France, Germany and the UK are summoning Iranian ambassadors in a coordinated diplomatic protest against Iran’s detention of dual nationals and its treatment of political prisoners. The Iranian ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, was summoned by the Foreign Office on Tuesday to meet senior officials, and the Iranian ambassadors in Paris and Berlin are also being called in this week. A letter handed to Baeidinejad and seen by the Guardian says Iran’s policy of arbitrary detention is seriously undermining its international standing.
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard force has managed to fly a surveillance drone over the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier which last week transited through the Strait of Hormuz, an Iranian news agency said Wednesday. The semi-official Tasnim news agency, which is considered close to the paramilitary Guard, published images of the Nimitz, saying they were taken by Iranian-made drones, and showing fighter planes parked on the carrier's deck. The Nimitz, and several other warships, passed last Friday through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important chokepoint for oil shipments, the U.S. Navy had said in what was described as a “scheduled maneuver.”
Iran’s Health Ministry said it’s received just a small fraction of a promised $1 billion infusion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund to fight the coronavirus. “For months we have only received a small share of the $1 billion that the Supreme Leader approved from the development fund,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said, according to the the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. “I don’t know what they are using it for that could be more important,” Namaki added. Iran, the worst-hit of Middle East countries, reported a record high 3,712 new cases on Tuesday.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saudi Arabia said that any nuclear deal with Iran has to preserve non-proliferation and continue efforts aimed at making the Middle East a zone free of mass destruction weapons, state news agency SPA reported Tuesday. The agreement "has to address Iran's destabilizing behaviors and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region to prevent it from any provocative actions in the future" it said in a statement issued after a weekly cabinet meeting.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The U.S. has granted Iraq a 60-day extension to a sanctions waiver allowing it to import Iranian gas for its crippled power grids, an Iraqi official told AFP on Wednesday. Baghdad relies on gas and electricity imports from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its electricity sector, worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance. The U.S. blacklisted Iran's energy industry in late 2018 but has since granted its ally Baghdad a series of temporary waivers to stave off countrywide blackouts.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would be beyond the pale for Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be returned to detention in Iran at this time. He added that Britain was still enagaged in a process of paying back a debt it owns to Iran but that this was “not linked but in parallel” to the legal case. “There’s been a process that has been ongoing,” he told Sky News about the debt dating back to 1979. “It’s not linked but it’s in parallel, where we’ve been saying look we recognise this debt and we’ll look at how we can resolve it as best we can.
The finance website Insider Monkey listed the Islamic Republic of Iran as the most dangerous country for gay travelers following the regime’s execution of a man last year based on an anti-gay law. The September 13 article said that Iran topped “the list of the 15 most dangerous countries for gay travelers, with the death penalty imposed for such acts. Again, it’s hard to confirm how many executions have actually been carried out but there are reports of such executions taking place.”
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The U.S. policy in the Middle East is to reward allies and not enemies, a spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department said, as Washington sought to increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program. “We have embarked on a policy in this administration, to reward and to embolden the Gulf Arab, our allies ... to embolden Israel, and to not reward an enemy,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Wednesday. President Donald Trump’s administration upped the pressure on Iran in the last few days.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran announced another 184 deaths caused by the coronavirus on Wednesday, raising its total to close to 25,000. The number of confirmed cases is now around 433,000. According to health officials, the country has been hit with a “third wave” of the pandemic, a period they say could prove even more disastrous than the previous peaks. Hospitals in many cities, including the capital Tehran, have reached capacity. Local officials in the central city of Isfahan are lamenting a “situation beyond critical.”
NORTH KOREA & IRAN
The U.S. State Department is stepping up its efforts to tighten the sanctions regime arrayed against Iran, drawing renewed attention to the thriving arms trade between Pyongyang and Tehran. The lucrative military partnership between Iran and North Korea began in the 1980’s, when North Korea first established itself as a legal arms exporter across the third and developing world. North Korea became a major weapons supplier to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, shipping a wide range of small arms, tanks, artillery systems, and heavy ordnance.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A senior spokesman for the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces says Iran plans to fortify Syria's air defense. Speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked Fars news agency, Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said on Tuesday, September 22 that Syria made the request during the recent visit of the Chief of General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, IRGC Major General Mohammad Baqeri, to Damascus, and as a result, "we have a contract with the Syrian government."
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Wednesday called for a comprehensive solution on Iran and disarming its affiliate Hezbollah in Lebanon, and expressed support for U.S. efforts to start talks between Israel and the Palestinians during his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. He said Iran has exploited a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism,” adding that this had produced nothing but “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.”
IRAQ & IRAN
In this southeastern corner of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Iranian influence is clear and of concern to many in the area amid reports of cross-border fraud and smuggling networks. Dams built by Iran threatening to severely decrease water supplies available for local production may also negatively impact the future of the area. The Finance Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced earlier this month that a vast smuggling network had been discovered at a border crossing with Iran but did not specify which border crossing.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Arab leaders voiced fears Wednesday before the United Nations of new conflict in the region as tensions soar between Iran and the United States. The annual extravaganza of international diplomacy at the UN General Assembly has been turned into a virtual affair this year, with leaders sending in recorded speeches due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Two days after US President Donald Trump ramped up pressure on Iran in a widely contested move, the leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia voiced concerns about the region.
An Iranian cyber operations front organization that’s a target of new U.S. sanctions was itself the victim of an attack that looted its own hacking tools and dumped them on the internet two years ago. Last week, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Treasury Department announced major new Iran-related sanctions targeting cyber operators working for Iranian intelligence. The sanctions targeted 45 individuals affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Tehran’s main civilian intelligence agency.