Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Eye on Iran: Iran Facing The Toughest Economic Situation In 40 Years: President

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Iran's president said on Wednesday the country was facing its toughest economic situation in 40 years, and the United States, not the government, was to blame. U.S. President Donald Trump last year pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed sanctions. Workers, including truck drivers, farmers and merchants, have since launched sporadic protests against economic hardships, which have occasionally led to confrontations with security forces.

France, Britain and Germany, defying threats from Washington, are this week executing their plans to set up a special-payments company to secure some trade with Iran and blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions. In the short term, the new company is expected to struggle to achieve even its initial goal of enabling Tehran to import vital food and drugs at affordable prices.

The U.S. State Department announced on January 29 that its top counterterrorism official is visiting Europe to discuss Iran's terror related activities. Ambassador Nathan A. Sales will visit Denmark, Sweden and Norway this week to "discuss Iran-backed terrorism in Europe, prosecuting foreign terrorist fights, and combatting terrorist travel." 


Iran is still abiding by the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal despite the US pullout from the multinational agreement, CIA chief Gina Haspel said Tuesday. "At the moment technically they are in compliance" with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Haspel told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I think the most recent information is the Iranians are considering taking steps that would lessen their adherence to JCPOA as they seek to pressure the European to come through with the investment and trade benefits that Iran hoped to gain from the deal," she said.


Stepping from a car into a muddy industrial site in the Iranian desert, a 22-year old European Bitcoin investor raised his voice to be heard over the roar of a gas-fired generator. His Iranian counterparts - a bespectacled information-technology specialist, a self-described ''hard-core Bitcoiner'' and the businessman running the site - walked their foreign visitor over to gray shipping containers containing thousands of small computers. 

The oil sanctions that U.S. President Donald Trump levied on Venezuela Monday represent Washington's strongest effort yet to oust embattled leader Nicolás Maduro by starving his regime of funds. But the move could exact a larger strategic cost. The new U.S. sanctions, which could take lots of Venezuelan oil off the market, also will likely make it that much harder to put the screws to Iran with tougher restrictions on Tehran's oil sales later this spring.

Earlier this month, Iranian and Indian officials finally reached an agreement on how India will pay for its oil imports from Iran. The agreement was finalized during Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit to New Delhi on Jan. 7-10, in which he headed a high-ranking economic and political delegation. The accord stipulates that Iran's revenues from oil exports to India will be deposited in a rupee account in the state-owned UCO Bank. 


The European demand to stave off the dangers of the Iranian missile program has seen no progress as Tehran continue to pressure for the financial mechanism to circumvent US sanctions. This comes amid controversy in Tehran over the consequences of late compliance with money laundering and terrorist financing standards as the international deadline approaches. 


The mother of a U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran is calling for his immediate release. Michael White, 46, has been in an Iranian prison for more than six months. Joanne White said she prays every day that her son Michael will be freed from prison in Iran before it's too late. She worries his recurring cancer could come back and he could die.

The Iranian constitution after the 1979 revolution provides limited freedoms for religious minorities, and it does not recognize the Baha'i community, with more than 300,000 members in the country. Instead, for four decades, the Islamic Republic has routinely harassed, prosecuted, and imprisoned Baha'is solely for practicing their faith. 

Iran has detained one of its Baha'i citizens and released another as part of a long-running crackdown on members of the religious minority in the Islamic republic. Iran's Human Rights Activist News Agency published a report saying intelligence agents detained Farzad Rouhani Manshadi, a Baha'i man living in the central city of Yazd, on Monday while he was taking his child to school. It said the agents also searched Manshadi's home and seized some of his belongings. 


A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is "unlikely to give up" all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not "currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity" needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Trump's foreign policy. 

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, appeared to undermine two premises of President Donald Trump's foreign policy on Tuesday. First he said that North Korea was not likely to give up its nuclear weapons. Then he said that Iran was still complying with the international agreement to pause its own nuclear program. This was the instant headline for most news organizations. 

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani slammed his critics on Wednesday, defending the political achievements of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and calling the US an "oath-breaker". "One should not condemn the government or the great Islamic system instead of America -- this is the greatest damage that can be done," he said on state TV. Hardliners have repeatedly hammered the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers since the early stages of negotiations, calling it a fool's errand and a deception.


Iranian police say a double-bombing has lightly wounded three police in the southeastern city of Zahedan. Gen. Mohammad Ghanbari, the provincial police chief, told the official IRNA news agency that the second bomb went off as police raced to the scene of the first explosion. He says the bombs were handmade and that police are investigating. Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province, which has seen past attacks by Baluch separatists and drug traffickers.

Iran's capital city has banned the public from walking pet dogs, as part of a long-standing official campaign to discourage dog-ownership. Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said "we have received permission from the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks".  He told the Young Journalists Club news agency that the ban was due to dogs "creating fear and anxiety" among members of the public.


Hezbollah's explicit support for Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro could be the first step in confirming links between the South American nation's government, the terrorist organization and organized crime groups.

Despite difficulties in securing high-level attendance from the European Union and the expected absence of Russia, US officials are in the final stages of preparing the Warsaw ministerial meeting on the Middle East in the Polish capital on February 13-14. Working groups and follow-up meetings will come out of Warsaw, and US officials insist now that it is "not an anti-Iran meeting or coalition-building exercise." As the name suggests, they said on a call with reporters, it's a meeting "to promote a future of peace and security in the Middle East."

There are fears that flights in and out of the country could be targeted if state-sponsored hackers manage to breach the cybersecurity systems protecting Israeli civil aviation programmes. Israeli officials have long suspected Iran of seeking to hack into important systems and also believe Tehran could try to interfere with April 6 elections. The Islamic Republic has also been named by other Western powers as a rising force in cyberwarfare.

The governments of Syria and Iran have agreed steps that will allow bank transactions between the countries, officials said on Tuesday, a move aimed at boosting trade and investment as Damascus looks to its ally Tehran to help rebuild from war.  The deal was one of several concluded during a visit to Damascus by Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, whose country's support has been vital to President Bashar al-Assad during the war. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with a delegation of senior Russian officials to discuss the situation in neighboring Syria. Netanyahu's office said Tuesday he met with Russia's special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin. It said the talks focused on Iran, Syria and "strengthening the security coordination mechanism between the militaries" to prevent friction.


A bomb attack in a market killed seven Yemeni civilians including a photographer for a UAE television channel in the government-controlled town of Mokha, medics and military sources said Tuesday, January 29. At least 20 people were wounded in the overnight blast in the Red Sea town, where pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels are based. The improvised explosive device was planted on a motorcycle parked in the middle of the market, an official in the pro-government forces told AFP.

The Iran-backed Houthi militias attacked on Tuesday a United Nations demining team that is operating in the coastal city of Hodeidah. Legitime government spokesman Rajeh Badi revealed that government officers and the UN team were working on removing mines in the Kilo 13 region when they were attacked by the terrorist militias. He stressed that the UN team had coordinated its operation with the Houthis before heading to the scene.


The EU's delicate diplomacy to preserve the Iran nuclear accord has stumbled into an unexpected mud patch: An old-fashioned spat between Spain and Italy over who gets to sit at the proverbial grown-ups' table. Infuriated by Italy's induction into an expanded version of the so-called E3 club - the trio of France, Germany and the United Kingdom that helped negotiate the nuclear deal along with the European External Action Service - Spain has blocked proposed language on Iran intended for approval by EU governments.


An Iranian cyber espionage group called APT39, which was mainly targeting telecommunications industry in the Middle East, has been exposed by California-based cybersecurity firm FireEye. "APT39 marks the fourth Iranian cyber threat actor that FireEye has elevated to the designation Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)," said Benjamin Read, senior manager of cyber espionage analysis at FireEye. APT is a computer network attack in which an individual or a group gains unlawful access to a network and remains undetected for a long period.

Iran appears to be broadening its presence in cyberspace, stealing information that would allow its cyber spies to monitor and track key political and business officials. As part of this growing focus, Iranian-linked cyber actors are using phishing emails and stolen credentials to infiltrate telecommunication companies and the travel industry in order to steal personally identifiable information they can use in future operations.

The European Union warned Monday that Iran will likely expand its cyber espionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen. "Newly imposed sanctions on Iran are likely to push the country to intensify state-sponsored cyber threat activities in pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic objectives at a regional level," the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) said in a report.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused arch-foe Iran of regularly launching cyber-attacks on Israel that the Jewish state blocks each day. "Iran attacks Israel on a daily basis," he told a cyber conference in Tel Aviv. "We monitor these attacks, we see these attacks and we foil these attacks all the time." The head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency is reported to have warned that Israel was bracing for a state-driven cyber intervention in its April 9 general election.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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