At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties. The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets. It was found in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, an Iraqi military official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the attack with the media.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his French counterpart in a Tuesday phone call that the 2015 nuclear deal wasn’t up for renegotiation and the only way to restore the accord was for the U.S. to formally rejoin it. According to a statement on Rouhani’s official website, President Emmanuel Macron said Europe was ready to “be more active in the coming weeks in order to revive” the deal, and that both the U.S. and Iran had to “take the first steps” for all parties to return to full compliance with the agreement.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that a censure resolution would be lodged at the International Atomic Energy Agency in the coming days to criticise Iran’s decision to curb cooperation with the agency. Britain, France and Germany pressed on Monday ahead with a U.S.-backed plan for a resolution by the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board despite Russian and Iranian warnings of serious consequences.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Two Obama administration veterans face a reckoning over their work on the Iran nuclear deal this week as they seek senior national security posts in U.S. President Joe Biden’s Defense and State Departments. Wendy Sherman, Biden’s nominee to be the deputy secretary of state, and Colin Kahl, nominee to be the Pentagon’s top policy official, both face Senate confirmation hearings this week where they are expected to be grilled on their work negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and Biden’s new approach to the United States’ top Middle Eastern rival.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has argued in favor of his country continuing nuclear enrichment, but with the intention of competing with the West in energy, not the production of weapons of mass destruction. "When oil finishes, it will become common to use nuclear energy that is cleaner & cheaper to produce," Khamenei's official Twitter account said. "Enrichment can't start at that time; we need to start today. The Arrogant West wants Iran to be dependent on them the day it needs nuclear energy."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two military leaders of the Houthi movement in Yemen, accusing them of procuring weapons from Iran and organizing attacks, in the Biden administration’s first punitive action against the group. The sanctions contrast with the State Department’s decision last month to revoke terrorist designations on the group imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration on its last full day in office, over concern that they would exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A member of Iran’s persecuted Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community appealed to US president Joe Biden to confront the Islamic Republic over its severe repression of sexual minorities. "How can President Biden, who claims to be supportive of gay rights and has just nominated a gay man like [Pete] Buttigieg and also nominated a transgender like Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of HHS, say absolutely nothing about the mullahs' horrific human rights abuses toward us gay and lesbian in Iran?" a gay Iranian in Iran told Karmel Melamed, an Iranian American internationally published freelance journalist based in Southern California.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. President Joe Biden’s quick January repeal of his predecessor's travel ban on Iran has not yet revived Iranian arrivals to the United States, but it has reignited a debate about which Iranians the U.S. should allow to enter and whether existing methods for vetting them are effective. Biden repealed former President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Iran and 12 other nations within hours of taking office on January 20. He said the visa restrictions on citizens of those nations, seven of them predominantly Muslim states in the Middle East and Africa, were inconsistent with a U.S. tradition of welcoming people of all faiths and undermined national security.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
An armed separatist group in Iran’s restive southeast assaulted a vehicle carrying members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard paramilitary force Tuesday, state TV reported, as unrest continues to roil the impoverished region. Iranian state TV blamed an al-Qaida-linked Sunni militant group called Jaish al-Adl for the attack in Sistan and Baluchestan, which wounded one officer and left another missing. The report did not describe what weapons the group used in the ambush or elaborate on the officer’s disappearance.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday asked the Security Council to condemn Iran for an explosion that damaged an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week. In letters sent to US Secretary General Antonio Guterres and US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is currently serving as the rotating president of the Security Council, Gilad Erdan alleged the February 25 attack was carried out by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
CHINA & IRAN
In the puzzle that is known as the Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the United States holds the key, China’s Foreign Ministry said Feb. 24. Beijing insisted that Washington’s return to the deal and lifting of sanctions against Tehran would transform the critical gridlock that Iran’s nuclear program is facing from a challenge into an international opportunity.
TURKEY & IRAN
Turkish-Iranian tensions are rising over Turkey's ongoing military operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The regional rivals are engaged in increasingly bitter diplomatic sparring as Ankara threatens to expand its Iraqi operations to a strategically important region used by an Iranian-backed militia. "We do not accept at all, be it Turkey or any other country, to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq," Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, was quoted as saying in an interview broadcast Saturday.