earlier, Iran’s state broadcaster had aired footage of the harried-looking men — Majid Kazemi, Saeed Yaqoubi and Saleh Mirhashemi — appearing to confess and incriminate one another. Rights groups said the statements, which authorities often air ahead of executions, were very likely given under torture or duress.
Dozens of independent Iranian lawyers were imprisoned during the monthslong antiestablishment protests that erupted last September. Most had represented jailed protesters or been critical of the authorities on social media. Many of the lawyers were later freed under an amnesty announced by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February. But in recent days, around 20 lawyers across the country have been summoned. It was not clear if they were facing new charges or had been called in for questioning.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday witnessed the signing of a deal to finance and build an Iranian railway line as part of the North–South Transport Corridor that involves more than a dozen countries. The Rasht-Astara railway is seen as an important link in the corridor, intended to connect India, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan and other countries by rail and sea. Russia said the project can rival the Suez Canal as a trade route. “The unique North-South transport artery, of which the Rasht-Astara railway will become a part, will help to significantly diversify global traffic flows,” Mr Putin said, who watched the signing ceremony by video.
Defying Iran sanctions with dangerous ship-to-ship transfers and transceivers turned off, eight tankers made 17 deliveries of oil to Syria in the last six months. Experts warn: There’s no oversight, this is a ticking ecological time bomb. At least 17 shipments by eight different tankers have delivered more than 16 million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria over the past six months, according to publicly available data. The “ghost tankers” have docked at Syria's Baniyas port south of Latakia violating U.S. sanctions imposed on both the Iranian petroleum industry and on Bashar Assad's government.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A $10 billion project has been agreed to develop a vast natural gas field shared between Qatar and Iran. The deal was signed by QatarEnergy with French-owned Technip Energies for the scheme in the world’s largest natural gas field. The Iranian part, known as South Pars, supplies 70% of Iran's gas. In a statement on Tuesday, QatarEnergy stated that the project will include two giant liquefied natural gas (LNG) production lines, with an annual capacity of 16 million tons. The company said the extra LNG capacity would increase the country's total production by 60 percent reaching 126 million tons by 2027.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The top leaders of Pakistan and Iran on Thursday inaugurated the first border market as relations warm between the two countries, officials said. Located in the remote village of Pashin in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, the marketplace is the first of six to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides. Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also inaugurated an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian electricity.