A decade-long U.N. arms embargo on Iran that barred it from purchasing foreign weapons like tanks and fighter jets expired Sunday as planned under its nuclear deal with world powers, despite objections from the United States, which insists the ban remains in place. While Iran says it plans no “buying spree,” it can now in theory purchase weapons to upgrade military armaments dating back to before its 1979 Islamic Revolution and sell its own locally produced gear abroad. In practice, however, Iran’s economy remains crippled by broad-reaching U.S. sanctions, and other nations may avoid arms deals with Tehran for fear of American financial retaliation.
In his annual report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described "repeated and serious violations" of human rights in Iran as a "grave concern." The report published on Wednesday was prepared for submission to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) two months ago. Guterres's report, which covers the period from September 2018 to the summer of 2020, underlines "repeated serious violations" of human rights and "violent repression" of widespread protests in Iran.
Supporters of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, an Iraqi Shi’ite militia group, set fire Saturday to the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Baghdad. The protesters in the Iraqi capital were upset by comments made by a senior KDP official. Ex-foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said earlier this month that the government should “clean up” Baghdad’s Green Zone “from the presence of Hashd militias.” He said their ouster was an “essential task” as they are operating “outside the law.” The U.S. State Department issued a statement about the attack on the KDP offices by Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Leaders of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) have unveiled details of a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site just east of Tehran. The site is located in the Sorkheh-Hessar region and is operated by Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND). They argued that the identification of the new site exposes the Iranian regime’s lies and the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multinational deal on Iran’s nuclear program agreed in 2015.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Sunday that the United States will slap sanctions on any individual or entity that assists Iran’s weapons program, a move that will likely further aggravate tensions between Washington and Tehran. “For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security,” Pompeo said in a Sunday statement.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Two female Iranian dissidents have responded defiantly to being summoned to start prison terms in Iran, saying they have no regrets for signing the 2019 letter that called for the nation’s Islamist ruler to quit and triggered their arrest. In exclusive Thursday interviews with VOA Persian from Iran, Shahla Entesari and Shahla Jahanbin said they had received phone calls the previous day from Tehran’s Evin prison, notifying them that they must report to the jail within 10 days.
United Nations human rights experts welcomed the release of long-imprisoned Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, calling for other activists' release. According to a report published on the official website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) on October 7, the experts said Mohammadi's release came after a court reduced her sentence under a new law. They also called the release of Mohammadi “a sign of hope."
Iran's courts earlier this week sentenced three men to amputation who were caught stealing, Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) and Fox News reported. Two of the prisoners, Mehrdad Teymouri, 30, and his brother, Shahab Teymouri, 35, were reportedly arrested in April 2019 and found guilty for taking part in several robberies in the area. Their appeals were dismissed by the court earlier this week. They are currently awaiting punishment, which includes having four fingers chopped off, at the Orumiyeh Central Prison.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer came to the aid of an Iranian flagged vessel in distress in the Arabian Sea, an international maritime coalition said on October 16. The dhow broke down due to a motor problem and launched a distress call to the USS Winston S. Churchill on October 15, according to the Combined Maritime Forces. "When hailed over bridge-to-bridge radio, the vessel's crew explained that their engine would not start due to a dead battery and they had run out of food and water," the coalition said in a statement.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Sunday that Iran will start selling and buying arms now that the arms embargo has been lifted, according to Ynet. Hatami said that it is Iran's "right to get what we need and to supply others in the world with what they need from us. Iran will not sell for the money as the US does, but rather will sell to countries that want to make legitimate self defense use" of Iranian weapons.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran, the Middle Eastern country hardest-hit by the coronavirus, extended restrictions and closures in the capital Tehran into a third week on Saturday as its death toll rose above 30,000. Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran, where the infection rate has been highest, have been closed since Oct. 3, and Tehran province governor Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpey announced an extension of the measures until at least Friday, state media reported.
The Chairman of the Iranian parliament's influential Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy, Mojtaba Zonnour, said that President Hassan Rouhani deserves to be executed a thousand times a day, and that the Iranian people would agree with his views. In a tweet on Friday, Zonnour wrote, "The Rt. Hon. Rouhani; if you are justifying negotiations with the enemy by arguing that Imam Hassan reached a peaceful agreement with Mu'awiyah to respect the majority of people's demand; the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people today will not be satisfied with less than your dismissal, and the Supreme Leader of the Revolution should order to execute you one thousand times."
CHINA & IRAN
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived last week with a major delegation in Tengchong, in southwest China’s Yunnan province, on the invitation of his counterpart Wang Yi. These talks, which were apparently putting finishing touches on the 25-year Sino-Iranian Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, were significant for both the countries. These talks, which took place on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between both countries, were an ideal opportunity to finally announce their long-term partnership. There were great expectations attached to this visit.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator has arrived in neighboring Iran as intra-Afghan peace negotiations are under way in the Gulf state of Qatar. Negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban have been locked in talks since September 12 but have been unable to agree on a framework for the negotiations aimed at ending the 19-year war. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, a body that oversees the peace talks with the Taliban, arrived in Tehran on October 18 for a three-day visit.
Iranian hackers contracted by the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted prominent Israeli companies in a series of ransomware attacks last month, a pair of cybersecurity firms reported Thursday. The attacks were attributed to “MuddyWater,” which Microsoft exposed earlier this month as a contractor for the IRGC — designated by both Israel and the US as a terror group. Dubbing the Iranian effort “Operation Quicksand,” the Clearsky and Profero cybersecurity firms said they “uncovered the first known instance of a potentially destructive attack executed by MuddyWater, focusing on prominent organizations in Israel and in other countries around the world.”